August 20-22, 2001
volume 12, no. 144

The Germs of GIRM

Part Twenty-two: The void created by vocal role-playing

    [Continuing with selected passages found in Chapter Two of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, in this issue Paragraphs 36 and 38 are analyzed. They both deal with the incessant noisiness of the Mass today in which participation and vocal role-playing are encouraged, at the detriment of reverence and interior worship - all for the community good.]

Paragraph 36 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "There are other parts, extremely useful for expressing the faithful's active participation, that are assigned to the whole congregation called together: especially the penitential rite, the profession of faith, the general intercessions, and the Lord's Prayer."

Comment and Analysis:

    The mantra of "active participation" is repeated so frequently that it is almost as though the authors of GIRM are trying convince themselves that there has not been enough such participation in the past thirty-five to forty years. The celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has become little more except an exercise in constant, frenetic activity of the part of the faithful in the lion's share of parishes around the world. Constant and frenetic activity, however, is not the same thing as the sense of the interior participation of the faithful as it has been encouraged by the Church traditionally.

    That interior participation does indeed require a full, conscious and quite active exercise of the will to unite the mind and heart totally to the Sacrifice offered by an alter Christus to the Father in Spirit and in Truth in the Name of the One Who offered Himself up once on the wood of the Cross.

    How interesting it is that the very people who keep mistaking noise and motion for the true sense of active participation of the soul in the Mass are unwilling to admit that all of the activity of the past thirty-five to forty years has destroyed reverence and solemnity in the Mass. It has helped to foster the very destruction of the faithful's belief in the Mass as the unbloody re-presentation of Calvary. And the introduction of the "general intercession" (which is frequently left open to various petitions offered by the faithful in the pews, a process which can go on interminably) provides an opportunity for ideologues to shape the impressions of the faithful, most especially by what is omitted from such petitions.

Paragraph 38 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "In texts that are to be delivered in a loud and clear voice, whether by the priest or deacon or by the reader, or by all, the tone of voice should correspond to the genre of the text, that is, accordingly as it is a reading, a prayer, an instruction, an acclamation, or a liturgical song; the tone should also be suited to the form of celebration and to the solemnity of the gathering. Other criteria are the idiom of the different languages and the genius of the peoples. In the rubrics and in the norms that follow, the words 'say' (dicere) or proclaim (proferre) are to be understood of both singing and speaking, and in accordance with the principles just stated."

Comment and Analysis:

   All of this is so totally unnecessary. Courses in public speaking and sermonizing used to be offered in the seminaries of yore. Priests (and deacons preparing for priestly ordination) were trained to chant the Gospel during the sung Mass and the High Mass. The lesson and the Gospel are proclaimed in the vernacular following their recitation in Latin during the Traditional Latin Mass. No fuss, no muss. However, the spirit of active participation leads quite logically to a spirit of democratic entitlement. An entire constituency group has been created in the past thirty-five years composed of people who believe that it is their birthright to have a very public role to play in the Mass as a reader of the Word of God. The fact that many readers cannot read, that they cannot pronounce their mother tongues clearly and nobly, that many immigrants who are not conversant with English are offered the opportunity to make themselves incomprehensible during the Mass, and that many men and women who serve as readers wear inappropriate and immodest attire mean nothing at all to the revolutionaries who want to propagandize in favor of vocal role-playing during the Mass.

    Again, the irony here is truly inescapable: we are told over and over again that Latin is incomprehensible, which it is not. The fact that the "genius of the peoples" turns out to be a euphemism in defense of the right of inarticulate people to have a role in the sanctuary in front of the rest of the faithful during Sunday Mass - and that this frequently renders the readings beyond all comprehension - is ignored. Indeed, as happens whenever a liberal concoction fails to produce desired results (which is, by the way, always and at all times), liberals call for a greater institutionalization and expansion of the very thing which has failed. And this is to say nothing of the fact that new elites are created, thereby dividing parishes and creating a sense of disappointment among those not "chosen" to demonstrate either their stage ability or lack of reading skills in public during the Mass.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

Thursday: Part Twenty-three: All song and no sense!

For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives

August 20-22, 2001
volume 12, no. 144
CHRIST or chaos
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