Monday, February 14, 2011

on active participation...

... have you ever had to give a speech or presentation to a crowd of people, more than half of whom would rather not even be there? No matter how well you prepared it will always throw off.

Now imagine you are a priest trying to perform your priestly duties and you look out into a sea of bored faces. Imagine you did this every week, multiple times a day even. Certainly, over the course of a year[s], this would have an adverse effect on the priest and the way he celebrates mass. Naturally.

Of course I can not speak from a priest's perspective. From observations on any given Sunday at any given parish and from conversing with various members of the religious community, I can surmise this. I have eyes and ears, and I would like to think a fairly coherent brain that sits between them. My ears. Not my eyes.

Whenever I read a blog about some pathetically served mass, in their opinion ... because you now they have apostolic authority to make these critiques... I always wonder how that person responded in that mass. *Did they tune out the minute they heard some clappy hymn with back up vocals and tambourines? Does anything but fiddlebacks and brocade vestments make their eyes glaze over and charity shut down?

I can understand the zeal and desire to have the most holy sacrifice of the mass celebrated with all the smells and bells. I appreciate that thirst for reverence and tradition. God deserves the best, yes. I agree. What He also deserves is for us to be fully present, mentally and spiritually, during this celebration.

You don't go to some one's house for dinner and insult the hostess's dress or the decor of her home. If you wouldn't behave boorishly at a dinner party than why do you think it acceptable to behave in that manner during mass?

For every priest who half heartily celebrates mass I can bet you his congregation half heartily participates in mass. From his perspective he sees everything; every teenager on their iPhone, every bored fidget, eye roll, yawn, butt scooted kneel and ... are you swatting flies or making the Sign of the Cross?

So Vatican II wants you to actively participate? Then do it. Prayerfully participate. Your "Amen" is a yes, not a mumbled response with no meaning. Listen to the homily, really listen, not just take mental notes so you can bitch about how bad it was on your blog. Open your heart to the Gospel reading, not just stand there switching feet wondering if you can sit down now.

How do I know you do this? Because I have, at some point, been guilty of all of the above... some even at the same time! I know.

I have a little prayer I say to myself in preparation for mass. "Lord, help me not jump to judgement or criticism. Help me, Lord, not get irritated with those around me." Or something along those lines. Nothing fancy but it does the trick. In fact if you can find me a better prayer I'd be much obliged.

*The Crescat has never, nor ever will, condone the use of tambourines in mass. I even doubt the validity of the tambourine as a musical instrument.


Michael Bavlsik said...

King David would disagree with you about the tambourines- see Psalm 150 and Psalm 81

The Crescat said...

Wow... it only took one comment to mention King David this time.

Defend Us In Battle said...

I was actually thinking about this at Mass the other day - how much do we [we as in the orthodoxical-complainers] suck at "active participation." There are a lot of times that I tune out because I am "upset" at this, that or the other thing. Some way to really worship eh?

Thanks for the reminder...

Also I'm calling shots:

5 comments about how the solution is Ad Orientem.
3 comments about how the priests are the problem.
3 comments as an off shoot of the A.O. posts.
2 comments defensive in nature regarding the "accusations" made in your post.
1 about tambourines
1 about lingcod

David L Alexander said...

Yeah, but I usually tell people to leave out the "King" and just call me David. They never learn.

The Crescat said...

@ David. BAM!

The Crescat said...

@ Defend Us...

5+ comments defensive in nature regarding the "accusations"

6+ for the superiority of the m.e.f with bonus points for comments from SSPX and accusation against the validity of the novus ordo.

and 1 saying I've gone all hippy heretic soft. Double bonus for using the phrase "so called Catholic" when addressing me.

Defend Us In Battle said...

Wait did you just turn this into a Crescat drinking game?

BTW - Rights and Royalties on the Crescat drinking game.

Also - We should do a SKYPE version of the Crescat drikning game.

Scratch that.

FTR - Which, FOR THE RECORD, FTR stands for... well you get it.

FTR - almost forgot: I spotted your impersonation of Terry in your post.

My word verification for this post: anghosty; definition: to be eerily filled with ghosts; usage: The cemetery seemed to be very anghosty with the wind and fog last night.

The Crescat said...

For every reference to Mr. Nelson you have to chug one beer.

Defend Us In Battle said...

Ok, but who drinks in this situation:

You made the reference... but I called it out.

So... do you drink or do I? And why beer... this should be a whiskey and vodka ONLY party.

The Crescat said...

a made it beer because I thought it apropos. I heard Terry can't hold his liquor.

JaneDC said...

I hate to spoil all the fun you are having, but since I was just home at my parent's church, "Our Definition of Spirit of Vatican II," your comments really hit a chord for me. Since someone called me on my judgementalism, I've been praying in earnest for my old parish, the pastor, the liturgy committee, and the parishioners. Praise God: I've noticed better music selection, homilies, and more sticking to the rubrics. There's still some shenanigans (closing hymn yesterday was, "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" -- stupid 5/4 time song!), but my tolerance has definitely increased. If that can happen at that parish, it can happen anywhere.

+3 tequila shots for being all serious and stuff :-)
OK, I've already had my chardonnay for the night!

Svetlana said...

The death of my relationship with Catholic Radio came at the hands of the too terribly, righteous that call in with the GIRM in hand. After a while, all I could hear was "memememe"
It isn't that the Mass shouldn't be correct, but that it just got to be too much. Somewhere between the gypsy girls that cut in the communion line and the guy that NEVER claps in church, I just couldn't take it anymore. The Church is my refuge not my battle line. Enough with apologetics, enough with the lax excuses for poor behavior in either extreme. come let us fall down and worship our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is perfect and enough for all of us.

Old Bob said...

Dear Kat, I read somewhere that a better translation would be "actual" participation. When I became a song leader I read the Constitution and referred back to it many times during the years I led.

John from Pomeroy on the Palouse said...

OK, I'm sorry to fall into being one of the 5 "Ad Orientem" posts, but it could be the answer. If the priest can say Mass without always having to look at us, it's got to be "easier" to say and pray it correctly for him, doesn't it?

as a side note, Our clavinovist and "choir" always sing three verses of the entrance song, even though it only takes the crowd about 1/2 a verse from the vestibule to lining up in front of the sanctuary. Our priest has begun swaying in place to the music as he stands in front of his chair. very distracting. extremely distracting.


Jeanne said...

Good post Kat.

Adoro said...

"... have you ever had to give a speech or presentation to a crowd of people, more than half of whom would rather not even be there? No matter how well you prepared it will always throw off..."

Yes. Tomorrow I'm going to Jerusalem to be crucified for about the 10th time.

And even though it sucks to face the audience that doesn't want to be there, and even though their scowls and pre-criticisms and juvenile "why do we gotta go" protests prior to the date undermine any confidence I might have, I still go and pretend to smile and I pretend to have confidence because the only other option is to turn tail and leave them to the wolves who will preach comfort to them. And then devour them.

Yeah..I know about hostile crowds. It's the only audience I play to. I just wish they'd get it over with and martyr me so I wouldn't have to do this anymore.

Defend Us In Battle said...

I suggest the A.O. solution as well... I wasn't discounting it, just calling shots.

Jake said...

The relationship is probably more reciprocal than one-sided. A fervent priest may inspire his parishioners. Fervent parishioners may in turn inspire their priest. ...the corollary of course, is true as well.

It's kind of you to be so compassionate to the priest, who has to deal with parishioners who zone out during the Liturgy of the Word, parishioners they see in line for communion every week but never in line for the confessional, and parishioners that process out of the nave after communion as if it were a benediction, but let us not forget that the laity are indeed called to "full, conscious, and active participation," and any priest that hinders this, by weak-hearted service or uncaring manner, has inhibited their participation. I don't believe apostolic authority is necessary to make such critiques.

...oh, and as a percussionist, I assure you, the tambourine, and even drums, are musical instruments. No person could know that by the manner in which they are beaten and shaken in churches, however.

Those are my three points of contention. Carry on.

Laura O in AK said...

I love this post and am actually thinking of lobbying my husband to start tag teaming Mass. Between the one year old who fusses to the point of distraction and the 7 year old who now thinks it is boring and he's ready for a nap, I feel like I do not actively participate as I should.

@JaneDC...I've now got that song in my head. I wonder how long until I can replace it with something else. Although, it is a lively little piece. one year old sometimes sways to the music in Mass. But, I doubt he distracts anyone while doing it. As someone who has spent years on and off again in music ministry, I can see both sides of the coin when it comes to length of song. Sometimes you just need to have more than a verse. But, other times there are groups that drag it all out.

@Defend Us... would playing the Crescat game up here in the last frontier would keep us a bit warmer? As for tuning out, I employ the close my eyes and turn inward to block the visual distractions. Well, I do when I do not have the youngest son with me. It's not a perfect solution (and I open my eyes during the Consecration), but it helps.

Anthony S. "Tony" Layne said...

Great post, Kat. You're right; we're not there to be entertained, and we do have to participate better. However, it would help if more priests were less afraid of teaching the hard truths of the Faith, and less insistent on giving us "Buddy Christ" homilies.

Not blaming it all on the priests, and not even on all the priests. Just sayin'.

thefaithfultraveler said...

Great post. I need to start saying that prayer before Mass, too.
And btw, I've been to many a dreary and mumbled AO Mass that is equally depressing. I don't think the type of Mass is the issue. It's the way it's celebrated, by all of us present.

Ashley Collins said...

A) I absolutely love the O'Conner quote on the side there... why had I not noticed it before?
B) Thank you for calling me out on this. My parish is wonderful, they love doing the liturgy the way it is supposed to be done (they quit facing the pews long ago). (A.O. Shot) I teach religious education to deaf children at another parish and we just had confirmation for them on Sunday. As soon as the Mass started I cringed at the song selection and had issues participating from then on. When the choir sang, "surely the presence of God is in this place" after receiving the Eucharist made every theological bone in my body shudder in pain. I should have taken the time to say your prayer, which I will do from now on.
C) something something something lingcod (shot)

Dymphna said...

About King David, he also killed a man so he could have the dude's wife. Don't imitate Davey in everything.

Christopher Lake said...

I really, really like this post, Kat. I have been thinking similarly lately... We should be mentally present and participating at Mass, 100%, or as close to it as possible, regardless of what we think about that particular celebration of the liturgy on that day. I struggle too, and I appreciate both your exhortation and your admission of your own struggles.

Rick said...

I love this post. The liturgical reform of the Mass accentuates this very aspect of participation. It is not a spectacle but a sacrifice offered by the entire community. Responding actively in prayer and listening actively is a start that hopefully leads the mind then the heart into the act.

Cruise the Groove. said...

"Now imagine you are a priest trying to perform your priestly duties and you look out into a sea of bored faces."

This could be simply solved by the priest offering Mass "Ad Orientem".
and proper catechisis.
Both quite possible and both called for by Vatican II.

Cruise the Groove. said...

"It is not a spectacle but a sacrifice offered by the entire community."

This is only half true.
Mass is a Sacrifice, but this Sacrifice is only offered by the priest, with us uniting ourselves to the priest [Alter Christus] who is actually offering the Sacrifice.

Terry Nelson said...

I alternate between tequilla and vodka.

Cruise the Groove. said...

Speaking of tambourines at Mass:

From Pope St Pius X Papal Encyclical: "Tra le sollectudini" On Sacred Music [by the way this is part of the Ordinary Magisterium and as such is the law in place today]

"19. The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells, tambourines and the like.

20. It is strictly forbidden to have bands play in church, and only in special cases with the consent of the Ordinary will it be permissible to admit wind instruments, limited in number, judiciously used, and proportioned to the size of the placeprovided the composition and accompaniment be written in grave and suitable style, and conform in all respects to that proper to the organ."

Owen said...

Forgive me sister, I skimmed - but I found this and it was/is good "Lord, help me not jump to judgement or criticism. Help me, Lord, not get irritated with those around me." & it seems to sum what what I skimmed.

Rick said...

@Cruise: There is the ministerial priesthood and there is the priesthood of the baptised. Like it or not, we lowly lay people are also priests - a legacy of beign adopted children of God. We offer the Mass; the priest presides in that celebration. The clericalism before Vatican II de-emphasized that reality but, it is real nonetheless.

Rick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick said...

@Cruise: Also, we lowly lay people are also alter Christi, other Christs. That is not the sole prerogative of ministerial priests.

Fr. Erik Richtsteig said...

Thanks Kat for a great post. It is not always possible for a priest to give his 'A Game' at every Mass. (Just try celebrating reverently with little sleep, a migraine, or the flu.) And sometimes we just make mistakes. But a priest MUST remember that he is their to offer the Sacrifice and worship God, not entertain the people.

BTW this could all be solved by ad orietem (and I have more to say about this), except by priests that won't recognize that they are the problem. Of course, I wouldn't have to comment on this except for Kat's lack of charity towards tambourines.

Cruise the Groove. said...

I do amend my statemnt slightly:

At the Last Supper He[Christ] ordered, "Do this in memory of me". Since we were not there, He wants us to join our dispositions to His. The great Liturgy Encyclical of Pius XII, Mediator Dei, explains well that the people can be said to exercise their royal priesthood, to offer the Mass with the priest: first, "from the fact that the priest at the altar in offering a sacrifice in the name of all His members, does so in the person of Christ," whose members they are. (Since only the ordained priest acts "in the person of Christ" Vatican II says [LG #10] that the ordained priesthood differs from that of the laity in essence, and not only in degree)."

I suppose even at a priests Mass that he offers with no congregants present, we can unite ourselves to that Mass, by acknowledging our assent of will to every Mass offered in the world in our morning offering.

TCN said...

How about this suggestion: If you don't like the music, lectors, servers, etc., then change it yourself. How many folks complain but never do anything but sit in the Church and gripe? I'm organizing CCD now and my husband just took over the choir. The first thing he did was move the piano back to the school where it belongs, so even if someone wants to be irreligious with the music, they can't. Next? New hymnals without the dreaded Haugen/Haass/Crap Triumvirate. Then? It gets even better.

Fix it or quit yer bitchin'.

TCN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sprachmeister said...

"Whenever I read a blog about some pathetically served mass, in their opinion ... because you now they have apostolic authority to make these critiques... I always wonder how that person responded in that mass. *Did they tune out the minute they heard some clappy hymn with back up vocals and tambourines?"

Guilty as charged. I'm reminded of the gospel last Sunday ... "if your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out".
While it may not be as serious as looking lustfully at a woman, if keeping my eyes open causes me to think uncharitable and haughty thoughts, I should shut my eyes, so I do.
It's often much easier to focus on the sacrifice of the Mass that way.

Piotrek said...

I just close my eyes and pray "Jesus, I trust in Thee, Thy will be done" during a bad homily. Since it appears as if I were falling asleep, it has a double effect. Alternatively, I cover my ears and go "Nah, nah, nah, nah..." But that works better during the musical interludes.

Lee Gilbert said...

Well, I have to say the few times I have served aa lector at our parish I have been very pleasantly surprised. When the priest is giving the homily the lector sits about five feet behind him, so that I can look out over the congregation as he speaks. With very few exceptions, the eyes of all have been "fixed intently on him" and with obvious interest in what he says.

It was pretty edifying actually.

Stitchwort said...

I will admit that my first thought as I read was "well, ad orientem would fix part of the problem."

Are we up to five yet? : )

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Kat! I have this exact problem all too often. It's nice to know I'm not alone. As one of my ('conservative') friends put it - God calls us to carry our crosses - maybe the sloppy Mass is the cross He's asking us to carry. (Not condoning the abuse, of course...but you get the drift)

I think Ad Orientem would help the priest be able to focus on the Mass and not on how we are behaving, but I don't know that it will eo ipso solve our problem of focus. We just need to get our act together. The priest may need to as well, but that's his job and not ours.

Jane said...

All I have to say is this: yes. Thanks for the reminder.

Adrienne said...

@Old Bob: Dear Kat, I read somewhere that a better translation would be "actual" participation.

Bob is correct...

Gail F said...

So true! I have prayed pretty much this prayer before mass for more than a year, and it has made a great difference. Not right away, but eventually I found that something had changed and, no matter how inane the music or vague and chummy the homily or how many EMHCs troop up to the altar, when the Eucharistic prayer starts I am THERE. Even though our pastor does some things he oughtn't, even with the Eucharistic prayer, the profound words of the prayers are there and now I always hear them and "participate." This is a huge change for me. It has changed the way I think about my pastor and my parish as well. I still don't agree with a lot of what goes on, but somehow I think I am meant to be there anyway.

Sorry I don't have a better prayer for you but sometimes, especially in the beginning (when I finally knew enough about our faith to realize that things were not right), I also prayed for deliverance from evil and said silently, "In the name of Jesus Christ, go away leave me alone!" At that time I sometimes used to feel as if something was pressing on me from outside, trying to get me to walk out in frustration, and I had heard a lecture on demonic oppression so I figured it couldn't hurt. I couldn't imagine that any demons would find it worthwhile to oppress me but hey, you never know. I feel kind of silly even saying it, but it might help others too.

Gail F said...


That is not what the priesthood of the laity means. It means 1) We are a priestly people, so the ministerial priests come from among us all (not from one clan or family, as with the ancient Jews). And 2) We offer our own crucified hearts as a sacrifice to God while the priest offers the body and blood of Christ as the "holy and living sacrifice." That is our priesthood. It has its own dignity. It is by itself important and beautiful. Singing and praying along with the priest at mass are nice things and not to be knocked, but they are not essential. It is possible to sit silently and pray and still "participate." I'm not saying people should do that, BTW. I'm just saying it is possible. Currently, a different sort of behavior from the laity is preferable at mass, but that could be changed without changing the meaning or importance of the priesthood of the laity.

Cruise the Groove. said...

Gail F,

You are really onto a great reality there.
I have been told by several good priests that one may pray the rosary or the Divine Office or any other aproved Catholic prayer as long as one is uniting himself with the eternal Sacrifice of Golgatha which is being re-presented by the priest on the altar.
One does not have to follow along with every word in the missal or make every audible response to "actually participate" in the unbloody Sacrifice.

priest's wife said...

...I didn't read through the comments- but I SO agree with this post!

Joseph Therese said...

If Mass doesn't get you closer to the Trinity regardless of which form, thy reasons must be re-evaluated...the joys of spending time in seminary

Cruise the Groove. said...

Mass is not primarily about "getting one closer to the Trinity" but rather is about Adoration, Expiation, Thanksgiving and Blessing.
You know Transubstantiation and Oblation.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I can't drink right now; I'm on medication.

Rick said...

Let me break it down. ;D
We, the people bring the food.
The priest cook the food.
We all offer the food to God and partake of it so show that we are part of that sacrifice.

The time of the Jewish High priest is over as Jesus is now our High Priest.

Cruise the Groove. said...


No Ordained priest, no Mass.

No Mass no Eucharist.

No Eucharist
No Eternal Salvation.

Without the laity, the Sacrifice of Holy Mass, the Perfect and pure Oblation still happens.