Thursday, December 27, 2012

SHOULD THE PRIEST BE PRE-OCCUPIED BY WHAT THE CONGREGATION IS OR ISN'T DOING?

The biggest complaint that modern liturgists lodge against the pre-Vatican II Mass is that the congregation was not in "full, conscious, active participation." This usually means that they came in late, left early, didn't understand Latin, sat in their pews like bumps on a log and did private devotions, such as the Rosary to occupy their time. Their body postures were not always uniform, some sat while others knelt and so on.

After Vatican II with the emphasis on a narrow interpretation of what "full, conscious, active participation" meant, and the priest now facing the congregation which made it possible for him to see what was happening out there in front of him, the priest and deacons now acting as policemen would chastise the congregation if they weren't in lockstep with a narrow, sterile view of full conscious, active participation. And on top of that the priest introduced his own peculiarities into the liturgy, such as asking everyone to hold hands at the Lord's Prayer, turn and greet everyone at the beginning of Mass and the like.

Now, since I am more of a traditional minded priest, even when celebrating the OF Mass facing the Congregation, I do get disturbed by what I see happening in the congregation if I find it distracting or not in lockstep with what the books tell the people to do. I use to go ballistic when I saw people holding hands at the Lord's prayer, or the charismatics holding hands high at the singing of hymns or at the Gloria and Sanctus or the congregation motioning back to me when I extended my arms to greet them and they did the same when responding, "and also with you."

I did not particularly like the orans position for the congregation when praying the Lord's Prayer which has become very common place around the world.

But when I celebrate Mass ad orientem, I don't feel like a policeman, I am non-plussed by what is happening behind me, although sometimes I worry no one is back there, all have left or are making faces toward my back or someone is coming up to stab me in the back. But these are my psychological issues of course. :)

So should priests give a flip over what the congregation is or isn't doing, such as standing at the Eucharistic Prayer when everyone else is kneeling, or kneeling when the reading are read when everyone else is sitting, or raising their hands in ectasy like charismatics are prone to do which is clearly not prescribed by "read the black and do the red."

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I once read that a priest should celebrate Mass as if no one else is present. I think that's how we should all approach the Mass, not that we are shunning or ignoring our neighbor or the community, but because God is first and we are there to worship God. When we are in line for Communion, we should not be waving at our friends or trading smiles across the church. We are about to receive the Creator of the universe, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and that should be our focus. We can do all of our social stuff after Mass. The solemn aspect of Catholic worship has to be restored, which means a lot of education is needed.

rcg said...

You need to just educate the ushers if people get out of hand. Babies cry, old people faint, etc. There will be people who stand and hold their arms aloft and loudly proclaim 'God' instead of 'His'. as long as they don't heckle or interdict the other worshipers you can let it run its course. They will either convert or leave. One of my best friends was denied communion by a Priest on Easter because he would not take it in his hand. When we are back in charge we don't need to be like that. Unless they get disruptive, Like the Queer Folk rushing communion in San Francisco. Then you'll need to take my confession through bars and my hands will be cuffed behind me so I can't hold the host anyway.

Andy Milam said...

To me (being a trained liturgist), this is a very interesting post. It really speaks to a couple of big misconceptions and I think shows the inaccuracy of the liberal mindset (read: I am not calling Fr. McD a liberal, but rather commenting on the point he is making).

It is said of the TLM, "This usually means that they came in late, left early, didn't understand Latin, sat in their pews like bumps on a log and did private devotions, such as the Rosary to occupy their time. Their body postures were not always uniform, some sat while others knelt and so on."

It is observed of the Novus Ordo, "Now, since I am more of a traditional minded priest, even when celebrating the OF Mass facing the Congregation, I do get disturbed by what I see happening in the congregation if I find it distracting or not in lockstep with what the books tell the people to do."

To me (after a cursory reading), this shows that things really haven't changed with the "aggiornamento." To me, this shows that the liberal liturgist has failed in his re-imagined view of "full, conscious, and active participation." The traditional liturgist holds the obverse view. The authentic understanding of "full, conscious, and active participation" doesn't mean active participation, but rather it means actual participation. Participatio actuosa, not participatio activa.

Fr. McD echoes what the traditional liturgist knows and promotes (read: what I have been advocating since day 1), "Their body postures were not always uniform, some sat while others knelt and so on."

My response to that statement is quite simply, "So what?" Is it a sin to sit during the consecration (or in some places kneel)? No. There is usually a valid reason why, in the TLM someone is not kneeling, but that is of little consequence AND if it is a "willy nilly" reason, the faithful will usually take care of the faithful, in short, they will offer the fraternal correction (not so much in the Novus Ordo, though...curious).

What this comes down to is simple. The traditional understanding of worship is a very personal one. How one worships is never more important than WHY one worships. So, if Mrs. Flubberback is in the back row praying her rosary and Mr. Cummerbund is halfway up the epistle side meditating on the stations, and little if Suzy Snodnose is following along in her hand missal intently, who is participating more? The liberal would say that none of them, but the traditional liturgist would say that all of them are, because they are all uniting their minds, hearts and souls to the salvific action on the altar in an unbloody way to the life of Christ. And isn't that what worship is? To unite one's soul, mind and heart to God?

So, Mrs. Flubberback doesn't stand, but sits...why? Did she just have a knee replaced? Is she lazy? Does she have back problems? Who cares. So, Mr. Cummerbund kneels through the whole Mass, is he pietistic? Is he repenting for something? Does he like to kneel? Who cares? Is little Suzy kneeling, and sitting, and standing? Maybe, but that is because she's following along with her missal, but...who cares?

What the faithful should care about isn't what those persons are doing, but rather that they, themselves are uniting their whole mind, soul, and heart to God.

(cont)

Andy Milam said...

If the liturgist is more interested in making the faithful into little ersatz-clerics, through hand positions and uniform actions 100%, then the liturgist has missed the point of worship. The faithful don't respond and "act" because everyone else is doing it, but because it is an ejaculation of love for God, the Father. To do it for any other reason is quite simply, participatio activa.

The answer is simple, Fr. McD. Turn around, celebrate Mass ad orientem and don't worry about things that you cannot control. You can't control Mrs. Flubberback, Mr. Cummerbund or little Suzy Snodnose, but you can control the "black and the red." Your role is clear. You are the mediator between the worship and God, the Father. You are Christ at Calvary, in an unbloody way. Your action (not acting, please note the very important difference) is precise and it is calculated. The red is there for a reason, it isn't a suggestion, it isn't a guide, it is a rule (or law). The black is there for a reason, it isn't a suggestion, it isn't a guide, it is a rule (or law). I can guarantee you 100% (with the exception of perhaps your childhood bully) that no one is making faces toward your back and I can certainly guarantee that nobody is going to stab you in the back (unless you have a liberal liturgist).

To answer your last paragraph...NO. Priests should not give a flip as to what the congregation is doing.

(fin)

Father Shelton said...

A plump and tall altar cross and six plump and tall candles helps a priest keep his attention on the One in whose Person he offers the sacrifice.
That being said, I really think that once a majority of us celebrants are interiorly oriented through Christ to the Father, the congregations will settle down. They'll participate fully and properly once we celebrate fully and properly.
Traditionally, the celebrant never looks directly at the congregation except during the sermon. I think this is a reasonable practice.

Henry Edwards said...

"They'll participate fully and properly once we celebrate fully and properly."

Right. I think the problem has not been primarily with the new missal, nor even with ourselves, but with our priests.

John Nolan said...

Andy, a few years ago I heard the liturgical scholar Laurence Paul Hemming lecture at Merton College Oxford, and he made precisely the same observations as you do. Great minds thinking alike? The lecture was followed by a pontifical High Mass in the 13th century chapel celebrated by Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa. Although it was the Tridentine Rite, it wasn't a million miles away from the liturgy for which the chapel was built.

Andy Milam said...

Fr. Shelton;

"A plump and tall altar cross and six plump and tall candles helps a priest keep his attention on the One in whose Person he offers the sacrifice."

I agree with you 1000%. But....

Priests, just like all other men are prone to distraction. So, even the most well intentioned priest will eventually be distracted by the happnenings beyond the corpus. Sadly.

So, include the cross and six candles. Absolutely, but if he is facing the tabernacle and not turning his back on God really present, then his distraction is largely mitigated.

@ Henry;

"I think the problem has not been primarily with the new missal, nor even with ourselves, but with our priests."

I agree with the sentiment, but I think that the new missal has made it easier for priests and the faithful to be lazy. So, I do hold the problem to be the new Mass, from it's inception until today.

Mons. Schuler used to say about the liturgical action, "When the masses are dumbed down, they just become dumb."

I think this is very clear, in today's world.

Damian said...

To answer your questions the priest should not be distracted with minor flaws of the congregation.
But I still have an issue. Why are YOU telling me these things are wrong? I have been in an out of church for 35 years (I’ve been permanently back for almost 4 years). I have been under the care of many priests throughout the years from different diocese or religious communities. I never knew that these things were incorrect until recently. I have to find out through a blog that I'm all messed up. At some point, my priest should be telling the congregation that we are "doing it wrong". I’m new at my current parish and I’m not going to tell the 2,000 registered families that they need to put their hands down during the Lord’s Prayer. We don’t even have kneelers, so we stand during the Eucharistic Prayer (feels wrong).
Okay, I’m done venting for now. Thank-you!

Andy Milam said...

Damian,

"I’m new at my current parish and I’m not going to tell the 2,000 registered families that they need to put their hands down during the Lord’s Prayer. We don’t even have kneelers, so we stand during the Eucharistic Prayer (feels wrong)."

Actually, you should be catechizing per Redemptionis Sacramentum no. 183: In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.

If you are unsuccessful in that, then you are to heed RS no. 184: Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

So, you can clearly see that you do have an obligation to do what you can, when you can. Obviously, prudence is the best judge, but prudence cannot equal inaction. If you know of something to be an abuse, speak to the faithful, then the priest, then the bishop and if nothing comes from it, you may take it to Rome. Ensuring the Mass is protected is in every baptized Catholic's privy.

N.B. in the US, we kneel. I would approach Fr. Pastor and question this.

Henry Edwards said...

"We don’t even have kneelers, so we stand during the Eucharistic Prayer (feels wrong)."

I recall when in the 1990s Ab. Donoghue announced in the Atlanta diocesan paper that we would thereafter be kneeling for the EP.

In the next issue, a prominent pastor noted that his parish church had no kneelers.

In the following issue, Ab. Donoghue pointed out he had not said every church would have kneelers, merely that the people would kneel. (I recall some of the weak-kneed carrying cushions to Mass thereafter.)

Marc said...

No kneelers... Talk about a non-problem.

When did pews come to prominence in the West? The 17th Centuty? It was surely a reaction to the Protty Revolt (as the people started sitting during the long Protty sermons). There is no need really for pews or kneelers in the TLM - you are standing or kneeling the whole time (presumably standing during the homily in the absence of pews).

I call for the replacement of altar rails and the removal of pews! Consistency in tradition!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I agree! But I'm keeping my padded Sedalia!

Marc said...

Sorry, Father. You have to become a bishop to get a seat in my world... And only cardinals get a padded seat!

:-)