Monday, October 24, 2011

Jimmy Fallon Prefers Traditional Catholicism

Did anybody happen to catch the NPR interview with Jimmy Fallon on "Fresh Air" the other day? It was quite interesting. After a lot of banter about his television program and Saturday Night Live, he talked about his upbringing as a Catholic in the 1980s. Unlike a lot of popular comedians who were raised Catholic, Fallon had nothing negative to say about Catholicism whatsoever. He said that he was very grateful for his Catholic upbringing and loved everything about the Church - he loved Catholic school (St. Mary of the Snow in Saugerties, NY), loved the nuns, loved going to Mass, loved receiving at the rail, and loved the way attending Mass made him feel. He even shared that he had been an altar server, revered and looked up to his parish priest and had once believed he had a vocation to the priesthood. This sort of warm praise of Catholicism was a very welcome thing to hear from a pop comedian.

But even more interesting was when the host, Terry Gross, asked him if he was still a practicing Catholic. Fallon explained that, as often happens, the practice of his faith waned during his teen years. He ended up getting into show business and moved out to Los Angeles. There, around the mid-ninties, he tried to attend Mass again but complained that the Mass had "changed" from the Irish-Catholic Masses he knew as a boy in Saugerties. Among his complaints: the atmosphere was way too casual, there was a rock band playing, people were holding hands constantly, and (tongue in cheek of course, or hopefully) he complained about frisbees being thrown around. This, he said, was not Mass. He went on to say how he cherished the old Mass - the bells, the incense, the kneelers and the aesthetic it all created. Then, in the one quote I can recall with certainty from the interview, he said that he totally disapproved of Mass with all the "bells and whistles," following that up by saying, "Just give me the Mass."

It was inspiring, but also sad, because this experience of an apparently ultra-banal Novus Ordo in the L.A. diocese turned him away from the practice of his faith and, though he still considers himself Catholic, he no longer attends Mass at all. Sure, Fallon is ultimately responsible for whether or not he fulfills his Sunday obligation, but I'd have to think, when stuff like this happens, the persons responsible for these abominable liturgies also share the blame.

Also interesting is what more "traditional" Mass it is that Fallon is remembering so fondly. As someone born in 1974, he never knew the pre-1969 liturgy. It sounds like what he experienced as a boy was simply the Novus Ordo done more or less according to the rubrics in one of New York's more historic churches. He recalls nuns, communion rails, and incense, and this all in the late eighties!

I just found this whole exchange very interesting - usually when we hear a celebrity talking about their faith life, it is a bunch of nonsense about Kabbalah or Scientology; if their background is Catholic, usually they just rip on the Church. Fallon's love for the more traditional elements of Catholicism, and his distaste for the modern expressions of the liturgy, is something neat to hear. Let's all say a prayer for him today that he will rediscover his beloved faith and find the right parish to worship in.

If you want to hear the interview, you can listen to it here. He doesn't start talking about Catholicism until the end.

By the way, if you are wondering why I was listening to NPR, it is because it is the only radio station that I can get in my car ever since I accidentally knocked my antenna off with a snow shovel two years ago. I felt I had to defend myself there.

Other articles on celebrities and Catholicism:

Peter Steele 1962-2010
Joy Behar: Saints are "mentally ill"


Kate said...

I love NPR. Just sayin'.

I've been amazed to find that the kind of parish I grew up is considered a sort of fluke. Like Fallon, I've only ever known the Novus Ordo, like him, the Novus Ordo I grew up in had incense, bells, communion rail (though we didn't use ours, I knew other local parishes that did), an organ and choir, and was always very reverent.

I had a funny shock this last week attending mass at a little rural parish, finding it much the way I remember mass from my childhood, until the last hymn which opened with a prerecorded keyboard track, complete with percussion! It was so out of place I couldn't help it, I laughed through the entire song! (I was able to muffle my laughter fortunately).

CrusaderKing said...

A correction or two here: Jimmy Fallon was born in Brooklyn and moved to Saugerties, NY with his family when he was still a young boy. St.Mary of the Snow is located in Saugerties, not Brooklyn. In the mid 1980's he served there as an altar boy under a good old fashioned straight from Ireland Irish priest named Father Denis O'Sullivan, who said the Novus Ordo but had a lot of "pre-Vatican II ways" of doing things, as comments from parishioners at the time noted.
Not surprised at all about his experiences in Mahony land. That would make most people give the Faith up altogether, and has.

Boniface said...

Thanks. Changes made.

Philly said...

Good to see you back posting again!

Anonymous said...

Jimmy has thrown the baby out with the bath water. Too bad!