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A Catholic Whine

I think there might be as many as three people here who even understand what I'm complaining about, but anyway.

I have spent almost all of my Catholic life in the Diocese of Peoria, which is, I believe, one of the best in the country. I can't think of anything improper I've seen in any parish there in the nearly 20 years I've been around that area.

Now, though, I'm spending a lot more time in the Chicago area. The nearby church is... I don't know, a third of a mile away? Easily walkable, which I thought was going to be GREAT! But instead it's so lame it's driving me bananas. The tabernacle is off in some other wing where I can't even see it. There's no crucifix visible, just... houseplants... behind the altar.

I am mildly tempted to join whatever committee has determined the church decor and suggesting adding maybe, I don't know, a fish tank to liven things up. Or kittens. C'mon, nothing says the love of God like kittens, amiright?!


Equally frustrating, they have what is easily the best choir I have ever heard, anywhere. I've been to cathedrals on Easter which did not come close to an ordinary Sunday here, performance-wise. But of course they're singing the most inane hymns I've ever encountered. When I would normally be singing, I'm instead gawking at the lyrics wondering where they even find this quality of drivel. (And I am by no means picky. The usual sappy hymns heard all over the USA are fine with me.)

Not sure what to do. I probably have six more months here, at least. If the weather wasn't so abysmal it'd be a lot easier to go further afield, but for the duration of winter at least, I guess I have to cope. Bleh.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
Doesn't sound that different from what I remember in the suburbs there (Diocese of Joliet).
Jan. 3rd, 2011 02:09 am (UTC)
Apparently, the worship of houseplants is a popular Chicago suburban tradition.

Jan. 3rd, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
Here's one of the three checking in. :)

I totally understand how frustrating it is, but let me encourage you to consider looking a little further afield. Having to grind your teeth through Mass is not exactly spiritually edifying, because you're focusing on things that are distractions instead of on Christ.

I have heard good things about St. John Cantius, I don't know if it is convenient for you.

If you are willing to make yourself unpopular, if there is no crucifix at all behind the altar, that is actually an abuse that you can nail them on. However, some places do a loophole where they put the crucifix flat on the altar (so no one can see it). But if there is none there AT ALL, you can certainly complain and escalate your complaint to the archbishop, or even the CDWDS if that fails. Remember to catch flies with honey of course. :)

My husband just chimed in to strongly, strongly encourage you to try St. John Cantius... quoth he: "The two premier centers of liturgical praxis in the English speaking world are the Brompton Oratory in London and St. John Cantius in Chicago. This may sound a little extreme, but I would regard it as ridiculous to live in the Archdiocese of Chicago and go anywhere else." So that's a ringing endorsement!
Jan. 3rd, 2011 02:04 am (UTC)
Actually, I tried to finagle an apartment close to St. John Cantius prior to this arrangement, cause I'd heard it was so awesome. Alas.

That is quite an endorsement, though! St. John Cantius is pretty much smack in the middle of the city, and I'm in a suburb, so it's not real close. Getting there would involve either 3 trains or 2 trains and a bus, plus walks, and about an hour and a half travel time. Hmmm. (I'm fine with it, but persuading my husband who strongly dislikes both cold weather and travel by CTA is another matter. Still, can't hurt to try.)

Jan. 3rd, 2011 03:36 am (UTC)
Maybe even if you could go there on days when you're feeling more energetic/the weather is nicer (by Chicago standards), it would help you to deal with the nearby one the rest of the time. :)

Is that an hour and a half each way? Bummer.

Also, if you went there, you could maybe ask the priests/parishioners THERE if they can recommend any place closer to you.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 04:45 am (UTC)
Yeah, hour and a half each way, but I will definitely find a way to make the trip on nice days. Chicago occasionally has some!

I did find a reasonably convenient (train-wise) parish that has perpetual adoration. I figure they have to be good. Maybe I can visit there soon.

I just figured out your icon and LOL'd.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
Here's your third Catholic reader chiming in...and suggesting that you might want to try going elsewhere. Generally, when I start feeling that way about a parish...it's time to move on.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 02:06 am (UTC)
Yeah... you're right. It's just that (1) I don't drive, and (2) the weather is horrible here. So getting anywhere farther away involves a lot of hassle, and this is only a temporary location anyway. Still, if it bugs me enough to rant on LJ, I must be pretty annoyed. ;)
Jan. 3rd, 2011 01:27 am (UTC)
I understand. Sorry the nearest church is such a disappointment.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 02:08 am (UTC)
Thanks. From now on I will actually visit the nearby parish prior to signing a lease/mortgage, not just map the building's location!
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 3rd, 2011 04:36 am (UTC)
:( I'm sorry about that.

I expect anyone, following any religion, to act with all their heart. How are we supposed to figure anything out if we phone it in? How is anyone supposed to respect people who don't even like their own traditions?
Jan. 3rd, 2011 03:38 am (UTC)
When I have to go to a lame church, I remind myself that the fullness of the sacraments and the presence of Christ is all that matters. It's gotten me through some positively horrible out-of-tune singing, nasty, wood-paneled walls, and more. Hang in there!
Jan. 3rd, 2011 04:29 am (UTC)
Thanks, and you're right, of course.

I used to think I was pretty good at coping. For a long time I went to a tiny, homely parish that had no music at all... but at least I could look at something to focus on what was actually happening. Apparently, having ferns where the tabernacle should be really irks me!
Jan. 3rd, 2011 01:16 pm (UTC)
Are you sure? Maybe one of the ferns is fake and there is a tabernacle hidden inside the pot...? Heh.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 04:37 am (UTC)
"In my father's house there are many mansions" . . . and some of them are inevitably going to have black velvet paintings of Elvis hanging on the walls.

Or at least that's what I keep telling myself in similar situations.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 04:47 am (UTC)

Jan. 3rd, 2011 01:16 pm (UTC)
Jan. 3rd, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
We are friends with a couple, one of whom is Catholic, the other is a retired Methodist minister. They moved to town recently, and the available Catholic places of worship were apparently SO appalling that she now attends the Methodist church with him (where he was, I think, attending Mass with her).

My sympathies, especially on the music. It sounds like the Catholic equivalent of praise music, referred to in this household, with appropriate derision, as "Jesus is my girlfriend" songs (any song in which the name Jesus could be replaced with any two-syllable woman's name and make just as much sense) or 7-11 songs (songs in which the same seven words are repeated 11 times -- because apparently either the congregation or perhaps the Big Guy Himself was too dense to comprehend the seven-word sentiment the FIRST TEN TIMES!!!). We hate that crap, around here, yessss we do preciousssss.
Jan. 4th, 2011 12:55 am (UTC)
"Jesus is my girlfriend" ...hahahahahaha. Yes, I know exactly the songs you're talking about. *snort*

I guess the stuff here is a little bit like praise music, but not even that good. (Yeah, I know.) It seems to be the third or fourth iteration of rewriting either sixties folk-hymns or traditional hymns to be ever more inclusive and, um, self-affirming. They're so watered down it's ludicrous.

I choked on one verse that not only didn't say anything at all, it didn't use proper sentences either. It was like the songwriter had played feel-good religious gibberish Mad Libs. And got the blanks filled in wrong.

All of this being sung from by a full choir of brilliantly talented students from the nearby world-class university music school. I might've been able to take the nonsense if it was sung by a bunch of talentless parishioners like myself, but that...! My head just about exploded.

Sorry to hear about your Catholic friend. I don't want to think how bad the parish must be that it's better to go elsewhere. :( (Not to diss Methodists, of course.)
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )