Have you ever been at Mass and wished you could slow down the prayers to really focus on each word or phrase? Or maybe you’re the opposite, a natural fast-talker for whom the Mass drags on because the prayers seem to be said … so … slowly. No matter which end of the spectrum you fall, at the end of the day the fact is that just about everyone accepts ‘the Catholic pace.’
Recently on Go Ask Your Father™, Monsignor Stuart Swetland explained what ‘the Catholic pace’ is to a listener who wanted to pray more reverently at Mass, but found the congregation speaks too quickly for him to enter into the words of the liturgy.
Msgr. Swetland introduced the listener to the term, ‘the Catholic pace,’ saying, “As a convert, I noticed that there is, in the United States – and I came into the Church in England and it was the same there – what I call the ‘Catholic pace.’ Meaning that there is a certain pace that is normal for most places in how we respond and say our prayers. I’m talking about liturgical prayers.”
“It seems to be the same everywhere,” he said. “Maybe slightly slower in certain places and slightly faster in others. But on a whole, it’s about the same pace. So no matter where in the United States you pray the Our Father at liturgy, it’s usually at the same pace.”
And this makes sense. The Mass is an act of communal worship, and so it is important that the congregation speak as one voice. If everyone spoke at a pace that best suited them, the prayers and responses would be a cacophony of noise rather than a united prayer.
“I think there is just a natural rhythm,” Msgr. Swetland said. “And we’re supposed to be praying in unison, so we should fall into that natural rhythm so that we are praying with everybody. Because if people pray at a different pace in the liturgy it gets jumbled quickly.”
However, that doesn’t mean that we must only pray at the ‘Catholic pace.’ Hopefully there are other times in your day that you pray, and those are opportunities to pray at whatever pace you feel called.
For example, Msgr. Swetland said, “The pace that a Rosary is said can change very much by whoever is leading it. I jokingly say that we have every speed of Rosary-saying in the Catholic Church. We have from the auction call – where the person seems to be speaking as quickly as an auctioneer does – to the funeral dirge Rosary. The Auctioneer Rosary can take a very short amount of time to pray and the Funeral Dirge Rosary can take half an hour to pray. On that, it very much depends on who’s leading it.”
Msgr. Swetland concluded by telling the listener, “My suggestion is that in the liturgy you just fall into the Catholic pace. I want you to just inculcate that, that it is the way and the pace that we pray the liturgy. And then when you do your private prayers, or your personal prayers, you pray them at whatever pace you wish to pray them. Whatever way you find most efficacious for you personally.”
Listen to the full conversation below: