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Our readers asked:

What do I do when a priest does something at mass that I don’t like?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

First, ask yourself who died and left you in charge of making such judgments of taste? Remember the old Latin phrase, “de gustibus non disputatem est” (there’s no accounting for taste). I would bet $100 that what you “don’t like” someone else in the congregation “does like.”

A story: One lady got mad at me once because I didn’t urge people to receive on the tongue. When I tried to point out to her the church’s clear teaching on the option of receiving in the hand, I had the distinct impression that she was one day going to be telling someone about this priest, i.e., me, who didn’t do what she “likes.” Most people like it when I play the guitar to emphasize a point in a homily at a college Mass. One or two people over the years have complained that a “guitar playing priest is an abomination to the Lord.”

Second, ask yourself, “So what?” Does this really matter? Do I really want to choose and have my contact with God in the Eucharist affected by what the priest does or does not do about “x” or “y” or “z”? I mean, unless the guy is consecrating pizza and beer, there’s not a whole lot a priest can do to radically change the Mass. It’s still the readings, the prayers, communion. And many people have been ignoring homilies forever, so how can a homily alone ruin the Mass for someone?

Third, lighten up. People can get so bent out of shape about things that really aren’t all that important. If you don’t “like” some priest’s style or sermonizing, go to another church where the priest’s style and sermonizing are more to your liking. In other words, go where you are spiritually fed.

Really, I am getting more strident in telling all the warring cultural factions in our church to chill out. The liturgy wars, the bitter debates on Catholic Social Teaching, the neuralgic issues like the ordination of women and married men, the never ending smugness of those who proudly oppose abortion and loudly complain of those who take note of other justice issues, like the death penalty and war: all these fights have taken their toll. Many young people I know have experienced a church of old aunts and uncles complaining, complaining, and complaining. No wonder our young Catholics don’t want to be a part of our “celebrations.”

We need to start talking about what we like in our church, or we will find there will be no church or priests to complain about. The fact that a woefully small number of people contemplate becoming priests may be connected to this open range attitude that anything the priest does is subject to anyone’s disparaging dislikes.

The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • A B

    What an attitude this priest has. He needs to learn to show respect. The faithful should not have to go look for another Church for spiritual growth IF the appointed priest abide by the Church liturgy. And I agree, you guitar during homily is OUT OF PLACE. If you ever came to my parish, I would do all I can to get rid of you but watching your every move and reporting them to the Bishop until such time as he gets tired hearing about you and your stupidity.

  • Doug

    I know that the original post is more than a year old, but hear, hear! Unless the Priest is doing something that is specifically not allowed, then cope or find another one who doesn’t do it!

  • Rick Malloy, S.J.

    Hi ML,

    It may sound like “put up or get out” to you, but what I actually suggested is that people find a priest/parish/community “where you are spiritually fed.” And even Jesus couldn’t sculpt homilies and parables that pleased everyone. You don’t have to ignore homilies. You may try opening yourself to other viewpoints and ways of thinking about spiritual realities. Again, just because someone doesn’t “like” a homily does not prove the homily is bad.

  • ml

    While I agree that quibbling over little things is stupid, this response really sounds like “Put up or get out.”

    And some of us would prefer not to have to ignore homilies.

  • Ivan

    Thank you! We hear so many of those annoying reaction to little aspects of the church rites. I ahve travelled the world and I can tell you while all mass follow the same course, everything else is different. How they sing, how they preach, whether they hold hands or not, etc. These are called local preferences and it’s great that they are different.

    I agree with the above: Let’s start enjoying and liking our church rituals.

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