Friday, October 28, 2011


Progressive Catholics like to say that the Mass today engenders active participation. By this they mean that the congregation actively speaks and sings the parts of the Mass that are theirs, like hymns, responses, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen and Lamb of God. Singing also the Introit, Offertory and Communion antiphons or equivalent hymns.

In pre-Vatican II time, depending on the country in which one lived, Catholics for the most part participated only internally or attended simply to hear Mass. Others distracted themselves by the beauty of their church, praying the rosary or something else.

I was taught in the first and second grades how to use the "St. Joseph Missal" which was somewhat complex for a child but we knew how to use it. Active participation was being encouraged in that regard in the late 1950's and early 60's at least in the Dioceses of Savannah and Atlanta.

However, interior participation and proper focus was also encouraged. God forbid that you would look behind you when your eyes should always be on the altar.

How many people today think nothing of getting up during the Eucharistic Prayer to go to the bathroom or take a child to one?

But worse yet, how many Catholics absent themselves from Mass altogether?

In the 1950's in this country upwards to 90% of all Catholics attended Mass every Sunday no matter what type of "participation" they expressed while in the confines of the church building for that hour or so.

Today in many places in the USA only 25 to 30% of Catholics and in some places even lower, attend Mass on any given Sunday and those attending may be participating externally, but their internal disposition is something else altogether different.

In the 1950's only 1/3 of the congregation might have gone to receive Holy Communion, but presumably in a state of grace having been to Confession.

Today nearly the entire church goes to Holy Communion but one wonders about the effect of grace since no where near that number goes to confession regularly.

Father Z at his blog writes about this: "If they [progressive Catholics] are worried about greater active participation and sign value of the Eucharist and how meaningful it all is to them, I recommend to them, priests and lay people alike, that they reflect also on the frequency of their use of the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Communion in any manner. If they are not in the state of grace when they receive, they receive no graces from the Sacrament and they actually commit the mortal (sin) of sacrilege. Reception of Communion should be about grace, not about their personal views – set against those of the Church’s laws – about their right to have “the wine” or “the cup”."

Now if 90% of all Catholics are at Mass no matter how they actually express their participation in the so-called "God-awful pre-Vatican II Church with its secretive, top down authoritarianism" of the 1950's and today only 25% are at Mass who participating externally very well, but more than likely haven't been to confession in years and receive Holy Communion regardless of the state of grace their souls may be experiencing at any given time, it seems to me that the participation both from the point of view of physical presence (or real presence of the laity) as well as their disposition sacramentally when receiving Holy Communion was much better in the 1950's than today.

I think we had more and better participation in the 1950's. What do you think?


Robert Kumpel said...

Father, of course participation was greater and more consistent before the "revolution". Am I the only person who feels insulted when the modernist know-it-alls condemn the EF because "only the priest and altar boys participated"? What do they mean by "participate" anyway? If we aren't participating by prayer, it doesn't matter how many songs we sing, how many hands we shake or how many times we get to enter the sanctuary. And if we can't read the side-by-side translation of a Latin-English missal, then we need some serious remediation of our educational system. Well... we need that anyway.

William Meyer said...

As a newly baptized (17 June) Catholic, I have lately been struggling to understand the requirements for Reconciliation. Some of my more recent readings suggest that there are many mental temptations to which I seem susceptible which need confession.

In fact, barring the ability to confess just prior to Mass, I wonder whether I will ever adequately corral my stray thoughts to be in a state of grace.

William Meyer said...

When I was about 7, my grandmother showed me the Latin, and I began following it. A few years later, my brother and I received St. Joseph Sunday Missals for Christmas. To the degree that I had any difficulty with my own understanding, the causes would have been my failure to commit sufficient study of the missal, or perhaps inadequate focus, as often happens with adolescents. In our parish, the priest was pretty nasal, and his words tended to disappear into the ceiling much of the time, so keeping in sync was a continuing problem.

In the Mass as I now experience it, the challenges I find are pretty much as Pope Benedict discussed in his The Spirit of the Liturgy: distractions from the casual insertion of language not part of the Mass (reminders, these days, of new responses), neighbors in the pews carrying on conversations, applause, the running around by some in the effort to offer a sign of peace to people several pews away from their seats, the moving about to join hands for the Our Father....

In general, it seems that we are present, not at the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass, but at a communal meal. And not even a banquet, but more like a picnic.

Formality has a welcome place in worship.

Jenny said...

And I well remember that, in my local parish, one did NOT receive the Eucharist on Sunday if he had not confessed on Saturday! That may be a bit extreme, I dunno... I have read that Pope John Paul II of blessed memory confessed daily.
The real consequence? As goes the Church, so goes the world; read about the proceedings at Assisi this week:

Templar said...

Catholics participated "more" in the Pre-Vat2 liturgy by internally focsuing and praying the rosary during the Mass than any amount of Happy Clappy stuff we do now during the Pseudo-Prot Liturgy we have now.

And while I applaud the frequent mention of the need to avail ourselves of Confession before receiving Communion, I find it a little disingenious when the Sacrament is not made available to us before Mass and during Mass. I understand that Priests are busy, Lord knows they are, but even if we all lived in close proximity to our Parishes like we did in yesteryear, it does us no good if there are no Confessionals in operation. And yes, I know an appointment can be made, but doing so completely destroys the anonymity that the Confessional is supposed to offer. If the Church is serious about wanting catholics to confess regularly, it needs to find someway to offer Confession when it is most likely to be used, i.e. immediately before Sunday Masses.

Frajm said...

Five days a week at St. Joseph Church for confessions, Monday through Thursday at 7:30 AM and Saturday from 3 to 4 PM and of course any time by appointment, you could wear your Halloween outfit when you come to preserve anonymity!

Henry Edwards said...

"I think we had more and better participation in the 1950's. What do you think?"

I think that no one who is here now and was there then could truthfully disagree with your conclusion. There simply is no comparison; it's just not close enough for any honest difference of opinion.

So I conclude that anyone who says they disagree is either untruthful, deluding himself, or has some agenda involving a denial of traditional faith and devotion.

pinanv525 said...

I prefer that it be called "Confession" rather than the PC, modernist, feel-good sounding "Reconciliation." I think with Confession and Absolution we can take the Reconciliation as given.

William Meyer said...

At my parish of >3,000 families:
9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Or by appointment.

William Meyer said...

Henry, I agree wholeheartedly. I was in high school when V2 was in session. I was in college when the changes hit, and (contrary to the claims of our local DRE) Latin vanished. (I was there, she had not yet converted.)

On the other hand, I note that in almost every other parish I have attended, the pre-Mass atmosphere is quieter and the disruptions from worship in the Mass fewer, than at my parish.

Anonymous said...

Given the demographics of declining priestly and religious vocations, the loss of a discernible Catholic identity in society, and the disastrous decline in Mass attendance during the past half-century, modernist theologians and liturgists who have gotten their way during this period should have absolutely no credibility in the eyes of any thinking person. They certainly have none in mine. The problem is most Catholics don't reflect enough on their faith (or know enough about it--another victory for the modernists, who have quite effectively disemboweled catechesis) to realize this.

And the sheer weight of numbers of unreflective and ignorant Catholics whose understanding of the faith is, at best, compromised makes it easy to portray those who present orthodox Catholic teaching as the ones who are wrong, or at least one opinion among many valid opinions. At the very least we are labeled intolerant.

This is a problem that--if it can be corrected at all--certainly can't be fixed quickly or easily.
The past two generations have seen the rise of the greatest crisis the Church has ever faced--including Arianism and Protestantism. Unfortunately, we who frequent this blog are preaching to the choir. How do we get this message out to the parish and the diocese at large?

Carol H. said...

I agree that interior participation is far superior to exterior participation. Christ himself didn't always pray aloud in public but would go off alone to pray to his Father.
To answer Anonymous's question about how to get the message out- Try not to be confrontational with the people who disagree with you; after all, they are usually only parotting what they have been taught. Instead volunteer if you can to teach CCD and be sure to include the beauty of the Mass and to stress the neccecity of interior reflection. When the young are properly taught, they get it- and they help their parents to get it too.

Father Shelton said...

Great post, Father!
Try this: ask a group of daily OF Mass participants to describe the Eucharistic Prayer/Canon, and a group of EF participants to do the same. Specifically, ask them to describe, in their own words, what the priest says to God before the Consecration and what he says after. Since the Eucharistic Prayer is the heart of the Mass, knowledge of it seems to me to be the place to start in evaluating full, conscious and active participation.
I've tried it several times, and the EF crowd always knows more than the OF crowd!

Henry Edwards said...

Fr. Shelton: "I've tried it several times, and the EF crowd always knows more than the OF crowd!"

But how can this possibly be so? When the OF crowd hears it out loud in English at every Mass, whereas the EF crowd never ever hears the (silent) canon at all, not even in Latin, let alone English.

Templar said...

Dear Father, I do not wish to appear confrontation on the subject of Confession schedule, but for the sake of conversation can we allow that I may have a point when I say that 30 mins before each daily Mass, and an hour before the Saturday Vigil is not nearly as good as time before the 4 Sunday Masses would be. It would be essentially the same amount of hours in the confessional, but on a day and time that would be much more beneficial to actually getting the Laity in the booth. I think if you conducted an experiment along those lines you would find more people availing themselves of the Sacrament, and who could argue that it would be a bad thing?

pinanv525 said...

I tend to agree with Templar. I remember as a kid all my Catholic friends went to Confession before Mass. Also, what about having Confession before the EF every time? That might be a way to get more people to EF, as well.

Marc said...

Fr. Shelton: "I've tried it several times, and the EF crowd always knows more than the OF crowd!"

I'm sure you are right about this, but I'm not sure what it means. In the current Church, those who attend the EF are generally doing so quite deliberately so you're going to get a skewed sample group in your polling.

Regarding "active participation," I think the use of the vernacular can actually work against true active participation. I find it very difficult to pray when there are people speaking around me in my own language whereas it is easy to pray where a priest is speaking in Latin and quietly. I wonder if perhaps merely going to a silent Canon in the vernacular would be a compromise solution of sorts? Maybe just stop using microphones for everything except the readings and homily... Why does God need the priest's prayers projected at Him through electronic amplification?

Carol H. said...

Henry Edwards asks how this can be so.
Just because the vernacular is spoken aloud in the OF, it doesn't neccessarily follow that the congragation is actively LISTENING. Many folks admit that their minds wnder during mass.
When a person follows along in the EF and reads the traslation on the opposing page, they actively PRAY the mass and receive the grace of increased understanding.

Father Shelton said...

Henry Edwards,
I don't know, unless it's what Carol H. suggests. And Marc makes a good point: the last time I was able to ask the question was to a group of Ordinary and Traditional participants standing in a parking lot discussing Halloween! Hardly a scientific occasion!

Henry Edwards said...


Of course, I asked that in irony. Surely, many or most when listening to the voice of the priest in the audible OF canon, tend to drift into passive mode like sitting on the couch watching TV--pretty much the opposite of actual prayerful participation. Because it's in one ear and out the other, so nothing is retained because nothing is truly heard.

To combat this numbing tendency, I long since started following the OF Eucharistic prayer in Latin when it was being proclaimed aloud in English.

Whereas those who attend the EF are pretty much forced to follow the silent canon in their missals--and thus to participate consciously--if they are to unite their prayers with the priest.

Anonymous said...

Henry Edwards you are correct..Growing up with the English NO Mass my mind wandered so often and I was so bored that I retained nothing. When I started going to the EF Mass I had to use the MIssal. I had no choice but to read. I now know more in the last 4years than all the years I attended the NO Mass.