“How to Build an Awesome Altar Serving Program in 10 Easy Steps”

People who visit The Bench regularly know that I never tire of gushing about my parish’s altar servers. We have about 140 of them, boys and girls, aged 9-22.  As I’ve posted pictures and sung their praises, readers have asked repeatedly, “How do you do it? What’s the secret?” Well, after much prodding, the moderator [Read More...]

One direction:ad orientem or versus populum?

Deacon Bill Ditewig offers some history and some insight into Catholic theology surrounding which direction the priest faces during Mass: Catholic teaching and practice, from the very beginning, reflected great diversity and practice on all of this.  In some ancient churches, there was an East-West orientation, and the priest and people would together face the [Read More...]

How I spent Epiphany Sunday

I spent part of the day with these guys: Our 11:30 Mass included the presentation of gifts by the magi, and a lovely procession of altar servers, carrying candles and torches. Our administrator, Fr. Frank Passenant, also began the liturgy with an old tradition: blessing chalk, and then scrawling the date above the entry to [Read More...]

Extreme makeover: Church of England may do away with vestments

Bad idea:  Never mind the cassocks – vicars could soon be conducting services in shell-suits, shorts or even football shirts under radical plans to overturn centuries of Church tradition. Rules requiring the clergy to don traditional vestments are set to be swept aside as part of a ‘makeover’ designed to make services more relevant to [Read More...]

Visiting a church in Maryland

This marked a rare Sunday when I was away from my parish in Queens. For once, I had a chance to just sit in the pews as an ordinary Catholic instead of puttering around the altar as a deacon. We attended Mass today at St. Mary’s in Rockville. We were married in the tiny chapel [Read More...]

Report: Pope Francis to invite people to daily Mass next year

Details:  From the new year a handful of Romans will be invited to celebrate morning mass with the pope inside the Vatican. The 77-year-old pontiff is well-known for embracing the young, old and disabled when they gather in St Peter’s Square, or picking up the phone to make personal calls to individuals or families in [Read More...]

Topless woman disrupts Christmas Mass in Germany

Okay. And this helps her cause…how?? Details:  An activist of FEMEN women’s movement staged a protest action during a Christmas mass in the main cathedral of Cologne, Kolner Dom. The topless girl climbed onto the altar of the cathedral in protest against the Vatican propaganda of criminalization of abortions. The woman displayed a slogan “I [Read More...]

Looking for a stocking stuffer for your favorite clergyman/nerd?

How about a “ceremonial tablet cover”? The description:  New for the iPad. Now you can protect your iPad from unexpected drops, bumps, and scrapes while also displaying your faith. These Ceremonial iPad Tablet Cases are made of hi-impact molded plastic and covered with an additional protective layer of Skivertex. Each tablet case is decorated with [Read More...]

This Sunday, we rejoice. But why do we wear rose? Why not another color?

A lot of people have wondered. Last weekend, when someone asked about it, my pastor joked, “You want to know? Check ‘The Deacon’s Bench’!” Heh. I was curious myself, and after digging through mounds of meaningless googling which said, again and again, “It’s because we rejoice,” I dug up this explanation, which is one of [Read More...]

Where the Extraordinary Form isn’t so extraordinary: South Carolina

A look at one parish that has made the traditional Latin Mass an integral part of its culture, from the Catholic World Report:  The Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei keeps a comprehensive list of locations in which the traditional Latin Mass is available. At last count, in the 191 dioceses in North America, there are about 485 [Read More...]


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