We Have Proper Ministers at Mass? (Fr. Andrew)
We Have Proper Ministers at Mass?
Did you ever hear the Old Catholic phrase “to hear the mass?” Sure! For those familiar with the mass before Vatican II, the phrase was too often used. Today it is almost as if it has been archived in the Vatican repository so that we hardly hear it used. My intent in this reflection is to intimate that the phrase is still applicable today but in a new context.
Suffice it say that “ hearing” as it was understood in the mass never denoted a passive presence in church, but an active engagement to listen to the language of the liturgy, even if one had no comprehension of what was said. The current mass INVITES us to be engaged more actively, consciously, and fully when we participate in it as described in the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy (CSL 30) in these words, “To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bearing. And at proper times all should observe a reverent silence.”
Since the liturgical celebration is the action of the whole Church, we have an obligation to one another through our prayers and presence, and this means prayerfully listening to and supporting those who act on behalf of the community.
There are proper ministers designated to lead the community in its actions at various parts of the mass, and the congregation is required to pay attention to them, and to what is taking place through their actions. Thus, when the lector, deacon or priest stands at the lectern to proclaim the Word of God, to focus on the person and to “hear” the Word being proclaimed must occur in tandem; it is not the time to read along. Similarly, at the consecration, the priest alone is permitted to say the Eucharistic prayer with the faithful prayerfully focusing their attention on the altar to “hear” what the priest prays on their behalf as they pray in their hearts; it is not the time to read along with him.
We must not misconstrue the preponderance and availability of materials that have the readings and Eucharistic prayers as an encouragement to read along with the proper ministers during the mass. No! That is not the spirit and the letter of the liturgical norms. The materials are meant for individual or special preparations or study before or after the celebration, and certainly not during mass.
This misunderstood practice is not peculiar to our parish as we know it happens. But, we can alter this abuse and set the pace for other churches when they come to experience our liturgy and see how we do it.