Big mistake, HUGE mistake. I think I would have rather gotten stuck in a snowbank than go to another Mass like this.
I'm going to warn you ahead of time: if you belong to St Jude's, you're really not going to like this one bit. It has some pretty unkind things to say about my experience there. As a reminder, this is just one man's opinion, and just my impression from one Mass. Your mileage may vary.
Week 3: Third Sunday of Advent
Parish: St. Jude
5353 McFarland Road
Indianapolis, IN 46227
Number of families: 2,100
Church capacity: 800
This wasn't a parish church as much as it was a church complex. Most of the buildings are from the original date (1959 or thereabouts), but the church itself was built in 1997 (I actually remember it under construction). It is a great example of late 1990s design. The worship space was perhaps 2/3 of the building space; the outer area was ringed with offices, meeting rooms, changing rooms, rest rooms, and other niches. Very open and airy, dark gray block walls, wooden ceiling (similar to St. Mark, but better done). Large windows at the upper level with some color accents, but no stained glass to speak of. The sanctuary looked OK, but there was too many boxes to really get a good look (more on that later). A large wooden crucifix was placed prominently on the back wall.
As a church, it's not terribly great (although I guess it's pretty much the style of the last 40 years), but between the pews, large sanctuary, and hallways on either side, I could easily see this being used as a lecture hall or performing arts center.
My ranking: 2 out of 5
I never, ever thought I would say this: I was expecting to hear guitars, and I was disappointed that I didn't. Instead, there was an electronic keyboard, a set of wind chimes, and a pair of African drums. The voices were compliments of four women who obviously loved being in the spotlight. The drummer/wind chime operator was some high school kid who really was into his drumming. Every one of the hymns were written within the last 30 years, and it was absolutely wretched to hear. Each hymn was a mini-concert, and I honestly had to resist the urge to applaud, or at least throw a few coins in their hat like they were busking in Central Park. The closing hymn was "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel", a traditional Advent hymn, but the tempo was much faster than usual, and I swear, the drummer was speeding it up as they went.
My ranking: 0.5 out of 5, and that half-point was only due to them being more or less in tune.
I want to find the seminary that let this guy put on a Roman collar and kick their collective asses. Mid 40s, has probably been at this parish for most of his priestly life, and not a hint of humility about him. He probably spends more on hair care products and skin moisturizer than most women, and his gestures and strutting down the aisle was meant to emphasize the fact that he spends a fair bit of time in the gym at the parish school. As he progressed through the Mass, he seemed to stray further and further from the usual rubrics, and his consecration was so ad-libbed, it was bordering on unrecognizable.
This is a man who loves the sound of his own voice, and was probably a budding actor before he joined the priesthood. He gesticulated frequently, and was really hamming it up. The priest also needs to study his would-be saints. Mother Teresa's name is pronounced te-REES-a, not te-RAYS. That's about all I remember of his homily. That, and his walking around in front of the altar, very much like a motivational speaker working the crowd. It was really quite irreverent, but considering the overall tone of the Mass, quite in character. A performance worthy of the finest daytime drama.
My ranking: 0 of 5, and for what I'm thinking and didn't write, I'll have to go to Confession.
Chaotic is the best way to describe it. I've already written about the music and the priest, but I need to talk about the sanctuary. Apparently, today was the deadline for everyone to bring in their gifts for the church giving tree (a fine idea in itself). However, instead of placing them in the back of the church or in one of the many anterooms, they piled them up at the front of the church, around and on the sanctuary platform, in front of the lectern, and around the altar. It looked like the display window of a department store, and was extremely distracting. I mean, how can you focus on the Mass when the priest has to wind his way through stacks of boxes and between two bicycles with Dora the Explorer bags on the handlebars? The priest was wearing purple and lavender vestments for Advent, and he actually blended into the garish display of wrapping paper.
Throughout the Mass, people were walking up and depositing more presents, the ushers were walking around leading people to empty seats in the pews, and there seemed to be a constant flow in and out of the back of the church. This wasn't a Mass, it was an open house meeting - cum - Christmas party.
As for the actual Mass, it was naturally lackluster. No Gloria (which I have been informed is liturgically correct), no Kyrie or Confietor. We had barely sat down when the priest called the kids forward to head them off to the Children's Liturgy of the Word (another disturbing trend; even though crying babies and rambunctious preschoolers may be a distraction during Mass, that is part of being a Catholic family. I don't think that pulling them out of the main service to some dumbed down doctrinal daycare is really the best way to bring them into the community of faith, the Body of the Church). As expected, the Sanctus and Agnus Dei (or as I should start calling them, the "Holy, Holy, Holy" and the "Lamb of God"; I think the closest most parishes gets to Latin is "E Pluribus Unum") was another bit of four-part harmony with accompaniment from the king of the Casio keyboard and the little drummer boy.
As I stated above, the priest was pretty much doing the consecration in free verse, and for the first time in a while, I did not bow or genuflect when he elevated the Body and Blood. There were so many people, boxes, and goblets up there that I could barely tell when he did so. And on a final note, for goodness sake, get communion wine vessels which are a step up from the water pitcher and Martha Stewart glasses they sell at K-Mart.
My ranking: 0.5 of 5.
Other: four alter servers (two boys, two girls), and a gaggle of Eucharistic ministers milling about. Someone needs to give these people some instruction on genuflecting; I saw a few people kneel, and a few more bow, but most people barely gave a nod as they walked in front of the altar. The conversations before Mass were much quieter than at St Mark's, although I could clearly tell that the couple sitting behind me were debating the merits of LCD vs. plasma TVs. As soon as Mass ended, they were off like a shot, bound, no doubt, for Best Buy.
My overall ranking: 1 of 5, and that's being generous
Would I return: hell, no, even at the risk of mortal sin.
I know a few people are going to be pissed at me for saying this, but this Mass was little more than performance art. Usually, I feel uplifted and closer to God after a Mass, even the bad ones. This was the first time that I felt nothing at all, as if the Presence of God could not be found there.
If fact, I am going to do something I have never done before. I am going to go to another Mass tonight, the 5:30 Mass at St. Roch (see week 1). I'm not doing this because I want to. I feel that I have to do this, as I don't feel like I actually attended Mass this morning; instead of a celebration of God, it was a celebration of themselves, and that just fills me with disgust.