Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Quadragesimo Anno
And also with you … And with your spirit

by Father Mark Pautler, for the Inland Register

(From the September 17, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Mark Pautler Apart from Sunday Mass, the largest gatherings at church are funerals. The congregation at a funeral Mass, however, is not your typical Sunday congregation. Funerals are, unfortunately, “privatized” rather than public celebrations of the liturgy. Family, friends and acquaintances of the deceased and others with a personal connection will be present. The “parish family” that we so often speak of is usually present only to the extent that a personal connection has been established. Furthermore, participants in the funeral Mass are not necessarily Catholic. In fact, I anticipate a substantial non-Catholic presence and make at least a feeble attempt to explain the flow of the liturgy, reassuring the congregation that we will get through this, and it won’t take up the rest of their day.

But these “rules of engagement” for non-Catholics at a funeral Mass also apply to many Catholics who are present. Most Catholics do not attend Mass on Sunday. Most Catholics don’t attend Mass apart from Christmas, Easter (to a lesser degree) and funerals. For me, this has been made evident at the funeral Mass from the opening greeting: “The Lord be with you.” From some in the congregation I hear: “And also with you.” This was the response prior to Advent of 2011 when the latest wave of the sea change in the liturgy rolled into our churches. Personally, I like “And with your spirit,” which is more engaging and perceptive, and not just more literal than the tepid “and also with you.” But what’s my point? “And also with you” indicates a substantial presence of Catholics who have not been substantially engaged in the liturgy for the past three-and-a-half years. At one time, they were engaged – they knew the responses and they responded! But their presence at the funeral on Wednesday is no indication that they will return on Sunday. Is there any point in asking “why?” Nonetheless, I am thankful that they came on Wednesday, and that they are likely to show up on Christmas.

Another instance of Mass nonparticipation happened in July when Gonzaga University’s class of 1970, my class, held its 45th reunion. I’m not especially comfortable at these events, and without classmate Joe Shogan’s personal invitation, I never would have shown. But I’m glad for Joe’s persistence, and that I showed up. And I was grateful for the invitation to celebrate Mass with the class on July 18. There were 12 of us. This was neither surprising nor disappointing. I don’t know the number attending the reunion. I’m guessing that 40-50 came to an informal reception the previous evening. That a dozen showed up for Mass met my expectations. And, there was no “And also with you” response to “The Lord be with you.” For the homily, I reflected on our experience in the student chapel 45 years ago. Our years at Gonzaga, 1966-1970, were the springtime of liturgical renewal. We were the generation that had grown up with a “traditional” Catholic formation. We knew the catechism; we knew the Latin Mass, and we knew that being Catholic meant Sunday Mass. Mass was not about being excited or being bored; it was about being there. The GU experience in the student chapel of 1966-1970 changed the way Mass was celebrated and experienced. I won’t try to explain it. But I do know that my little group of classmates had been part of this experience and it had affected our lives. I recalled the “look” of the chapel in those years when it had been transformed from the traditional churchy style into a “worship space.” Some liturgists might look back upon the “worship space” of that era as OCT (odorless, colorless, tasteless). No, that isn’t true. The worship space was only a shell. Every liturgy had its distinctive display of banners, symbols, decor or whatever else the planners could devise to make the Mass “meaningful and relevant.” None of this was wasted; none of this was worthless. Liturgical renewal was blossoming, but “where have all the flowers gone?” Today, the GU Chapel is an environment of dignified, prayerful elegance. It is not a “worship space” to be molded and manipulated for each liturgy, nor is it intended to be. The student chapel liturgies of 1966-1970 can never return, because no generation can experience the church from the perspective of the bridge generation, those of us whose faith was initially formed prior to Vatican II and entered its adolescence when we went to college. Has this “bridge generation” jumped off the bridge? Have we crossed over the bridge and found on the other side a church that is too simple to deal with reality that has become too complex? Our world is increasingly enigmatic, but the mystery of the church, the mystery of Christ, the mystery of the body of Christ and my participation in this body, is still the anchor that keeps me grounded.

(Father Pautler is Judicial Vicar and Chancellor of the Spokane Diocese.)

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