Some time ago, while walking through the Spokane International Airport, I noticed a billboard for the “World Famous Singing Nuns” from Spokane. I hardly knew we had any women religious in Spokane, let alone world famous singing women religious. Anyway, the World Famous Singing Nuns are from Mount St. Michael’s, a Traditionalist Catholic parish located high on a bluff on Spokane’s northern prairie that offers a Latin Mass (actually, only a Latin Mass).
The interesting thing about the mass this morning, is that the priest never spoke loudly enough to be heard from where we were sitting (about mid-chapel, on the left). The mass might have been in Latin, but it could have been in any other language, because the only points at which he spoke loudly enough or mic’d enough to be heard, he spoke in English (the announcements, the sermon, the Hail Mary, and the other prayers at the end of the service).
I keep telling Michael we need to get some covers for some of our larger books, so we can “pass” among evangelicals. Here, again, we were book-less. The parishioners had some kind of missal (which seemed to be in English, from the little glimpse I got of the one the woman beside me had — she moved further down the pew when she realized we’d followed her into the row, and I didn’t want to get caught gawking over her shoulder).
Michael informs me that covered books (Harry Potter, say) to pass is tantamount to deceit, and is therefore a kind of lying, and ought not be done in church. I suppose Breaking Dawn as a missal is the same . . . but still. Neither of us seems willing to go and buy another Bible . . . we have probably 2 full boxes of them (including the African American one our Jewish best man got us for our wedding, and a copy of the Boomer Bible (which isn’t a Bible–the AA one is a KJV) . . . but we don’t have a Douay-Rheims, which would have been the proper one today.
We did manage to pass in our clothing, as we’d read up on the dress code. Michael: suit and tie. Jen and Farmergirl: Skirts below the knee and headscarves. The Jeep Hair scarf came in quite handy and matches the brown dress quite nicely. Farmergirl got a plain white Palestinian scarf (it was that, or go with the black-and-white Yassar Arafat one that goes over it. Most of the women were sporting chapel veils and mantillas or hats . . . but I think we came pretty close.
Our passing came to a screeching halt when the service started. Lacking the personal missals everyone else had (fake or otherwise), we grabbed a pew pamphlet titled, “A Method of Assisting at Holy Mass,” which gave a very brief description of what was going on. This longer description more accurately (though not exactly) describes the service we attended, but the pamphlet reduced the first page to this:
1. Goes to the Altar
2. Commences Mass.
3. Says the Confiteor.
4. Goes up and kisses the altar.
5. Goes to the Epistle side.
6. Reads the Introit.
We quickly figured out that “the Epistle side” is stage left, and “the Gospel side” is stage right, which helped, in that we could follow more closely the service we could not hear (and, since it was in Latin, probably could not follow, even if we had been able to hear). We did sit toward the middle, so we could properly follow the congregation on when to sit, kneel, and stand. Twice in the service (maybe thrice), we went down for a kneel, and came right back up, which was a new twist in my experience. The service is a bit hard on the knees, especially as the pews, in Michael-the-woodworker’s view, were knocked together with 2bys and plywood (which he contrasted with the ornate baroque style of the rest of the chapel). I’m also not clear on if the signing of oneself should have been the “push” (forehead-chest-right-left), or the “pull” (forehead-chest-left-right). I think it was the latter, and it’s the church of the east that does the former.
The pamphlet listed on the back 6 benefits of attending Mass:
“Every Mass will go with you to your Judgment and will plead pardon for you.”
This is an interesting one, as it personifies (and multiplies) the Mass. I have a mental image of standing at the throne of God, surrounded by every Mass I’ve attended — a little like the Verizon commercial, having my “network” following me around.
“By devoutly assisting at Holy Mass, you render the greatest homage possible to the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord.”
Okay . . . that follows with “do this for the remembrance of me.”
“God forgives you all the venial sins which you are determined to avoid and all of your unknown sins which you have not confessed.”
Venial means “forgiveable” . . . so God forgives all your forgivable sins. They are contrasted with “mortal” sins. The mortal sins need to be confessed and absolved to be forgiven, or the person’s soul is condemned to hell.
“The power of Satan over you is diminished.”
The Catholic Catechism speaks of Satan in Pt. I, Sect. II, Chpt. I, Art. I, Para. 7. 395:
“The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature – to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”
“Through Holy Mass you are preserved from many dangers and misfortunes which would otherwise have befallen you.”
I’m not sure what this means, except that, had we been somewhere else (driving a car, or climbing a tree, say), we might have crashed the car, or fallen from the tree . . . neither of which happened during the Mass. I’m not sure how this plays out in congregations which have seen violence during the course of their worship services recently.
“You shorten your Purgatory by every Mass.”
I’m not sure what the moral calculus is on this. Is it, for example, hour-for-hour? Does it depend on how attentive you were during a particular mass? Or does it work more case-by-case, like an afterschool detention, where a minor infraction (say, chewing gum for 3 minutes) results in a two-hour stint in detention? Maybe no one knows. I certainly don’t. The interesting thing about Purgatory is that some folks argue that it is based in time (thus, attending Mass may “shorten” this time or the description of being in “limbo”), and others explain that Purgatory may not involve any time at all.
MSM has an interesting history, which I will get into later. Check back for that.