The deep indifference of hospitality
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,051
    From a forthcoming article in another publication

    One of the things that one notices when one visits parishes is the hospitality of the liturgy. Notice that I said "of the liturgy." I differentiate between the general hospitality or that people in general ( greeters, ushers and other non-descript folks) and that in participating in the liturgy. Can I find the readings (a source of never ending frustration for those of us who "hear" by seeing), Can I participate in the singing of the Ordinary? Can I know what the choir sings if they sing something by themselves? Can I sing the responsorial psalm antiphon? Is it possible to know if the choir will sing the propers or not? Translations if anything is in Latin ?

    These things seem absolutely essential to those of us who work in the world of sacred music. But I am rather confounded by the attitudes of clergy and lay people alike regarding these questions. I remember leaving one parish and thinking to myself, " I think I just attended a secret meeting and I was not really welcome to be there." At another place I asked if I could have a a copy of the readings and was directed to some small rack where I might find a copy of a missalette that was for
    "seeing-challenged' people. I said that I was "hearing challenged" and that only seemed to beleaguer the greeter even more.

    Lest one thinks that I am not aware of the difficulty, my own parish where I work engages in all these behaviours. If one wants to know the Ordinary, one might find a card in the rack. But that rack has many other things in it and one would really have to know what one is looking for. Ushers are at a complete loss to know what it is and of course "why" would one want such a card. And of course, when the choir sings something in Latin (or English for that matter) nothing is given. And then the operative question is why not?

    Many attitudes come into play. In my case the leadership is concerned with cleanliness than communication. They do not want papers lying all over the pews and book racks. And they are not entirely wrong. But that warrants other questions regarding the use of such materials, their presence and their maintenance. When I query clergy, they have no idea of such an issue. And of course, they would not have an idea. Their book that they pray from has everything they "need" to do what they need to do. They see no issue. And many musicians share the same indifference. They have the same problem.

    Part of the indifference also lies in the general nature of Catholic liturgical tradition. If you really wanted to participate, you would have a missal to follow along. But that attitude flows from the Tridentine liturgical experience, which endows one to follow in a book to know the words of the day. The Novus Ordo is certainly a different animal to speak of in this context. Its uniformity is not guaranteed from place to place or for that matter, from liturgy to liturgy in one place.

    But even more interesting is the notion of hospitality in this context. When I visit, I want to know what will I sing or not. Can I sing the parts of the liturgy I am able to sing as part of my role as "community." Will I be able to read what is read if I cannot hear well (a perennial problem in parishes all over) or simply because I understand the readings from a visual perspective? What was the text of that beautiful motet the choir sang in Latin and I am not able to translate quickly? And what if the choir sings the propers? Should I like to know that?

    Catholics play the liturgical ritual in a somewhat secretive way. Because we are local in our attitudes and practices, we do not see the value of any of the questions I have raised. And I have had people say to me, " it's none of your business what we do here. You are Catholic and you can figure it out." Or the even greater response which is "why would you need that to participate?"

    In the quest for hospitality, many places have engendered to place greeters and ushers to assist those who are new. But it stops at the door so to speak. I have given up in many instances when I could not find materials to assist me in praying with others. When I ask for such assistance, rarely do I receive it. And when on occasion I do receive such materials, I notice a different level of participation. Is it greater? Perhaps... but I certainly know that as a newcomer I can be given the opportunity to be part of that group of people at prayer in that moment at that place.

    Can this attitude change? Of course. And it has in many places. Large parishes and places of notoriety make it easier to pray. One such place, Notre Dame de Paris publishes a multi-lingual bulletin to help the many pilgrims that assemble there for a variety of reasons. But those places are not the norm. As I said, my own parish makes no effort to assist guests in knowing what is to be prayed and sung that day. And even regular parishioners are often at a loss, which is even sadder as they "belong" there.

    Do we want people to pray with us, or even pray at all? Do we want to make the effort to assist them, which involves planning on the many roles and people that are involved in executing the liturgy. It is not a simple affair in a tradition which involves a uniformity that is readily apparent and yet different in place to place. Of the deep indifference to hospitality of prayer.

    I remember a visit to a Benedictine monastery some years ago when my wife and I arrived and were escorted to the choir to sing Vespers. We were clueless as to their system of books for the singing of the office. But as quickly as we sat down, a monk came over to us and opened the books to the needed pages. He would assist us with gestures and point to things when we were supposed to sing, He helped us to be a part of of that office. It so impressed both of us that even to this day we gently recall the moment with appreciation and acceptance. We were able to pray. And even more, we felt connected to them and inexorably would always feel that way to that place.

    Hospitality is more than a greeter of an usher. It is like welcoming the stranger to one's house. Never an easy task, but in the context of prayer, the power to assist is in our own hands if we so choose. We can make it easy or we can simply carry on the staus quo of the almost "secret" meeting.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,377
    In my case the leadership is concerned with cleanliness than communication. They do not want papers lying all over the pews and book racks.


    Interesting, as someone in charge of a household, from a mother/wife perspective, I'm always having to challenge myself not to be too concerned about being a Martha over being a Mary. It is a real struggle.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,022
    Well put, Kevin, and reflective of much of my own experience.
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,569
    The beauty of a tract home
    is that when visiting the neighbors
    you never need directions
    to the bathroom.
    Thanked by 1Richard Mix
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 979
    So what are you trying in your parish to address this, Kevin? Having any luck?
  • Good points, Kevin. It reminds me that I should work harder on preparing those (often unappreciated) worship aids to supply people with the texts we will be singing when it is not readily found in the breaking bread books...

    I used to supply them regularly, but when we got a new office manager, I was told it was not allowed to leave the seasonal worship aids in the pews (requiring me to not only distribute but gather them up after the Mass) if I want to provide them for when my choir sings. Pure sloth on my part that I have been failing to bother with it since that time...

    Thanks for the reminder of how much difference it might make to some of the parishioners to have them available. Most of the propers we sing match the antiphon texts that are already supplied in the breaking bread books for entrance and communion... so I should also make a point of announcing that fact before the Mass so that people know where they can be found...
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,051
    In point of fact Carl, I had regular worship aids and seasonal Ordinary cards. But with my current pastor all of this was stopped because of cleanliness. And of course most know that I am leaving this parish. This among other things was one of the contentious points.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,694
    I don't do worship aids, but the pew missalette contains all the text and readings for the mass, including the Eucharistic prayer. It also contains the text for the missal Propers. A hymn board lists numbers for the psalm and Ordinary, and numbers are also given for hymns from a separate hymnal. I don't list choir anthems but would provide information to anyone who asked. I don't know that any more information would be provided in a worship aid. If I did a worship aid I would have to see to the distribution and clean-up of those aids.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    Yep. My home parish has pew cards, and the printed worship order tells you if it is in there or the hymnal. There are always translations of the Latin propers and motets, though the hymnal has the old ICEL. For the readings we do have a missalette, which I believe has the Order of Mass, so that somewhat fixes the probem (you have to know where to look...).

    But we have the money and desire to do these things. My parish at school does a mix of Mass VIII and XI, but there is no pew resource. There is no sheet for that day’s Mass. The missalette is only for readings and a few hymns. They have a hymnal, but that was inconvenient today since everyone was still holding the missalette, which had an edited version of “All Glory, Laud & Honor,” which was different from the hymnal text. They have a pew sheet for the Latin dialogues and Ordinary, but it has no music and is hard to find. At the principle OF Mass, they chant the Pater Noster in Latin, but that kinda comes out of nowhere.

    That attitude carries into the TLM with some folks. They will do propers sheets, but they never put the chants for the Ordinary and Asperges/Vidi Aquam in the pews. They never, or rarely, do congregational hymns to enter and exit. They never put out music for the Marian anthem or put it on the hymnboard or teach the congregation the solemn tone if that is sung. It is for the priest and the choir.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,365
    At our EF we provide booklet missals at all Masses, On Sundays and feasts we also have UVOC style propers sheets.
    We used to hand out sheets with the Commemorations but it caused confusion among far too many people. If we handed out another booklet with the Kyriale and a sheet with the translations of the Hymns... Marian Anthem... Domine Salvam... It really creates far too much paper, how do you carry it all, we don't have welcomers as this is England. So how do you explain what sheet is used when?
    The only way I have seen that would work is one booklet with everything, But this means a lot of paper and some of these booklets would only ever be used once!

    One priest we sing Mass for always says that the best way to participate for newcomers is to watch and listen and not try to follow along using the booklets.
  • Reval
    Posts: 150
    Yes! This is in fact very obvious, especially if someone is accustomed to, say a Lutheran experience where everyone is given a bulletin, with all the music and words. In fact, I attended a choral vespers last night at a nearby Lutheran seminary, and all the congregants (mostly members of the public, not all seminarians) sang along with the chant notation. All the texts of the strictly choral settings were given, so we could follow as we listened.
    Compare this to my experience at my Catholic parish yesterday morning, where the Gospel acclamation was different from the music printed in the missallette. Also, where only the text of the verses of the Alleluia were given (no notes). To give only 2 examples...
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,890
    I have issues with those missallettes and the notion that people need access to having the texts in their hands at all times. First, those missallettes often have not only the text, but also the music for RP and GA, a la Today's Missal from OCP. I've had priests that treat them very strictly as a textbook and insist on following it exactly, including the exact melody provided for the RP and GA. This is of course limiting should one want to do a more complex version for the Psalm on a high feast day or something like that.

    Second, and this is something that's been mentioned before, if the people have their heads stuck in a book, they're not listening, and they're not praying: they're reading along. Importance is placed on the Scripture at the expense of internal prayer.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,051
    CK, you speak as a musician, where the emphasis is on aural learning and comprehension. However, the culture is generally 70% visual learners and 30% aural learners. So, those who read and follow are not just reading, but trying to comprehend. Dioceses that have negatively reacted to having the readings in the hands of the people have been locking out many people from understanding the scriptures read at Mass.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,694
    If people keep their heads in a book reading scripture, that is a big improvement over their heads in phones and tablets. The advantage of sitting in that loft 20 feet up is that I see the phone/tablet checking and texting every Sunday. Scripture is better.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,365
    CharlesW

    I too look down from the loft during (EF) Mass and see tablets and phones being used in Mass. But when you look closely they are not checking their e-mail but following the Mass on one of the online Missals.

    I also know several choir directors that use iPads with the Liber app on.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,694
    I can assure you, tomjaw, they are NOT following the mass. LOL.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,022
    Some use their tablets/phones to follow an online Missal or Liber ... but when they are texting, as is sometimes seen, it makes one wonder why they are there.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,694
    Missals are not the norm in OF masses. We have missalettes but that is as close as we get to anything resembling a missal. I wonder how many even know what missals are?
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    Tomjaw, doesn’t St. Bede’s put the Mass number from the Kyriale on the board?

    You could make one book with the Kyriale, Marian, anthem, etc. and the Mass Ordinary, which could have a note saying where one looks to find the melody for the day for the Ordinary chants, the sprinkling chant, and the Marian anthem. Another sheet could have the propers and commemorations. I don’t know what to do about hymn and motet translations, unless you put out sheets weekly...

    That is what I would push for were I in a place that wants a strong choral Mass culture.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,365
    Yes, we do put the Kyriale number on the board, we were asked to by a parishioner that follows along using a L.U. (around 5 follow the Mass using the L.U.) I know some people have some of the Mass settings in their Missals.

    The problem is we would need to buy around 20 Kyriale but that is not easy... Cost and durability! While we could print our own spiral bound version but we really would need all the Mass settings and chants ad-lib.

    I would prefer not to have another set of sheets with the Mass Ordinary on... I know another parish that has several piles of sheets at the back that you help yourself to, But that takes a lot of organising.

    Also we don't really have a problem with Congregational singing they can join in without music for the following Masses I, II, IV, IX, XI and XVII and Credo I, II, III, IV. as well as the Asperges / Vidi, Marian Anthem, and Domine Salvam. Ok when we sing other settings say III, VI, X, XII and Credo VI and the solemn tone for the Marian Anthem far fewer people join in but is this really a problem?
  • BruceL
    Posts: 963
    Hear, hear, Kevin.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,036
    Am I alone in disliking all those smiling 'greeters' that confront you when you enter a church? I dread to see them, and want to run the other way.
    Thanked by 2fp tomjaw
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,694
    Am I alone in disliking all those smiling 'greeters' that confront you when you enter a church? I dread to see them, and want to run the other way.


    No, you are not alone. I once visited a parish with a smiling deacon with hand extended - a dangerous beast if there ever was one. He was attempting to shake hands with everyone as they were leaving. I ducked into a restroom to avoid him and waited the sucker out. I came out when he left.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,282
    On the other hand.. I can't tell you how many times I have heard people complain about a lack of hospitality at churches where there were no greeters, and no one took the time to say hello.

    I would err on the side of talking to people, and attempting to be friendly.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,694
    A nod and smile to others seems mostly appreciated. It's the Walmart-type greeters I object to.
    Thanked by 1Steve Collins
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,611
    Culturally, New England is, comparatively, a safe haven for introverts from the usual demands for extroversion placed by Amurkan populuh cultchuh.

    Being a good neighbor is highly esteemed, with the understanding that a good neighbor is helpful, but not intrusive, and never grandiose or egoistic in the helping. You help, and get out of the way. It's never about you.

    People think we're cold or, at best, reserved. Honey, you'll know when we're intending to be *cold*. You won't mistake that for being polite and neighborly. Our cold is a sharp weapon, culturally honed by generations of Britons and then Irish (and adopted by other ethnic folks in turn when they saw what a fine widget it could be).

  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 61
    "The deep indifference of hospitality", huh...I have no objection to the Liturgy appearing to be "hospitable" to the average Catholic who walks in the door. The million-dollar question, however, is what *is* the Liturgy and based on how one answers that, what is "hospitality of Liturgy"?

    I would posit that the majority of Catholics, including even many traditional New Mass Catholics (due to the craziness of the past 50 years) have an incorrect understanding of the Liturgy, and therefore would have an incorrect/faulty understanding of what a "hospitable" Liturgy is and how it should be brought about.

    I'll just say, I really don't think a truly "hospitable" Liturgy consists in one where every last bit of text, in both the language of the Church and the language of the people, is readily available to/understood by the people. Rather, it consists in a Liturgy which fosters the ability of each member of the congregation to contemplate the Divine truths and perfections, to have the proper *inner* disposition for one's soul to be wholly united to our Lord's, and to recognize one's sinfulness and nothingness before the re-presentation of our great, loving Lord's sacrifice, all this hopefully culminating in a blissful reception of the Eucharist. You probably get more or less where I'm going with this. The bottom line is, Liturgy must be reverent and transcendent, and "understanding" texts really ought not be made out to be *THE* means by which that occurs.

    In my opinion, people need to be taught that if not even one word is understood by someone in the Liturgy, that should not be a barrier towards this disposition which I mentioned - if it is a barrier, then there's something wrong with *ourselves*, not the Liturgy.

    I probably should get off my high horse. Lol. I'll just conclude with: parishes providing weekly worship aids and, I don't know, pushing the congregation to sing the Ordinaries, for example, is all fine and dandy - I would just implore, especially in those parishes, that the faithful be taught, whether implicitly (though it will probably always be taught implicitly by the vernacular Liturgy) or explicitly that "active participation" does NOT *in itself* involve a) "understanding" texts, b) knowing the exact point where the priest is in his prayers (as sometimes happens in the EF in his silent prayers including the Canon), or c) saying or singing something. I can concede that any of these three points I just mentioned are not bad things - certainly not. Just that I disagree with the notion that they are "must haves" for "active participation" and therefore for a "hospitable" Liturgy.

    The beauty of the Liturgy (at least in terms of how the Liturgy *should* be) is that it is more or less unchanging, and that whether it's the Mass or the Divine Office, one is more the welcome to a) attend on a regular basis to obtain a greater familiarity/understanding of the basic structure and purpose of the Liturgy, and b) take initiative to ask someone with you or otherwise learn yourself (i.e., search the Internet, speak with a priest or religious).

    And I'm done. My apologies for the rambling! And I'm sorry if I just went off about something that doesn't actually relate to the initial post.