Jeremiah 6:16

Thus saith the Lord: Stand ye on the ways, and see and ask for the old paths which is the good way, and walk ye in it: and you shall find refreshment for your souls.


Say the Black. Do the Red.

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 Mother Church 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.


PraiseDivineMercy said...

Hi, visiting from WDTPRS... So how did that go over? I'm really in support of what you wrote, and wonder if any good was done by it, or if I need to pray on behalf of your suffering persecution.

Brandon said...

Well. Same thing happened this past Sunday. So. While we love our priests and are grateful for their service... It still leaves Mother Church wanting a tiny bit.

Rich said...

Yet another reason to turn the priests around and face the Lord. When facing an audience, it is very tempting to assume the role in persona Reverendi Patri instead of in persona Christi capitus. When facing the Lord, your audience is one, and He has no need for entertainment.

I'm convinced that most priests are not trying to be entertainers, but they are being placed in the same arrangement as actors, news anchors, professors in lecture halls, and comedians: they're on a "stage" facing a few hundred pairs of eyes. Cultural conditioning takes over when you get stage fright.

Please, Holy Priests, consider facing the Lord, not just interiorly, but exteriorly. For we are corporate beings, and our prayers are influenced by our spiritual as well as physical disposition.

KATHLEEN said...

AH, this is what DROVE me out of my parish and into the waiting arms of the Traditional Mass at a Chapel in another Diocese. The priest FACES the Crucifix and prays with us not at us. We kneel in reverence and adoration for most of the Mass. We have an altar rail and kneel at the rail and accept the Blessed Hosts on the tongue. There is a MALE (extra hands ) altar server and NO army of ants rushing the altar (Eucharistic Ministers). The priest does his job and we are patient in line to kneel at the rail and receive Holy Communion.
There is no protestant table at the Chapel, only a beautiful high altar flanked by two beautiful statues of Angels with six other statues flanking both sides of the front of the Chapel (more in the rear of the Chapel). Hand painted murals adorn both the walls and the ceiling and stained glass finishes the beautiful Chapel in the truest Catholic tradition. Above the altar is a stained glass window of Christ looking down on us all.

HE SAYS THE BLACK AND DOES THE RED. In latin. Last Sunday the priest was in sandals which really reminded me of the Christ I so Love. God Bless you Father.

Gina said...

I <3 this entire piece. I also heart the commentary. Ha ha. Also here from WDTPRS. Thank you!