Mass in Time of War

Article excerpt

Mass in Time of War. By Barbara Cawthorne Crafton. Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 2003. 94 pp. $9.95 (paper).

Using themes of the ordinary of the Western Rite, Mass in Time of War is a poignant and haunting meditation on the events of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The rationale for using the texts of the mass as vehicles to carry the weight of meditative explorations in response to tragedy is best articulated by Barbara Crafton herself:

The Mass is celebrated by those of us who are still here. In it we hear words of peace and reconciliation. We hear about how to handle offense, how to bring about forgiveness and reconciliation, how to handle the terrible anger of an unavenged wound. About how human aggression looks to God, and what God does about it. About the inclusive love of God, love that includes even people we might rather not include (p. 8).

Each chapter takes up an element of the rite. The Introit is the occasion to enter into the terrorist tragedy itself. Kyrie Eleison explores questionable U.S. involvement in the Middle East and at home among Native American populations, and participation in the kinds of injustices that perhaps played a role in provoking terrorist attacks-"Lord, have mercy." Gloria makes the point that divine glory is revealed where fragile peace is sought after-"glory to God in the highest and peace to God's people on earth." Credo invites the reader to grapple with crises of faith born of tragedy; as Crafton writes of the extraordinary cognitive dissonances people endured after 9/11, "suddenly, we were all impaled on our beliefs" (p. 51). Sanctus finds true holiness in the ministry to rescue and recovery workers undertaken in St. Paul's Chapel across the street from the World Trade Center site. Agnus Dei provocatively sees in the person of John Walker Lindli a lamb led to the slaughter, the result of the very human tendency to engage in scapegoating, the visceral need to blame and punish someone for evils committed. Ite, Missa Est sends us forth into a fraught, changed world to confront our varied griefs head on and to live into an unknown future. …