I've been having trouble at Mass lately. No matter where I go (and I've spent time at many parishes: at home, at school, and visiting friends), the personal preferences of the priest seem to get in the way of me praying the liturgy.
One priest has such a thick accent, I have to be consciously attentive every second just to understand his homilies. Another's homilies habitually have nothing to do with the day's readings. Another speaks aloud prayers that are supposed to be said silently. Another priest's ars celebrandi is - well, there's nothing wrong with it per se, but it's just not to my personal liking. Yet another priest is too slow and meticulous (almost painfully so). Another speaks things that I would like to have sung... the list goes on.
I have often heard the complaint levied against the OF that it gives too much focus on the priest's personality. And rightfully so - who among us has not experienced the natural evangelizing effect of a priest with great personal charisma, then seen it topple to pieces when said priest was transferred?
The catch: these priests mentioned above? They're all traddy priests, saying the EF Mass!
I've been suspecting for months that one of the attractive features about the EF is that in it, you're less bound to the priest's failings. Father's voice distracts you from prayer (be it his heavy accent, strange pronunciations, putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable, or singsongy "prayer tone")? For one thing, he's not speaking your language for very long; for another, even many of his Latin prayers are prayed quietly or silently. Don't like the priest looking at you? Rest assured that never once in the EF is he able to make eye contact. Your pastor's a tenor and you're a bass, and you can never hit the right notes to sing the response to his "Dominus vobiscum"? You're under no obligation to make a sound; a prayer within your heart is perfectly sufficient. Broken rubrics or liturgical ineptitude upset you? You can't see most of the actions you'd be nitpicky about (and, unless you're a Latin scholar, can't hear them either)!
I am exaggerating the divide to make my case, but the reality stands. The distracting voice in the OF effectively cuts you off from the all prayers of the Mass that you're not saying yourself. If someone is making eye contact with you (even only at the distribution of Communion), it takes great discipline not to look back and see the minister more than the sacrament. I can't even estimate how many times I've had to sing a response (or part of a song) down an octave. And you know things are bad if your spiritual director suggests you close your eyes and presume the best at certain parts of Mass.
There are good OFs out there, and we do need more of them. There are also good EFs out there, in ever-growing numbers. But there's a difference between fleeing to the EF as a refuge and falling in love with its inspiring beauty. I suspect that most of us have done a little of both.