Prayer, silence and noise during Mass

My friend Fr. Ray Blake, P.P of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, has posted something about silence in the Mass.

Here it is with my emphases and comments.

I had a discussion with a group of priests recently on silence in the liturgy. We all thought it was necessary but for the most part absent, certainly at Sunday Mass. [Not if it’s a TLM.] Most of the priest suggested adding pauses in the Liturgy, even to the point of saying, “We are going to have 30 seconds of silence before …”. I couldn’t help reflecting that imposed silence was used as a punishment in schools when I was a child. In the Liturgy one priest’s silence becomes a whole congregations waiting.  [Bingo!]

I must admit to personal problem I have of integrating personal prayer with liturgical prayer. I think it all hinges around silence, and yes, a problem with actuoso participatio. I suspect in the minds of most people there is little integration between private prayer and liturgical prayer, at best the liturgy is a form of lectio divina but isn’t really what most Catholics would identify as “prayer”. It is a problem, a very serious one. Personal prayer for most people under a certain age is silence. Sitting on one’s own, meditating, silent reading or reflection has replaced family Rosary, Litanies, the Angelus [Great observation.] and all those things which where the mainstay of Catholic prayer and although they are not liturgical, they certainly are corporate and vocal and therefore akin to the liturgy.

My friend Fr Michael Hollings used to tell the story of the shock of the Abbot of Caldey who had a group of 6th Formers staying in the monastery for a week, they joined the monks for the Liturgy and everything else, at the end of the week one lad asked the Abbot, “When do the monks actually pray?” The same question surely can be asked in most parishes: When does prayer actually take place? The readings can be read in a non-didactic prayerful way, there sermon can be preached to speak more of God than the preacher, [Amen.] intercessions can be announced in such a way that the lead us to prayer, we can use the preferred silent option for the Offertory, all this should lead to Church gathering for the most profound prayer of all, the Canon or the Eucharistic Prayer but as the Pope says in the Spirit of the Liturgy “the Eucharistic Prayer is in crisis”, his suggestion is not only a re-orientation of the Mass but also a return to the silent Canon or even silence but a with few key words as subject headings for prayer.

I have a suspicion that in ancient times, when silent reading and probably silent prayer were unknown, that the Canon was quite a noisy affair with everyone quietly vocalising their own prayer along with the priest.

One of the things that caused comment during the Papal visit was the quality of the silence at the Masses one of factor that was not commented on at the time was the Pope’s use of Latin for the Eucharistic Prayers. The use of Latin has a tendency to veil the liturgy, its incomprehensibility helps the liturgy become a sort of focused silence. There is a good article by Fr Christopher Smith over at Chant Cafe on the use of Latin.

So… how was your parish’s Sunday Mass?

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  1. Konichiwa says:

    It was perfect. It was the TLM well celebrated.

  2. Ellen says:

    It was wonderful. The chatterers before Mass are beginning to quiet down. Father preached a wonderful sermon on the sacrificial character of the Mass. The singing was so good (except for the time when the choir sang Jesu Joy of Our Desiring). Have I mentioned how much I dislike inclusive language?

  3. One of the things I love about the TLM is how it lends itself so much easier to true prayerful participation, both because of its orientation, the prayers of the liturgy itself, and, not least, the silence.

    I would comment, though, that the rosary and the Divine Office very much should include mental prayer even as it is vocal. That works because one engages in repetition of the deep prayer of the psalms which should inspire reflection and deepening love or is led to meditate on the well-known mysteries of the rosary with the repetition of well known and deep prayers. This does not translate to being spoken at in the liturgy in the same manner as in the NO Mass. It works a lot better when one may delve into the high solemn prayers of the TLM with the priest at the helm praying and facing God or else meditate and pray in conjunction with the actions of the Mass without following closely the actual prayers. That is not to say that it does not happen at a reverently celebrated NO, but the danger is much greater of the liturgical prayers, being spoken at one, rather interfering with true active participation. It also demands a lot more of the priest and congregation alike to encourage and create that true participation in prayer.

    Well, that is my observation, at least. Another thing is that being constantly spoken at and having to respond actually makes it a lot easier to remain unfocused without really noticing or being “forced” to do something about it than during the TLM, and perhaps especially a silent TLM (even though chant and polyphony can greatly aid prayer). There is little to mask one’s lack of proper attention and truly active prayerful participation in the silent TLM , which is a fact that in itself aids prayer.

    In short, it is, in my experience as a lay person, much harder to achieve that true active prayerful participation in the NO, even when reverently celebrated (though it helps) than in the TLM even if there is little but the mere essentials of the liturgy to aid one.

  4. Our parish is a bit of a mix on the subject of silence depending on which Mass you go to. Generally the 7:30, which has no music and is more adults but fewer attendees, has a decent amount of silence. The 9am, the “Children’s Mass” wouldn’t know what silence was if it bit them and the chattering before mass and the talking after Mass (there isn’t even a pretense of keeping one’s voice down) drives me nuts. The 11am (high Mass) is between the previous two.

    Personally, I think the best way to integrate private prayer into the Mass is to not play music, or play only instrumental music, after Communion. Having people flip to a song right after receiving communion really says a lot against personal prayer. If you aren’t encouraged to pray privately then, then when? Unfortunately, our parish hasn’t figured that out yet, but I still hope!

  5. I also have a question as to this statement: ‘I have a suspicion that in ancient times, when silent reading and probably silent prayer were unknown….’

    I don’t know about silent reading, but I am a little puzzled as to what the basis is for saying that silent prayer was probably unknown in ancient times? Are there not several references in the Old Testament to meditating on the law, on God’s works and to God’s voice being heard in the stillness or quiet (or words to that effect)? If so, why would silent prayer be unknown in ancient times?

    Now, of course, I know that, as I stated myself above, praying vocally should include and certainly would not exclude mental prayer, but it just seems to me a little odd (at least on the surface of things) to conclude, in view of all the passages mentioning meditation etc., that silent prayer would probably have been unknown.

  6. Belinda says:

    @Catholicofthule: I don’t know if silent prayer was unknown in ancient times, but it wasn’t common. Hence the passages in the Bible where people overhear other people’s prayers (e. g. the disciples hearing Our Lord praying in the garden). In 1 Samuel, Eli sees Hannah in prayer and thinks she is drunk because her lips are moving but no sound is coming out! And scholars think that originally monks practicing lectio divina would meditate the passage of scripture aloud, repeating and almost literally ruminating the words they were trying to enter into mentally. It seems that by and large people used to need sound to pray whereas now they need to be silent themselves, if not surrounded by silence.

    I don’t normally find it hard to be prayerful at Mass (OF or, especially, EF), but for me there tends to be a tradeoff between vocal participation (speaking and singing) and mental participation/recollection. OTOH, as the original post says, chunks of silence inserted at will by the priest between parts of the Mass are not usually conducive to prayer because they leave you sitting there and wondering when they will end instead of being able to focus on God.

    In a novel by Sigrid Undset a little girl from a mixed marriage who is used to going to Mass is taken to a Protestant service. Afterwards she is asked how she liked it and answers something like “The minister was never quiet so I didn’t get to pray to God one bit!” I wonder what she would have said about the typical NO mass today…

  7. Qwertio33 says:

    Maybe this is because I’m a recent revert, but I’m really troubled by the idea of going to a Mass where I have no idea what’s happening or what’s being said. I like the English language Mass because I feel like I’m part of it. The idea of just having the priests walking around whispering things and me zoning out on the rosary or personal reflection seems uncommunal and kind of pointless.

    Can someone help me understand this better?

  8. Henry Edwards says:

    It seems to me that the periods of silence in the EF are natural and “usable” for prayerful participation, because something is happening at the altar, one knows what it is, how long it will last, and can therefore learn by practice to constantly unite his own prayers with those of the priest at the altar.

    In my experience, this kind of prayerful participation requires more determined and conscious effort in the OF, where—for instance, during the audible canon—one must avoid the feeling of listening while sitting on the couch watching a Mass on TV. And I wonder how one can develop a habit of prayer during the artificial periods when the celebrant sits after the homily and after communion, when there is no evident action of either sacrifice or communion to unite in prayer with, and especially not knowing how long the silence will last, and hence what kind and length of prayer to begin.

    And I recall also the ancient explanation of why the silent canon: “So as not to impede the prayers of the people.”

  9. thereseb says:

    It was the EF at Chislehurst with Fr Briggs and as reverent and wonderful as always.

  10. digdigby says:

    I try to imagine the great cathedrals of the Age of Faith with fifteen masses going on (loudly) at once at various altars, St. Augustine’s church where ‘the beating of contrite breasts’ sounded like thunder’, the processions with a saint’s relics around city walls the whole populace weeping and praying aloud for deliverance from barbarians, drought or plague. What a vulgar, noisy bunch they were! (sarcasm off).

  11. catholicmidwest says:

    Oh, and we’re so noble now. Right. With all our noise and manic carrying on, pretending to be oblivious to death and suffering because above all, we don’t want to think about it in any reasonable way, lest it catch up with us.

    Quick get the credit card! I feel an iota of realism coming on. /sarcasm off

  12. Finn McCool says:

    I suffer from severe tinnitus and I cannot be in noisy environments. I have not found a Novus Ordo mass that is not too loud. Even in a small church at a Mass without music, the priest insists on using a microphone and turning the volume up. I have found a traditional Mass that only has a lightly amplified microphone for the homily…
    Does it say in the N.O. rubrics somewhere that the Mass has to be LOUD?

  13. Liz says:

    I feel refreshed after the EF. Much as I try, I just don’t in the OF. Our OF parish has good people and really good priests, but the constant “busy-ness” of the mass does get to me.

  14. Belinda, I love that novel. For the rest of you, it’s from a double-novel called The Wild Orchid (Gymnadenia in Norwegian) and The Burning Bush (Den Brennende Busk). I highly recommend them!

    There is also a passage in it where the main character attends Mass for the first time, on a whim and after partying all night, with very striking observations which again would not really apply to the NO liturgy.

  15. Digdigby, there’s noise and then there is noise. The background noise of worship and prayer is different from speech directed at you even if relevant or irrelevant noise even if not directed at you. It can at times be distracting too of course, but it is still somewhat different. Even when the Low Mass is not always silent, the Latin spoken ad orientem may more easily form a background or a point of focus as is appropriate to the prayer (just as one may read along (silently) or pray in a different manner. By the same token some music can create a background for internal ‘silence’, aiding the lifting up of one’s mind and heart to God, whereas some music impedes this type of silence and interrupts internal prayer.

  16. digdigby says:


    Amen. Yes. I was just feeling a little lonely, also, for those ancient moments. Everything you said is true, true true.

  17. catholicmidwest says:

    I find the music (sic) the most distracting. It’s generally very badly chosen and even more poorly done. It’s supposed to be relevant but no one ever asks “relevant to what?” As far as I can see, the contemporary stuff is relevant to the world, in the sense that it makes me want to run out of the building into the world. The traditional stuff is better but, as yet, poorly recovered in many places and it can be really bad too. Screechy. Not practiced well enough.

    Catholic liturgical music is abysmal. They should just shut up in respect to God if all they can do is that.

  18. Henry Edwards says:

    cmw: “Catholic liturgical music is abysmal.”

    May I suggest that, as Vatican II affirmed, our patrimony of Catholic liturgical music is the Church’s greatest artistic treasury. But what is surely “abysmal” is the use of non-liturgical music during the liturgy.

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s not catholic liturgical music if a) Catholics no longer know it, and b) it doesn’t appear in the liturgy. It’s Barnes & Noble’s patrimony. They’re the ones who sell it now (among others).

  20. Cazienza Puellae says:

    Just got back from Mass, and it was awesome :)

  21. catholicmidwest says:

    In case it’s not clear to you what I’m saying, Henry, we threw it in the dumpster with the saint statues. We gave it away. We spat on it, dumped our garbage on it and then forgot it there in the dumpster, and many Catholics don’t want it back. Moreover, we don’t have the infrastructure for teaching people to sing classically anymore.

    Finders keepers, losers weepers. It doesn’t belong to us anymore.

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    And the final nail: We replaced it. With little jazzy ditties and imitations of the Brady Bunch theme.

    Seriously, except for rare exceptions, Catholic “musicians” should just unplug their amps and pack it in. Out of respect for God if nothing else. I’m completely serious. It’s a travesty in most parishes.

  23. GregH says:

    What do you think of Haydn Masses — appropriate for Mass?

  24. I went to an EF in a neighbouring diocese. It’s just over an hour away. It was a low Mass. There was no music and no sermon. The priest is old. When he dies, there will be problems, since there are no priests to take his place in the area, as far as I am aware.

    I usually go to the NO in my home parish, but I am increasingly fed up with the abuses and distortions, and almost walked out of Mass a couple weeks ago. We have 3 priests, each one a little worse than the other in terms of the liturgical abuses and distortions of the Mass, childish little hymns, and the irrelevancy and emptiness of the sermon. It is hard to bear for me, a young man in my late twenties.

  25. kolbe1019 says:

    An observation I have made…

    1)When the priest sits after communion the people sit and stop praying. So during this period of silence it is a sitting and waiting on the priest.

    2)When the priest kneels to pray after communion the people continue to pray.

  26. catholicmidwest says:

    I’ve never seen a priest kneel to pray after Holy Communion.

  27. catholicmidwest says:
    Seriously, except for rare exceptions, Catholic “musicians” should just unplug their amps and pack it in. Out of respect for God if nothing else. I’m completely serious. It’s a travesty in most parishes.

    — That is so true. In my parish, it is a disgrace. The song that gets to me the most is the one that goes like this:

    ”Dance, dance, deedle dee diddle dee dee dee, sing sing deedle dee dee dee dee […] Do this in memory of him, of him, do this in memory of Jesus!”

    (The deedle dee bits are the words I don’t know, but they fit in just fine.)

    When I hear this song I get the urge to get up and walk out. But then I remember I am at Mass… *face palm*

  28. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Just an observation. Fr. Asked us how are masses were, and many people go to EFs here, but very few OF comments are here. Not to mention there’s a couple of little sidetracks.

    So I’m adding an OF to the mix. I went to 5pm Saturday mass at my cousin’s fiancee’s parish. For the most part it was quiet prior to mass save a toddler a couple of pews ahead. As for the music, dreadful. That parish has the “Gather” hymnal and one of the “Hymns” was “How Great Thou Art” I was just thankful they didn’t do “The Lord of the Dance” (that one makes me want to take a mallet to the upright piano size organ there).

    Silience wise in mass, well that toddler was noisy and cried a couple of times and the mother and father didn’t have the gall to take her out. Then again the parents looked to be about 30’s in age so I’m not suprized of that generation. Even in my home parish that problem lingers too. And it’s even at the fabled early 815 mass too. The irony is at my home parish, save baptisms, there aren’t any little kids at the 12:30, which is the unofficial “Youth” mass (Youth because the small core of youth ministry members go to that one and a few of us are 1 x lector, ushers, + 1x EMHC, but they aren’t LifeTeen masses at all, just normal mass). However back to the 5pm parish, some teen girl behind us had the nerve to continually whisper behind us to whomever she was with and I could hear her a few pews up.

    Now the kicker: Just like the priest in the main article had concerns with, at this 5pm parish what happened?: In the closing hymn, at least 10-15% of the people there were out the doors. After the closing hymn, people were chatting in the body (including my cousin’s fiancee, as she had to talk to the parents of said annoying toddler because the toddler was doing cute stuff all through mass) and the organist/cantor was playing a tune after the closing hymn.

    On a positive note, the priest who presided and did the homily did a great job of the homily with regard to our diocese’s “Married Couples weekend”, and modern examples of things that can relate to the various parts of the body that Jesus says should be “cut off” if they cause you to sin.

  29. Sandy says:

    Because I am not privileged to go to an EF, how I long for silence, especially at Sunday Mass. I prefer a more quiet daily Mass without all the “music”. Pope John Paul II wrote something about having more time for silence during Mass. I concur with the comment above that just an instrumental and no singing after Communion would be an improvement. At the EF, when I could attend, I once told the choir director that the music lifted me to Heaven (it actually enabled me to pray and added reverence!).

  30. Henry Edwards says:

    Greg, orchestral Masses certainly have a venerable place in our Latin heritage, at least for special occasions, and I understand that Pope Benedict is fond of them. I recall that Haydn’s Harmoniemesse was played for the Pentecost Sunday papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica last year.

    My personal preference for ordinary occasions is straight Gregorian chant and unaccompanied sacred polyphony.

  31. We get about 30 seconds of silence after the homily. That’s why I like to get to church well before mass begins for silence and prayer. I am puzzled by those who arrive at the literal last moment, and after it, and think they can be in a prayerful frame of mind. Likewise, after the thunderous crowd rushes out the door, sometimes immediately after receiving communion, you will swiftly find yourself alone in silence with the Lord.

  32. allan500 says:

    As a member of a parish run by the Fraternity of St. Peter, the tradition Latin Mass is used with its plentiful use of prayerful silence. But since the church is a fair distance from my home, I sometimes need to avail myself of an English Mass. I am almost always left frustrated when I do. The constant verbal chatter and changing of bodily position seems at times absurd. When I leave Mass, I feel as I’ve been too busy to pray–which I have–and, unfortunately in a dumbed down language that is not particularly useful to spiritual pondering after Mass.

  33. Henry Edwards says:

    ” . . . straight Gregorian chant and unaccompanied sacred polyphony.”

    Or just blessed silence, I should add. I’m probably fortunate that, neither at daily OF Mass nor at Sunday EF Mass, do I ever hear any congregational singing during the liturgy itself, apart from the Ordinary of Mass (Kyrie, Agnes Dei, etc).

  34. Sliwka says:

    At the University chapel where I attend 9pm Sunday Mass, the old (last year, graduated) music leader for that Mass would often “go over” (her words) the psalm response prior to Mass, then say that we should prepare our hearts before Mass. Then it was silent for 30 sec to 1 min.

    Father usuaully leaves a good pause immediately after the Confiteor before continuing. It really help to remind me to actually pray for the people that just asked for it. If the Communion hymn runs short (or reception of Holy Communion takes longer…) then there is usually a good amount of silence until the Closing Rites until the reserved Blessed Sacrament is locked into the tabernacle.

  35. Johnsum says:

    Dreadful music as always..piano with a bar-room performance by the music minister and guitar combo. A couple of jokes to start the homily and a ceremony of marriage vows renewal a la a Mooney mass marriage ceremony. Did I mention it was an OF Mass? Interrupting Mass for a pre-Valentine day ceremony such as this marriage vows renewal seems to me to be a gross liturgical abuse of the Mass. Everybody clapped and there was much merriment and good feelings too.

    If a parish wants to have faux weddings, they should be done outside Mass. Afterwards there should be cake and. It could be a nice social occasion instead of an occasion for scandal.

  36. bbmoe says:

    I thought it was interesting that the priest mentions associating silence with grade school punishment. At my children’s grade school, the elderly nuns who ran it imposed silence at lunch time, during which time they played classical music (on records!). They started doing this in an effort to calm the kids, who, when left to their own devices during lunch, would gradually become more noisy and rambunctious. The final straw was one day one of the sisters was hit by a flying sandwich. After that, the rule of silence was imposed. Parents always had a hard time accepting this- it wasn’t “normal” and was seen as mean and restrictive. If you asked any of the kids, they would tell you how much they liked it. Better than Ritalin for calming them and letting them just get peaceful. They would go back to class rested and able to concentrate.

    Our modern society loves noise, and most people I meet aren’t comfortable with their own thoughts, or with the idea of letting God talk to them (for a change.) I roll out of bed early to get cleaned up and go to the first mass because it has no music, and everyone is just a little sleepy, so there is little chatter. It’s very peaceful, and I get some quality prayer time with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

  37. The Egyptian says:

    I remember when the Pastor of my teen years, the one that drove me from the church for several years, (another topic) announced that in keeping with V2 and a supposed directive from the diocese all sermons would last 20 minutes and then he topped it of by adding a 5 minute silence to contemplate on his sermon. It became a joke watching him constantly checking his watch, after a few weeks the silence became about 60 seconds. He could not bear it. Now however, some silence instead of the constant organ and mod music for the responses would be a welcome relief. I would love to just pray the Glory to God and not sing it in 4 verses with refrain.

  38. Kent says:

    How was my Sunday Mass? Hmmm? Well the chairman of the finance committtee gave the homily/appeal for the diocesan fund drive. He told a couple of jokes and said something about how we should be grateful for all we have and return the favor by supporting the diocesan programs of social wellbeing and mutual enrichment. The Mass setting was Mass of Creation sung by a lone cantor (myself). Not that I want it this way but I feel the need to keep my foot in the door so I can be in a position to act when the liturgical renewal hits our parish/diocese (hopefully before the second coming). I changed the suggested music for opening and closing songs (not hymns) from Though the Mountains May Fall and Sing of the Lord’s Goodness to Alleluia Sing to Jesus and God’s Blessing Send Us Forth and in the process probably further alienated myself from the liturgy committee and the “I like St. Louis Jesuit music” priest. By the way, the closest TLM is about a four hour drive. Other than that it was fine.

  39. JMGDD says:

    I am fortunate to have an EF Mass near my home and noise is is essentially a non-issue. However, when the church is comfortably full and one baby or toddler decides to cry or have a tantrum, that sets off the next one, and so it goes. This is not the place for an in-depth discussion of young children in Mass, but if good Father Z would like to take it up, I would appreciate some feedback on how I, as a single, childless male, can make the best of this irritation.

  40. nanetteclaret says:

    Silence at Mass? You’ve got to be kidding! We went to the Vigil Mass last night and as usual, people were chatting (in the pews) while people were trying to pray before Mass. Although there are double glass doors from the vestibule into the church, the laughter and loud talking out there can still be heard inside. Praying is difficult when you can’t even hear yourself think. During Mass, all music is sung off-key (changing keys several times during the course of the Gloria, which sounds like a dirge) since there is no organist on Saturday. Having been trained in classical music and sung classical church music (as a protestant), the music at the NO drives me crazy. It literally sets my teeth on edge! After Mass, it is impossible to pray since people are laughing, chatting, and talking loudly as they go down the aisles and out the door. Jesus deserves so much better than this!

  41. MKubes says:

    I’ll be walking across the street to the EF here in just under an hour, but reading all of these comments…I feel so blessed. The propers sheet for today says that the music will mostly be taken from “Mass IV – Cunctípotens Génitor Deus” – and this choir has always done an amzing job. Saint Saens’ Ave Maria will also be sung at the Offertory. Who would have thought that there was a little pocket of Heaven hidden down here in Southern Ontario? ;)

    I’m still in my early 20s so tacky music at the OF is all I knew for the longest time (mostly Protestant praise and worship songs too). All I can say is that this reverently celebrated EF was worth the wait.

  42. Catholictothecore says:

    Sunday Masses at our parish is always busy and sometimes noisy. It’s a huge parish with five Sunday Masses. Besides our parish priest and associate pastor we also have other priests helping out on Sundays. There’s this one priest who just stands out in every way. He’s the only one who starts Mass with a simple yet profound sentence – “Let us remember we are in the Holy presence of God”. … In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. That one sentence just helps you to focus right away. His homilies are inspirational – simple but to the point, you can go home and it’s still ringing in your ear, his words that is. Once the intercessions have been read he gets the congregation to pray to Our Blessed Mother, to intercede for all of us, so we say the Hail Mary. Tears well up in my eyes everytime we say the Hail Mary as a congregation. How can we not include and remember Our Blessed Mother during Mass. She is such an integral part of Mass, of our Faith. She was the one who was at the foot of the cross when Jesus died. And isn’t Jesus Christ the High Priest? I see Our Blessed Mother standing right beside the priest everytime Mass is celebrated.

    God bless all the priests in this world. Without them we would not be able to receive the Sacraments. And without the Sacraments life is not worth living. We have no life.

  43. With regards the silence of the ancient times, he isn’t referring to OT times, but rather the ancient Church (hence the reference to the canon). The silence that we have come to appreciate in the liturgy (and hence lament its loss) is relatively new in the history of the Church, probably only the past three hundred years or so. Liturgy historically has often been a rather noisy affair. Sermons elicited quite vocal reactions from the congregation and subsequent responses from the preacher (read Augustine’s sermons and you see this played out quite vividly).

  44. Kent,

    That’s interesting…are those songs selected by individual liturgists or are they recommended by some broader pastoral directive? The only reason I ask is because the two songs you mentioned, Sing of the Lord’s Goodness and Though the Mountains May Fall were both sung at my Mass this morning. The former always sounds to me like it came right out of Jesus Christ Superstar…

  45. momoften says:

    Part of my family went to the Carmelite Monastery. Rest assured it was quiet. The type of people that go there want the quiet, don’t mind the mix of Latin responses…and it is quiet. Whoever goes there knows what to expect. You do not see many young people there,mostly old people. I went to the TLM, of course that was quiet..except for a few babies that had to be taken out–that never bothers me. My Dad meanwhile went down the street…that is a NOISY mass, people are greeting each other before Mass, walking down aisles during communion greeting people….crummy music, and stupid distractions and unnecessary comments by the priest….it disgusts him, but he goes there because of the time of the Mass, and it is the parish where he grew up in. I have come to the conclusion also…people just like it because they haven’t been exposed to anything else, and are not used to anything reverent or sacred….sad….

  46. Dr. Eric says:

    I went to the local church, about 2 minutes by car from my house.

    We had a visiting priest who is 87 years old, he would be an example of a priest from “the good generation” who breaks that stereotype. He cut out the bracketed parts of the Gospel. He gave a homily against the death penalty (which according to the Catechism is allowed in limited circumstances). He offered the bread and wine at the same time at the offertory. He ad libbed throughout the Mass from a little paperback book (I guess not technically ad libbing.) Instead of “The Body of Christ” at Communion, he said something like “Receive the Body of Jesus” or something like that. And the songs were taken from the 300s, 400s, and 500s in the OCP songbook.

    Oh, how I miss going to St. Francis de Sales Oratory!

  47. iowapapist says:

    At the NO Masses here in North Central Iowa, the “companion missal” is an Oregon Press creation. If you look inside the cover at the description of the painting that appears on the front cover, you are informed that it is from the Berthold Sacramentary 13th C.E. (Common Era instead of A.D.). Paul VI was right about the smoke of Satan. You can’t even escape the pagans at Holy Mass.

  48. Goldfinch says:

    FSSP High Mass today. We always have a very reverent crowd but today somebody’s cell phone went off just before the Epistle. It was a shocker! Other than that, beautiful as always.

  49. lux_perpetua says:

    Low Mass in the EF which was wonderful as always. except for the homily, which consisted only of the reading of Cardinal Rigali’s letter to the Archdiocese. but man did it ever make me yearn for Jesus in the Eucharist.

  50. kallman says:

    Low TLM at the FSSP chapel, can’t beat it (except for a solemn Mass).

  51. APX says:

    Michael Hallman says:
    Sing of the Lord’s Goodness and Though the Mountains May Fall were both sung at my Mass this morning

    Mine too! Though the Mountains May Fall was the musical highlight of Mass, as it was one of my favorites growing up and it’s written in a range I can sing. Sing of the Lord’s Goodness is written too high for me unless I do so in falsetto, and the other songs I had never heard of before.

    Young Canadian RC Male says:
    “The Lord of the Dance” (that one makes me want to take a mallet to the upright piano size organ there).

    Lord of the Dance is one of my most favorite songs to sing…on karaoke night…in the pub…with a pint of Guinness in my hand…whist attempting to do a jig without spilling my drink. It really bothers me that we sing it in Mass. Maybe if Mass fell on St. Pat’s Day it would be ok. No, not even then. It just doesn’t belong there. I can see someone’s bright idea for Irish Dancers at Mass now.

    My Mass today was a test of patience. I found myself sitting in front of two rambunctious little boys who kept poking me, running back and forth in the pew and being rather loud. Fortunately they left for children’s liturgy right before the readings until communion. When communion came along one of them stood on the pew and kept trying to grab the people walking down the aisle. I felt bad for their mother who could not get them under control for the life of her.

    As for silence, when we got to after communion silence, several babies and toddlers started crying and screaming. I know there’s not much a parent can do, but the timing was just terrible.

    All in all it was a pretty good Mass, though. I will be back in my home city next weekend, which is the only city in the province to have a TLM. It’s even a High Mass. I’m going to make every attempt to attend it so I can experience what everyone else keeps insistingis so much better than the NO. Looking forward to it.

  52. James Locke says:

    Mass at the University of Dallas is loud. The piano lady feels that she needs to be playing some upper chords while everyone else is going up to communion. Also, after the Lord’s prayer and before the doxology, she continues to play sometimes. Very strange. I long for my parish in N. VA.

  53. AnAmericanMother says:

    Well, I certainly feel blessed reading all these comments. We go to a very nice NO parish, large suburban, 4 Masses on Sunday and one on Saturday.

    The pastor had the notion of rotating the choir through the other Masses, so as to give folks who never attend the 11:30 choral Mass some exposure to the choir. He thinks we’ll get more members that way. So we prepared diligently for this Sunday’s 10 A.M. Mass, trying to strike a balance between introducing the congregation to good music without shocking them with a full lineup of Gregorian chant or some of the more esoteric offerings (e.g. Josquin or Dufay or Tavener) we have turned loose on the 11:30 crowd. Our music director rehearsed us carefully on Wednesday with the goal of producing a good choral sound appropriate for the music and the building.

    Solid hymns – mostly old-line Catholic – “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” – “O Sacrament Most Holy” – Psalm chanted by the choir in 4 part Anglican chant – Offertory, Pitoni “Cantate Domino,” Communion, Byrd “Ave Verum Corpus”. Since the 10 A.M. has never heard our music director’s composed Mass (a very beautiful 4 part setting, chant based with elaborations), we had to use the Horrendous Haugen “Massive Cremation” but that is not long for this world (hurry up Advent!) A reverently and largely chanted Mass and a homily that didn’t flinch from the Gospel by our visiting priest in residence (who’s finishing up his doctorate here), the usual complement of crying babies but the mamas (or daddies) took them right out, the congregation sang quite enthusiastically and stayed to pray. I think it went off well.

    Our Catholic liturgical music is far from abysmal. For that you can thank our music director, who is a genius, and a pastor who isn’t afraid to get a good dog and let him do his own barking.

  54. Kent says:

    I am sure that the selectors of both you and my parish use the liturgy planning guide “Today’s Liturgy”, published by Oregon Catholic Press which lists both those songs as options for today’s liturgy. Smorgasbord style music selection with very little regard as to whether it is liturgically appropriate.

  55. michael bavlsik says:

    I have found that when the priest gives a focused, thoughtful homily (of a reasonable duration), sacred silence often follows automatically. When the homily involves multiple topics and is not concise and focused, sacred silence follows the second or third topic-unfortunately the priest is unaware of the silent prayer as he is still talking despite no one listening.

  56. APX says:

    Kent says:
    I am sure that the selectors of both you and my parish use the liturgy planning guide “Today’s Liturgy”, published by Oregon Catholic Press which lists both those songs as options for today’s liturgy. Smorgasbord style music selection with very little regard as to whether it is liturgically appropriate.

    This explains it. My church subscribes to the Breaking Bread annual songbook, which is published by OCP.

  57. Paulo says:

    I read all the comments, and there is only one mention of a cell phone ringing… you folks are blessed! We got two, today, the longest (i.e., not dealt with within 5 seconds…) during the homily. I guess that might have been God, calling….

  58. Hooksdoc says:

    Silence is in response to a command from God Himself: Vacate, et videte quoniam Ego sum Deus (Psalm 45, 11) (Be still, and know that I am God) (my dictionary gives as meanings of ‘still’, ‘stationary, motionless, without noise, quiet’ (a perfect description of our FSSP EF Mass), and gives an example, ‘the room was so still you could hear a pin drop’. Why should silence let us see who is God? Because, as Yehudi Menuhin wrote, [Silence] ‘is the founding element of all thought: it links us to the universal, to the infinite, and the vital centre of our own being’, to which we can add St John of the Cross, ‘..the knowledge of God is received in divine silence’ and, ‘One human thought alone is worth more than the entire world’; and St Teresa of Los Andes, ‘I should live in silence .. since God by His nature always lives alone. In Him, all is silence, harmony, unity’
    Regarding all those noisy toddlers (and older children), we should treat them like St Therese’s (of Lisieux), ‘I made such efforts to welcome the shower of dirty water (from a neighbouring sister at her washing) that at the end of half an hour I had taken quite a fancy to the novel kind of aspersion, and resolved to return as often as possible to the place where such precious treasures were freely bestowed’ – she made a sacrifice of the irritation, and no doubt, like Niggle in Tolkien’s tale, ‘Leaf by Niggle’ she discovered that the best part of her washing was that stained by the dirty drops, as Niggle discovered that the best parts of his painting were those when he suffered interruptions from his neighbour. ‘Let the little children come unto Me’

  59. APX says:

    Paulo says:
    I read all the comments, and there is only one mention of a cell phone ringing… you folks are blessed!

    There were a few, but unless it’s directly around me it doesn’t phase me anymore. The most annoying cellphone related incident in church I’ve ever encountered was a woman of a certain age sitting next to me texting on her iPhone all throughout Mass without turning the sound off. Every…single…keystroke…tick tick tick tick. So annoying! If you need to text during Mass, at least set your phone on silent!

  60. Ana says:

    Beautiful! We had several moments of silence between motets during Communion and, I think, after the first reading. Sometimes we have a few moments of silence after the second reading, but sometimes the alleluia starts almost immediately. We are blesssed with a significant amount of Gregorian Chant, including the introit, a solid traditional music program, and theologically sound priests.

  61. EWTN Rocks says:

    Following Communion, our associate pastor leads the congregation in saying either “Hail Mary” or “Hail, Holy Queen”, which is one reason why I like it when he serves as the Mass celebrant. His sermons are always excellent – relevant, meaningful, and related to the readings and Gospel which I believe is rare (at least based on my experience attending Mass at other churches in the area). The adult choir is generally off note but seems to be improving each week.

  62. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    APX, that would be a good one to sing for Karaoke. Hmmm is someone knows how to play a harpsicord and a ukelele (closest thing to a minstrel’s guitar) we’d have ourselves a grand “ye old English Pub Night!”

    Whoa the kids poked you? Seriously you should have told them off the parents or moved. The former is what my Gr. 12 moral theology teacher did once at a Mass he went to. Mind you he’s got to be 5’9″ or 5’10” and close to 230 pounds and grew up on a farm so he’d be intimidating.

  63. APX says:

    Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Whoa the kids poked you? Seriously you should have told them off the parents or moved. The former is what my Gr. 12 moral theology teacher did once at a Mass he went to. Mind you he’s got to be 5’9? or 5’10? and close to 230 pounds and grew up on a farm so he’d be intimidating.

    A lady never loses her cool. Plus, it doesn’t look good telling off a single mom with two boys who are 5 years old at max. Not too many places to move to either. Remember, patience is a virtue.

  64. chironomo says:

    Reading the above comments, I swore that one or two of them must be from my parish.

    The “noise vs. Silence” issue depends on which Mass you attend. The 9:00 “Family Mass” is generally a bit noisy… always the ambient “background chat” from hundreds of little ones engaged in whispering back-n-forths with Mom or Dad, parents fidgeting with books and toys in the pews to keep junior busy… but that’s to be expected at that Mass. The 11:00 Mass (my Adult Choir sings at this one) is beautifully silent at the right times…and perhaps not ironically, it is also the “best dressed” Mass of the weekend. Hmmm…

    The comments about music above are a good characterization of the dilemma that persons like myself (Full-Time Director in a large parish)have to face every day. Believe me when I say this… many of us would love to be able to make the rapid transition to an authentic “Sacred Music” program… Chant from the Graduale and Polyphony. It would be infinitely simpler and easier than what is currently done. It’s astounding the amount of effort it takes to do “bad music” (I’m talking about style-wise) , and it seems the worse the music, the more effort it takes to do it well. We have about 4 1/2 hours of choir rehearsal time each week… imagine what could be done with that effort going towards better music.

    SO what keeps me from just replacing the Missalettes in the pews with 1200 copies of the Graduale Romanum? It’s not so much the parishioners, though there would no doubt be some friction there. We currently chant the Introit and Communion Antiphon at all Masses except the 9:00 Folk Group Mass (the only Mass I do not prepare and Direct), and the comments and positive responses are very encouraging. Very few people know that it is the Introit or Communion Antiphon, but they know that it is something different, and they seem to sense that it is part of the Mass rather than a “song”. This is why I think it’s important that the best first step to turning things around is to get a foot in the door… get some chant being sung NOW even if modestly. When placed side-by-side with other forms of music being used, it will generally win. Most parishioners say that they “like contemporary music” simply because they have no idea what the other option is.

    Back to the real problem. I think you know what that is though… I have a dream that some day I could sit at a meeting with the Pastor and Priests ….

    ME: “I was thinking that we should just go to using the Graduale for all of the music at Mass”

    PASTOR: “Well, how much would it cost to outfit the main church with Graduales?”

    ME: “About 18 to 20 Thousand Dollars”

    PASTOR: “Hmm… can we get a discount for that many copies?”

    ME: “I’ll see what I can do”

    PASTOR: “If not, we can maybe do it in payments, but other than that it should be fine”.

    … because that’s usually the course of the conversation when we change from one hymnal to another. But for some reason, when the word “chant” comes up, it’s like asking that we perform human sacrifice at the altar instead of communion.

    I think the parishioners (generally) are ready…

  65. Gail F says:

    What a fabulous article. Our parish Sunday mass has so much music one can barely think, much less pray. Our Archdiocese pushed (at least, I think this is what happened) for more silence in the mass, and our parish actually adopted this suggestion — by having everyone sit silently for 30 seconds, or about that, after each reading. The effect is not prayerful silence but really annoying dead, “waiting to get on with it” silence. There is more to helping people be prayerful than just doing and saying nothing, especially, when something loud and bustling has just happened and is about to follow. Thirty seconds is too long when you are not praying and not long enough when you are, IMHO.

  66. Gail F says:

    Qwertio33: I have only been to one TLM, and I found it deeply prayerful. I thought I would be able to follow it pretty well because I had studied Latin for a few years and had a missal, but hearing it is not the same as reading it and I got lost several times. However, as the article said, the Latin provided a sort of background (like instrumental music) that invited prayer, and boy did everyone pray. I took a quick glance at your blog and you seem to be a person who is moved by emotion and participation. I did not feel at all as if I wasn’t participating in that mass — for me, it was a very strong and moving participation that was quite different from what I was used to. I don’ t think that this was a result of the form of the mass or of the people around me (most of whom knew what they were doing) but probably a combination of both. While priest consecrated the bread and wine facing the other direction, the consecration seemed extremely important and mysterious — something that he was doing for us and with us, not (as too often happens) something to entertain us. I think if you went to one of these masses you would be surprised, like the friend of mine who absolutley loves contemporary liturgical music and had to go to a sung chant mass at a Benedictine monastery. She thought she would sit and endure it but she found herself blown away — because she loves one kind of music, another kind of music also touched her deeply.

    I’m sure that when all masses were like this there were plenty of liturgical abuses going on in some places and plenty of people who sat in the pews and zoned out. But at least no one had to sing “Gather Us In.” That song especially annoys me because, on top of everything else wrong about it, we are ALREADY gathered when we sing it.

  67. If other people are having loud conversations before Mass, obviously the correct thing to do is to start having a loud conversation with God. :)

    Well, say the Rosary or something like that, anyway.

  68. Cricket says:

    Just wondering, at EF Masses is it appropriate for the congregation to respond along with the servers, i.e., the “Et cum spiritutu-os?” I’ve been to reverent TLM Masses where “dialogue” was permitted, & some others (also reverent) where the congregation observed total silence. Is there a general rule of thumb about such things?

  69. Margaret says:

    @Cricket– I’m wondering that, too. I just attended my second FSSP Mass this past Friday evening, out of scheduling necessity rather than any especial desire to attend the EF. The first time I’d been there, about a month prior, it was dead quiet. Just the priest and server praying back and forth. This past time, however, perhaps the congregational mix was different, but people would launch into every response out loud, and then trail off to silence after a few words. Not sure if they were expecting everyone to respond along with them or what. It was… interesting.

    The priest, however, won me over. He was visibly beside himself with delight that it was the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, where he had apparently been on pilgrimage some years earlier. (His English was heavily accented and quite broken, so it was difficult to follow him.) But despite the language barrier, he clearly had a tremendous affection for Our Lady, almost child-like in the best send of the word. As soon as Mass concluded, instead of the usual Sacred Heart devotions that would immediately follow, he turned around to us and requested we sing “dat hymn from Lour-Des.” We obligingly launched in and he turned back to face the altar. As the first verse wound down and we thought we were done, he raised his arm and “conducted” us into the second verse. Similarly, into the third verse. At the conclusion, he said, “Thank you, Blessed Mother!” I was utterly charmed by his devotion.

  70. nanetteclaret says:

    Re: “Gather Us In”

    The words “we,” “us,” and “our” are mentioned 30 times. The words “you” and “your” are mentioned 6 times. Who is “you?” It could be anyone. God the Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, the Trinity – not mentioned. The only conclusion to come to is: “It’s all about us” commanding God and telling Him what to do.

  71. albinus1 says:

    One of the things that caused comment during the Papal visit was the quality of the silence at the Masses one of factor that was not commented on at the time was the Pope’s use of Latin for the Eucharistic Prayers

    Perhaps it was not commented on because those watching on TV couldn’t hear it. I didn’t see the recent papal Masses on TV, but I remember watching a Papal Mass celebrated by JPII some years ago, and when the Holy Father began the Canon in Latin, instead of letting the viewers hear the Holy Father read the Canon in Latin, the network had their in-studio priest-commentator provide a voice-over translation (or at least rendering) in English. I practically shouted at the screen, “SHUT UP and let me hear the Holy Father!” I mean, I can hear the Canon in English any time I want to; hearing Pope John Paul II read it in Latin would have been treat, if only the TV producers would have gotten out of his way.

  72. albinus1 says:

    Cricket and Margaret — In my experience, the only “rule of thumb” is to observe local custom. Some priests who celebrate the EF — esp. priests who are used to celebrating the NO — pause and wait for the congregation to respond. Others don’t. It really seems to depend on the custom of the local congregation and the local celebrant. We have a pretty erudite congregation, many of whom really know Latin, and we tend to make the responses audibly.

  73. Jenny bag of donuts says:

    Sunday Mass was beautiful. We had a visiting priest, which at first was a disappointment since our pastor is very good. But this priest celebrated the liturgy beautifully with much reverence. I like how he actually gave us a few moments to recollect ourselves before the Penitential Rite. His homily left me speechless. He explained very clearly how our Lord wants our hearts. He explained the difference between our desires and actions, and how striving to conform our desires to God’s holy will is most important. I was sorry I didn’t get a chance to thank him but I had to nurse my little one. He probably didn’t need my encouragement anyway. Bless God for good priests!

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