Sunday, January 04, 2009

top ten peeves you wouldn't want to meet in mass.

What I have observed as one of the good things about Christmastime is that it brings us back to the very place where it all began – church. With the nine wonderful mornings leading up to Christmas day, the grandiose celebration on Christmas eve or on Christmas day itself, the feasts of the Holy Family and the Holy Innocents, New Year masses, and Epiphany wrapping up the whole package, we are all drawn to the Lord in many ways, cleansing and purifying ourselves before the child in the manger. Once in a while, however, we unwillingly get sidetracked upon encountering a few annoying booboos that leave a particularly ugly smudge on an otherwise unblemished spiritual experience.

Christmas or not, here are the top ten obstacles that will most probably bar you from becoming holier than thou:

10. Masses that are hot. Literally.
And you used to think December weather is always freezing. Now you are distracted from concentrating on the wonderful rites taking place because you have been tragically resigned to furiously fanning yourself, or wiping the giant beads of sweat forming on your nose, or wondering why the brand new electric fan beside you isn’t working, or isn’t on, or both. Trust me – it’s really hard to don a heavenly aura when you feel more like burning in purgatory yourself.

9. Masses that don’t start on time.
6 pm is 6 pm and not 6:30 pm. And no, the fact that the church doesn’t have a clock, or the priest doesn’t have a watch, or the whole city has lost track of time, doesn’t seem such a valid excuse. Parishioners shuttle their way from private affairs just to attend mass, and after mass they’re off again. Punctuality is only a matter of respect and consideration.

8. Masses that prematurely breeze through and those that lovingly linger on. And on. And on.
Masses usually last around an hour on weekends; are a bit shorter on weekdays, are a bit longer on special holidays. Thus said, I really hate it when they are precipitously rushed through like some wanted convict on the loose, and similarly, when they are painfully extended till time immemorial. A short mass makes you feel incomplete; a really long one will drain the hell out of you.

7. Lectors who give your six year-old cousin stiff competition in reading class.
Obviously, we’re not all sleight enough of tongue to deliver the readings like a seasoned newscaster or an orator, but at least we should try to read the passages in a way comprehensible to the competent mind. God’s word is meant to be conveyed to every listening ear with the hopeful intent of informing, enlightening, and if possible, moving others. But when the words are thoughtlessly strung together to become an unlikely lullaby, we have a real problem.

6. People who think mass is one big helluva party.
Therefore, what do you wear to one? In a generation ruled by crazed, self-righteous hedonists, you see a visual stampede of gaudy halters, spaghetti tops and tubes that show more skin and attitude than decency. Sure, mass is a celebration in itself (that’s why we call it the Eucharistic celebration), but do spare your ultra-conservative lola the risk for an inopportune heart attack by quickly stuffing her inside the car trunk when these vainglorious creatures arrive. Please.

5. People who can’t make their children behave in mass.
Children are God’s little angels, but you’ll soon find that they easily morph into their devilish alter-egos replete with tiny horns and wiggling tails when they mercilessly kick your pew, jump on your seat, drool on the floor, and scream like there’s no tomorrow. What’s more, you see their fairly amused parents laughing away like they’ve just seen some of the best games on earth. Which I must aptly call “Revenge of the Imps.”

4. People who think mass is the perfect place to gossip the day away.
Yep, we know you miserably spend five days a week rotting away in your solitary workspace, swamped with just about anything except the latest issue of the local gossip mill. So off you tromp to church to reunite with other wagging tongues and catch up on those juicy rumors. Guess what? You’re better off finishing those succulent stories at the home of an aging relative, cursed to forever become an old maid because she wasted her precious youth feeding away on other forms of communion.

3. People who sing to the highest heavens in their preferred key.
It is anyone’s sacred – and legal – right to sing praises to God, whenever they want, wherever they want, however they want. But as the old saying goes: Your rights stop when you hit the rights of others. Or in this case, the eardrums of others. Believe me, braying like a demented donkey at the top of your lungs with half the church congregation staring at you with dagger looks isn’t sheer admiration at all. On the contrary, it’s murder most foul in the works. Better start running.

2. Priests who deliver homilies in totally alien languages.
By alien language, I’m referring to any other language outside of the intended language for the mass. By Jove, that’s why it’s called an English mass, or a Filipino mass, or an Ilonggo mass, for that matter. Merely assuming that everyone in the audience is a versed linguist is plain inanity. Of course, there’s always the excuse that the faithful can better understand things in the vernacular. What was that again? Hindi ko naiintindihan ang mga sinasabi mo. Indi ko maintindihan ang mga guinahambal mo.

1. Priests who don’t prepare homilies. At all.
This has to be the most tragic story of them all. The homily is undoubtedly an integral part of the mass, even proving to be its heart and soul. That’s why a completely vacuous homily never fails to make me feel robbed out. While good homilies are generally supposed to be spontaneous and free-flowing, it’s an altogether different story when they are distastefully vomited out to your face. It’s like buying a huge box of Oreo cookies and discovering, to your utter dismay and horror, that none of them are cream-filled.