11 January 2015


Punk Catholic Update

Two years ago, at around the same liturgical time, I explained why the flat-screen monitors that my parish church has hung up around the sanctuary are an evil rather than a good. Well, I guess the priest who offered the Mass I heard today isn't a big reader of my blog. =P For he likes to use the screens not just to make sure everyone sees what he is doing at the altar, but also to give a fully illustrated slide show presentation during his homilies. (I close my eyes to keep from weeping.)

Another temporary addition that we've had these days is a special prayer for the visit of Pope Francis, who is scheduled to arrive this week. (Yes, the prayer is flashed on the screens after Communion. How did you ever guess?) Well, after we had said that and had stood up for the final blessing, Father said, "I know that a lot of people are planning to go to the Quirino Grandstand for the concluding Mass with Pope Francis, but I suggest just staying home and watching the Mass on TV. It will be safer and more convenient, and you'll see him better--whereas you could join the crowds and not see him at all. So just stay home and get a good view from your TV. That's so much better, don't you agree?"

That is probably the closest I've ever come to starting a shouting match at Mass.

Catholicism: #MoreFunInThePhilippines

To be fair to Father, there is another context to his remarks that we should consider. Earlier this week, Manila saw another huge crowd of Catholics during the feast of the translation of the Black Nazarene from St. Nicholas Tolentino church to the Minor Basilica of St. John the Baptist, which is the image's current home. The devotees observed it as they always do--in a way that drives non-Catholics crazy, makes converts uncomfortable, and occasionally embarrasses even cradle Catholics. I have a more detailed explanation on my old, forgotten blog: The Feast of the Black Nazarene. (Note the scandalised convert in the combox.) Anyway, this year, the crowd of devotees swelled to over one million. And two of them died.

The crowds for Pope Francis are bound to be even larger. (The Philippines still holds the record for the biggest World Youth Day audience, when Pope John Paul II visited in 1995.) And that naturally makes some people nervous. We can't really blame a shepherd for wanting his sheep to stay alive: Father was just being pastoral. With great respect for his office, however, he was also being wrong. It's not better to to watch something on TV instead of being there when it happens, especially when that something happens to be the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Of course, the irony for both Father and myself is that there will be huge television screens set up at Quirino Grandstand for the papal Mass. =P So we can be there and get that "good view"--though as I explained two years ago, the view doesn't matter as much as we think it matters.

And if things get out of control and someone else dies? Well, here's your Punk Catholic bonus:

Dying in the middle of a devotion is a great way to go.

Image Source: Nazareno 2015


Brandon said...

It's certainly undeniable that there are many worse ways to go.

Since I work in a field that has infinitely too many slide presentations, and know all too well how good they are at conveying the illusion of explaining things clearly without any actual clear explanation, I think I would have difficulty having to sit through them for the homily.

I don't know if I would like being at one of these huge-crowd-going-crazy devotions myself, but I like the idea that they exist; we Americans tend to be very blandly spectator-ish about how we do these things.

With regard to the comments section on that post, did you ever actually write the blue cheese story, or was it just sketched out?

Enbrethiliel said...


If you sit in certain places in the church, you can block out the screens with the pillars or with your own "blind spots." I know because I've personally tested them. =P

There are sometimes silent slide show videos shown between the seven Masses on the Sunday morning schedule. They act as a parish bulletin of sorts. And hey, they save paper! Again, I just avert my eyes, though that doesn't really solve the problem.

Unlike the screens, those "huge crowd" devotions also make me glad that they exist. I may never take part in one (though I should never say never!), but they are for the good of the entire Mystical Body, of which I am a stubborn member! =)

As for the blue cheese story, that's the only place I've ever shared it. And I'm kind of glad I wrote it there, because I had forgotten the details since then and was glad to be reminded! LOL!

Terry Nelson said...

My parish installed such big screen tv's too. They are ugly. I close my eyes too.

Will you go see him - the Pope? Tell him what Mrs. Marcos said: "The poor won't respect you if you dress down for them."

Couldn't resist that.

Many blessing will descend upon the Philippines! Pray for us.

Banshee said...

I am SO EXCITED for you! I hope you get to see the Pope!

Filipino processions (like those of other more demonstrative cultural styles) seem to have a lot of good Christian logic and fun to them, but a lot of people are anxious to explain them away as pagan and embarrassing. It makes me sad that people don't take the time to look and ask.

Sheila said...

I am hoping to go see the Pope when he comes to Philadelphia next year. And yet, every time I've participated in a mass crowd event -- as I've done to see the previous two Popes -- has been utterly horrifying to me. To say I hate crowds would be a colossal understatement. I suppose one can love one's fellow man without wanting to love all of them at once.

And yet ... I just feel this need to go see the Pope. I can't give a good explanation of why, since of course I could catch it on TV ... I think it has something to do with TV being only one-way. I don't just want to see the Pope; I want the Pope to see me. Or at least, to add to the crowd that the Pope is seeing so he knows, for certain sure, that I am thankful to him for coming. Is that it? It might be.

Still trying to figure out how to convince my husband we need to drive four hours and find a place to stay so we can go see the Pope, considering I don't have a good reason WHY. I just want to.

Enbrethiliel said...


Terry -- Oh, I forgot to tell you that Mrs. Marcos was at my parish church for Mass during the last feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel! Like everyone else, she came forward to receive a new brown scapular, and when she did, she laid down a crisp new P1000 bill on the heap of scapulars in front of father. He was so flummoxed! LOL!

I was seated far away from her and wasn't able to go up to her after Mass, so I don't know how she looks up close these days, but I can say that even from all that way across the church, I saw her silhouette (big hair, puffy sleeves) and thought, "Hey, that woman is dressing like Imelda." LOL!

Anyway, I don't know about the poor's reactions to our clothes, but I do think it is disrespectful in and of itself to dress down for them. I wouldn't flaunt what I've got, of course, but if I had a reputation like Mrs. Marcos's that I knew preceded me everywhere I went, I wouldn't want to let down anyone who came to see me. ;-)

Banshee -- Thanks for your good wishes! =)

I recently listened to a talk by Bill Biersach and Charles Coulombe in which they defended similar "pagan" practices among faithful Catholics, putting their popularity in the context of the playing down of popular devotions in recent years. If you tell a simple devotee that wiping a certain statue of Jesus with a piece of cloth and laying that piece of cloth on a diseased part of his body will not cure him, but the devotee knows that it has cured other people in his family, going back several generations, well, he's going to go with tradition, isn't he? =P Diminishing the role of the saints and the power of sacramentals for something more antiseptic (and you know, palatable to Protestants) doesn't get rid of them; it just makes people who know that the saints do help us and that sacramentals do bless us turn to other outlets for acting on what they know to be true.

Sheila -- I don't like crowds, either. If I could get a guarantee that I'd get a good view of the Pope after going through all that torture, that would be different--but that's just a fantasy!

But honestly, I don't want to get a decent view of Pope Francis as much as I'd just like to be there. I believe it's a mark of Catholic unity to show support to the apostolic head of the Church, and I would like my body to add to that visible sign. Not just for the sake of the Pope himself, but for the sake of the rest of the Church and of everyone outside the Church who may need a sight like this to be nudged in!

Good luck convincing your husband! This is one of those things that we want to do just because they're beautiful and fitting, even if they're not necessary. Maybe he'll see it that way!

mrsdarwin said...

But did you see Imelda Marcos's shoes?

The problem with screens in public places is that they draw the eye. You can't not look. They are the bane of family dinners in restaurants, since the kids are mesmerized by the glow, and even the adults have to put their whole energy into ignoring them. They're insidious.

It seems that it would take an enormous amount of will power to be able to enter into a spirit of devotion in church with a huge screen overhead. Brendan gets paid to write slides and give presentations, and he puts a lot of work and hours into making them able to convey information at a glance, but it's an art sometimes, and if it's not done well it's better not done at all. Especially in church.

Enbrethiliel said...


This will disappoint everyone, but the first time I met her ("First" because I'm betting there will be a second time!) and got up close, I didn't even think to look at her shoes! =P

I think that the original plan was to use the screens merely for the psalm and the other responses, but once the opportunity was there, the priests kept seeing other uses for them. =(

Brandon said...

It's the old difficulty: add something to the liturgy and you don't get the most restrained version that had an entirely reasonable justification, you get the least restrained version that comes from people doing everything they can with the addition. And once you start using slides on a screen for a homily, I imagine it becomes very difficult not to use them only as a supplement; it will be so very easy to start coming up with homilies that make better slide shows. The supplement becomes the central pillar around which everything else gets built.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, say it isn't so!

I'm so happy that only one priest out of the lot (What's the collective noun for priests? LOL!) uses them that way.

Brandon said...

The Book of St. Albans gives 'a discretion' as the collective noun for priests, which is much less bitingly sarcastic than I expected -- they get off a lot easier than monks, whose collective noun it lists as 'an abominable sight of monks'!

Personally, I like the idea of 'a mass of priests' myself....

Belfry Bat said...

oh dear.
Oh dear.
Oh deary deary me.




I mean...


I'm not even going to try. Not today.

My poor Enbrethiliel.

Of things that should be sold and the money given to the poor...

Enbrethiliel said...


LOL! This is probably the first time I've ever seen you speechless!

Belfry Bat said...

You may find me speechless on the overwhelming majority of comentable web sites!

Enbrethiliel said...


Brandon, I completely forgot to reply to you! I think that "a mass of priests" is perfect!

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Our car wouldn't start this morning so we missed Mass and instead watched the papal Mass in Manila. And I kept wondering if you were there in the crowd, E.

I got curious about the images of the Holy Child and started googling about and was able to tie Magellan's voyage and our history of exploration unit in to the papal Mass for Bella and she was very excited. She loves it when things come together. And she remembered I have a friend in the Philippines too, and wondered if you were there as well. See, you're a celebrity in my house.

And I followed your link to the Black Nazarene post and started bopping about among your other old posts on your defunct blog and Bella's name caught my eye and I saw a bit you'd excerpted from my blog about preparing for Holy Week.

I really do need to drop by more frequently, which is what I always say, I know, but I'm just not keeping up with blogs these days. Boo. I always have such fun when I pop over.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, Melanie, it is to my great shame that I wasn't there! I made the tactical error of doing so much on the day before that I was literally falling asleep on my feet the morning of the concluding Mass. My Saturday was eaten up by Latin Mass in the morning and German class in the afternoon and early evening, then a "vigil" all night because my friends and I knew we'd have to be at the pontifical university at least six hours before Pope Francis was expected, in order to get to see him . . . which didn't happen anyway. =S If I could go back in time, I'd advise myself and my friends to skip the pontifical university, to go straight to the Mass venue, and to camp out in order to get some sleep!

I'm honoured to be a celebrity in your house, but I think my absence from the Mass has tarnished my reputation somewhat! =P But here is something that I hope will make up for it, if you haven't already found it: The Child Jesus as Sto. Nino de Cebu. You and Bella will also hear more about Cebu next year, when the International Eucharistic Congress will be held there. I hope that Pope Francis will be able to come back for it, although it would certainly spoil us all to have him back again so soon!

Michael said...

Flat screen monitors?

Good lord.

Of course from my standpoint this is just a natural outcome of the "protestantization" of the Roman rite that began in earnest at Vatican II, so I don't find it surprising though I do find it appalling.

Where is Francis De Sales when you need him? ;-)

Enbrethiliel said...


I have a much better idea now of what you mean than I would have when you and I first started talking liturgy, because I've started hearing the Traditional Latin Mass on Saturdays! And the difference between it and what I grew up with is extraordinary.

Michael said...

Oooooh, I'm not around for sometime and this is what happens. Maybe I should go away more often, lol! As usual I have a million things I want to say and if this was your old blog I would probably say them, but I am very happy to hear you have upgraded your game liturgically, so to speak :-)

During Lent we celebrate the liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts which is traditionally ascribed to Pope Gregory but probably was just the common liturgy observed by him when he was the Papal Legate to Constantinople back in the day before East and West went their separate ways.

"The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts was first documented by Pope Gregory I (540–604), who had been the papal legate to Constantinople. At one time it was supposed that he had composed the Liturgy himself, but now it is generally supposed that he simply recorded what was otherwise being practiced at Constantinople. In the Presanctified Liturgy itself, he is still commemorated as its traditional author.

"This Liturgy is also mentioned in the Canons of the Quinisext Council, of 692 AD:

"On all days of the holy fast of Lent, except on the Sabbath [i.e., Saturday], the Lord's Day [Sunday], and the holy day of the Annunciation, the Liturgy of the Presanctified is to be served (Canon 52)."

Michael said...

I have a much better idea now of what you mean than I would have when you and I first started talking liturgy, because I've started hearing the Traditional Latin Mass on Saturdays! And the difference between it and what I grew up with is extraordinary.

That is an incredible statement, one that I hope you are pondering deeply...hehehe

When my mother came to my baptism she remarked on several of the practices which were unfamiliar to her and my response was, "they used to do that in the Roman Rite, probably when you were a child."

Recently I went to a Protestant service and a Catholic Reader service. Leaving aside all comments regarding theological substance, feel, and disposition of each service, from a practical standpoint I was just flat out bored. Not even the Christian rap song sung during the Protestant service could keep my attention. :-)

And singing songs during the Catholic service that reminded me of my liturgically clueless evangelical protestant days is certainly something I now want no part of.

Enbrethiliel said...


If you're hoping that I "go East," then I hope you're not holding your breath! ;-P

I decided to start hearing a low Mass at a nearby parish after stumbling across a series of talks on the Mass by Charles Coulombe and William Biersach. Basically, they compare the extraordinary form to the ordinary form, explain why the former is what it is, and point out how the latter falls short. If you have ten hours or so (LOL!) you can listen to those talks on YouTube and get a good gist of the foundation of all my thinking on liturgy from this point forward.

Michael said...

My dear Cristina, I am not holding my breath. ;-)

We don't have a "said mass" or "low mass" equivalent in Orthodoxy. Everything is sung/chanted (except the homily). The liturgical issues in Orthodox Catholicism are of a vastly different character than what is going on in Roman Catholicism. I don't envy you one bit.

Out of curiosity, have you ever read Francis De Sales, The Catholic Controversy, put out by Tan Books?

[By the way, I see you reviewed Frankenstein. I can't wait to dig into that post}.

Enbrethiliel said...


I haven't read The Catholic Controversy but it sounds fascinating--and there's at least one translation that's free to read online! Thanks for the recommendation. =)