From a reader…
I kindly ask your opinion (and perhaps advice) on the following matter of great importance to our local TLM community.
The rector of the church (who sometimes celebrates the EF for us, but we are not a personal parish) has sent a letter to all organists, MCs and servers stipulating the following, after we had tried to improve various elements, such as serving and Sacred Music. Please bear in mind when reading that this priest is not, in his heart, a friend of the EF, nor does he know many of the most basic things about it. The points are, in summary:
- “The diocesan directives for the celebration of the EF are to be followed.” (This refers to some spurious liturgical prescriptions the diocese imposes on us, such as the vernacular in places.)
- There must be four vernacular hymns at every Missa Cantata […]. It eliminates anything else that might be sung by the schola or played on the organ).
- The Schola is not to sing anything (motets, etc.) beyond the Propers and Ordinary. (For about a year now, we’ve had a new schola form and sing regularly and they were hoping to gain new members so as to do polyphony)
- The celebrant is the one who decides absolutely everything, incl. how servers serve, musical organisation, etc.
- The servers are to do everything as it was done at this church a decade ago (which includes major forbidden, wrong and nonsensical things, such as lay servers handling the chalice).
- If Sung Mass is not possible (it is the norm for us) on a Sunday, there will not be a Low Mass to replace it, but Mass with Propers and Ordinary replaced by hymns.I understand this is longer than the general messages you receive, but nevertheless I humbly ask for your opinion on these points, since the letter basically stamps out any initiative to grow the EF in our place. Would you think it helpful or advisable to ask Ecclesia Dei for help with this matter? Your help is greatly appreciated!
These abuse of power situations are frustrating. Fathers, if you think you have just the greatest ideas in the world about how to improve Mass in a way that is contrary to the rubrics and it’s spirit, … knock it off. You guys remind me of the military’s legendary “Good Idea Fairy” who flits and tinkers with things because they want to be noticed and to feel important and who feed on the chaos and frustration that results.
(There’s one at a parish nearby to where I am writing, as a matter of fact. But I digress.)
Friend, you can always have recourse to the Holy See’s Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”. However, I’d first consider going to the local bishop. Of course, the success or failure of that approach depends heavily upon who the bishop is! In some cases, the bishop might rub his hands together say to Fr. Good Idea Fairy, “This time you hold them down so I can kick them!”
Some of the points the rector is trying to enforce seem to be contrary to liturgical law. A Missa Cantata is just that. Hymns at a Missa Cantata, instead of the proper texts, is wrong. That is something that the Pontifical Commission might be able to clarify. I’m not exactly sure what he means by lay servers handling the chalice. While setting up? During Mass itself, there not much “handling” of the chalice necessary except by the priest. Perhaps you are referring to bringing a ciborium to the altar, etc. However, I get the idea that the rector is trying to eliminate in your community distinctions of the priest or laity. In most traditional communities, when setting up, lay people don’t directly handle the sacred vessels, but rather put on gloves first.
Unless the bishop is of the mind to correct this rector’s heavy-handedness, I’m not sure what recourse there would be.
It may be that you could try another approach.
Is the rector trying to set up a situation to prove that folks devoted to the EF are problematic and disobedient? If so, then obey his heavy-handed directives (even the wrong ones) to the letter. Frustrate his plans by showing just how devotedly obedient you are, and double your efforts to support the parish, financially and otherwise.
Also, figure out what his “thing” is. Does he have a heart for the poor? Then make sure the EF folks are the first ones to help at the soup kitchen or food pantry.
Is he eager to do evangelization? The EF folks should be the most eager to get to the front lines of going door-to-door.
Is he passionate about the sick and elderly? The EF folks should be right there to help him in home visits to those folks.
The music aspect is probably the hardest point here. Isn’t it always? Music for Mass should be an integral and even integrating part of every liturgical action. Artistic sacred music can foster growth in attendance. On the other hand, banal music will frustrate good musicians and undermine attempts at growth.
Would there be the possibility of setting up some sort of choral society, to do sacred polyphony outside of the Mass … for now? Have a little concert on Sunday after Mass, or sometimes during the week. Keep working on it and improving and then integrate it when the right moment comes. People, hearing you, might say: “Why aren’t they singing for Mass?”
Above all, work with him and don’t allow your exchanges to become acrimonious. If you get sharp and angry, you lose. He holds the cards. If he chooses to be a tyrant there isn’t much you can do about it.
Stay frosty. Breathe. Think. Plan. Organize. Persevere.