Monday, November 2, 2009


The saying for electricians is, “Green is ground the world around,” meaning that whenever trying to figure out which of three wires is the ground wire all one should have to do is look to see which one is green and that, in a perfect world, should be the ground.

In theory much is supposed to be the case for the Catholic Church. You would think that our carefully constructed Mass would make it so easy for a priest to pop into any Catholic Church and one would just know what to do. Ah! But such is not the case. There are of course weird quirks that an individual parish might have that are not in keeping with the rubrics that make it difficult for a priest who is not intimately familiar with a parish to catch on to. Then there are those things that are not covered in the rubrics that can differ from parish to parish. An example of this would be the Communion Rite. Where do the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion stand? Who receives first? How do you distribute everything without causing a train wreck? Then there are the little options such as how are all of the other ministers used to entering at the beginning of Mass? Are the gifts brought forward? Do they expect you to help them set the altar at offertory?

I will admit that I used to just fall short of panicking before celebrating Mass at a parish at which I’d never celebrated Mass before. I would show up very early and ask a thousand questions (as though I would remember all of the answers while trying to concentrate on celebrating the Mass.) More recently I have my stock couple of questions and then I tell the servers, “Tell me what to do and don’t let me fall out of the sanctuary,” which most of the times they are fairly good at doing.

This past weekend I was the guest homilist for wedding. I showed up early as I have always done but there was no celebrant. People were asking me questions about the Mass and I could do was shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know.” But the joy of it was that it was just fine. It only took eleven and half years but I figured instead of having a Mass like a fine piece of crafted Classical Music I can deal with Jazz. There is still a lot of structure but like a pick up ensemble a lot more attention will just be paid in the performance of it so that I don’t clash with any other player.

When the celebrant joined us in the sacristy instead of peppering him with a thousand questions about what we were about to do we talked about how his diocese was just about to start the same process we were in the middle of here in Cleveland with the closing of parishes. When the magical hour had arrived he stood and said in gruff voice, “Let’s go!” and we marched out into the sanctuary with polite orders half whispered to us. “Stop here. Reverence the altar. Go to your chair.” And then louder, “Alright everyone we are ready. Stand up and sing!”

There was a time that this would have driven me absolutely nuts! I do prefer much more solemnity at the Mass and always have. But a wise priest once counseled me that I do not have to pray like everybody, but I do have to pray with them. And in the end we did pray and celebrate the sacrament, it was enjoyable, I was able to be relaxed with that, and there was infinitely more to talk about after than if everything were absolutely perfect.


Adoro said...

Hmmm. I was thinking yesterday about different parish customs, too, some of which arise from the problems of architecture.

On the simple end, the Offeratory is done a little differently. When I've had to cue children to go back to pick up the gifts, I had to find out myself WHEN to cue: immediately or wait until the ushers have passed their section. (It was the latter).

Architectural problems/decentralized tabernacle: I watched a priest leave the sanctuary this weekend in order to go to the tabernacle. He had no choice. HUGE no-no, but considering that Jesus has been thrown off to the side, well, what else CAN he do if he needs to get the Blessed Sacrament that is reserved there? On a Sunday Mass, it's not a problem as an assisting priest simply brings it as he approaches the altar. But Saturday mornings are a problem.

The GIRM says the priest may never leave the sanctuary at that time, but it doens't give another option when the architecture doesn't allow him to remain!

OK, little OT< just sayin'

Cracked Pot said...

I think that Mass attendees would not mind if a visiting priest unknowingly violates some of the "parish rubrics." At our parish, however, we have lay people who help set up before Mass. Quite a few times, I have seen important mistakes, such as the lack of the large host being put out, or missing corporals etc. Such mistakes are harder to overlook. The people may "blame" the priest for the mistake, not knowing that a lay person was in charge of doing all those things and was not well-trained (or maybe was careless). It's distracting for us in the pews, however.

Carol said...

I imagine the first Masses ever were also fairly discombobulating and distracting, what with babies crying, dogs barking, sick folks hacking away, off-key cantors, and perhaps folks shouting outside the entrance, "It's being held here? Are you sure?" Singular folks probably sat in the end seat then, too, so everyone had to crawl over them. Weren't the rites of Christian initiation held during Mass back then? Musta been a nightmare of logistics. It seems all that the celebrants back then were missing were mega-motorcyles passing by, and a great deal of criticism.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

In the case of my old parish where I go occasionally for Daily Mass, if a guest priest violates parish NOT pouring the precious blood after the consecration, I am one happy soul.