I was once accosted in St. Peter’s Basilica after my daily Mass by an angry modernist visiting American pants-suit, hair-do and lapel-pin sister … I guess angry was redundant, wasn’t it… who griped at me that she couldn’t hear the Eucharistic Prayer. She had not been there from the beginning of Mass, and so maybe wasn’t tracking well. I said that I was using the 1962 Missale Romanum and that the Eucharistic Prayer was silent. She persisted that everyone should hear it. I continued that raising our voices disturbed the other Masses nearby. She continued with her harpy upbraiding, braying about the right of all to hear everything. I explained, before I returned to the sacristy and a more pleasant day, even at the hands of the liberal-nazi sacristans of those times, that when I was reading the Eucharistic Prayer, I wasn’t talking to her.
Here is something I just sent in for my And With Your Spirit column for The Catholic Herald, the UK’s best Catholic weekly.
I wrote this week about the beginning of the Roman Canon. Toward the end:
Unless you are attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form, you now hear pretty much everything the priest says. For centuries, however, the Roman Canon was pronounced nearly silently. When you hear Eucharist Prayers at Mass, remember this: the priest is not talking to you. He is addressing God the Father on your behalf in the way that only an ordained priest can.
Even when the Eucharistic prayer is spoken aloud, priests should remember to whom it is addressed and reflect this understanding in their manner of speech. It is no surprise that the tenor and style of Mass devolved over the last decades in English speaking countries. The language we have been using is neither solemnly humble nor courteously confident.
A change of the texts of Mass won’t by itself accomplish everything we hope for in a reform of our liturgical worship. Nonetheless, the content and the tone of the new translation will help reorient congregations with their priests and guide them back to being a manifestly worshipping people.