Doing ceremonial things unceremoniously

Doing ceremonial things unceremoniously

Ever notice how some priests and many (if not most) bishops act during Mass as if they’re performing at the Apollo? They crack jokes, seek applause, and even say things that give the impression they’re saying, “Hey, let’s not all take this Church stuff too seriously.”

What brings this to mind is an emailer who says that Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee had a recorded message played during Masses this week (in place of the homily) to kick off the annual fundraising appeal for the archdiocese. The message was full of folksy camaraderie and such and ended with this statement: “Okay, I’ll shut up now and let you get back to the Mass ...” Does that sound like an appropriate way to speak of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

Another friend tells about his bishop who, when he appears at a parish for Mass, ends by processing down the aisle, not in a dignified manner, but by seeking out young boys to high five. This calls to mind a C.S. Lewis quote that yet another friend sent around:

The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is not proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual.”

A better way of putting it than anything I could come up with. If priests and bishops want to see an example of the proper way to conduct themselves at Mass, may I suggest they look to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict? You won’t see any of that stuff from him. He is an example of humility and dignity.

Humility is not false dignity. It is knowing your correct place and taking it. It’s opposite is self-aggrandizement and calling attention to yourself.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli