Something to distract you

Yet again, high marks for Catholic preaching! The Mystery Worshiper strikes again, this time at St. Agnes in New York City. You’ll enjoy the answers to all the questions, especially “Did anything distract you?”






41 responses to “Something to distract you”

  1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    I will hold the card up as a way of alerting you when we are coming to a changed section.

    Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

    The priest helping everyone out with the changes. He really did hold the card up to draw our attention to new sections of the mass

    Maybe we need a system of flags. Red flags, yellow flags, green flags. Just like the Anglicans have their vergers (remnant of crowd control) we could have a flagger. Or maybe many flaggers on particularly solemn occasions.

    the wonkiness of the new translation

    now that is an interesting way of expressing it; had not seen that word used before.

    Sadly, no coffee, which was a bummer. It would have been the perfect chance to hear others’ opinions on the changes.

    Which is probably the reason that Catholic parishes generally do not have coffees, and try to get people out of there as quickly as possible, so they don’t start talking about the service.

  2. Paul Boman Avatar
    Paul Boman

    Several times today, our presider chose to correct the responses of the assembly. We still hear a lot of “and also with you” etc. I suspect I am not alone in doing so deliberately. I find this correction from the presider to be patronizing and insulting. He should worry about getting his own parts right if he is so concerned with proper recitation of Missa Moroney.

  3. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    The Christmas season is when Americans are most open to considering matters of faith, according to data from LifeWay Research, a Southern Baptist research firm. In a 2008 survey, 47 percent said they’ve been more open during the holidays.

    See NCR story

    This afternoon I went to a “Christmas Concert” at a large suburban parish.

    I was amazed at the beauty of voices of their combined choirs. If they just sang like that every Weekend I would surely make this my parish, even if no one in the congregation sang.

    I have been there on the weekend. The choir did not sing well and the people sang hardly at all. True to form the people hardly joined in singing “Silent Night” this afternoon!

    The Concert was a concert, not a festival of lessons and carols. In fact it was only partly a Christmas concert. A lot of music was chosen to honor their former pastor who died last year.

    In fact the concert was more like a concert of a local high school or community college. It featured the local talent and many of the songs chosen and things done were far more meaningful to friends and alumni than to visitors. You could tell from the applause that it was more about the people than the music, let alone the content of the music.

    This parish reminds me of a Pre-Vatican II parish. No it is not traditional. No Latin. No Chant. Most of music was contemporary, and I had never heard of it. Not attractive at all! The “sound” of the choir made the concert. They must have a good director and/or many good voices.

    But like the old parishes this one seems to be composed of pastors and people who are holy and loving but for whom the ritual is just ritual. It isn’t something you do well or that has much intellectual content that gives meaning to life. It is just something you do because it is ritual like a marriage or a funeral and could just as well be in Latin.

  4. Claire Mathieu Avatar
    Claire Mathieu

    Is there going to be a thread on which I can rant about today’s collect and prayer over the offerings? I have pent-up frustration waiting to be vented!

    1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
      Jack Rakosky


      I hope there is going to be a separate thread. I think Fr. Anthony was intending to focus more upon the Mystery Worshipper methodology, perhaps getting us to recount our experiences of distraction at past liturgies in general.

      It would be good to label the evaluations of liturgies clearly in terms of the archives. People might want to use them for planning purposes.

      I doubt he would have labeled it as humor had he intended it as the place for evaluations of this Sunday.

    2. John Drake Avatar
      John Drake

      Perhaps the old phrase “offer it up” might apply?

      1. Claire Mathieu Avatar
        Claire Mathieu

        -“My brother recently died; I’m feeling kind of low.”
        -“Offer it up!”

        -“My doctor diagnosed me with cancer. I’m scared.”
        -“Offer it up!”

        -“Do you have any spare change? I need money for food. I haven’t eaten in 24 hours. I’m hungry.”
        -“Offer it up!”

        -“Could you please stop playing that dreadful music? It’s really grating on my nerves.”
        -“Offer it up!”

        -“The administration is causing me trouble. They’re being awfully slow in processing my visa application. They said they’d be done by now, but I haven’t received my visa yet; I might lose the price of my ticket and be unable to spend Christmas with my family. I’d like to complain.”
        -“Offer it up!”

        There’s a good reason why that phrase has fallen out of fashion.

      2. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        Except that the people most prone to say “offer it up” tend to be the same ones who should most resist saying it. That is, it tends to be said in order to shut people up, not in authentic solidarity.

        This is why the phrase has to die further, before its helpful and authentic use can be properly recovered.

      3. Michael Podrebarac Avatar
        Michael Podrebarac

        “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

      4. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur
  5. Terri Miyamoto Avatar
    Terri Miyamoto

    I sat right behind a family that was at Mass this morning for a baby’s baptism. I could tell the changed language was totally unexpected. Some of them did try to pick up the page with the new parts, but by the time we were halfway through Mass they had just given up. I guess this is what Christmas is going to be like… very quiet, I imagine.

  6. Claire Mathieu Avatar
    Claire Mathieu

    I was distracted by the stained glass window representing Mary with the angel. On Thursday it was dark at Mass time, so I had not been able to gaze at it; today I made up for it.

    I was distracted by the man behind me trumpeting “And with your spirit!” at every occasion. I was tempted to start a battle of decibels and shout back “And also with you!” louder than him. (But I didn’t.)

    I was distracted by various new missal words and by seeing the priest hesitate a few times.

    I was distracted by the priest’s light pink vestment. A pretty, very feminine color, thought I. Fortunately I didn’t follow that train of thought very far.

    I was distracted by today’s cantor. She’s my favorite cantor by far. When she sings, I forget to listen to the words (even though she articulates them carefully) and just listen to her voice. So natural, pure, relaxed and beautiful!

    I distracted my neighbors by saying “for all” right after the priest said “for many” at consecration. They’ll have to get used to it.

    I was distracted by my bad habit of counting random stuff. Today the questions that distracted me were: what fraction of the people were reading the pew cards during the Creed? Could I see anyone bowing? How many struck their breast during the Confiteor?

    That’s all I can think of for today’s distractions.

  7. Alan Hommerding Avatar

    We had a great homily on the eight imperatives in Thessalonians, and how they ought to characterize those who live in Christ:

    Rejoice always.
    Pray ceaselessly.
    Always give thanks.
    Do not quench the Spirit.
    Do not despise prophets.
    Test everything/
    Retain what is good.
    Refrain from all evil.

    What distracted me most was how often my life is characterized by the complete opposites of these imperatives.

  8. Elaine Steffek Avatar
    Elaine Steffek

    Oh Claire,
    If only you could sit in my parish and be distracted by the non-stained glass window which allows one to see the squirrel family frolicking in the tree on the other side.

    1. Bill Kish Avatar
      Bill Kish

      That reminds me of the basilica in Baltimore. There is clear glass in the windows. It was restored a few years ago. Clear glass was installed in the windows because that is what was there originally. The clear glass in the windows made me think of a New England church.

    2. Claire Mathieu Avatar
      Claire Mathieu

      Through the glass blocks of the church I often went to as a child, during Mass we could watch the distorted silhouettes of kids mountain biking on the piles of dirt behind our cinderblock church.

  9. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Another weekend; another parish. The pastor of this one is relatively young and relatively conservative (looking more to the past for inspiration in what he does in the parish). I had wondered if we would get chanted dialogues? preface? EP?

    On the other hand he had done extensive catechesis but no early implementation. So far it seems that talk tends to substitute for action. The greater changes have been done by parishes early with far less talk.

    The only chant we got was a chanted “The Lord be with you.” As with another parish this effectively got people to sing “And with your spirit” However like the other parish when he reverted to saying “The Lord by with you” people reverted to answering “and also with you”


    After we finished the Creed, the posted hymn was immediately begun. No evidence of the Prayer of the Faithful. The hymn, which I did not know, could be classified as more petition than praise, thanksgiving or penance, but nothing even close to a litany. Toward the end of the hymn, someone from the front pew went to the lectern and mentioned a few local intentions, people who were sick, had died, then came the conclusion of the hymn.

    I have never encountered this before, not even in this parish. The preparation rites were done in silence.

    Maybe the changes of the New Missal will open even conservative pastors to inventing their own rules. When eating meat on Friday was relaxed, many people seemed to come to the conclusion that you can make your own rules. With the new changes from Rome, and bishops exercising their authority more in some dioceses, maybe more priests will conclude they can make their own local rules, too. What better time to do that than now when other things are changing, and few will know whether the change came from pastor, bishop, or Rome.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      Of course, people with an ideological bent can almost always rationalize innovations, with the best of intentions. It’s a phenomenon that knows no ideological boundary, as we can well attest even from the conversations at this blog.

      While I generally meet slippery slope arguments with a fair bit of detachment and skepticism (because they suffer from the nagging credibility problem of non-falsifiability), I would like to validate that there are voices that agitate for more and more, and will not be sated until they get it. Like Fr Z’s call for the option of the silent canon in the Ordinary Form today:

      1. Marci Blue Avatar
        Marci Blue

        Perhaps the Ratzinger Mass would be better said if it were done entirely in mime.

      2. Jack Rakosky Avatar
        Jack Rakosky

        This priest is conservative in that he often adopts pastoral practices from the past for non-ideological reasons. If it was done before we can do it now.

        Probably combining a hymn with local prayer intentions was something that was done either in the immediate Pre-Vatican II era or after the Council before the 1973 Missal.

        While one might think for ideological reasons that the New Missal would reduce the likelihood of him doing something like this, the general atmosphere of change may in fact have facilitated it.

  10. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Jack Feehily

    “Shhhhhh….you apostles have been talking all through supper. Now, where was I? I was speaking about the bread”. Then his voice trailed off and he said something in hushed tones. Sadly, they never heard the silent words over the bread and cup, nor “do this in memory of me.” And so the first mass turned into the last one. Maybe silence isn’t always golden?

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur


  11. Joe O'Leary Avatar
    Joe O’Leary

    Fr Z’s groupies wholeheartedly take up his call for a silent Canon (a nice way of hiding the disgrace of the new translations). But they can invoke the authority of Cardinal Ratzinger: “In, 1978, to the annoyance of many liturgists, I said that in no sense does the whole Canon have to be said out loud. After much consideration. I should like to repeat and underline the point here in the hope that, twenty years later, the thesis will be better understood. . . . It really is not true that reciting the whole Eucharistic Prayer out loud and without interruptions is a prerequisite for the participation of everyone in this central act of the Mass. . . . Anyone who has experienced a church united in the silent prayer of the Canon will know what a really filled silence it is. It is at once a loud and penetrating cry to God and a Spirit-filled act of prayer.”

    Maybe this option will soon be available.

  12. Tom McFadden Avatar
    Tom McFadden

    Sounds like we have a lot of bitter folks hopelessly mired in the 1960s. Get over it. grow up. I have suffered with the puerile, pedestrian translations for 40 years. Now its YOUR turn.

    1. Joe O'Leary Avatar
      Joe O’Leary

      Wow — naked revanchism!

      1. Joe O'Leary Avatar
        Joe O’Leary

        The new translations are not puerile and pedestrian, but senile and limping.

    2. Sean Parker Avatar
      Sean Parker

      So, now the truth comes out.

    3. Gerard Flynn Avatar
      Gerard Flynn

      Using the Mass to settle old scores: very edifying indeed.

  13. Fr. Jim Blue Avatar
    Fr. Jim Blue

    I guess I agree with Jack more than not, but frankly holding up the card as a reminder is an effective technique and does not require any words. Much better than saying “here comes a change . . . ”

    I was most distracted by the doxology from Walker’s St. Paul Mass. Unlike a simple tone which almost any presider could sing it is a demanding setting which I as an ungifted singer cannot do justice to.

    I was completely undistracted by words such as “dewfall,” “chalice” and “many” since I corrected for them courtesy of Wikispooks and the 1998 ICLE alternate text.

    I was not distracted by people saying “And also with you,” and “And with your spirit,” because it sounded very authentic and human.

    I was a bit distracted by the first person singular Creed, because it’s very hard to correct for that without giving out rigged cards and that would be over the top.

    I was not distracted at all by the “I confess,” because we used form B.

    I have not been as distracted by the orations as I thought I would be because a lot of the “grovel speak” can be excised pretty cleanly on the fly.

    I’ve been distracted by the sheer weight of the book. Even the chapel size is way too heavy.

    I hear the bishop is working on a rescript for some of the older priests. It reminds me of my first pastor’s dictum: “what you can do with permission you can do without permission.”

  14. Joe O'Leary Avatar
    Joe O’Leary

    In fairness to Tom, we have all suffered from inadequacies in the 1973 texts. That is precisely why we do not want to inflict still worse suffering through the new texts. The 1998 texts were an attempt to alleviate that suffering.

    1. Sean Whelan Avatar
      Sean Whelan

      Sorry, no suffering here, well, not until November 27th of this year.

      1. Joe O'Leary Avatar
        Joe O’Leary

        The main suffering I have felt, apart from the sawdust preces, is to be bound so rigidly to the same texts day in day out, when the people of God have ample charisms to create new and more eloquent texts.

        But of course to complain about 1973 is like “the princess and the pea” in comparison with the real dispiritment produced by the new texts.

      2. Sean Parker Avatar
        Sean Parker

        Agreed. My mass was stolen from me two weeks ago. I’m waiting for it to be returned.

    2. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
      M. Jackson Osborn

      JO’L –
      You phrased that right! ‘The 1998 texts were an ATTEMPT to alleviate that suffering’. They did not, however, succeed in doing so. If we were using them today we would be hardly better off than we were. They are a greatly overrated doctoring up of what we have just said ‘good-bye’ to, even with some original, though rather pallid, additions. That entire style needed to be expelled.
      I grant, though, that it is sad that our new translation, so nobly conceived as to style and depth, was born with some rather inept syntax here and there. Still, it is better by far than what it replaced, and the 1998 as well.

      1. Joe O'Leary Avatar
        Joe O’Leary

        Again, I refer chiefly to the preces which as far as I have gathered are far superior to those of 1973 and 2011. They do expel the style of the 1973 preces. The Eucharistic Prayers are only slightly altered, sometimes needlessly. “rather inept syntax here and there” — I think every set of preces and every preface brings to light new discomforts in the 2011 trans. The ineptitudes in the regularly used Eucharistic Prayers are, however, something that has no justification and that forces priests everywhere to adjust in one way or another.

      2. Paul Robertson Avatar
        Paul Robertson

        I’m going to disagree with you almost entirely. The only reason they didn’t succeed was that they were torpedoed by the CDW as it illegally wrested power from the bishops’ conferences.

        You dislike the style of the ’73 and ’98 translations. Fine, we know that. That doesn’t mean that the style needed to be expelled, just that you wanted it to be expelled. Clearly there are several camps on that discussion.

        If, by here and there, you mean “from start to finish without respite”, I’ll agree with you. The entire text of the Mass is shot through with inept syntax and blatantly alien-to-English phrasing and rhetoric. I am glad it works for you. It most certainly does not work for me.

        As a side note, I observe that the style of prose you use in all of your comments on this blog is pretty much standard English. One might even use the term “vernacular”. Does the Mass really have to be so high above us?

  15. Joe O'Leary Avatar
    Joe O’Leary

    “The entire text of the Mass is shot through with inept syntax and blatantly alien-to-English phrasing and rhetoric.”

    And the really distracting and even giggle-inducing and toe-curlingly embarrassing thing is that the perpetrators of this ghastly melange imagine themselves to be masters of the English language and stylists of the calibre of John Henry Newman…

    1. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
      M. Jackson Osborn

      JO’L –
      I don’t think it is shot through with inept syntax, nor blatantly alien to English phrasing and rhetoric. One of the noble aspects of the new translation in conceptu was of conveying the very Latinness, the wealth of imagery and Biblical allusions which seem to be an irritating and irrelevant millstone of antiquity about the necks of those who want every-day-speech sort of language for their Ed Sullivan show style of worship. Though not shot through, it is marred significantly in places. While this is a deep disappointment, it lacks greatly the utterly flawed method and result of the former undynamic substitution. If there was/is anything, JO’L, that has been giggle-inducing and toe-curlingly embarassing it was/is the simplistic, preposterously insinuating and overly familiar style of carrying on dialogue with the All Holy God by means of the 1973 mass.
      Yes, to answer PR’s question, we do very definitely need for the language of the mass to be ‘so elevated’. Forsooth, the degree to which our translation failed to translate the Latinness of the Latin and its rich, studied, imagery and awful reverence, we have failed to translate accurately and have lost a goodly heritage. The problem with this new translation is not in its conception (It was, verily, quite nobly conceived), nor ipso facto in Latinate elements being used to fashion of English an heiratic writ (this has been done to great literary effect by many – not least in the priceless BCP) No, the problem was, it seems to me, that those charged with carrying out this noble concept were pygmies of English heiraticism and literary style. Most of the rather childish broadsides being shot into the rigging are blaming style, syntax and Latinness; and, these are not the problem. The problem was a lack of genius to carry out a noble and laudable work. Everyone is castigating the wrong things.

      1. Joe O'Leary Avatar
        Joe O’Leary

        Methinks that e’en our Blessed Saviour spake unto the Most Highest in manner lowly, what time He besought Him unto His supplications to hearken and when that He did teach unto His disciples by what manner of words they in turn were to address Him. Aye, forsooth, for were it not passing strage were He to have addressed mortal wights in tongues angelical?

  16. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
    M. Jackson Osborn

    Joe O’Leary :
    Methinks that e’en our Blessed Saviour spake unto the Most Highest in manner lowly, what time He besought Him unto His supplications to hearken and when that He did teach unto His disciples by what manner of words they in turn were to address Him. Aye, forsooth, for were it not passing strage were He to have addressed mortal wights in tongues angelical?

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    And why not tongues angelical for them that were made, as it is writ, to be yet higher than the angles? Me thinketh that, while we are not forever on that mount of transfiguration, there yet be ocassions when, truly, we should be there; especially at Holy Mass, the earthly icon of the true Heavenly Banquet – the which, I think, hath an aura and ethos quite different from the picnic that some ill-advised folk would vainly imagine it to be. Yes, our churchly tongue should be one of profound reverence, conveying the mystery and sublimely holy nature of God, the time we spend with him, and all that is offered to him in unspeakably holy time, space, and act: it should be the language of those who have a more glorious destiny than the aungels.
    AND – the next time we fashion a new missal, I surmise that you should be accounted amongst its fashioners!

  17. Paul Boman Avatar
    Paul Boman

    I’m not sure the Lord God is moved by our capacity for pomposity. But to return to the issue of distractions last Sunday, I need to add our Lector for the 2nd reading who voiced Paul’s instruction that we should “pray without seizing.” A wise and pastoral instruction indeed.

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