The Pope, Fidel, and the Liturgy

This article in the Washington Post covers the Pope’s open-air Mass in Havana and, probably unintentionally, raises lots of the usual issues about MegaMasses™: can they be celebrated with fitting decorum, in what sense are those gathered really a worshiping assembly, etc. I was somewhat amused by the writer’s slightly scandalized tone as he recounted:

At the edges of the crowd, some young people lounged on the ground, yawning, smoking or talking during the service. After the homily, midway through the Mass, people began to head for the exits in a steady stream.

Sounds like a typical Mass in Italy to me. Once, in Rome, I was at a Mass where the lector left the church after she did the first reading.

What I found most interesting was the following tidbit:

After the Mass, the pope met with Fidel Castro at the Vatican Embassy, where the ailing former leader quizzed Benedict about the changes in the Catholic liturgy since the long-ago days when Fidel was an altar boy, educated by Jesuits.

It is fascinating how even for the most lapsed of lapsed Catholics it is still the liturgy that piques their interest. Maybe someone should send Fidel a link to Pray Tell (or maybe Fr. Z and the NLM) so he can get up to speed on what’s happening in the world of liturgy these days.


  1. So, how is a lector leaving the church after the reading different from a homilist who enters after the second reading and leaves after the homily?

    1. It isn’t unusual in Latin America or southern Europe for people, especially older men and teenagers, to get up and go out for a smoke or to a bar during the sermon. Coming late and leaving early is very common.

      In Orthodox countries they come and go throughout liturgy, but everyone, east and west, seems to show up if there are any free eats and drinks afterwards.

    2. Or a phalanx of priests and deacons who appear at the fraction rite to distribute Communion, disappearing again afterward.

      1. or you appear to “wash” the dishes after the communion procession.

        Recent “re-clericalism” hasn’t really helped this out.

        Comments from B16’s trips to Mexico & Cuba per John Allen reflect some interesting points:

        “Typical expressions of this clericalism include:

        – Clergy see themselves as political powerbrokers, playing a direct role in affairs of state.
        – The church projects an image of power and privilege, with its preferred spiritual imagery emphasizing God as a cosmic monarch.
        – The role of the laity is conceived in largely passive terms — “pay, pray and obey.”
        – Little premium is placed on evangelization or faith formation, with pastoral care understood largely in terms of administering the sacraments.”

  2. Deacon, along with the author, I would be disturbed if a bunch of people randomly left church like that! On the other hand, that is almost a given with these “mega-Masses”. The one consolation is that hopefully this is a “courtyard of the Gentiles” moment, where those on the fringes are touched by that Gospel that they hear.

    Cuba is just such an interesting case because of the syncretism that has always been present there. The Church there is very oppressed, even as it is a mere faithful remnant. Let’s hope that whenever the regime changes or evolves then the Christian faith will fill the vacuum that will form.

  3. I don’t know that links to Fr. Z or NLM will bring anyone “up to speed” on what has been/is going on in the world of liturgy. Quite the opposite, actually. To read/abide by them would be to think and act as if nothing has changed, nothing is going on… except much more of the agless complaining and griping and holier-than-thou type of criticism and belittlement which has never done much for the experience of Church or the Church’s image.

  4. When I went to Mass in Havana I stayed to the end. Not speaking Spanish I was at a disadvantage of course…
    Do go soon before the country changes.

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