“Theme Mass” hijinx

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For your Say The Black – Do The Red file comes this from the sometimes amusing Eye of the Tiber:

San Francisco, CA–Citing a lack of time and energy, as well as feeling the “total absence of the liturgical muse,” local pastor Father Mike Conway this week spent close to no time at all considering a theme for this Sunday’s Mass. “I remember just ten years ago when I could come up here with my jeans and piece of straw in my mouth for a Hillbilly Mass, before changing into a Barney costume for my Children’s Mass,” Conway said, fondly describing a time when the uncharted landscape of Mass themes seemed as boundless as the sea. “Ah, yes…those were days of adventure; days when a priest could become a sort of clerical Columbus, voyaging his own imagination for the most absurd and inventive themes to keep the Mass from getting stale. Indeed, those were the days. But alas, after so many Clown Masses, Superhero Masses, Meme Masses, Luau Masses, World Cup Masses, and Atheist Masses, it seems as though the liturgical muse has hidden himself from mine eyes.” Conway went on to say that he was not the only priest having trouble coming up with new themes and that many had been dipping into old “routines” for years now. “So this week, unfortunately, my flock is going to just have to sit and put up with me wearing vestments and reading from the Missal. Ohh…you know what? Maybe I can have a reverent theme. That might be funny.” At press time, Conway is preparing a Latin themed Mass, in which everything would be said in Latin, and everyone would be dressed as centurions.

A stumble right at the finish line, but otherwise amusing because it was dead-on.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Brilliant satire.
    My favorite-yet also most lamented-feature of satire is the vast accumulation of comments by those wholly ignorant of and presumably incapable of understanding it. It’s astonishing.

  2. anilwang says:

    Actually, he seems to be relearning why liturgy is important. A remember hearing a “Journey Home” conversion story of a minister that became an Eastern Catholic priest. When he first applied to the priesthood, he was pleasantly shocked to discover that he “didn’t have to do anything” as a priest. As an Evangelical pastor, he had to constantly come up with themes, pick just the right music, come up with 50 minute sermons that had to be innovative and relevant, determine just the right bible passages, make sure the decorations were updated appropriately and all people involved were of the same mind. A single service could be a complete failure if even one of these fell flat (especially the sermon or music). The service was about him and how well he could entertain and educate.

    As a priest, all he needed to do is to worship as a priest as the Lord intended, using the scripture and hymns that were preselected to give glory to God in the way he intended, and give much shorter homilies that retell old truths that we constantly need reminding of, especially since society constantly tries to deny these truths. The mass was not about him and was not about entertainment. It was about giving God what is due to Him, and receiving his graces, as He intended. It was such a relief for him to be a “nobody”. A critical “nobody” by grace of his priesthood, but still a “nobody” that could be replaced by another “nobody”.

  3. anilwang says:

    Oops, I didn’t realize it was Eye of the Tiber….Still, it’s a fiction that mirrors the truth more than you’d think.

  4. acricketchirps says:

    Fr. Z. a stumble

    Actually it was that twist “everyone would be dressed as centurions” that made me guffaw audibly.

  5. The Cobbler says:

    Kid you not, I read the headline and — before my browser could finish loading so I could see it was from Eye of the Tiber — thought, “I have a great idea for a theme: how about the Sacrifice of Christ?”

    Actually, in that vein, the proper “theme Masses” are all these feast days the Church has…

  6. Ryan says:


  7. James C says:

    My local church has just announced in the bulletin that they are beginning a regular “Informal Mass” with a “more relaxed feel” on Friday evenings.

    While I try to figure out what an “Informal Mass” is, I’m seriously tempted to send each of those in charge a copy of Martin Mosebach’s The Heresy of Formlessness.

    Is this not one of the chief and most destructive ills of the modern Church, a complete lack of understanding of what liturgy is supposed to be—theologically, aesthetically, psychologically, and anthropologically? Mystery and formality are pretty much defining features of the thing called liturgy, yet so many people (especially professional liturgists!) consider them dirty words!

    It boggles the mind.

  8. Palladio says:

    That one can put seemingly any noun or adjective in front of the word Mass is proof enough of the huge and disgusting problem.

  9. Will D. says:


    Actually it was that twist “everyone would be dressed as centurions” that made me guffaw audibly.

    Agreed. It highlights the unseriousness of a certain sort of “presider.”

    I got The Heresy of Formlessness for Christmas. He makes some terrific arguments about the awful state of the liturgy in most places.

  10. Robbie says:

    The fact I had to reread this twice just to make sure it wasn’t real speaks to how sad the situation is in many places around the world.

  11. Lin says:

    Not funny! Our pastor has an occasional theme mass. I will not attend but I’m sure many do.

  12. defensoris says:

    In a further interview, Father Mike Conway explained why everyone had to be dressed as centurions. “Only the Roman centurions understood Latin and used it as their vernacular language, you see? Latin was the preserve of the elite. So, lay people dressed up as ordinary Englishmen or other Europeans or Americans just wouldn’t fit in with the theme.”

  13. Bosco says:

    So sad when there is a veritable treasure trove of 1970’s Catholicism to be resurrected (and likely to be so) these days.



  14. excalibur says:

    “The Second Vatican Council was the main event in the Church in the 20th Century. In principle, it meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and modernism, which was condemned in the First Vatican Council”…Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga

  15. JonPatrick says:

    I think the “main event in the Church in the 20th Century” was the issuing of Pascendi Dominici Gregis by Pope St. Pius X. Unfortunately it only caused the Modernists to go underground, resurfacing at Vatican II.

    There is something wrong with the whole idea of “needing a theme” for Mass. What is wrong with “the re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross”? Works for me.

  16. Unwilling says:

    I really suffered only in the 1970s from the level of absurdity suggested by this piece. When I was in Seminary, it became my “turn” to create the Wednesday Theme. My (also conservative) partner and I chose a “Roman Missal” theme — and lost our turn. I laugh now, but it felt pretty frightening and painful at the time.

    Say… could I sue the diocese for sacramental abuse? I imagine millions of dollars…!

    We presented our “Roman Missal theme” idea pretty much as: STBDTR.

  17. Manalive says:

    It’s not that the article stumbles at the finish line, but that the fictional priest in the article does. Just as he is about to do something appropriate, he still manages to mess it up.

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