Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bad Liturgy and Jimmy Fallon

I found this article covering Jimmy Fallon's Catholic upbringing and his reaction to the Novus Ordo liturgy very interesting:


Until this week, I had no idea that Jimmy Fallon grew up Catholic.

Then I came across this interview from 2012. As it turns out, Fallon really loved the Church when he was a young boy. In the interview with Terri Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, he talked about his childhood experience of Catholicism:
GROSS: So you went to Catholic school when you were young.
Mr. FALLON: Oh yeah.
GROSS: Did you have…
Mr. FALLON: I wanted to be a priest.
GROSS: Did you really?
Mr. FALLON: Yeah. I loved it.
Mr. FALLON: I just, I loved the church. I loved the idea of it. I loved the smell of the incense. I loved the feeling you get when you left church. I loved like how this priest can make people feel this good. I just thought it was – I loved the whole idea of it. My grandfather was very religious, so I used to go to Mass with him at like 6:45 in the morning, serve Mass. And then you made money, too, if you did weddings and funerals. You’d get like five bucks. And so I go ‘Okay, I can make money too.’ I go, ‘This could be a good deal for me.’ I thought I had the calling.
For many, this is how their Catholicism begins. It’s primarily cultural. It’s what you grow up doing. You find the aesthetics appealing. It’s an experience that you find comforting, and it’s something you can be a part of. There’s a foundation, but also a need for growth and greater depth. In other words, a fantastic opportunity for catechesis.

But over time, like so many Catholics, Fallon fell away from the Church. And when he fell on hard times, and looked to his childhood faith for answers, he found that things had changed.
GROSS: Do you still go to church?
Mr. FALLON: I don’t go to – I tried to go back. When I was out in L.A. and I was kind of struggling for a bit. I went to church for a while, but it’s kind of, it’s gotten gigantic now for me. It’s like too… There’s a band. There’s a band there now, and you got to, you have to hold hands with people through the whole Mass now, and I don’t like doing that. You know, I mean, it used to be the shaking hands piece was the only time you touched each other.
GROSS: Mm-hmm.
Mr. FALLON: Now, I’m holding hand – now I’m lifting people. Like Simba.
Mr. FALLON: I’m holding them (Singing) ha nah hey nah ho.
(Speaking) I’m doing too much. I don’t want – there’s Frisbees being thrown, there’s beach balls going around, people waving lighters, and I go, ‘This is too much for me.’ I want the old way. I want to hang out with the, you know, with the nuns, you know, that was my favorite type of Mass, and the grotto, and just like straight up, just Mass Mass.
For Fallon — arguably one of the silliest comedians in show business — the Mass he experienced was too frivolous, and thus unappealing.

The knee-jerk reaction of some Catholics is to say, “That’s a lame excuse. Christ is still present. He needs to man up and go.”

But that’s really not fair.

There is an anthropological dimension to liturgy that corresponds with belief. Gestures, symbols, aesthetics, and rituals all signify deeper sacramental truths. Just as the Mass is highest form of prayer, it is also the primary catechesis of the faithful.

In other words, we learn how to be Catholic by going to Mass.

The Church teaches that the four principle ends of Mass are adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and satisfaction, but there is an ancillary benefit to attending Mass. Seeing what happens at the Mass, reading the Gospel, listening to the homily, reciting the creed, witnessing the consecration, and comprehending the sacred dimension through which all these things transpire is fundamentally pedagogical. Almost everything you really need to know about being a Catholic and attaining eternal salvation can be obtained from regular Mass attendance.

When someone is turned off by what is happening in the liturgy and decides not to come back, it’s easy to point the finger in their direction. I would argue, however, that the primary responsibility falls on the pastors of souls who are obligated to provide something of substance to the faithful. If the most significant encounter people have with the Church undermines the belief that what is happening is sacred, important, and worthy of reverence, how can they arrive at that conclusion?

It should go without saying, but this means frisbees and beach balls have no place at Mass. [...]
...academic arguments are completely useless in questions of liturgy. These scholars are always concerned only about the historical side of the substance of faith and of the forms of devotion. If, however, we think correctly and historically, we should realize that what is an expression of veneration in one period can be an expression of blasphemy in another. If people who have been kneeling for a thousand years suddenly get to their feet, they do not think, “We’re doing this like the early Christians, who stood for the Consecration”; they are not aware of returning to some particularly authentic form of worship. They simply get up, brush the dust from their trouser-legs and say to themselves: “So it wasn’t such a serious business after all.” Everything that takes place in celebrations of this kind implies the same thing: “It wasn’t all that serious after all.” Under such circumstances, anthropologically speaking, it is quite impossible for faith in the presence of Christ in the Sacrament to have any deeper spiritual significance, even if the Church continues to proclaim it and even if the participants of such celebrations go so far as to affirm it explicitly. (Mosebach, The Heresy of Formlessness)

Source: Steve Skojec, "Bad Liturgy Is Not a Victimless Crime. Just Ask Jimmy Fallon," Catholic Vote, n.d., accessed April 10, 2014,

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