Sunday, 14 December 2008

Rebellion in the ranks?

T shares with us how his community reacted when instructions rather than catechesis was handed down from the Bishop. The Bishop was acting in good faith, seeking only to lend dignity to the celebration of the Mass. However, instead of entering into dialogue with the community in order to bring about change he just issued an instruction. This is a story of a community who were prepared to fight back.

"Some months back the Bishop's office decided to teach us how to read, and how to compose our bidding prayers. We had been doing this for years and everyone was happy about the way it was done.

The instruction about reading was straightforward, just read the bits in red in the standard Lectionary, not the peripheral bits, so that "The first reading is taken from the First Book of Samuel" becomes "from the first book of Samuel", and the Response to the psalm is simply read out loud with no introduction, the congregation repeat and then read the first verse etc.

No doubt everyone else is doing the same, or will do when their Bishop gets round to issuing his instructions.

We were also told to show more respect to the altar. You need to know that we gather for Mass in a chapel in which consecrated hosts are not normally reserved. We have never been in the practice of genuflecting to the empty tabernacle. Now Readers and Special Ministers are required to execute an almost Japanese bow of respect to the altar.

Next we were reminded that one need only bless oneself with holy water from the stoop on entering the church. This is symbolic of washing off the dirt from the outside world, so we should not wash off the sanctity of the church before we go back out.

Then came the Bidding prayers. It has always been our custom to include a Hail Mary or Hail Holy Queen at the end of the Bidding prayers, and I personally have always included a reference to England as Mary's dowry.

We were given strict instructions that such Marian practices were to stop. Not out of any disrespect to the BVM, but so as not to detract from the Mass.

There was no explanation and no attempt to hear how we felt about the changes. Most of us could not see why any change had to take place when we had asked Our Lady to join her prayers with ours for years.

We have about nine regular Ministers of the Word, and eight weeks after the ban, the Hail Mary was back. Our PP had reminded each reader in the first round of readings not to include it, but he wasn't happy with enforcing this instruction, and seemed to be glad when we just went back to our old ways.

A very small triumph, I know, but it made us comfortable with our prayers, and that is the reason that we all go to Mass in our parish, not because Mother Church tells us to, but because it is an opportunity to join with friends and family and like-minded folk in an act of worship that we all enjoy.

For much the same reason, we have a sung Mass on the first Sunday of each month, with all the major public prayers being sung in Latin. This is the choice of the community. My gift is not the ministry of music but we have a magnificent choir who do full justice to the wonderful acoustics. To be present at this Mass is a joy for all generations.

The average age of the congregation, and the average level of education among us, are such that most of us have fond memories of the Tridentine mass, and get an extra buzz out of the use of Latin."

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