GUEST RANT from a reader: priest constantly ad libs

From a reader.  You can make your own comments.

I have just returned from Mass.  As usual, during the Mass I was constantly distracted by the consistent ad libbing by the priest celebrant.  Permit me to offer a  sample:

Before the Sign of the Cross:  Father reads a snippet from a "liturgical cheat sheet" that introduces the "theme" of the Mass.

Introduction to the Penitential Rite:  Father gives a introductory monologue that gives the weather report and welcomes our visitors, who we are always happy to have with us.  He then calls us to recall "the times when we have been too much to ourselves and loved each other less." 

The Prayers of the Faithful:  After the banal intercessions from the "liturgical cheat sheet," Father improvises prayers for the suffering in Haiti, announcing how much money was collected and thanking the parishioners for their generosity; for those serving in the military–living and deceased–their "parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and surrogates" (I’m NOT making this up); and on and on and on.  The Prayers of the Faithful went on for 5 minutes!  I realize that, in the great scheme of things, 5 minutes doesn’t seem long, but it is an eternity at Mass.

The "Orate Fratres":  "Let us pray that this our sacrifice and all that we do will become acceptable to God the Almighty Father."

The "Mysterium Fidei":  "In song, let us proclaim this great mystery of our faith."

The "Per ipsum et cum ipso":  "For it is through Him, and with Him and in Him…."

The Invitation to the Our Father:  "Let us with faith and love, in union with God our Father and as one family, we proclaim that prayer which Jesus taught us."

The "Ecce Agnus Dei":  This is Jesus Christ, our hope and our peace, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  How happy and blessed are we to be called to supper."

This said, my question is this:  after over 35 years of priesthood and over 35 years of "doing his own thing" at Mass, will he, all of a sudden with the new translations, actually start to "say the black and do the red"?  Will bishops and those entrusted with implementing the new translations, actually INSIST that priests not do what this man has been doing Sunday after Sunday for years and years since his first Mass?  And who is going to hold them accountable?  Bishops?  The laity?  In fairness to the bishops, bishops can’t be everywhere.  As to the laity, priests often resent, no matter how tactfully, respectfully, and charitably states, any constructive criticism about the way a priest celebrates Mass. 

My great fear is that, despite the new translations, priests will continue to do whatever they wish with their parts in the Mass simply because no one is going to hold them accountable for otherwise. 

Thanks for listening

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  1. coeyannie says:

    It remains to be seen if some priests will knuckle under to the new translation. I wrote last week, in the wrong discussion, about the Mass I attended in Seattle last weekend. I knew from previous attendance that there were things that were unacceptable, but I had to go to Mass. Talk about injecting the Mass with extra words, this priest takes the prize. I didn’t recognize the first part of the Mass, but since it was a penitential sequence, I went along. There was a layperson/female homilist. They use glass chalices. The layperson pours the consecrated precious blood into chalices. The priest left the sanctuary to wish everyone the sign of peace, and on it goes. By the time I left there, I was so annoyed, I felt guilty that I received Holy Communion. I was mindful of the fact that it was a valid Mass because he did say everything right at the Consecration, but it took us across the river and through the hills to get there. I think of how insidious all of the extra words, extra actions are and the people in the congregation do not know what the h–l is going on. They sit there like sheeple and lap it all up without question. St Joseph Parish in Seattle. Don’t go there.

  2. stgemma_0411 says:

    I too have this concern, because I believe that there are enough “rebel” priests who are getting to the point in their life where they have “memorized” the current Rite of Mass and don’t really use the Missal except for if they forget where they are or make a mistake and need to find their place where they left off. These priests are at such an age (late 50’s/early 60’s) where they might create enough of a stink (old dogs can’t learn new tricks mentality) that they may not end up using the new Missal when it comes out. I pray that this isn’t the case and that everyone humbly comes to terms with the understanding that there was a more liberal in its application of Vatican II than the Church intended and we are now making the proper adjustments necessary to restore what was lost in the aforementioned application of the Council. I can easily see there being a further division of those who are already on the fringes from those who faithfully follow the Church.

  3. Brian Day says:

    Part of the problem is that the GIRM has too many options.

    Using the first example from the guest rant: Before the Sign of the Cross: Father reads a snippet from a “liturgical cheat sheet” that introduces the “theme” of the Mass.
    The GIRM has this to say from paragraph 124: “Then, facing the people and extending his hands, the priest greets the people, using one of the formulas indicated. The priest himself or some other minister may also very briefly introduce the faithful to the Mass of the day.”
    Granted that is is supposed to be after the Sign of the Cross, but it is not an ad lib when the rubrics specifically allow remarks to be made.

    I didn’t look up other instances for brevity, but there are other instances where the GIRM allows for (paraphrasing) ‘these or other similar words’.

    I do not like ad libbing either and wish for a Mass where all of the ministers “say the black, do the red”. But with the way that the GIRM is structured, maybe the priest thinks that he is executing legitimate options for the Mass. It’s more likely though that he offers Mass the way he does because that was the way he was taught in the seminary and doesn’t think that he is doing anything wrong.

  4. Mitchell NY says:

    Since the new Roman Missal and translation IS coming then I think when Priest disobey and adlib or worse, continue using the old text it would be time for people, who may not be accustomed to doing so, to take a pen and write a short note of how disappointed tthey are in Father “X” for not using the new Missal exactly. True many Priests do not like being told about their way of celebrating and maybe this is best handled in a more anonymous fashion. Bypass confronting him and write your letter. Many letters from pople who are usually not the noisemakers will probably help, indicating something must really be up for these people to write. If you never wrote before, take 10 minutes and do it if you see such failures on the implementation of the new Missal translation. It will benefit the whole parish. It is a powerful way for lay people to say “This is not acceptable” as a whole group without confrontation. Encourage your friends to write as well. Strength in numbers.

  5. Dave N. says:

    “….no one is going to hold them accountable….”

    Nope, same people in the pews and same bishop in charge. Why would this change?

  6. mgarstin says:

    This is not going to change these priests. We have to replace them one by one and put stricter rules on the liturgy. We need bishops who are not wimps!

  7. momoften says:

    Priests who irritate me when they adlib, I pray for them. Ultimately, I agree that it depends on the hand of the bishop as to how his priests follow the new translations. I hate to say it but I believe, as does my dad who has go through much of this turmoil in the church in his lifetime, yes, there are too many options but the real problem is the vernacular language. Not only is the Mass easier to ad lib in the vernacular, but when he does the people who like the ad libbing can understand and hear it. The
    solution may be to turn more of the Mass to Latin and limit the vernacular language in it. Ultimately, we need to pray for them and encourage them when they do something really GOOD!

  8. ipadre says:

    That is the major problem. Things are not going to change just because we have a new translation. We need a major re-education of the priests. Many of our brothers were educated in a time when all this nonsense was encouraged. Creativity – there was something wrong with you if you weren’t “creative”. I remember one of my Liturgy professors who suggested we have our own prayers, etc… in the books with sticky notes. She also said to take them out when the Cardinal comes to the parish, because the she will not admit to it. She suggested it, but if we did it, we did it on our own and she was not responsible. (I’ve never followed her advice – I work for Holy Mother Church!)

    This my friends is what we are fighting against. A new translation in vernacular, Latin, or Martian – when it comes down to it, they will do what they want. Don’t get me wrong, I love the new translation and will be happy to be rid of the one we are using now.

    Education, education, education, enforcement, enforcement, enforcement! There is no other way. Just a new book alone will do nothing!

  9. TNCath says:

    In the new translation, nearly all of the celebrant’s parts clearly prescribe exactly what the priest has to say.

    After the Sign of the Cross, the rubrics do state that the priest may (meaning he doesn’t have to) “VERY BRIEFLY” introduce the Mass of the day, such as “Today is the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross” or something similar, but then, “follows the Penitential Act, to which the Priest invites the faithful, saying:

    ‘Brethren (brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins,
    that we may prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.'”

    The way I read it (and someone correct me if I am wrong), the celebrant MUST say those words before the three options available in the Penitential Rite. There is no mention of welcoming anyone or giving the weather report.

    At the beginning of the Communion Rite (invitation to the Our Father), the rubrics state, “After the chalice and paten have been set down, the Priest, with hands joined, says:

    ‘At the Savior’s command
    and formed by divine teaching,
    we dare to say:'”

    Once again, unless I am misreading what is stated, there is no other option here.

    Mitchell NY suggests writing anonymous notes to priests. I have found that many priests resent such anonymity and usually respond by suggesting that if these folks aren’t happy with the way they say Mass that they are welcome to go elsewhere. Of course, this doesn’t solve anything, ultimately, and only allows these priests to continue to “do their own thing” beyond reproach.

  10. Matthew in Vancouver says:

    Sometimes all we can really do is pray. It is often that when we leave it to the Lord that we see the best results.

  11. jt83 says:

    “My great fear is that, despite the new translations, priests will continue to do whatever they wish with their parts in the Mass simply because no one is going to hold them accountable for otherwise.”

    This has been a concern that I share, but I have hope that with the advent of the new translations a new generation of priests in the near future will be positively influenced as it will be the version that they were taught while in formation.

    Until then, I and the good people of my parish will continue to hear Father ad lib his way through every prayer. We will endure as I call, the “Rite of Handshake” which if you didn’t know is the part of the Mass that begins “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Let us turn to one another and greet those around us whom we don’t know.” to be followed by “Pray, sisters and brothers that these, our gifts may indeed be pleasing to God.” -completely devoid of anything pertaining to the sacrifice that is about to take place at the altar.
    Even at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, the church of which Father Michael Ryan is rector, does not even pray the Gloria as proscribed by the old translations for which father so valiantly appeals for.

    I just hope and pray that the new translations will truly bring about a new attitude and renewal to the English-speaking faithful.

  12. Thomas G. says:

    I assist at the daily Mass in the Pentagon whenever I can (3-5 times a week), and the ranter has described about 90% of the Masses I attend there.

    One priest used to read Eucharistic prayers approved by the Swiss bishops because he likes them (they have a very contemporary tang). A good priest, I am sure, but a notorious ad-libber along the lines mentioned by our ranter.

    I just offer it up and am grateful I have daily access to a valid Mass.

  13. Erik P says:

    Mitchell: Absolutely correct! Write a short, but kind and pleasant note saying that it upsets you as a parishioner when the celebrant ad libs/makes jokes/talks about the weather/makes light of the Mass. Explain how it makes you feel. (Not angry, but sad.) Pope Benedict has talked about changing the culture before implementing any strict sorts of changes. If this priest were to receive enough of these letters, he will surely respond. (hopefully positively!)

  14. Warren says:

    I’m just back from Mass, too. I’m beginning to give in to the thought that, the host of this blog excepted, most priests are freakin’ incompetent when it comes to celebrating the Mass. If his heart is in it, I’m not bugged by a priest singing off key (though he and any priest should take a few lessons, or stop singing). And, the priest doesn’t have to be a St. John Chrysostom of a preacher, just faithful and well prepared. Is it really so hard for priests to understand they should keep their grubby little consecrated hands off the Mass and stick to the script? And don’t get me started about laymen who make the Liturgy into a circus. I do my best to pray with humility before the Eucharistic Lord Who deserves our utmost attention. I’m about ready to verbally blast the next parent who lets their screaming brat(s) toss about toys or crayons with reckless abandon while the priest trips over the words of consecration. And, with Liberace at the piano ornamenting every Haugen ditty into a drippy lounge number, I find myself getting so tight and hard hearted that I’d rather just sit at home rather than witness travesty after insult in some 1970s bunker-style church hosting a social club mass.

  15. Warren, you speak for many; priests and laity alike.
    It is a real crisis you describe. There is another understanding of the Sacred Liturgy that these priests adhere to; hopefully, it will die with them. Pope Benedict and Msgr. Marini are making some headway. We just have to wait it out.
    I’m disturbed beyond words when I am subject (as a con-celebrant) to the abuses you mention.
    Let us pray for one another and encourage the good progress that is being made, bit by bit.

  16. Magpie says:

    The conclusion I’ve reached is this: if we are not happy with the way Mass is celebrated, we should do our best to set up EF Masses under the terms of SP. We can vote with our feet. The new translation will help but I can imagine some priests won’t comply with it or will continue to say silly things. It will however sound even sillier with the loftier English jarring with their ad-libbing. Maybe then they might start to understand. One of our priests routinely and reliably leaves out the intro to the Our Father, which as someone said above, is not optional. There is also a mini-sermon/preach at the start of Mass. Then we remember we have sins so we do say the Confiteor.

  17. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    It’s this kind of ad libbing at Mass (combined with the Groundhog Day experience of singing Haugen and Haas ditties every freaking Sunday) that makes me want to stick a meat fork in my jugular vein.

    Thank God there’s more to the Church, more to the Mass, more to the priesthood than this.

  18. canon1753 says:

    As someone said above, a lot of the ad libs were allowable ad libs. It is likely that they think that “if you can ad lib here, then you can ad lib anywhere.”

    I will be interested to see the rubrics of the new translation. That is maybe where the real change will be. I would love to have less options rather than more. Some of the options are as complicated as figuring out Holy Days of Obligations in the US with USCCB fizzbin (HDO if not on Sat or Mon, unless something else intervenes). All that too many options (anything over 1 or 2 choices IMHO) is confuse the people. People expect Mass to be Mass and not the Father X comedy hour or, even worse, “what’s coming next?” If you don’t know what is next how can you pray? (Or something irks to the point of distraction- how can you pray)

    Has anyone ever seen the 2nd option of the penitential rite ever used? I’ve only used either the Confiteor and Kyrie or the 3 petition form with the absolution.

  19. asperges says:

    Just back from the (old rite) Mass. No ad-libbing; all rubrics strictly adhered to; back to the people; blessed silence in the Canon: no irritations, worries, heresies or disappointments. Wholly satisfying.

    The problem quoted stems from the fact that it is a vernacular Mass (they don’t ad-lib in Latin). Add to that: a weak and ill-structured (new) rite; unclear or multiple choice rubrics; facing the people which invites unnecessary distractions; 40 years of liturgical indifference, poor control from Bishops and those in authority and the general feeling that everyone can do his own thing with impunity.

    I don’t even think it is a case of wilful disobedience. The ethos of liturgical discipline just isn’t there for many. When I attend a new rite Mass, I often feel as though I am on some strange, new hostile planet. The normal rules just don’t apply. The thinking is alien and, to me, very un-Catholic. It is an ordeal from start to finish.

    Putting it right these ills will not be easy. The floodgates will take much shutting. A pity they were ever opened.

  20. Mike says:

    The daily Mass I attend is offered by Opus Dei priests; we get none of that, at all. Say the black, do the red, with reverence and recollection.

    Weekend Masses are at the parish, and sometimes the going is choppy.

    More incentives for prayers, for thanksgiving for every good priest, petitions for more, holy priests.

  21. Jaybirdnbham says:

    I think the reader who posted the complaints about the priest ad-libbing, went a bit too far. What happens prior to the homily could maybe “give a bit” so far as allowing the priest to be something other than an automaton.

    For example, our pastor has what we all affectionally refer to as his “First Homily” right at the beginning of the Mass. In it, he expounds a bit on the scripture readings we are about to hear, and presents some perspective that we can bring into our own lives. Then he goes on with the Mass without further ad-libs. And every parishioner I know of loves this “first homily”. Maybe it’s not “correct”, but it’s helpful and it’s just a part of who our pastor is, and we love him for this.

    On the other hand, if he were to ever start playing it loose with anything after the homily, that would be a problem worth complaining about. But as long as a priest “says the black and does the red” for the liturgy of the Eucharist, maybe we should be a little more tolerant of our priests if they ad-lib a bit prior to that point. (within reason, of course, such as my pastor’s “first homily”).

    (waits to be strongly disagreed with)

  22. TNCath says:

    nazareth priest: “There is another understanding of the Sacred Liturgy that these priests adhere to; hopefully, it will die with them. Pope Benedict and Msgr. Marini are making some headway. We just have to wait it out.”

    Until then, what do we do? In the words of Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto”: “Do we simply turn our heads / And look the other way as the world turns?”

    Is there any possibility that, along with the new translation, there will be an official commentary (or–dare I use the word–“clarification”) on the new Roman Missal? If we are going to have any luck with this translation, someone is going to give some instruction.

    I hear that Father Paul Turner of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is coming to our diocese to speak to the priests on their annual “study days.” Afterwards, he is meeting with the musicians of the diocese for two additional meetings as well. Apparently Father Turner, pastor of two parishes in his diocese, finds the time to travel the world to speak to groups about the implementation of the new translation. Does anyone know where he stands on the new translation? I know he’s a “facilitator” with ICEL, but is he supportive or not supportive? Does he work closely with Bishop Finn?

    I’ve been exploring some of the musical settings put to the new translation. While I am certainly happy with the new translations, I still think we need to stick to Latin for at least the chanting of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Setting these chants to English translations is often very awkward and “clunky.”

  23. FrCharles says:

    Regarding the penitential rite ad lib, I’m reminded of one my favorite givings of good example from one of my teachers. When the priest introduced the penitential rite with an invitation to reflect on our “faults and weaknesses,” my teacher walked out, explaining, “I follow St. Paul and boast of my weaknesses. I came here today for forgiveness of sins

  24. TNCath: I agree absolutely with your comment about sticking to the Latin for the Ordinary parts of the Mass.
    I know this is difficult; believe me, I’m not compromising. But you can only do what you can do.
    If a pastor or priest isn’t obedient to the norms, there is recourse to the diocesan bishop. How that plays out is according to the bishop’s understanding and implementation of the rubrics and texts.
    We cannot and should not “turn out heads”. But do what you can do and just pray and do penance.
    That’s how the reforms are going to take place.

  25. TNCath says:

    Jaybirdnbham: “For example, our pastor has what we all affectionally refer to as his “First Homily” right at the beginning of the Mass. In it, he expounds a bit on the scripture readings we are about to hear, and presents some perspective that we can bring into our own lives. Then he goes on with the Mass without further ad-libs. And every parishioner I know of loves this “first homily”. Maybe it’s not “correct”, but it’s helpful and it’s just a part of who our pastor is, and we love him for this.”

    Yes, you have set yourself up for a lot of strong disagreement. Like it or not, what you describe is is precisely what the celebrant is NOT supposed to do and does not have the right to do on his own initiative. The way I see it, your pastor does his parishioners are great disservice by denying them the right to have the Mass offered as it is supposed to be. This is not being “an automaton.”

  26. TNCath says:

    nazareth priest: “If a pastor or priest isn’t obedient to the norms, there is recourse to the diocesan bishop. How that plays out is according to the bishop’s understanding and implementation of the rubrics and texts.”

    I appreciate what you have to say, and I agree that prayer is the only answer. As for contacting the diocesan bishop, when you have a bishop that is fond of saying, “The Lord be with all of you” (I often am tempted to respond, “And also with all of you!”), you can pretty much surmise what his reaction is going to be to a priest who “isn’t obedient to the norms.”

  27. Glen M says:

    From my experience, most laity leaders in a parish are quite liberal in their interpretation of the “Spirit of Vatican II”. They are usually change agents with hidden agendas who have held the reigns of influence for thirty years now. The best recourse to them is to get on the committees, write the bishop, get involved in effort to right the ship. As last course my humble advice is to leave the parish for a more faithful one to the Magesterium.

  28. TJerome says:

    I really believe the “ad libbing” priest is a generational issue. When I attend Mass where the priest is younger than 50, there is generally never any ad libbing. The worst of the ad libbers I run into are in their 60s. When I speak with younger priests they are anxiously awaiting the new translations whereas my pastor, age 64, is already ranting and raving against them. He is also a big-time ad libber. I believe most of the ad libbers will be gone in the next 5-10 years, so the problem will correct itself. In terms of younger clergy, liberalism is a spent force. I doubt many liberals are entering the priesthood at this stage. Most of the seminarians and younger priests I encounter are very serious, dedicated young men who care what the Church teaches, both doctrinally and liturgically.

  29. momoften says:

    Warren, (and anyone else discouraged)you too are in my prayers, that you may find a good priest. 18 years ago, I found a priest that celebrated Mass and everytime at Consecration tears would come from his eyes..sincere tears…he never ad libbed. It was a Novus Ordo Mass. I now have a pastor that I travel 30 minutes to get there. He celebrates both forms of the Mass so reverently, and with such care and love for what he does…it draws you in to where heaven meets earth. Don’t be discouraged, keep praying for holy priests! The following is from a card I received and recite frequently
    Keep them I pray Thee, dearest Lord,
    Keep them for they are Thine,
    Thy priests whose lives burn out before
    Thy consecrated shrine.
    Keep them for they are in the world,
    Though from the world apart,
    When earthly pleasures tempt , allure-
    Shelter them in Thy heart.
    jeep them and comfort them in hours
    Of loneliness and pain,
    When all their life of sacrifice
    For souls seems but in vain.
    Keep them as spotless as the Host,
    That daily they caress;
    their every thought and word and deed,
    Deign, dearest Lord, to bless.

    Our Father, Hail Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for them.
    this is fro the late John J Cardinal Carberry, it also says:

    It is in my heart, a very good prayer to recite EVERYDAY!!!!

  30. Fr. Richard says:

    The “rant” impressed me as I’ve felt the same frustration at times and I too am ordained 35 years and know from whence my generation comes. I travel quite a bit and I can say with assurance that the tendency to ad lib and be “creative” exists far beyond the English speaking world. I could explain why I believe that is so but I would go on and on.
    I will limit myself to saying that when the priest faces the congregation throughout the Mass there can be a tendency to think it’s “about him” and “about him and them.” In an article I read some months ago, the author spoke of “clerical narcisism.” We priests want to be liked, we want applause and so we try to appeal. How far we have come from the Catholic sense of the Eucharist?
    How can things change? Change will take more than the introduction of the new English missal because as I said this situation exists all over the world. Change will happen when we priests renew our Catholic faith in the Eucahrisic mystery and cmmunicate that faith, that truth to our people. Change will happen when we renew our faith in the sacramental mystery of our priesthood and our ministry in the Mass.(Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Pope Benedict called for this year of the priest.) Change will happen when we lead by example, as the Holy Father does.
    To take Fr. Z’s mantra, change will happen “brick by brick.”

  31. Fr. Richard: You are correct about the ad-libbing being beyond the bounds of the English speaking world.
    I was on pilgrimage in Orvieto, Italy, and the priest yammered on and on and on; of course, I did not understand him, but even in English I would have probably tuned him out!
    This is a definite defect in the OF and in the way it has been interpreted and taught for all these years since the changes.
    And the priest facing the congregation definitely is an ‘opening’ for all this craziness, multi-homilies, on and on and on and on…I agree absolutely with your final statement: “Change will happen when we priests renew our Catholic faith in the Eucharistic mystery and communicate that faith, that truth to our people. Change will happen when we renew our faith in the sacramental mystery of our priesthood and our ministry in the Mass.” Absolutement.

  32. Geoffrey says:

    O Lord, send Your Holy Spirit upon all priests and deacons. Inspire them to “say the black, do the red”. No more, no less. Amen.

  33. TNCath: I know. I know.
    Wish it was different, really, believe me!
    The laity are “hostages” to the whims of bishops and priests at the Sacred Liturgy; I’m sorry about that. I wish I could offer something more helpful. Pax.

  34. Tom A. says:

    I have attended several Masses (new rite) celebrated by a Legion of Christ priest. They ALWAYS say the black and do the red. While I too consider the newer rite poorly formatted, at least when said by an LC priest, the faithful are never distracted or scandalized. I have never seen or heard an LC priest deviate from the rubrics once.

  35. Lurker 59 says:

    Active Participation. This is the key to fixing things. No one should expect by sitting around and writing letters to priests and bishops for the situation to change much. Unless there is some major heresy going on, letters complaining over “small things”, even if they are actually important and you have a bishop/priest that loves orthopraxy, are just giant migraine headaches involved to the person on the receiving end of the parchment. It is very difficult to legislate and impose good piety and reverence into an environment where there is not so much disobedience but generalized lack of seriousness and reverence.

    LET ME INTERJECT HERE that really honestly for every letter that a person writes complaining about an issue, they should write two complementing the priest/bishop for a job well done. How many times have you written your bishop to say how reverent Father Uses Last Name was when he celebrated the Sacrifice of the Altar today at Mass? Want things to change? Give our priests/bishops examples of things that they are doing right. Hold them up as examples to follow.

    Back to the subject at hand: The key to changing this is Active Participation. The weakness of the Ordinary Form of the Mass is that it is modular, open, and very much shaped by the dynamics of the parish. (I submit that it is fully possible to “say the black and do the red” and still really muck things up. There is just too much room for ad libbing / priest’s personality to shine through.) The weakness is how we got to the situation that we are now in but the door swings both ways, we just need to reverse the particle flow. Your average parish is filled with all sorts of committees, groups, and activities that shape the parish life and have input (sometimes direct) on the structure and format of the liturgy. If the liturgy was more rigorous and static, it would shape the format of the parish life, but because it is modular and open the reverse is true (again hence the problem and break down). By actively participating in the life of the parish community, the liturgy itself will start to shift towards a greater degree of reverence and orthopraxy.

    There is Divine Grace in the “liturgy wars” because it forces people who care about things out of a stance of complacency and onto a footing where they must celebrate the Mass more actively and take strong ownership of the parish life, because if they don’t, things fall apart into banality rather quickly. Rome wasn’t built in a day, because it is grand and beautiful and majestic, but the post Vatican II liturgy sort of was built in a day because it is rather easy to be under inspiring especially when given the freedom to do so. Things will change when we take the freedom that was given and use it to be inspiring and edifying.

  36. Fr Martin Fox says:

    If I recall correctly–and I just as likely am not–the ‘brief introduction’ and the introductory words to the penitential rite can be combined. So, yes, that does invite some ad-libbing.

    Also, to be fair, many, many priests–and many of us–have been at liturgies, even papal liturgies if I recall correctly, where something is inserted at exactly this point, such as a welcome of the holy father, etc. My point being, that most priests are acculturated to at least some ad-libbing as allowed even in the most reverent situations.

    The thing is, it’s like anchovy paste–a little goes a long way. [HiYoooooo!] And as someone who is more extrovertive, the temptation is great to do more of it, for the best of reasons. As I priest, I have often thought, gee, some explanation of this would help–I bet folks would like the connection…

    That said, all the ad-libbing described is not called for.

  37. Sandy says:

    Oh my, how I can relate – just had that experience this morning! I told the Lord I was offering it up and part of that offering was not to complain to my husband after Mass. (It was a parish we sometimes visit, and not the pastor, who is more reverent.) That being said, it still drives me up the wall because it relates to the reverence, or lack of it, at the Mass. It was Our Lord’s “holy meal”, etc. That one sends my blood pressure rising. All this will require God to open eyes spiritually for things to change, so that will mean prayer, and maybe good example will help.

  38. As an aside: I have been accused of looking “angry” when I celebrate Mass facing the people.
    Well, I don’t interject anything unnecessary; I’m trying to pray; I might be in pain (I have some physical problems)…the jest of this is that I’m not a “Johnny Carson” kinda celebrant. [I used to get that too… but I just needed glasses. And frankly, that sort of stupid observation could be pre-empted by Mass ad orientem.]
    I pray the words given to me; I try to be reverent; I don’t give unnecessary attention to the congregation, especially during the Eucharistic Prayer…maybe I do look “angry”…I’m trying to pray, for Pete’s sake, and some of the folks want entertainment. Too bad for them!

  39. Jordanes says:

    That’s one of the most serious problems with Mass with the priest turning his back on God: most people (especially in the modern enteratinment-dominated culture) get to looking at the priest and his face instead of letting their eyes of faith be drawn to the face of Jesus. After all, for most of the Mass the priest isn’t talking to the people, but to God the Father.

  40. Dr. Eric says:

    And I think, Father (nazareth priest) that is the real problem. People are coming to church to be entertained. We were flipping through the channels and Nickelodeon (I guess you could call it a kid’s channel) is starting another new teen sitcom about a girl who goes to a performance high school so she can sing and dance. It would seem that the American Dream now is to become famous for being an entertainer, not being a physician, not being a police officer, not being a fire fighter, not being a priest, not being a nurse, not being a teacher, etc… but being a “celebrity.”

  41. Mike says:

    As an aside: I have been accused of looking “angry” when I celebrate Mass facing the people.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing–ie, praying. I have such a challenge when the priest looks at us during the Eucharistic prayer.

    He’s speaking to the Father, after all. [Sounds familiar.]

  42. MargaretC says:

    This raises an interesting point…Do the bishops understand the need to catechize the priests, as well as the laity? I suspect we’ll get a range of responses depending on the bishop.

    I’m new in this parish, so I have a small sample to go by…the pastor does a number of things that would make most readers of this blog grind their teeth, but nothing as extensive as the behavior described in the post. The actual Liturgy of the Eucharist is said by the book. I haven’t been here long enough to predict how he’ll react to the new translation.

    Actually, I can’t predict how I’LL react to the new translation accompanied by the same awful music…

  43. Rob F. says:

    Our celebrant at mass today, our pastor’s “boss”, i.e., a regional vicar, changed the word “sacrifice” in the super oblata to “eucharist.” Apparently, even a bad translation isn’t bad enough for some. Needless to say, he didn’t pick the Roman canon for his anaphora.

    Thanks for letting us gripe, Father.

  44. An American Mother says:

    Nazareth priest, that sounds like “parishioners with too much time on their hands”. I’m sorry you’re having to put up with that, and I will pray for you.

    Our young Irish parochial vicar keeps his eyes lowered to the altar and on Our Lord . . . so nobody can see if he’s angry or not! (he isn’t – he is a reverent celebrant who obviously means every word he says, and he preaches very hard-hitting homilies).

    Another interesting development here: we had to rebuild our parish hall because it was built on the cheap in the 70s and was sliding down the hill. Anyhow, our St. Mary’s Chapel in the new building just reopened last week for daily Mass . . . . and the priests are using the “Benedictine Arrangement” with a beautiful antique crucifix on the altar (our parochial vicar brought it from Ireland). AND the Tabernacle (a smaller copy of the one in the main sanctuary – it’s a model of the church, wood covered in gold leaf) is directly behind the altar in a lovely carved walnut alcove, with curtains (gold inner curtains and outer ones of red brocade).

  45. jlmorrell says:

    The rant in this post describes well what I suffer each and every week. I find myself wishing, hoping, praying that I could just go to Holy Mass without the shenanigans. I try my best not to let the whole situation turn me into a curmudgeon.

    But, at the end of the day, after all the analysis, I believe we have to convert these people; bishops, priests, and laymen. Through prayer, holiness of life, and good old fashioned Catholic activism we have to do what we can according to our station in life. In my opinion, I believe this includes pushing for the TLM in every parish.

    “Remember that the Christian life is one of action; not of speech and daydreams. Let there be few words and many deeds, and let them be done well.” – St. Vincent Pallotti

  46. KAS says:

    I think that God will hold the priests accountable AND their Bishops accountable.

    The LAITY must PRAY–nothing but complete prayer, the prayers and fasting and almsgiving–the whole thing.

  47. Thank you, all of you, for your supportive comments. It really does not bother me when I get this kind of “feedback” (angry at the altar)…in fact, it only demonstrates that we need to return to “ad orientem” and soon. For too long the celebrant has been the “focal point” instead of the Lord…I pray that the day will come, sooner than later, when we will face the Lord together at the altar. Pax et bonum! [Don’t let the whiners bother you too much. They will a little … but not too much. I was in a place once, where there was a campaign to run me down with exactly this sort of comment. They hater that I stuck to the book, and therefore was “cold”. You mustn’t let it get inside.]

  48. I have a similar situation with our “Deal or No Deal” parish priest. I talked to him tactfully and respectfully, but was met with a gruff “I am THE priest here. I know what I am doing.” I approached our bishop who advised me to talk to the priest…AGAIN. [Do the talking also in writing. Every time you have a conversation, follow it with a letter recounting everything you both said so that there is a record. If the priest or the bishop do not respond, you still have a record. And ask your questions in letters as well. Get written responses, if you can. When it is time to write to the Congregation, you will have a written record to send.]


    Who’ll properly confront this issue?

  49. Marlon says:

    On Friday, I was at Mass (OF), and I happened to have a missal with me. I was able to follow the priest as he said the Eucharistic Prayer. I always thought this priest was a fellow on the straight and narrow, but lo and behold, when he got to the word “mankind,” he replace it with “us,” clearly one of those changes that makes the prayer more ‘inclusive.’ Today I attended Mass in the Extraordinary Form–and I knew there would be no such foolishness. I pray for the priest who took liberties with the liturgy–and I note that the EF was dominated by young families, and this is the hope of the future Church. The change will come slowly, but it will come surely.

  50. An American Mother says:


    We would need a large hoist to convert our main sanctuary to ad orientem (the altar is three enormous pieces of marble and probably really DOES weigh a ton) — but from looking carefully at the architecture I believe the architect (and our rector, who gave him his marching orders) had that possibility in mind.


    Our rector was ordained before all the “changes” (gee – that sounds like Peter Dickinson’s The Weathermonger) but he’s no aging hippie – he’s a hard as nails Irishman with a good grasp of reality. He won’t institute any radical, sudden alterations, but gradually and gently change will come. The chapel altar, the Ordinary of the Mass chanted in Latin every first Sunday (with the priests gradually introducing more and more Latin), homilies focussed on the meaning of the Mass, articles in the weekly bulletin ditto. Brick by brick, and I think I can see it coming.

  51. medievalist says:

    Too often, and I am among the worst offenders, the combox fills with complaint. I’d like to give kudos today to the young priest in my Toronto OF parish who said (and always says) the black and did (and always does) the red. We even got the Roman Canon complete with the long list of saints and martyrs.

    Visiting the website of the parish into which I will move in May, however, I am fearful…

  52. BillR says:

    I swear this person attends my parish. In the end, it is probably no different today as it was in the past. There’s a reason Dante mentions the numbers of bishops and priests in hell as well as why there is only one parish priest elevated to sainthood (St. John Vianney). Being a priest is EXTREMELY difficult. We need to support them and encourage them and those who wish to join their ranks (like my young son). But we also need to ignore the work of satan and his distractions, and focus on the mass (maybe even offering another prayer that he simply learns to “say the black and do the red”).

  53. Luke says:

    I believe the new translation will create a sticking point which will slowly bring about the desired change on its own. No, it won’t turn every priest into St. Philip Neri. But its language is such that it is outside of our everyday usage. I’ve heard it said that it will give us a sense that something different is happening here exactly because it’s not written in the manner that we speak and better expresses the sacred mysteries. In short, it gives a sense of mystery itself. How many times have people (priests, liturgists, lay people alike) tried to bring the Mass down to our level. How often tried to make it all about us and some human unity devoid of God? It’s not a tongue lashing, or a reassignment. Nor is it a permanent placement of the problem priest into a cloistered monastery. But maybe, just maybe, the language of the new translation will affect a deeper reverence for the mystery that is the Mass in both the celebrant and the congregation.

  54. TKS says:

    We have three Priests in a huge, affluent parish. One we can’t understand at all. One we can understand better. (And the Pastor who just brought in his friend, the centering prayer priest, for a mission and classes to learn it…) I go to daily Mass and have heard these Priests offer Mass for years. And I was just astounded when the one we can sort of understand changed his innovative additions to the liturgy back to the right words. I was speechless and can’t wait to see it he keeps it up. What a great blessing.

  55. Ceile De says:

    The most harmful words in the GIRM are “or similar words” where perfectly orthodox words may be chosen or perhaps replaced by less than orthodox words. The simplest remedy to much of the abuse we see would be to remove these wherever they appear. Poor Paul VI – he probably never imagined that allowing “similar words” would open up a whole world of irreverence or worse. Those who proposed this to him may or may not have known what little time bombs were hidden in those words. But – no matter – once included their potential for mischief was widely spotted and availed of.

  56. TNCath says:

    Many, many people go to Mass to be entertained, and often look for parishes that are similar to the way protestant mega-churches craft their services, complete with an orchestra and lively choir, often directed by a Billy Joel/Elton John type who leads the choir and congregation with his trusty piano or electric keyboard. People just “love” the way this liturgical demagogue sings because he makes them feel good about themselves for having been there. And how does Father compete with that? He makes wisecracks from the altar and thanks them for coming and welcoming visitors. And, while chant and the TLM and the ad orientem position are certainly making a comeback, the vast majority of parishes in the U.S. are still stuck in this pseudo-protestant style of liturgy. The implementation of the new translation represents a rare opportunity to restore much of what we have lost the last 45 years. I hope someone in authority is reading the postings on this blog and taking notes. If the Congregation for Divine Worship really wants the English speaking world to implement the Ordinary Form of the Roman Missal correctly, they had best put together a very detailed instruction of exactly what is permitted, optional, and forbidden, or we are going to have more of the same mess we have been enduring since the Novus Ordo was first implemented. People may complain and whine at first, but, in time, they will adjust. But, only if bishops and priests are all told, in no uncertain terms, that there are to be no deviations from the rubrics of the Mass.

  57. Re: looking angry

    A lot of people “look angry”, at least to some observers, whenever they’re concentrating hard. Shrug. Don’t let it bother you.

  58. James Locke says:

    Once upon a time(3 years ago during 12th grade HS), I used to wanted to own my own missal. I wanted to be able to follow the OF mass and everything. But lo and Behold I went to the University of Dallas which not only has an insultingly hideous parish, but the current priest was an epic ad libber. My parish in McLean VA has recently begun having TLM every Sunday and I had gone to those for a bit. So when i knelt for communion, I was denied it. I think that this event changed my perception on the mass forever. The reason that I now sit on my computer for a few hours every week learning about the liturgy is because of this event. Ad-Libbing is bad but worse is being denied communion.

  59. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Marlon said:

    “I always thought this priest was a fellow on the straight and narrow, but lo and behold, when he got to the word “mankind,” he replace it with “us,” clearly one of those changes that makes the prayer more ‘inclusive.'”

    I have a confession to make. I have done that. I am not proud of that. My point is, good men sometimes give in to a temptation or a weakness.

    I will also say that I’ve unintentionally messed up a word. Today, while proclaiming the Gospel, in looking up from the Evangeliary to look at the people, I think I added a preposition where it seemed there ought to have been one–but there wasn’t.

    Also, in greeting the people at the beginning of Mass, I meant to use one of the greetings from St. Paul (“the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…” etc.), but instead, I said, the “the peace of the Lord be with you always.”

    I really don’t know why I said that at that point…

  60. Sedgwick says:

    I don’t believe the new translations will put even a minor dent in this kind of behavior. This is, after all, the Novus Ordo, constructed on a Protestant base, made to look Catholic, and full of “options.” When you deliberately cultivate casual, irreverent, sentimentalized creativity and banal innovation, and when you fail to discipline the appearance of same, why should anyone be surprised when you get it?

  61. Ceile De: “The most harmful words in the GIRM are “or similar words” where perfectly orthodox words may be chosen or perhaps replaced by less than orthodox words.”
    There you have it. Exactly.
    When the Holy Father does it in papal Masses, and he does, there is no question; but left to the devices of the parish priest/liturgist/liturgy committee, it is gruesome.
    I have no idea why this was ever implemented; well, I guess I do…thanks to Bugnini et. al.
    This has got to be changed.
    The General Intercessions are an absolute horror. We need to have something like what is given at the Good Friday liturgy and be done with it. Enough of this con temporizing…it’s nasty.

  62. xsosdid says:

    Well, I have seen pretty much everything: had a priest whose homily was “I quit”, I’ve closed my parish, joined another, had bad priests and good priests, and my relationship to my Lord seems to continue to grow. Priests are in general a mystery to me, but we all have to put up with them as part of our faith. So everybody suck it up, and get on with knowing Jesus.
    I really wish somebody here would school me,because I don’t understand: I’m a sinner and often a fool. That’s a given for me. Why would I expect my priest to be anything more?
    What are we really talking about here? I don’t get it! So you have a priest who makes you cringe. So what?

    I’m not trying to be difficult, I would like someone to explain why anyone is surprised that humanity is hard to watch for the most part.

    I really feel like I am missing something here so I would like someone to explain.

  63. xsosdid: If I my add my humble opinion…you are experiencing the “test” of these times. Priests are human, sinful, and can be horrid. No way to get beyond that. But Jesus and His Church are forever; you seem to know that. We are in difficult times; there is no contest to this.
    But our Lord promised us He would remain with us until the end of time.
    It’s a scandal when priests/bishops do not do what their vocation demands of them. But God is ever-greater. Always. When a priest does not celebrate the Sacred Liturgy according to the mind of the Church he is depriving the faithful of their God-given right to have the Sacraments according to the legislation of Holy Mother Church. That’s apart from his sinfulness or worthiness. If he’s doing his “own thing”, he’s depriving you and everyone else of what you/they have a right to have by right of your Baptism.

  64. xsosdid says:

    nazereth priest, since I have been following this blog- which fascinates me – I have been trying to grasp the significance of liturgical form. But I don’t get it! Not because I have a problem with it, but I am trying to fit it in with the understanding I have of my faith.
    Why does it matter?!

    I really want to know the answer to this

    Thanks and God bless you

  65. JuliB says:

    xsosdid – of course we are all sinners. And our clergy is targeted by the evil one.


    If we can’t trust them to simply pray the Mass the right way – to be obedient in such a straightforward task, then what example do they set for us?

    I don’t expect perfection – but in addition, we have a right as Catholics to have the Mass said properly (or so said Bishop Sheen and I trust his words…).

    We have a combined parish (2 churches) with 3 priests, and a roaming priest who goes all over. The newest priest – who is 58 – ad libs a lot. Before he goes out to distribute Communion he lifts the host and chalice up saying ‘holy gifts for holy people’. It throws me for a horrible loop and breaks my contemplation of the Sacrifice. I am an EMHC (yes – we stand around the altar – no I don’t really approve of that either, but… I am as tolerant as I can be) and each time I am there with him, I hope that my face doesn’t show any flash of discomfort…

    While we’re all ranting, I would like to ask a question of the group. This same priest gives anywhere from so-so to good homilies. But about 6 weeks ago, he started bringing in things to read instead, such as short story, excerpts from a play, etc. By the 3rd or 4th time, I thought to myself – if he does this again, I’m going to have to bring this up to someone. And then he stopped for a week. BTW – I’m a lector too, and I don’t want to come across as a know it all layperson to the priests here. So, I was REALLY happy that he stopped.

    Until last Sunday, which was a week with some really good readings that offered up a variety of ideas on which to expound.

    That was when he read the excerpt from the play (from the late 60s), which focused on how so many of us had an unmet need for an apology about something. So he left the ambo (?) and came around and apologized (I’m sorry) to several people shaking their hand. And he went all the way to the back of the church, then back up the side into the crying room.

    I could have cried. I know he means well, but that really destroyed any feelings of reverence or reflection that I thought the homily was supposed to inspire. My thoughts are now that I would rather go to the EF that starts at noon a little farther away (the timing is terrible due to other things that happen on Sundays) unless I am on the schedule.


    May God bless Father Z and all the other priests who post here. You help feed me and many others!

  66. JuliB says:

    Oops – I forgot to ask my question – should I say anything about his latest ‘homily’? I get along quite well with our Parish Associate, but don’t think I’d feel entirely comfortable going to our pastor…

  67. Luke says:


    I take back what I said. I digressed from the original post which wondered how we could ever hold a priest accountable for inappropriate language and actions. I was trying to suggest that there may be some hope rather than offering a solution.

    The NO Rite versus the Tridentine Rite discussion is beyond me in many ways but it seems to me that we cannot simply place all of the blame for abuses on the Rite itself. Both rites are valid and both can be said reverently. Any “casual, irreverent, sentimentalized creativity and banal innovation” that was created in the present English translation is a product of poorly expressing the mystery contained in the Latin. I doubt that you would fins supporters to agree with you that the Latin text of the NO Mass is sentimentalized. So the problem, in part, is the translation itself.


    I tend to agree with you. Our fallen human nature is behind much of this discussion. Although it is a bit surprising that holiness is required to grasp that it’s better to read from the book in front of you instead of opening it and then wondering what to say.

  68. JustDave says:

    Hmmm…Let’s try to remember all the ad lib going on in my parish:

    “May we pray that our sacrifice…”

    Then for our response he leaves his microphone on and says “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at our hands…”

    At the Creed he leaves his microphone on and leaves out the word men in “for us men and for our salvation..”

    At the sign of peace he leaves the sanctuary and tries to shake as many hands as he can.

    Before he drinks from the cup he leaves his microphone on and says “May the body and blood of Christ bring us to everlasting life”

    For the final blessing we hear: “May the blessing of our God be upon us…”


  69. xsosdid: Liturgical form is important because as Catholics, we believe in the sacramental dispensation…in other words, what is signified in the Sacraments is the Word of God, and Christ Himself; most perfectly, in the Most Holy Eucharist…when a priest says “I absolve you”, it is not his own words, but Christ Himself speaking and absolving. In the Mass, the priest does not speak on his own, but is the mediator between God and man, speaking the words of our Lord Himself, “This is My Body…This is My Blood.”
    The Sacred Liturgy is given to us by God through the mediation of the Church. Not by an individual priest/committee/liturgist. It is the Church as His Mystical Body, through the various traditions and usages from the beginning of the Church at the Cenacle with the Apostles.
    Pope Benedict has been quite clear that we cannot “create” or “make” our liturgical worship; it is given to us through the apostolic tradition, the hierarchy, most eminently by the sanctions of the Holy Father (although he does not create the Sacred Liturgy, he approves or implements it).
    The norms, rubrics, texts and actions of all the Sacraments are given to us by God through His Church. Even in imperfect forms or questionable translations (as we are witnessing today), the saving power of Christ is given to us through these means and they perpetuate His Saving grace, mercy and love throughout the ages.
    We can debate the form and texts; but the obedience to the approved forms and rites of the Church is absolutely essential.

  70. Dave: Yuck.
    Sorry to hear you have to endure this…prayers.

  71. Luke says:

    In my own diocese–which I count as a gem by the way–I attended a Mass where the worst possible “liturgical abuses” took place. Everything from the “cups” and the rest of the “dishes” used for the Eucharistic Sacrifice were never cleaned on the Altar but piled on a side table (and I do mean piled). The priest not only went to the back of Church for the “shake of peace” but also came down from the altar to hold hands with those in the two front pews during the Our Father. He was violent and careless when he broke our Lord’s Body. He has one of the biggest parishes in the area. I wrote to the chancery office and received a letter of acknowledgement. But the same priest is still at the same parish doing the same things. So getting back to the question of accountability, what else can be done? What could be done if he pridefully uses his own rubrics with the new translation? Father (nazareth priest), you stated things quite well, but what of those who willfully abandon the approved forms? In my own opinion we should learn to find peace amidst these trials and reflect on the gift of Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist during Mass. In other words, we do what we can and accept our shortcomings (maybe even as a cross). Do you agree?

  72. TNCath:

    If the Congregation for Divine Worship really wants the English speaking world to implement the Ordinary Form of the Roman Missal correctly, they had best put together a very detailed instruction of exactly what is permitted, optional, and forbidden, or we are going to have more of the same mess we have been enduring since the Novus Ordo was first implemented.

    This was done six years ago. Redemptionis Sacramentum.

  73. Luke: This is not an excuse, but an explanation.
    For some reason (I don’t want to speculate too much, lest I fall into rash judgment), many priests do not read the documents from the Holy See (the most recent ones on the proper celebration of Mass..I’m sorry, my brain cannot remember the name..oh, yes, “Redemptionis sacramentum”? or something like that). Or, they are under the assumption (false) that they can do whatever they choose (faulty seminary formation; bad example; lack of proper care of the diocesan bishop). This is the curse of our times, I’m afraid. Liturgical anarchy (even by some very orthodox priests who either don’t know any better or who have been trained in a faulty manner) is commonplace. I truly grieve for all of you who have to endure this. It is really not necessary nor is it something I can excuse. It just is.
    Your last line sums it up best: offer these Crosses to the Lord;if it is a question of validity, you must act promptly, and report it to the Bishop; if it regards liceity, the best course is to talk to the priest who is doing these abuses, if you don’t get anywhere with him, take it to the Dean or Vicar of Priests of your diocese, and if this gets nowhere, then go to the Bishop. You have a right to have the Sacraments according to the norms established by the Holy See (according to canon law). How this can be accomplished is beyond my competence, other than taking this course, with prayer and penance.

  74. mwa says:

    JuliB–it sounds like your priest is imitating the Liturgy of John Chrysostom (Byzantine Catholic Mass). Before Communion time the priest slightly elevates the consecrated bread and cries out, according to the 2007 revision, “Holy gifts to holy people.” The earlier translation, to which I believe they have now reverted is, “Holy things to the holy.”

  75. lux_perpetua says:


    i’ve been to a number of Masses where the priest says “may the Blood of Christ bring us to ever lasting life”. What is wrong with this statement [i.e., what is actually written?]

  76. tired student says:

    I’m convinced that many priests ad-lib the Ordinary Form because they don’t understand (or consciously disregard) that the Mass is corporate prayer of the Universal Church. This corporate nature is more apparent when Mass is celebrated in Latin. Masses said in the vernacular also exhibit unity through fidelity to the rubrics. Take for example the invariable use of the Roman Canon in the Extraordinary Form. Through the profound silence I know that the priest prays a eucharistic prayer layered with more than a of significance. The priest’s pronouncement of the Canon connects the Mass with the millions of Canons throughout history. This ineffable bond brings me back time and again to the Extraordinary Form. Ad libbing in the OF destroys any link to the past. Each ad-libbed Mass is a rite unto itself. In my experience continuity of worship is a scarce commodity in the reformed rite.

  77. Peggy R says:

    I agree with one of the earlier comments in which it was noted that the GIRMs incorporate too many choices. This seems to provide license to priests to ad lib. Why an explicit choice here and not there, one might wonder.

    The ad libbing described by your reader is not as bad as some things I’ve heard. It’s nearly par for the course for our pastor at our sappy clappy NO parish. [I occasionally get to an EF in the next town.]

    Our first spring/summer here, I AM NOT JOKING, on the Sunday on which the Gospel about Jesus calming the storm, as father invited us to pray the Lord’s Prayer, he said that we should “put our hands in the hand of the Man who stilled the water.” I kid you not. It was pathetic, annoying and sad, but tragically funny and not surprising as well. He was ordained in the late 60s of course.

    He and perhaps a dozen other priests (there are only 100 or so diocesan priests in this mostly rural diocese) are signatories to the “Wait” petition. They will keep doing what they’re doing. I am aware that our bishop has been speaking to the priests to prepare them for the new translation–from one of our priest’s comments at the “Wait” petition, I learned this.

    Choices must be eliminated.

  78. TNCath says:

    justdave: “i’ve been to a number of Masses where the priest says “may the Blood of Christ bring us to ever lasting life”. What is wrong with this statement [i.e., what is actually written?]”

    Nothing is wrong with the statement, per se, however, he is not supposed to say it aloud, nor is he supposed to use the pronoun “us.” When the priest consumes the Precious Blood, he is supposed to say, “May the Blood of Christ bring me to everlasting life” inaudibly, as he does some of the offertory prayers.

  79. Konichiwa says:

    The priest at my regular parish always says something to get us to focus on certain things we should be sorry for during before the “Lord have mercy on us.” and “Christ have mercy on us.” I’m not sure if there is something wrong with that, but what I think is imprudent is that he constant uses time when he gets to the “liturgical stage” or before the blessing at the end of Mass to get everyone to applause for someone or a group of people depending on the occasion. For example, it may be applause because it’s the day of the patron saint of one of the parish organisations or applause for the hard work someone or some organisation did to benefit the parish. It’s a lot of “back patting”. I don’t know what to think, but just try to ignore it. Aside from that, the priest regularly makes people laugh during his homilies, but the laughing and joking are often dragged on by people in the congregation who want to add in their bit amongst each other. I might be imagining things because I of wishful thinking, but I think this issue might be less now after I sent him an Email.

  80. Dr. Eric says:


    That is a sad fact to learn that a dozen priests in our diocese signed the “Just Wait” petition. Our pastor, while ad libbing most of the Mass, said that he will implement the new translation.

  81. Supertradmom says:

    The worst is at a wedding, where there are non-Catholics, and the priest explains everything, as if the Mass were a teaching moment. Ick.

  82. At what point did the dance numbers for “Best Song” come in?

    Father (Nazareth Priest): You ARE angry-own it! Luv, Cath (LOL-/me runs)

  83. An American Mother says:


    At a wedding or funeral where non-Catholics are likely to be present, there has to be SOME explanation so that they aren’t confused (or worse, come up to receive).

    At our parish, at most weddings and funerals there are little pew cards (like the blurb in the back of the missalette) explaining what is going on. And the priest also gives a short explanation of why non-Catholics shouldn’t receive.

    I think that’s a decent compromise, so that the Mass doesn’t turn into a seminar but people are still provided with necessary information.

  84. TNCath says:

    An American Mother: “At a wedding or funeral where non-Catholics are likely to be present, there has to be SOME explanation so that they aren’t confused (or worse, come up to receive).”

    That’s why a “libretto” (for lack of a better term) at funerals and weddings is very important, along with a short but sweet statement explaining the rules for reception of Holy Communion printed therein. All the celebrant has to say before distribution is “Practicing Catholics who are in a state of grace may receive Holy Communion at this time: or something similar. This is neither the time nor the place for an explanation of why non-Catholics cannot receive or for any other “instruction.” That can be explained in the “libretto.” Let the actions speak for themselves. The less verbal explanation at Mass the better.

  85. o.h. says:

    Father Martin,
    Please don’t worry about, as you say, unintentionally messing up words or even phrases. A priest who “says the black” will generally be forgiven the most egregious mistakes. The (very orthodox) priests at our parish have made some amazing errors over the years, but nobody minds because we know they are *mistakes*. Our most elderly priest, who has recently passed to his heavenly reward for his years of selfless service, toward the end would frequently lose his place in the Mass and omit or substitute, to the great consternation of the servers and choir. Once we looped back to the penitential rite and re-did most of the first half of the Mass. I don’t think validity was affected, but there was no outrage, only sympathy (and empathy, most of the congregation at that hour being pretty elderly themselves).
    May the Lord give him rest and reward, and bless all our holy priests who strive to serve within the limits of human frailty.

  86. Cathy of Alex: Yeah, I do struggle with anger…pretty much:<)!
    But not at Mass; usually…

  87. Peggy R says:

    Dr Eric,

    Yep. Sadly, it’s true. I also see our parish school principal has signed as well. He leads the most gosh-awful folk music school masses. He’s been principal for 30 years, I’ve learned…He’s pretty young yet, too. Sigh. [You can click on diocese to see list of names for our diocese. B-ville is about page 16-18.]

    [Also, perhaps Fr Z’s heard of this woman. One Ginny Kiernan Dahlberg, who’s active in Women’s Ordination Conference and likes to flaunt a Theology PhD yet has no known academic affiliation, has signed the “Wait” petition and calls herself a “priest.” I have not heard that the bishop has taken any action in regard to her. I’ve blogged about her before.]

  88. Luke says:

    Okay, so there are dissident Catholic (largely excommunicated Catholics) who still believe that we should have our own Church here in America. But then, maybe this Ginny Kiernan Dahlberg woman is another example of a feminist with a hidden agenda. Yes, she wants female priesthood, but does she care that it’s an American female priesthood? Probably not. We have an example then of the development of yet another person jumping onto the proverbial “band wagon.”

    Regarding those who have valid ordination, I still hold that once a new text is placed in their hands that there will be less of what we see happening today. How many seminarians learned to make things up as they go while in seminary? With a new text those same men may well gain a new appreciation for the Mass. I would also suggest that the present options in the liturgy were placed there while trusting that they wouldn’t be abused. Priests take an oath to uphold the Catholic faith and swear fidelity to their Bishop on ordination day. If they neglect that promise, forswearing the Roman Missal, then what can be done? The movement toward a continued appreciation for the Tradition so dear to us by Pope Benedict and this more accurate translation may well awaken those presently confused about things sacred to the power of Christ at work in the rubrics and words of Mass.

    We should be concerned with how Jesus himself said the words of the first Mass. It is his Mass and not ours, after all. At least this is how I would translate the following words of Father (nazareth priest) from above, “The Sacred Liturgy is given to us by God through the mediation of the Church. Not by an individual priest/committee/liturgist. It is the Church as His Mystical Body, through the various traditions and usages from the beginning of the Church at the Cenacle with the Apostles.
    Pope Benedict has been quite clear that we cannot “create” or “make” our liturgical worship; it is given to us through the apostolic tradition, the hierarchy, most eminently by the sanctions of the Holy Father (although he does not create the Sacred Liturgy, he approves or implements it).” I believe we’re coming into a time where those who think they know better than Christ and his Church are going to appear more and more foolish.

  89. idatom says:

    Fr. Z.;

    Metanoia, a conversion, is what’s needed here and I am sugesting for all of us. Our sights should be fixed on the Kingdom. For some it’s quite a way’s off and so the rear sight must be raised many clicks. For others, who are closer, one click would do in shooting for the Kingdom. We all should be using every weapon the Church has at our disposal.

    How many of our pastors have this mind set. Are some of them condemning themselves with their own conduct at Mass? When are their actions during the Holy Sacrifice mortal sins? When are they venial? Why would anyone with consecrated hands sin during The Mass? It’s sad enough when the congregation does!

    Return to Him.

    Tom Lanter

  90. sosan says:

    We are to pray for our priests, I realise that. And we shouldn’t judge nor be critical. But it is so hard sometimes when the Mass feels more like a town hall meeting. I’m a cradle Catholic (born in the early 60’s) so was used to the guitar masses and holding of hands, etc. I’m older now and know better and seek the Lord more fervently and reverently, though not always successfully. And I want to recognise Him when I go up to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. If one of our priests should ad-lib, I find myself getting irritated. But then I think, he really does love the Lord, he studied to be a priest, etc. I would rather hear a dull homily than have the priest hamming it up on the altar. I debated if I should even be writing this down as that would mean that I am still judging. Oh well. Go for confession next Saturday!

  91. At the parish I went to for Mass…this situation was described. EMHC’s pouring the Precious Blood in glass chalices..though oddly the Agnus Dei was chanted in Latin.


  92. Luke says:

    sosan, we CAN judge objective actions of others. When we begin saying that someone really must love the Lord because of this or that we are edging on the judgement of their motivations. We have no way of knowing the individual motivations of a priest who makes this or that error in the Mass. But we can judge that such things oppose our Faith. Just as, for example, we can judge that our executive office wants us to have a very different government. We cannot know, however, if it is due to hatred or ignorance or some other factor. The man holding executive office may indeed love America (for instance) but that he is moving toward denying us our constitutional rights and the ideals of our forefather we can judge based on his actions. We can, in other words, still call a spade a spade.

  93. Henry Edwards says:


    I’d suggest that your love of Our Lord might be measured by your criticism of any celebration of Holy Mass that falls short of the perfect worship we owe Him.

    Criticism, at least, in the sense of interior critique and awareness of faults. My purely personal inclination is to think that too much tolerance of unworthy treatment of Our Lord might itself be a sin. If so, then judgment is good, but “Judge the action, not the person.”

    On the other hand, I have never know of an instance when exterior and vocal criticism of a priest did any good. Whereas I know personally of good and holy priests who have been heartened by generous appreciation and thanks for what they’re doing right.

    So I keep my criticism to myself, but not my praise. Indeed, I have never written a letter of criticism to a bishop, but I have tried to given praise in writing where due, especially because the happy clappers are not hesitant to complain about the very best priests.

  94. Supertradmom says:

    One of my best friends son is in the seminary. The young men have been told in meetings “not to scare off people” in the congregation by being too honest about sin and too rigid about rules. Imagine. I was hoping that the next generation of priests would be different, say the black and do the red, but I am afraid those in charge are still liberal and constantly putting forth “the pastoral” setting up false opposition to the “doctrinal”. Prayers needed.

  95. Henry Edwards says:

    Supertradmom: I was hoping that the next generation of priests would be different, say the black and do the red, but I am afraid those in charge are still liberal

    From seminarians in several seminaries, I know that in some “those in charge are still liberal”, but that in spite of them the next generation of priests will be different. Unlike a previous generation of seminarians, perhaps, the current generation will not swallow unfaithful teaching just because it’s ladled out to them.

  96. Supertradmom and Henry Edwards: As someone who taught in a seminary just recently, I can tell you, the tide is changing, and from reports in many places, this is also the case there.
    Pope Benedict has made a great impact upon this generation of seminarians and recently ordained priests. There is hope…we just have to get the “older” generation to do what they’re supposed to!

  97. marthawrites says:

    First things first: I thank God every day that our pastor is available to consecrate the Eucharist for us, that he prepares a short homily, that he is helpful in the confessional, and that he has given me some wise advice concerning a personal matter. That being said, I must add that he is an ad libber of the first order, not in changing the words of the liturgy so much as in commentary. Case in point: what I call “The World Marriage Day Shout-out.” After the Prayers of the Faithful that Sunday, the pastor announced that he would bestow a blessing on all married couples present. “First,” he said, “let me ask for a show of hands. How many have been married one year? two? five?” on up to 50? 60? One person in the church called out “55? You skipped 55!” He acknowledged her by name and then gave us the blessing. This was in the MIDDLE of MASS! IMHO part of this spontaneity comes from trying to please the converts. Our 70-year-old pastor has seen a lot of people come into the Church since he was ordained, and he is constantly trying to keep them happy so they won’t go to the mega-sing-a-long church a few miles away. In fact, I’ve heard some of our converts say, “Why can’t we be more friendly, have more out-reach, you name it” like ____________? God bless these converts, they are daily Mass-goers, many of them, but they talk out loud during Mass, they pre-empt the priest by starting prayers before he does (reciting when he wants to sing), etc. And the pastor adds to this forum of conviviality when he frequently inserts a dialogue/quiz into his homilies.

  98. mfg says:

    During the Offertory of the Mass at the mingling of the water and wine: The two altar boys filled the cruets, but before returning to the center of the altar, the celebrant (early 60’s)tossled the hair atop the heads of both boys, looked at the congregation, laughed and said: “Can you believe these boys are brothers, one so tall, the other so short? I call them Mutt and Jeff”. The congregation laughed. They loved it. As they love all such nonsense dished up every Sunday. I call it the Church of the Happy Clappers. Father also invites “all the kids” up into the sacristy where they hang around during the consecration. I noticed one girl braiding her friend’s hair at the Elevation. I invited a friend from this Church to attend my TLM-FSSP Mass with me. On exiting the Church she said: “That priest didn’t say anything funny during the entire Mass.” She was clearly disappointed. Many times in the Ordinary Form the priests and people have gotten used to Catholic Light and are comfortable with it. Father said to me a few years back: “Make no mistake about it. It’s ‘for all’, not ‘for many’. Do you really think he is going to change the words of the consecration as he now pronounces it to what the Holy Father wants? Who is going to make him? How will that work? So IMHO the new translations aren’t going to make a big difference, especially with so many liberal bishops still around.

  99. mfg says:

    Sorry-fifth line should sy sanctury, not sacristy.

  100. The Cobbler says:

    “Many, many people go to Mass to be entertained, and often look for parishes that are similar to the way protestant mega-churches craft their services, complete with an orchestra and lively choir, often directed by a Billy Joel/Elton John type who leads the choir and congregation with his trusty piano or electric keyboard.
    Not true. Most places I go with that kind of musak stink by any musical standard you can imagine — unless rotten acoustics and the piano echo battling with a singing voice that basically mangles English into a breathy concoction of almost-words is a standard somewhere I’ve never heard of. Billy Joel or Elton John would be a world of an improvement, so much so as to be actually tolerable (as long as what they were singing was relevant and not obviously heretical, which, granted, is a bigger issue than musical quality).

    So, let’s add to the list of great things about the correct Mass settings and chant: anyone who isn’t tone deaf can do them right. (And no, not “with a little extra learning”. Too many people don’t get with the contemporary musak because on the rare occassion they do a song outside the favorite few nobody knows how it goes. Chant takes no more learning to actually do, and in the long run less.)

  101. The Cobbler says:

    Put my comment in another way: stop insulting Billy Joel and Elton John with your comparisons to those non-singers warbling to their lounge piano. 8^)

  102. cl00bie says:

    I used to play “spot the liturgical abuse” with my children when we were visiting a new parish. But then I realized that I was spending my time at mass looking for trouble. I began to feel more peaceful at mass by letting those sorts of things go. Now I note them, and they make me a little sad, but they don’t ruin my “active participation” in the mass.

    I love a mass well celebrated, but I can also deal with the “less than ideal” mass. When I see what are “abuses”, I think of that picture of the celebrant in the clown suit holding up the boboli bread for the consecration and I don’t feel so bad about what’s happening.

    I guess it’s all relative. :)

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