How it SHOULD be Done
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Sometimes even the Ordinary becomes Extraordinary, as I experienced last night. I actively participated in the most beautiful Mass it has ever been my privilege to attend, completely by chance (well, except for that whole bit about guidance from the Holy Spirit!) because only the night before in this city I am visiting I learned of what I thought would be a concert. It's a parish of 700 families, but they had a special Mass in honor of All Souls day. What made it so exceptional?

    Arriving an hour before Mass began I found more than 150 young seminarians, cassock and surplice, seated quietly, filling the front dozen or so pews on the right hand side. Then the people began to dribble in. Families, mostly, with an enormous abundance of children. They kept coming until the 1500 seats in the church were filled.

    Meanwhile the instrumentalists were tuning up, surprisingly quietly, in the loft as the choir made its way into position. An altar boy, perhaps four and a half feet tall, entered to light candlesticks that towered far more than twice his height.

    Precisely at 7:30 the entry procession began. Led by the Cross bearer flanked by two candle bearers, it entered at a doorway to the left of the sanctuary, wended itself to the back of the church and up the main aisle. Included in the procession were the celebrant, eight fellow priests including his deacon and subdeacon, and the newest Bishop-elect in the United States (and most likely the world) all vested in black. They were led by forty-five altar boys, the censor and boat bearer, book bearer, master of ceremonies, all of whom made their obeisance to the altar with a precision that equals any military branch of the Church Militant. Throughout the procession and arrival at the altar, the choir and orchestra intoned the Requiem of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which indeed was the music of the entire Mass.

    The Mass itself was a Novus Ordo Mass, celebrated ad Orientam. It was never rushed or hurried, but followed the music which was quite evidently never accompaniment, but instead was the actual prayer of the Mass. The people were active and attentive throughout. Even the children remained docile, taken up by the awesome majesty present in the church. The time of the sermon was used as a time of teaching, a reminder that the fear of death and reluctance to accept it is a characteristic of mankind that we need not maintain as God's saved people.

    Perhaps the greatest vision of the evening was the consecration. As the church bell tolled, the celebrant, facing the East, elevated the host while the eight priests and the bishop looked on. They in turn were surrounded by the altar boys, the last row of which included 6 candle bearers, who knelt immobile for the duration. It was an image of massed members of our Church all looking earnestly in the direction of God, present through the miracle of our Eucharist.

    At the proper time the congregation made its way to the communion rail where we knelt to receive the Body on our tongues, presented by three priests and altar boys with patens. We then returned to our places to await the end of the Mass, our blessing and dismissal, and the exit procession. And we all stayed.

    While I am not often given to crying at a Mass, this night was an exception. There was beauty, majesty, and glory in the air - right along with the incense. And there was a reminder of the fact that a Mass, be it Ordinary or Extraordinary Form, can elevate us just as Christ willed when He told His disciples to do this in His memory.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Wow, I'm in awe just from reading it. (could I ask where it was )
  • Dan F.Dan F.
    Posts: 205
    Was this St. Agnes in MN?
  • And, coincidentally, in today's ZENIT:

    The Meaning of "Should"

    And More on Daily Masses

    ROME, NOV. 3, 2009 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

    Q: For much of the history of our Church, officials have put a lot of effort in using precise language so that their meaning is very clear. What is the significance of the words "should," "must," "are to" or "are not to"? What is the force in law of these words? Liturgy uses the word "should" a lot. Does this mean that its violation is minor? In the United States it seems that "should" can be ignored if its opposite simply feels better. What are the criteria for a valid violation of the "should"? -- J.F., Hesperia, California

    A: Liturgical norms and their translations are designed to be interpreted by everybody from sacristan to bishop, and thus they generally eschew technical canonical language. Therefore, such words are supposed to be taken in their obvious meaning.

    According to the Collins Dictionary, should is: "The past tense of shall: used as an auxiliary verb to indicate that an action is considered by the speaker to be obligatory (you should go) or to form the subjunctive mood with I or we (I should like to see you; if I should be late, go without me).

    "Usage: Should has, as its most common meaning in modern English, the sense ought as in I should go to the graduation, but I don't see how I can. However, the older sense of the subjunctive of shall is often used with I or we to indicate a more polite form than would: I should like to go, but I can't …."

    Therefore in liturgy the word should generally indicates obligation, but depending on the precise context the obligation refers to concrete acts or to more general attitudes or obligations.

    For example, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), No. 22, indicates: "The Bishop should therefore be determined that the priests, the deacons, and the lay Christian faithful grasp ever more deeply the genuine meaning of the rites and liturgical texts and thereby be led to an active and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist. To the same end, he should also be vigilant that the dignity of these celebrations be enhanced. In promoting this dignity, the beauty of the sacred place, of music, and of art should contribute as greatly as possible."

    Here the use of should refers to the bishop's general obligation to promote and oversee the liturgy. The bishop himself decides as to the actions and means necessary to fulfill this obligation. Given the overarching quality of the obligation, it is fulfilled in many different ways. These include the bishop's personally celebrating the liturgy and preaching; ensuring the adequate formation of all those involved in liturgy; establishing particular norms for the diocese when necessary; and even correcting abuses and disciplining those who violate the law.

    Other norms are more particular. GIRM, No. 5, says, "For the celebration of the Eucharist is an action of the whole Church, and in it each one should carry out solely but completely that which pertains to him or her, in virtue of the rank of each within the People of God."

    Here we are before a general principle but more directly concerned with a liturgical celebration. Here the obligation is that each participant in the liturgy must respect his or her proper area of action. In accordance with this principle, lay ministers must not encroach on duties reserved to the ordained, while the latter should not unnecessarily substitute a lay minister. For example, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should not be used if there are sufficient ordinary ministers, while a deacon or priest should not read the first and second readings if suitable lay readers are present.

    Other uses of should express a clear norm that must be followed. Once more, context or other norms determine the strength of this law. For example, GIRM, No. 32, would admit no exceptions: "Thus, while the priest is speaking these texts [the presidential prayers], there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instruments should be silent."

    GIRM, No. 43, on the other hand indicates: "The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance chant, or while the priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect; for the Alleluia chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Prayer of the Faithful; from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren), before the prayer over the offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below."

    Here the faithful's obligation to stand at these moments allows for exceptions due to age or infirmity. Bishops' conferences may also modify some postures in accordance with local tradition and with the approval of the Holy See.

    I likely haven't exhausted the uses of the word should in liturgical norms. But the examples presented can show that a degree in canon law is unnecessary in order to interpret this and similar expressions in their correct and obvious meaning.

    * * *
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    The duck drops down and gives Dan F a hundred dollars!

    It was indeed St. Agnes Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Their long history of dignified and proper Masses continues. Tonight I joined the choir for their rehearsal I can't even compare it to my home parish where we dawdle forever over a few 6-page "octavos" for Sunday. Tonight at St. Agnes in an hour and 40 minutes we worked our way through the Schubert Mass in C and Beethoven Mass in C. For some it was sightreading, for others the 20th+ year singing it. Truly a great experience.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    How wonderful. Sigh... I wish I can find a choir which I truly want to sing with. Not much here.

    Thanks Noel for the post. I might be wrong, because English is not my first language, but It seems that Americans don't seemed to use the word '' should' a lot anymore these days, and the implication got softened? Maybe the word is intimidating? Then, why the word 'must' is not used in the instruction?
  • Reading the description who could help but have tears in his eyes. Thank you for such an elegant description of this celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Would that St. Agnes were the standard of parish life and worship in the English-speaking countries !