Mass In A New Era

 I think I have a better notion of what the celebration of Mass was like in the mid-60s. I’ve been peeking here and there at bits of livestreaming from across the Catholic world. We’ve completed two weekends of my parish’s “soft” reopening.

Every diocese has different regulations and recommendations, so it’s a patchwork of good liturgy, well-intentioned fumbles, and the occasional bad idea. In just the past month, I’ve witnessed Masses mostly without music as parishioners return. One of the semi-retired priests at my parish has resurrected Memorial Acclamations A and B from the 1970/75 Roman Missal for recitation. I am sure he’s used to music at all times for the post-consecration texts. We music ministers know MR3. The clergy? Sometimes, well …

I suggested sheets for the Creed and especially the Gloria for my parish. The former is pretty much familiar ground. The latter has rarely, if ever, been “recited” here. Certainly not on my watch. I noticed one priest in a livestreaming Mass get hung up on the very first line jumping into “peace to his people on Earth,” and losing the entire assembly from there. Good liturgists anticipate train wrecks. We’ve been at the helm, in the dining car, and even tied to the tracks. So we know.

I was thinking that the experience of the sixties might have been less a matter of malice, and probably more one of people being nudged from long-standing patterns. I’ve seen in other parishes and my own, liturgy people–clergy, ministers, and assembly–uprooted from their accustomed practices. They are in a new land. Unfamiliar. Disconcerting. And the leadership is sometimes going by feel. Honestly: we have no idea what’s ahead. (If you do, please email me.)

My archbishop has issued a pastoral letter on the Eucharist. One of the aims is to tighten up liturgical practices over the next several months. I can’t say this is the right time, but I do think his premise of the importance of the Sacrament is spot on. One of the loosenings I’ve noticed at my own parish is the new instinct to stand for the Eucharistic Prayer after the Sanctus. It happened for the second week in a row at our livestreaming Mass. I think it’s innocent. We don’t have theological revolutionaries in the pews–far from it. But people here are conditioned to sing the Holy. When they finish singing, they kneel. When they don’t sing, the circuit is broken.

Another curious thing with our good deacons: without the sung Gospel Acclamation, they wonder about when to rise to read. My boss asked me to play something after the New Testament reading to, in my words, “fix” the circuit.

Anybody else seeing new, innocent, and even amusing things? I don’t mention the flubs to out my own parish or someone else’s. I doubt the Liturgical Police will care much about these missteps. And if they do, they probably need to get a mask and a life.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Mass In A New Era

  1. Liam says:

    I participated in Mass in person for the second Sunday in a row at my parish of choice since April 2019; I am still considering risk issues. It’s a big barn of a place that used to pack in nearly 2,000 PIPs back in the Old Daze, but underwent a spectacular 5 year renovation that included cutting back on seating considerably, with much more space between renovated pews, and a modern anti-fire (emphasized after the place was rededicated the same week as Notre Dame’s fire) and HVAC system, important for ventilation in a church volume equivalent to that of Westminster Abbey – it’s less risky than the much smaller churches in the area where I live. The Sunday Mass schedule cut out the one I used to attend (8AM) so my sole option is the 1130AM, which for me as a very early riser is nap time, and attendance is by reservation for up to 200 people (though the purpose of that is for contract tracing; if you arrive without having reserved but with seating available, a young Knight of Malta will take your contact information).

    Music programming is not intended to familiar enough to trigger or invite congregational singing, the congregation being masked and muffled (I keep my own speech mostly to mouthing almost inaudibly with no projection). There is a cantor in the large gallery with the music director/organist. Latin or vernacular chant Propers for those bits of the Mass. The Penitential Act, Gloria (generally not a problem in these parts where there are lots of old churches that don’t have modern HVAC and therefore choirs are often suspended for the summer in favor of cantors and a more limited deck of music, often with the Gloria recited) and Creed and Our Father are recited but the responsorial psalm (taken now from Ted Marier’s wonderful vernacular chant settings, which with I am familiar, and are beloved to those familiar with them) and Eucharistic acclamations are sung. While the invitation to share the Pax is omitted, PIPs generally gesture (graceful nods/slight bows seeming to become the new norm; better than waving I’ve seen locally for the last decade in my local area churches) without contact. A worship program is provided electronically and announced to the PIPs before Mass begins if they wish to follow on their personal devices. Holy Communion for the faithful is ministered via a plexiglass-shielded station in each of the two transept wings *after* dismissal; my understanding this is to minimize the flow of people (and risk to the ministers) and thereby reduce risk at least marginally, though I can’t say I am a fan of this approach.

    There is a delightful level of pregnant stillness during parts of the Mass that I am trying to appreciate. Among these points is when the ambo has to be resterilized between movements, as it were. Nothing is rushed, but the temporal duration of Mass before dismissal is about 45 minutes.

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