Week 39 Bonus

Life Teen Mass

Well, I had the car to myself and it was too hot to nap too long this afternoon, so I headed for the 6 PM Life Teen Mass I had been wanting to attend for some time. I arrived slightly late and was afraid I'd not get a parking space as the parking is sparse at this parish, but that was not a problem at all. I peeked inside the rear door and saw that the church was only about a quarter full, so I bravely decided to take what looked like a safe seat about three or four rows from the rear.

I was a bit less than ten minutes late, so I tried to collect my bearings and ascertain how far things had progressed. This proved to be rather difficult; I was unable to synchronize what I was seeing with the order of Mass to which I am accustomed. A musical group with guitars, amplifiers and the like served from the front of the church and was playing some sort of music. Lots of hand clapping was evident. The priest was working the congregation in the center aisle, asking for people who had never been to a Life Teen Mass. I was not about to raise my hand, of course. Then he said, "All you troops in the rear, come up front; if you don't, I'm coming to get you." Another gentleman walked past me from the rear, looked towards me and said, "Come on up front, brother." At this point, my bravery evaporated and I quickly headed for the exit, still unsure of what point this Mass had reached.

I almost left altogether, but instead I monitored the remainder of the Mass from safer vantage points outside near the sanctuary and in the vestibule in the rear, which fortunately had a pair of doors with a gap of a few millimeters between them, allowing me to get a good view without placing myself at risk. From the front, I heard the musical group playing "Our God Is an Awesome God," followed by a recited Gloria. The same readings I heard earlier in the day were recited, and a lengthy psalm (This is the day the Lord has made...) was sung. The Alleluia also was rather lengthy, as the priest held the Book of Gospels high in front of the altar for about two or three minutes. Holding the book in one hand, he read the Gospel from the center of the sanctuary. Another Alleluia followed the Gospel.

I went to the other location to hear the homily; in it, the priest practically scolded the group for not having grown after three years and wanted to know why the youngsters weren't bringing their friends, as he suggested in last week's homily, saying that they would be "gifts to bring to the altar." His focus was on the Gospel, and he said that they are the yeast that is supposed to make things grow. He insisted that the church should be full, saying that he had seen many instances of healing at this Mass. He also emphasized the importance of Mass, noting that the Kennedys immediately had a Mass offered when they learned that John Jr. was lost.

The Creed was recited, followed by what I think was a Prayer of the Faithful. The second Eucharistic Prayer was used, and the priest read it without much deviation from the text. The settings to the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were familiar to me from folk Masses.

Then all manner of foolishness began with the Our Father, which was sung; people started moving all about the church grabbing hands across the aisles. As this morning, the "Deliver us, O Lord" prayer was omitted. Then came the sign of peace; this took about five minutes as people wandered all about the church hugging and kissing and the like.

After the Agnus Dei, also sung, I saw about six lay ministers and another priest appear to assist with Holy Communion; at this point I decided that I had seen enough and chose to depart. The Mass had already run an hour and a quarter, and I was getting a bit hot from lurking in a closed vestibule.

As always, the best comments are not my own but those of others. Two women entered the vestibule as I was there and lots of concert-style singing was inside. One said, "I don't know if it's a regular Mass." The other replied, "It might be a Mass."

What really concerns me about this is that it looks like entertainment rather than worship. If it's just another form of entertainment, it's hopeless; why should teens or anyone else go to a church for entertainment instead of the beach, a real rock concert, a park, or a ball game, or even just stay home with TV or a video game? The only advantage it has as entertainment is the price. Why would anyone go for entertainment to a place where the Cross is hung in a prominent position? Further, in my experience, life has lots of crosses, great and small, to bear. All the "feel good" stuff is poor preparation for the school of hard knocks. Will these people be able to withstand the storms that life brings? Will their faith be solid when things don't feel good and life isn't entertaining? I hope so, but I'm not optimistic, I'm afraid.

The best thing I can say about this Mass is that it was valid. The basic elements of a valid Mass were present, and I presume the priest consecrated proper bread and wine. That, of course, says very much and not much at the same time. Jesus was there, physically present in the Eucharist, but is mere validity our target?

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