Dear soon-to-be Father
As we approach the traditional date of the Trinity-tide ordinations, when I myself received the gifts of Diaconia and of Sacerdotium, I cannot help hoping soon to receive a First Blessing from you. In spirit, I kneel and kiss your anointed hands. In a spirit of immense humility, I offer you my congratulations, and beg the charity of your Reverence's prayers and Masses.
May I offer you just the humblest smidgeon of priestly experience?
A brother priest in the Ordinariate once found himself lending a hand in a 'diocesan' parish. Since they did not always have a handy priest around, on most weekday evenings there was a service of the Word followed by Holy Communion from the Tabernacle, all done by layfolk. Naturally (if naively) this priest did the decent thing and offered the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them during the period he was there. The very touching gratitude of the entire parish community for this daily privilege ...
Gratitude be d****d! There was uproar! How outrageous that he should arrogantly impose 'his' Mass on them! He was depriving X, Y, and Z of their own particular ministries ... the charisms they had exercised for years! Clericalism!! Self-aggrandisement!!! The horrible man should have stayed in the Church of England!!!!
Dom Gregory Dix criticised the old Anglican 'Prayer Book Catholic' practice, particularly common in Cathedrals, whereby, after Cranmer's rather truncated 'Prayer of Consecration', the Agnus Dei was immediately sung. Dix's complaint was that this made it look as if the only purpose of Consecration was to confect the Eucharistic Presence*. This resulted in the people ... or the best learners among them ... cottoning on to the Real Presence of the Lord in His true Body and Blood ... but having very little awareness that the Eucharist is a ... no; not a but the ... sacrifice.
I wonder if we now have a very similar problem, lack of awareness of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in the Catholic Church. And, if we do, I blame it upon the last half century; upon the almost universal use, within a dumbed-down ritual ambience, of the pseudo-Hippolytan-dewfall-Botte-Bouyer "we-made-it-up-at-a-trattoria-in-the-Trastevere" "shall-we-order-another-bottle?" Eucharistic-Prayer.
Are most modern Catholics aware that at the altar they are present at the august sacrifice of Christ himself at Calvary and within eternity? Has anybody explained to them that at Mass heaven and earth are made one and our altar is united with the altar of the Lamb slain in sacrifice before all the ages? Do they understand that at the Consecration their church is filled with the adoring and wondering hosts of Angels and Archangels and the whole company of Christ's Church?
Happily, the Catholic Church now has yourself and a splendid young generation of seminarians and newly-ordained priests coming through the system. Men who understand what Christ's Priesthood is, because they understand what His Oblation is.
And here is the advice which, very humbly, and diffidently, I presume to offer you.
Don't assume that when you've explained things once, you've done it. However well you put it! Layfolk don't assimilate things the first time they hear them. They even sometimes assume (if it's something they haven't heard before) that they can't really be hearing what you seem to be saying. (A typesetter once, in kindly good faith, seeing "Sacrifice of the Eucharist" in a piece I had drafted, took it be a typo for "Sacrament of the Eucharist" and 'corrected' it for me!)
You just have to keep on dishing out the same truths ... of course, in different ways and in different words ... year after year. And even then, only a minority of them will get it. Honest.
Your task, of building up again the ruined places, will still be barely started when your ministry comes to its end.
John indignus sacerdos
*In fact, precisely this point had been made earlier, in 1933, in a book entitled This our sacrifice, written by my distinguished predecessor at S Thomas the Martyr, Oxford, Dr Trevor Jalland. I owe my possession of this elegant and erudite work to my friend and benefactor Professor William Tighe. A sign of degenerate times: it had been sold off by the library of Selwyn College, Cambridge.