Sunday, February 28, 2010

We Don't Need Personality

[I've posted two pieces today, both on the topic of the cadence of the Our Father. The first post is the one below this one.]

Have you ever had a presider lead the Our Father in a different rhythm than the group, or unwieldly slow? It's never a good idea, is it? It really throws the congregation. And then, they are paying attention to the priest, rather than the prayer. It becomes his prayer, that they're following. Not good, not right and not helpful.

Father Skeletor demands everyone FOLLOW! HIS! RHYTHM!

Still, I can appreciate why a presider would sometimes want to slow the group down. Some congregations whip through that thing like there's a storm 'acomin and they need to get to shelter. I always find those occasions terribly bittersweet. It's a lost opportunity -- there really is something uniquely special about the Our Father. It's a different kind of prayer than any of the others we say together, a prayer with real intimacy. When we rush through it, well, we might as well not even bother.

But presiders, the actual moment of saying the Our Father is not the time to "learn 'em". If you want us to go slower, say something about it at the beginning of Mass. Shoot, if theres' real trouble we could even practice! We don't have any trouble running through a song; why not run through the prayer? But a word (with perhaps a gentle reminder immediately before the prayer, i.e. "And now let us slowly/thoughtfully/prayerfully/did I already say slowly? pray the prayer Jesus taught us") will probably suffice.

One more note on this that I wish every presider would remember: During the big group prayer moments and songs, Turn. Off. Your. Mike. From the presider's chair, you might not be able to hear the difference, but in many churches when that mike is on, it's like the voice of God. It totally overwhelms the congregation. Even when you think you're being very clever and considerate and whispering, they still hear you -- and it sounds like for some strange reason you're whispering. Well-intentioned, but still not good or helpful.

Fr. Hardcharger is beginning mass. As he begins, "In the name of the father and the Son..." he notices, the mike isn't working. So he says, with volume, "There's something wrong with this mike."

And the congregation responds, "And also with you."

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