Friday, February 14, 2020


I discovered something about my liturgical style in the last week or so. We are now celebrating our daily Mass in our small chapel ad orientem. I don't need a microphone to be heard in there.

I was taught in the seminary that we should "proclaim" the prayers of the Mass, especially the Eucharistic Prayer.

Why is that? So the congregation can hear and understand the prayers. But does God need prayers proclaimed to Him in a loud voice? No, he can hear silent prayers, in a low voice too.

Of the two, W/who should hear the prayers the most? God of course. It is a luxury for the congregation to hear them, but I can understand they unite themselves with the priest in praying these prayers, heard or not by them.

This brings me to the ad orientem daily Mass in my parish. I began to realize that my proclaiming voice when offering the Mass ad orientem sticks out like a sore thumb as though God can't hear me unless I shout at Him.

Thus I am trying to modulate my voice in a softer way so it appears to the congregation that indeed I am not proclaiming any prayers to them or God, but rather praying to God in a humble voice which is also audible to the congregation behind me.


Victor said...

It is not "who should hear the prayers the most?" According to the liturgical deformers the people must hear the prayers because they are all priests who offer the Sacrifice so as to have a full active participation in the liturgy. The priest at the altar is a mere presider who leads the congregational priests.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"Of the two, W/who should hear the prayers the most?"

This is a false dichotomy. It's not an either/or situation. Nor is it one in which the "importance" of one takes precedence over the other.

The prayers are offered TO God and, at the same time and with the same importance, FOR and WITH the people of God. God does not need the prayers we - priests and people - do.

We, as priests, stand "in between." We represent the One Mediator who, himself, stood "in between" during His life on earth and, as Risen Savior, continues his mediation on our behalf.

Practically, the people should be able to hear the prayers clearly.

With amplification systems it is rarely necessary to use an "outside" voice inside.

John Nolan said...

Traditionally, the parts of the Mass which are proclaimed are those which are sung, by the celebrant, the ministers, or the congregation/choir/schola in a Solemn Mass, which, believe it or not, is the norm for the Roman Rite.

Anonymous said...

FRAJM and FRMJK both make good observations, of course. FRAJM’s come from years of practiced experience and are thus uniquely enlightened. FRMJK, I would love if your observations came from practical/practiced experience celebrating ad orientem. I pray that you will do so.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anon 9:39. My comments are not based on any experience, enlightened or, as you suggest, unenlightened.

That the prayers of the mass are directed TO God and, at the same time, FOR and WITH the People of God, is based on the theology that underlies the celebration of the mass. It isn't based on anything I have done or, for that matter, not done.

That priests act as representatives of Christ is also not something established by a priest's experience. It is given to him by the Church in the sacrament of Ordination.

Some priests say that their experience of the extraordinary form celebration has enhanced or improved their celebration of the ordinary form. I would ask, "What does this mean?" "What did you discover was 'lacking" in your celebration of the ordinary form?" And I would ask, "If you find greater 'reverence' in your celebration of the ordinary form after celebrating the extraordinary form, why was your reverence lacking prior to that experience?"

Fr. McDonald's suggestion that it is a "luxury" for the congregation to hear the prayers of the mass is, I would suggest, simply wrong. The prayers are as much for their ears as they are for God's.

At the altar, "I" am not doing something separate or apart from "them." We are part of the same congregation. The ordained priest's role is unique, but am with them, leading the congregation in our (priest's and congregation's) worship of God.

The priesthood of the ordained and the priesthood of the baptized are two expressions of the foundational sacrament of Baptism. With the other adopted children of God, with those who have graciously received the indelible character of being conformed to Christ (Canon 849), we offer the sacrifice of our redemption to our heavenly Father.

That, itself, is an extraordinary thing.

John Nolan said...

Without disputing anything that Fr Kavanaugh says, the answer to his questions may be that those who taught an entire generation of priests how to celebrate Mass had their own ideological agenda which emphasized certain aspects (communication, engaging with the audience, flexibility as to rubrics, informality, communal participation and so on) at the expense of other aspects which included mystery, awe, reverence and order.

In the 1970s a frequent criticism of the 'new Mass' was its lack of transcendental impact. This applied less to the texts themselves than to the usual manner of celebration. And this was at a time when everyone over the age of twenty was familiar with the 'old Mass' which was more or less still intact at the beginning of 1964.

Experience of the older form allows a generation which had no previous experience of it to appreciate its qualities and perhaps redress the balance. To paraphrase Kipling: 'What do they know of the Novus Ordo who only the Novus Ordo know?'

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

John, I am older and longer ordained than Fr. MJK. I remember the transition (gradual, but quick, over a three year period) of the Mass. I liked the first change which was encouraging us to participate in the English responses and Mass facing the people, although it was basically still the Tridentine Mass. As a kid, I liked what was called "shortening" the Mass or simplification because it made the Mass shorter.

I did not like the second English translation which we had until the 2000's. I did not like lay lectors, they were horrible. I despised standing for Holy Communion and despised even more receiving in the hand and from lay ministers. So did most of the Catholics in my parish at that time.

I absolutely despised the first folk Mass in our parish with a cadre of people sitting on stools to the side of the altar. It was ridiculous and irreverent.

I despised the moving of the tabernacle to the side and the priest's chair dead center.

Once I got to the seminary even weirder things were done, no genuflections, omitting parts of the Mass and a creativity that was sometimes sacrileges.

Is was indeed the protestantizing of the Mass and Church for ecumenical ideologies.

The loss of reverence was palapble replaced by the horizontal and people doing, doing, doing, singing, singing, singing and speaking, speaking speaking.

I use the first person, but in reality at that time late, 60's and early 70's the majority hated what was happening. It was a we feeling.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - Some may have encountered an ideological agenda in seminary, but I did not.

Some received very weak instruction and formation in seminary, but, again, I did not. I was not subject to the kinds of things Fr. McDonald has frequently mentioned about his time at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. My theologate, Mt. St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, was about as middle-of-the-road as they come in just about every way. None of what you mentioned - communication, engaging with the audience, flexibility as to rubrics, informality, communal participation and so on - was ever part of what was presented at our school as desirable. In fact, these things were not presented at all in terms of liturgical practice.

Unlike Fr. McDonald, I am very glad to see lay readers participate in the liturgy. Generally, they do a very good job at reading the Word of God. Despite Fr. McDonald's claims, the changes in the liturgy were not accomplished to advance ecumenical ideologies.

The ordinary form celebrated well is as reverent and as awe inspiring as the extraordinary form. Yes, it is very different, and it inspires in a different way.

As I have said before, a bad performance of Handel's oratorio "Messiah" is not an indication that the piece is sub-par. The fault lies with the singers and musicians, not the piece itself.

John Nolan said...

'The ordinary form celebrated well is as reverent and as awe inspiring as the extraordinary form.'

I would certainly agree. Admittedly my experience of the Novus Ordo is the Solemn Latin version, which is not all that different from the Tridentine Mass. But the same can also apply to a Mass in the vernacular. To describe it as 'very different' is to me problematic, as it suggests what Benedict XVI described as a 'hermeneutic of rupture'. However, it can only be discerned by someone who is conversant with both forms.

I would also agree that the liturgical changes were not driven by ecumenical considerations, despite the Byzantine elements in the new Eucharistic Prayers. Most Protestant denominations do not have a liturgy as such, and the Anglican Communion was revising the Prayer Book at the same time as the Roman Missal was being revised. One of the options in Common Worship is closer to the Novus Ordo than it is to the BCP.

The Church of England did not of course suppress the traditional Prayer Book and advertises some services as '1662'. In our case, read '1962'.