A liturgist friend was lamenting about all the hoops she had to go through for a recent special celebration at which the local bishop presided. Working in advance with the bishop's master of ceremonies was helpful, as that person wanted the Mass to go smoothly in order to assure a satisfied bishop and congregation alike.
"Once I heard the preferences and restrictions, my first reaction was to fire back a nasty email," she admitted, "but then I realized it was better in the long run to comply readily with everything. This is a one-time event and I can learn from the experience."
"What were the difficulties?" I asked.
"I'll tell you. First of all, we could only do four petitions. The bishop wanted no more than four petitions. Now, we had a whole slew of petitions ready so, OK, I kept it to four petitions but they were each really long ones. Also, the congregation has to kneel during the consecration, and we're used to standing. At least this church has kneelers, so that wasn't impossible. Also, I was trying to find roles for our two priests since we don't have a deacon, but the bishop would only allow one other priest to take part. That priest took part beautifully and proclaimed the Gospel. Now if all that's not enough, we weren't allowed to have any girls as altar servers."
"I can see why this would be a challenging situation," I offered, as she is an experienced liturgist and has handled liturgical celebrations for many years. So we conversed a little more.
I said, "Imagine if Pope Francis was the celebrant instead. Do you think he'd impose his own preferences as demands like that?"
"Of course he wouldn't," my friend responded. "He'd be delighted that folks were worshiping!"
[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati.]