Msgr Francis Mannion, frequenter contributor at PrayTell via his syndicated essays with CNA, sounds off on what’s wrong with Catholic liturgy:
(N)ot everything is as it should be in the Church’s liturgical life. There is much unease in some quarters, and many people have a vague feeling that something is amiss with the liturgy.
What is wrong? In my opinion, the fundamental problem has to do with the manner in which the liturgy is celebrated.
Speaking generally, I do not give high marks to the way in which clergy preside at liturgy … and the way they homilize.
Lay liturgical ministers are very often trained inadequately, and are unprepared to assist at Mass.
Besides lay and ordained malfeasance, there are two areas in which the condition of the Church’s liturgical life is in very bad shape. These are liturgical music and church architecture.
In other words, this is not heaven. People are people, even clergy. They make mistakes. They possess occasional, if not regular ignorance. They don’t do what they are told, or perhaps more damning, they don’t do as they should.
If Msgr Mannion were a parent, he would feel the same way.
I note that while he does criticize homilies for not connecting to people’s lives, he doesn’t offer up the third criticism (along with music) from the pews: a lack of welcome and hospitality. Also, I note the parish he served before his retirement has three persons on the liturgy-music staff. Is professional staff always the answer to the ills of ecclesiastical activity?
Msgr Mannion also criticizes architecture. To be sure, it is the rare new parish that has much control over that. I notice the Cathedral of the Madeleine (check sibling links to the hypertext above) has multiple images and many pastel hues spicing up its interior. That’s more decoration than architecture, for sure. But the point of how a Church is housed is an important question for the building.
I happen to think God is an opportunist. God takes advantage of (or is fruitful in spite of) our wardrobe failures, our not showing up for Mass (even when we are bodily present), our indifference to preparation, and such. There is a Catholic tradition to allow for this. We do not always seek competence to discern the people in charge of something.
Still, I think Msgr Mannion’s criticism is somewhat more than the elderly neighbor yelling at us, “Get off my lawn!” As a liturgy (so-called) professional, I have to deal with the occasional poor homily, liturgical ministers not showing up, poor choices in clothing, and the like.
I happen to think how we deal with misfortune is a better barometer of our discipleship than our architect, the seminaries to which we send our prospective clergy, and such. Outside of heaven, liturgy will not be perfect. Even great liturgy. The real mark of how close we walk with the Lord is how we imitate him in dealing with the imperfect.
Is the solution to hire the best music personnel and homilist, and hope good liturgy (and faith) trickles down from there? Or is another way indicated? Read the link and tell us what you think.