26 October 2012

Dear Editor

I saw the headline to an article in the St. Louis Review earlier this week on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, with this title:

Council focus was on liturgy as central to Christian life

My first reaction was to think, "Well, it sure did a bang-up job of it."  But I initially let it go.

Today, however, I read the article more closely and was struck by one quote which really gets to me, as it is the kind of mantra that is repeated as fact without any empirical evidence.  It is just assumed as a "duh" point-- namely, that the vernacular language of the new Mass made it easy for ordinary Catholics to understand and led to greater participation in the Mass.

Here is the relevant paragraph:

Sister Catherine Vincie, RSHM, of Aquinas Institute gave a detailed report on the work of the council document. She noted that the landslide vote in favor of the document was a surprise to many. The liturgical movement had its roots in the late 19th century, she said, benefiting from the discovery of liturgical tests of the early centuries and the role played by monasteries. It led to the active participation of the faithful and greater understanding of the rites, Sister Catherine said.

Now, the first thing with which I would quibble is Sr. Catherine's linkage of the Conciliar document on the Mass with the Liturgical Movement of the Nineteenth Century.  Probably the most well-known figure in the Liturgical Movement was Dom Prosper Gueranger, author of The Liturgical Year.  Yes, the Liturgical Movement sought to increase the "comprehension" and "participation" of the laity at Mass. But merely using these terms does not mean that the movers in the Liturgical Movement would have agreed with the Mass that arose by committee after the Council was long finished.  I can't see Dom Gueranger beaming down from Heaven over the promulgation of the New Mass as the capstone of all his efforts.

Moreover, the conciliar document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, did not call for many of the novelties that appeared in the Novus Ordo Missae of 1969.

Yet all of this is always assumed.  Just assumed.  So, of course the Mass in English will cause English speakers to understand "what's going on" and thus will cause them to better "participate" in it.  And yet, it really hasn't.  Has it?

So, though I try not to comment on articles online, in the end I couldn't resist.  It's probably a mistake, and maybe the Review won't even run it.  But here it is:

_______________

 thetimman wrote:

"It led to the active participation of the faithful and greater understanding of the rites, Sister Catherine said."
 

Sure it did--a bang-up job! And yet I don't know if the cataclysmic drop in the number of Catholics who regularly attend Mass since 1969 really bears that theory out, though.

Along those lines, one reason often given for translating the liturgical texts into the vernacular was ostensibly to ensure that the faithful understood what was going on during the Mass. I wonder then why so many priests spend so much time during Mass ad-libbing a tutorial course on why such-and-such action of the Mass is taking place at such-and-such a time, and giving mini-homilies throughout the liturgy. DIdn't the vernacular solve the comprehension problem? 

Or is it that the transcendence and mystery of the ancient Mass were removed with no increase-- or perhaps a decrease-- of comprehension?

A mixed legacy, at least.

________________

I sometimes like to ask my Ordinary Form-attending friends and family who harp on the increased "active participation" at Mass this question: 

"At what moment of Mass are you most intensely, actively participating?"

In my experience, the answer comes back 98% of the time as, "During the consecration/Eucharistic prayer."  

To which I respond, "And what are you saying-- vocally, audibly-- at that moment?"  

"Nothing."  

In other words, we don't need necessarily to hear ourselves speak to have a profound participation in the Sacred Liturgy.

About 2% of the time, the person responds with, "At Communion."  And, though in the new Mass the Communicant says, "Amen," to the words, "The Body of Christ," essentially this is not a conversational moment either.

So, I say, don't just assume that the changes to the Mass led to greater participation.  After all, it is easier to participate more fully in the Mass if one actually attends Mass.  So, if the changes in the Mass led to a steep decline in regular attendance, tell me again how the new Mass led to greater participation?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is my limited experience that if you ask any number of the younger Dominicans associated with Aquinas Institute, they will covertly admit (covertly for fear of retribution by their "betters" who represent the 1960s "Spirit of vatican II") that Sister Catherine Vincie is probably the single greatest problem at Aquinas I.T. in terms of that college's embracing the Pope's hermeneutic of continuity in matters liturgical. Signed: One Who Knows

Brian said...

In a way, she's right. SC certainly bears the mark of the Liturgical Movement...but the Novus Ordo most assuredly does not! The '62 Dialog Mass is the Liturgical Movement's Mass...

Too bad the good sister doesn't know about the reality of what the LM was pushing.

LMG said...

Very succinct, Timman. My mother always argues that the Novus Ordo mass is exactly the same in words as the LM that she remembers. It is because she really just remembers the concecration, where one is witnessing the greatest miracle on earth.

Why did they change the mass? Oh, yeah to make it likable to the Protestants so they will become Catholic. Guess they didn't count on Catholics becoming Protestant.

DebB said...

I am confused. I am a convert and all I know is the NO. I am fairly traditional leaning though. Ideally, what parts would be in Latin? Most people are not taught Latin so first, they would need translation. I personally would prefer the priest offering mass facing the alter, kneeling for reception of Eucharist on the tongue, women with head covering, no extrodinary ministers, no alter girls, no women reading and common prayers in Latin but the readings would need to be in the vernacular. I like all the readings because I come from a Bible thumping Protestant background. What would be wrong with the NO done as it was intended?
I am truly curious and not trying to be confrontational.

Anonymous said...

Although my infrequent opportunities to have much awareness of Sister Vincei's work usually leads me to regard her scholarship with suspicion and her theology with contempt, she is correct in identifying Sacrosanctum Concilium as the crowning glory of the Liturgical Movement of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, beginning with German/Austrian monks and reaching its apex in the States in the 1940s and 1950s. Vincie usually draws bizarre conclusions from her discoveries (and thereby probably does much damage to the liturgical formaton of her students at Aquinas College) but she is correct in recognizing the continuity between the Liturgical Movement and Sacrosanctum Concilium. As most people recognize, the liturgy constitution was rushed through the Council so they could produce one completed document by the conclusion of the first session of the Council and thereafter, much of the work was hijacked by people who had lost their faith, and undoubtedly these are the initiatives Vincie is celebrating. Catholic advice: do what you can to sabotage any speaking events for which she might be scheduled at your parish. Signed: Onewhoknows

Anonymous said...

Kenrick-graduated St. Louis archdiocesan priests have had their hands full for years trying to correct the errors Vincie has communicated to her lay students. I have no idea who has been providing that service for the Dominican seminarians. YoungCatholicPriest

thetimman said...

DebB,

No worries. I'll answer, and try to be brief, but there is a lot that could be said. I grew up with the Novus Ordo, and didn't make the switch until I was 37. As you indicate, the Novus Ordo was promulgated in Latin. That includes the readings. So, a new Mass was intended to be in Latin. Also, the rubrics of the Novus Ordo contemplate that the priest faces ad orientem, by certain directions that tell him th turn to face the people at certain points such as at the Dominus vobiscum. So, the n.o. As intended would be in Latin with proper orientation.

Your question of what would "be wrong" with the new Mass celebrated as you say is simple to answer: nothing. I wouldn't put it as right or wrong, but as better or worse. The traditional Mass more completely, clearly and beautifully expresses and safeguards Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. It didn't need improvement, let alone the de-provement that SC gave us. And of course SC did not give us the Novus Ordo, which was a made up form whole cloth novelty.

Re: readings in the vernacular: the readings are prayers to honor and worship God-- in the context of the liturgy. Thus, this is not private scripture study, or a didactic moment, but part of the action of the liturgy, the Sacrifice of Calvary offered up by the priest in persona Christi capita. IMHO, English is nice, but can be read in the missal(ette) or translated at the sermon.

That being said, it isn't merely a question of language. It's a question of the Tradition handed down under the guidance of the Holy Ghost being cast aside by radicals who "knew better". The liturgical "reform" has been a complete and utter disaster. It's time to reclaim Catholic liturgy.

God bless you.

Long-Skirts said...

Onewhoknows said:

"much of the work was hijacked by people who had lost their faith, and undoubtedly these are the initiatives Vincie is celebrating. Catholic advice: do what you can to sabotage any speaking events for which she might be scheduled at your parish."

Have lots of babies!!

THE
LILY

"The martyrs were bound, imprisoned, scourged, racked, burnt, rent, butchered —and they multiplied." (St. Augustine)

NO BURNING, TEARING
SCOURGING SKIN
IT'S PSYCHOLOGICAL
ALL WITHIN.

NO ROTTING FLESH
OR PUTRID BLOOD
IT'S STERILE, CLEAN
NO RANCID CRUD

FOR BUTCHERED,
TORTURED, BOUND UP SKINS
REVEALS THE TRUTHS
OF BISHOPS SINS.

THEY WANT IT NICE
THEY WANT IT HUSHED
WITH VEINS OF ICE
GOOD SOULS ARE CRUSHED.

THE SILENT COLD
IS BETTER YET
FROZEN SOLID
CAN'T BEGET.

FOR MARTYRED BLOOD
REVEALS THE CHURCH
BLIND SOULS SEE TRUTH
AND END THEIR SEARCH.

"WE CAN'T HAVE THAT!"
THE BISHOPS' SAY.
"SO LET'S IGNORE...
THEY'LL GO AWAY."

"ENLIGHTENED MEN
DON'T SCOURGE THE SKIN
ENLIGHTENED MEN
KEEP BLOOD WITHIN."

BUT THEY FORGOT...
THE WOMAN BLEEDS
AND MONTHLY MAKES
A BED FOR SEEDS

WHERE "NICE" AND "HUSHED"
THEY'LL GROW TO MEN
AND SEIZE THE OARS
FROM WRISTS THAT BEND...

ON PETER'S BARK
WHERE BLOOD STILL FLOWS
FROM WOMAN'S WOMB...
THE LILY GROWS!

Fenian said...

Timman, your comment about the drop off in Mass attendance post-Vatican II made me think. How does the drop-off in Mass attendance compare to the drop in church attendance in mainline Protestant churches during the same era? I wonder how much of the drop off is due to the council and how much is due to societal changes as a whole. If anyone has any insight, I would love to hear it.

thetimman said...

DebB,

You might enjoy this post just put up by Dom Mark Kirby:

http://vultus.stblogs.org/2012/10/the-ordinary-form-after-summor.html

Anonymous said...

I've always had the impression that the Dominican Order was one of the soundest of all the Orders in the Church. Our priests of that Order here in Louisville are consistently of the highest orthodox calibre. It always confuses me to read worrying comments such as these about your Dominican-sponsored Aquinas School in neighboring St. Louis. I doubt highly that I am misreading my local priests. What gives? Evvie

Anonymous said...

Evvie, Because of the goobledygook(unclear and ambiguous) language used by liberals today, it is hard to get a clear picture of things at Aquinas, but I think I have it figured out. I once was part of a social evening that also included a Dominican "sister" (fancier clothes than anything I could afford) who claimed to be on the faculty of Aquinas. I told her that she and I were doing similar work for the Church since I was teaching 2nd Grade Religious Ed in my parish, getting the youngsters ready for the Sacraments (Confession and First Holy Communion), and she was getting seminarians ready to receive a Sacrament as well (Holy Orders)! When I asked her how she liked teaching seminarians she replied vehemently "Aquinas is NOT a seminary; it is an independent graduate school of theology." (Stress was on the word "independent", of course.) As a result, while I think Evvie is right that the Dominican Fathers are one of the most solid Orders in the Church, St. Aquinas College Institute, I think, does not belong to the Dominican Fathers. I'm not sure about this, but I think it is one of those colleges that belongs to the Dominican Sisters like Notre Dame College on Ripa belonged to the SSNDs. Very few Dom. Frs. teach there but the fac. seems always to be full of nuns, and NOT the kind who look and act like nuns. This is probably why there are discrepancies in the image of the place. I don't know the answer to why there are some seminarians at this school because the Dominican seminary is in Wash., D.C. Maybe others can correct whatever mistakes I've made in this description. God bless you, "Ripa pristinam monialis"

Hootiecootie said...

You always nail it Timman! Thanks.