Tuesday, 20 August 2013

A Mass for the Deaf

For use on board plane - or at the Latin Mass!

I know it is not pc to say the word 'deaf' but the term 'hard of hearing' belongs directly to the nanny state and, besides, nobody speaks of the 'hard of eyesight' - 'blind' being perfectly acceptable.

But this Mass for the Deaf was one that I attended some time in the last five years, somewhere East of Fishguard and north of Penzance (it would be most unkind for me to cast a light on the good priest who celebrated this Mass).

It was not a Mass for deaf people, there was no 'signing' in Latin, that would have been rather droll.
It was rather a Mass that, if you were deaf, you would probably have had no problem in hearing every word the priest said.

Let me set the scene; it was a typical Old Rite congregation, no chatting, laughing or telling silly jokes; all was quiet and reverent as usual.

A bell rang and the server emerged from the Sacristy followed by the celebrant.

So far so good.

And then the prayers at the foot of the altar began.

The priest (whom, I should have said, was Irish, had a broad Irish brogue that you could have cut with a pneumatic drill) and when he opened his mouth to say the blessing: "IN NOMINE PATRIS ET FILII ET SPIRITUS SANCTI AMEN" he bellowed it out with every ounce of energy in his body.

And so it continued.

At first I was shocked and then subject to inward hysterical laughter.

I then came to the conclusion (rightly as it transpired) that this priest was using his normal volume of speech and that he had little knowledge of the Latin Mass and its rubrics.

This was a Mass of a sort never before experienced and the good man proceeded at a rattling pace, to go through the Mass as if someone was holding a gun at his head and telling him to go louder and faster.

We, the congregation, were swept along with him, barely hanging on for dear life to the edge of his alb.
This was a Mass of some pace, it was a raging torrent of a Mass and it bumped us along through the rapids over waterfalls, into deep pools and out again spluttering for breath.
It was a magnificent and moving experience - but, with the Blessed Adrian Fortescue spinning in his grave, by all rights it should not have been.

Monsignor Ronald Knox once described the Mass as being a form of dance and never was this more true than on this occasion; it was a river dance of a Mass that would have had the purists swooning in the aisles.

I am not a purist. There was no intention of irreverence.

And any priest who travels a considerable distance on a Sunday afternoon, to say the Mass of all Time for a disparate group of orthodox Catholics, gets my vote.

We left the Church feeling as if we had been through the millstream with heads ringing and eardrums in a state of shock.

May God bless that priest (and guide him to an LMS course on how to celebrate the Holy Mass).


  1. I've ridden this hobby horse before so I ask pardon if these comments are tiresome to certain folks.

    Noise seems to be the hallmark of Mass today. With a few exceptions the production of noise at Mass can be found at both the New Rite and the Ancient one. I go to Mass at a site under the care of the Institute of Christ the King. Having attended many of their Masses (not all, to be sure) I have come to the conclusion that they, too, are enamoured of noise.

    For example, at their Low Mass there is basically only one moment where silence is allowed, the Consecration. At all other times, and I mean ALL other times, we hear one of two things: the priest reciting his prayers aloud (and their priests are not like the kindly but inexperienced Irish priest you are writing about) or a constant droning of the organ (usually played by an organist who is not in tune - literally! - with the musical treasures bequeathed to us by tradition). It is a trial, let me assure you. At an Institute Mass there is no room whatever for those long moments of quiet contemplation and adoration that the Ancient liturgy allowed us.

    Whether or not this constant din is the ICKSP's way of helping along Novus Ordo people to become acclimatized to the Old Rite I have no way of knowing. This is the situation with them in my part of the world. Perhaps their Masses in other locales are a bit better.

    1. This is definitely not my experience of Holy Mass as celebrated by Priests of the Institute of Christ the King here in Lancashire. Instead of raising this issue here yet again would it not be more charitable to discuss this with the Priest concerned.

  2. @Aged parent: I've had that same experience with Institute of Christ the King Masses. Not exactly a dialogue Mass, but not silent enough for my taste.

    I chuckled when you mentioned the organ. I've had that exact same experience! Way too much organ playing instead of allowing us the peace to enter into prayer, AND the organist didn't seem to know how to play the organ and/or it was out of tune. This has happened on more than a couple of occasions so I'm guessing that it's a bit of a norm. Eek. One hates to complain but still. I do love to enter into the Mass prayers, or my own personal prayers, and it's definitely a challenge at their Masses. Maybe it's not universal though.

  3. Poppycock! I go to an Institute Mass every day and have never had that experience. It's a wonderful to have this opportunity after 40 years in the desert. Why do people complain for the sake of it?

  4. I think we've all experienced many Masses "for the deaf"! I know a priest who not only shouts out all the parts of the Mass, including the silent parts, but shouts at the back of the Church to latecomers (frivolous banter) up to the Gospel, while other priests are offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!

  5. @Unknown: I was not complaining "for the sake of it". I venture to say that neither was Aged Parent. I was simply agreeing with another commenter as I have had the same experience on a number of occasions. I have the greatest love and respect for the Institute, their priests and their nuns. Relax. I'm glad that you yourself have not had the incessant organ background music as we have.

  6. To all: Thank you for your comments, enlightening as always. I agree that sound debate (rather than bickering) is in order and that it is good to seek perfection in the Mass. To make a military analogy, it's fine having good hearted troops who are not very good at marching and drill but it's much, much better if they have discipline and carry out orders efficiently and to the best effect.
    It is a great pity that the ICKSP have a problem in some geographical areas but, maybe by debating the issue, it will come to their attention.