I have often heard the defence of the Novus Ordo Mass in terms of it’s being valid. As though all that needs to be settled is whether a Mass is valid and then all is good. Validity is truly important. Flee from invalid Masses. I believe the new Mass is valid. The Church says it is and I am bound to accept it, and I do. I have concerns related to its validity, which I wrote about here. But I doubt anyone should take my concerns all that seriously. However, this lecture below by David Rodríguez gets closer to the heart of the matter of what, I suppose, I was really trying to say. For the real issue of the new Mass is not a question of validity, rather it is about the efficacy of grace.
[I have previously posted another amazing lecture by David Rodríguez, this time about the Mass and its relationship to the message of Fatima, here.]
Always, but perhaps more so now, we should be choosing those things which draw us closer to God, and which bring about the grace of God most fully into our lives. We must drive away sin, and root out evil, and cast off the world, and with passion and tenacity turn to Christ, bow before Him, and worship God with utmost reverence. If we fail to see the spiritual battle that surrounds us then we may find ourselves outside the refuge God has provided. And the winds blow strong across that wasteland. David Rodríguez argues that the refuge God has provided us is the Traditional Latin Mass. This does not mean the Novus Ordo cannot be celebrated with reverence, or that God’s grace cannot work through it (which it often does in individuals’ lives), but if one can have more or less grace available, why choose the lesser? Listen to this lecture and decide for yourself.
Archbishop Alexander K. Sample said: “May the traditional Mass flourish in the Church!”
I agree, and I pray every day both for the TLM to flourish and for the archbishop to continue his good work.
In this light, below is another good video from 2SPetrvs:
While watching this video I was thinking about the nature and function of parades. A lot of people like parades. In this video one see a pilgrimage can be a kind of parade. I have come to believe they have an important role to play in human society. There is something old-fashioned about parades. There is also something very human about them. To parade is to make a declaration. Perhaps more parishes should start parading in their cities.
This lecture is worth the entire two and half hours. And it is a packed two and a half hours. Every bishop should watch it. Every priest too. It is profound and filled with riches to ponder and meditate upon. It is also filled with many challenges. Share it with others. Discuss it.
I am not a conspiracy nut, nor am I a staunch traditionalist, nor am I prone to sectarianism or division, etc, etc, but…
Given the connection between the message of Fatima and the Mass, and given a number of connections and observations Mr. Rodríguez makes, it makes sense that the third secret of Fatima has not been fully revealed. It seems rather clear that the message is very likely a direct challenge to the spirit of Vatican II and the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass. And given that the third secret was to be revealed in 1960 and wasn’t, and also by that time the pope and other key individuals in the Church were intent on changing the Mass and bringing about a glorious revolution, no one in leadership (including popes St. John XXIII, B. Paul VI, John Paul I, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis) has wanted to open that can of worms — whether to cancel the council, or redirect its purpose, or not promulgate a new rite of the Mass, or call all of it into question after the fact. Perhaps they would all feel (or have felt) like they would need to officially abandon the Novus Ordo Mass altogether and they just can’t handle admitting that Vatican II was not the work of the Holy Spirit but of man alone. If this is true, then certainly what we have seen in the Church over the past fifty years are the profound and terrible results of God’s judgement — the list of troubles is staggering. Of course, I cannot say all this is true for I know almost nothing about it, but I wonder, I really wonder. Certainly it is deeply sobering to consider. (And the only “arguments” against this that I’ve come across consists of eye rolling. Thin arguments indeed.)
I worry that a great many cardinals, bishops, priests, and perhaps some popes, from the last half century or more, will end up in Hell because of the destruction they have brought about.
Am I way off? Is Mr. Rodríguez wrong? What am I missing?
There is a lot of talk about the post-Vatican II Church. Some praise the openness and engagement with the world, saying the Church is no longer stuffy, no longer turned in on itself, no longer disengaged. Others decry the staggering decline in numbers of priests, religious, and faithful as signs that the council, and especially the post-council era, was a terrible turn. In that latter camp one will find many different opinions. Some say the council was entirely the work of the Devil, and that we actually have no pope, and have not had one for some time. Others accept the existence of the pope, but stand in clear opposition to much of what he does and says, and they decry the modernist church, pointing to the council as the key event in the Church’s profound decline. Others are not so strident, they stand with the pope, but they struggle with the council and its modernist tendencies, and they call for a return to authentic reverence at Mass, and think returning to the great traditions of the Church is a good idea, including the traditional Latin Mass of the pre-conciliar Church, but do not think the Church must “go back” to the past in a complete sense.
As I continue to work through these ideas I find myself somewhat in that last camp (and perhaps a bit in the second camp). Pope Francis is my pope. I have written about my struggles with some of what he has said and done, but I still stand with him. He is my pope and I pray for him every day. However, I think it would be wonderful if the great traditions of the Church experienced a world-wide renaissance. And I pray every day that the beautiful and rich traditions of the Church would once again be the norm throughout the world. In a sense, I see the need for a kind of Catholic counter-revolution against the modernist forces that have harmed and are still harming the Church and the world today. What that could or should look like I do not know. But I find these two lectures below to offer some perspective and possible ideas — especially in light of the terrible revelations we are experiencing today. Needless to say, these lectures come from a very “conservative” place, a place I mostly find appealing (however I don’t consider myself either conservative or liberal) but some might find the lectures leaning too far in that direction and the examples used too extreme. I will leave that up to you to decide.
I like this video. It speaks to the same reasons I love the TLM. However, the TLM I go to once a month is a lot more humble than the ones you see here, and also most women do not wear a head covering at the Mass I go to (I’m sorting out my thoughts on that anyway). Still, the reasons apply.
The 2SPetrvs website has been posting some good videos. This one below is with Archbishop Sample (who happens to be my bishop) on the place of Catholic Tradition, especially when it come to the Liturgy, and how he has seen the positive responses from Catholic youth.
I believe Archbishop Sample is doing a good job of carefully, but steadfastly, promoting Catholic Tradition(s), such as the TLM and more reverence in the NO Mass, in the least “churched” region of the United States. The northwest region is the land of the “nones,” that is the land where when people are asked what religion they are, they select the “none” checkbox. So I truly appreciate that he is gently, but steadily, calling Catholics back to their heritage.
“Do not invent anything in the liturgy. Let us receive everything from God and from the Church. Do not look for show or success. The liturgy teaches us: To be a priest is not above all to do many things. It is to be with the Lord, on the Cross! The liturgy is the place where man meets God face to face.” – Cardinal Robert Sarah
There was a pilgrimage from Notre Dame to Notre Dame, that is, from Paris to Chartres, through the French countryside.
I’ve written about this pilgrimage and Chartres Cathedral before here. In that post I write about how the youth are seeking a Church that demands more of them than the Novus Ordo Church of their grandparents. I’ve also posted about a recent restoration project at Chartres here, and a wonderful vintage video on the history and glory of the cathedral here.
If you are curious about the pilgrimage, here are pictures of the full three days. They are listed in reverse order–scroll all the way down to see the beginning.
His Eminence Cardinal Robert Sarah showed up on the last day, May 21st, when all the pilgrims had arrived at Chartres:
And he celebrated Mass in the usus antiquior. Here is the full three hours of that Mass, including the entrance of the laity and all their flags, and all the clergy. It looks like it was quite an event, if that’s the right word:
I admit I’m a sucker for these long vérité videos. I love watching the people, getting a sense the event, its noises, etc. What an amazing Mass. I wish I could have been there, done the whole pilgrimage, etc.
Certainly it makes more sense to celebrate Mass in the Traditional Latin form in Chartres Cathedral, rather than celebrating with the Novus Ordo. A building such as this serves the old Mass better, and the old Mass serves the building better; the beauty, history, and magnificence of each in full cooperation.
From the Cardinal’s homily:
Dear Pilgrims of France, look upon this cathedral! Your ancestors built it to proclaim their faith! Everything, in its architecture, its sculpture, its windows, proclaims the joy of being saved and loved by God. Your ancestors were not perfect, they were not without sins. But they wanted to let the light of faith illuminate their darkness!
He goes on to say:
Today, you too, People of France, wake up! Choose the light! Renounce the darkness!
How can this be done? The Gospel tells us: “He who acts according to the truth comes to the light.” Let the light of the Holy Spirit illuminate our lives concretely, simply, and even in the most intimate parts of our deepest being. To act according to the truth is first to put God at the center of our lives, as the Cross is the center of this cathedral.
My brothers, choose to turn to Him every day! At this moment, make the commitment to keep a few minutes of silence every day in order to turn to God, to tell him “Lord reign in me! I give you all my life!”
So much wisdom in those words! And here is a link to the full text his homily.
The following images (as well as the image at the top of this post) also include quotes, in their original French, from Cardinal Sarah’s homily. I grabbed these from his twitter feed:
Sufficit tibi gratia mea
“My grace is sufficient for thee”
This Mass was organized by a group of students who call themselves the Tridentini (“A group of Roman Pontifical University students gathering each month for celebrations of the Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.”) and celebrated by l’abbé Matthieu Raffray of the l’Institut du Bon Pasteur in Rome. I believe they are SSPX, but I’m not sure.
I must say I’m curious about the support of the SSPX. Given that it’s in an irregular relationship with the Church, and is thus not in communion with it, I cannot give my support. That many others do makes me wonder. I’m sure some do not know about the issues with the SSPX and the Church, and therefore their conscience is clear. But others do, and yet the pull of the Tridentine Mass is so great that they still go. Again, I wonder. As I’m learning more of Catholic Tradition, including the traditional Latin Mass, and its place and role within our contemporary society and the Church, I’m more and more prone to cut the SSPX some slack.
Fortunately I have access to the TLM once a month at a nearby parish 15 minutes away, and every Sunday at another parish if I want to drive 20-30 minutes — both in full communion with Rome. My home parish is not yet “TLM,” but may become that in the not-to-distant future. For now it is a reverent and solemn (but not without some of the typically questionable aspects) Novus Ordo parish. Still, I love it. I’m not a hardcore traditionalist, yet.
This is a talk given at The Roman Forum in 1988 by Michael Davies on why there is a traditionalist movement in the Church. In his singular style Davies gives a good overview of the concerns that prompted the formation the movement.
The audio/video was edited and made available by Vox Catholica, a traditionalist resource sympathetic to the SSPX. I am grateful for this resource, and I feel they have done an excellent job in presenting it. However, just so I am clear at this time, although I am somewhat sympathetic of the SSPX, I am not personally supportive of them, at least not at this time given their standing with the Church, but I find the lecture very much worth listening to. I also pray the SSPX would be fully reconciled with the Church, and eventually given their due as God sees fit.
This Mass, held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., was done according the 1962 Missal, in Latin of course. This form of the Mass is the Roman Rite, but it was in the Traditional Latin Mass form (rather than the Novus Ordo, or Mass of Pope Paul VI of 1969/70, know my most Catholics today, and also of the Roman Rite). The Traditional Latin Mass is also known as the Extraordinary Form, or usus antiquior (older use). This term, usus antiquior, was mentioned by his Excellency more than once in his homily. One key reason for choosing this form was to commemorate the ten year anniversary since Pope Benedict XVI issued his motu proprioSummorum Pontificum. For Catholic traditionalists the motu proprio was a huge event in the recovery of the old Mass and Catholic Tradition, and hence the reason to celebrate.
As I understand it, the Archbishop is not a strident traditionalist, and his homily confirmed that, but he has taken a leading role in promoting the Latin Mass in the United States and elsewhere. Having him celebrate this Mass makes sense. He is also my Archbishop, which makes this rather exciting for me.
This was only the second time since 1969 that Mass has been celebrated in the Traditional Form at the National Shrine. If you did not get a chance to be there or watch it live on EWTN, I’m sure it will be shown again, and eventually made available online. I admit I watched the entire Mass. There was also running commentary, which some might find distracting but I found helpful and not intrusive. I am still very much learning about the Traditional Latin Mass.
Here are some images (screengrabs) from the live EWTN broadcast:
William F. Buckley Jr. was a faithful Catholic who preferred the Traditional Latin Mass and did not like the changes brought about by Vatican II or, perhaps more appropriately, the abuses in the name of Vatican II. In 1980 he devoted an episode of his television program Firing Line to discussing these changes, as well as the censure of theologian Hans Kung which had just happened.
On the show his guests were Msgr. Joseph Champlin, Michael Davies, and Malachi Martin. Fr. Champlin was a prolific author and vocal advocate of the new Mass, and a more liberal approach to Catholicism. Michael Davies was also a prolific writer and defender of the old Mass, warrior against the new Mass, and apologist of traditional Catholicism and those who continued to practice it, including Archbishop Lefebvre. Malachi Martin was also a prolific author, former Jesuit, advocate of the old Mass, frequent critic of the Church, television personality of sorts and, some would say, showman to a fault.
Here is the program:
I do not think this is one of Firing Line’s best episodes. Though the topic is of great interest to me, the guests are interesting, and the fact it stands as a kind of time capsule, nonetheless it lacks focus. On the one hand, the topic is just too big for an hour of television. On the other this is more like “inside baseball,” which, in fact, it needs to be but also suffers from. I wondered at times if the audience was bored stiff, thoroughly confused, or both.
Quick takes on each participant:
WFB: Always erudite, but his arguments remain more on the surface, expressing his personal proclivities and, I’m sure unintentionally, providing an excuse for viewers to assume he represents the old guard of stuffy Catholicism afraid of the new and exciting world of modernity and a more youth-oriented Church. And when he pushed on certain topics his interlocutors merely went their own way.
Fr. Champlin: My immediate response was negative. He seemed to represent exactly the kind of wimpy sentimentalist evasive liberal priests that turned the Church away from a cross-carrying, suffering servant, heroic virtue loving, proud-to-be Catholics, and hopeful to be martyrs Catholicism. Of course these are all stereotypes and we should be careful. Nonetheless, my inclinations are probably basically true. In light of a particular section of this program it is worth noting this observation about Fr. Champlin:
He is remembered in his own diocese of Syracuse (where he has served as Vicar of parish life and worship) for his fervent promotion and encouragement of Communion in the hand (when the practice was unlawful in the U.S.), thereby adding to the spirit of disobedience in which that practice was cultivated. He was also prominent in defending an aberrant policy of “Eucharistic hospitality” in the Diocese of Syracuse (which, in effect, permitted Protestants to receive Holy Communion in clear defiance of the restrictions contained in Vatican directives.) [From here.]
He also was wishy-washy on contraception in his popular book on marriage, “Together for Life.”
I must say, however, that clearly Fr. Champlin was “ganged up on” a bit. He was obviously (perhaps by design?) the only advocate of the new Mass, surround by three passionate and articulate advocates of the old. I think he did an excellent job of maintaining his composure and articulating his position.
Mr. Davies: He comes across a bit like a crusader, and his emotions nearly get the better of him several times. However, of all the participants he is the one I find most compelling. Like him I was a Baptist who converted to the Church. Like him I also have some Welsh blood in me, but not the Welsh culture or accent (actually his accent is from Somerset) . At times he seems ready to explode with information, which makes sense given his life’s undertaking of studying these things (and perhaps his passionate spirit). In short, compared with the others, only his arguments were actually compelling as arguments, though he did not have time to articulate them given the nature of television and the format of the show. He also kept his composure, and I hope he was able to pique the curiosity of many viewers to consider his views and his books.
Mr. (or is it Fr.?) Martin: Always entertaining, Mr. Martin loved the sound of his own voice. He seemed to be making an attempt to turn to show towards himself. I did not feel he contributed substantially to the discussion and, in fact, was a distraction. However, I do believe with a different format, for example a two hour discussion that was allowed the guests to ramble a bit more, and where he sat down with the others as a members of the group, he might have fit within the program better. Still, I never know how far to trust him.
“If they really love Jesus, this is where they’re gonna want to be.”
Once again, here’s another example of looking into the Traditional Latin Mass and those who celebrate it, and finding people loving the beauty, history, transcendence, richness, mystery, challenge, and deep worship they do not find elsewhere.
Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis, ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque Ecclesiae suae sanctae.
[May the Lord accept the Sacrifice from thy hands,
to the praise and glory of His Name,
for our benefit and for that of all His holy Church.]
It is a fact that what’s driving the return of (and to) the Traditional Latin Mass is, in part, Catholic youth. Search online for that topic and one finds innumerable articles about the growing love of, and demand for, the old Mass on the part of young Catholics. (I encourage you to go search. I don’t have space to list them all here.)
In short, it comes down to three things:
Genuine faith seeking a proper form.
Finding a lack of proper form in much of the modern Church, and especially in the Novus Ordo Mass and its ancillaries.
Finding the proper form in the pre-conciliar traditions of the Church, and in particular the Traditional Latin Mass and its ancillaries.
These three reasons are supported by the realization that the Novus Ordo Mass is linked, directly and indirectly, to so many problems in the Church today, such as loss of vocations, closing of parishes and Catholic schools due to lack of interest, loss of a corporate Catholic identity, and increasingly lax morals, especially in the area of sexuality (the very area the world sees traditional Catholics as being laughably foolish). The causal versus the correlative links between the new Mass and modern perils will be debated for ages, but the reality of the links seem real enough to warrant action.
I have seen some older Catholics show complete confusion about this. Why in the world, they wonder, would anyone want that old, rigid, dusty religion? But they do. It has been reported that even Pope Francis himself said about those who show a love for the Traditional Latin Mass: “And I ask myself: Why so much rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.” I sense that the Holy Father, whom I love, has a fear that the old Mass will come back. My sense is that, while he has much wisdom, he is also of a generation that was formed by the spirit of the 1960’s. Alas. It has also been argued that what youth want is more of a desire for true reverence than the Latin rite, but there is certainly a connection. And there is more than enough evidence to say it’s also the usus antiquior, the ancient usage, that calls to them.
Ironically, the 1960’s was all about youth too, and listening to the youth, and letting the youth show us the way, etc, etc. And then, at the behest of the spirit of the 1960’s, it was all about casting off anything and everything that was traditional, including morals, conventions, and just about anything that smacked of liturgy. Now Pope Francis is saying something very similar about looking to the youth for answers. I say it’s ironic because those who were the youth of yesteryear, and who led the way from the 1960’s into the 1970’s Novus Ordo Church with it’s guitars and bongo drums, its liturgical dancers and the attempted eradication of Latin, are now saying that again the youth must show the way, and the youth are saying it’s time to move beyond the modernist hippy church — and many of the older Catholics are getting mad. Funny how that happens. For some reason many are still drinking the kool aid about how only in utter freedom (it’s a “freedom from” way of thinking, a kind of bra burning Catholicism) can one have a true relationship with Jesus, or have authentic faith, etc. Cast everything off. Even cast off the Church it seems sometimes.
But some older Catholics get it. And they can bring their wisdom to help guide the passion of the youth.
And some younger Catholics who have fallen in love with the old Mass are taking it to the streets. The caption for the following video reads as follows:
So over brunch after the Traditional Latin Mass one Sunday, we, a group of young Miami Catholics, thought it would be fun to visit the Florida Renaissance Festival… and even more fun to form a little procession, chant the Litany of the Saints, and hand out flyers inviting everyone to come worship like it’s 1399!
So we did exactly that.
I find this wonderful. It’s kinda hilarious and precious just how real it is. You want to know how to do real street evangelism? Well, there you go. (Take it from someone who has done some old-fashioned Protestant street evangelism. This is way way better.) I think the same is true with a good old-style Corpus Christi procession. We need more of those.
But it’s not easy. One has to put oneself “out there” as a witness and be willing to accept what may come.
There is also a “meme” of sorts going around where someone posts two pictures with the following text:
Left: What young Catholics want
Right: What old Catholics want young Catholics to want.
The pictures go like this: One the left will be a picture of something very traditional, like nuns in full habits, beautiful churches with stunning altars and tabernacles, priests in cassocks, etc. On the right will be pictures of “nuns on the bus,” bare and ugly modernist churches, liturgical dancers and priests playing folk guitars, etc.
I doubt this needs any explanation, but on the left is traditional, beautiful, historical, deep, Christ-centered Catholicism, and on the right is an aging, 1960’s, baby-boomer, me-generation, shallower version of an essentially smallish “c” catholicism (if it’s really Catholicism at all). Whether these images are entirely fair I can’t say, but the phenomenon of the meme’s popularity speaks to growing feelings and desires of younger Catholics for the substance of an older, historical Catholicism.
In other words, they want a liturgy given by God and not created by man. They want a faith of the ages not of the latest fashions (of course, and sometimes humorously so, for the Church “fashionable” means 20 years out of date, but oh well.) They want beauty not sentimentality.
Sentimentality is one of the worst features modern Catholicism.
Another example: Imagine well over 15,000 people marching for three days from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to the Cathedral in Chartres. They come as individuals and as groups. They carry banners and come from all over the world. They sing and chant along the way. Then consider that 80% of these pilgrims are under the age of 30 and you now have a picture of one of the Church’s most remarkable annual events. Here is a “video album” of the 2015 pilgrimage:
I love video documents like that. Simple, unadorned, merely presenting what happened. It’s long, but worth the time to watch.
Some older Catholics often seem to always seek ways to make it “easier” for young Catholics to be Catholic, and non-Catholics to be interested in the Church. This is true for Protestants too, who have been much better at applying modern marketing techniques to “evangelism” than Catholics. Make it effortless and you will win against the competition. But, in fact, young Catholics seem to thrive on what is hard to do. It is the challenge of holiness, not the low-commitment of a happy-clappy church, that intrigues them. Interestingly, in this sense many youth have the more Catholic view of the faith than far too many of their elders. And many young Catholics appear to have a clearer understanding and a greater love of what it takes to become a saint than even some Bishops. Talk about “active participation” in liturgy and in life, there you have it. Thank God for those older Catholics who get it, live it, and are examples to the youth.
In another story of how some Catholics just do not “get” the Catholic youth of today, there’s the example of some Catholic administrator or other sort of staff (I’m assuming a sweet, old-fashioned, 1960’s, well-meaning modernist — or someone directed by such a person) altering an image for a poster created to appeal to youth as part of a campaign to raise donations (and apparently to appeal to Catholic youth) in three dioceses France. A video was made and an image was taken from the video to make a poster.
Here’s the video:
Not great. They don’t look like they know each other, and the whole setup looks awkward and weird. Oh well.
But alas, and here’s the issue, Catholic youth would never think a priest in a cassock would be cool enough, right?? Obviously someone thought so, …so some graphic designer was asked to modify the image and make it look as if the priest was wearing blue jeans, because priests in blue jeans are what youth want right? Or is it what old Catholics want young Catholics to want? You decide.
And now here’s the blue jean wearing priest:
A total different priest — hip, with it, connected, relatable, relevant. Rather, he was all those things before, and now post edit, much less. Perhaps what Catholic youth want is not a priest who is really just one of the gang, just another youth like them, just another soccer playing priest or unicycle riding nun. Maybe they want to be called to something more than the quotidian. And maybe they don’t like to be manipulated and lied to. More profoundly, perhaps they don’t want to stay who they are and end up in Hell, but strive for holiness and Heaven. I bet they know holiness is hard and not easy.
The fuller story is here, and the comments are devastating. ouf! If a picture is worth a thousand words, this rather insignificant image probably says as many words as those published by the Second Vatican Council. Oh well. Catholics are human too, and often foolish. The Church goes on. No one was hurt. Right? Right???
Regardless, maybe we ought to listen to the Catholic youth of today. Or at least some of them. And then join them. Generally I am not for letting the youth lead, in fact I’m mostly against it, but this time that’s probably not a bad idea.
At this link you can get both Sunday Mass and daily Mass in the Extraordinary Form from several locations around the world: Warrington, England; Sarasota, Florida; Fribourg, Switzerland; and Guadalajara, Mexico.
March is still dark at 8am, but there is a faint glow in the East. The sun will be here soon. I am kneeling like a medieval monk before the blessed sacrament.
Accipite,et manducate ex hoc omnes
This month there are more altar servers than before. All are boys, led by a local high school teacher. He subtly directs the boys with gestures and slight head nods. They are learning. A friend of mine remembers the Latin Mass from his youth. He says it’s not quite the same as this one, or maybe his memory fails him. But everyone is giving it there best, including those of us in the pews who still don’t know when to stand, sit, or kneel. Each month we are getting a little better.
In his book The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton writes: “There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk ’round the whole world till we come back to the same place.” I feel these words were prophetic. For centuries the Catholic Church “stayed there,” that is she remained at home in and with the Mass of ages, with few changes down through the centuries. That was her dwelling, and it would have remained so until the coming age, except that in the 1960’s she gave it up. She decided to leave home and go “’round the whole world.” I believe, perhaps, she is coming back home again, perhaps finally returning home.
Sometimes we have to leave home in order to truly appreciate it.
I come from a different place. I lived in a different house altogether, one of protest. By the grace of God I left that house for the better home. But I too feel as though I’ve returned. So here I am chanting Latin with these few souls on a quiet Saturday morning, with the day dawning outside.
Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo.
During the communion rite we kneel. The priest goes through a series of complicated motions and prayers, all of which have profound meaning. For much of it the Church remains quiet. Unlike the Novus Ordo Mass, silence is accepted and seems natural not awkward. Some of us watch the priest, some are praying with heads bowed. The mood is solemn. In our tiny corner of the world the cosmos aligns, the stars bow down, and God is with us.
During the communion of the faithful we file up towards sanctuary. We kneel. Our hands are folded in prayer. I look at the crucifix. When the priest and server come to me I open my mouth to receive Christ.
Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam.
When Mass is over we leave. Each person goes their own way. The weekend is ahead of us. Some may be going to work. Others to family, or yard work, or recreation. And yet, this traditional Latin Mass has also been a form of recreation, of re-creation.
As I drive home I am filled with feelings of quiet joy. I am grateful for the blessings of God.
“How could I have been so stupid.” – President John F. Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
Some might argue that I have gone off half cocked here. I can’t say I disagree, but my question is a serious one. But please keep in mind, I am no disrespecter of Pope Saint Paul VI.
After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, with all its subsequent political fallout and public humiliation, various reports were issued as to why such a fiasco happened. One common view is that the Kennedy administration and CIA succumbed to the psychological condition known as “group think.” This idea of an influential and highly informed group of individuals moving forward on a known-to-be doomed plan, with no one seriously raising concerns to the commander-in-chief, and giving the go-ahead which resulted in lives lost, reputations forever sullied, and a country’s population reeling from humiliation on the world stage, made me wonder if there is a similarity to the post-Vatican II decisions regarding the Novus Ordo Mass.
I realize this sounds extremely harsh, especially to those who don’t have a problem with the new Mass. However, with the level of anger and vehemence raised by not a few towards Pope Paul VI (now Pope Saint Paul VI) and the Novus Ordo, and the claims by rather smart people that it has only caused catastrophic damage to the Church, I think it’s a fair question to ask.
So, did good intentions (however understood) snowball into far greater changes than most ever imagined? It is generally agreed that J.F.K. essentially inherited a plan that he felt somewhat obliged to execute. Did Pope Paul VI feel the same way when he “inherited” the Second Vatican Council and its “inevitable” outcomes, in particular the new Mass? Did too few bishops and cardinals raise concerns because they assumed everyone else was on board and they didn’t want to be the only one making a fuss? Was the feeling that the trajectory was already set and could no longer be changed? Was it group think?
I would not even consider such a comparison if there had not been the profoundly negative impacts in terms of Catholics leaving the Church, vocations going unheard and unheeded, monasteries closing, church buildings being razed, a significant loss of beauty and reverence in the Mass, and numerous other ramifications since the council, and especially since the promulgation of the new Mass. I do recognize this is more a correlative argument and not so much a causal one, but just as J.F.K. inherited the CIA plan and trusted his advisors, I have been wondering if a similar comparison can be made regarding Pope Paul VI. Did he inherit a plan, or perhaps a movement, that surged forward with a kind on inevitability? Was he “carried along” by that energy and excitement for change? Did Pope Paul VI go along as though he was unable to put the brakes on? Was he merely weak or perhaps unskilled at leadership?
One might think this was the case. Consider some of the things Pope Paul VI said at his General Audience, November 26, 1969, only a couple of days before the Novus Ordo Mass was promulgated.
He speaks of innovation: “We ask you to turn your minds once more to the liturgical innovation of the new rite of the Mass.” History tells us there has traditionally been great reticence in the Church towards innovation in such matters.
The pope continued by indicating that such changes affect the Church’s traditions: “A new rite of the Mass: a change in a venerable tradition that has gone on for centuries. This is something that affects our hereditary religious patrimony, which seemed to enjoy the privilege of being untouchable and settled.” He almost seems worried at the change, and even feels the need to call out that the Mass is actually unchangeable.
He points out tradition is valuable, and maybe now we will understand its value: “It is at such a moment as this that we get a better understanding of the value of historical tradition and the communion of the saints.” He seems to call out the need to retain what is valuable rather than move away from it.
He says some will be annoyed: “We shall become aware, perhaps with some feeling of annoyance, that the ceremonies at the altar are no longer being carried out with the same words and gestures to which we were accustomed—perhaps so much accustomed that we no longer took any notice of them.” Here it almost seems like he is offering a kind of apology. He also seems to say that now we will take notice of what we have accustomed to, which assumes that we then will not be losing those things, just appreciating them more, which assumes that they shouldn’t go away.
And he says many other things about the Novus Ordo being novel, inconvenient, and affecting, in particular, the pious and the faithful. He also says these changes will help wake us up, that it will “draw them out of their customary personal devotions or their usual torpor.” Which begs the question, once drawn out of one’s torpor do we go back with fresh eyes and eager hearts to our heritage? It also seems he is saying the purpose is to help us re-appreciate the traditional Latin Mass–as though we need to take a rough detour to help us love the smooth highway once again, or fast for several days so that we appreciate the nature of food again. Well… this is food for thought, especially if we take the long view.
One can almost get the sense that Pope Paul VI was trying to put a good face on something that he felt was not great at best, and maybe a big mistake at worst. Certainly there is a hint of trepidation. But…
I have come to the conclusion that Pope Paul VI was the movement, that these words from his general audience are, in fact, representative of his genuine excitement for the coming changes. Perhaps he later regretted how some of it played out, but I doubt he ever really wavered in his decisions.
I want to be careful with this next comparison. I have no intention to draw too close an analogy. Still, it is widely known that Martin Luther, the rebellious monk who became a catalyst and firebrand for the Protestant Reformation, and one who sought great changes for the sake of getting back to something more pure (so the argument goes), later regretted much of what was done in the name of his disputation. Though Luther did not regret his doctrinal positions, he somewhat regretted how politically explosive it all became, and how quickly fellow Christians embraced divisive and polarizing positions to the point of a continuing and pervasive disunity within the Body of Christ. Luther was troubled that many took his revolution much further than he thought appropriate. Of course, without political backing his “project” would likely have died or been relegated to a kind of heterodox strand within the history of the Church as so many other breakaway Protestant and heretical groups were. This has been basically true for all the main strands of the Reformation. Still, Luther was absolutely convinced of his path and what he felt was his clear calling.
It also seems clear such is the case regarding Pope Paul VI. It is clear he believed he was doing the right thing. He also was willing to have the Church suffer a bit as it went through this necessary change.
How then should we think of Pope Paul VI? I believe the answer to the question at the beginning of this post is no. The promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass wasnot Pope Paul VI’s Bay of Pigs. It was what he wanted, and he knew it would create a lot of turmoil. He was not “carried along” like a ship without a rudder, or a simpleton in a mob crowd. The Novus Ordo Mass was as much his idea and it was any of the other crafters of the Mass.
First, this quote from Giovanni Battista Montini, then Bishop of Milan and future Pope Paul VI, conveys his thinking in 1958, years before the council, about the need to radically change the Mass:
The Latin is not the only obstacle [to modern man’s participation]. The difficulty arises principally from the way in which the liturgy expresses the prayer of the Church and the divine mysteries. The variety of its forms, the dramatic progression of its rites, the hieratic style of its language, the continual use of sign and symbol, the theological depth of the words and the mysteries fulfilled—all seem to conspire to impede the understanding of the liturgy, especially for the modern man, accustomed to reducing everything to an extreme intelligibility…. [The faithful] will find themselves excluded from its inner spiritual precincts, whereas the progress of culture has accustomed them to understanding and knowing all about everything in their environment and field of interest. We must transform the difficulty posed by the liturgical rite into a help for the penetration of the hidden meaning contained in Catholic worship.¹
This shows that the “spirit of Vatican II” was strong in this bishop long before the council, not only regarding what we read in the texts from the council, but also regarding the radical changes that later occurred.
Perhaps most telling is the last line that speaks to the modernist desire to deny the actual reality of the mystery of faith. Mystery is presented as a problem to be solved, as though it can be solved. The faithful should now have worship of God be entirely understandable, that they would finally know the hidden meaning — as though the meaning was hidden in and by the old rite (because of the rite itself) rather than because of the very nature of God and of faith. Pope Paul VI was a true believer in the changes wrought by the new Mass. He thought it really would bring about an enormous rebirth and rejuvenation of faith within the Church precisely because the Mass would now be without any “hidden meaning” getting in the way. I know very little about this pope, and even less about his core ideas, but in this particular sense he strikes me as a modernist, a child of the Enlightenment: a Catholic Pope but, in some significant sense, having a non-biblical anthropology (in terms of the Mass, yet strongly biblical in terms of marriage and contraception — go figure).
This now leads me to why I believe the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass was Pope Paul VI’s Bay of Pigs. The failed Cuba invasion failed precisely because it did not do what its planners claimed it would do based on assumptions that, on later reflection were poor and very naive, and was executed because too few wanted to stand in the way of its momentum. The promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass, it is arguable (and has repeatedly been argued), has been directly responsible for great numbers of Catholics leaving the Church, many churches and monasteries closing their doors, parishes having to combine and downsize, Catholic schools closing or becoming in practice non-Catholic, very low numbers of new vocations, etc, etc, etc. Perhaps the only difference is that Pope Paul VI was not around long enough to see the full effect of the results and exclaim: “How could I have been so stupid.” (I mean no disrespect to the Holy Father.)
And yet, and yet… in a sense he had profound insight. Perhaps the old Mass, and pre-council Catholicism in the west was, in some way, dead or dying. Not because numbers were low, but because so many Catholics took the old rite for granted. He says just as much in his general audience address. Today we are seeing a resurgence of interest in the TLM, but this time with great passion and actual participation by the laity. Piety now seems to be combined with hearts on fire on the one hand and knowledge on the other. The laity are studying the old Mass, learning what it means, comparing it to the new. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging back, driven by a renewed interest founded on a renewed understanding and thus aiming towards an authentic realization of the value and purpose of worship itself.
So… in conclusion, I have come to see Pope Paul VI in a new light. I think the results of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and let’s face it, a lot of crazy garbage happened in those years, will be a new flourishing of the Church. I can’t say Pope Paul VI saw all this, but it seems God used him to accomplish some important changes that only now may be coming to light. Of course this does not get him, or anyone else, off the hook for the damage caused, but it does help us see how God can and will work all things for good… eventually. What I pray and hope is that Pope Paul VI saw this too.
Like I said at the beginning, half cocked.
Giovanni Battista Montini, “Liturgical Formation: Pastoral Letter to the Archdiocese of Milan for Lent 1958,” English translation in Worship 33 (1958–59), 136–64; at 153–54. Found in: Kwasniewski, Peter A., and Martin Mosebach. Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages. 2017. Page 19-20.
On the first Friday of February of this year my parish celebrated our church’s feast day (Our Lady of the Presentation) with a Latin Novus Ordo Mass. I already wrote about how I decided to join the choir. We, the choir, were not perfect by any means, and it was really a lot of hard work, but it was still beautiful and deeply rewarding. Interestingly, I had a small Twitter exchange tangentially related to this Mass.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker had posted the following tweet:
I have a gut feeling that many, many grass roots Catholics are longing for more traditional liturgy, and its my opinion that this need is best met by the Ordinary Form being celebrated in a traditional manner. This is what B16 wanted–for the two forms to influence each other.
His tweet caught my eye, especially in light of just having participated in such a Mass as he mentions. I cannot say that I want this kind of Mass over a Traditional Latin Mass. For me the jury is out. I love both. I am regularly attending a TLM at a nearby parish once a month, and I hope my parish does more of the Latin Novus Ordo Mass as well. I also hope we have the TLM in our parish again someday.
Anyway, I replied:
My parish just celebrated our parish’s feast day with a beautiful Latin Novus Ordo Mass. I volunteered for the choir. First time for me. Very solemn and beautiful. After recessional folks waited for the choir to finish Cantate Domino. Then applauded. Folks are longing for beauty.
Someone replied to my tweet:
“Then applauded.” Says all about the NO.
[“NO” meaning the Novus Ordo.] I should have expected this response. For man TLMers such things as applause at Mass is a sign of the “Spirit of Vatican II” times, which they despise. I get it. I’m mostly on their “team,” up to a point. But I thought about it and it occurred to me that the negative response was premature. For the applause, though perhaps not entirely appropriate (I don’t really know), did not actually happen at Mass, but after Mass had ended. Plus, applause can be a “thank you,” not only praise.
So I replied:
It was not praise for a good “performance,” but a thanks for what had been done (very hard work to bring a difficult Latin Missa Cantata to our parish). Mass was over. Priests had exited. Would have been appropriate at a TLM in a similar context. Says more about people than NO.
Parishioners also thanked the priests on the way out of church for bringing these “lost” riches back to our parish. Similar gesture as thanking the choir.
Baby steps in light of the damage done. It’s not yet TLM, but a step towards it.
Recognizing that, with charity, is good.
I believe I am right about this, but am willing to be corrected — though I might put up a fight. Anyway, another person also replied to my first tweet:
Yes. Mass was over & the priests and servers had left the building, the people were standing & looking to the choir loft enraptured like they hadn’t seen/heard something like this for a long time (which they hadn’t) or ever. The applause says a lot about what people are craving.
Fr. Longenecker did not respond to either mine or the others’ tweets.
I know many who are ardent supporters of the TLM (as against the Novus Ordo) believe a Latin Novus Ordo Mass, though certainly more beautiful and solemn than the all too familiar happy-clappy Novus Ordo Masses common since the late 1960s, is still a kind of bastardized Mass, finally ill suited to proper worship. I don’t expect them to agree with my statements above. Perhaps I might not even agree in a few years either (though I doubt it). But for now I’m on a journey of faith and learning, and I have to say I loved our beautiful Mass on that first Friday in February.
This was a few years ago, but it’s very good. He brings a lot of wisdom with his perspective.
I’m sure most Catholics would find such a talk boring and fussy. But I love this kind of thing. I’m a nerd, I know, but I also find history, especially in terms of culture and ways of thinking, fascinating.
Note: I heard Fr.Goodwin was recently seriously ill, perhaps had a stroke, but is recovering(?). May God bless him and keep him well.
Pope Francis facing ad orientem. Perhaps you find this surprising? I do.
Whenever speaking of priests and bishops I don’t really want to say, “He’s one of the good ones,” but I feel that way about my archbishop, Alexander K. Sample. I find him level-headed and wise.
Here’s a talk he recently gave on discovering the Traditional Latin Mass, or Tridentine Mass or, as it’s officially known, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
I too have a desire for the Traditional Latin Mass, originally somewhat out of curiosity, and then because I’m sorta studying Latin, but mostly because I want to be holy and I am weak.
That might sound strange, but my thoughts are simple. We are called to be holy. God has given us many gifts and various means to help us become holy. These include prayer and scripture, fellowship and peaching, etc. The Mass is a gift to us. God does not need it, but we do. The Mass was made for us and we are made for Mass. It seems to me, in terms appropriate to reverence before our Lord and Savior, that the more traditional Mass is a better fit with our natures and fundamental human needs than the Novus Ordo Mass, or Ordinary Form. In other words, the more traditional Mass encourages holiness more than the more modern Mass, and I need all the help I can get.
Many will beg to differ.
Those who say they are Christians but not religious are gravely wrong. All humans are religious. Religion, and religious activities, are given to us as gifts. And the religious impulse is part of our DNA, put there by God. Our nature calls out for religion, and for rites, and for reverence. These things really matter. In fact, I think in today’s crazy world reverence is more important than ever. (Side note: It’s like how sexuality is a gift that is meant for a covenantal monogamous marriage context only, and not for a pick-your-own-adventure/buffet-style of anything goes freedom. We are not meant for that kind of freedom. It kills our souls. It doesn’t lead to virtue and theosis.) The Traditional Latin Mass seems to have a great deal more inherent reverence than the more common alternative. And I worry that alternative is slowly killing the Church.
For more of the Archbishop’s thoughts on liturgical reform, here is a two-part discussion he recently did on Mater Dei Radio:
However, the Traditional Latin Mass is not an absolute requirement for the Christian life. It is not an absolute requirement for holiness. And many find the Novus Ordo Mass very encouraging. In fact I do too — I am still in the presence of the Lord, still kneeling, still praying, still receiving His body and blood. But I believe the traditional Mass is a gift that coincides and fits human nature best. There is a fittingness between the Mass of the ages and the design of Man. I would like to have the regular opportunity to receive such a gift in my area. In the Archdiocese of Portland there is a slowly growing number of TLM masses here and there. Where I live it’s limited, especially since I am committed to working within my own parish and seeing what can be done there.
I hope the Archbishop’s views continue to get propagated and accepted throughout the archdiocese. But I know he is wise and will not force anything. It is really up to us to discover it and ask for it. Fortunately for me and my family, our parish, which does not do the Tridentine Mass (yet), is generally very reverent and solemn, frequently includes Latin, and the music is often quite beautiful, and the homilies are good and orthodox. Still, I would love the option, and I pray for it every day.
Lately I’ve blogged about tradition in the Church and the Mass specifically. I find the question of music particularly interesting. I have been longing for a traditional Latin Mass to be readily available in my town. But I have to say that I’ve truly been loving the Mass at our local church lately. The church is packed, the music is beautiful, the homilies are generally good, and the mood is solemn and lively — plus lots of kids. It’s a Novus Ordo Mass (I can’t say I really know exactly what that means), with occasional Latin at times, and the Prayer to Saint Michael at the end of each Mass.
I leave with feelings of joy. I love when my family is with me too.
I can live with this. Truly I can live with any valid Mass. I love the Real Presence. I love the Eucharist. I don’t get caught up in the debates some traditionalists do — seems pointless to me. Anyway, I am loving Mass lately (in fact, I always have since entering the Church).
It’s not about me. I know.
I’ve also become fascinated with Saint Michael. What an amazing saint.