The Catholic Mass

During my recent visit with my brother down in North Carolina, I accompanied him to Easter Sunday Mass. It was the first time in over 50 years that I stepped inside a Catholic Church during its service. What I found totally surprised me. But first, a little personal history.

I spent a good part of the first 25 years of my life as a Catholic. I didn’t particularly have any say in that matter. My parents made that decision. I don’t understand why, as they rarely went to church themselves. In my first seven grades, I was taught by Franciscan Nuns. I have several stories about that, but I will reserve that for another post. Then there was a 15-year hiatus from “church”, followed by about 25 years as a Lutheran. That is, until I was thrown out because I didn’t believe the right things.

What I found, on this recent trip to an Easter Mass, totally confused me. It seems that the mass is now more of an entertainment thing than anything else. There were no Bibles, hymnals, or any other literature in the pews that would insinuate any congregation participation in the service. The congregation just seemed to stand up, kneel, and sit down on command, but that was about it. And, of course, being Easter, the place was packed. The service itself was delayed almost a half hour. I tried to use my speech to text app on my phone to further understand what was going on, but it seems music was probably playing throughout the service, so that was not possible. It seems that the hymns that were in the service were sung by only one person, who was appropriately adorned and very near the communion rail.

I didn’t see any evidence of any Bible readings or even a sermon for that matter. All the activity, what there was of it, took place behind the communication rails. They did have the traditional communion that the vast majority went up for. The priests, two of them, were elaborately decked out in very colorful garb.

As usual, there were many statues of Jesus and Mary, and a few others I did not recognize. I didn’t see any confessionals, so I don’t know if that has been set aside as well. This was simply not a service of my youth. Is mass now just an entertainment thing? To be truthful, the pomp and circumstance was very lavish, but the lessons to be learned were puny if they existed at all.

I am now in the middle of preparations for a revisit of the Quaker version of Christianity, and it is quite literally the opposite of what I found in my visit to the Catholic Church. I would certainly welcome any comments you might make about this topic as we go through this revisited series.

4 thoughts on “The Catholic Mass

  1. Interesting. I was raised by a cradle Catholic and a very fervent convert — which was required back in the day to marry a Catholic. It took me longer than you to become disenchanted (mostly based on my involvement with VOTF, a group supporting victims of abuse), but I have a brother who gave it up at about 15. I’m curious about your experience though, as I have been to Mass infrequently and I haven’t seen a communion rail in years. I suppose most of our local churches are more modern, but honestly, even the local Cathedral has no communion rail anymore. Was this by chance a Latin Mass? Did you see women wearing head coverings? This has become the new “conservative” group inside the Church — which appears in many locales to be divided like the rest of the US.


  2. I understand that Catholic Mass is rarely put together for the hearing impaired right now. Covid took most hymnal, misselettes and bibles out of pews. My parish has returned to misselets in both English and Spanish. . Misselettes have the body of the Mass, the readings for each Mass and the hymns.
    There are four pieces of the Bible proclaimed every Sunday Mass- Old Testament, Acts or Letters, New Testament and psalm (Psalm is sung). Besides those, almost all of the prayers in Mass are either from the Bible or about the people. With a few OT exceptions, if you go to Mass every day for three years- the entire Bible is proclaimed. Unlike the day when few could read, we are encouraged to read on our own as well.
    The homily is after the Gospel and is supposed to be weaving all four of the readings together to everyday life.
    i wont go into the garments, which are put on with separate prayers as well, but compare them to a well dressed man in a good presentation. I’ve seen priests were a stole over camouflage or t shirt and jeans- it is a state of prayer that is desired.
    The up and down? As a teacher, I laughingly say that it was put together so men with ADHD would participate. . Every movement stimulates the brain to listen. In Europe I stood most of Mass…
    We no longer use confessionals. We sit and speak with our priests. I sort of see it as going to God and saying it all aloud and God saying…you’re good to go- try your hardest not to fall on bad habits again. It is very different, but I really like it. The old coming up with petty reporting on yourself is discouraged. Get to the root and live a good life.
    Catholicism is not an easy to jump into religion. It is about both community and self revelation. The crazy Irish messed the American Catholic Church up pretty well. People sometimes do the wrong things for the right reasons. I am surprised you did not learn that from your Franciscan Nuns,,,,
    i invite you to your religious home anytime😉🥰😇. Remember that many of the saints of the Church taught that nothing should dissuade you from your relationship with the Trinity. So if there is a better setting for you, seek it.


    1. It’s probably not evident what is going on at all without some sort of hymnal or missalette and if you can’t hear the music, it probably appears the song leader is the only one singing. Depending on the mix of folks in Church on Easter, maybe not that many were singing, especially the responses. (former Church organist here…)


      1. Yeah, all your observations were probably right, Laurel. When I saw the guy in front singing, I did look around and didn’t see anyone else, but I was really looking at the back of heads. I didn’t turn around and look behind me. I was actually an altar boy and learned all the Latin responses to the priest’s chanting. Back then, at least as I remember it, there were three readings – Old Testament, New Testament, and a gospel reading. After then there was usually a 20 minute or so sermon. I never saw any break in the activities over 3 or 4 minutes, that is except for the communion which took about 10 minutes. The whole service was less than 30 minutes. Maybe this was one of the rogue congregations that Laurel was talking about. 🙃

        Thanks, Janette, for your explanations. Except for the removal of confessionals, they are mostly what I remember from 50 years ago. I’m not much of a pomp and circumstance type guy, even as a youngster never felt uncomfortable around all that. Oh, I forgot, about throwing holy water on the congregation, that happened this time. But I didn’t get any on me, so maybe I was not blessed. 😎


Share Your Thoughts..

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s