Your time begins…NOW: “In the name of the Father…”

Okay, let me say from the start that I know many of our priests are under pressure of time on Sunday mornings, and that there are a number of priests who have special indult to say more than the maximum 3 masses a Sunday in order to minister satisfactorily to their flocks. Especially if travel from one location to another is necessary between masses, this can put them under a lot of pressure.

Nevertheless… I recently had an experience where the celebrant expressed his desire that Sunday mass should take no longer than 45 minutes. In this circumstance the first casualty is singing the parts of the mass, which is often, though incorrectly, blamed for “making mass go too long”. The Gloria, Psalms and Gospel acclamation consequently must be said, not sung. The next is that entrance and recessional hymns get chopped down to one verse (or two at the most) of the hymn. I will say in his defence that the celebrant in question does not waffle in his sermons nor add unneccesary extraneous chat to the liturgy. Liturgical music and song is simply viewed as extraneous to what “must” happen, and is therefore seen as a hinderance in the achievement of the goal of a quick mass.

Blame it on my Lutheran background, but I don’t feel as if I have been to Church on Sunday and worshipped God if a) it takes less than an hour, b) we don’t get a chance to have a good sing.

Maybe I shouldn’t grumble. Afterall, at least we are getting Mass on Sunday. Lutherans had an even less satisfactory way of fitting in mutiple Sunday services – they left the Eucharist bit out and just had a service of the word.

Still, I was thinking of this when I came across these two pieces:

1) Fr McNamara at Zenit on “When the Liturgy of the Eucharist Is Fast”

2) Use more music. Singing all or part of the ordinary of the Mass such as the preface, the Sanctus, the consecration, the mystery of faith, the final doxology with its great Amen, the Our Father and its embolism, the Lamb of God, etc., adds to the sense of solemnity and underlines the importance of the Eucharistic rites.

2) Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture on The 11-minute Mass and the Book of Kells

During our vacation stay in Ireland, Leila and I took a short walk to the local parish church on a Saturday morning to attend Mass. The experience was a revelation.

The priest said all the prayers at such a breakneck speed that I could not make out the individual words. The congregation matched his pace with the responses. I could barely keep up the recitation of Lord’s Prayer. The readings were a blur. There was no homily. Mass was over in 11 minutes.

We tried the same parish again for Sunday Mass, but we had not read the bulletin carefully. We thought we were arriving 5 minutes before the designated time; actually we were 25 minutes late. Sunday Mass had already ended!

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33 Comments

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33 responses to “Your time begins…NOW: “In the name of the Father…”

  1. Peregrinus

    The short mass is a long-standing tradition in Ireland. In my youth, Sunday mass very rarely ran over 45 minutes – and this included the distribution of communion, without the use of extraordinary ministers, to a congregation which could be 600 or more. Mind you, this was a necessity, since masses were celebrated at hourly intervals, and time had to be left for the church to be emptied and refilled.

    It wasn’t just the scheduling, though. There’s a very long tradition of galloping through the mass. Some people will tell you that this dates back to penal days, and the need to conclude the celebration before the authorities would arrive, but this is hogwash. Even in penal days, very few masses were celebrated under such conditions, and probably none at all in the last three hundred years.

    No, I think it had more to do with the fact that the Irish church was a peasant church, with little in the way of resources, and a strong theological infusion of Jansenism. The aesthetic dimension of the liturgy was simply not valued, and no resources were put into it. Mass might as well be galloped through, since nobody could understand or follow what was being said – no Latin/Irish Tridentine missal has ever been published, and in any event until well into the nineteenth century most of the population could not read. Attending mass was treated as an opportunity for private prayer, and this was encouraged by religious educators. Even in modern times, when the population was literate and mostly English-speaking, and had access to missals, most missals came with pages and pages of prayer – unrelated to the Roman canon – which you could say privately while mass was being celebrated. Confessions were routinely heard not only before and after mass, but throughout. It was important to be present at mass, but paying any attention to what was going on was of at best secondary importance. So why [i]not[/i] rattle through it?

    This was a particularly Catholic thing. Attending Anglican services in Ireland I always found myself impatient and the ponderous pace. I would be professing my faith in the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of Sins while the rest of the congregation were still Descending into Hell.

    And, of course, it was a particularly Irish thing, as I discovered when I came to Australia and found them saying mass in . . . well, in a [i]Protestant[/i] fashion.

    • The aesthetic dimension of the liturgy was simply not valued, and no resources were put into it

      And that can honestly be said for the majority of parish masses here in Australia too. If one tries to insert a note of value for what you call “the ascetic dimension” one is immediately told “this isn’t the Cathedral, you know”… If Anglican and Lutheran parish churches can manage decent music, and value it, why not Catholic Churches.

      Of course, it doesn’t help when those laypeople who have a great deal of musical expertise and who most emphatically and publically DO support the “ascetic dimension” in mass then proceed to demand that this “ascetic dimension” (in so far as music is concerned) be limited to Gregorian and Plain Chant (which I certainly agree should, as Church Authority has demonstrated time and time again, have the highest place in the repetoire – just not the ONLY place).

      I would be professing my faith in the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of Sins while the rest of the congregation were still Descending into Hell.

      I am afraid that musically, it might be the other way round for us here in Australia…

    • Peter Golding

      Was latin never taught in Irish schools Pere?

      • Peregrinus

        Was latin never taught in Irish schools Pere?

        During the formative period of the modern Irish church, most of the population didn’t go to school at all, or they only went to very informally-organised primary schools. Only a few would have learned Latin. And, of course, in pre-microphone days, with priests celebrating [i]ad orientem[/i], it didn’t matter whether you knew Latin or not, because you couldn’t hear what the priest was saying. Nor, as I say, were you encouraged to try.

        From the late nineteenth century on, secondary education became more widely available, and it generally did include Latin, but it was the preserve of the middle classes. Technical/vocational secondary education was more widespread; it did not include Latin.

        Universal free academic secondary education only arrived in the 1960s, by which time the study of Latin was very much on the decline. Few schools would offer it nowadays.

  2. An Liaig

    “the Irish church was a peasant church, with little in the way of resources, and a strong theological infusion of Jansenism.”

    Both of these facts are a result of the penal laws. What we know of pre-penal Irish liturgies is that they were rather lengthy affairs, eg consider the length of the litanies in the Bobbio and Stowe missals. As an Australian in Ireland I often found myself getting angry at the disregard shown to the liturgy by the priests themselves. I confess that there was one time when I wanted to go up to one particular young priest, grab him by the shirt front and say “Do your bloody job!” (Sorry about the language but I need to convey the feeling of frustration. David, I’ll put some money in the swear jar when next we meet.) I didn’t approach him of course, because it would have been impolite and probably constitute criminal assault. Also, the crowd for the next mass was coming in.

    This disappointing experience was not universal, however. The mass at the Franciscan Priory in Killarney was beautiful, as was the mass in the Honan Chapel at Cork University College. Great singing in both places. The Irish CAN do it well. They just need to get into the habit of doing it well. Mind you, I also know of priests in Melbourne who get through Sunday mass in under 45 mins by offering a very cut down, “low” version. AAGGHH!!

    • Yes, I must say I am glad that in my parish the present parish priest at least includes the Gloria, whereas his predecessors were wont to leave it out altogether to “save time”… In situations like that you can’t even begin to discuss whether the Gloria should be sung or not.

    • Peregrinus

      Hi Liaig

      “What we know of pre-penal Irish liturgies is that they were rather lengthy affairs, eg consider the length of the litanies in the Bobbio and Stowe missals.”

      There’s a bit of a gap between the penal days and the period reflected in the Bobbio and Stowe missals.

      For its first seven hundred years or so the Irish church, while wholly Catholic and completely in communion with Rome, had very little to do with Rome. This was not because of any theological dissension; it was simply the result of (physical and cultural) geography.

      The country was wholly Christianised very quickly, but it was not organised into dioceses. The church was essentially monastic, with monasteries meeting the sacramental (and educational) needs of the people. And the monasteries were not part of the great European orders (which, in any event, had mostly yet to be founded) and were not organised in the way that monasteries later came to be. The were much looser confederations of monks who had more individual autonomy, met together mostly for worship, but worked much more independently than was to become the norm in Europe.

      The Irish liturgies from this period of which we have records are essentially monastic liturgies, celebrated by monastic communities, developed in Ireland in the context of Irish monasticism, which involved devoting long hours to prayer and liturgy. This is what is reflected in Bobbio, etc.

      But it is probably not typical of the liturgies that most people experienced. The monasteries supplied priests to local churches and chapels to celebrate mass there, and mass in your local church was probably a very stripped-down version of mass as celebrated by the monks at the monastery. We actually have no record of whether the lay faithful attended mass with any regularity; it’s possible that most of them didn’t. But when they did, it’s unlikely that they heard a Bobbio litany. Unfortunately, we don’t know very much about what they did hear.

      All of this changed from the twelth century onwards, with increasing Anglo-Norman influence. The county was gradually organised into territorial dioceses, with diocesan bishops appointed. The liturgies then prevailing in England were gradually introduced into Ireland, and it is these which would have predominated at the time of the Reformation, four hundred years later. It was those liturgies, as modified at Trent, that would have been celebrated in the penal times.

      • An Liaig

        The liturgies then prevailing in England were gradually introduced into Ireland, and it is these which would have predominated at the time of the Reformation, four hundred years later. It was those liturgies, as modified at Trent, that would have been celebrated in the penal times.

        Indeed so. This means that the pre-penal Irish liturgy would have been a varient of what is now called Sarum. Although it is worth noteing that the Irish at this time still had their own system of chant tones. This is a long and elaborate form of the western liturgy. Roman in essentials but still showing its Gallician heritage. This is not the liturgy that was reformed by Trent. The Tridentine Liturgy is a reformed version of the Roman liturgy which, prior to the penal days, was not celebrated in Ireland. The liturgical heritage of the Irish people (my people) was indeed destroyed during the penal times and I am cross about it. Lex orandi, lex credendi. If the Irish church is to prosper it must start to take liturgy seriously.

        • Peregrinus

          I defer to your expertise, of course, but I think the Sarum liturgy was not [i]that[/i] different from the Roman. If it was, what destroyed the pre-Reformation liturgical tradition in Ireland was not only the Anglican reformation, but also – even more, in fact, given that relatively few peope adopted Anglicanism – the Council of Trent, which imposed the Roman liturgy on the Irish church.

          But, in fact, the big change was probably not from Sarum to Roman, but from Celtic to Sarum. We cannot blame the Protestants for that (though we can, happily, still blame the English).

          • An Liaig

            Actually the Council of Trent did not impose the Roman (Tridentine) liturgy on Ireland. It was adopted in Ireland because Irish priests were forced by the penal provisions to train in France and Belgium where the Tridentine liturgy was the only one they were taught. The Irish variation of the Sarum usage has never been supressed and my understanding is that an Irish bishop could still licitly auhtorise its celebration today. Nor is it clear that this liturgy was seen as a complete break with the earlier “celtic” liturgy rather than a reform of it. The various Sarum family of liturgies were all reforms of the ealier Gallician liturgy of which the “celtic” liturgy was itself a variant. Much has been made by English writers about the synod of Cashel but contemporary Irish church sources only make passing mention of it (if at all) and give it no great significance. The Irish priests also caught Jansenism in France and so imported exaggerated French legalism into an ascetic celtic church. Not a good combination!

            • Peregrinus

              Pius V did leave formally open the continued celebration of older rites, including Sarum. But in fact nearly all of them withered away fairly quickly, and we can’t blame this on the Protestants; it happened also in places largely uninfluenced by Protestantism. Quo Primum made the Roman Rite normative throughout the Latin church; other ancient rites were permitted by way of exception, either personal or local, but even where the exception was permitted the Roman Rite was always an option, and I suspect the cultural/institutional pressure to use the Roman Rite was pretty strong. It’s notable that the ancient rites which did surivive (Ambrosian, Mozarabic, etc) were those which already most closely resembled the Roman. The more distinctive the rite, it seems, the greater the pressure to abandon it. Obviously, in the case of the Sarum Rite, the difficult circumstances of the English and Irish churches didn’t help, but but I think the wider trend towards uniformity in the Latin church can’t be ignored.

            • Is there actually anywhere a published form of the Sarum right, An Liaig?

  3. I used to attend a weekday Mass that was widely known as the Kentucky-Fried Chicken version – it started on the dot at 12.15 and was finished by 12.29 at the very latest.

    It was, sadly, the only weekday Mass available withing the central business district, so it was that or nothing. And it was, of course, better than nothing.

    • I can understand lunchtime masses being short – in which case it is the people who are usually in a hurry, not the celebrant. I can’t fault that, as they are actually giving up their lunchbreak to be at mass which is pretty neat, I think (do you know any other religion other than perhaps the Muslims that do this?). But even that doesn’t stop us from doing a sung mass at the Cathedral on major feast days and solemnities at lunch times. And we still fit it in in half an hour (with a homily). If you are in Melbourne, come along this Friday for the feast of the Transfiguration at 1pm at St Pat’s and check it out!

  4. Matthias

    Ah ha ,what pere says has just jelled with me,in that when i was i the UCA and as an elder,when it came to Monthly Communion,our then Minister- a Northern Irishman-use to have it allover after 10 mins. yes church at 9.30, Communion 1025- read out of the UNITING IN WORSHIP book ,and last hymn being sung 1035,benediction and everyone filing out 1040. I use to dread being a Elder on duty for Communion. But that was his Prebyterian sense of everything being done and in good (quick more likely) order.
    now my current church ,Communion at a Thursday night service -once a month-Bread and Grapejuice-Baptists remember,wine would make us like Catholics I presume- is over wihtin minutes.
    when i sang with Schutz at his Church on the Sunday before Christmas, although not participating of the Eucharist, i appreciated the fact that there was no rushing.

    • That’s because we used MUSIC, Matthias – which as we all know “drags out the mass”…!

      • Matthias

        Lovely music it was Schutz,and if Mass was dragged out well it was allover in 50 minutes ,as I remember you commenting about it,BUT i did not think mass was over quickly.
        As for your comment from Ben witherington III in relation to the ” GOOD music in the sense of good theological lyrics or high culture music, just good feel-good we’re-all-worshipping-Jesus-together music.” I have to agree, but after the repeating hymn 3 times ,one tends to year for GUIDE ME O THOU GREAT JEHOVAH or ALL HAIL THE POWER OF JESUS’S NAME,rather than putting up with liturgical anaemia

  5. Clara

    I had a similar experience in Dublin. The priest and the congregation appeared to be racing to the finish with one party coming in before the other had finished. I was quite exhausted when Mass was over.

    I felt I had not been to Mass, so I found another church – Mass was half way through, the singing was beautiful and I stayed. At the end of Mass the celebrant thanked the students from Music Academy and the church vacated rather quickly. I thought I might stay on for a little quiet reflection only to be tapped on the shoulder to be told they were locking up the Church!

  6. Peregrinus

    ‘Twas the short mass that kept the faith alive in Ireland!

    • But, me thinks, it might be that something different is required for Australia?

      I recently went to hear Ben Witherington III speak at the local Churches of Christ Seminary on the topic of Preaching. Br Paul of the Order of Preachers was the only other Catholic there.

      WIII spoke powerfully – as befits an expert on the ancient forms of rhetoric. But one of the people in the audience asked him if he thought the success of teh Megachurches like Hillsong were to do with good preaching.

      “No,” was his answer. “I think it has to do with good music”. He clarified the piont that he didn’t mean GOOD music in the sense of good theological lyrics or high culture music, just good feel-good we’re-all-worshipping-Jesus-together music. There’s a place for that, he said.

      And I reckong that if we think of the most inspiring experiences of Mass we have personally experienced, it will be something of the same. I think to some of the big episcopal ordination services I have attended at St Patrick’s, or even at St Mary’s after Bishops Porteous and Fisher were ordained, and singing the recessional “We stand for God”. Or perhaps the Melbourne Days in the Diocese Mass at Telstra Dome (as it was then): 30,000 singing together. Great stuff.

      But rarely experienced in our parishes.

      • Peregrinus

        “But rarely experienced in our parishes.”

        As was always the case. As is inevitably always going to be the case.

        Unless we completely change our model of “parish”, only a small minority of parishes will ever have the resources to provide cathedral-style liturgies as a matter of routine. It’s notable that the megachurches are, well, mega, and there are only a few in any city. It’s also notable that according to the National Church Life Survey they have very high attrition rates – that is to say, they have huge numbers coming in, but they also have huge numbers going out again a few years later, and they are mostly not going out to other churches, but simply to non-practice.

        Yes, you do get a tremendous “high” from an exceptional liturgy, but it would be a mistake to chase the high on a weekly basis. Even if you can acheive it, it’s never going to be enough to sustain eucharistic communion.

        • Unless we completely change our model of “parish”, only a small minority of parishes will ever have the resources to provide cathedral-style liturgies as a matter of routine.

          There you go, suggesting that I am suggesting “Cathedral style” liturgies in our parish. All I am suggesting is that our (comparitively larger) parishes ought to be capable of managing at least in terms of music what our Protestant brothers and sisters manage in their church down the road. The only reason I can think of why this isn’t happening is that we simply do not value music in our worship as much as they do in theirs, and hence our congregations do not have the appetite or the trained musicians to enable it to happen.

          Yes, you do get a tremendous “high” from an exceptional liturgy, but it would be a mistake to chase the high on a weekly basis.

          Would it? Why? I got it every Sunday when in my parish back when I was a pastor (as I believe my parishioners did!) and I get it every time I go to my wife’s parish on Sunday morning. Why must we put up with cold gruel served up by Fr Scrooge when they get Sunday roast served up by Pastor Christmas?

          • PM

            To do this, we will need dioceses to make a serious effort to train and encourage musicians. As it is, Catholics with a classical musical training are practically forced to become Anglicans if they want to use their talents for the glory of God.

  7. Christine

    Wacky and wonderful is the worldwide House of Catholicism!

    My husband, growing up in a predominantly Polish/Czech/Slovenian neighborhood tells me that the first Mass on Sunday was called the “golfer’s Mass”, offered at 5:30 a.m. so as to allow the golfers to get on the green as quickly as possible. He generally attended the later low Mass in the morning which he said was sometimes rather speedily executed.

    The parish High Mass followed and included plenty of singing, including ethnic Polish songs and carols at the high feasts of the Church Year. I found the same at a local German Catholic I visit from time to time, as the love of singing is deeply rooted in German culture.

    I haven’t noticed too many parishes in my neck of the U.S. omitting the Gloria, although surprisingly the rather more “conservative” Benedictine parish in the neighborhood uses a spoken Gloria at the Saturday Vigil Mass and on Sundays except for the 10:30 Mass at which it is sung. The more “progressive” parish, St. Basil’s always has a sung liturgy even at the Vigil Mass and they have a reputation for being very attentive to good liturgy. I don’t care for a spoken Gloria at all, but that’s probably my Lutheran roots kicking in as well. If the angels sang it at the Nativity so should we 🙂

    But even that doesn’t stop us from doing a sung mass at the Cathedral on major feast days and solemnities at lunch times.

    Our downtown Cathedral does the same, David, and I appreciate it very much when I am able to attend noontime Mass.

    I think the Irish church faced some unique challenges in her history.

    • Gareth

      What about the Saturday evening Mass invented for those that want to do their 40 minute bit and sleep in on the Sunday morning.

      Sometimes I am so happy to be Catholic.

      • Peregrinus

        What do you mean, “invented”? We know from Acts and from other sources that celebrating the eucharist on Saturday evening was the norm in the early church. Celebrating on Sunday morning was a later innovation, but evening-before celebration remained the norm at Easter, as it still is in our own time. We’ll have none of your trendy modernist innovations here!

        • Gareth

          Oh, I thought it had something to do with the 1983 Code of Canon Law which permitted the faithful to satisfy their obligation of assisting at Mass on a Sunday on the evening before and then people taking this to mean they could now sleep in and then go and watch the footy of a Sunday or even better to catch the beginning of the cricket in Summer and feel guilt free – new Church permits it all.

          • Peregrinus

            Why am I not surprised that you think that?

            The 1983 Code, as you should know, restored the ancient practice which, as the Easter Vigil shows, was never entirely abrogated.

            You want a genuine liturgical novelty with regard to the time of celebration of Sunday mass? Sunday evening mass – no foundation for this in scripture or in the practice of the early church, and indeed at odds with the early church’s reckoning of the Lord’s day, which stopped at sunset on Sunday.

            Or try the missa solitaria, mass said by the celebrant without a congregation or a server, unknown before the seventh century.

            Or the penitential rite, introduced into the mass some time between the third and the fifth century, but certainly forming no part of the eucharistic celebrations of the apostolic church.

            • Gareth

              Pere: The 1983 Code, as you should know, restored the ancient practice which, as the Easter Vigil shows, was never entirely abrogated.

              Gareth: Just because something is ‘ancient’ doesnt make it a good practice to say it is applicable to the year 2010.

              I am sure they did many things in the early church, but it is sometimes dangerous (as Pius XII once wrote) to try to replicate in such a supposed practice our own age.

              Sometimes, the Church can even get it wrong this regards as well.

              For example, in the 1970s the Church was sold a blantant lie that the early Church celebrated the liturgy with the priest facing the people.

              As the Ratzinger report has pointed out, such a practice never ever existed at all and the historical evidence point towards the Mass always being said facing East.

  8. Christine

    I found the same at a local German Catholic I visit from time to time, as the love of singing is deeply rooted in German culture.

    Ooops, should be “German Catholic parish“, of course.

  9. Christine

    Oh, I thought it had something to do with the 1983 Code of Canon Law which permitted the faithful to satisfy their obligation of assisting at Mass on a Sunday on the evening before and then people taking this to mean they could now sleep in and then go and watch the footy of a Sunday or even better to catch the beginning of the cricket in Summer and feel guilt free – new Church permits it all.

    It is a good option for people who have to work odd hours or on Sunday.

  10. Bear

    If the priests are concerned about the time the liturgy takes, they could just not preach. This would keep everyone happy, since most of the clergy are so bad at it anyway.

    And the faithful would not be subjected to the waffle, non sequiturs and bizarre opinions…