Editor’s note: This column previously appeared in The Message and is being repeated by Catholic News Service. Father Doyle is now retired.
Q. Our parish had a change in pastors this year. Previous to his arrival, I had been attending daily Mass for 18 years. Now I go only on Sunday because I just don't like this priest; some of the things he does at Mass put me in such a bad mood that I feel that I am better off not going. I have prayed to God to help me accept him, but so far I have been unable to do it.
The first irritant is his failure ever to start on time -- sometimes as much as 10 minutes late, while the congregation just sits and waits. Throughout his homily, he will make a few statements and then ask the congregation to guess what he is going to say next. (Usually it takes three to five tries before someone hits it.)
All of this has added at least 20 minutes to what we had been used to for a weekday Mass. He gives the impression that we are there to watch his show, rather than to worship God. Am I wrong to let him upset me -- to the extent of not getting the comfortable warmth that I used to experience each day from the Mass? (Arkansas)
A. I am sorry that your dissatisfaction has deprived you of the benefit -- both spiritual and emotional -- that you once gained every morning. More often than not, the arrival of a new pastor requires an adjustment on the part of parishioners, particularly those who have been most loyal.
From what you have told me, your situation seems to involve more than just the customary period of "getting used to." First, unless the priest in question has other responsibilities just before daily Mass, to start several minutes late on a regular basis is inconsiderate.
In most parishes, the congregation at weekday Mass includes not only retirees but some people who are on their way to work or have family obligations. For the same reason, to extend that weekday Mass by several minutes with a "dialogue homily" is usually neither practical nor popular.
A dialogue homily, by the way, requires a whole lot more preparation than does a two- or three-minute "sermonette." To do it effectively, a priest must predict in advance what the congregants' remarks might be, in order to have a plan as to what direction he wants to take the discussion.
The easiest suggestion is for you to find another Catholic church nearby and, on weekday mornings, go there instead. My guess, though, is that you live in a fairly rural area where that would be difficult -- or else you would already have tried that.
The most upfront thing to do would be to ask your new pastor for a few minutes of his time and explain to him your concerns. Be diplomatic, of course. Tell him how much you miss going, and highlight the fact that his style at the weekday Mass might also be discouraging other parishioners, also, because of its length. If you can, back it up with numbers of worshippers who attended Mass before and after his arrival.
If you are reluctant to approach your pastor directly, perhaps you might find a priest-friend of his who would relay these concerns. Or, as a last resort, you might contact the director of priests' personnel in your diocese and invite him to share your observations with the priest in question. But please don't continue to lose the great blessing of daily Mass. The Eucharist itself is far more important than the particular priest who offers it.