Mass intentions

Question: In our parish, the pastor mentions the names of several deceased relatives during Sunday Mass. When he came to the parish, he explained that he promised his relatives that he would do this “because I can.” I feel that his mentioning relatives during the Eucharistic Prayer takes away from the Mass. Surely he should mention these names silently. Please comment. 

Name and city withheld, Utah

Answer: This is certainly an abuse of the liturgy. The Mass does not belong to the priest — or to the people. It belongs to Christ and to the whole Church in heaven and on earth. The Mass is not a private event in which the priest can do anything “because he can.”

Mentioning the names of relatives out loud gives the impression that the Mass is the priest’s own private prayer. There is nothing to stop him praying for his relatives privately. This applies to the congregation also. Besides, the priest can only accept one stipended intention for each Mass, and the principal Mass on a Sunday has to be pro populo, for the people. I don’t know where priests get their ideas — probably from bad training in seminary and the bad example by other priests. You are right to object and to try to get the pastor on track.

Music and new translation

Question: Do you have any comments on the way music works in the new translation of the Mass? My opinion is that it does not work very well. I have noticed a big decrease in singing since the new translation of the sung parts was introduced. Is this your experience?

Ronald Rihn, address withheld

Answer: Actually this in not my experience at all. We tried to introduce a new Mass, but gave up because it was unsingable. I won’t mention the composer’s name. Before he died, Richard Proulx adapted his famous Community Mass to the new translations; we now use that, and the people have got the hang of it pretty well.

I read an essay by Rita Ferrone in a recent issue of Commonweal in which she said that the new Mass does not sing very well. I disagree. I think it is most singable. The chants are particularly good. (I know one of the music editors well!) Chant serves very well when the texts are not rhythmic, but are more prosaic (as in prose). I am excited to introduce the new chants to the people, especially the dialogues between priests and people. 

Liturgical joke

I am not a proponent of liturgical jokes, but our deacon used one recently that was so good I thought I would pass it on to you. It goes as follows:

One Sunday a pastor told the congregation that the church needed some extra money and asked the people to prayerfully consider giving a little extra in the offering plate. He said whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns for the congregation.

After the offering was passed, the pastor glanced down and noticed that someone had placed a $1,000 check on the plate. The pastor was so pleased that he would like to thank the donor personally. A very quiet elderly lady at the back shyly raised her hand. The pastor told her how wonderful it was and he asked her to come to the front. He explained to her that she could pick out three hymns. She pointed to the three most handsome men in the congregation and said, “OK, Pastor, I’ll take him, him and him.”

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 Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.