Friday, July 06, 2007

After the Motu Proprio is released: advice from a Parish Priest

[In a similar vein to my own post of today, one of our priestly readers has offered some valuable insights. I think they are particularly important since they give the perspective of a parish priest.]

What Papal Documents Do and Don't Do

First, It is important that we start to think of the M.P. as an opportunity to deepen the spiritual life of the Church at the ground level, rather than as a panacea delivered from Rome.

Papal documents create possibilities, they do not, in themselves, make things happen. Only those at the ground level can make things happen. And we all, priests and laity, need to take responsiblity for that.

The M.P. will not, and can not, of itself, make a Classical Latin Mass available in very parish. Only parish priests and parishioners can do that.

Each of us has to ask: "What can I do to contribute to making that Mass more available?" I leave aside the clergy. They all know what they have to do: learn Latin, learn the rubrics, facilitate singers and servers, find a way to fit the Mass into the schedule, etc.

So what can parishioners do? That depends on what conditions are like in the parish.

Scenario 1: The Unsympathetic Pastor

What if the pastor is not sympathetic?
1. Pray daily and ask God to give you the wisdom to know what you can change and help you accept things you cannot change.

2. Go to Mass regularly, even if things are not to your taste. Be a visible and supportive member of the parish.

3. Become more active in parish activities so that your pastor sees you as a pillar of the community, whose ideas are backed up by generosity and hard work, not just a nag who just wants things.

4. Give your pastor Pope Benedict's books on the liturgy.

5. Join the parish choir (or start one) and, after you have proven yourself a devoted member, begin to suggest incremental use of traditional music and chant.

6. Run for parish council and, after being elected, bring up the possibility moving the liturgy in the direction of the "spirit of Pope Benedict XVI." Be patient.

7. Give positive feedback every time the pastor does anything that seems to be moving in the right direction. Avoid complaining about things you don't like--this is always counter productive.

8. Pray regularly to the God who softens hearts and wait in patience. Recite an Act of Faith every morning. Continue to educate yourself (e.g. read copies of the books you give your pastor).

9. It may take a long time, or even a change of clerical staff, but eventually you will probably eventually discover that you have a pastor who is more sympathetic.

Scenario 2: The Sympathetic Pastor

What do you do if the pastor is sympathetic ,but pleads that he "cannot do it" or "doesn't know how"?

1. Get a group together and suggest (don't nag) that it would be nice to use a little chant or Latin at the Novus Ordo Masses as a way of supporting the "spirit of the motu proprio." Perhaps Kyrie XVI or Sanctus XVIII. Offer to start a group to teach and lead this, perhaps at daily Mass.

2. Make sure that every time the priest makes a move in the direction of the more dignified celebration you give positive feedback–-best, in writing. Do not criticize things you don't like--again, that is always counter productive.

3. Get a group of active, non-confrontational, parishioners together and make a polite request for a Novus Ordo Latin Mass as a special celebration, perhaps for the parish patronal feast. AND offer to do the work preparing the music, serving, party afterwards, etc. Say that he doesn't have to do anything in Latin unless he feels comfortable. Talk about making this a regular event.

4. When a N.O. Mass with Latin has become regular, not an oddity, get together with other people who would like to have a Classical Mass. and express this wish in writing. In the letter, say the group would all be willing to create a fund to pay the bill of sending him to one of the various classical Mass workshops sponsored by the groups like Institute of Christ the High Priest.

5. If you have gotten this far, you are probably at the point where you can take the next set of steps:

Scenario 3: The Sympathetic Pastor who wants to take advantage of the Motu Proprio

Now let's assume you have a sympathetic pastor who wants to take advantage of the motu proprio.

1. Ask the pastor if he is planning to celebrate the Mass of John XXIII privately when the M.O. comes into force. Then ask if you can serve it or attend it. Don't nag.

2. Get a group together and offer to buy full sets of vestments (e.g. with maniples, veils, burses) for his private celebrations. You might also consider buying suitable altarware, candle-sticks, etc.

3. After he starts celebrating privately, get people together and ask to have the Mass celebrated on a regular basis, AND offer to help organize servers, prepare the sanctuary, etc. The less the pastor has to do himself the more receptive he will be.

4. Offer to organize, or at least join, a choir to sing the Mass. Get together with other people and offer to create a burse to help pay a professional choir director.

5. Show up when the Mass is offered, every time. And encourage others to go.

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