ASK FATHER: Celebrate Prudence and not “Pride”!

From a reader…


Can a Pastor/Religious Superior mandate that the Associate Pastor/other Religious priests use only particular options in celebrating Mass with the congregation. Of course, saying Holy Mass ad Orientem is one matter. But what about the Pastor/Superior saying it is the custom here to NOT use, e.g: bells (even for the Consecration), the Chalice Veil and Burse, any Latin, chanting by the celebrant at certain parts, chasubles for concelebrants, the Roman Canon for Daily Mass, a Communion Paten, wine for the Ablution, an altar cross, the Sign of Peace, the Universal Prayer, etc.

Basically, how much say does the Celebrant have on Mass options over the Pastor/Superior saying “that’s not the way we do it here.”


Can a pastor or superior mandate certain options within the Holy Mass.

Well, if you’re asking canonically – according to liturgical law, a priest with the faculties to offer the Holy Sacrifice has the full right to offer that Sacrifice in the manner he sees fit – following the mandates of the rubrics, of course. The rubrics give to the celebrant several options (one of the quirks of the Ordinary Form) – sometimes which optional memorial to choose, which form of the penitential rite to use, whether or not to utilize the optional sign of peace.

In addition, there are options that are, if you will, praeter legem – whether to wear a Gothic or a Roman chasuble, whether to wear a biretta, whether to give a 5- or a 25-minute homily.

All of these options are laid at the feet of the celebrant, who has presumably passed his seminary courses with flying colors, has the interest of God and His holy people at heart, is mindful of the eternal verities, and is at least sanus in mente, and hopefully, in corpore as well.

That’s the law.

Human nature being what it is, and the law being what it is, we may need to now discuss the lived reality of pastoral and liturgical practice.

Pastors, religious superiors, bishops, and the like, often have an inflated (and not necessarily insincere) notion of their own importance and their own authority. Hopefully, they are operating, just as our hapless priest celebrant is, with the best interest of God and His holy people at heart. Even though the priest celebrant has received the same (or sometimes more) formation before ordination as they, the superior can have the attitude that he knows best. He may. He may not.

Yet, Holy Mother Church has placed in his hands certain authority which ought not be dismissed, even if it, sometimes, is exaggerated in the mind of that pastor or superior.

So, if the pastor of St. Wilgefortis parish mandates that, in his parish, bells not be rung at the elevation, even if he doesn’t really have that authority, it is often best to tolerate his exaggeration of his own authority. Or if the Provincial Superior of the Fathers of Divine Wrath requires that all priests subject to him wear birettas (unless this sort of thing is specifically codified in the Constitutions of the Order), only a foolish Wrathite would obstinately refuse to do so.

One must pick one’s battles carefully.

Prudence is the Queen of Virtues – and when coupled with the virtue of fortitude, makes a formidable force for moral good. Prudence tells us when to act or speak – and when to be still or silent. Fortitude gives us the courage to act, or the stamina to endure our own inaction.

My proposal would be that, in this month, which many places have given over to celebrations of the capital sin of pride, we Catholics (already spending the month devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus) link to the virtue of prudence.

Perhaps we could even hold Prudence Parades, led by modestly dressed young men and women carrying banners showing saintly acts of prudence – St. John Nepomucene refusing to violate the seal of the confessional, Bl. Clemens von Galen standing up to the Nazis, St. Bernadette Soubirous keeping silent within her religious community about her status as the visionary of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The parish band could follow, playing stately march music at a reasonable level.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Thank you for posting this Father Z and thank you Father Ferguson for including a smile in the response (*Fathers of Divine Wrath. . . lol*).

    Regarding Prudence Parades : I thought that Prudence Parade processions could only be led down side streets. [As opposed to the back alley Pride Parades.]

    Perhaps , in this age of apostasy, Fr. Ferguson might consider adding a banner of St. Tarcisius to the parade ?

  2. Boanerges says:

    In light of the above, a question was asked on another site , “is it appropriate to pray the Rosary during Mass”?

    This is a personal preference.

    When longsuffering cannot erase one’s distracted mind from the various indifferences, sacrileges and even blasphemies that occur with regularity at many Novus Ordo masses, it seems prudent to begin offering up reparation during these moments for the sake of those who engage in them, as well as your own. Thus the Rosary, during these periods, would seem most appropriate. Here’s a list of possibilities:

    If at a Novus Ordo, are there UNHOLY DISTRACTIONS taking place that prevent you from engaging the Mass? You can certainly sanctify it by praying the Rosary.

    Is the priest NOT praying word for word the Eucharistic Prayer in the Sacramentary, possibly making the Eucharist either illicit or even invalid?

    Are people desecrating the Eucharist with unholy reception (chewing gum, laughing or other indifferences)? That would certainly be a way to redirect you and to pray for those involved.

    Is the priest preaching things that are not of the faith? This would be a good thing to do for you sake and his.

    Is the music so bad and distracting that your heart and mind are not elevated to God and becoming agitated? Another good example to sanctify your heart and mind.

    These are but a few examples I can see it’s use. Again, my personal preference.

  3. tho says:

    Before VII is was not uncommon to see parishioners saying the rosary during mass. Pope Pius X did encourage people to use their missal, and it truly is a help during mass. But if a TLM is being said with beautiful rubrics, it is a very uplifting spiritual experience to watch the priest, especially at the consecration. While using the missal, I sometimes worry that I am either ahead or behind the priest, and that is a distraction which takes away from my reason for being there. All in all I defer to St. Pope Pius X, while trying to avoid being scrupulous about missal reading.

  4. Unwilling says:

    All happy families are alike.

Comments are closed.