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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 Thessalonians 2:15

Friday, October 24, 2014

Misguided zeal: liturgical theatrics.

Warning—minor rant.

To paraphrase the proverb:
A good priest who can find? He is far more precious than jewels (Proverbs 31:10).
What is most loathable about theatrical celebrants is they most often attract attention to themselves to the point that Fr. Popularity Contest becomes the focus of the Mass. That, and their saccharine antics to "engage and evangelize" are a complete turn-off for thinking people, a distraction and a waste of energy that could be better spent on learning how to celebrate the Mass as it is intended to be, i.e., with decorum and respect for the Lord Who is the principal actor in the Divine Liturgy and respect for the dignity of the priesthood.

Charismatic, in this instance, refers to over-the-top, boisterous bordering on buffoonish meandering priests who leave the ambo during the homily and parade throughout the nave, voices raised in a highly affected manner and whose homilies are virtually devoid of real content solidly founded on and configured to the readings and Catholic doctrine. There is nothing more foreign to the Liturgy than a priest who enacts a roadshow (or talk show) that, intended or not, reinforces the understanding that the Mass is or should be entertaining. Ye gods and little fishes! Whatever happened to the notion that one must decrease so that Jesus may increase (St. John 3:30)?

One of the best preachers in our diocese is a quiet priest whose delivery could very easily be described as boring. Yet, the content of his homilies is consistently magnificent. Those who have described to me his presentations as flat are really saying more about their own inability to listen for substance and the inherent power of words and their inability to be conned by emotionalism and pablum. There is little surprise that someone with a seven second attention span and who needs to have his or her ears tickled might find the good priest's homilies unappealing.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.—Timothy 4:3-4.
The aforementioned priest's homilies are articulate, challenging, saturated with the orthodox Faith, well constructed so that there is actually a logical progression of thought, and are always Christ-centred. His physical voice is strong, clear and free of tiresome ploys and laughable mannerisms. He does not rely on magic tricks (—yes, one priest actually performs magic tricks using various props during his homilies), arm waving, manneristic pyrotechnics (employed to the point that some priests become caricatures of themselves), conversationalism (that amounts to "Hey Bob, how's my sermon going?") or false humility that really constitutes mere self congratulation. His homilies exhibit none of the common distortions of the Liturgy that attempt to "personalize" the Mass to his parish. No, "Father Faithful's" strength is found in and founded upon the word of God and the Liturgy worthily celebrated.

As for me and my house, I'll take Fr. Faithful's "boring" homilies any day of the week because they point clearly to Jesus Christ.

Dear priests: use your normal voice and project. Don't be a primo uomo, i.e., divo. Be more like Fr. Faithful.

Pray for the priests of our diocese and all priests.

After Thought

Having a communion rail is one way to keep wandering priests confined at least within the sanctuary.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, He draws us to Himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.