Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday and the “Fake Community”

By now, we've all seen this video, but it is here as a point of departure.

We have no class.

(This is nothing. You should see them at the Kennedy Memorial. You can only walk one way. You so much as turn around to look the other way, and the statuesque man in blue standing to the side will direct you otherwise. That's taking it just a bit too far, especially if your two-year-old doesn't care what the soldier says ... but that's another story.)

Father Z recently went on a self-admitted "rant" about people "yucking it up in church." You know the score. You walk into church on Sunday morning, and everybody is talking, glad-handing, even shouting, as if it were any venue other than a church. Even in the Excruciatingly Orthodox Diocese of Arlington, if a parish church is inclined toward this sort of ruckus, a pastor will often do little to discourage it, and in a few cases, may actually encourage it, in part through the annoying custom of shaking hands with people around you before Mass begins.

But why, even in such an ecclesiastical paradise, does it happen in the first place? Why do people feel the need to strike up conversation in the pews when the Mass ends, even in places with the Traditional Mass? It's harder to resist than you think, especially when you don't see these people the rest of the week.

First, we must consider the prospect of a genuine human need being met. People who otherwise have decent table manners, and know not to pick their noses in public, may not deliberately go out of their way to be disrespectful in the house of God. What if the solution to the problem lies not in eliminating something, but in channeling it elsewhere? And what is missing elsewhere?

Consider the remarks of "Supertradmum" in the comments box.

In the old days, besides people having a sense of place and decorum, which is gone even in secular society, people in the churches saw each other during the week. Either they had kids in the parochial school, or were neighbors, or were close enough to be in each others' houses.

Fake community is only seeing each other on Sunday and catching up with "news," which is more likely gossip.

And, no offense, but the worst ones are 1) the older people who no longer get out because no one cares about them during the week ...

Well, that might be the reason, but I'm not so sure.

When I go back to Cincinnati, I visit Mom at her assisted living place. Sometimes I take a deep breath and join her for the Saturday evening Mass. Get nearly a hundred of those old biddies in a room, all of whom have plenty of opportunity to see each other, and you'd think the fox got loose in the henhouse. I never heard so much cackling in all my life! I know what you're thinking too: “But, but, how could you, you Black-Hatted Effete Snob? Have you no compassion for these old people who are steadily losing their proverbial marbles, and cannot always help themselves?” To which I reply: Au contraire, mon ami! We may not be seeing the "baby boomers" checking into the Old Folks Homes just yet, but we are seeing the age group right before them -- too young to get drafted in World War II, but just settling down in the Eisenhower years -- the ones that were nearing middle-age in the 1970s, and got totally into all that pseudo-charismatic hand-holding nonsense to try to kid themselves into staying young. But not my Mom, nosiree Bob! She never behaved like that back in the day, and she doesn't now, even though she's starting to lose her ... well, you know.

Oh, and one more thing: I'm not a snob. I'm a prig. There's a difference.

A big part of it is the way we treat Sunday. You know how families complain that the Traditional Mass is always too late in the day? Well, there's a reason for that, and we've dealt with that before, haven't we, kiddies? For some of them, Sunday is a day of rest, but for others, it's a day when they want that Latin Mass, but they wish it wouldn't hold them up from the rest of the day, because little Johnny has to be driven to the north side of town for a big soccer game, and little Susie has a volleyball tournament on the south side of town, and then there's this and that and all the other stuff that makes us forget that on the Seventh Day, even God rested, so why the hell don't we?

Then there's the scene once we get there. You can't just pop into a church to pray anymore. It becomes an errand, like getting in the minivan, driving through the maze of suburbia, and finding the Walmart-with-cross-on-top in the midst of a big-@$$ parking lot. Now, imagine that on Sunday. You think people just hang around? No, they've got to get to their cars, they've got to get onto their hopelessly middle-class lives, their football games on TV. They don't have time to mix with people after Mass. But still, the needs of the human heart remain, and they see Mrs McGillicuddy in the pew and it's, hey, hi, Maggie, how ya doin'? Did you hear about blah blah blah ...

Ever run an altar server program, and try to speak with one of the parents afterwords? You can tell little Johnny flat out, I NEED TO SPEAK TO YOUR MOMMY, OKAY??? And one minute Mommy's right there, and next minute ... whoosh, off she goes in the Dodge Suburban. Happens a lot. People have their kids, their busy, busy lives. That's excusable on a weekday, but Sunday is the Lord's Day. And yet, sometimes, even for Mr and Mrs Über-Trad and their little brood with matching outfits, it's one more thing to pencil in.

It won't change anytime soon. Pastors are not going to say anything. People might get upset. They might miss the one o'clock kickoff. They might complain to the bishop. They might wet their pants. Who knows? But until it does change, and until we realize Sunday for what it is (and what it is not), we won't even begin to know how to act with it.

And that's when the profane will continue to invade the sacred from one week to the next. They take it with them everywhere. They've forgotten how to leave it back at the house, don't you think?

Or don't you?

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