Saturday, June 28, 2014
IS POPE FRANCIS LEADING US TO A RESTORATION OF THE CHURCH AS IT WAS PRIOR TO VATICAN II, LESS ABSORBED WITH THE LITURGY AND LITURGY WARS AND MORE ABSORBED WITH SIMPLY BEING GOOD CATHOLICS?
Because I'm 60 years old and also have a great memory of my life starting around 1956 for some odd reason (I can pinpoint that date to early July 1956 when we moved into our apartment in East Point, GA (Atlanta) when I was almost 3 years old, because we had just driven down from New York where I became ill and my parents made a bed for me on the floor of my bedroom as we awaited our furniture. I just remember being sick, sleeping on the floor, which I thought was cool, in a strange house that was really hot (no air-conditioner) waiting for the moving van. I also remember seeing the blue flame of our gas hot water heater and being enthralled by it. But I digress.
I remember almost every Sunday Mass since that time and also Christmas Midnight Masses, all in the only Mass the Church had, the Mass prior to Vatican II. We normally went to Low Masses on Sunday but would go to a High Mass for Christmas and some other occasions.
The Liturgy and the popular devotions of the Church were a given. No one criticized the Mass or the priest celebrating the Mass. Few people went to Holy Communion and children remained in their pew when their parents did go. No one was compelled to go to Holy Communion and no one felt left out if they didn't go to Holy Communion.
But what I remember of that period was that Catholics were different than other Christians and proud of the difference. It stemmed from the Latin Mass, to celibate priests and nuns in schools and hospitals who worn funny looking clothes.
But more importantly, Catholics tried not to wear their religion on their sleeve but to be good people at home, work and play. We were not to proselytize and our faith was a bit of a private matter but at the foundation of who we were.
If people were drawn to the Catholic Church, it was by the example of our lives that did not wreak with a pungent religiosity. We tried to be normal people who enjoyed life but not to excess. We like to eat, drink, smoke, dance and have fun, clean fun. But we were expected to be married in the Church, remain married when we got married, to have children, to support our Catholic schools. We were expected to go to Mass each and every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation, observe the days of fast and abstinence, especially on Fridays, support the Church and attend popular devotions such as the Holy Rosary and the Stations of the Cross and novenas. 40 Hours devotions were very popular too.
At home we were expected to say grace before meals and to pray the Holy Rosary privately or as a family.
The Bible though was not really a part of our Catholic piety--that was considered Protestant, being a Bible thumper.
We dressed in our Sunday best for Mass, carried our St. Joseph Sunday Missal to Mass, used it, had our rosaries for Mass too, to pray prior to Mass and to hold during Mass. Women covered their heads with hats, chapel veils or sometimes even Kleenex.
There were only three forms of the Mass, Low, High and Solemn High. Few parishes every had a Solemn High Mass-that was usually reserved for the Cathedral.
There was no experimentation with the Mass, you did it as it was prescribed, the laity were quiet before, during and after Mass in a hushed silence of awe. One never looked backwards in the Church except to depart! Eyes were to to fix on the tabernacle before and after Mass and on the altar and priest during!
Every parish church no matter how simple or how ornate had altars with the same configuration and an altar railing. The altar was always decorated with a nice altar cloth, the six High Mass candles, only lit for High Mass and an addition two lower ones placed somewhat close to the tabernacle for Low Mass. The tabernacle was always on the main altar. There were at least two other altars, one for the Blessed Virgin Mary and one for St. Joseph. Some churches had altars for the Sacred Heart. Other more elaborate church had additional altars, shrines and statues.
No one complained about the Mass, until about 1965. The complaints haven't stopped and I think these complaints have contributed in a large part to the decline of Catholicism in this country since that time, from a peak of about 90% of Catholics attending Mass, to less than 25% in most places today and of that 25% they still complain about this, that or the other. That is not very inviting to say the least.
Pope Francis has taken the attention off of Liturgy and more on Catholic life, especially popular devotions, but also how to live our Catholic lives outside our church buildings and obviously after Mass.
In my mind, this is a major restoration! This is very pre-Vatican II! This is the way it should be if and only if we celebrate the various options we have for the Mass by "saying the black and doing the red" and saying and doing it with reverence, awe and dignity and the laity properly disposed internally and externally.