26 May 2010

The Mass that Dare Not Say Its Name-- or, What Passes for the Current State of the "Reform of the Reform"

The Church moves slowly. This is a truism for anyone who has joined or followed the effort to accomplish the great task of the Church in our time-- cleaning up the wreckage of liturgical and theological destruction left in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

In fact, one of the most notable things about the destruction is that it was accomplished with great speed and violence in a very short time. It takes years to build a Gothic cathedral, or even a beautiful parish church. It takes minutes to smash an altar or tear out a communion rail. For the Catholic faithful, forms, rites, and rituals of venerable age, developed organically and in a real sense "handed down" as gifts of the Church for more than a thousand years (some nearly two thousand years old) were changed radically by liturgical experts in committee. And by "experts", I mean by those who claimed the term, much like global warming experts have claimed their exalted status.

Speed. That is what was necessary. Why? Because the changes made to the Mass and the architecture of sacred spaces, not to mention the nuancing of traditional Catholic doctrinal formulations, would never have been accomplished had these come as a result of the normal process of things Catholic-- had these taken the time to develop organically, to be desired by the faithful and justified in the light of Tradition and prudential considerations.

Speed was needed; it was a blunt force weapon. Take a 1,500 year old Mass and simply remove it. It's there one day and gone the next. The altar ripped from the wall, or replaced with the "table of plenty". Shock and awe. The only problem is that the shock of these changes did not produce awe. They weren't designed to. They were designed to elevate the banal. They were designed to desacralize and make vulgar the mysteries of faith.

Once the damage was done, and the seminaries, convents and churches were denuded of their doctrinal, human and architectural beauties, it was clear that the Church was in decline. Of course, the Church will exist to the end of time, and cannot ever be defeated. Yet it was not only down in temporal terms. The faith of her members also went through a kind of desert. In this Octave of Pentecost (which by way of fitting illustration no longer exists in the new calendar) I would point to the words of Christ Himself:

He that shall drink of the water that I will give him shall not thirst for ever. But the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting. (John 4:13b-14)

The Church is Christ's holy spouse, and this fountain will never be extinguished. But by way of imperfect analogy may I suggest that the flow "springing up" within her was in some sense diminished?

The traditional Mass, now called the Extraordinary Form, was never abrogated. It was always in principle permitted. Yet it was essentially choked off and practically suppressed nearly everywhere. Without going into the history of the recognition of the Extraordinary Form's continued liceity and vitality, it is enough to point to Summorum Pontificum, and the Pope's accompanying letter to Bishops, for recognition of its continued status.

During the leanest years it was, practically speaking, a kiss of death for any priest in the typical diocese or order to stand for the principle of celebrating this Mass. Celebrating it was a very good way to ensure that one would never advance. Discretion, silence, heroic suffering and forbearance were the keys for survival. Priests attached to the traditional Mass were practically forced to live an eremetical life within the diocesan setting.

Moreover, the de-coupling of worship and belief that was made possible by the way the new Mass was typically celebrated produced a generation or more of Catholics who were not taught their faith outside of Mass, nor reinforced in their faith during Mass.

To address the serious problem, many good-hearted and well-intentioned priests, religious and faithful opted to attempt to "reform the reform"-- to fix what went wrong with the new Mass in the aftermath of Sacrosanctum Concilium. This was seen by most as the only practical way to find a solution, since it did not "reject" the new Mass in favor of the old, but rather was an attempt to get at what the Council fathers "really wanted".

It is now decades later, and I ask what has done more to address the problem of reverence in the liturgy: the reform of the reform, or the wider celebration of the traditional Mass and the growth of traditional Catholic societies? Some would say this wider celebration is itself part of the reform of the reform. I concede that for many this is part of the strategy. But I maintain that the Mass itself, the Extraordinary Form itself, is the catalyst for whatever resurgence is slowly but steadily taking place. Three years of the motu proprio have done more than forty years of trying to defend the Maginot Line within the new liturgy, or spackling the more obvious cracks from without.

All of which leads me by a very long route (as usual) to my point. It is time to celebrate the return of the classical forms of Mass and the other sacraments. It is time to celebrate what makes us Catholic. As I said in an earlier post, why should the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite be a matter that seems so embarrassing that it must be hushed up, as though one saw their grandfather going to a nightclub? Why do faithful Catholics have to tip-toe around modernism and its adherents, whether they are in parishes or rectories?

Even in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, considered one of the most vibrantly orthodox Archdioceses in the world and a leader in liturgical restoration, there is still great reticence by priests and faithful to take up the standard in a public way. It is thought best to continue to keep this restoration low-key, to avoid sticking our necks out for fear of offending some, or of having our necks cut off. Perhaps it is the province of a blogger to lack patience, but I ask you--Why should this be?

I think it might be uplifting to many of beleaguered faithful who attend parishes throughout the Archdiocese-- who have suffered through years of "Table of Plenty" and "Gather Us In", liturgical committee politics, inclusive language, rubrical abuses and questionable homilies-- that many more priests are now being trained in the Extraordinary Form, have an affinity for beauty and reverence in the liturgy, and have sound theological formation. More and more priests are regularly celebrating the classical Roman Rite as part of their priesthood.

These priests are bringing this approach to the life of the typical parish setting; they are bringing beauty and reverence to both Forms of the Mass, they are preaching from the pulpit in such a way that parents don't have to be on high alert to explain to their children after Mass "what Father really meant to say" in order not to scandalize them. They are the first signs of that New Springtime we have been promised. Can we not celebrate this?

Or should we just pretend that the Extraordinary Form is for those crackpots who are (to paraphrase someone famous) bitter, clinging to their [Mass] and religion?

The Pope has spent the five years of his Pontificate calling for priests to be formed precisely in this way. For the traditional Mass to come back into the life of every parish precisely in this way. For faith and liturgy to support and enrich each other precisely in this way. For the faith we profess and the liturgy we pray to inform our lives, and our culture, in precisely this way.

But if this restoration of faith, liturgy and culture continues to be ignored in the Catholic press and in Catholic rectories, is it any wonder it remains unrealized in Catholic homes?


Fenian said...

That was well-written and poignant. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Very, very well said, and maybe it had a bit of Pentecost fiery exuberance to it. At our house we agree with every word! Thank you for articulating what is so heartfelt for many of us!

Long Skirts said...


Saint Joan
Saint Tim
Saint Mary
Of Scotts

The true Mass
So knew
Their true lots

They could
Have said
"Oh, no
I shant!"

But they
Were Saints
No persons

Not ones
To lord
Their innate
Good -

While being
Prepared like
On wood

Or having
Their eye-lids
And nipped

Even though
With kings
They sipped

No, no -
With joy
No fuss...

"For you, et
Pro multis."
Now daily,
For us!


Athelstane said...

"During the leanest years it was, practically speaking, a kiss of death for any priest in the typical diocese or order to stand for the principle of celebrating this Mass."

And quite recently, it was enough to send an outstanding diocesan priest of my acquaintance in for six months of psychiatric evaluation - with no warning.

But the tide is with tradition now.

Meg said...

"Merci Marcel"? Oh oh...

Long Skirts said...

Athelstane said...
But the tide is with tradition now


Tradition drives in cars
Through country and through city
False shepherds’ shift in sand
And sink with souls a pity.

Tradition flies in planes
From ocean coast to coast
Under Mary's mantle blue
Our solitary boast.

Tradition travels far
Twas all in Our Lord's plan
To preserve the Holy Mass
For woman and for man.

Tradition lives and moves
The pews the families fill
False shepherds’ sink in sand...
Tradition takes the Hill!!!!!!

Latinmassgirl said...

Very well articulated, Timman.

There is no need to be concerned that there is resistance in rectories or in the Catholic press. The traditional mass is so beautiful that it cannot and will not be ignored.

By the time our large families are grown and married they will begin to see a change. Let's say there is a parish of 200 traditional couples with an average of five children each. Those 1,000 children get married and then have 5 kids each, thus 5,000, and so on until someday the traditionalists will be quite a formidable group.

Phil Roussin said...

Very well put. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You guyz that bask in tradition, spare me please. I sat in church for all of my childhood years and did not know beans about the Mass or what was going on. Like a bump on a log. I went because the Cathedral grade school made me go. What a treat to finally hear Cardinal Ritter say the Mass in english. I was a part of Mass finally.

Tradition is not the way to worshop the Lord, I daresay He could give a hoot about Latin either, maybe He does not understand it either. Why be forced to sit through something of no interest and not get anything from it, or enjoy it and participate offering praise!

Pax Vobiscum!

Long Skirts said...

Meg said...
"Merci Marcel"? Oh oh...

No, Meg, what Athelstane said...

"...And quite recently, it was enough to send an outstanding diocesan priest of my acquaintance in for six months of psychiatric evaluation"

THAT'S "Oh oh...!!!

Unknown said...

Great article!

Anonymous said...

It's reverence that is needed, not necessarily the Latin language or the older rite. If our priests celebrated the "ordinary form" as reverently as the "extraordinary form" is usually celebrated, that would go a long way toward re-Catholicizing our parishes. I've seen the current Mass celebrated with incense and reverence. It can and should be done.

Jim Cole

Hildebrandon said...

Thank you for an interesting post that justifies the position of the Society of St. Pius X. For what would have been the means of continuance for the true Mass and traditional priestly formation had not Abp. Lefebvre continued with his "experiment of Tradition" (which you seem to gauge a success) in spite of Vatican disapproval given that the Mass was derogated and new theology was toppling seminaries?

When a priest from the ICK can state what is present in this article from the pulpit, we can return to Bp. Fellay's statement about the order's inability to speak to the real problem of the Church, Vatican II, and discuss.

And the reason one cannot stick out his neck and shout from the rooftops about a wholesale return to Tradition in St. Louis is because...the bishop is not traditional. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

One of the best articles to date!

Keep up the great work. Truth in Charity.

thetimman said...

Thanks for the kind words to those who liked the post. To the anonymous who doesn't care for Latin, thanks for your comment. Pax tecum as well. I would say that feeling a part of Mass is not dependent upon whether the priest addresses you directly (though of course he does, and when a bishop celebrates he says the exact words with which you ended your post); nor does it depend on the language used in the ritual. Yet I do think Jesus gives a hoot. He is God, and He founded a Church, sacrificed Himself for us all, and frankly he deserves the best possible worship. Now, all purely human activity falls infinitely short of Him, but God blesses the effort to give our best. While both forms of Mass are the same in substantial act of Sacrifice, they are certainly different in accident. And thus one can, even objectively, make the claim that one form is superior in its accidents. But this is ground I plow here often, and I realize you disagree.

thetimman said...


Cool name. Pope St. Gregory VII's feast day was Tuesday--one of my favorite saints.

I have always given credit to the SSPX for its efforts to keep the traditional Mass alive. I understand its arguments for the episcopal consecrations, and the likelihood that Abp. Lefebvre believed a state of necessity justified those consecrations. I understand the arguments for supplied jurisdiction for certain sacraments in SSPX chapels. I certainly can understand that from a post-hoc perspective, many SSPX admirers can say words to the effect, "If it weren't for the SSPX, you wouldn't have the (Mass)(indult)(other societies)" or whatever other term of tradition is at hand.

That being said, one cannot say what the fruits of obedience would have been had the consecrations not occurred. Would the Society have ceased to exist without a bishop to ensure future ordinations? Maybe. The Society certainly has bishops, and priests are still being ordained.

But maybe something better would have occurred if it had waited on Rome. If it seems unlikely then consider this: the Society has recently concluded a very laudable effort in its Rosary crusade to pray for the consecration of Russia to Mary's Immaculate Heart. This has not yet been done, though Mary has asked for it. Why, and why was the secret not released in 1960?

In part, because the powers that were and are thought it not prudent. That Russia would be offended, and perhaps would have taken action destructive to the Church, or would have derailed the council. They didn't believe in the miracle that was promised from the consecration.

And yet aren't these the same kinds of temporal, prudential thoughts that informed the 1988 consecrations? Instead of obedience to what appeared to be (and let me grant you were almost certainly) unjust and unfair requests to delay yet again these consecrations, Abp. Lefebvre instead acted according to his own prudential light. The rest is history. You and I can certainly speculate what would have happened had he not, but we cannot know the answer to our speculations.

This is water under the bridge in light of the lifting of the putative excommunications. But I find the analogy interesting.

And post-Summorum Pontificum, whatever merits the "supplied jurisdiction" arguments had are greatly diminished. It would benefit the Society, too, and not only the greater Church, for it to receive canonical faculties as soon as possible.

And as for an ICRSP priest being able to say what I posted from the pulpit, I would respond in this way: First, they would say it far better, with more charity, and as it is appropriate in time and measure. I am simultaneously both too naive and too cynical in my typical post. But more to the point, I have heard with my own ears the sentiments of this post preached from the pulpit in their oratories. I have heard them in many different sermons. As I posted in the previous entry on Bp. Fellay's allusion to the ICRSP, their Salesian approach and "working the truth in charity" colors the delivery, yes, but not the substance. Please read there my thoughts and the discussion.

(Rory, I will respond to your last, too.)

I do thank you, Hildebrandon, for your comment. I understand that an attendee of an SSPX chapel, with decades of reasons to be sceptical of looking outside the SSPX that has fed their faith, may not be terribly familiar with the Institute's apostolates.

I am not one of those who knocks the SSPX, or who considers it in schism when Rome has stated it is not. You are Catholic and I am Catholic. I pray for resolution to the current difficulties because I can see the positive effects it would have for the Church. May the day speedily come.

In the meantime, rejoice in the fact that the Institute is doing good work, and is thriving in its mission and with its charism.

God bless.

Long-Skirts said...

Timman said:

"In the meantime, rejoice in the fact that the Institute is doing good work, and is thriving in its mission and with its charism."


And where are the schools?
The daily Mass,
Lines to confess,
A uniformed lass?

And where are the schools?
The Latin class,
Cassocked priest,
Candles in brass?

And where are the schools?
To strengthen souls,
Shape their wills,
Set the goals?

And where are the schools?
The altar boy,
Assisting priest,
Like Christ, their joy?

And where are the schools?
Oh, time you lied,
Two generations
Have gone and died.

And where are the schools?
Which don’t derive,
That two plus two
Are sometimes five?

S – S – P – X,
They’re found in large,
Where struggling families
Let priest take charge.

For the good of the whole,
Priests’ lives are laid,
So many may come,
Not be afraid.

And win the Faith,
From Christ-like hand…
St. Pie the Tenth
Two and two are grand!!

Latinmassgirl said...

Anonymous Who-Dislikes Latin Mass,

Tell me that there isn't a difference in the way that children worship at the N.O. mass and the Latin mass. I can compare the two as my family of eight currently assists at the Latin mass, but used to go to the Novus Ordo. Here is what I see:

N.O. Mass:
Girl servers dressed in nightgowns with their flip flops showing. Most priests dressed in what looks like plain table coverings. Children in shorts, halter tops and flip flops looking around, talking, staring at the ceiling - NOT reverently participating as you seem to think is so.

Adults wearing similar as above and trying to sing in off pitch tunes, "Table of Plenty" "My God is an Awesome God" and all receiving Holy Communion with outstretched hands, as if in a fast-food line. Then almost immediately upon returning to the pew they sit down with the priest, with little time to spend with Christ.

My "favorite part" is the sign-of-peace love-fest where suddenly there is a loud noise as everybody looks to their neighbor and shakes hands and or hugs, asking how they are doing. Then after mass there is very loud noise as everybody talks to one another as if Jesus was not present in the tabernacle.

Latin Mass:
Children dressed in their Sunday best, sitting quietly in the pew looking toward the altar, most girls wearing veils. Kneeling when they are supposed to with hands folded reverently. (toddlers may have to go in the back on occasion as in N.O.).

The beautiful music in Latin, comes from the choir loft up above as if from heaven itself. Every couple of months, many children are singing their hearts out like angels in the children's choir. The priests chant and even if they do not have beautiful voices, it sounds lovely.

The children and adults kneel reverently at the communion rail to receive Jesus, from a priest who says in Latin: "May the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting" before placing the body of Christ on their tongues.
They return to their pews and pray for quite a while uninterrupted. When mass is over everybody kneels reverently to give private thanks to God - including children before leaving. Quiet church.

I feel like I have been cheated my whole childhood and part of adulthood out of the most beautiful mass - the timeless 1500 year old mass that is distinctively Catholic in all ways, without Protestant feel goods added. There are missals that one could follow to help and several books that explain the mass in a way that really makes the light bulb go off in your head.

P.S. My children prefer the traditional mass, and they have been to both. In fact, they beg not to go to the Novus Ordo mass, when we have to on occasion. WHy not? It is shorter and in English? They can sing such happy, zippy songs, shake hands and even put the Eucharist in their own mouth? Could it be that children see the truth and timeless beauty?

Anonymous said...

No...I really do not think the children do. I was told by the good Sisters of St. Joseph that if your hands were not folded straight up properly, all the prayers would fall out and they woud never get to heaven. What a bunch of horsehocky that was. What is wrong with happy zippy zappy songs, what is wrong with shaking hands and what is wrong with acepting the Lord in my hands. The Lord is in you and me and if we would see Him in all of His beings and I mean ALL, the world would nary be so hateful and biggoted. Worship is love for each other and the love we give to our neighbors, to homeless, to convicts, to gays or others, no matter who they are, and race, creed, or even sexualty. It really makes no difference how one worships the Lord, does it? I am confortable in my new ways, now 40 years old. So you be just as happy as you are and leave me to my zippy songs and my love of people and shaking hands. Good heavens I even hug my church neighbor sometimes! And yes I smile too! I believe that it was King Soloman that used to dance in front of the Ark of the Covenent and sing zippy songs and wore sandles. The Cardinal Achbishop of Boston wears sandles at Mass. Please to not criticize me for loving the Lord in my New and so unholy Ways. Trust me, I will be Him in the end! Trust Me!

My name is Tim Howard

Anonymous said...

To the man now 40 who claims if the same as the original Anom poster to have grown up with the Latin Mass. How is that possible when it was suppressed circa 1970. You were probably 1. As for Latin, kneeling and the other things you seem to object to, they are declared by the Magesterium to be the norm. So take pride in the fact you are going against the norm. Part of being Catholic is obeying the Magesterium and supporting it. One can spend their whole life trying to become better Catholics and that, like it or not, includes the Magesterium. There is something wrong with the "lovefest" NO Mass. In fact there are many things wrong with it and the Pope and people who know better than us in Rome have said so. Without our Holy Father and the Magesterium we are not Catholics. That is something to ponder in all humility.
All Things Christ.

Nuevo Diogenes said...

This is the first time I´ve been to your blog and I find it very well written and interesting. You are 100% right that the 2 Vatican Council destroyed a lot about Catholicism. Here in my country (Guatemala in Central America), we went from being 99% Catholic in the 1950s to now being 40% Catholic in 2011. People do not connect to Mass anymore, priests do not preach outside their Churches and even catholic schools are turning young people away from Catholicism.

Now being Catholic here means nothing to people. There are even some who are ashamed to say they are Catholic because they feel that protestants are inherently better or "more spiritual" than we are. We, the ones that remain, acknowledge that something is very wrong with our Church and our priests. We just do not know what to do about it... and every day we lose more faithful.

I really hope that you are right and that change is happening within the Church.

Dan said...

I'm a little late to this party but would like to add my comments to Mr "Anonymous" or Tim Howard or whoever he is. Reading his words are a sure indicator of just how enormous is the task to bring people not back to tradition, but back to their senses. It was painful to read what he wrote.

I was in grade school in the 60s, prior to the slaughter of the ancient rite in 1969/70, and like everyone at Mass had not the slightest difficulty in following it for the very simple reason that all missals carried the English translation side-by-side with the Latin. As the kids say...duh! That people are still using that tired old chestnut about not being able to "understand" what was going on at an ancient rite Mass is quite amazing to me. They are either incredibly stupid or are relying on the short memories of those who had grown up with this Mass.

Today the angels and Saints in Heaven weep as they watch the crap being flung around at your typical New Mass, or now New New Mass. The appalling lack of reverence, the banality of the music, the colossal ignorance of the priests who preach about nothing, the artistically offensive architecture of today's mod com churches, the utter mediocrity of it all.

When I have to face God upon the moment of my death I know with all my heart that I will face Him in fear and trembing. But apparently, if I understand his post correctly, Mr Howard will be dancing.