A priest’s #1 distraction at Mass—and how to avoid it

In the Memoriale of St. Pierre Favre (aka Peter Faber), I happened across this startling entry:

During Mass on the day of St. Clare, I felt myself somewhat distracted by my desires; one was to edify those present, the other to obtain devotion for that purpose. In the past I have often experienced the same, at first without being aware that it was a temptation.

Think about that: This Jesuit saint—one of the original companions of St. Ignatius Loyola—thought that it was a temptation for a priest, while celebrating Mass, to focus on how he might elevate the hearts and minds of the people in his congregation. He concluded that it was not actually sinful to succumb to this temptation; nevertheless it was an imperfection. In celebrating Mass, the priest should be concentrating on giving glory to God. Any other object—even a valid pastoral concern—is a distraction.

How many Catholic priests today think that it is their top priority to ensure that the faithful are fully participating in the Mass? How many would be shocked to think that another priest—a master of spirituality—would say that they were giving in to temptation when they took that approach to the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice?

Follow-up questions: If the priest-celebrant is distracted from his primary duty when he tries to edify the congregation, wouldn’t it be wise to help the priest avoid such distractions? Isn’t it obvious that when the priest faces the people, in the position of a master-of-ceremonies, he is subject to greater distraction?

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