The "Participation" Myth

One of the things that absolutely bothers me endlessly is the idea that one needs to be shouting from the rooftops (so to speak) in order to participate in Mass.

The popular idea tends to be that one must say all of the responses and sing all of the songs, otherwise you’re not participating. That the entire Mass needs to be catered to the need for exterior participation, otherwise, people aren’t participating.

So why do the externals count so much to these people? If someone follows the Mass and prays interiorly aren’t they participating in offering their prayers to the sacrifice on the altar? If someone reads the words to the prayers and songs in their mind, aren’t they participating interiorly by offering the prayer?

If someone wants to sing, then they can sing, but we shouldn’t judge others if they don’t want to sing. In the same way, we shouldn’t restrict the types of music that are sung/played during mass so that the people have to participate in every song. Doesn’t hearing Gregorian Chant or Polyphony lift up the spirit to God? Maybe for some even more so than a standard hymn. So isn’t just the act of actively hearing a form of participation?

How about the words, the responses? We’ve all seen the people who go to Mass and never even open their lips, are they not participating in the Mass? Maybe they are bored out of their minds and don’t want to be there. But what if that person just likes to say all of the responses interiorly? What if that person even says all of the words of the priest interiorly? What if that person offers up many prayers throughout the Mass for the sacrifice at hand? Are they not participating? Why judge these people?

I think the myth of an absolute need for exterior participation is something that really needs to be done away with. Instead we should stress active participation in whatever way helps you connect with the Lord in the Mass. That could be interior or exterior prayer.

However, let’s not forget that one can easily be saying all of the words and singing all of the songs and not be participating at all! Who’s ever prayed a Rosary and not started thinking about everything else but the Rosary? Isn’t it the same thing with the Mass? Sure I’ll sing the songs, say the responses, then get up and receive Communion, but I’m really thinking about what I’m going to do after Mass or people watching.

What’s going on inside is much more important than the outside. Sometimes both go together. Some people may feel more of a spiritual connection from the exterior participation and some may get nothing from it at all. It is important to remember. This goes for whichever form of the Mass that you like and in whatever language you hear it in.

Last time I checked no-one advocated that anyone needs to be shouting from the rooftops to participate; and there is both internal and external participation. I think what you are suggesting is people will participate in different ways, and I agree with you that that is only natural. But I would suggest that there is a difference between interior participation, which some Catholics practice at certain points in the liturgy, and opting out completely (ie not partipating in any of the dialogue between president of people, recital of the Creed, not singing even the Ordinary of the mass) and even worse the very small minority who refuse to follow the rubrics and in doing so draw attention to themsleves and shatter the concentration of those around them.

The GIRM is crystal clear that we are expected to fully participate and not act in a singular way during mass. It is our Communion not my communion.

*II. The Functions of the People of God

  1. In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people of God’s own possession and a royal Priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the unblemished sacrificial Victim not only by means of the hands of the Priest but also together with him and so that they may learn to offer their very selves. They should, moreover, take care to show this by their deep religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration.

They are consequently to avoid any appearance of singularity or division, keeping in mind that they have only one Father in heaven and that hence are all brothers or sisters one to the other.

Moreover, they are to form one body, whether in hearing the Word of God, or in taking part in the prayers and in the singing, or above all by the common offering of the Sacrifice and by participating together at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully apparent from the gestures and bodily postures observed together by the faithful.*

*Since the celebration of Mass by its nature has a “communitarian” character, both the dialogues between the Priest and the assembled faithful, and the acclamations are of great significance; for they are not simply outward signs of communal celebration but foster and bring about communion between Priest and people.

The acclamations and the responses of the faithful to the Priest’s greetings and prayers constitute that level of active participation that is to be made by the assembled faithful in every form of the Mass, so that the action of the whole community may be clearly expressed and fostered.

A common bodily posture, to be observed by all those taking part, is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered together for the Sacred Liturgy, for it expresses the intentions and spiritual attitude of the participants and also fosters them*.

Is there any particular reason why you don’t want to respond out loud?We are there as a community of brothers and sisters in Christ,together we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.So for this reason we are called to join in full participation,with outward gestures and audible voices.

I would say that that is a good possibility. There is, however, that obligation to attend. And thus the defiance factor.

agreed. Even in the Extraordinary form, there are parts of the Mass where we do “participate”

There is a radio archive here on Catholic Answers with Archbishop Sample of Portland in Oregon. He loves both the Extraordinary Form and Ordinary Form when they are done with reverence. He says that the main purpose for the “participation” is because some people used to do their own thing during Mass and were not paying attention. They would do their own devotions instead of praying along with the Mass.

The Mass is one large prayer, which we need to all pray together. We don’t want one person praying a Hail Mary, another to St Michael, another a Rosary while the Priest is doing the Collect. Of course, this is an extreme example, but it sounds like things like that used to happen before VII.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to talk loudly or move your lips. But you also shouldn’t be standing there with your arms crossed, not moving your lips, looking like you want to be somewhere else (which is a posture a family in my Parish does). It’s kind of distracting to see people like that at Mass (which is why I try to always sit in the 2nd or 3rd row, that way I don’t notice other people and get distracted). I try to follow the rubrics correctly and provide a good example.

Personally, I usually sing except during Communion. During the Communion hymns, I’m usually doing prayers before & after Communion. If I finish my prayers while the hymn is still going on, I might join in. Otherwise, I continue to pray in Adoration while the Tabernacle is still open.

God Bless.

Very well said. When I assist at the OF liturgy, I hate being made to feel like I’m not “participating” because I’d rather kneel and pray than perform like I’m an actor starring in a show (and I’m not saying that everyone who responds audibly, sings with the choir etc. does this, but this is what I PERSONALLY feel like I would be doing). I think I as a lay person can accomplish a lot more by prayerfully uniting my intentions with the prayers of the priest than I can from constantly sitting on edge waiting to answer the priest. And furthermore, for what it’s worth, I can’t stand the bouncy, lullaby-like voice that some people use when responding, like they’re talking to a child, straining to pronounce every syllable as slowly and meticulously as possible…but that’s just a pet peeve of mine :stuck_out_tongue:

I have also assisted at dialogue Masses where there is no server and the entire congregation says the servers part. I just don’t like doing this personally, it makes it harder for me to pray…but some people seem to enjoy it; if it’s helpful for you spiritually, I don’t see what’s wrong with it as long as you do so reasonably, and without disturbing the other worshippers by shouting or stumbling over the words…To each his own :slight_smile:

Hearing, or listening, to someone does not mean that you are actively communicating with them. Our interior disposition will be reflected in our exterior words and deeds.

There’s a new myth these days among some traditionalists that attempts to reduce “active participation” down to mere presence with no participation. To be fair, Church documents haven’t been crystal clear. But I think the most reasonable interpretation, IMHO, is that active participation is expected to the extent possible. I.e., if you know the responses, say the responses. It’s not expected that you chant the Gregorian propers or polyphony.

I respond audibly unless I don’t know the setting or it’s a setting that’s so bad that I can’t participate in good conscience and instead recite silently.

There is no myth. Participation is defined in the GIRM. Some things are meant to be said aloud. Would the OP accept in a place where altar rails are used for a person to go there and stand defiantly because he was “kneeling in his heart?” When we kneel, we are to kneel with our physical knees, not our just our heart. When we speak, we are to speak with our lips, not just our heart. When Jesus died, he suffered in His body, not just his heart.

We are not beings of pure spirit. We are creatures of body and spirit. We worship God with our body and our spirit.

I respond with a “Kyrie eleison” or “Christie eleison” at the proper moment and I can sense the unease with those around me. But according to the English missalette it’s perfectly acceptable.

When is that appropriate? If the priest or cantor says “Lord have mercy,” the proper response is, “Lord have mercy,” not, “Kyrie eleison.”

What if I didn’t know English?

Would it be wrong if a Spanish speaking attending an English Mass were to respond “Senor ten piedad” instead? I’ve heard Anglophones respond in the English at a Polish Mass so where’s the problem if everyone responds in what’s most comfortable to him/her?

I was going to make this point myself…gee, if only there were some kind of common language the Church had…something to make it easier to follow along…something to make it easier to participate (which is the point of this thread after all)…I dunno, something like Latin :wink: (Yes, I know the Kyrie is Greek, but you get the point haha…)

I think there was a Jubilate Deo introduced somewhere along the way, which the people preaching more active participation and singing seemed to totally ignore.

As a rule, yes. At a Latin Mass at the UN, would it be appropriate for everyone to say the Creed audibly in their own language simultaneously?

I think there was a Jubilate Deo introduced somewhere along the way, which the people preaching more active participation and singing seemed to totally ignore.

Jubilate Deo is universally ignored. Trads don’t believe the compilation is traditional and/or musically pleasing.

It’s more likely to be used at an EF.

Negative, Ghostwriter.

I have heard it used and I myself use it for Lent and Holy Week, both English and Latin. I have been for about five years now. And just in case it seems like we ever go around in circles without purpose, I got hooked on it through a poster here named benedictgal, among others. So yes, even in disagreement, we help each other and gain wisdom and understanding. Heck, I have gleaned a few things for Pro Vobis here.

Just thought I might look on the positive side a bit.

Vatican II made it clear that the people SHOULD be saying the responses indicated for the people in the rubrics. It also made clear, very much so, that people saying private ritual prayers during the liturgy should be discouraged from doing so. (In other words, if you’re saying the rosary during mass, you’re not actively praying the mass.)

It doesn’t call for the individual to be saying every response every time, but calls for the responses to be said by the people as a body. It urges the people to join in the responses as they are able.

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