Saturday, May 5, 2012
WHEN GOOD INTENTIONS GO WILD
I consider myself blessed to be able to remember the pre-Vatican II Church (I have a very clear memory of childhood events and I can remember some things that happened when I lived in Naples, Italy,(1953-57) and since I know the time line of when I was there, these would have taken place somewhere around the ages of 2 and 3. We lived in Atlanta from the time I was 3 until 6 and I can still get around some parts of Atlanta today (especially where we lived) from my memory as a 6 year old.
What I clearly remember about the Mass in 1965 or 66 when we first started to implement Vatican II in my home parish in Augusta (St. Joseph Church) was that it was very positive, even the priest facing the people was cool in my mind, although even then I did not like the new altar placed in front of the old, it simply was cheap or dumbed down looking to me. And it was placed on the three steps leading up to the old altar, so that the front legs were longer than than the back legs of the altar. It was really odd looking. However the old altar, which was simple, but decorated in the pre-Vatican two fashion with the tabernacle and six candlesticks remained.
Then our new pastor came in around 1968 and without any real catechesis got rid of the "fake" altar, pulled the old simple marble altar away from the wall, removed the six high candlesticks and placed the tabernacle on a side altar under Blessed Mary's statue and put his presiding chair dead middle. I actually got sick to my stomach the first Sunday after this had been done and I walked in wondering why the altar and church looked like Good Friday's stripped down version.
In my uncatechized mind, placing the tabernacle to the side demoted the "real presence" of our Eucharistic Lord and King and made it look like (at least symbolically in my mind) that the priest is more important than the Most Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. Up until that very day, I never thought that priests in the old way of celebrating Mass ever elevated themselves so high and haughty to the degree that placing that "Presidential" chair dead center and higher than the altar did to my teenage awareness that the "renewal" that Vatican II was bringing about was anything but a renewal; it was decay (I'm thinking that in 1968 as a 14 year old!
Then things steadily went down hill with the dumbing down of the Mass, standing for Holy Communion, receiving in the hand and Eucharistic Ministers were imposed upon us by the clergy. Keep in mind, I, like most pre-Vatican II Catholics believed that sacredness meant that you were very cautious with handling the Sacred, so much so that one didn't chew the host, made sure they swallowed before the Sacred Host completely dissolved and only priests whose hands were anointed could touch the sacred, including the host to be distributed at Holy Communion.
All of this led to different view of the Sacred and that I had to believe in the Sacred despite the mixed signals being sent to us by reckless liturgical "renewal" that symbolically denigrated the holy and made it banal and profane. I think Eucharistic Ministers, being forced to stand rather than kneel for Holy Communion and receiving Holy Communion on the hand and chewing the host like chewing gum did more to demolish the pre-Vatican II sense of the Sacred than any other thing that was imposed upon us at that period. It wasn't English, it wasn't facing the people at Mass, it was all the things associated with the Reception of Holy Communion!
However, even as a 14 year old I realized that the "new translation of English" that was imposed on us after the "original relatively good English translation of the 1965 missal) was truly a dumbing down and intentional non-sacral in its style to accomplish what liturgists thought at the time would be good, making sure that dumbed down language would be seen as sacred--that was insidious theology and did a great deal of damage to the Faith of the Church--the Law of prayer is the law of belief.
Today,my parent's generation (the greatest generation) of Catholics are dying out, and we baby boomers are beginning to die out to (my sister is the first class of baby boomers born in 1946, so she's 66 years old this year and our mother is 93! So it is absolutely necessary that a new generation of Catholics understand the pre-Vatican II sense of the Sacred (which includes morality by the way) and recovering it. The EF Mass helps considerably with that! In this regard, Pope Benedict is a genius for he knows that the pre-Vatican II Catholics are a dying breed and we need new Catholics that understand that paradigm.
The greatest complaint about the "new Mass" in the 1970's by those who recalled the Tridentine Mass of their formative period (the generation now dying out)is that there was a profound loss of the "sense of the Sacred" with the new Mass. Many people both in the laity, clergy and religious life agreed with that sentiment in the 1970's.
The only way for us to understand what the Sacred really felt like is to recapture that feeling which can only be done with the EF Mass and its ethos or making the OF Mass as sacred feeling and looking as the EF Mass is. For the sake of the Catholic Church's soul and Catholic identity, I think we are turning a corner, although very slowly like a giant ocean liner, to rediscovering our true roots and identity as it concerns the Sacred.