Deborah Palumbo to Catholicism – The Fullness of the Faith posted a very interesting question on fB. The replies were interesting as well. My reply was getting long so I transferred it all here. This is what Deborah wrote:
Happy Easter everyone. I went to our 10:00 Mass this morning and things were slightly different than normal. When it was time for the gospel, the deacon sang it. Then the deacon did the homily and at the end sang a song while walking down the isle, then came the applause. I became upset with this and a few other things that were going on. Am I wrong? Is this ok?
Which part upset you? The chanting, the clapping, the fact that the deacon did it, or the difference from the usual? I think clapping at the end of Mass is very fine to recognize the choir, musicians, etc. but that it should come after a compliment from the priest to prompt the applause. I’m with you: this is a liturgy, not a theatrical production.
Our deacon sang the whole reading–beautiful! “This is the night…” at Easter Vigil during the candlelit part. We used to chant when we were kids. (Sometimes my sisters would chant “happy birthday” to each other on their special day–which makes sense for Catholic kids to do.)
The part about the priest walking down the aisle singing after the homily strikes me as odd. I wasn’t there, of course, but reading it makes me uncomfortable *because* the focus becomes him walking and signing rather than the focus being at the altar and on the Word.
In one local parish the priest waves to people as he processes down the aisle to the altar at the beginning of Mass. I do not like that at all and don’t like to go to Mass there. It seems disrespectful. Is he imitating Jesus and being friendly? I say, be friendly in your opening remarks (which he does; he always welcomes visitors). I have to admit that I get turned off by some bishops who seem to strut down the aisle at the beginning of Mass again because the focus is on them and the theatrics of the ceremony instead of on the rite itself. To paraphrase the mother in the movie Funny Girl who said, “I think strangers should act like strangers”, I think humble servants of God should act humble.
One thing I don’t like is the variability of the Mass not so much from the usual but from other parishes across the country–or even the same city. It use to be you could go anywhere in the world, or at least in English speaking countries, and be able to fully participate in the Mass. But now, every parish has their own way of saying Mass: sing or say the Gloria or Our Father or Great Amen and which tune to use if you sing it. (That’s a whole discussion in itself.) During a book group meeting in which there are only 2 Catholics, I was talking about Vatican II and a woman said , “You know we Protestants like Catholics a lot better since (the changes of Vatican II). And I wanted to say, “So?” The changes weren’t made to make you like us (although looking for a common ecumenical ground could be interpreted that way); and I don’t practice my faith to please you but to please God. I hope the parish Deborah was referring to didn’t applaud to make non-Catholic visitors feel more at home (another great topic of conversation). There are many other ways to do that.
Mass is a gathering of believers and supporters, so it makes sense that we support and show appreciation. But there’s a way to do that and still maintain the dignity of the ceremonial rite we are celebrating. We don’t want a Gift of the Magi situation where we cut our hair just as our visitors come to us with a hair comb. Make our visitors feel welcome with a smile, knowing their name, and teaching them about our “strange” world. That “strangeness” may be the very thing that drew them here in the first place, and beckons them to stay.