February 04, 2013
Most Rev. George Antonysamy
Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore
Dear Archbishop George Antonysamy,
SUBJECT: Aberrations, errors and other problems in the Liturgies of the Sunday Holy Masses at the National Shrine of St. Thomas
My wife and I have been attending the Sunday Eucharistic services in English regularly for about 15 years.
We have always been concerned by a few issues, but since the last few years, and more especially over the last few months, attending Sunday Mass prayerfully and reverently has become almost impossible for the few people like me who are more keenly aware of what is actually going on at Holy Mass vis-à-vis what is correct.
We have followed protocol and met with the parish priest, Fr. Kanickai Raj, all his assistants at one time or another, the other priests on the campus, visiting priests from St. Bede’s and Sathya Nilayam, deacons like Bro. Charles, etc., and voiced our concerns, with two responses. Fr. Kanickaraj, laughingly replies that the “people like it/want it” and the others dismissively suggest that I discuss my problem with the parish priest.
Some of the problems are not the fault of the celebrant but that of the lectors, choir, etc. but it is still the responsibility of the parish priest to ensure that the rubrics are strictly adhered to, and those who ignorantly do otherwise be educated correctly.
During the terms of the previous two Archbishops, it was never possible to get a response to my emails or an appointment with their Secretaries, though you may find that impossible to believe. The last attempt was made by us about three months ago. The Father Secretary said he would confirm an appointment for me with His Grace, but if he did call back, I did not receive his call.
Since we heard the good news of your appointment, we have waited with new hope, for you to settle down before we wrote to you. I will try and list as briefly as possible a few of the “problems” that we have observed.
1. The celebrant greets the assembly with “Good morning” after making the Sign of the Cross, and the people respond with “Good morning, Father.” One priest then adds “Welcome for [sic] this Holy Mass.”
2. The lectors unfailingly introduce the two readings thus, “The first reading”, and “The second reading”.
It is not required for them to do so.
3. The Responsorial Psalm is NEVER recited or sung. It is ALWAYS replaced by a hymn which has no connection whatsoever with the Psalm of the Sunday.
4. After each reading, the lector incorrectly says, “THIS IS the Word of the Lord”.
5. At the conclusion of the Second Reading, the lectors incorrectly say, “Please stand FOR THE [GOSPEL] ACCLAMATION”.
6. A common aberration is proclaiming the readings using the St. Pauls Sunday Liturgy leaflets. Last Sunday, at the 7:15 am Mass, a person read from the Lectionary, then carried it away to the choir section. The next reader brought it back, placed it on the altar and then read from the leaflet in her hands. The great majority of lectors display unfamiliarity with the Scripture passages, READ instead of PROCLAIMING the Word, have poor diction and accentuation, and one finds people in the congregation themselves reading from the leaflets instead of LISTENING to the Word that is being PROCLAIMED.
7. The priests who come from Sathya Nilayam use inclusive language in their greetings and during the prayers. One priests always addresses us as “My dear sisters and brothers” and God as “God, Our Father and Mother”.
8. Now and then, we have noted some priests departing from the rubrics and ad-libbing the prescribed prayers.
9. There is no time for silence [deep prayer] after we have received Jesus into our hearts at Holy Communion. Since the Masses are scheduled back to back with inherent vehicle parking problems, one cannot come early or stay late and pray. Till not long ago, the choir would start a second Communion hymn — almost as if it were their duty to keep us entertained — if it was observed that the minister and the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion were still engaged. Since of late, the second song has been replaced with a Prayer, which however again translates into no time given, not even two little minutes, for total silence in the Church after Communion.
10. Some of the hymns sung by the choir are not liturgically compatible, especially for Holy Communion. If carefully examined, the “theology” of others, like “Amazing Grace” for instance, is Protestant.
11. If one takes a seat in the nave near to or opposite of the choir, even a casual observer cannot fail to see the almost continuous consultation and smiles that are exchanged. This is disrespectful to God and to the other attendees, and can be very distracting to someone who appreciates what the Sacrifice of the Mass signifies.
12. You may find this again difficult to believe, but there have been many Sunday Masses when we have not seen the priest for much of the service. We used to occupy the second or third row in the nave of the church to the priest’s right side and found the elaborate flower arrangements completely obstructing our view of him.
13. From being silent observers at Holy Mass, as in my youth, the faithful have regressed so far as to imitating the celebrant. It took a long time to bring an end to the congregation’s joining in the final Doxology. Today, a majority of them lift their hands in the Orans position, of course with the best of intentions, which is the posture ordained for the celebrant alone. The priests are responsible for that inasmuch as they do not correct the faithful.
14. Applause during Holy Mass has become standard procedure. Obviously, it is always invited by the celebrant. The reasons vary from a priest’s birthday to an appreciation of someone [like, say, the choir]. Recently, applause has been a standard feature of EVERY Sunday Mass that we attended.
Things get worse, if that is possible.
15. The 9:30 am Mass has degenerated into a theater show. I have approached the person directly responsible for that, Deacon Charles, and met with hostility and rudeness. Characters dressed in costumes, role-playing accompanied by information over the microphone, etc. have been incorporated either with the homily or at the offertory procession. In addition to that, the celebrant unfailingly solicits applause from the faithful in appreciation of the Deacon and his helpers. One such show was put up by the Santhome Communications Centre people whom I found laughing and chatting outside the sacristy with the Deacon immediately after their role play and while Mass was still going on. At other Masses during the following weeks, two families per week have been inducted into the arrangements and they are applauded during every service.
16. At one Mass a few months ago, Fr. Jerry Rosario SJ was the celebrant. During the homily, he attempted to initiate a dialogue with the congregation failing which he left the altar and came right down the main aisle going up to people and asking them questions. I immediately went to Fr Kanickaraj and apprised him of what was going on, and that was when he asked me what was so wrong about that when the people “liked it” and “want it”.
There are several more liturgical issues that concern us but we would like to end that topic here.
Before we end, there are a couple of related matters that we would like to include.
One of them is people strolling in late, the same people on a regular basis. The four side doors are so placed that many in the Congregation can see the late-comers entering. One family of four which includes children in their twenties, lives nearby and owns a car has NEVER been on time for Mass. Last Sunday they seated themselves behind the priest near the high altar where all could see them take their place during the homily. There is a senior prayer group leader and his wife who also have NEVER been on time [up to 30 minutes late] for Mass, NOT EVEN ONCE in all the 15 years I have been here. I have eventually had to admonish both parties, but to no avail.
Lest I be construed as judging others or generalizing, I assure you that this is not so. As a trained Catholic apologist whose work has appeared in magazines and web sites in India and overseas, I am distressed by the liturgical ignorance of the faithful which is only sustained and enhanced by the deacons and priests who should be fraternally correcting them or teaching them what the Church says.
As parents and grandparents, we have inculcated in our progeny the Fear of the Lord and a love and fidelity to the Church and all Her teachings. The last range from the grave sinfulness of contraception to regular Confessions and from never being late for Mass to never receiving Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin. It is very difficult for us to answer their frequent questions as to why everybody else in our congregation appears to think and behave differently than us, and the priests have nothing to say at all about any of this.
To be fair, Fr. Kanickaraj is the only priest we have heard reminding people to make their Confessions. But, as to the accessibility of the priests — including Fr. Kanickai Raj — for confession, the less said by me the better. My family members will readily testify to the humiliation and difficulties that we have been put through and finally drive down to other parishes to find priests more disposed and available to us.
We repose our confidence in Your Grace who has no local affiliations and who, we believe, Rome has selected as our Archbishop confident that with your background as Nuncio in other countries you have the experience, the will and the pastoral heart to effect the transformation that our Archdiocese so badly needs in various areas, only one of which we have addressed in this letter to you.
Praying for you to be greatly blessed by our God to usher in a new Spirit-filled era in our Archdiocese,
Michael and Angela Prabhu
Printed without the masthead and mailed by Registered Post [RT118538795], Acknowledgement Due, on Feb. 5, 2013
The letter was delivered to the office at the Archbishop’s House on February 6, 2013 as per the postal receipt.
Reminder copy personally given by me to Fr. Kiran, the archbishop’s secretary, on 9.3.2013 was not accepted by him.
March 11, 2013
Most Rev. George Antonysamy
Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore
Dear Archbishop George Antonysamy,
SUBJECT: 1. Aberrations, errors and other problems in the Liturgies of the Sunday Holy Masses at the National Shrine of St. Thomas
The Convenor of the “Forum for CATHOLIC Unity” is NOT a Catholic
On February 6, 2013, as per the Acknowledgement Due postal receipt, my first referred letter dated February 4 was delivered at the Archbishop’s House.
The second referred letter in the form of a report dated March 9, 2013, was delivered personally by me to Fr. Kiran, your secretary, at the Archbishop’s House on March 9, 2013*.
Since the communication sent by me to you regarding the liturgical errors and aberrations at Holy Mass on Sundays, the drama and theatrics have ceased, but my letter coincided with the hospitalisation (due to an accident) of the organiser, Deacon Charles. However the status quo of the other issues continues without any change.
In connection with my first letter, I must inform you that at 9:25 am on Sunday, March 10, I was accosted in the church by one Mr. Richard Xavier, a parishioner, who informed me that he had seen my letter to you and he would be sending me his response to it. To put it mildly, I was shocked. I wonder how many other parishioners have seen the letter even before I have received your response, considering that five weeks have elapsed since my letter reached you.
I do not want my letters to be subjective, or to be complaints against parishioners, but Mr. Richard Xavier is an individual that many would like to give a wide berth; I must say a few words about him because he exemplifies laity who like to serve the Church but have little or no formation — as I had stated in my earlier letter. He has an excellent singing voice but his proclamation of the readings is accentuated in all the wrong places and he cannot correctly pronounce many biblical terms.
He determinedly joins in prayers like the Lord’s Prayer, and in responses, but his loud voice always lags a second or two behind the congregation, creating discordance. He cannot be unconscious of that. His hands are always lifted high in the Orans position which is prescribed only for priests. He would obviously take personal objection to my letter to you.
Another example of discordance is when a prayer such as the one for the Year of Faith is prayed. The entire choir joins in.
Different people, led by two male voices with opposing accents use separate microphones, and with the cacophony of sounds that ensues, the prayer is entirely lost on the faithful. I have never understood till today what the prayer says.
I am constrained to share with you all of this because Fr Kanickai Raj will not entertain any suggestions or discussions.
The Sunday immediately following my letter to you was, if I recall correctly, the parish priest’s birthday. I was informed by a cousin of mine that the priest was felicitated and applauded during the Mass.
On October 4, 2009, the mid-day [12 noon] English service accommodated a number of animals during the celebration of Holy Mass; Fr. Jerry Rosario SJ, the celebrant, and Fr. Kanickai Raj permitted a non-Catholic lay man “to walk up to the altar with his pet dog … and share his thoughts with the packed congregation” [a newspaper reports] in lieu of the homily.
A priest is expected to enunciate his words clearly. Fr. Kanickai Raj is quite unintelligible when he speaks. Other priests have smothered smiles when I mentioned that one can understand only a couple of his words at the end of every sentence.
The homilies of almost all the priests, barring a few exceptions such as Fr. Bosco SDB from St. Bede’s, are lackluster and do not challenge the average Catholic who gets to hear the word of God only that once in a week. This week we had a visiting priest who preached on Luke 15 [the Prodigal Son] at the 7:15 am Mass. The preaching was lucid and powerful. Why does the congregation have to be subjected to listening to poor homilies week after week after week?
Parishioners of St. Louis Church, Adyar, have informed me that Fr. Savio uses terms like “bloody” and “bastard” during his sermons and at least one person has taken issue with him on this. Liturgical abuses have been informed to me from St. Teresa’s Church, Nungambakkam, and St. Francis Xavier’s church, Broadway, where slides and videos are used at Mass.
It is my humble suggestion that you attend different Masses incognito to verify for yourself the truth of what I write to you.
There is one other issue that I wish to bring to your notice. There is an acupressure-cum-reflexology clinic run in the church premises by one Mr. Colin D’Souza. A 2003 Vatican Document lists these alternative therapies as New Age. The two systems are based on esoteric/occult pre-Christian philosophies. At the outset, I had talked to Mr. D’Souza as well as the priests about the spiritual dangers of these practices and given them some Catholic literature, but the clinic is still open.
Michael Prabhu, 12 Dawn Apartments, II Floor, 22 Leith Castle South Street, Chennai 600 028. Tel: 2461 1606
*NB. It would help if your secretary verifies our copies of letters hand-delivered at your office, but he declines to do so.
Categories: Liturgical Abuses