As mentioned in previous posts, Two weeks ago I was able to preside at a Mass to bury my Grandfather (in other family news, we're still waiting on baby news - she's two weeks past due and spends most of her time on a trampoline). I'm also preparing to marry my brother Danny in Washington D.C. in two weeks. This reminded me of one of my favorite claims - the two best times to be a Catholic, from a purely human perspective, are funerals and weddings.
People often deride Catholicism for its formality and for its lack of entertainment. The Mass is boring in the eyes of the world, and even other Christians can not believe the lack of creativity in a Catholic Mass. When compared to other religious services, the Catholic Mass ranks lowest on a human "engagement of the senses" scale.
However, at funerals and weddings this "boring lack of creativity" is often revealed for what it truly is and it begins to shine out in all of its glory. I've been to non-Catholic weddings and funerals, and I can only describe them as utterly lacking. My parents recently went to a funeral of a neighbor who belonged to an "internet Church" and the funeral lasted about 10 minutes as the minister read from the Bible, offered a reflection, and then said something to the effect of "well, that's it." Most of the non-Catholic weddings I've been to have been a total train wreck as well. No one seems to have any idea what is going to happen next, most of the time is filled with a pastor's sermon, and depending on the length of it, the whole service is over in a matter of minutes. I always feel so bad for everyone involved in those weddings.
When you contrast those experiences with Catholic weddings and funerals, the difference is nearly infinite. Suddenly, what on Sundays is perceived as "lack of creativity on the part of Cahtolicism", namely the fact that the Mass is not spontaneous, is transformed into a comforting reassurance to the families involved which says "look, we've been here before, and we know what to do." What a comfort to the family.
With regard to Catholic weddings, one gets the sense that one is attending something that has not completely been manufactured by the bride herself. Again, this is of a great comfort to the bride, groom, families etc. I know for my own ordination I had many things to worry and obsses over about the reception, friends and family's arrivals, tickets, etc. The most relaxing part of my ordination was the ordination Mass itself, and that was so for one reason - IT DIDN'T REQUIRE ME TO PLAN ANYTHING OR BE CREATIVE, we followed an ancient ritual layered with meaning and significance, and a powerful mixture of prayer and reflection, and when it was over, I was a priest.
While many mock the Mass and its unspontaneity, I say thank God for the gift of tradition, and thank God for the comfort it brings during those key points in one's life.