We have $162,717 to go in our Fall Campaign. Every penny is used to strengthen the Church. See details!
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Let us entertain you!

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Jan 28, 2004

Judith Martin makes some good observations on the de-ritualization of the wedding as indicative of a frivolous approach to marriage. Though several points deserve comment, mine was provoked by her last:

The wedding has become a great blast of a party, which is stuck with a slow start when everyone is expected to curb the fun and pay attention. Symbolizing the relative importance of the activities, brides now dress for the parties that follow, in strapless ball dresses, rather than donning the often impossibly elaborate but still somewhat modest wedding dresses that long symbolized the dignity of the occasion. ...

To whatever extent possible, the ceremony has become part of the couple's pageantry of personal display. As they inevitably declare, "We want this to be about us." So begins the reworking to "personalize it" with their own script. Not infrequently, this includes jokes and all-too-private reminiscences. Officiants, too, contribute their share in the spirit of undercutting the solemnity to make the ceremony entertaining. And guests recognize this with their applause.

Almost always, it seems to me, applause in church is a sign that something has gone wrong: the ritual has ceased to be liturgy and has been become showtime. Some celebrants joke their way into the focus of attention when they feel the bride, or the Holy Sacrifice, has robbed them of their rightful place on center stage. Others, correctly intuiting that their audience is more familiar with how one behaves in a cinemax than a church, will try to reduce the general nervousness by lowering the formality -- which a burst of laughter or applause can do abruptly.

In an era when large parts of the population were in pain, Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. In the First World of today, where anxiety is the prime dread, religion often serves as its Valium. Clergymen are bred to be cute. Only at funerals -- and not always then -- is the natural solemnity of ritual allowed to override the fun factor.

Has the show neared the end of its run? Maybe one of the positive consequences of the clergy abuse tragedy will be the gradual disappearance of the cuddly priest. Sure, Father will continue his Noodles the Clown act at the 10:00 Mass, but he'll get fewer smiles and chuckles from the folks in the pews. The effect of the icy stare might trickle back to the seminary. In the first instance, the diocesan attorneys may do the coaching ("Leave the hand-puppets at home, Father") but eventually -- if the laity do their part -- the priest himself might rediscover, and integrate into his own life, the meaning of what happened on Golgotha.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Fall Campaign
Progress toward our year-end goal ($162,717 to go):
$200,000.00 $37,282.72
81% 19%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Jan. 28, 2004 11:26 PM ET USA

    Lazareno, I may be a Byzantine Catholic soon as well!

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2004 9:57 PM ET USA

    I am a post-Vatican II convert who gradually came to realize that I infinitely preferred daily Mass to Sunday Mass. After a time, I realized why: It was the joking, clapping, hugging, and general lack of reverence on Sunday. I love those things at a party, but not while I am trying to adore God. For the past three years, I've assisted at a licit traditional Mass daily and Sunday. The thought of returning to a regular parish gives me the shivers. And it shouldn't be that way.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2004 7:17 PM ET USA

    That's why I am Byzantine Catholic.

Fall Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

A different tone at this Synod? 21 hours ago
Church Fathers: St. Clement of Alexandria, Part I 23 hours ago
Internalizing marriage at this year's synod October 6
Gay Vatican official who 'came out' may influence Synod in a way he didn't expect--or want October 5
Another serial killer? Blame 'religious rage.' October 5

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope issues new rules to streamline annulment process CWN - September 8
In Cuba, Pope emphasizes service to the vulnerable, praises thaw in US-Cuban relations CWN - September 21
Pope challenges America in speech to US Congress CWN - September 24
As Synod opens, Pope calls on Church to defend ‘unity and indissolubility’ of marriage bond CWN - October 5