Sunday, January 22, 2023


 Did your priest preach about the Word of God on this “Word of God” Sunday? I did at St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton. 

Here are some photos from Pope Francis’ celebration of the same Mass at St. Peter’s today. He also admitted to the Ministries of Lector and Catehcists about 10 men and women. 

Of course St. Peter’s has magnificent altar frontals and this one a few centuries old. But, please note how the placement of the altar candles in this arrangement always looks cattiwomp from this angle and almost every other camera angle. Don’t those who arrange the candles look at these photos? Oh, the agony of it all:

Then there is this magnificent ad orientem photo. Sad, though, that the central crucifix is quite small and low and out of proportion with the taller candlesticks, but a stunning image:

And then, sadly, and this is quite typical at the Modern Roman Missal Masses ever since the novelty of receiving the Most Holy Eucharist in the hand, and not in any way that resembles what was done in the very early Catholic Mass (which today Episcopalians get right!) a child, cluelessly, grabs the Host. I see this at every Mass where I distribute Holy Communion, or a variation of it. It cries to heaven for the restoration of the much, much longer tradition of kneeling and receiving on the tongue, but I digress. It is reported, thanks be to God, that Vatican personnel saw the child do this. As he turned as though he would leave with his souvenir Host, the young man was asked to consume the Lord’s Most Holy and Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, which he did:


ByzRus said...

I know Fr. MKJ will disagree, but, the candle arrangement looks lame and is distracting in its own way. One doesn't expect to see angles and the wimpy low cross in the middle. I've heard more than one old-timer complain about the "Benedictine Arrangement" making them feel like they were in jail. I suppose it's possible to conclude the performance was of equal importance to the sacrifice. In other words, given the supposed gravity of that which is taking place on the altar of God, how, possibly, would the priest celebrant have either the time or the inclination to worry about other than the matter at hand??? Ad Orientem eliminates this in entirety. No one has to worry about anyone else, "Now put aside all earthly cares" and focus solely on the divine. How it should be.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Byz - Facing the congregation, I have never felt or thought that I was engaged in a "performance."

The "matter at hand" is the entire celebration of the Eucharist, from the Gospel to the Words of Institution to properly placed linens to well-prepared lectors to altar serves who can sit still to music played without any, or at least very few, "clunkers." It is the quintessential "Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts" experience.

Maybe some priests have no awareness of anyone other than themselves at the altar or anything other than their actions and words and gestures. I have to wonder if such a priest exists, and even to wonder if a person that oblivious to his role as priest/celebrant has any place celebrating mass publicly.

Yes, I am in awe of the miracle and the gift of the Eucharist. But I am also aware that offering mass is not about me and what I do or say, but about the sacrifice being re-presented in an un-blood manner, how the people in the pews hear the words spoken, how they smell the incense and see the clouds of smoke rising, how they join in the singing, how they are both uplifted and challenged by my preaching.

TJM said...

Versus populum is ridiculous - it treats the miracle of the Eucharist like a magic show - you have to see it to believe it! I knew the leftie would bite

ByzRus said...

Fr. MJK,

I wasn't trying to antagonize you. You've indicated in the past that candles/their arrangement was less of a concern for you. That was all I meant while presuming your reaction to both Fr. AJM's post and my response. Additionally, I wasn't questioning your priesthood, ministry, or ars celebrandi.

That said, you mentioned something in your response that got me thinking. Something never discussed here that I recall yet I think it's relevant is situational awareness. To start, I agree with you, if facing the people, only a very focused few would not notice the congregation. Personally, I wonder if I could maintain my focus and not notice very human behaviors like movements, yawning, getting up to go to the restroom, tending to a fussy child, caring for the elderly or disabled lined up at the break - some in wheelchairs etc. Ideally, one would focus only on the matter at hand, the rest is secondary in that moment. Is it truly possible in that situation not to engage with one another even if in very subtle ways?

In the East, our priests face the people when it is appropriate to both address and engage with them (5 blessings plus the final blessing, incensing the people, chanting the gospel, invitation to approach the chalice, benediction with the chalice, "Blessed is the name etc." prior to removing the consecrated species to the proskomedia table (table of oblation/table of preparation) for the oblutions - hope I didn't miss anything...) then facing the holy table (altar) when it is appropriate to address our Lord. Similar to the '62 Missal, the Byzantine Churches retain sotto voce prayers so, even when not at the Holy Table, during the Great Incensation, Great Entrance, Little Entrance and other times, the priest recites prayers appropriate to his actions at that part of Liturgy. At the Holy Table, the priest is behind the iconostas (icon screen) and within the Holy Place (sanctuary) separated yet united with the faithful as celebrant/intercessor. My point? His situational awareness vacillates between the faithful and the divine throughout Divine Liturgy. They both are separate areas of focus and I cannot think of an instance where they are combined. This does not seem to be the case where the priest only faces the people from the chair, ambo, over the altar or at the bottom step, his situational awareness always includes the faithful and the divine. Is this not a collision of worlds? Do you ever find it to be distracting? As all always seems to require your attention, is it possibly wearying?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Byz - I wasn't antagonized, really.

I just don't agree with the idea that the priest needs, or should have, "separate areas of focus" during the celebration of mass.

I don't find distracting a cooing-sometimes-squeaking baby (we had one at mass this morning), or any of the normal happenings in a room full of people. The whole congregation with all that includes is there at the foot of Calvary, there at the table in the Upper Room, there at the tomb early on the morning of the first day of the week.

I do find some things distracting. A couple of months ago an older couple came in and use the hearing aids the parish provides. We discovered that TWO such devices cannot be used by people sitting next to each other since the proximity causes almost constant, high-pitched feedback. Live and learn.

Amont said...

Father, at the begining of this Pontificate,the candles and Crucifix on the Great High Altar in St.Peter's were changed.This was to allow the Pope to be seen-a lame excuse of course.As to Communion in the hand-what better way to celebrate the banquet! What, you thought it was a Holy Sacrifice? How pre Vatican 2!Get with it-we celebrate community-all are saved-Amen!

Tom Makin said...

Last time I was in Rome the tongue was mandated and that was post covid. Ah but now we see yet another step. In the hand was required this time and the tongue was refused.

TJM said...

Here is a pretty good summary of the Novus Ordo:

One can spend time discussing the merits of certain aspects of the Novus Ordo, of course. Examples: Was it what the Council Fathers wanted? (A: No) Has it helped to usher in the great post-Conciliar Springtime? (A: No) Is it artificially cobble-together (Ratzinger’s view) in such a way that it almost by itself invites liturgical abuses? (A: Yes). Has it done more harm than good to the identity of Catholics across generational and geographical divides since it was implemented and in the way it was implemented? (A: Yes) Is it worthwhile to compare the two different Rites? (A: Yes) Is the Novus Ordo completely without any merits at all? (A: No)