Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Musings on the Mass - Reclaiming the Sacristy

The blog is back once again, and I thought I'd bring it back with a few musings on the Sacristy, more specifically, the Sacristy as it is before Mass.  I pondered whether it might be better to give this one a "rant" header, but in all seriousness, this subject is one that deserves a bit more thoughful attention.  Once again, these are some of my own musings, largely from prayerful reflection on personal experience, if you are looking for some practical points on how to achieve what I am going to propose, have a look here at an article over on the New Liturgical Movement Blog.

According to the Code of Canon Law #909, "A priest is not to neglect to prepare himself properly through prayer for the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice and to offer thanks to God at its completion."  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal paragraph 45 tells us, "Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner."

It seems the mind of the Church is in favour of silence, particularly before Mass, particularly in the sacristy, to allow all those involved (especially the priest) to prepare themselves in a prayerful and fitting manner.  This indeed is taken from the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and the 2002 General Instruction, these are not antiquated rules from the 12th Century, these are the most up to date you could get.  Sadly though, what is our normal experience, the sacristy is a hub of traffic, and conversation before Mass.  The various ministers chatting with each other, and saddest of all, the priest most often encouraging the chatter, often instigating it.  Before we go further, let's not fail to affirm the positive, no doubt my brother priests are being pastoral in their own way, trying to catch up on the latest developments among their parishioners, but one has to ask the question, is it the appropriate time and is it the appropriate way?

Many of these same priests are the ones who complain about those occasions when the church is filled with those who seldom attend Mass, and the noise in the church reaches deafening proportions.  Why the double standard, why should silence in the church be normal for those attending the Mass, but constant conversation rather than prayerful preparation be the norm for the ministers?  Sadly too, our modern architecture doesn't help matters.  Traditionally the sacristy took on the appearance of a small chapel, even the most mudane sacristies had a solemn appearance.  Today many sacristies resemble work rooms, the vesting table covered in paperwork, rather than the necessities for Mass.

Again, I appeal to my brothers, if we want to restore a sense of the sacred, if we want to restore reverence, we need to lead the way by our own example.  Let us keep silence in the sacristy, let us not criticize our brothers who want silence in the sacristy, let us show the importance of what we do when we put on the sacred vestments, by making the time before Mass a time of prayerful preparation rather than constant conversation.

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