Monday, October 14, 2013
MORE REFLECTION ON SUNDAY'S MASS FOR THE CONSECRATION OF THE WORLD TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY AND POPE FRANCIS STYLE
Today I would like to reflect more on Pope Francis' liturgical style. I've already described it as austere when compared to Pope Benedict but only in terms of vestments and vesture. I must admit I miss Pope Benedict's flair for style and the use of the variety of vestments that the papal closet over the centuries has acquired. In this sense, Pope Benedict was and is much more liberal than Pope Francis in that Pope Francis's tastes and use of vestments is very, very narrow and now becoming a bit boring.
Of course he wants to show forth a poor Church. But let's face it, that is rather difficult to do in the Vatican with all the splendor that is there which is to remind us of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is meant to transport us to the other worldly in the midst of our struggles and good works here on earth.
So I am concerned that Pope Francis in trying to show a "poor Church" might make us look impoverished. There is a difference.
For example, I will visit my mother's birthplace and home until she was about 35 years old, Livorno, this coming week to celebrate what would have been her 94th birthday. My mother and her family were very poor as was most of Italy in the post World War I period which was magnified a bit in the post World War II period. Yet they were not impoverished. They appreciated the finer things in life even if they didn't have them and had a sense of style with what they had. They were clean also.
I suspect the Church culture of Italy with its magnificent churches and art helped to instill in them the appreciation for that which is beautiful, including family life and taking care of each other and others outside the family but also the nicer material things.
I hope Pope Francis doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater and for the bathwater he thinks is bathwater really isn't!
Now for Pope Francis' liturgical style, apart from vestments is quite similar to Pope Benedict. In fact, I would say that Pope Benedict was a bit more "flamboyant" that Pope Francis during Mass in two slight ways that really aren't flamboyant. When Pope Benedict arrived at the altar to kiss and incense it, especially at out door Masses, he would always extend his arms to acknowledge the faithful who would cheer and applaud him. This is true also when he was in procession in the Basilica in and out.
The other is Pope Benedict always chanted his parts of the Mass for better or for worse, which quite frankly, added to the solemnity.
Pope Francis does neither of these. Once the procession begins, he is very somber, introspective and focused only on the Mass and not what is going on outside of him during the liturgy. He never acknowledges the faithful prior to Mass or during the processions as Pope Benedict did and certainly as Pope John Paul II.
His voice in speaking the Mass is subdued and somber and sometimes difficult to hear. It is like the closed door of the iconostasis and adds to the "Mystery" of the celebration and turns the focus vertical and not horizontal. He has entered the "holy of holies" as he begins Mass. This is why I say that he celebrates Mass in an "ad orientem" sort of way while facing the congregation.
He has maintained the Benedictine altar arrangement and in a sense when the Mass is in the Piazza it is the same arrangement as when in the Basilica and the altar is actually facing the geographical East.
The only exceptions to the somberness and inwardness the pope exhibits during the actual Mass is a bit during his homily, but certainly not too much and of course his homilies are less theological and doctrinal and more practical and devotional that Pope Benedict's.
The other is when the gifts are presented to him. Yesterday it was very moving to see the amount of time he spent with the family with very young children who brought the offerings to him. He stood to receive the offerings and spent a bit of time acknowledging the family and speaking to them. This was the only "horizontal" touch to the liturgy and an appropriate way to show it at this particular time.
The music was wonderful for the Mass with much of it in Latin, from the Kyrie (Greek of course) to the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen, Pater Noster and Agnus Dei.
The final blessing was in Latin, but no other parts of the Mass spoken by the Holy Father. To be honest with you, I think that the parts of the Mass should be mandated to be in Latin and the other parts of the priest and congregation optional, while still promoting Latin as the official liturgical language of the Church.
Finally, prior to the Mass, the Holy Rosary was prayed by all and led by priests and laity. This was a wonderful way to get the immense crowd of people into a more prayerful and solemn mood for the Mass.
I think Pope Benedict started to get people to refrain from making this out door Masses into a sort of pep rally which was normal during Pope John Paul II and had really gotten out of hand with banners and all kinds of other things waving in the congregation during Mass. There is a concerted effort now and I think Pope Francis has increased that effort to make the large congregations to be more like worshipping communities rather than raging concert goers.
Finally just a bit of speculation. After Mass, the Holy Father undresses at the foot of the altar with a retinue of people around him so that it is more discreet. Then in his white cassock he greets people who have been pre-arranged. After this, I saw him speak for a bit with Monsignor Guido Marini. He's done this before, but this time I saw it in person. I couldn't help but wonder what in the world the Holy Father was saying to him. Was he praising him for a suburb liturgy, or making a critique of this, that or the other? It was an animated discussion but nothing that I think bodes ill for Msgr. Marini but for him I empathize and have much compassion during this startling transition of popes and style of being pope, especially in the liturgy sense. I do believe that Msgr. Marini is a brave martyr in this regard.
Then after the pope left and went to greet others, Archbishop Ganswain went and had a little pow wow with Msgr. Guido Marini and the other MC. Msgr. Ganswain (spelling?) is Pope Benedict's personal secretary and still lives with him but is also the head of the Pontifical Household. This makes him I think the most interesting person in the Catholic Church and in her history second only to the Popes themselves.
I would love to know how this transition has affected the old guard. But in a sense, that happens all the time in dioceses and parishes when a new bishop comes or a new pastor. I know it was my experience at St. Joseph Church in Macon, when in 2004 I replaced an icon and much beloved pastor who had been pastor since 1974 and is still visible in the parish to this day.
People, some, not all, had a hard time with me and my different style and personality. That's human. But I might add, I had a hard time with the different style and personality of my new parish compared to my old. We all have to adjust and by God's grace and the virtue of our "adulthood" we do. We are not children living in the past but need to live in the present with what we have with an eye on the future.
Archbishop Gaenswain wearing the lacy surplice which Pope Francis has apparently banned for his MC's to wear at his Masses. Is there a message in this to the pope?