Sunday, September 5, 2010


The movie clip below is exactly that--a movie. However, the producer and director were given permission to film an actual Mass for this part of the movie. The actor and actress, I am sure, filmed their part separately from the Mass and then it was edited into the Mass. It is well done for a movie's depiction of the normal Solemn High Mass of this period.

This clip of how the Solemn High Mass would have been celebrated as the normal form of the Mass in the 1940's captures what the clergy and laity's attitude and demeanor would have been during Mass. I can testify to that as an eyewitness. When I was a child in the late 1950's and early 1960's, I was fascinated by people's demeanor during Mass. Keep in mind back then parents did not bring their children to the altar railing when they received Holy Communion. We had to stay back in the pews. We thought we were grown-up if our parents left us alone while they went forward! So as they went, I was like a hawk watching them go and not losing sight of them. But I also watched everyone else as they went and returned to their pews.

What always fascinated me was the fact that people began to line up at the altar railing and in the aisle as the priest was receiving his Holy Communion or while the second Confiteor was being prayed prior to Holy Communion of the laity. As soon as the priest turned around to announce the "Ecce Agnus Dei" everyone in the aisle would fall to the hard floor kneeling on it and I mean everyone, even those for whom doing so was painful--it was a penance in their minds!

The other thing that sticks in my mind is how people looked when they returned from receiving Holy Communion. They would kneel and bury their faces in their hands for a long period of time. I would ask my dad why they were so sad looking and he would remind me that they're not sad but praying in thanksgiving for so great a Gift. Of course I took things literally back then and wondered what the "Gift" was since I didn't see any wrapping paper or bows strewn along the floor!

But any any rate, the first two minutes of this video does indeed capture the spirituality and devotion of the EF Mass. Did the reforms of Vatican II really intend to purge the Mass of this ethos, devotion and spirituality? Somehow I don't think the Council Fathers had in mind the more haughty and secular approach that so many people have today in our Churches and at Mass. We've lost something and Pope Benedict knows it. That's why he is allowing the EF Mass to be celebrated with very few restrictions. Viva il Papa!


Templar said...

Note: For those watching the video, you can stop after the 5 minute mark as it has nothing to do with Father's point.

As for the Mass, it's pretty rare, even in older movies, for any significant part of the Mass to be portrayed and I confess they did well with this one.

I wish that all Masses could make me feel the way this small movie clip makes me feel. I wish everyone approaching for Communion could feel waht I'm feeling as I approach. I know that even to this day when I do not recieve I have to fight the urge to "people watch" because I am interested in gauging people's attitude. Kind of an unofficial poll of the state of the Laity, although to be fair it sometimes feels to judgemental so I try to fight the urge. But you usually can tell a lot about a person's faith, or should I say theur commitment to it, by the way they carry themselves before, during and immediately after Communion.

Yes we've lost something in the Church, as has all of society. No sense of teh Sacred; No sense of Mystery; No reverence for the Holy. We have replaced it with a smug superiority that we are masters of our fate, and God's Mercy is assumed and assured.

Anonymous said...

As the actress cried during the movie Mass, so did one of today's parishioners at St. Joseph's EF Mass. She told me how tears were streaming down her eyes as she had never seen something so beautiful.

Templar, your are right to resist the urge to people watch and be judgemental. One cannot accurately judge a book by it's cover. Not to minimize the importance of demeanor, but one can be fooled by someone who 'acts pious' when in public but is far from it in their heart.

I watch for acts of piety so as learn how to act even more reverently, but that's it. I make no judgement, good or bad, about the person doing the act.

While I wish people would dress better, I don't know what is in their mind or what happened in their day just before Mass, so I just use the occassion to inspire my own self to do a little better.
I'll remember that you're watching me and be on my most pious, reverent behaviour. Oh wait a minute, it's not for you that I'm doing it. It's for Jesus. So if my demeanor helps give you and others example and encouragement I suppose that would be a useful thing.

It was great to see children at the EF Mass.

anon at 7:44

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I had two young men, early 20's from Mercer say they were blown away by the reverence of the Mass. It was their first time. Another young man who is not Catholic was there and wants to see me this week about becoming Catholic! There is no comparison in terms of liturgical reverence between the EF and OF Masses. I grieve for what we tissed, it was so unnescessary!

Henry said...

As a college student and "good little Methodist boy", I was invited to attend my first Catholic Mass on an All Saints Day in the mid-1950s. Though I did not know precisely what was happening at the altar, I knew that something was happening there, that this was some kind of action and not mere words, and was deeply affected by whatever it was.

At my own insistence, I attended my second Catholic Mass the following (All Souls) day, and have never looked back. Although I remain no less devoted to the OF, there's simply no way that its typical celebration could have had so immediate and permanent an impact on me.

Incidentally, I recall my first Christmas solemn high Mass as being remarkably similar to that shown in the clip. The church was large and packed, though a bit smaller, and the atmosphere and demeanor of all was just as shown (albeit with the absence of any Deanna Durbin).

Alas, a few years later, all this--to which I originally owed the conversion that changed my life--was no more. Frankly, I put a lot of effort and prayerful preparation into my spiritual participation for Mass, but I have never discovered a way to recapture fully the mystical enchantment seemingly shared by all present at a pre-Vatican II solemn midnight Mass.