The Vatican is preparing a manual that will help priests celebrate Mass more correctly. This is surely to be welcomed by all priests and all laity. After all, we all want to get the most out of the great gift that is the Mass, don’t we?
I have recently been on holiday and during my time off I went to Church “disguised” as a layman and observed a few things. I am sure lots of people would like to put in their bit as to what goes into the new manual, but here are my thoughts, for what they are worth. Not all of them are of equal importance.
• Start the Mass on time. If it says six o’clock, then let it be six o’clock, not five past or seven past.
• The priest should turn up in good time. Seeing a flustered looking chap rush in at one minute to does not help. After all, Mass is important, and for important events we always turn up in good time, don’t we? Besides, ones needs to prepare.
• Wear a chasuble, and make sure it is the correct colour.
• When you preach, it really is not a good idea to go on too long. And to help you keep within a reasonable time frame it is a good idea to plan the sermon. Less really is more when it comes to saying things: say it concisely and people may get what you are saying; say it in a prolix manner and your meaning may well get lost in the verbiage.
• The same goes for bidding prayers. Short and sharp. And do we need them in the week? I doubt it.
• Do not leave bits of the Mass out. The Opening Prayer, the Creed, the second reading – why do these sometimes fall by the wayside? There can be no good reason for this.
• Do not ad lib, and especially do not as lib during the Eucharistic Prayer. The people surely want to hear the words of the Church not the words of Father Joe (or whatever he is called).
• When celebrating Mass, look at God, not at the people, especially not at the strangers in Church (you never know, one of them might be a spy from the Catholic Herald.)
All of the above applies to the celebrant, but there are some points that ought to be recognised by the faithful.
• Don’t answer your mobile in Church. And when you do, which you should not, do not converse in a loud voice on the said phone, especially during the Eucharistic Prayer. In fact, just switch the thing off.
• Arrive on time.
• Yes, you have lots of important things to discuss with your neighbour, but surely they can wait twenty minutes? After Mass, you can talk to your heart’s content. During Mass, talk to God. Silently.
• Leave your shopping alone. No need to rustle through the contents of that bag at all.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I am sure that many readers can add further points, based on their own experience!