QUAERITUR: Priest returns to his ad libs during Mass.

From a reader:

After almost four weeks of doing his best to “say the black and do the
red,” our pastor has started to revert to ad libbing at Mass.

At our Christmas Masses, he began by welcoming the congregation before
the Penitential Rite. When using the Roman Canon, he went “off script
at the parts that commemorate the living and the dead. He also
continues to ad lib the final blessing and dismissal, to say nothing
of the endless and inane General Intercessions he composes impromptu,
which becomes an endless rambling.

Because of my position, leaving the parish is not an option;
respectfully bringing this to the priest would only make matters worse
and result in total war. Writing the bishop would be futile, as our
bishop doesn’t even say “The Lord be with you” correctly. Is there
anything I can do?

You knew it would happen. The priests who ad libbed before the new translation was implemented, would ad lib again after they got comfortable again. That sort of priest needs some correction.

I think there isn’t much you can do about “inane intercessions”. There is a lot flexibility to those intercessions, alas. There is also no law against being scatter-brained or dopey.

However, if the priest is ad libbing parts of the Mass which require specific texts, and you do not think you can obtain any reasonable satisfaction from the priest or the local bishop, you have the right to express your concerns directly to the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome.

In case you do this, you will need to document precisely what he does. They cannot act on a mere general and hazy complaint. Also, a one time liturgical aberration isn’t going to get much attention, unless it affects validity of the sacraments (which gets the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith involved).

You might review my tips for writing about these matters.

Keep this in mind, however. If you are going to do something about this, put your name to what you write. Don’t do this anonymously. Sign what you send. If you are not willing to sign what you send, then you should just bear it in silence.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ErnieNYC says:

    I feel your pain. Keep in mind, though, that your Bishop will ordinarily not say “the Lord be with you,” but rather “Peace be with you,” (Pax vobis) as is proper for Bishops.

  2. RichR says:

    Pray a Rosary for a Latin Mass to come to your area…..and pray it weekly. God listens. We are getting closer to that goal after years of praying.

  3. TNCath says:

    ErnieNYC: Indeed, “Peace be with you” is the greeting for a bishop at the greeting of the Mass. Otherwise, the bishop says “The Lord be with you.” Unfortunately, we have a bishop that says, “The Lord be with ALL of you,” to which I was tempted to reply ( in the days before the new translation, of course), “And also with ALL of you!”

  4. asperges says:

    I have yet to hear a priest ad lib in Latin (pardon the tautology). Those celebrants who are addicted to the sound of their own inventiveness will continue to ad lib as the mood takes them whilst the Mass is in the vernacular. It is the result of year and years of neglect. Few of them ever read the GIRM, or if they do, they just ignore it. The perception of the liturgy for them is a framework or loose script to work from.

    Interestingly soon in this diocese there is to be a course of “How NOT to say Mass.” I only wish Bishops would attend some of the Masses incognito and see for themselves just how appalling they can be.

  5. pseudomodo says:

    Could be worse…

    Priest or Bishop in the south could say, “The Lord be with y’all!”

    What’s the response to that?

  6. APX says:

    At our Christmas Masses, he began by welcoming the congregation before the Penitential Rite.

    Our bishop did this as well, but I didn’t think our bishop would not “say the black and do the red”. I just checked the GIRM for Canada, and the aforementioned is permitted…at least in Canada.

  7. “to which I was tempted to reply ( in the days before the new translation, of course), ‘And also with ALL of you!'”

    I’d go one better: “And maybe with you.”

    “Priest or Bishop in the south could say, ‘The Lord be with y’all!’ What’s the response to that?”

    In the spirit of Tennessee Ernie Ford: “Well, bless your pea-pickin’ heart, Rev’rend!”

  8. Random Friar says:

    I try to follow the Baptist’s model when I celebrate Mass: Less me, more Him.

  9. Sid says:

    Priest or Bishop in the [S]outh could say, “The Lord be with y’all!” What’s the response to that?

    Respond with a Rebel Yell, the simplest being:

    Then for Solemnities there’s the inclusive all’y’all.

  10. leonugent2005 says:

    If we’re back to saying the black and doing the red I respectfully ask the priests who are devoted to tradition to say the black and do the red at the masses at which I assist. I have a lot of time on my hands and a good pair of reading glasses.

  11. Joan M says:

    I’ve noticed that our “priest in attendance” (our parish priest is away), has started to revert, in some of the prayers, to his old way of saying them – in some cases, simply using the old translation, and in others, the old ad-lib he always used.

    Much worse is the priest he has helping him with the 9:00 am daily Masses three or four days each week. I can only handle one of his Masses per week. In particular, he does not use the new offertory prayers, but continues to use his version of the old ones. Whether it is the bread or the wine he is offering, he says “which MOTHER earth has given and human hands have made”. I really, really do not want to even attempt to speak to him, the temptation to hit him would be too much.

  12. jbas says:

    I was just thinking, I’ve never heard of a single case of a priest suffering any canonical consequences for ad libbing. Perhaps–and this is a serious suggestion–perhaps some sort of fine could be imposed for each occurrence.
    Also, I know we US Southerners are a joke to many, but I would suggest similar speculation referring to other cultural groups would receive a less casual response from some regular commentators.

  13. Margaret says:

    Oh, jbas, as a native New Yawker, I just couldn’t pass this up.
    “The Lawd be witchoo”
    “And also witchoo” (now: “and witcher spirit!”)

    And you haven’t really heard the Sanctus in its full, cringe-worthy glory until you’ve heard a well-meaning but hopelessly off-pitch Lawn Guyland matron caterwauling from the lectern, “Hosanner in the highest! Hosanner in the highest!”

  14. M. K. says:

    I have yet to hear a priest ad lib in Latin (pardon the tautology).

    I don’t know whether this would count as a true ad lib, but a few times I attended a Latin Novus Ordo Mass at which the priest tried to make the language more explicitly inclusive, e.g. by saying “fratres et sorores.”

  15. rollingrj says:

    If a priest is intelligent and imaginative enough to ad lib, then he should be intelligent and imaginative enough to sit with this revised translation and seek the “music” in it (tempo, phrasing, et. al.) Since the ideal is to have a sung Mass, I think this makes sense to me. (Then, again, my educational background is music.)

  16. Catholictothecore says:

    What I’ve noticed since the new translation got implemented is that for the older priests, the ones who have been priests for more than 45, 50 years, to them flipping the pages of the new Roman Missal to the next section is a bit of challenge. There are ribbons in the Missal I know but until they get used to it all they will fumble through it, like our parish priest who on that first sunday of Advent and even until recently, muttered, “yes….I’m getting to it…” while we in the congregation waited patiently for him to get to that page. It is a learning process for everyone and “with the spirit” it will be second nature before we know it.

  17. BobP says:

    “And with thy spirit” seemed a lot better in print. “Et cum spiritu tuo” seems more natural in response.

  18. frdgss says:

    “In case you do this, you will need to document precisely what he does”.

    Is there any reason why the documentary evidence submitted to the Bishop/CDW couldn’t be via a MP3 recording? As most of the culprits love the sound of their own voices, I’m sure they would willingly give permission for you to try out your new Dictafone…

  19. Rev. Paul L. Vasquez says:

    It is not accurate to call an introduction of the mass (before the Penitential Rite) with words ad libitum a matter of STBDTR.

    GIRM 50: ” […] After the greeting of the people, the Priest, or the Deacon, or a lay minister may very briefly introduce the faithful to the Mass of the day.”
    IGMR 50: ” […] Salutatione populi facta, sacerdos, vel diaconus, vel minister laicus potest brevissimis verbis introducere fideles in Missam diei.”

    Here we see a pretty straightforward translation of the norm in the official translation (Deo gratias!). Words to this effect are later repeated in GIRM 124 (Mass without a Deacon).

    Then let us not forget GIRM 31 (Technical terms included in Latin)
    “31. Likewise it is also for the Priest (ad sacerdotem), in the exercise of his office of presiding (munere praesidis) over the gathered assembly, to offer certain explanations (monitiones) that are foreseen in the rite itself. Where this is laid down by the rubrics, the celebrant is permitted (celebranti licet) to adapt them somewhat (eas aliquatenus aptare) so that they correspond to the capacity for understanding of those participating. However, the Priest (sacerdos) should always take care to keep to the sense of the explanatory text (sensum monitionis) given in the Missal and to express it in just a few words (paucis verbis). […] He is permitted (licet), furthermore, in a very few words (brevissimis verbis), to give the faithful an introduction (introducere) to the Mass of the day (after the initial Greeting and before the Penitential Act), to the Liturgy of the Word (before the readings), and to the Eucharistic Prayer (before the Preface), though never (numquam) during the Eucharistic Prayer itself; he may also make concluding comments regarding the entire sacred action before the Dismissal.”
    To this must also be added GIRM 90: “90. To the Concluding Rites belong the following: a) brief announcements (breves notitiae), should they be necessary (si necessariae sint) …”

    From all of which I reasonably conclude that providing an introduction to the mass (provided that it is brief), although not mandatory, is most certainly licit and no celebrant deserves to criticized for its inclusion.

    It should also be noted that the words that precede the Our Father are identified by the IGRM (81) as an explanation/introduction (dicit monitionem ante Orationem dominicam) and thus falls under GIRM/IGRM 31.

    In general, before accusing the celebrant of violating liturgical norms, it is best to be properly informed of what the relevant liturgical norms are.

  20. Rev. Paul L. Vasquez says:

    As a side note, I’m glad some of these permissions have not “caught on”. I have not yet heard lay people introducing the mass (and I hope not to, except perhaps before mass begins). It was a great day when the office of commentator was abandoned de facto. I seriously dislike the introduction to the Liturgy of the Word (although I have heard it done), and would not even imagine introducing the Eucharistic Prayer. Although it can certainly be argued that one should not exercise every option the Missal allows, it certainly cannot be by the law that the argument can be made.

  21. Rev. Paul L. Vasquez says:

    I just realized I erred. The abbreviation is IGMR, not IGRM. Apologies.

  22. Patti Day says:

    Would these ‘permissions’ include father’s explaination that he is vested in red instead of violet (during Advent) for the feast of a martyr? Since we pray the LOTH, I generally am already aware of the color of vestment for the day, but appreciate the short reminder.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    Patti Day,

    Maybe Fr. Z can explain, but I thought martyrs had preference even during Advent? And, during Advent where I was attending daily Mass at a Cathedral, indeed, on the days celebrating a martyr, the priests wore red.

  24. Peggy R says:

    Ditto for our pastor, ad libbing the greetings and closing, I think including final blessing prayer, definitely at weekday masses. Our pastor was very diligent the first Sunday, then slacked off afterward. He even led us in the confiteor the first week. Not so, since. And a young priest, who’s a very nice good guy, had started in the habit of thanking us after we said, “And also with you” in the greeting of the mass. He had stopped it with the new translations, but then he did it again on Christmas after we said “And with your spirit.” Sigh. He’s a nice young man, but I wish he wouldn’t do that. The mass is not an interpersonal communication between the faithful and the priest.

  25. Papabile says:

    Asperges / M.K.

    That is exactly my experience. I have heard more than one Priest throw an “et sorores” next to a “fratres”.

    Additionally, once I was serving the EF at Old Saint Mary’s, and a Priest and a latinist who wanted nothing of the EF was thrust into service one Sunday. It was virtually impossible to provide the responses, because he entirely ad-libbed the whole Mass, while making all the correct ritual gestures so the congregation wouldn’t know.

    The comment he made to myself and the other server after Mass was “Now you’ve seen how all the ‘protections’ of latin– that you pre-Vatican II people are obsessed with — aren’t real whatsoever.” I will say it was a valid Mass at the end of the day because he followed the form for consecration, but other than that — wholly made up.

    This occurred in 1990.

  26. Centristian says:

    I’m one to keep my mouth shut and never bring complaints to a celebrant or to his bishop. It never does any good to complain, however politely. Egotistical celebrants are always right and bishops could care less because you are just one of the dumb hoi poloi in the pews as far as most any of them are concerned. If you complain, you’re just a complainer, or even worse, a weirdo.

    I figure I’ll never have to answer to God for anything they do, in any case, and I don’t imagine it’s my job to teach priests how to be priests. That’s somebody else’s job and they obviously did a poor job of it in many cases. If our priests were formed badly and trained wrongly then nothing I might have to say to them is going to change anything, in any event. What does Father care about what I have to say about the way he celebrates Mass? Does he tell me how to do my job?

    JUST ONCE, however, I wish some fearless and uncouth jerk (I envision a Catholic Dr. House) would show up at a Mass celebrated by a goofy, chatty celebrant and respond, out loud, from his pew, “Father, could you just shut up, already? Nobody came here for you; we came here for Jesus Christ. Remember Him? Just say what you’re supposed to say and do what you’re supposed to do, alright? It isn’t about you and nobody’s entertained by you, so just knock it off and grow up, already.”

    I’m not endorsing that type of behavior, of course…but I’ll bet if there were enough loudmouth Catholic jerks around the country calling celebrants out on the carpet in the middle of Mass for their goofiness and chattiness, it would have an effect, much more so than politely worded letters (which have none).

    I’m not saying that anyone ever ought to do that, of course.

  27. John Nolan says:

    “Orate, fratres et sorores …” was (is?) in the use of Sarum, so if it cropped up in a Latin OF I wouldn’t be too bothered.

  28. Johnno says:

    The ad libbing would be tolerable if it was at least related to sound doctrine… our parish priest began well enough but just during Christmas Morning Mass, he ad libbed again prior to the the elevation after the consecration (where he says,”This is the Lamb of God etc. happy are we who are called…”)

    Our priest went on to say something incomprehensible… saying that unlike Mary who never heard the words of consecration and never received the Eucharist, we were more priveledged than her to have the mass now…

    But that makes no sense. Firsty, Mary was immaculately conceived and filled with grace and bore no sin, and had the Son of God in her womb, so if anything she was infinitely more priveledged than any of us. Not only that, I’m certain Mary attended Mass with the Apostles and early Christian community where they too consecrated the bread and wine… so this is just entirely wrong!

    There are many other things about our priest that worry me that he has a more ‘Protestant’ mindset when it comes to the liturgy and Mary and the saints… Whether he does or not I can’t say for sure, but the fact that the stuff he says makes me pause for thought and even think it, alone is enough to tell me that he should stick to saying the black and doing the red.

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