The return of Elvis Priestly

Slept in today, so attend Mass locally with my wife, with high temps and a steamy church interior. Standing fans were trying to cool things down, fore and aft. Those laminated Mass cards were out, doubling as fans for sweaty middle-schoolers and elderly matrons alike. The priest, too, was sweltering under his alb and chasuble. A quickie service seemed in the cards.

But neither wind nor rain nor noonday heat will stay a minister from exercising his control over his audience. First, before we even got to the Mass-initiating sign of the cross, Father was shouting for someone in the back to close the left hand door at the front of the church. The amplification was lousy, so I don't know whether he was getting a glare from the street of wanted to alter the airflow.

Then, it was time for a few jokes, also undecipherable due to the bad sound.

Come time for the Creed, though, it was time for some cuts. "We'll now do the second shortest creed there is," he said, leading us in the Sign of the Cross. Kind of clever, I suppose, and merciful. At least we mentioned the Trinity. And I wondered what the shortest form of the Creed might be.

All went smoothly until the Lord's Prayer. Now, Catholics have been known, once they get a part of the Mass to themselves, to go ripping through it. And the Lord's Prayer, once introduced by the priest's "and let us now pray in the words our Savior taught us," are intended for the congregation.We take our prayer with gusto, and prayerfully, and in unison, manage to get through the prayer to the end. But not today. Father had his own preferred pace for the prayer. And it was slower than even the slowpokes among the faithful could follow without tripping up.

"Our (beat) Father (beat, beat, beat) who (beat) art (beat, beat) in (beat) Heaven." And on interminably until the end, the faithful bucking and lurching from phrase to phrase, trying not to get ahead of Father. The Lord's Prayer, which is the people's to recite, was hijacked by the presider, who, I suppose thus made its recital more meaningful. (Roll of eyes!)

Finally, at the end of Mass, before the blessing, and in spite of the heat and distress of the assembly, there was time for more humor! Some lame joke about what was the smelliest part of the church -- the pew! At that point, not needing to be held captive to more of this butt-numbing stand-up act, we bolted.

It's truly dangerous to an adult's sanity to put a microphone in the hands of a ten year old. Between the feedback and the popping of Ps and the overloud speech, its an assault on the eardrums. But a mike in the hands of an old priest is far more annoying. Catholics, having been trained to take the priest's lead in all things, are nearly helpless in the face of a prelate with a need to perform. Priests, especially those with an arrogant and unsocial streak, must love to hold their congregations in place, holding them for another two minutes before releasing them. Maybe they actually think they are interesting. Maybe they are just lonely and need the human interaction, however pitiful or pathological.

All well and good, but do us the courtesy of not cutting out pieces of the Mass to make time for your "routine."