From the Pastor: Catholic Enrichment Week
This week our Catholic Enrichment Week went swimmingly well. Without any literal swimming, of course, but we did play in the rain a little bit. Many parishes hold summer Vacation Bible Schools which are usually fun and glitzy protestant play- and sing-fests with a song and a Bible verse to memorize each day. They sometimes use a “Catholic” version of it which doesn’t actually make it Catholic but it removes any overtly anti-Catholic teachings from the box. For the most part, they are glorified babysitting services used by the parents to keep their children busy for a few hours a day without having to supervise them themselves. I can’t say I blame them, for a whole summer of breaking up sibling arguments and listening to “I’m bored!” can get pretty rough. But our program is better, and I take no credit for this whatsoever, for years ago someone who always wishes to remain nameless and gets embarrassed if I give her credit, said, “I think I can put something together with some real meat. May I?” And she did. And it has grown every year, with more and more volunteers teaching, watching, preparing, cleaning up, and doing everything else needed to pull it off. I am always impressed.
This week the focus of the teachings and crafts and other things was “The Mass.” It began on Monday morning with a very informative and scholarly history of the Mass taught by She Who Will Not Be Named. I don’t know how many hours, days, weeks, and months she puts into her presentations but they are always packed full of facts, stories, dates, trivia, and other, dare I say, intelligent information. She doesn’t try to teach to the lowest level of interest, of Catholic education, of ability to sit quietly, or anything like that. She treats the children to a cluster of facts and figures that even the adults can (and do) learn from and lets everyone simply absorb what they are capable of taking in. That approach keeps it from being dull for the most interested of “students” and it is never too “dumbed down” for anyone in the group. It is amazing what even the youngest or least informed (some are new to Catholicism, some new to Tradition) will pick up if you just give them the chance!
Tuesday brought the incomparable Fr. Paul Pecchied all the way from the North Pole (or Brooksville, I get them mixed up sometimes). He gave a talk on the colors and other symbols used in the Mass. He spoke about light and darkness, triangles and circles, the vestment colors of red, green, rose, black, violet, white, gold, silver, plaid, checkered, and mauve (or maybe I misheard part of that), plus he threw in a little Greek to explain the Chi Rho and maybe even a few other languages as well. He is well versed in all things Catholic and presents with a little bit of humor and a lot of New York attitude. We were blessed that he could make it and help us out.
On Wednesday we had our resident musical hippie, Anders Bergmann. He more than makes up for my lack of hair with his long trusses but he keeps it all wrapped up in a man-bun, probably because if he wore a ponytail I would call him a hippie. Like I just did. Don't’ tell him! He probably doesn’t read the bulletin and won’t know what I said! Unlike the hippies of my day, he didn’t bring a guitar and tambourine with him for his presentation, though. He gave a history of Church music. Once again, we had in him a presenter who was not about to give a childish presentation to the children but, rather, gave a lesson worthy of an adult audience. Some of the children were very keen and already well-informed musically and they probably followed everything he said completely. Others would have only gotten part of it. But even the littlest learned more and were actually more interested in the talk than adults usually give them credit for. When we are afraid of “talking over their heads” we wind up with musical presentations including rounds of “Michael, row your boat ashore” or worse, with the excuse that “it keeps their attention.” It also keeps them from learning about how good liturgical music helps them pray!
The last two presentations were given by your pastor. Uggghhh. I know, but they ran out of good presenters and, when they were scraping the bottom of the barrel, there I was. My two presentations were on “How to use a Missal.” Why did I get two days and everyone else only got one? Because I am the pastor, of course! Plus, I talk a lot and need more time than allotted in just one day. Of course, I am having to write this before I have given my presentations, but I assume that nobody died of boredom and that all of the children now know how to use their missals. Most of them may already have their own personal missals (I can hope, at least) and already know how to use them. So my first day’s talk was to be just reiterating the basics: The Sunday Masses’ changeable parts (prayers and reading which differ each week) are in the front of most missals. The Daily Masses’ changeable parts (much more difficult to follow) are in the rear. And the unchangeable parts of the Mass are in the middle. The second day’s talk was to be “How to use your missal to pray the Mass while ignoring what I taught you yesterday.” How did it go? Ask the children!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka