What's Hurting the Church: Utilitarian Masses

I suspect that 80-90% of most practicing Catholics’ main interaction with the Church these days is attending Mass. I believe this interaction is being damaged in many parishes by what I call utilitarian Masses. I don’t mean “liturgical abuses” per se, but Masses with every bit of solemness stripped from its celebration.

I went to the early Sunday Mass as usual. My pastor (we have 2 F/T priests and 2 retired priests) was the celebrant. He literally looked like he was trying to rush the Mass because he had a plane to catch. This is nothing new for him or some of the other priests, but he seems especially anxious to finish Mass last Sunday morning.

We began the Mass within a minute of 07:00 (we are excellent at starting on time at my parish.) Mass was over by 07:41 including a homily and communion under both species for 200+ people. The Mass seemed so dry, so rushed, so utilitarian, so stripped of beauty. He seemed so anxious to finish the Mass that I figured something was up. After Mass I talked to someone for a few minutes in the parking lot and then headed to breakfast at a favorite diner. As I was slowing down to pull into the lot I saw my pastor get out of a car with a few of his friends from the parish. He seemed quite happy.

That really angered me. Is it just my parish or is this going on in other parishes as well? Get them in, punch their ticket and get them out! ** Take care of that Sunday obligation but keep it moving!** To heck with solemnness – the grace is locked in (presuming people continue to attend such Masses, availing themselves to God’s grace.) If I wasn’t so angry I would have actually went in and asked him about the early morning Mass rush. As it was it was best I just keep going. I just looked at the bulletin and he didn’t celebrate his second Mass until 6:00 pm so he wasn’t under a time crunch.

I think this sort of stuff is really taking a toll on parishes as the Mass is many Catholics’ main (or only) interaction with the Church these days. Your thoughts?

While I can appreciate your disapointment to a degee, all I can say is things aren’t always as they appear. you don’t know the details of what was going on. You only know the appearances.

Also, to remember that you Priest is human too! Unfortunately that means there are faults at times.

Yeah, what else could they be? I have asked both he and our parochial vicar in the nicest terms why they are in such a hurry to celebrate the Mass? The pastor ignored me. The PV just smiled and changed the subject.

My strong feeling is both of these priests entered my parish where such behavior is SOP (it certainly did not begin with them) and both have found it to be agreeable so long as they can get away with it. I suspect if they tried this in other parishes, they would eventually get reprimanded by the local ordinary.

And? This situation is critical enough and has enough negative impact on the parish that one would think they would work to overcome whatever is making them treat the Mass in this manner.

I wonder why :rolleyes:

I always look happy, too, when I’m able to enjoy going out to breakfast with dear friends. I hope there is nothing evil in this. :slight_smile:

On Sunday morning, many priests have a heavy schedule of Masses. (Our priests have nine Masses on weekends.) Why begrudge the man a chance to enjoy some fellowship with friends while he nourishes his body? A priest needs both the food and the friendships.

Solemnness is an attitude of the heart, not a “method.” I’m guessing that if you look around, you will probably be able to find Masses that last much longer than one hour that you don’t deem solemn enough.

There are many good reasons why some Masses are deliberately held to a shorter time period. Here are a few ideas for you to consider.

In our parish, one of these reasons is parking. It is important that the Masses finish on time so that there will be adequate time for all the outgoing families to safely exit the parking lot and all the incoming families to safely find parking spaces. There are a lot of people who must be dropped off due to various conditions (mainly walking disabilities, but also people with large numbers of very small children), and this drop-off line is very long and takes a long time to finish.

Another reason why the Mass has to end on time is so that the musicians can arrive early to run-through their music. Obviously, the musicians SHOULD meet during the week for rehearsal. But in real life, it is very difficult to get a good attendance at a weekly choir practice. Some people simply cannot make the weekly rehearsal time, and so they show up only on Sundays for the run-through.

It’s possible, too, that a nearby company or business has an understanding that their employees are able to attend the Mass that you attended, as long as they limit their time away from work to exactly one hour. The pastor of the parish may be working so hard to keep the Mass shorter to accomodate these employees who are making an effort to honor their Sunday obligation and be a witness to their co-workers.

We have a nursing home on the campus of our parish, and I know that the employees have a Mass said in their facility. But I’m sure many of them prefer to attend Mass in the church so that they can be free to worship without having to also care for their elderly patients at the same time.

Is there a large hospital anywhere near your parish? The Catholic hospital in our city offers Masses that last only around 20 minutes. This is done to accommodate the very busy and hectic schedules of employees, family members of patients, and even the patients. Perhaps even if there is a non-Catholic hospital in your city, the management of that hospital has responded to the requests of their employees who wish to be able to fulfil their Christian obligation, and they are allowed to attend Mass at your parish, but only if they can leave and return to work within one hour.

Keep in mind that many hospitals have schedules for their nurses that involve working long shifts all weekend; this is done so that the nurses can get in 40 hours on one weekend, and have the rest of the week off–many nurses find this schedule appealing because it allows them to be home with their families and avoid hiring daycare for their babies and young children. So perhaps that’s the explanation for the fast Mass that you attended.

Is it possible that the Mass you attended is understood to be the “Family Mass,” where families are encouraged to bring their young children? We have a Family Mass in our parish; it is held in the gym of the parish school, and it is usually about 45 minutes long. There is no “skimping” on the liturgy; the pastor makes it clear that all the rubrics are followed, including the kneeling. But because there are so many children present at this Mass, the pastor makes an effort to keep things moving along, and keeps his homily short and pithy. Perhaps there are people who attend this Mass so that they can get out in a hurry–so what? They are fulfilling their obligation. Perhaps they have other obligations outside of Mass to families, young babies who have been left with another family member, jobs, etc.

And you have no idea what the “hurriers” do outside of Mass to live out their Christianity. The person who is in attendance at the “Fast Mass” might well be a paragon of prayer and adoration, or perhaps is involved in a difficult outreach ministry, or gives tons of money to help the poor.

We really need to assume the best of our fellow Christians, and examine OURSELVES rather than others.

Thank God our priest is not like that. He shows the utmost respect and reverence for the Mass and all that it entails. He would never rush through Our Lord’s Supper- never!

One can always go to two Masses if they feel one isn’t long enough, right? :slight_smile:

But the obligation part is a good point. I’ve often wondered what the Church attendance would be if they removed the obligation altogether. IMO, there seems to be more spiritual benefits in a weekday Mass these days. Just saying.

There are so many reasons for the way Mass is said! It’ hard to know why a particular priest says Mass the way he does. Here are a few I have encountered.

In some parishes, the early morning Mass is the “no frills” Mass. Some people aren’t especially fond of extras at Mass, like music, incense, long homilies, etc. Often they have good reason. One woman I know who attended this Mass had a husband who needed a lot of care. If she got up early and wasn’t gone too long she could still attend Mass. Some people have to go to work. Some are leaving on vacation. Some have activities planned later in the day. I know you would like for them to attend a long, liturgical service; but for some, this is the best they can do at the time. Some people have medical conditions that don’t allow them to sit for very long. The shorter Mass is good for them.

To some extent, the way Mass is said is a matter of preference. Everyone has different ideas about what they like in Mass. As long as the Mass conforms to the rules set out by the Church, there is nothing wrong with it. Some people like it that way. If you like it a different way, maybe you could find a different Mass, or a differnt Church more in keeping with your preferences.

  1. Some priests are just fast talkers. It has nothing to do with irreverence its just their personality.

  2. A usual Sunday Mass is around 45 minutes so 41 minutes isn’t exactly a rush job.

  3. I’m not sure what “toll” it’s taking since the parishes with the “quickest” Masses seem to be the fullest.

There are legitimate concerns raised here. It is a delicate subject, but one that must not be overlooked. Indeed, this is a very important subject. Pope Benedict doesn’t quite use these terms expressed in this thread, but it is clear from his own personal writings and actions as both a Cardinal and Pope that he sees many of the same problems, and honestly, many more. Otherwise he would never have written about the ars celebrandi, nor would he have written The Spirit of the Liturgy. I also want to point out something, another dimension to this. Look at his Papal Masses. They are remarkably magnificent and artful, much more than even at the beginning of his Pontificate.

Our current Pope is a very liturgical one no doubt, and why would he have written all these things and restored all these things if he saw no problem with the status quo? I think it is crystal clear that he is sending a message, not just about Papal Masses, but about the liturgy of the whole Church.

I think we can make excuses for all eternity, but it is not going to justify anything. Now, I do understand that there are time constraints in many parishes which of course must not be ignored by any means, as well as other hindrances, BUT I believe it is very possible to celebrate Mass under a time crunch and do it with dignity, grace and art. I am a firm believer that this really comes down to the image that the celebrant exudes. If he sits erect and is attentive yet sober, if his gestures are graceful and refined yet not effeminate, if he walks with an air of importance for the ceremony, if the vestments he wears fits and are attractive even if they aren’t the most expensive, if the norms are strictly and religiously followed, then he will inspire the people even if they are not used to this. And this can ALL be done very well in a Mass of any length. I adamantly hold to this belief.

Smarter Catholics than I would know whether that Mass obligation is merely a discipline (thus changable) or not, but I’d say look at the Friday penance. As soon as the Church said it’s a very worthy thing to do but not a sin if you don’t, it practically disappeared from our lives.


Unfortunately a lot of Catholics have very low standards for what they expect to see and hear at Mass, because they have never had to opportunity to see it done any better. You said this has been SOP at your parish since before these priests came, right?

I suggest making an appointment with the pastor on a Saturday or something to present your concerns as respectfully as you can. I don’t go to the bishop just because father blew you off (or it seemed like he did) after Mass. Priests are very busy around Mass times.

I pray your parish improves.

Good point. Friday’s Low Mass lasted 29 minutes, including the Leonine Prayers, but it was beautiful. The OF can have a similar austere beauty.

Is it possible that this priest has schedule that you are not aware of?

Maybe he says Mass at a nursing home within 2-3 hours of the first Mass, and he would like to have breakfast with his friends before the nursing home Mass and still keep the 1-hour fast.

Maybe he has a diocesan meeting in a couple of hours. I know my priest has had to go to meetings on a Sunday.

My point is, you don’t know the priest’s schedule. So he celebrates a morning Mass and an evening Mass that you know of. What does he do in between that you don’t know of? Be charitable.

A time constraint is not an excuse for a utilitarian Mass. A beautiful and absolutely reverent and graceful Mass can be celebrated shortly.

Hear,hear! I’m going to mass again today and once more during the week. Yesterday (Sunday mass), my favorite priest gave a homily that somehow included finances and making the mass quicker by getting more EMHC’s. The mass didn’t take that long and there were EMHC’s. I concluded he was overburdened with the bishop and archbishop being away for a while.
I wonder how many people go to mass once a week for their spiritual bolstering and get left with an unfulfilled feeling. I know many can’t make it to daily masses.
I think that business matters can be printed up in the bulletin and emphasis should be on Christ’s essence and teachings. I’m sorry to be critical but can’t the weekly mass give people what they need in this crazy society?

Utilitarian Masses have pushed liturgical developments over the centuries. Popes and bishops went back and forth with adding and removing parts of the liturgy because of time and/or theological constraints. The question should be really about the true utility of that change and who should decide the change.

This Sunday I had the same reaction, that you are writing about, when the priest skipped, as he often does, the Gloria but then he spent quite a bit of time on the homily. I think that liturgical changes can be very appropriate but I honestly doubt that the fruitful ones come ad impromptu from an individual priest or a parochial liturgical committee.

Eating out with parishoners is frequently half relaxing and half working. Many times what is being discussed is church related. Sometimes it is just parishoner “friends” wanting Father’s ear, and he agrees to meet them for breadfast, lunch, dinner, because his schedule is so busy. Sometimes these parishoners “friends” also are involved in church ministries that need planning. I was just at one of these group meetings at a restaurant and we were discussing Confirmation and First Communion plans. It could have looked as if Father was just relaxing, but we were all working. Parishoner’s frequently take their priests out to eat, but because of tight schedules, my pastor goes to multilple lunches and dinners all in one day__different people needing his time.

My parish has the opposite problem–Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses typically last 65 to 75 minutes. Three years ago, our new pastor increased the time. In the past, these Masses were 40 to 45 minutes. We’ve had quite the exodus from our parish to surrounding parishes.

I don’t want to give the impression, length of Mass was the main complaint responsible for the exodus. There were other complaints, however, length of Mass is in the top 5. :frowning:

What’s hurting the Church is the failure of Catholics to recognize the last six words in of the Mass.

Go forth, the Mass is ended.

Only three words for those who prefer Latin.

***Ite, missa est. ***

The Mass is a sending forth. The Mass is just the beginning. The Mass is supposed to give us strength to go forth and live what we just experienced in our daily live and witness to other poeple that which we have just experienced.

And what we experienced is the ressurection of life on the altar.

We kneel. We pray. We recieve Jesus. The Mass isn’t the problem.

What happens the other 167 hours of the week is the problem. Failing to live the life of Christ who we just saw made present on the altar and whome we just recieved - that’s what is hurting the Church.


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