Around 1966, I was about 13 years old when the first wave of reform for the Mass came to my home parish of St. Joseph Church in Augusta. At the time we thought it was a big deal and so dramatic. I have to tell you I was excited and thrilled about the first changes. There really were only two. First a movable altar was placed in front of the "real" altar so the priest could face the people. Second, the laity's parts of the Mass were allowed to be in English, although all of the priest's parts remained in Latin. Other than these two changes, the Mass was the Mass of the 1962 missal with those rubrics which now became visible to the congregation.
I loved these changes and that it was easier to participate and we were encouraged to do so. I think most people loved these changes, especially my father's generation (if he were living, he'd be 100).
But then, even as a rebellious teenager, I noticed around 1967 that the order of the Mass was being dumbed down. Our pastor said it was being simplified. First it was the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. These were shortened to the "Requiem" form of these prayers. Then the offertory prayers were shortened to what we have now. Then the prayers at the foot of the altar were eliminated and what we now have as the penitential rite was introduced. Then the extra Eucharistic prayers were introduced. Then the rubrics for the priest were totally simplified. Then we got the 1970 missal which dumbed down the Gloria, the Creed and the Lord I am not worthy. Even as a teenager I was puzzled by all of this dumbing down.
By this time it seemed the Vatican and the bishops had given control of the Mass and Church architecture over to liturgists. Even the rubrics of the 1970 Mass to this day state that priest could say a prescribed formula or "words similar" which opened the door for all kinds of improvisations that still haunt us today. And the old adage about the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist began to surface and be quite clear. You can negotiate with a terrorist being the primary difference.
Then the folk music came and all kinds of other types of music, even secular was inflicted upon the 1970 missal. Then we were told it was wrong to kneel for Holy Communion and to receive on the tongue, so we were herded into a soup-kitchen type lines and eating on the run, rather than kneeling at the altar rail even briefly after receiving. We were told that if we liked kneeling better than standing then we were just too stupid to know that standing symbolized be raised up with Christ to receive Holy Communion. Kneeling was subservient and debased us. There were those who wanted to eliminate any mention of our unworthiness at Mass as well.
I really wish that a thorough sociological study could be done that would show what happened to my father's generation of this late 1960's and 1970's period. My father's generation were the ones who were so committed to the Pre-Vatican II Church. 90 percent of them went to Mass every Sunday and they brought their children up in the faith. But by the 1970's with the changes in the Mass, public dissent from official Church teachings, the elimination of the Baltimore Catechism, total chaos and confusion in the Church, my father's generation of children (which is me) lost the faith and discipline of the Church. My generation of children have not done a very good job of handing on the faith to their children. So today we are at 25 % of Catholics who attend Mass regularly and many of those are confused about the Church's teaching and profess to be both Catholic and pro-choice! If the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council could be described as a rock of sure and certain faith and sound discipline, the Church after Vatican II became like a marshmallow quite mushy and with no real nutritional value.
So, if the pope gave me permission to reform the reform this is what I would do:
1. Bring back the Baltimore Catechism in a revised form and teach the basics again to our children and expect them to memorize certain things.
2. Focus on non-liturgical devotions again, especially those that can be done at home.
3. Maintain the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and calendar as Pope Benedict now allows.
4. Reform the Ordinary Mass so that it is the order of the Extraordinary Mass but in the vernacular, maintaining the revised three year lectionary and calendar but with all the revised English Prayers for the collect, prayers over the gifts and prefaces, Eucharistic prayers etc. Maintain the rubrics of the Extraordinary Mass in the Ordinary Mass.
5. Ban any more churches from being built in the round!
6. Bring back communal forms of penance (meatless Fridays year round, ember days, stricter Lenten discipline--maybe make every Wednesday and Friday of Lent days of fast and abstinence, I think everyday of Lent is a bit much for fasting but it got dumbed down too drastically after Vatican II.
What ya think?
Father, when you were 13, I was seven, but I still remember what you speak of here. My older brother was an altar boy and I can still remember going to his Masses when the Missal of 1962 had not been changed at all. The changes to the vernacular confused me a bit, but I was comfortable with them and I would be very comfortable with such a Mass today.
When the “reform” of 1970 was imposed, I was dumbstruck. Religion was not my best subject, but I knew that I knew that something was seriously wrong. I didn’t have the eloquence at age 11 to voice my concerns sensibly, but, as you say, there was a strong sense that the Mass had been “dumbed down”. I was even further disgusted as the years went on and the onslaught of continued changes kept the “dumbing down” in full drive. Particularly disturbing were my first few folk Masses. I still cringe at the memory of such vapid songs as “Sons of God”, “Joy is Like the Rain” and the always horrible “Kumbaya”. As I said, I was not the best religion student, but those nuns in Kindergarten through fourth grade had given me a solid enough formation to know that the Mass was a sacrifice and it was something solemn and sacred, not a sappy sing-along.
By the 70’s the nuns that I once had so much respect for had trashed their habits and shoved their preference for the Peter Paul and Mary Mass down our throats. I can remember trying to voice my objections about the folk Mass to one of them, only to have her say, “Isn’t wonderful? Now young people can participate in the Mass!” BUT I ALREADY WAS PARTICIPATING! The missals all had the Latin/English translations. I wasn’t the most devout Catholic boy, but I darned well knew that something otherworldly was taking place on that altar when we went to Mass. I can still remember feeling cold chills on Friday afternoons when the school attended Benediction. The Latin hymns, incense and intense reverence was unmistakably moving.
Which is why I am glad you mentioned the Baltimore Catechism. The crash and burn of Catholic formation also coincided. Our Baltimore Catechisms were traded in for books about I don’t know what. Suddenly we were reading about Ghandi. Ghandi! What they heck did HE have to do with the Catholic faith? The beautiful illustrations of Jesus, the Holy Family and saints were replaced by kitschy abstract illustrations and slogans that had been scratched out in “artsy-graffiti” scripts. By the time I got to high school I had nearly lost my faith. And it was only because of an intensely holy priest who was my Sophomore religion teacher that I was able to recover it.
So yes, bring back the Baltimore Catechism and drill, drill, drill (I do with my kids). Pray the Angelus and Rosary as a family. Buy a 1962 Missal (they are still in print) and pray the prayers that sustained us before trendiness dictated their elimination. Don’t eat meat on Friday.
Your comment about church building deserves particular attention. Church-building projects in most dioceses can often be an exercise in futility when well-meaning leaders (lay and clergy) impose some drab model on the parish and everyone is afraid to speak up. Worse yet, when a few daring souls do speak up, they are quickly silenced. Every Catholic adult should buy two books, both by Michael Rose: The Renovation Manipulation and Ugly As Sin. Read them and keep them, because sooner or later, you will need them. Not every parish can afford to be as beautiful as St. Joseph’s but many could certainly stand to look more like Catholic Churches and less like community centers.
If every Catholic would follow your six recommendations, the Church would soon see a true renewal that she so desperately needs.
Finally, I have no problem with Catholics who like to worship the 70's way. I just don't understand why so many of them are adamant about not allowing people like me to worship in the older manner.
I think Father you are describing the precise type of vision that the Holy Father had when he issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007. Clearly his desire was that by permitting the OF and EF Mass to coexist they would exert a pull upon each other, influencing one way or the other and allowing the best of one to influence the other. Improving the liturgy would in turn exert it's pull on our Catechism and our Devotions, making them better.
For too long have Catholics tried to "fit in" and remained quiet lest we offend. We need to reinvigorate our sense of self, or identity, and we can NOT do so if our liturgy is watered down. It must reflect the sacred, and the mystery and the act of sacrifice. Too many come to Mass to see what they can "get out of it", instead of what they can "put into it".
Save the Liturgy, Save the World
Hmmm...Doing Points 1&2??? Yeah, religious education ought to be just that. Skillful practice of learning strategies across the lifespan especially in childhood and adolescence (that includes drill!!! & the materials to facilitate it!!!), Aquinian rational, thorough catechesis, all of that is a fantastic first step. Focus on homelife period v. homedwelling; one could start with eating together, severely reducing media application, and then step up to devotional worship practice. “Non-liturgical devotions”...my understanding of liturgy is that it can only be practiced by delegates of the church (the ordained) so in my view all lay devotion is non-liturgical; and yes, outside the home in school, in prayer hours at church v. chapel, in the parks, and down by the river. BTW the prayer form “Liturgy of the Hours” is also known as “Christian Prayer” particularly so the laity can practice “...with Him.”
Doing points 3&4??? That great orchestra of liturgical prayer The Holy Order of the Mass is the quintessential public prayer of the church, known as liturgy. The laity hear mass, our priests celebrate it!!! It is where we laos gather in mass and offer ourselves through presence of body and heart to the priest who, “In persona Christi” worships the Father, worships God! with our very persons; our very lives. All of that being said, it seems to me that plasticity in its shape, expression, and content should be allowed for regarding the mass, and accomplished based on its best practice (celebration), and decided upon by those who do it. Making (celebrating) the Mass is so much for beauty, grace, and Hope (all gifts for God). Since the Didache, millennia of the ordained have beautified this quintessential liturgy with form, content, and expression...I say, okay let the worthy ordained continue to do so for us, in the ways their vocation and skill at priestliness teaches them to do so. This is their purview, as they struggle along with everything else to meet the powers of darkness allow them the space to change how the Word and Eucharist is celebrated as it needs to fit. All the while, giving respect and deference to the past efforts to find the best beauty, the best loving, the best truth, to form public prayer with. Allow this plasticity even though it appears pendulum-like. Sure, go with vernacular...preserve centuries old form; as long as it’s the best we can make!
Doing Points 5& 6??? If you have ever seen a cruciform church plant from the air as it presents itself in cityscape or landscape the catholic in you would certainly presume that there is no other architecture to form a church plant with!!!
Regarding penance??? Oh man, let’s not overuse “dumb down”!!! It serves to “trivialize” everything (“protestant secularism is no mean enemy at the gate,” Francis Cardinal George). What Judeo-Christian would fail to understand the force of justice that penance applies to our lives? “God comes to His people in Justice”!!! What darkness comes to us that obliterates the Catholic from embracing penance? Whether it be in the healthy fasting of food; or the offering up of prayer time, the work time, the suffering time...where did it go that it needs to be brought back??? Yeah, sure let’s not “bring [it] back”...lets lift it up from where it has been thrown down. Let us celebrate how we may deprive ourselves of time, or how we give ourselves to wage slavery for the sake of good, or how we espouse ourselves through suffering for the love of God.
Okay, forgive the length... that’s what I think.
How about a number 7?
Ban all felt banners!
Dan, nice that number 7! Felt Banners??? Are those banners that feeeeeeel? If I may respond freely...I have never liked anything lite & I don't mind hearing myself saying so, evidently neither did He! God Lov'em!
How about a #8: Limit Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to extraordinary circumstances instead of the weekly norm. And BAN PANTS SUITS FOR FEMALE EMHC!
Ditto for the felt banners.
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