Not long ago, I experienced something unusual for me. I listened to an Irish rock, folk, blues, country band. There were two rhythm guitars, two strong male voices and several female voices, creating harmonies together.
The music was very mediocre, something one might find in a bar or social function, as background music. I did not find it very pleasant, although at the end the audience gave an enthusiastic round of applause.
So where was this venue, you might ask? I am sorry to say – this was no bar or restaurant.
It was Holy Mass in a beautiful cathedral.
The band was playing in the sanctuary and the volume was high. And they lapped up the attention and the applause. It was as though they were the centre of everything. They were the reason the congregation – their audience – had come. And the people echoed this, with their loud applause.
All the while, the Lord in His tabernacle, beside them, was ignored.
I wept through much of the Mass. I wondered if I should leave, not being able to bear the indignity of it all. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t. I simply blocked my ears and wept for Our Lord, there in His tabernacle before me, before us all, Whose Divine Presence was usurped by this rock group.
The young priest who celebrated this Mass, however, was full of vigour, encouraging the congregation to carry their faith into their everyday lives, evangelising, praying the Rosary, praying for the Holy Souls in purgatory and generally living a strong faithful life. His faith and piety seemed incongruent with the country rock music. I wondered whether he even liked it.
Many questions arise, about the incongruence here, between such awful charades and the celebration of Holy Mass, the greatest mystery enacted upon earth.
How can Holy Church allow this to happen? No wonder her churches are emptying, priests becoming fewer and fewer. The situation appears dia???. And I often wonder if it is, for the modern Church.
Yet, great hope is not far away. For there are groups, orders, Societies and Institutes, who are upholding traditional Catholicism in ways that inspire and enflame the faith.
For instance, Roger and I travelled down to Limerick last month, to celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest there, in Sacred Heart Church.
It was absolutely beautiful, with the most sublime Gregorian chants and church décor truly fit for a King, supporting a liturgy that transported one, as though we worshipped at the heavenly altar on high.
Here, the Church was living and vibrant and without a doubt, Holy.
The comparison with the tragedy of that ‘Country and Western’ liturgy, which sadly could never be described as Holy, is staggering. How can this be the same Church?