Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Mass that opened my eyes and blinded them with tears: 1979. (Life under 6 Popes continued)

By 1979 I had become accustomed to the new Mass in English. That is not to say that I liked it or was comfortable with it. But I was obedient. I remember wondering why  'they' had to waste all that money on a new translation when they could have just used the translation of the Latin Mass as it appeared in every Missal.
The answer is of course that 'they' wanted not only to change the Language, but as far as possible its very meaning by other subtle omissions and adjustments..

In the Spring of that year I was following a correspondence course with Our Lady's Catechists (do they still exist?) Before I sent in any of my work I submitted it to Fr Foley in Bovey Tracey. He found no fault with my answers. More importantly he found no fault with the questions or with the course itself. In the summer I decided to go on a week's catechetical course I had seen advertised in one of the Catholic papers, thinking that it would reflect the OLC syllabus that I was already following and that it would give me the support of like minded fellow students.

So off I went at the end of the secular school year to Marie Assumpta Centre in Kensington.
I did not know that the place was not at all the same as it had been when I myself had been trained as a teacher in Winchester.. One still relied on stability in those days. As I walked down from High St. Ken.  to the first 'meet and greet' session, I had absolutely no idea that this kind of certainty was about to be plucked from my heart and soul.. .

In this first session I encountered a group of young women surrounding a personable youngish man, I'd guess he was late thirties. It turned out he was an American priest and that he would be conducting the course. He insisted on being called Father Jim..

After a while, we moved to the place where the opening Mass would be celebrated. There was I believe a perfectly respectable chapel which would have been large enough for the gathered assembly, but the organisiers had chosen to have the Mass in what I assumed was the original College assembly hall, but not from the stage  but 'in the round' on the floor of the auditorium.

The Mass began (Fr Jim celebrating)

We reached the Gospel safely enough. But then as the priest read it, a pair of religious sisters took the floor in front of him and presented a dance drama to illustrate the building of a house upon the sand..That was bad enough but then came the 'homily'.

It consisted of Fr Jim's telling us about the conversion of the Belgian Cardinal Mercier. Apparently as a fairly disreputable youth Mercier was passing a church with a 'buddy', who challenged him to go into the chuch, kneel before the altar and say, 'You are Christ, and I don't give a damn.' Mercier took up the challenge but when he came to the point in front of the tabernacle, he just could not utter the words he had promised in the 'dare'. He was converted.

.Now, you may say what you like about the unsuitability of this tale for a homily  on the particular Gospel text, or about the language used by Fr Jim. Worse was to come. Just before the Communion of the faithful when he should have held up the host and said the prescribed words in the missal, this priest held up Our Lord and said to Him, 'You are Christ and WE do give a damn.'

The shock was so great that I stopped thinking. It was as if I'd been knocked into semi-conscioussness.
Communion was then distributed but not by the priest. He handed the full ciborium to the first person to his left and to the second, the chalice containing the Precious.Blood, gesturing that both should be passed from hand to hand round the entire circle.  I was on the far side, facing the priest. I could not possibly get out without drawing attention to myself by breaking the circle and walking round it and behind the priest to the exit. Truly I have no memory of what happened next but I must have got out of it. I remember walking back to High St. Ken. tube station and that was all until I reached Sloane Square and found myself in The Fox and Hounds pub (our local). Shortly afterward Michael  came in, that is the Choir Master mentioned in previous post and with whom I was staying.  It was early and the pub wasn't busy. Had it been heaving with people I don't thin it would have made any difference. When I saw him I burst into incontrollable sobs of delayed shock...It was some time before I could explain at all coherently what had happened and why I was in such a state. (I had never behaved in such a way in public before, either in in his presence or out of it.

At the end of the week I went back to Devon a changed woman.

To be continued



A Catholic Comes Home said...

OH my goodness..poor Jane.

Unknown said...

I feel your pain, Jane.

I had been for one or two of these 'creative' masses which knocked me into a semi-coma like haze.

Needless to say I won't be attending mass in those parish's anytime in the future.