Our local Ordinary Form parish has started having “teaching” Masses on Sunday. They have a lector explain everything as it is happening during the Mass. As a catechist I know people need to learn about the Mass; however…It is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! Is there any Church document or canon law permitting, directing or forbidding such things? I am concerned for this parish has a long history of liturgical abuses, among other unorthodox activities. Thank you in advance for your help Father Zuhlsdorf.
God bless you.
It is a laudable goal to teach people about what happens during the Holy Mass.
Yet, … one has to wonder if doing the teaching during the Mass is the best way to do so.
By way of an analogy, what would be the benefit to having a lecturer on stage during a performance of Macbeth (errrr, “the Scottish Play”) explaining, “Here’s where Malcolm’s men cut down Birnam forest to use as cover as they marched up Dunsinane hill against Macbeth, fulfilling the prophecy of the third apparition in Act 4, Scene 1.”
Having a bit of an explanation before Mass, and being available after Mass if folks have questions would be a more didactically appropriate way of teaching about Holy Mass than mucking up the liturgy itself with sidebars and running commentary. I believe that is what Romano Guardini did for his flock and those little pre-Mass lessons became a book.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal does make provision for a commentator, stating (in art. 105),
“The commentator, who, if appropriate, provides the faithful briefly with explanations and exhortations so as to direct their attention to the celebration and ensure that they are better disposed for understanding it. The commentator’s remarks should be thoroughly prepared and notable for their restraint. In performing this function the commentator stands in a suitable place within sight of the faithful, but not at the ambo.”
So, the commentator, if needed, is to make brief clarifying statements. I think they should mostly be of an informational nature, e.g. “Today’s second collection is being taken up for the heating fund.” or “Please silence your cell phones before Holy Mass begins.” or “This being the Solemnity of the Annunciation, all are asked to kneel when the choir sings the ‘Et Incarnatus‘ during the Creed.”
I sincerely doubt the Legislator envisioned the commentator being a sort of Howard Cosell/Pat Summerall dyad (“Father’s wearing a green chasuble today, looks like we’ve entered Ordinary Time again.” “Interesting point, Howard, ‘ordinary’ time isn’t meant to mean common time or normal time, but rather the weeks that are counted, or ordered…” I did that once for the TV broadcast of a magnificent Pontifical Mass at the Shrine in Washington DC, but we were not in the sanctuary or audible in the Basilica!
I might make an exception for Vin Scully.
Nor would Shinichiro Ohta and Kenji Fukui of Iron Chef be a good model for the commentator, as entertaining as the thought might be. Get your imaginations around that!
If this parish has a history of liturgical abuse and unorthodox activity, the best course of action may be to take one’s worship (and checkbook) elsewhere.