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The hippy-dippy rupturism of the past is finally giving way to a more settled and solemn appreciation of the intrinsic majesty of the Roman rite.

A new generation of celebrants is moving past the politicized agendas of the past toward embracing the true spirit of the liturgy.

It is an interesting experiment to travel and attend Sunday Mass at a random parish. But they are not permitted to replace liturgical texts with something that they dreamed up on the spot.

This abuse is extremely disorienting and draws undue attention to the personality and personal views of the priest rather than to the theology and ritual prescribed by the Church.

How many have read the repeated urgings in the General Instruction to sing the assigned chant or at least use the text in the official choir books rather than just choose a random song loosely based on the theme of the season? Their Gregorian originals are stunningly evocative of the liturgical spirit and even define it.

To be sure, this is technically permissible to do, but, truly, this approach “cheats the faithful,” as the Vatican wrote in an instruction in 1969. Even if sung in English or in choral style, the propers are part of the Mass.

Regardless, this much we do know: it is not supposed to be a micro-social hour that encourages people to mill around as if at a cocktail party.

The Missal plainly says that the extension to the congregation is optional.

But the habit of riffing around on the prayers remains among many priests.The General Instruction says: “it is appropriate that each person, in a sober manner, offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest.” But even this is vague. What if you are the only person in your section of the pew? And note that no rubric specifies the handshake as the appropriate gesture.We do that just because this is our cultural custom. In general, this whole part of the Mass invites confusion and awkwardness, and no matter how much we try to solemnize it, it still has more of the feeling of a civic or social activity than a truly liturgical one. At worst, it can result in hurt feelings and all around confusion. Replacing Sung Propers with Something Else Since the earliest centuries, the liturgy assigned particular scriptural texts to particular liturgical days.Most parishes today use pre-printed prayers from private publishers. The best ones are brief and stick to the formula: prayers for the Church, for public authorities and the salvation of the whole world, for those burdened, and for the local community.The worst ones lead the whole liturgy astray in very distracting ways. Extended and Chatty Sign of the Peace The rite of peace has a long tradition in the Roman Rite dating to the earliest centuries. There are arguments and disputes about whether extending it to the congregation is a revival of a lost tradition or an innovation.

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