Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Why doing it right matters

This past weekend, thanks to a series of issues, I had the opportunity to take my son to the Seventh Trumpet Mass for vocations at the Abbey Church at St. Anselm College here in Manchester. Now, being a moderately nice day and since he had already gone to Mass in the morning with my wife and daughter, he was less than thrilled with the idea as we got ready to leave (my wife and daughter were off at a birthday party, and I had to go to make my Sunday obligation, so no I'm not intentionally making this an unnecessary battle at this point). I think at one point he finally fell into hoping that I'd get lost on the way there and we'd have to just head home. That I was poking around the St. Anselm's web site to figure out where I was going just before we left probably gave him some level of hope.

Much to his initial chagrin we made it there as if drawn by a wire. As an aside, I must say they do have a very nice campus. Oh, and yes, that was me almost trying to park in the "Monastery Only" parking area - mea culpa. At first from the outside my initial reaction was "oh no, a church-in-the round!" Thanks be to God when I got inside I discovered I was not only wrong, but very glad to be so. The pews are only slightly angled, so one is never facing another member of the congregation, and the altar stands at the center between the pews and the monastic choir stalls. The huge ceiling combined with the depth of the choir stalls makes the otherwise small nave seem positively massive. While I don't often agree with having the tabernacle off to the side in a church, with the open schedule and possible flow of non-worshipers due to the campus setting I think this fits the intended situation to not have the tabernacle front-and-center. I'm sure I'm not the only one to quibble with the nondescript (and non-descriptive) stained glass, but overall the church is pretty well done.

I won't say much about the Chaplet of Divine Mercy which while capably sung was neither extraordinarily good nor extraordinarily bad. Since he has not been much exposed to the Chaplet my son wasn't quite sure how to participate. Even after learning the words, being the shy type, he still remained fairly reclusive. Ah, the pains of we the introverts... If it had ended there I wouldn't have thought the trip much of a success. Fortunately, there was more to come.

As we waited for Mass to start, I had the opportunity to point out to him how every single person who walked in front of the tabernacle genuflected properly rather than the duck-n-run that we so often see these days if one even makes the attempt at all. As the servers milled about in their albs and one of the monks popped in and out in his cassock I could see him intently following their motions. When the procession began I made sure to point out to him how the server was simultaneously reverent and giving full motion as the thurible swung to and fro, as if to make the point that something serious and important was coming. No simple six-inch wiggle for this man, no he had the thurible completing a near 180-degree arc each time as he led the stately procession, at the end of which was the Abbott. Between the flying thurible, the mitre and the crosier my son was already hooked.

I'll not bother with the rest of the Mass - suffice it to say that at this point even my son was fully engaged and experiencing "active participation" in a whole new way. So to all those who think the smells-n-bells turn off the younger generation, I have first-hand proof of precisely the opposite. So many teaching opportunities crammed into such a short period of time, and all this to a kid who wasn't very interested in being there at the start. I'll say only this - if you want to catch them while they're young, don't fear the ceremony. They've seen guitars on the Wiggles and happy-go-lucky on Barney. But show them a flying thurible and a crosier and this purportedly disinterested generation snaps to in a heartbeat. I only hope this lesson is learned sooner than later.