We’ve just finished the Mass, and the students are back in their classrooms. It always impresses me to see how attentive they are, how engaged they are in what is taking place. They hear it pretty often: “The Mass is the most important part of our day,” and wonder of wonders, they believe it and their behavior shows that they believe it.
Visitors invariably remark about “how well behaved they are,” as though it’s something unexpected. In my twenty-three years of being pastor here I’ve learned a few things. One of the things I’ve learned is that if the celebrant behaves himself in the sanctuary, the people will behave themselves in the pews. I don’t mean that to sound flippant. It’s just one of those rather obvious facts. I’m not a great joke-teller, so there’s not a lot of laughing during Mass. Not that there’s anything wrong with humor and levity, it’s just that there’s a time and a place for everything. And it doesn’t seem to me that standing at the foot of the cross is the most appropriate place to launch into a comedy routine.
We never “dumb-down” the Mass here. It's apparent to me that this is the one place where the level should be raised, where we should be lifted up, rather than dragging it all down to some lowest common denominator. I can only shake my head in disgust when I hear some of our spiritual leaders going on and on about how people won’t understand “consubstantial,” and how they’ll be confused by “for you and for many,” and by all the other liturgical language they’re too stupid to get. This is the kind of “expert” who would be horrified to see what took place in the church this morning. There were five hundred students there, some of them as young as four years old, and they were being subjected to… the Mass in Latin! All of us were facing east together, including the celebrant, and they didn’t seem to find it confusing at all. They were chanting things like Kyrie eleison and Pater noster and Agnus Dei, and they were doing it at full volume. Those who received Holy Communion did so kneeling at the rail. The younger ones stayed quietly in their places. There were no hand-puppets, no guitars or drums to entertain them.
God was quite entertaining enough for us.