Word made flesh: the remarkable Christmas mass of Fr. Prus

A reader sent this my way in the comments, adding that she wanted to show…

the wonderful way one priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit celebrates the Christmas Mass starting with a real baby in the manger. The manger is then used as an altar. Brought my camera this year because so many not in this area have asked to see how it’s done.

And now you can see it for yourself.  The priest is Fr. Ed Prus.  Take a look below.

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  1. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    Sometimes people really need to SEE it, I guess, in order to grasp that the Word made Flesh lay in a “food bin” and then became “food” for the world.

  2. Mmmm…. I’m not sure I like this. That’s my initial reaction anyway.

  3. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    I think it’s a novel concept — and clearly resonates with some people.

    At my parish, we do something more subtle to convey the same idea.

    We have constructed over the altar the outlines of the stable, with a star hanging high above. The Christ child rests in front of the altar.

    The connection isn’t explicit. But it’s there, for those who want to make it.

    Dcn. G.

  4. Cute. I just wonder what would happen if the baby goes on a “tantrum” for unknown reasons. This is a risk to take. Thanks for sharing. I got some ideas for further theatrical/liturgical development.

  5. I’m also not certain that I’m entirely comfortable with what could be lack of trust that our symbols speak powerfully.
    However, since our youth group travelled to the Live Nativity at a neighboring Protestant church, I realize the need for real visuals.

    My overpowering sadness is that Senior Priests like Father Prus seem to “get” what people need to cennect, even as his younger brothers are impatient with people not being there yet… hence “megachurches” draw our people!

  6. I don’t like this at all. The Mass is not a carnival side show.

  7. I tend to side with those who have misgivings. The connection needs to be made, that’s true. However, it is impossible to make that connection without a god deal of catechesis on the Eucharist and what it is, what the incarnation was all about, what function the Eucharist serves in our lives.

    With that information, properly presented and internalized, it’s easy to make the connection. Without it, it is holding up a concrete visual (real baby) and trying to wed it to something ethereal and nebulous in the minds of the uncatechized.

    Yes, the Protestants put on great shows at Christmas, and there is a place for that in the Church, but they don’t have the issue of the Eucharist to contend with. Putting on elaborate Nativities during Mass can actually distract Eucharistic focus. So it all comes back to a Priest and/or Deacon who can communicate the meaning of the Eucharist and its relevance with clarity and humanity.

  8. Becky Kelley sings the following song:

    “Christmas time is approaching. Snow is starting to fall;
    Shoppers choosing their presents and people filling the mall.
    Children waiting for Santa with excitement and glee;
    a little boy tugged my sweater, looked up and asked me,
    ‘Where’s the line to see Jesus, is he here at the store?
    If Christmas time is his birthday, why don’t we see him more?’

    Where’s the line to see Jesus? He was born for me.
    Santa Claus brought me presents, but Christ gave his life for me.”

    I can’t help but wonder if the people in the pews know that the line to see Jesus and to receive Him is there in the church at Communion time. The point needs to be made in a straight forward and clear manner since the state of catechesis is poor at present. My overall reaction is that it’s a nice show… do they know what they have on the altar? So the show is entertaining but what happens at the altar is not as exciting. Most unfortunate. BTW where is the regular altar of sacrifice?

  9. CHICK O'LEARY says:

    Ahh, yes. Another aging progressive who has determined that the sacrifice of the Mass is in insufficient of itself and he has the innovations that can improve it.

  10. Dev Thakur says:

    Chick O’Leary: ditto

    If you are going to do this kind of stuff, dear Fathers, using your amazing and interest and different super-creative styles, please keep it away from the Mass.

    Schedule your own special “Fr. Joe’s spiritual hour,” and if you really do a great thing, then people will come, won’t they?

  11. Things like this make me want to pull my hair out and scream in frustration.
    I too used to believe that it was all about poor catechesis but anymore I bekieve there’s more than one factor involved…like the people forgetting the meaning of the True Presence and allowing themselves to be schmoozed by the protestant churches that, like someone said, don’t have the Real Presence to deal with and can make their “worship services” as theatrical as all get out.
    The beauty of our Catholicism is in its mystery!
    There is little to no mystery in any other Christian denomination…PERIOD.

  12. Where are the liturgical dancers?
    And the Clowns?
    And Eucharistic ministers?

  13. What’s wrong with Extra Ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist?

  14. Fr. Prus did a beautiful job of catechesis at this Mass about the incarnation, the Eucharist, from laying in a food trough to becoming food for the world, the bread of life. It was a wonderful visual to go along with the message not only for those who celebrate with us only on Christmas or Easter, but those in the parish in these days when we hear too little of what and why we believe. Too bad I didn’t record that. But there is no doubt in my mind that those who were there left knowing Christmas is about Christ and His love and His life for us. No there were no liturgical dancers, no there were no clowns.

  15. Please don’t mis-interpret my comments.
    My concern is that our symbols have become so minimal that people miss them!
    Are we given time to present the gift of this day/week/our life along with the bread and wine offered?
    Are we permitted to recognize Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread, or is the priest too busy distributing left overs from the tabernacle?

    I expressed my discomfort – but we need to help the casual Catholic realize that we are, indeed, graced with the Real Presence.
    I just wonder if enough is done to draw them into this Great Mystery!

  16. Deacon Bob Ovies says:

    As a deacon in the archdiocese of Detroit, I find the copy in the opening of the video eloquently simple and demonstrably true: “Fr Prus has a gift for celebrating God’s love.” Many of us, having been brought so much closer to God as deacons and diaconal families through this man’s gentle love for our Lord, for the church and for God’s people, have no doubt at all that if there were a dozen of him active across our diocese, Masses would be filled, RCIA classes would be filled, baptism and confirmation classes would be filled, collection baskets would be filled, and the line-ups for priestly and diaconal vocational applications would be filled in hand-clapping numbers. Being brought closer in even more deeply personal and touchable ways to God’s sacramental presence and wonderful love is not something that people hungry for God will long resist. And yes, the world around us, as all of us can agree, is desperately hungry for God.

  17. At the Christmas vigil in Greccio, Italy, St. Francis of Assisi arranged a manger with hay and a figure of the Christ Child in a niche in a rock (there were too many people to fit in the small local chapel). He even brought in an ox and an ass! After the homily, the manger was transformed into the altar.

    I suppose I can see both sides. The need for more obvious visuals to help bring clarity to our symbols vs. the risk that the visuals will limit the power of the symbols to communicate God’s truth to all. Recall that the miracle of Pentecost was not that the apostles spoke in a variety of languages, but that those who heard them preach heard them in their own language. The power of a symbol is that it can speak a truth to many in a way each individual can understand. If we make the visual too obvious, we limit the power of the symbol to communicate.

    On the other hand, we live in a culture that is saturated with obvious, in-your-face images. So much so, that the language of symbols is nearly a dead language. The risk is that few will understand the truth of the symbol, and make up their own meaning. It seems Fr. Prus is making a good-hearted effort to teach the connection between the Word made flesh and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

  18. Renee Marie Long says:

    Lovely, of course. I have been blessed with 25 years of Father Prus’ friendship and teachings. Deacon Bob is right – if we could only duplicate this man and his ways – he is what the world needs.

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