“Good Morning!”

Did you see that Cardinal Tagle recently admonished his priests not to say “Good morning” to the congregation?

Couldn’t agree more. As the cardinal points out:

“Is not the expression ‘The Lord be with you’ more than enough?”

Exactly right. There is no good reason to detract from the power of that hallowed liturgical greeting with your petty conviviality.

And while we’re on the topic of liturgical unnecessities, here’s another one:

“May the Body and Blood of Christ bring us all to everlasting life,”

said out loud by the priest before reception of Communion. This is to, you know, involve everyone in the priest’s preparation.

Bad idea. The Church gives us a really powerful, really beautiful line before Communion (and by the way, it got better with the new missal translation):

“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

After a stunning line like that, there is no reason to tack on the other thing.

Okay, one more. You sometimes get this before the dismissal:

“Thanks, everyone, for coming out to worship today, and for your great participation in this Mass.”

Memo to presiders: They didn’t come on your account – it’s not your liturgy – and it’s not your place to thank them for having worshiped their God.

Have a blessed Lord’s day, everyone.

awr

45 comments

  1. Yep.

    I will just add that, the temptation to riff on the opening dialogue ends up treating the ritual dialogue as liturgical ornament without substance. The logic of that ultimately undermines the point of the liturgical reforms…as in, oh yes, we’ve made this ritual something that you can now move through the motions, but it doesn’t really mean that much after all. (Just because an impulse is well-meaning doesn’t mean it’s been as fully considered in its implications as it ought to be.)

  2. I fully agree. Not to mention those priests who insist on turning the introductory remarks, after the greeting, into a rambling mini-homily. Why not just let the liturgy speak for itself? And what are our future priests being taught in the seminaries?

    1. @Robert ADDINGTON:
      At the seminary I attended, introductory remarks were de rigeur. I always hated them, especially when they were extended into mini-homilies. The only occasions now when I say anything now after “The Lord be with you” are at weddings and funerals, when there are usually some in the congregation who are not familiar with the Catholic liturgy.

      I entirely agree with everything Fr Anthony says.

  3. Before Mass begins I welcome visitors and newcomers and mention a word or two about the gospel of the day. I precede those brief comments BEFORE Mass by a simple greeting that is in no way inimical to the spirit of the liturgy: Good Morning. No one in this assembly believes the liturgical greeting says something vital that goes beyond a simple and courteous greeting like Good morning. I have great respect for Cdl. Tagle, he could be the next pope, but his opinion on this matter is not warranted.

  4. The liturgy can be left to speak for itself when it is not hobbled by a “translation” that reduces the Eucharistic prayers to word salads.

  5. Agreed on your points, Anthony. I will add that there is a time to say “Good Morning.” Two actually. Before Mass. And afterward. The retired pastor at my present parish often sits in a chair just outside one of the church entrances and greets people as they arrive.

  6. In my church the celebrant on Sundays comes to the transept and greets the congregation, and calls for a “moment of silence” before returning to the sacristy and joining the choir which enters in silent procession. As soon as the choir is in its stalls the first hymn is sung and the words of the liturgy are begun.

    This seems to me a reasonable compromise; we are a small village congregation (about 60 communicants weekly) with a strong “family” spirit. We greet each other before Mass, so the celebrant’s greeting expresses welcome and connection, and establishes a gathered silence and anticipation. We find it good.

  7. Interesting reflections. I suppose it comes down to what kind of relationship there should be between the priest when he is presiding/celebrating and the rest of the assembly. The words, the way they are cantillated or said, and the kinds of additional text the priest chooses to add, are important parts of the expression of the relationship.

    1. @Fergus Ryan:
      The question of a relationship between people and pastor is an important one. I don’t think liturgy is the best place to cultivate it. Good preaching atuned to the needs of the people might support it. And those “Good morning” greetings before Mass may also support it. If a priest has a pastoral presence, is known for hanging more with his sheep than other clerics, is an acknowledged confessor, is comfortable interpersonally, then it all falls into place and he doesn’t need a non-ritual interjection in the liturgy. That greeting in the gorcery store, in the mall, on a neighborhood walk, at the golf course, school play, etc. will say it all.

  8. Fully agreed.

    I reckon that people wouldn’t mind even a 3 hour liturgy if it were so long because of the liturgical texts and actions, not because of celebrant’s personal intermissions. I would rather stand through a 15 minute sung Gospel than through a 5 minute long greeting at the beginning which happens almost always when a bishop is officiating at some large gathering and he has to mention everybody present by name so that they wouldn’t feel left out. Our Lord said: “Peace be with you.”. What more should we say?

    In these days we have a syndrome of multiple homilies in one Mass.
    One after those greetings.
    The real homily.
    Before the kiss of peace.
    After the postcommunion.

    People come to church to hear the Word of God communicated by the Church and to respond to it by giving thanks to God and worshiping him, not to listen random ramblings of the celebrant.

  9. There are multiple examples of this in the liturgy as we experience it in Ireland. My own pet peeves are the post communion addition of ‘O sacrament most, O sacrament divine…’ and the insertion of the Hail Mary in the petitions at the Prayer of the Faithful.

    1. @Chaim Barak:
      “O sacrament most holy…” seems to be very popular in one Cork diocese…before and after the Communion antiphon when the latter is said at the conclusion of Holy Communion (not in keeping with the present rubrics). The “Hail Mary” practice is quite popular in England, more so than in Ireland in my experience.

      1. @Karl Liam Saur:

        Not Cardinal Heenan, but Archbishop George Patrick Dwyer of Birmingham, who at the time was the president of the E&W National Liturgical Commission.

        His “rationale” was that if the Hail Mary was not in the Mass somewhere, people would forget how to say it. That was a specious argument. People had not forgotten how to say the Our Father, even though it had never been in the vernacular at Mass…. His ruling took effect in 1971.

        From England the practice spread to Ireland, and from there to the USA in some places. On two separate occasions, Rome instructed the E&W Conference to desist from the insertion of the Hail Mary at the end of the intercessions, but they took no notice. Rome’s viewpoint was that the intercessions are addressed to the Father [NB not the Son], and that inserting a prayer addressed to the BVM was inappropriate. Some individual bishops have banned the practice in their dioceses, and some individual pastors have omitted it as Alan Johnson points out, but it is still pretty widespread.

      2. @Paul Inwood:
        Thanks for the correction. That rationale is the one I’ve heard in the past. And I agree about the Universal Prayer/General Intercessions.

        The practice does crop up in the USA, and it tends to be progressive liturgists who hew to the more traditional line…or at least get presiders to modulate the practice by instead joining with the BVM in the concluding collect, et cet.

  10. Good morning Pray Tell!

    There’s a rubrical place for the improvised greeting – right after “And with your spirit”:

    In MR3, Latin:

    Sacerdos, vel diaconus vel alius minister, potest brevissimis verbis introducere fideles in Missam diei.

    In English:

    The Priest, or a Deacon, or another minister, may very briefly introduce the faithful to the Mass of the day.

    I don’t see why the very brief introduction could not begin with a “Good morning.” It does seem like the right place to announce the Mass intention.

    1. @Jonathan Day:
      I think I’m with Jonathan here, and a few others, who want to see some grey, in between black & white.

      I think the majority of people do not want a liturgical greeting that sounds like a long run-on-sentence, 365 days a year, where the greeting is “Good-Morning-Everyone-The-Lord-Be-With-You” or anything like that. And surely never where the assembly is expected to respond “Good morning, Father!” If this is what the good Cardinal (and the majority of you) are objecting to, then I’m 100% in agreement.

      But I can imagine as the priest introduces a feast, or welcomes back parishioners who have been sick or lost a loved one, or there’s a lot of baptisms that particular Sunday morning, I sure hope some non-ritual language comes out of his mouth. And if the words “good morning/evening” escapes his lips, I think that shows the heart of a good pastor.

  11. I am of two minds on this.

    On the one hand, the “good morning” breaks through the proverbial “fourth wall” that separates performer from the audience.
    On the other hand, not saying good morning does not break through that wall.

    I lean toward tearing down the wall, Think of St Augustine’s “for you I am a bishop; with you, I am a Christian.” (That may be misquoted, and horribly different from what he meant;) ) And I hate the idea of mass as drama we watch instead of something in which we participate.

    Still, good walls make good neighbors.

  12. I have no strong feelings either way. It seems courteous, and I am all in favour of courtesy at a time when it seems absent from public discourse. It certainly does no harm.
    However it grates badly with me when the mourners aren’t acknowledged at a funeral. That is a time above all when saying the black and performing the red are not enough. There is precious little mention of the bereaved in the official texts ….. why is that, I wonder. Tokens of human warmth and public acknowledgement go a long way at times like that …. especially when many of those present may not be churched.

  13. I think there are ways to do the “thank you” part that make sense. I know whenever I get to “you never cease to gather a people to yourself” (or the equivalent in other EPs), I do look over the congregation with gratitude, and I have mentioned that in homilies before. I suppose ultimately at that moment I’m grateful for God’s gift of the Church, but my more proximate gratitude is the particular assembly I can see and I think it’s right to thank those who mediate God’s grace to us. I also said something similar to preface the ‘thankyous’ at the end of the Easter Vigil this year. Something like, “I’m going to thank some people who have put in lots of work to help us pray, but I also want to thank all of you who have exercised your baptismal priesthood by offering your prayers around the altar over these past three days, one of the most profound acts of ministry available to a Christian, that the rest of us are here to support.”

    As I was shaking hands at the end of Mass last week, someone said to me, “Thank you for being a priest.” If I’d have been thinking quicker, I’d have shot back, “thank you for being a Christian.”

  14. I may be going out on a limb here, but I’m reminded of a contrast between the old way of doing things and the new. Before, it was often the custom for the celebrant of communion to remove his maniple and place it on the opened Missal after reciting the Creed and only replacing it after the sermon or homily had ended. This act symbolized the notion that the homily was “outside” the liturgy, as it were, and the priest would step “back into” the liturgy by replacing the maniple.

    Maniples are mostly gone from liturgical practice, but I know, for example, that within the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, which often still has them, the practice is for the priest to keep the maniple on, symbolizing a shift: the sermon, rather than being temporarily outside the liturgy, is an integral part of the liturgy.

    As Jonathan relates, there is a rubric for briefly describing the Mass. At what point, though, have we temporarily stepped outside the liturgy? I realize this question may be subjective, but once the train has left the station, as it were, we risk with side commentary stepping outside the liturgy again, something Catholic liturgy presently seems predisposed to avoid.

  15. I agree — with a but and a simple solution. “May the Lord be with you” would sound like a greeting. “The Lord be with you” sounds like an immigrant with verb tense problems. I am aware that getting rid of “may” was a matter of high liturgical tsouris once upon a time, and I despair of hearing a real English Mass again in my lifetime. Still there is a difference between a greeting and a literal Latin bumper sticker.

    That’s the but. In our parish the music minister says good morning, welcomes strangers, tells us to look around and say hello and announces he processional hymn. In a parish I visited last week, the lector did most of that before the procession. Once the hellos have been handled, the presider can come in and preside That’s the solution.

    1. @tom blackburn:
      Every time I hear a variation on the ritual text, “May the Lord be with you… The Lord is with you…” I’m tempted to respond, “Why, thank you! And what a lovely vestment you’re wearing today!” If he’s going to ad lib on the ritual text, why can’t I?

      1. @Scott Pluff:
        Oh, you reminded me of an irritant I’ve not had to encounter for a number of years: the “The Lord is with you” thingy. Ugh. Definitely a “mood shifter”! One is almost tempted to respond with something like “And you’ve got something stuck in your teeth.”

  16. Karl Liam Saur : @Fergus Ryan: The insertion of the Hail Mary was, IIRC, a postconciliar innovation of Cdl Heenan.

    It is pretty universal in the UK. Though, interestingly our Rome-trained assistant priest always omitted it. Nobody ever commented. I wonder how many noticed.
    On the other hand he did greet the people at the start.

  17. The inapprorpriateness of “Good morning” is one that Thomas Day makes pretty strongly in his book “Why Catholics Can’t Sing”. Day (rightfully) complains that priests tend to insert their “Good morning!” (often enough compounding the error with something along the lines of, “… and now let us begin our liturgy …”) before the sign of the cross. It’s among the several legitimate points that Day makes, which leaves me regretting again how uncharitably he managed to make those points in the book. If only it had been written in a spirit of friendly dialogue rather than liturgist-bashing.

  18. tom blackburn : “May the Lord be with you” would sound like a greeting. “The Lord be with you” sounds like an immigrant with verb tense problems.

    Mood that is, not tense.
    Sorry, i cant help it.
    Also, both my parents were immigrants, and they had no problem with verb moods. Nor tenses.

    1. @Peter King:
      LOL. Yes, I can recall learning the subjunctive and imperative moods, et cet., as such when studying Spanish in elementary school in the very early 1970s. (In English, I think my first explicit discussion was with my mother somewhat earlier when I had seen the sign “I’d turn back if I were you” in The Wizard of Oz, though before that I had probably wondered about “Long live the King/Queen” that I heard in movies and on radio shows). For children, all language is a curious thing, it’s arbitrariness (not necessarily capriciousness) a given. So there’s a certain plasticity about language.

      In retrospect, I realize that’s probably why I and my peers were not terribly fazed by the changes in liturgical English in the 1960s into the early 1970s. We certainly joked about it (having to learn, in addition to the new Mass ordo, a long list of prayers in one form of English for First Communion, then a different form of English merely 4 years later), but didn’t resort to Holy Goat and Holy Spigot.

      And if adults had treated us as if we *ought* to have had a hard time with it, we’d have not treated that very seriously. Fortunately, we were largely spared such condescension.

  19. It is the custom at my parish (and woe betide if I forget) to announce for whose intention the Mass is being offered. I will announce that before the sign of the cross, and if courtesy seems to demand it, I might, (gasp), wish the assembly good day.
    As soon as the sign of the cross is made, then it’s all business…..
    That’s just my local custom……….

  20. Like many of you, I prefer a presiding style that sticks to the script with introductions or explanations kept brief. But my wife, a typical pew-dweller non-liturgist Catholic, prefers a more relaxed and conversational style. I suspect that she is in the majority. Last weekend our parish received a new pastor, and she was greatly relieved that he seemed like a “normal guy” and was not one of those stern young traditionalists.

    In our culture, formal language and dress may not only convey seriousness of purpose but also condescension and aloofness. Who does he think he is up there? A more casual style of public speaking may come across as relatable and authentic. A presider who speaks and acts with a formality not experienced in any other part of daily life may end up making a spectacle of himself, despite his best intentions.

    1. @Scott Pluff:
      “A more casual style of public speaking may come across as relatable and authentic.”

      …or not.

      “Casual” covers a lot of terrain. There’s casual that’s condescending, insecure, and ego-needy, too (what I currently tend to encounter). And of course there is “Formal” that is all that, too (what I last encountered and fled after waiting too long in patience). It’s just that people seem to assume the latter is more commonly so than the former. I cannot vouch for that assumption’s correspondence to reality.

      Having seen it in action, I can attest that there is a way to engage the ritual at a formal level while engaged in such an authentic and substantive way that it doesn’t have any stuffy or ego-centric quality. It’s why I’ve realized that toggling to “casual” is not nearly as necessary as it may seem to be.

      Whatever you are personally more inclined to do, you might benefit from resisting the personal inclination a bit more, especially if you derive ego-satisfaction from indulging it. That requires a good deal of self-awareness and self-honesty (ok: humility).

      1. @Karl Liam Saur:
        Agreed. Casual is better communicated through non-verbal aspects: liturgical leaders who are not stiff, fussy, or particular. Casual may also be communicated through the homily, in the sense of using language that is appropriate to the listeners’ desires. And again, clergy who are personally present both before and after liturgy.

      2. @Karl Liam Saur:

        “Having seen it in action, I can attest that there is a way to engage the ritual at a formal level while engaged in such an authentic and substantive way that it doesn’t have any stuffy or ego-centric quality. It’s why I’ve realized that toggling to “casual” is not nearly as necessary as it may seem to be.”

        Yes, I agree. Let me point back to Thomas Day once again: he notes that, when the priest begins mass with the sign of the cross, he is putting both himself and the assembly into

        If I may make a comparison:

  21. Wish you people would lighten up. There is a distinction between what may be said following the greeting at the beginning of Mass while the priest is standing at the chair and before Mass begins. As I greet people in the commons I always start with “good morning”, greeting all the people with that greeting just before the procession begins violates no rubrics nor should it offend anyone. The people always respond enthusiastically.
    As for the Hail Mary at the conclusion of the intercessory prayers. A benedictine monk, now passed, introduced that practice at a parish I was pastoring some 30 years ago. The people responded very positively and I have used it ever since. I believe it to be a legitimate custom not contrary to any laws. I make it quite clear that our prayers are directed to the Father through these words: As we place these and all our prayers before the presence and the power of Almighty God, let us call upon the loving intercession of our Blessed Mother. No one has ever made a negative comment and no one has written the bishop.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily:
      The problem with the call to lighten up is one of limits: where does this stop? The comment seems to indicate that liturgical innovation in respect of the Mass is entirely acceptable at the individual level, presumably on the basis that “the people respond enthusiastically.” So why not experiment here: perhaps substitute the Memorare for the Hail Mary, or even invoke various saints and associated prayers. Unfortunately, the introduction of such practices indicates either liturgical ignorance or indifference.

  22. Most people are just standing there trying to figure out how “and also with you” became “and with your spirit”.

  23. Aha, so that’s what happened to that comment from last night :-). Let me try again.

    As I mentioned, I’m more or less following Thomas Day’s logic on this: when the priest’s first words in his role as presider are the sign of the cross, he is putting both himself and the assembly into a relationship with the Trinity. That’s quite different from the first words being “Good morning”; those are the words of a host to guests. Perhaps that host-guest dynamic also is valid, but it’s different – and I’d say, less desirable – than the first words being those of Trinitarian worship.

    Regarding casual and authentic: I agree that those qualities, especially authenticity, are greatly desired these days;. I suppose authenticity is part of the spirit of the age. Personally, I would just caution against trying too hard to adapt the text of the ritual in an attempt to convey authenticity. The fact is, all of us who do public things are conveying our authenticity, or lack thereof, all the time, regardless of our intentions or the nature of the specific deed we’re undertaking. The liturgy, even the praying of ritually-prescribed words, will reveal the minister’s authenticity.

    And I would also caution against asking the liturgy to bear more of a burden than it is intended. The comparison I intended to make in my previous, truncated comment was to the desire to incorporate programs of catechetical preaching into Sunday mass because it’s such an opportunity with that “captive audience” sitting right there. As it is, the homily provides a priest (or deacon or bishop) with an opportunity to communicate personal charisms such as authenticity. But a mass attendee who is a disciple would also be encountering the minister in settings outside of mass, and those settings may be more opportune ways for the disciple to get to know the minister on a personal level.

    1. @Jim Pauwels:

      Exactly! Why do some of our clergy seem to want to be talk show hosts? If I want to be part of the audience of a talk show, why should I go to church when I can tune in from home?

  24. I can’t summon up much outrage over a priest’s “Good morning,” which in my experience is usually well meant. But I’m sure as the dickens not going to say “Good morning” back. I say “Amen.”

  25. One priest I know begins with, “Brothers and sisters, thank you for coming to Mass today.” The first time he said that, I thought, well I didn’t come to do you any favors, so why are you thanking me?

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