Some simple ways for priests to enhance the beauty of the Mass

091613These are times when many of the clergy have (properly) insisted on returning to a strict following of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).These instructions are found in two essential places: the instructions at the beginning of the Sacramentary and the red instructions interspersed within the prayers of the Mass. These last instructions are called the rubrics. Fr. Zuhlsdorf is famous for the simple instruction, “Say the black and do the red.” That is to say, the prayers, written in black ought to be said, just as written, and the red instructions are to be followed exactly. To this I say a hearty “Amen.”

However, I would like to point to a step beyond in the celebration of the Mass wherein we celebrants might also re-learn some old habits that lent grace to the Mass, particularly in terms of the movements of the celebrant. While such suggestions are not strictly required, they can lend a real grace to the actions of the celebrant and to the Mass in general.

Helpful norms – I have learned these things largely by saying the Traditional Latin Mass which described the motions of the celebrant in great detail. However, I have also tired to observe what I can in the Ordinary Form of the Mass as well. If matters such as these are observed, though not in a robotic fashion, there can be a greater grace of movement and a deliberateness that lends to the solemnity of the Mass. Here are a few suggestions from the “old days” that can help:

1. When making the sign of the cross upon himself at the beginning of mass the Celebrant uses his right hand. But his left hand should not be left suspended in the air or dangling. He ought to place it on on his chest, just at the bottom of the breast bone as he makes the sign of the cross with his right hand. When finished his hands should be rejoined in the center.

2. The same is true when blessing the people at the end. The celebrant places his left hand at the bottom of his chest and he blesses the people with his right hand: fingers joined and straight. His right and left motions should reach far enough, to his left and right shoulders. Again, when finished, his hands should join in the center.

3. The hands – In general when the celebrant is standing and his hands are not in use they are joined, fingers straight and thumbs crossed at his breast. When the celebrant is seated, his hands should rest, separated, palms down, one on each thigh, near the knee.

4. When the celebrant moves somewhere in the sanctuary, he ought to turn in that direction, hands joined at the chest, prior to moving in that direction. In general simply stepping laterally to the left or right should be avoided.

5. The bowing of the head – It is appropriate at Mass to bow the head at certain times, such as after the priest says, “Let us pray,” or at the name of Jesus. The simple bow of the head is accomplished entirely by the neck. The shoulders do not lunge and the torso does not move at all. The neck is like a hinge and the bow of the head is accomplished entirely at the neck and above.

6. Turning pages – When the priest is at the altar and turns the page of the missal, he does so (usually) with his left hand, while his right hand rests on the altar, not suspended in the air or dangling.

7. Epiclesis – Likewise when the priest makes the sign of the cross over the bread and wine just prior to the consecration he does so with his right hand, while his left hand rests on the altar, just outside the corporal. The left hand is not dangling in the air etc.

Well this is enough, since most of you are not priests. However, it is always good for the laity to encourage those of us who are priests when you observe reverence. We are human and can become forgetful of things in the Mass. Sometimes too we are not aware of how we come across. So, encourage us when you observe devotion and piety. Some years ago it was called to my attention that I tended to fiddle with my glasses a good bit when at the altar and that sometimes my fingers moved a lot when I was praying the Eucharistic prayer. I was unaware of these things and was (kindly) informed by the deacon.

In the end I have found some of the old “rules” helpful. They need to be done with manner that is not robotic or contrived, otherwise they may come across as affectations.

Perhaps you would like to add to the list or raise some concerns of things you have noticed at Mass. Please remember, be kind and constructive in the observations you make. Also, this need not become a post wherein we battle about forms of the Liturgy either. I am trying to emphasize matters that pertain to both forms of the liturgy.

The following video shows a priest making use of some of what we have discussed here. Notice that he places his left hand on his chest while he confers the blessing with his right hand. Though it is not required in the newer liturgy to do the circular action of “gathering” the blessing, it is not forbidden either and, if done well can add solemnity. Note too how he turns fully before he moves to his right. This is more elegant than simply pealing off to his right.

78 Replies to “Some simple ways for priests to enhance the beauty of the Mass”

  1. The first time I attended a Solemn High Mass, I was in AWE … it made me feel as though I were watching a beautifully choreographed dance, the movements were so precise. Nobody tripped or fell. Also, it was the first time I saw the servers put their left hand on their heart if their right was doing something else. Otherwise, their hands were joined and pointed heavenward. Really beautiful.

  2. Us laity should also be reverent. At my church, when we say, “May The Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands…”, we stand while the priest says what comes before. A few people leave right after receiving the Holy Eucharist. Some grab purses and keys before the priest even enters the sacristy. I could go on, but you get the gist of it.

  3. The head bow should not only be done at the Holy Name of Our Lord, but also at the Holy Name of Our Lady and of the saint of that day’s mass.

    It is also appropriate for seated clergy to wear a biretta. When they do so and are seated wearing them, they should doff the biretta at these head-bowing moments.

    All this is true in both forms of the Roman Rite.

      1. It is in keeping with a tradition of devotion to also bow one’s head in deference to our Lady.

      2. GIRM 275.a. (the same document Msgr. referenced in the article): “A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.”

      3. A bow of the head is a sign of respect and deference not adoration. Thus we can even bow our head to other humans in respect, adoration in contrast is usually denoted by genuflection or prostration.

  4. I love when our priest walks solemnly to read the Gospel; pauses in front of the altar for about 20 seconds, head bowed in prayer; and then proceeds slowly on his way. Not only does this display (to me, at least) an unhurried reverence for the Word; it makes me wonder at the priest’s prayer to his father, and at how pleased the father must be with His servant at that moment.

  5. Of course priests can do everyone a favor, including themselves, and opt for the “extraordinary” form.

    1. Rather they could do us a favor and celebrate the ordinary form according to SC. The Holy Spirit is the person who gave us the ordinary form for which we should give Glory to God for.

      1. Actually, the Ordinary form was given to us not by the Holy Spirit but by a committee of renegade progressives who ignored the provisions of the Vatican II document on Liturgy, who were unduly influenced by the advice of six Protestant theologians without any understanding of the Catholic theology of the Mass. And it shows.

        I have reaped great spiritual benefits from the ordinary form, to be sure, but it is merely a cheeseburger with fries compared to the 12-course Banquet of the Lamb as experienced in the Extraordinary Form.

        But to discover that truth you MUST get past attachment to a liturgy which is self-referential and focused on you.

        1. Well, stated Mr. Steinacker. The Ordinary Form of the Catholic Mass follows the protestant reforms of Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) . Thomas Cranmer was the apostate Archbishop of Canterbury who destroyed the Catholic faith in England through liturgical change according to his Protestant views. He introduced two main new liturgical books: the 1549 service that was a compromise between the Catholic rite before and a fully-blown Protestant service, and the 1552 service that truly embodied his Protestant beliefs. He was convicted of heresy during the reign of Queen Mary of Tudor and removed from his office.

          Disobedient and prideful men gave us the Ordinary Form, thus, it many abuses by disobedient and prideful priests. The Holy Mass belongs to God, not the whimsical desires of priests and local “liturgists”.

          As a poor rebellious child of Vatican II, I have found peace and true charity In the Extraordinary Form. I thank our former Pope who gave faithful priest the freedom to celebrate it again.

  6. Very well done, Monsignor. My experience celebrating Mass and the other sacraments has taught me there are other things that should be done. I am referring to permanent changes that would have to emanate from the Vatican so they are only my opinions. I do not expect them to actually happen. I can not list them all, but in my opinion the following would do much to re-establish the experience of the sacred for the faithful:
    1) Prayers at the altar should be said with the priest oriented toward God, leading the faithful in adoration, not facing them. Many good changes came from Novus Ordo but this was not one of them..
    2) Eliminate Extraordinary Ministers of Communion except when truly needed. (Don’t get me started on this!) I have seen many priests sitting at a breakfast table when they could be helping at communion time at mass.
    3) Restore kneeling at communion at an altar rail; eliminate communion in the hand; and minimize communion under both species.
    4) Restore the 3 hour fast.
    5) Bring back a significant experience of Latin chant on a regular basis for the faithful. In the latter years of his pontificate, Pope Paul VI, realizing what a disaster was occurring in the liturgy, asked the bishops of the world to do this and sent each of them a copy of a booklet for doing so. Of course, he was totally ignored.
    6) Require every music leader, choir director, liturgical coordinator, whatever you call them, to relearn from scratch the nature of sacred music. Compared with ancient chants, rhythms, and hymns, contemporary liturgical (??) music is really bad.
    Most bishops and my brother priests would adamantly oppose me on these and other liturgical issues. By the way, I have never celebrated the Extraordinary Rite and I do not consider myself radically traditionalist. But I also believe there would never have arisen the clamor for the old version of the Mass, at least to the degree there has been, if these things I listed, and some others, were observed. I leave all judgements to the Lord as we all do, and I accept in obedience what my superiors have decided, but I also believe that many, many in the Church lost their faith in the 60’s and 70’s when foolish decisions that should have been more carefully considered diminished the experience of the sacred at Mass.

    Thank you for listening. I am retired now so I have the time to spout off. Forgive me if I have offended anyone.

    Oremus ad invicem!

    1. You did not offend me, Father, in fact just the opposite. Thank you for your comments, and thank you Msgr. Pope for your post.

      1. The Mass should be longer. Just when the faithful have gone back to their pews after the Eucharist and are kneelng to thank Jesus the Priest is already gving us the blessing and the’ Ita Messa est’. In this case I always remain kneeling until the Priest has finished the blessing – and in another part of the Mass also @ the Agnus Die I find it very strange that in the most Holy Part of the Mass just after the consecration. the Faithful are expected to suddenly stand up for the Agnus Die, which in my book is when we should be still continuing to kneel and beat our breasts 3 times as a sign of our unworthiness for the great gift that we are about to receive.
        When we then do the Kiss of Peace, it takes too long, it is noisy and interupts the sacred ceremony. It should be changed also and I would prefer it to be a formal expression of Peace at High Mass by the Priest Celebrants only. I agree with you Father, that some Priests sit down during Holy Communion and allow the Lay Ministers to distribute the sacred species. What were they ordained for?

    2. #2 and#3 should be implemented ASAP. Our disregard for the Holy Eucharist is the cause of so many leaving the Faith.

    3. Sky,

      In reading your post, I sense a real brotherly connection between us. I am also a priest. I’m just old enough to remember serving the Tridentine Mass before the Novus Ordo was implemented. I’ve been a priest for 17 years and have only celebrated the Ordinary Form of the Mass. But more recently, I have been investigating the Extraordinary Form, taking a look at Traditional Latin Masses on Youtube, etc. I am struck by the very first line of the Traditional Latin Mass, after the Sign of the Cross, translated into English as “I will go in unto the Altar of God. Unto God, Who giveth joy to my youth.” That form of the Mass was the joy of my youth, and that joy of the Lord rushes back upon me when I recall the reverence for the Mass with which I was brought up. This column by Msgr. Charles Pope is very helpful in my discernment going forward. I like his suggestions about priests taking a look at the rubrics attached to the Extraordinary Form and implementing those practices, where possible and practicable, in the Ordinary Form for increased reverence.

      As for your recommendations, I am with you 100 percent on numbers 2, 4, 5, and 6. With numbers 1 and 3, those continue to be part of my discernment, and that in itself is a more recent development for me. As recently as two years ago, I would have been among those adamantly opposing numbers 1 and 3.

      May God bless you and keep you.

      1. Thank you, brother. Be courageous in your prayers and final discernment. What priests fear most -and it is sad- is to be thought a little “off” by brother priests. Try not to allow this to stop you. Over the years it caused me a lot of pain. Once, after trying to instill the values of the sacred to altar boys, my superior told them I was like a “little old lady.” You can not imagine the sense of pain and humiliation that caused me.

      2. Father, I can see by your response to “Sky” that you’re a priest so I’m addressing you as such. I was born in Oct. of 1965. So that tells you a lot right there doesn’t it? I’ve attended the ordinary form of the Mass for 99% of my adult convert life. I was baptized when I was 18. Will turn 48 very soon. Can you please explain to me why oh why you think that a three hour fast is going to ( this is what’s “understood” in between the lines, from my side) bring ” more respect” from me to the celebration of Mass, more than what I’ve had already? Am very puzzled when I see or first did in comments about the old Mass versus the new Mass. I checked the post so I know that number 4, smiles, refers to the three hour Eucharistic fast. thanks.

    4. Yes, indeed. The simple fact is that there really can not be a significant reform of the Reform until the restriction to employ some of the ceremonial of the usus antiquior is removed. That is so because there are still symbolic problems in every section of the new usage, viz., the five signs of the Cross in the prayer before consecration. In addition, there are some textual omissions that should be restored. e.g. the psalm verses in the Entrance antiphons, or for the opening prayer on the feast of St Frances Cabrini, the collect no longer refers to the Sacred Heart ! despite the fact that this devotion to Christ was her MAIN expression of spirituality, having named her Congregation after His Sacred Heart. A flagrant one is the dropping of the term Orthodox ( which is just as significant as Catholic) in the Roman Canon prayer for the clergy.

      And you are right about the clergy: they are dense to symbology; it’s not, I think, because they’re heterodox or unspiritual; it’s because they act like pragmatic men who don’t think such things matter, sort of like eating out of the pot rather than placing the food on platters and bowls, just as a bachelor would do in the absence of women.

  7. If, at the end of Mass, people don’t really think about me as presider, then I have done a good job. A priest ought not draw UNDUE attention to himself, rush words and actions or –worse – say them without conviction. We priests also need to respect the structure of the Eucharist with two main parts of primary importance — Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. Lenghty homilies that cause presiders to rush through the Eucharistic Prayer and the rest of Mass do more harm to the quality of worship than priests realize.

    Then there are those presiders who allow for NO silence at all….. (SIGH!!!!!)

  8. A few years ago our pastor at the time used to offer the Tridentine mass for our parish. I went many times and the first time I did I was immediately impressed with the reverence of this worship. Everyone that attended knew their faith and did not show up late, or act disinterested or leave early, they wanted to be there! Everyone had their missal and followed along throughout. I miss not being able to attend one now. If only those who attend the new mass would show half as much desire to worship and appreciate the power that they are witnessing at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: heaven on earth.

    1. Yes, that is why much of the ceremonial of the traditional usage needs to be restored for the NO. Because even when done with reverence, the rite itself is so watered down that it DOES NOT MANIFEST WELL THE FACT THAT WHAT IS GOING AT THE ALTAR IS WHAT IS GOING ON IN HEAVEN ( cf. St. Bridget of Sweden’s vision during Mass)

  9. Great post, Monsignor! These little details are what help to set the Mass apart from everyday life.

  10. At my church the priest doesn’t do much at mass. It is mostly the ladies of the parish who read, distribute communion, take up collections, and sing. Often the reader, dressed in blouse and slacks, will walk in front of the high altar to hand the priest something.This is a far cry from the devout 1962 mass I once attended.

  11. Our young priest celebrates the most beautiful mass whether it is the 6:30 AM weekly mass or Sunday mass. His actions (just as you described) allow us to enter into the solemness of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass quickly and make it endure. His piety and sincere love for our Lord is beautiful. He is the instructor for our altar servers and they too model his actions. What a blessing for our whole community. He has definitely moved our parish to a greater love and desire for Holy Mass.

  12. Yes, it is true that the priest can restore more reverence and beauty in the mass. I see a few celebrants in my parish who have made the ordinary mass more solemn and it made a big improvement and brought more grace to the mass. We can find great inspiration by observing the Tridentine Mass. And us the laity have very little idea about how to respond correctly. I see some people at the concecration standing while others are sitting or still kneeling. When the Lord’s prayer is been said, some stretch their hands, while others join their hands. Some say the concecration prayer out loud at the same time as the celebrant. There seems to be a bit of confusion about the right way the laity should conduct itself.

  13. Great post Msgr. I have been following these practices since I learned to celebrate the Extraordinary Form. The great thing about the ole rubrics is that they free us to enter into the Mass and flow with it.

  14. Lorraine, I could not have said it any better! We are fortunate to have this young priest, and a good number of recently ordained young priests in our diocese, who love the Extraordinary Form, and celebrate the Ordinary Form with great care and reverence!

  15. Fr. Wharton’s, I think, is an excellent insight. The pastor at my own parish knows how to give an edifying homily without the absurd verbiage you’d observe with so many other priests; yet, during the Consecration, I’ve never seen a priest more reverent. He enunciates each word, and the Elevation is performed very slowly and purposefully, with the utmost care. Father never removes his eyes from the Eucharist, neither as he raises or lowers it. Then, when he genuflects, it is without haste. That is the only part of the Mass in which one can truly say he is proceeding VERY slowly, yet even the little children in the congregation get the point, and understand what a pivotal moment the Consecration is. I wish more priests would follow such an example. It pains me a bit to say it, but I’ve witnessed some priests who rushed so much through the Liturgy of the Eucharist that they conveyed the impression that the whole thing was a bother or a bore to them.

    1. Yes, BUT because he is facing the congregation, the people are looking at him looking at the Host and not the Host alone!

  16. I have no idea what our priest is doing with his left hand while he is blessing us. I certainly am not going to correct him if he isn’t following the form put forth by the post and the video. Neat article though.

  17. Amen! I have been ordained 40 years and have always attempted to implement these things during Masses I offer, in order to divert attention from me. Every word and action which differs from the rubrics must bring attention to the diversion and so to the priest who diverts. I am also amazed at the hostility of so many priests my age (66) to the extraordinary form. The first word of English in the Mass took place when I was 17. It was Mass in what is now called the extraordinary form that drew me and so many others my age to the priesthood. How can they turn their backs on the very form that once drew them to Our Lord?

    1. I have often contemplated that very question; did some of those who were essentially scandalized by the changes loose their faith or end up in a schismatic group? I suspect that most just complied with what they were asked to do and over the years lost any appreciation for the way things were before the big changes of the Novus Ordo. I also wonder if there aren’t some who would like to re-embrace the Extraordinary Form but are afraid of the backlash they might receive.

  18. The brilliance of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is that he saw the mutual advantage of having BOTH the Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo) and the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin Mass) of the Roman Rite exist side by side. Catholicism is a religion of BOTH/AND not EITHER/OR. Reverence is key and fundamental to ALL divine worship and sacred liturgy. Hence, reverence by the Celebrant and the Deacon as well as all ministers in the sanctuary AND all the congregation in the pews is essential. B16 pointed out that God told Moses to tell Pharaoh to ‘let my people go SO THAT they may WORSHIP me in the desert.’ Worship was the primary reason for Exodus, not political emancipation. God furthermore TOLD Moses how the people were to perform proper worship. It was GOD Who chose WHERE and HOW and WHEN. Worship is an act of man directed by and directed toward God. REVERENCE is proper silence but also proper SOLEMNITY. That is why B16 was opposed to clapping at Mass. Wisecracks and jokes from the altar even when mishaps occur are totally inappropriate. Occasional humor is alright for the homily to make a point but during the sacred sacrifice, reverence for the Holy of Holies is indispensable. Pedestrian and banal liturgies edify no one. Folksy tunes entertain but they do not inspire others to aspire to worship. Proper and dignified hymns, vestments, gestures, voice, architecture, decoration, etc., lend to reverent worship by both priest and people. This is why sacred language is so important, too. Whether it be an ancient tongue like Latin or Greek, or a modern language in a formal style (thee and thou), something other than ordinary, day to day, commonplace chatter needs to be used to uplift the mind and heart and soul. Worship is supposed to help man transcend earth and peek into heaven, not pull God down from His throne and knock Him to our level. Msgr. Pope is SPOT ON with his article.

      1. Many thanks, Father Trigilio. I also admire your work. One minor irony: thee and thou are not formal, they are informal. Thou, Thy, Thee are the intimate forms of the second person English pronoun, now almost completely forgotten. In other languages, German for example, the intimate pronoun is now used to address even total strangers. In English the opposite has happened. The intimate pronoun has been abandoned and except in phrases like “hallowed be Thy name,” we never use it. We have thus forgotten that in the traditional English translation of the Lord’s Prayer, we speak to God in the most intimate way, like children nestled in the tender arms of their daddies. It takes some effort to recover this sense of intimacy, as it will take effort for the younger generation of priests to recover a sense of reverence in the Mass, a sense of the vertical in the Liturgy as opposed to the horizontal. Cardinal Pell has called for a more vertical and less horizontal Liturgy. Let’s hope his voice is heard loud and clear in the October meetings of the Pope’s new cardinal-advisors. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

        1. In this regard the liturgy of the Anglican Ordinariate is a great gift of the Holy Spirit, which returns reverence and formality and good theology to the English vernacular Mass. Surprising numbers of lapsed Catholics who stopped attending when the novus Ordo replaced the Extraordinary form have re-discovered holiness in liturgy. Don’t forget that Cranmer merely took the “papist” bits from the English Sarum Rite, which was pre-reformation Catholic. The educated classes — of which he was typical –spoke the same English as Shakespeare, so the lyrical beauty of English at its most lyrical is not due to his personal genius for Latin translation when he translated the beautiful Sarum rite into the vernacular.

          The Anglican Ordinariate merely restores the cultural heritage of formal and reverent liturgy to the English-speaking peoples around the world. You can judge this tree by the fruit of 1) conversions 2) re-versions and 3) the numbers of vocations to priesthood and religious life; and this includes impressive numbers of *young* vocations from the mature (20-25 year old parishes founded under the pre-cursor of the Ordinariate, the Pastoral Provision/ Anglican Use in the USA.

  19. Custody of the eyes. The gaze should be fixed where it needs to be, not wandering about the church. This applies to everyone, clergy and laity. Walking in procession, clergy and servers should be recollected, with bodies erect and eyes forward and slightly downcast. No clerical glad-handing in procession — please!

  20. Thank you for this – it’s wonderful! I participate in daily Mass and agree wholeheartedly that it is the simple things, the basic instructions that, if followed, make for a very reverent celebration of the Mass. It is my opinion that all priests could do well to employ the “He must increase, I must decrease” instruction of John the Baptist by simply “saying the black and doing the red.” It’s NOT a bad thing! My parish priest follows all of your helpful norms and the result is a most reverent celebration of the Mass, the highest form of prayer, each and every time. Many times visitors are startled by his exactitude and comment, “Wow, I didn’t go on auto-pilot. He made me pay attention. I listened to every word and watched every movement.” When Father is on vacation or is otherwise absent and another priest fills in, I am likewise startled – by how the priest does NOT “wear” reverence by actions and movement (and, unfortunately, how liberties are taken by adding/subtracting words, etc.).

    One would think it easier for all priests to “say the black and do the red” now, since the changes were made in the prayers of the Mass two years ago.

    In the end, it is the priest’s practice of HUMILITY that will “make” the Mass. Pray for priests!

  21. P.S. Here’s another “helpful norm” for your list: the priest should AVOID EYE CONTACT with those in the pews (with the exception, of the homily, of course).

  22. Thanks for those simple, but beautiful tips.

    Something that always struck me in the old Trad Mass was that after the Consecration, the priest who had held the Sacred Species between his thumbs and forefingers, kept his thumb and forefingers together until they were washed after Communion. During this washing, he would cup the chalice with the other three fingers on each hand and place the still-joined thumbs and forefingers into the chalice so that the altar servers could pour water over them, as well as into the chalice. As for holding the chalice in the time between the Consecration and the washing of the joined thumbs and forefingers, he would hold the stem of the chalice/ciborium with the other three fingers.

    This speaks of a beautiful reverence for the Sacred Host, as the priest indicates he is aware that particles of the Real Presence are transmitted to the thumbs and fingertips. In Masses today I cringe when I see the priest (who has not had his fingers washed in the chalice) fumbling to turn on the hidden microphone transmitter box somewhere in his pocket/belt. I cannot help but imagine that this transmitter is covered with years of Sacred Particles.

    It would make my heart sing if priests could return to this old practice of reverence.

    1. Yes, I wish all priests would do this in the Ordinary Form. Our parish priest always does this at the OF. Occasionally, though, we have a visiting priest who is very careless about particles that remain on his fingers. I often serve, and when it comes time for the sign of peace with these priests (who always insist on giving you a handshake), I cringe. I KNOW that the particles on his hands transfer to mine when he shakes my hand.

  23. Blesses is my parish (St Patrick – Washington, IL) to have Fr. Willard and Fr. John who preside the most reverent masses in my State. God bless them and all priests.

  24. Blesses is my parish (St Patrick – Washington, IL) to have Fr. Willard and Fr. John who preside the most reverent masses in my State. God bless them and all priests.

  25. Mary Ruth, a number of the new young priests in our diocese do indeed observe the discipline of “canonical digits”. It is indeed praiseworthy!

  26. After daily mass, our congregation has started praying the “St. Michael” prayer aloud. We start as soon as the priest completes his bow to the altar and turns around.

  27. I think all this is very helpful. But it’s also going to be important to have an answer prepared when people say, “Oh, no, that’s wrong! When the mass becomes so stiff and formal, it drives people away. It needs to be welcoming and celebratory! It’s not about us and our piety, it’s about bringing people to the Lord!” Because people *will* say this, and rebuking them or sneering at them won’t help. An intelligent answer needs to be devised, and it needs to be given in a kind spirit. (Part of the solution, I think, is to try to make clear that we can be friendly and welcoming at other times, e.g., in the foyer of the church after mass. In other words, even if we aren’t being friendly, personable, and chatty during mass, that doesn’t mean we aren’t being friendly, personable, and chatty.) I say all this because I know that Msgr. Pope’s wise remarks will, in many cases, fail to find a hearing, and we all need to think of ways to overcome that–in part by figuring out how to respond to the legitimate concerns of those who will reject what Msgr. Pope says.

  28. The priest in the video is Fr Frank Phillips, the founder of the Canons Regular of St John Cantius. He is a wonderful priest. The charism of the order is to restore the sacred. They celebrate both the ordinary and extraordinary forms with great piety. The two parishes they have are St John Cantius in Chicago, where Fr Frank is celebrating Mass in this video, and St Peters in Volo Illinois. If any of you folks are passing through, I highly recommend making a pilgrimage, attend Mass, or go to confession at either parish. Remarkable places to be!

    1. By the way, at St. John Cansius in Chicago they hear confessions before and during every Mass every Sunday up until the Our Father. Very wonderful to have gone to confession just before receiving communion. The lines are LONG.

  29. I can’t help but think of the centuries’ old continuity in the Divine Liturgy in our brethren Eastern Rite churches. Said in the vernacular, yet so sublime; the poetry of word and movement. That is the Mass that is said to have convinced the emissaries of Prince Vladimir of the Rus to recommend Eastern Christianity to his people. When they witnessed it in the Haggia Sophia, they said they felt as if Heaven were brought down to Earth.

    Strange, though they have the same Liturgy today, I don’t hear of Byzantine Catholic (or Orthodox) problems with attendance due to the lack of relevance to today’s hip generation.

    I grew up only knowing the New Mass. Now there is no reason it cannot be done right, for I’ve seen JP II say the N.O. Mass for years of Christmas Eves as solemnly as I’ve recently seen the E.F. said in E.F. parishes. The defect isn’t in the N.O., nor in the vernacular, only in the application. You don’t need the mystery of an ancient language, or clouds of incense; just the mindset of the Almighty God deigning you, unworthy attendee, to come into the sacrifice at Calvary, properly said and done with extreme reverence, as our Eastern brethren again can teach us. It might even help our dumb minds if we. like they, implemented an iconostasis (screen) and had Father do the Transubstantiation in the Holy of Holies back there, then bring it forward for Eucharist. It would be rather hard to say a half hearted or clown Mass in those circumstances, even in an outdoor field Mass, now would it?

  30. We could learn a lot from Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox liturgies where use of incense and chant is normal and there is much more reverent processing and moving around. Since Vatican Two the Latin Mass seems to have become overly a talky, talky “head trip” with little bodily participation.

  31. When making the sign of the cross, keep the first three fingers extended together, in honor of the Holy Trinity, and the last two fingers folded into the palm, in honor of the two natures of Christ, visible only through faith.

      1. Adrian, you are right. I ought to have specified “When making the sign of the cross UPON YOURSELF …”.

  32. Dangling hands, I agree, should be avoided. The “unused” hand can always be placed on the breast bone. As top “palms down on the thighs,” I find this unnatural and uncomfortable. When I am seated my hand are together on my lap. Movements in the sanctuary should be accomplished naturally. Turning, then walking, seems too “military.”

    When I turn pages in the Missal it is almost always with my right hand since 1) I am right-handed and 2) the page tab is usually on the right side of the missal.

    I think that specifying things such as palms on thighs or thumbs crossed is simply “over regulation” and not really designed to improve of enhance reverence.

  33. Here’s a little touch that only some will consciously observe but will lend a great deal to how the holy Sacrifice is made-present. Wear a black cassock.

  34. I highly recommend reading “Explanation of the Holy Mass” by Dom Prosper Gueranger O.S.B.

    This book is beautifully written and informs the reader whether Priest or laity of the reasons for ALL movements, during the Liturgy.

    You will never regret purchasing this book whether on amazon or through your local Catholic book store.

    I was brought to tears many times while reading the explanaions of each bow, silenting praying by he priest, etc.

    God bless,

  35. P.S.

    The video “Jesus is on the Floor” is thought provoking.

    Again, God bless!


  36. I have been wondering…In the Novus Ordo Mass, the priest bows toward the altar whenever he passes in front of it. I can’t seem to find this in the rubrics. Does anyone have a reference for this?

  37. Thanks so much Msgr. Pope. I occasionally worship with you at St Peter’s. Your suggestion –
    Item 3: “The hands —” is not only appropriate for the celebrant alone but also for the servers. The unused hand of the server (left or right) should be placed on the lower chest. When sitting down the hands should rest on each thigh.
    These are postures of veneration and reverence.

  38. Thank you Deacon John Bresnahan. It is for the reasons that you stated I am now attending a Byzantine Catholic parish. I concur that the Roman rite in the ordinary form has become too talky. Eastern Christians do indeed pray with the body as well as with the mind and heart and I love that we still use incense and chant at every Divine liturgy. I also have come to appreciate the interaction between priest, deacons and people throughout the liturgy. We do not use musical instruments, using only the human voice to praise and worship God which might be offputting to my Roman brothers and sisters but every Roman Catholic should become acquainted with the liturgies of the East, which have been described as a meeting of heaven and earth.

    May the Catholic Church truly breathe with both lungs again as we share our authentic riches with one another.

  39. The laity should also be instructed on behavior. You rarely see any of them genuflect anymore. Servers, Eucharistic Ministers, etc. rarely bow when walking past the altar or tabernacle. And for some reason, when the celebrant raises his hands (like when he says “The Lord be with you”) the people also raise their hands. I once heard a priest in Arizona chide the people by saying “Don’t mimic the priest.” None of these things are taught in CCD or in Catholic schools anymore. How sad.

  40. Monsignor,
    Thanks so much for this post, especially for how to bless oneself and the bow. I know you are addressing priestly action, but it applies to us in the pews as well. When we are told during the Creed to bow while saying, “Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from Heaven, and was Incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made Man;” I never was clear if this was a torso bow, or a head bow. Given what you have written, I assume it is a head bow. I also appreciate instruction on what to do with my left hand when I bless myself at the beginning and end of Mass, and to join my hands at the center again at the end of it. Thanks Monsignor!

    1. In the Anglican Ordinariate Liturgy (conducted ad orientem) the faithful genuflect at “Who for us men and for our salvation. . .”

      1. Yes, but better is ar little known Norbertine Order custom is to stay down until “…and rose again …” and stand up then. This custom emphasizes both the Incarnation AND the resurrection, which is most fitting for Sundays, the Day of Resurrection and Solemnity.

  41. During the offertory prayer one of our priest, who has been deceased, used to pause and say” Have mercy on us all”, with powerful effect–truly a prayer within a prayer

  42. I can appreciate all of the concerns and specifications listed above. We all wish to try to include what seems to be so appropriate for showing the proper way to worship Him.

    Yet, to date, among all of the masses and priests I have seen for near 50 years, I still prefer the masses (and whatever new or old form they took), where the priest was obviously in love with his Lord. You could tell it in his touch rather than how he held his hands; in his pause rather than his exacting movements; in his lingering personal prayer after communion rather than his flourish of dismissal to the doors.

    However, to receive Him, is always our first and best gift.

  43. Thank you for this wonderful article Monsignor (good to see Fr Phillips in the video too). I attended Mass this morning, in a beautiful church in a poor part of England which was concelebrated with deep reverence, love and devotion by two priests, an Englishman and an American. Deo Gratias. The Mass was not in Latin, although one can attend the Mass in Latin at this parish too.

  44. Please return tabernacle to centre, not away from altar. Please return altar rails for Holy Communion. The church I attend now unfortunately has a lot of chatting before and after mass so going early to pray and be present to prepare for mass is difficult. Perhaps the rosary before mass is the only answer for peace and meditation before mass.People normaly don,t chat when the rosary is being said. Also good music, appropriate, Holy and uplifting. I miss the St Michael Prayer after Mass. Do not we need it anymore? Is it old fashioned to talk about Satan and his deceit. This prayer was inspired by Divine intervention and we do need the help of St. Michael more than ever for laity and priests.I love my Holy Mass. I love all priests, they have given up so much so that we can receive the Sacraments. They are doing a terrific job. I do love benediction and wish it was celebrated after sunday mass so children would have a greater sense of the sacred.

  45. I believe our Lord would be so happy if during communion we could quietly talk with HIM and NOT hear music that is sung. Soft music should be played so that everyone could commune with our LORD!

  46. Very good comments, but what should stand out is the liturgy of the Tridentine compared to ordinary one. Each day the Latin mass takes on the spirit of the saint of the day plus holy days, seasons, etc. The church life is in the mass, and the prayers should not be rushed ( words come alive when said slowly ). The new shortened mass may be good, but there is not a spirit of the crucifixion and Jesus’ offering Himself as a sacrifice and victim and being the High priest in union with the priest celebrant.

  47. I would say Please get rid of the English rite (ordinary form) I get nothing from it . I have been attending the latin Mass, OMG why did the church ever get rid of that beautiful mass.!!
    When I see the priest face me, its now like a “performance” of him and not of God. as some one said to me,
    “I want to see the priest face not his back” I said when you are on a bus do you she the drivers face??
    it not the table of the supper, or when a priest was waving the HOST from side to side before Holy Communion,
    he said “THIS is Jesus our friend, he came to save us” omg it was like a child, what is wrong with these Vatican 2 priest’s, the Eurchast is the center of our Roman Catholic and not some FUN thing to do when at mass, and why are we clapping, and using these folk songs from the 60’s.

    I would NEVER go attend an ENGLISH mass again, Thank God for the Latin Mass.

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