Monday, April 6, 2009


I was trying to find a quote for you and thought I knew exactly where it was and who said it but after spending too much time looking for it the search was called off. So a proximate equivalent will be given and if you know the correct quote and the quoted, please send it in.

It was said by a famous artist (Picasso?) and goes something like this, “People think that a great painting just happens when in fact it takes all the cunning and planning of a great crime.” The same thing can be said for the Mass. You might remember a while back there was a post about the great number of people it takes to have a Sunday Mass. As we enter into Holy Week, that number increases (or can and in our case does) dramatically. Disparate groups of people are coming together, each with their own ministries to put on the great event we call the Triduum. Troops of people from those being brought into the Church through RCIA, the boy scouts who will prepare the Easter fire, Knights of Columbus, scores of servers (the more the merrier I say), visiting clergy, musical groups, and many, many more groups and people are coming together to put on one solid event. The thing that holds us together is the Sacred Scriptures assigned for the particular days and the rubrics (instructions).

Rubrics only take you so far however. It must be remembered that these instructions for the celebration of the Mass not only encompass your home parish, but grand cathedrals in Europe and thatch roofed huts in the poorest depths of the wilderness. So the rubrics must be taken up and applied for “this particular place.”

Priests have different ways of handling this. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Fr. Ozimek and took my confirmation name after him and even went into the priesthood by and large because of him *BUT* his particular method of dealing with complicated Masses was to tell everybody their job ten minutes before we began which always left me in a deep state of anxiety. “When are we supposed to enter with the torches again?” He would sigh and say, “You’ll figure it out.” This is probably why I tend in the opposite direction.

For really big and complicated Masses it is often the case that all the rubrics you need are not in one book. On one assignment there was a priest who photocopied the whole ceremony from all the different books, did a cut and paste job and reassembles his own version of the Sacramentary. Not only did it develop a Master Plan Book but it helped him put the ceremony together in his head.

My way of doing it is by constructing complicated ceremonials with painful detail in them and then throw them out to all the heads of the different groups to see if they find anything that seems glaringly wrong. If it passes muster there they are turned into sub ceremonials that are much less complicated and more ministry specific – music – servers – sacristans – etc. . .

Saturday we had our rehearsal for Maundy Thursday. I was late owing to confession going about 40 minutes over (a happy problem – I’ll have to have more confessors next year) and when I walked it was overheard that a particular maneuver I had planned was going to be difficult and noisy at best and hopefully I would drop it. Ah! But I like a challenge.

For an hour and a half we drilled and went through our paces. At each stage it seemed like I said, “Now for the hard part.” This is where a certain amount of training giving theater direction came in handy. A few changes were made once we saw everyone in the space and realized some traffic jams occurring and then sent everyone off with a prayer.

Now . . .if we can only remember it all until Thursday night . . .


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Father, for wanting to do our liturgies well. If you care, people will notice--and they will care more too.

Anonymous said...

Fr. V

The Maundy Thursday mass was worth every minute of preparation. I appreciate all that everyone did. What a beautiful and moving service. Thanks!