Deacon Watch: The Distracted Deacon


It probably served me right. Sunday morning and I’m channel surfing. But wait, I know those guys, the priest and the deacon (from a small parish just outside of Albany, NY). Might as well hover for a while. Bad decision.

Don't bring shiny objects to Mass; you might distract the deacon!

Over the past several years I’ve had plenty of time to mull over the problems in our RC Church and have put my finger on a couple of trigger points. Could it be the problem of some college and university lecturers who blatantly ridicule the Church and its hierarhy? Who do so in the presence of non-Catholics at a Catholic school of theology and ministry (yet I’ve never once heard one of the non-Catholics bad-mouthing his or her denomination; NEVER heard a Jew, a Muslim, or a Buddhist mocking or criticising his/her tradition or liturgy, rites, ritual! Why are Roman Catholics such sicko’s? Orthodox and Eastern rite apparently love their rites.). Or playing a video of a RC liturgy in all of its beauty and mocking it? NO! Couldn’t be that! Or the Cathlicks who play along and giggle, laugh, and point like a bunch of third-graders — again in the presence of non-Catholics. Ever think of the impression that they’re making? Not bad enough? Well, when there are 3-4 Roman Cathlick deacons in the room, too, and no one squeaks, there’s a problem. And I have the gall to write about hypocrisy?  Shame on me! Correction: Shame on YOU!

But back to Channel 11 on Sunday morning, December 11. I’ll pass on the homily; I’d need a lot of space and it could get really messy. Not many deacons can preach and when they can’t …

But it was the fact that a poorly led Roman Catholic Eucharistic liturgy was being videoed and was on a public-access channel that really irked me. Here we have a man who allegedly was identified by those with the authority to decide to be called to orders, application of selective criteria (did you know that the Holy Spirit guiding these authorities is ageist!), to the third clerical order, the diaconate. He allegedly endured 6 years of formation under the scrutiny of those same authorities and was turned loose on the faithful. Here are just a couple of the things I felt compelled to note after it simply became too embarassing:

Just some of what I observed during the Liturgy of the Eucharist:

  • Rocking to and fro, head moving from side to side, smiling, knodding (was he taking a headcount, I wonder?) (cf Ceremonies*, para 187, 222-225)
  • Looks at his watch several times during the Eucharistic prayer
  • Hands clasped in front of him, fingers twiddling (cf Ceremonies*, Hands paras 188-192)
  • Adjusts his netherregion (I guess when there’s an itch you simply must scratch)
  • Conspicuously acknowledges someone in the audience
  • Continues scanning the audience throughout the prayer
  • Absolutely no sign of reverence when bla-bla reading from his cue card (in six years couldn’t his mentors help him to memorize the few lines?)
  • Finally, the action on the altar catches his attention (duh-huh!), he wakes up with a start and literally grabs the cup
  • Slams (audibly!) the cup down on the altar
  • Drops the purificator while receiving the Precious Blood
  • Wait…was that a sign of the cross at the end of the Mass? No, must have been that pesky fly again (cf  Ceremonies*, paras 193, 194).

*(Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, 2005)

Did this distracted deacon really want to be there? It seemed his mind–and his heart–was already at the diner ordering breakfast.

“Noble simplicity,” are the words used in Sacrosanctum Concilium, para 34: “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.” (The Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite and the Bishops Ceremonial provide explicit guidance on how to keep things “noble” and “simple”–and they don’t define “simple” anywhere with the words simplicity, simple-minded, or cheap.) (cf Ceremonies*, paras 222–225)

I may be wrong but I think that this could be interpreted to mean that the action at the altar should be done with dignity and reverence; all actions should not be hasty or overemphatic. Have the rubrics changed that much at St Patrick’s? Has the deacon now superceded the celebrant (who has been often accused of stealing all of the attention) and become the center of action at the altar? This one certainly did (and a couple of others whom I have regretted observing.) “Noble simplicity”….

 At the end of the Mass (er, I think it was a Mass), the celebrant moves again to the ambo from where he points out the ornaments on the Jesse tree and explains some of them: the triangle represents the Trinity, the candle Christ, “the fish also represents Christ,” he explains, “it comes from the Latin piscus for fish…”  Hold on Fr Kane, we can and should expect better than this! The fish has NOTHING to do with Latin piscus! It comes from the Greek ΙΧΘΥΣ (which is the initials of the Greek “(Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr” or “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”), and spells out the Greek word for “fish,” a cypher probably worked out in the Greek (clever clogs that they were) and simply translated into the Latin (note the graffito below: ΙΧΘΥΣ with the eight points in the circle forming the xi-rho, also Greek) .

ΙΧΘΥΣ from Ephesus

So there we have it. The heart and epitome of the Church, the Eucharist, celebrated by the two orders of clergy closest to the faithful, the two orders of clergy to whom the faithful probably look to be examples, and waddaya get? Go figure!

Don’t kill the messenger! This was all taped and broadcast. If you find you can’t believe this, get the tape, I’m certain the Evangelist knows how to get a copy for you!

Conclusion: If this is what we get after six years of formation it might be advisable to reassess who’s making the selections and who’s doing the formation. I would strongly recommend being more selective in what the Roman Cathlic Diocese of Albany chooses to televise and broadcast or, in the alternative, to be more selective in its featured performers. Or maybe we should just invest in a couple of Episcopal Barbies, they’re easier to watch!

Barbie Might do Better!

Now, I don’t doubt for a minute that some of you are in Hate Mode; let me just provide you with a link to one of my previous postings on Hate. I hope it helps you to manage your illicit emotions. Just click Hate.
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