Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why Does Fr. Hardesty Do That?! Part I: Formality

I ran this series when I was at St. James, St. Ambrose, and St. Ignatius and have decided to use them here at Holy Trinity and Holy Rosary also, with some revised answers.

Part 1: “Why is Fr. Hardesty so formal? There’s no personality!”

Answer: The G.I.R.M. advises the priest that when he celebrates the Eucharist, “he must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he pronounces the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ” (93). Earlier it says, “The gestures and bodily posture of both the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers, and also of the people, must be conducive to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity… Attention must therefore be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and by the traditional practice of the Roman Rite…” (42). The general principle is “not merely that the priest should act efficiently, decorously, and reverently, but also that when he stands at the altar as the representative of Christ he should lay aside, as far as possible, all individual peculiarities, and even the smallest idiosyncrasy, exaggeration, or affectation which might attract attention to himself, and withdraw it from the great Act in which he is engaged” (O’Connell, The Celebration of Mass, 182).

It is true that in no other sphere in which you have a person addressing a group – like the teacher’s classroom or the chairman’s board meeting – is that person expected to minimize himself. He would be considered a very poor presenter indeed! So, one of the difficulties of the priest celebrating Mass facing the people instead of the earlier practice of facing the same direction they did – forward and up toward God – is the overwhelming temptation to act like any other presenter and for the crowd to expect that from him. But, for him to be applauded, to be funny, to put himself forward, to be a fan favorite throughout the Mass means to take the attention away from Jesus Christ (the True Celebrant of the Mass) and put it on himself. This is a closed circle that doesn’t move forward and up to God.

That said, I know that I can express myself better and be more engaging when it is proper to do so, namely, at the Greeting in the beginning of Mass, the Homily, and the “Thank You’s” and announcements before the final blessing. After all, we are in a relationship! But, to flesh this out, we’ll have to spend more time with each other outside of Mass too. And we can work together to expand a welcoming environment, like having greeters at the doors, periodic coffee and donuts in the Church basement or the school cafeteria, or even periodic blessings of new parishioners.

As I challenge myself to grow and expand according to your feedback, I in turn challenge you to be open to being inspired by the Mass in a way you aren’t used to or may not expect. Don’t look for ME in the Mass, look for Jesus! Pray the Mass! Let go of the Missalette and listen to the Lord speaking to you in the readings and silences and us to Him in the prayers. Then from the depth of your heart, respond.


Anonymous said...

Being close to God and showing him reverence to me means being able to talk to him like he is my best friend, my brother or sister, my parent and if I am worried about my posture or being formal then I am concentrating on the wrong thing. I want God to be real in my life, not just some remote someone that I adore from a distance. Remember how Jesus was with the children....he was not formal. I want that closeness with Jesus.....I think you are a good priest and I guess all of us have our own idea of how to be close to God...I just want to feel the closeness...

Fr. Matthew Hardesty said...

I totally hear ya, Anonymous, I want the same thing in my life. I think when we understand well what we're doing, when there's clarity, then we don't have to worry about our posture or gestures because they'll come naturally and they'll flow from our faith and understanding. I think those moments after Communion, when you're kneeling there, is a particularly intimate moment, when Christ lives in you through the Blessed Sacrament you have received, when you are close to him in Holy Communion... that's a perfect time to talk to him like a friend about all your joys and concerns. When you join your heart to the priest's and make the prayers of the Mass, the prayers of Jesus to the Father, your own - you pray with him to God - that's a pretty profound closeness. Also quieting your heart and listening to the readings as God speaking to you personally, especially in the words of the Gospel, that is a special closeness too.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to going to Church each Sunday. I want a priest who can make the Mass come alive for me. That does not mean that the priest is drawing attention to himself but he is using himself as a tool to bring people closer to God in the Mass. Our religion, the Mass, upbeat music are all tools to help us be closer to God.

Fr. Matthew Hardesty said...

The onus is on the Holy Spirit to make the Mass come alive for someone, not the priest. It's not my work, it is God's work. My job is to get out of His way. Or put another way, to let the Holy Spirit use me as his instrument to brings others to Him. Music helps accomplish this when it uses texts and tunes that are dignified and worthy and that can convey sacred mysteries.

Anonymous said...

Let me say, that I am enjoying our little chats.
I am a cradle Catholic so I have been through several changes in the Church but when I was a child and attended Mass, I thought to myself that surely there must be a better way of doing things so that we can have more warmth in our liturgy. Then, along came Vatican II, and I was thrilled with the changes except they were not accepted throughout all of the churches. Mass in English. Oh, how wonderful. I did not understand Latin. The priest facing the people. Wonderful. I can stay focused if I can see who is speaking. Music that the congregation is singing. More involvement of lay people instead of people sitting in church nodding off. We as a people could no longer just go and sit. We could participate. But, I feel that that there has been a movement in the church to step back a bit and go back to a more rigid approach to Mass. But, with the election of our new Pope Francis, I think that we will start moving forward again. I feel that Pope Francis is the most Christ like Pope we have ever had. I hope to meet him one day.

Fr. Matthew Hardesty said...

Yes, "full, conscious, and active" participation was the motto of the reforms. This type of participation is first of all interior though. At the end of the day, the Fathers of Vatican II intended for the new form of the Mass to be an organic development of the older form. They did not intend for the mainstream experience of the new form to be a complete 180 degree difference (pardon the pun). The document from Vatican II that reformed the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), says some things that might surprise you. Some examples: "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" (36.1)
"But since the use of the mother tongue [the local language]... may frequently be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This extension will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to SOME of the prayers and chants" (36.2)
"Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them" (54) - That includes the I Confess, the Gloria, the Creed, the Holy Holy Holy, The Mystery of Faith, the Our Father, and the Lamb of God! This is what Vatican II intended! Is that the reality?
Another surprising quote:
"Gregorian chant... should be given pride of place" (116)
It is also surprising what SC does NOT say. Nowhere in the document does it say that the priest should primarily face the people. This was a fad instituted by liturgists and liturgical commissions that wanted to breakdown continuity with the older form of the Mass. Now it has such widespread use that it almost has the force of law. In fact, the Missal still today presumes that the priest is facing the same direction as the people. Sprinkled throughout the Missal are instructions for the priest to follow. Some still say: "The priest turns and faces the people and says:"
Interesting, huh?

Anonymous said...

You are certainly more knowledgeable about all of those things than I could ever hope to be. I have to admit that I am not a "by the book" type of person. There are lots of man made rules in the Catholic Church as well as other denominations. I know that we need rules but sometimes too much focus is put on a rule or a rule becomes obsolete and does not fit the situation.

I am really glad that you have not given in to the pressure of having shorter Masses. There have been people that for years have always shopped for the church with the shortest Mass so they could fulfill their "Sunday Obligation of keeping holy the Lord's Day". I knew they would try that with you before you even arrived. Sometimes, at our church, our Sunday Mass lasts 1 and 1/2 hours and we don't even notice until we are walking out of the church and look at our watch.

Keep up the good work of being a Good Sheppard.