Friday, May 31, 2013


A picture is worth a thousand words! When one is offering Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament it is usually celebrated ad orientem in terms of the prayer that is chanted or recited prior to the actual Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Obvious prayer, all prayer, is directed to Jesus Christ (Who in Benediction is directly in front of the congregation and the priest who joins the congregation in facing the same direction). It would be silly and down right disrespectful for the Holy Father or any bishop, priest or deacon to turn away from the monstrance and face the congregation to pray the prayer prior to Benediction, no?

Why in the name of God and all that is holy would any bishop or priest think facing the congregation to pray in confrontation to them is a great innovation in Catholic liturgical prayer? Just who sold us this bill of goods?

Pope Francis at last night's Corpus Christi Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament at a portable altar in front of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. Please note the wonderful, portable altar's decorative features! Reform of the Reform in continuity at work in a very popular devotion!

Am I the only one who if I were in the congregation at this Mass would find this way of a priest praying as he confronts me, off putting? I would in fact be praying for a miracle of God that instantly the priest and concelebrants would face ad orientem, then I wouldn't be offended by their pious smirks and facial expression, they could do as they please!


Joseph Johnson said...

I've made this same comparison before and have had the same thoughts. Does our orientation towards the exposed Blessed Sacrament on the altar somehow mean that we do not have full active and conscious participation in Eucharistic adoration?

I'm sorry--I just don't see versus populum celebration of the Mass as logical end result that was "demanded" by what Pope Pius X wrote about participation at Mass in the early 20th century. No, well after his death, his words have been used to justify something that he never envisioned by those with a radically different agenda.

Father G said...

Very good questions, Father.

I have also noticed during Ordination Masses that even though the bishop celebrates Mass facing the people, he and others present will face the altar for the Litany of Saints. Is we face the altar for the Litany of Saints, shouldn't it make even more sense to face the altar when addressing the Lord???

rcg said...

I need to get up to speed on vestment-ology. I understand the parts and elements, as well as the importance of a respectful design, etc. (polyester = yuk), I am not yet able to grasp the emotion behind some folk's concern over Pope Benedict's vestments versus Pope Francis. I do associate the elaborate nature of the vestments with freeing the EF for common use, but don't see it as a real part of it. In fact, I agree with the critics of the TLM that in the old days is was so detached from people that they had no idea what was going on. I rather chalk that up to subversion of the catechism for the people in the TLM that I know are alive with their faith in knowledge and practice. So I need to study so perhaps I can become indignant as well.

Marc said...

rcg, I can help!

Traditionalist Vestment-ology 101

Roman Style Chasuble = Yay!

Anything else = Burn the heretic!

But, seriously, I think some people prefer the Roman Chasuble because the SSPX always use this and Novus Ordo priests generally do not. It's really that simple for some.

To take the matter further, though, when a bishop (or the Pope) wear Roman style vestments, it is easier to see the various layers of vestments worn. Bishops wear basically a deacons dalmatic under a priests chasuble, indicating they have the fullness of Orders (that vestment itself has a name, I'm sure someone else knows it).

Frankly, I like to see the pictures of bishops in full Roman style regalia because, well, it looks cool! Check out the SSPX bishops with the gloves, the huge mitres, and the fancy vestments. It appeals to my sense of how religion should manifest the majesty of God.

You'll note that my view is completely subjective. But, the contrary is the shabbiness of most bishops you see. They wear droopy, plain things and look like the regular priests. I think it's good for bishops to look like they are manifesting the fact that they are the successors to the Apostles and sharers in the Royal Priesthood. Again, completely subjective.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Marc, perhaps not in Europe, but I really don't know, but in this country there was a move away from Roman vestments toward the fuller gothic ones prior to Vatican II. I do not recall Roman vestments prior to Vatican II in any parish we attended, which would be two in Atlanta in the 1950's and all the ones in Augusta and Fort Gordon in the 1960's prior to Vatican II. The Gothic chasuble reigned supreme for the Tridentine Mass of that period in the USA at least.

Marc said...

You could be right, Father. These styles change over time.

It seems to me that most priests here in the Deep South would want to wear the Roman Style because it would be cooler in the summer. But, it looks pretty silly wearing it during versus populum Masses. One of the priests at my parish does this routinely and, honestly, it looks silly.

I like the Gothic style, at least the ones at St. Joseph, because they are quite ornate. I think oftentimes Gothic style is assumed to be cheap and cheap looking. We've all seen some pretty terrible Gothic vestments, I'm sure! We haven't seen the terrible Roman vestments because those who elect to wear them are a self-selecting group. If they were widespread, you can bet we'd see bad Roman vestments as well.

Marc said...

Father, thinking more about your recollection, I wonder if you are on to something about the European-American thing.

I think it's correct to say that most Traditionalist groups began in Europe. So, it stands to reason the SSPX (and its off-shoot the FSSP) would retain the Roman vestments that likely never fell out of use in their circles. Since that is the case, most have associated the fiddleback with the Traditional Mass even though, of course, history doesn't support that position given the change in vestments over time.

This reminds me of a talk by Chad Ripperger, FSSP, a professor at their seminary. In it, he discusses the problems with traditionalist movements because of the failure of the last two generations of Catholics to maintain the continuity of tradition. So, in a sense, traditionalists are forced to be anachronistic to a degree, making certain assumptions about the local customs in force at a particular time. And those who have memory of the actual events, he points out, are not entirely credible.

He uses the example of a person who said they used to all say the Our Father together at Mass in English. Of course, this was never the custom and was not allowed. So, this person is clearly misremembering. And that is the trouble with trying to piece things back together. (Our discussion yesterday about processions illustrates the same point - music? Yes, no? What sort? Etc.)

rcg said...

Marc, thanks. I am feeling more distemperate already. ;-)

Marc said...

If you find your position to be softening on the dogmatic mandate that priests only don Roman fiddleback chasubles, keep in mind the following:

- our Lord surely wore a fiddleback during the Last Supper,

- the early councils uniformly decreed exclusive use of the fiddleback in the canons before moving on to the less important business of anathematizing the Arians, Nestorians and monophysites, and writing the Creed,

- the Didache devotes many pages to this issue,

- the Council of Trent spent two months just discussing how much more awesome Roman chasubles are than flowing chasubles, and

- some say the plague came about as Divine retribution for the encroaching use of Gothic chasubles.

ytc said...

I like both the fuller and less full cuts of chasuble.

What I don't like is those giant monster chasubles that look like trash bags with a hole cut in the end for the head of the priest. A chasuble has to fit; one that is too large looks absolutely stupid. However, assuming it is made of a good material and fits properly, a so-called Gothic chasuble can be very beautiful indeed.

I especially appreciate Roman chasubles worn by bishops. They show off the dalmatic better, and the layered look is very pleasing.

Speaking of the dalmatic, why do almost no bishops wear them?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Pope Francis does not wear the dalmatic under his chasuble nor did Pope John Paul II and I don't think Pope Paul VI did. Keep in mind that they are wearing a cassock, an alb with an amice a stole and a chasuble. I believe Pope Benedict, apart from appreciated the finer aspects of liturgy and symbolism, was also cold natured.

ytc said...

But that is basically relinquishing symbolism thousands of years old. How awful.

John Nolan said...

It could be argued that celebrating Mass versus populum enabled the congregation to see more of what was happening; how many people (unless they served Mass) witnessed the multiple signs of the cross with the Host and the minor elevation at the Per Ipsum, or observed the priest retrieving the paten at the Libera nos, wiping it with the purificator and holding it between the first two fingers of his right hand upright on the altar, concave side inwards, and then at the conclusion of the prayer signing himself with it and kissing it?

Of course, by 1967 nearly all of the ritual gestures which had characterized the Roman Rite had been suppressed, nearly everything was said aloud and in the vernacular (including the Canon), and the priest was more audible if he faced his audience. Can you imagine a TV chef with his back to you?

Pope Francis is of the generation who will never celebrate ad orientem on principle.

rcg said...

John, I think this is a miracle, or sorts, of Summorum Pontificum. There are three cues for the congregation, at least in High Mass. The priest himself is moving things about and even when making the Sign of the Cross, especially when done three times, his motions are very clear. He is, at times audible, I sit up front so my diminished hearing can catch what he says. And there is the choir that paces the Mass so you easily know what segment is being prayed. Finally, the Missal lays it all out so I can pray along and contemplate the meaning of the prayers. Either the change of the chant or the motion of the priest pulls me along into the next part so my mind does not wander.

This is why I have a hard time understanding why people say they didn't understand the old Mass. I suppose they were always going to Low Mass and sleeping through.

Pater Ignotus said...

The "fiddle back" ain't Roman, represented a "rupture" in ecclesial traditions in its day, and was banned by none other that St. Charles Borremeo:

"In the 17th and particularly from the 18th century, authorised by no Ecclesiastical authority, the form of the chasuble almost universally used was that pendant-like form which we call the “Roman” chasuble. There were only a few voices raised in objection to setting aside the Tradition of the ample chasuble. And then, although it only occurred by degrees and over a period of time, that pendant form of chasuble, which to S. Charles represented such a break with Tradition, became regarded as THE legitimate Tradition. Pause to reflect on this, when you read expressions such as “Traditional Roman vestments” etc. We have the strange situation where the very dimensions of chasuble that Saint Charles strove to preserve, have been regarded by many latter-day “Traditionalists” as “un-traditional”!

We should also be careful about the use of the term “Roman” vestments. Roman vestments are those used for the Roman Rite: they do not refer to any particular style or shape. The pendant-style chasuble did not have its origin in Rome, but in northern Europe. Rome did not readily adopt it. Saint Charles legislated against it.

from: Styles and Tradition in the Chasuble of the Roman Rite by
Michael Sternbeck, The St Bede Studio

One of my fundamental observations is that what many "traditionalists" refer to as "traditional" simply isn't.

Marc said...

I agree with your last assertion, Fr. Kavanaugh. I think traditionalists might be better named "continuitists". But, they often fall into being "anachronists".

At any rate, both are better than the "innovationists" who are currently making the decisions. At least traditionalists are trying to return to the well-spring, even if they are for the most part confined to a time between Trent and the beginning of Vatican II. I think that's better than being confined merely to post-Vatican II (whilst falling into being "archaeologists").

Of course, since your thesis is that non-doctrinal things can simply change on a whim, I thought you might rather like the sudden imposition of the fiddleback chasuble... It was after all, an innovation with a utilitarian purpose, concepts you are usually promoting.

Gene said...

Marc, do you suppose Ignotus even realizes how many times he has been "lawyered" by you? LOL!

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - I never said or suggested that non-doctrinal things can change on a whim. Never said it; never suggested it.

Most everything in our traditions was 'innovation' at some time. Some innovations stuck, some didn't. Those culturally or historically driven innovations need to change as the culture and/or the history changes.

I don't know that the introduction of the "fiddleback" was for utilitarian purposes. Do you have some source for this idea?

Marc said...

Father, since you asked:

"Perhaps three significant reasons brought about a desire to reduce the dimensions of the chasuble. The first was the introduction in the 13th century of the Elevations during the Canon of the Mass. The second was the rise of the private Mass, in other words, a Mass where the celebrant would not be assisted by a deacon and subdeacon (who were to lift and hold back the chasuble at certain points in the Mass to free the arms of the celebrant). Consequently, the celebrant had the need for a greater freedom of movement for his arms and the chasuble was redesigned in order to accommodate that. Additionally, the types of fabrics used for vestments changed from the 13th century and were heavier (often embroidered) and stiffer than the silks and wools used in previous centuries. In short, there were practical reasons to modify the dimensions of the chasuble." - Michael Sternbeck of the Saint Bede Studio

As for tradition and innovation, when we previously discussed Quo Primum, your (now I realize) correct assertion was that these disciplinary, non-doctrinal matters were subject to change by the proper ecclesiastical authorities. So, were you wrong about Quo Primum, or are you wrong now?

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - Mr. Sternbeck makes some good arguments regarding the evolution of the cut of the chasuble. They seems reasonable, but we may never know for sure what brought about the changes.

Some changes were introduced by no authority - but were simply "done" by enough people so that they became, de facto, changes. Maybe they were codified later on, maybe not. I doubt any such change was "sudden."

I was correct in my assertions regarding Quo Primum and I am correct now.