Thursday, January 21, 2010


When I was in the seminary in the late "good old" 1970's at St. Mary Seminary and University in Baltimore, we experienced the heyday (mayday?) of the touchy, feely approach to our Sacred Mass and other liturgies. One of the greatest proponents of this form of celebrating the Mass was the Sulpician priest, Fr. Eugene Walsh, (RIP). He was a very practical and down to earth, gentlemanly priest. I knew him rather well. He advocated for more flexibility in the rubrics of the Mass, creativity from the priest and liturgy committees. He wanted engagement by the celebrant with the assembly and vice a versa.

His own modeling of his preference for Mass was one where you always smiled at the congregation as a priest-presider, had big and generous bodily, liturgical gestures and made the prayers of the Mass your own through "adaptation" even with the Eucharistic prayers.

He has influenced perhaps two generations of priests, my age and those a bit older than me, you know the crowd heading for retirement or death (I include myself in that caustic description). These are the very ones who simply can't stand the "reform of the reform" that Pope Benedict has unleashed on our Church and her liturgies.

Oddly enough, the seminary that I attended which was staffed by Sulpician priests, was not that enamored with Fr. Eugene Walsh (RIP). We studied other so-called liturgical theologians and our worship, although certainly creative, was a bit more formal in our main chapel and not of the touchy-feely, personality driven, congregation-adapted style of Fr. Walsh.

At any rate, we do have two primary schools of thought operating today in terms of how the Mass should be reformed or deformed. Which will succeed? The one the Holy Spirit wants which is the one the Magisterium wants. Time will tell and all of us must wait and see.


Anonymous said...

Fr. Alan,

Great blog! We miss you at Most Holy Trinity, but it’s uplifting to read about a "reform of the liturgical reform" .....I prayerfully hope that you are not holding just a single candle in the dark...thus 2 questions:

1) How supportive of such "return" is our Bishop? Just prior to the departure of Fr. Donahue, we had a very well attended Tridentine Mass, but the Bishop canceled it prior to appointing a new pastor.

2) For a parishioner, what is the proper venue for advocating the sort of liturgical return that you are instituting at St. Joseph's …in this case at Most Holy Trinity? In his past writings, our new pastor has not been an advocate for a return to liturgical tradition.
Best regards & prayers.

Gene said...

The 70's were a disaster in every way. Even the music was awful.

Templar said...

Sure, that's what we need. More creativity and less reverence and truth. I just really want to come to Mass and feel good about things and myself. Al that mystical encounter with the Sacred is so over rated. I can just watch some paranormal ghost show on TV if I want that. Nope, clown Masses, and banjo music, that's what will bring people to Christ.


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

To the great blog, Most Holy Trinity one, Thank you! I still miss MHT too, but love it here, but Augusta will always be home. I believe Bishop Boland is open to having the EF Mass celebrated in those places that would like to have it. He allows it every Sunday at 1:00 PM at the Cathedral and has been very supportive of our venture here.

The pastor doesn't have to celebrate the EF Mass if he doesn't want to or doesn't feel qualified, but he must allow it for a stable group, which means allowing that stable group in conjunction with the pastor and the bishop to find a priest who is willing. I know Fr. Gaspar in Augusta is quite willing to do it. The reason for canceling the new Mass was that it was every Sunday. But if you had the EF once a month at 5:00 PM on Sunday or made it every Sunday at that time, your pastor would have to approve of it and if you couldn't find someone to have the EF Mass on a particular Sunday it would be canceled. That's what happens here. I celebrate it once a month at 2:00 PM--but I simply can't do it every Sunday with all the other Masses I have, so we have to be realistic.

In the case of Most Holy Trinity, I think you have been ahead of the curve for many years, going all the way back to the 1970's with the High Mass at 10:00 AM, with all the bells and smells. Maintaining what you are doing and striving to improve is up to every pastor and I pray this will be the case at MHT. Always give a new pastor a year of grace. Many missteps are often made by both new pastors and their congregations

Robert Kumpel said...

Father, I have never been to Augusta, but it looks like you have, at very least, had the privilege of being the pastor of the two most beautiful churches in the diocese. They were both built at a time when there was no compromise when it came to the Mass and the very thought of "reforming" the liturgy was abhorrent.

For this reason, I feel a bit uneasy about all the enthusiasm regarding the proposed "reform of the reform". Seriously, after re-connecting with the Traditional Latin Mass for the last few years, I've come to a couple of conclusions:

1) I just don't see any evidence that the Traditional Latin Mass needed to be "reformed" in the first place. There are so many anathemas in various documents about Sacred Tradition that suggest to me that Holy Mass is not something to tamper with.

2) I once thought I was "actively participating" at the New Mass, but now I notice that I am actually struggling to keep my mind focused. It is so much easier to NOT participate at the New Mass. It is a temptation to just show up and "let it happen". But, when I attend a Traditional Latin Mass, I come face-to-face with a challenge to get involved. My curious mind wants to know what is going on up at the altar and following the [superior] prayers in the Latin-English Missal forces me to delve more deeply into the mystery at hand.

Which school of thought will succeed? All we can say is that Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church and only an emissary of hell could put it in man's mind that God deserves anything less than our utmost reverence.