Saturday Night Live’s “Church”

In case you missed it over the weekend, the folks at Saturday Night Live on NBC shared a little holiday liturgical humor. St. Joseph’s Christmas Mass Spectacular features Pastor Pat (Bobby Moynihan), organist Linda Tayhoe (Kate McKinnon) and all 44 verses of “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Of course we’re ignoring all of the mixed denominational references and other details and enjoying a good laugh.


  1. The part that made me laugh the most was definitely the 2nd reader. I’ve seen her show up at many a feast day liturgy.

  2. I’m surprised SNL did this, and that the audience seems to have received it so well. It’s a lot of inside jokes based on common experience of worship (with all its foibles). You’d have to have some experience of Mass, or of liturgical worship in some tradition, to get it. It suggests that secular culture perhaps isn’t as secular as we sometimes think. (Or else all those people who only go to church once or twice a year are very perceptive observers.)


  3. Oh, just wow. This decribes my hometown parish in Connecticut — just literally. It’s not even an inside joke. It’s literal.

  4. This was great, especially the readers! I also rather enjoyed the “little table” in the rectory with the vinyl tablecloth. Reminded me of a priest who once told me that, when parishioners saw him at the grocery store, they would ask, “You go shopping?”

  5. Just to let you know, I could make you a Japanese version of this.
    And I also often find myself answering the same question that appears in Philip Spaeth’s comment. Here we do our shopping on a Thursday, and frequently encounter parishioners at the local mall.

  6. Wonderful, and oh, so true to life! But then the targets were easy ones. I wonder if the studio audience would have reacted in the same way to a prissy, be-cassocked singer going through a piece of chant in the most twee fashion imaginable! 😉

  7. The targets were easy because they’re common. I’m not sure that people would have “got it” if there was a prissy be-cassocked singer going through a piece of chant. Most peoples memory (think fallen away/ex-Catholic) or collective experience is of the empowered, actively-participating female reader. The part that wasn’t realistic to me: singing all 44 verses of the hymn. Where? LOL. I wish I could laugh because the skit portrayed a one-off. Unfortunately I can’t.

  8. Paul Inwood : Wonderful, and oh, so true to life! But then the targets were easy ones. I wonder if the studio audience would have reacted in the same way to a prissy, be-cassocked singer going through a piece of chant in the most twee fashion imaginable!

    That you decided to “go there” with this conjectured caricature above, Paul, is a wonderment and puzzle to me. Satire and parody targeting specific cultural traits of all aspects of life basically have their origin focused upon the end, not the means of the setup, and that end is always meant to be laughter. In your unnecessary speculation, there is no such goal apparent to me. There is, however, ample evidence of a prejudice that stereotypes people who truly love the “chant life.” And very little of that has jack to do with man-lace and cassocks, prissification (how is that meant to be taken, btw?) and fussiness. Many of us who’ve re-integrated chant of all types into regular Sunday liturgy are working stiffs just like you, we wear various mufti, some ties, some blue jeans, and do so with out pretense or affect. We don’t dress up to “play church,” we rather keep grinding along trying to open the senses and hearts of the faithful to (Hahn’s) Supper of the Lamb without resorting to silliness as shown in the skit, or the affectations that do happen elsewhere that get your lather up. I just don’t see a point in muckraking because only some attributes of modern worship were chosen to be mocked. YMMV.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #12:

      I agree with you, Charles. My underlying point, and I apologize for implying it rather than expressing it more clearly, was that the SNL caricature is precisely the kind of thing that the “traditional wing” seizes upon to “prove” that post-Vatican II liturgy is universally disedifying and a betrayal of the Church’s heritage. I was simply wondering what an SNL caricature of today’s traditionalist liturgies would look like if the “progressive wing” wanted to “prove” that today’s EF is equally disedifying in its own way and a betrayal of the intentions of the Council Fathers.

  9. I typically give SNL a wide berth but I found this piece unfunny and offensive.

    What was the point in gaying-up the priest? Does SNL still think is funny when a person is gay, transexual or transgender? Isn’t this junior-high level humor? Is it meant to be insulting?

    The writer(s) seem to have had great familiarity with the missal and other resources. Perhaps written by (a) angry and/or lapsed Catholic(s)?

  10. I suspected that it was a hurried notion, Paul, as I’ve too often driven too fast to a post because I had something else looming for which more thought would prevent expedition! You, too, have earned your stripes in the trenches, and done so with humor and good nature (I remember you and Chris at NPM regional in Davis slaying with the Brit Wit.) I truly wish there was a clear path towards a cease-fire, and a full cessation of propaganda that relies upon uncontexted quotes, etc. Then I would wish for some of the youngsters to postpone their desire for the advent of the biological solution, so that we who have indeed covered the waterfront could share some perspective that they can’t possibly have any interest in, nor think at all relevent to their own futures. I’m afraid lots of people would finally get that each of our respective “wings” have more in common than that are disparate. I’m more afraid that realization will never see the light of day. Cheers, mate.

  11. PS.
    I suspect that SNL only dreamt up that skit because of the truly genius wit of Stephen Colbert, a not easily-categorized true Catholic.

  12. OK …to me this is pretty funny to me because each one of those people characters I have worked with in the parishes where I have served. You prepare and set up for the Liturgy and then this happens.

    Too bad it was such a public NBC display because at a private meeting of Liturgists this may have brought the house down with continuing stories of “you won’t believe what happened.” I hope the Christmas Liturgies at all the Pray Tell churches have none of those SNL stories but after each point of humor, I had to think to myself…guilty as charged on this one.

    I am glad they didn’t go after the time I fainted at Christmas Mass as an Altar Server or two years later when I set my surplice on fire. Phew.

    The real issue to me is how is it that Catholics became approvable for this kind of satire. Would other faiths have been so accessible?

  13. I believe it’s an Episcopal church, as there are glimpses of a 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the hymnal Lift Every Voice and Sing, and the Episcopal flag.

    “Is this song still about Jesus?” 🙂

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