Thursday, 21 July 2011

"A funny thing happened to me on the way to Church today".....

How does your priest start the Mass? Is it along the lines of "Good morning everybody"
I believe that has become a bit passe these days - you see I do not attend Novus Ordo Masses so I am not too sure of my ground here but what I do know is that it is becoming increasingly commonplace for a priest to give a little chatty greeting and, all too often, to keep up a witty banter throughout proceedings.

"Good morning Father"
Recently I heard of a priest who made a wisecrack just before placing the host on a person's tongue - and, horror of horrors it was at an Extraordinary Form Mass! What can I say except that the priest in question is very, very new to the EF Mass and may be carrying some of his OF habits with him. I hope he will soon appreciate what the EF Mass (and the OF for that matter) is really about.

Some years ago just before we withdrew our children from the liturgical banalities they were being subject to they reported that, at their convent school Mass, the celebrant had asked (at the Consecration elevation) if anyone knew the test match cricket score. They never attended another Convent School Mass.

What has drawn my attention to this new(ish) custom is an article by a Daily Telegraph journalist, Michael Deacon - "A priest's true calling is to be a game show host, folks". He recently attended a wedding of friends (I'm assuming it was C of E but I could be wrong) where the priest constantly told little jokes throughout the service - how very droll! My recent post on the era of the 'ton up vicar' obviously needs updating; today we have the Bob Hope or the Tommy Cooper priest; it's only a question of time before we have the Consecration presented as a class conjuring trick (they probably already do this in Austria).

The thing that I find so very hard to understand is: don't they know that they are committing a sacrilege? What pleasure do they derive from making such mindless and unfunny cracks?
Sadly, they often seem to carry the congregation with them; the chap that related the host incident to me (also very new to the EF Mass and its solemnity) thought that it was screamingly funny and looked at me as if I was stark raving mad when I poured cold water over his mirth.

If cretinous ignorance is not at the heart of these asides it has, of course, got to be something a little more dark and sinister that is encouraging this trend.
That, also, would not surprise me in the least.
But the laity are complicit in all of this; the good old uncomplaining British man/woman in the pew sits back and does nothing. It only requires one or two people to have a discreet word in the priest's ear and, if that doesn't work, then a charitably worded letter to his Bishop.

And if that doesn't work, go to the SSPX!

Trouble is, it is so long since they have seen their reflection in a mirror they have forgotten just what manner of a Catholic they should be.


  1. By coincidence there was a Rowan Atkinsons movie on last night called 'Keeping Mum' in which he plays a boring vicar. Later he introduces jokes into his sermons and talks and suddenly becomes more popular. I know popularity isn't the reason for being a vicar but it does help, I think, to draw the crowds in.

  2. Well, I've been wearing this phrase into the ground, but I'll use it again: Mass was never meant to be Sunday Morning at the Improv. The abuses I see happen mostly at weekday Masses outside of my own parish, where we have interjections of humor (where they clearly do not belong), opinion and the total rewording of the Mass. I don't mind a bit of a sense of humor during the homily, but at no other point. I look forward to the day when I can either attend an orthodox weekday version of the Novus Ordo or, have the joy of a TLM to go to every day of the week.

  3. Chelliah - that's alright, up to a point in a sermon, but not during the Mass, thanks for your comment.

  4. 1970 translation:
    The Lord be with you.
    And also with you.
    Good morning, everybody!
    Good morning, Father.
    Nice to see you; to see you

    (Important rubric GRI Para 27 no.2: The celebrant now introduces the theme of the mass by reference to the football score, the unseasonal weather, the latest episode of Ballykissangel etc.)

  5. Some of the funniest, most amusing priests I have known (in their personal lives) celebrated the most solemn Masses.

    There is a time and a place.

  6. You speak much sense, Mr Collins.

    Sadly, many priests, (all denominations), these days see their job as being popular; rather than attend to what their vocation.

    Their main responsibilities, I suspect, are keeping bums on seats and the collection plate full!

    Oops ... sacrilege! Must go to Confession and hear the latest wise-crack from the priest.

  7. Bear with me while I set the scene: a low-ceilinged asymmetric church built in the 1960s, tabernacle off-centre, large, garish "naive" paintings of scenes from Christ's life (though difficult to tell what some of them are supposed to be) dominating the walls, miniscule Stations, bling altar overrun with candles and flowers on, behind, above, around, and an elderly priest who likes to announce he could never understand Latin, a devotee of the clapping Gloria which gives him the chance to jig around the aisles. Father favours a relaxed kinda Mass with him as MC. No, don't go there; well, not to the Sunday morning Mass.
    Unfortunately, it's the one nearest me.
    On a Sunday of ferociously bad weather, decide to go to the 6.30 evening Low Mass. Can't do much to that. Wrong. After an extended mini-homily at the start, no Confiteor, and copious additions to the Kyrie, a flip of a switch underneath the altar table and out blasts the backing for, yep, the clapping Gloria. Father then forgets to switch off and out blasts the backing for "I Wish You a Merry Christmas".
    Father chooses the short version of the Gospel which allows him extended time to be the star of his own waffle, followed by the Apostles Creed. Then the Offertory and a flip of the switch to some poppy faux "spiritual" music which drones on through the Canon and the Consecration to the Our Father.
    Immediately after the Consecration of the Host, Father instructs the congregation to respond audibly - something like "We ask for your forgiveness". Ditto immediately after the Consecration of the wine. At the Sign of Peace Father leaves the sanctuary to shake hands with all present.
    You'd have had a heart of stone not to laugh. Me? I fled at the distribution. Whether I fulfilled my Sunday duty, only God knows.

    Incidentally, my old Dad used to tell of a Jesuit at Farm Street in the 1930s whose sermons consisted entirely of hellfire and damnation directed at the entire congregation of rotten sinners. Not much humour there and no problem with dwindling attendance. His Masses were packed; standing room only.

  8. Genty - Aaaaagh! You have upset my ying and my yang!
    Re your Papa, at our parish eons ago we used to have a Franciscan priest once a year to lead a parish retreat.
    His first sermon always began - "All of you sitting there today are damned to spend all eternity in the fires of Hell"
    A few souls would faint in the congregation (not really but there would be a few white faces). He would then state:........"unless you repent and do penance" Audible sigh of relief!

  9. Gareth - I agree
    Victor - thank you I am sure no confession is necessary!
    Patricius - You have a good way with words
    TLW - I agree also

  10. I don't know about ying and yang. It seems more a case of ying-tong-tiddle-eye-po.

  11. What strange Priests you have in Wales. Come to the North of England where we have priests who say the Mass (OF and probably EF) with reverence.
    You make two suggestions as to where this flippant approach comes from. The first one is spot on – politeness. Where the extremes you describe do occur a short respectful word is appropriate. However the idea that a lack of reverence is the general rule at OF masses is incorrect at least where I live. Similarly with masses in our Catholic schools, where in my experience priests make an extra effort to be reverent. If any priest asked the cricket score during the consecration in my school, our Head would make sure the priest was never invited to say Mass again and that the Bishop knew why.