The priests of our diocese have been gathering for a bit of reflection and discussion. Earlier I led a short time of prayer in preparation for our first session of the day on the theme of “The Vocation of the Priest Presider” and was reminded of a poem I read a number of years ago, written by John Shea and featured in his book “The Hour of The Unexpected”. The piece is called “The Prayer of The Holy Sacrifice of The Mass” and I shared it with the others. Thought I might share it with you too …..
“The Prayer of Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
Those who do not believe in a Higher Harmony
will balk when told an accident crunched
in the parking lot at the very moment
the altar boy’s nose began to bleed.
He bled on the surplice, the cassock,
the candle, the other altar boy,
and the priest’s unlaced shoe
which bulgingly carried an Ace bandaged ankle.
The priest was stuffing a purificator up the boy’s nose,
damning the blood into his eyeballs,
when the lector asked “how do you pronounce E-I-i-s-h-a?”
and the organist pounded the entrance “Praise to the Lord.”
The bleeding, the halt, and the mute unto the altar of God.
Saturday was late and liquored
and delivered God’s people,
sunglassed and slumping, to the epilogue
of weekend life, the Gothic Church.
They were not the community of liberal theology
nor the scrubbed inhabitants of filmstrips.
They were one endless face
and that face was asleep.
“May the grace of our Lord …
A hungry pause for repentance. A quick feast of sins.
The lector murdered the prophets once again
and bypassed the section where a certain E-I-i-s-h-a
was having prophetic truck with a widow.
The homily parlayed a fairly clear gospel
(you are either with me or against me)
into sentences of vacillation and paragraphs of double-think.
The priest ran to the Creed for refuge
only to find a special creed
was prepared for this morning’s liturgy by Mrs. Zardek
“I believe in butterflies and the breath of …”
The courage of the president of the liturgical assembly
drained into the bolt holes of communion rail days.
The offertory gifts never made it.
They were dropped by an elderly couple
(“We never liked the new Mass anyway.”)
who collided with a small but speedy child
whose highheeled mother was in klicky-klack pursuit
and whose name was “Rodgercomeback.”
The consecration was consistent.
The priest lifted the host
and said “This is my blood.”
Instantly aware of his eucharistic goof
but also momentarily in the grip of a bizarre logic
he changed the wine into Jesus’ body.
Then with his whole mind, heart, and soul
he genuflected to a mystery which masks itself as mistake
and a power which perfects itself in weakness.
(John Shea, The Hour of the Unexpected. Niles, IL: Argus communication, 1977)