QUAERITUR: thanksgiving tree during entrance procession

From a reader:

What do you think about the following announcement at Mass: “At the
rear of the church, please pick up a paper leaf and write on it what
you are thankful for this year. We will put all of them on a tree and
then carry that tree in the entrance procession at Mass on
Thanksgiving Day.”

What is this, my old seminary? … er um… kindergarten?

I think that sort of stun cheapens what Mass is about, erodes what the Eucharist (the Sacrament and Its celebration) is as both Sacrifice and Thanksgiving.

Surely some of you might be saying, “But Father! But Father!  Shouldn’t people be bringing their expressions of thanksgiving to Mass?  Isn’t that also part of why we go?”

I think that way of expressing thanks is a distraction.  It refocuses the attention of the congregation on itself in misdirected sentimentalism.  For example, who will pay attention to the processional Cross once that sort thing is being hauled in, probably by a child.  How cute!

I am not against this sort of thing outside of Mass.   Maybe they should plan something during the coffee and donuts?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. pelerin says:

    Exactly! Reminds me of a Pentecost Mass I attended which had coloured paper chains of presumably tongues of fire hung over the altar. And the congregation was entirely adult!

  2. Come on! If only people knew what the Offertory was about — you know, offering God something, that is, presenting it to Him — then maybe we wouldn’t need to invent something else. If we were properly catechized about the liturgy, that would reduce the constant craving for innovation and gimmicks.

    This is why I appreciate the Offertory Procession in the Ordinary Form. I just wish it were better understood.

  3. priest up north says:


  4. Philangelus says:

    My daughter had to do this at school. (Public school — not sure whom they were thankful toward, since it can’t be God there.) I suggested she go for the little-known objects of thankfulness, like the movable type press, traffic lights, the internal combustion engine, and indoor heating. Most people will, by rote, say they’re thankful for their family and their employment.

    Someone help me: doesn’t the word “eucharist” mean “giving thanks”? So for Catholics, every day can be Thanksgiving day. We don’t need a tree with paper leaves to thank God for the gifts He gives.

  5. As my dearly beloved Pastor says, “They are making it up as they go along.” Sheesh!

  6. ipadre says:

    In my first assignment, they had children and adults dressed up as pilgrims and indians. At the offertory, they brought everything up but the kitchen sink – bread, corn, you name it, even a football. It was all so moving (and now I’m going to be sick)!

    I thought it would be much more fun if they would have had cowboys and indians fighting in the parking lot! ;-)

  7. Erik P says:

    Wikipedia says the offering of the paper tree on the most sacred and venerable solemnity of Thanksgiving dates back to the 3rd century when early Christians would recycle their old missalettes due to environmental concerns.

  8. Rich says:

    HAHAHAHA…We’ll carry the tree in procession on Thanksgiving for all 20 people who go to Mass that day.

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Is it still the 1970s in these areas? Ick.

  10. SonofMonica says:

    It’s still the 1970’s all over. Including in my small-town parish, in which the ’70-chic isso out-of-place compared to the marble and 1910-20 Romanesque architecture (which, aside from ripping the altar off the wall and and the middle part of the communion rail out, seems to be intact). We still have the Partridge Family Band up in the choir loft with 12 string guitars and flutes, playing the most god-awful folk Mass diddies written by Protestants. Girls that look like little druids in potato-sack albs looking distracted as though they hate the altar serving job their pseudo-feminist soccer mom signed them up for.

    A couple of hours away, in a major city, it’s not any better. I visited one parish there while the priest was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination during Mass, and he got on his soapbox about how Bl. John XXIII was the only one who “got it right” and how the Church isn’t a museum and we need to be relevant. Did he not understand that culture moves faster than that? That his 1970’s folk-Catholic utopia already belongs in a museum? We’ve had documentaries about Woodstock since I was a child, for crying out loud. This is not the Catholicism I signed up for, read about, became theologically-convinced of, but it’s the Catholicism I got. I’ve only been officially in the Church since Easter and I’m already entertaining thoughts at times of giving up.

  11. Frank H says:

    SonofMonica, don’t give up! Better days are ahead! I find that it helps to watch or listen to EWTN.

  12. irishgirl says:

    This ‘entrance procession’ is soooo 1970s! Ick, indeed!
    SonofMonica, I echo what Frank H says: Don’t give up!

  13. priests wife says:

    Fr Z- right again- this is what ‘coffee and donuts’ is for- doing all those ‘pastoral’ extras

  14. pelerin says:

    SonofMonica mentions the dreaded guitars and flutes. I recently saw a church website which boasted guitars AND a saxophone!! We have to smile or else we would cry but don’t give up now that you have been given the gift of Faith. A church in my area has what has been referred to as the ‘music lovers Mass’ ie no singing at all so the dreaded guitars can be avoided!

  15. Daniel Latinus says:

    When I was a kid in Catholic schools in the 1970s, the folk-rock songs we sang at Mass were already passe and forgotten in the general culture. (Of course, at one venue, progress has been made, and the music sounds like something from a cocktail lounge.)

    Maybe a different approach for thanksgiving is in order. At some parishes, in the weeks before All Souls, the people are invited to submit the names of their departed, and the prayer request slips are placed (unobtrusively) on the altar for the month of November. Maybe the people should be invited to write down the things for which they give thanks, and the slips placed unobtrusively on the altar (perhaps next to the stack for prayer requests for the holy souls). No trees, no silly antics at the procession; what’s not to like?

  16. michelelyl says:

    Perhaps the entrance procession is before Mass begins…my parish has an ‘entrance procession’ that goes around the block of the Church with the statue of the Blessed Mother on Mother’s Day, and children crown the statue with a crown of flowers as the congregation sings…then the Priest enters the Church and begins Mass. Maybe the questioner should ask his Pastor what exactly ‘entrance procession’ means.

  17. pattif says:

    Every time I read about one of these man-made gimmicks that seems to suggest that the sacred liturgy has insufficient power of its own unless we help it along a bit, I think it sounds vaguely Pelagian.

    SonofMonica – I’m with FrankH and irishgirl: just hang in there, as Monica herself did.

  18. JosephMary says:

    Son of Monica: have you no access to the Traditional Latin Mass?

    Do not let yourself be scandalized into absenting yourself from the Sacraments! I can understand that it may be as a sort of ‘Calvary’ for you. Been there myself. But Our Lord is still present in spite of the poor trappings.

  19. MLivingston says:

    Eric P: Thanks for an LOL on a Thursday afternoon!!!

  20. SonofMonica says:

    Thanks all for the encouragement.

    JosephMary: There is an occasional TLM at a Cathedral about 1.5 hrs away (in another state)–nothing regular, but I do attend when they manage to have one. And there is a FSSP parish about 2.3 hours away but that’s entirely too far to drive every Sunday, especially when you have a pregnant wife and there are other family activities to do on Sundays.

  21. joan ellen says:

    Son of Monica, I had a heavy heart this week because of these kinds of things. A friend suggested, similar to JosephMary, that I think about nothing at Mass except the fact that I am there for the Eucharist. It helped. It is, and will get, better. And, Our Blessed Lord knows the suffering.

  22. TJerome says:

    You can attribute this nonsense to the OF. Now I’m not saying the OF authorizes this kind of foolery, but the “spirit” of the OF, options, options, options, gives many the impression that the Liturgy is something to be customized to the occasion. This would NEVER happen with the EF.

  23. my kidz mom says:

    Bulletin blurb this week: “Children are invited to bring wagons to be placed at the church doors prior to Mass to collect Thanksgiving food donations. The children will then process the wagons
    to the altar during the presentation of the gifts.”

    I am not making this up.

  24. TJerome says:

    my diz mom, oh “how meaningful” to borrow a tired, old phrase from the 1960s. NOT!

  25. Cam says:

    My two year old daughter and I did this same project earlier this week and she’s hugely proud of it!… and while it was fun doing this with her I can’t imagine doing it at Mass!

  26. Kate says:

    I was born after Vatican II and raised in parishes that had, to one degree or another, “modern” influences like this – felt banners, guitar music, etc. I had no personal knowledge of the pre-Vatican II Mass, but I can tell you this – -every time an adult instituted some innovation like the leaf thanksgiving, I knew (even as a child) that is was silly. I loved Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; I hated the icky-60’s hippy inspiration.

    The idea that these innovations are “for the kids” is ridiculous. Kids don’t like it. Kids can tell a phony a mile away; they love authentic beauty, and when adults try to shove this hippy silliness down their throats, they may go along with it because they’re children, but if they’re anything like me, they have a hunger for real truth in worship.

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