21 April 2015

George Clooney on how to celebrate Mass

Maybe the heading to this post is slightly misleading, since George Clooney is talking about his aunt, Rosemary Clooney, as a singer, not about the Mass. But what he says about her (0:21 - 0:33) is something that we priests can take to heart: She served the song probably better than any singer I’ve ever seen. At some point in her career she decided she didn’t have to show off as a singer and she would just serve the song. And that’s what she does.

When I was a child growing up in Aughrim Street Parish in Dublin, newly-ordained priests from Kimmage Manor would often say the later Masses on Sunday morning. People would say, One of the Holy Ghost Fathers (now known as 'The Spiritans') said the eleven o'clock Mass yesterday'. It didn't matter who he was or what his name was. What was important was that he had celebrated Mass. That's what mattered.

Each priest in those days had his own 'style', which he was probably not conscious of. Some tended to celebrate Mass quickly, some slowly. But every Mass was essentially the same and there were no 'surprises'. A young altar-boy in Scotland two years ago said to me, It's hard serving at Mass since each priest is so different. I don't think he was referring to anything weird or off-the-wall. But there is more room for 'surprises' in the Mass now than in the old days. And some of these can drive and have driven people away from the Church, and maybe even away from the Faith.

Rosemary Clooney surely serves the beautiful 1938 song by Sammy Fain (music) and Irving Kahal (lyrics), I'll Be Seeing You, in the video above, even though her voice wasn't as fresh or as supple as when she was younger. But she brings something of the experience of the difficult life that her nephew refers to in his introduction to her interpretation of the song, with only a pianist to accompany her. He in turn serves the singer and the song. Rosemary doesn't have to show off as a singer.

And neither do we priests have to show off when we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

A much younger Rosemary Clooney (1928 - 2002) singing the same song, without its introduction, on a TV show in the 1950s. Clearly she had already decided that she didn’t have to show off as a singer and she would just serve the song.

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