Friday, January 20, 2023


Kudos to the Pope!

My comments embedded in red in the Vatican News text:

Pope: ‘A liturgical celebration that does not evangelise is not authentic’

Speaking to participants in a course for Diocesan liturgy officials, Pope Francis encourages liturgists to fight against “sloppy, neglected, poorly prepared” Masses, and warns against putting ritual ahead of the encounter with Christ. 

By Joseph Tulloch

Pope Francis on Friday addressed participants in a course for Diocesan liturgical officials, organized by the Pontifical Institute of Sant’Anselmo.

In his address, the Pope stressed that liturgy is fundamentally about encounter with Christ, and encouraged reverent celebrations.

Christ, not ritual, at the centre of the liturgy

A key theme of Pope Francis’ address was that the “fruitful participation of God's people” ought to be prioritised, in order “to lead the people to Christ, and Christ to the people.”

Sometimes, he warned, there is a danger of putting ritual first, of “putting the rite before what it expresses”. (Yes, neo-traditionalists seem to worship the form of the Mass and the rituals therein. There is a pseudo and stiff “fastidiousness” in paying attention to vestments and ritual preciseness, often in a baroque sort of way. However, progressives seem to be puritans or at least Calvinists in their desire for stripped “beauty” calling it simplicity when in fact it is simply ugly and uninspiring). 

This approach, he said, leads to “beautiful rituals, but without strength, without flavour, without meaning, because they do not touch the heart and existence of God's people. It is Christ who makes the heart vibrate; it is the encounter with Him that draws the spirit.”

Quoting his recent apostolic letter Desideravo Desideravi, the Pope added: “A celebration that does not evangelise is not authentic.”

Restoring a sense of reverence (Wow, this subtitle is backward looking to the TLM which had and has a sense of reverence. Good for the pope for pointing us back to “restoring reverence!)

The Pope also stressed the importance of reverence in the Mass.

He suggested that, when they visit parishes, liturgists should “organise a liturgy that can be imitated, with adaptations that the community can take in to grow in liturgical life.”

In fact, he added, “to go to parishes and say nothing when faced with liturgies that are somewhat sloppy, neglected, poorly prepared, means not helping communities, not accompanying them.” (I’ve been to quite a few parishes around the world, some are quite sloppy, others organized but uninspiring and ritual integrity is lacking, even following the simple rubrics of the Modern Mass.)

Part of this, the Pope underlined, is “care for silence”. Too often, he said, churches are noisy before and after the liturgy, but “it’s silence that prepares you for the mystery, that allows assimilation, lets the echo of the Word resonate.”

“Fraternity is beautiful,” he continued, “but it is the encounter with Jesus that gives meaning to our meeting, to our coming together. We must rediscover and value silence!” (All of the parishes where I have been a priest for 43 years have had silence before Mass, but not afterward. This is true, also, of those parishes where I am now helping out. I am not sure how to politely deal with those who love to chat before the Blessed Sacrament following Mass. And we know too, that when there are no liturgical celebrations going on, many Catholics today have no sense of silent awe and reverence in the main part of the church. They completely ignore prayer and those praying and make all kinds of noise, don’t genuflect before the tabernacle, etc. It would seem to me that bishops have to lead the way in demanding proper reverence in the Church and at all times!)

Role of the master of celebrations

During his address, the Pope also reflected on the role of the master of liturgical celebrations, or “master of ceremonies”. This office, he said, is a diakonia, or service: the master of celebrations “collaborates with the bishops in the service of the community.”

Problems arise, he said, when the master of celebrations is at the centre of the liturgy. (In 1985 I took over from a Master of Ceremonies at our Cathedral (may his soul rest in peace) who was all over the place, indiscreet in giving directions to people and often called attention to himself, not intentionally, but he did it nonetheless. I think the Vatican MCs do a marvelous job and we can thank now Bishop, Guido Marini for that. As a former MC, he is my hero in this regard!)

While he should co-ordinate everything behind the scenes, the Pope said, “The presider is the one that presides, not the master of ceremonies. In fact, the more hidden the master of ceremonies is, the better. The less you see of him, the better.” (Thank you Holy Father for this comment. I think you could also add that “the less you see of the “actual celebrant of the Mass” the better.” Let’s talk about all the antics of the celebrant, especially imposing eccentric styles of celebrating the Mass often at the consecrations and often not reading the black and doing the red! Is that too difficult? Ad orientem would solve so many of these problems, Holy Father, so that the less we see of the priest and his eccentric antics the more we get! Less is more!)

Pope Francis also discussed the teaching responsibilities of the master of celebrations, which include the liturgical formation of priests. (Thank you Holy Father for this! I want to give a shout-out to our now deceased emeritus bishop, Bishop Raymond W. Lessard. When I was MC and also vocation director, he asked that I watch our soon to be ordained priests do a “dry Mass” meaning going through the ceremonies but clearly not celebrating an actual Mass only an enactment. Yes, you need a properly formed liturgical priest who was also the MC and I was like this, to accomplish what the pope is saying. Kudos to Pope Francis!)

This role, he said, is of extreme importance. Quoting Sacrosanctum Concillium, the Second Vatican Council’s document on the liturgy, he argued that it is necessary “to give first place to the liturgical formation of the clergy”, in order that they might then go on to form the laity in liturgical matters. (Over 50 years of the Modern Roman Missal’s celebration and we are still mired in the pit of mediocrity, puritanical approaches to ritual, sloppiness and making it up as you go and in the most eccentric ways. When Lord will this end? And what about the mediocrity of music and the almost complete ignorance of Gregorian Chant for the prescribed chants of the Mass, the Introit, Offertory and Communion antiphons. What about maintaining Latin while promoting the vernacular. We truly need a prescription for proper liturgical formation on so many levels, Holy Father! When, O when, Holy Father, will you follow Pope Benedict’s prescription for this? When????)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From November 8, 2017 A.D., to April 4, 2018 A.D., Pope Francis had dedicated his Wednesday General Audiences to a catechetical cycle on the Holy Mass.

Here is the link to his final General Audience from the above cycle.


Near the end of that page are links to each of the following topics that Pope Francis had discussed during his cycle on the Holy Mass:

-- Communion in the hand vs. Communion on the tongue: Pope Francis responds

-- The Eucharist IS Jesus, just have faith: Pope Francis

-- Why the offertory is not “Mass intermission”: Pope Francis explains

-- Why is Sunday Mass important, anyway? The pope explains

-- The Mass isn’t a show, says pope, chiding those who take cell phone pictures during liturgy

-- Pope Francis: Why we should go to Mass on Sundays and not be slaves to work

-- This is the highest and most sublime prayer, says pope

-- Don’t show up late for Mass, pope says

-- Shhhh! Why Pope Francis wants you to stop talking during Mass

-- Want to have a direct conversation with God? Francis explains how

-- Do you need to ask God for something? Francis explains the moment of Mass to do it

-- This is the prayer granted us on the day of our baptism


Mark Thomas