Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Not Performing

"Are you dead, Pater?" No, I just allowed myself to absord and be absorbed by the Christmas Mysteries, so a belated and Happy Christmas and blessed New Year to you all.

We are keeping our crib up until the Purification.

Reflecting on the images of hovering priests and twirling priests that my 'friends' have posting on social media over the holidays, and my own misanthropy of throwing a Christmas present of a CD of a group of Irish singing priests into the rubbish bin. I have been thinking lately of the terrible burden some priests have of thinking they have to perform or entertain, that unless they are amusing, witty, brilliant, wise, clever ....the world is lost. The performing priest is something new, unknown to Tradition, I like Waugh's analogy of the workman priest going up to the altar to mutter the Mass. Celebrating Mass as if it were a performance, or as if it, any of it depended on the priest is a terrible burden, and I suspect is deleterious to a priests spiritual life. If he performs at Mass what about the rest of his life? Christian is the work of the tradesman, on a par with carpentry or fisherman, not the work of actor or impresario.

After thirty years of priesthood, I wonder whether I should have been ordained, that I have been given this extraordinary gift leaves me rapt with wonder. I know that if God had not given me this grace I would probably be lost. I am in many ways a bit rubbish at being a priest. people have expectations of me and I continually fail to meet them. God has expectations of me and I fail to meet them. There were Christmas cards that thanked me for my preaching and teaching, for my pastoral care, for my offering Mass in a particular way, even for this blog. What I am convinced of is that whatever good I might do is not my doing, it is His.

All the Masses we offer here are offered ad orientem, I can't help performing a little (rhetorically I mean) when I preach but the celebration of Mass is consciously not 'performed' just done according to the rubrics, I have a fear that my personality is more likely to repel than attract. I here stories from other parishes and think if I was a laymen I would run screaming from the Church. Presenting people with the Mass is salvific, God works through the liturgy. There is something liberating in the knowledge that 'Jesus is the Saviour' and I am not. This is really the message of Christmas, we live in Grace, amidst starlight and angels, all that is required of us is fidelity, an attempt to be charitable and the hope that Christ will take care of things.

The Incarnation brings about a renewed reality, it is not what we do but it is what he does that matters now. The God who empties himself of his divinity and pours out his Spirit on humanity has poured himself into the world through his Church, and we, especially we priests, are witnesses to this mysterious new reality.


gemoftheocean said...

Don't overthink it Father Blake. You're doing just fine. You're doing His will far more than you may realize yourself. And anyone who expects a priest to be perfect is an idiot! I am always interested to know what various priests "used to do" before they were ordained. I am always delighted in the variety of professions they came from. Off the top of my head I can think of priests I know/have known who had these following occupations: electrical engineer, oceanographer, chemical engineer, sculptor, bus driver, army master sergeant, gossip columnist, an accountant, and even a stationery store manager. So God picks all kinds because He knows not everyone can be all things to all people, so there's a variety. It's not a one-size-fits-all deal -- and Jesus had 12 picks for His apostles from different walks of life.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Sadly, the laity's expectations have now been set and this was noticeable in America where the priests communicate so effectively during their sermons.

What Waugh loved so much is that the TLM demands the priest ignore the laity as the Mass offering is a self-contained act with no dependency on the numbers assisting. As a layman it is like watching a player scoring a goal at soccer or indeed a skilled craftsman at work.

For that reason, I would suggest that the TLM experience is less stressful for the laity too. As this website reminds me:- "I'm not a robot" nor am I a skilled craftsman and certainly not Lionel Messi and that's fine.

David O'Neill said...

You are VERY fortunate that your bishop allows you to celebrate both forms of the Roman Rite 'ad orientem' as most do not. I can't really go along with the 'muttered' Mass as I like to know where we are but I agree about the sometimes flamboyant celebrations which masquerade as Mass (both forms). There has to be a happy medium where the faithful can follow the Mass by the words & actions of the priest. As to your 'acting' during your sermons; give me a priest-actor who delivers a good sermon anyday over a (perhaps) 'muttered' sermon.
God Bless, Father, & a Happy & Healthy 2016

Pelerin said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere Father! And please don't underestimate your Priesthood. I do hope nobody gave you a hoverboard for Christmas!

Woody said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Father! Always edifying to read your posts. God Bless and keep you.

Anonymous said...

I recently realized I like your blogg because you present the Gospel. Mostly stuff I personally agree with but frequently a challenge, too. I can imagine it would be, as you say, a terrible burden having to come up with new things to post all the time, or novel ways of saying Mass, instead of re-presenting the perfect things we have already received.

Unknown said...

Glad your back.

Long-Skirts said...

"There were Christmas cards that thanked me for my preaching and teaching, for my pastoral care, for my offering Mass in a particular way, even for this blog."


Your hand I'd kiss
But not for this
The mundane games
Men play.

Your hand I'd kiss
For doing this
Absolve my sins

Your hand I'd kiss
But not for this
That any man
Can do.

Your hand I'd kiss
For doing this
God's strong,
His choice, the few.

Your hand I'd kiss
But not for this
Like any
Virile male.

Your hand I'd kiss
For doing this
Place Him between
Lips pale.

Your hand I'd kiss
But not for this
Your strength
Exudes each pore.

Your hand I'd kiss
For doing this
Your prayers
I do implore.

Pelerin said...

I should like to add the following poem to Long-Skirts contribution. I have no idea who wrote it - I bought a copy over 50 years ago for 2d - and after having mislaid it for many years tried to find another without success. Happily it turned up again but it is sad to think it is now out of print.

The Hands of the Priest

- 0 -

We need them in life's early morning
We need them again at its close.
We feel their warm clasp of true friendship,
We seek them when tasting life's woes.

When we come to this world we are sinful,
The greatest as well as the least.
And the hand that makes us as pure as angels,
Is the beautiful hand of the Priest.

And when we are tempted to wander,
To the pathways of shame and of sin,
Tis the hand of the Priest will absolve us,
Not once, but again, and again.

And when we are taking life's partner
Other hands may prepare us a feast.
But the hand that will bless and unite us
Is the beautiful hand of the Priest.

At the Altar each day we behold them.
And the hands of a king on his throne
Are not equal to them in their greatness.
Their dignity stands all alone.

For there in the stillness of morning
'Ere the sun has emerged from the East
Our God rests between pure fingers
Of the beautiful hands of the Priest.

May God bless and keep them all holy,
For the Host which their fingers caress.
What can a poor sinner do better
Than to ask Him who chose them to bless.

And when death dews on our eyelids are failing,
May our courage and strength be increased
By seeing raised over us in blessing
the beautiful hands of the Priest.

Leo Flanagan said...

Good to have you back Fr Blake. A priest who puts confusion to flight is always welcome

Jacobi said...

Take it from me Father, there are many times when this particular layman wants to run screaming from the church, particularly when the seemingly endless procession of ladies, or worse still children, troop up to the altar to say their various functions. As for hearing the BBC news repeated in the bidding prayers??

But two things above all offend, or startle or just plain annoy me. That is when the priest turns his back on the reserved tabernacle to “say” the Mass and when he tries to catch my eye during the Consecration.

But I stay put. I would never risk the wrath of Herself!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful that you are back, Fr. Blake. Wishing you a blessed and happy New Year.

Victoria said...

I would imagine that the person who gave you the CD of the Irish singing priests reads this blog and how hurt they must have been to read that you threw their gift in the bin. Could you not have done that and refrained from publishing the fact?

Lepanto said...

At least, Father, you don't have to listen to the questionable theology of other priests on a regular basis. My jaw drops sometimes at what I hear but I don't have the courage to do anything. A young woman I know says that sometimes she can hardly resist the temptation to get up during some homilies and start arguing, I am impatient for her first loss of control when I might be brave enough to applaud her before running away.

JARay said...

I'm glad that you're back too Father. I was begining to wonder if all was not well with you.
As for muttering, which is your post above, there are those who call it "praying in tongues". I find myself doing it at times, but I am not a priest and I certainly would not advocate it, especially if I were a priest. I like to hear the words of the liturgy spoken clearly and I find myself muttering if I hear a priest get them wrong!

Fr Ray Blake said...

The person doessn't, if they did or if they knew me at all, if they ever listened to me they would know that that type of thing is very far from my type of thing.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Chucking the CD in the bin wins my vote and made me laugh! Good to have you back Father.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

It's good to have you back, Father Ray. In fairness to the Irish priests whose CD you threw in the bin, as far as I know, I don't think any of them 'entertains' at Mass and they make sure that their concert schedule doesn't interfere with their parish duties.

Fr Edward McNamara LC answers a question about celebrating Mass ad orientem in Zenit today: [ http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/mass-celebrated-toward-the-altar ]. There is a mention of some being angry at priests for doing this. If I celebrate Mass ad orientem with persons who have not had this experience before, I explain its meaning. Very few of us like to be taken by surprise, especially when it concerns what is most sacred and important to us.

The priest here in the Philippines who sang after the Christmas Night Mass while going around the church on a hoverboard was reported in the international media as having been suspended. This wasn't quite accurate or fair to him. He told the country's main broadsheet, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, that he himself approached his bishop and asked for some time off. '(Fr) San Jose thanked Bishop Famadico for giving him pastoral guidance on the issue. The priest said that the bishop had not suspended him and that it was he who had asked for some time off from parish duties.' [ http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/751450/laguna-priest-on-hoverboard-says-sorry-goes-on-leave ] He showed humility in doing so.

I like very much your 'the celebration of Mass is consciously not "performed" just done according to the rubrics.'

As a brother priest I thank you for your good example. God bless you and all in your parish.

Sean W. said...

Recently I had lunch with some traditionalist canons regular here in the states, joined by my fiancee, who when asked about her own spiritual devotions, said she had started out of a more charismatic than traditionalist bent. The prior said, without missing a beat, "Well, we're charismatic, too. We're just quiet."

Similarly, Fr. Blake, I think it may be fairly said that you "perform" the Mass, in the sense that the Mass is a work which is to be performed in order to be efficacious -- you just perform it... quietly. :)

Tancred said...

Merry Christmas and Happy Epiphany!

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