Wednesday, March 30, 2011


"Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been a week since my last confession and these are my sins. I am distracted in prayer and at Mass and I am overly critical of what happens at Mass. I am too negative. I am sorry for these sins and all the sins of my past life, especially being too negative about how the Mass is celebrated."

I have to confess that when I am on vacation and attend Mass incognito, I am very critical of what I experience in parish Masses elsewhere. This is a litany of the things that set me off and become an occasion of sin for me:

Priests who are overly pious as though they are acting for the congregation--makes me long for ad orientem Masses!

Too much activity in the sanctuary before Mass begins, clergy prancing around in their vestments getting things ready; choir people milling about, laughing, talking and being a distraction.

Introductions to the Mass after the greeting that become homilies or just plain silly, boring banter, explaining what will be happening, what the readings will be etc.

Sloppy preparations for Mass; ugly art; altar servers who are clueless about their ministry; lectors who can't read; communion ministers who are poorly or improperly dressed, just a lack of attention to detail.

Choirs and cantors that think they must entertain the congregation, direct them and draw attention to themselves.

Music that sounds like it is better suited for a piano bar and a gin and tonic. Get rid of pianos, banjos and guitars! I like these, but not at Mass!

Talking before and after Mass to the point no one can pray privately.

I haven't seen any clowns at Mass in a really long time. There is a God!

And the beat goes on.


Henry said...

Fr. McDonald: In your "litany of things", is there any one that does not by itself suffice to prove that those doing them are not at church to offer the Sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

Gene said...

People who go from receiving straight to the exit.

Healthy young people who, instead of kneeling on the kneeler, only slouch forward on their seat.

People who are healthy enough to race into Mass late, but cannot stop to genuflect but oly bob their head like one of those little plastic dogs you see in the back window of cars.

Attractive women who wear very short skirts or very low cut tops, thus tempting me to the sin of lust and causing me to have to go to Confession yet again after I just went yesterday for the same thing!

People who are too stupid to turn off their cell phones before Mass. In Purgatory, their penance should be that, every time St. Peter is about to allow them to enter Heaven, their phone rings thus distracting him and he forgets to open the gate.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, I am distracted by those who don't attend especially the Sundays after Christmas and Easter!!!!!!!

Beth said...

I often think about Mass being a "near occasion of sin".

People not genuflecting and running about the church like it was their own personal playground.

Inappropriate attire (both by men and women and in particular teen age girls dressed like they are going clubbing [at 11 am] while sitting next to their parents),

Priests who do not do what they are supposed to do but add all sorts of things they aren't supposed to.

Priests not vesting properly for Mass.

Priests who start out their homilies with a joke, a joke that has NOTHING to do with the readings or the rest of the homily.

Priests who allow "reflections" by oh, say, a religious sister, at the homily time. If I know that is not allowed, certainly THEY know it is not allowed either.

I could go on and on, really, the best part, in my situation is, the priest who allows these sort of things to go on in the parish is the one I have to go to for confession.

I overcome it by remember that Jesus is truly there and I am there for Him.

Anonymous said...

Because I am a Type A personality, it does me no good merely to acknowledge those things that annoy me and help usher me to the edge of sinfulness. No, I must try to do something about them! And, yes, it's a character flaw that has gotten me into trouble more than once. Being faced with liturgical abuses as a layman is immensely frustrating, because beyond airing complaints there's not a whole lot someone like me can do about it. At least, that's what I used to think.

Last year on Palm Sunday, a layman was permitted to give the homily in all of our Masses to exhort us to attend the parish mission he was leading during Holy Week. Not only was the homily bad (it was essentially a 15-minute commercial for the man's apostolate), but he also tried therein to teach the congregation a song complete with hand waving and head bobbing. When the adults didn't comply quite to his satisfaction, he admonished us to, "Act like you're at a Tennessee Titans game!" It was a grotesque voyeurism to witness this middle aged man imposing himself on the Mass (and us) thusly. I was so incensed by the whole experience that I got up and left early, a first for me, while he was playing the communion hymn (no Gregorian chant at this parish) on piano. The whole experience was so toxic that I could not bring myself to even return to the parish during Holy Week while he was there leading the mission.

While I could have easily run and hidden to avoid the madness, that was hardly an easy choice given my Type A DNA. Late in the week, it dawned on me that there was something productive I could do… for me and for Father. After the mission ended on Holy Thursday, I returned to the parish on Good Friday for veneration of the cross. Aware of my urgent need for absolution, I got in line for confession after the service, and when my turn came, I sat down face to face with my priest (a practice I generally dislike) and I laid it all on the line. Normally when confessing, I am a pretty straightforward guy, listing sins and number of times committed. Only when dealing with a chronic problem do I go into the circumstances of a sin in the hope that the priest can help counsel me through it a bit. I decided to take the latter path with this particular confession. I told Father that I had spent all of Holy Week in a state of sinful anger, but I also told him how I got there. I told him that I felt I had been robbed of the beauty of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, and I told him I was confused as to how these abuses were allowed in “our parish, but not in the universal Church.” I actually got pretty emotional that day. Father listened to me quietly while I talked. And when I finished, he absolved me. And then quite unexpectedly, he apologized to me.

Robert Kumpel said...

I once witnessed a young boy at Mass receiving Holy Communion in the hand and walking back to his pew with it. He did this for three days in a row. His dad was a big, burly, biker-looking type, but I resolved I was going to try to approach him anyway. The next Mass, when I saw the boy do it again (it was a 5:15 pm weekday Mass) I approached the man, introduced myself and shook his hand. I then apologized and said to the boy in front of his father, "Son, I don't know if you are aware of this, but you have to eat the host right when you receive it. That is not a Ritz cracker. It's the body of Christ." I was fully prepared for his dad to start yelling at me and possibly hit me, but instead, his dad said, "See! I told you you weren't supposed to do that!" Sadly, the next time I saw them at Mass, the boy did the same thing, only this time he kept looking over his shoulder to see if I was watching him. At that point I decided that I had done all I could do.

Holy Communion in the hand is bad enough, but it pushes my buttons to see people who casually pop the Host into their mouth like a candy mint and saunter back to their seats. And I see it all too frequently, no matter where I go.

Robert Kumpel said...

One more thing...we don't need it at Mass--ever:


Bill said...

Oh, Robert, Amen!!

No applause, ever. I dread the Easter Vigil, which will be applause again and again, for each baptism, for each confirmation.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Please tell me no about the applause at the Easter Vigil for each candidate! YIKES, I'll have to go to confession just thinking about that!

Templar said...

People still exchanging the sign of peace while the second line of the Angus Dei is being sung.

Priests who turn the announcements at the end of Mass into an opportunity for a second mini-Homily.

Female Altar Servers.


Communion in the Hand.

Thanks Father for making it obvious to me how impossible it is for me not to sin. :-(

Bill said...

"Please tell me no about the applause at the Easter Vigil for each candidate!"

Sorry, Father, but for candidates and for the Elect. One by one. And likely with some dancing (thankfully) prior to the start of Mass. My expectation is 3-4 hours, with all the carrying on.

My wife and I will there, but will make our own entrance to the Church in May, to accommodate family we wish to have present, and who have a scheduling conflict. As you may imagine, I am relieved that our own rites will be rather more subdued. However, in the spirit of harmony in the parish, we will invite the RCIA team, as well as any from class who wish to be present, so we may suffer the applause, as well.

Bill said...

...and did I mention my annoyance at the (typically 10) very (un)Extroardinary Ministers who serve at our Sunday Mass?

Henry said...

Perhaps someone here can help me with something I've been trying to figure out for over forty years.

Is there a single aberrant practice mentioned in this thread that a bishop wouldn't put an immediate stop to? . . . If he himself were serious about the liturgy as worship of God.

Bill said...

Henry, I think that last point is the fly in the ointment. Clearly, not all bishops are of one mind. Not even with respect to the norms they promulgate within their own Sees.

Anonymous said...

Father, didn't you mean to say "foul" not "fowl"? What sets me off in a foul mood is a fairly recent phenomenon: people texting during the divine liturgy. It's not so much the texting itself, but when they receive audible signals on their hand-held devices to let them know someone is texting them.

SqueekerLamb said...

When both ordained and EMHC's don't hold the Host up while saying "The Body of Christ"...
When instead they look the communicant in the eye while saying the words, but the Host is held down low, such that the communicant has to choose to either look down to adore the Host or look forward to look at the speaker...
aargh!... I have allowed myself to become too judgemental about the person.

Anonymous said...

Applause, guitars and tambourines (and tinkle bells) at my parish are a weekly event & our priest makes it a point to lead us in singing Happy Birthday to all his favorite parishioners as well.

The truly sad, sad thing is that ALL of your lists combined happen each & every week at my parish!

How much more does the laity have to endure at the hands of liberal priests who most definitely KNOW what they are doing & fully embrace their agendas? ENOUGH!

Keep praying for the many (like me & mine) who carry this cross weekly & yet remain faithful Catholics! -pgal

Teresa M. said...

Small children who roam the aisles during Mass. I don't object to children occasionally being loud or crying as long as their parents are obviously trying to do something about the behavior, but children running up and down the aisles is a distraction.

At one Mass a small boy kept circling the baptismal font like a shark and giggling. I had the most sacreligious vision of him falling headfirst into the font, making horrible gurgling noises and little legs kicking furiously as he drowned. Do I need to confess that?

People sitting down after receiving Communion and carrying on a conversation.

People who leave after receiving Communion or who leave during the recessional hymn. When I find myself in a church where people want to leave early, I keep my eyes firmly on the hymnal page and sing LOUDLY. I can see they want to ask me to move so they can leave but I ignore them.

My usual tactic for overcoming these things is to remind myself I'm not there to judge others, I'm not there to criticize, I'm there to worship God. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

"I haven't seen any clowns at Mass in a really long time. There is a God!" they may not be dressed in the suit...they are there!

Communicants falling to their knees to receive resulting in potentially dangerous situations.

my brothers and sisters in Christ who won't look at me let alone shake my hand at the sign of peace...very Christ like!

homilies from Homily Helper!

EM who receive on the tongue only from a priest, then distribute communion at Mass

writing checks when the collection begins, like they didn't know it was coming.

Deacon and adult acolytes and alter servers crowding the sanctuary. Does the priest really need this much help?

Most recently, putting ashes on the foreheads of infants!

Anonymous said...

As regards texting, receiving kneeling, and refusing to shake hands;

I am sorry that I, and others like me, offend and anger you. I say this sincerely, not sarcastically, not bitterly. I don't think anyone goes to Mass with the intention to make people angry or uncomfortable.

That negative perception of what I am doing bothers me.

Let me explain; and maybe people will not feel so angry. If you caught me with my phone out; please know I am not texting. I (as I can only speak for myself) was reading along with the readings from an application I downloaded on my phone, or was looking for a particular prayer before Mass or after Communion. It is my cross, but I bear it ... There are some prayers that I haven't been able to commit to memory (I have memory issues-I suspect from multiple concussions). I have the childhood prayers down in my long term memory. Things aren't always what they appear to be. If I forget my glasses, I can adjust the font on my phone (but I can't with a book). I am not a very good auditory learner as I tend to be easily distracted. Reading keeps my mind where it needs to be.

As for not looking a person in the eye, let alone shaking their hand; I have found that a nod and smile simply ticks people off or confuses them and is more of a distraction. I am not angered by other people choosing to shake hands during the Mass; Please don't take it personal. It isn't about the person in front or behind me. I simply keep my hands folded in prayer, with my head down and eyes closed. I am trying to maintain a prayerful state of mind, during the Agnus Dei. It must be a more meaningful gesture to my fellow parishioners than I understand, so I am sorry to offend anyone.

Kneeling to receive on the tongue as a hazard. I wait until the person in front of me has risen and walked away before I step forward to kneel in front of the priest to receive. Again, I apologize if this in any way has made anyone uncomfortable or agitated.

However, this did unveil something that irks me; If it is truly Christ that I receive, how can I not kneel? ... Should it be such a rushed moment that we are tripping over each other to get back to our pews? The contradiction is irksome.

and my negativity at Mass; or directly thereafter. Even after shaking hands and greetings during Mass some people still can not keep a prayerful silence exiting church during Lent; adults stopping to chat before exiting the church during Lent.

Anonymous said...

Father, your list is categorically comprehensive.

Except for the banjo. >sigh<


Anonymous said...

Prepare yourself Father I recently read advertising from I believe the Diocease of Albany, or somewhere in upstate NY that clowns will be a feature in the Stations of the Cross event. You can probably find in Goodle search something baout it. It is not over yet.

Bob said...

-Priests who bring props like puppets with them for their homilies.

-Applause for everything in Church.

-"Hospitality Ministers" whose sole function seems to be to make as much noise before mass as possible.

-Legions of extraordinary ministers of holy communion or whatever they're called who are scheduled weeks in advance. Doesn't seem very extraordinary to me.

-Piano players who play tinkly melodies in the background throughout the mass, even at the consecration and during other prayers.

-People chewing gum or eating in church and then going to communion.

-Priests who encourage non Catholics to come up for communion because "W'ere all one big family now."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Chewing gum in the Church drives me absolutely wild, so much so I need a confessor and a therapist!

Bob said...

The second picture is kind of scary, Father. Is that mass or is it a Spinal Tap concert?