What is wrong with the Propers of the Mass? Are we afraid of silence?
I had the pleasure of attending Mass today at St. Mary's here in College Station. As I was kneeling, just as the Extraordinary Ministers were receiving communion, and everyone's attention should have been focused on the Glorious gift they were about to achieve, a young lady stepped up to the microphone and calmly announced, "Our first Communion Hymn will be...." Really? Just when our minds should be focused so totally on the Sacrifice of the Mass, we are jarred back to Earth by a voice that has no place being there only so that we know where to look to follow along with an overplayed hymn that everybody knows by heart already. This is a problem. But it can be solved. My personal preference would be a return in our parish to the Propers of the Mass. For those of you who don't know, the Propers are the little passages of scripture placed throughout your missalette. They are ALWAYS taken from Sacred Scripture. They are given for the Introit, Offertory, and Communion. They are what the Church says we should sing at those times. Most parishes, though, opt out of singing the Propers and instead choose to sing hymns that are unrelated to what we are supposed to be singing. The Propers don't have to be chanted Latin, there are many different translations and arrangements of them. But we don't sing them. Another solution would be to invest a tiny amount of money in those little number-holder-thingies and do away with the well-meaning chorister interrupting the silent prayers of the people. Either way, really.
But that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that that well-meaning chorister kept coming back. It was a super-crowded mass, so the choir decided we needed to have not one, not two, but three(!) Communion hymns. And before each hymn, there she was, announcing what the choir was about to sing. So instead of silently and prayerfully reflecting on the gift we had just received, on how our God humbled himself to die on a Cross for our sins, we had announcements of the songs they were singing. Why? Why is it so important that we follow along with the songs instead of bowing our heads in silent prayer? Why do we even need three Communion hymns? Why can't we just sit in silence after the first one? Silence.
We've all heard the old adage that "Silence is golden," but do we even stop to think why it's golden? So often in the parishes that I frequent, it seems that silence is terrifying, uncomfortable. St. Mary's is better than most, especially Daily Mass, but it suffers the same problems. Are we afraid that, if we don't constantly entertain them, those nominal Catholics in the pews will just stop coming? I don't know the answer to these questions, and I won't pretend to. But I am bothered by what I see. Feel free to leave your opinions in the comment box.