This morning I attended Mass rather than concelebrated Mass. Earlier in the week I was unable to find a Saturday morning Mass anywhere in the area so I was pretty much going to have to miss Mass today. But late last night on the internet I found a church abut a half an hour away that had an 8:00 AM Mass. This was doubly good for me because I wanted to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation if the priest had time after Mass since it and been a few weeks since my last confession. But it was a little late to make any arrangement for concelebration.
I left around 7:15 AM and got there in plenty of time to spend some time preparing for Mass and, hopefully, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When Mass began, the priest, a guy about my age, came out and said, "Hello," and then proceeded with the Mass. The only problem was he had forgotten the Sign of the Cross. Well, maybe he was just a little distracted. I think we did the penetential rite but I'm not sure. There was no "Gloria" so I was beginning to think we weren't going to be celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration since it hadn't been mentioned yet but eventually we got there when he "prayed" a spontaneous opening prayer that did mention the Transfiguration.
Things kind of went downhill from there. I'll spare you the details. I will say I'm pretty sure it was still a valid Mass even though he changed the words of the Eucharistic institution - a lot, not just a few. There is a theological practice of the Church called "Ecclesia supplet" ("the Church provides") where if a priest inadvertently forgets some of the words of the ritual form or changes them, the "Church" recognizes the good faith of those gathered and their right to valid celebration of the sacraments and provides sacramental validity in the case of a human error or priestly malpractice. This is done for the sake of the people of God and not as an excuse for the sloppy or 'creative' celebration of the priest or bishop. Even though the priest went way over the the line in terms of his 'creativity' this morning, I think the intention of those us who came to Mass was to celebrate the Eucharist as the Church intends and so it was.
As "Mass" progressed I was both disappointed and annoyed. I wasn't angry. I learned the trick long ago of moving into emotional "cruise control" when this stuff starts to happen. I also began to wonder if I should say something to the priest afterwards. I mean, I was just there as a visitor not as his bishop or vicar general. I was also on vacation so ... Nevertheless, I didn't let it go. What I did or did not do, I will leave between me and the priest. I hope it was helpful.
I do know one thing. I certainly wasn't going to ask him to hear my Confession. If he changed the words of the Institution Narrative, there's no telling what he might do with the words of Absolution. I suppose I could have asked him before we began the sacrament if he would be so kind as to use the Church's rite and not his own but then that opens a whole can of worms. So I didn't go to Confession. I'll try and make an appointment with a priest and go Monday. But isn't it a shame that I couldn't go to Confession?
Every time people ask my why some in the Church have a desire for the "extraordinary rite," the traditional Latin Mass, I guess I can give them at least one good reason. Masses like this. When one attends the Mass according to the Tridentine Rite, you know what you are going to get. There is no one being 'creative,' no one making up their own prayers or rite, and no question of validity. I am a chid of Vatican II. From the time I was old enough to understand what was happening at Mass, it has been the Mass of Pope Paul VI. I have been formed in it. I have studied it. I love it. Out of it, I have been ordained a deacon, a priest, and a bishop to celebrate it for the people of God. I have no desire to celebrate the Tridentine Rite but any time I hear people criticize those who want the "traditional" Mass, I am more inclined to understand why they want this form of the Mass. Perhaps if each priest were committed to the correct celebration of the present Mass of Paul VI - the Church's rites and not the rite of Fr. X - then maybe there would be less clamor for the "traditional" rite. Just a thought.