by Ronald Krisman
A liturgical assembly of more than 20,000 persons celebrated the Eucharist on Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Pope Francis presided. I wish I could have been there in person. But even through the medium of television I experienced the Mass as a reverent and prayerful liturgy.
Pope Francis’ homily in Spanish was the highlight for me. He masterfully, but very simply, reflected upon the readings from Isaiah (9:1-3, 5-6) and Matthew (5:38-48). The readings were from the Lectionary’s Masses for Various Needs and Occasions: For Peace and Justice. Pope Francis told his hearers that they have come as pilgrims and see a great light, Jesus Christ, God-with-us. Jesus walks among us, gets involved in our “pots and pans.” No one can separate us from his love. So, go out and show that God is in our midst as a merciful father who himself goes out morning and evening to see if his child has come home. God walks with us. He frees us from our anonymity and selfishness. God is living in our cities. The Church is living in our cities.
The responses by the assembly were strong throughout the Mass, both in speech and song. The mic’ing of the song leader was, thankfully, at a low volume, so that her voice did not dominate, as was the case the previous evening at Evening Prayer in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Many of the people’s spoken responses were not given in the participation aid, but that presented no problem. Most people seemed to be quite comfortable with the 2011 English translation. But having English and Spanish translations of the Latin preface in the booklet may have been helpful to most in the assembly.
The liturgical music was well planned and executed. The assembly sang with gusto the hymns “All Creatures of Our God and King/ Oh Criaturas del Señor” (LASST UNS ERFREUEN), “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” (HYFRYDOL), and “Now Thank We All Our God” (NUN DANKET). Jennifer Pascual’s setting of Psalm 85:9 and 10, 11-12, 13-14 had a simple response that the assembly easily picked up. The third verse, sung by the choir, was a nice touch. A Lamb of God in Spanish and an “O Saluaris Hostia” by the Puerto Rican priest, Abel di Marco” were sung by the choir during the Rite of Communion, as was the Gregorian chant “Beati mundo corde.” The distribution of communion took less time than the music planners had estimated so the final stanza of “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus,” in a new arrangement by Robert Hobby, was omitted, as was the entirety of Cesáreo Gabaráin’s “Pescador de Hombres,” also in a new arrangement and orchestration. It was good to see the liturgy ruling how much music was appropriate, even though it might have been desirable to hear completely the new arrangements.
I especially appreciated the moments of silence after the homily and after communion. And it was great to have a deacon of more advanced age chanting the Gospel!
Social media was all a-Twitter after the Mass with “Mo Rocca, the former Daily Show correspondent and current CBS Sunday Morning reporter, delivered the first, or Lector, reading at the Mass.” So TV commentators are not the only ones who misspeak at times when it comes to Catholic liturgical terminology. As to the question, why an actor was doing the reading, I imagine Mo serves as a reader in his parish, just as Helen Hayes served as a reader at a papal Mass in New York 36 years ago.
The liturgical ministers were well prepared for their ministries. I wish some female altar servers had been used.
The only elements of the liturgy I have some questions about are the three acclamations during Eucharistic Prayer II. The prayer was offered in Latin, as were the three acclamations. I do not think that the “unity of the eucharistic prayer” necessarily demands that the people’s acclamations be in the same language as the rest of the prayer. After all, the Church encourages the singing of Latin chants for the acclamations even when the rest of the prayer is prayed in a vernacular language. Translating into Latin Richard Proulx’s well-known “Holy, Holy” from his Community Mass did not seem to me to be completely successful and the use of the chant “Mortem tuam annuntiamus” from the Latin Missale Romanum was not musically congruent with the two Proulx acclamations.
Fr. Ronald F. Krisman is a priest of the Diocese of Orlando. A former Associate and Executive Director of the USCCB Liturgy Secretariat (1982-1994), he serves as a canonist and in parish ministry in his diocese, and also as Editor for Bilingual Resources for GIA Publications, Chicago.