Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Mass According to Jimmy Fallon

Boniface, in "Jimmy Fallon Prefers Traditional Catholicism" (Unam Sanctam Catholicam, October 24, 2011), writes:
Did anybody happen to catch the NPR interview with Jimmy Fallon on "Fresh Air" the other day? It was quite interesting. After a lot of banter about his television program and Saturday Night Live, he talked about his upbringing as a Catholic in the 1980s. Unlike a lot of popular comedians who were raised Catholic, Fallon had nothing negative to say about Catholicism whatsoever. He said that he was very grateful for his Catholic upbringing and loved everything about the Church - he loved Catholic school (St. Mary of the Snow in Saugerties, NY), loved the nuns, loved going to Mass, loved receiving at the rail, and loved the way attending Mass made him feel. He even shared that he had been an altar server, revered and looked up to his parish priest and had once believed he had a vocation to the priesthood. This sort of warm praise of Catholicism was a very welcome thing to hear from a pop comedian.

But even more interesting was when the host, Terry Gross, asked him if he was still a practicing Catholic. Fallon explained that, as often happens, the practice of his faith waned during his teen years. He ended up getting into show business and moved out to Los Angeles. There, around the mid-ninties, he tried to attend Mass again but complained that the Mass had "changed" from the Irish-Catholic Masses he knew as a boy in Saugerties. Among his complaints: the atmosphere was way too casual, there was a rock band playing, people were holding hands constantly, and (tongue in cheek of course, or hopefully) he complained about frisbees being thrown around. This, he said, was not Mass. He went on to say how he cherished the old Mass - the bells, the incense, the kneelers and the aesthetic it all created. Then, in the one quote I can recall with certainty from the interview, he said that he totally disapproved of Mass with all the "bells and whistles," following that up by saying, "Just give me the Mass."

It was inspiring, but also sad, because this experience of an apparently ultra-banal Novus Ordo in the L.A. diocese turned him away from the practice of his faith and, though he still considers himself Catholic, he no longer attends Mass at all. Sure, Fallon is ultimately responsible for whether or not he fulfills his Sunday obligation, but I'd have to think, when stuff like this happens, the persons responsible for these abominable liturgies also share the blame.

Also interesting is what more "traditional" Mass it is that Fallon is remembering so fondly. As someone born in 1974, he never knew the pre-1969 liturgy. It sounds like what he experienced as a boy was simply the Novus Ordo done more or less according to the rubrics in one of New York's more historic churches. He recalls nuns, communion rails, and incense, and this all in the late eighties!

Could this have implications for Lutherans as well???  


Lee said...

As someone born in 1968, and as someone who is a first generation Lutheran who remembers his baptism at age 11, I often have to contend with people who assume that I prefer "hip", "non-traditional" Lutheranism - whatever that means. The truth is, my family came to the church because one of my Dad's friends invited us and were blessed with a pastor who loved us and acted like a pastor and not a cruise director. LBW, setting 1 every Sunday, Holy Communion every Sunday, pastor in vestments, acolytes in those long cassocks even in the summer in the desert. Not hip at all. Still, somehow, two pastors and one AIM came from my generation in that congregation. Who woulda thunk it?

Anonymous said...

Why do (most) disaffected Catholics never consider the (almost the same as Roman Catholic) Eastern Orthodox church?

It sounds like Fallon cannot find a traditional Roman Catholic congregation within driving distance. Sad. If he really wants to attend a traditional church service, he may be forced to convert to Eastern Orthodox or maybe........LCMS.

In 20 years, will traditional church services exist at any denomination, anywhere?

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the still highly ethnic nature of Orthodoxy is a problem. Most Catholic parishes, at least in the suburbs, are very blended as far as nationalities go, giving them a more "universal" feel.

Also, the papacy is a stumbling block to the Orthodox but the sign of unity for Catholics.

There have been conversions both ways.

Chris Jones said...

Could this have implications for Lutherans as well?

Well, sure it could. But for every Jimmy Fallon (or his Lutheran equivalent) who longs for the reverence and richness of the traditional liturgy, there are ten or twenty or a hundred who are bored or alienated by the liturgy and who prefer the entertainment offered by so-called "contemporary" services.

The issue isn't one of style or aesthetics, it is whether or not what the Church does in worship communicates the Gospel and serves as a means of grace. The liturgy that the Church has received by tradition does that; with "contemporary" services devised according to the taste of this age and of this world, it's hard to be sure.

Anonymous said...

The ministry of the prophet Jeremiah
to the Kingdom of Judah reminded them
of the need for true repentance from
Baal worship. It is also a reminder
for us and Jimmy Fallon. To attend
Mass or Worship involves repentance.
It must ultimately be repentance in
deed not just word.

True repentance is based on a radical
change in personal behavior, not just
a recitation of a liturgical formula.

Ted Badje said...

My experience is I have been to a number of 'mixed' services in the surrounding LCMS churches that I and I have noticed the people around me seem to get the religious experience they need. Whether it is inward repentence and receiving God's word only they and God know. I am not happy with the "anthems" sung solo at my congregation -- too me-oriented and pietistic. The pastors do an excellent job of preaching and outreach. I have tried more confessional churches in the area, but the sermons from a few of the pastors seemed more like lectures than sermons. I like the different settings of the Divine Service. I don't think anyone is totally satisfied with what they experience at their congregations.

Anonymous said...

Chris wrote: "But for every Jimmy Fallon (or his Lutheran equivalent) who longs for the reverence and richness of the traditional liturgy, there are ten or twenty or a hundred who are bored or alienated by the liturgy and who prefer the entertainment offered by so-called "contemporary" services."

But Chris, don't you think the pendulum is starting to swing in the other direction (towards the liturgy). Increasing numbers of disaffected Evangelicals will see through the thin veneer of entertainment posing as "worship" and yearn for some real theological meat. We still have to wait for the Church Growth Movement to run its course. It is showing some signs of cracking:

People are starting to wake up. The LCMS is always the last denomination to imitate or abandon fads within the Church. Give it time.