As a sacristan at my local parish, I enjoy a unique view of things. Many weekends, you will find me doing my best to not interfere with Father’s work at the altar, thereby invalidating the Mass, or at least keeping my servers alert, attentive, and reverent in the performance of their duties. Other weekends, I enjoy just being one of the regular folks, participating in the Mass with the balance of the lay faithful.
On occasion, I will venture out to other parishes, becoming a “Roamin’ Catholic.” What I find out there sometimes sets my blood boiling, and at best leaves me scratching my head, and at its worst, leaves me poorly disposed to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. Below are just a few of my observations of a “typical” Sunday in the provinces:
I often find my problems begin at, well, the beginning. Before the Mass has even started. Unless it happens to be Good Friday, remember that Jesus is in the room! When one and in fact, many, come in to prepare for Mass, please, keep your conversations with your neighbor, your husband, wife, children, whoever, to a dull roar. Most are only in the church for that one hour (unless Father heads down a homiletic rabbit hole, then it could stretch to a whole hour and fifteen), and if folks are not going to spend that time in prayer prior to Mass, then it would be nice if they would respect their neighbor enough to sit in reflective silence (perhaps it might cause one to actually hear the voice of God).
During the processional hymn, please, sing already! It’s terrible when the only voice you hear is your own, or the music director. Do not worry about whether or not you can sound like a rock star, make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Join the choirs of angels, and your voice will be fine.
While we are talking about music, let us walk down this path for a minute, and I promise to stay off it until the very end. The music in Mass should help us join in the worship of God, not help one’s own voice andor instrument to be exalted (amplified?) above all else. Guitars and drum sets have little or no place in the Mass. Just saying. Also, don’t want to hear Matt Maher, John Michael whoever, Bob Jones, Bob Denver, Steely Dan, or anyone singing their version of Psalms 1-150. The Psalmist was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that should be enough. There is a time for praise music. Mass is not that place.
Hands. Keep them to yourself. Unless you are a ministerial priest (i.e., ordained priest or bishop), hands clasped in front of you, or at your side is what is appropriate. You say there is nothing in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal that forbids waving and gesticulating? You are right. However, please show me where it says that you should do it.
When the priest or deacon says “The Lord be with you”, just say, “and also with you”, or after Advent 2011, “and with your spirit” or “et cum spiritu tuo”. Keep your hands still! It’s not appropriate!
Join in the prayers where appropriate- at the end of the OT and Epistle readings, say with conviction, “The Word of the Lord”, and after the Gospel, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”! Sing the responses to the Psalm!
Participate in the Mass! During the Creed, when the priest says “by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man”, bow! Not a little head nod, like you heard a bit of music you like, but really bow, in reverence. Remember at Christmas we genuflect–give a good bow the other weeks of the year!
During the Offertory- again, keep your hands to yourself- you are not the priest! You are not standing in persona Christi! The priest’s orans position refers to Christ on the Cross.
Now my biggest one- the Our Father! Here it comes! This was inspired by my friend Amy, who posts recently on her blog about her own frustrations. Father Z lent his own voice to the schola recently as well . If you find you must hold hands with nary anyone who comes near you, make sure it’s okay with them. Don’t grab my hand, or slap my arm with the dead-fish hand. Please and thank you. I understand that some priests invite everyone to hold hands during the Our Father. I would probably not attend Mass again there should I experience such a thing. Amy talks of germs and such, and just in general, her whole phobia of random strangers touching her. I don’t have such issues, but what I do have issue with is when our focus is taken away from Christ, who is truly present before us, so that we can hold hands with our neighbor, not to mention the odd fellow who wants to come across the aisle.
I often get really upset at the “passing of the peace”. I understand the priest or deacon encourages us to share a sign of peace, but really, when the rest of Mass is disrupted by this glad-handing, coming across two, three, four rows and across the aisle again detracts from what comes next: our reception of the Eucharist. Keep it simple, keep it close, please. Short range peace-passing only.
So, we’ve finally gotten through the Communion Rite (I will save my thoughts on EM’s for a later rant!), and now, Father has given the final blessing, the deacon has exhorted us to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord” (is that one or two alleluias at the Vigil? Inside joke, can’t help myself), and the exodus begins. No sooner does the recessional pass, and people are killing themselves to get out the door, stumbling over those that might, oh, wait a minute for the music to end, to possibly say a prayer of thanksgiving for the privilege of worshiping God, and that He might protect our priests and bishops. Once the music ends, the prayerful applause breaks out for the choir. Why? For doing the job they volunteered for, or got paid for? (Wait–this is a Catholic Church, so it’s definitely the job they volunteered for.) They were there to worship God as well. But please, after it’s all said and done, if you just have to get out of the pew, would you mind going the other way? I’m just going to be a moment, but I’d like that moment, thank you.
So, that for the moment concludes my Mass rant. Stay tuned next time, as we dig further into bad form during the worship of Our Lord.
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