How effective will that mission be if we cannot or do not accurately communicate the Faith of the Church? If the very summit of the Faith, that is, the Holy Eucharist, is obscured by distorted and discordant celebrations of the sacred Liturgy brought about by faulty theologies imposed upon the Liturgy, then our mission will not be in harmony with Christ's mission.
Recently I have encountered some liturgical abuses that, for those who are familiar with the typical problems and are interested in overcoming such things, could easily fall into the category of predictable problems plaguing the Mass.
- a priest who breaks the host during the Consecration rather than at the Fractio Panis.
- a priest who chants the older (English paraphrased) version of the Per Ipsum.
- laity who routinely change the words of the Suscipe Domine prayer following the Orate Fratres from
- May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His name, for our good and the good of all His holy Church.
- May the Lord accept the sacrifice at our hands, for the praise and glory of God's name, for our good and the good of all God's holy Church.
- laity who pray aloud the prayers reserved to the priest.
- pouring the water used to purify the chalice and purificators down a sink instead of a sacrarium or directly returning the water to earth.
- laity not consuming the Host immediately upon receiving the Body of Christ.
Liturgical abuse requires correction.
I am reminded, by having confronted these issues in the past and now, again, having had them brought to my attention by concerned individuals, that one must first ascertain the attitude that is responsible for an abuse in order to construct corrective action and then offer the tailored correction to the person(s) in need of guidance.
- those who commit abuse due to poor formation and/or are most likely demonstrating mere ignorance or momentary carelessness due to a distraction;
- those who commit abuse due to willful dissent from liturgical law.
If a layman is the source of abuse, raise the issue with your parish priest prior to informing the bishop about your concerns. If the perpetrator of liturgical abuse is a priest, write the bishop a brief letter as outlined above. Observe the proper forms of address:
- Your Excellency, or Dear Bishop N.
- Dear Fr. N., or Reverend Father N.
Why correct liturgical abuse?
If we reject the authority of the Church which insists that we be configured to the Liturgy rather than the other way round, then we are rejecting the authority of Christ Who invites us to His altar to receive Him as He is, not as we would have Him be. Manipulation of the Liturgy is, in essence, indicative of an idolatrous attitude which seeks to conform the One to Whom the Liturgy belongs, i.e., Jesus Christ, into a mere caricature.
The following principles might help to provide others with an opportunity to reevaluate their attitudes toward the Mass.
- Know history, i.e., liturgical & ecclesiastical history. Visit the Oasis of Heritage and Identity, the Oasis of Liturgical Renewal, and the Discipleship page here at this blog for links to resources.
- When engaged in conversation, respond gently by asking thought provoking questions that provide guidance toward a recognition of authority.
- By what authority are you making [this] change in the Liturgy/Mass?
- What is the basis of your action? Are your actions consonant with the continuous teaching of the Church?
- Have you ever read Sacrosanctum Concilium, the document of the Second Vatican Council relevant to any discussion on the Liturgy? Are you aware that no one may make changes to the Mass on his own authority? SC 22.
- Be aware of legitimate options within the Liturgy. Read and understand the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
- Bear in mind, we still live in an age when people have an allergic reaction to anything that smacks of legitimate authority and which requires adherence to doctrine. Most people, when confronted with the obligation to live the Faith without compromise, fear a loss of freedom to do whatever they want. This applies to basic questions of faith, interpersonal relationships, the Liturgy, etc. So, reassure people that obedience actually liberates. Are spouses properly configured to God and to each other in Christ suffering a loss of freedom? Hardly. By being configured to Truth, we discover who God is (Creator) and who we are (creatures). Concern for Truth actually requires we ask more honest questions than fewer. We must use our God-given intellects to discover God's will for us, how to love as God loves, and so forth.
- Invite others to consider the implications of Tradition and history. Discuss Catholic identity and its origin. Firmly but gently insist on humility or docility toward the Holy Mass and Holy Mother Church. Refer: Oasis of Heritage and Identity.
- Study the theology of the Mass. Know that Christ is the principal actor in the Mass. Thus, our actions are necessarily grounded in receptivity of revelation and a response to Christ. The Mass does not focus on us but upon Jesus and our entering into His Sacrifice. In other words, the Mass is something and Someone we receive, not something we manufacture or invent.
- Promote rubrics and liturgical law as the necessary scaffolding that helps us worship in spirit and truth, and the necessary scaffolding to help us to avoid misappropriating the Liturgy and turning it into a caricature of Christ's Sacrifice.
At this point, there is an urge to simply state to those habitually committing liturgical abuses the following: Don't mess with the Mass.
It is a joy supreme to love the Liturgy. Love of Jesus leads to love of the entire Trinity and the forum, if you will, in which we encounter the living God—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.