Wednesday, 27 May 2015

It's all about the priest (re-visited)

Thanks to the admirable Ttony of The Muniment Room for pointing out this article that goes into rather more depth than the radio piece that provoked my ire last week. Adrian Chiles describes his Lenten explorations of different Masses in rather more depth, and in a more interesting way, than in the snippet they broadcast on the PM programme. He has some interesting observations about the congregation, and other odds and ends.

Nonetheless, he still has the same overall conclusion: 
Spiritually, if I'm to really "connect" at Mass, I need a good priest to help me. And by good I mean, first and foremost, that they should look pleased to be there and pleased that we're there. Often they speak of great "joy" while looking as bored as swimming pool attendants. 
Secondly, with the liturgy - essentially the same script which they do day in, day out - the best of them find a way of making it sound fresh. As the inestimable Father Paul Addison of Our Lady of Delours in Kersal put it to me: "The clue's in the word; communion is all about communicating." And the same is obviously true of the sermon.
That still seems to me to be a very modern perspective; post-Novus Ordo. Of course, preachers were either good, bad or indifferent prior to then, but that was (and remains) a small part of what the Mass has to offer. The character of the celebrant, in the Old Rite, is (and rightly, I think) almost invisible, imperceptible. We look through him, to Christ. In the New, particularly when celebrated facing the people, that is so much harder ('They should look pleased to be there and pleased that we're there'). Thus the celebrant is so much more likely to think it is all down to him, which makes him work at it (or not) and the congregation is also likely to have that expectation - and the net result is that he does become the focus of attention.

And I cannot imagine (except in extremis) any priest celebrating the Traditional Mass in trainers...


Anonymous said...

Not quite trainers, but I can remember Fr. Michael Crowdy celebrating Mass
in St. Leonard's Chapel in St. Andrews whilst wearing his golf shoes. Fr. Crowdy had played a few holes on the Old Course earlier in the morning. The course was closed in advance of a major comp later that week. Father explained that "not wanting to draw attention to myself I only took a few clubs with me". A course steward who caught up with him asked him to leave. A lenghty discussion followed. The steward relented and asked Father to play as quickly as he could.

I can't be certain but the date would be about 1986. Possibly the first time the Tridentine Rite had been used in the chapel since the Reformation

Savonarola said...

Your description of the Old Rite suggests that there was little involvement in it of human persons. Maybe that is the reason why the Church came to see that it needed reforming?

Ben Trovato said...

Anon: thanks - good story!

Savonarola, you have completely misunderstood (or misrepresented) what I have written. Nowhere do I suggest that 'human persons' are 'little involved'. My thesis here and elsewhere has always been about the nature of their involvement.

As for the Church deciding that the Old Rite needed 'reforming', have you read Sacrosanctum Concilium?

Savonarola said...

I have read SC, but have you? It calls for renewal and reform of the liturgy in order to promote true participation and explains why. It would not have needed to do this is the liturgy was not deficient, both the rite itself and the way in which it was celebrated.

If the priest is to suppress his personality and the people are left as spectators of the sacred action, this does suggest to me that their human involvement is lacking - not entirely, of course, it is a matter of emphasis, but that it is the point. The emphasis needed to be redirected.

Ben Trovato said...


Yes, I have read SC several times. I haven't time to respond to you fully at present, but in the interim suggest this as an interesting read: