This past weekend at the 4:30 Mass the singing was so above average for the congregation that I had to say something at the beginning of the Mass. I believe I said something along the lines of, "That was awesome! The best you have ever sounded!" And indeed it seemed as though more people than usual were participating and in our big, echo-y church it was inspiring. Even the Our Father was prayed with extra loud gusto. When that happens I get excited and have more life when I celebrate. Then that feeds back into the congregation and then back to me and so forth. It's great.
One of the great things about it is that the congregation is not there to witness but to pray and offer THEIR sacrifices too. It "shouldn't" matter who the priest is - or how exciting the Mass is - or if one is entertained enough or not - we are their to pray our little hearts out regardless.
One of the drawbacks to the priest no longer facing east in the Mass is that a now people hang a lot more on the personality of the priest for what they "get out of it." Sometimes people will say something about a priest not being exciting enough etc . . . But if you want your priest to be excited, what are you giving him to work with? It is easy to see why sometimes a priest might want to say Mass facing east again.
There is the unchecked yawn where a priest, in the middle of prayer, will look up and be able to count the number of fillings a particular parishioner might have.
Then there is the death stare person. No matter what you say - you get the death stare. Fortunately I know a lot of these people and it is just who they are. It has little to no bearing on whether they are taking it in, mad, finding it hilarious or offensive.
Then there is the person with consumption whose mother never taught him to cover his mouth or to wait. Can you imagine talking to someone in the grocery store and in the middle of your sentence, looking right at you, he hacks up a fur ball the size of a compact car? It is a little disconcerting.
Add to that errant phones, screaming children, bathroom runs, latecomers and a host of other things and east starts looking mighty good.
But, in the end, a priest loves all of these people because they are part of his family. And that is what one does with family and in the best situations the priest is loved back the same way. I would rather have every one of these people there than not there. It also helps me to remember that I am not there to pray well when others are praying well but to pray my best regardless - and hope others do the same when I am off my game.