I just attended a "Polyster Liturgy" [note: they're never called "Masses"].
It was in a very big church.
It reminded me of the picture to the right.
If I had to attend or be a part of these on a regular basis, I know I'd die of cyclamate poisoning.
One generally can't avoid Polyester Liturgies these days — they're hanging on, still being planned, implemented and attended.
For those who want a little protection, though, here are some warning signs:
- It will be in a large church [e.g. cathedral, basilica, etc.].
- There will be brass… and probably timpani … and don't rule out crash cymbals.
- It might be solemn; but certainly ostentatious.
- Latin will be missing.
- Sung dialogues between priest or deacon and congregation: absent.
- The congregation will sing, though, to the point of vocal exhaustion.
- There will be HYMNS — many — at least four and probably more.
- The first hymn will be a "Gathering Song."
- The music will attempt to be inclusive and multi-cultural.
- No chant will be heard, or it will be relegated to a token, inconsequential "prelude" spot.
- Propers — what??
- The choir will exercise a role of "supporting the assembly's song" … and nothing more.
- There won't be guitars; after all, we are "dressing up" in a suit (albeit leisure type).
- Handbells — why not?
- Don't expect to hear Bach or Vierne on the organ.
- Congregational Mass parts will be predictable.
- All Mass music will be from a famous Midwest publisher.
- There will be worship aids and a strongly miked "song leader."
- The homily will be coherent, but innocuous.
- Expect Eucharistic Prayer III — can't use II; we are dressin' up, ya know.
- Communion time will be filled with a mini sing-along of three or more assembly songs.
- Then a "Meditation Hymn" will be sung by everyone.
- Planning was done by committee.
If you're in a small parish, you're probably safe from Polyester Liturgy, although there are many other liturgical fashion faux pas that might plague you.
But otherwise, is there a fix?
Sure … and it's easy.
In planning, steer toward what the Church wants, rather than what a prelate or a priest prefers or what a 1980s-minded music committee orchestrates.
Your fashion prescription: use some Latin, some Propers, some good organ music, some choral motets (during Mass), fewer hymns, less amplification, Catholic-identity items (like litanies, and antiphons, and chanted psalmody, and processions).
It's hard to find a leisure suit on anyone in the congregation anymore.
May the Polyester Liturgy have the same fate … soon!
Article written 20 August 2014