It is hard to imagine a bishop of our times being so informal and
blunt, yet those were days in which many bishops and local pastors were
known for their large, colorful personalities. Enjoy some excerpts of
this colorfully blunt letter, which focused on encouraging priests to be
more liturgically minded. I include some brief remarks from a blog post I copy in the bloggers red text :
Confusion worse confounded has arisen
during the past few years in the matter of our Sunday services. An
inter-parochial competitive system has ended in chaos and not a little
distant disedification. We must now return to sane normal conditions.
Hence the following mandatory regulations will be effective Sunday,
The High Mass (Solemn or Missa
Cantata) must be the last of the parish masses and may not be an hour
later than eleven. Every church in Baltimore, Washington, and Cumberland
is expected to have a High Mass. The same is expected of all parishes
outside the above cities where a choir is possible. The choir does not
have to be an adult choir. It may be composed of school children. In
country parishes where heretofore there has been no High Mass, I desire
the pastors to work towards a High Mass. The Missa parochialis must be
kept in its honorable place. … Let the well-prepared sermon be short and
practical; let the music be strictly liturgical and let the liturgy be
carried out with dignity and correctly.
We see that
in certain areas, the low Mass (recited and whispered) had come to be
the only type celebrated. High Mass, with the priest and choir singing
significant portions, was becoming too rare. This afforded less
possibility for the faithful to interact with the Liturgy. Further, it
excluded a vast repertoire of chant, polyphony, and classical music from
the Mass. In response, the Archbishop insisted that at least one parish
Mass should open this treasure to God’s people.
The epistle and gospel should be read
at all the masses. … A short discourse (of even five-minutes duration)
should be given at each mass. The work of instruction should be
supplemented by the recommendation of pamphlets as reading matter. No
parish church should be without a pamphlet rack.
problem in that era was that the readings were proclaimed in Latin by
the priest at the altar. Because few if any of the laity knew Latin, the
proclamation of the Word mostly fell on deaf ears. A common solution
was that the priest would go to the pulpit and repeat the readings in
the vernacular, but this lengthened the Mass. Some priests evidently
skipped this altogether and merely continued on with the Mass. Some even
skipped a sermon of any sort at certain masses. The Archbishop was
surely not pleased and insisted that teaching the faith was an essential
purpose of any liturgy.
Some of our younger parish clergy read
their sermons. This should not be done except for some very special
reason. The priest who is not capable of preparing and delivering a
brief, clear instruction on Catholic teaching to his people is not fit
to be in parish work. The people as a rule do not want to listen to a
sermon reader. The reader is usually a poor one and his matter many
times is poorer. We do not expect every priest to be a Lacordaire or a
Bossuet. We do expect every priest however to be a teacher of God’s
word, an intelligent and intelligible one. We have heard splendid
eloquence on the subject of card parties, bazaars, church support, etc.
and then mental confusion in many cases when the time came for the
sermon. Our work as preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ is of
infinite importance. It ought to be done with prayerful preparation. The
sermon should be delivered in such a manner that our people can hear,
understand, and take away with them a better knowledge of their faith
and at the same time feel moved to live that faith and more practical
way. If the priests of a parish wish to hold her people’s loyalty to
their parish church, they cannot do it by competition in the matter of
late hours for masses, unbecoming a hurry in the celebration of divine
mysteries, or curtailment of devotional church practices.
Tough, but well said.
In some parishes of the cities there
is no evening service. The reason given is that the people will not
come. If the pastor will only give the people a chance to come, they
will come in sufficient numbers to Rosary and Benediction of the Blessed
Sacrament. They will come gladly to hear a course of sermons during
Advent, Lent, novenas, etc. They will not come to hear the rosary and
litany recited in a marathon style. They leave their parish church and
go to one where there is devotion in the sanctuary.
We have completed our building
program. The brick-and-mortar work is almost over. Let us now apply
ourselves to the more important work of gathering our people around the
sanctuary in order that we may build Christ our Blessed Lord into their
hearts and lives. We have, thank God, many parishes where liturgical
functions are carried out with inspiring dignity, order, correctness,
and consequent impressiveness. … But where there is a tendency to starve
the people spiritually, the priest soon realizes a reaction that, to
say the least, is neither healthy nor pleasant.
Let us then in God’s name begin with enthusiasm a new era of order in matters liturgical October 6th.
Sincerely, + Michael Curley Archbishop of Baltimore