Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pope had a reverent, dignified and majestic Mass in León, Mexico

It has not been uncommon in the United States, and some other countries, to see some try to make papal Masses, "relevant", to certain groups - most often to young people. In my past Catholic life (pre-2005), I thought this was a good idea. But that preceded a time when I realized that the Mass was not about me, or anyone else. Worship is something we give to God for His sake, not ours. If we love our Creator, we will give our time to Him, and worship Him unconditionally. Worship should be God-centered and it seems that some large, papal and diocesan Masses have turned into something other than worship. Rather than having the nature of a sacrifice, it takes on the character of a big celebration.

I got to see the Mass in León, Mexico at Bicentennial Field. It was on EWTN today (you can view the raw video feed here).   This is a Mass where 300,000 were expected and about 700,000 showed up, as was reported by Raymond Arroyo during the broadcast. Some wondered why the Holy Father didn't go to Mexico City and it was pointed out that the altitude there would have adversely affected the Pope. 

What I saw of this Mass was very reverent, dignified, and majestic.  First, the simplicity of the make-shift sanctuary was quite beautiful, along with the altar.   The crucifix was a crucifix, not some modern piece of art that looked like wax had melted into something resembling one.  Our Lady of Guadalupe was represented also.  The music was all orchestra, and the atmosphere was very prayerful.  They didn't shake the music up by using orchestra for some things, then do something else.  They didn't put big stars or personalities "on display" during Communion.  Also noteworthy is what was missing at this big Mass in Mexico: Guitars.

Why did I think there would be guitars at Mass in Mexico?  Well, perhaps I've seen one too many big Masses here in the U.S. where well-intentioned people have worked to make Mass "relevant" for Latinos by having these things.   By the looks on people's prayerful faces there in León, I don't think they were missing the guitars during Mass. 

An entire ensemble of guitar players up in the stands played as the Holy Father drove by in the Pope Mobile
Now, I like guitar - outside of Mass. And, they had guitars in Mexico last night (view raw video), when the children gathered at the Plaza de la Paz in Guanajuato in León.  Do you see the difference?  Inside-of-Mass: No guitars.  Outside-of-Mass: guitars and more.  A gathering of joyful young people in a plaza, outside-of-Mass, greeted the Holy Father with all kinds of music, cheers, chanting, and signs.  A youth orchestra, with more violins than I could count, played some beautiful things.  I was awestruck.  But there was also another, very large group, all playing guitars and singing recognizable, Mexican tunes with great joy.  I was endeared.  Truly, if you want something joyful to watch, hit that raw video feed of the plaza event and watch the young people welcome an elderly cleric for whom much of the popular press has no love.  

Very large youth orchestra played some amazing music

While I'm sure Msgr. Guido Marini had much to do with some of this, we have seen some rather interesting things over the years at other, large papal Masses.  Either the bishop of this diocese in Mexico understands what the Holy Father has been trying to teach by example, or the instructions coming from Msgr. Marini got tightened.  

There is a time and a place to bring cultural identity into something.  But, I lean towards having the big, celebratory, cultural stuff outside of Mass, just as it was done last night when the youth greeted the Holy Father.  This doesn't apply just to ethnicity, but also to youth gatherings.  When we try to dress-up the Mass for them, I think we underestimate what they want, and that they are perfectly capable of worshiping when the environment is more solemn, reverent, and mindful that the Mass is a Sacrifice.

What do you think?

The Holy Father will be doing Vespers in about 15 minutes.  You can tune in to EWTN, or watch it live.  You have two options there:  Watch raw video, without any translations or interruptions, at the page set up for this visit at the Vatican's website.  Or, watch it streaming on EWTN (go to the Television tab at the top, then choose an option based on your location).

Since I missed the homily, I'm going to read it later.  You can  find all of the Holy Father's addresses and homilies at a page set up on the Vatican's website for the Mexico-Cuba visit.

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