For this Lenten season, I've been trying to go to daily Mass every day. I haven't been perfect but keep resolving to be better with the help of God and a good alarm clock.
The church where I have been regularly attending daily Mass sings the entrance hymn and recessional. It's kind of awful sounding. The priest announces the hymn's number as he walks into the chapel. We all scramble to turn to the right page and everyone just begins singing when they find it. Which doesn't sound so bad except that they all begin at the beginning so that it sounds a bit like singing rounds with 54 parts. There's no cantor or musician on weekday mornings, so the tune and key are anyone's guess as is the tempo because my 2/4 time may be faster than your 2/4 time.
The old ladies warble and trill in that old lady way. The old men either just speak the words aloud or sound as if they are attempting something more operatic. I croak along in my dying frog singing voice while the poor lady next to me, God bless her, is never on the right page. She sings whatever song she opens to, and today I'm pretty sure it was one meant for Advent. It is a mess of noise and offends even my untrained ears.
It wasn't until Monday morning that I realized that this cacophony of noise is the perfect metaphor for Protestantism. Here I sit with a large group of people who all love the same God. We are all working towards the same goal. We are all reading the same book with the same instructions. So how is it that we are all coming up with such different answers? How is it that 54 people reading the same familiar music all sing different songs? How is it that something which starts off with such good intentions ends up in such an awful mess? It's because there's no one in charge.
This is why Jesus did put someone in charge. He chose Simon Peter. After Peter's death, the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, selected Linus and then Anacletus. For almost 2000 years and an unbroken line of 266 popes, God has given us someone on Earth to lead His Church. Christ knew that when people are left without a person in charge they all do it their own way. When left to our own judgment, we all fashion our lives to what is least taxing for us. But just as in music, when there is a designated person to follow we all stretch and reach and the result is glorious to see and hear. It is the Pope's job to remind us when we are wandering away, lagging behind, or just on the wrong page singing the wrong song. It's his job to keep us together and singing on key and in tempo.
See? We need a guy standing up in the front wearing funny looking robes and encouraging us to join right in. How fortunate we are in the Catholic Church that we have one.
All this from the awful music of daily Mass. Tomorrow I'll explain why it's pretty wonderful, too.
(If my musical metaphors are wrong, please excuse me. I'm no musician. I don't even play one on TV.)