We all know that words have meaning. Some words even effect what they signify. Take the words “I love you” or “I hate you” when spoken between two people. Our words in the liturgy do this at a supernatural level. Indeed, the power of the Church is wielded par excellence during the liturgy. Another important aspect of the liturgy is that the Roman Missal’s precise words take the priest’s personality out of the sacred act. In fact, those who go to a particular church because they like the personality of one priest over another is evidence that the priest’s personality has entered too much into the liturgy. The great thing about the liturgy is that any priest can step in and read the words!
Since Vatican II, however, there has been a good deal of adlibbing the text of the Mass. Some have done this because they didn’t like the text, while others were awaiting a new translation. Thankfully this translation is here and the bishops are uniting their priests around it. No more adlibbing.
But in the name of making the Mass “more understandable and more meaningful to parishioners,” Fr. William Rowe of the Belleville Diocese in Illinois has continued to improvise the words of the Roman Missal. His ordinary, Bishop Edward Braxton, instructed Fr. Rowe to be a faithful and obedient priest and use the correct words. “I told him I couldn't do that,” Rowe said. “That's how I pray.” This emphasis of his own personal preferences rather than praying the most powerful words of the Church led Bishop Braxton to remove Fr. Rowe from his parish. In an age where authority and leadership has been reduced to mere service, Bishop Braxton shows us that being a bishop means having a backbone in the face of recalcitrant priests who entrench themselves in parishes by making themselves the center of attention.