About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark is the Director of Music of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. His compositions have been performed worldwide.
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“During Lent…the use of musical instruments is allowed only so as to support the singing. Nevertheless, Laetare Sunday (the Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities and Feasts are exceptions to this rule.”
— Roman Missal, 3rd Edition (2011)

Personal Issues Manifested in the Mass
published 31 July 2015 by Richard J. Clark

HAVE STATED BEFORE that I have few original ideas. Nor do I have any to offer now: A friend and highly respected colleague keenly observes that personal issues almost always play themselves out in the liturgy, subtly and sometimes not so subtly.

Corporate or communal prayer is a beautiful challenge. It requires handing over one’s will and individual desires–as exhorted by St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises. Furthermore, we are familiar with the phrase “Where two or three are gathered in my name…” Heck, “two or three” is easy. Try two or three hundred–or two or three thousand over the course of a weekend. Someone is going to be unhappy, get irritated, or become downright upset with someone else. This will happen as surely as the rising and setting of the sun.

The Roman Rite was not followed perfectly? Someone gets upset. The Roman Rite was followed perfectly? Someone gets upset.

There is little reason to discuss why. There is no need to get into the myriad factions that drive the “Liturgy Wars.” There is no need to discuss the stereotyped differences between younger priests and older priests or the inaccurate perceptions we all have about each other. We are human. As human nature goes, tensions rise to the highest boiling point during Mass as in no other place.

Why is this? As it turns out, there’s a pretty interesting reason.

F PERSONAL AGENDAS OR ISSUES MANIFEST themselves during or because of the Mass, it points to something positive–something we all intuitively understand. Regardless of enormous differences of personal opinion, the Mass is perceived universally (and quite correctly) as central. The Mass is our greatest prayer. As such, it fortifies us to live our lives according to what we pray, profess and believe. (Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi) In fact, many, including Goffredo Boselli, have stated that “The celebration of the Liturgy is the most important act of evangelization.”

While tensions should not play out in the liturgy, they often do not unlike how tension exists in families. We often take out our frustrations on those closest to us, because we know they love us and will forgive us in an instant. And like the Mass, family is everything; it is central to our lives. It touches nearly every aspect of our being, past, present, and future (hence the evil of abuse in the Church and in families.) While our family members may drive us crazy–and we them–there is a bond like no other. We will defend to the ends of the earth those very people that drive us crazy.


Not really. But we me must be mindful of certain things. First of all, what we do, we do together as a Church. It is not about conformity. It is about unity. This is reflected in our postures and in our songs of praise to God.

Furthermore, the Mass belongs to all of us. Many times I’ve heard the words “I can’t pray to that music.” Guess what. You’re not the only one here. Mass is not a private devotion. The mass is theocentric, not anthropocentric. Ironically, remembering this makes our worshiping communities stronger. Furthermore, when we sing in the Gloria, “We praise You, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you…” we are singing the praises of God and not of ourselves. As such, it is also another act of unity.

“The Gloria in excelsis…is a most ancient and venerable hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb.” (GIRM §53)

Human nature also seeks self-expression. But the Mass is not the venue for personal creativity. This fosters disunity and further tension. It is therefore helpful to find another healthy outlet for personal creativity. You may discover something wonderful you can contribute! Or, one may find a new creative solution within the structure and perceived limitations of the Roman Rite. Ironically, the environment of set boundaries is where great artists develop some of their most lasting works.

INALLY, LIKE A FAMILY, we often do what is best for the greater good. As a parent, our desires take a back seat. Everything is about our children—those in our care. Having children curtails personal freedom quite drastically. Yet they are the highest blessing one may receive. (With all the struggles that go along with having young children, I am certain these are the greatest days of my life.) It is helpful to think as a parent does when it comes to the Mass. And the greater good is the glorification of God and through which we are “edified and sanctified.” (Tra le Sollecitudini)

TALK A PRETTY GOOD GAME . But my online presence is whitewashed and cherry-picked. I am a fraud. Anyone who has had to deal with me in the flesh knows I can be difficult and a pain in the you-know-what. Anyone want to testify to this? Take a number and get in line. Keep walking. Way back.

So what I write here week in and week out is more for me than anyone else. I am human with personal issues. I hope I have improved in my service to God and others. Pray for me, as I will for you.

Soli Deo Gloria