A couple months back, I wrote an article asking, what What was the Golden Age of the Liturgy? For it would seem, that every period has had its challenges, and also, it’s good points. The question of what is the golden year, the paradigm, is most pertinent among traditional Catholics, who largely regard the Golden age of the liturgy to be at some point in the past.
Though the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated according to the form it had in 1962, most traditional Catholics would set the ideal year, the Golden age, long before that. Yet, there is great debate as to what that year should be. Informal inquiry among traditional friends of mine yielded various results. Many look back to the mid-1940s, still others set the date at the turn of the last century, with Pius X’s reforms. Still others, go back to the 16th century, just after Trent , still others all the way back the 5th century.
Recently however a priest friend of mine, a priest and friend I consider to be very solid and thoughtful, asked me to consider that this is the golden age of the liturgy. He is a priest, about 10 years older than I, but ordained later, a fine musician, classically trained, well read in Latin and Biblical Greek, and well acquainted with the history of the Church. His contention, that this is a golden age of the liturgy, is evidenced by his observation that, perhaps as never before, many are deeply engaged, and well aware of the critical questions of the liturgy, and have a highly developed sense of their own role in the worship of God.
He does not root his vision merely in modern notions of the liturgy. For indeed, there is all whole cadre of laypeople concerned for, and devoted to, the Traditional Latin Mass. Yet unlike many of their forbearers who attended the Latin Mass, say in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, they are passionately involved, and follow the liturgy carefully through the use of their missals, and their awareness of liturgical details, details of which their grandparents were either unaware, or uninterested.
It is also true that there are others engage in more modern forms of the liturgy, but who are also passionate, involved, and aware of their legitimate roles. There are lectors, who are well-trained, there are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (I know, I know) who are needed, and aware of their role and the limits of their involvement. Servers, ushers, and choir members are also involved, active, and increasingly, well-trained.
Clergy too, especially younger clergy, are more aware of the rubrics, and the meaning of liturgical customs, and carefully observant of them. This goes for both the older, Traditional Latin Mass, and for the Ordinary Form. It is also far more common for the clergy to teach and draw the faithful into the deeper meaning in the liturgy.
Yes, both clergy and laity, are increasingly attentive and conscientious in terms of their role and the meaning of the liturgy. There is a greater flourishing of traditional forms of the liturgy as well as legitimate and diverse forms of the ordinary form of the Mass.
I know, some of you will say “But father, but Father! What about the dancing girls, what about too many Eucharistic ministers, what about… what about…” I will not deny that there are abuses, and excesses in modern expressions of the liturgy. But the dirty little secret is, there have always been such things.
Get in your time machine and go with the to the 1940s. Yes, even then, there were problems: mumbled Latin, rushed hurried gestures, half genuflections by the priest, poor sermons, and completely omitted sermons, 22 minute Masses, even on a Sunday morning, the rejection of Gregorian chant as “too complicated” and the replacing of it with poorly sung, even bellowed recto tono (usually 8th tone) chanting by Mrs. Murphy in the choir loft. The overall refusal of the sung liturgy in favor of low mass, to a fault. True, every mass could not be sung, but at least one, preferably several masses on Sunday should have been sung. But rarely were they, and up to a dozen masses were celebrated in the local parish all before noon (upper church and lower church – 6:00 am, 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30, 9:00 (upper and lower church), 9:30 (upper and lower church), 10:00 (sung), 11:00, 11:30), often rather rushed, hurried and in a kind of mass production, factory sort of way. Some of the priest from that era tell me they’d go out and start distributing communion at the rail right after the homily while the priest went up to the altar and said the current Mass.
Few Catholics in those days were aware of many of the abuses and short cuts. Much was hidden, under poorly pronounced and mumbled Latin, rushed and hurried low masses etc. But the older priests assure me, priests that I trust, (not haters of the “bad old days,”) that things were often not beautiful in those days.
Neither today are things always beautiful. But now, as then, there are good things, and many are in fact engaged quite deeply in the celebration of the sacred liturgy. It is a sad truth that attendance is low, perhaps as low as 20% of Catholics on a given Sunday. But among those who do attend there is increasing awareness of what we do and why. We can only ask that this will grow. Abuses in liturgical practice must continue to be addressed in loving, but clear ways.
But I wonder, if perhaps my priest friend isn’t right. Perhaps we are in a golden age today.
I was privileged today to celebrate the novus ordo (ordinary form) on two occasions, and then, in the evening, to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. All three congregations were engaged, aware, and excited about the liturgy that was celebrated. There was fine music, though from different traditions, at all three masses. There was traditional hymnody, a youth choir, gospel music, a Latin Gregorian schola, and a choir that sang Renaissance Polyphony.
I cannot tell you how blessed I feel, how it enriched, how excited I am to celebrate the sacred liturgy in all these different ways. I walk in a wider, and more diverse church then perhaps my brethren from the 40s and 50s would ever have imagined. But I wonder too how many of them would have heard a full Gregorian Schola singing from an unabridged Liber Usualis, and a full setting Renaissance Polyphonic Mass by Lassus by a 30-voice choir, back in 1946, as I did today.
Yes, I have the best of the old and the best of the new. I am a man most blessed. The people I love, all from very different traditions, love the liturgy, they love the Lord, and they encounter him in every Mass in ways quite rich and wonderful.
Maybe this is the golden age of the liturgy. Before you shake your head and wonder, “Is he insane!?” I ask you to consider if per chance you might know of an era of greater engagement and diversity. Perhaps you do not care for “diversity,” and would like the Mass to be in only one form. But be careful! For the form that might prevail might not be the exact form you prefer. Maybe diversity is okay, maybe it is what God knows is best for his Church now.
Maybe this is a golden age. Think about it…
The follow video I put together a couple of years ago wherein I pondered that maybe the TLM and more modern “charismatic” forms of the liturgy are not so far apart after all.
Photo credit; Bishop Slattery celebrating Novus Ordo, ad orientem in Tulsa Cathedral.
69 Replies to “Welcome to the Golden Age of the Liturgy”
Thank you for your insights on the Liturgy. It is in many ways, a golden age. I look forward to your next post.
I wonder if there’s something more subtle about the “golden” aspect of today’s liturgy. Future generations may look back and marvel that the liturgy continued unabated in spite of the drop in attendence as participants carried on in sparsly occupied pews; as persecution (sometimes blatant – sometimes subtle derision 2 Peter 3:3) increased; as hedonism and an easier to swallow message became popular. Isaiah 30:10&11.
There is hypocrasy in the notion that there is an abuse of EMs but there is no abuse going on by trained clergy who allow Particles of the Blessed Sacrament to possibly fall to the ground (no paten at Holy Communion) and who put no measures in place in public basilicas to ensure that those who receive in the hand actually consume the Host before departing.
Where’s a good, trained, faithful EM when you need them?
I apologize for seeming so harsh (I understand that there are many considerations), but I count it a true blessing in today’s Church that we have EM’s. The large number of EM’s is a recognition of a demand which is apparently not supportable by the shortage in Priests or Deacons, or others who would be willing to volunteer (if asked) to insure that the Blessed Sacrament is respected and safeguarded duing Distribution. What if the 20% that do attend Mass spiked to 80%? What then?
I am always amused at the accusation of ‘mumbled latin’. In the dialogue mass the congregation was intended to participate by making responses and reciting, for example, the Gloria, Creed and Pater Noster with the priest. It was not intended, even at these Masses, that everybody in the church hear every word of the celebrant – in fact for the first 1900 years of the Church it would have been a physical impossibility. The priest would have had to bellow at the top of his voice to be heard. Imagine being in any large church you are familiar with – can you make yourself heard over its full length without electronic amplification?
Interestingly, with the advent of the sacred microphone (or should I say amplifiers?) and the elimination of the sin of mumbling the priest has still turned around to face the audience.
Dr. Robert Spaemann asked that the microphone be done away with except for the sermon on the grounds that its use encouraged people to confuse the sermon with prayer. “The microphone distorts real space and takes us into a virtual world, where we are taken every day these days by the media.” (Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger, St Michael’s Abbey Press, 2003).
Now there is no mumbling but, on the other hand, there is often no discrimination made in the priest’s voice in the various words he recites. The critical example being the common rush through the words of institution without pause and without change of tone – just more words blared out. God has come down on the altar but you would never know it or sense it from the tone or pace of speaking.
Spaemann again: “The bride does not speak to her divine spouse with a microphone.”
Yes the mumbling referred to here is not about volume, but about distinctness. Frankly the whispered Canon encouraged it and even today, the secret prayers of the priest in the N.O. Mass are also often mumbled and hurried through. To some degree, there is pressure on the celebrant to move things along when the faithful are unengaged. There is some sense that they are waiting for him to finish. The tight schedules of the past, and in some parishes still today also make for bad liturgy. At any rate, I think you misunderstand the point about mumbling which is not about volume but about pronunciation, distinctness, speed etc.
Thank you for pointing towards a unity among the diversity of liturgical styles. One challenge we have today is that liturgy has created a division in the Church in the minds of some (as you suggest with some of your parenthetical asides) as to which is the “authentic” expression of Jesus’ ancient command to “Do this in memory of me”. I suppose it has always been so right from the first century with Jews vs. gentiles, and later Jerome’s shift to the vernacular (Latin) must have upset many who were heartbroken at the loss of the “sacred” language. Maybe there were even many who regretted Gregory’s imposition of a new “modern” style of music to replace the older more appropriate forms.The consistent attempts through the centuries to adapt the liturgy for the sake of unity have inevitably produced some divisions, but our greatest concern needs to be the 80% who don’t connect with liturgy at all. Thanks again for the positive reminder about unity–it’s a big Church out there…
1) Certainly there are always (and will always be) liturgical abuses. But there is a difference between people rushing through the Mass or mumbling parts of it (i.e. the celebrant doing a bad job) and with abuses introduced into the form of the liturgy itself (e.g. excessive EMHCs, altar girls, heretical songs, tropes in the Agnus Dei, etc). This is a difference in kind, not just in degree.
2) If there will always be abuses, restoring Latin is a good idea. You point out that only priests were aware that they were doing a poor job at celebrating the Liturgy by mispronouncing the Latin or mumbling, etc. But in the current Ordinary Form, the laity is beaten over the head with the abuses. If there must be abuses, why not structure the Mass in such a way that only a few (and only those abusing the Liturgy) are aware?
3) Finally, it is telling that 70% of Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence. Something is wrong with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy when the vast majority of Catholics (even of Catholics who bother coming) don’t believe the Liturgy is what it is. Lex orandi, lex credendi – something must be wrong with our Liturgical life if belief has fallen this much.
There are positive things about the Liturgy today and there were positive things about the Liturgy in years past. The Church will remove the current abuses and is training seminarians better. Combine this with continued participation from the laity (as you mention) and the Golden Age might be in the near future, rather than the present or the distant past.
Of course, the only time the Mass was celebrated perfectly was the Last Supper when Christ celebrated it perfectly. Anytime we sinners are involved there will be some abuses.
I think the 70% figure is exaggerated. That number comes from a Gallup poll that is almost 20 years old at this point and, since then, we have done a better job teaching and emphasizing true presence. I like Latin and say the Mass in Latin a good bit. Most of the clergy that say the Latin Mass today are very careful to pronounce the words and follow the rubrics/gestures etc. I also think though that having Mass widely in the vernacular has helped create that care so that “muy rapido” of the Latin has given way to the more natural pace of the vernacular. I still find an occasional “older guy” (these days they are a LOT older) who were raised in the old system that still rip roar through the Latin. But these days, most of the older priests who trained me to say the TLM 25 years ago have gone on to their reward and/or handed on the reigns to a younger generation whose primary experience with the Mass has been the more natural pace of the modern liturgy and this has influenced how they say the old.
I don’t know about that 70% not being true anymore, Father. At our N.O. parish in the SW suburbs of Chicago, we had a pastor who for 12+ years preached from the pulpit that things have changed, that we Catholics no longer believe that Jesus Christ is really present in the Eucharist, and that it’s a communal meal (which is validated by the people). He also refused to have sacramental confession because “there’s no need for it; we’re all going to be saved anyway.” He was great at visiting sick/elderly parishioners in the hospital, but, once again, refused to administer the last rites or hear their confesisons, again, “there’s not need, we’re all going to be saved anyway.” Older parishioners from our parish went down to see the Cardinal on a weekly basis, every week, only to be turned away, every week. This former pastor was finally put on sabbatical and then assigned to a different parish.
Our new pastor is trying to revive the practice of going to confession, with not-very-good results. We have a priest in our parish who is rock-solid (full-time chaplain at the local hospital which performs abortions through all 9 months). This priest gave a homily at Christmas Eve mass telling the people who show up only for Christman and Easter that if they have not been to mass every Sunday and holyday of obligation, and/or have not been to confession for the past year, and/or practice contraception, birth control, fornication, adultery and/or divorce and remarriage they are very likely in the state of mortal sin and should not present themselves for Holy Communion. Most of the congregation was dumbstruck. There were so many complaints (the pastor stopped counting at 28) that th enew pastor spent the next few weeks apologizing and undoing everything the orthodox priest had said; the orthodox priest is almost never permitted to offer Mass at his own parish church anymore.
The same orthodox priest, in canvassing at Mass on a Saturday, tested the congregation for their knowledge of the Real Presence. Only 3-5 persons in the entire congregation knew what the Real Presence was, or believed in it. The ladies from the altar and rosary society came up to me the next week and asked how I knew so much about it; they swore they had never heard of this in their entire lives, and wanted me to give them some pointers as to where such a novel concept could possibly be found. I asked for one more week, looked up the cites in the CCC and some standard texts, and gave them to these ladies. They were profoundly grateful, as they had no idea what the Real Presence was. (BTW, the Greatest Generation which was still very much around in the mid-1990’s when that one pastor was originally assigned, are pretty much all gone to their eternal rewards now. I believe these were the last ones who were fully schooled in the Catholic faith.) I am 57 years old and please believe me when I say that I think 70% was a gross undercount, based upon my personal knowledge of local parishes and their members.
Worst of all, most of our local Catholics could not possibly care less.
Lete me clarify the end of my previous comment; I believe the percentage of Catholics who do not believe in, nor understand, the concept of the Real Presence is at least 90% and probably higher (among adult Catholics).
That’s just way too high, My parishioners know better than this, and I certainly see most Catholics in this Archdiocese well aware of the teaching on the true presence.
My sense is that over 90 percent of Catholic churchgoers and a good number of Anglicans and Lutherans accept the Real Presence. I could also suggest that Catholic awareness and acknowledgement of the Real Presence is stronger than it was fifty years ago.
Monsignor, I work in a Catholic school and obviously attend Mass every Sunday and Holyday (plus daily when I can, which is sadly not much), and I’m afraid I must second Catherine. I reckon 90% not believing is a generous estimate. Among the students and staff at my Catholic school, I would estimate the percent who attend Mass more than twice a month at 3-5%. Within that 3-5%, maybe half believe in the Real Presence. The entire staff of the Religious Education department encourage sacriligious reception of Communion, discourage fasting from meat on Friday (which has been fully reinstated by our bishops) and have told the children that priests can reveal what they confess during Confession. It’s a miracle that even 3% of the students go to Mass. At Sunday Mass, every single person (barring myself, if I’ve not been to confession) goes up for Communion. Every single one. I find it incredibly difficult to believe everyone has kept the fast, been to Confession and is totally free from mortal sin, and I certainly don’t blame them because I doubt anyone has ever explained that Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ and that we must be Catholics in a state of grace to receive. But I certainly agree with Catherine. I suspect your parishoners know better, Monsignor, because you have been a good shepherd for them, but sadly this is not widely the case.
I do find it interesting that most people who talk about a return to serious liturgy automatically refer to the traditional Latin Mass. The logic infers that when a Catholic is grown up enough to want something more than banality, the traditional Latin Mass is naturally where he ought to be.
I’ve noticed this gold standard logic even by Catholics who are not traditionalists. This is healthy.
Hmm….. I am not sure I like the equations you draw here as if TLM equals adult and OF equals immature. The OF masses I celebrate are adult, mature etc.
When I was in formation with the Conventual Franciscans, the guardian of Marytown in Libertyville, IL told me that his parish priest when he [still the guardian] was younger, the parish priest would say a Requiem Low Mass for every Mass, including Sundays. Yes, this is before the Mass of Paul VI.
Ha, ha! The Requiem omits the Gloria and the Creed! How long did this go on before he noticed? The Dies Irae and Libera Me are pretty heavy stuff. Imagine having them in each and every Mass! That padre sounds like the Peter Sellars of the priesthood!!!
I do like the idea of a Liturgical “Golden Age” and the importance of “diversity” in that concept. To the extent that diversity draws us all closer to God, it is a very good thing. For example, if we put all of those colors which were missing from the light spectrum back into the light spectrum, then we will begin to see light as God created light to be.
And so I trust that the Holy Spirit is moving the Church to greater things through 2nd Vatican Council. There can be multiple liturgies but the same unchanged truths of the Faith (life, ethics, morality, sacraments, sin, grace, salvation, and so on). I think the creation of the Novus Ordo is a sign of God’s love and that the existence of multiple liturgies is a sign of God’s Mercy and His permitting of free will.
I’m afraid that even if the SSPX agreed to become obedient again to the Holy Spirit (Who was present at and guided the Second Vatican Council), that their organization would liekly remain one which is not open to diversity.
I am very happy when I hear someone use the term “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” whether referrIng to the Novus Ordo or the older form. I really prefer it to “the liturgy.”
I also really like the term “receive Holy Communion,” rather than “take communion.”
With the OF Mass it seems like the danger is doing thing that shouldn’t be done, for example barefoot dancing girls. With the TLM the danger seems to be omitting or rushing through things that shouldn’t be omitted, rushed through, or mumbled.–or not singing the Mass when there are some people willing to attempt to sing the Mass. In the video, Monsignor, I especially appreciated your comments about not requiring people to like what they don’t like and being a bridge.
Nice article, I agree that we are APPROACHING the Golden age, but it will always be before us.
Oh, now you’ve done it Monsignor. Talk about being fearless in the faith.
I wasn’t around prior to Vatican II to know personally what things were like (and neither were probably 95 percent of those crying “but Father, but Father . . .”), but I have read and heard what people were saying at the time, that a renewal was necessary (and by renewal, we do not mean inventing a new Church or a new liturgy, but taking that same 2000-year faith and liturgy, which people had allowed to become old and tired, and waking it up, having it be made ever new in Him who makes all things new), that it might have appeared that more people were attending Mass, but they were effectively empty bodies, physically present, but mentally and spiritually absent due to any number of reasons — lack of understanding by the laity (liturgically, theologically, and linguistically), inability to see or hear what was going on (perhaps not even knowing at what point they were in the Mass), the general state of imperfect human beings who are still attached to worldly concerns, etc.
It is no surprise then that when liturgical reform came up, so many bishops and priests everywhere embraced it. The “but Father, but Father” traditionalists who look back with nostalgia all too often make the mistake of thinking that tradition in liturgy means, not the Latin of the Church in Rome and Italy going back 500 years, but what the Catholic Church in the United States used to look like going back 60-70 years or so. That might have been the “Golden Age” of Catholicism here, when Fulton Sheen was on TV and Father Bing Crosby was starring in film, but the Church is not Americentric.
Even if things were great here (and I would dispute that they were, based on what I’ve read), they were not necessarily going well elsewhere. Rather, people were hungry, they were starving for a liturgy, an ability to have a real and intimate encounter with God in worship, that they were not getting. Again, part of that was due to people themselves — up until the time of Pius X and probably long after in some places, many everyday people were basically illiterate (even if they had access to books, which most didn’t), and consequently were not well-versed in the faith, knowing only a few essentials — but part of it was due to various elements that had been allowed to creep into the Mass, elements that many popes tried to reform or eliminate because they were more of an obstruction than a help.
Ultimately though, one either believes that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, and that the Church is therefore protected from error, or they do not. Either they believe that the Holy Spirit — God Himself — inspired the impetus for liturgical reform, that it was His will and desire — that the reforms and the Council generally are not the problem, but are the answer to the problem — or they do not. If they do not believe that the Holy Spirit was and is at work here, then that raises the implication that the Church is in error, that the Church is wrong, that Jesus was wrong when He said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church — either that, or the current body which includes the hierarchy of Pope Benedict, the bishops, etc., are not the “real Church.” We don’t really want to go there, do we?
I’m not sure that your last paragraph isn’t a false dilemma. You seem to be saying either one is Catholic (i.e. one believes the H.S. guided V2) and that all the changes to the liturgy since V2 are great or one is a heretic. But is there not a valid third option, i.e. the reforms called for in the documents of Vatican 2 are guided by the Holy Spirit, but the implementation of those reforms were, at times, wrongheaded? For example, is it not possible to be a faithful Catholic and stand against altar girls or EMHCs or eliminating all Latin from the Mass? Is it not valid to defend the “body of Vatican 2” while opposing a false “spirit of Vatican 2”? Of course, if someone posits that Vatican 2 was out and out wrong and the OF is invalid they are obviously putting themselves outside of full communion, but I’m not sure the only other valid option is thinking every change since ’62 has been beneficial, which you seem to be suggesting. Maybe I’m reading you incorrectly.
is it not possible to be a faithful Catholic and stand against altar girls or EMHCs or eliminating all Latin from the Mass?
If a Catholic’s bishop says that EMHCs and female altar servers are permissible, then no, it is not possible to be a faithful Catholic in standing against them. Rather, one should seek to understand the reasons behind giving such permission. Eliminating “all” Latin from the Mass is itself a false characterization, is it not?
How should you respond to the Council and liturgical reforms? You should respond in communion with the pope and the bishops — and they respond positively, even if with some caution. The Holy Spirit did not stop His action with the conclusion of the Council, but continues to inspire and guide the Church since. The “changes to the liturgy” itself must be seen in that light. And one should not confuse (1) those reforms to the liturgy itself, that is, as written in the books, the “black” and the “red,” together with the reasons for those reforms, with (2) how that liturgy has been conducted in practice by priests on the local level. All too often, those who object do not make this necessary distinction. And all too often, those who object are all to quick to trot out the “clown Mass,” etc. as if they were the rule rather than the extreme exception.
Moreover, the fact is that there are those out there who overtly say, for example, that the Ordinary Form is per se defective however reverently celebrated, and there are those who do effectively say that Pope Benedict, et al., are not the real Church.
Before objecting to the reforms in practice, what objectors need to do is to assent to and defend the Council and the reforms as written, to stand with their bishops, not against them, to stand with Pope John in calling the Council, with Pope Paul in concluding and implementing the Council, with the Pope John Pauls, and with Pope Benedict, and not argue against them.
For the most part I agree with your analysis, especially the distinction between the reforms to the Liturgy itself and local abuses to the Liturgy in a parish setting. The Holy Spirit guides the magisterium and is currently “reforming the reform” so I think we are on solid ground in suggesting that local abuses need to go, although many go too far and attack the entire ordinary form, which obviously puts one out of communion with the Church.
I only would disagree with your first paragraph. One can remain a good Catholic and oppose altar girls, EMHCs, and removing all Latin (yes “all” Latin, at least in many parishes, obviously not from the entire Church) as long as one affirms that all the above are licit with the bishop’s approval. If a Catholic believes his bishop doesn’t have the authority to make these changes (or worse openly attacks his bishop), then yes he is breaking communion with Mother Church, but a good Catholic may hold these practices to be licit, but not prudent or proper (according to a recent answer to a dubia (Prot. 156/2009) from PCED.)
Of course, we all must first defend the Council and it’s documents AND all magisterial teaching before and after the Council, but we needn’t think every change in the Liturgy has been for the best. For many years people were hoping for a better translation of the Mass and now (through the guidance of the H.S.) we have it. Obviously, those people were not putting themselves outside the Church by suggesting the old translation was poor.
I’m not seeing your point here…I get that you personally don’t like girls as altar servers, “EMHC”s, or seemingly the use of vernacular in mass (although you haven’t explained why), but what is the point of clinging to the insistence that “it may be licit, but it’s imprudent!”? What do you do with your personal objections? Do you protest, or try to convince others to join you? These would seem to be in opposition to the spirit of unity which the bishop is hopefully trying to instill. Are you claiming for yourself the ability to declare abuses over and against the bishop? You are ready to acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s role in the “reform of the reform” and the “better” translation of the mass but it sounds as if you like these because they somehow undo changes you didn’t like. What is your basis for making these declarations about what are “good” changes and what are abuses? So far it seems like personal preference. This is a problematic foundation insofar as other people have different preferences…
Thanks for your thoughts, Daniel. A few point to consider:
First, it is important to distinguish between matters where Catholics are free to disagree with one another and their bishop (i.e. prudential judgements) and matters which all Catholic are bound to assent to. Issues such as altar girls, EMHCs, etc. are of the former kind (according to the PCED), therefore good Catholics are free to disagree with the propriety of these particular changes. That’s not something I’m “clinging to,” that’s simply Church teaching. I appreciate your concern for the proper respect being showed to a bishop, which is an important point especially in light of the frequent disrespectful attacks leveled at bishops from the laity who should be supporting them, however I think your (and Bender’s) comments are an overreaction in the opposite direction.
Second, I’d remind you of Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, a layman, who had a great devotion to the Eucharist and who promoted (in the 1940s) the active participation of the laity in the Mass and the use of the vernacular. He was beatified by John Paul II in 2001. The example of Blessed Carlos shows that the laity are not called to silence on matters liturgical nor are they called to support whatever the current state of the liturgy is uncritically. Indeed, if someone is maligning the bishop or agitating for disrespect or something of that nature they are crossing the line and putting themselves outside communion, but from this it doesn’t follow that everything we experience at every Mass in every parish is to be considered perfect.
Third, consider someone moving from a diocese with altar girls to one without. Are they required to think altar girls are a great idea, then, upon moving, suddenly hold altar girls to be a bad idea? The Church requires the laity to recognize the authority of the bishop to decide the issue, but the Church simply does not require the laity to think that these changes are good (again I refer you to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei).
Fourth, Anyone claiming the authority to determine abuses over and against the bishop is putting himself into schism.
Fifth, I’d distinguish between personal preferences and objective abuses to the liturgy. Bender alluded to the “clown masses” which I am (thankfully) too young to have experienced, but this would be an obvious abuse to the liturgy regardless of an individual’s personal preference for or against it. There are some matters which are simply a matter of personal preference, but all opinions on all changes to the liturgy are not reducible to personal preference.
Sixth, we must keep in mind the actual role of the bishop in determining things like the music selected at a Mass or the number and use of EMHCs, which is little to none. In an average parish, the music is selected by a lay person, a “music minister.” Holding the selection of the hymns by this lay person to be faulty is not opposing the bishop in any manner. The same holds true for the use of Latin, which is decided by the pastor, not the bishop. Pastor’s are free to say the entire OF in Latin or Spanish or English or whatever language they feel is best. Critiquing this decision is, again, not opposing a decision made by the bishop. Opposing the authority of the bishop to allow the pastor to make the decision is a serious error (as is attacking or disrespecting the priest), opposing the decision simply is not.
Seventh, altar girls, EMHCs, vernacular, etc are not actually positive changes to the liturgy, they are exceptions to the normative way of celebrating the Mass allowed by the Vatican and the USCCB (as is the celebration of the EF for that matter). Again, Catholics are free (according to the Church) to wonder if these exceptions to the normal way of celebrating the Mass are for the better or the worse.
Lastly, I don’t oppose the use of the vernacular in Mass and I have never said I did. I simply pointed to the total loss of Latin in most parishes as regrettable.
My question was really about what it means to “oppose the decision”. What do you do about it?
I happen to oppose your reasoning that altar girls and EMHCs are not actually positive changes to the liturgy. Changing the “normative” way of celebrating mass is something which has happened consistently in the history of the Church and must continue according to the needs of the community and our developing understanding of the nature of the Church.
Realistically, the bishops never change what their predecessors have done; i.e. in a diocese where EMCH’s are used to the point of nonsense, that will never change; girl altar servers will never change, horrible abuses of the Holy Eucharist because of this ridiculous insistence on communion in the hand will never change – they won’t do anything to cause upheaval like that. Otherwise, using Bender’s logic, a regular church-going Catholic would have to steel themselves for accepting flip-flop change every time a new bishop was appointed. We’ve had 4 in my diocese and none of them changed a thing. What it does is allow a trickle-down to the various priests until they are all just doing whatever they please. That’s the truth.
Some restraint is necessary in your claims about having an ability to articulate the unvarnished “truth”. Saying that bishops “never change”, calling certain practices “nonsense” and “ridiculous” tips your hand that there’s a lot of personal preference and emotion, and therefore bias in your statements. I appreciate your frustration at not having things the way you like them, but a faith community needs unity and requires compromise–it’s a big Church (of which you and I are a part, but not the leader)…
Frustration at not having things the way I like them is not the issue. The issue is, even when ostensibly good things go awry, nothing will change under a new bishop. Watching people palm the host, put the host up to their teeth and nibble like a cracker, shoving their palms against their mouths like a two year old with a cookie, licking their palms after receiving are horrible nasty things to watch. I could care less about girl servers or girl lectors or even using emhc’s when it’s not necessary. But let’s face it – there is a lot that’s gone wrong in the name of good. That’s my experience and I’m sticking to it.
Jesus said “take and eat”. Your opinion about the “correct” way to follow that directive seems rooted in your feelings rather than an objective standard which is being violated. You may stick to your own experience, but this is usually not a recipe for unity or dialogue (or growth). It’s a big Church (that’s why it’s called “Catholic”)…The Kingdom we’re called to build is God’s, not ours, so we have to learn to work together.
I agree with that last paragraph of yours Bender
Yes, well said here.
I have served at the Summorum Pontificum since I was nine years old (that was 1935). I had to stop recently when the old knees gave out. As you know there is much kneeling and many genuflections invoved. What a wonderful gift God gave me.
I had to write this when I read your phrase that i have heard so many times about mumbled Latin Masses of the 22 minute variety, It has the same ring of those Catholics that brag about how the Nuns used to beat their knuckles until red.
I had the nuns for 12 years and the Jesuits for 4 and although I’ve seen sister grab a guy by the ear or give an occasional tap him off the back of the head with an eraser (the poor dears) I have never seen knuckles beat until red or the precious darlings water boarded.
On to the “22 minute Mass”. At a daily Mass which usually has no homlly (so people can get to work,etc),it is entirely possible to have a beautifully said Mass within 30 minutes. As to “mumbling”,anyone who knows anything about the “Latin Mass” knows it is not ostentatious and is said in a low voice and sometimes spoken so quietly that even the altar sever cannot hear it. Even the motions of the Priest are limited,for one example he is not to extend his arms beyond his shoulders or do anything to bring undue attention to himself.
He is at these moments the “Alter Christus”,not a master of ceremony.
One last thing!
Isn’t it interesting that in 1965 when (ahem) they tried to eliminate the SP we had 45.000 seminarians and 75% of Catholics attended Mass weekly. Now we have 4000 seminarians and a 22% attendance.
Not bad for a “mumbled”Mass!
It’s got nothing to do with nuns, everything to do with actual experience. A lot of “mumbling” was in reference to the “silent” (sub secreto) nature of most of the prayers that you cite with fondness. Again, not everyone succumbed to this problem, but it was not uncommon, even among some of the older priests who taught me the Mass and were celebrating the EF as early as 1984 (1st indult) when I began my learning. As to your stats at the end, it was impressive. It is hard to say what would have happened had we not changed the liturgy and we should note, there were already cultural problems at work in the Church even at the high water mark/halcyon days you cite. Remember it was the very children in our overflowing Catholic schools of the 1950s who threw the revolution. It was the very seminarians whose large numbers you cite that threw the revolution and then left in droves. There were problems long before 1970.
Oh!, Father do you mean changing to the new Mass might have saved us from not having 3000 or even 2000 seminarians and attendance lower than 22%? Wow aren’t we lucky.
One additional point if we’re going to use social behavior as an explanation. In the 1965 timeline we also had Vatican ii. We had some whopper changes then,like Tabernacles in a room down the hall, altar rails removed and the sanctuary used as a gathering space.
No,I think we screwed up big time. Thank heaven the Church gave us the wondwerful gift of Invincible Ignorance.
P.S. I never heard or knew any of my fellow college classmates of 1950 who voted at Vatican II,much less any of them who thought of throwing any revolution. It wasn’t us guys!
Yes, this is true…..modernism was a problem long before Vatican II. But after the Council, it overran large swathes of the Church. Now that the generation which you speak of is retiring or dying, we are starting to see signs of sanity return.
I remember quite well when the New Mass came in at the very end of the 1960’s. Things had already changed, at all levels, clergy, religious and laity. In the fall of 1967, the nuns in our small town in IL came back from summer break so changed, to this day I don’t know what happened. Instead of telling storesi about the saints of the church and of past ages, the past ages were all Dark Ages, and the “saints” were (so they said) mentally ill people whose visions were hallucinations, and who licked up various bodily fluids of sick people in their excesses (sorry for the gross-out, but this is a watered down versionof what they actually said.)
When the New Mass finally came in, it was the last straw for many people, and they stopped going to church altogether. The way I have put it to family & friends, if the Catholic Church should be viewed as the Ark of Salvation, then the introduction of the post-Vatican II changes and the New Mass provoked a sort of Eastland disaster. (1915 boating disaster in the Chicago River where a large excursion boat flipped over and at least 750 people were killed)
I personally don’t believe Vatican II “flipped” dogmas, or altered the essential teaching of the Catholic faith, one iota. What I thing really happened was that Vatican II was hi-jacked after the fact, and that all too many people wanted so desperately to be in with the in crowd that they went along,, or else got used to being mocked at, jeered at, insulted to their faces for being old-fashioned, etc.
I think the corruption of the Church began from within, well before 1960. As merely one fact to consider, in 1961 the Vatican sent out a letter telling the local churches to not ordain homosexual males to the priesthood. The fact that they Vatican felt a need to send such a letter out at that date can only be taken as an indication that this was happening and was causing some serious problems.
Since becoming Catholic 10 years ago, I have been blessed to participate in reverent, rubricly correct Novus Ordo masses in my Cathedral parish. The music has been wonderful, due to the tireless work of our music director, organist, and choir – there is a bit of everything, and sometimes, even Mozart on a Sunday morning. I am grateful for these beautiful masses without the silliness that seems to inhabit both east and west coast dioceses. After the cacophony, shallow theology and personality driven-ness of protestant “services,” the mass is the most beautiful thing I have every experienced. The words, even before the revisions of late, cut straight to my heart and mind and take me to Jesus. Do not belittle the Novus Ordo – it has the power of the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
I’m not sure I agree with your conclusions about the laity being better informed. I do agree that a larger percentage of the laity have a good understanding of the liturgy than before but the overall percentage who understand the basics do not. How can they when most of them don’t even attend Mass?
And to compare the actions of lazy priests in previous decades with the deliberate and calculated abuses we have seen under the Novus Ordo is absurd. Golden Age? More like the Dark Age.
Somehow, desiring a “Golden Age for the Liturgy” strikes me as similar to the end of the Pledge of Allegiance. My understanding is that the words “…with liberty and justice for all.” represent an aspiration or hope, but not an achieved fact.
Jesus would not have celebrated the Last Supper in Latin. As a subject of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, He would have understood considerable Greek; and He would have been a Hebrew speaker. His everyday language would have been Aramaic. Those seeking a return to the TLM are returning to the Mass crystallized at the Council of Trent; not bad, and seeking unity in all parts of the Church.
When my mother was a child in Baltimore MD, her mother (reared in a German immigrant community in Wisconsin) occasionally would drag her to a service conducted in German, a language my mother never learned. Mom told me her recollection of such occasions was “I know I’m just a dumb kid but I have NO IDEA what is going on.” As beautiful as the Latin Mass is, I suspect that in Ye Olde Days many parishioners felt as my mother did, clueless about what was going on. Bringing the liturgy into the vernacular, faulty as some translations may have been, surely went a long way to engaging parishioners to participate in the Mass.
No–I remember the Latin Mass quite well. The missals had English on one page, and the Latin on the facing page. No one was confused. Even my sister, who has been a lapsed Catholic for 30+ years, remembers the Latin Mass with great fondness, and how even as an 8-year-old in third grade, she had no trouble understanding what was going one, and prayed along with the priest and the rest of the congregation. This business about the faithful having no idea of what was going on is simply an urban myth.
Kudos to you and your sister for being attentive to the words of the Latin mass, but to be fair, for many the missal was something to hold all of the prayer cards for their deceased friends and family so they could pray the rosary for them as the priest dealt with the liturgy…
Is there something wrong with praying the rosary for deceased friends and family?
Nothing wrong at all-it’s a beautiful notion. Doing it during Mass detracts from “active participation” in the liturgy which has long been a goal of the Church…
But if the words are there in the vernacular, then why not say the words in the vernacular? If the Bible is translated in the vernacular and taught in the vernacular and evangelized in the vernacular, why say the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin? Don’t get me wrong – I am for having Latin in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. However, we have done the translation. We are learning and evangelizing according to the vernacular. I think that understanding and active participation are important, and the vernacular translation enables this quite well.
Just sharing here my own personal experience. I am a cradle Catholic and Sunday was for the whole family to go to mass together. Hence, I am familiar with the Latin form of the mass (I am in my 60’s!). Anyway, in 1989 I spent 5 weeks in Holland and went to mass every Sunday with my host family. The liturgy by then was in the vernacular, and since I did not speak Dutch, I was just following the movements of the priest and saying my responses quietly. Then I had a chance to attend mass in Amsterdam and it was said in Latin. Wow! Finally, a liturgy I know!!!
I love the Liturgy of the Catholic church. If we really try to absorb all the prayers and readings said during mass and put ourselves consciously in the presence of the Lord during the celebration – I am sure we will be more often than not moved to tears … of joy!
I’d like to corroborate Catharine’s comment, from my own experience. I’m 62, so my Catholic childhood was lived entirely in the Church as it was before Vatican II. Yes, there were mumbled Masses. There were rushed Masses. But those failures usually stemmed from the carelessness that creeps into every established human endeavor, and carelessness is pretty easily corrected. The abuses of the last forty years, on the other hand, have often expressed outright rebellion against the Church’s teachings. That’s not carelessness or laziness; that’s heresy. And that’s not so easily corrected, once it gets a foothold — as we’ve found.
“And when they had said an hymn, they went forth to the mount of Olives.”
Thats what I think of, when I think of the Golden Age of Liturgy. God singing a hymn with us.
I don’t think that we’re there yet, but I think we’re on the precipice of a golden age as the grip of the postconciliar generation on the liturgy weakens and fails at a moment when more traditional mores are ascendant.
In every Holy Mass, the priest stands on the altar with Jesus Christ crucified.
I couldn’t agree more. There have always been abuses and golden eras. Part of the mission of the Council of Trent was to address abuses and standardize things a bit. Sound familiar?
Having grown up with the Tridentine Mass, I remember my devout mother and grandmother saying that they were going to “hear Mass”, a phrase that always bothered me. Good liturgy evolves organically and it has always had side-eddies and whirlpools.
That said, I long for a time machine with settings for Old Sarum… (sigh 😉
Thank you for your thoughts on the liturgy Father.
Participation actuosa is the authentic way to pray the Mass for most of the non ordained. No less an expert on the liturgy than the Holy Father teaches this.
The sacred character of the TLM derives from, among other things, a precise choreography of the priest(s) and the altar servers in the sanctuary. In the NO Masses the lay readers presence in the sanctuary, the army of EMHCs, and badly trained altar servers give an impression of heavy traffic crossing without a traffic light or policeman to keep order.
Furthermore, the musical overlay in most places – there are significant exceptions I grant you -, amounts to serious liturgical abuse alone. Likewise, the priest saying Mass facing the people is induced/seduced into performing because he wants to be popular with the folks. He may start off his homily with a joke or a reference to his favorite sports team. One could go on and on, unfortunately
The fact that many more people are involved in the Mass may result in more people being knowledgeable about the Mass. However, it is also indisputable that liturgical abuses since the implementation of the NO have seriously increased. The architecture of the “fabricated” NO (the Pope’s language not mine) is so fragile that almost every parish has its own particular version complete with locally manufactured rubrics.
You and your Priest friend are speaking of personal experience and I do not dispute what seems to be true for you. I wish most of us who are still going to Mass every Sunday could agree with your report that ours is a liturgical golden age.
John, please just stop. If you truly wish to be traditional, then begin by using the terminology that the Church uses — specifically, the Ordinary Form — and stop saying “NO Mass.” Yes, we get it. It’s not really Mass, it is “no Mass.” Of course, we could turn it around and instead of saying Extraordinary Form, we could call it the Ex Mass. But let’s not do either. The Ordinary Form of the Mass is no less sacred — it cannot be any less sacred, God and the entirety of the Holy Church are present — and the Extraordinary Form is no less profane when those who attend do so with uncharitable and prideful hearts. The Mass in either form is Holy, and the people who participate in both are sinners.
The sacred character of the TLM derives from, among other things, a precise choreography . . .
Moreover, if you are going to bring in the Pope’s language, you ought to be careful. He was and is fully in favor of the need for renewal and reform, including a move away from such “choreography.”
The above quote is from Father Joseph Ratzinger, peritus (advisor) to the Council, in Theological Highlights of Vatican II. Fr. Ratzinger continues –
These are stinging words with respect to those who assert that the “Tridentine Mass” was the golden age of liturgy. The truth is that we humans are imperfect and while the Mass itself may always be holy, we imperfect humans will always and everywhere be imperfect in our worship. This was true before the Council, it is true after the Council. It is true at every Ordinary Form Mass and it is true at every Extraordinary Form Mass. What makes the Mass holy and sacred is not us, or the language we use or the postures we assume, what makes the Mass holy and sacred, in whatever form it is celebrated, is the presence and participation of the Most Holy Lord.
So please let’s not get into this exercise of saying that X is better than Y and A is inherently superior to B. Let’s celebrate them all joyfully and positively — the Ordinary and the Extraordinary, the Roman Rite and the other rites — while at the same time acknowledging in all humility our human limitations and imperfections in all of these liturgical forms and rites.
Good analysis Bender. Thank you.
“However, it is also indisputable that liturgical abuses since the implementation of the NO have seriously increased.”
I think this is incorrect. My theorem is that liturgical abuse was rampant until about 1980, and prevalent before Vatican II, and has been in decline ever since.
I am no scholar, nor do I lay claim to the title of grammar police. However, I do have one particular peeve. I find it mostly on twitterings or facebookings or other posts by the so called “millenials”. Now I find it has crept into the writings of the more educated. My peeve is this:
“I walk in a wider, and more diverse church then perhaps my brethren from the 40s and 50s would ever have imagined.” The word is ‘THAN’ not ‘then’.
Thanks for allowing me to vent my frustration.
Regarding your post: I agree that this could well be the “Golden Age” but for different reasons. It may be that those of us who are so devoted to the Traditional Mass are so involved and devoted because we have come so close to losing it. I also remember the “assembly line” masses when I was younger. But my perspective was that of an Altar Boy and going through the institution of the Ordinary Form as changes piled upon changes and never knokwing what sort of “mass” was going to be served up each week was, to say the least, a bit unsettling. (Was that a run-on sentence?)
Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading your post, as always, and look forward to your next “food for thought”.
By the way, a mere typo, not a maleloquium. I am not a millenial, born 1961, end of the boomers. A slipped letter, nothing more.
I don’t agree that this is a golden age for liturgy. People know less about the faith and are even hostile to it. Years ago they at least appreciated the liturgy for its aethetic value, now they hate the church and not even soup kitchens or Mother Teresa’s good works seem to redeem the institution in their eyes.
As for the Latin Mass, I have been lucky to attend the SSPX chapels since I was 18 (since 1988) and therefore I have been able to participate in the Mass in an unbroken continuation from before V2.
Even the little children at the chapel, 7 or 8 years old and up, easily follow along if they want to. One needs to remember that rubrics are for the Priest NOT the people. People should be able to participate how they wish, within reasonable limits, say their rosary, stare into space or heaven forbid, actually silently pray. I personally read a prayer book of devotions to prepare me for a worthy reception of holy communion.
It is not hurried nor mumbled, and even if it was, it doesn’t matter, those aren’t serious abuses, at least none that touch on the faith or are actual sacrileges like those at the Novus Ordo.
I was however recently at a NO mass at a Jesuit house, guess what I saw? Priests in only a stole, they wore t-shirts, flip flps and shorts as the rest of their attire. They said mass on a coffee table and sat down for the whole event, and passed Our Lord around on a plate as a ‘help yourself’ appetizer.
Yes that was a golden moment!
“Yes, even then, there were problems: mumbled Latin, rushed hurried gestures, half genuflections by the priest, poor sermons, and completely omitted sermons, 22 minute Masses, even on a Sunday morning, the rejection of Gregorian chant as “too complicated” and the replacing of it with poorly sung, even bellowed recto tono (usually 8th tone) chanting by Mrs. Murphy in the choir loft. ”
Hahaha! Sounds like a typical OF parish in my diocese!! Not much other than the language has really changed, has it?
Attending Catholic school in the 1950s-early ’60s I had no problem understanding the Mass and following it because the missal had Latin on one side and English on the other. The large church I attended always had overflowing crowds with the faithful lining the walls, genuflecting and getting down on their knees on the stone floor for the profound moment of the Consecration. Talk about reverence! The traditional Mass is the height of reverence. I’m so fortunate to have lived through the “Golden Age of the Liturgy”. I look forward to its comeback as more Catholics discover the treasure of the traditional Mass.
When the Mass of Paul VI was imposed in the late ’60s rapid changes occurred, and I had to strain to eke out a sense of reverence from it. Yes, it was still Mass, but I’m sad to say it seems it was stripped down to its lowest common denominator. I obediently went to this Mass for years because the traditional Mass was nowhere to be found, but with Summorum Pontificum I searched and found the traditional Mass once again. What a difference! At times I attend the Mass of Paul VI but even with the recent changes in the wording to more accurately reflect that of the traditional Mass, to me, there is simply no comparison. Why on earth anyone thought it was a good idea to get rid of a perfect Mass is incomprehensible to me. “New” is not always “good” – a lot of times it’s just new.
I grew up in the Church of the late 1950s. I miss it! Church was a place of beauty, quiet and reverence. I am happy that you experience a diversity of liturgies and love them all, Monsignor. I do not share your experience. I’m looking at things from the other side of the altar.
I am tired of having to drive great distances to find a Mass that does not distract me beyond the ability to concentrate due:
to the priest who begins EVERY SINGLE HOMILY with a JOKE to warm up the crowd (and the jokes don’t have any connection to the readings or the theme of the day) and then reads his homily – which usually sounds like he is reading from Reader’s Digest ;
to the mothers who are smiling and brushing their child’s hair DURING THE CONSECRATION (perhaps bonding since they may not see each other all week long);
to the short, tight clothing on women – even those who are part of the liturgy like lectors, EMs, cantors – and even men who wear shorts;
to music that would challenge the patience of a saint;
to the auditorium-like environment of the Church itself that encourages chatting before and after Mass so there is never a chance to experience a quiet moment with the Lord;
to the music ministries who practice before Mass so there is no quiet even then;
to the huge number of people who grab the Host like they would grab a piece of candy;
to the priests and EM who treat me like I might ‘give them something’ when I stick out my tongue for Communion;
to the priests who look like they have shoulder/arm problems because they don’t/won’t elevate the Host above more than an inch above the altar and who rush through the elevation so quickly that they look like they are swatting flies;
to the ‘sisters’ who come to the 5 pm Vigil Mass in their slacks and insist on responding with “God” instead of “His.”
I love the Mass and when I am able to get to the Carmelite Monastery or to the Cathedral when Archbishop Chaput is the celebrant, I am in Heaven. I do not want to be aware of all that I have mentioned. I want to leave the world – to get lost in what is only possible in Church and during Mass – to give honor and praise to Our Lord and receive Him for the strength that He gives. I am human and it takes so much energy to try to not see these things that I sometimes dread going to certain Masses when I do not have the time to travel to the parishes that have reverent liturgies.
I didn’t even mention the homilies that avoid the difficult issues that we should be hearing from the pulpit. The ‘social justice’ oriented parishes that stress social justice over every other issue and the God-loves-everyone-so-let’s-just-get-along parishes are beyond endurance. I can’t go to those parishes any more. I feel like I am in an Episcopal Church – not a Roman Catholic Church and I have to keep praying throughout the Mass to not be judgmental! It may not make a priest popular to impart the teachings of the Church but, for many, that is the only place they may hear about them. It is also the place of the priests to teach about what is and isn’t acceptable in Church regarding reception of the Eucharist, dressing modestly and appropriate behavior.
Am I intolerant? Maybe. I feel the same horror when the Lord is disrespected that I feel when I see disrespect for any of His children. And I would climb into a time machine and go back to the 1950s without a second thought. Peace!
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