Unorthodox Brisbane Liturgy

Enough already! A phonecall I received today, coming on top of my own recent experience and that of two colleagues of attending Mass in southern dioceses, is the last straw.

The call was from the secretary of a parish in another State. She explained that the parish priest was interested in the Liturgy Brisbane computer resource LabOra Worship but only if the material in it was officially approved and not “liberal Brisbane stuff”!

One colleague attended a Mass where the only time the organ stopped playing in the background was during the homily. There was not one single moment of silence and he came out with a headache after being bombarded with noise for an hour but with no sense of having given praise and thanks to God.

The other went to Sunday morning Mass at a cathedral which gave the clear impression of “just going through the motions” – no greeters, no music, no communion from the cup, no sense of community, no life.

My own recent experience included Pentecostal hymns that were liturgically inappropriate and unsingable, responses and acclamations that were spoken rather than sung, readings that were mumbled instead of proclaimed – and applause at the end (of relief, I assumed).

For as long as I have worked at Liturgy Brisbane – almost 20 years –I have put up with gibes about the liberal form of liturgy celebrated in Brisbane. When I ask for evidence or examples, it was always a friend’s brother’s cousin who had witnessed something unusual but never anybody’s first-hand experience.

These comments are an insult to the bishops as chief liturgists of the Archdiocese, to those who have committed years of their lives to forming people in liturgy and producing resources, to parish liturgy committee members who work week in, week out to prepare the liturgy, train and roster liturgical ministers, choose music, and so on.

People seem to forget that Brisbane people actually travel and attend Mass in the so-called bastions of liturgical excellence and orthodoxy. In the course of my work and during holidays I attend Mass in other dioceses around a dozen times a year. And I am always happy to return to my own parish.

We Brisban-ites have friends and relatives from other parts of Australia who visit us, attend Mass here and make comments like “Well, your parish is obviously an exception, because the liturgy followed the book!’

There are presiders and liturgy committees in all parts of the country who do not always do the right thing and whose (usually well-intentioned) adaptations of the liturgy are sometimes inappropriate or somewhat misguided.  No one has a monopoly on liturgical excellence or inferiority.

As for Brisbane’s “orthodoxy”, I would bet my bottom dollar that Brisbane liturgists have a better knowledge of the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” and more have their own copy to consult than in any other diocese in Australia. Workshops on the “General Instruction” held earlier this year were very well attended and many participants purchased copies of the publication.

If a falsehood is repeated often enough, people start believing it, but it does not make it true. It would be nice if people would accept the fact that “liberal Brisbane liturgy” is an offensive urban myth and if we all tried to be a little more Christian in our judgement of others.

Elizabeth Harrington