From the Pastor: A Monstrance Proposal
Below is an article that I found years ago in a Catholic newspaper. (I think it was in The Wanderer but I don’t have pertinent information attached to the article. Sorry about that.) After all these years the humor remains on target. And, since today we celebrate the External Solemnity of Corpus Christi, it just begs for a re-reading.
At a time when the Church is sunk deep in controversy, faithful Catholics everywhere should be prepared to step forward when asked and be bridge builders, heal rifts. This struck me especially when I read the recent article in (a Catholic newspaper) about Bishop (redacted) of (redacted) Fla., who has directed that eucharistic exposition should not take place except during what we neatly and concisely used to call “Forty Hours,” but which now must be referred to by this ear-catching title: the “annual Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist.”
Here is a rift. Catholics all over the country are getting into perpetual adoration, Forty Hours, and all other kinds of neat stuff. Other Catholics insist that Jesus is in the gathered community just as surely as He is in the “consecrated bread.” In fact, they think that focusing on the “consecrated bread” detracts from the focus which ought to be on the gathered community.
How does one reconcile these two dramatically diverging views on the Eucharist?
I have solved this dilemma. With apologies to Jonathan Swift, I call it “A Monstrance Proposal.”
The actual concept, which I have copyrighted, is quite simple. You need first to envision the configuration of our parish church. It is large (seats 1,000), cruciform, but there was a renovation (O blessed word!) in 1975 which brought the sanctuary forward to the center of the cross, with the choir and organ in the old sanctuary area behind the altar. It was a very carefully done 1970’s renovation, and the result is truly appalling; but that is the subject of another article and we need to move along here.
We understand that we need to emphasize the Presence of Christ in the gathered community at least as much as, if not more than, we emphasize Him in the Eucharist. To this end, we are removing the choir section of our church, that section behind the current altar, and replacing it with a platform on which we will build a 20-foot tall, six-seater monstrance – a monstrance capable of sitting six parishioners in the glass chamber. We will then begin perpetual adoration.
Six parishioners at a time will take turns climbing up and sitting in the monstrance while the rest of us will take turns worshiping Them. Or their gatheredness. Or Jesus in their gatheredness. Or whatever. It’s all a bit fuzzy just yet, which makes me sure that we are on the right track. This is going to be Big. I am waiting for the call from Modern Liturgy magazine anytime now. I expect to be its centerfold.
Why, you may ask, am I offering this proposal? That is an easy question to answer. On the one hand, you have the perpetual adoration people, on the other hand, the Jesus-in-the-gathered community people. Why have another liturgical argument? Make them both happy, I say!!! Take the gathered community, and stick Them in the monstrance. Then worship Their gatheredness. You want perpetual adoration?? Make Them present all the time and you can have perpetual adoration of Their gatheredness.
Each hour of adoration sees a new crew of six climb into the monstrance, and two perpetual adorers assume the lotus position on the beanbags which have replaced pews and kneelers in our church. A devotional booklet of inclusive language campfire songs is available in the devotional booklet rack in the vestibule, conveniently placed between the soda machine and the tabernacle, just before you get to the unisex restroom. Each hour begins with the singing either of Gather Us In, our gathering song for every liturgy, or, for more traditional groups, the traditional thanksgiving hymn, We Gather To Gather To Gather Together.
People are very receptive to the introduction of gathered/enhanced spirituality, as I like to call it, as long as it is presented in the context of the tradition.
Our next step, for example, has to do with the bread plate, traditionally the “paten.” We will be reminding everyone how, years ago when we were in school, the good sisters (yes, this was years ago!) told us that when we were at Mass we should remember all those for whom we wished to pray, and “place them on the paten” as the priest presented it.
Our next liturgical step comes right out of that tradition. We will be fashioning a very large bread plate, probably about 12 feet in diameter, and affixing it to chains hanging from the ceiling. At the presentation of the gifts during the Eucharistic Liturgy, four designated “gifts” from among our parishioners will come up and hop into the suspended bread plate, singing Make Us Your Bread Lord Jesus; Then Break Us Up and Pass Us Around. We expect this will be stunningly effective.
There are still little kinks in our customs which need to be worked out (for example, on one’s way into church, if one passes by little gathered knots of parishioners, does one genuflect to Them, or is a mere bow sufficient?), but with a bit of goodwill everything will be worked out. It is all very exciting, as our people become a Eucharistic People to such an extent that they begin to wear little battery-operated sanctuary lamps in their lapels.
I sense a new age of Renewal coming on….
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka