So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

When Good Priests Gab... a lot.

«« RANT WARNING »»
Level 6.5 (/10) LAS [Liturgical Abuse Scale]

The Ordinary Form of Holy Mass is frequently prone to the wayward inclinations of clergy at the beginning of the Mass itself. Too many priests think it permissible to extemporize at length before the Sign of the Cross or after the Greeting. Instead of observing (i.e., obeying) the wise directions of the GIRM, they deliver an awkward and frequently confusing and embarrassing introduction to the Mass, as if the Mass actually requires an introduction.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM] 
Greeting of the Altar and of the People Gathered Together

49. When they reach the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the ministers reverence the altar with a profound bow.

As an expression of veneration, moreover, the priest and deacon then kiss the altar itself; as the occasion suggests, the priest also incenses the cross and the altar.

50. When the Entrance chant is concluded, the priest stands at the chair and, together with the whole gathering, makes the Sign of the Cross. Then he signifies the presence of the Lord to the community gathered there by means of the Greeting. By this Greeting and the people’s response, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest.

After the greeting of the people, the priest, the deacon, or a lay minister may very briefly introduce the faithful to the Mass of the day.
The GIRM permits a very brief introduction by the priest based on the theme of the Liturgy. Liturgies do have themes that reflect, for example, the character of the liturgical season, a particular focus (mercy/penance, relief from natural disaster, etc.) or a quality of saintliness (martyrdom, virginity/chastity, theological and/or pastoral acumen, holiness, and so forth) and most importantly, since the Mass is Christ acting and making His Sacrifice present among men, a particular theological orientation to the person of Christ and His relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, when license is given, typically bad things happen:
  • A layman is given permission, presumably by the priest, to give a quirky "homilette" that is merely a daffy testimonial and, more often than not, a borderline challenge amounting to "This is what I'd do if I were in charge!" Thank goodness those same lay folk are definitely NOT in charge. (In 2012, I actually heard a layman give such a rant at Mass at a parish on Maui. With the exception of travellers like myself, most people in the congregation looked as though they had no problem with the bizarre presentation that was given. The jokes (yes, plural) he told were not only off topic, they were practically off-colour.)
  • The priest gives a mini homily that destroys the progression of the introductory rites. Such perfunctory speeches are more spoilers than anything useful to actually prepare the congregation for entrance into the great mystery that is the Sacrifice of the Mass. If the Penitential Rite is not dispensed with and actually does occur after such a "homily", it seems appropriate that the priest should confess for having imposed himself on the Mass.
  • And, the worst: Father Bob Hope, or so he thinks himself, launches into playful banter which eliminates any sense of the sacred. Father Feelgood wants everybody to feel normal and welcomed, so he waxes not-so-poetic on his life and times and so obviously draws attention to himself—poor wretch that he is for having suffered so badly during those inquisitional, authoritarian years before the Spirit of Vatican II took over—that the congregation wonders if the Mass is really a Tony Robbins crusade. Can there be anything more uncomfortable (or frustrating or annoying) than sitting through a priest's diatribe against the Church or his using the homily as an excuse to work out his personal demons?
Dear Priests,

In a word—stop gabbing. Less is more. Stop the liturgical nonsense. Please give us the Mass whole and undefiled. Why give us the Mass, the whole Mass and nothing but the Mass? Because—Dignum et iustum est! It is right and just (so to do).

The Mass should be celebrated with the respect (decorum, sense of the sacred, dignity, etc.) and concern for beauty called for by the rubrics and, for starters, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

To all the priests and bishops who manage to avoid being verbose and who actually point others to Christ by celebrating the Liturgy as it is meant to be celebrated—thank you! May God continue to bless you with the good sense to 'decrease' yourself so that Christ may 'increase'.

Yours in Christ,
—The Catholic Sacristan.

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