Sunday 20 May 2007

Change of Habit

As I sit here at my computer, I can clearly hear the drums and shouts from our monthly Nigerian Mass. For some reason it made me think of the final scene of Elvis' last movie, Change of habit (1969), which presents the rather novel spectacle of Mr Presley singing and playing the guitar at what seems to be an interim Mass (just before the 1970 Missal). The celebrant is ad orientem and the offertory procession is unusually reverent. I love the grumpy priest! Do any American readers recognise the church?

The film is all about Sister Michelle (Mary Tyler Moore) meeting a doctor (Elvis) whilst on pastoral placement. You'll be pleased to know that in the end she defeats temptation and dumps Elvis in order to go back to the convent.

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Blogger the owl of the remove said...

Hilarious, Father! But how nice to see all the ladies wearing hats and mantillas and the Church un-wreckovated - it all went wrong sometime between 1969 and 1970!

3:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh; it's a bit wacky!

4:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the imdb movie data base says change of habit was filmed at mayfield senior school, pasadena, ca. the web site for that school identifies it as a college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12 established in 1931 by the society of the holy child jesus.

6:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the comment by one of the two elderly parishioners: "Give me the old days when you could go to Mass and think of blessed nothing".

Clearly a contemplative after the heart of Julian of Norwich.

2:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The church looks suspiciously like Holy Trinity, Boston...

11:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it great to think that, wacky, though it may be, if anybody had put the Altar facing the people, there'd have been a riot and the censor would have banned it for ridiculing Catholicism!

1:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in the US, the altars were turned around facing the people several years before this Elvis movie, and the Mass was said largely in English. (I know. I was in the last group of altar boys to learn to serve the Latin Mass in 1964, and it only lasted until Advent.) Various Tridentine elements like the prayers at the foot of the altar and the last Gospel were omitted as well at this time. The current Responsorial Psalms replaced the Tridentine Graduals, and the Sign of Peace, for everyone in attendance, was inserted into every Mass. Concelebration was introduced. It was a kind of intermediate stage between the Missal of John XXIII and the Missal of Paul VI.

By 1969, many sisters never wore habits - anytime - and the rest had modernized their habits.

I remember that in 1966-67, the New Age religion texts had not yet come out, and Heaven forbid that for one more year they use the old ones with a few Batimore Catechism questions at the back of the chapter, so my seventh grade religion class consisted of discussing Open Housing and singing Simon and Garfunkel and Joe Wise songs. And we had to suffer through the Joe Wise songs ("My Lord Will Come Again", "Sons of God", etc.) at Mass, too.

So I always found bewilderingly anachronistic movies like this one, not to mention the many movies, plays and TV shows that followed it ("The Blues Brothers", "Sister Act", "Nunsense", "Father Dowling", "The Sweet Life of Zach and Cody", etc. also come to mind), that portray the current state of our churches, religious orders, schools, piety, and Liturgy as if the last 40 years had never happened. (Although the Elvis movie does reflect in part the social Gospel of the late Sixties.) In addition, the priests and religious portrayed thus anachronistically are almost always shown to be silly and/or mean-spirited, which was not my experience of the pre-Vatican II Church.

Hollywood's token Catholics obviously had been away from the Church a very long time when they started making movies like "Change of Habit."

It would be interesting to see a movie portray for once some of the really silly things that have gone on in the Church these last 40 years.

6:35 pm  

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