Tuesday, February 26, 2013

An Open Letter to My Pastor

On the first Sunday of Lent, our awesome parochial vicar made an announcement before the final blessing.  He took the time to point out that the applause (which is loud, energetic, and consistent.  You can almost hear the woohoo's!) after Mass for the choir is inappropriate.  We should never applaud human accomplishments at Mass because we should have our focus on the Lord.  He even quoted Cardinal Ratzinger from his book The Spirit of the Liturgy:  

"Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment"

Amen.  We thought the announcement was so good that we wanted to applaud his courage!  When the final hymn ended, there was a smattering of automatic applause that was quickly squelched.  And then, this Sunday the pastor celebrated Mass, and his homily has prompted this open letter which I would love to mail in a shortened form.


Dear Fr. _(Pastor)______,

Last Sunday I congratulated Fr. _(Parochial Vicar)__ on his courageous teaching of the truth.  Today, I am very sad to hear that "the situation has been dealt with" for you have done nothing so much as undermine Father's authority as a priest.  I am disappointed you would discipline him based on your negative mail, as opposed to the veracity of his teaching.

I appreciate the joy that you, yourself, bring to the priesthood, but you will have to answer to the Lord for how you have allowed the holy sacrifice of the Mass to become a feel-good, social occasion where our focus is continually drawn away from Christ.  As a long-time choir member and cantor at my former parish, I can tell you that I absolutely do not appreciate nor desire applause after Mass.  My service is for the Lord, and I "perform" to enhance the worship and help the congregation pray, not to draw attention to myself.

All of Mass, from beginning to end, should be prayerful, yet just as it begins, our contemplation is disturbed by the command to "Rise and greet one another as brothers and sisters in Christ." Most of the congregation holds hands during the Our Father as a sign of solidarity with one another.  This is all the more disturbing as there is no instruction in the Missal to do so, and it de-emphasizes the true sign of solidarity which is communion, itself.  Even the Sign of Peace becomes another feel-good free-for-all where we socialize and forget Who is on the altar.

It is your business if you choose not to teach your parishioners proper behavior because you don't want the "hate mail," but to undermine and discipline a priest who has the courage to do so is unconscionable.  You should be happy that he is willing to step forward and teach, knowing there will be a backlash.  You should be happy that someone is willing to do the dirty work for you.  I can only pray that this attitude does not extend to the more difficult teachings of the Church.

You may be assured of my continual prayers as I pray for all priests to be faithful to the Church and to the magisterium.

Yours truly,



And, need I point out that there was a lot more applause after this Mass? :-(


  1. You mean that the associate went and changed what the pastor had said??
    I so agree with you and sympathize with you. I think I would try my best not to go to a church where this happens, although I know it's not always easy. It's indicative of such a narcissistic attitude, and I would worry about how that would affect my children! And I would always just be fuming.
    A lot has to do with where the choir is. There is a reason for the choir loft being in the back of the church, up high. Acoustic and liturgical!
    When the choir is up front -- yes, they are performing. And that changes everything.
    The only solution here is to get the choir director to see what the issue is. Once HE is convinced that applause (or even thanks) is the last thing he wants, he will put a stop to it.
    If the choir director is a narcissist, well, the pastor should fire him.
    --Leila (choir member, hidden up in the loft :)

  2. We're generally happy at this parish because of the Parochial Vicars. The pastor is jolly. "nuff said. I don't know the choir director well enough, but he's pretty hot stuff in the city, not just the parish, so maybe that's part of it. I've taken a break from the choir, so I don't know what the response was.

  3. Ooooh this is hard. My husband is our choir director and liturgist, and he hates applause, but our pastor loves it. So after Mass, we thank everyone...thank the (female...) altar servers, thank the readers, the choir...thank everyone!! And applause for EACH GROUP.

    It's hard for my husband and I both. He just bows his head and gives a slight shake when it happens. I openly glare. We love our parish, and our pastor, so much - especially since our pastor has revamped our parish from it's former almost heretical existence (he had to add kneelers, a crucifix, kick out the rock band, etc.). But it's still very annoying.

    1. Ow, our old parish used to be like that at Easter or Christmas, but we could tolerate it once a year. I think we have to be grateful for all the good things, and tolerate the less good until the pastor is ready to make a change. We were very happy for one more step in the right direction!

  4. Have you ever thought about attending the Latin Mass? We live in Gwinnett County and drive to Mableton. My family and I were just discussing how happy we are at this parish. Actually, this is the happiest that we have ever been. We dealt with many of the same issues you discussed. It took us a while to make the move, but once we did, we have never regretted our decision. I can't say enough about the sacredness of the Mass. I hope and pray that you'll find peace. You should send the letter.

  5. It's an hour drive to Mableton, and it's very important to us to have an active role in the parish which I don't think we would have if we went there. Why does it have to be so difficult to find a reverent Novus Ordo? I don't believe that the NO and reverence are mutually exclusive.

    Thanks for your comment. Say a prayer for our pastor!

  6. prayers for this particular matter will be offered by me as i enter labor.

    All for the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, all through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, all in union with St. Joseph.

    1. Thank you, Lena! Good luck with your labor; I hope all goes well.

  7. So, did you send it? You should.

    Two thoughts from your wild-card friend. One, I will always hold hands with my family during the Our Father -- whether it is in the Misal or not. And two, the Kiss of Peace is often times my LAST reminder that HE is on the altar. It is a reminder to forgive and love those around us... as a mother and wife I can think of many times I have been distracted and upset at someone's behavior in Mass or before Mass-- or gasp... allowed Screwtape to influence me as I judge those around me. How could I receive Jesus with such things on my heart? The sign of peace is a beautiful thing, and a reminder to me to receive Him with a loving heart as He loves me.

    1. Dear Wild-card friend---that was beautifully expressed. From what I've read, holding hands with your *family* is exactly what was intended. It's just not supposed to extend to the entire parish because *we* are not united until we've made up with one another with the Kiss. The Kiss of Peace is a beautiful thing, and I think we do it there because it's *supposed* to remind us to receive the Lord with a pure heart, having forgiven our brothers. The problem is that it becomes a social free-for-all instead of the lovely reality which you stated so clearly. I'm not advocating removing that, only remembering to keep our behavior more restrained.


  8. Several months ago I wrote a similar letter to my pastor after a particularly awful experience with the children's choir -- solos during Communion, parents whipping out video cameras, followed by an explosion of applause after the final hymn. Unlike you, I did not know how my pastor would react -- it seemed as if it was ok as he had not corrected it on previous occasions. He was very grateful for the letter, though he still has not made an announcement verbally or in the bulletin.

    Very sad, your situation. Clearly your priests are at odds on this issue and probably many others. I would rather have Mass with no music than performance music. This Lent we have no processional hymn, the Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Mysterium Fidei are in Latin, and we sing Parce Domine at the recessional. I'm in heaven!


Thanks for dropping by! I would love to hear from you. Have a beautiful day! :-)


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