The following is addressed to any Catholic priest who might be interested. I have always believed that priests already have at their disposal everything they need to bring about renewal and revival at any Catholic parish, anywhere in the world. The problem is that many priests have been so conditioned by the current state of affairs in the Church, and hamstrung by many of their bishops, that renewal has been difficult, and in some cases impossible.
If it is possible in your diocese, however, I do strongly recommend it, no matter how difficult it may be.
The Novus Ordo Missal (1970 Missal) has everything a priest needs in this regard. It is not only a perfectly valid mass, but it has the potential to be extremely beautiful and efficacious. Upon close examination of the GIRM, the priest will discover that the most natural position for celebrating Mass, particularly the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is ad orientem. And the most natural way to say the mass is chanted.
A priest seeking liturgical renewal and parish revival will understand that solidifying Catholic identity into his parishioners is essential to that end, and that traditional liturgy is the fastest, and most effective, way to do this.
To that end, I recommend the following actions…
- Celebrate the 1970 Missal in the most traditional way possible, most especially facing ad orientem. Consider other things as well: the way you make the gestures of the liturgy, the way you hold your hands after purification, etc. Use the gestures of the 1962 Missal as your guide wherever it is licit to do so. Bring back the bells for the consecration. Use incense whenever possible. And consider all male altar servers for the future, perhaps grandfathering those girls already in service, so they don’t feel rejected.
- Reinstitute communion on the tongue while kneeling. The best way to do this is through catechesis so that parishioners do it voluntarily. Reinstalling the altar rail is also highly effective, or at the very least, bring out the kneelers.
- Work with the music director to bring back both Gregorian chant and simple chants the congregation can easily join into. Look to the music commonly used in the 1962 Missal as your guide. Use an organ if you can, and perhaps invest in a teacher to offer FREE organ lessons to a limited number of teenagers every year, in exchange for occasional assistance at Mass. This will keep your parish well supplied with young musicians competent in this skill.
- Don’t be afraid to challenge people with the homily. Catholics must be challenged to be Catholics, and solidify their identity as Catholics, both ritually and morally.
- Begin regular Eucharistic adoration periods, as works best for your parish.
- Consider adding the St. Michael prayer at the end of low masses.
- Consider adding a simple and easy dress code to your parish bulletin, and remember the limitations of the poor. Dress codes should be based on modesty not fashion. It doesn’t matter if a poor farmer wears overalls and a t-shirt to mass, or a poor woman wears jeans and a t-shirt. What matters is that everyone is modest in their appearance. Include a reminder that your parish is friendly toward women who optionally wish to cover their heads during prayer. You might be surprised at how catty women can be toward each other about such things. So laying down the law on this matter, ahead of time, might be a good idea.
- Consider adding a notice to your parish bulletin that crying children are a sign of parish growth and parents should not feel negatively judged by this. Offer them whatever help they need, but please encourage them to remain in the main chapel and perhaps sit up front so they can explain the mass to their young children.
- Consider adding a notice to your parish bulletin that communion is only to be received by Catholics in a state of grace, and that confession times are amply available.
- Consider adding a notice to your parish bulletin that communion on the tongue is the norm in the Catholic Church, and that receiving on the hand is merely a dispensation. Parishioners and visitors are strongly encouraged receive on the tongue, and accommodations will be made for any medical needs.
I truly believe that any Catholic parish that implements these things, within the Novus Ordo setting, will experience growth and renewal. I also believe that the potential for growth under these circumstances actually exceeds that of the Vetus Ordo (1962 Missal). I’m sure a lot of my traditionalist readers will chastise me for even suggesting such a thing, but I truly believe it.
To help illustrate, I’ve included some videos to liturgies celebrated this way, followed by some commentary on various elements of liturgical celebrations…