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.

10 comments:

ytc said...

Very inspirational post, Father. The OF Missal is dying to be revised and have many elements restored to it, not the least of which are very strict and clear ceremonial rubrics.

I hope that at least by the time that you and Pater Ignotus are in a nursing home together, some real progress will have been made!

CPT Tom said...

Your impressions of the changes fit mine very closely. I'm younger than you, 1968 was when I was 5. Where I was things happened slower at first..it wasn't until 1970 that things went wonky.

I for one think that the Church should move the tabernacle to the center of the main altar, go back to communion on the tongue and restore communion rails and kneeling NOW! These (along with the phase out oflay Eucharistic Ministers) would go a long way to restore the sacredness and reverence for the Eucharist. It's gotten all too casual...like people eating potato chips.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Pater Ignotus will not go to a nursing home. He will be sent to the State Home for the Unpleasant...

Anonymous said...

I agree with CPT Tom about the placement of the tabernacle. So confusing to have to search for the location.

Joseph Johnson said...

There seems to be a consensus among most commenters on this blog (and you too, Father!) that the OF is badly in need of rubrical reforms (to be implemented by clear rules) which will make it more in continuity with the EF.

The current situation, with the options (in both a "liberal" and "reform of the reform" direction), has not been, for the most part, a two-way street. No, for the past forty years, it has been a one-way street favoring the "liberal" view of things. And when, finally, in the exceptional case, a priest, or bishop, decides to exercise legitimate options, which are actually the normative, default, options rather than allowing the more "liberal" indult options in the OF, he will likely be met with strong opposition from not-so-well-informed parishioners who have come to believe that the "liberal" ways are the new norm and that the actual universal norms (such as kneeling for Communion on the tongue) are "pre-Vatican II practices."

In my own perception, it's like so many other things in life and is also mirrored in secular politics and the culture in general. I have often analogized this human tendency with a mechanical winch with toothed ratchet wheel and a spring-loaded "pawl" tooth which only allows the winch to move in one direction (that of winding in the cable, as on a boat trailer). There are so many things in life where I ardently desire to see that pawl tooth released so that the winch can roll back several turns! I feel this way about our government (especially about the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade) as well as a lot of what has happened in the liturgical "reforms" after Vatican II. This, in a very simple way, sums up a lot of my worldview.

Life is a lot about helping to undo things which should have never happened in the first place. Some change is good but a lot of it is not and it is a lazy, or disengaged, mind who accepts all (or even most) change with blind acceptance.

You are absolutely right that it is through the EF that people can regain an understanding of the Sacred and of our liturgical patrimony which is the catechetical predicate for the reform of the OF. Remember what I wrote about my post-1960 generation and how we didn't experience what people a few years older than us did in the pre-Conciliar era. The EF was a "crash-course" for me and it can do the same for many more my age-bracket (early 50's) and younger. With no exposure to the EF, it will be much harder and take much longer to bring about acceptance of the reforms that many of us (including yourself) would like to see in the OF.

It seems ironic but revisiting our historical liturgical patrimony (and living it as a part of our Faith) is the way forward to meaningful and good change!

Anonymous said...

I can relate to your post strongly, Fr. Carol has written of the 'renovation' of our church where the tabernacle was demoted to an eucharistic chapel area. It was explained as being for the purpose of private devotions and personal communion, e.g for the sick. It is a demotion and is a hegemony of alternative focus that has infected our congregations. The nave has become a party space.

All in all, when we actively address the idea of consecration of the host (think about that word) and what it is, how can we be so cavalier? We should feel physically forced into supplication, and tremble to think where are.

rcg

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

I would question if the intentions were even good....

ytc said...

Of course, Gene. Good intentions don't make anything alright. Look at the ignorant of the Spirit of Vatican II lovers.

Henry said...

Good intentions, you say?

"If the Council Fathers had entertained the least inkling of the deluge which would in fact follow their deliberations ... Bugnini and his associates, like the Vikings of old, rampaging through the entire euchology of the Latin Church burning, raping, and murdering ... it is, surely, unlikely that so many of the bishops at Vatican II would have been prepared to vote into the hands of these self-confident innovators the following carte blanche: . . . . . Oh dear! When ever did so few pull so much wool over the eyes of so many? [Fr. John Hunwicke]

Anonymous said...

I am grateful to be in the course-correction generation. My child and future grandchildren will reap the benefits.

In the future history of the Church, this disaster will hopefully be a long forgotten blip that only a few scholars will know much about.
~SqueekerLamb