When do the liturgical apathy, excuses and denial end?

Like many parishes, the Mass is celebrated at my parish in a very hurried, non-reverent manner. It been that way for more than 30 years. Some scheduled Masses are better than others due largely to the different groups of entrenched “liturgical laity”, some celebrants are better than others. Last Sunday I had to go to the evening Mass (typically one of the less reverent) so I braced myself for the worst.

It was a beautiful Mass. Totally unexpected. I had to make a real effort not to cry. Why can’t it be more like that on a regular basis? Why the apathy, excuses and denial when one asks the pastor in a overtly tactful manner about such things?

The Mass was objectively better at presenting the representation of the Sacrifice of God the Son to His Father than most Masses at my parish. I don’t care what anyone else says, but how well the Mass is presented to the faithful is of critical importance. It’s not a matter of “the Mass was valid, that’s all that matters.” That is a horrible excuse. That is denial. That is apathy.

Absent was the rude guitarist who tunes his guitar and banjo during the Mass. Instead we had an excellent cantor and a good pianist. Absent was the lector who changes around words in the readings to be more “feminist-friendly.” Absent was the deacon who routinely butchers the Gospel reading and breaks the flow of the Mass by seemingly not knowing what’s coming next. Absent were poorly trained altar servers (those on duty knew their onions.) Absent was the presider who acted if he was late for a plane.

While the Mass was glorious (thanks be to God), I also felt a little sad afterwards. If I (or anyone) asked my pastor about why can’t we do things more often like this, we’ll get nothing but apathy, excuses, denial and possibly even anger. Don’t get me wrong. This sort of status quo behavior existed long before he came on board.

This isn’t simply a matter of “taste” or preferences. There is objectively good and bad. A guitarist who tunes his guitar during Mass is objectively bad, yet the pastor won’t do anything about it. Allowing a deacon to horrible mangle the Gospel reading each week is objectively wrong when there presider is capable of reading it himself. Allowing a reader to play with the words of the Bible is also objectively wrong.

When do the excuses and denial end? Or is this really as good as it gets? Yes, I am aware of the excuse of “Mass is celebrated on the hoods of Jeeps in combat.” But that’s the best they could do under the circumstances. Nothing wrong with that. But last Sunday’s Mass showed me in a concrete way just how much better Mass can be at my parish.

Is this all just part of our fallen nature? Has evil invaded my parish. Last Sunday’s Mass really opened my eyes.

Perhaps you would be more comfortable attending Mass in a different parish, or if you are near it, the Diocesan Cathedral. You might also try to find a Catholic Church that has the Extra Ordinary Form (Latin) of the Mass.
You have to realize that Priests and Pastors are only human and that they have to utilize what they have. It takes time for them to make corrections without alienating his congregation.

Things do change with time. What have you done or are currently doing to foster the positive changes you seek?

Here is a short prayer that might help:

Dear Lord,
please give us good priests
whose main goal is to lead
their flock to salvation
and to become saints themselves
in Your Heavenly Kingdom.

We all need to pray for each other.

Have you thought about become a sacristant? The do have some influence with the priest and can effect the reverence of the Mass. Likewise, have you ever involved yourself in serving at Mass in a number of ways such as Lector, Eucharistic minister, usher etc?
If you become involved at Mass, you might be less inclined to be dissatisfied. Likewise, have you ever tried to be a part of the parish worship commitee to have influence over the Mass? It is easy to sit back an be unhappy or criticize but it takes effort to become part of the Mass to effect the changes you desire.

I believe “when a deacon is present and assisting, he IS the minister of the Gospel. Period. This is not one of those optional things which either the priest, deacon, or another minister may do. This one is for the deacon. If there are 500 bishops and priests present, it is still the responsibility of the deacon”. (Deacon William T. Ditewig, Ph.D.)

So even if the presider is capable, he is not to read the Gospel if there is a deacon assisting.


If there was another parish that I could get to on Sundays I am sure you are right. There are two in town. The one I have ben attending for years and one that is worse. I love our cathedral Masses but it’s a very long drive.

Not at my parish.

Even though I am a long time parishioner, the people in charge of things like the sacristy make it known that no one else need apply. It is a closed society. It’s a big part of the problem at my parish. They are a huge source of the problems.

But my question is, when does the apathy, excuse and denial end?

On Sunday I really don’t know if it was divine intervention or just happenstance, but the combination of the specific celebrant, no deacon, no sexist reader, good music and good servers made a PROFOUND difference. A tangible, objective difference based not on my personal preferences but on performance.

What I believe is that the Church in it’s truest and fullest sense needs us now more than ever to be faithful. Things are falling apart in this way all over. Part of it is money, part of it is that a rather large segment of the clergy seem to be chronically depressed.

Someone here was talking about their new Pastor who was 2 years out of seminary. Two years.

Things will get worse before they get better. In your case, perhaps instead of the “Why can’t it be this way all the time?” approach, you could just say how very much you appreciated that Mass. I’d be interested in what happens if you keep attending that particular one. Maybe you’ll discover why it is able to be different.

That’s very sad in that case, period. Although I have absolutely no doubt that in the case of my parish, it’s so bad the presider could indeed direct the deacon to stand-down during the reading. This deacon does stand down when the bishop is celebrating a Mass at my parish (a priest does the reading.)

I have absolutely no idea why God would want a man to butcher the Gospel proclamation so badly that the meaning is either lost or dramatically changed? That just leaves me shaking my head.

Stuff like this makes me wonder why the proclamation of the Gospel is limited to ordained men? It’s OK for a reading to be proclaimed in such a manner that it’s completely unintelligible yet somehow it would be wrong for a layperson to proclaim it? Really? What’s the reason for that other than “the Church says so?” Anything at all? Why does the Church say so? Just more head shaking from me on that.

Anyway, I don’t want to derail this thread. I would like to know when the apathy, excuses and denial end?

I agree with all you said.

To be honest it seems to be a matter of scheduling more than anything.

The “good” celebrant. Check.

No deacon. Check.

A good reader. Check.

Decent music. Check.

No scantily clad EMHCs. Check.

It just happened to work out it seems. It was gorgeous. The difference might seem trivial as I type this but it was profound. It clearly effected how we in the pews were acting. God at work I hope.

Prayer is important but it should never be an excuse not to take action.

Maybe the glorious Mass you just had was an answer to your prayers. Why not thank the Lord and thank the priest and not assume that future Masses will be liturgically apathetic. It must have been an effort for a priest who is normally apathetic and full of excuses to do a glorious Mass. I would encourage him. Maybe he is going through conversion, a real turning to God, and is trying to change things in his parish. I would be very happy about a beautiful Mass, and try not to focus on what future Masses could be like. Perfection doesn’t come until the end of time.

What makes you think I haven’t been thanking and praising God for that sublime experience? I have!

At the same time I have a sort of “sad” feeling because I suspect this experience will be a rarity. We’ll see.

I said nothing about “perfection” nor did I mention personal taste. A lot of objectively bad things which are commonplace in my parish and which I have listed were absent from this Mass. I hope and pray they remain gone.

But my question remains. When do the liturgical apathy, excuses and denial stop?

As a lector, you are not suppose to at all change the language, add your own stuff or ad lib the readings. I think the excuse that I can’t do something in Church because of a clique is really an excuse for not trying. The best way to have influence is to do something. If you don’t like what is going on in the reading, become a lector yourself. There is always room for new people. Yes, sometimes you have to be persistent. The last parish, it took about 6 months of no return calls before becoming a lector but I stayed with it and glad I persisted.
Sitting back and complaining is not going to change things and sometimes it only takes one person and if you don’t try and persist then you are part of the problem not part of the solution. If there is sexist ad lib going on in the lecturing then the best way to make a change is: become a lector, then document the abuse (when where who how), go to your priest with the complaint, if no change then you do have grounds to go to your regions vicar (if you have one) or the Bishop but you must start out with your parish and trying to participate is the first step.

It matters a great deal, IMO. I was very blessed and too stupid to realize it when I converted to be in a parish where the Pastor always provided these wonderful, reverent liturgies. Always. Daily, every Mass, the music director was exceptional. When he retired, well, it got so bad I would take the bus downtown on Sunday night to attend Mass at the Cathedral that Archbishop Chaput always celebrated.

it stops with you. Encourage your priest about the last Mass, involved yourself to make changes, even if they are baby steps and it takes a while. It is apathy to say, I can’t make any changes, I can’t do it, there is no room. Those are excuses and apathy is sitting back and doing nothing and then complaining about the apathy.

That is a long way off for some of us. The question is…how do we live now, with other weak and flawed human beings?

Yes, I agree.

Last Sunday taught me something else as well. As much as I like “the bells and smells” and pipe organ that’s not what’s missing at my parish. What’s missing is an objectively reverent celebration of the Mass. Yes, the bells and smells and organ ON TOP of a reverent foundation would be really wonderful but it’s not the key.

This Mass was by no means a mechanical/robotic/EWTN sort of Mass. It was far more beautiful than that.


With something as critically important as the Mass why do we “live” with irreverence?

Why do we have the cantor/guitarist who plays horribly and tunes his guitar during the Mass when we have plenty of other cantors and musicians?

Why hasn’t the reader been banashed once and for all who makes changes to the reading on the fly to be more appealing to sexists/feminists?

Why is a deacon allowed to proclaim the Gospel when he does it so poorly that he changes the meaning of the reading?

Why does the person in charge or altar servers not train them? Why does ferociously defend her little position at the parish?

Why do EMsHC dress like they are headed to a dance club or cocktail lounge?

When does the denial and excuses end? There are already options in my parish. I really wonder how many people have left the parish or the Church altogether because of how objectively poorly the Mass is celebrated at my parish, and quite a few other parishes in my deanery?

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