Mass and Re-Enactment

Historic questions, thoughts and other interesting stuff

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Postby Jim » Thu Aug 16, 2007 12:33 pm

Alan_F wrote:How do you know it wouldn't be either fun or exciting? Have a group of MOPs told you this or are you only speaking from your own experience?


I'm speaking from personal opinion, informed or not.

Alan_F wrote:I fail to see what Torquemada had to do with this unless it's meant as cheap jibe.


I was merely suggesting that a reenactment of medieval torture might be more entertaining than a medieval mass. The Inquisition was just the first example of torture that came to mind.


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Postby Alan_F » Thu Aug 16, 2007 12:44 pm

Jim wrote:
Alan_F wrote:How do you know it wouldn't be either fun or exciting? Have a group of MOPs told you this or are you only speaking from your own experience?


I'm speaking from personal opinion, informed or not.


And your opinion is of course unbiased? I only ask because you were talking about doing 'handfastings' at Tintagel: If it's ok for MOPs to see that, when why isn't OK for MOPs to see a mass?


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Postby Jim » Thu Aug 16, 2007 12:57 pm

Alan_F wrote:And your opinion is of course unbiased? I only ask because you were talking about doing 'handfastings' at Tintagel: If it's ok for MOPs to see that, when why isn't OK for MOPs to see a mass?


Surely all opinion is by definition biased to some degree? But that's another philosophical question best reserved for a new thread.

Yes it's fine for MOPs to see a publicly held handfasting, I'd have thought, but I don't recall saying MOPs can't watch a mass. Of course they can. The question is more like, would they want to? Several posters in this thread have indicated that a reenactment of a mass might not consitute top-flight public entertainment, and I concur with them.

Handfastings held at tintagel are not generally done with public entertainment in mind, however, nor are they reenactments but are real ceremonies featuring people who really are being handfasted, not just for show, so there's a fair difference there, anyway.


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Postby gregory23b » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:00 pm

"for me it was just an off-the-cuff phrase,"

But it was more pertinent than you realised, it is at the heart of the matter and certainly on topic as that may be the reason why someone may or may not want to see or portray a religious aspect to an event. You can't see why it is offensive but someone else for the opposite reason may. I am not debating the nature of god more the attitude that dictates a decision to do something or not, that is very much part of this discussion.

""Please can we not take this into a I Believe I dont Believe discussion. Until now its been cool. "

ref to previous para.


"What's your point? "

Pretty obvious I hoped, that to you reenacting battles may well be the epitome of historical excitement, but to others they may have different and equally valid interests, reenactment is not just about battles and battles are not any more important that people who sew hems for kicks.


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Postby Alan_F » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:07 pm

Jim wrote:
Alan_F wrote:And your opinion is of course unbiased? I only ask because you were talking about doing 'handfastings' at Tintagel: If it's ok for MOPs to see that, when why isn't OK for MOPs to see a mass?


Surely all opinion is by definition biased to some degree? But that's another philosophical question best reserved for a new thread.

Yes it's fine for MOPs to see a publicly held handfasting, I'd have thought, but I don't recall saying MOPs can't watch a mass. Of course they can. The question is more like, would they want to? Several posters in this thread have indicated that a reenactment of a mass might not consitute top-flight public entertainment, and I concur with them.

Handfastings held at tintagel are not generally done with public entertainment in mind, however, nor are they reenactments but are real ceremonies featuring people who really are being handfasted, not just for show, so there's a fair difference there, anyway.


No there isn't a difference - I'm quite happy to attend a real mass done in the medieval style at an event, I get the feeling that quite a lot of others would as well. As to whether the MOPs would like to see a mass - I've found that in 17 years of re-enactment that a lot of MOPs are quite happy to watch the religious bits at events and see it as part of the show.


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Postby gregory23b » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:07 pm

"Several posters in this thread have indicated that a reenactment of a mass might not consitute top-flight public entertainment, and I concur with them. "

But then no one has said that it would be for entertainment, quite the opposite, reenactment is not synonymous with 'entertainment' as least not for me, it covers a wide range of contexts, jollying the crowd is but one aspect. No one has said 'hey let's do a mass (or any service) at every medieval event' more like why we do not or why we might do and how interesting it might be givne certain circumstances, it is not a broad brush must do thing. Don't like religion? fine, no one has said anyone must. But at least when we are portraying a period where religion was paramount, we have a moral duty to make sure that is held up and visible, not conveniently brushed under the carpet because:

it is boring
I don't do reenactment to do religion - mixing modern values with a purported attempt at reenactment - which is why I am starting to loathe the word.

Religion in the 15thc was a lot more prevalent than battles.

No subject is automatically boring, nor are battles automatically entertaining, some are veritable snooze fests as far as Joe Public is concerned at times.


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Postby Jim » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:10 pm

gregory23b wrote:But it was more pertinent than you realised, it is at the heart of the matter and certainly on topic as that may be the reason why someone may or may not want to see or portray a religious aspect to an event. You can't see why it is offensive but someone else for the opposite reason may. I am not debating the nature of god more the attitude that dictates a decision to do something or not, that is very much part of this discussion.


Well OK, I think it's fairly obvious that how reverential any reenacted mass should be, would relate to whether the participant was in fact a believer or not. If you packed your mass out with heathens they probably wouldn't bat an eyelid at a comedy moment or a slightly heretical remark or two, whereas a very devout Christian might be up in arms at the very notion of mass being taken by a "pretend" priest. That would be heresy of a high order I'd have thought. The public, on the other hand, would probably view it the same way as a movie, i.e. that it's just make-believe.

I'd say that if you're doing it for a paying public then the emphasis should be on entertainment value. If it's a private mass for reenactors then perhaps a more reverential tone would be in order, in the same way that a Druidic blessing of a battlefield such as happens at, I believe, Tewkesbury, would also be reverential.


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Postby Jim » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:12 pm

Alan_F wrote:No there isn't a difference - I'm quite happy to attend a real mass done in the medieval style at an event, I get the feeling that quite a lot of others would as well. As to whether the MOPs would like to see a mass - I've found that in 17 years of re-enactment that a lot of MOPs are quite happy to watch the religious bits at events and see it as part of the show.


I've yet to see a handfasting done during a show in front of the public. In my experience they've all been after the public have gone home.

A mass done out of hours probably should be reverential - if done as part of a show then the emphasis should be on entertaining the MOPs.


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Postby Alan_F » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:25 pm

Jim wrote:
Alan_F wrote:No there isn't a difference - I'm quite happy to attend a real mass done in the medieval style at an event, I get the feeling that quite a lot of others would as well. As to whether the MOPs would like to see a mass - I've found that in 17 years of re-enactment that a lot of MOPs are quite happy to watch the religious bits at events and see it as part of the show.


I've yet to see a handfasting done during a show in front of the public. In my experience they've all been after the public have gone home.

A mass done out of hours probably should be reverential - if done as part of a show then the emphasis should be on entertaining the MOPs.


Did I say I saw a 'handfasting'? No I didn't, I did say that that public seem to enjoy watching the religious bits. Which when I did 17th century was a group of NMA soldiers holding prayers before they fought, at Scottish medieval it was a priest blessing the troops. And I never once heard anyone say that it was boring. And why the mass has to be of entertainment to the crowd is beyond me, care to explain?


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Postby Jim » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:32 pm

Alan_F wrote:public seem to enjoy watching the religious bits. Which when I did 17th century was a group of NMA soldiers holding prayers before they fought, at Scottish medieval it was a priest blessing the troops. And I never once heard anyone say that it was boring. And why the mass has to be of entertainment to the crowd is beyond me, care to explain?


Oh I absolutely concur that the religious "bits" you mention are crowd pleasers, definitely! They add a lot of flavour to a battle.

A full-blown mass, given in Latin, however, might not be quite so entertaining for the MOPS, but that is just my opinion. You think the MOPS would like it, and that's fine, I'm happy to accept our opinions differ on that point. Neither of us can actually prove it either way without actually doing a mass at an event and seeing how the MOPs react.

As to the question of why such a mass should be entertaining....well I'd have thought that was obvious. The MOPs have paid a tenner a head to be entertained for the day....to turn your question around, why on Earth would you hold a medieval mass in front of the crowd unless you were trying to entertain them?


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Postby Alan_F » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:37 pm

Why shouldn't I hold a mass? If I'm doing a medieval show I'm portraying a soldier who could be facing death, why wouldn't he want to square his sould with the Almighty before the fighting starts?

Come to that, the dressing of a knight is also supposed to involve a mass as part of the ceremony, why not include that?

As to the question of why such a mass should be entertaining....well I'd have thought that was obvious. The MOPs have paid a tenner a head to be entertained for the day


So? If people want to hold the mass, then they should go ahead and do so, if it's done in the medieval style without it being reduced to the comedy that VdA wants then I think you'll find most MOPs will enjoy watching that.


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Postby Jim » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:48 pm

Alan_F wrote:Why shouldn't I hold a mass? If I'm doing a medieval show I'm portraying a soldier who could be facing death, why wouldn't he want to square his sould with the Almighty before the fighting starts?


If you want to do it, I'm not going to try to stop you.

Alan_F wrote:Come to that, the dressing of a knight is also supposed to involve a mass as part of the ceremony, why not include that?


You'd be better off asking the people who organize the Dressing of the Knight displays, why they choose to leave the Mass out of it. You might not like their answer though.

Alan_F wrote:If people want to hold the mass, then they should go ahead and do so, if it's done in the medieval style without it being reduced to the comedy that VdA wants then I think you'll find most MOPs will enjoy watching that.


I don't think they would enjoy a proper mass, but we should agree to differ on that score. I would imagine that if you wanted to hold a mass at a show, you would probably have to clear it with the organizer so he can schedule it in alongside the battle, tourney, falconry and all the other events that comprise a show. If he's willing and can slot you in then the stage is all yours.

I don't think you'll let my opinion stop you - nor should you.


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Postby gregory23b » Thu Aug 16, 2007 2:03 pm

If people have paid ot come and see life and religion as part of the thing they are wanting to see then in that context they will be getting their money's worth.

When we did a working 15thc household centred around a painter and his family it was advertised as such, so when they came and saw it was that and not battles they were not disappointed, they might have been had we decided to do fighting just because fighting is entertaining however.

It all depends on what type of event and where you are doing, battles are by no means the most common form of portrayal given that there are dozens of museums, old castles, homes etc that are populated by interpretor/reenactors doing any number of things.

You don't pay good money to go to Hampton court to see the kitchens working and then get loads of sword wallopers, what is entertaining (as yet undefined) to some is not for others.


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Postby Jim » Thu Aug 16, 2007 2:07 pm

gregory23b wrote:If people have paid ot come and see life and religion as part of the thing they are wanting to see then in that context they will be getting their money's worth.

When we did a working 15thc household centred around a painter and his family it was advertised as such, so when they came and saw it was that and not battles they were not disappointed, they might have been had we decided to do fighting just because fighting is entertaining however.

It all depends on what type of event and where you are doing, battles are by no means the most common form of portrayal given that there are dozens of museums, old castles, homes etc that are populated by interpretor/reenactors doing any number of things.

You don't pay good money to go to Hampton court to see the kitchens working and then get loads of sword wallopers, what is entertaining (as yet undefined) to some is not for others.


Absolutely. I've seen MOPs wander away from the Tewkesbury battle because they thought it was dull.

Just because I think they wouldn't enjoy a mass doesn't mean we shouldn't give it a go eh! You just have to convince a show organizer to go for it.


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Postby Kyrie Eleison » Thu Aug 16, 2007 2:16 pm

ViscontesseD'Asbeau wrote:KE you forgot to do all the mis-spellings, you were so into that post!


Darn, my anti-spell checker must have packed in. I'll try to mosspell simthing nxet tim.



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Postby Jim » Thu Aug 16, 2007 2:19 pm

Kyrie Eleison wrote:
ViscontesseD'Asbeau wrote:KE you forgot to do all the mis-spellings, you were so into that post!


Darn, my anti-spell checker must have packed in. I'll try to mosspell simthing nxet tim.


Now you're sounding like the French Policeman from 'Allo 'Allo! :lol:


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Postby Kyrie Eleison » Thu Aug 16, 2007 9:19 pm

I know it's slightly off topic, but could somebody please explain what a "handfasting" is? Right now I'm imaging it's some sort of non-Christian commitment or wedding-like ceremony?



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Postby Jim » Fri Aug 17, 2007 9:35 am

Kyrie Eleison wrote:I know it's slightly off topic, but could somebody please explain what a "handfasting" is? Right now I'm imaging it's some sort of non-Christian commitment or wedding-like ceremony?


Well pretty much yeah, but the actual action of handfasting, i.e. to make the hands fast (tied) involves tieing the man and woman's arms together and leaving them like that until they've consummated their love in a "love nest" - whereafter they emerge and are untied, and they join the celebrations.

Most people omit that part, opting instead for just wrapping a bit of chord around their arms for a few moments.

When Jan and I get handfasted, we're going to do it the proper way :D


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Postby Kyrie Eleison » Sun Jan 18, 2009 3:14 am

So Jim, did you ever get around to getting your tops and a couple of fingers?



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Postby Ranger Smith » Tue Jan 20, 2009 11:58 pm

Another concideration is in a society with very little opton on how you observed your religious duties unless you wished to be pursicuted. How many people actualy belived the whole of mother churches teachings?

Or is as the case is now did people see or observe God in their own way. If you took a hundred people from any faith the way they observed their religious duties or interpreted religious teachings even though they come from the same source could differ on quite a wide scale.

How many people just went allong with it because it was what there parents did. Now a days how many young Catholics, Muslims, C of E etc rebell against their respective religious teachings as soon as they feel able to.

Yes the medieval period was a time for the persicution of different sects of the Christian Church and of the Jewish Community why should this be shoved asside and forgotten? I cant remember who this quote should be attributed to "we forget the past at our perril" at a period of such religious termoil maybe we all need to be reminded of past deeds.

If you are a Jewish medieval re-enactor why shouldn't you feel able to portray someone of your faith in a period setting and talk about how your contempories were viewed and treated?

As for massand blessings give before a battle or before a meal if we are seriouse about trying to give a realistic portrail or slice of medieval life then in my view it is legitimate. I carry a rosery and have learnt the basic Catholic prayers by rote as a bare minimum.

I am not Catholic or of a religious nature my wife is Catholic and doesnt think I am taking the mickey out of her beliefs or degraiding her religion.

And as for prayers before battle I could realy do with all the help I can get.


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Postby Sir Rupert » Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:48 pm

A somewhat late reply - my group quite often portrays Mass at events, always following discussion with the organiser/client - and always done with respect and solemnity.

We've never had any complaints or, to my knowledge, caused any offence. We've always been honest and explained both to the organiser/client and to the audience beforehand that our 'bishop' isn't 'real', i.e. he isn't ordained, despite having very firm religious convictions himself and actually working for the Church. We also don't insist that all our members join in, although we encourage it both for the sake of the portrayal, and also as our 'bishop' has invested so much time, research and expenditure on his portrayal! Those who don't want to participate, for whatever reason, simply take themselves off to another part of the encampment (i.e. minding the cooking fires etc).

As far as I know our portrayal has always been well received, and we have often been joined by other re-enactors on site: some have been interested in taking part in the portrayal for its own sake (if that makes sense) and others have expressed the feeling that, on site, this is the closest they can get to going to Church on a Sunday morning; they are all told that it isn't 'real', but they're happy with that and still feel it's worthwhile and spiritually significant for them.

Sorry for the rather garbled post, hope that makes sense!

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Mass in re-enactment

Postby jelayemprins » Fri Jan 23, 2009 2:04 am

Some good posts here.

Here's a few observations from my perspective - as Event Organiser AND medieval performer.

The Mass, and its ceremony, the Elevation of the Host, and the Transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body & Blood of Christ, is the most sacred and profane part of Catholicism. I do not believe this can be done at events without causing offence. I concur heartily with Marcus who posts on here in that regard. And I believe that Brother Ranulph shares my viewpoint?

Then there is the matter of the other 6 of the 7 sacraments. I would put these into the category of 'Interpret, don't re-enact.'

Its akin to showing the public how swords really work by chopping innocent people up- likely to provoke a reaction!

HOWEVER

there is so much religious interpretation possible that the Mass really isn't necessary. What I try and present are some of the Hours of the Virgin, the monastic hours. At best, on a normal event day, you might get lucky and present 2 of them - sexts and nones. [at 12noon and 3pm]. If you can research and 'perform' these, with sung vesicles and responses in latin, with all the correct medieval trappings and finery, and describe the ceremony as Interpretation of Mediaeval Religion, then You are likely to get a good response, and an interested public.

What about a friar with a sermon- such as a Franciscan going ballsitic with hellfire and eternal damnation? Or a Dominican on heretics? A hermit/anchorite in an appropriate cell. [please not a tent].

Remember that monks and nuns belong behind walls [and shouldn't be allowed out into re-enactment battles!]



In August I am putting the nuns back in an Abbey in '09 for the first time in nearly 500 years. There will be at least 12 of them, and we are presenting various aspects of daily life of these Augustinian Canonesses. We have researched the venue in detail, and have a visiting Bishop, Knight and appropriate lay people as well. One of the features is the midday meal, eaten in silence, with a Bible reading, in Latin, to accompany it.

Just a few randon thoughts in the early hours....


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Fri Jan 23, 2009 8:17 am

I think that while monks and nuns should be outside of the world and with cloister, there is enough literary eviedence in the form of writs, church law, common ballads and social satire to indicate that this was an ideal that was perhaps often not met.
Monks and nuns should not be in a "medieval camp" but the naughty ones might be.
And need a damn good spanking.


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Postby behanner » Sun Jan 25, 2009 6:38 pm

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:I think that while monks and nuns should be outside of the world and with cloister, there is enough literary eviedence in the form of writs, church law, common ballads and social satire to indicate that this was an ideal that was perhaps often not met.
Monks and nuns should not be in a "medieval camp" but the naughty ones might be.
And need a damn good spanking.


The legalities of the cloistering of religious women was the topic of one of my professors' dissertation. The book is actually on discount at oxbow.
http://www.oxbowbooks.com/bookinfo.cfm/ID/18287

Part of it depends on when your talking about and where. If your near a monestary or priory or convent then you may very well find members of that house in the camp. Or traveling through to visit family or on pilgrimage. Or well being naughty. Monastic life took a serious hit in the 13th century from the rise of the friars and an even bigger one from the black death. So you have these houses, which have grants dating back for centuries with little desire for discipline and not much push for it from the top. But generally they aren't running totally amuck but they have very little resemblence to their founders ideals, some of which is openly approved by the Church.

So I wouldn't recomend being a monk to a guy who can be a friar. But as with all specialized impressions you really should do your research into that impression in that time and place if you want to do it justice.



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Postby Brother Ranulf » Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:05 pm

I'm with Behanner - the time and place should always be considered and it is wrong to present the medieval religious community as inherently corrupt, despite the occasional bending of the rules.

A local author (John Butler) put together a brilliant and carefully researched book entitled "The Quest for Becket's Bones", detailing the many and various theories surrounding the fate of Becket's remains during or after 1538; his research shows that while it is true that some religious houses were clearly guilty of minor deception and fraud, there was never any case of inherent corruption which could be proved by the commissioners sent out by Henry VIII (and it was in their own interest to do so at every opportunity).

If Henry VIII's commissioners failed to find corruption in English monasteries at that time, it seems to me more than regrettable that modern criticism of these devout and dedicated men and women should be so loudly proclaimed - without the benefit of first hand knowledge.

But we digress - on the topic of Mass in re-enactment situations, I firmly believe that such things are fine if presented by a real and fully ordained priest; otherwise not. Chaplains, village priests and all those monastic types mentioned above spent far more time observing the monastic Hours (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers and Compline) - and they did not involve transubstantiation and all the other contentious issues. They also have the benefit of being considerably shorter in most cases than a full and complete High Mass.


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Postby X » Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:04 am

Another late reply....

Last time I went to mass (a very long time ago), the whole thing lasted over an hour. Maybe this was mass with extra bits; not being a catholic, I wouldn't know (I was there as a clarinet-playing atheist). I have heard it said that a properly-done mass should last at least 20 minutes, otherwise you are rushing it, and gabbling your way through a religious service is not respectful, let alone worshipful. 20 minutes is also about the limit of most members' of the public's attention span for something they don't particularly understand (or in some cases, relate to) - especially if it's in Latin. Rather than a full mass, we might be better off with something shorter.

Re-enactment in general, however, could do with a bit more religion sloshing around. It was so prevelant at the time (whatever time you are doing, right up to about 1960) that not having it leaves a huge hole in our portrayal of society.

Regarding people finding a respectfully-done portrayal of a religious service offensive, I would be interested to know whether these people also find portrayals of religious services in films offensive? If not, why not? To some extent, a bunch of re-enactors in a field is no different to a bunch of actors on a film-set. It's all pretend.

Another angle to be considered is, do the outraged feelings of people who are offended outweigh the feelings of those people who would like to see such things? After all, the outraged person can simply go away and not watch... the person who would like to see what a mediaeval catholic mass was like (as far as we can tell) doesn't have a choice if the portrayal is not done. The old risk/benefit ratio thing rears its head again.

To some extent, whatever you do, you're going to offend someone. Religion is one thing. Meat-eating is another - vegetarian members of the public have been known to be offended by groups having meat openly on display. Anything military is something else again. People have the capacity to be offended by almost anything. So you have to decide, how many people are likely to be offended, and how badly? And do you, or do you not, think they have a point?

If you are not inciting religious hatred, and you are not holding someone's beliefs up to ridicule - you are, in short, doing your level best to potray a religious practice in a balanced and accurate way - then the decision is up to you. Some groups will choose to go ahead, and some groups will choose not to.

Of course, the obvious way out of all this is to have a recruitment drive targeted at catholic priests. Get a real priest to do a real mass: problem solved; no offended catholics.

...Of course, this will then offend the atheists, who would be happy to attend a pretend mass but would be outraged to be expected to go to a real one.

This is why religion is not discussed at dinner parties: it's impossible to please everyone. :cry:



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red razors
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Postby red razors » Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:13 pm

length of mass depends a lot on the type of mass [ie, a special holy day, christmas, easter] and on the priest. a slow priest can bring it to the hour mark. on average though you're looking at half an hour to 40 minutes.

i can see why a proper mass not given by a proper priest could be considered offensive. there is the possibility that it will be seen as taking the p*ss. it doesn't matter that you mean no offense and are respectfully representing a large part of medieval life - someone somewhere will upset the apple tart. it will cause more problems that it's worth. i could be insanely ill-informed here, but a lot of mass time involved commoners conducting business and such, making a subdued but more politically correct representation inaccurate. observing nones and vespers, etc, or the angelus, is both more practical and more realistic [in the sense of expectations].
personally i have no problem attending mass of any kind, real or pretend. i am hopefully doing kentwell this summer and my staunchly atheist self will be genuflecting and paternostering and crossing myself with the best of them.



Marcus Woodhouse
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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:20 pm

On the subject of people saying Mass and such like on T.V. and films. I am ashamed to admit that I often automatically make the sign of the Cross when a T.V. priest entones it-it's like I'm on autopilot. (I fear i would have made a good nazi :oops: )
I would cheerfully take part in the Angelous and the Hours.


OSTENDE MIHI PECUNIAM!

kit
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Location: eastleigh

Postby kit » Sun Mar 29, 2009 10:36 pm

I would like to make the point that the one thing that makes the Mass special is the intention of those taking part in it.If you don't believe in whats its all about then its not the Mass,its just a collection of prayers.If done respectfully there can be no harm in doing it for the sake of living history.


its amazing how things quieten down when you put a tank on a bridge


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