Thursday, July 30, 2009

My night out

I'm really not certain how we ended up there. Well, we signed ourselves up for it some weeks ago at St Mary's after the regular Sunday evening Mass. But why? I'm talking about the special Mass to celebrate the 150 years of the Brisbane Roman Catholic Archdiocese. It was on tonight and not at the Cathedral but over at the Brisbane Convention Centre. My flatmate and I and another friend went along.

I had mixed feelings about it. Unfortunately, as is so often the case these days, we had to endure the marketing spin with slogans such as 'Graced Tradition, Spirited Future' being spruiked regularly throughout the event. I really hate spin these days and I hate it even more in the name of religion. The welcome to country was done really well but then rather than get into the Mass they wanted to run a brief historical panorama, which was handled so appallingly by someone playing an escaped convict from the 1830s - 40s giving a bit of a narrative about their life. It really was unnecessary and painful. And it was preceded by a woman reading some well spruiked stuff about our 'graced tradition' etc. Painful.

It was good to get into the Mass when it finally started. There were heaps of bishops from around the country and the archbishop of Dublin, which is where the first bishop of Brisbane was consecrated back in 1859. The Irish guy gave a not bad homily which was a relief because even though Bathesby has a good heart his homiletics leave an awful lot to be desired and the only other alternative would have been Cardinal Pell Horrible man. Thankfully he had no speaking parts whatsoever. Amidst all the bishops, too, were a couple of Eastern Rite bishops looking quite glamorous in their outfits.

The music left a bit to be desired. The organ/keyboard left an awful lot to be desired, so cheesy, it sounded like something out of a Vicki Eydie Swingles Celebrity Lounge performance. And before the Mass started they tried to get us 'warmed up' with a particularly trashy number that wouldn't have gone astray at Hillsong or somewhere like that. For a minute I feared we would be subjected to some sort of Pentecostal conference type thing. But I'm happy to say the music really did improve - well the choir and the hymns anyway. The keyboard remained cheesy all the way through. It was a nice touch to start with Canticle of the Sun and including the stanza praising Sister Death.

The saddest part of the Mass was at communion. As well as a horde of Catholic bishops, there was also the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane and the Dean of St John's Cathedral and other Anglican clergy plus the local Coptic Orthodox priest and Uniting Church Moderator as well people representing the Assemblies of God, Salvation Army, and Quakers. I think especially for events like that the Catholic Church should practice intercommunion and most definitely with the Anglicans and (Coptic) Orthodox because they all share the same sort of understanding of the Eucharist (I noticed the Anglicans bowing at the elevation of the host and the cup). Obviously Quakers, Salvation Army and Assemblies of God probably don't because the Eucharist is not really celebrated in their denominations and so there is no shared framework, although I'd still be prepared to err on the side of inclusion. But the others certainly should be no problem. Catholics and Anglicans certainly informally practice intercommunion a lot already. And I really think the time has come for Western and Eastern churches to adopt intercommunion especially as all the old anathemas and excommunications have been lifted.

Overall, I think the Mass was good as far as these things go. Cut back on the hype and the happy clappy and the cheesy instrumentals and it would have been great. And I'm still surprised that I ended up there at all. It's certainly not something I would have done once upon a time.


  1. Hello Michael, On intercommunion I agree with you wholeheartedly. One of the great surprises of my life though was hearing our local (Queanbeyan) Assembly of God man talking with the local Anglican priest about his understanding and experience of communion. It was as "Anglican" and sacramental as it could be. The experience humbled me. (It was of course a personal, not institutional statement; not the stuff on which the Catholic and Anglican church can make decisions!), Linda

  2. Now that's really interesting. Perhaps Pentecostal traditions are more open to a sacramental approach than the more mainline evangelical?