I was thrilled to hear about the British bishops bringing back the fish-on-Friday rule for Catholics, and I wish the American bishops would follow suit.
Forgoing burgers and chicken– and don’t forget pepperoni pizza–on Friday was something that defined Catholics in my childhood. And frankly, I know very few people who took on some other weekly sacrifice once that obligation was lifted after Vatican II.
Actually, I’ve felt vaguely cheated that so many things once considered standard fare for Catholics are nowhere to be seen today, so I made up a wish list for the American bishops about other distinctly Catholic practices that I’d love to see resurrected.
Kneelers: During the most sacred part of the Mass, the Consecration, we kneel down, but when we receive Communion, we do so standing up. Hello?
Some determined souls, like my husband, manage to kneel on the floor every time they receive Communion, and I would love to follow suit. But I fear that even if I got down successfully, it would take two altar servers to get me back up.
Removing the kneelers at the altar has been a rather slippery slope for some parishes, where you won’t find a kneeler anywhere in the entire church. While attending Mass in Florida last Christmas, I was horrified to discover that people stood up throughout the entire Mass, unless, of course, they were sitting down.
And, yes, I know that bowing is supposed to take the place of kneeling as we receive Communion, but it seems too quick and easy –especially in parishes where we’ve been instructed to bow at the back of the fellow in front of us. (This is recommended to save time, but it’s not like we’re rushing to get to the cash register at a Macy’s white sale for heaven’s sake!)
The old confessionals: Every time I hear a priest giving a sermon in which he bemoans the dwindling numbers of people going to Confession, I have to wonder if part of the problem could be that the average person craves more privacy.
As for me, I wish there were a voice-scrambling device, so the priest couldn’t figure out who I am. Now I really don’t expect this to happen, but I would love to see a return to the old confessionals, which gave everyone a degree of privacy that can’t be achieved in the modern-day version of a confessional, usually consisting of a room with two folding chairs.
You’ll notice that whenever a movie shows a person going to Confession, it’s the standard “box” that is depicted. This tradition — just like meat on Friday –has been impressed in the general consciousness as distinctly Catholic.
There are still some parishes in Atlanta where the old confessionals exist, and it’s interesting to note that there is usually a long line outside them. I haven’t noticed too much of a crowd outside the room with the folding chairs!
There are other things on my wish list for the bishops, such as banning guitars, liturgical dancers and cantors at Mass, but I don’t want to be too greedy, so this is all for now.
Lorraine’s latest book is “Death of a Liturgist,” about a layman who meets a grisly end after tweaking the traditions at a small church in Georgia.
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