I suppose a charge of hypocrisy may be levelled against me. A while back I had written how I found the whole concept of parish shopping to be dicey, and yet, even as I wrote those words, I and my family were in the middle of our own, albeit very reluctant, search for a new parish.
We had long had a growing dissatisfaction with the new priest at our old parish. It began with seemingly small things, but then grew. I noticed, almost immediately, that he never genuflected towards the tabernacle when processing to the altar. When I asked him about this, he told me it was because, from the point of view in front of the altar, the tabernacle was out of sight and he would have been reverencing a statue, or a wall. I accepted this answer, but it it occurred to us that he could have reverenced the tabernacle from some point in the procession where it was visible.
I may have let that go, but other things began to creep in. He never used the word "sacrifice" in the Mass, only "offering". He changed other words throughout the Mass- all seemingly very minor, but all absolutely forbidden nonetheless. He called the altar the table, the Mass was a meal. He added a second Alleluia for after the gospel as well as before. When I asked him about that one, he told me it was an option some places use. When I told him it was not in the GIRM, and therefore not an option, he insisted it was, but added that if I did not feel comfortable singing the second alleluia, I could refrain. The Holy Thursday service was almost entirely his invention, complete with drums and women sweeping the altar clean with broad, dramatic strokes. At the conclusion of the service, the priests removed their ceremonial robes and threw them to the ground at the feet of the altar.
He told us we were worthy to come right up to the table of the Lord, which is why he had those bearing the gifts come up and lay them on the altar. On All Saints Day he preached that we were all saints by virtue of our baptism.He told an anecdote of his niece coming to visit him in the church, and she, in her childish innocence, said that she thought she may become a priest. At this point the congregation broke out clapping, believing he just spoke in support of women's ordination, He did not correct that opinion.
It was past time we left. There was anew, younger priest at the parish who seemed to stick to the rubrics, but he was under the older priest's thumb in the end, and he could make no decisions of his own. We had him baptise our son, and we bid a sad and very reluctant adieu to our parish. This was where our daughters had been baptised, received their first communion, and, in elder's case, been confirmed. We had donated close to a thousand dollars of money I really did not have for the restoration of the church. But we have children, and there is enough heresy and dissent in the world being poured upon them every day. Puff and I decided they would not be getting it from the pulpit as well.
The churches closest to us eliminated themselves fairly rapidly. The closest one has a priest who does an even worse Mass. Another one not too far away we eliminated for more petty reasons. I did not want architecture or music programs to be a factor in our decision, but in this case the building was so ugly and the music so very, very bad, it was a distraction from the Mass. That church did, however, have a very nice gift shop, so I may go back there and do some Christmas shopping.
Puff and I decided to come up with some criteria for what we needed in a church. First, and non negotiable, was that the Mass had to be done properly. Second, it had to be easy to get to. Thirdly, (and this is the odd one out) I had to have easily accessible washrooms, where we could change little Frodo, or warm up a bottle. Sadly, it was on this criteria that the Cathedral, which was my first choice, failed. It was on the outer edge of the accessibility issue, but it had only one bathroom, with only one toilet, at the back, serving two thousand bladders. The other first choice, the Oratory, is outside our ease of access. Another church almost made it, good Mass, building was very nice, choir stank, also failed on the bathroom issue, when I found myself changing Frodo on the floor while someone pounded on the door to be let in, fast. Other criteria, like a beautiful, or at least, a not ugly building, and half decent music, were down the list, and would be discarded if the other, more important criteria, could be met. as a sort of "it would be nice if, but...".
So we spent a few months church hopping. The kids were getting antsy, going to a new church every week. In the back of my mind I heard the words of an organist I know, who told me about his time working for the Anglican church in Montreal, and how a pastor had told him the churches are like boutiques, with everyone going to one that suited their tastes. But I told myself, we are avoiding heresy, looking, if not for super orthodoxy, then simple orthodoxy. We did not find the perfect parish, but we did find an acceptable one. The Mass is done well, with no modifications. Perhaps that is because none of the priests are native English speakers, and therefore they simply stick to the text rather than trying to improvise. It is only on bus ride away, about a thirty to forty minute jaunt. Not too bad, all things considered. The bathrooms in the basement are large. As a plus, the church is quite pretty, with the tabernacle in the center, where it should be, and the music is acceptable.
We went there a few times, to get a feel for the place, and then, last week, we took the plunge and enrolled ourselves officially in the congregation. It doesn't yet feel like home, but I am hoping in time it will. I, for one, really don't want to start church hopping again.