What follows is the letter I sent to Father "Bill" about the "Jenga" Mass (although I most certainly did not use that term in this letter):
Dear Father X,
Greetings to you in Christ Jesus. I am writing this letter to you in an effort to explain my attitude (which I would describe as uneasy or anxious) at the Mass you celebrated for our group. I do thank you for taking the time to celebrate Mass at our request, but I have some real concerns about the manner in which Mass was said: certain parts (including gestures and postures) of the Mass were omitted, certain actions were added, and certain roles proper to an ordained minister were relegated (in whole or in part) to laymen. While I have no desire to present a list of “offenses”, I do think it is important to explain why I think that particular celebration of the Mass was detrimental to the individual spiritual growth of the members of the group and how it actually served against your purpose of seeking to make the Mass “open” to us by answering questions and explaining the elements of the liturgy. I hope that a dialog can follow this letter (if you wish it).
Let me first explain my background. Yes, I was an altar boy when I was growing up; I probably served for around 7 years or so, and my training is still with me. My oldest brother is a priest and pastor. When I moved to Plainsboro two-and-a-half years ago, it was after a spiritual wasteland of sorts: I was not a practicing Catholic at college. I was determined to find a parish (Queenship of Mary), get involved, and get back to being Catholic: now I am a reader (a non-instituted lector) and I serve on the Parish Pastoral Council. During Lent of 2007, I attended a series of lectures on Deus Caritas Est at a nearby parish. This got me interested in the writings coming out of the Church, so I read the encyclical, then I read Sacramentum Caritatis, and then I spent a lot of time searching out and reading the Church’s documents and teachings on the Holy Eucharist as well as the
Before you began Mass on Thursday, you stated that you would welcome any questions about what was being said and done, and provide explanations. This is truly a noble task, because “there is a pressing need for the biblical and liturgical formation of the people of God, both pastors and faithful”. I do not know the level of liturgical formation of the other members of our group, but I expect we all would have welcomed explanations of certain parts of the Mass (especially those parts which are said silently or in a low voice by the priest). However, I believe you worked against that purpose by not celebrating the Mass as we would expect to see it celebrated under other circumstances; the changes served to hinder a more complete understanding of the
Because we started Mass sitting down together, I don’t think you ever approached the altar and kissed it; and since we were sitting, we did not stand for prayer or the Gospel. There was no Act of Penitence – the Kyrie, yes, but nothing before it. You had Chris read the Gospel (and invited laity to comment on or add to the Homily) – which, according to Redemptionis Sacramentum, is a “grave matter”. Because you did not read it, I do not know if the sign of the cross was traced on it, nor if the prayers before and after its proclamation were prayed. If you had done these things (specifically, had you prayed the silent prayers in a low voice which we would hear), it may have evoked a question from the group; but many things were omitted which would have done well to be explained!
When you invited us to gather around the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer, you gave us the opportunity to hold the paten and pray over the bread, asking God to make us part of the Sacrament we were about to receive. Here I think a prime opportunity for explaining the “actual participation” of the assembly of the faithful in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was lost; it was replaced with an illicit addition to the liturgy designed to give us more “active participation” which we will simply not find outside the small-group Mass we attended. You could have spoken about how the faithful of Christ offer themselves up as the priest (in persona Christi) offers the Body and Blood of God the Son to God the Father; Pope Pius XII wrote beautifully about this joining of ourselves to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:
[T]here is also a more profound reason why all Christians, especially those who are present at Mass, are said to offer the sacrifice. … Now the faithful participate in the oblation, understood in this limited sense, after their own fashion and in a twofold manner, namely, because they not only offer the sacrifice by the hands of the priest, but also, to a certain extent, in union with him. … [T]he conclusion that the people offer the sacrifice with the priest himself is not based on the fact that, being members of the Church no less than the priest himself, they perform a visible liturgical rite; … rather it is based on the fact that the people unite their hearts in praise, impetration, expiation and thanksgiving with prayers or intention of the priest, even of the High Priest himself, so that in the one and same offering of the victim and according to a visible sacerdotal rite, they may be presented to God the Father. … In order that the oblation by which the faithful offer the divine Victim in this sacrifice to the heavenly Father may have its full effect, it is necessary that the people add something else, namely, the offering of themselves as a victim. … But at that time especially when the faithful take part in the liturgical service with such piety and recollection that it can truly be said of them: “whose faith and devotion is known to Thee,” it is then, with the High Priest and through Him they offer themselves as a spiritual sacrifice, that each one's faith ought to become more ready to work through charity, his piety more real and fervent, and each one should consecrate himself to the furthering of the divine glory, desiring to become as like as possible to Christ in His most grievous sufferings.
Instead of making up a “visible liturgical rite” for us to perform, you could have explained the sense in which we join our prayers with yours (the Eucharistic Prayer) to the Father, and join ourselves with the oblation on the altar as “a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God”. The other problem encountered by having us around the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer is that kneeling there is quite uncomfortable – I know that from experience now – although kneeling is the prescribed universal posture for the consecration.
Among the changes to the words of the Mass, the one that caused me the most grief was “Let us proclaim our faith”, spoken immediately before the Memorial Acclamation. Now, I am not a fan of the current ICEL translation of “mysterium fidei” (“Let us proclaim the mystery of faith”), but at least it retains the words “mystery of faith” which are the direct translation of the Latin words in the official Missal. While I expect the Eucharistic Prayer you prayed was one with the approval of the Holy See, I cannot believe it would have rendered “mysterium fidei” as “Let us proclaim our faith” and have received that same approval! The Eucharistic Prayer is the climax of the celebration of the Mass, and so to alter the words is wholly inappropriate. At least one prayer after the Our Father was truncated somewhat; to what end, I do not know.
Your remark after Mass had concluded – “Do you know what we forgot?” – made me wonder what might have been omitted that I had failed to notice. That was the state of mind I was in by the time you gave us the blessing, and it upset me to be so on edge during the
I sincerely hope you take this letter to heart. I am praying for you, and I ask that you pray for me as well. The Lord be with you.
 Redemptionis Sacramentum [RS], n. 12
 Ibid., n. 170
 Ibid., n. 173, cf. n. 153
 “During the liturgy of the eucharist, only the presiding celebrant remains at the altar. The assembly of the faithful take their place in the Church outside the ‘presbyterium,’ which is reserved for the celebrant or concelebrants and altar ministers.” (Notitiae 17 (1981) 61)
 Mediator Dei, nn. 91-99
 Ibid., n. 99; cf. Romans 12:1
 “Only those Eucharistic Prayers are to be used which are found in the Roman Missal or are legitimately approved by the Apostolic See, and according to the manner and the terms set forth by it. ‘It is not to be tolerated that some Priests take upon themselves the right to compose their own Eucharistic Prayers’ or to change the same texts approved by the Church, or to introduce others composed by private individuals.” (RS, n. 51)