Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Is the homily the best and only time to welcome people, draw attention to oneself or do other things like announcements?

The deacon incenses me on my triumphal return to the parish--not really, from the Transfer of the Most Holy Eucharist, Holy Thursday!

Behind my rectory's stove!

Don't panic, of course the priest is necessary for the Mass as he is a sacramental sign of Jesus Christ. This past Sunday was my first Sunday back from vacation. It also happened to be the first Sunday of the month which in our parish means the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the High Mass at 2:00 PM. I celebrated our 12:10 PM Sung Ordinary Form Mass and then right into the 2:00 PM EF High Mass.

At the OF Mass at 12:10 PM, I felt compelled at the introductory rite to let everyone know how glad I was to be back and that I had a very nice and restful vacation. My remarks were very brief, but I felt compelled to acknowledge that I had been gone and that I was back, as though my mere presence didn't already indicate that.

After the Prayer after Holy Communion, during our announcement time, I bantered with the congregation a bit about the vacation, the four humongous rats that were killed in the rectory and that I was freaking out over this and having nightmares.

However, at the 2:00 PM EF High Mass, I had no opportunity or need to welcome myself back to the parish. It would not be in keeping with the spirituality of this Mass to draw any attention to little old me.

As I continue to reflect on this odd coincidence of the OF and EF MAss and my return to the parish, I realized that so much of the training I've had in the OF Mass in seminary and later was to help the priest to make people feel comfortable and welcomed at Mass, as though I'm the host of a television show and the congregation is the visitor or paying audience. The parish did well without me during my vacation, but they would not do well without Jesus and the Sacred Mysteries the Mass celebrates of which every bishop and priest is meant to be a humble servant in showing forth the one Sacrifice and offering the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Risen Lord to the Church as Food and Drink for the journey to eternal life. In other words, the Mass and other sacraments do not hinge on a particular priest, but simply on a priest.

Eliminating the lengthy Prayers at the Foot of the altar and substituting it for the abbreviated Introductory and penitential rite of the OF Mass is meant to enable us to move quickly to the Liturgy of the Word. Yet how many greetings, mini-homilies and acknowledgments do we now hear at this point in the Mass. I've been to Masses where after the greeting the congregation is asked to sit and about a 20 minute process of acknowledgments and credits begins, almost like reading them at the beginning or end of a movie. This is no improvement over the EF's Prayers at the Foot of the Altar.

So what are your thoughts of ad libs during parts of the Mass where the OF Missal clearly allows for "these or other words?" Does it contribute to the "cult" of the personality of the priest?


skeeton said...

Yes, Father, these changes do contribute to the cult of the priest. Beginning Mass with the list of announcements and acknowledgements is just a short step away from "turn to your neighbor and welcome them." The Sign of Peace as written into the Rite is already optional. What makes a priest think we need two opportunities to shake hands and slap backs?

And all of this freedom to use "these or other words" ultimately results in homilies in which the priest is more interested in entertaining with jokes than he is with preaching. After weeks of effortlessly eliciting laughs, the priest, feeling at ease with his command of the audience, now needs a minimal push to begin ignoring the written collects and the proscribed Eucharistic Prayers in lieu of his own made up versions.

At least, this seems to be the case at my parish.

I so wish all priests would just heed Fr. Z's advice: Say the Black, Do the Red.

Templar said...

Sadly I'm afraid it does contribute to that cult of personality Father, although I would also hasten to add that you are much more restrained in this matter than most of the Priests I have heard say Mass in my life.

I do love speaking with you Father, would gladly sit and do so for as long as you desired on any topic; however during Mass I want (need) the Mass. Banter is a distraction and breaks the mood and the focus on what should be sacrificial in nature. The revisionists of the 70s erred greatly when they turned the Mass into a social event, and nothing reminds us more of the nature of the Mass then the prayers at the foot of the Altar. Their removal is my third great regret of the "new Mass" right behind versus populum worship, and communion in the hand.

Be my Priest on the Altar and friend/fellow parishioner/all around good guy outside the Sanctuary.

Paul M. Young said...

Funny you should bring this up now, Father. Sunday last, the homily was given by the deacon. He opened with a series of jokes that had the congregation roaring. He then gave us a rousing sermon on the need to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. He punctuated it with several bouts of profanity.

After this, the priest contributed several comments about the topic of the homily, changed the words of the consecration on the fly, ended the mass by soliciting four rounds of applause for various people and groups--including "these so very, very, beautiful girls who served today".

In short, yes I think think freedom that some people take with the liturgy contributes greatly to the cult of personality and is one of the reasons our congregations are so weakened.

Idle Rambler said...

Oh, you had me worried for a moment there when I saw your blog title! I think the first two comments are 'spot on' . I know a parish where the PP is well known for his delivery of a joke at the end of Mass. Sometimes, I think that may be the high point of the Mass for some people - what a shame if that is the case.

Gerbert said...

This is an interesting thought, and brings to the forefront the "me" aspect of our society. As Catholics we should start to prepare for Mass at home before we get to the church. We should have read the readings prayerfully, examined our conscience, and put the sight of our mind on God. Enter the church in silence and reverence, awe and respect for we are in the presence of God, body, blood, sole and divinity. Pray and listen for what God has to say. (He speaks most clearly in silence) Focus with all your heart and mind on who He is and what He has given to us, and what we are so fortunate to be able to witness. Now lets listen to a couple of jokes from the alter (stage) from Father Sienfeld, lets wave and clap, do a litany of welcome for the entire congregation. NO!, let us pray before the gates of heaven (alter), let us be made clearly aware of the miracle that is going to happen right before our eyes, lets be in awe of being with our Lord, let us give him true heartfelt thanks, and loving reverent praise for being the gift of our salvation. I guess you can tell I like the prayers before the alter, and wish they where still used in the Novus Ordo. Father McDonald is there any reason or do the rubrics forbid instituting this practice in the Novus Ordo.

It is just like sacred music, it is proper for sacred music to be identified as such as soon as a chord is played. Good sacred music is not to be confused with secular or worldly music, just as the Mass should never be confused or separated from anything other than what it is. If you want to hear Christian rock or contemporary style music that is fine outside of the Mass, just as if you want to have a conversation and hear jokes or stories, or hug and wave at the entire congregation do so outside of the Mass. I am one who believes that liturgical decorum should be maintained at all times with few exceptions. Call me a stick in the mud if you want, that is just my feelings on the issue.

Gene said...

I do not like all the banter and "light" interaction, or efforts at such, on the part of Priest. Fr. MacDonald is not given to much of this, but I have attended Mass where I had to remind myself I wasn't in a Baptist or Methodist church. It absolutely detractys from the reverence of the Mass. I even hate the announcements at the end of the Mass. People should be encouraged to read the bulletin or newsletter or look at bulletin boards. I'd like to hear, "the Mass is now ended...etc." and have the final hymn, then everyone leave.

Anonymous said...

Of course the priest is necessary. The priest should have the humility to make sure the Mass is clearly about Christ, communion, and not himself. We laity need to work to see through the priest to what he his guiding us to, and not fall for a cult of personality or sneer at the faults of the priest forgetting the wonders he shows us.

This last weekend our family attended mass at a small and absolutely beautiful church that gave me chills to behold. It was so clean and well loved; stained glass images of Raphael, Gabriel and Michael stood guard as rows of life size saints looked down from the nave, a statue of The Sacred heart, another of Mary, and Joseph holding the Infant beckoned comfort. The Altar was the centre piece and focus of the entire setting. Elegant music in ancient melody played and the perfect voice of a female soloist sang as we entered. The priest, though feeble and old, led the Mass well and gave a good homily that was dignified and tinged with a little appropriate humour. But in that setting he was the conductor and guide as we were able to gain a glimpse of glory. I am still feeling the peace and happiness of that dignified and elegant event.

Seeker said...

Substance...Substance...Substance and give all the Glory to God. Father I love attending Mass when you are presiding, but realize there is someone greater there, which all the focus should be. The Mass is about our redemption so all funny business be put aside. Another time, another place. I thank you for your seriousness with my salvation during Mass and your friendship outside.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to double post, but something Pinanv525 wrote reminded me of something. Years ago we were in a parish where the mass was always reverent and dignified. Afterward there was coffee and doughnuts in the parish hall that was heavily attended. That was where we found out everything that was going on, officially as well as gossip. These days everyone seems in such a hurry to leave and go somewhere else. That may be an unconscious motivation to cram more into the mass than is helpful.


Anonymous said...

If a few announcements and words at the end of Mass contributes to people experiencing a sensation of actually being a part of His Church, then what's wrong with that?
Maybe there's a very good reason priests were trained to help people to feel welcome?
Is that not also a part of Jesus' ministry?
A few sentences at the end might also help the collection plate, but that's just a side benefit.
Most parishioners feel small and insignificant in a sea of fellow parishioners and compared to priest and other leaders in a church, and a nice word to promote a sense of community seems like propagating the Holy Spirit, not irrevernce.
If I see Fr. McDonald cut back on the very little bit of that he does, we may have a discussion about it.

Gene said...

I'm sorry, but announcements do detract from the inner peace and contemplative atmosphere that is present after Holy Communion. "Now, let me remind you that choir practice is at 7, we are having a picnic at the lake on Saturday...bring your own beer and a lawn chair, and there'll be a taffy pulling party at Peter's house on Monday."

Gimmee a break, please!

Templar said...

Anonymous at 744AM:

With due respect to your feelings on this matter, Jesus' Ministry was the salvation of souls and sometimes calls for making people feel welcome, and at other times may call for scaring people nearly to death. Your desire to "feel included" is missing the point of the Mass and is precisely what has been lost in the post Vatican II Mass. We're not there for "us" we're there for "him" and to worship him. In his presence we should feel insignificant.

There is definitely a place in Parish life for the things you are referring to, but the Mass should not be where we look to find fellowship, that is a very Protestant notion of feel good religion. The things you seek should be found in a good Parish outside the Liturgy.

Pax Tecum

The Moderate Jacobite said...

This is one of the reasons why I prefer the E.F. to the O.F.

There is a significant degree of emotional and intellectual pirouetting needed to jump from devotion following Holy Communion to a chatty set of notices &c.

Interestingly I've found it to be most distracting when I'm at a different parish to normal - which I think mitigates against the "welcoming visitors" argument.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I guess by my post you can tell I am conflicted about hospitality and bantering during Mass. I've prided myself in greeting people before and after Mass all my 30 years of ordination. I've tried to be brief in introductory remarks and announcements, but do appreciate the announcement time after the prayer after Holy Communion as a time to be more relaxed and have a little give and take with the congregation. I think this could be done at the EF Mass after the prayer after Holy Communion as well, as I have experimented with it a couple of times, simply turned toward the congregation, said the announcements, thanked the schola, etc and then concluded with the ita Missa est, final blessing and Last Gospel. I think priests can and should be reverently relaxed at this point and possible at the homily either before or after preaching it. But I have been developing a disdain for too much of the priest's personality coming through during Mass. We're not meant to be MC's like Johnny Carson or Bill O'Rielly, but meant to be priests with all the connotations of the word. Fr. McD

Gene said...

Fr., your greeting people before and after Mass is great. That is appropriate and comforting to us all, I think. I look forward to the brief words I have with you or Fr. Justin sometimes in front of the Church. But, that is before and after Mass. Those announcements are what I do not care for. On the best days, the homily may be quite intense or connect with something inside me (or others)that brings quiet joy or tears. This makes Holy Communion even more poignant and meaningful (even when the homily convinces me I should not receive). To be sitting there in joy or remorse and hear about the weenie roast or the softball game is a ridiculous catapult from the sublime into the ridiculous.

Tony_Lyons said...

This comment is not exactly on topic, but related. My family and I were away this weekend and attended mass at the local parish. Here is my whine for the day. During the readings the ushers were trying to seat people by shouting at people to move. Not politely either. I was distracted twice from being able to follow the readings during the mass and lost my focus on them and the reflective mood I was in. Just another example of how irreverent things can get during what is supposed to be, in my opinion, the most reverent time of the week!

Sr Elizabeth said...

This a rather lengthy i will understand if you don't use it. I read this during retreat and thought of you...and thing it addresses some of the issues you presnt here.

Summary: (DOC #850) On Pilgrimage, May 1967 Catholic Worker, Dorothy Day
Here is a gem I found in C. S. Lewis' Letters (Hartcourt, Brace and World):
"The advantage of a fixed form of service is that we know what is coming. Extempore public prayer has this difficulty: we don't know whether we can join in it until we've heard it-it might be phony or heretical. We are therefore called upon to carry on a critical and devotional activity at the same moment, two things hardly compatible. In a fixed form we ought to have gone through the motions before in our private prayer; the rigid form really sets our devotions free. I also find that the more rigid it is, the easier to keep our thoughts from straying. Also it prevents getting too completely eaten up by whatever happens to be the preoccupation of the moment, war, and election or whatnot. The permanent shape of Christianity shows through. I don't see how the extempore method can help but become provincial and I think it has a great tendency to direct attention to the minister rather than to God."
C. S. Lewis "speaks to my condition," as the Quakers say.
The New Liturgy
Which leads me into reflections on the new Masses, the intimate Masses, the colloquial Masses, the folk-song Masses, and so on. By the intimate I mean those where everyone gathers close around the altar inside the sanctuary, as close to the priest as possible. Even the young ones have a hard time standing, shifting from one leg to the other, the girls with high heels ("If I'd know it was to be like this I would have worn my sneakers," one said), the older rheumatic ones with ever-increasing pain. By the intimate I also mean those offered in small apartments before a small group. I understand that permission for this has been granted in Harlem for some time now, and priests are offering the Mass in the poorest of homes block by block in their parishes, during the week-bringing Christ most literally to the people. This is wonderful.
But there is also the attempt made by some young priests to reach the young, to make the Mass meaningful to the young (the bourgeois, educated, middle-class young) where novelty is supposed to attract the attention but which, as far as I can see, has led to drawing these same young ones completely away from the "people of God," "the masses" and worship in the parish church. There is the suggestion of contempt here, for the people, and for the faith of the inarticulate ones of the earth, "the ancient lowly" as they have been called. Their perseverance in worship, week after week, holyday after holyday, has always impressed me and filled my heart with a sense of love for all my fellow Catholics, even Birchites, bigots, racists, priests and lay people alike, whom I could term "my enemies" whom I am bidden to love. Our worst enemies are of our own household, Scripture says. We are united, however, as people in marriage are united, by the deepest spiritual bond, participation in the sacraments, so that we have become "one flesh" in the Mystical Body.
I do love the guitar Masses, and the Masses where the recorder and the flute are played, and sometimes the glorious and triumphant trumpet. But I do not want them every day, any more than we ever wanted solemn Gregorian Requiem Masses every day. They are for the occasion.. They are joyful and happy Masses indeed and supposed to attract the young. But the beginning of faith is something different. The "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Fear in the sense of awe.

Anonymous said...

This post made me think about an incident: I once attended a parish with no missals. This I noticed because when I looked for one to follow the readings I could not find it. When I asked about this, I was told that the staff took the missals away because when people were sitting down following the readings, all that could be seen from the lecturn were people's heads because no one was looking at the lector/reader. And I thought to myself, well if this is not the most selfish reason to change things around: "I would rather they look at me, instead of being able to follow the readings for themselves". It is a clear example of the culture of "me". But unfortunately some people go to Mass thinking that they need to be entertained. This in a deeper sense is a reflection of a lack of reverence and understanding of why we attend Mass.

Anonymous said...

Fr.'s latest comment is right on spot.
It seems I need not worry about any behavioral change on his part. It seems that he understands far better than some you know it alls.

After I posted my support for a few announcemnts, I got to thinking that if the priest isn't going to make any then why disturb the scene by saying that he's not going to make any? Just flow right into the dismissal and keep the continuity going.

BTW: I'm only anonymous because I haven't gotten one of those gmail accounts.