From a reader…
At mass on Sunday, after the congregation stood for the Gospel, the pastor asked us all to sit because he was going to combine his sermon with the Gospel. The best way to describe it is to say it was a like a poorly done line-by-line Bible study. I know enough to know such an action by the priest is not permitted at Mass. I have a two part question about this:
1. How should I have handled it on Sunday? Would walking out have been inappropriate?
1a. How should I handle it after the fact? A letter to the pastor? The bishop?
If it helps at all, this parish is my territorial parish, although, because these weird actions by the pastor are somewhat common place, I am registered at and regularly attend a neighboring parish. I was only at this church because I was unable to make it to the parish I usually attend and wanted to fulfill my Sunday obligation.
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE – Fr. Tim Ferguson:
Once again, our liturgical lives are held captive by the terrorism that is “creativity.”
One wonder how countless generations were brought to the faith and catechized sufficiently before these liturgical jihadis were unleashed upon an unsuspecting Church.
Of course, one need not say that there are no rubrics in the Missal that provide cover for this kind of innovation. The proclamation of the Gospel is one thing, the preaching of the homily is another thing. If were in the spirit of combining things – how about we combine the collection with the sign of peace? Whilst hugging one’s neighbor and whispering sweet nothings into his or her ear, one can reach into that person’s back pocket and pull out a sawbuck or a c-note and drop it in the passing basket. How about combining announcements with the first reading? “and lo, the messenger of the Lord saith unto the people of Judah, ‘don’t forget the pancake supper this Friday for the support of the youth group’s planned trip to Wyoming Catholic College.'”
If one were to parse the levels of liturgical absurdity and violations of rubrical law, on a scale of one (Father deliberately used the collect of the second Sunday of Lent on the third Sunday of Lent) to ten (Father just attempted the consecration of pumpkin bread), this would probably hover in the range of three – but the faithful people of God have the right to the Holy Mass as the Church has laid it out.
I don’t think this would be something to warrant a walk-out, especially if it were a one-time thing. I think a polite word with the priest after Mass would be warranted, “Father, I’m curious, where did you get this idea to combine the Gospel and the homily? Personally, I felt that the Lord’s Word was somewhat diluted.”
If one is not able to be in full control of one’s actions in the moment, a letter would probably be better than a confrontation that might get both parties unnecessarily flustered – such a confrontation seldom does anyone any good. A letter to the pastor, first, is the step to take – then, depending on the answer, going up to the bishop.
Sadly, Father is probably being told – even as we speak – how WONDERFUL his homily was, and how much it made the Gospel come alive, and how it made people feel all warm and fuzzy inside and what a great gift he has as a preacher. There are always those at the ready to provide “positive feedback” and puff up the pride of those who seek to bring in liturgical innovation. Pastors who insulate themselves from criticism by surrounding themselves with fans of this sort are unlikely to be changed in their approach, even in the face of reasoned arguments or threats of punishment from the bishop.
In fact, if at all possible, the best approach is probably to avoid this priest and his liturgical aberrancies as much as possible.