Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News


By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 28, 2005

Q. When is a multi-colored sash worn at Mass?

A. A multi-colored sash is worn at Mass when the wearer wishes to deprive the faithful of full and conscious participation in the act of worship and to refocus their attention on the circumstances attending his unilateral decision to distract them.

In the Natural Family Planning world, there's a low-key competition between proponents of the Temperature Method and proponents of the Sympto-Thermal Method. The latter requires the woman to gauge the viscosity of her cervical mucous as a symptom of fertility. Both (when used with the proper intention) are entirely consonant with Catholic teaching.

Suppose, by way of a thought experiment, that one day the Sympto-Thermal gang take it into their heads that the Church unfairly neglects their cause in comparison with the Temperature group, and they form the Sympto-Thermal Movement as a way of making other Catholics aware of their predicament. "It's a matter of simple justice," they announce.

The STM decides they and their cause are "not visible enough." To remedy this, they show up for Mass in tactically arranged groups (having alerted media beforehand) each wearing a fluorescent yellow skull-cap with a battery-operated shiny plastic propeller projecting from the top and a shrieking yellow jersey to match. The STM folks anticipate, correctly, that thus adorned they'll stand out unmistakably and provoke interest and discussion.

Children, of course, notice the STM, point to them during Mass ( they put their skullcaps on just before Communion), and whisper the obvious questions to their parents. Very young children can be palmed off with a true but incomplete answer; very old children can be given the promise of a fuller explanation after Mass; but there will certainly be those for whom the parents must decide: Do I lie? Do I evade? Or do I tell the whole truth? -- and the whole truth, remember, includes an explanation of the nature and uses of cervical mucous. That's the key point of contention vis-à-vis the Temperature Method crowd. That's the reason for the yellow.

As for teenagers, forget it. Just by trying to avoid laughing or making eye-contact, they lose it. Mass is a write-off.

Many, perhaps most, massgoers will have no quarrel -- in general -- with the Sympto-Thermal Method or with its proponents. They had worshiped beside them for years, perhaps, and never averted to the fact. Yet they find inside themselves a sense of being cheated, and anger at being cheated, when the STM does its thing. Having prepared their minds and hearts to receive the Eucharist, they feel their thoughts wrenched away and replaced by visions of cervical mucous at precisely the moment they wish to feel most recollected. "There are thousand ways of advancing your cause," they say to the STM on the church steps afterward, "why do you have to rob us of a Mass by picking this particular occasion?" Because, they're told, it's a matter of justice.


Consider: If the faithful appealed to the diocese in the matter, is there a single bishop who would not immediately shut down the STM? Not one -- and rightly so. Even those who fully sympathize with their beliefs must admit that the Mass is abused by the STM stunt. Now the point of this thought experiment is to show that the Sympto-Thermo agitators are NOT parallel to the Rainbow Sash Movement. This STM fiction is wholly in keeping with Catholic doctrine, whereas the Rainbow Sashers -- whatever their pose of the moment -- are contemptuous of Church teaching and, in one aspect at least, intend to subvert it. The moral of the story is that even if -- contrary to fact -- the Rainbow Sash Movement were orthodox, it remains a unilateral act of aggression designed to compel every massgoer over 12 years of age to stop thinking of God and think of sodomy instead. No honest Catholic -- laymen, priest, or bishop -- can sincerely contend that it's innocent.

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