US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Liturgy: The good, the bad, and the ugly

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Bishop Donald Trautman shares what he likes and dislikes about how we do the liturgy in an October 2005 interview.

You've said we do a good job with liturgy in the United States. What are we doing well?

Participation of the people, for example, in singing, lecturing, serving as eucharistie ministers, altar servers, greeters. From the time people come in until the time they leave, I think we do liturgy very well.

One of the bishop members of our conference was born in Ireland, and he goes home every year to the town where he grew up. When he goes to Mass, this is what he sees: The priest comes from the parsonage to the sacristy, puts on the vestments, and races through Mass. There's no singing; he does not go to the rear door to shake hands with the people after Masss. He gives a very short homily, goes back to the sacristy, takes off the vestments, and returns to the parsonage. That bishop says, "Is it any wonder that the faith is declining in Ireland?"

I don't find that in the United States. I think all of our priests are open to greeting people before and after Mass. I think we have good participation, and the numbers reflect that.

Are there things that you think need correction?

In some communities the lectionary has been crossed out and inclusive language has been imposed on it by people who aren't scripture scholars. I understand the sensitivity of people, but it would be better if the scholars were allowed to do it.

Other times certain pieties are added that are not permitted. When I was in Rome for the visit bishops are required to make every five years, I stopped in churches, watching how the priests celebrated the Eucharist.

Now this may sound disrespectful, but I didn't see much observance of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. I saw priests taking the chalice and blessing themselves at the time of Communion. That went out 100 years ago. I saw another priest genuflecting on two knees before he received the Eucharist. That's not permitted in the liturgy.

We shouldn't add our personal pieties to the liturgy. We should celebrate the liturgy as the church intends it to be celebrated.

This article appeared in the October 2005 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 70, No. 10, page 3).