Is Your Sunday Mass Prayerful?


#1

[LIST=1]
[/LIST]Before I became a priest, I noticed that the more devout I became, Sunday Mass became more difficult. I wanted to go to Mass to pray in community, to experience Christ's presence, to be present at the sacrifice, and receive communion. However, I often felt the choices made for how the Mass was offered didn't lead me into the prayer I craved. In fact, I increasingly experienced that rather than leading me into prayer, I had to fight the liturgical choices in order to be able to pray.

I wanted to hear the beautiful, scripturally based antiphons used, the ones that the Church gives us in the Roman Missal. Instead, we always sung hymns, which often had nothing to do with the Mass of the day. I didn't usually find the hymns drew me into prayer and recollection, and I craved prayer. When I looked around I often saw listless faces, especially among men, who often just sat there without singing. There was little silent time in the Masses I attended, and I craved time to just pray, without singing.

After years of this, and studying the options, I decided we would be better off to make our Masses prayerful by using silence where it is allowed, and singing the Mass (dialogues, antiphons, ordinaries) rather than singing at the Mass ( hymns). Then the time that was now filled with hymns could be used for silent prayer and recollection, and now we could still sing, but we would now sing the Mass parts, the actual prayers! I am so excited about this idea, and it's all doable with the right choices in the OF of Mass!

So yea, Sunday Mass doesn't need to be fancy. It just needs to be prayerful, first and foremost. Nothing must be allowed to get in the way of this, we need Our Lord, and we find him in a prayerful Mass!

I've shared some of these thoughts in other posts, but I'm wondering if other people have experienced something similar.

Please do not misconstrue this as an attack on the OF Mass. It is not! The OF has many, many options and choices. But most of them are never used.

So I'm curious, where do you see opportunities for your pastor to make Sunday Mass a truly prayerful experience?


Getting men back to Mass
#2

I appreciate your efforts to try to make Sunday mass more prayerful. On Sundays, I attend a Byzantine Divine Liturgy. Since sacred silence is not a part of our liturgy, I cannot really answer helpfully about my Sunday experience, but I often attend daily Mass at a local Latin-rite parish. It is a quiet Mass. The antiphons are spoken and not chanted, and there is usually just a recessional hymn. The Mass generally runs about 40 minutes long, so it isn't what you would really call a "short Mass". It is simple, reverent, prayerful and quiet. For the sign of peace, 90% or more of the people nod and smile at those nearby. I don't think most people would miss it at all if it were omitted. I believe the pastor there would love to celebrate ad orientem, but he has experienced tremendous backlash from parishioners and other priests in the area from the changes that he has made. In lieu of ad orientem, he has the Benedictine altar arrangement, which is very nice. Oddly enough, I would find ad orientem to be very strange in a typical Latin rite parish, even though it is what I experience every Sunday, but less so if the Mass were chanted.

I really appreciate everything you're trying to do. I recommend implementing change in very small steps, and perhaps starting with the most sparsely attended mass. Maybe if there's an early morning Mass in which there isn't much, if any, music anyway. When word gets around and people start flocking to the Mass because of what you're doing with it, you'll know you're on to something.


#3

I would like to hear more homilies on the lives of the saints and Eucharistic theology.

I would like more silent parts in the Mass. After his homilies one of our vicars, a very old priest, sits for about eight minutes at the sedilia before continuing with the rest of the Mass, and he always waits about fifteen seconds after saying, “Let us pray.”

I would like the, “Good morning everyone,” before the Sign of the Cross to stop.

I would like the, “Have a great day everyone,” after the end of Mass to stop.

I would like the, “Do we have any visitors today? And you are?” at the beginning of the homily to stop.

(last three are done consistently by one of our priests)

In short I would like the distracting, dissonant things to stop, and I would like to hear deeper homilies, and I would like more silent periods. Furthermore, I would like the priest to sing the dialogues and his parts.

As far as the quality of the liturgy itself, that is another matter entirely.


#4

I agree that the mass should be more prayerful.

I would like our priest to be more reverent. It drives me crazy when he says “at ease” just after communion when we are kneeling and in our most intimate prayer with Jesus. It really irritates me because everyone then sits down and it is very disruptive.

I AM very grateful that he doesn’t tell us that we HAVE to sit or stand like some parishes. I would like to see him genuflect or bow when he walks in front of the altar.

HE does sing the antiphons and I too prefer not to sing many of the hymns when no one else will sing accept for the priest. I like to sing the ones that everyone seems to know.

I do like that he is very intelligent and gives beautiful homilies but I don’t care that he jokes during the mass. It seems like he is trying to please everyone but I think he should save jokes until the announcements. After all we really are there at Calvary with all the angels and saints witnessing the holy sacrifice of the Lamb of God, His passion, death, and resurrection!


#5

For me - where i go, there is an amazing young man who.sings tenor solo during mass - it s a gift from God - his voice. I find God a lot in music, & i certainly find his singing v.prayerful. He sings the Lord have mercy (penitential rite?) & the Lamb of God (just before communion). They also have a lady who.sings solo with the same effect. I.find most masses prayerful unless there is some obvious distraction. But if there are squabbles in the parish & these are brought into the priest's sermon - well - big distraction & bad news. Maybe a bit more time after communion for prayer. Also being able to see the altar & watch what is happening is prayerful.


#6

Father, your plan for Mass sound wonderful, in fact it is very similar to Mass in my home parish in the Diocese of Arlington. Of course, as you have pointed out in your threads, there are other considerations. Time, for example, a 1:30 p.m. Sunday Mass during football season would probably not be well attended even if you had the Sistine Chapel choir performing. I have been waiting 40 years for the changes that you are advocating. As a new priest I know that you are filled with zeal for Christ and His Church, but you must be careful. A folk group that has been singing for 35 years, can be extremely resistant to change, and make life very difficult for a young priest. After all the pastor wants to keep them happy. They will still be there after you have left. You should probably begin slowly with the changes you wish to make in the manner in which Mass is celebrated in your parish. It should not be too difficult to get the pastor to agree with a small change. Even such a small change as beginning Mass with the sign of the cross, instead of some lame comment about the weather, will be noticed. When members of the congregation compliment you on this, which some of them will, ask them to send an e-mail to the pastor telling him how this change has made it easier for them to enter into the spirit of the Mass or what ever they have told you. Then the pastor will make it easier for you to implement you other changes, when he realizes that the people like them. I would advise you to go slowly, but don't give up. Living in Rome, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the seminarians from the North American College. Talking to these fine young men has filled me with confidence about the future of the Church in America. However, I sometimes worry about them being thrown to the wolves when they return home. I am privileged to belong to a wonderful parish in a great diocese, but I have seen from my travels and from reading CAF that my experience is not universal. Father, I admire what you want to do, and I am sure that many of your parishioners will appreciate it too. Please, take it slowly, and don't get burned out. It might also be helpful to get together with other like minded priests in your area to discuss strategies, and to support each other. Thank you for answering the Lord's call to the priesthood. We here at CAF are praying for you.


#7

I agree with you Father. An entry hymn and an exit hymn is fine, but not during the Mass. I can't reflect/ pray and sing at the same time, so often those hymns become just background music to me.


#8

[quote="asd72, post:7, topic:330299"]
I agree with you Father. An entry hymn and an exit hymn is fine, but not during the Mass. I can't reflect/ pray and sing at the same time, so often those hymns become just background music to me.

[/quote]

My thoughts and feelings are essentially the same. While I love to sing certain hymns, there is indeed a time and place, and the core of the mass isn't really one - that time is more for prayerful reflection and meditation.

I must admit our bishop chose a beautifully apt recessional hymn on Sunday that complimented the Gospel and lesson readings - and I told him so after Mass, a reflection he clearly appreciated. :thumbsup:


#9

I hope this comes out right....

While there have been many responses to your numerous posts, I hope you realize people on CAF do not represent the average Catholic in the pew. There is a natural tendency or openness to the traditional aspects of Catholicism that makes them more enthusiastic to your proposed changes or modifications. However, I will guess that your parish will have a more mixup of parishoners.

Many of the practices you wish to implement (more sacred silence, etc) DO exist in many parishes and unfortunately do NOT in many others. A good pastor will see what is already there in the parish and build upon that.

The concern of other posters about balancing your enthusiasm and implementation match mine. The key is catechesis and preparing a community for changes. When the "changes" occurred post Vatican II in the liturgy many parishes did a poor job or explaining the "who what where how why" of the changes and you had the anger, frustration, polarization that exists in many parts of Catholicism (even here on CAF) participating in what I call the "liturgical wars" A good aphorism is that those who do not learn the lessons of history are due to repeat them.

Legitimate options in the liturgy are still legitimate, even if they are not one's personal preference


#10

To me, the hymns ARE prayer!

I do like silence, and when I play piano for Mass, I don’t “fill in” the silent times by noodling around on the piano. I let the silence stand, and I think it’s good.

I don’t have any objection to using the various antiphons instead of hymns, although I love the hymns and prefer the singing of hymns to mere recitation of a Bible verse.

But I think that rather than eliminating hymns because they “have nothing to do with the Mass of the day”, choose more appropriate hymns that DO support the readings of the day. There are plenty in the hymnal. And perhaps mention it in the homily–refer the people to the hymn and say, “See how this illustrates the Old Testament reading?”

I don’t get something here :hmmm: I hear people saying, “I can’t pray during a hymn,” but I’m guessing that these same people CAN pray during a chant. ??? This seems contradictory to me.


#11

[quote="coachdennis, post:9, topic:330299"]
I hope this comes out right....

While there have been many responses to your numerous posts, I hope you realize people on CAF do not represent the average Catholic in the pew. There is a natural tendency or openness to the traditional aspects of Catholicism that makes them more enthusiastic to your proposed changes or modifications. However, I will guess that your parish will have a more mixup of parishoners.

Many of the practices you wish to implement (more sacred silence, etc) DO exist in many parishes and unfortunately do NOT in many others. A good pastor will see what is already there in the parish and build upon that.

The concern of other posters about balancing your enthusiasm and implementation match mine. The key is catechesis and preparing a community for changes. When the "changes" occurred post Vatican II in the liturgy many parishes did a poor job or explaining the "who what where how why" of the changes and you had the anger, frustration, polarization that exists in many parts of Catholicism (even here on CAF) participating in what I call the "liturgical wars" A good aphorism is that those who do not learn the lessons of history are due to repeat them.

Legitimate options in the liturgy are still legitimate, even if they are not one's personal preference

[/quote]

I appreciate your perspective. This isn't about my preferences per se, it is about leading people to Christ. This is the goal of any good priest, and God does give each man different talents and insights. I believe the Lord wants some different choices in the liturgy. All the choices in the OF Mass are legitimate, endorsed by the Church. Yet, the experience of the last 40 years of Catholic life surely say that we need to do better. Not that the liturgy is to blame for all our problems but it is the "source and summit" of Catholic life, and we must not settle for anything but the best, in our worship.

I am no advocate of forcing things upon a parish, my style is persuasion and gradualism. But yet, God is calling me to do this work, as his priest. Please pray for me, as you point out, it's not going to be easy!


#12

[quote="Cat, post:10, topic:330299"]
To me, the hymns ARE prayer!

I do like silence, and when I play piano for Mass, I don't "fill in" the silent times by noodling around on the piano. I let the silence stand, and I think it's good.

I don't have any objection to using the various antiphons instead of hymns, although I love the hymns and prefer the singing of hymns to mere recitation of a Bible verse.

But I think that rather than eliminating hymns because they "have nothing to do with the Mass of the day", choose more appropriate hymns that DO support the readings of the day. There are plenty in the hymnal. And perhaps mention it in the homily--refer the people to the hymn and say, "See how this illustrates the Old Testament reading?"

I don't get something here :hmmm: I hear people saying, "I can't pray during a hymn," but I'm guessing that these same people CAN pray during a chant. ??? This seems contradictory to me.

[/quote]

I think picking the hymns to match the liturgy of the word is in theory a great idea, but from a music director's side of things it can be a nightmare... there are hundreds of hymns in the book and learning a new song well enough to sing in front of congregation in a short time is a challenge... not factoring in choir or cantor... (I haven't seen a cantor in Mass in years though) I remember collective groans when I was in my teen years when the organist at the time tried desperately to add in some new music to the repertoire and people pushed back incredibly. Table of Plenty comes to mind - yes it eventually sunk in and now I hear it everywhere, but I remember the first few months in my church trying to get that new song in -I thought the director was going to give up.


#13

[quote="Cat, post:10, topic:330299"]
To me, the hymns ARE prayer!

I do like silence, and when I play piano for Mass, I don't "fill in" the silent times by noodling around on the piano. I let the silence stand, and I think it's good.

I don't have any objection to using the various antiphons instead of hymns, although I love the hymns and prefer the singing of hymns to mere recitation of a Bible verse.

But I think that rather than eliminating hymns because they "have nothing to do with the Mass of the day", choose more appropriate hymns that DO support the readings of the day. There are plenty in the hymnal. And perhaps mention it in the homily--refer the people to the hymn and say, "See how this illustrates the Old Testament reading?"

I don't get something here :hmmm: I hear people saying, "I can't pray during a hymn," but I'm guessing that these same people CAN pray during a chant. ??? This seems contradictory to me.

[/quote]

Antiphons (chanted) are part of the Mass itself. They are in the Missal, and come from sacred scripture. They were selected by the church for the Mass of the day. In the GIRM, they are listed as the first choice in the options for singing. The GIRM says gregorian chant should have the "first place" in the Mass. Musicians tend to prefer hymns, that is why they have predominated since VII.

Some hymns are lovely and prayerful, no argument there! But the Mass is designed primarily for chant. I'm advocating reorienting our music at Mass to conform more closely to the mind of the Church regarding what should normally be sung. The church's mind is sing the Mass (antiphons, dialogues, ordinaries) rather than sing at the Mass (hymns).


#14

Thank you for your comments!

I won’t be implementing any of this until I am a pastor. As a parochial vicar, my job is to follow the pastor’s lead on the liturgy. In probably a year, God willing, I will be a pastor of my own church.


#15

Father, you sound like a wonderful young priest. I hope your planned influence on your parishoners work well for you and them.

I am an elder person. I started life in the old Latin Mass, made the change to what is now referred to as the OF Mass, and have experienced different desires for what constitutes a “good Mass” .

I have always liked to sing, a common activity when our family had a gathering. It was wonderful for me to be able to do that early on in the 60’s and 70’s. Even today, Ifind that some of the hymns are prayers that I can say with my whole self - breath, spirit, soul, and mind. It is a joyful thing for me when these come together. Some of this is due to the liturgist/music director selecting music appropriate to the season/readings. Well, Ubi Caritas always moves me. :slight_smile:

I love Sunday Mass as a communal celebration - joining together as a community is such a good experience. Sometimes the quality of worship as a community is profound. At this point, I am not sure singing the Mass would have the same effect = well, the babies might want to contribute their mite also!

Daily Mass is also communal, but really given to a more reflective, quiet way of being with God. In times of grief and mourning, I certainly sought out the quietist Mass I could find as it just “felt better” to have more reflective time. All have their place and time.

A suggestion would be, In your catechesis, to implement bible study in your parish. The readings take on such depth of meaning when they are understood on a deeper level.

Finally, we were at one parish where they had a rock band as music ministers at one Mass. Uh, I avoided that Mass whenever possible, but young people were drawn to it from all over our area, often accompanied by their not-so-old parents. Rock On! if it helps young folks stay connected.


#16

There is a generation of priests that like informality in the liturgy: like starting with “good morning”. The newer priests don’t do this. I think the generation that likes this is well- intentioned, this sprang out of the
VII-era desire to make the liturgy less lofty and more " accessible".


#17

[quote="Cat, post:10, topic:330299"]
I don't get something here :hmmm: I hear people saying, "I can't pray during a hymn," but I'm guessing that these same people CAN pray during a chant. ??? This seems contradictory to me.

[/quote]

Well, I would say this. The unsaid assumption usually when talking about the antiphons (Introit, Offertory and Communion is what I mean here) is that the people actually aren't singing them*, that they are instead meditating on them in some way, if not by the text then by the tone which is conducive to contemplation. The people's parts are the Ordinary: Kyrie, Gloria, etc., and the Pater, and the dialogue responses, and the hymns if there are any.

I agree that hyns are a great tool and have a place like the procession and recession, but to completely throw Proper antiphons in the trash? Yikes.

*not that they can't of course


#18

[quote="FrStevenJones, post:16, topic:330299"]
There is a generation of priests that like informality in the liturgy: like starting with "good morning". The newer priests don't do this. I think the generation that likes this is well- intentioned, this sprang out of the
VII-era desire to make the liturgy less lofty and more " accessible".

[/quote]

Yes, I try to assume, to the best of my ability, that most priests have good intentions.


#19

[quote="Cat, post:10, topic:330299"]
I don't get something here :hmmm: I hear people saying, "I can't pray during a hymn," but I'm guessing that these same people CAN pray during a chant. ??? This seems contradictory to me.

[/quote]

Me, too.

I CANNOT pray or think or smile during chant. Sorry, I just can't. It grates on my last nerve until I want to scream.

And before anyone says I haven't "good" chant, our choir is run by a nationally recognized instructor of chant. Yes, she goes around the country teaching others about chant.

Luckily, my pastor has a Mass that uses very little chant. I attend that Mass. :thumbsup:


#20

:):thumbsup:


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