Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why Aren't We Proud to Profess What We Believe?

Yesterday at lunch at our diocesan center a small group of us at table were sharing our experience of Catholics at worship - and how often those of us who are musicians, facing the people, see the "zombies" standing there, with their lips not moving during the spoken and sung parts of the Mass. Someone brought up the question about how when the Creed is recited - there is such a lack of enthusiasm as people often mumble through it as if it is a chore and not a privilege and part of our baptismal call.

I know that group recitation of the Creed does have its pitfalls - we do tend to be distractible "sheep." Years ago, on Christmas Day, an elderly priest who frequently celebrated Mass at my home parish knelt down at the words describing the Incarnation, as perscribed, but then, because of his age, had difficulty getting back up. The assembly froze in horror, everyone in the room holding their breath as he finally struggled to his feet. By then, we were 'lost" - no one could remember the next words. There was a prolonged, embarrased silence. Then, one of the gutsy gals in the choir grabbed the hymnal, flipped it open, found the next words and shouted them out - and the relieved people were back on the train again.

My current parish assembly will often sing pretty well, and sometimes the responses are pretty good in the Preface Dialog, but the softness with which they proclaim the Creed has often bothered me. Our presiders are good about turning off their microphones so their voices do not stand out during the recitation, but it is notable how unenthusiastic and barely audible the people are. They are better for the Lord's Prayer, but why not the Creed, which although longer and more complicated, should be just as well-known to them?

Why is the Creed, the fundamental statement of what we believe, often such an anemic moment at Mass? And when the text changes from the new Translation come in and people have to read it, will they be louder, or softer, or just drop out when the words are not familiar?  Why does it just seem like the Creed is something we have to get through?

I am struck by the incongruity of the "performance" of the Creed and the words spoken by the presider after the Renewal of Baptismal Promises during the Rite of Infant Baptism and before Confirmation: "This is our faith. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord." The people's response is "Amen."  ARE we proud to profess it?  Many good Catholic people profess the faith by the witness of their lives - so why not with their lips?

1 comment:

  1. I have never been certain of the value of professing the Creed every Sunday. If I didn't believe it, I probably wouldn't be there. It seems enough to verbally affirm the faith through this recitation once a year during Lent, and then perahps at special occassions like Baptism and Confirmation. I believe I can affirm the faith vocally more deeply through prayers and hymns, then through what reads more like a legal document. The Crede is important. It is the skeleton around which we hang the muscle and tissue of our faith experience. But skeletons by themselves tend to rattle and are rather cold when held.