Sunday, February 14, 2010

Blogging The Moviegoer: Sunday

I went to Catholic schools in the '70s, which put me among one of the first waves of Catholic kids who never knew a Latin Mass. Our parish had a guitar Mass and a youth group and a cool, young, sideburned priest. All of it—even the sideburns—seemed part of the new spirit of progressive, post-conciliar reform. We were taught to feel fortunate that the Ancient and Eternal church was now New and Improved. The old ways—Latin, and Communion rails, and priests facing the altar—seemed dark and mysterious and were rarely mentioned.

So I have to sit up and take notice when Binx and Sharon get dragged to Sunday Mass in Biloxi with the Smiths. The whole scene seems like a time capsule from that fabled era just before the Church, finally, entered modernity. The first thing that seems odd is that Binx tell us that the place is packed:

A woman comes up the aisle, leans over and looks down our pew. She gives me an especially hard look. I do not budge. It is like the subway. Roy Smith, who got home just in time to change into a clean perforated shirt, gives up his seat to a little girl and kneels in the aisle with several other men, kneels on one knee like a tackle, elbow propped on his upright knee, hands clasped sideways. His face is dark with blood, his breath whistles in his nose as he studies the chips in the terrazzo floor.

I’ve seen men give up their seats and kneel florid-faced in church aisles, too, but only at midnight on Christmas Eve. Finally, Binx gives us the scene through Sharon’s eyes, with her “sweet catholic wonder peculiar to a certain kind of Protestant girl:”

She thinks: how odd they all are, and him too—all that commotion about getting here and now that they are here, it is as if it were over before it began—each has lapased into his own blank-eyed vacancy and the priest has turned his back.

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