26 June 2003

The Letter, Part I
Today is the feast of St. Anthelm and also of St. Josemaria Escriva.

I'm going to be posting some of the text of the letter I sent to my parish here with my complaints and suggestions about the liturgy. It ended up being six pages long, which is why I'm not posting it all at once. The letter has already been sent, so it's a bit late for suggestions, but I'd still like to hear your thoughts.

There has been an attempt to create, through music and various other methods, a greater sense of community in the Sunday Masses at St. --. While this is an admirable goal, I feel that the way in which this has been undertaken has cost us much of the reverence which ought to be present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.
First, our “greater sense of community” has focused on communication between people, and has excluded the silence which provides the best opportunity for communication with God. Silence should be a major part of worship, and has always been one of the most marked features of Catholic worship. God speaks to us through Scripture, through the prayers of the Church, and in the quiet of our hearts. Yet, silence is seldom to be found at Masses at St. --. The church is certainly not quiet before or after Mass, because the members of the congregation are all socializing on their way in and out, and no one seems to discourage this. During Mass, there is always music playing or someone talking. I feel like I have been robbed of the profound silence which the saints so admire and encourage us to seek.
It is indeed wonderful to have such a developed sense of community that people find joy in greeting and socializing with each other, but the amount of this greeting which happens not only in the church, but actually during Mass, is a matter of some concern. Scripture tells us that there are different times which are set aside for different activities. The time for socializing is at the parish festival, or at the choir party, or around the hospitality table after Mass. The place for announcements is in the bulletin. The time to be centered on the face of God in our neighbor is while serving at the Table or doing other charitable work, or just in our daily dealings with other human beings. There must also be time for the community to be centered, not on each other, but on God. This is what the Mass is for. We turn our faces, not toward the celebrant, the choir, or the little girl peeking over the pew in front of us, but toward the altar on which rests the Sacrificial Lamb.

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