Friday, February 20, 2015


This is how Pope Francis described Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificum and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass:

Pope Francis explained that this gesture by his predecessor, "a man of communion", was meant to offer "a courageous hand to Lefebvrians and traditionalists", as well as to those who wished to celebrate the Mass according to the ancient rites. The so-called "Tridentine" Mass – the Pope said – is an "extraordinary form of the Roman Rite", one that was approved following the Second Vatican Council. Thus, it is not deemed a distinct rite, but rather a "different form of the same right".

In terms of the manner in which either form of the Mass should be celebrated, Pope Francis makes some common sense points and choosing words that Pope Benedict often used:

The liturgy should help the faithful enter into God’s mystery and to experience the wonder of encountering Christ, Pope Francis told priests of the diocese of Rome.

People should feel the wonder and allure “that the apostles felt when they were called, invited. It attracts — wonder attracts — and it lets you reflect,” the pope said during an annual Lenten meeting with Rome pastors in the Paul VI audience hall.

 the pope led the pastors Thursday in a reflection on the homily and “ars celebrandi,” the art of celebrating the liturgy well.

"For me the key of 'ars celebrandi' takes the path of recovering the allure of beauty, the wonder both of the person celebrating and the people, of entering in an atmosphere that is spontaneous, normal and religious, but isn't artificial, and that way you recover a bit of the wonder," he said.
Sometimes there are priests who celebrate Mass in a way that is "very sophisticated, artificial," or who "abuse the gestures" he said.

If the priest is "excessively" focused on the rubrics that indicate the movements and particular gestures during Mass and "rigid, I do not enter into the mystery" because all one's energy and attention are on the form, he said.

The other extreme, he said, is "if I am a showman, the protagonist" of the Mass, "then I do not enter into the mystery" either.

While the idea is simple, "it is not easy" to elicit this sense of wonder and mystery, he said. But nonetheless, he said, the celebration of Mass is about entering into and letting others enter into this mystery.

The celebrant "must pray before God, with the community," in a genuine and natural way that avoids all forms of "artificiality," he said.

The pope also warned about accepting candidates for the priesthood who are disturbed psychologically and morally.  Just because someone looks pious doesn't mean they are a good candidate. 

As a former vocation director, I know very well that bishops in the past indiscriminately   accepted men for their dioceses who had been refused by other bishops. Often these were not conservative or traditional men, but those who had no real foundation in the faith and could care less about the Church's moral teachings. They were flamboyant at Mass and narcissistic.  
Of course traditional seminaries often produce men who are rigid and cannot cope with the realities of life and the priesthood. They hide behind their piety. This too must be recognized as unhealthy for the Church. The pope hits the nail on the head.    



Luke said...

Fr - You left out the part where the Holy Father said the Reform of the Reform is "mistake".

Rood Screen said...

So, in terms of the manner in which the extraordinary form should be celebrated, it should be spontaneous? I've never seen anything about liturgical spontaneity in any text of any synodal or ecumenical council, or indeed, in the words or writings of any other pope. Therefore, I wonder where this spontaneity fits into the Roman liturgical tradition, and why is it valuable?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I'm not sure in what context he meant it as well as spontaneity. I see no real difference between the way Pope Francis celebrates Mass and Pope Benedict except that Benedict chanted his parts and wore more elaborate vestments. Pope Francis doesn't chant and his vestment are tasteful but plain but elegant nonetheless.

He has maintained the Benedictine altar arrangement albeit in a more modest form where the altar accoutrements do not obscure those behind it and yes the crucifix is lower flung so that the Pope Francis can easily look at it which he does constantly, but in a natural sort of way.

Pope Benedict spoke more about the ars of celebrating and very seldom about the "reform of the reform."

Spontaneity in the homily is what I think he means, in terms of being natural in giving the homily that is well planned.

If you watch the 1960 and 1962 Mass from England which I posted earlier and from the New Liturgical Movement, you will notice how a priest prior to Vatican II celebrated the Mass and it was with ease, not robotic and natural! Compare that with the FSSP training video by a young upstart priest and you will notice how robotic, almost non-human looking, he is when celebrating the EF Mass.

John said...

The deformations in the NO are due to deformations of faith. The fragility of its form gives a wide berth to those who wish to deform it for any reason.

When faith returns the Mass will be renewed. It will be a more formal prayer, one suitable for the public worship of God by Catholics.

I dare say, the present Holy Father will probably not see that day.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

John, I agree and the vernacular enables those of deformed faith to manipulate the Mass in a way that is twisted. There can be no ab libbing with Latin.

But those with a well formed faith can celebrate Mass well even in the vernacular.

When the Mass becomes a toy for either the priest or the congregation to with as they wish, we have problems and we in fact have problems galore with the Ordinary Form of the Mass celebrated poorly.

John said...

Father McDonald

The FSSP priest in the training video is not saying Mass, he is making a training film. Would I be so lucky as to have an FSSP parish close by. Never would I miss a NO no matter how well done.

Rood Screen said...

In traditional language, "normal" means "in keeping with the norms of law", and "religious" means "in accordance with the rule/canon". "Spontaneity" seems to be a novel value without precedent among liturgical norms and canons. Perhaps spontaneity is allowed whenever the norms and canons fail to provide adequate direction.

At any rate, I think a speaker is obliged to explain himself clearly if he expects his audience to listen carefully.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

I suspect the Holy Father may use spontaneous to mean, "occurring without external stimulus." By this he may mean that the priest has so internalized the meaning of the mass, the actions, words, gestures of the liturgy, that he acts without being stiff or robotic, but with fluidity and physical grace.

At this point it is not choreography, and the actions of the ministers on the altar are not perceived as being rehearsed, but as comfortable, natural actions.

A well-known teacher of liturgy recommended that the celebrants actions/moves on the altar should be carried out as if moving through water. This prevents hurried or "jerky" movements and adds a little external elegance.

Anonymous said...

I must say, I'm not entirely sure what he meant by "spontaneous" either, but didn't Cardinal Ratzinger once famously put it that "un-spontaneity is of the essence of the liturgical rites"? I've always taken the latter quote to mean that we need to recover some of the "rubrical tightness" of the EF, and that the priest can not just carry himself however he might feel most immediately comfortable.

Rood Screen said...

The phrase "reform of the reform" has never received official endorsement. Ratzinger/Benedict simply endorsed "reform", in opposition to "rupture".

Rood Screen said...

The GIRM says the following about gestures and postures: "...attention should be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and the traditional practice of the Roman Rite and to what serves the common spiritual good of the People of God, rather than private inclination or arbitrary choice". Again, it's hard to see where spontaneity fits into this.

Rood Screen said...

I wonder what the Vatican gendarmerie corps does with "spontaneous" laymen acting within sight and sound of the altar?

Anonymous said...

Fr. McDonald,

You've mentioned that FSSP training film several different times, always as an example of a robotic looking traditional priest.

I agree that the gestures and movements in this film are so precise that they look somewhat robotic. However, I've seen quite a few Masses celebrated by FSSP priests, but not another one similarly robotic.

It makes sense that the gestures and movements in the training film would be intentionally precise and exaggerated for the purpose of impressing the meaning of the rubrics on the viewer. After all, this was a training film, not an actual "live" Mass. (Actually, I've seen the same thing in other training films, one for OF ars celebranda, as I vaguely recall)

So perhaps there's no reason to be fixated on it, as though some priests were actually celebrating Mass this way.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, as per Henry's comment, all the FSSP Masses I've been to have been natural enough, just like the videos from the early sixties that you mentioned. I'm pretty sure the video in question was slowed down/exaggerated to make it easier to learn. That's the case with learning anything for the first time.

Anonymous said...

"I see no real difference between the way Pope Francis celebrates Mass and Pope Benedict"

Perhaps it's partly in the eye of the beholder, but I see all the difference.

Benedict obviously loved the Mass, celebrated it lovingly as something to be lingered over. Francis sometimes appears to regard it as a duty to be endured, something to be finished as quickly as possible.

It seems to me that the way a priest celebrates Mass must come from his heart, according as how close it is to his heart. Surely how he acts in celebrating Mass shows what's in his heart.

Gene said...

Oh, for God's sake. There is nothing "robotic' about it anymore than a USMC drill team, or the Blue Angels, or a kata by a skilled Japanese swordsman. It is a ritual performed by someone with the devotion and discipline, as well as the aesthetic sense, to do something as well and precisely as possible, in this case for the glory of God. It sure beats some silly Priest trying to be cool and buddy buddy with the flock, making stupid jokes and ad libbing the liturgy.
To anyone at all who understands these things he merely makes a fool of himself and a parody of the Sacred. We applaud precision in everything…Olympic ice skating and diving, pro sports, art, technology, etc. Then we turn right around and condemn it as "robotic" in what should matter most of all…giving glory and praise to God. Are you people really that stupid or is this a put on?

John Nolan said...

I checked the Zenit report and it is clear that remarks about spontaneity, gestures, sophistication and artificiality concerned the homily. One puzzling remark is the one about the Tridentine Mass being approved after the Second Vatican Council. Only the Novus Ordo required approval; the older Rite was never abrogated and so approval, even retrospective approval, does not apply.

Since for much of the audience the Pope was responding off-the-cuff to questions, and his answers were later 'leaked' by some of those who attended, it would be unwise to read too much into them at this stage. It's right to be wary, though.

Anonymous said...

The general feeling here seems to be that the priest should not inject his personality, his human being-ness into the liturgy in any way. You hate it if he does....if he smiles, laughs makes any "improper" movements or gestures. Everything should be completely "by the book" (say the black, do the red).

That all sounds really robotic. Gene, I'll bet you'd love id if Mass looked like the USMC drill team....and you had your weapon on your hip....

Gene said...

Anonymous, as a matter of fact, I do think the Mass should be conducted with the same rigor and precision as a USMC drill team..and they do not carry their weapons on their hip.

John Nolan said...

The Oratorians have long been renowned for their liturgical and musical traditions and one of their maxims is that the liturgy should have the precision of a military parade, so the comparison with the USMC is not inapt.

Anonymous said...

Pastor, try some remedial reading. I said that YOU have your weapon on YOUR hip. I know about the Marines...

With the technology today, we could have a robot...with NO apparent or visible human characteristics who could say a PERFECT Latin humanity involved. Do you think Jesus would love it?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

To speak of the mass as something that ought to look like a drill team is to overlook the fact that the congregation is also an actor in the mass.

"One of the key reforms of the Council was to restore the properly liturgical role of the people to them. Even before the Council the trend favored lay missals with Latin-English, and dialogic Masses, where the people give the responses, over praying private devotions during Mass."
(Colin Davis, EWTN website)

The priest is a human (at least we presuppose that he is...!) and his humanity is as essential to his celebration of the mass as Jesus' humanity was to His redemption of the world. It is not necessary that he "hide" his humanity.

Acting in the person of Jesus Christ presumes humanity. Humanity includes facial expressions, vocal qualities, varying intellectual capacity, etc.

Anonymous said...

Judging by the rubrics of the EF, not just Gene, but the whole Church used to think the Mass should be done with the rigor of a USMC drill team. And why should it be different, considering the reality that the Eucharist is (i.e., the source of all that exists)? Even if the rubrics of the liturgical books don't mandate as intense precision as they used to, the individual priest should see it as his responsibility to conduct himself as carefully as possible.

Stgeve said...

Dear Father,

On the Pray Tell blog, I just read your comments on the topic at hand.

There were commentators there who disagreed with your interpretation of Pope Francis' "bombshell" remarks in question.

One person at Pray Tell said that you played "fast and loose" with that which Pope Francis had said in regard to liturgy.

I hope that they are wrong.

I hope that your take on Pope Francis' remarks in question are correct.