Why read at Mass?


#1

I moved from Poland to the UK 8 years ago. Since then I have been attending English Holy Mass (Catholic, not Anglican one) although it is possible to hear Mass in Polish where I live. For practical reason I prefer the English Mass though.

Obviously, I have noticed a few liturgical differences between Polish and English rite. In Poland people rarely use any paper materials at Mass, there are usually no prayer books or hymnals in churches. I guess this derives from the fact that most people have Religious Education at school and they simply know their prayers by heart, not needing any supporting materials to read from.

However, I know for sure that in the local parish church where I go here in the UK, most people also know prayers by heart, I know this for a fact as many of them are my friends. Still, they usually read from the prayer books and hymnals provided and many of them use missals as well.

Is it tradition or a manifestation of love of the written Word of God? I happily follow the general trend and read from my missal but in my case it’s more due to English not being my first language. But why do the others read? If they have been reading those prayers for decades not, they surely know them inside out anyway. Even in the local Opus Dei centre where I attend people read missals, those guys attend daily Mass so I’m sure their memory doesn’t need refreshing either!

There are also other fascinating differences, like kneeling or making the Sign of the Cross at different moments than in Polish liturgy, but surprisingly, those things seem to differ between different parishes within the UK. I thought it was the western Roman Catholic rite everywhere!


#2

When I was at college the Rector insisted that we use the college prayer books for morning and evening prayers , even though we knew the prayers off by heart .

He said that reading the words helped in concentration , and as I have grown older I think he was right .

By the way , I hope you are happy in the UK .

I have Polish neighbours who moved next door about three years ago . They had a baby boy in January . They are a lovely family .


#3

This definitely makes sense! It does help to concentrate. Thank you!


#4

One explanation is that some of these prayers have not been recited for decades. The English translation changed 2.5 years ago and if you only go to Mass once a week you may still be struggling to remember the new versions of the Gloria, Sanctus, Confiteor, etc. I know that although I didn’t require a missal for the previous 30 years, today I will mistakenly say the ‘old’ prayers if I’m not looking at the new ones. I need to see the new Gloria & the new Sanctus to be able to say them correctly.


#5

And sometimes! At Stations of the Cross we have a booklet
that after each prayer gives the references in parenthesis.
Sure enough every week some poor person ends up
loudly reporting " from the Responses of Good Friday- oops sorry"
or " from the Homily of page 15 oops sorry"
Lol


#6

Several observations I have made over the years. Polish happens to be my first language as well, so I think I know where you’re coming from. I manage to understand it quite well but I have a lot of difficulty with reading it. The Polish words tend to be quite long for one thing. English words are shorter generally but there are a lot of homophones in English so one can easily mistake something heard with something else. There are so many irregularities in vowel sounds with English, not to mention many silent letters as well. (I never understood the logic behind creating a language with silent letters but that’s another topic.) On top of that you get so many differences in dialect as well. So bottom line is that I would gain little by following the written Polish as it’s being read but a lot by following the written English at an English Mass. But these days I follow much in Latin, especially when going to the Spanish Mass. I like to avoid the English Mass if I can.


#7

For the last three weeks, our priest has been going over the parts of the Mass during his homilies. My guess is that with all the catechumens about to enter the Church, he is trying to emphasize the importance of all the parts and our involvement in them.

When he got to the Liturgy of the Word, he was very passionate about having us pay attention to the Lector and what they were reading. He said, “you know what bothers me when the Word of God is being proclaimed?” He picked up a missal and said, “These”. He said we should have our heads up, and our focus on the reader. It got a few chuckles and he said it in a sort of humorous way, but we got the point.

I agree that the new prayers may still cause some stumbling without reading them, but I think we are all getting better at it. I just keep the missal in hand, just in case I blank out. :slight_smile:


#8

At the risk of going off-topic, the answer is that languages are seldom created; rather they are grown and mutated and evolved. Many silent letters in English, or any other language, once had a purpose, and are retained as vestigial.

Mark Twain had a plan to reform English spelling, and you know where that went!

Now to veer back on-topic. I seldom read along in my home parish. However, we have one deacon with a learning disability who inevitably stumbles over simple words in the Gospel and changes their meaning. He is very faithful and well-meaning but his readings do make it difficult on us sometimes. Thankfully most of us already know these Gospel pericopes well and he does not confuse us in the slightest. Nevertheless, I read along so that I can glean the full meaning from the text.

When I am visiting in a parish, I find myself reading along for a dismaying reason: I need to know what the Missal actually says while the priest is ad-libbing. It is primarily because I demand my right to know the words as they should be prayed. I am not the type to complain, after Mass to the priest, or to the bishop, about ad-libbing, but I have a compulsive desire to know it is happening and to be frustrated by it.


#9

Yes it went right into the iPhone text messaging. :smiley:

I have a feeling it will ultimately destroy the English language as we know it, but then English isn’t exactly known for its immortality. We’re lucky if U.K. speakers can be understood by U.S. speakers as it is.


#10

It helps to use more senses. Often you can get a new or deeper or more pastoral point out of reading along, turning over something in your mind perhaps with a bit more mental force because your eyes are able to lock it not the words a bit.

I get a lot more out of Mass by reading along. I attend Mass daily…but it still helps me greatly.

I also noted once a particular lector would do his own substitutions of the Readings. So after months I finally mentioned this to him, and it stopped.


#11

It’s charming and it would be an affront to my WASPish (WASC?) sensibilities to change this. I think I would be truly horrified if any widespread spelling reform were attempted for English. However, perhaps I should not be worried: I daresay spelling reform would fail miserably for English, to my sublime delight.

I’m a good speller, so I can’t commiserate with poor spellers. I take English’s oddities as beautiful inconsistencies in a profane hodgepodge of a language that is, nevertheless, a work of art. But that doesn’t mean I prefer it in Mass! ( :slight_smile: )


OP: I think it may be a cultural thing. Listening is a skill that probably requires as much training and teaching to develop as reading. For example, if I just listen to the readings, I get a completely different sense than if I follow along with listening. I would say that, because Westerners are, in general, literate, our cultural ability to listen has decreased. I do not mean that someone who can read well necessarily cannot listen well. However, the loss of things like the oral tradition is a travesty and has consequences.


#12

Whether one likes to read or not, whatever language, I think this is one of the Sundays of the year when it’s almost mandatory. I doubt if anyone has memorized all the responses to the cycle of Passion readings.


#13

I’m thankful that the new Canadian Lectionary has done away with the congregational responses. It allows us to concentrate on what’s being read rather than on our next cue to jump in.


#14

I wasn’t aware of that. When did they change it for the OF Passion? And here I thought I was/had been actually actively participating. :slight_smile:


#15

I guess I should have thought before I wrote.

Before the new Lectionary was promulgated in 2011, the Passion had been divided into 5 parts: Narrator, Jesus, S1, S2, & S3. IIRC, S2 was the part normally done by the congregation.

The new Lectionary only offers Narrator, Jesus, & S. The Sunday Missal no longer suggests that S be done by the congregation and, in our parish at least, that section is simply done by another reader.


#16

To be fair, I did notice this last year at the Spanish Mass. I should have reasoned it would be extended to the English Mass as well. But then at the Spanish Mass I do need to read along anyway. That way I could recognize some of the passage. (I also turn on the captions when I watch a Spanish TV show.)


#17

It wouldn’t apply unless you’re in Canada. We have a new Lectionary. AFAIK, other English speaking countries haven’t had a Lectionary update for a number of years.


#18

Just returned from an English Mass, albeit it had some Latin responses. The Passion does indeed (still) have parts for the congregation and extensive ones at that.


#19

English wasn’t “created,” it evolved - and there are dialects of English in which those letters are actually pronounced; for example, in some regions of Scotland. :wink:


#20

Let’s put it this way. For me transitioning from U.K. English to U.S. English was a somewhat painful experience. It was even more difficult for my parents, not so much for my younger brother, though. I did end up receiving an Excellence in English award, but I think my mother was happier about it than I.


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