Saturday, May 12, 2012


This is St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, the FSSP parish in Mableton, Georgia outside of Atlanta. But what in the world would be wrong with having a church building like this exclusively for the OF Mass? Wouldn't that be the hermeneutic of continuity brought to its full zenith? And please note the less than perfect building that is made as perfect as possible for a Catholic Church (in fact the parish I grew up in in Augusta was a 1950's modern version of this low ceiling building and yet it was arranged in a way that was quite beautiful as this one is!

At another blog there is a lament that some bishops are bringing back the so-called "slap" on the face when bishops confirm in the Ordinary Form. It was also lamenting bringing back any EF gestures into the OF Mass. At first I agreed that maybe that wasn't a good idea in the Ordinary Form until someone posted a video-documentary on Cardinal Ratzinger prior to becoming pope (I post it below--you'll see him wearing an actual clerical suit with pants rather than the cassock to some events) but in it you'll also see him confirming children (minute 6:15) who kneel before him, which we need to recover, and then he actually caresses them in what appears to be a "slap-like gesture" but is actually what many liturgical historians believe was the origin of the "slap" in the Extraordinary Form of Confirmation--another example of how Cardinal Ratzinger prior to being pope understood his "theology of continuity" as it regards the "reformed rites" of the Church:

While I have great sympathy and empathy for those who would like to belong to a parish that is exclusively Extraordinary (and right now I would certainly caution anyone joining SSPX until and if they are regularized, so FSSP is the legitimate option right now)I must emphasize that there is so much that is good and holy with the reforms of Vatican II in so many areas which also include reforms in the Liturgy. I am not one who rejects Vatican II in the least, I reject the "spirit" of Vatican II that was shoved down our throats.

In my heart of hearts (even as a teenager) I always felt that the reform got off track and beginning in the late 1960's (because of the so-called "spirit" of Vatican II) even before the new missal of 1970 was mandated (Advent 1969). It got off track (in my humble opinion of course) in the following ways:

1. The Vernacular was manipulated by theologians who wanted an everyday speak for the Liturgy and convinced Rome that they should have their way. The Roman document that paved the way for the abysmal translation of the reformed Mass from Latin to English (or whatever language) was not mandated by Sacrosanctum Concilium at all, but a document manipulated by theologians who thought everyday speak would really renew the liturgy--it is to laugh today of course! Fortunately that has come to a conclusion with the new translation.

2. Mass at altars facing the people. This caused more harm to the liturgy than even the banal translation of the Mass into English did. The altars that were placed in front of magnificent altars and much lower than the original symbolically told people that the Mass wasn't as awesome and magnificent as it once was, it was now banal and pedestrian. These were altars that looked like "saw horses" or "ironing boards." These usually had two "rinky-dink" candlesticks on it as well, although originally a low crucifix facing the priest was also placed on it.

3. Then the iconoclasm of the 1970's occurred with magnificent high altars ripped out of churches (the cathedral in Chicago is a prime example but far from the only example) and free standing altars replaced these that were small and square-like and plunged into the middle of the nave and only one or two steps high that no one in a full church could see except the people on the first two rows around it. Artwork and statuary were removed and burlap and felt banners replaced them seasonally.

4. At the same time, liturgical music degenerated into "folk Masses" with traditional choirs disbanding, Latin chant lost (and here I am speaking of singing the propers of the High Mass and the appropriate Latin Chants for the seasons of the year, in terms of the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei). In fact I only recently (in the past year!) learned that the various numbered Latin Mass settings were for various seasons or feasts. You knew which Mass to choose when it was Advent or Lent, for funerals, for weddings, for times after Pentecost, etc--that all was lost and almost overnight. The folk groups came into the sanctuary and performed confrontationally to the congregation just as the priest was doing at his "ironing board" altar, I mean table thus making the Mass look like a performance to an audience rather than prayer to God.

5. Ad libbing by priests was encouraged by theologians when praying the Mass and inserting one's personality into the Mass to make it more human and friendly was also encouraged. The late Father Eugene Walsh, SS is mostly responsible for this degenerative trend in the USA. A casual folksiness, with a "Baptist" minister's grin (in the south we know what that means)and secular greetings and commentary, like "good morning, how are you, it's going to be the first day of the rest of your lives today folks...." and on and on. I want to throw-up just recalling it!

6. With the iconoclasm of the liturgy and our churches, altar railings were ripped out because people were made to stand to receive Holy Communion, in the hand and from an army of Eucharistic Ministers chosen "willy-nilly" from anyone regardless of their state in life. As I have contended elsewhere, this has done more to erode the belief of Catholics in the Real Presence of Christ and the awe and wonder in receiving our Lord than anything else.


In other words, what we should not have lost and what we should actively recover today:

1. Literal translation of the Latin Mass into English, but with Latin syntax and devotional qualities (we got that!)

2. Return to the traditional set-up of the Catholic sanctuary and decoration as it was prior to Vatican II (I'm not opposed to free-standing altars though, just as long as these are decorated in the pre-Vatican II fashion and Mass celebrated ad orientem). In fact prior to Vatican II there was a recovery of free-standing altars as the Basilican altars are the most ancient form of the altar which are all free standing.

3. A return to the Latin settings of the Mass, but in English if so desired (the English setting of the Mass in the Roman Missal is a Latin Mass translated into English but with the Latin chant mode)and mandating various settings for various liturgical times. Chanting the Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons should be mandated as well. Choirs should return to the choir loft or be in the "Anglican" format if in the sanctuary. Additional music sung at Mass must not be incongruous with the "spirit and spirituality of the liturgy!" (I might need to enlist someone who knows about what chants for the parts of the Mass were to be chanted at various liturgical seasons or events to write a separate post for me as I find having lost that truly amazing and that I didn't even know that until recently, that these chants were organized in such a fashion!)

4. No ad-libbing during the rites, especially at the introduction of the Mass--do it at or during the homily if need arises to recognize people or the event being celebrated!!!!!!!!!

5. Mandate altar-railings once again, kneeling for Holy Communion (I would like to mandate intinction) and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion for only genuine need and that they would be trained and commissioned by the bishop to be permanent in a parish. So technically you'd only need no more than two to four "Communion Ministers" at a particular Mass if Holy Communion was distributed at the altar railing in the traditional manner with the priest going back and forth at either half of the railing. In fact in the typical parish you'd need only two distributing Holy Communion by intinction or you could have it divided in four sections. So if a parish has a priest and deacon at every Mass, normally no EMHC would be needed, if no deacon, only one would be needed but if you have four distributing, you'd only need two to three EMHC's at any given Mass and you'd assign them from the ten or so you have and these same people would be assigned home-bound members that they would bring Holy Communion to. But it would be strictly regulated by the bishop with a strict "seminary" and commissioning by him at the Cathedral.

Other rubrical changes I would suggest for the OF Mass, apart from ad orientem:

1. The same rubrics for the use of the "pall" and the same number of genuflections as in the EF Mass (keep in mind in the EF Mass, after the consecration, the priest genuflects each and every time the pall is removed.

2. The double genuflections for the consecration of the Bread and Wine--adding a genuflection after the Great Amen (although the "pall rubric" would take care of that).

3. Kissing the altar each time the priest turns toward the congregation for a greeting or statement


ytc said...

This is one of your five-star posts, Father.

I think one of the biggest questions facing the Catholic Church today, really the giant elephant in the living room, is, What IS Vatican II? It seems no one really knows.

We have this cerebral, nebulous and vague idea. But absolutely nothing concrete. I don't know what Vatican II "is." I've read the documents, particularly the four Constitutions, and this hasn't much helped.

In fact, I wonder if it is actually POSSIBLE to know what Vatican II really "is."

Please help. Vatican II, to me, is a tragic mess. And I don't mean to imply that it is invalid or whatever blah blah, it isn't, but it's still a tragedy in so many ways...


Joseph Johnson said...

Within the last two or three years, my parish has done business with King Richard's in Atlanta twice. Because we are also St. Joseph Church, we purchased an old statue of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus (with Jesus holding the orb with Cross in his hand). This statue is just adjacent to the front door out in front of the church. We also had our old plaster baptismal font (from which I was baptized) redone and it is once again in use. It has a statue of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist on the swing-away top.

Of course, I would dearly love to see things move even further along these lines and see our Sanctuary redone along the lines of St. Francis de Sales or the SSPX chapel, St. Michael, which you recently featured here. Presently, we have the choir, "down front" in front of the statue of St. Joseph. We have an actual choir loft which never was used by the choir, until the Hispanics were allowed to begin using it recently. The English Mass choir, however, is still "down front."

Most people aren't even aware of the churches and the sanctuary renovations (moving back to a more traditional look) which you have recently featured. Whenever I try to describe these things (and it's hard not to show some enthusiasm when discussing them!) to some fellow parishioners, they still seem to believe that these things are somehow no longer allowed!

Of course, some of us know better but it is still very frustrating when one knows what we COULD have and most are still so ignorant of where the Church seems to be moving on these things. I have even considered printing pictures of these sanctuaries in color, giving the church names and locations, and posting them on my PRE classroom door, just to generate interest and discussion. In my parish I'm fortunate enough to have a priest who understands and is sympathetic to these things--it's getting the parishioners, especially the older ones, to see that this is not just Mr. Joseph and some more of his "retro man" ways!

By the way, obviously I offer this to be posted but I understand if you choose not to do so.

Bill Meyer said...

Father, when you're right, you're right!

1. We got the translation, yet some are still ad libbing.
2. Yes, please, and give us back Mary and Joseph, and votive candles.
3. And banish the tres moderne settings from Haugen and others.
4. No ad libbing. I pray to God.
5. altar rails, yes, and kneeling to receive, and intiction. And metrics for the use of EMHCs -- safe, legal, and RARE.

I would add:

- A return to genuflections, in place of the often cursory bow, or if they insist on bowing, catechesis to make clear what is meant by a profound bow.
- Mandate the placement of the tabernacle.
- Banish forever all guitars, drums, and other instruments too profane for liturgical Mass. Make exception for (real) orchestral groups (meaning on the high side of 25 musicians).
- Mandate stoups in sensible places so that they are convenient to use routinely. (I have been attending a parish where the placement is very awkward, and most leaving Mass do not use them.)
- Establish rubrics for the dress of altar servers; distinguish dress by sex.

I could go on, but we all know the many things which have been relaxed and made banal.

Also, I favor Rev. Know-it-all's term: Hootenanny Mass, for the goofy forms instituted so hastily after the Council.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Joe, no problem with your comment, but this one went to spam--are you using different email accounts or computers as yesterday I got a comment from you that didn't go to spam--yours are the only ones that go to spam!

Joseph Johnson said...

This last one came from my home computer, which is a satellite connection from my residence which is 18 miles from town ('don't know if that makes a difference!). Yesterday's comment (at 2:38 p.m.) had to be from my office computer, which is on a DSL hookup in town.

This difference in what is available for rural internet hookup reminds me of the many stories I've heard from people my parent's age and older about how folks in the country (even as late as the late 40's, around here) didn't have electricity while those in town had had it since just before the dawn of the 20th century!

Templar said...

I am in complete accord with your post Father, but my comment is actually directed at the lead in to the post. I have long personally harbored a desire for confirmation rites to return to a hard-firm slap across the face of the Confirmandi. It's import to stress (in my opinion) that they are joining the Church Militant, and that they will be fighting for their Faith. Most of our children see confirmation as the Catholic equivalent of baptist children standing up and walking forward to accept Baptism, which is not. Like I have said on may topics before, everything means something within the traditions of the Church, nothing was without it's symbolism. That slap was powerful, and would be even more so in today's society when a raised voice is akin to child abuse.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Templar you have the theology of the slap down but in practice it was more like what Cardinal Ratzinger models in the video. I was confirmed in the old rite as a 4th grader in 1962 and it was very, very gentle, as I was expected a real nose bleeder! :)

Henry said...

It used to be said that, if a Catholic Rip van Winkle woke up after many years of sleep, he might not know what year it was, but if he immediately walked into a Catholic church, at least he would know from the chants what time of the year it was.

Anonymous said...

Father- I often peek onto that "other blog" to which you refer, and although I often wonder why you would post there, I am glad you do. Your comments are measured, intelligent and necessary. As a child of the 70s in New York, I grew up with the liturgical experimentations of the time, and thank God my more traditional Cuban parents taught me Marian devotions and other traditional practices of the Church that were being discarded at the time. The whining over the new translation seems to have settled "over there". - the Church is still here, people have not left in droves, and people like me don't have to wonder why in Spanish we say "y Con tu espĂ­ritu". and in English, the prosaic, "and also with you."

Jacob said...

Great photo. The canopy over the altar is the canopy of a bed. Christ is called down upon the altar from heaven to consumate his marriage with his bride (the Holy Catholic Church). I recently saw a kneeling priest in an empty church singing to the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance on the throne. I saw the love that Christ (the priest) had for the Father (the Host)and the love I felt between the two was the Holy Ghost. Somehow I understood the Trinity (at least better understood)

Seeking Peace said...

When was Confirmation separated from the time of initiation (Baptism) into the Church and why?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The traditional order for adult converts in both the east and west was as we do today at the Easter Vigil (recovered after Vatican II) for baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist to be celebrated at the same Liturgical event and in that order. Of course, when families were brought into the church, children/infants were baptized, confirmed and received the Holy Eucharist also. The bishop presided at this celebration. As time went on and there were more children/infants born to Catholic families, the west stretched out the sacraments of iniation for children and changed the order of them from baptism as infants, First Communion later (I think in the 20th century it was brought back to an earlier age, the age of reason, 7) and confirmation after that with the bishop presiding at Confirmation. I was confirmed in the 4th grade in 1962 which was prior to Vatican II's changes. After Vatican II the Church has made (and wrongly I think) confirmation a Sacrament of maturity, so it was pushed to the 7th, 8th or 9th grade and in some places even the 12th grade. The East, both the Orthodox and those in union with Rome maintain the early Church tradition of all three sacraments at one time for anyone, Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion.

Nate said...

Well that explains why my parents and relatives kept asking if I was going to be slapped at the Easter Vigil...thanks for clearing that up, Father!

Pater Ignotus said...

Celebrating the three Sacraments of Initiation at the same time was, I believe, not only for adults, but for people of all ages who were initiated into the Faith.

Various councils at various times set the "age of discretion" at anywhere between six and seventeen years. The Council of Trent stated that Confirmation was not to be celebrated before the age of seven and no later than twelve, showing rather marked discontinuity with the earlier practice of "chrismating" infants and those younger than seven.

While the desire to keep the bishop engaged sacramentally in the initiation of new Christians was laudable, the separation of the three elements of initiation has led to a jumbled understanding of just what Confirmation is.

It is not "the" sacrament of the conferral of the Holy Spirit. We know that in the Eastern Fathers the communication of the Holy Spirit is in the totality of initiation.

It is not a sacrament of "strengthening" or making one a "soldier of Christ," an idea that goes back to one Abbot Faustus in the year 460.

It is not a sacrament of "maturity," somehow akin to Bar/Bat Mitzvah, since it is validly and efficaciously celebrated for infants and young children in the Eastern Catholic Churches and Orthodox Churches.

The "slap" was originally a caress by the bishop, and the caress was orginally a kiss of peace. We have properly re-established this element in the rite.

I'd like to see us celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation at the time of initiation for infants, children, or adults. This would certainly lighten any bishop's spring schedule!

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Maybe that is what is wrong with you, Ignotus...they did not slap you hard enough when you were confirmed...heh, heh.

Carol H. said...

Sorry I'm off topic, but I can't find last week's bulletin-

Is there a Latin Mass at 2:00 Sunday?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

No Latin Mass on the 13th but will have it on Pentecost Sunday at 2 pm.

Andrew Berrigan said...

Father, my family and I recently finished a roughly 2.5 year stint in Germany. Take away the secularization of Europe and the empty pews (in some parts), and we could learn a bit from our Catholic brethren over there. Many of their churches are ancient, and it seems as if no one had the heart to rip out the beautiful old altars and altar rails. We attended Mass and visited several German churches and cathedrals where the rail was still there, and many knelt (although some stood) to receive Communion.

We never really picked up German, so we relied heavily upon our missal to follow along. We were vy pleasantly surprised when we went to a Mass at a parish we'd been to before and started hearing more Latin (in the distinctly German accent to we'd grow somewhat accustomed--our first ever attendance of an EF Mass was also in Germany). As it turned out, they were celebrating the OF in Latin that day (something they did once per month I believe), and our missal had the Latin on one side and the English on the other, so we were able to follow along better than ever before.

Oh, and at this particular church, the pews were PACKED. Might have had something to do with the concert-quality pipe organist in their employ, but whatever the case, they were really connecting with folks despite (or because?) of their "old-fashioned" ways.

If I might add, going to St. Joseph's always gives of warm reminders of those churches in Germany.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to point out that Bishop Morlino of Madison always slaps the young men being confirmed, and confirmandi of both genders receive the sacrament kneeling. :D

John Nolan said...

Father, I think your post is excellent. If the EF is to influence the celebration of the OF then elements of the former need to be re-introduced in the latter. The Holy Father, when incensing the altar at the offertory, says the EF prayers. You may not mix rites, but the EF and the OF are but forms of the same rite, and while the EF is ring-fenced around the 1962 missal, the OF is not so restricted (indeed, the offering of alternatives is part and parcel of the NO).

Incidentally, the aggregation of plainchant "Masses", their numbering and allocation to seasons/feasts is a nineteenth century development, but a very felicitous one; as a child (1950s) my parish had limited musical resources but I can still remember the switch to Mass XVII in Lent and Advent.

The genuflections and kissing of the altar as per the NO were introduced in 1967 (Tres Abhinc Annos) before the NO was introduced. The signs of the cross during the Canon were also reduced to one, and the priest was no longer obliged to conjoin thumb and first finger after the consecration; this is still permitted in the OF but is somewhat meaningless if everyone and anyone is allowed to handle the Sacred Species.