This is an article which I wrote and was recently featured in The Gadfly, a student-run newspaper here at Franciscan University. The title is stolen, unabashedly from Fr. Z, over at WDTPRS.
Say the Black. Do the Red.
There’s an old joke. What is the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? The answer of course is: “You can negotiate with a terrorist.”
Having grown up with quite a solid style of liturgy, a mite old-fashioned and following all the prescribed rubrics and legislations, and adhering to the dictates of the General Instruction for the Roman Missal coming to Franciscan University of Steubenville was a bit of a shock to my system. Sure, at home we had a guitar, and some drums (both of which, IMHO, ought not to be played in the liturgy, but that’s another article altogether), but the priest, the celebrant of the liturgy, was always careful to follow the Mass and not go off on his own tangential prayer. The Liturgy, whether it be the Divine Office or the Liturgies of the Word and Eucharist, are the official prayer of the Church, in which we participate. We do not stand alone in our prayer, which is one of the eternal glories and mysteries of our Church.
Understanding this, it seems bizarre and objectionable that a priest would presume to interject the Mass with his own words, and mini reflection. Let me give you some context; I have been to approximately eight Sunday Masses on campus, just less than half of them being Fieldhouse Masses (to which I shall never again go). The others were regular Chapel Masses. At every one, I’ve been given a small twitch at the blatant, if typically “minor” abuses of the liturgy. However, last week I was at a Sunday Mass and the priest (I do not know his name, and if I did, I wouldn’t write it) decided to wing the beginning of the Communion Rite.
In various places within the celebration, the Rite allows for “these or similar words.” Wherever it does not say this, we assume that the prescribed words are unchangeable parts of the Liturgy, essential to its complete participation in the Universal Sacrifice. The beginning of the Communion Rite does not allow for “these or similar words.” It says: “The priest genuflects. Taking the host, he raises it slightly over the paten and facing the people, says aloud: This is the Lamb of God/ who takes away the sins of the world. / Happy are those who are called to his supper.” To which we respond with the humbling “Lord, I am not worthy to receive thee[…]” Fr. Improv, on the contrary, decided that he had a better idea and inserted a small portion of his homily and a bit of the gospel regarding Jesus’ calling of Lazarus from the tomb. This reflection went on for long enough that I, while revering the Most Blessed Sacrament, had time to sigh (probably loudly), offer up a short, silent prayer to God that I was sorry for the disruption of His Holy Mass, and for a friend to look at me with what may have been amusement at my consternation as I quietly expressed to her my disappointment with the random mini-homily.
Why do priests feel the need to disrupt the Mass with their personalisms? They are acting in persona Christi; not in their own persons. Imagine if the priest were to improvise at another celebration of the Church… I thee baptize in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier… Agreed, this is a “slippery slope” but truly, if you improvise one thing, how far down the slope will you slip? This is not as bad as liturgical dancing, or flowing ribbons and wandering bowls of incense parading around the church (or Fieldhouse), but liturgical abuse is liturgical abuse. Any amount of abuse at all is intolerable. Priests are in a nuptial relationship with the Church as Christ is. Moreover, just as Christ would not abuse His beloved spouse, neither should a priest.
Fathers, thank you so very much for your sacrifice and service, but please, do as
tells you. Surrender yourself completely. Submit your personal flair and internal reflection to the public prayer of the Church, which you so graciously offer. In short; Say the black. Do the red. Mother Church