Friday, August 17, 2012
IT DOESN'T TAKE A ROCKET SCIENTIST OR A LITURGIST TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO RENEW AND IMPROVE THE SACRED LITURGY OR TO DIAGNOSE WHAT WENT TERRIBLY WRONG IN THE LATE 1960'S AND 1970'S AS IT REGARDS THE LOSS OF THE SENSE OF THE SACRED!
When I was a young adult, around 17 years old, I always loved reading the Catholic newspapers my home parish in Augusta would provide. There were three, The National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor and one other which I can't remember now, similar to the Visitor. We were also provided later with Catholic Update.
Later in the seminary I became aware of the ultra liberal, post Catholic, National Catholic Reporter and its mirror image the ultra conservative, reactionary Wanderer. I never read the Wanderer for I found it acrimonious and mean spirited, but I loved the National Catholic Reporter because its articles were written in a "hard news" style and you got a lot of news especially what was happening in the "developing post Catholic" part of the Church.
At the time in the late 1970's and 80's I thought the post Catholic ethos would rule the day even from the Vatican. That shows you how fallible I was and the NCR crowd was/is. As an aside, our former bishop, Raymond W. Lessard asked priests not to provide either the Wanderer or the National Catholic Reporter in parish churches. In a conversation with the famous Scripture Scholar, Fr. Raymond Brown in the 1990's, I asked him what he thought of the National Catholic Reporter and he told me directly, "It's a rag!" with his emphasis on "rag!" Fr. Brown was well ahead of Fr. Z who refers to it as the National Catholic Fishwrap, which it is except for their reporter John Allen who is decent!
But back to the normal, more orthodox and sensible newspapers of my wonderful youth.
I can remember reading articles in these newspapers in the early 1970's where some of the columnist, like Fr. Robert Fox and Joseph Breig would raise the alarm about what was happening in the Church in general and the Mass in particular. Read the following from the "History of Our Sunday Visitor during this time:
[Early on, the Second Vatican Council convoked by Pope John XXIII had been the source of high hopes, as reported in numerous articles in Our Sunday Visitor. A reader poll found that 60 percent of the paper's readers favored having the Mass in English. Hopes ran high with an upbeat mood as each new Council decree was reported.
Even the death of the Pope on June 3, 1963, had been the occasion for rejoicing about his accomplishments. Wrote Joseph Breig: "John XXIII made Catholics feel completely at home with their fellow man of other faiths. He made the laity realize that they had a voice and status in the Church that was their right. He relaxed tensions among Catholics themselves, making Catholics aware that they were not alone in possessing truth." (MY COMMENT HERE: This first optimistic paragraph sets the stage for all that will go wrong when simple truths are exaggerated and the Catholic truth become just one amongst many other "truths" and even Jesus Christ will be questioned as to whether or not He is the universal Messiah with others in other religions!) Back to the article:
But what had begun in high hopes soon disintegrated into an atmosphere of factionalism and discontent. One writer asked, "Is this the Church of joy or of anger?" Catholics used to a lifetime of unchanging security suddenly faced numerous changes: Mass was no longer in Latin, the priest now faced the people, old hymns were abandoned in favor of folk Masses. Our Sunday Visitor wavered from whole-hearted endorsement of the renewal in the Church to questioning the direction such renewal was taking. It initially endorsed the anticommunist crusade against Vietnam, then turned against that ugly little war. It experienced a decline in readership as it alternately alienated the traditional and liberal Catholic reader.
On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical forbidding artificial contraception. Overnight, birth control became the hottest issue of debate among Catholics. Our Sunday Visitor supported the Pope's decision; columnists asked why dissenting theologians should still be teaching at Catholic universities and seminaries.
The late 1960s witnessed the low-point for the Church in the United States: priests and sisters by the thousands left their ministry; the number of converts plummeted; vocations began to decline at an alarming rate; disagreement was widespread over whether priests and Religious should be involved in politics. Catechetical materials seemed to abandon much of the traditional faith, a development Our Sunday Visitor decried openly in print.]
Returning to my meme and comments:
It was the late 1960's and 70's that saw all of the above taking place after a Council that brought so much excitement and hope for a truly Catholic moment that would enable the Church to conquer the world with Christ's love. The greatest excitement, at least 60 percent of the Catholic liked was the vernacular liturgy. But they wanted the Liturgy of the Tridentine period in the vernacular and that is what we got to begin with, although the Liturgical Movement of the 1950's also wanted the Mass facing the people so the people could see what the priest was doing and make the "meal" aspect more intelligible.
And the vernacular Liturgy would make the Mass more intelligible to non-Catholics and spur more converts for the Church; it would aid in the evangelization of the world.
That well may have happened if the Tridentine Liturgy, with its strict rubrics and embrace of the truly beautiful in art and architecture had remained along with the pre-Vatican II ecclesiology but adapted to call the laity as well as the clergy to holiness. (This would have prevented the wholesale iconoclasm or destruction of traditional sanctuaries and churches built prior to the Council and new ones that were built afterward.) But once the door was open to change and Vatican II's documents written in an ambiguous, general way that allowed for exaggerated interpretations, even Pope Paul VI endorsed his committee's decision to revamp the Mass, dumb it down, allow for wholesale experimentation and inculturation with little or no central Roman authority. It left it to the local dioceses (Churches) and their bishops to carry out the reforms based on experimentation. And that is when the Church suffered division and fragmentation. Not only was the Mass different from diocese to the diocese but radically different from parish to parish, even parishes next door! And then the priesthood was dumbed down or "laicized" and the "priesthood of all the Baptized" elevated "clericalizing" the laity! This is the "spirit of Vatican II" ecclesiology that so disrupted the liturgy too as well as the life of the Diocese and the local parish!
The loss of the sense of reverence and sacredness did not come from the vernacular to begin with. It came from the loss of the Tridentine Mass rubrics, chant, ethos and quiet, austere, sober, appreciation for the action of God in the Mass. (God as Actor?)The second translation of the "dumbed down" Mass in the 1970 Missal did dumb down the English and dramatically so, causing the loss of the sacred content of words, Catholic liturgical spirituality and devotion, but this has been corrected in the revised English Mass.
Coupled with this was the poor catechesis that ensued that blinded new generations to the truths of the Mass and eroded the Tridentine roots of well formed pre-Vatican II Catholics into becoming something quite different than what they were prior to the Council and this difference was far from good and holy for many. They lost their Catholic identity and handed on that loss to their children and their children's children. And that's the way it is!
The reform of the reform based upon continuity with the council means returning to the basics of the pre-Vatican II Church in the areas of faith and morals, as well as personal discipline and the building up of the unity of the Church based on the acceptance of the faith and morals of the Church.
But it also means returning the Liturgy to the Tridentine spirituality and reverence. This can happen even if the vernacular stays and I believe today even more than 60% of Catholics would not want the return to an exclusively Latin Mass, but if they experienced the reverence of the Tridentine form of the Mass in English, they would embrace it wholeheartedly, at least 60% of them would!
Let me reiterate the only thing that needs to be done. The 2002 Typical Edition of the Roman Missal which we have in the 2012 English Translation of the Missal only needs to have the following changes made to the Order of the Mass and and the reconstitution of the rubrics of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass:
1. Prayers at the Foot of the Altar but eliminating the double Confiteor only (in other words it is recited by priest and laity together).
2. Introit (Gregorian Chant in Latin or English for this, as well as the Offertory and Communion Antiphons, mandatory).
5. Collect (preceded by the sacred greeting "the Lord be with you" or the other options, no banal or secular greetings or introductions allowed).
6. Liturgy of the Word as it is in the Ordinary Form, with the option of the traditional Gradual and the addition of the Tridentine Lectionary for year A, the others becoming B, C, D
8. Prescribe Universal Litany which is brief with maybe one or two other options, but brief and very general
9. Offertory Procession (optional as it is currently in the OF)
10. Traditional Offertory Prayers
11. Roman Canon with traditional Rubrics required for Sundays and Solemnities, other Eucharistic Prayers for weekday, funerals, weddings and lesser feasts and recited in a low but audible voice
12. The Rite of Holy Communion beginning with the "Our Father" as it is currently in the Ordinary Form, but kneeling for Holy Communion by way of host only or by intinction only. The only Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should be well trained and installed "Acolytes" who are vested either in Alb or Cassock and Surplice and assist as altar servers!
13. The Final Blessing and Dismissal after the quiet recitation of the "Placeat" and the Last Gospel only for the Low Mass, not the Chanted or Sung Mass.
14. The Roman Calendar needs only a minor adaptation to make it like the Anglican Ordinariate Calendar that returns Ember Days, the Season of Septuagesima prior to Lent and the Octave of Pentecost and Sundays after Epiphany for winter's Ordinary Time and Sundays after Pentecost/Trinity for spring, summer and fall's Ordinary Time. It is easily done without changing the Roman Missal or the lectionary at all.
It does not take a liturgist or a rocket scientist to get things back on track!