QUAERITUR: To attend a Polka Mass or not to attend?

From a catechumen:

My family and I are not yet Catholic, but I will be completing a “Summer” RCIA class and will be brought into the Church sometime in December. I’ve studied and read and prayed about this for nearly 3 years now and feel 100% confident that God is leading me to the Catholic Church out of my current (lifelong) Protestant tradition.  [FrZ kudos!]

However, here’s my problem: While the Parish we’ve been attending seems quite traditional and solid, in today’s bulletin it was announced that next week’s Mass will be a Polka Mass. [?!?  That old thing?  People are still doing that?  I thought that had gone the way of tie-died peace t-shirts.] I’m not familiar with this (being non-Catholic), but “my spider-sense” tingled at the use of the word “polka” with “mass”. [As well it should.] So I looked it up and can’t really imagine that this is a great thing. (It may be toe-tapping fun, but I can’t picture it as being reverent and solemn and prayerful.)  [You have, therefore, a better Catholic sense of this already than the aging-hippies putting this on.]

I’m curious what your opinion is regarding a Polka Mass and also what you recommend I do. Do I attend the Mass? [NO.] Do I opt for another Parish that weekend? [YES.] In fairness, the Polka will only take place at the Saturday evening Mass, so I could go Sunday. [Well… there it is, then.  Sunday Mass is preferable to the Saturday night special anyway.] However I wonder what the fact that there is a Polka Mass says about the parish in general. Is it a warning sign I should heed and take my family elsewhere? Or is it just something that happens and is no big deal–participate or don’t as I feel inclined? [I can’t really answer that, since I have no idea what else in going on there.  But… if your “spidey sense” tingled once,…]

My desire is to find a solid, traditional Catholic parish. I want solid, traditional Catholic teaching and a Mass that doesn’t involve Polka or guitars with Peter, Paul and Mary-esque singers (I’ve attended a folk mass at a different parish and don’t need to be a part of that ever again). [Bless you.]  But, I don’t want to be overly judgmental or “traditionalist” IF being those things regarding Mass and Church is wrong. [You are not obliged to attend Polka Masses, friend.] Yet, I want to be discerning–for my sake and for the sake of my children. Hence my confusion and my question.

I already added my advice, above, so I won’t repeat it here.

However, I will say – and I’ll bet the readers will agree – that you are on the right track.

Reason #2775 for Summorum Pontificum.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    What the heck is a Polka Mass?

  2. frjim4321 says:

    Gosh, I’m agreeing with the prevailing sentiment two days in a row.

    Stop all the clocks.

  3. Bea says:

    BOY !! Is God taking care of this reader or what?

    His sixth sense about this “polka Mass” is the Holy Spirit telling him to keep away from this silliness.
    There is no reverence , here, to Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth. May God continue to Bless this reader and keep him in the reverent right track to adore HIM as is His due.

  4. Sissy says:

    Run; run like the wind!

  5. Nan says:

    I don’t know; Fr. Perkovich celebrated Polka Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica for Pope John Paul II. Maybe you have to be slavic. You can buy the music on CD Baby, but you have to buy the whole album. I listened to samples of a couple of songs and it wasn’t bad. I’ve heard crappier music at Mass.

  6. TNCath says:

    Which is worse? A Polka Mass OR some of the Spanish speaking Masses I have been forced to be present for the last few weeks?

    At the Spanish speaking Mass, the church is packed with people, many of whom are talking non-stop to the people around them or looking at their i-Phones whilst the the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is taking place. A mariachi band is in the choir loft, and a well-meaning but clueless priest drones on.

    I’m beginning to think that there isn’t much hope here. I just wonder what the “Polka experience” is.

  7. acardnal says:

    “And a one and a two . . . ” Where’s Lawrence Welk when we need him.

  8. AnnM says:

    Well if this is just a Mass with Polish folk music (not dancing in the aisles etc), then perhaps we shouldn’t rush to judgement. Some of the Central and Eastern European folk songs can be quite lovely when used at Mass, especially as many have religious themes. They are usually nothing like the sort of cringe-making guitar music you hear at an English so-called “folk Mass”. But, as I say, I’m just guessing.

  9. Cathy says:

    Hmmm, the only polka song I know is the No Beer Polka. No, definitely not appropriate!

  10. ray from mn says:

    As it is with most polka Masses, the occasion for this one probably was a once a year or so event that coincided with a church festival, the church probably having been founded by Eastern European immigrants. The last polka Mass that I attended, the instruments were traditional, but the music was all played to walz time and was quite reverent.

    The music was a lot better than the protestant or post-Vatican II hymns that are so often heard in Catholic churches today.

    The famous Father Perkovich taught religion at my8 high school in Duluth and celebrated the Mass at my 50th reunion a couple of years ago. No music then, though. I’v got his book, “Dancing a Polka to Heaven.” He did indeed celebrate a polka Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with the permission of Blessed John Paul. Although the Pope was not in attendance, Fr. Perkovich’s band played a few songs for him in a private audience. .

    Polka Masses do seem to be becoming extinct, though, with the deaths of those hearty immigrants from the old country.

  11. JacobWall says:

    I just responded to “standing during the consecration Eucharistic Prayer” post: this is related to my response there. This is what I call “lay participation:” if lay people stop going to polka masses, folk masses, balloon masses and the like, they will stop doing them, since the pews will be empty.

    If YOU stop going, other people will see that you stopped going, and might join you. They will see that the pews at the more traditional parish down the road are a little fuller, with bigger variety of people – more younger people, more families, etc. Or, the same priest will notice that fewer people are going to his polka Mass on Saturday and that more people are going to his more traditional Mass on Sunday. Soon, they might get the message …

    The same is true about receiving communion on the hand, clapping in Mass, overly showy “Signs of Peace” etc. You stop doing it, one other person at one point will stop doing it. Then someone else will notice – REAL lay participation and spreading the word by quiet example, little by little …

  12. Maxiemom says:

    I’ll preface my comments by saying that I am half Polish. But I did not grow up speaking Polish or in a Polish personal parish. After moving to the town I live in we joined a Polish personal paris which we loved. It has since merged with another parish and is awful. But back to the topic, while we never had a “polka” mass, we did have Polish hymns sung at a Polish language mass and at masses on Christmas, Easter, etc. And they are quite beautiful.

    On one occasion, at the Christmas vigil mass, the guitarist (yes, it used to be one of those masses, but we didn’t have much available for music for vigil masses) played Silent Night on an accordion. It was difficult for me to not laugh as it sounded hideous. In our family, it became known as the Silent Night Polka.

    I would venture to guess that the Polka mass will feature children and maybe adults dressed in traditional Polish clothing. Hymns will probably be in Polish and some other traditions will be observed. If I was unsure about the parish, I would go to see if this is something to honor the Polish culture or if it is a circus atmosphere.

  13. SonofMonica says:

    I guess I have some work to do in the area of Christian charity in my own soul. My first instinct would be to spit on the person suggesting the idea… brother… I have work to do.

  14. APX says:

    You can buy the music on CD Baby, but you have to buy the whole album.

    It’s also available on iTunes, so you can download individual tracks. I don’t care for the majority of them, but I downloaded the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei only because they’re the same ones they used to sing at Mass when I was still a little kid, and I’m kinda nostalgic that way. They’re not nearly as bad as what’s being sung now.

    They’re very simple arrangements, and the Kyrie actually sounds penitential, and maintains the three fold invocation, unlike many of the current modern Mass settings. And there’s something about the way the Agnus Dei is written that, while I driving once, caused me to fall into an unplanned and most effective meditation on Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and instilled a whole new appreciation for the Mass and a desire to stop sinning completely, so it can’t be all that bad.

    That being said, I’ve never been to a Polka Mass, nor do I ever intend on going to one. I certainly don’t approve of them, but I have no issues with Polka Mass settings in general.

  15. The Mass is the re-presentation, in an unbloody manner, of the Sacrifice of Calvary. At Mass, we are really at the foot of the Cross, because the Mass and Calvary are one and the same. Whatever we would not do in front of Jesus on the Cross, and His Mother, and Magdalene, and St. John, if they were visibly present to us, we should not do at Mass, where they are invisibly present. If we took this reality to heart, and made it our rule, then polka Masses, rock band Masses, jazz Masses and all the rest of it would cease instantly.

  16. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Miss Anita, you’re going too far. If I were suddenly transported to the foot of the Cross, I would be screaming, crying, and ripping up my garments, not doing Gregorian chant. The angels might be able to sing while watching that scene, but I’m human and I couldn’t. In the Mass, when I sing in the choir, I sing with the angels and take part of their role — but even so, I couldn’t do it at Calvary.

    Mass isn’t the Last Supper, isn’t Calvary, isn’t the Empty Tomb, isn’t the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Heaven. It’s next door to all those things and part of them, but it isn’t them. The good Lord never forced us to eat bloody gobbets of human/God steak in order for us to partake of His Real Presence, and He doesn’t ask us to only do what we’d do at Calvary.

    So yeah, there’s a reason why there’s no Missa Shriek-and-Keen.

    Moving along, it’s true enough that Mass is solemn as well as joyful, and that sacred music has to have a sacred character. The problem with secular music at Mass is not that it’s “something you wouldn’t do on Calvary,” but that secular music isn’t exclusively dedicated to God (ie, sacred); and that it doesn’t recall Gregorian chant and other sacred music to mind, so it’s disconnected from other musical forms of Catholic worship.

  17. jilly4ski says:

    Ack this reminds me of the “Gospel” Mass I attended (on accident). We were trying to find a parish home, and had been attending a little almost country parish (though oddly enough not in the country). But there was a parish merger, and the Mass times changed. So we attended the Mass that fit our schedules and it ended up being a Gospel Mass. Lets just say in a parish with 5 African Americans (who are all in the Choir), it seemed a little strange to have a gospel Mass. Well it was awful. A little old priest whom I was dearly fond of (He was a say the black do the red kind of priest) said Mass, but being old he was quiet, but most Sundays we could hear him just fine, however that day we could not hear him over the adults who would talk and chat between the different parts of the Mass. Every time we were supposed to sit down, stand up, kneel, a great hubbub would break out and you could never hear Fr. as he tried to continue with Mass. Being very pregnant at the time, I could hardly leave the church at the end of Mass before I cried like a baby. I made it to the parking lot before I broke down. Blah, no gimmicky masses please. Don’t make the pregnant lady cry!!!

  18. The Sicilian Woman says:

    When I was in Mexico a few years ago, I was surprised that there was a mariachi band playing at Mass. A Mexican friend told me that that was often the norm and that it was cultural.

    When Mass is altered to accommodate cultural preferences – be it a polka Mass, mariachi (and I love mariachi bands), whatever – you lose unity there, not to mention reverence. I agree with Suburbanbashee’s comment that, “…secular music isn’t exclusively dedicated to God…it’s disconnected from other musical forms of Catholic worship.” Exactly.

  19. DeoAcVeritati says:

    Every one of you who reads this will think I’m nuts, but hear me out:

    God used the Polka Mass to bring my wife and me into the Catholic Church.

    So, here’s the story: I was attending seminary in St. Paul, preparing to be an Episcopal priest. My wife and I read in the local alternative arts rag that Fr. Frank himself was going to be in Nordeast Minneapolis to do the Polka Mass and we, ironic children of the 90s that we were, decided to go and have a laugh at the Catholics and their awful taste.

    So, we went to this church– Fr. Z, you probably know it– it’s the Polish church. Anyway, we went in and it was the parish festal weekend. If I remember correctly, the church was oriented, and the south windows were open. The parishioners were outside grilling up chickens for the lunch after Mass.

    So there we were, and the people were trying to sing, and the music was playing, and the incredible smell of barbecued chicken was wafting into the church on a hot summer morning.

    I was being sponsored as a seminary by Church of the Advent in Boston, and I had grown to love the smells and bells and the whole Anglo-Catholic thing. I still do– give me chant and polyphony any day. But when I got to the parish, this was a whole different thing– this was a POLISH parish doing Polish things, and here was the polka mass and the chicken and everything else. Suddenly, it dawned on both my wife and me: The Catholic Church was not just tied to one culture, but it embraces all that is good (and, honestly, some that is awful, like the Polka Mass) in every culture. And God in his desire for humanity was open to the messy AND the beautiful and was willing to get right into it with these folks. The universality of the Church and the profligacy of God’s grace were so overwhelming to us that day.

    Within about a year and at great personal and professional cost my wife and I left the Episcopal Church and were confirmed at Church of the Nativity by Fr. Livingston. I’m still involved in full-time ministry and was ordained a Deacon in May.

    I know that folks will heap scorn on the Polka Mass, and rightly so. It’s kinda a disaster. But we’re on a soul-saving mission, and God used the Polka Mass to save MY soul. So, maybe don’t condescend quite so much. You never know what God’s going to use.

  20. Dr. K says:

    ” and God used the Polka Mass to save MY soul”

    And how many have been lost because of liturgical aberrations such as this?

  21. johnmann says:

    I had to YouTube “polka Mass.” Lord, have mercy! I think I just threw up in my mouth. As much as I dislike it, I’m a believer in adapting music to local customs. I just wish polka was nobody’s local custom. I’ve been to a Korean Catholic wake where the litany of saints is recited in traditional Korean chant more common at Buddhist temples. Apparently, it’s traditional at Korean Catholic wakes. It didn’t seem out of place at all though it’s much closer to Gregorian chant than polka or even the usual vernacular Mass settings.

  22. nemo says:

    The questioner should seek out the nearest FSSP chapel where he will be free from such nonsense http://www.fssp.org/en/coordonnees.htm#USA

  23. AloysiusJM says:

    You said,
    “Mass isn’t the Last Supper, isn’t Calvary, isn’t the Empty Tomb, isn’t the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Heaven. It’s next door to all those things and part of them, but it isn’t them.”

    Now, by the Grace of God, my parish and I are blessed with a priest who likes to remind his parishioners during his sermons, that The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is the Sacrifice of our Lord on Calvary, made present again in an un-bloody manner, on the Altar. So, when you say, “Mass…isn’t Calvary” Im going to have to say, that is wrong and we are at Calvary, at Mass.

  24. Kevin says:

    It’s a tough decision and one I can sympathise with. I discovered that a church I was attending for a while, despite having prayerful and reverent Masses at 8am and 6pm, also had a 9.30am “Family Mass”, where all sorts of liturgical abuses and – to put it bluntly – heresies were regularly employed and promoted. Since the same priests who were at 8am and 6pm would also turn up at 9.30 (apparently on some sort of rota), I decided I could no longer attend even the reverent Masses without feeling quite uncomfortable. Fortunately for me there was an alternative within walking distance, although I appreciate this is not always possible.

    I would say that if “polka Masses” are infrequent and sidelined to Saturday evenings in a parish which is otherwise “traditional and solid”, and if there are no alternative parishes within a reasonable distance, then continue going. If, however, these are regular affairs and you live within easy distance of another parish, then try that.

  25. tioedong says:

    the only “polka” mass I ever went to didn’t sing polkas during mass, but did sing hymns to the music of famous polish folk songs.

  26. Phillip says:

    I attended a Polka Mass once by mistake. It featured the priest (who to his credit was a good confessor and a very kind man) dancing during the Agnus Dei. Dancing. As Our Lord was present on the altar. I’m sure he and everyone involved in that…event…meant well, but it was cringe-worthy from beginning to end.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    Suburbanbanshee, It is Calvary. That is the theology of the Mass. The Crucifixion happening before our eyes, in an unbloody fashion. You do not have to take my word for this. Here is Venerable Fulton J. Sheen in Sancta Missa:

    What is important at this point is that we take the proper mental attitude toward the Mass, and remember this important fact, that the Sacrifice of the Cross is not something which happened nineteen hundred years ago. It is still happening. It is not something past like the signing of the Declaration of Independence; it is an abiding drama on which the curtain has not yet rung down. Let it not be believed that it happened a long time ago, and therefore no more concerns us than anything else in the past. Calvary belongs to all times and to all places.

    That is why, when our Blessed Lord ascended the heights of Calvary, He was fittingly stripped of His garments: He would save the world without the trappings of a passing world. His garments belonged to time, for they localized Him, and fixed Him as a dweller in Galilee. Now that He was shorn of them and utterly dispossessed of earthly things, He belonged not to Galilee, not to a Roman province, but to the world. He became the universal poor man of the world, belonging to no one people, but to all men.

    “He offered the Victim to be immolated; we offer it as immolated of old. We offer the eternal Victim of the Cross, once made and forever enduring…. The Mass is a sacrifice because it is our oblation of the Victim once immolated, even as the Supper was the oblation of the Victim to be immolated.” ibid. p. 239-240.

    The Mass is not only a commemoration; it is a living representation of the sacrifice of the cross. “In this Divine Sacrifice which takes place at the Mass is contained and immolated, in an unbloody manner, the same Christ that was offered once for all in blood upon the Cross . . . It is one and the same Victim, one and the same High Priest, who made the offering through the ministry of His priests today, after having offered Himself upon the cross yesterday; only the manner of the oblation is different” (Council of Trent. Sess. 22). http://www.sanctamissa.org/en/resources/books/calvary/prologue.html

    The entire book is online.

  28. Supertradmum says:

    As to Polka Masses, I have been to one a million years ago in Iowa. I had no idea what it was. Nope, not appropriate. However, the party afterwards, which lasted for three days celebrating a centenary of a village, was awesome.

    What is WORSE is what we had, 1o days ago here in our parish, a steel band, Caribbean and African style Mass called the Notting Hill Carnival Mass. I did not go. I do not know which priest officiated, as it was not the pastor. It is actually, IMO, blasphemous from what I heard of it from several sources. But, again this is the diocese of the gay Masses, so what can one do?

  29. Supertradmum says:

    Oops sorry, the website, is of course, Sancta Missa, the name of the book is “Calvary and the Mass”. This book has been around for a long time. It is a good one to use in home schooling families. Sorry about the misleading “in” instead of “on” above.

  30. priest up north says:

    To Nan and ray from mn:

    Ray, you are correct about Fr. Perkovich and playing at the papal audience, as well as actually offering the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica (where Pope John Paul II was NOT in attendance). What is not well known, but which I found out from a very credible source in having to combat the Polka Mass (even on local radio, on a show hosted by a Polka Hall of Famer – though I do not know if he himself is Catholic) was that his offering of the Mass in St. Peter’s was followed up by a “that will never happen again,” directed toward whoever gave the permission in the first place.

  31. Grabski says:

    My desire is to find a solid, traditional Catholic parish.

    Are we required to be members of our ‘territorial’ parishes, or can we join a parish of our own choosing?

  32. bookworm says:

    “Miss Anita, you’re going too far.”

    To some extent, I have to agree. The rule that “you should always act at Mass the way you would if you were personally present at the Crucifixion” is kind of similar to the rule of “you should always dress for Mass as if you were going to an audience with the Pope or the Queen.” There is an important truth contained in it, but it shouldn’t be taken too literally, since the two situations are very different. After all, the Crucifixion did not take place in a gleaming marble sanctuary before a crowd of clean, polite, well-dressed people (with perfectly behaved children in tow) looking on in rapt attention. The general atmosphere was probably more like a public hanging in the Old West than a Solemn High Mass at St. Peter’s.

    That said, reverence at Mass is important and that extends to music. I have never attended a Polka Mass myself, but I believe many “Polka Masses” are simply regular Masses with hymns and other parts of the Mass set to Polish music. Perhaps the term “Polka Mass” is a misnomer as it makes people (me, at least) immediately picture people dancing in the church aisles, which isn’t what its creator intended, apparently.

  33. Phil_NL says:


    You’re – automatically – a member of a parish based on where you live, but in most western countries, the geography of the parish means next to nothing; you can attend Mass wherever you choose. Nor is this membership exclusive, you can belong to multiple parishes at the same time in some cases.
    For convenience sake, you might want to register at a certain parish; in fact, Fr Z posted about the canonical status of that a week ago or thereabouts, and there are useful things in the comments there. If you expect you’ll need a parish priest to sign off on things (e.g. for a job at a catholic school) it may get more complicated, but otherwise it’s fine (and more and more common) to find a parish that suits you best.

  34. Tradster says:

    About 10 years ago I was finally, after years of scrimping and saving, able to take my family for our first trip to Ireland, where my parents were born. It was so beautiful and we really got into the whole Irish atmosphere. At least, until the jarring experience of attending Mass in a church in Dublin. The dipsy priest began Mass by parading up and down the aisles with someone banging away on some sort of drum thing from the Congo. The entire service was with this Congo “music” and wall-to-wall adlibs about the brothers and sisters in the Congo, and trying to get the congregation to repeat some supposedly local phrases and prayers. By the end of the Mass I wanted to hit him over the head with that stupid drum. Needless to say, it was not what we traveled 3,000 miles to witness. The biological solution cannot come soon enough!

  35. JimGB says:

    Dear DeoAcVeritati, thanks for sharing your story, which I found inspiring. I am not a fan of any practice that customizes the Mass for any particular group (although a polka Mass might be a welcome change from the weekly Marty Haugen music festival that our music director provides). But your experience shows that God can manifest his graces to us when we least expect it and when we do not even realize that our heart is open for that conversion experience.

  36. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    Blessings on this soul, I shall pray for him/her and his/her children.

  37. To the question, should the inquirer avoid this parish in light of a so-called “Polka Mass”?

    As noted, it could be a meaningful–that is, a bad sign. However, a lot of parishes that are on the mend have legacies not yet dealt with. If you go looking for a parish that gives you no cause for concern, you may have trouble finding it.

  38. dominic1955 says:

    Good story, thanks for sharing. It is wonderful to see how God works in our lives, often in very unexpected ways.

    My background is 100% Polish, one of our parishes was Polish and the priest out there when I was young was Polish-as in off the boat from the Old Country. Before my time, some folks wanted to do Polka Masses but Father would have none of it and correctly reminded them that this was not “traditional” or something to preserve “Polish heritage” as this was never done in Poland! Polkas were always for parties and social events, they were never liturgical or devotional. That, and although based on Slavic style folk dances, the Polka itself is a fairly recent dance, as in ~19th Century. We have a wide variety of Polish hymns, but Polish hymns and Polish polkas are NOT the same musically at all.

  39. acardnal says:

    DeoAcVeritati : Remember the movie “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson? That is what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is. Would you really expect a tuba-playing band playing polka music at the foot of the cross on Calvary? I don’t think so. Instead, I think more study of exactly what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass consists of from solid sources is needed .

  40. Sissy says:

    Fr. Martin Fox said “If you go looking for a parish that gives you no cause for concern, you may have trouble finding it.”

    That’s a good point, Fr. In my own church, the 11 am Mass is “contemporary” with the worst possible music you can imagine. But the 9 am Mass at the same church has Gregorian chant. So, I just stick with the Mass that suits me.

  41. nykash says:

    I attend a parish that held a ‘Polka Mass’ – coinciding with its Polish festival. I didn’t attend – I went to the EF mass held at another church within the same cluster. The pastor of the cluster is orthodox and regularly says both high and low masses. For the longest time the NO masses even had the Gloria, along with other Latin, but this seems to be going away for some reason.

    This hits on a problem for me: how to reconcile the inconsistencies.

    Father Fox’s point about finding the perfect parish has a lot of truth, although I wish this wasn’t the case.

  42. bookworm says: “Miss Anita, you’re going too far.” To some extent, I have to agree. The rule that “you should always act at Mass the way you would if you were personally present at the Crucifixion” is kind of similar to the rule of “you should always dress for Mass as if you were going to an audience with the Pope or the Queen.”

    That is not what I said. I did not say, “you should always act at Mass the way you would if you were personally present at the Crucifixion.” I said, “Whatever we would not do in front of Jesus on the Cross, and His Mother, and Magdalene, and St. John, if they were visibly present to us, we should not do at Mass, where they are invisibly present.” What you have me saying and what I actually said are two different things.

  43. pfreddys says:

    Polkas are great things at chuch dances; but, not in Church!

  44. fvhale says:

    Polka Mass. Mariachi Mass. Celtic Mass. Spanish Mass. Portuguese Mass. Italian Mass. German Mass. Latin Mass Dominican Mass. Carmelite Mass. Franciscan Mass. Ordinary Form. Extraordinary Form. Daily Mass. Sunday Mass. Christmas Mass. Easter Vigil Mass. Easter Sunday Mass. Ordination Mass. Folk Mass. Bossa Nova Mass. African Drum Mass. Vietnamese Mass. Chinese Mass. Contemplative Mass. Pentecost Mass. Funeral Mass. First Communion Mass.

    Howeer you say it, whatever the music, culture, language, occasion or local traditions, I just go to

    Holy Mass.

  45. Filipino Catholic says:

    Was ist ein Polka Messe? Since when do the words Polka und Messe go together in the same sentence? E ‘spregevole! E ‘un fiasco!

    Filipino Catholic.

  46. Nan says:

    @APX, my aunt thought a Polka Mass funeral would be perfect for my grandma but my mom vetoed it. I don’t know whether Fr. Perk would’ve done it or not.

    @Ray, I always forget you’re not originally from Minneapolis.

    @DeoAcVeritati, you were in probably the most highly-concentrated neighborhood of Catholic parishes and sui juris churches in the state. Protestant seminaries seem to be a typical jumping off spot for new Catholics.

    @priest up north, someone must’ve thought polka Mass was a good idea, besides Fr. Perk. I saw his biography when I was on an iron range cemetery run in June. Yikes!

    @everyone. The part we tend to forget is that Mass is all one, and He wasn’t alone on Calvary so isn’t alone now. The women mourning are in the Sanctuary with Him, where they have remained these last 2000 or so years.

  47. JacobWall says:


    One one hand, I sympathize with your story since it was particularly Mexican Catholicism (with all its chaos, contradictions and problems) that brought me to take the final leap and join the Church.

    Yet, I think it’s all to easy to be confused about the idea that “God used this to bring me to the Church.” Often God brings us to the Church, or shows us His will in spite of the messes humans have made rather than by means the mess humans make. For some time, I thought the same way; “Everyone says X is wrong, but if X hadn’t happened in my life, I probably wouldn’t have joined the Church.” Yet, I now believe, “Despite the fact that X happened, God brought me to the Church.”

    I agree with the idea that there is great beauty of the fact that the Catholic Church is truly universal and sees no cultural boundaries. There is also a great deal of beauty in the festivities that different cultures celebrate according to the liturgical seasons. There is even great beauty in the imperfections of the human and physical side of the Church; seeing processions of poor farmers in their “Sunday bests” (that looked more like rags by our standards) carrying stalks of corn to the church for the blessings of the first fruits (Day of the Transfiguration,) a run-down urban parish with a fiber-glass roof, where a reverent and orthodox Mass was celebrated without the sound of any instrument, but only the off-key notes of the few locals who were confident enough to lead the hymns, a general reverence for the Church and its property, the rich celebrations of Christmas and Easter time, and many similar items all impressed me greatly in Mexico. Yet, cultural differences and their richness have plenty of room to exist without making Mass “upbeat” and “fun.”

    In my case, had Mass been celebrated “perfectly” it only would have added to the richness already there, not detracted from it. In most cases, they were generally good OF masses; sadly, the weakest point of all them was the music – something that Mexico is pretty good and doing really badly. (Mexican music is wonderful, but for some reason it becomes absolutely horrible when they do it in Mass; it’s not just the context – they’re take on folky religious music is very, very corny, and absolutely tasteless. I would go so far as to say that, in the question of music, it makes our Peter-Paul-and-Mary-esque folk masses look tasteful.)

    DeoAcVeritati, I imagine the cultural richness that Catholicism embraces is much harder to experience in day to day life in the U.S. – it sure is in Canada; in Mexico, it was all around me, almost all the time; even if there had been nothing particularly or uniquely “Mexican” about how Mass celebrated, I still would have experienced the same cultural richness within Catholicism. For this reason, with all due respect, I think you are confusing the true beauty of this cultural richness with the idea that by allowing it to be part of Mass, God somehow “used” an error.

    Again, in spite of (not because of) the butchering of the music in Mexican Masses, God used the richness of Mexican Catholic culture to bring me to the Church.

  48. sunbreak says:

    I have Polish heritage and I wouldn’t go to a Polka mass either. It seems to be an invention of American Poles. I’ve been in quite a few parishes while visiting Poland and I guarantee you will not find a Polka mass in Poland. In fact, you will generally not find Polka music played in Poland as music of choice – they play that for the tourists, but the free concerts in the old town areas are usually classical music.

  49. AnnAsher says:

    I say the man has excellent spidey sense and suggest he continue to take heed. It’s not fussy or persnickety to expect a reverent Mass according to the “red”. Maybe the polka will flop and never appear again of it is avoided.

  50. The Cobbler says:

    1) I suspect Miss Moore didn’t mean “would” as in “could humanly react” but as in “would be fitting”.

    2) Gregorian chant actually tends to encapsulate in an orderly, musical way the sort of reeling shock at the magnitude of Calvary that would ordinarly leave us shrieking.

    3) Just as there’s a difference between American “polka” music and Polish folk music, there’s a difference between Polish folk music and culturally Polish sacred music. The last of these three alone is fit for Calvary; the first, unfortunately, is the most likely at a “Polka Mass”. (I imagine even the second at Mass would be called something more like a “Polish Mass” rather than a “Polka Mass”.)

    4) There’s always the Dantean outlook.

  51. JuliB says:

    My parish is on the orthodox side and both churches have an annual Polka Mass coinciding with the Parish Picnic. The root of the main church is Eastern European, and the other church is Polish. There’s even a priest from an order that serves diaspora Polish Catholics.

    I usually avoid it, but have attended once or twice. The only difference is that instead of the organist, we have a polka band. Otherwise, everything proceeds as normal. On the few times I’ve been there, I’ve offered it up to God.

  52. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If re-presenting were exactly the same thing as presenting, all Egyptian firstborns would die every Passover. But they don’t.

    The Eucharist is an unbloody sacrifice, a joining in the presentation of His sacrifice by Christ the High Priest before the Father, so we aren’t on Calvary. We are close; we are just the other side of time and space from it; we are joined with it, just as we are with the Last Supper and the Resurrection and Christ ascended and offering His sacrifice of Himself to the Father; but we aren’t there on Calvary. If we were there, it would be pretty darned bloody.

    I’m not trying to rain on anybody’s devotional parade here. But being mystically around the Real Presence as a sacrifice, instead of physically standing on that hill with Bad Stuff Happening all around, is a merciful difference. We aren’t all the stuff of Mary and John and the other Marys.

  53. poorlady says:

    Fr. Z, you gave great advice to him! To this person, I’d say one word: “Tridentine”…
    there’s traditional for you!! And you don’t have to worry about the chats in the pew before Mass.

  54. dspecht says:

    @ Miss Anita, AloysiusJM (and suburbanbanshee):

    Sorry, suburban is right (well, prehaps she/he is still going to far, I am not sure – because my English is not that perfect…).
    I know, Anita and Aloysius, what you and your priest hold is a very “pious” error – and I held it once myselfe, at least was inclined to.

    But as suburban rightly pointed to:
    The Mass is an “unbloody” sacrifice. The “unbloody” representation or better: actualisation or renewal of the sacrifice of the Cross.

    So it can not be a real “re-presentation”, not a making present of a past event. Because otherwise it would be (as suburban correctly pointed to) a bloody event, a bloody sacrifice.

    “Unbloody” indicates that there is a real difference to the past sacrifice, so no “re-presentation”, no present-making of Calvary in the sense of “beaming” it from the past to the present or “beaming” me to the past, time-traveling.

    Again, yes, this concept of time-traveling is “pious” and sorry if your “pious” error is corrected here – but, as said before, it was the same in me. I also had to correct my view. Even “pious” errors are errors. And after re-thinking it it will become clear that the true teaching of the Church (that is NOT the “re-presenting”-concept!) is not less pious!

    Even more: because the Mass and the Sacrifice of the Cross (on Calvary) is not absolute indentic, therefore every Mass is a real and distinct (in some sense “new”) Sacrifice.

    If it were only a “present-making” (via time-beaming) then there would be no new and actual sacrifices of the Altar but only the old, one sacrifice of the Cross A.D. 33.

    So to save that every Mass is not only a memorial of the old sacrifice (or absolute identic with the old but therefore then no real sacrifice in itselfe [and btw. then bloody, what contradicts Trent!])
    but a true and real sacrifice itselfe [but unbloody!]
    it must not be totally identic with the historic Calvary-Sacrifice.
    It´s a “renovation” or “actualisation” and also a representation (image) of the bloody aspect of it – but it is not a re-presentation (present-making) of the past Sacrifice!

  55. Stephen Matthew says:

    The Polka mass seems to be popular during the weekend of German heritage festivals in many little German ethnic towns in the mid-west. I think the people involved have developed it into a sort of “once a year, and only once a year” tradition for those weekends, and I suspect they folk involved are fully aware by now that this isn’t exactly trendy, or even really authentic ethnic culture, but rather the sort of kitch that is considered mostly harmless and perhaps a bit fun and amusing, tied in with some nostalgia, etc. There are some otherwise very solid, traditional/conservative German parishes, that otherwise might be thought a bit stoggy, that welcome the polka annually during the various volk-fests, street-fests, town-name-here-fests etc.

  56. DeoAcVeritati says:

    I think it’s certainly the case that God uses awful things and even awful people to accomplish his will. The entire Bible and the entire history of the Church don’t make sense if you somehow remove that as a possibility. I am not defending the Polka Mass. I think it’s awful. But God uses all kinds of awful things– martyrdom, persecution, even terrible music– as instruments to accomplish his will. I’m in no way saying that we should abandon all good sense and do stupid liturgical things in order that by some random accident God might grab someone. I’m simply saying that God is bigger and more powerful than our efforts to undermine him or to re-create him in his image.

    God is, in fact, ALWAYS working under adverse conditions. The pitch goes flat, the altar server flakes out, things get spilled, the lector reads the wrong readings, the whole bit. He puts up with us and our stupidity and arrogance. His forbearance should teach us forbearance with our brothers and sisters, most of whom are probably trying to do the right thing.

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