The Devil Waits Outside the Church

The Devil Waits Outside the Church

She arrived during the homily. Walking right up to the statue of Mary Help of Christians, crowned with May flowers and lovingly arranged her small spray in the Virgin’s arms. She genuflected, then crossed to the altar and prostrated herself, before proceeding to sit on the other side.

devil waits
St. Michael and the Devil

I recognized her from 6:30 am daily Mass and from the food pantry. I had suspected for some time that she had some kind of mental illness and was perhaps homeless. Though of late, she had been fixing herself up and dressing with more dignity.

My dad, who suffers from dementia, had had a rough week, which I attributed to the heavy overcast. Therefore, I also attributed her strange behavior to that as well. It was the first time I had seen her exhibit such a level of inappropriateness during Mass.

When she went up to serve as a Eucharistic Minister, there was more bowing and prostrating. She held the chalice on the crown of her head and then kissed it. She did offer the Blood of Christ appropriately to the faithful. But when she returned it to the table at the side of the altar, there was more show, and putting it on her head and such. Finally, Father spoke a few quiet words to her and removed the vessel and cloth from her hands. She submissively returned to her seat, with no further exhibition.

All this was difficult for me to observe. I wanted it to end, to not distract me from the Mass. I was irritated. It was wasting my time and distracting me. I was not feeling loving or kind. I realized this and forced myself to be patient.

It was the comments I heard after Mass that angered me. “Someone needs to get that woman off the altar. It was sacrilegious!”  Yes, I believe she does need to be gently corrected, perhaps guided into some other area of ministry. Nevertheless, I must take issue with this.

For years now, I have watched this congregation shunt its elderly, disabled, and mentally ill to the side. Even out the door. Making them feel unwelcome and unwanted. Shame on you.

You boast of a school to form young Catholics but then you disrespect the ones who worked for decades to build this church and that school. Who gave of their time, their talent, and their money. Shame on you.

You too will be there. How will you feel when people push you further and further to the door? Did the patron of your parish love his boys but not his parents? Did he tell his mother that he did not need her anymore because her abilities were lagging? Is it only the children and youth who are welcome in the kingdom of God? People can serve many different ways. It is sad when the community only selects the bright, the beautiful, and the young and then complains that there is not enough help.

I have not seen her since the incident. I hope she has not shaken the dust of this community from her shoes. But I fear she has. May she find the love and acceptance she deserves.

The devil does indeed await us just outside the church. We must strive to continue to be the Body of Christ to the world, starting with each other.

 

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How To Find Mass on the Road

Inside Stella Maris, Goose Island, Texas

I still am getting used to the idea of using my smartphone instead of paper maps, telephone books and a cell phone. Everything evolves around here, especially with rving full-time and relying heavily on modern technology to navigate and assist in finding what we need during our slow travels. The travel tip I’ll share today is from my smartphone, it sure makes simple work of finding Sunday Mass.
yp on google play

We have previously used various websites to locate Catholic churches and Mass times while adventuring. Currently, with our smartphones, on this most recent road trip to parts previously unknown, we have made good use of the YP (yellow pages) app and the pre-loaded maps app on the iPhone4. Although, in a couple of instances we have been steered wrong, these two apps have helped us find churches, post offices, homes of friends and relatives, rv parks, campgrounds, grocery stores, and more.

maps from apple

I shudder to recall the days when Google maps always had to be backed up with a paper street map and a cell phone to call and get directions. I still laugh about my friend’s couchsurfers, who never did find the Grand Canyon, because their smartphones sent them off on a more direct route – as the crow flies, rather than as the car drives. I now laugh at myself, when I get frustrated at the phone for leading me to an empty warehouse instead of the post office, but I am learning to pull over, re-calibrate and enter different info when that happens. It also helps to drive around a bit and have a young’un who’s pretty good with reading maps and navigating. And smartphones.


We haven’t gotten lost yet, but I can tell you, we have unintentionally taken some scenic drives and did arrive late for Mass once. We haven’t missed Mass on Sunday, though. I usually check YP on Friday, map out the route to the church, then call the number provided to check Mass times. 

Our Lady of the Valley, La Jara, Colorado

I still carry a road atlas and some state maps for general route planning and reference, but to find local stuff along the way, the YP app and the maps app have been invaluable and saved an enormous amount of time and frustration. I highly recommend checking your smartphone or tablet and trying out similar apps which may be available to you, as you plan your next pilgrimage.

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Oops! God, Have Mercy, I Goofed Again

 

Sunday’s gospel (Luke 18:9-14) was all about humility. The pharisee proudly reminds God how well he has kept His commandments. The tax collector, in shame, hides in a corner and begs God’s mercy. Fr. K’s homily began with a reminder that once we think we have humility, we’ve lost it. His hint couldn’t have come at a better time. More than one of us had goofed up that very day.

After Mass, several of us were discussing our humbling experiences during our monthly community meal. I had started things out by jumping into the Gloria, before the Kyrie was chanted.  My guitar player pointed out my mistake and I stealthily retrieved my chapel veil from my bag and covered my humbled head. Next, our second reader forgot “The Word of the Lord”, at the end of his reading, because it ended in “Amen”. I had to smile. I was no longer alone in my shame. The final humiliation was that sticky key on my flute, which naturally decided to stick in the middle of a solo. I guess I’d better get that fixed. At least the organ didn’t blare out of tune like it did last Sunday…
 
 
We make plenty of little mistakes all the time. Usually we play through them and nobody notices. Sometimes they are very obvious and amplified by the presence of a microphone and a large group of people in front of us. As my friend Joan commented, “God must have needed a good laugh today”. Always happy to oblige.

 

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Wild Horses of Route 66

Route 66, or more appropriate for this blog post, Will Rogers Highway, passes through miles of open range, BLM land and private ranch land in Arizona. The longest existing stretch of Will Rogers Highway is between Ash Fork, Arizona and Kingman, Arizona. This is where you can see herds of wild horses grazing alongside range cattle. If you’re lucky, you might even see a fast freight train on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line, bringing goodies to Los Angeles from all points east, while you’re stopped to admire the horses.

Talk about a Sunday drive! I get to see this herd on my way back to Ash Fork from Seligman, after playing for Sunday Mass there at St. Francis Catholic Church. Sometimes I even see them from Interstate 40 on my way there from St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Ash Fork.


This curious little fellow spies me and wants to know what I’m up to. The others studiously ignore me. I don’t believe that this is a BLM herd, so my guess is that they are owned by whomever holds the grazing lease on this particular stretch of land. I have come to think of them as “my herd” and look for them whenever I come this way. There is a certain water hole near a blocked off bridge where my youngest son and I have spent many a Sunday hour watching the trains and the horses while picnicking on sandwiches and fruit. 


Every year it is exciting to see the new foals and watch them grow. This year, with all of our wonderful rain, the horses had plenty of water to frolic and cool off in. I tried hard to get some good shots of them playing in the water, but they came out too blurry or too late. I’ll sure miss these guys when we head out on the road full-time. One more item on the list of heartbreaking choices I’ve had to make. I look forward, however, to discovering new herds in new places and especially to having some new adventures to share with you as we travel the Western United States and wherever else God in His good humor decides to take us on our pilgrimage of life.

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Simple Music Guidelines

Mass confusion.  That’s what music for Mass seems to be these days.  Catholic liturgical music has gone from chant, to folksy, to rock ‘n’ roll, to chaos.  Well, maybe chaos is too extreme a word.  Whatever happened to good old-fashioned guidelines?  Is it just assumed that we know what we’re doing?  If music is the least of the priorities of those who issue guidelines for the Mass, then something is seriously wrong, because there is an awful lot of music in the liturgy.  There are at least four hymns and half a dozen sung responses.

Much is left to the discretion of the music director, which is as it should be, ideally.  My question is, where does the music director turn for direction?  As organist and music director for two small town rural parishes, which share one priest with a third small town parish, I have been searching for over a decade for guidelines in choosing hymns and settings for our services.  I do the usual:  read the readings, psalm and gospel, choose applicable hymns from the missalette and hymnal, try and be consistent with the music for the responses.  With all the choices available, it can get overwhelming.  In my youth, we had a teen group that would play for the teen Mass.  I do believe we occasionally made some inappropriate choices in the music we played for Mass in the name of keeping it “upbeat and lively”.  I now have a totally different perspective of what kind of music is in order for our most sacred of services.

This is where I get lots of feedback.  Even though most of our congregation does not sing no matter what type of music is played, some will not hesitate to inform me that the songs were:  “wonderful as usual” (thank God you didn’t notice all my goofs), “boring old hymns” (if the words to “Immaculate Mary” bore you, maybe you need a little focus and meditation), “songs we don’t know” (really?  This is the 100th time we’ve done “Be Not Afraid” out of the missalette and you don’t know it?), “too much Spanish” (1/2 and 1/2, alternating, for a bilingual Mass), the Our Father is supposed to be said, not sung (still waiting for the final word on this).  Yet the Diocese, for all its’ concern with Safe Environment, annulments, fundraising appeals and the New Translation (overly hyped I think), does not seem to think liturgical music worthy of being addressed.  Ah, so I guess this is just part of my personal spiritual journey.

So as I continue to search for answers to the all-pervading question of what to play for Mass this Sunday, I will read the blogs of other church musicians, occasionally check the diocesan website for information, and network wherever I can, to see what other music directors are doing.  And in the end, I’ll make sure and clear it with my pastor.  Meanwhile, Holy Spirit guide me, and help me to choose music that will soften the peoples’ hearts and lift their spirits.

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