Wednesday, November 30, 2011


John Allen describes his experience with the corrected English translation of the Mass this past Sunday. This is a small excerpt from what he wrote:

Chatting briefly with Mass-goers afterwards, I heard several versions of what I would label the "common sense" perspective on liturgical matters. In different ways, most people -- whatever they thought of the new language -- said that the things that really matter in shaping the quality of their liturgical experience boil down to three points: How good the preaching is, how good the music is and how welcoming the community seems.

If those three things are in place, they said, the most defective translation in the world won't prevent them from coming back. Conversely, if those three things are off, even the Platonic ideal of a translation won't get them in the door.

The consensus seemed to be that at the grassroots, most Catholics wish the church would devote even a fraction of the time and energy it's poured into debates over translation to the things that really strike ordinary people as decisive: preaching, music, and community spirit.

My Comments: Since Vatican II we have gauged the effectiveness of the Liturgy as some sort of product that the Church sells to its customers. If they don't like it, we have to sell it as new and improved.

What about the Mass, no matter how good the community is, how poor the music is and how bad the preaching is as the One Sacrifice of Christ re-presented on our altars in an unbloody way for our personal salvation and the salvation of the world? If that is lost in the conversation, then God help us!

John Allen is giving us more of the same of the silly season right after Vatican II about the Mass being a feel good experience for customers.

I'm not opposed to community. We need it, but this must happen naturally through other venues in the parish.

I'm not opposed to good music, but there has to be an objective norm by which good liturgical music is evaluated and it can't just be something that affects our hormones and elevates the spirit in a narcotic "feel-good" way.

I'm not opposed to good preaching, but the Mass can stand on its own without any preaching! It's the Sacrifice of Christ re-presented in an unbloody way for our salvation that is central and foundational. Everything else, including warm community, good liturgical music and inspiring preaching follows.

How did we get so far off track in what is important about the Mass and make false god's out of the icing on the cake?

The corrected English translation of the Mass and a vigorous new emphasis on its sacrificial content will go a long way offering the world what is essential for their salvation--it ain't just community, good preaching and good music! It is Jesus Christ and His suffering and death on the Cross and His resurrection that forms the Community of Saints on earth, in purgatory and in heaven.


Gene said...

Good preaching, good music, and socializing. Welcome to the Halleluja Baptist Church on the Frontage Road. Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

Wanna hear something worse? I have heard this from religious sisters who have attended Mass in my parish. It makes me want to scream and fall down.

But they would probably like that, too.


Jody Peterman said...

"I'm not opposed to good preaching, but the Mass can stand on its own without any preaching! It's the Sacrifice of Christ re-presented in an unbloody way for our salvation." Agreed, but if you assume that the average Catholic congregation of adults is not catechized, how can you even assume that they know that the above statement is true? As a former Baptist, and a trial lawyer, I know the power of preaching, and the use of words, especially when they are stated with emotion and feeling. Perhaps, I can't get the Baptist out of me, but I find 50% of Catholic Priest homilies atrocious (St. Joesph's excluded!), and I often find myself embarrassed for the Priest or Deacon. You have to catechize from the pulpit or this blind acceptance of divorce, birth control, homosexuality marriage, and the lack of belief in the real presence is never going to end. While all most of us on this blog really needs is the Eucharist, the average Parishioner does not see the world they way we do, and they do need good preaching to get them to the place in life they need to be as Catholic Christians. Btw, you can never assume that anybody in your congregation will attend a seminar, read any encyclical, book by Scott Hahn, Flannery O'Connor, or Thomas Aquinas, or ever watch EWTN.

Henry said...

How about a year's moratorium on both sermons, 4-hymn sandwiches, and welcoming ministries, while we concentrate on getting the liturgy back on track?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I should be clear that I really do promote celebrating the Liturgy well. I am an advocate of singing the Mass and using Liturgical music and chants that are appropriate for the Mass in terms of promoting solemnity and seriousness. I am a huge advocate of good homilies not only for Sunday but also for weekday Masses. These should be based on the Scriptures of the Mass but also instruct on the basics of our faith in terms of doctrine and morals. The homily should be short, no more than 8 to 10 minutes usually (although sometimes I must go over)and these should be inspirational. I agree that growing up the vast majority of priests I heard preach bored the hell out of me--but that was good! And when I compared our priests to how Baptists and Methodists preached I was a bit embarrassed by our poor quality.
As far as forming community I think in pre-Vatican II times it was easier because in truly Catholic areas the geogrpahical parish was a large neighborhood. Everyone knew each other as neighbors and got together as neighbors, the Mass was simply the way they came to experience the Sacrifice of Christ, receive Holy Communion worthily, seek forgiveness of their sins sacramentally, get married, get baptized and get buried. But community happened everyday and quite naturally based upon the Church's principle of being a good neighbor! Today with parishes that no longer are geographical and spread from here to there in multiple square miles, more needs to be done on the parish level to get Catholics to know other Catholics and to support each other in living out their Catholic faith daily. That can happen with parish supports, time after Mass to socialize, small faith groups and in other ways too. It doesn't have to be foisted upon the Mass itself with Kumbaya, hand holding kissy-feeling theatrics.

Marc said...

I completely agree with everything you've said in this post, as well as your comment, Father. I think what you're getting at (and what seems to be your approach in practice) is that the music, preaching, and community people are overly focused on can be the very building blocks to their catechesis and can form the basis of their eventual deeper understanding of the true meaning of the Holy Mass. All things working in concert to create an air of reverence that leads the people to ponder the deeper Mystery of the Holy Mass.

I hope priests around the world are as diligent and thoughtful in the preparation of homilies and Mass settings as are most of the priests I've had the pleasure of meeting.

Gene said...

Jody Peterman, You are quite right about catechizing in the homily. That IS good preaching, as far as I am concerned. I was a protestant minsister and am fully acquainted with the homiletical techniques that are considered "good" preaching: you tell a joke or two, evoke an awareness of sin and guilt, send everybody to Hell, then finish strong on the irresistable Grace of Christ. There also should be metaphorical language and vivid descriptions of the wrath to come. But, most people who hear and love these sermons don't take anything away but a feeling of catharsis and some vague sense of in little old ladies walking away nodding their heads.
On the other hand, our Priests do not jump up and down, pound the pulpit, or pace back and forth, but I vividly remember theological points from comparatively quiet homilies from Fr. MacDonald, Fr. Justin, and Fr. Filmer from several years ago. This from one who was considered a "good" preacher by protestant standards.

Gene said...

Henry, "4 hymn sandwich." LOL! I nearly sprayed coffee on the computer screen...

Robert Kumpel said...

Back in the days when I was able to attend daily weekday Masses, my favorite masses were the non-Sunday liturgies. No music, no homilies (once in a while a brief one), just the pure prayers of the Mass, stripped down to their essence. In fact, it got to be (and still is, to some extent) a letdown to attend Sunday Mass. I am not denigrating the Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday--let's be clear. It's just so much of the "dog and pony show" that goes on along with the Mass is irreverent, irrelevant and often downright annoying. And, not to condemn the New Mass, it all seems to have sprung from the culture created by the New Mass. It's as if someone in charge is constantly evaluating: "Did we get enough laity involved?" "Did people sing loudly enough?" "Did the people in the pews feel anything?" "Was this socially relevant enough?" and on and on and on. I don't expect this to change in my lifetime and I'm more tolerant of it now than I used to be, but my only relief comes on the rare days when I can make a weekday Mass or attend a TLM. Peterman's comments are true. We live in an abysmal state of Catholic consciousness and much of it is the result of this protestantized monster that the culture of the New Mass seems to have created.

Templar said...

I think the comments expressed to John Allen, and the ones he is tactitly supporting by his article, are a symptom of what plagues Catholics today. They don't even understand what the Mass is, except in some Protestant expression of it, and again, I trace that back directly to the introduction of the NO. What did the Church expect when you Protestantize the Mass? A better understanding of Catholicism? How?

As for Sermons, I love good ones, strong ones, Orthodox and blunt, and don't mind if they go a little long. I have always enjoyed Father MacDonald's Sermons, and find I enjoy Father Kwiatowski's immensely. Shuck the corn and don't candy coat it. If you can't make a few parishoners shake their heads your Homily wasn't strong enough.

One thing I have always had mixed feelings about were the Homilies given by the Deacons. Some are very good, but some I feel really miss the mark. Having the Deacon say from the Altar that it's okay for his son to be a non-denominational Christian becasue that's where he needs to be in life right now is not only an error on his part (one he is free to make personally, but not as a representative of the Church in my opinion), but I can't tell you how boiling mad it makes me when my 16 year old turns around to me after Mass and says "see I told you so". I have spent my years as a Father explaining why Catholicism is the One True Faith, the One Faith with the Full Truth, and why it matters if you get Married ina Catholic Ceremony, why it matters if you Baptize your Children, etc and then the Deacon tells her in 8 minutes that he thinks it's okay that his son isn't Catholic. Stick to what the Church teaches when you're in the pulpit please, and don't help the other team score runs, thank you very much.

Carol H. said...

During the time of the Acts of the Apostles, christians would go to the synagogue on Saturday, and to the Breaking of the Bread on Resurection Day (Sunday). But after a short period of time, they stopped going on Saturday because they were no longer welcome.

The most important part of the mass is the eucharistic sacrifice; in fact no meeting of the faithful is called a mass without it, but it IS important to hear sacred scripture and the Church's teaching on it so there is no confusion on what we believe. Otherwise, we would be subject to our own interpretations and chaos would reign.

I wonder how many people would call themselves Catholic if we had to attend a scripture study on Saturday, and return for the Eucharist on Sunday? The Early Church in her wisdom combined the two, using jewish tradition as a model.