Fr. William Damman caused a liturgical temptest in a column written for a diocesan newspaper, "Laetare Sunday: Lent on Prozac." Comments poured into an online discussion board run by the newspaper, eventually crashing the server early Saturday.
Fr. Damman, who teaches Liturgy at the diocese's seminary, took issue with contemporary practice of the ancient liturgical observance of Laetare Sunday (or Rejoice Sunday, from the Mass' opening Latin introit "Rejoice, O Jerusalem." The celebration is meant to offer encouragement to those fasting and doing penance at the midpoint of Lent). "While the practice has roots in the ancient Church, that was a Church of people who knew how to repent and fast. They did sackcloth, ashes, and didn't create 'one full meal and two smaller meals not equaling one meal' loopholes. Nowadays, when people do not repent or fast much at all, we give them a 'break.' We need Lent as Christians, and Laetare Sunday is Lent on Prozac. It makes no sense to 'cure' what we need. I defy anyone to survey Catholics leaving Church on March 26 and ask them what Laetare Sunday is about."
Your reporter did just that. A number of Catholics leaving the 9am Mass at St. Rose of Lima parish in town mentioned they liked the pink vestments. "I was a bit uncomfortable when Father began Mass by singing 'I feel pretty,' but other than that, it was definitely a nice change," offered Joe Montello. His wife, Carol, mentioned that the more upbeat music was appreciated as well. "I thought if I heard 'Lord, Through These Forty Days' one more time, I'd lose it. The bongos and electric bass on 'Lift Up Your Hearts' were a great touch. I feel better already."
When asked why she was feeling bad in the first place, she said "I don't know--all those ashes and dark purple stuff and silence--it's like they're trying to get us to think. It's depressing. So I tend to avoid it. This really isn't my favorite part of the Church year; the other stuff is more comfortable. I could sit through a Mass on autopilot."
Joe added, "Yeah, like that Holy Water disappearing. For the first two weeks I thought it must be gone because the dry winter air really sucks up that moisture, you know? Then I thought that it may be gone on purpose, and there may be a reason for it...you know, like, maybe God wants us to stay dirty. Or look at our dirt. Something like that. It's kinda deep."
Other liturgists, whose opinions contributed to the server crash mentioned above, have been critical of Fr. Damman's hard line, arguing that a Lenten journey faithfully made is served well by a "foretaste" of resurrection. Despite the heated debate online regarding whether to celebrate Laetare Sunday, or the Scrutinies, or both, a glimmer of light did appear. Spontaneous consensus was best expressed by a man with the username "Liturgomaniac":
"Where are Trinny and Susannah, STAT? I mean, pink, rose, whatever: that's just whacked."