Why is Catholic Mass so bland?


Before coming to the Catholic Church, I spent some time around with the Eastern Orthodox. I noticed, that, even in the small mission parish near me, which only had about 40 people, the Divine Liturgy was amazing. The little mission-parish was indistinguishable from a parish of 1000. The mission still used incense, the Priest still faced the altar, there was a Cantor, procession, etc. etc. Even in that small environment, it felt like a truly Holy experience.

Now, at the Catholic parish I’m attending, which has about 300 people at the Mass I attend, there are no incense, there is no cantor, the Priest faces the congregation like we’re chums, children cry non-stop, and it is generally un-holy feeling. It is down right bland. If we had some modern instruments and the Priest would dress in a weather-man suit it would be indistinguishable from most Protestant Churches here in my home town.

Why can the Catholic Church not be more reverent and “holy” during Mass like the Eastern Churches are? I would go home and think about the EO Divine Liturgy for hours after leaving, now, I practically run to my car and go home and try to forget about the awful experience I just had. This is every Sunday. Now that we’re in Lent and the Mass is purposefully solemn it is down right horrible.

So, in short, why is the Catholic Mass so crumby and the E.O. Divine Liturgy so great?


It’s a question I keep askig myself. The Ordinary Form can be so beutifule if we just added more reverence and respect to it. But too many people complain that it would make the Mass longer. God forbid the Mass went an extra 15 minutes longer :shrug:

if you are having these problems, then see if there is an Eastern Catholic or TLM parish in your area, or at least a different parish near you that you find more reverent

as for me, im blessed with a great priest who is reverent and takes his duties seriously

Ours is beautiful, or at least I think so.

Rarely any incense, but also rarely any non-stop crying children. It is reverent, quiet in the right spots, with beautiful music, a cantor, and a congregation that actually sings. I love it!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

why are you catholic?

Despite what you call blandness, it’s the holiest event ever – the sacrifice of JESUS for our salvation!

We often lament how some Catholics don’t realize the treasures of the Mass, and start attending mega-churches for the “entertainment” factor. They have a sweet tooth, and they are attracted by the “dessert” – music, feel-good talks, or even the smell of fresh coffee. Catholics have the meat and potatoes.

So while reverence is of course a good thing, and “smells and bells” help us direct our attention to God, I’m just saying don’t lose sight of what the Mass really is. I’d take a dry, “boring” Mass any day over a non-Catholic service that pleases the senses.

That’s exactly my thinking. There is nothing greater in this world than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It may be “bland”, it may have bad music, it may even have priest ad-libbing, but there’s still nothing that can take away it’s holiness and it’s greatness.

Miracles sometimes seem ordinary, but this is the greatest miracle of all.

Hi David,

To be honest I think you have some misconceptions here :slight_smile:

one, - the Divine Liturgy is not only in the Eastern Orthodox churches. It’s actually from the time before the Schism, which makes it Catholic too. The Eastern Catholic churches have the same liturgy… maybe you’d feel more at home in an Eastern Catholic parish? doesn’t mean you shouldn’t/can’t be Catholic.

two, - if you want a more solemn Mass with incense, etc, - why not visit a TLM? :slight_smile: it’s of the Latin Rite… so it’s not that reverence belongs in the East.

three - from the way you’ve described it, I’d say your thoughts MIGHT be distractions. I see that you’re in RCIA… before I became Catholic, I was baptized Eastern Orthodox as a child. When I started going to Mass, I missed my old Protestant church, I also started missing the Orthodox church, and the liturgy there, etc. Then I struggled with doctrines, etc. I would just worry worry worry all the time and not even pay attention to the spiritual reality of the Mass. I’d think about the music, the Eucharistic ministers, etc. Well how do I know if these thoughts weren’t from the devil, to distract me? Eiether God is calling you to the Eastern Catholic rites, or maybe the enemy is trying to confuse you… who knows? pray about this.

But I can tell you one thing… once I began receiving the Eucharist, all this faded. Now, the Mass never seems bland to me. The spiritual reality is always the same, whether at Novus Ordo, or TLM, or Divine Liturgy. Don’t get so focused on the externals! Focus on Jesus in the Eucharist and pray to Him. Here’s what I realized one day… I’m kneeling before my Lord, and all I’m thinking about is church decoration?? Think about Him… and once you find that peace with Him, then He will show you the way. God shows us His will when we’re close to Him and are focused on Him and are at peace. If there’s confusion in your mind and you’re constantly thinking how horrible the Mass is and how you wish you were somewhere else - that is a distraction from the spiritual reality which God wants us to focus on.

Once you’re Catholic, you’d be able to visit any type of service you want: NO, TLM, DL… you’ll be able to visit Eastern Catholic churches and receive Communion at Divine Liturgy. But the Eucharist is always the same and that is what is most special in the Church… once I started receiving Him, things just changed.

God bless

Technically, I’m not.

Why aren’t all Latin Churches in Latin, ad orientum, and with incense, cantors, etc.? I know a lot of that changed after Vatican II, why the changes? The old way of conducting mass was beautful, how is what I experience on Sunday better than what used to be?

I do hope to visit an Eastern Rite after graduation. I do not live near one where I go college. Perhaps the environment will feel different if I can attend an Eastern Rite in the future.

Also, if one watches movies or sees pictures of the Mass from decades ago, all of the men were in jacket and tie and the women were in dresses and a headcover. Why are people in jeans and t-shirts today? What happened? At times I feel like I’m at Wal-Mart when I go to Mass. I worked at Wal-Mart for two years, I seen people dressed nicer to go to Wal-Mart sometimes.

We have a wonderful priest who insists on following the liturgy. Our Mass is properly holy. We usually do not have a cantor - the cantor is usually also the organist. But, the Mass isn’t about the music. We don’t have incense. But the Mass isn’t about incense. We do hear some babies, which means there is new life in the Church. (It is better than adults who talk during Mass.) But, we do hear God’s word. We do receive Jesus. That is why we go to Mass. We get from the Mass what we bring to the Mass. Sometimes I’m not crazy about the music. Sometimes people are not quiet enough before Mass begins. But, we receive Jesus in the Eucharist. - body, blood, soul, and divinity - unlike any Protestant Church. Remember why you are there.

Can you get EWTN ? If so tomorrow morning 11:00 am Eastern or 8:am Pacific watch EWTN for the Consecration of a New Chapel at the Fraternity of st. Peter Seminary. Its a very long ceremony but should be well worth the time.

i can see where you can get discouraged at many NO parishes. However, the Traditional Mass is in Latin, ad orientum, incense, bells, etc. Evidently this is what you are looking for. It is my favorite. But the Byzantine Rite is also very beautiful, as is the Dominican Rite and others.

God Bless

These people might have trouble in other environments. My first Catholic mass, at a tiny church in rural Mexico about a dozen or so years before I joined the RC, lasted at least 4 hours! I say at least because we had to leave before everyone else to meet other agreements we had that day. There was a LOT more music, a veryyyyy long homily, etc. When you’re in an environment where people actually want to be Catholic, it makes a huge difference in how you perceive the Mass. It is truly a shame that some people never experience this. I know that if I hadn’t experienced it myself, I probably would not have considered the Catholic Church in the first place.

The OP’s description of the EO divine liturgy reminded me of how I felt growing up with the traditional Mass, now called the extraordinary form.

Even before I was out of my teens, it came to me that the Mass had taught me beauty without me even being consciously aware of it.

I think that can be recovered, even with a vernacular liturgy. The return to beauty is slowly coming about in many places.

Dear Candidate!

Are you near Oklahoma City, or Tulsa? We have Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic Churches there. (We are Eastern Churches, not Eastern Rites :slight_smile: )

It also sounds like you love the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the “Tridentine” Mass. Is that not available in your area either? It’s beautiful but doesn’t speak to my Eastern interior.

I’m currently reading The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, which was much quoted by an Orthodox priest in a lecture recently on what makes Liturgical music. His lecture was a light bulb going off in my head as to why the music at my Latin parish feels like it should be in a prayer and praise gathering, not a sacred Liturgy.

I worked at Wal-Mart for two years, I seen people dressed nicer to go to Wal-Mart sometimes.

Sigh, that is often the case…

I have never found the Mass bland but I usually find the music and the seeming lack of a sacramental world view over all very difficult. On the other hand I see that this same music is deeply moving for many people, and the practically nude church environment seems to suit most parishioners just fine. And I’m extremely fond of many people in my Latin parish. We don’t have daily liturgy in most Eastern Catholic churches so in order to be able to pray daily in community, physically, I am at my Latin Church for daily Mass. I feel extremely blessed to have the many options open to me for daily Mass, even though I’d love to have Vespers and Matins in an Eastern Church instead if I could.

I hope the “reform of the reform” now going on will bring in more of the rich banquet liturgically and environmentally that can be available in the Ordinary form of the Roman Rite and contemporary church environments.

Congratulations on your journey to full communion with the Catholic Church. May you bring your love of the riches of the Divine Liturgy and the sacramental/liturgical wealth of the Byzantine feasts and fasts from your time in Orthodoxy into your life in the Catholic Church and instill in others a love of these riches in Christ’s church.

If you’re a college student, you might enjoy reading Katie Gulas’ blog “Blog of the East”. Katie is a Byzantine Catholic residential college student. You can hear her talking some about her experience at her college and about her blog on Light of the East radio podcast #283 when it goes up, probably later this week.

EC and Orthodox priests will talk about the Divine Liturgy begin *the catechesis *and it truly is. It’s part of the beauty of the prayers we chant being the same every Sunday and the fact of so much repetition that occurs in the hymnography over the hour and a half to two hours of Liturgy every Sunday. The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is also catechesis, it’s just harder to notice it I think because there is so much variation that goes on, it’s relatively so short and the music is so often not truly supporting the intent of the Mass but has a different end- to “feel good”, which it does successfully…

At the parish I currently attend, the priest chants everything in the Mass, uses incense, etc. I’ve visited a few Orthodox churches in my time and the Divine Liturgy is almost exactly what my priest does.

Look around in your city and visit some other Catholic churches to see if they are right for you.

Absolutely! I agree. Even at the no homily, no music, 15 minute daily Mass we discussed, the heavens open and a miracle occurs! Nothing can beat that!

To the OP, can you possible offer to help in someway to improve the “smells and bells” at your parish? Perhaps a monetary offering for new vestments, a thruifer, cantor training. Or you could offer to help train the altar servers. There are possibilities for devoted service to the Mass without becoming the “liturgy council”.

I don’t know what others have replied but here’s my :twocents:
If you think the Mass is bland - you don’t have the slightest idea what’s going on.

Sorry to sound harsh but you seem to miss the bells and smells and in turn are missing all the vital symbolism, intercession, joining together, what’s really happening, and so much more that happens at ever single Mass.

I recommend you get a copy of “Mass Appeal” by David DesOrmeaux or “Catholicism for Dummies” (no I’m not calling you a dummy). I am sure there are many other and better books but these should be a start. There is SO much that is going on and so few people know or understand. Find out what’s going on and find again your passion for attending Mass.

I think it is fairly appropriate that the song “The Motions” by Matthew West is playing on the radio as I type this post. Look for it on youtube if you aren’t familiar with it - it is a favorite of mine with a wonderful message.

Christ’s peace be with you.

I’ve experienced beautiful liturgies among both Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians. I love them.

“Un-holy feeling” makes no sense to me. Holiness is not a feeling.

I am sorry you’re not attending a parish that uses incense if you prefer a Mass with incense. Many parishes in my area have both incense and have cantors. But I have no sympathy for you regarding the crying children, as I believe that the sacred Liturgy is for everyone, not merely adults. :shrug:

Perhaps you are simply approaching the whole thing wrong. J.R.R. Tolkien actually recommended that his son attend liturgies he found distasteful:

Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. (It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand - after which [our] Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.)

Personally, I do not find distasteful some of the things Tolkien did. I have no problem whatsoever with women in trousers and uncovered hair. But the basic point remains.

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