May 2, 2001
volume 12, no. 122

The Germs of GIRM

Part Sixteen: Sunday morning at the Improv

    The following is something I'm sure most of you have experienced since Vatican II. I dare say you would not have heard this prior to, because there was no place within the Traditional Latin Mass for improvisation.

Paragraphs 23 and 24 of GIRM, respectively, read as follows:

    23: "In order, moreover, that celebrations of this kind may correspond all the more fully to the prescriptions and spirit of the sacred Liturgy, and its pastoral efficacy be increased, certain instances of accommodation are set out in this Institutio Generalis and in the Order of Mass."
    24. "For the most part, these adaptations consist in the choice of certain rites or texts, that is, of liturgical songs, readings, prayers, introductory comments and gestures which may respond better to the needs, degree of preparation and mentality of the participants. Such choices are entrusted to the priest celebrant. Nevertheless, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the sacred Liturgy, and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, remove, or to change anything in the celebration of the Mass."

Comment and Analysis:

    Are you laughing as hard as I am right now? What in the world in the new Mass is not permitted to be adapted by the priest celebrant? What is the meaning of the oft-repeated phrase that a priest is not to "add, remove, or to change anything in the celebration of the Mass" when he can claim that he is adapting and/or accommodating the Mass to meet certain local needs? Paragraphs 23 and 24 are thus laughable in that they attempt to undo the Socratic principle of non-contradiction: two mutually exclusive concepts - choices of adaptation entrusted to a priest celebrant and an admonition against experimentation - are contained within the same paragraph. Just boggles a little Thomistically-oriented mind.

    As will be noted in coming installments of selected paragraphs from Chapter Two of GIRM, these adaptations could include all manner of weird and inappropriate greetings before Mass, such as: "How are you folks, today?" "Boy, isn't it rainy out this morning?" "Good morning, people." "Thanks for coming to Church today, friends. Great to see you in Church." Not to be overlooked is the inane and profane "Have a nice day" uttered by many priests after they have given God's blessing to the faithful at Mass and have uttered the English equivalent of Ite, Missa Est ("Go, the Mass is ended").

    However, Paragraphs 23 and 24 also permit priests to sing (and badly) whenever they want to, ad lib their comments at various points during the Mass, and otherwise make of the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries their own personal possession and idiosyncratic vessel of showmanship. The results of this have not been good for the life of the Church.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

Tomorrow: Part Seventeen: Novus Narcissism

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

May 2, 2001
volume 12, no. 122
CHRIST or chaos
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