Less is more, chatty priests

Posted at 09/02/2014 6:57 PM

AT the reopening of the renovated Manila Cathedral built by Japan as reparation for the carpet bombing of Intramuros by America, Luis Cardinal Tagle told priests to do away with starting the mass by greeting parishioners a good morning or good day to which the parishioners energetically greet him back—and then nothing more is heard from them—when the mass proper starts with the few formal words, “The Lord be with you,” which is already over-charged with meaning along with the stipulated reply, “And with your spirit.”

Nothing more than those 5 words are needed to get the mass going; certainly not comments about the weather; Herbert Bautista saying bye-bye to Bimby or the Supreme Court outing DAP and the president’s jocular threat to run for a second term.

Indeed, priests should stop embroidering the spare and stark yet far from simple mass as it is prescribed by Rome, with ad libs like “May the truly loving Lord and His merciful Mama Mary (as if he had another) shower us with blessings” or “Let the sun shine where it don’t otherwise” and so on ad nauseam.

No, the time to ad lib, if you are really dying to do it, is after Gospel and only when reading a tightly reasoned and written homily. Looking up from the page, the priest might add a remark or two as the Holy and not Hollywood Spirit moves him.

Indeed, never deliver a sermon off the cuff even if cuffs come large in priestly vestments. The reason is respect for the time parishioners take for God in a very busy life lining up for an MRT ride, any of which might be their last. Another reason is that sticking to the stark script and ad libbing sparingly if need be, makes the ad lib come across much stronger; like the single shot of the single sniper on the grassy knoll. Trust me on this. Less is more.

Also, stop singing the Our Father. It is the perfect prayer. Our Father gave it to us through His Son. If you sing it, which is to say, if you struggle to keep in tune with the worst melody ever made instead of meditating on the meaning, so much is lost. I also strongly recommend going back to the short version of the Credo; the long one is a waste of time. Too many words and again less is more. The short one is beautiful, like a poem.