"A Church That's Alive" Print
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 12 September 2009 03:34
Fascinating. John Allen's very personal reaction to the Mass he attended Thursday night in Brazil.

Padre Marcelo Rossi's Mass for tens of thousands of Catholics in a glass factory. Allen writes:

"I realize this is a bold claim, but I'm going to make it anyway: If you haven't been to Mass with Padre Marcelo Rossi, you haven't really been to Mass.

Theologically, of course, that's ridiculous, because every validly celebrated Mass has the same spiritual value. Sociologically, however, I guarantee that a Mass with Padre Marcelo is an experience you won't soon forget."


In some ways the Mass was like an emotional roller coaster ride, repeatedly building to a fevered crescendo, only to come back down for moments of deep reverence. People were respectful of the key moments, such as the proclamation of the gospel and the eucharistic prayers, but they also seemed to know when it felt right to send up a chant of "Hey, Hey, Hey, Jesus is King!" (which sounds much more lyrical in Portuguese) and when to offer raucous applause.


The Mass proceeded, punctuated by the same alternating cycle of pop-music exuberance and deep reverence. At the end, Rossi and the priest with whom he concelebrated placed a large host into a gleaming monstrance.

All the lights were turned off as people lit small candles, producing a shimmering sea of light. As a haunting ballad played in the background, Rossi slowly came down from the stage and made the rounds of the hall, holding the monstrance aloft. It was the most spiritually evocative moment of the evening, with the vast crowd silently riveted on the monstrance as it followed its course back to the altar.

As Allen sums it up:

Hearing about all this second-hand, I suppose it's possible to look askance, regarding what I'm describing as more Lollapalooza than liturgy. In the moment, however, one can't help but sense a spirit that's incredibly powerful. In the first blush afterwards, my unreflective reaction, voiced to no one in particular, was: "There's a church that's alive!"

I've heard very similar stories from those who were there about Masses in Africa where thousands of worshippers sing and sway and pray with great intensity for hours.

Allen has gone out on a limb on this one. "A church that's alive!" What an evocative way for a man who has experienced the Church's life in such breadth and who has lived and worshipped for years in Rome itself, to respond.

Why is it that so many American Anglo Catholics, especially bloggers, seem incapable of listening thoughtfully to a positive description of such a Mass, of regarding Fr. Rossi as anything more than the worst kind of manipulative showman, or of believing that it is possible for "exuberance" and "deep reverence" to co-exist in the same liturgy?

So cut off are we from the reality of Catholic life in Latin American or Africa where half the Catholics in the world now live. So absorbed are we in re-fighting the battles of the 60's while the global Catholic south, whose struggles are much more fundamental - hunger, poverty, basic human rights - dances and sings during the liturgy with exuberance.