August Message to Priests and Deacons of the Diocese, as Master of Ceremonies
A few times during this past year, I’ve been called upon to fill in at different parishes, for Confessions and Sunday Masses. I always enjoy doing so and getting more acquainted with parishes throughout the diocese, as I have enjoyed seeing them with Bishop Swain for Confirmations.
One thing I started to reflect on while filling in was to draw up a specific plan of practical hospitality in any given parish, to be carried out whenever there is need for a visiting priest, to make sure that things go smoothly for him and that he feels welcome. I hope to have such a plan in place in any parish where I serve as pastor, God willing. Hearing from others priests about adventures they’ve had while filling in has also given me ideas, like one priest sitting for quite a while in what he assumed was the confessional before being redirected by confused penitents.
Ideally, a designated host could meet the visiting priest at the door, even direct him where to park, show him to the sacristy, confessional, bathroom, etc. Otherwise, clear signs can be helpful. Beyond this, it seems helpful for there to be a set of established “default” settings for Mass, known by sacristans, musicians, etc., to be carried out even with very short notice in the event of having a visiting priest.
For instance, there are lots of different musical settings for the Mass parts being used in any given parish, many of which are not known well by many priests. There is one setting, however, that now appears in every Roman Missal. Please understand that it is not for their musical quality that I would use the simple English ICEL chants from the Missal as default, but because they are simply the most likely to be known by the highest number of priests, as they are actually in the Missal. In my opinion, English translations being forced onto Latin melodies do not result in the best settings, but that does not diminish their status as the best candidates among English settings for universal and familiar use in the greatest number of parishes and by the greatest number of priests.
Another consideration would be to simply have one chalice (and perhaps a second, if necessary for those with celiac disease) in the event of hosting a visiting priest. The priest has enough to try and figure out—celebrating Mass in an unfamiliar sanctuary—without having to decide where all the chalices go and how much wine goes into each one and how all the vessels will be purified after Communion.
I merely offer these observations for your reflection. You may have other ideas and things that you’ve noticed. We can talk a lot about hospitality in our parishes while failing in very basic and practical ways to make visitors feel welcome by offering familiar ways of how things are done and how the liturgy is carried out according to universal norms. The Church is catholic, universal, for a reason, partly so that every parish can feel like home.