Brevity is the Soul of Wit

Here is an aspiring Shakespearian giving us a worthy rendition of the speech, web-cammed from his little kitchen:

In my book, Holy Mass should last one hour or less. There are occasional exceptions, of course: If you go to someone’s ordination, it will be longer than an hour. The Easter Vigil is longer than an hour. But these are rare exceptions to the rule.


stopwatchRecently, a faithful parishioner told me he thought I was “rushing” through Mass one Sunday. He was not criticizing me.

For various reasons, that particular Mass was in danger of running well over an hour.

If I am conducting the train, I am going to do everything in my power to get the train out of the station in an hour or less.

Solemnity needn’t be lugubrious. Efficient solemnity is a beautiful thing.

train-stationLet’s listen to St. Thomas Aquinas: “Prayer should be devout. Yet it often happens that devotion grows cool through prayer being too long.”

And our Lord Himself: “When you are praying, speak not much.” (Matthew 6:7) This verse from the Sermon on the Mount might also be familiar to you as: “When you pray, do not babble on, like the pagans do.”

While we are on the subject of the Roman Rite…

There are many people in this world who are not familiar with the ceremonies and observances of the Sacred Liturgy of the Church. There are those who criticize our rituals for being obscure and “inaccessible.”

house-transparencyLet’s freely admit that it is not possible to walk in off the street into a Catholic church and understand the Holy Mass the first time.

This is true for the operations of any human organization. It certainly is not possible to walk in off the street into the U.S. Capitol building and immediately understand the proceedings of the House of Representatives or the Senate. It always takes some time to get the hang of things.

massAs we become more and more familiar with the Church’s ceremonies, we gradually come to understand the following: The ceremonies of the Roman Rite are sublimely simple. The Roman Rite is our way of obeying God.

God gave us His Word, so we read it together in church. At the Last Supper, He said, “Do this in memory of me,” so we do.

The liturgical year is also a matter of obedience. God became man and was born of the Virgin Mary, so we have Advent and Christmas. God suffered, died, and rose again, so we have Lent and Easter.

The whole business seems complicated at first. But with a little practice, we can see that in fact it is very simple.

One thought on “Brevity is the Soul of Wit

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the parish Sunday Mass should ordinarily not last beyond an hour, and that the Mass can be celebrated reverently even in under an hour. When I was first ordained and serving in a parish, I found that ordinarily in that context I would have the Mass completed in 50 or 55 minutes, with what I hope with a decent homily of 7-10 minutes to boot. I have a confrere and friend who can easily preach for an hour, and does so in the context of the many retreats he gives. But I realized intuitively that while he could take the role of Cyrano de Bergerac, so to speak, and woo his congregation, to love my congregation, I needed to take the role of Mussolini in one respect–and thus make sure the trains arrived and departed ON TIME!

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