Things I’ve Never Seen

Things I’ve Never Seen December 18, 2013

I am 51 years old, live in Berkeley, California, and went to Mass in the 1960s here, and have gone to Mass throughout the Bay Area and a lot of the rest of the US in the last 51 years in a wide variety of parishes – and I can say the following from personal, direct experience:

1. I have never seen a “clown mass” celebrated at any liturgy I’ve personally attended, nor have I heard of a specific instance in any local parish of one being celebrated.

2. I have never seen anything consecrated during Mass other than valid matter – no jelly doughnuts, no Wonder bread, nothing else but unleavened bread.

3. I have never been to a Mass that had liturgical dancers or similar theatrics

4. The last time I heard the actual song “Kumbaya” sung at a Catholic Mass was probably…I don’t know, 1968, maybe? (Speaking of which: The thing about “Kumbaya” is, it’s not really a bad entrance song – there are better ones, I guess, but there’s nothing heretical or especially problematic about it that I know of: “Someone’s singing, Lord, Kumbaya [Come by here]” – this is a threat to all that is holy?? From what I can gather, it seems to me the objection is that the hippies sang it, They’re Not On Our Team, and thus Kum Ba Yah is evil.)

5. I have never (as far as I can recall) heard a homily in which clear, unambiguous heresy was proclaimed as the truth.

Some of the above has happened I’m sure, but they can’t be anywhere near being pervasive, or I would think I would have encountered them by now.



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  • Kurt

    After enduring the rants of by a person against the evils of Clown Masses, I mentioned I had build up a good number of airlines miles and was willing to fly anywhere in country to see a clown Mass if he could idenfiy a single scheduled clown Mass. He dodged the question. The single photo he could produce of a Clown Mass was shown to be of a Lutheran Service. Pushed further he put forward a photo of a Catholic Mass that simply had clowns in the congregaton. It was an apostolate to circus workers.

    • I once read an article about clown ministry, but it wasn’t at a mass: it was on a college campus during freshman orientation, and the clowns were described as engaging in really quite touching and heartening supportive gestures and interactions with the anxious, overwhelmed, homesick freshmen: sometimes it was using humor to break tension, but sometimes it was using imagination and playfulness to make an emotional connection with a young person who was out in their own in the world for the first time.

      It made quite an impression on me: I had never realized there could be more to clowning than Bozo and circus clowns.

  • Dante Aligheri

    I didn’t know that’s what Kumbaya meant. Learn something new everyday. Huh. Sounds no more insidious than saying “Marana tha.”

  • Smith

    All I can say is you never spent much time in Saginaw Diocese. I easily experienced almost everything on that list throughout my childhood (80’s – 90’s)

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Not a challenge but honest curiosity: could you describe what a clown mass consisted of, and could you be specific about what heresy you heard preached at mass?

  • Kimberley

    I’m 28 live in LA and I’ve spent time in the bay area, in the Chicago area and also in Las Vegas. I attend a lot of daily masses as well, so I’ve heard a lot of sermons.

    1) I’ve never heard a sermon on homosexuality. Letters from bishops in the bulletin supporting traditional marriage yes, sermons no.

    2) I have probably heard abortion mentioned maybe 10 times always compassion for the woman and usually stating that we Catholics need to oppose the death penalty as well.

    3) I heard exactly one very long sermon on pornography in a tiny church picked at random on vacation in Newport Beach.

    4) I have experienced liturgical dance five times, three in our parish and twice at LA’s religious education congress. It was always cringe worthy. I also experienced giant puppets once during mass. Clowns totally creep me out so much so that DH has to take the little ones to the circus without me. I hope I never encounter one at mass.

    5) in college the bread consecrated looked and tasted just like pita bread. Don’t know if pita bread is valid/licit.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    I last sang Kumbaya in Boy Scouts—I belonged to a Catholic troop in the 70’s and the scout master led prayer services when we were out in the woods and couldn’t get to mass. It was one of the few hymns we all knew the words to, or could fake easily.

    I actually saw liturgical dance in Berkeley around 1990. The Jesuit province was having an ordination at St. Joseph the Worker and it included two dancers during the presentation of the gifts. Didn’t really work.

    Over the years I have had some pretty nasty homebaked communion bread: this was a big trend in the Midwest in the 70s and 80s. I have no idea what it was made of except that it was usually made with whole wheat flour and weighed like a brick.

  • Ronald King

    I am going on 67 years now and skipped about 40 years of Masses until I turned 58. I have never seen anything Matt listed above. My spouse and I walked out of a Mass about 9 months ago when a priest was spewing hatred towards those who desired same sex marriage during his homily. His tone of voice and facial expressions along with his condemnations of their souls clearly exhibited the truth of his heart. He challenged anyone to leave who did not like what he was stating so we were the only two who accepted his challenge. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think hate is not part of liturgy and faith.

  • Roger

    I wouldn’t call the Masses I’ve been to “clown” masses but they certainly weren’t reverent in any way. They usually started with some lame sounding opening hymn composed by some American Jesuit with the star of the show (oh, sorry the presiding priest), strutting down the aisle high-fiving everyone they can reach. He’ll then start the Mass with a little joke, simply trying to illicit laughter and applause (which he’ll receive from the majority of the congregation who have been so poorly catechized). He’ll then ignore the penitential rite, won’t allow for a sung Kyrie, and will launch into a lame guitar-driven Glory to God.

    Oh and that’s just the first few minutes – from there it only gets worse.

    • They weren’t reverent “…in any way”? At all? Ever?

      Not even during the consecration? Not during communion time?

      They usually started with some lame sounding opening hymn composed by some American Jesuit

      That doesn’t sound like irreverence, that sounds like their tastes in music are different than your own. That’s fine: I’m not a huge fan of stuffy, Fortress Katolicus-era hymns like “Faith of our Fathers”, nor of the rather saccharine character of popular piety that obtained before the Council, but that is also a matter of taste.

      strutting down the aisle high-fiving everyone they can reach

      Yet another thing I haven’t seen. I have seen father perhaps shake a few hands (particularly at things like funerals and weddings) but WWF-style high-fiving as I think you describe? Never.

      It seems that your aesthetic tastes run to more traditional Mass settings. Which, you know, is fine – I actually go occasionally to the EF Mass at St Margaret Mary’s parish in Oakland, and appreciate the many fine qualities of that form, also.

      • Kimberley

        My parent’s former parish in a western suburb of Chicago had a high fiving priest. All kids in the center aisle and in the front row got high fives before and after mass and more during the sign of peace. Many extra verses were sung during the entrance and recessional.

        • Kurt

          What would be an extra verse of a hymn?

          Of my unfortunate experiences, would be a preacher criticizing those who left Mass before the recessional hymn was completed. He said that you wouldn’t leave in the middle of a prayer, of which a hymn is. But after the blessing he announced we would be singing Hymn # 296, verses 1, 2, and 4 (of a six verse hymn).

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Out of curiosity I googled “clown mass” and looked for images. I found a handful, most of which provided no details. Others were identified as being from an Episcopal church. I did find one blog post about an Italian bishop who celebrated a “clown mass”: it appears to be a children’s liturgy, and he and his attendants are wearing some face paint:

    I am not sure what to make of it: I would definitely reserve judgment until I knew more about the context and what he (the bishop) was intending.

  • Agellius

    I like the idea of everyone listing things they have seen and not seen at mass. It’s fun. Seriously.

    1. I to have never seen a clown or puppet mass. I have seen various theatrical productions in place of the homily, including animals and costumes, which I’m pretty sure is not allowed and which I also happened to find extremely annoying.

    2. I haven’t seen obviously invalid matter “consecrated” at mass. I have seen vessels made of illicit materials (glass, ceramic, baskets) used at mass many, many times.

    3. I have been to a mass that had liturgical dancers, which I found creepy.

    4. I’ve never heard “Kumbaya” sung at mass. I did once walk into a mass in which reggae was being played as the processional, and had an urge to punch the priest, who was standing at the entrance dancing. That was a bad urge, obviously, but I was really angry with him for trashing the mass in that way.

    5. As far as homilies in which clear, unambiguous heresy was preached, I did encounter one priest who was saying in his homily that the pope was not infallible. Echoing Kimberly’s comment, I also have never heard preaching on the sinfulness of homosexual acts, nor that of divorce and remarriage or birth control, or for that matter any kind of fornication, as far as I can remember. The single exception is one priest who says the TLM that I have been attending for the past 3 years or so, who has preached on all those things at various times.

  • Kurt

    My most recent experience with liturgical dance was with the attendance and joyful approval of two cardinals, one being Cardinal Arinze.

  • Cojuanco

    I’m 22, from Southern California, and someone who likes the EF but usually goes to the OF, so:

    1) Never encountered a Clown Mass. Closest I’ve seen documentary proof of was a Cowboy Mass in Austria that looked like the Dukes of Hazard. I have seen Father once wear a silly hat until after the homily to promote the parish festival.

    2) every Mass I’ve been to in the OF has been definitely the usual unleavened Hosts. I have seen inappropriate vessels used, but in at least one case when people told Father that, he rectified the problem ASAP.

    3) I have seen liturgical dancers, but they were Vietnamese doing something that IIRC was inculturation of Vietnamese custom, during a student Holy Spirit Mass. Definitely not the whitebread stuff most trids criticize. It was also approved of by the bishop, who is about as hippy dippy as Dwight D. Eisenhower. Take that as you will.

    4) I’ve heard Kumbaya once during a retreat, and nowhere else.

    5) Never heard a heretical homily, AFAIK. In fact, I’ve heard a brief treatment on the sin of Sodom (Dominican, during a sermon related to the whole SSM idiocy in this state; also a parish priest), against divorce and remarriage where the marriage preceding was valid (Dominican, same homily as the former), birth control (parish priest, got him in trouble with some of the parishioners, but the bishop basically isn’t gonna budge), abortion (Jesuit), fornication (Jesuit), infallibility of the Holy Father (Jesuit). That’s only a sample, but they may have covered the topics more than I intimate, but I can’t remember every single homily. Also, the Jesuit in these cases was speaking to a congregation largely of college students, as was the Dominican (who also complained that many of the people condemning SSM likely had a few sordid sins they akso ought to repent of). I’ve seen a priest publish assertions of heresy, but he’s well-known for preferring the EF, and does not live in my diocese anyway.

    Maybe I’m just lucky, but the worst idiocy I’ve experienced from priests was from a parish priest who tried to tell me in the confessional that masturbation was not a mortal sin (I would have gone to the Jesuit or the Norbertine I usually go to for confession, but they did not offer confessions on the day in question), and another parish priest who in the Confessional (during my first time returning to the sacrament in a year) was not exactly the calmest of confessors.

  • Cojuanco

    By the way, I love Faith of Our Fathers, especially as it calls on us to love those who hate us, and convert them by kind deeds and attention to our own virtuous life.

  • Kurt

    I once mentioned I didn’t care much for the preaching of a certain priest as I didn’t find it helpful. A friend responded that he how much he appreciated how frequently he preached about homosexuality. I told him I was glad to hear the priest’s preaching was at least helping him with his temptations to sin. He didn’t take that well.

    • Cojuanco

      The preaching of these priests on the pelvic issues was a nice medium – mentioned, but not obsessed over. More often than not the priests preached in equal amounts on looking after the least of these, of being inviting to others that they may be drawn to Christ by our example. Most telling was when the Jesuit preached on Confession, to get us to go confess our sins. It prompted me to go for the first time in a while.

      I think a problem among some who want all culture war all the time from their priests is that they think priests should be like Evangelical Protestant preachers, with their free form sermons. But we have a regular schedule of readings and feast days which the homily should be structured around, while the same is not true of the Protestants, who have no Eucharist in our sense at all.

    • Kimberley

      With friends like Kurt….

  • bamacnz

    There was a post on Being Frank which included videos of clown Masses… I found them hard to believe… still do ….Catholic Liturgy!!??

    What does anyone else feel about them?
    Mrs Mac

    • bamacnz – there are youtube videos floating around and have been for years. For this discussion I’d like people to restrict their commentary to things they have witnessed personally.

  • bamacnz

    apologies Matt…. A blessed, happy and peaceful Christmas to everyone and every best wish for 2014.

    Mrs Mac