Friday, December 31, 2004

The Horrible Talking Lectern Head

At this Saturday vigil Mass and on five Masses on Sunday, I'll be either the bane of parishioners' existence or a welcome novelty: I have to speak before all the Masses to introduce the first 2005 session of my parish's "Coming Home" ministry, which I think of as the "Cranky Catholics" series.

First, pray for me. I do not speak to large crowds very often. I want to be welcoming, amusing, sincere, holy, informative, and perfect in every way. Hah. What I really should want is that the Holy Spirit will speak through me and get people off their fundaments and into our session.

Here's my speech, edited to provide privacy to my parish so that I can later comment on what happens during the sessions:

Happy New Year! My name is Therese Z.

Thank for giving me a few minutes’ attention this morning. I am here to tell you about a seminar St. Exultet's offers. We want to bring absent Catholics back more deeply into the Church, to come back home again. Twice a year, we offer a six-week program of discussion and education and help. We aim at two groups of Catholics:

-The first group is those who are not here. They have wandered away, walked away, or even stomped away from the Church. You all know them: they feel the Church has let them down. Perhaps someone in the Church, a teacher, a pastor, a coach, might have seemed harsh to them or their families, or were in fact mean or unfair. They might have marriage complications. They usually feel rejected by the Church and have in turn rejected the Church.

- The second group may be sitting here at Mass today. You may feel many of the same things as that first group. You’re wondering what on EARTH you’re doing here. “Mass seems boring, or repetitive. I don’t get anything out of it!” You may even be thinking, “as soon as the kids get a little older, I’m out of here.”

You feel like you’ve gotten behind, and you don’t know where to start. You haven’t been taught anything since your Confirmation classes. You may have knowledge of serious sins, but it’s been so long since you’ve been to Confession, that you can’t remember anything past “Bless Me, Father, for I have sinned.”

Both these groups have one thing in common: they think everything about the Church has changed, or they think that nothing about the Church has changed. They need some answers, information and fellowship. We want to provide all of that at the seminar.

I could have used a group like this myself. I am, by virtue of my age, a kind of “Kumbaya Catholic.” My First Communion Mass was in Latin, but by my senior year of Catholic high school, I knew all the words to Jesus Christ Superstar, but I didn’t own a Bible or a catechism! My memories are a jumble of kneeling at altar rails and making felt banners; “Et cum spiritu tuo” and those happy-clappy 1960’s “hymns” like “All-Le-Lu.”

Although I never said that I wasn't Catholic, I spent a lot of years ignoring my Catholicity. I never tried to understand why the Church taught what She did. I made fun of my Catholic school past, committed all the popular sins, lived through marriage and divorce and the illness and death of family members, without knowing God’s plan for me. All in all, I went a long time without an adult relationship with Jesus Christ or His Church.

A few years ago, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I showed up at Church again, this time here at St. Exultet's. This time, through the sacraments and a lot of self-education, as well as the example and help of some great, holy people, I found the real everyday relevance as well as the intellectual beauty and truth and depth of the Catholic faith. I want others to have the same experience.

So, we need two things from you:

1. For the absent Catholics: can you give them our handout (see the Bulletin)? Can you tell them about us? If they’re nervous, come WITH them! You’ll learn something too! We owe our family and friends a renewal in their relationship with God through His Church.

2. For the uncomfortable pewsitters here: come and join us. During these six weeks, you can re-orient yourself in the Church, get your questions answered, often by hearing someone else with EXACTLY the same question ask it, and find your place more securely here in this parish and in the Church at large. We don't demand a commitment; we’re only here to make it easier to get questions answered, and facts straight.

Thanks for your attention. Please see the Bulletin for more information, and please pray for our ministry.

God Bless St. Exultet Parish!

Whaddyathink? I'd appreciate your prayers.


Rosalind said...

I'd come! I like what you're saying and how you're saying it, even though many might think me happy-clappy simply because I often engage the Mass at an expressive as well as an interior level. Thank God the Church has room for all kinds.

God bless you and your ministry. This is involvement of the laity at its best. Happy New Year. Mary, Theotokos, pray for us. Holy Spirit, have Your way with us.

Therese Z said...

If anybody engaged the Mass in an expressive way at St. Exultet's, they would rapidly find themselves all alone in a five-pew radius. But they're good people all the same, and Jesus shows up every time.

I was trying to find the right way to describe those songs that pre-date the Marty Haugen ones everyone in the blog world like to trash now. I'm thinking 1970, especially Ray Repp. I'm thinking about the hymn that uses the tune from "Waltzing Matilda." What is it again? "We are Your Bread Now...." Eeeerfffff.....

Rosalind said...

Thankfully, most of those really execrable hymns have passed out of my remembrance. I was never involved in Mass music in those days, thanks be.

Therese Z said...

That went well. People seem to be just staring at you, it's kind of unnerving. I made the speech six times, and by the end, I'd gotten so relaxed and able to work without notes that I practically had an imaginary Scotch rocks swishing in my hand. Since I got applause (which I didn't elicit at all, and surprised me, we're not a "clappy" parish) on the last two go-rounds, I must have warmed up a little.

Boy, I don't know how music leaders and the celebrants do it some days.

Now, on to the suspense of seeing who shows up at our first meeting!

Rosalind said...

Well done! You really would have had mesmerized stares on you if that Scotch rocks had materialized. God bless your ministry and the parish of St. 'Tet's.

Robert Duncan said...

Great job and well done!



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