06 December 2007

"Messing with the Mass..."

Here's an excellent article on priestly narcissism from Homiletic and Pastoral Review (Nov 2007).


It is important for priests to keep in mind that most Catholics go to Mass to encounter Jesus Christ, and not to come into contact with the particular psychology of the celebrant. Furthermore, they go for something that is not present in the popular culture — a sense of the sacred (and a recognition of the need for humility). We don’t want to come away from the mass being affirmed in where we are, we want to be drawn toward where we long to be — closer to Christ and to Heaven.

Given the tendency toward “ego renewal”, self-esteem and self-aggrandizement, priests and seminarians should be made aware of the danger of inserting one’s personality into the liturgy. This tendency toward narcissism needs to be addressed specifically in the context of the mass celebrated versus populum (facing the people). Regardless of where one stands with regard to the respective merits of the mass being celebrated ad orientem (with the people) or versus populum, there can be little question that the temptation to grandstand is greater when the celebrant is facing the congregation. Cardinal Arinze, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, recently commented on this issue, saying, “If the priest is not very disciplined, he will soon become a performer. He may not realize it, but he will be projecting himself rather than projecting Christ. Indeed, it is very demanding, the altar facing the people.

EXCELLENT article!!!


  1. Anonymous11:19 AM

    The accuracy of my memory may be off a bit, but the essence of an old Scott Hahn tape I listened to during my conversion period 14 years ago compared the role of pators in Protestant and Catholic churchs. Hahn asserted that many Protestant churchs are "pastor centered", that is, often the success on a congregation may depend on the effectiveness, popularity or charisma of the pastor. The Catholic church is based on the liturgy...insert any pastor and the Mass continues. This seems to fit the assertion here and the concerns over the "reforms" for the last few decades...the Mass has increasingly swung on the personality of the priest.

  2. Amen! "Save the Liturgy; Save the world!"