Any of my Catholic readers who still go to church (really, probably any churchgoers who regularly attend a specific service) will agree with me that different Masses or church services have different personalities. It likely has something to do with the kind of music that is being played, or maybe the time of day, or perhaps whether or not it is a high Mass (in the case of Catholics).
For example, often Catholic churches offer a 5 o’clock Sunday evening Mass. When this is so, it is almost always aimed at a teenaged audience. This is a desperate (and I hope, successful) attempt to keep our youth going to church. So the personality of a Sunday night Mass is decidedly different that the 7 or 7:30 Mass that was held that morning, which draws almost exclusively a senior population.
For our part, Bill and I almost always shoot for a Mass that is in the neighborhood of 9 o’clock on Sunday morning. This time frame seems to draw a bit of an eclectic crowd – a mix of old and young, adults and kids, devoted Catholics and those who drop in occasionally. I like the mix.
Once in a while, however, we hit a Saturday evening Mass. There is almost always a specific reason we attend that Mass. For some reason or the other, we will be unable to attend Mass on Sunday. That’s why we were at Mass this past Saturday afternoon at our church in Arizona. Bill was unable to go to Mass Sunday because he was being picked up at the crack of dawn by my brother so they could get to the NASCAR raceway long while the drivers were still wiping the sleep from the corner of their eyes.
Saturday night Mass at our church here in Mesa has a decidedly unique personality. But I bet it doesn’t differ a whole lot from Saturday afternoon Masses anywhere. It’s a bit like going to a joyful – if somewhat irreverent – neighborhood gathering.
For one thing, while the majority of people dress up on Sunday mornings – perhaps not a suit and dress, but at least something they could wear to a nice restaurant – Saturday afternoon it is no holds barred. You will see it all. Shorts, blue jeans, halter tops, a nice dress or two, or something indicating they just stepped off the golf course about 30 minutes ago. I am not complaining. I am in the camp that doesn’t judge what people are wearing as long as they are making the effort to go to church. Heck, I myself, while wearing nice pants and a clean top, had on a pair of flip flops.
People tend to be a bit more talkative and jolly throughout the Mass. So jolly, in fact, that the gentleman behind me – a young man of 30-something – actually gave me a wink during the handshake of peace. Normally, this is a somewhat quiet and softly cordial greeting inexplicably held right before our hopefully solemn reception of the Eucharist. But yep, I got a handshake and a big ol’ wink. I couldn’t help but laugh.
It was kind of a funny service even before The Wink. Our parish is staffed by a pastor, an associate pastor, and a bevy of priests who lived most of their lives in Minnesota and subsequently retired in Arizona. So they hover around the age of 80, but I’m happy to say are a pleasant bunch and quite spry, all things considered. (It’s true, I must admit, there is one who passes out occasionally when the temperature is a bit warm in the church. But he always cheerfully rebounds by the next Mass, so no harm, no foul.) The priest who said our Mass Saturday is one of our favorites. While I know nothing about him beyond the fact that he hails from Minnesota and has been a priest for 56 years (a fact I learned at that very Mass), he has a very pleasant voice and gives an interesting – and almost always quite short – homily, which he has written out on a piece of paper. Saturday was a bit different. Not only was his sermon quite lengthy, but he addressed the wrong gospel.
Occasionally – mostly around Easter – the Church offers two options for the readings. This past weekend, Option 1 was the story about Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. This gospel is a particular favorite of mine as it includes the shortest verse in the bible – Jesus wept (John 11:35). I love that verse because it reminds me of Jesus’ humanity, and makes me realize that Jesus loves us all so much that he is sad when we fall away from him. Option 2 was St. John’s gospel about the prostitute who was about to be stoned until Jesus reminded the crowd that they were all sinners and suggested let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone (John 8:7).
Our parish chose Option 1. The deacon dutifully read the lengthy gospel about Lazarus being raised from the dead. The priest, who unfortunately either wasn’t listening to the gospel reading or had already written his homily and, by God, was going to give it no matter what, ignored Lazarus and instead talked about the prostitute. It caught us all off guard for a bit, and you could see people scrambling to figure out how Lazarus (or Lazaruth, which is how the deacon pronounced it for some reason) and the prostitute were connected.
Father’s homily, the Nigerian priest who addressed us at the end of Mass but unfortunately had such a strong accent that we couldn’t understand a single word he said (but he kept holding up two books that I’m pretty sure he wanted us to purchase), and the fact that the drummer in the choir loft upstairs dropped his drum not once, but twice, making considerable noise and startling all of us awake, made for an interesting, if not particularly spiritual, experience.
Oh, and The Wink.