Monday, December 23, 2013

"The Handy Dandy Hiney Christmas Eve Mass for Lay Catholics"

Reprinted here with permission by Regina Clancy Hiney.  Hilarious and all-too-true stuff.


First of all, here is what the Mass is: The Catholic Mass is the formal, official worship service of Catholicism. It is the most important and sacred act of worship in the Catholic Church. Going to Mass is the only way a Catholic can fulfill the Third Commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day and the only regular opportunity to receive the Holy Eucharist which is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ truly, really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine. Mass is the central act of worship in the life of a Catholic.

Here is what the Mass isn’t: entertainment for you and your family, a social event, a talent show, your gift to God, an act of personal sacrifice for which God should be grateful because you are “basically a good person,” a liturgical or linguistic experiment, a mere remembrance of something done long ago, a mere ritual or symbol, albeit a very ancient one and most importantly, Mass ain’t optional.

So here are a few helpful hints this Christmas season:

 1. DO NOT USE A RESTROOM IN A CATHOLIC CHURCH BETWEEN ADVENT AND THE CHRISTMAS SEASON. There is a well-established, well known fact that Roman Catholic restrooms contain the Fukashima, Hiroshima bird swine diarrhea-vomit norovirus at this time. There is an old Hiney saying that it ain’t Christmas until someone throws up. And invariably this vomit occurs on Christmas eve. Avoid the Restroom. The reason I say this is just from experience. Just about EVERY MOM I KNOW HAS SICK KIDS AROUND CHRISTMAS TIME. And every mom will tell you that once a nasty stomach bug is in the house, it is just a matter of time before someone else in the house gets it. . .Generally speaking. . .Catholic families tend to be larger. . .sooooo. . .that means around this time of year. . .some one is using the restroom that has come from a house with a stomach bug. And if its one of MY kids, I can't promise they are washing their hands for 30 seconds under hot water including their wrist and under their fingernails. At best, you are getting cold water and a bit soap that may or may not have reached their skin. The reason I write this guide, is to save you, my gentle reader, the germs. Avoid the Restroom in a Catholic church. More Sanitary AND less distracting for the folks.

 2. Silence is Golden. So, everybody please, shut up. I mean this in the kindest, nicest way possible. Actually I don’t. I mean it in the most obnoxious way possible. TALK at home. TALK outside. TALK after Mass. If you want to GET something out of Mass, YOU HAVE TO SHUT UP. There is enough noise in the world. There is noise on TV. There is noise in the stores, in the mall, on facebook, on our phones. . .everywhere. Let Church be a silent place. . . especially BEFORE MASS. I beg of you to do this. . . BEGGING. Even you grandparents whose kids and grandkids are just coming for the first time in two years. . .don’t talk to them. Don’t play with them. Don’t tell them how much you LOVE their Christmas outfit. They truly are the most adorable kids on the planet. Spoil the crap out of them. After. Mass. Right now: Shut up. Let them see that SOMETHING is different about this place. IGNORE THEM. (don’t be uncharitable. . .just close your eyes, kneel if you can and just be silent) If everybody stopped talking. . .this would go a LONG WAY to making a more meaningful Mass experience for EVERYONE.

3. Take a back seat to God and everyone else. Accept the fact that you are not going to get the coveted “end of the pew” seat. I don’t care if you got to Mass four hours early. It will happen, either two minutes before the priest processes in or five minutes after. . .a 90 year old pregnant woman on oxygen is going to need your seat. Deal with it, and dress accordingly. This means that it will 106 degrees in the middle of the pew. . .don’t wear a sweater and if you live in Virginia, leave the winter coat in the car. . . Also, if you want to demonstrate your Catholic chops. . .plan on having at least three children sitting on your lap so that the 90 year old pregnant woman on oxygen can also squeeze in her mother, a one legged leper (who just happens to have a walker) into the same pew as you. If you are sitting BEHIND the 90 year old pregnant woman on oxygen and her one legged leper mom, the toddler sitting on your lap is going to grab their hair. This is where you MUST have some sort of silent plush toy at the ready. The only way you can handle this with Christian grace and charity. . .is if you prayed SILENTLY before Mass. Prepare accordingly.

 4. Hotter than Hades. Don’t wear the Christmas sweater knitted by your Nana. You can wear it when you get home. If she is insulted, Pray that she be given the spirit of understanding (you can do so silently BEFORE MASS). Because if you wear your itchy, hot Christmas sweater at any Christmas eve Mass, even the sheep in the manger will be looking at you and saying it was a BAAAAAd idea. If you did not heed my advice to leave your winter coat in the car, and IF you have enough room to physically remove that winter coat before Mass, at some point during Mass, the coats only act as an insulation to prevent air from flowing in the sanctuary. The aggregate temperature in the sanctuary is about 106 degrees. Even the statues are perspiring and it’s not a miracle. Prepare accordingly.

 5. When Hell freezes over. On the other hand, because the church that was built to accommodate a few hundred of your co-religionists is now forced to house several thousand people in bulky coats and sweaters. . .all of whom have decided to come and adore the baby Jesus, your Pastor, in his wisdom, may decide to turn on the air conditioning. It’s a crap shoot. If this be the case and you left your coat in the car. . .you can always leave to go get it. You might be able to get back in. You might not. At least you have a choice. You can offer it up for the poor souls in purgatory, or the poor souls in the parking lot.

 6. Birds of a Feather Flock together. Choose a Christmas Eve Mass where your left eye won’t twitch (cause I think you have to gouge it out if it does) and where your vein doesn’t pop in vexation. And in that spirit, I give you the Mass Guide to Holiness:

 First Mass of Christmas Eve: It is the earliest Mass, on Christmas Eve. Generally it is between 4:00 pm and 6:00. Sometimes this is referred to as the “Children’s Mass.” Now, technically, there is NO SUCH THING as a Children’s Mass. But here’s the deal. It’s the children’s Mass. It’s generally where the children sing in the choir. But even if there are NO CHILDREN SINGING, and it is NOT called the Children’s Mass: IT IS STILL THE CHILDREN’S MASS. It is the Mass where YOUNG optimistic parents bring their young children with the idea that if they get their children to bed early; they get stuff done. Be it wrapping, shopping, baking, assembling Chinese toys using Japanese translated instructions, canoodling, whatever. . .young optimistic parents have plans. This is their mistake. This is the Mass of young optimistic parents who don’t know any better. I speak now to the young optimistic parents who don’t know any better: Your four year old is jumping off the walls at 10:00 pm tonight. This isn’t going to NOT happen just because you put Tiny Tim to bed at 7:00 and told him that a kindly saint in a red suit riding a flying sleigh with eight magical reindeer is not coming if he isn’t a sleep. You ain’t canoodling till New Years. Accept it and move on.

 Second Mass of Christmas Eve: This is for the slightly more savvy parents of slightly older children. They learned their lessons the hard way. This Mass contains different demographics. The young optimistic parents who are too new to parenting and couldn’t get their gear together in time for the 4:00 PM Mass. These dear young souls who got to the church at 3:50, decided that their little babies in their car carriers and their kangaroo carriers ought not attend Mass in a parking lot because they got to said parking lot at 3:50, and saw that folks were standing outside on the lawn and decided to try for the next Mass. This Mass also contains the slightly more experienced parent who didn’t even try for the first Mass, but still hopes to get some stuff done and have Christmas Day “to relax.” This tends to be the traditional hymns. There will be singing. Lots of singing. If you are hot, itchy or did not heed my advice and used a Roman Catholic Restroom during Advent. . .you may not be enjoying the singing at this time. And while this choir maybe very talented, they aren’t as cute . . And if they deviate in ANY way from the traditional hymn, you may find yourself vexed. Don’t be vexed. The only way to avoid vexation is to PRAY SILENTLY BEFORE MASS. And to not use the restroom during Advent.

 Third Mass on Christmas Eve: This may or may not be the Midnight Mass (I will have a separate post for the Midnight Mass) This is Mass is slightly less crowded. It is attended by older couples, daily communicants and homeschooling families. The music tends to be more simple. It is calmer Mass and a quieter Mass. In my experience, as it is later in the evening (somewhere between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm) it is the Mass where you notice more of your own family’s foibles. This is Mass where the family of 13 sitting two pews ahead of you are able to get their boys to wear three piece suits and the girls in matching dresses. This is the Mass where you where you see that your child, in your haste to get everyone out the door in a timely fashion, is wearing mismatched open toed sandals. This is the Mass where families own individual subscriptions to the Magnificat, and are reading the scriptures from them. My family, off medication, are flinging boogers at one another. This is the Mass where you can actually pray silently before Mass but don’t because someone got their foot stuck under the kneeler and has let out a scream and so you have to carry them out in hysterics down the main aisle. But this is a good option for someone who is looking for less chaos, more prayer.

My personal favorite option is go to Mass on Christmas day. We have a tradition that we open NO presents until AFTER we come home from Mass. . .it starts the day correctly. The children are forced to have their priorities organized for them.


Sometimes I use hyperbole to emphasize a point.

1 comment:

Myra D'Souza said...

Enjoyed this so much I will share it with everyone on my mailing list.

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and New Year filled with an abundance of God's choicest blessings.