Category Archives: worship

Post-Vatican Two liturgical reform slammed by then-future Benedict XVI

It’s a loser, said the cardinal.

“The liturgical reform, in its concrete realization, has distanced itself even more from its origin. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation. In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment.”

(Ratzinger in Revue Theologisches, Vol. 20, Feb. 1990, pgs. 103-104)

The ineffable arrogance of the we-know-best school. Fixer-uppers interrupted the process. Didn’t even just speed it up. Nagging suspicion: They knew what they were doing.

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.

Catholic Mass-goer here . . .

Why does the priest look at the people when he’s praying to God? Why wouldn’t he look up (to heaven) or down (in meditative mode)?

Young Catholics sound off about today’s mass

And guess what some find offers them bread not a stone:

One Catholic, who did not want to trash his parish, says he finds more sustenance these days sneaking off to the old Latin Mass. This isn’t because he’s a traditionalist, but because of its quiet and almost mystical aesthetic: lots of bells, lots of incense, no “awful” hymns badly sung but gorgeous Latin chants instead.

Bad music — and bad singers leading the singing — was a frequent young Catholic complaint. One complainer, understanding how superficial that sounds, told me that bad music for him turns what’s supposed to be a sacred time into a cringing endurance test. It’s downright embarrassing when the cringeworthiness takes place at a Catholic funeral and he’s surrounded by non-Catholic friends. [italics mine]

My position is, in addition to the almost guaranteed mediocrity as above, substituting “Amazing Grace” and “An Irish Lullaby” (what Barry Fitzgerald sang to his mother in “Going My Way”) for church music that survived the ages, you have performers, clerical or otherwise, who are not up to the challenge.

Big, big problem here. The bread-for-stone business is Scriptural, I must add: “”Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” from Matthew 7.9.

A prayer for the supposedly praying Mass-attender

Gerald Manley Hopkins deserves attention. So other Christian poets, in search for someone to counter the drugstore fustian that greets us regularly at our 21st-century mass.

First, do no harm, God told the worship clerks, who asked, “What on earth are you talking about?”

I do them injustice. It’s not easy to tell people how to pray. They mean well, as do many a mis-doer, from whose misdirected, ill-conceived and -executed efforts God save us and them.

Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Mark, chapter 6: The dance, the promise, the beheading

John the Baptist, model of conscience.

Spoke truth to power, as many self-righteous of this day claim they do, when they know nothing of the kind of power he faced, autocratic, middle eastern, first-century A.D., rule by whim of ruler.

Herodias the trophy wife gave the word to her dancing daughter, voluptuous, tempting, the coolest of chicks. Her stepfather Herod, a potentially decent sort, got lassoed. Had been drinking, the kid got to him (and his hangers-on, watching his every move), he promised the world or half of the part he controlled (I said POWER). The fool.

The angry mother told her. The head. She told the fool in charge, gulp. He liked John, liked to listen to him. John used the occasions not to butter him up but to admonish him. He was not going to back down, knew what was right and what was his duty. Very gutsy guy. Went with his conscience, angered the spiteful woman.

Now what? The others are looking at him. He had promised, had he not? What kind of king was that whose promise meant nothing? He swallowed hard. Turned to the hatchet man (not a figure of speech, as we use the phrase today), said get the head. Hurry up, chop-chop.

The daughter, learning how things are done, took the head on a platter (not figurative), and the mother smiled.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

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