The Nastiness of the Obligatory, Pre-Mass Rosary, and Other Problems

My parish (which shall remain nameless. So no comments with names, any of you who know me well enough to know where I go to Mass.  Yes, this means you) has some funky habits. Like the Children’s Bulletins. Or the first-Sunday Children’s Homily, complete with cheap made-in-China presents for the kids. Or saying the St. Michael prayer before the Final Blessing, and not after it, like most people do.

Another one of those is the Obligatory Pre-Mass Rosary.

Now, Holy Mary, please don’t smite me for what I am about to complain. I don’t hate the Rosary. I hate what people do with it.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, time to address the problem.

As the organist, it is my job to get to the church early, unlock all the doors, set up the equipment, and practice before Mass begins. I usually get there by 6:30am, sometimes a little later. The choir is supposed to show up at 7:15 to get warmed up.

Yeah, right.

It has become a parish tradition to say the Rosary before Mass. I think Vera (wonderful little old lady; may she rest in peace) started that habit about seven years ago. I am firmly convinced that the only reason we got the rock-star priest we had a few years ago was because she would always end the Rosary with “Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy, pray for us: obtain for us many and holy priests, Amen.” There’s even some talk about a few possible vocations in our parish. So, yes, it works, and in general, I approve of the practice.

The Rosary, when said properly, takes about twenty minutes, minimum. Safer to have twenty-five. So, we need to start the Rosary by 7:35 at the very latest.  Probably better to start at 7:30.

Which limits the choir to a most fifteen minutes of warmup time, if everyone arrives on time.

Now, what usually happens is that the choir members are late, and the Rosary begins late. This past Sunday, one choir member began leading it at 7:42. This was after we had practiced for a grand total of . . . yeah, zero minutes. I was busy making absolutely sure that the readings and such were the ones for Ascension, not Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ascension Thursday Sunday is a problem for a different post), letting my dad, the lector, know that it was the Ascension readings (he had practiced the wrong ones, and was pretty grateful that I stopped to let him know before he messed it up during Mass), and trying and not succeeding to find Father to check on this stuff. When I finally get that squared away, I climb the stairs to the loft, check the time on my phone, and take a few seconds to be grateful that we’ll have a little extra practice time, because we can’t do the Rosary. We can go through the chants, make sure “Hail Queen of Heaven, the Ocean’s Star” is okay for today (being a hymn we haven’t done before), and practice today’s polyphony at least once.

“INTHENAMEOFTHEFATHERANDTHESONANDTHEHOLYSPIRITAMEN.”

Nope, no such luck. The Rosary has begun.

I sit there, stunned, for a moment, and then I realize that we’re completely SOL for this morning. We’ll be lucky to get through the Rosary in time for Mass to begin at 8am, which means we’ll have to wing everything. That alone is bad enough.

What’s worse is the way the Rosary is said under these circumstances.

Rapidly, with hardly any pause between words, a few sentences said for the Mysteries, usually rushed, and not enough time to finish properly, leaving a few minutes of silence before Mass.

Sometimes, we even make Father wait to start Mass, so that the Rosary can be finished.

This is bad on so many levels.

Saying the Rosary at Mach-1 isn’t saying the Rosary. It’s going through the prescribed motions, not praying. Why no one seems to disapprove enough to put a stop to this blows my mind. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about the Tridentine Rite Mass, before Vatican II, was that people would “hear Mass,” saying the Rosary during Mass, because they couldn’t understand the Latin or what was going on enough to participate. A crappy excuse, I know, but the stupidity surrounding Vatican II and its results is for another post. Or two. Or twenty.  But, to go ahead and use that bad example, both the Mass and the Rosary were being misused.

So where is the outrage now? Both the Mass and the Rosary are being misused.

The Rosary is being rushed and not-prayed, and the Mass is reduced to second place in the schedule, when Mass waits for the Rosary to finish; not because the Rosary is important or because it’s an emergency prayer for some parishioner who was just hit by a bus, but because we’re too freaking lazy to start earlier and finish on time.

Everything suffers when the Rosary is said like this. The Rosary itself, the proper attitudes towards the Mass, and the quality of the music of the Liturgy.

And when those things suffer, the spiritual life of everyone involved suffers, too.

It seems like we have a case of false piety chipping away at real piety. Oh, the Rosary is so important, we have to say it every week, right before Mass. How dare you say that the choir needs to practice? Oh, Father can wait a few minutes for us to finish. It’s no big deal. We’re so holy, we have to say the Rosary at light speed every single time, to show everyone in the parish how holy we are.

Right.

It’s just like those other bad habits I mentioned above — handing out Children’s Bulletins after communion, so the kids can run (yes, RUN) up the center aisle and collect a stupid piece of paper with puzzles on it and no real religious instruction value from Father and the pressed-into-service lectors. Because it’s so important that all the grandparents in the congregation remark how cute they are. Or the Children’s Homily, where they all go up and sit in front of the Altar while Father tries to teach them something (my personal favorite is how the story of St. Paul getting blinded and converted is really about bullying). Because that’s how you teach kids to keep their faith. Or saying the St. Michael Prayer (in a bad translation, no less) before the Final Blessing. Because no one would actually sit in their freaking pew long enough after the Recessional Hymn to say it then, where it actually belongs. Because we’re supposed to jump up and start talking after Mass, before the hymn even ends completely, and chatter like it was a concert hall on our way out to the parking lot.

All of these things chip away at the Mass, changing it from the most important hour of your week into a framework for all these other “important” things. They’re just as bad as having crappy guitar music at Mass instead of the organ, self-centered “praise and worship” songs instead of real hymns and Gregorian Chant, or a priest changing the words of the Mass.

We can’t allow anyone to distract us from the Mass, the “source and summit of the Christian life,” as Sacrosanctum Concilium tells us. And all of those things do exactly that, while pretending to be a vital part of our spiritual life and instruction.

We’re just as bad as Scarlet O’Hara, “throwing away happiness with both hands, and reaching out for something that will never make you happy.”

People complain about not having vocations, or kids going to college and losing their faith, or how no one seems to really “participate” at Mass, or how Mass attendance is dropping. Well, you can’t fix those problems until you fix how people treat the Mass itself. It is not an option. It is not a form of cheap entertainment. It is not at all about us and how well we play the guitar or sing “gather us in, the lost and forsaken,” or some other such crap.

It’s about how the Creator of the Universe deigns to come to us and be with us, not in a figurative, symbolic way, but in a real, physical way.

Stop and think about that for a minute, and then be truly appalled that we would do anything to undermine that reality.

Because that’s what the Obligatory Pre-Mass Rosary does. And Children’s Bulletins and Homilies. And misplaced prayers. And bad music.

It has to stop, or nothing will ever change. We’ll be stuck in this deep cavern of superficial, pseudo-religiosity, and souls will be lost along the way.

I, for one, don’t want to go to my judgment and have to answer for that to Him.

We have to get up off our lazy butts and do what we’re supposed to do, at the very least because we know we’re supposed to do it; it would be better if we did it because we had that great love for God, but we have to start somewhere. But to do that, we have to be told that we’re supposed to behave a certain way. We have to have someone who can direct our habits the right way, to tell us why this is important, and then hold us to that higher standard. People don’t just wake up one morning and have saintly piety. We need to foster good habits in little things, because if we have those, we can be handle the bigger things, and we will be hungry for them. He did say that “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater” (Luke 16:10).  That’s where high Mass attendance comes from. That’s where vocations come from.

That’s how souls are saved.

Fortunately, I might be able to keep the Obligatory Pre-Mass Rosary from being a bad thing (because it isn’t, when done properly). The choir leads it, so I can (theoretically, anyway) put my foot down and say that if we don’t start by 7:35, we don’t start. We’ll do the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or the Litany of Loreto instead, depending on how much time we have after practicing. I can continue to play the organ, and make sure that one of the weekend Masses is musically appropriate. And I can pray. That’s all I can do until someone at the top realizes that our habits reflect our attitudes.

The aforementioned bad habits really are that bad, because this is the Mass we’re talking about. Until we treat it as “the source and summit” of our lives, we rob it of the power to affect us, which is our problem, not its problem. Until the bad habits go away, we’re whistling in the wind.


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13 Responses to The Nastiness of the Obligatory, Pre-Mass Rosary, and Other Problems

  1. Personally, I don’t think that the Rosary should be said before Mass. It should be Mass, then the St. Michael prayer, then the Rosary. I sincerely doubt Mary wants us to delay the Mass by one nanosecond for anything, much less for her.

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  2. CMJwyrd says:

    Okay, please accept my lack of knowledge as a non-Catholic, but my complete sympathy as a Christian who feels that people are not exhibiting the proper attitude of worship in services. This is a time where we are gathering together as the Body of Christ to focus our attention on Him. A fellowship of spirit with those of like faith and practice. This doesn’t mean reading the announcements during the opening prayer or leaving your Bible closed during the responsive Scripture reading before the message. It sure doesn’t mean grabbing your kids during the closing prayer to put their coats on and rushing out the door.
    Most contemporary Christian music leaves me cold. We are commanded to be different from the world, not to mimic them. The old hymns of faith connect us with our heritage of martyrs and saints of old, as well as being great teaching tools, containing many Scripture allusions and doctrinal truths.
    Drive-by Christianity is draining our churches of their vigor and relevance. What the parents devalue, the children abandon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do you hear that, Christine? That’s the sound of you becoming Lori’s new friend. 😉 Anyone who talks like that about church music tends to get on her good side.

      Catholics have a lot of the same thing you just described. A lot of people go out during Communion. Now, remember, Catholics believe that Christ spoke literally on this particular point, and here are people acting like it’s a buffet line. But even leaving that aside, this is the last major point before the closing prayers. They can’t wait another five minutes?

      Now, I’ve been a Communion-hopper myself on occasion. It was because I occasionally get anxiety attacks. For a while, I was getting them whenever I was at Mass. Not sure why. It went away eventually. But that crowd really got to me during that period, and when they were singing it was even worse (and not just because of the quality of the songs). That, however, is vastly different from treating the Mass as a casual obligation that you can attend late and leave early.

      It’s become a standard thing at Mass to have closing announcements before the final blessing. The Communion-hoppers miss out on that, but everyone who stayed would no doubt stay longer if the priest asked them to listen to announcements after the ceremony. Especially if we’ve got several waiting for the St. Michael Prayer and the after-Mass Rosary already. Then we don’t have to interrupt our contemplations to hear about the bake sale next week.

      “Oh, but we’re trying to get to our car before the rush.” Yep. Just like all those others. So instead of spending ten minutes in the parking lot, spend them in the church with God and lo and behold — no pile-up at the street. Don’t treat the priest’s final blessing or the choir’s final hymn as a starter pistol.

      Of course, sometimes I feel like a hypocrite because I tend to leave right after the final blessing. The reason, though, is that after Mass the parish chatterboxes start up, and for some reason it never occurs to them that this is a church and people are trying to pray. I’m not good at drowning them out.

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      • CMJwyrd says:

        You sometimes have to wonder about who does the planning for the service order. Of course, it could be a similar thing to the time my dad (a pastor) put an announcement for a monthly deacons meeting in the bulletin, but didn’t read the announcements before the message. All the deacons missed the meeting. Perhaps they are afraid will miss something. Obviously, I feel the message and prayer should have priority over the announcements, but things might have been missed.
        There’s a difference between leaving because of a real necessity and just wanting to be first one out.
        People who like to chatter after the service frequently view church more as a strictly social gathering and forget that others enjoy the afterglow.

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        • It makes me think of the moneychangers in the Temple. That particular story gets a lot more weight to it if you know some surrounding particulars.

          See, as I recall, the Temple was divided into thirds. The back third was where Gentiles could be, including Gentiles who had converted. You weren’t supposed to go up further unless you’d been born a Jew. Since that was the first area, and not occupied by REAL Jews, the shopkeepers set up there, changing money, selling sacrificial animals, and making a loud ruckus.

          Normally the story of Jesus chasing them out causes people to focus on the idea of finances in the Temple. Yet Jesus talked about money a lot, and it wasn’t always a bad thing. Ever since I found out about the status of Gentile converts, I took a new interpretation. Imagine trying to have a good prayer time in the holiest spot on Earth, and you’re surrounded by a marketplace.

          And as you can tell when comparing the Gospel accounts, Jesus seems to have done this every Passover during his ministry, not just one time. Thousands come to the Temple during Passover, and many of them were foreigners trying to find God. Jesus came not for the healthy, but for the sick — and here there were people making it difficult for converts to come to God.

          And ever since I thought of that comparison, I’ve realized that this isn’t a story mired in the past, no longer applicable. In our laziness, we have adopted many practices that keep people out of the churches. Maybe that “flipping tables and whipping people” meme could use some serious consideration, of the looking-over-one’s-shoulder-for-the-whip variety. I know one guy who left the Catholic Church precisely because everyone he was around was going the lazy, modern, everything-is-casual route, and he just couldn’t take it. I’d thought for years he was an atheist, but he wasn’t. He just didn’t realize there were any traditionalists left until the Internet connected him with some. How many more like that might there be?

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        • CMJwyrd says:

          I once knew I was in the wrong church when the pastor stood up to preach wearing cargo shorts and a bowling shirt. Then they had a clog dancer for special music. Not really a fan of dancing in church anyway, but definitely *not* clog dancing.
          I think in trying to be “hip” and “relevant”, the Church is losing its saltiness. People need to hear the Word of God, unfettered by the trappings that detract from Its message of sin, repentance and a life of service and humble holiness. God doesn’t promise to make you happy and rich, He commands you to be humble and holy.People need to have their spiritual feet firmly planted on that rock of faith if they want the taproot to hit Living Water.

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  4. I dislike the communal Rosary before mass, period. I love the Rosary and do my daily duty, however before Mass I wish to meditate upon other things, like prepping my mind and soul in a contemplative way. To through silence connect with God. The people who lead it my parish are most obnoxious as well as if due to leading this they are somehow more pius and thusly fixed with the authority to correct others.

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  6. Foxfier says:

    A few years later….
    I’ve seen the “before Mass rosary” done well in one place– they time it to end before people start coming in for Mass. I think it started roughly when Father went into the confessional for the last-chance-before-Mass confessions, so a bit over an hour before mass. Neatly short circuits the folks who always “joke” about “Hey, you showed up to mass early– had a big sin to get rid of, eh?”

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  7. Our parish just started the rosary before mass, and as a sacristan, I feel it interferes with mass preparations. I would like to ignore it altogether, but sometimes, as the setup person for mass, I am called on to be the leader. I feel like a hypocrite.

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