Diagnosing the Wrong

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.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Diagnosing the Wrong

  1. Liam says:

    RIchard Clark doesn’t always program his complete settings of the Ordinary at his home parish, but this morning we did get to sing the Lamb of God from his Mass of The Angels, which is not normally the case even when he’s using that Ordinary setting seasonlly. Fine contemporary work:

  2. Melody says:

    “The real mark of how close we walk with the Lord is how we imitate him in dealing with the imperfect.” I think you nailed it. It’s not that liturgy done well isn’t a good and desirable thing. But sometimes “Liturgy with a capital L” people see that as the central thing. And, sorry, but it’s not. We had a pastor, years ago, that was such a perfectionist that the EMHS’s, music people, lectors, everyone, were afraid of making a wrong move and setting him off. People were bailing out of ministries and out of the parish. We were so relieved when he left and a more easygoing pastor came. The one who left actually left the priesthood. So there were some other issues, too, and maybe his attitude was a symptom of personal problems. A good pastor has a way of encouraging good liturgy without being a jerk about it. And no, I don’t think the answer is for everyone to be professionals. That isn’t even possible in a small town parish. We should all do our best; but at the end of the day, we’re doing it for God, who sees the efforts which went into the outcome.

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