Q: Please forgive me for imposing on you as I know you are one of the busiest people around, but I don’t know where else to turn to express this question/concern.
In my parish we have a young associate pastor who refuses to do the Prayer of the Faithful at weekday masses and also chooses to say the words of consecration inaudibly. For those of us who attend weekday masses, and we are mostly retired people, (70 and 80 year olds, who come to Mass every morning rain or shine,) the loss of these parts of the Eucharistic liturgy is difficult to accept. The young priest’s response is simply that he doesn’t have to do the prayers of the faithful and prefers to spend his time on his homily, and as regards the consecration, he says his most intimate moments with God are at the consecration, and thus he chooses to say the words so quietly that the people attending Mass cannot hear them.
This doesn’t align with anything I have ever believed to be true of the role of a priest. The message to me is that he is not in “persona Christi” for me and does not feel obligated to treat me as a participant in the Eucharistic liturgy. I have never before encountered any priest who thought he was entitled to deny me the right to hear the words of consecration in favor of his personal relationship with God. Concerns have been expressed to this young priest and he simply doesn’t seem to care. He feels perfectly justified in what he is doing although he has been made aware of the concern it causes.
Why is this happening? Are there no rules that all priests follow? The church feels as confused and at loose ends as it did in the 1970s. If this young man’s choices are legitimate, then is there a statement, a set of rules, somewhere that explain that to the laity? If these choices are not permissible then why does it keep happening? Does our pastor not have the authority to require that the Eucharistic liturgy in his parish follow the formats used elsewhere?
I attend daily Mass and for now my response is to opt out of this young priest’s masses and drive over town to another church, but I would prefer to feel comfortable and welcome at any Mass in my own parish. My family was a founding family here. Registering with another parish would be heartbreaking for me, but this young man is making me feel like I am just a member of an audience at his masses.
I would appreciate any thoughts you have or guidance you might offer as to why this is happening and what is an appropriate response on my part. I just want to understand why this is happening and what I should do.
Thank you so much for reading this and if you are not able to answer I will certainly understand.
A: Thank you for your message. I’m sorry to hear about the frustrations you experience at daily mass.
With regard to the universal prayer (prayer of the faithful), here is a recent post from my blog: https://paulturner.org/prayer-of-the-faithful-2/. It’s praiseworthy that your priest wishes to spend preparation time on his homily, but the prayer of the faithful is indeed the prayer “of the faithful,” so perhaps someone else could write the petitions and deliver them for the community.
With regard to the volume of the priest’s voice in the eucharistic prayer, I approached this topic in another blog post: https://paulturner.org/audible-eucharistic-prayer/ .
Prior to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, priests read the canon of the mass inaudibly. When the post-Vatican II Sacramentary first came out in English in the United States, it said that “the priest may say the eucharistic prayer in an audible voice,” which today some priests interpret to mean that it is not obligatory to do so. However, that instruction appeared only in the English Sacramentary and only in the United States. It was not in the Latin edition, nor in the vernacular missals of other countries, nor is it today.
To the contrary, GIRM 32 says, “The nature of the ‘presidential’ parts requires that they be spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone listen to them attentively.” GIRM 30 lists the eucharistic prayer among the presidential prayers, and indeed gives it “prime place.”
The priest’s responsibility is to pray the prayer in a loud and clear voice. It is the people’s responsibility to listen. GIRM 78 says that the priest “associates the people with himself in the Prayer that he addresses in the name of the entire community to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the meaning of this Prayer is that the whole congregation of the faithful joins with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifice. The Eucharistic Prayer requires that everybody listens to it with reverence and in silence.”
The 1963 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council set the stage for this in paragraph 14: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the nature of the liturgy itself, and to which the Christian people, ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (1 Peter 2:9; cf. 4-5) have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism.”
This was further specified in GIRM 95, which lists the responsibilities of the people at mass: “In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people of God’s own possession and a royal Priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the unblemished sacrificial Victim not only by means of the hands of the Priest but also together with him and so that they may learn to offer their very selves.”
That explains why the priest uses a full voice. He needs to help the people fulfill their responsibility during the eucharistic prayer.
In April 1973, just a few years after priests worldwide first started reciting the eucharistic prayers aloud in the vernacular, the Vatican offered some advice in Eucharistiæ participationem, 17. Apparently some priests were using extremes to recite the prayers already at the beginning, so the Congregation for Divine Worship wrote this: “in reciting prayers, especially the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest must avoid not only a dry, monotonous style of reading but an overly subjective and emotional manner of speaking and acting as well. As he presides over the function, he must be careful in reading, singing or acting to help the participants form a true community, celebrating and living the memorial of the Lord.”
All of this shows unquestionably that the priest recites the prayer aloud so that all can hear and participate in the common prayer.