Well, I am back from a small holiday in Spain on the beautiful Costa Blanca, as you may be able to tell from my marginally less pallid complexion than the last time George and I sung. There was no internet at the resort, so I was unable to offer my personal commentary on all affairs Catholic, but actually a week off blogging is quite healthy now and then.
Refreshed from a week of swimming in the sea, drinking Coca Cola, slapping on sun cream, speaking Spanglish to locals and being aghast at the appalling liturgy of Our Lady of the Rosary in La Mata ('Mata' apparently means 'Death' in Spanish, as confirmed by my packet of Marlboro for just 3 euros 50 cents), I am ready once more to cast a glance over Catholic ongoings and have a little rant.
So, let's start with my holiday snaps...
|'Open wide the windows of the Church...'|
I found it a little ironic that the windows were open during Mass to let in some 'fresh air' given the interpretations of Vatican II of which we are all aware, but then, it is Spain and as we all know Spain is hot.
The Church is quite pretty, beautified and perhaps rescued by its many statues of Our Blessed Lady, Our Blessed Lord and the Saints. Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of the Rosary all line the walls on plinths. The question is, what does Our Blessed Lady make of the liturgy? Let's guess!
Aside from the fact that the liturgy was in Spanish, not English or Latin and so therefore was definitely not "my Mass" (if you will excuse the awfully blasphemous connotations of that phrase) I was truly shocked and appalled of Tunbridge Wells by the lack of reverence that the congregation gave to the Blessed Sacrament. Nevermind the fact that the CTS have published a Mass card more or less telling us all to stand to receive Our Blessed Lord, the locals didn't think to kneel at the point where we pray, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." In fact, even at the Consecration itself, there were some men and women still standing. Even at English Masses that I have attended where the liturgy has been shambolic, the people know to kneel after the Agnus Dei. What has happened to the Spanish? Anyone would have thought it was Spain, not England, in which there was a Reformation.
As you will see from the picture below, pride of place in the Church is dedicated not to Our Lord, who is pushed to the side, but to the Priest himself. That, I felt, was just plain eerie. Take a look at where his chair/throne is...
This seemingly common lack of appreciation for the fact that Christ is truly present in the Holy Eucharist was verified when I was told that at a procession for Corpus Christi on the previous Sunday, whenever the Priest stopped at various 'stations' around the small town to lift up the Monstrance, nobody knelt then either.
You can rest assured that we English do not have a monopoly on terrible ditties written by arch liberals as well. I don't know what hymns the congregation were singing, but while the tunes were similarly naff to our own, it sounded truly dreadful. I know this is hugely uncharitable but it reminded me of that scene in Gremlins when all the gremlins are singing the theme tune for Snow White in that cinema.
I know I sound like a miserable old git, but I was genuinely surprised by the liturgy and the perhaps near total lack of appreciation by the congregation to the reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Recognition and acknowledgement of the Real Presence is not an 'esoteric' thing. It isn't something about which we feel 'holier than thou'. It is just something that Catholics have practised down the ages and it really frightens me that this Mass, and doubtless many other Masses across Spain and Europe, put the Priest and People of God at the centre of the liturgy. It must be hugely damaging to the Faith of all present.
I can't help thinking that with so much of the liturgy that men and women experience at Mass on Sundays in the West, that the problem with things like the 'Soho Masses' is not that they are 'gay Masses' as such, but that so much emphasis is placed on the particular community that a sense of the truly sacred is all but lost.
There was also a truly awe-inspiring Ecce Homo statue and a lovely if small St Jude who was dressed in white and pink, which is not a colour I usually associate with the Martyr and Apostle as pictured below.
Apparently the Faith in Spain has taken a real battering since the 1960s. I know that socialism is a popular ideology there and that the gay rights movement and abortion movement have made considerable gains over the last 20-30 years, but it is hugely sad that some commentators have suggested that Spain is becoming 'nominally Catholic'. I really wondered over the period of the holiday why that should be the case, when in Poland and other predominately Catholic countries the Faith is still going so strong. When I went to Mass at this Church, however, I wondered whether it was not just Spain that was becoming 'nominally Catholic' but the Church itself. Beautiful statues are a wonderful aid to devotion. Processions are a wonderful demonstration of our Catholic Faith. At the end of the day, however, if liturgy fails to communicate the essential truths of the Faith and people are not led into an appreciation for the sacred mysteries of Faith then it counts for little - because our Faith is really not about those things - it is about an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.
George and Diane are coping remarkably well even though they are being shoved from "pillar to post" by the local authority. I have some truly shocking footage of the inside of 17-19 Grand Parade which I will post up in my next blog and I believe it is worthy of attention from the national press. Aside from that the Walsingham Pilgrimage with the LMS is approaching in August and George and Diane are wondering whether they might come. There is also talk of guitars being taken for the journey.
Is there any chance of a discount for the unemployed, I wonder?