Sunday, April 29, 2012


1. poor homilies
2. poor music
3. poor hospitality

Therein lies the problem. I'm not sure how many of us would disagree with this assessment or say that these are not important things to have in a parish Church and at Sunday Mass. But what constitutes "poor" has to be asked, doesn't it.

1. POOR HOMILIES: This can mean a variety of things. I've heard good homilies delivered poorly, in a dead pan fashion, but the content was good, sometimes too academic and disconnected from the person in the pews life. But then I've heard homilies that were delivered very well, with good examples but thoroughly secular, devoid of any spiritual meaning, homilies that could be given at a convention of "the power of positive thinking." Then there are well delivered homilies that keep one's attention but are heterdox leading those who hear it into anything but a orthodox Catholic life. Don't get me wrong, I preach a homily at every Mass I celebrate, briefly during the weekday Masses and about 12 to 15 minutes at Sunday Mass, but the Mass can stand on its own without a homily, can't it? The homily is not the centerpiece of the Mass, is it?

2. POOR MUSIC: Yes, this has been a terrible problem. Again there are two types of poor music. Incompetence of the music providers, they simply don't play well, whatever it is they are playing. The selection of music is too difficult for the congregation but the performers do it well. The selection of the music is vapid, trendy, Broadway-like and without staying power. There is no good repertoire of good music, starting off with the actual sung parts of the Mass of both the priest and congregation and then the ancillary music of the Mass, processional (in addition to the Introit) and recessional and any additional Offertory and Communion chants. Don't get me wrong, I love chants and music at Mass sung well by cantor or choir and congregation. But the Mass can stand on its own without music, can't it? The music is not the centerpiece of the Mass, is it?

3. POOR HOSPITALITY: Yes, studies show that of all the Christian Churches, Catholics are the least hospitable. We tend to respect the anonymity of those who attend Mass to a fault. Many Catholics come to punch their "obligation" card and their friendships and social circles are not with parishioners but with others. Go into any Protestant Church and if you are a visitor they know it immediately, they greet you and will start conversations with you, except maybe in the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches. Many Catholics want quiet time prior to Mass so they can pray, meditate or read scripture or other things (like the bulletin). They want peace and quiet and this can come across as cold, indifferent and aloof of others. Don't get me wrong, I like hospitality and fellowship and feel a sense of pride in my parish if I get a letter from a visitor telling me how welcome and friendly my parish is. (I've gotten these letters too!) But the Mass can stand on its own without hospitality, can't it? The hospitality and friendliness of the parish or particular people at a particular Mass is not the centerpiece of the Mass, is it?

Vatican II taught that the Mass is the "source and summit" of Catholic life. And certainly the Church through the ages has taught that there should be good preaching, good music and Catholics who are good and friendly (hospitable) Catholics, not only at Mass but in the world! But Vatican II also understood the foundation of the Catholic Mass, a Sacrament that shows forth the Paschal Mystery of Christ in the following Ways:

1. In the people who gather to celebrate and pray the Sacred Mysteries

2. In the Word that is proclaimed, for Christ speaks to the gathered community when they hear the Word

3. In the Most Holy Eucharist, for Christ's Sacrifice is re-presented in an unbloody way and the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Risen Lord is given to us by God as Food for our Christian life and pilgrimage to heaven

4. In the priest who represents Jesus Christ,the Head of the Church and the priest who acts in the person of Christ

One of the best homilies I ever heard as a teenager which was passionately delivered by our southern pastor, former lawyer, former Benedictine, and then a diocesan priest, Father Andrew Doris (RIP), who gave it with his deep Augusta, Georgia Southern accent and with utter conviction:

"A Protestant once said: "If you Catholics really believed what the Church teaches about the Mass and the Most Holy Eucharist, your churches would be full and you would see Catholics crawling on their knees to attend Mass!"

Somehow we've lost the real reason why we should be attending Mass and have made everything else, while good and important, more important than the real reasons:





Now, why is it that nearly 80% of Catholics don't attend Mass? If this isn't the primary reason to attend Mass and isn't taught anymore or 80% are ambivalent, disinterested or agnostic about it, then Houston, we have a real post-Vatican II problem and Post-Vatican II failure:


ytc said...

Frankly, Mass sucks in most places. Music sucks, homilies are trite and pointless and incoherent, churches and art and vestments are bland and uninspiring. I want beautiful, dignified music, art and architecture. I don't want our priests to wear those disgusting polyester-yet-$2000 (I kid you not, the ugliest vestments are the most expensive) sleepingbag chasubles anymore. I want relatively deep, simple, to-the-point no-nonsense homilies based on faith and morals, sometimes with some Church history thrown in. Is it too much to ask?

I think for too long we have deluded and inebriated ourselves with the sweet liquor that is dumb interpretations of Vatican II. No one with a brain (even the SSPX) denies that it was a valid council, however, that isn't the point. We have been on "VATICAN II FREAKOUT"/"OMG URLY CHURCH" mode for too long, and it's gotten old, and we need a new theme.

I swear, I hear "Vatican II" about three times every time I attend Mass at my local parish. Guess what? Vatican II is practically ancient history! It is what it is, nothing more, nothing less. I don't want to live my life for Vatican II, I want to live my life for Christ and His Church. Vatican II is part of His Church, yes, but it is exactly that, part. How come we don't get taglines from Nicaea, Trent or Fourth Lateran? Why is that cliche of "active participation" spat at us once a week but we never get any quotes from substantive, doctrinal parts of the Magisterium?

I've said it before, Catholics need to stop worshiping the Council as if it is a God in itself.

Modernity is old-fashioned.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Amen YTC! False gods abound, ecclesiology, ecology, morality, lay participation, on and on, all good things, but relegated well below and subservient to the Most Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ who sweeps us unto the Most Holy Trinity through His life, passion, death, resurrection and giving of the Holy
Spirit until He returns.

Kitchener Waterloo Traditional Catholic said...

The 'spirit of Vatican II' sought to make the liturgy and everything else easier for our separated brethren to understand. The results? Mass attendance among Catholics dropped dramatically and the only major group of Protestants to come home are the Traditional Anglicans whose liturgy is closer to the Usus Antiquior than the Novus Ordo.

This loss of identity keeps Catholics at home on Sunday mornings. The Mass is understood by many as a representation of the Last Supper. Sin and salvation are hardly ever mentioned in homilies and as expected the Confessionals on Saturday afternoon are empty.

With the schedule most families keep and the options available, most don't need a happy communal gathering on Sunday morning.

When you find out what the Mass really is about with the emphasis on His sacrifice due to our sins, when you realize Calvary is represented every Sunday morning (indeed every day) then being absent isn't an option. You also find yourself in a Confessional a lot more.

None of the novelties to my knowledge have produced fruit. When the local parish gets back to actually being Catholic people will return. This is Marketing 101.

Here are some suggestions:

- preach sin & salvation
- make Confession more accessible
- make one weeknight important: Confession, Mass, Adoration
- Sunday mornings have a concierge instead of greeters
- no chatting inside the nave
- Rosary before Mass
- Ad orientum
- some Latin (Canon)
- EMHCs as directed. If Communion takes less than ten minutes you don't need them
- altar rails & patens

Most pastors today should be able to implement the above. Bishops need to contribute to the rebuilding project too. Teach Latin in the seminaries. Encourage the Extraordinary Form. Speak out against threats to our liberty. Support the pro-life movement. Be leaders instead of administrators.

The gates of Hell will never prevail but that doesn't mean there won't be hard times. We're still in a crisis, much grace is available, many saints are formed in times like these, but we must get back to our heritage and actually be Catholics.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps as an antidote to the foolishness of the past forty years, we need a moratorium of a year of Masses with no sermon, no music, and no hospitality. None of which are required for perfect Eucharistic worship. No need to belabor the distraction of singalongs and glad handing. But when was the last time anyone heard a sermon that actually sustained the liturgical level of the Mass and actually contributed to the Holy Sacrifice?

Anonymous said...

I became Catholic through RCIA and I guess the deacon who taught it was "old school." Is it not mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday w/o very good reason? Being on vacation was not one of those reasons. The message was to find a Mass on a Sunday morning wherever you find yourself.

Homilies: Some of the best are the briefest. I like the simplicity of daily Mass and often remember those homilies best.

Music: In my experience -- and it doesn't appear to be this way in Macon -- the music budget is small. Protestant churches pay for the kind of music and musicians that they want. Salaries are large, but so are expectations.

If ever in Macon on a Sunday …

Anonymous said...

I personally have no problem with the relative anonymity during the Mass and its adjacent times. In fact, I have been fighting the further Protestantising of the Parish who has interjected additional greetings at the beginning of Mass where everyone 'greets your neighbour' before the Introit. There are attempts to have social gatherings after Mass. I like the idea, and some of my fondest memories are of gathering in the Church basement after Mass with friends. The talk then was usually all sorts of things, but not really religious. But it was clearly a practical extension of Church in HOW we dealt with the news of family, jobs, and even sports. Nowadays we have to run a phalanx of 'Fair Trade' vendors for coffee and get little speeches about helping Christians in the Holy Land, and the status of poor and racial tensions in our city. It's pretty demoralising.

The good news it that Today we had Mass Without a Single Haugen or Haas song. I am elated and am breaking out my fiddle to play Amazing Grace in celebration.


Tony K. said...

Despite the new and improved English translation of th the Missal, most suburban parishes still celebrate the Holy Mass in a "dumbed-down", folksy style. I think this blog post says it well. I really like the first comment, it hits the target.

John Nolan said...

Homilies. Used to be called sermons (the word 'homily' in English suggests a sanctimonious little lecture). The priest would remove his maniple and place it on the missal to emphasize the fact that the Mass was suspended at this point.

Sermons at weekday Masses? God help us! Still, without them the NO would only last ten minutes. Priests be aware - using the liturgy as a didactic tool is the biggest turn-off for laity with the possible exception of ...

Music. Go to an early Mass since the 'music' at the 'family Mass' is endurable for anyone with any musical or liturgical sense and, lo and behold, the celebrant will insist on a metrical hymn sung without accompaniment on the grounds that St Augustine said "qui cantat, bis orat". Father, it's "qui bene cantat"!

Hospitality (sigh). Even in the CofE where church-going was historically seen as a social activity, attendance at Cathedral services holds up because no-one bothers you! The fact that the London Oratory is packed Sunday after Sunday is certainly due to the liturgical and musical standards, but another factor is that no-one glad-hands you or tries to button-hole you afterwards.

I can't speak for the USA, but English parochial Catholicism is clique-y, complacently philistine in musical and liturgical matters and for those such as myself, profoundly off-putting.

Templar said...

Because 80% of self identified "Catholics" ain't Catholic anymore. Some of those would be because they lost interest after V2 made everything "optional", some of those would be because V2 made everything "trite", and some would be because V2 made everything Protestant. No matter how you slice it though, and whatever reason the 80% have, the break point was V2. Argue all day long about the good and bad of V2 and the bottom line is what the Church was before and what it is now, and V2 is at the heart of it.

And for the record, I happen to think that a large percentage of those of us who do attend Mass regularly still would indeed crawl on our knees, at least crawl to receive if not to attend, but alas The Church itself tells us to "stop it" and stand up. More of that Springtime of V2 we keep hearing about.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately we can 'fix' these issues relatively quickly in the diocese of Savannah.

It costs little for pastors to draw up a year long "homiletic" plan to match readings with local, diocesan, and Church-wide events such as the coming Year of Faith.

As for the choir - that'll take some doing, recruiting, training, etc. and hospitality as well - requires a budget, a muster of volunteers, some sales/marketting techniques and other investments.

Fortunately the new director of Stewardship and Development for the diocese of Savannah is "on it" at least as far as a plan to help parishes promote a long term plan, recruit, inspire, train and launch local leaders. I hear he's a nice guy to chat with too. ;-)

Denise said...

Someday the Mass may be all we wish for - beautiful music, inspiring sermons, regal vestments and statues - but it will be the same God then, that it is now. Just go and think about Him.

Everyone thinks that the Mass itself is the only reason people stopped going. Go back - really back - to the middle ages and before, and you find a culture that was Catholic through and through. You find families (read The Family that Overtook Christ - the story of St. Bernard of Clairvaux) that were Catholic in every area of their lives - and they produced multiple canonnized saints in their families. We- the parishoners - have to bring something to the table too.

A parish is only made up of individuals - and as more of them begin to develop their own personal holiness they bring that with them. Things begin to change.

I guess what I'm saying is that we have a responsibility here too. The priest has 20 minutes to talk to us, we have all the rest of the week. Are we using any of it for real prayer, scripture study, reading of the lives of the saints?

Just found this blog - very interesting discussions.

Anonymous said...

Vistors are 'exposed' to the parish's "hospitality ministry" for at least 5 minutes from the entry to parking lot to finding their seats in the pews, and again another 5 minutes on their way out.

That means: signage, greeters, people who can answer questions, parishoners who can invite them to coffee afterwards or breakfast... etc. It means "kiosk" of info and other means of communication (music, lighting, decorations, access, literature, song books etc. Mass aids..etc.)

Then the visitors are 'exposed' to the ministry of the choir and liturgists/etc. for the next 1 hour or so.

The homily is just 20 minutes - but what ministry could be done before and after Mass with the choir and liturgists/acolytes either by having a quiet prayer before or after the Mass with their pastor to commend their actions to God's grace?

After Mass, who gets access to the pastors for meals? The Pope used to allow people to attend his morning meditation, Mass and breakfasts or lunches... that's a priviledged time for pastors to really 'connect' with their team and select parishoners. Any pastor has at least 750 occasions for sharing a meal with a family (250 days x 3 meals). Both are going to eat anyway!

If you look, you can find lots of occasions to build up active laity.

Anonymous said...

The reason The Catholic church is in decline is because

1: We, the church, do not practice what we preach. This in the main is because the shepherds are never taught this themselves. Rohr explains it very well "It seems that we Christians have been worshipping Jesus' journey instead of doing his journey. The first feels very religious; the second feels human, and not glorious at all."

- Richard Rohr, in Everything Belongs.

2: The shepherds (Priests), like most politicians, seem to be drawn from a world that is far from reality for most of its occupants. Even changing a light bulb is an ordeal, the simplest of tasks. They lack leadership skills, which we (the congregation) so desperately need. If the shepherd himself cannot lead us then we end up running around like headless chickens and lose interest. There should be a sea change in religious attitudes. We need to LIVE The Gospel and not just talk about it. Then we would be happy to attend and support our church. United we stand, divided we fall, which is exactly what's happening. We(the church) needs to see Christ in everything..our neighbors, our community, the poor, the homeless etc and we need to spend our time and money on building a proper community rather than the priest being a shopaholic who often acts like he has won the lotto with our money, buying new carpets etc whilst people are dying yards away through a lack of money and love.

No one cares. You write to the bishop he ignores you. You write to the Pope he never even gets to see your concerns. The recent questionnaire that was sent out from the Vatican was clearly not meant for 99.999% of people to answer, its was gobbledygook and a pointless exercise so that it would *appear* they are interested, whilst ensuring nothing changes. We can only hope Pope Francis is the change we so desperately seek because one things for sure we don't have another two thousand years of doing nothing but clocking on at mass on a Sunday.

Cant blame the priests, they are only doing what they are taught. its that which is wrong. Viva la revolucion. Pete Hilz (UK)

Irene said...

I'm with Henry, who is quoted below. Weekday Masses is much less distracting and therefore much more fulfilling than Sunday Masses because there is no music.

"Perhaps as an antidote to the foolishness of the past forty years, we need a moratorium of a year of Masses with no sermon, no music, and no hospitality. None of which are required for perfect Eucharistic worship. No need to belabor the distraction of singalongs and glad handing. But when was the last time anyone heard a sermon that actually sustained the liturgical level of the Mass and actually contributed to the Holy Sacrifice"

I'd be fine without the uninspiring homilies as well.