Shaking hands, holding hands, communion in hand as mentioned in a parish bulletin several years ago . . .

* You don’t have to shake hands (at “sign of peace” time), you can just say hi in a “genuinely warm” way, said the bulletin in 2012, concerned about germs in the flu season.

But being genuinely warm can be the trouble. What’s not to like about that. A handshake is lower-level sacred in itself, something I give myself to wholeheartedly, but here it’s distracting when one is absorbed or trying to be absorbed with God-centered thoughts, which are essential to a worship experience or any religious experience as I understand it. Am I wrong?

* Plus maybe skip hand-holding (at Our Father time).

Or any other season if you don’t mind: forget the kumbaya if you don’t mind.

* Plus reconsider your aversion to communion in the hand if you have one.

Didn’t have one at the time (have acquired one), but was and remain averse to persuading people to do things opposite to what’s done in the Vatican. Or is hostile to their belief and a trifle insensitive to religious emotions. But more than that to one’s conviction that it’s God-time at Mass and that it’s important to pay attention to that.

Something else: Control freakism here? Uniformity pushed if not subtly enforced by professionals? Some of that maybe, or probably. All part of the decline of the worship experience, loss of the sacred. I thought so then, do so now.

The Mass belongs to the Church, not the priest – March, 2012

Opinion: Letters To The Editor March 13th, 2012

Dan Haley is indignant about Bishop Braxton’s telling a priest not to ad-lib the Mass, as if it’s the priest’s Mass and he can do with it anything he wants. But it’s not his, it’s the church’s. Braxton had no choice. Once apprised of the situation, he nixed the practice. What was he supposed to do, poll the congregation?

Dan knows the church doesn’t act that way, but he continues to kick against the goad, betraying either naivete or stubbornness in the matter. He would like the church to conform in this matter. And in how many others?

It’s an institution that claims divine founding and has thousands of years of being governed pretty much as it is today. But a priest wants to remake the Mass, the center of Catholic worship? Braxton is supposed to say go ahead, suit yourself? If he has authority in any area, it’s in worship.

He doesn’t have Dan’s vote, and he may not always have mine, but in either case, so what? We’re both trying to be decent Catholics; that’s the important thing.

Jim Bowman
Oak Park

Meditating at Mass

PRAYER AND MEDITATION: I left home 8/8/1950 at 18 to study them full time. After two years of it (novitiate), I got my SJ degree, which I relinquished many years later. Even so, much of it has stuck. At Mass, for instance, I often enter the zone of prayer and meditation, which makes me a poor participant in liturgy. Doesn’t mean I think of nothing else (distractions, you know) or that I am superior to the fellow or gal next to me who belts out the songs and other responses. In fact, you could argue I’m not as good because I seem to reject the communal aspect that characterizes today’s liturgy.

So allow me to hang my head in shame at that, asking only for tolerance. Bear with me.

However, I ask . . .

Do we exceed the limits of liturgical propriety sometimes when, for instance, we extend the handclasp of peace to other pew-sitters far and wide, even getting out of our pews to hug and chat? Just asking, don’t get mad.

Communion time also. What about our meeting and greeting on way to the communion station? Ushers do it. They are the souls of geniality as if they were the host greeting you at the door of a party. And they and others seem sometimes to take it amiss if you don’t participate, like the old gent at Ascension-Oak Park a few years back who stood where communion-goers passed, glad-handing one and all. I didn’t go along, and the fellow was surprised and wounded.

Some get carried away with our communality. Something is missing when that happens. A sense of the sacred, reverence?

Communion time at a Mass of burial, an arguably solemn time on an arguably solemn occasion: Worshiper who has participated lustily throughout Mass thinks of something to call another’s attention to, does so. But the other is in a zone and working on staying there and can only nod and turn back. Later, returning from communion, same worshiper has to pass others to get to his place in the pew, puts head down and looks straight ahead. Others for whom this is a social occasion seem not sure about this, wondering what gives with this fellow.

Is something missing? The Mass of old, which encouraged or at least made time for the prayer-and-meditation aspect, is long gone. Pious chatter is the norm, including from the altar, where like a radio talker, anxious about dead air, Father almost never stops. Once there was silence. Is it time for some sort of pendulum shift? I ask you.

Acid comments on a church redecorated . . .

CHURCH AS REDECORATED, January, 2002 . . . Astute, knowledgeable reader reports a church redone in “a rainbow of colors,” including purple and pink and “new shades of blue-greens . . . all radiating from a once dramatically stark huge crucifix above the sanctuary, which now looks like a Divine Mercy wannabe, clashing with modern stained glass windows already there in bold blue, green and yellow.

“The ‘liturgy committee’ . . . saw autumn approaching and brought out last year’s hangings on either side of the crucifix in vivid orange and yellow, with nosegays of artificial orange/yellow flowers. Streamers of artificial leaves cascade down the walls of the nave between stations of the cross.

“We have either become the Rainbow Coalition or been taken hostage by Puerto Ricans. Not to say that would be such a BAD thing, but if you are not color blind you wish you were.”

She was a writer and a dedicated Catholic who has gone to her reward.


The mass is reconstituted by free-lancing priest-celebrants.

For instance . . .

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands
for the praise and glory of his name,
for our good
and the good of all his holy Church.

. . . is in some quarters changed to

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at our hands
for the praise and glory of God’s name . . .

. . . which never in my hearing has been explained to the congregation. It’s simply done, over and over until the people, or most of them, do it that way too. You can hear the cacophonous blurring in the recital.

The changes are easily explained. “Our hands” ignores the priest’s unique role as celebrant and “God’s name” avoids the masculine pronoun.

The first changes the meaning and is pernicious. The second flouts tradition as scandalous and offensive.

What Catholics pray for during Mass: Should they watch their language?

Praying for peace is a good idea, but for an “end to violence” or even the specific “end to violence in Chicago”? That’s praying for the end of the world, which will be a wonderful thing, to be sure. The earliest Christians prayed for it. But we might add an Augustinian “not yet.” Why not “less violence”? Or “fewer killings on our mean streets,” something we can take seriously without calling for an end to life as we know it. (Unless we are truly asking for the Final Coming.)

Or an end to vote-stealing. Why not expand social-justice discussion to troubles behind the obvious — poverty and the like — into political corruption, which does poor people no good and like everything else affects them most of all.

Or we are asked to pray for the deceased who “rests in the loving embrace” of God, which is romance-novel talk. “May he or she rest in peace” works nicely. Do we need this loving-embrace talk? One cringes.