Saturday, August 20, 2011


Yes, these are Catholics!

How much supervision do the laity need when it comes to the manner in which they participate at Mass?

Now that I celebrate the EF Mass frequently and ad orientem as is the tradition for this Mass, I don't get distracted by either the good or less than good things that happen out in the congregation. I have no compulsion to observe, critique or even stop the Mass if I don't like what I see in order to correct it. I don't have to be a gestapo in ad orientem worship.

But when I face the congregation, I see people coming and going at the worst times possible, some chewing gum, others in a day dream and still others doing their own thing, like striking their breast as in the old Mass when it isn't mandated in the new; some who pray the rosary or have their head buried in a book or read the bulletin. And now people use electronic devices to follow the Mass or to watch something else or to text message!!!

At what point should a priest or liturgist be a gestapo supervisor of the congregation? In a previous parish, I had people raising their hands at the Gloria and other times of "praise." I never went to anyone and asked them to stop, but I did preach about commonly observed postures during Mass and that we shouldn't necessarily be doing our own thing although there is room for personal piety even in a communal liturgical celebration. At what point does that personal piety or the exercise of a pious option (like kneeing for Holy Communion or genuflecting before receiving) become a distraction to the community and an untoward desire for attention to one's personal piety and sanctity, if not acknowledgement of being a penitent sinner in public?

And of course holding hands during prayer isn't prescribed, but if I don't see it should I care?

I remember immediately after Vatican II some priests did become gestapos to get the people to participate in a rigid, communal way. Rosaries were yanked out of little old women's hands and shoved in their pocket books. One priest during the procession, stopped, opened a hymnal and shoved it into the hands of a parishioner who was not singing!

Some priests locked the doors once Mass began so that people couldn't leave or come in after Mass started!

Where does it all end? Is there more gestapo behavior from priests and so-called liturgists since Vatican II than there was before as it concerns how the laity participate during Mass? Is there more clericalism today than in yesteryear?????


Henry said...

"Yes, these are Catholics!"


Anonymous said...

I am one of the "culpable" ones who has continued to strike my breast for the word "fault" in the Confiteor. I thought I remembered the OF missalettes showing the rubric (as a side note--like bowing during the Creed), "They strike their breast, saying. . ." (notice that it never said how many times to strike the breast--should it depend on whether we use the official Latin or the current English?).

I used to strike only once because the current (English) translation only uses the word "fault" once. Given the fact that the official Latin has always continued to say "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" and we will very soon be using a more accurate English translation I believe the new rubric for that translation will expressly restore the threefold striking of the breast during the Confiteor.

Because the new translation is imminent and because we know the official Latin has always had the threefold "mea culpa" (even though we are not yet saying it three times in English) I'm not so sure that it can be concluded that striking one's breast three times in the English OF is really a violation of the rubrics for that Mass. I'm not trying to "do my own thing," I'm just following the rubric while taking all of the above-stated facts (and the principle of liturgical continuity) into consideration in my understanding of that rubric. Maybe it's the lawyer in me!

Joseph Johnson

Robert Kumpel said...

I attended Mass at a parish in Florida about four years ago and was surprised by a final announcement from the priest. He said that, after Mass, we should refrain from speaking to each other until we were outside of the church!

Is that Gestapo-like behavior? It was just a polite reminder about a violation of norms that I have witnessed for years in various parishes. I, for one, was grateful.

Anonymous said...

"At what point does that personal piety or the exercise of a pious option (like kneeing for Holy Communion or genuflecting before receiving) become a distraction to the community and an untoward desire for attention to one's personal piety and sanctity, if not acknowledgement of being a penitent sinner in public?"

That's a tricky question to answer.
For me, seeing others exhibit pious behaviors has helped me learn how to be more reverent myself, both interiorly and exteriorly...allowing my exterior actions to support and improve the interior...and providing my interior dispositon a means to express itself and thereby reinforce itself.
Actually, I have been incorporating some postures, such as genuflecting before communion, despite being emabrassed to do so. Others I have not incorportated because I am far too shy and embarrassed to do so..such as kneeling for communion, wearing a mantilla, and some others.
How are we to know exactly what we are supposed to do or not do?
Mostly we just do what others do and figure that's what we're supposed to do.
Ignorance is rampant in the pews, but not the desire for ignorance.

I know that some members of the congragation see these pious actions and then uncharitably assume that the 'pious' person is being some sort of 'show-off' or 'attention seeker' on some level.
For me, seeing others exhibit pious behaviors and postures has taught me some ways to be reverent.

After reading this, I'll examine what I do and do away with those that might distract others, such as genuflecting before Holy Communion.

...more confused than before.

Gene said...

I believe many are misguided and need educating...or re-educating. Then, there are those who equate an external show of emotion with a superior degree of piety. This is the Enthusiast, or Spiritualist, heresy.I believe it needs to be corrected. And, of course, there are those who just like to be seen. Guiding the flock in their worship and educating them as to appropriate participation is not "Gestapo" tactics. These kinds of excesses detract from the proper focus of the Mass and are a distraction (as well as an embarrasment) to other worshippers. If they like this, they can find it at "Blood of the Overcoming Jesus Pentecostal Holiness Church" on the Frontage Road.
What if someone wanted to bring a Rattlesnake in the Church? Would you correct them then? It is the same thing in principle.

Gene said...

Besides, all those people standing around with their hands in the air look like the French army...LOL!

Anonymous said...

It's not just piety. I know a liturgist at a liturgical website that shall remain nameless, who stands during the consecration while everyone else kneels. See, she believes people should stand during that moment, that it's more liturgically correct, and does so despite the norms given. I tell her that not only does she stick out like a sore thumb, but that she breaks unity at a moment when we should all be unified in action. She believes she knows better than the bishops, so she believes herself entitled to do as she sees fit. She'll belong to that bunch who will not use the worfs if the new translation later this year. So, aside from the uncatechized, you have the liturgical "experts" who do their own thing because their scholarship seems to be superior to liturgical norms if the bishops.

G. K. Chesterton said...

"It is bad to have false gods, but it is also bad to have false devils."

Gene said...

So, G.K., What is your point?

Templar said...

Nothing is ever taught, so why should anyone be confused if the laity do not act in a unified manner? How is some poor pew sitter to know what is right or wrong if it's never addressed? You don't have to be the "gestapo" if you avail yourself of the Pulpit to "teach" (not badger); but all that hand holding continues doing the Our Father because the Laity think they are supposed to do it because no one tells them otherwise (as an example). If something is allowed (like holding hands) and the Pastor just doesn't like it, then yes that would be "gestapo" to preach against it.

Not meaning to pick on th3 hand holders, fill in your particular pious habit.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Therein lies the conundrum:
While hand-holding during the Lord's Prayer is clearly not prescribed, neither is it forbidden. Many pious practices that eventually became prescribed in the Liturgy evolved from an "organic" development of these, such as kneeling, beating one's breast (a very Middle East and yes Italian everyday form of suffering, anguish or despair). So do we stifle or just wait and see?

Anonymous said...

Fr., you may have a false dilemma. Catechize the congregation to the latitudes and explain how respecting norms is not treading on their personal piety. Perhaps offer examples within the allowable that also respect the norm. We have an adult altar server who loudly says 'God's' instead of 'His' during prayer and acclamations. Similarly a previous parish our family attended had a woman who would dance, skipping, down the aisles during upbeat offertory hymns, waiving her arms over her head. She was known to be a little off kilter, in that small New England village, so people just smiled and let her finish.

This is the art of leadership. Knowing how to guide, firmly and with care. The server in our parish and the standing woman in anon's parish are not following the bishops, perhaps by ironically by their own example per our Pope, and risk being considered not only errant but a little daft in their self-centered dance. The congregation will determine that based on the instruction of the priest. May God bless and guide you inthat effort.


Anonymous said...

"Every liturgical 'tradition' was once an innovation."

Anonymous said...

Choice A - Genuflecting, bowing or striking one's breast during the Creed, quiet reflection/attitude of prayer pre-post Mass & respect for the Priest in general.

Choice B - noise before, during & after Mass, cell phones ringing, gum chewing, coming in late, leaving early, no regard for any level of liturgy or sense of sacred space & little to no formation.

Don't be concerned, Father - Choice B wins HANDS DOWN in most Catholic Churches today, so obviously there is not much 'police-action' going on (or formation either).

And yet, I am constantly amazed at people who are 'offended' by actions of piety during Mass, including many Priests who seek to 'free us' from our obviously misguided desire to seek God with all of our senses during our time with Him. I do have to wonder, when fingers get pointed towards piety, what the real motivation is... -pgal

Gene said...

Anon/Ignotus, your comment is trite and meaningless, not to mention inaccurate. You are doing nothing more than sitting back and playing "nananana-booboo."

Templar said...

Oddly enough, before the Of was introduced, everyone had their own Missal, which clearly told everyone what to do and when to do it. No confusion despite the Mass being in Latin. With the OF came the elimination of Missals. Maybe not by design, but in effect. Most Church's do not even have Missals in their pews to follow if one desires too. Perhaps since everyone was speaking the vernacular now someone assumed Missals weren't required anymore. The net effect though is that after a few decades with no Missals, people no longer really know what to do. The majority just follow along with those around them whether their actions be right , wrong or indifferent. Many of the things I do today, or at least understand today, are because I own a 62MR and it has been explained to me there. For example, why should the laity not strike their Breast during the Confiteor? In the EF both the Priest and the Laity have a Confiteor to say, and both should strike their breasts (as instructed). In the OF the Confiteor has been reduced to one and if the Priests strikes his Breast why should not the Laity?

You can debate these topics one by one for quite some time but many are not capable of resolving precisely because the GIRM is not clear on precisely what is done when. It allows for options and preferences, and well, if that's the name of the game, it's tough to blame the laity when they adopt them, those explicit and those implied!! If Unity is the goal than there should be one Mass, said the same way, everywhere, but that Genie may be out of the bottle already.

Unity is a great goal, but to expect unity requires it to be provided via leadership by example first.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I Too am more confused then ever. Because other paritioners are being judgmental, and assuming the worst possible intentions regarding how I pray the mass I now feel self conscious and lost. should I attend mass and not go for communion, except for once a month when everyone kneels? is it pridefull to kneel? am I being tested because of my insecurity? Why my decision to kneel is offensive to others boggles my mind. I don't get angry at those that choose to do things I might find inappropriate. My hope is that my actions and intentions are pleasing to God. I am there to pray the mass. I actually try very hard to not allow my mind to wander. I have used my smart phone at Mass, and before. I have certain prayers on it that I like to say before mass that aren't committed to memory.
I know this post wasn't about me, but I now feel bad about choosing to do what I felt compelled to do. A little more direction from the pulpit wouldn't hurt.

Anonymous said...

This last crie de cour from anon seems to stem from a lack of common courtesy from fellow parishioners. Maybe the first instruction would for the parishioners that feel compelled to question someone's behavior to recommend the 'offender' to the priest or RE staff.

I tend toward the conservative but see no problem with smart phone or iPad use during mass for following the prayers etc. The only issue of course that it not be disruptive (ringer, talking, etc) and actually be used for following the mass. This is the sort of judgement and willingness to engage and instruct required from the pastor. The good news is that when the parties become accustomed to their roles things go well.


Gene said...

People need to be told what to do. The "whatever floats your boat" mentality of Vat II has set people adrift. The majority of people are sheep adn will do whatever everyone else is doing; since "everyone else" is not doing the same thing, confusion reigns.

RCG, I can think of nothing more rude or inappropriate than bringing any hand held, technological device to Mass. This constant and compulsive fingering, stroking, poking, and fretting over some silly device is tantamount to self-stimulatory behavior, which is a sin. I have been tempted on more than one occasion during Mass to snatch a cell phone out of some lout's hands and stick it....well, you know. This interferes with my own, more appropriate, intentions.

Anonymous said...

Pin, what about a Missal? Flipping through a book is no different than following the mass on an iPad. It's how it's done.

I personally read through the readings, responses and prayers before mass and try to follow while watching the priest. It's my old mission planning gene expressing itself. I think this helps me get the fullness of the celebration. When we get to church I will pray for while and, if time permits, will look through the hymnal to see what tunes we will be singing, what key they are in, etc. However, I still would like to whip out the iPhone if a translation is giving me issues.


Gene said...

RCG, Bull. Leaving out the distraction to others, there is a huge difference between turning the pages of a book, as most others are doing, and playing with a button box. Books are more in keeping with the rhythms of the Mass and reflect a slower, more contemplative approach to the Mass and life in general (I refuse to buy an e-reader for the same reasons). Besides, once you allow the hand held devices, people will take liberties...just like with the rumored well-intentioned Vat II reforms.
I know you personally and know that you will use such a superfluous device responsibly and within the limits of the Mass. Most will not. It is an un-necessary intrusion on others and the Mass.

Templar said...

I'll have to say this is a rare occassion where I will disagree with Pin. I can foresee a day, maybe even in my lifetime, where liturgical books on the altar could be in electronic tablet form.

For my part I don't even take out my phone during Mass, but my wife, whose eyesight hampers what she can read in the provided missals, will usually take out hers and use an App with larger print so she can follow the readings (never the gospel as standing with the phone would be too indiscrete).

I remember Father Z posting a couple of years ago and say he has received disapproving looks while sitting in a pew using his iPhone Breviary kneeling for cimmunion, or beating ones breast, people should not judge the piety of people based on outward appearences.

Anonymous said...

I received the same lashing for recommending the use of projected translations, such is done for the libretto at the Met, but not the ones on the backs of seats. It took my eyes off the performance.

In this case, I feel Pin's pain. holding a book is magical in many ways. And he, as I, may have issues operating the buttons without an opposable thumb.

In all seriousness, I think this is one of those things that is best controlled from the outset and leveraged in favour of the church.


Jenny said...

Templar: "...people should not judge the piety of people based on outward appearences."

Yes, indeed, Templar! Thank you. In fact, people should not judge other people period!! That is God's business, not mine. I am not in control, God is. I must concentrate on the great prayer of the Church, Holy Mass, not on other folks. If I am distracted, that is MY problem, and I must solve it quietly by reconnecting with God who IS in control.

Nedd Ludd said...

I have found that electrically amplified sound, air conditioning and central heat, handicapped access elevators, hearing aids, and other "devices" are not in keeping with the rhythms of the mass.

Anonymous said...

Ludd: that was a major issue in our parish a few years back when the church building was remodeled due to age. Our then pastor, a strict liturgist and what many would consider conservative, pushed to have ramps, air conditioning and fans installed. Admittedly, we have one of those 1950's era church buildings that are in many ways indistinguishable from Protestant church buildings so the change was not as jarring. But his point was that we had many ancient and faithful members who suffered to attend mass. In our part of the country temperatures can swing from 15 below to nearly 100 degrees during the year. We have had elderly faint during services in the stuffy building and the step steps and slippery floors were dangerous.

I agree with what you say, but just another thought.


Bill said...

For what it is worth, while my views are very conservative, I do bring my Kindle to Mass. I do so because I have on it the Ignatius Study Bible, and while most in the congregation are spending their time before Mass tasking and wandering around as though it were not a house of worship, I can be focusing on the readings -- with commentary.

Nonetheless, I would argue that the Kindle is less disruptive than an iPad. First, because its screen is not backlighted, so you actually have to look at what I'm holding to know it's not a book, and second, I can advance pages with a single button, no need for gestures.

Now, if I could just get the congregation to understand that the sanctuary is NOT the parish hall....

Gene said...

Why don't we just have a giant LCD screen like they do at the Braves stadium? We could have a robot priest (blessed by the Bishop..remotely, of course) or a remote priest so he wouldn't even have to be at Mass in person. We could have holograms of the wafer so we could remain in our seats and "receive" it remotely. The entire processional could be a hologram, which would eliminate the need for altar boys, acolytes, etc. Who needs a choir when computer generated music is more exact and the timing and antiphonals would be better? Pews could be designed that rotate and lower you forward into a proper kneeling position so that you don't actually have to move...this would be a great accomodation for those lazy louts I see every Mass who just sort of incline forward but remain seating (I am not talking about old or infirm folks, either). We could email or IM or text our confessions, saving the Priest the trouble of having to sit in the confessional and us the embarrasment of actually having to feel shame or guilt in his presence. For penance, you could push one of several buttons labeled "mild reproof," "abuse," or "onstructions for remote self-flagellation." Push button rosaries could be developed so that you push a button and the rosary is said properly by one of those computer generated voices. So, where would you like to draw the line....?

Ludd/Ignotus, while not a Luddite, I do believe that technology has de-humanized us to a high degree and that the new generation of cyber devices introduces qualitiatively different levels of mediated experience that threaten our psyche in dangerous ways. Laugh all you like...

Templar said...

Ahhhh RCG, you took the bait!! Mr Ludd is Ignotus being "over the top" and posting as the fictional name sake of the Luddite Movement.

Anonymous said...

Dang. Suckered again.

Seriously, I tend to the more traditional and am looking forward to my own translated text. For crying out loud I keep my missal next my chair with my Cambridge Shakespeare text book. That's fifteen pounds of books. I like the 'traditional' archetecture much more but have to admit it is difficult for told and cripple.

I suspect people want to worship in a beautiful place and hear voices like angels chant in a cool chamber and feel every word in their heart. There is no small amount of theatre in making this happen given the short comings of man and people. It also seems to be a matter of degrees since the Kindle and iPad are controversial choices. I could do without either, if the priest says so, and drag my new translation in Gutenburg format.

My wife says she is keeping her shoes, though, and I will
miss the jumbotron.


Anonymous said...

I would indeed appreciate some teaching in this matter, and so would my child who struggles to know what to do during the Our Father.
Should I do what Mommy says and fold my hands? Should I
raise them in the air like 1/3 of the congragation? Should I ask my Mommy if we can please hold hands together like another 1/3 does? Should I simply rest my hands on the back of the pew in front of me like the other 1/3 does?

I know that Priests who don't like to be percieved as the gestapo refrain from saying anything, especially if there are no direct requirements for the laity, but please think of the confusion amongst children that the silence is perpetuating.
If the Church doesn't teach, the laity will grow up not knowing.
Don't blame us if we're confused and not doing right.
Blame those that remain silent.

...still confused