QUAERITUR: What if the congregation is having none of it?

From a reader:

Dear Father, I am a little exasperated at this point and wondered what you would have to say about certain matters.

I know, you know, and readers of your blog will know, that we need to return to a theocentric Christianity, with Worship that allows us to encounter the living God as totally Other, as transcendent, and as Mystery.

What is a person (or priest) to do if the congregation will simply have none of it?

Recently our parish started a Gregorian Chant choir. Three people were interested (in a parish of over 700 families!). Others told the pastor that they would leave the parish if we started using Gregorian Chant at Mass, or Latin, or Ad Orientem, or the Extraordinary Form, or male-only altar servers.

None of the other parishes around do any of those things and so these people would have many places to go (and their money and support as well).

What is a sacristan (or priest) to do when the area in which he is stationed is more focused on sports than Sunday Mass? Do you know how hard it is to have Solemn Mass (even with bad music and all in english but at least use incense, torch-bearers, an MC, etc) when all the servers are out at soccer/baseball tournaments? Not to mention that they are no allowed to miss any since they would be kicked off the team! Our 7:00pm Sunday is usually packed (and people still show up late!) because of all the people catching the "last opportunity" for Mass since they’ve now done everything else they wanted to do. I feel like there is hope here.

If the parishoners hate traditional worship that much and are willing to leave to go to the Church across the highway, then all their support goes as well. If no one cares enough to attend Mass on Sunday morning, or make sure they are on time, how is a parish supposed to have servers/musicians in order to transform the way we worship in the first place?

 

I understand your concerns.

I must start by saying that a sacristan can do nothing but pray and follow the directives from the parish priest.

One question we have to ask, I think, is whether or not implementing more faithful and/or more traditional liturgy is the right thing to do. 

If it is, then it must be done because it is the right thing to do.

That doesn’t mean that it must be done in one fell swoop.  It can be done incrementally.

Also, when we do what we must do, we must prepare and explain.  People have to have the changes explained.  That is something that a sacristan or other lay people can do, I suppose: be able to explain what is going on, why it is being done.  Whenever I have received notes that a priest has implemented some traditional practice, and he has done so with explanations beforehand, things have gone pretty well and people have accepted the changes.  

From another point of view, if people are so detached from Holy Mass if their faith and Holy Mass are that far down the list of what is important, then perhaps shaking things up a little is a good idea.  And if they leave, they are only taking their money: in the other important ways, they are gone already

We need to ask God to bless these projects and provide for our needs as we sacrifice for the sake of worthy worship and better engagement and active participation.

Finally, we have to have patience.  I know one priest who took over a fairly prosperous parish where the word "sin" probably hadn’t been mentioned for a very long time.  It took him years, but he got rid of the abuses and has shifted the whole liturgical practice around.  Along the way and sure there were gripers and naysayers.  No doubt some people left for other places.   Without question other people started coming because of the good changes.

None of us like conflict.  We don’t relish people going away in a huff.  But we have to be willing to hold the door open for them if they seek to impose what is wrong on Holy Church’s worship and, for the sake of their error or ego, resist correction which is well explained and prepared.

When St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) talks about how Christ, as Physician, applies sometimes painful corrections in our lives in an effort to save us and heal us, he says,

"The doctor doesn’t stop cutting just because the patient is screaming for him to stop."

Priests are shepherds, fathers, doctors of souls.  Sometimes they have to do the unpleasant parts of those roles.  The dopey sheep who get’s stuck in a muck hole doesn’t like the extraction process.  Kids don’t like being corrected.  Patients don’t enjoy surgery.

I am sure that some priests can chime in here with their own experiences and pointers.

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85 Responses to QUAERITUR: What if the congregation is having none of it?

  1. Mike says:

    Very balanced advice, Fr. Z. I am reading Abbe Francois Trochu’s bio of the Cure of Ars, and, allowing for some adjusting due to culture and times, St. John Vianney is quite an inspiration, first, obviously, for priests, but for all souls to have patience, and trust in prayer and sacrifice. One of the side chapels that St. John had built in 1820 was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Here the patron of parish priests said Mass on Saturday for FORTY YEARS (p.174).

    Talk about heroic patience!

  2. lofstrr says:

    “The doctor doesn’t stop cutting just because the patient is screaming for him to stop.”

    Perhaps the trick is to get enough whiskey into the naysayers that they don’t notice your cutting until its too late. :)

  3. nzcatholic says:

    I know that when St. John Vianney first went to Ars the town was in a bad state of form. But he prayed and prayed.
    Prayers such as novenas do work

  4. Hans says:

    In my experience, it’s helpful to go slowly when there is resistance. In our parish, that comes most-vocally from one of our deacons. Also, with an EF Mass at the neighboring parish, it’s unlikely there would be one at ours any time soon. However, the music director at ours is amenable to Latin and chant, so there has been some reasonable progress on that front.

    Since this surgery is optional, one has to convince the patient to go under the knife in the first place. So I would think that it would be important to get those in the Gregorian choir involved in the usual choir, and get that choir singing Gregorian and other traditional music. Of course, that can be a sometimes-painful experience. Sacrifice is necessary.

  5. Scott W. says:

    Be prudent, but don’t be afraid to test. I recall a story about a certain prison yard where it was discovered that one of the walls was rotten for years and all that one had to do was push it over with their hands and escape. No one tried it because they just assumed it was solid. That’s what I think the state of most of this fluff liturgy is today. A rotten wall that still imprisons people simply because no one has tested it. I was at a parish that had lots of junk: sand in the fonts during Lent, glass chalices and a paten that I swear was a cereal bowl, an RCIA director that believed in woman priests, contraception, poo-poo’ed adoration, and lots of junky music that when you removed the words, sounded like it belonged in 1. a massage parlor; 2. a campfire; 3. a merry-go-round or organ-grinder with monkey.

    Well, the KoC donated a set of proper chalices and paten, which replaced the junk. Our schola group got more and more masses after so many people responded favorably. Water was retained in the fonts for Lent, adoration was instituted, and the RCIA director was handed the pink slip.

    The thaw is real. Test ‘dem walls.

  6. Remember that the people have been (mis)catechized for a very, very long time. Help them to see the importance of the Mass and its priority over sports. When enough parents say no, the Sunday leagues will stop. For more than 40 years, people have been told that Latin and traditional worship are bad, boring, ‘against Vatican II”, etc…. Gently help them to see that this is not the case. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if people walk, a priest, or anyone, is required to do the right thing. But, I can tell you from personal experience that it is possible to bring people along gently, explaining things in detail along the way.

  7. Father Z,

    Great advice and the quote from Blessed Augustine is right on the money. I am not a Roman priest but I took over a parish almmost 6 years ago that had been abused for years. It was a slow process but they are starting to come around. Some people have left, and some new ones have come. If you stay faithful to what the church teaches the faithful will come.

    Blessings Father!

  8. Your comments near the end hit the nail on the head:

    None of us like conflict. We don’t relish people going away in a huff. But we have to be willing to hold the door open for them if they seek to impose what is wrong on Holy Church’s worship and, for the sake of their error or ego, resist correction which is well explained and prepared.

    As priests we sometimes have to correct & explain – and the order depends on the situation. In a case like the above, explanation probably needs to come first, come often and come from the priest himself, with heavy reliance on the relevant Church teachings.

    Pray for parishes & priests, the Church needs firm, prudent and loving leadership.

  9. shane says:

    I was recently looking back at newspaper reports in the 60s documenting the implementation of liturgical reforms. The journalist would often solicit the opinions of parishioners; I was surprised to read so much popular hostility. They must have felt like this congregation.

  10. RichR says:

    Do what one of the priests in our deanery did:

    If it can be done, add a Mass to the existing Sunday schedule and make this your “Traditional Worship” Mass. That way, the other Masses are left alone and the parishioners not interested in Gregorian chant and Latin aren’t forced to change Mass times. If the Traditional Mass starts getting too large a following, then the pastor can justify changing one of the old Mass times to a Traditional Mass, too. Also, if the naysayers aren’t able to make their usual Mass, they may HAVE to go to a Traditional style Mass, and might find they like it.

    It’s an inviting, not imposing, way to try this out. It imposes a burden on the priest who has to add a Mass, but if it doesn’t work out, there is little harm done.

  11. Fr Tim Edgar says:

    Father,
    it has been a bit like that here, trying to move the Tabernacle from a side chapel back into the centre of the Church and re-design the sanctuary. Initially there was huge opposition to any changes in anything, so I had a course of lectures on the Mass, prayer, the Priesthood and mystery, articles in the newsletter and parish magazine, just explaining and teaching until I became tired of the sound of my own voice. I have to say that there are some who are still unhappy, but the vast majority are now looking forward to a complete sanctuary re-design and are happily raising money for it to happen.
    At times it was really unpleasant, – nasty letters, anonymous letters, dreadful phone calls, – but I believe with all my heart that it is the right thing to do and will bring us so many blessings. And it will be beautiful.

  12. Scott W. says:

    “nasty letters, anonymous letters, dreadful phone calls, – but I believe with all my heart that it is the right thing to do and will bring us so many blessings. And it will be beautiful.”

    I’d be interested to hear what, if any, arguments were marshalled against moving the tabernacle back to where it belongs. (Beyond mere logistic/cost objections.) Can I press you for an example? :)

  13. Dave N. says:

    Only THREE people in a parish of 700 families were interested in Gregorian Chant? Hmmm… Something doesn’t quite pass the smell test here; I think there must some other parish dynamics below the surface.

  14. Dave N: Even if we factor in for exaggeration, etc., the situation he describes is found in pretty much every parish to one degree or another.

    People are touchy about liturgical changes.

    They need to understand why things are being changed.

  15. Jahaza says:

    What is a sacristan (or priest) to do when the area in which he is stationed is more focused on sports than Sunday Mass? Do you know how hard it is to have Solemn Mass (even with bad music and all in english but at least use incense, torch-bearers, an MC, etc) when all the servers are out at soccer/baseball tournaments?

    In our urban parish, we’ve had great success in recruiting adult men 17-50+ to be altar servers. We still try to recruit boys, but haven’t had as much success there (partly this is a demographic problem.) Several of our former adult altar servers are now seminarians.

  16. My advice is to start by offering a faith formation program in your parish that helps your parishioners explore Sacrosanctum Concilium in continuity with Tradition so they can discover what the Council actually taught.

    I recently led just such a program in the Archdiocese of Balto, and I can tell you that a good number of the Catholics who began the program very content with the “community-centered” liturgy in their parish ended up very distraught over the degree to which they are distracted from the liturgy’s true nature and purpose in their parish. In other words, they went from complacent to HUNGRY to facilitate changes in their parish.

    Not to self-promote, but there are precious few resources for such a program available. Feel free to contact me via my website (click on my name) and I will describe “Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II” to you.

    Bottom line – some people (not all certainly) are resistant to a more traditional and faithful liturgy because they just don’t know any better. For the humble, knowledge changes everything.

  17. priest up north says:

    Amen Fr. Z.

    Admitting my own failures to “pray” some changes into place through the years, I agree most of all with your assessment of incremental changes and doing so with explanation. I am currently in my 2nd year of my current assignment, and in my own desire to return some Latin to the liturgy, it has been greeted with no small amount of fear and trembling by those “who remember the old way…” if you catch my drift – meanwhile the people under age 40 are by and large all for it. Brick by Brick…

  18. Oneros says:

    How many people are in your parish? If it’s a usual parish, thousands. I doubt you’ve heard from all of them. Many would probably welcome, or at least be indifferent, to such changes. Don’t let a few vocal liberals (and, seriously, I doubt you’ve heard from that great a proportion of your parish) scare you. Let them leave (though even for many of them, it’s probably an empty threat).

  19. dimsum says:

    I can see this happening in my parish. A couple of years ago our pastor explained that it was not proper to hold hands during the Our Father. Later on he went over the proper posture and reverence for the reception of Communion. Now there is more Latin during Mass: Kyrie, Agnus Dei, chanted Communion Antiphon. The choir only sings traditional hymns in English and Latin. Brick by brick…….

  20. John F. Kennedy says:

    Regarding the sports issue, are the sports teams organized through the parish? If yes, then the Priest can require that no sports event is allowed to be schedule before the ending of the final morning or early afternoon Mass.

  21. Vetdoctor says:

    Twelve years ago our the new pastor walked in with a purpose. Every sermon, every act was aimed at reminding the parish to reverence Christ in the Eucharist.

    At first he only talked about dressing well, fasting for an hour, and receiving reverntly in hand. As time went on he started talking about the wonders of receiving on the tongue, frequent confession and finally…benediction. Everything else followed after reverence for the Eucharist.

  22. chonak says:

    “How much control do you want to have over the parish, dear?”

  23. Thomas S says:

    Just do what is right. There isn’t a choice between reverent, beautiful liturgies in continuity with the Church’s tradition and sloppy, personality-centered Mass with an array of liturgical abuses. They aren’t two legitimate alternatives to suit the whims of a certain parish.

    Just do what is right and God will bless your parish. For every 1960′s dinosaur who leaves through the front door, you’ll have someone coming in the front. Mass celebrated as the Church desires will ATTRACT more people than it will repel.

  24. Fr. B says:

    Fr. Z

    Thank you so much for this post, I needed it, its affirming, and it bolsters me in my pastoral ministry. I am in this boat, in many ways, and I appreciate your words of wisdom, and continue to pray for the conversion of my parishes, as St. John Vianney did. Brick by Brick, Stone by Stone, we’ll get there.

  25. Rachel says:

    If none of the other parishes around have any kind of traditional worship, and this parish begins to introduce some, perhaps in additional to losing people, it’ll gain people– refugees from the other parishes who’ve been longing for something better.

  26. TomW says:

    You have power greater than a neutron bomb sitting quietly in your tabernacle. Take the blessed sacrament out and adore him and pray – begin by initiating regular Eucharist Adoration. Anything you embark upon for God with the holy Eucharist on your side cannot fail.

  27. VEXILLA REGIS says:

    I believe it is helpful when the priest is seen to be prayerful, kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament before Mass, requiring appropriate silence in the sacristy whilst vesting, and saying the vesting prayers, then the servers and the Priest will process in front of the congregation , with the appropriate disposition. It is not possible to put that on once you are in the Sanctuary. The congregation are “reading” the Priest long before Mass commences.
    To lead the congregation on to what will become a truly sacred celebration will be a progressive task and as difficult as re-assembling the slices of a salami! Several of the above Priest commenters have described the detail.
    But first, the Priest must not only be assumed , but seen , to be an exemplar of the sense of the sacred he wishes to lead them toward.
    An awe-inspiring task! Fathers you have our prayers. Thankyou Father Z once again.

  28. catholicmidwest says:

    Find a different parish.

  29. Mary Kay says:

    For every 1960’s dinosaur who leaves through the front door

    Careful with your wording as my pet pterodactyl doesn’t like your name calling.

  30. Nora says:

    I think, having been on the receiving end of changes, that the most important thing is to remember that people love the way they have worshiped God; their worship is how they have approached the immanent reality of God, however feeble the tools of worship were. Liturgy is the encounter of the human and the divine. Our human part builds up physical memories and spiritual treasures from the liturgies in which we have participated.

    For many of us, I am sure, there is a better liturgy (ie, the actual, Catholic one), but if we have been graced with a spiritual insight or consolation during a retreat in which “Here I am Lord” was sung, the better approach usually is, “If you loved that, let me show you something way cooler” rather than “How could you treasure anything anything that involved that dreck?”. I am a moss-backed traditional and have been blessed to always be able to find a valid, licit Mass, though sometimes it was on the second try for a Sunday, LOL.

    I have never belonged to a parish that consecrated biscuits, put out sand (except to give the resident cats a convenience out on the grounds), or “improved” the wording of the canon. However, I am experiencing a wrenching change in my long time parish. We are currently going through a musical upheaval. Our parish is musical and has always eschewed the St. Louis Jesuit school. We have, however, drawn from a wide variety of the Church’s musical treasury, from Gregorian chant to black spiritual. We, for years, have been able to do the ordinary, in Latin, as chant, acapella; we may be weird, but we aren’t heterodox.

    Our new pastor only likes one type of hymn. All the others are gone. It hurts to lose the sung memories of all the Good Fridays on which the choir sang “Were You There” as we left from after the Good Friday liturgy. I miss “O Sanctissima” for the Marian feasts. “Jerusalem My Happy Home” is now restricted to funerals. “Fairest Lord Jesus” may not be the height of hymnody, but it was always a sign that children were going to be a focus of the Mass – and the kids got excited when it appeared, because they knew they were going to be included in the celebration. Our pastor is not wrong; nor were we wrong in our past musical repertoire. But the change hurts. If you are looking to make changes, please remember that there is real pain, for true and faithful members of Christ’s body.

  31. Gail F says:

    If the 7 pm mass is packed, then you should have hope. Mass is still a priority for people. I know that those without children, or whose children are either grown or very young, often deride families involved in sports for having “wrong priorities.” This is a fallacy in many ways. You don’t know the pressure that families can be under because of sports — which are no so competitive starting at such young ages, often all year round. But the alternative for many families is simply no sports at all, which is not fair for kids either, because so much (friendships, school involvement, even possible scholarships) can ride on sports. It’s a societal problem, not a Catholic one, and IMHO families who are coming at 7 pm after a long, exhausting weekend should be congratulated and supported. They could easily stay home.

    As for the resistance — I think the best advice here is just to go slow. Start small, build things up. Try the adult altar server idea. Introduce a Latin chant or a Greek kyrie for Lent or Advent, so they have a context and aren’t too threatening. Etc. People do get attached to things as they are, it’s human nature. Teach them slowly, and do things slowly but surely.

  32. ipadre says:

    Since we have gone through 40 years of chaos in many places, we have to be patient. Take your time, pray, pray and pray some more. Teach! Give your example of reverence, this is one of the most important steps. Change things a little at a time. I waited two years before my first major change and it was very difficult. I had many angry people – that is now almost 6 years ago. This Lent I had Friday morning Masses Ad Orientem. That was a first. I put together a booklet and gave a homily that day explaining for those who did not read. Not one complaint. If you were to visit my parish website, you will see the major changes that have taken place in the sanctuary in 6 years, but it was one brick at a time.

  33. I welcome opposition points of view: explain WHY liberal renditions of worship should be kept. Yes… it will be a rocky time for such posters. But….

  34. Geoffrey says:

    How would one define “liberal renditions of worship”? I am assuming you don’t mean abuses, but rather when the rubrics say something like “or another appropriate hymn”, etc.?

  35. My experience is that this doesn’t have as much to do with liturgical changes as it does about the priest being a spiritual father.

    Changes after VII were very often brought about in parishes in an a manner not befitting priests being spiritual fathers. This made the change a kind of anti-culture, for culture is first of all passed on and developed in the family. When the father doesn’t act like a father, the culture suffers, people suffer, the family suffers. Who wants a prostitute of secularism for a father?

    This is such a negative experience that no one wants to go through this again, as they imagine they will, even with changes for the better, changes, if you will, with a hermeneutic of continuity. The parish family no longer wants to trust those who have abused their trust in the past (even if those particular priests of the past are now dead or retired).

    But, if a priest, a spiritual father, is to make changes for the better, changes which people in their heart of hearts (in my experience) accept as being changes for the better, he is to proceed with utmost fatherliness. The family will follow and be there for him.

    Sure, some may rebell like awkward teenagers, even run away, for a while. Some may suffer on the streets in their rebellion. But that does not mean that a father is to stop being a father and doing the right thing. Even those who run have the hope that someone is doing the right thing, that there is someone to whom they can ultimately turn.

    At least some people come around when they notice that the priest is being a spiritual father of the parish family, against all odds, against their testing to see if this is true. Can they hope against hope that their Catholic culture, their Catholic identity is not only a possibility but a reality? Yes!

    Once people are convinced that there is a father in the family who is guiding them in what is best, they will be with you. They will die for you.

    People want their Catholic identity. Provide this in your own person as a spiritual father who has a great love for the Sacrifice he offers, and then such fatherhood will have a far reaching effect in the family of faith, the parish family and beyond. This will have a deep effect on culture.

    Catholic identity is that in which we rejoice when together we are offered — our spiritual fathers leading — in the Holy Sacrifice, Christ bringing us before our Heavenly Father.

  36. thecount says:

    This is God’s work,and, there will always be opposition,but, pray and carry on, trusting in Divine Providence.

  37. chironomo says:

    Yes… even a few parishioners claiming “we’ll leave and go to another Church” will make a pastor toe-the-line faster than any other obstacle. If it were not for two or three such parishioners (two couples actually), we would be singing the Ordinary in Latin by now. We began last October, and after two weekends the “outcry” from these two couples caused the pastor to back down. A much greater number of others had already expressed their support for it, but that didn’t matter… the one or two straying sheep will determine what happens for the whole flock.

  38. Fr Tim Edgar says:

    Scott W
    … the main opposition was from those who were here when the Tabernacle was originally moved to the side chapel. They were told then that this was what the Church required (and other arguments along that line.) My counter was that may have been thought to be the best thinking of the time but had proved to be inadequate and the loss of reverence and devotion has been a high price to pay.
    There was opposition from the choir and folk group, concerned about what it would mean for them and the music and the Liturgy. I’ve now suspended both choir and folk group, but there are continued rumblings from one or two.
    Others thought it would alter the “fellowship” before Mass, – in other words they might have to stop the endless chatter before Mass begins. It is a curious thing, that there is an instinct that they shouldn’t be chatting if the Blessed Sacrament is centrally placed. The instinct still lives, but has been buried so so long.
    I has one person say “I hope you are not going to do a Blackfen!”
    Numbers are growing, lots of young families, lots of children and great support from the majority, but the opponents are relentless and the conflict unremitting at times, but the hand has been laid to the plough …..

  39. Allan S. says:

    “I welcome opposition points of view. WHY liberal renditions of worship should be kept. Yes… it will be a rocky time for such posters. But….”

    OK. In my Parish, I’m definitely on the very, very small traditionalist wing. In WDTPRS-land, however, I think I’m still a lefty ;). So I’ll share what actually transpired when some modest changes were made in my happy-clappy, tie-dyed parish.

    We got a new Church, and the old one was torn down. When the new one was built, it was still a very modernist structure. I’m sure most people here would call it a wreckovation. I actually like it though, but here’s the thing: a few, small changes were made: the “child room” disappeared, the tabernacle was moved back to the centre, the 1960s stations of the cross (photos of poor children carrying bags of wheat, and other ultra lefty pictures, with NONE of Christ or the actual stations) disappeared. On the negative side, there are no confessionals (or confession, but that’s another story), we still use wicker baskets for the hosts, the Pastor still wears a tie-dyed chasuble sometimes, people clap at mass, there’s no EF mass, etc.

    Here’s the point – the modest changes (I have NO idea as to their source; I find it hard to believe they were the Pastor’s ideas; I’m sure there’s a story there I’ll never hear about) were received OK. Contrary to previous posters, there was no accompanying explanations or preparation. The tabernacle moved, and no one said anything. The old stations of the cross got the heave, and nice new wood reliefs went up, and no one said anything.

    And here’s another point: this is still a very non-traditionalist structure – and I like it. I like the gathering space concept, the Westminster style seating, the way light floods the space and makes it welcoming, the way people greet each other and converse before Mass. The Parish is a friendly place, and I have to tell you that the half dozen or so EF masses I attended elsewhere were NOT friendly experiences. My perception was that I was an outsider, and unwelcome. This would not happen at my home parish, in part I believe because of the non-traditional architecture.

    And what is all this nonsense about “changing parishes”? Am I the only one who believes I have an ethical obligation to attend and support the Parish in which I actually reside? For better or for worse as it were? I do not always agree with my Pastor, but he is charged with the salvation of my soul and I owe him a duty and an obligation. To a certain extent, I also believe I owe him obedience. I pray for him. I thank God for him. I wish he would occasionally offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but he doesn’t, so I get that somewhere else when I can or I do without it.

    Bottom line: make the best of what you have, embrace small changes, and try to see the best in what you have. In my personal, lay, opinion.

  40. Scott W. says:

    Am I the only one who believes I have an ethical obligation to attend and support the Parish in which I actually reside?

    Probably as I am aware of no magisterial document obligating (or even encouraging) anyone to attend the parish simply because it is the closest one (but I could be wrong on this point). One could argue that there is an unspoken onus which I would have no problem with. But it should be remembered that no one is obligated to endure a parish with flagrant liturgical abuse.

  41. Scott W. says:

    Others thought it would alter the “fellowship” before Mass, – in other words they might have to stop the endless chatter before Mass begins.

    Unfortunately, this still goes on even though the sacrament was moved back to the center. Need fellowshipa and chattiness? That’s what the fellowship/social hall is for.

  42. Henry Edwards says:

    Oneros: I doubt you’ve heard from all of them. Many would probably welcome, or at least be indifferent, to such changes.

    I have sometimes conjectured in discussion that — in a fairly typical mainstream parish like mine — of 1110 at Sunday Mass when some re-enchantment (like, a Latin Sanctus and/or Agnus Dei) is introduced,

    1000 will be indifferent to various extents, ranging from not even noticing to not feeling strongly one way or the other;
    100 will be pleased and even grateful, but are not vocal and so you won’t hear much from them;
    10 will write bitter letters of complaint to the bishop, accusing the pastor to try to “go back”.

    I wonder whether these proportions are about right?

  43. pelerin says:

    I was interested to see the comments of Fr Tim Edgar and amused by the comment of one of his parishioners who said that he hoped he was not going to ‘do a Blackfen!’

    Guessing he was here in England I looked him up and see that I am correct. Good luck with your changes Father! How sad that he has had nasty letters – I find this incredible. In my own ‘adopted’ parish on the South Coast changes are taking place slowly but surely and with explanation by a very brave (and needless to say holy) Priest. I feel proud and very happy to now be a part of this parish where the ‘black is said’ and the ‘red is done’ and have had my once waning faith revitalised. May there be many more Priests brave enough to ‘do a Blackfen’.

  44. a catechist says:

    It’s been my experience at several parishes that how well a pastor preaches is a factor. I don’t mean the content of the homily, but whether or not he is a captivating preacher—I’ve seen it work for both liberals and traditionalists that the congregation will put up with a lot of changes if he’s a good preacher.

    A lot of things said here seem very good–esp. to pray, pray, pray! But preaching can help, even when it’s not liturgical catechesis. Reverence yes, but a little fire in the pulpit can help win people over.

  45. jbas says:

    “Do a Blackfen.” I hope the term catches on!

  46. Scott W. says:

    “Do a Blackfen”

    Ok, I give up. What’s a Blackfen?

  47. ndmom says:

    “Do you know how hard it is to have Solemn Mass (even with bad music and all in english but at least use incense, torch-bearers, an MC, etc) when all the servers are out at soccer/baseball tournaments?”

    I do. You start small, with just the incense at first. Boys love to play with fire and smoking objects. If you start with a large enough base of servers, it is possible to work around the sports events (Sunday tournaments and meets are, unfortunately, a fact of life in an era of limited playing fields, pool space, and gym time). If you recruit just a handful of the “cool” guys, and make sure they are serving at the Masses that most families attend, you will inspire the younger boys to sign up. You work up to the torch-bearers and MC. Boys also love hierarchy, so create different server levels that are open to boys as they progress in age and experience.
    The Trochu biography described how the Cure of Ars made efforts to recruit men for parish devotions, rather than defaulting to the cadres of pious older women.

  48. Henry Edwards says:

    I meant to add one more item to this list:

    1000 will be indifferent to various extents, ranging from not even noticing to not feeling strongly one way or the other;
    100 will be pleased and even grateful, but are not vocal and so you won’t hear much from them;
    10 will write bitter letters of complaint to the bishop, accusing the pastor to try to “go back”; and
    1 of the hundred will actually send a letter of praise to bishop.

    The bishop will therefore conclude (and so advise the pastor) that the parish is strongly opposed, 10 to 1, to any such change in the liturgy.

  49. Indeed… more parishes should be Blackfen’d!

  50. smcollinsus says:

    Two suggestions from a church musician, not a priest:

    1) Keep you Gregorian Schola practicing, and maybe chanting together the Office for now, and not push to “perform” at Mass just yet. The Schola will benefit from both the practice and the spirituality, and be all the more prepared when the parish is ready.

    2) There is such a wide variety of music available in English! Study what your options are within the worship aids you currently use. Look for simpler styles – moving gently towards any type of chanting. Don’t worry yet about setting English to Gregorian chant, but that might be another step along the way. Make also gentle adjustments to the hymns that are sung, tyring to move away from songs. Hint: there are literally THOUSANDS of hymns out there, and many ARE from Catholic sources!

  51. robtbrown says:

    If people don’t like having a Latin mass and decide to switch parishes, so what? There is an American tendency to quantify pastoral success. How big is the collection? How many Communions were given every Sunday? How many Permanent Deacons in the parish? Has the pastor built a new parish center? IMHO, this is the American Ecclesiastical version of nouveau riche. It is also why pastors would object when some of the parishioners would start attending a Latin mass nearby.

    If people are less friendly after a Latin mass than in a parish, probably it’s because they’ve come from other parishes and don’t really know each other. Some people have attended the same parish for years and grown with up others in the parish.

  52. robtbrown says:

    Probably as I am aware of no magisterial document obligating (or even encouraging) anyone to attend the parish simply because it is the closest one (but I could be wrong on this point). One could argue that there is an unspoken onus which I would have no problem with. But it should be remembered that no one is obligated to endure a parish with flagrant liturgical abuse.
    Comment by Scott W.

    The Magisterium is the teaching office of the Church. What would that have to do with whether someone attends mass at his parish or somewhere else?

  53. AnAmericanMother says:

    Another suggestion from another musician . . .

    The Psalm is a good place to introduce gradual changes, which can be modified slowly towards chant. There are intermediate stages on the road from the hippie claptrap to chant (Gelineau, Anglican). If you don’t have a good cantor who can carry the verses, then the choir can chant them in unison, or (as we do at our parish) four-part Anglican chant, with the refrain in unison. The congregation really likes the Psalms sung that way . . . but it hasn’t yet been revealed what it actually IS, yet.

    Absolutely agree that there are thousands of good Catholic hymns out there, with good English translations too. The old German hymns are in my opinion the best, both melodically and in terms of the translations (Catherine Winkworth’s are amazing, she manages to translate the meaning accurately while maintaining rhyme and rhythm. That is most unusual!) You can also find excellent English translations of most of the antiphons and other chant in the (ahem) Episcopal hymnal. Whatever their eccentricities, the Piskies had the good sense to hire excellent musicians to compile the ’82 hymnal. Chanting in English seems to ease people more gently towards the Latin, since they already know the melody!

  54. Henry Edwards says:

    If people are less friendly after a Latin mass than in a parish, probably it’s because they’ve come from other parishes and don’t really know each other.

    It’s my experience in several Latin Mass communities and lots of ordinary parishes that people are much more friendly after a Latin Mass — where they hang around and talk and talk and talk, perhaps because they’ve traveled some distance to find congenial like-minded folks — whereas after an ordinary OF parish Mass you can be trampled if you try to talk to someone and impede their way to the parking lot.

  55. Father S. says:

    In our parish, one of our musicians started first an optional “Chant for Dummies” class. Then he put together a group that would sing just for fun. So, we started meeting on Tuesday evenings. We have 2400 families and only seven or eight in the group. They sing before feasts and solemnities with other choirs. After a year of doing this (in your typical large American parish) we have now had one sung NO Mass in Latin (ad orientem) with some in attendance. What has happened is that people hear us and say, “That sounds nice. Can I get involved?” Now, this May, we have a pilgrimage planned to one our historic diocesan country parishes for a sung EF Mass. We will end up taking about thirty parishioners and we will invite parishioners from all over the place. The priests have been receptive because I have simply invited them to see something beautiful. Before the sung Mass, we will have a morning workshop on singing the propers. I think that the key here is simply not to be in a rush. If it takes a few years, it takes a few years. Hopefully, it will be like the frog boiled in water. It will happen gradually so that people will never feel that they have been pushed or ridiculed. Even though I may want to go faster, this is working well so far.

    At the same time, in our parish we have a benefit. I am in a part of the Midwest where people are very Catholic. I wear Roman vestments and a biretta and nobody blinks and eye. So long as Holy Mass is reverent, the sermon is relevant and things are not more than an hour, people around here are happy. It is a beautiful place to be.

  56. Henry Edwards says:

    The Magisterium is the teaching office of the Church. What would that have to do with whether someone attends mass at his parish or somewhere else?

    Obviously, he meant to refer to Church legislation generally. I’ve been told that prior to the 1983 canon law revision, there was some obligation to one’s “residential parish”, but that there is no longer. Perhaps someone with pertinent knowledge of canon law can comment.

  57. Scott W. says:

    Obviously, he meant to refer to Church legislation generally.

    Exactly. I meant any kind of authoritative word from Church officials. I imagine their are probably individual diocese that have a policy in place, but my sense is that these are more from a logistical concern than a moral one, and even most of these will have enough room to sail an aircraft carrier through. But as far as an overarching obligation, I haven’t seen one. I could be wrong, but I’d need to see something in ink to change my mind. :)

  58. Scott W. says:

    P.S. And someone fill me in on what “Blackfen” is referring to please. :)

  59. At my current parish, there are three masses, and the liturgical differnces between them are quite amazing. The 8AM Sunday mass is an english NO, done low-mass style – NO music at all. And it is the best most reverent Novus Ordo I’ve ever experienced. I dare say, that if Father switched most parts to Latin, there would be a lot of praise and few complaints. At the other masses (6PM Sat. & 11AM Sun.) there would be many complaints!

    What I am suggesting is that if you establish a much more traitional mass at a given time slot, the parish will to some degree self-segregate, and these problems would be minimized. So try picking one mass (don’t know how many this fellow has, but if there’s a 7PM version, probably several) and focusing on THAT one. Try the adult MALE server route, and work the music more and more in a traditional way. In time it will all settel out.

    That said, it takes a determined Priest to pull it off! Without unflinching support and catechesis and preaching, you’re doomed.

    (The writers Parish sounds a lot like the one where my daughter attends school, FWIW).

  60. Nathan says:

    Scott W, Blackfen is a reference to Fr Z’s good friend and English colleague Fr Tim Finigan, parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, England. (No, Blackfen is not a secret occult rite performed by cabals of Yankee fans living in New England, BTW.)

    Fr Fingan has an excellent blog called “The Hermeneutic of Continuity,” http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.com/, but was singled out by the UK’s wobbly Catholic weekly “The Tablet,” which some call “The Bitter Pill” or worse. The Tablet’s reporters apparently went to Fr Finigan’s parish, where he as done incredible work to re-introduce mystery and reverence to the celebration of Holy Mass, as well as instituting a regular TLM. The Tablet reporters tried to stir up discontent with Fr Finegan’s liturgical program (sorry, programme)and pass it off as a story of “reactionary priest crams nasty old stuff down parishoners’ throats.”

    We’re hoping that WTPRS readers on the Congregation of Bishops follow his story and strongly consider Fr Finegan for the fullness of Holy Orders, as he would be a truly welcome addition to the number of England’s bishops.

    Hope this helps.

    In Christ,

  61. Scott W. says:

    Not only does that help, but now I feel like a dope because I sometimes read that blog and never made the connection. D’oh! Thanks.

  62. Nathan says:

    Oh, my, I just noticed I spelled good Father Finigan’s name three different ways in my comment. The truly sad part is that I looked it up to make sure I spelled it correctly. Are there good penitential acts for misspellers?

    In Christ,

  63. Nathan: Are there good penitential acts for misspellers?

    Sure.

    For your penance, while kneeling in prayer write 100 times: “Blessed Virgin, Queen of Apostles, please intercede for us with Christ your Son our Savior and High Priest to make Fr. FINIGAN the next Archbishop of Southwark.”

    Repeat daily for a fortnight, or until the announcement, which ever comes first.

  64. jlskey says:

    Rich at 23 March 2010 @ 5:34 pm is correct. The priest I believe he is referring to went through a VERY difficult time when he made provisions for the TLM. He received an insidious amount of opposition form his ‘parish council’, parishioners and the like. A man of great resolve, it still took its toll on him. I can recall many occasions passing him at the office and him appearing very drained and unable to understand the hostility he was the recipient of. He is a good priest and so is his assistant-priest who offers the TLM (a recent ordinand of May ’08 who started offering the TLM less than 1 year after ordination.) I know I am preaching to the choir, but lets always pray for our priests . . . those who support the TLM, and those who don’t!

  65. MAJ Tony says:

    Henry Edwards:

    I have sometimes conjectured in discussion that—in a fairly typical mainstream parish like mine—of 1110 at Sunday Mass when some re-enchantment (like, a Latin Sanctus and/or Agnus Dei) is introduced,

    1000 will be indifferent to various extents, ranging from not even noticing to not feeling strongly one way or the other;
    100 will be pleased and even grateful, but are not vocal and so you won’t hear much from them;
    10 will write bitter letters of complaint to the bishop, accusing the pastor to try to “go back”.

    I wonder whether these proportions are about right?

    You’re surely not far off the mark. I’m currently reading “Counterinsurgency” aka FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5 which puts the numbers regarding any cause at about 10% being an active minority for a cause, 80% neutral or passive, and 10% actively against the cause. The writer simply needs to remember a. everything on God’s time (expectation managment), b. don’t do anything to scare off the 80%, and c. if the 10% against leave, they’re no longer a disruption. If you can get some or all of those 10% against to become at least neutral, you may win them over by letting God work in their hearts, and that’s a far better situation for both the pastor and the person in question.

    As with counterinsergency, legitimacy is the main objective (meaning the authority of the pastor being seen as legitimate) and when you properly catechize the faithful, you should be seen as the legitimate authority (as opposed to the N”C” Distorter folks). Unlike in counterinsurgency, where political factors are primary, here, the spiritual (i.e. the true faith, prayer, fasting, etc.) takes first place. As in counterinsurgency, you can’t “shoot” your way out of it (you can’t beat people over the head and win by forcing them to do what they’re not ready for.) You can’t, as the saying goes “Grab ‘em by the “dangly bits” and expect their hearts and minds to follow. Besides, it’s not “Hearts and Minds” but “Minds and Wills.” Some people will want to follow you in their heart, but may not have the will to do so because they’re afraid of what it will do to their relationships with some of the 10 percent opposed, who may be close friends or family.

    If you’re unfortunate to have a “dead-ender” that wants to cause issues, you may have no choice but to deal with that person or group. Just remember, like in a counterinsurgency the best thing you can do is usually to “not shoot.” Obviously, we’re never going to “go kinetic” on a parishioner (we pray) but the analogy here is in an adversarial situation, don’t make things worse by acting with a heavy hand if you can avoid it.

  66. Thomas S says:

    “Careful with your wording as my pet pterodactyl doesn’t like your name calling.”

    Mary Kay, I reluctantly go into nerd mode and inform you that pterodactyls weren’t dinosaurs.

  67. robtbrown says:

    Obviously, he meant to refer to Church legislation generally. I’ve been told that prior to the 1983 canon law revision, there was some obligation to one’s “residential parish”, but that there is no longer. Perhaps someone with pertinent knowledge of canon law can comment.
    Comment by Henry Edwards

    I realize that, but there is a tendency among conservatives to consider Church authority as primarily governing. This leads to problem re infallibility.

    The authority to teach (the Magisterium) is infallible. The authority to govern is not.

  68. catholicmidwest says:

    Scott, you said, “Am I the only one who believes I have an ethical obligation to attend and support the Parish in which I actually reside?”

    Maybe. Some of the rest of us got the liturgical crap kicked out of us at our residential parishes. When it comes down to go to church in the next town or lose your faith, if you’re smart, you go to church in the next town.

  69. Mike says:

    Our NO parish had the deacon address kids to be confirmed in May. Told them if they chose to miss Mass on Sundays, they need to go to confession before they receive the Eucharist again. Check.

    In the Church that evening, adoration, with two lovely high school girls with professional quality voices singing somewhat sentimental songs, with piano and classical guitar. Check.

    Our pastor in the confessional, with about 15 or so in line for confession. Check.

    So, while there’s not a lot of traditional things, liturgically speaking, going on in my parish, The Lord is there, there is reverence for him, and some sound doctrine being taught.

  70. Nora says:

    Mike, I have noticed that Latin covers a multitude of somewhat sentimental lyrics with a facade of liturgical propriety, LOL. In all seriousness, sung heresy has to be chased out of God’s church, but simple songs, like Fairest Lord Jesus, that remind us to come as the children do shouldn’t be tossed out with the odious efforts of the 70′s.

  71. Scott W. says:

    I realize that, but there is a tendency among conservatives to consider Church authority as primarily governing.

    My advice is always assume when there is confusion that it is because I am not expressing myself very well (which I do all the time), but to supply the most favorable interpretation possible to figure out what I mean. Works 99% of the time. :)

  72. thecount says:

    In the Novus Ordo Seclorum,it is often a case of,I must increase,and He must decrease.

  73. Nan says:

    Allan S and Scott W; I recently consulted with a canonist on the issue of parish, from a slightly different perspective and learned that Canon Law is silent on parish, so you have neither an obligation to be a member of the parish nearest you, nor even a parish of your own sui juris church. This is true of both codes.

  74. Mike says:

    Nora–Quite true!!!

  75. catholicmidwest says:

    The only problem with not being affiliated with your local parish is that if you should die in a hurry, you risk getting buried in a tincan with who-knows in attendance, but if that likelihood is better than listening to a heretical mess, and it often is, then it’s not that much of a problem.

  76. Mary Kay says:

    Thomas, I appreciate your going into nerd mode, however reluctantly, and want to assure you that I did know that. You will notice that I referred to my *pet* pterodactyl and pets are not the same species as owners.

    What I jokingly refer to as my pet pterodactyl came about when a regular on another board wondered about the liturgy changes “way back in the 1960s” and I realized that many who now debate what happened in the 1960s are discussing a time that is no more real to them than any other event they’ve read about in books because they weren’t actually present at the time.

    One, I don’t appreciate being called a dinosaur, Two, you young whippersnappers who refer to people as dinosaurs do so disparagingly, writing off anyone who remembers the 1960s. In doing so, you are simply sealing your own fate. The young have been “dissing” the previous generation for eons and the older generation can sit back in smug satisfaction because they know that your turn will come.

  77. Mary Kay says:

    I hit “send” too soon.

    Thomas, your children, those in your children’s generation, are going to look at you with disparagement and scorn and wonder how you allowed Obama and especially all those Catholic politicians to get away with what they’re getting away with. Your kids are going to say, “We wouldn’t have let that happened. We will do it better than those dinosaurs at the turn of the century.”

  78. AnAmericanMother says:

    Ernest L. Thayer, whose main claim to fame is “Casey At the Bat”, perhaps said it best in a reunion address at his alma mater, Harvard:

    “We have reached the age, those of us to whom fortune has assigned a post in life’s struggle, when beaten and smashed and biffed by the lashing of the dragon’s tail, we begin to appreciate that the old man was not such a fool after all. We saw our parents wrestling with the same dragon, and we thought, though we never spoke a thought aloud, ‘Why doesn’t he hit him on the head?’ Alas, comrades, we know now. We have hit the dragon on the head and we have seen the dragon smile.”

  79. MisterH says:

    I find the 7pm mass reference hits home.

    At Christmas, my local parish has one mass that has such overwhelming demand that tickets have to be obtained in advance to attend.

    What mass might that be? Midnight mass? Christmas morning?

    Nope.

    Try 3:45 in the afternoon Christmas Eve.

    Maybe I am cynical, but I figure that mass is popular because it allows people to get their Christmas “obligation” out of the way early, so they can do all their other activities unhindered that evening and on the following Christmas day.

    That quirk has always bothered me.

    My family has chosen a different path. We attend mass on Christmas Day and spend the rest of the day at home as a family enjoying some peace and relaxation. We then have our Christmas Dinner with extended family on the following day, the 26th. It’s different, but it works for us.

  80. chironomo says:

    Only THREE people in a parish of 700 families were interested in Gregorian Chant? Hmmm… Something doesn’t quite pass the smell test here; I think there must some other parish dynamics below the surface.

    I’ll try to be brief, but this is an issue that has very braod appilication to many of the issues we discuss here and elsewhere regularly.

    It depends on what you mean by “interested in Gregorian Chant”, or “interested in….” whatever else, whether it be Ad Orientem Masses, Communion on the tongue, Latin Eucharistic Prayers or a list of other issues. Because somebody isn’t interested in being a part of a Schola doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t interested in Gregorian Chant. The rather surprising and considerable sales volume of CD’s of Gregorian Chant would bear out a much greater interest than two or three people in a parish. I’m pretty sure that if you began introducing Gregorian Chant into the liturgy (as I have done and am still doing…) you would not have EVERYONE except three people complaining to the pastor. You would more than likely, in a parish of 700 families, have perhaps a half-dozen or so individuals express their strong opposition to the pastor. The rest would likely fall into either the “I like the change” or “I really don’t care about the change” or “I didn’t even notice the change” camp. When we began singing the Entrance Antiphon at our Choir Mass, I received many positive and appreciative comments. I still only have 5 individuals who will put in the effort to sing them each week, but the interest in the parish would seem to go a bit beyond that.

  81. chironomo says:

    …. consider that in a parish of about 12K parishioners I have a choir of 24 people. Does that mean that only 24 people in the parish are interested in music? Perhaps the writer of the article should advertise for a small group to sing contemporary pop-style music at Mass. When only 8 or 10 people express an interest, they could claim that there are only 8 people in a parish of 700 families interested in contemporary music. The possibilities with this kind of thinking are endless! Advertise for a person to assist in training Female Altar Servers. When only one or two people come forward, explain in next week’s bulletin that there will no longer be Female Altar Servers because only two individuals in the parish supported the idea… you see, it all depends on what you mean by “supportive of” or “interested in”.

  82. AnAmericanMother says:

    chironomo, you are absolutely right.

    Our choirmaster has made a point of introducing top-flight music, and people stop him and choir members every Sunday raving about the music. Rumor hath it that folks are coming to this particular Mass for the music. But it’s like pulling teeth to get people to join the choir.

    I come from an Episcopalian background where singing was treasured and people had to audition to join the choir. I’ve read Thomas Day’s book, but I don’t see why this should still be true in a fairly sophisticated suburb in a major metro area. I’m at a loss.

    The comment that really made me laugh (and kind of scratch my head) was the parishioner who asked the choirmaster why he played so much Bach as preludes and postludes . . . “it sounds like squirrels in a box.” I have no idea where she was coming from, but I’m surprised lightning didn’t strike on the spot.

  83. Dave N. says:

    Excellent observations, chironomo! They made me chuckle on a day when the news just isn’t very good.

    Blessings.

  84. catholicmidwest says:

    AnAmericanMother,

    What that parishoner said was pretty average actually. But the Catholic Church isn’t supposed to be the church of average.

    Average says:
    I’m a critter and I’d rather always act like one.
    Move over anybody who’s in my way.
    There is no God because I can’t see him.
    Hope is only good if it’s hoping for something really exciting (look-a shiny thing) or immediate (like in 10 minutes or less)
    Nobody cares about me unless I “put out” and that’s all I can expect
    Classical music is too hard and I don’t want to put any effort into it
    Emotion is all there is
    Me. ME. MEEE. (because all of the above is such bad news, it makes ME clutch my butt)

    But none of that is CATHOLIC. Catholic takes the long view, believes in God and his power, believes in good, believes in hope–the real, long, satisfying kind. Average people have to be taught to be CATHOLIC, especially now. We need to start teaching again.

  85. catholicmidwest says:

    RE teaching, music is a good place to start. Beautiful liturgies with correctly translated words would go miles, leagues, continents toward this goal. People who witness beauty and are taught to appreciate it can suspend “clutching their butts” long enough to be taught. Beauty astonishes them.