Ramblings on Liturgy (II)

If you want to do good liturgy, listen to your mother. If your mother has passed into Jesus’ hands, run the tape of mom in your head during the Eucharist. Here’s what I mean, whenever I celebrate the Mass and start to get ahead of myself in words and/or gestures, mom speaks in my brain “What’s the rush?” A few years ago a deacon forgot to place the ciborium back in the tabernacle; I was starting to get perturbed when I recalled mother’s consistent refrain, “Are your legs broken?” So I took the Eucharist to the tabernacle. There are times when the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy seems, well, less than sacred; the server faints, the lector reads the wrong lesson from Scripture, the music sounds more like a cat caught in a blender, etc. Good old mom comes through: “Get over it,” or “Get over yourself.”

Now my mother was a 1950’s type of parent, and I’m not talking June Cleaver. She was of Irish descent and would not put up with nonsense or spare the rod; she was also found of gentle parental instruction, “Who made you King?” “Straighten up and fly right.” I know some or our millennial priests may be shocked at this style of nurturing but it was quite common decades ago. This antiquated style of parenting produced priests that pondered the panoply of liturgical pomp provided they had listened to their mothers. This may also explain why younger priests, raised under the “I’m OK, you’re OK” banner of fragile self-esteem, seem to lack a certain ritual elegance during sacramental encounters with the Divine. You don’t get a participation trophy for every Mass celebrated no matter how you celebrate it; you do receive sanctifying grace by Christ’s gift.

It is difficult to watch any priest or bishop celebrating the Eucharist with perfunctory gestures. “The book says genuflect here, so I’ll genuflect quickly and get that out of the way.” No priest or bishop would think this; it just LOOKS like that’s in their minds. Ever observe a priest distributing Holy Communion like they’re passing out Halloween candy? Some of the good Fathers give the Body of Our Lord like a dealer at a blackjack table (not that I know anything about that, but always double down on Aces and Eights). Mom’s voice echoes in the vaults of the mind, “Are your pants on fire? What’s the hurry Bub?” Measured, reverent gestures accompanied by words from the heart are the beginnings of good liturgy. Don’t believe me? Just ask your mom.

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