Bad Liturgical Habits

Bad Liturgical Habits

Most readers will have heard or read about a document issued recently by the Vatican denouncing certain abuses in the celebration of the eucharist .The title of this new ‘instruction’, which is its correct designation, is Redemptionis Sacramentum. The subtitle, ‘On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist’, indicates what the document is about. It names good practices which are to be encouraged as well as various aberrations and abuses which need to be eliminated.
Just as I feared, some parishioners have downloaded the document from the internet and are using it as the basis for a campaign of ‘priest policing’. No matter how devout and well intentioned the priest, the slightest perceived violation of any precept in Redemptionis Sacramentum results in a stern ‘please-rectify-immediately-or-else’ letter. These condemnations are totally devoid of the spirit of charity called for by the document.
Of course, these same people do not affirm priests for their diligent observance of those practices that are encouraged in the document. I cannot begin to understand what motivates those who go to Mass with the sole intent, not of praying, but of finding fault. Surely, that is a much more grave abuse of the eucharist than the relatively minor matters about which they complain. Is it any wonder that there is a vocations crisis?
I have yet to hear any of the ‘liturgical vigilantes’ suggesting that the parish liturgy committee desperately needs to do something about the bad habit of regularly giving people communion from the tabernacle instead of the table, or of offering people communion only under the form of bread. Whilst I agree that some of the practices named in Redemptionis Sacramentum are most undesirable, my experience suggests that few, if any, presiders are guilty of them. There are other poor practices which occur more frequently which I would include:

preaching homilies that do not offer an adequate understanding and appreciation of the scriptures or of the liturgical celebration
ignoring opportunities provided by the Directory for Masses with Children
giving priority to the singing of hymns rather than the singing of acclamations and responses from the liturgy itself
regularly using hosts from the tabernacle instead of consecrating sufficient hosts for the community present
not making the chalice available to the congregation
non-liturgical greetings
using secular or popular music with superficial, sentimental words at weddings and funerals
replacing the funeral homily with extended eulogies
using AV technology in liturgy in a way that distracts and detracts from the celebration
not making strangers and visitors welcome
cluttering the altar, both on top and underneath, with extraneous objects.

The gravest abuse surely is to behave in a manner that turns the eucharist, which should make of us one body in Christ, into a source of bitter division.

Elizabeth Harrington