I need to tell you a story. It is not a nice story. It is a wee bit long but please see it through to the end.
On these pages I have often expressed my hope for the future of the Church. After a long time of heading in the wrong direction, I believe, I hope that we have finally begun the process of re-orientation. Tonight, however, I was reminded in no uncertain terms just how difficult this process is going to be. A majestic ship of this size headed into icy waters, upon finally recognizing the danger it is in, does not just turn on a dime.
Enough preamble, here is my story. My daughters first communion is today. Last night we had the rehearsal. Oy!
Upon arrival, a very nice lady explained to the children that the tabernacle has just been moved back to the center of the church this week and explained to the children that Jesus was present and what their proper disposition and behavior in the church should be. I was pleased. This was a short lived state.
The nice lady took the children downstairs to get them lined up and give them further instruction. She handed the microphone over to the DRE who clearly did not pay attention to the instructions about proper disposition before the tabernacle. For the fifteen minutes that the children were receiving instruction downstairs she berated the adults about what to do and not to do tomorrow. NO flash photography! NO tripods for video cameras! NO strollers in the aisles! NO talking to your children! NO waving! PIN your ribbons! NO flowers! and so on! I was struck that this is likely the first time I have heard a litany in our church and it was not what I expected. As bad as that was, it was the highlight of the evening.
After the children proceeded back into the church things took a turn for the worse. They had the children rehearse the first of the two songs that they will sing. I have already wiped the lyrics from my mind but suffice it to say that they didn’t even rise to banal. Accompanying the song was a fair amount of well rehearsed hand motions. Ugh! I sat through it thinking well if that is the worst of it, I suppose I will live. That wasn’t the worst of it.
The DRE then had them practice the Lord’s prayer. I had a bad 70’s flashback during this part of the rehearsal. I began to squirm and hold my head in my hands, inwardly pleading “please stop.” Of course they taught all the children to hold hands during the prayer and during the “for the kingdom, the power, and the glory…”, she instructed the children “Raise those hands HIGH! Get them up there! We do this this to remind ourselves that we are ONE!”
At this point I mumbled to myself, “We do this to remind ourselves how wonderful we are!” What I didn’t know is that the family sitting behind me was having a jolly ol’ time watching me squirm. Their 13 yr. old boy was sitting right behind me. After I let loose my snarky comment I heard his mother ask him what I said. He repeated it and they all giggled.
Then the children proceeded to the sanctuary right in front of the altar where they began a song that made the first little diddy seem like a Schubert composition. This song had more hand motions than a three day conference for the hearing impaired. Then they started a clappin’! Then they started a hootin’ and hollerin’ punching their fists Arsenio Hall style “Woo Woo! Jesus!” clap clap clap “Woo Woo! Jesus!”
“Oh No! Please make it stop!! Please” I pleaded inwardly while I squirmed ever more to the choir of giggles behind me. Finally, the song ended. Ah peace! Or so I thought.
Now it was time for the children to rehearse coming up for communion. The DRE had them proceed up to the front of the church, pretend to receive, and walk back to the pews. However, the children were not instructed to bow their heads as a sign of reverence before receiving holy communion. “Are you kidding me? After all the well rehearsed antics preceding this, she was not going to instruct them how to receive properly?” I couldn’t take it any more, I walked up to the front and politely addressed the DRE.
“Ma’am, excuse me, but shouldn’t the children be instructed to bow their heads before receiving communion?”
“Uh…Well…no one really does that! Hardly any of the adults tomorrow will do that.”
“Perhaps,” I said “but they are supposed to, right? Shouldn’t we teach them correctly?”
She responded “Well, if that is your family custom, you can instruct your child at home to bow his or her head!”
“Ma’am, it is not my family custom. It is in the general instruction. When receiving standing, the communicant should bow their head as a sign of reverence. Again, it is not my family custom. It is what the church directs.”
“Well, Ok. But the children have so much to remember already, this will be too much for them!”
“Ma’am. I have just watched you rehearse two songs with so many hand motions that it would take me a week to remember them. I watched you instruct the children during the Lord’s prayer to hold hands and to raise them up. Way up. None of which they are supposed to do during the liturgy. Now the one thing that they should be instructed to do, a simple head bow, is too much for them to remember? With all due respect, Ma’am, that is nonsense.”
She then barked at me loudly enough that all eyes in the church turned to us,”Sir, I am not going argue with you here in front of JESUS!”
“Ma’am, I am not arguing with you. This is what they are supposed to do. Teach them the right way!”
“FINE! Fine. Children, children, we need to rehearse communion again.”
I turned and headed back to my pew. I spied the family that had been sitting behind me watching me squirm, standing and watching the whole scene – giggles aplenty.
I abhor having to be that guy, but I couldn’t sit by and say nothing any longer. I hope I did the right thing.
From all this I am reminded, the ship of the Church does not turn on a dime and there is still plenty of icy water to traverse.