Wednesday, January 31, 2018

When something at Mass is confusing, here's what you can do

There have been a couple times when I've spoken with people who have gotten confused and ticked-off by something at Mass. Maybe there's incense, and they're not used to that. Or, the priest starts celebrating Mass ad orientem with no explanation. Perhaps there's more Latin used during the Liturgy than people are used to. Or the priest gives a homily that's not in very good taste. In one instance, someone told me that confusion at external practices caused him to discontinue practicing the Faith-and I wouldn't be surprised if this has been the case with more than one person. 

When we encounter things that are unfamiliar to us, it can be really uncomfortable. If you've grown up going to guitar Masses, hearing Latin will probably be jarring. If you're used to seeing the priest face the people, it could be insanely annoying if he starts turning around. And if a priest gives a well-intentioned by poorly-executed homily, that could be really hurtful to some people. 

However, instead of taking our bad or uncomfortable experiences and letting them drag us away from God and the Sacraments, I propose we do something else. 

Send an e-mail.

This isn't a revolutionary idea; e-mail has been around for a while. Contact information for the parish priests and office staff is all available in the bulletin and online, so we don't have to go through huge amounts of work to find the proper e-mail addresses, either. When we send e-mails to those who could clear up confusion for us, a few things can happen. First, our message can communicate that HELLO, there are people who are confused about what's going on! Second, sending a message can help us be open to hearing a response and coming to a greater understanding of the Liturgy. Third, by reaching out to the priest (or office staff member), instead of pushing ourselves away from the parish community and the liturgical life of the Church, we are drawing closer to them. 

A few months ago, I was confused about the protocol for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC), and a little uncertain by what I saw some of them doing at Mass. It wasn't a huge thing, but it was still a concern to me. So, after stewing about it for a few weeks, I realized that I should stop brooding about the issue and just address it with my pastor. I sent an e-mail and within a day or two received a response. He was able to clarify EMHC protocol for me, and my observation helped him see that he needed to clarify matters with the parish EMHC volunteers so that everyone could be on the same page. 

A few weeks ago, I decided to send another e-mail. There had been a question about Sacred Music that I had been pondering and confused about for years. Instead of wondering any longer, I simply messaged our parish's music director, and got a very thoughtful, thorough response which greatly enriched my knowledge and aided my growing understanding of Sacred Music. 

So, friends, there you go: Just e-mail people. While I would love it if priests would explain to the whole congregation why they're doing different things, like celebrating Mass ad orientem, that just doesn't happen all of the time. So e-mail them and ask about it. And if a priest gives a homily that winds up hurting you, know that priests are humans who make mistakes too. There's no reason why you can't just e-mail a priest and graciously explain why his words hurt, and ask for clarification on what he was trying to preach about.  

Through our simple action of sending an e-mail, we can work towards greater unity in God, so that we may be one as Jesus so earnestly prayed (Jn 17:21). 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this reminder AnneMarie! I had an odd situation several months back at a local parish (but not my regular one), when an EMHC gruffly refused to let me receive the Eucharist on the tongue (my preference). I've always received that way and only had a couple confused EMHC's as a child, but never someone who at my clear request refused. I was so confused and mad about it, and sent the pastor an email. He quickly responded that that's not how they're trained and that he'd remind them. So I second your recommendation! It was much better than wasting time stewing over it.