Friday, August 23, 2019


While this isn’t his point, the priest being turned into a narcissist, please note how many times Father B. Jarabek, JCL, from his blog, Dilexi decorem domus Domini, uses “he could” in his blog post:

The Options That Divide Us

There can be rather drastic liturgical differences between parishes — most of us have experienced this. Some of us have chosen to attend a parish precisely because of the way it “does liturgy”. But does that necessarily mean that the one is “doing it right” while the others are “doing it wrong”? When it comes to the Ordinary Form of the Mass or Novus Ordo, things aren’t quite that simple.
Let’s run through some of the options that each priest has on any given Sunday. I’ll do it in an outline form:
I. Opening Hymn/Chant
a. It could be the Gregorian chant introit verse (entrance antiphon)
b. It could be a vernacular composition of the entrance antiphon
c. It could be the Latin but in another musical style/composition
d. It could be a hymn from a hymnal
e. He could just enter in silence and read the verse upon reaching the altar
f. Oh yes – there are more options than just these
II. Greeting
a. He could do “The Lord be with you”
b. He could do one of several others that are provided
III. Remarks/”Pre-homily”
a. He could now add remarks, introducing the liturgy of the day
b. Or he could omit remarks and continue to the penitential rite
IV. Penitential Rite
a. There are three forms that can be used
b. Within one of the forms — “form c” — there are nearly endless options
V. Gloria
a. He could recite it with the people
b. He could intone a Latin Gloria and then the people and/or choir sing it
c. A vernacular setting could be sung – the possibilities are rather numerous
VI. Collect (Opening Prayer)
a. He could sing it according to a traditional tone (solemn, festive, etc.)
b. He could sing it according to some tone that he made up or prefers
c. He could recite it
VII. Responsorial Psalm/Gradual
a. The responsorial psalm as printed in the lectionary could be recited or sung
b. Another psalm could be substituted in many cases
c. Another translation is also possible
d. Or he could have the Gradual sung (whether in the Gregorian setting or another composition/language)
VIII. Alleluia/verse
a. He could omit it entirely
b. He could recite it
c. He could have it sung according to a million different settings/styles
(We’ll leave out options that exist concerning chanting the readings versus reciting them)
IX. Homily
a. He could preach on the readings
b. He could preach on the other prayers of the Mass
c. Or…. he could preach on what the bishop told him to preach about, like the charities drive
X. Creed
a. He could use the Nicene Creed
b. He could use the Apostles’ Creed
XI. General Intercessions
a. Virtually unlimited possibilities for the texts
b. Also the possibility of singing all or part of them (e.g. only the response)
That’s just the “Liturgy of the Word”. And 99% of the things I listed are legitimate options. Then we could start listing common abuses…
How does a priest decide? I’ll tell you what happens in many, many places: he chooses what he likes, what he thinks/knows the people like, or some combination of the two. Some places have liturgy committees that assist with these decisions also.
What this alarming multiplicity of options has led to is precisely a subjectivism about liturgy: it becomes about us and our preferences. This then drives the choices that many make about what parish they will attend — “I like their hymns better”; “I like the fact that they recite everything and use the shortest options”; etc.
This subjective approach to worship is not what true worship is about. It is God who tells us how he is to be approached. Think of the burning bush: he instructed Moses first to take off his sandals, for it was sacred ground. Think of the two sons of Aaron, who offered incense in a way that went against what God had commanded in Leviticus 10: they were burned up.
God makes us worthy to offer him fitting worship through baptism. That is when we come to share in his priesthood, such that we can pray to him in a way that befits his majesty and is pleasing to him. But he doesn’t just leave it to us to figure out afterward. No, through both divine revelation and the further guidance of his Church, he effectively tells us how we are to approach him.
Yes, the multiplicity of options that I listed above are legislated by the Church, and so are legitimate variations: I am not disputing that. What I am pointing out is the way that they have led, in practice, to a subjective approach that has contributed to our being divided into camps. We may well choose certain options, and legally — but we may choose them for the wrong reasons. And we often have done so.
The way forward, which I think will help us to achieve better unity within our worship, is two-fold:
  1. Realize, through liturgical education, that worship calls us out of ourselves and challenges us – it is not something we create based on personal tastes or questions of efficiency or convenience;
  2. Seek always those options that are in continuity with what was done by our ancestors.
When a priest sets about celebrating a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, yes, he does have options. But they are far, far fewer in number. And it’s not like abuses or deviations from the ideal didn’t enter in also (historically) or aren’t still present now in some places. But the general approach — the starting-point — remains quite different: it simply does not lend itself well to “personalization”.
Most priests, the present writer included, who have learned how to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, have experienced in a rather striking way how it makes a claim on us. The burden of choosing between countless options is all but eliminated, and I simply must obey the text. I don’t have to make things up. “Amen, amen, I say to you: when you were young you used to gird yourself and go where you would. But when you are old, behold, you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and lead you where you did not wish to go” (John 21:18): this prophecy applies to all who are invited to follow after Christ, but in particular, to priests. Some liturgical forms assist us in appropriating it better.
Taking the above partial outline, and trying to seek those things that would be in fuller continuity with our tradition, these are the options that a parish might choose for its Sunday liturgy:
I. Opening Hymn/Chant
a. Chanted introit/entrance antiphon instead of a hymn
II. Greeting
a. “The Lord be with you” (the other options are certainly scriptural but are not in continuity with liturgical tradition)
III. Remarks/”Pre-homily”
a. Omit entirely — important announcements may be made before Mass or in the bulletin
IV. Penitential Rite
a. Use the Confiteor (“I Confess”)
V. Gloria
a. Chant, ideally in Latin — Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis) may be over-done in many places, but it is easy for people to learn and can be a good starting point
VI. Collect (Opening Prayer)
a. Sing it according to a traditional tone
VII. Responsorial Psalm/Gradual
a. Chant the Gradual rather than the Responsorial Psalm. Use either the Gregorian setting or a composed setting in English or Latin
VIII. Alleluia/verse
a. Sing using a Gregorian setting or at least something dignified, that doesn’t sound like a stadium chant
IX. Homily
a. Fr. Hugh has some good reflections/guidance on the homily
b. (Of course, if the bishop mandates a certain topic, do it in obedience!)
X. Creed
a. Use the Nicene Creed and consider chanting it in Latin. Credo III is not hard to learn
XI. General Intercessions
a. Keep them brief and follow the outline given in the GIRM
b. Omit them entirely at daily Masses
If all parishes took the approach of choosing those options that are in continuity with our tradition, they would be liberated from slavery to subjectivism while at the same time finding that there is still a wonderful variety. They would be worshipping more fully in union with their ancestors. They would be challenged to appreciate new things rather than taking refuge in familiar comforts. The quality of their liturgical celebration might be raised. A new reverence and a holy fear of God might more readily be fostered.
Many have written on this and there is certainly much more that can be said. Perhaps I’ll return to this topic in the future and from different angles.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...


No. No more than a menu in a restaurant with many options turns a priest-diner into a narcissist. Or, no more than choosing from thousands of paint colors for a bedroom turns a homeowner into a narcissist. Or, no more than having 100 channels on the TV cable system turns a television watcher into a narcissist.

"How does a priest decide?" Merely personal preferences or what the people will like?


The feast and/or the scriptural texts for the day form the basis for making good choices. Are we celebrating the Queenship of Mary? Choose the form of the Penitential Rite - not the confiteor - that says "Son of God and Son of Mary.

It's really not that difficult to make good choices from the limited - there are not "nearly endless options" with penitential rite C - number of options available to the celebrant and the community.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Oh, thanks for clarifying things for us about narcissism and clericalism.

You are perfectly good with the following if "he (the priest) decides" the following:

--only to speak the Mass including the Gloria, Sanctus, etc at his Masses
--to force people to receive Holy Communion and standing if he decides this
--to offer Mass ad orientem at his Mass as he decides
--to offer mini homilies after the greeting which he chooses to use "The Lord is with You" and to offer another mini homily after the General Intercessions and then again before the Post Communion Prayer.
--to insist at his Masses a plethora of laity in various language offer the intercessions which they make up which he decides is a good thing at his masses
--to wear the stole over his chasuble because he decides he likes this option
--to wear no vestments at an outdoor mass for youth because he decides it is too much trouble to bring the proper vestments to a camp out

Shall I gone on?

Marc said...

Being in the same town as the District headquarters for the SSPX, we oftentimes have different priests say mass at our chapel. Still, things are always the same except for the sermon (and even now, we have been having a multi-week series on the mass that all the priests are discussing during their sermons).

It is nice to know exactly what's going to happen. Even my 3-year old knows what's going on when since we have the same thing every time we go to church. And this holds true whether we go to our usual SSPX chapel or the local Institute of Christ the King oratory.

TJM said...

The beauty of the EF is the constraints it places on the celebrant - there are no unpleasant surprises for the laity. In stark contrast, the OF is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you’re going to get!

John Nolan said...

The Solemn OF Mass I attended last Sunday had the following.

1. It was in Latin except for the Scripture readings and the Bidding Prayers.
2. The celebrant was assisted by deacon and subdeacon, roles taken by priests.
3. The celebrant sang his parts and celebrated with the same orientation as the people.
4. The Roman Canon was used.
5. The Mass was preceded by the Asperges, in the older form.
6. The Introit, Gradual, Alleluia and Communio were as per the Graduale Romanum.
7. The Ordinary was Mass X (usally it would be polyphonic, but with Credo I or III).

Next Sunday I shall be singing at a Solemn Mass in the EF. It will be very similar to the above, although the lections will be sung in Latin and there are no Bidding Prayers. However, there is a fundamental difference. The first Mass comes about from a conscious decision to use legitimate options in the OF in order to make it conform more closely to the traditional rite.

The upcoming Mass has to be celebrated according to the rubrics. The only options allowed would involve which musical settings are to be used for the Ordinary, and in any case the celebrant reads these from the Missal. There are no options which might make it conform more closely to the Novus Ordo.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard the Apostles Creed at a Catholic Mass---I assumed it was more appropriate for a baptismal service or maybe morning prayer or vespers. Even in the Episcopal Church, the Nicene Creed is used at the Eucharist (though the Apostles Creed is used in Morning Prayer, which some of their parishes offer on Sundays in lieu of the Eucharist).

With regard to vestments at an outdoor Mass, weather might be something to consider. A heavy chasuble when it is 95 degrees outside, maybe not such a good idea. Maybe an alb and stole in such circumstances, but certainly a chasuble when in an inside facility. Wearing stole over chasuble---eh, no, which is why sometimes I have advocated a shorter chasuble (Gothic, fiddlesticks, whatever you call it) so one can see the three main features of Eucharistic vestments, alb, stole and chasuble.

The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (1979) offers a number of options for the Eucharist---one reading or two before the Gospel, the Gloria (Rite 1) and Agnus Dei (also Rite 1).

Not sure if the Eastern Orthodox have many options in their liturgies, but somewhere I saw the homily may be transferred to end of their Divine Liturgy as opposed to after the readings. They also typically have orthos (Morning Prayer) before their Divine Liturgy.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Allan, you can go on until the cows come home.

My comment was about the cause/source of narcissism, which isn't the number of options available in the NO. If you want to discuss that, I'll be glad to respond.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Thank u mike

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Allan, of the things you mention in your 8:37 post, only one is stated as an option in the NO.

The others are things you have concocted to support your suggestion that choices cause narcissism, which they do not.

TJM said...

Anonymous at 9:42,

My former territorial parish was run by a left-wing loon who was clericalism on steroids.
He would ONLY use the Apostle's Creed because he couldn't abide the revised translation of the Nicene Creed because it contained words like, gasp: Incarnate, Consubstantial, and even worse, the term "men." This parish consisted of highly educated people, lawyers, doctors, professors, etc., but he deemed, like Bishop Trautman, that these words were "too hard" for the laity to comprehend. Of course, he never considered refreshing the congregation's recollection. At my simple country parish, we use the correct translation of the Nicene Creed and no one has fainted, clutched their pearls, or stormed out of Mass in anger.

Marc said...

Anonymous, there are some options in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, but mainly the variations have to do with the customs of particular churches: the Russians are maximalists while the Greeks are minimalists, for example. There’s not much variation from priest to priest of the same church. And the Liturgy itself doesn’t vary much at all from Sunday to Sunday.

Marc said...

Oh, also, it is the case there are sometimes sermons st the end of Liturgy instead of or in addition to after the Gospel.

Joseph Johnson said...

My pastor chooses to have us recite the Apostles' Creed most of the time. I am not sure of his reason.

It would be nice if the OF was more like the transitional 1965-69 English Mass. You knew what to expect and it followed what had preceded it (the Latin EF Mass). 'Talk about "noble simplicity"!

TJM said...

Joseph Johnson,

I am starting to believe the "noble simplicity" mantra was a con job to destroy the liturgy which was the embodiment of noble simplicity, i.e., the EF.

Fr Martin Fox said...

One option is to forego options as much as possible. That is what I do. Always use the Confiteor, and Greek Kyrie, always sing the Gloria, always sign orations for feast or solemnity, always use the Roman Canon.

Well, almost always; occasionally time is tight -- on holy days of obligation for example -- so I will use Eucharistic Prayer II. But a consistent approach is good for the priest's humility and for everyone to focus on prayer, rather than wonder which way the priest will zig or zag today.

I do use the sprinkling rite about four times a year. Is that bad?

TJM said...

Father Fox,

My parish priest is doing what you are doing! The Asperges:/Vidi Aquam is always welcome!

Anonymous said...

If a priest chooses the Confiteor and the Greek Kyrie, if he always chooses to sing the Gloria, if he always sings the orations and always uses the Roman canon, and does so from among the many choices offered by Holy Mother Church, is he not being as narcissistic as the priest who makes different choices?

Given the question asked by Fr. McDonald: "DOES THE ORDINARY FORM’S PLETHORA OF OPTIONS AND ABUSES TURN THE PRIEST INTO A NARCISSIST?" - the answer is plainly, "Yes."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Thanks for agreeing with me that the Ordinary Form is a narcissistic playground especially the allowed improvisation. Healthy priests and liturgy committees can be co oped into an unwanted narcissism choosing restaurant menu items for the congregation but also especially for themselves.

TJM said...

Anonymous K aka Sneak,

I would say that priest was celebrating the. OF in continuity with the EF and is to be commended

Fr Martin Fox said...

Anonymous at 8/25, 2:28 pm:

You have not made your case. Indeed, I cannot even follow your argument.

The current norms for Mass empower the priest celebrant to choose from many, many options. Do you mean to suggest that he is, therefore, obligated to choose all of them -- rather than repeating the same option on a regular basis? Is he supposed to keep some sort of log, and rotate through all possible permutations on a regular basis, so as to avoid opting too often for this or that option? There are ten Eucharistic Prayers available for use to priests. Without going into mind-numbing detail, there are some restrictions (hard or soft) on just when some of them can be used. So I suppose a non-narcissistic celebrant might need the assistance of a computer algorithm to assure non-preferential distribution of all ten options.

Is that what you had in mind? Please explain what exactly you think a non "narcissistic" priest is supposed to do, when presented with all these options -- since you seem to think it is narcissistic for him to exercise these options, but not those?

Anonymous said...

"Do you mean to suggest that he is, therefore, obligated to choose all of them -- rather than repeating the same option on a regular basis?"


"Is he supposed to keep some sort of log, and rotate through all possible permutations on a regular basis, so as to avoid opting too often for this or that option?"


"So I suppose a non-narcissistic celebrant might need the assistance of a computer algorithm to assure non-preferential distribution of all ten options."

Not at all.

Fr. McDonald wrongly suggests that having options from which to choose transforms the priest into a narcissist. This is a silly proposition.

You make choices from the many options offered by Holy Mother Church. I most sincerely doubt that Fr. McDonald would suggest that you, because you choose from among many options, are a narcissist.

Another priest makes choices different from yours. Maybe he does "mix it up" a little rather than using, say, the Roman canon exclusively. He, in Fr. McDonald's view, is acting in a narcissistic manner, driving people away from the Church, creating schism, sowing seeds of discord, leading people to perdition.

I don't think you OR the priest who "mixes it up" is a narcissist. Having options doesn't make a priest a narcissist.