Being so blessed as to be able to attend the Latin Mass every Sunday, there are times that we are forced to attend the Novus Ordo Mass. Now, lest anyone think otherwise, I am not one of those who believes the N.O. is not a legitimate Mass. But every time I attend one, there are so many things that make me profoundly sad. The lack of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, the chatter during the Eucharist, the lack of opportunity for personal prayer - all of these truly break my heart. But there are a few things that I hope change very soon.
1. Please put the tabernacle back where it belongs - front and center of the altar.
Why is Jesus, our Lord and Savior, relegated to the corner of the altar? In some parishes, it is almost impossible to find. Why are we genuflecting to the altar if He is not present? I venture to guess that many Catholics don't even know what the tabernacle is or what it contains.
In other words, notice the difference?
2. The sign of peace.
This part of the Mass is completely at the discretion of the priest, and I hope it will gradually fade away. Why you ask? Because contrary to popular belief, the Mass is not where we go to feel good about ourselves. We adore the Lord, we thank Him, we ask Him forgiveness and mercy, we worship Him, and we receive Him in the most Blessed Sacrament. The sign of peace is an unnecessary act designed to make us feel part of the Mass, but all it does is create great disruption and take away the focus from the fact that the Lord is on the altar, where we will go to receive Him with great reverence and awe. This should be a time of deep prayer and personal contemplation, not handshakes, backslaps and small talk. I always try to sit in the back row of a Novus Ordo mass because I refuse to turn my back on my Lord, present on the altar.
3. Bring back the altar rail!
I honestly can't say enough about the importance of bringing back the reverence for the Eucharist. How terrible it is to see people talking and laughing their way up the aisle, taking our Lord in their hands, and then rushing out the back of the Church. What a sacrilege! I have even seen people reach in to grab a host and then shove it in their mouth like last night's cupcake. Why do the bishops not put a stop to this? The altar rail forces one to receive kneeling, and on the tongue, and perhaps can bring some dignity back to the free-for-all one sees at so many masses.
4. Get the band off the altar.
Folk music, guitar music, praise and worship bands - I've seen and heard it all. This unfortunate custom also comes out of the "entertain me so I feel a part of it all" mentality that has pervaded many parishes. It doesn't matter how lovely the music is, it doesn't belong on the altar. Ever. It belongs in the choir loft.
I certainly don't expect N.O. parishes to start incorporating Gregorian chant, although I hope someday they do, but certainly a sense of the sacred should be maintained with all music chosen for the Mass.
5. Quiet prayer at the end of mass? I don't think so.
I've yet to attend a N.O. mass where it is at all possible to pray after the recessional hymn. It seems as though as soon as the priest leaves the Church, that is the cue to either stampede out or start talking loudly. Why is that? Why not wait until you leave the Church to start chatting and laughing? Or even better, eliminate the recessional altogether. That way those who would like to pray after mass can pray, and those that want to chat can head out of the Church.
I hope I don't sound picky or snobby, in this day and age of generations of poorly catechized Catholics, I believe a return to the sense of the sacredness of the Mass will bring many people back to their faith, and will lead others to want to learn more about it. And let's face it, Jesus deserves the best of us, especially at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.