Strange things while visiting parish

Hey, I was visiting my parents over the weekend and chose to go to a local parish. There were a lot of things that struck me as odd about the mass, and I am trying to decide if I should take any steps. I am going to list out all the things that I thought were weird - they range from not so bad to really bad I think, but taken all together, I think it is bad.

  • The tabernacle was not displayed in the church area, but was in a room off to the side. I had to look around a lot for it.
  • People were milling about in the church (not the lobby, the “sanctuary”) talking and laughing. Did not seem at all respectful. (Frankly, the whole experience felt like being in a protestant church)
  • No kneelers - the people stood during the consecration
  • Father came in and paced around in circles telling jokes. I was so confused as to what was going on. He told jokes for a few minutes, and then he started the mass, which generally followed what I was used to. However, when his homily started, it was like Father X’s comedy hour all over again - he just told random non-church related joke.
  • Host was leavened bread
  • Cantor was drinking coffee during the mass
  • This is the big one - the priest kind of used his own words from his homily during the consecration. I know this is a big big big no no. I just wish I had taken some kind of notes about which part exactly it was that he was using them.

Ok - maybe I’m blowing this (except the last thing) out of proportion, but I just didn’t like being there. I’m a former protestant. And if I had walked into that church as the first Catholic mass I had ever gone to, I would never have converted. I would have said, “Well, it looks just like a protestant service. So what?”

But I really do worry about all the kids growing up in that parish. How is their faith being formed?

I feel like this diocese may have some problems, which saddens me. I had already realized that their Catholic presence was not very strong, and it would not be a good place to relocate to, which is sad because it is where my parents live. They have good parishes there, too, and I am just going to go to those from now on.

I have been to parishes all over the country and have never seen anything as blatantly disrepectful of the mass as that. So should I tell the bishop?

Sometimes the tabernacle is off to the side in a little chapel. That’s just a more modern thing. I know sometimes it’s weird going to one of these newer churches because mid-genuflect you’re like, “well, where is He? I know He’s somewhere” (Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament)

If the tabernacle is not present in the main part of the church, I could see (maybe) people not being so strictly reverent (as they should be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament), but still I would feel weird about that since it is still God’s house and we should be preparing ourselves for the Mass instead of talking and running about…etc.

I’ve heard that some churches don’t have kneelers and they stand for the consecration instead of kneeling to show respect (as we stand for the reading of the Gospel for instance). We did this when we remodeled until the new pews and kneelers got installed (but all of this ran through our Bishop of course and our Pastor at the time instructed our Parish on these matters and explained them.)

Comic for a priest-well, sometimes I’ve experienced that too, but I think it was just their way of trying to keep our attention and focus. If it distracts from the readings or the purpose of the Mass, I think it should be avoided.:eek:

The bread should always be unleavened…as far as I know that hasn’t changed for a long while (there’s probably another thread somewhere about that…)

The cantor should not be drinking coffee if they are fasting one hour before receiving Holy Communion…could it have been water? Sometimes a singer might need that in order to sing if they have been ill or having issues…it keeps the old pipes clear for singing:)

And as for the ad libbing during the consecration, I have heard some priests reaffirming messages from the readings or Gospel such as “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, ***the one who (did such and such) to teach us how to live…***Happy are those who are called to this supper” but I’ve never heard them do anything but add to it or venture away from the usual words they say/pray…Sounds kinda creepy

I think it wouldn’t hurt to talk to someone about this experience. Maybe a polite letter sent anonymously to show your concern for the parish to the Bishop. If it would be a misunderstanding, perhaps the Bishop still could use the opportunity to head off any future misunderstandings to visitors. If something has gone crazy in the parish, perhaps the parish needs someone to speak up in their defense because everybody is either scared, worried that if they say something they’ll lose the one priest they do have, etc. You mentioned other parishes that were “good”. Perhaps upon visiting them you could make a connection to that priest and voice some concern about the other parish to him.

I think your concern is admirable. Welcome to the Church! We are the body of Christ here on earth and we all have a calling to take care of that body and each other. I hope your Easter Vigil and every moment after was just as wonderful. (Escept for visiting the new-culture shock parish of course:confused:)


First of all, I must commend you for possessing a true Sensus Fidei, an authentic sense of the Faith of the Church.

Concerning the Eucharistic Prayer, here is what Redemptionis Sacramentum states:

[51.] Only those Eucharistic Prayers are to be used which are found in the Roman Missal or are legitimately approved by the Apostolic See, and according to the manner and the terms set forth by it. "It is not to be tolerated that some Priests take upon themselves the right to compose their own Eucharistic Prayers"129 or to change the same texts approved by the Church, or to introduce others composed by private individuals.130

Concerning the Matter of the Eucharist, again, I refer to RS:

[48.] The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition.123 It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament.124 It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances, such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist. Hosts should obviously be made by those who are not only distinguished by their integrity, but also skilled in making them and furnished with suitable tools.125

[50.] The wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances.127 During the celebration itself, a small quantity of water is to be mixed with it. Great care should be taken so that the wine intended for the celebration of the Eucharist is well conserved and has not soured.128 It is altogether forbidden to use wine of doubtful authenticity or provenance, for the Church requires certainty regarding the conditions necessary for the validity of the sacraments. Nor are other drinks of any kind to be admitted for any reason, as they do not constitute valid matter.

In my next post, I will address the other issues you raised.

It’s good of you to be concerned. Some of these things are fixable and some are not, and some you just can’t really know.

The things that have to do with the architecture and design of the church building are pretty much set - the placement of the tabernacle, the issue with no kneelers. Presumably, the church was built this way with the approval of the bishop.

The casual atmosphere and the demeanor of the priest are related and will probably not be fixed until there’s a change in pastor.

Unless you could look into the cantor’s cup, you don’t know for sure what was being consumed. It’s best to make the most charitable assumption possible - that it was water.

That leaves the leavened bread (are you quite sure it was leavened, or maybe just a home-baked unleavened loaf?) and the changes to the Eucharistic prayer. Those are both very specifically against the rules. If you were going to contact the bishop, these would be the issues to cover.

However, even though as a Catholic you have a right to a properly celebrated liturgy, as do all those parishioners and their children, as a visitor from another diocese, you will not have too much weight given to your complaints. Sadly, it is very possible that the bishop himself encourages these variations in the Mass.

And the final “however!” :slight_smile: If you decide to write, do not, under any circumstances, write anonymously. Those letters go directly to the trash.


Regarding the priest’s demeanor, I am reminded of a speech that I had the grace to hear when I was in St. Louis, MO, almost two years ago. It was delivered by the then-secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Here are some exerpts that, I believe, speak to the situation experienced by the OP:

The pope, in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, defines actuosa participatio as a call to a total assimilation in the very action of Christ the High Priest. It is in no way a call to activism, a misunderstanding that spread widely in the aftermath of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Stated Cardinal Ratzinger: “what does it [active participation] mean…? Unfortunately the word was very quickly misunderstood to mean something external, entailing a need for general activity, as if as many people as possible, as often as possible, should be visibly engaged in action” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, p. 171).

We know that in many places this led to the amalgamation of the sanctuary with the assembly, the clericalization of the laity and the filling up of the sanctuary with the noisy and distracting presence of a large number of people. One could say that virtually Wall Street moved into the sanctuary.

When Jesus is no longer the focus of the inside of the church, then it has seemed like Wall Street had pretty much taken over the sanctuary. The horizontal, it seems, has usurped the vertical dimension.

Now, here is where it gets really meaty:

There can be no true ars celebrandi unless every priest is first and foremost touched and profoundly motivated by his faith in the Lord and in the grandeur of his call as well as of the tasks entrusted to him by the Lord. That great desire to spend and be spent for the Lord in priestly and shepherdly service is fundamental — a sine qua non. It is not so much a matter of understanding as much as of conforming to Christ with a profound sense of awe, faith and joy.

Pope John Paul II called upon all to learn true Eucharistic piety at the school of the saints. Stated the pope, “in them the theology of the Eucharist takes on all the splendor of a lived reality; it becomes ‘contagious’ and, in a manner of speaking, it ‘warms our hearts” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 62).

To understand the attitude required of us priests, it suffices to remember Saints Philip Neri, Francis de Sales and John Mary Vianney. The celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, especially of the Eucharist, is a tremendous trust that the Lord has entrusted to us priests. The Holy Curé of Ars (Saint John Vianney) once told a friend, “I should not care to be curé in a parish, but I am very happy to be a priest because I can say Mass” (The Curé of Ars, by Abbé François Trochu, English version, Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, 1977, p. 320). He once stated, “when we have been to Holy Communion, the balm of love envelops the soul as the flower envelops the bee” (p. 323). Again, as the same biographer writes, “One Corpus Christi day as he returned to the sacristy bathed in perspiration, we asked him: ‘you must be very tired, M. Le Curé’? ‘Oh, why should I be tired? He whom I carried likewise carried me’” (p. 231).

This is not a call to naïveté but to an inner disposition among priests and faithful, which is characterized by a profound sense of faith in the mysteries celebrated in the liturgy, and a sense of awe and humility that should accompany it.

Since space constraints exist, I will post the other relevent sections of this address in my next response.

Here is what I believe to be the most crucial point in the address:

As Pope John Paul II stated in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated”; and so “no one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands; it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality” (EE 52).

Indeed, liturgy is a treasure given to the Church, which is to be jealously guarded. This is so also because it is the actio Christi realized in and through the Church, which is His own Body, in its three-fold extension — the Church Victorious, the Church Purifying and the Church Militant.

Thus every liturgical act has a meta-cosmic extension. Besides, it is in and with the Church that Christ realizes His priestly office, making the liturgy profoundly ecclesial, in the sense of the whole Church. It is the whole Church which celebrates liturgy each time a priest does so with his own local community.

Liturgy Is “Given”
Liturgy thus should be considered a treasure “given” to the Church, not created by it. The fact of the steady growth of liturgical traditions along its bi-millennial history, and the surprisingly harmonious and natural way in which it has happened, is proof of the work of the Holy Spirit and the surpassing nobility of its contents. It is like a tree, which continues to grow, at times shedding its leaves, at other times being pruned to become stronger and straighter, but always remaining the same tree. Sacred Liturgy has undergone a similar process of growth but never a new beginning, right from the earliest times even until now — and so it will be even in the future because it is Christ Himself who through His Mystical Body, the Church, has continued to exercise His priestly office.

Christ, the Main Celebrant at the Altar
And so, the correct approach to ars celebrandi of priests and even of the faithful would be to insure that they allow Christ to take over at the altar, becoming the voice, the hands and the being of Christ, or the alter Christus.

Sacramentum Caritatis affirms this very clearly when it states, “Priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in the first place, but Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make themselves the center of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests. The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continuously work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord’s hands. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality” (Sacr. Carit. 23).

In everything the priest does at the altar he should always let the Lord take control of his being. The words of John the Baptist are important in this matter: “He must increase and I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

The Mass should never be about the priest. Even Pope Benedict XVI, when he celebrates Mass, tries very hard to steer the attention away from himself and has all of the faithful in attendance turn towards the Lord.

Not great, but nothing to write home (or the bishop:) ) about.

How sad. People have really lost a sense of reverence.

Not good…


BIG DEAL (no sarcasm whatsoever). That is really not good… :eek:

REALLY REALLY BIG DEAL (Might of invalidated the Mass :eek: )

I hear ya. Exactly my opinion.

I would.

there are a lot of parishes that are designed this way today. its easier to turn that room into a small chapel for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, or to have a small prayer room near the tabernacle when the rest of the church is closed off

this was before and after Mass? of when there is no Mass?

in the US its specified in the GIRM that people should be kneeling. i believe outside of the US, its subject to the norm of the location you are in

well if he did the first part before mass to bring the crowd alive, then its fine i guess. as long as it was before the opening prayer

now i have a thread about what priests can or cannot do during homilies. a lot of priests use sense of humor to get to people. or something to keep people awake and/or engaged

are you sure? perhaps it was just whole wheat so its more brownish than the usual white bread host. thats still unleavened

you sure it wasn’t just hot water so he won’t strain his/her voice? but if it is indeed coffee, i guess its fine if he thinks it helps his singing and as long as he knows he can’t receive Communion

you should approach the priest first and see what he has to say. always give them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they are well meaning and thought they can do what they just did without harm. sure, we expect more from them, but its like saying every player that goes to the NBA will become a great basketball player. the priests may have went through the seminary but some may have taken their education lightly. so be charitable to the priest first and speak to him

I wish to ask the OP as to where you found the information on this Parish? I think, actually after everything you’ve said, I hope that you accidently stumbled into one of those Reformed Catholic Churches that is not in communion with Rome. If this parish is indeed listed by the Diocese as part of it, definitely write to the Bishop! Also, write to his office of Worship. Make sure it is known that you have written to both. Keep all emotion out of it as well.

Please let us know if this is indeed a diocesan parish.

God bless!

I found the parish on Masstimes, although I went looking for it because I had driven past it a lot. I am thinking of sending a note to Masstimes as well.

As far as the coffee, you are right, I should assume it was water. I guess with everything else I just had visions in my head of those protestant services where people bring in coffee or pop or anything.

I am sure the bread was leavened - it was clearly wheat bread.

I guess I was more concerned about the attitude before mass, because, as I implied in my OP, the reverence of the mass drew me to Catholicism, and without it, it was just a protestant church to me.

I think I will write the bishop and mention the bread, consecration words, and the attitude before mass.

Thanks everyone for your replies!

clarify, because we are supposed to use wheat bread whether leavened or unleavened
in fact, any bread thats not wheat is not valid matter

Well, the rule in my protestant church growing up was that we had to use wheat bread made by hand. It was leavened and maybe the wheat was even ground into flour by hand, I don’t know. An older lady made it. It was bread like you would turn into toast or make a sandwich with, but it was made of wheat.

This host tasted exactly the same.

Unless I am completely mistaken in what makes a bread leavened or not (wheat, poofy) vs. unleavened (flat, like pita or tortilla) this was leavened. It was either torn up or cubed up…leavened…

I’ve made bread for Mass before and it was just water and flour. But it was about 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch thick and was torn apart at the fraction rite. It tasted like bread because it WAS bread, it just didn’t have any yeast or baking powder or baking soda in it.

This was bread bread.

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