Daily Archives: June 6, 2017

Today’s Catholic liturgy “is sick,” says cardinal in charge

He is Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, appointed in 2014 by Pope Francis. His book is

From which I quote:

[C]elebrations [of the mass] become tiring because they unfold in noisy chattering. The liturgy is sick. The most striking symptom . . .  is perhaps the omnipresence of the microphone. It has become so indispensable that one wonders how priests were able to celebrate before it was invented. . . . I sometimes have the impression that celebrants fear the free, personal interior prayer of the faithful so much that they talk from one end of the ceremony to the other so as not to lose control of them.

They certainly are loathe to let the air go dead. It’s as if they were on radio, rather than TV, though for that matter, TV announcers do jabber away. But you don’t need the sound while watching he World Series in a bar.

Do not presume that the cardinal is breaking new ground for himself (or others, such as James Hitchcock in his Recovery of the Sacred). He has set liberal hearts pulsing with alarm in numerous public statements to this effect. But this new book of his has some choice descriptions, as in this about participating in the liturgy as urged by Vatican II:

Truly, it is about becoming participants in a sacred mystery that infinitely surpasses us: the mystery of the death of Jesus out of love for the Father and for us. Christians have the . . . obligation to be open to an act that is so mysterious that they will never be able to perform it by themselves: the sacrifice of Christ. In the thought of the [Vatican II] Council Fathers, the liturgy is a divine action, an actio Christi. In the presence of it, we are overcome with a silence of admiration and reverence. [Struck dumb, as it were.] The quality of our silence is the measure of the quality of our . . . participation. [Huge departure here from current practice]

All in all, in this passage as throughout the book, he strikes a spiritual note. He is, I have concluded, of the spiritual wing of the church, as opposed to the social action wing led by (whom else?) Pope Francis, with whom he is on a collision course, to judge by several well publicized incidents and several major controverted issues.

He quotes then-Cardinal Ratzinger in a 1985 book, “[Some have lost] sight of what is distinctive to the liturgy, which does not come from what we do but from the fact that something is taking place here that all of us together cannot ‘make’.”

Idea is, we go to church (mass) not to do something but to witness it. It’s a happening, and a quite mysterious one at that.

The late Robert McClory, in his Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church, and the Fight for Social Justicecites a St. Sabina parishioner on Chicago’s South Side who supported what its famous activist pastor, Fr. Michael Pfleger, does but stopped attending mass there, going to another parish. McClory couldn’t get much more out of the man, who apparently wanted something more rewarding in a personal-spiritual sense.

So I concluded, anyhow, having participated in one of Fr. Pfleger’s three-hour liturgies and found it fascinating but hardly something that would keep me going on an apostolic venture — or on the humdrum daily fulfilling of the duties of my state of life.

More later from the book on silence by the cardinal who speaks up when he thinks it’s important.

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