Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Things that need to change in the Catholic Church...

I have long been known as a loyal, orthodox, faithful Catholic. But I can remain silent no longer. Do I have an issue with teachings on abortion, artificial birth control, the practice of an all-male celibate priesthood, the role of Mary and doctrines about her (Immaculate Conception, Assumption, ever virginity, etc.), confession.....? No, I'm on board on all those. I mean the really important stuff:

++ For the love of all that is holy, could someone please hold an annual instructional seminar for priests so that they can learn to make a good sign of the cross on my forehead with the ashes on Ash Wednesday? Every year its the same damn thing:

1. The priest puts his thumb into the ash bowl (or whatever its called) and puts enough ash on his thumb to make it look like he's being fingerprinted...

2. He then places his entire hand on the top of my head like he's palming a basketball. Really, Father, there is no reason to grip my cranium; I'm not going anywhere, as I have a lot invested in the quality of cross that you place on my noggin. I'm going to be wearing it the rest of the day....

3. He then mumbles something about dust. Every priest who's ever done my yearly cross rips through the words like I do the Hail Mary sometimes: "HailMaryfullofgracetheLordiswiththee..." I don't know if you're saying "To dust you shall return" or "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" or "All we are is dust in the wind...". Enunciate, please. I know you've been doing this all day, but focus, OK?

4. He makes the vertical beam of the cross; so far so good. Now, Father, is when you lift your thumb OFF my forehead, move it to where you're going to begin the horizontal beam, THEN place it back on my forehead and make the mark. The lifting of the thumb is a crucial, but usually neglected, element of ash-cross-drawing. Without it, I end up with either a) a smudge, or b) something resembling a highway underpass diagram.

++ There needs to be a prohibition on teenage (and sometimes older) girls chewing gum at mass. If I can't bring my Diet Coke into church with me, you can't have your Hubba Bubba. I've seen girls work the gum all through mass, go to communion, then come back to their pews still jawing away. While on earth, the Body of Christ was subjected to pain, hunger, torture, and even death....I think it's fair to ask that His Body not now be subjected to Strawberry-Banana Blast....

++ While I'm on the subject of the fairer sex at mass, how about some semblance of a dress code? I'm accustomed to seeing the "March of the Scantily-Clad Jailbait" at the mall and the movies, but couldn't you young Flowers of Christ leave the exposed thongs, practically-painted-on low rise (and I mean low rise, though there's a lot more of "low" than "rise" involved) jeans**, and bare midriffs at home for one outing? And to the parents accompanying these girls...What in the Hell are you thinking? The only way a daughter of mine gets out of the house, much less to church, dressed like that is over my dead body...

** Yes, girls, I know there are boys in the congregation and I'm all for meeting someone at church and it's all part of the "game" of attraction....but really, if it's a "game" and the boys are just trying to "score", do you want to let him start with a first down at your one-yard line?

++ Okay, teenage boys, you're not off the hook, as I suspect you are the instigators/primary target of the rock n' roll music at the Teen masses. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not pining away for Gregorian chant or organ music, but the full drum kits and thumping bass just seem a llliiiittttllle out of place during participation in the life, sacrifice, and death of our Lord, don't you think? I could live with a finger-tapping entrance song or toe-tapping recessional ditty, but the "boom chicka boom boom" renditions of the "Gloria", "Hosanna", and the "Lamb Of God" have got to go. Taking something we like (rock music) and making a cheap imitation of it to wedge it into mass does not make the mass more "relevant"; it does do both rock n' roll and the mass a disservice.

++ On Palm Sunday, a pamphlet should be distributed along with the palms showing how to properly tie the palm into a cross. I end up spending the entire mass trying unsuccessfully to accomplish this feat, and still cannot manage to fashion a cross out of my palm without a stapler. I am as bad at this as priests are at making the ash cross, but at least they don't have to wear my palm non-cross around all day...

Any other suggestions from the peanut gallery?


  • LOL! I'm all with you on music and dress code.

    As for Palm Sunday, I've actually never tied my palms into a cross. I typically take it home (or back to my rooom as the case may be) and slip it into my crucifix between the corpus and the "wood."

    ...and then the ashes. As a rookie priest, I think this year was my first time to distribute ashes to anyone. The first person I "ashed" was another priest handling the line next to me. I noticed that almost nothing showed up on his head, so I pushed my thumb down deeper to get more ash before the faithful approached. The problem with making a neat cross on someone's forehead is that you're not dealing with a fine point like a pen or even a paintbrush, but the full width of a human thumb. On top of that, the "target" (forehead) is pretty small, unless you're dealing with a bald man. A third factor to account for the "smudge effect" is that there is a lot of oil and sweat that interact with the ashes once they're on your forehead.

    Another interesting thing to note is that in Europe (at least continental Europe), they sprinkle ashes on the top of the person's head rather than smearing on the forehead. At the end of Mass, no ashes are visible.

    One thing is certain, however. I wish everyone's concerns about Catholicism were as simple and non-doctrinal as yours.

    By Anonymous fr. jason, at Friday, March 03, 2006 2:59:00 PM  

  • Hey Jerry,

    that was GREAT!!! btw, this is Anne (TG's sister in Dallas)

    my ash cross looked much like you described here LOL!

    anyways, love this site!!

    I am also with you on the music and dress code, although, the services I attend have traditional music. Rock N Roll needs to stay in the arenas and theaters.

    have a great day!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, March 05, 2006 3:49:00 PM  

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