10 easy ways to prevent liturgical abuse

Only you can prevent liturgical abuse

1. Before you even get to Mass… dress yourself up!

Every Mass, we say a short and simple prayer to God that although we are not worthy that He should enter under our roof, we ask that He only say the Word that our souls may be healed. If the Heavenly Father were truly to enter under the roof of your home, you’d no doubt hope to be showered, primped and wearing your finest. If He decided to show up unannounced, He may not be offended to find you in jeans or, Heaven forbid, a housecoat, but if you actually had a heads up that He was coming, you’d make certain to dress accordingly. Your plan to attend Mass each week, or each day, is that “heads up” …because guess what? Jesus Christ will be there, fully present in the Holy Eucharist! Give Him glory in your dress – in modesty and in class.

2. Altar Servers: No girls allowed

As the very awesome Father Lankeit of my home Diocese of Phoenix Cathedral put it, ““The connection between serving at the altar and priesthood is historic. It is part of the differentiation between boys and girls, as Christ established the priesthood by choosing men. Serving at the altar is a specifically priestly act.” Encourage young men to serve the altar. Don’t perpetuate the confusion among young women in the Church. It’s done enough damage.

3. Keep your hands to yourself – Part I

During Mass, before you even begin praying the words of the Our Father, you probably start reaching for the hands of your neighbors. It’s an act that’s become instinctive to most, though it never should have earned such precedence. It’s well known (or should be) that the Mass cannot be changed or added to on a whim, but holding hands was permitted for families specifically to take up the practice among themselves, if they choose. Of course now, you may be hard pressed to find families whose hands aren’t connected with strangers’. The truth is that the Church actually discourages holding hands during the Our Father. Lifting hands during prayer should be specifically reserved for the priest during the Holy Mass. Leave it to Father!

4.  Keep your hands to yourself – Part II

The Church specifically requests that the sign of peace be conducted in a sober manner, without anyone crossing aisles, and to be limited to those standing within one’s close proximity. Leave the peace signs to the hippies and guard your temptation to socialize. Remember you are at the solemn sacrifice of the Mass and if you so choose, no handshakin’ required! Better to keep your mind on the consecrated Host anyway. Speaking of which…

5. Kneel during the consecration… even if there are (dun dun dun) no kneelers!

It should seem a no-brainer for most Mass-attending Catholics that to kneel during the consecration is imperative, for this time when Christ is made truly present in the Holy Eucharist demands absolute reverence. If Jesus Christ were literally to walk into a room, nobody in their right mind would stay seated. To stay standing would hardly do the King of Kings justice either. We are called to kneel before our King, specifically during the Eucharistic sacrifice!

6. Leave the Eucharistic Prayer to the priest

You can pray the Hail Mary in the shower. You can pray the Our Father in bed. You can pray a lot of prayers just about anywhere you choose. But at Mass, you cannot pray the Eucharistic Prayer along with the priest, even if, Heaven forbid, he invites you. “It is the ordained priest who, acting in the person of Christ, brings about the Eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia)

7. Receive Holy Communion on the tongue

Although it is allowed (not encouraged) to receive the Body of Christ in the hand, there are so many reasons why receiving on the tongue is plainly-and-simply better! Receiving on the tongue avoids not only physical abuses of the Sacrament – say, if your hands are dirty, positioned improperly, or you mistakenly drop the host (Yikes! Paten, please!) – it also better forms your conscience to prevent spiritual abuse of the Sacrament, by strengthening your humility before God. Important to note, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI only offers Holy Communion on the tongue.

8. Don’t applaud

While you might be tempted to recognize the choir for a truly epic performance or express your enamor over Father’s riveting homily, it is never appropriate to applaud during Mass. The Holy Mass does not take place for our sake, but for God’s. When we clap or cheer to express our satisfaction, entertainment, or approval, we flip the orientation of the Mass and make it about us. And that just isn’t right.

9. “Actively participate” in your pew

Unfortunately it’s a huge misconception that unless you are serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, Lector, Altar Server, Gift Bearer, Usher, Candle Holder, Liturgical Dancer, illicit Homily Giver, or otherwise… you are somehow less present and less engaged in the Holy Mass. But that’s just not the case. You can be a powerful demonstration of prayerful participation by quietly following steps 1-8 throughout Mass.

10. See something? Say something!

“It is not possible to be silent about the abuses, even quite grave ones, against the nature of the liturgy and the sacraments as well as the tradition and the authority of the Church, which in our day not infrequently plague liturgical celebrations in one ecclesial environment or another. In some places the perpetration of liturgical abuses has become almost habitual, a fact that obviously cannot be allowed and must cease.” (Redemptionis Sacramentum) Be courageous and speak up to your Catholic brothers and sisters, your priest, your bishop, or the Congregation for Divine Worship to restore the Sacred Mass to its due glory!

13 thoughts on “10 easy ways to prevent liturgical abuse

  1. Pingback: Ten Easy Ways to Prevent Liturgical Abuse | Big Pulpit

  2. I’d suggest amending #4 by adding “don’t be a jerk about it.” Growing up, I hated holding hands during the Our Father and shaking hands during the sign of peace, so I’ve been happy to shed the former and restrain the latter. However, the first time I went to my wonderful current parish, I was not yet wise in the way of those who are more liturgically traditional. The closet people to me during the sign of peace were behind me and when I turned to offer my hand (as I felt I was obligated to do at the time), they stared at me like I was a piece of dirt. I almost didn’t go back, and when I did, I got stressed out about it for nearly a year because I felt I must look so out of place. So now, when I’m at other more run of the mill parishes, (or even at my home one, which gets its share of visitors) I offer a warm smile to anyone who turns to me, and if someone close to me does jut their hand out to me, I’ll shake it. Especially now that I’ve decided to try wearing a chapel veil, I don’t want to come across as the stereotype of the “unfriendly traddy” that almost drove me away from my excellent parish.

    • I am 65 and a lifetime Catholic who loves the Church and who has worked for and ministered in the Church for much of my life. Know that Christ has called us to love one another and to see Himin our fellow man. He asks us to simplify our lives and has warned in scripture against the excesses of law which have resulted in our turning away from each other and violating His greatest commandment. It is very important that the Lord’s mass is reverent but it should be on our Lord’s terms and not through rules which we prescribe. Thank you for your thoughts.

  3. I am one who receives the Blessed Eucharist in the hand precisely because there is no paten and I am not kneeling at the communion rail. This way, I know the Blessed Eucharist will not land on the floor. It was not I who removed the communion rails and changed the rules, so please don’t make me feel guilty about receiving in the hand. I have to trust that the Lord knows the love and reverence that is in my heart for Him. As much as I would love to receive on the tongue, it feels too awkward and problematic while standing. As an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, I have seen many examples of people who don’t open their mouths wide enough or stick their tongue out far enough, barely preventing the Sacred Host from falling, and giving me heart failure. Some grab it between their teeth!
    I would say that not all of us who receive in the hand lack humility, but thank you for the reminder.

    • Thank you Rose…
      Rubrics has its place, and scripture has us raising our hands when praying! Surley the Mass is the highest form of prayer and worship. It’s not my job to watch how my fellow parishoners are praying the Mass.
      I am grateful for all my brothers and sisters in the Lord as we worship together as a community of belivers. Thank God for those present at a time of dwindling attendance at Mass.
      I’m reminded of how the “spirit of the law” is as vital as the “Letter of the law”. Let us pray!

  4. Katy it makes me wonder how we ever got to policing mass. It seems to be a favourite pasttime of some Catholics. Any pictures I’ve seen of the last supper shows the disciples seated at the table. Were they dressed up? I often thought they are a motley looking bunch to say the least. Have you ever seen some people’s tongues when they try to present it for communion? It shakes so badly a priest or lay minister would have to be a juggler to place the host on it. All people should kneel? How about the elderly who might never get back on their feet again if they attempted to kneel? Wouldn’t it be best if the congregation did something in a unified way that accomodates all attendees? I’m surprised you haven’t asked people to leave their children at home because Catholics aren’t shy about telling parents to keep their children quiet. Kind of sad really.
    You’d probably be shocked to attend Mass in the Caribbean where priests are scarce and Mass goes on for hours as people sing and dance and rejoice in God’s presence.
    Patrick.

    • Did the apostles have suits to get dressed in? No, they gave up all their possessions to follow Christ. The least you could do is look your best for God. The Eucharistic host sticks to people’s tongue, pretty hard to miss or drop. Of course there are physical limits for some people, that doesn’t excuse you from showing your deepest reverence for God now does it? The congregation does plenty of things unified during Mass, holding hands during the Our Father is more disunifying than everyone folding their hands in front of themselves because when there are spaces or isles or someone has a cold and doesnt want to hold hands not everyone is connected. Also, liturgical dance is a definite no no. It’s ridiculous, distracting from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and places attention on dancers rather than God and the Liturgy.

      • The problem, Patrick, is that you’re under the impression that the Mass is a memorial of the Last Supper. There’s some truth in that, sure, but the Mass is primarily the making present of the Lord’s SACRIFICE ON THE CROSS.

        I quote Pope Benedict to you:

        ”The Eucharist that Christians celebrate really cannot adequately be described by the term ‘meal’. True, Our Lord established the new reality of Christian worship within the framework of a Jewish (Passover) meal, but it was precisely this new reality, not the meal as such, which He commanded us to repeat. Very soon the new reality was separated from its ancient context and found its proper and suitable form, a form already predetermined by the fact that the Eucharist refers back to the Cross and thus to the transformation of Temple sacrifice into the reasonable worship of God.”
        –from his book The Spirit of the Liturgy

        God bless

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