Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Little Experimental Liturgy: old on the new: prayer and silence

Struck by how prayerful people find the TLM I thought I would try an experiment.

I had Mass for children from our school, Years 4 and 5 today, 9 and 10 year olds, yesterday we had session in school looking at the Eucharistic Prayer, I got them to list all those we pray with and for during the Eucharistic Prayer, they had the text of EP 2. They shouted out: angels and saints, the Pope our bishop, the clergy, the departed, us, other believers. I was trying to get over to them the breadth of the Church and that the Eucharistic Prayer was actually prayer and they were expected to pray really ernestly during it.

This morning at Mass during the sermon I got them to repeat what we had learnt yesterday, and also to list everyone and evrerything else we should pray for. They came up with what you might expect: peace, love, help, I tried to tie them down to specific things and people, family, friends, deceased members of their families etc. I told them that in the other way we celebrate Mass (the Usus Antiquor) there is great deal of silence, and it is in ancient language, so people can pray quietly for everything and everyone they are concerned about.

The Experiment: It was our normal weekday Mass, with the normal congregation. There was no singing at Mass, except I sang the per ipsum but I said the Eucharistic Prayer as quietly as possible, barely above a whisper, except for the Consecration* and words like angels, saints, Mary, Pope, Bishop, clergy, departed brothers and sisters, there was and tangible, prayerful silence, just before communion I told them briefly to pray especially for those things they had already been asking God for.

The children are normally well behaved when they come to Mass but today I thought they actually prayed. I suspect it was the first time they had actually be told how to pray at Mass, maybe it was the first time the adults had been told. I don't know if it was the novelty of saying Mass in this way, I hope not, I would like to think it was that they were able to see the Mass as prayer.
I ended Mass by saying, "In this parish we care for asylum seekers, we feed the hungry but the most important thing we do is pray for people in the way you did this morning, thank you for doing that".

*The rubrics say that the words of consecration, "should be said in a clear and distinct voice", presumably it is possible to say the rest quietly. Spirit of the Liturgy by J Ratzinger, actually suggests this.

Nota Bene

No dancers are ever involved in liturgy in this Church, nor were their massaged in this experiment.


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Awesome Father, I would have loved to be there for that, so often times you are right people forget that the Mass is a prayer.

Elizabeth said...

How wonderful Father, I love the silence of a Latin Mass. As a child I would run down to our local parish church for the 7am Mass, the silence made it so easy to pray, there was just a quiet response from the altar server to the priest.
When I went to University in 1973 I had the same experience at the daily Mass in the University Catholic Chaplaincy, however this time there was no altar server, but the silence and reverence was soul lifting.
Sometimes when I think of the words spoken in Mass and the response of the congregation I wonder whether these words mean anything or are they just repeated parrot fashion. I do not mean any disrespect but there is such beauty in the Mass that so many words may mar this.

It is so important to find time to talk to God in the silence of the Mass and I believe that children would be quieter and behave better if there was more emphasis on this. I'm sure this applies to adults just as much, if not more. I know my 12 year old loves the Latin Mass for this very reason and always asks that we attend the 10.30 Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Blackfen. Her actual words were 'it is so peaceful' and this is the High Latin Mass - so there is a lot of involvement from the choir.
Thank you Father for this post I hope many other parishes follow your example.

George said...

Ha ha ha.... Fr. Ray you are a real wind-up merchant!!!

Just as I felt a good rant coming on having seen the dreaded picture of those ughhhh 'liturgical dancers', you proceed to write another one of your classic 'gems'.

When you say, "I suspect it was the first time they had actually been told how to pray at Mass...", I felt a lump in my throat as this is precisely where there has been such a failing in our Catholic homes, families, schools and Churches over some decades now.

Many Catholics have lost the 'ability' to pray or perhaps were never taught or never discovered how to pray at Mass, or anywhere else for that matter.

This is likely a major reason for so many having a lukewarm Faith and also that there is such a falling away from the Faith, because without prayer, without that interior life, that spiritual lifeline that connects us to God there is precious little else that turns our hearts and minds to God. Everything around us in this secular world seems 100% dedicated to ensuring we are distracted from silence and prayer at all times.

Your 'Experiment' should be conducted in all our Catholic schools - it will be an awakening for many children (and teachers too!). A few good homilies on a Sunday should deliver the message to parents and others so that they can develop their prayer lives and hopefully in turn pass that onto others.

God Bless.

gemoftheocean said...

Well, although people do add their own private prayers to the Mass...personally, I buy more into what my St. Mary's Missal says:

"Since Holy Mass is a *CORPORATE* action, in which all baptized may participate, it behooves the faithful to use the missal as the best means of participating in the Mass. The laity are co-offerers of the Mass with the priest. In what better way could one co-offer than by using the same book as the priest? To say the same prayers, to associate oneself closely in every sacred action of the Sacrifice, is to be active, a doer of the Law."

Nihil Obstat: John M.A. Fearns, STD, Censor Li8borum, Jan 8 1948
Imprimatur: Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York

I simply don't think private prayers are appropriate during the most sacred part of the Mass. Before Mass, After Mass. Especially during Eucharistic adoration. Perfect. But during Mass? I think you end up cheating yourself.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Gem, That, your interpretation, is a rediculous understanding of praying the Eucharistic Prayer. We pray the priest joining our own intentions to his, I cannot imagine that we should be passive observers witnessing his prayer, ending with a ritual, "Amen".
Liturgy has to be about "actual participation", a "lifting up of heart" and soul, an act of communion with the whole Church. I am sure, at least I hope, I misunderstand what you are saying; that mere presence, or reading with the priest is all that is expected from the laity. That would indeed be a very shallow reading of text you present.
A simple example or two: when the priest prays for the faithful departed I would hope you bring your own departed to the altar in union with the priest rather than those who present in his mind. When he prays for the Bishop he might well be praying for a particular intention of the Bishop, whilst you bring prayer for his health, orthodoxy etc
Neither do I think are we bound to the bald prayer of the Missal, I am sure they are meant to spark of prayers for our own particular concerns, thus we join our prayers with angels and saints and make it truly the corporate prayer of the community as part of the Universal Church.

Henry said...

I was there. You could tell the children were praying, there was a particular kind of silence and they left very quietly afterwards.

This was an excellent experiment. The softly-softly approach is in my view exactly the way to go with the reform of the reform.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Gem, I hasven't time to reply to your new comment, but no-one has suggested saying the Rosary at Mass.
I hope you are not being deliberately obtuse.

dillydaydream said...

This old canard about the Rosary at Mass always seems to be raised by tabletistas as some sort of dreadful warning about the perils of returning to the Tridentine Mass. Why not just go the whole hog and warn us that indulging in Latin will make us go blind/cause a run on the banks/deplete the ozone layer?


Anonymous said...

Interesting revision Father.

But don't you think that a low-key Lambeth Walk could have accompanied the Presentation of the Gifts?

No flashy leotard-type costumes, certainly. But maybe culturally appropriate pearly wecotts?


George said...

Dillidaydream - how could you possibly forget to mention that Latin Mass is also responsible for global warming. Ha ha ha...., let's face it , so many tabletistas have got hot and bothered and expounded much 'hot air' on the subject that it's bound to have raised the global temperature and sea levels, melted the pack ice etc....

Great comment and God Bless.

gemoftheocean said...

No, Fr. Ray, I'm not being obtuse, nor did I suggest that you suggested to the children they should do that. I should perhaps better phase the problem for some of us is that in order to unite our prayers to your prayers it would be helpful to know WHERE you are in the prayers....and if your back is turned and not everyone can bag a seat where they can see some of your motions and you are silent.....then it's hard to tell what part of the prayers you are at...thus making it hard to unite our prayers with your prayers.

gemoftheocean said...

Dilly: "This old canard about the Rosary at Mass always seems to be raised by tabletistas as some sort of dreadful warning about the perils of returning to the Tridentine Mass."

If you think LOTS of people praying the rosary during the Mass is some sort of joke, or made up, you're very wrong. It was common practise. I know a priest ordained 1954 who told me the bishop used to LEAD the rosary DURING the consecration when he was in choir attending another's Mass in the cathedral church.

As Father Blake said, remembering your own deceased relatives during the memorial is one thing, and desireable. But rosary praying during the consecration is an abuse, IMO. The consecration contains the most important prayers, and you're saying 53 Hail Marys, etc.? Riiiight....makes sense.

I think priests who tell the congregations "just don't bother about following where the priest is at exactly" don't do any favors in the long run -- that's how abuses like rosary praying during the Mass become widely tolerated. [And I'm not saying Fr. Blake was one of those priests.]

Fr Ray Blake said...

Gem, I still don't get your gripe, I was teaching the children to pray the Mass along with the priest, they actually had copies of EP, though that is hardly the best situation, they should be able to do it without.

georgem said...

One priest said that a bishop said . . . . is that all the evidence there is for a wholesale condemnation of the EF? I have a personal remembrance of the EF as a child. There were many discoveries to be made month on month and year on year.
How exciting it was - as if you were gradually unlocking a great mystery and you felt you had made another step to being a grown-up member of the church.
But you had to work at it a bit. I mean concentrate hard. It wasn't impossible to know where the priest was at any given point in the Mass because there were all sorts of clues; which side of the altar he was, when he genuflected, the position of his arms, the cadences of his voice, what the server was doing, and more.
Never have I felt so in the Mass, right in there with the priest. I am so glad the children at St. Mary Magdalen are being given this priceless gift. I so wish Catholic schools would spend time on the technicalities, too, even have children acting it out. The boys would love it and they are the ones most easily lost from the Mass when they get older. From knowledge comes understanding of the deepest kind.
Good on you, Father.

becket said...

I wonder if there are any fat liturgical dancers?. Or do you have to be certain height, weight ratio according to the disciplines of the Los Angles Use of the Roman Rite.

George said...

Becket - sorry, only Kate Moss lookalikes allowed for the job of liturgical dancer.

Hey, maybe we can put a stop to these abuses by using Political Correctness against itself! Someone needs to take them to court for being 'Fattists' (ie only thin liturgical dancers have been allowed so far which is surely discriminatory against those that enjoy the odd McDonalds or two).

Wahhhhhhhh! cries Betsy Bunter stuffing that cream bun in her mouth - I wanna join the 'Liturgy Dancettes', Waaahhhhhh, waahhhhh! It's all against me 'uman rights!

Father Anthony Ho said...

Thanks for the idea. That's a good way to teach children to pray at Mass. Will try to use some of the ideas in my parish. God bless.