Question: Our pastor, who is very fond of singing at Mass, leads all the sung parts of the Mass, even on weekdays, with a loud booming voice. It is driving some of us crazy. Surely all the parts of the Mass should not be sung every day. Is there anything we can do to make him tone down the singing?
— Name and address withheld
Answer: It may be that your pastor is open to your observations and those of your fellow parishioners. If you think he is, then approach him and tell him your objections as clearly and diplomatically as you can. If this does not work, there is not much, I am afraid, that you can do about the “problem.” Once priests leave the seminary, they are generally set in their ways liturgically.
This matter was addressed partially in the August 2009 newsletter of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship under the heading “A Question of Balance.” It states: “Through our celebration of the liturgy since the Second Vatican Council, we have come to the realization that music is indeed an ordinary part of the Church’s liturgical life. We know, however, that its use must be governed by the principle of progressive solemnity. There is a great distance between two extremes: (1) liturgy at which nothing at all is sung, and (2) those situations in which everything that demands singing is, in fact, sung.”
The newsletter goes on to state: “The priest must exercise good pastoral judgment in choosing what should be sung at a particular liturgical celebration. Elaborate singing at a 6:30 a.m. weekday Mass in Ordinary Time does not manifest the sense of balance that one wishes to achieve. While leading people to a deeper appreciation of the use of music in the liturgy, the priest must have the wisdom to know when he is forcing his own approach upon the people rather than helping them come to a new level of expressing the richness in the texts.”
Mary, Mother of God
Question: I was recently talking to a Protestant neighbor about the Rosary. I explained the Hail Mary to him, and when I told him that the second part of the prayer was “Holy Mary, mother of God,” he said, “God has no mother.” How should I respond?
— Name and address withheld
Answer: The assertion that Mary is mother of God, formulated formally at the Council of Ephesus in 431, is not meant so much to make a claim about Mary, but to underline the truth that Jesus is God. There are three parts to the argument at Ephesus. The first is that Mary is the mother of Jesus (hardly disputed); the second is that Jesus is God (often disputed); and the third is that Mary is, therefore, the mother of God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the matter this way: “Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus,’ Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as ‘the mother of my Lord.’ In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos)” (No. 495).
To say that Mary is the mother of God is not to say that she is the mother of the Father or of the Holy Spirit.
It is simply to say that Mary is the mother of Jesus — who is God.
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.