Monday, November 13, 2006

The Boormanian-Roman Rite of Seattle

Over the weekend, we received the following report from our undercover field agent in Seattle working with our team of ecclesiastical Mystery Shoppers for Mary. Like 'mystery shoppers' anywhere, MWMs conduct routine clandestine assessments of liturgical form in various parishes throughout the United States and report back to Pertinacious Papist Central (PPC). Despite our field agent's reassurances about the love of Starbuck-sipping Seattleans for Sacred Tradition, bear in mind that this assignment in the former Archdiocese of Raymond Hunthausen was no cakewalk. He decidely placed his life and the lives of his family members in harm's way in carrying out this assignment, and for that we owe him and his loved ones our undying gratitude. (For that reason, we have also cloaked his identity, and, if worst comes to worst, we also have a witness protection and resettlement program, although we can't promise there won't be bongo Masses and yahoo liturgies.) Here, then, is our field agent's report:
This story is to reassure you that even in Seattle, famed as it is for its love of Sacred Tradition and its all but unbroken landscape of richly reverent liturgical practice, we still have the occasional oddity that puts us in some kind of sympathetic communion with our less fortunate sistren and brethren in the remoter provinces, such as yourself.

This past Sunday we had a guest celebrant filling in, Fr. "Boorman." He has filled in for our priest before, as was confirmed for my memory by the telling of his signature joke concerning his favorite restaurant (Wendy's). This time he also informed us that he has recently begun receiving his Social Security check. (I pause, to allow for the adjustment of your generational frame of reference. All in order? Good.)

The rite was Boormanian-Roman, with a Buffet touch (that's pronounced the French way, as in buff-AY). The Boormanian variant of the Roman Rite is characterized by what one might call the "tired ritual ad libitum". This is what happens when the same ad libs are employed over and over, until they attain the character of a tired ritual. One might tentatively compare this practice to the aging of wine in oak barrels. Or one might not.

His homily was solidly pelagian. The widow and her mite were linked, by somewhat nonobvious paths, to the concept of "volunteer community service", without a "portfolio" of which, he assured us, he himself at any rate was not going to get past St. Peter and the famous gates. He did not say whether the portfolio requirement strictly applied to anyone else, but we were in any event encouraged to imitate the widow and her mite, a point with which one could hardly argue. He also gave us to understand that he asks everyone in the confessional whether or not they do volunteer community service---a warning I considered very nice of him to supply.

All attempts of altar servers and others to cue Father in to licit and non-Boormanian Roman practice were to no avail---seeming, if anything, only to make him more insistently, even aggressively, nonconformist. So he insisted on consecrating the glass flagon, despite the 4 chalices that were provided for him at the offertory, and which stood empty till the Rite of Communion, at which time he decanted the Precious Blood into each chalice with one hand, while simultaneously handing off the previously-filled chalice to an Extraordinary Minister with the other --- performing these maneuvers moreover with such an offhand assurance that one was led inescapably to marvel at the years of practice that must underlie such a prodigy of motor coordination. Naturally all this took place after each Extraordinary Minister and altar server had been provided the host for his or her own communion (i.e., provided prior to the Agnus Dei), and after each had thus communicated himself or herself. (Hence my earlier reference to the influence of the Buffet recension upon the basic Boormanian liturgical matrix.) Of course, in order for all this to happen, it required that the respectful distance from the altar normally observed by the Extraordinary Ministers and altar servers be annihilated by means of somewhat impatient and irritable beckoning gestures.

So be comforted. Even in Seattle, we have our own small reminders of what those less fortunate than we have to endure on a more regular basis.

Like Clinton, we feel your pain.

Ironical humor aside ... if there had been no issues of liturgical abuse at stake, which of course there were, the deliberate imposition upon us of his own preferred ways, in the teeth of the obvious evidence of how things are actually done at our parish, would still have been rude, humanly speaking. As it is, it is hard to know what to call this, without resorting to a highly uncomfortable word such as "contempt." And this after the emphatic underlining of "service" as the very measure---trumping all other measures---of one's conformity to Christ.

I realize the man is but an individual of a type that is passing away, a walking human artifact of postconciliar confusion, and that even if he is contemptuous, he may not be wholly responsible for it. It is still difficult to explain to my 11-year old son, who was one of the confused altar servers, how it happens that a priest voluntarily mishandles the most holy thing he is charged to handle.
[Hat tip to K. Ahmed Gonzales von Finkelstein]

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