Good Catholics like Fausta Wertz and The Anchoress have begun to fear the Mass — not for its liturgical content, but for the increasingly silly attempts to turn it into entertainment. At a Call to Action conference last month, the closing liturgy featured giant puppet costumes, who had to avoid the liturgical dancers bounding around the congregation:
Fausta says she now avoids the Catholic Mass because of these ridiculous displays. I have to agree that it would be painful to have to sit through this, and it’s not the only outbreak of puppetry in the Liturgy these days, either; this one comes from the Twin Cities. It reminds me of the campy variety shows staged by Sid & Marty Krofft during the 1970s, the most notorious of which featured the cast of the Brady Bunch. Try watching that for more than a few minutes, if you can find it.
The Catholic Church went through this phase before, in the 1970s. In an effort to make itself more “hip”, churches began offering what they called “guitar Mass”, with music more relevant to people under the age of 40. People reacted negatively to that as well, but there is a big difference between the two. The change in liturgical music intended to bring people into the Mass as an inclusive, group effort, and it worked in the long run, providing much greater diversity in Catholic liturgical music.
This seems like almost like a satire of that effort. The liturgical dancers are certainly sincere, as are the people who put together the puppets, but this is a performance aimed at people, not one intended to include people. It makes the performance the center of attention and not the Word. However well-intended this trend may be, its effects are to diminish the Mass for everyone but the performers.
I wouldn’t avoid Mass for this reason, although Lord knows I come up with sillier excuses all the time. If it bothered me to that extent, I would register my discontent with the parish priest and ask for less focus on showmanship and more on the actual Word of God. Parishes are communities, and every member has a voice in how Mass gets celebrated in them, and each member has a responsibility to engage when they see something amiss. If it continued, I’d be looking for a more serious parish that puts its energy into something other than massive Puppet Masses.