20 February 2008

Who was that young quiet priest?

Over the weekend, you'll recall that I was in Tuscola and Arcola to celebrate the Sunday Masses.

Apparently the people did not know that I was coming or who I was.

After one of the Masses I spoke with an older couple whose daughter belongs to this parish. The daughter e-mailed my Pastor, telling him that her parents spoke of "a young quiet priest from Effingham" and she presumed that was me.

From time to time it happens that a priest arrives to celebrate Mass at a particular place and nobody seems to know him from Adam (which will lead to another post later this evening [if I remember]).

At these Masses, I did not introduce myself to the congregations and only a few people asked who I was after the Masses. Most were simply grateful that I was there.

I know that I could have - and maybe should have - introduced myself before the penitential rite, but in my mind that would detract from the sacred mysteries about to be celebrated.

I could have introduced myself at the beginning of my homily, but that always seems odd.

I also could have introduced myself at the end of Mass before the final blessing, but that would seem to detract from the sacred mysteries just celebrated. What's a priest to do!?

In part, I didn't introduce myself because I don't like being the center of attention (the irony of my blogging is not lost on me). Also, what is truly important is not so much who I am but what I am.

Now, before you launch into me for that one, by this I do not mean to say that a priest - even me - should not know and be known by his parishioners. Quite the contrary. But is the Mass the time to get to know the priest? I think not.

The personality of a priest should never be dominant at the Liturgy; that is part of the reason why priests wear vestments when performing the sacred functions. In the Liturgy the priest acts in persona Christi, not in his own person.

Talking about this with my Pastor, he reminded that most likely three quarters of the congregation probably spent the first half of the Mass trying to figure out who I was! This was a point I hadn't thought of.

When I was layman I was always slightly annoyed when a priest introduced himself at Mass (but then again, I have to remember - and I always forget this - that I am not and was not like everybody else [this isn't to say that I'm better, only that I'm different, which has its positives and negatives]).

So I ask you: should a priest introduce himself to a congregation that does not know him and likely will not see him again? Why or why not?

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