Saturday, March 31, 2012


Once again, many thanks to Dr.Buck Melton for taking these grand pictures of our Solemn Sung EF Mass for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary with our combined choirs once again singing Shubert's Mass in G.

The vestment I'm wearing was a Christmas gift to me about 15 years ago. It comes from Mexico and had the maniple, burse and veil. I wondered why in the world anyone would give me a gift like this as I didn't particularly like Roman vestments and knew that I would never wear it, use the burse or veil and certianly never wear the maniple. God confounds the proud!

Heads up, on Easter Sunday at 1:00 PM, we will celebrate a High Latin Mass as a reform of the reform of the Ordinary Form Mass. Our men's schola will chant the Gregorian Propers and the Gregorian Chants of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Santus, Mysterium Fidei, Pater Noster and Agnus Dei. I will chant the Gospel in English. The Responsorial Psalm will be replaced with the Latin Gradual for Easter Day and the Sequence will be chanted in Latin after the second reading and prior to the normal singing of the Gospel Allelua, with English verse.
The Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons will be chanted in Latin according to the EF form. The Asperges will be chanted in the EF form but as a prelude to the actual Ordinary Form Mass, with the Vidi Aquam chanted by the schola. I will say the Roman Canon in Latin, but chant beginning with the Epiclesis through the institution narratives. (By the way I have a 2003 Ordinary Form Latin Missal). However, the Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, Preface and Post Communion Prayers will be chanted in English from the 2012 Missal. Oh, and the Mass will be ad orientem. All the greetings and preface dialogue will be in Latin but the Confiteor and Lord I am not worthy will be in English. Be there or be square!

Asperges Me...
Prayers at the Foot of the Altar
Father Dawid refused to kiss my hand! Such insolence
At least he bows to me as parochial vicars should!
The Kyrie
The Gloria
The Collect
Father Dawid Chanting the Gospel in impeccable Latin and Roman style!
The Credo
Deacon Dawid, I mean Fr. Dawid preparing the altar, why does he have a nicer alb than me?
Ecce Agnus Dei
The Last Gospel


CNN recently reported on a survey that lists the top 7 reasons why Catholics say they leave the Church:

1. The sex abuse crisis
2. The church’s stance on homosexuality
3. Dissatisfaction with the priest
4. Uninspiring homilies on Sundays
5. Perception that church hierarchy is too closely tied to conservative politics
6. Church’s stance toward divorced and remarried Catholics
7. The status of women

My contention, though, is that the most Catholics who no longer practice the faith, don't join Protestant denominations or other religious groups, they become what some now call "nones." That's just another word for "inactive Catholic" or "non-practicing Catholic" or "fallen away Catholic." "Nones" is a take on "nuns" and there is a word for that in our English language which I can't now recall when two words sound alike but mean different things and are spelled differently, and "nones" is more politically correct, than "fallen away."

If what is said above are the true reasons for Catholics leaving the Church you would then think that Liberal Protestantism epitomized by the Episcopal and Methodist Churches would be booming, seeing a Renaissance unlike any other time in their histories. They have no problem with their clergy having same sex partners even outside of same sex marriages or legal unions (I know of one such situation with the approval of the vestry in good old Macon!). They advocate for same sex marriages. They ordain women. They give great sermons. They are closely aligned with liberal politics, they allow for divorce and remarriage for clergy and laity and in multiple sequences and their ministers are held in high respect and adulation and are married or shacking up. Yet, they too, oddly enough, are bleeding members at such an accelerated pace, that these two denominations may well collapse into oblivion and no one will really notice.

No the problem for Catholics, Christianity and all religion in the USA and Western Europe isn't any of the things in the CNN report, these are merely excuses to hide the truth of why people no longer practice their faith, no matter what faith it is. Secularism and I mean godless, political secularism is the driving force tied into an immense loss of faith in God and in salvation and the necessity of it in light of damnation. If one does not believe in God, believe in heaven or hell, then why the hell be Christian or Catholic. Why go to Mass every Sunday since the Mass re-presents in an unbloody way the only Event in Salvation history that can save individuals and the world collectively from the fires of hell and damnation?

Godless secularism creates ambivalence and denial toward the essentials of the Christian faith--The Most Holy Trinity, The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, and His Saving Events, Incarnation, Birth, Hidden Life, Public Ministry, Passion, Death, Resurrection, Resurrection appearances over 40 days, Ascension, Pentecost, the Era of the Church (the Last Days) and finally His Second Coming successfully to conclude Salvation History beginning with Adam and Eve.

In terms of the CNN’s report on the study of why Catholics leave the Church, it would seem to me as I remember my sociology studies that these same questions have to be applied to other Christians to get a more accurate understanding of our age. In other words there must be context. Episcopalians and other liberal Protestant denominations are possibly facing extinction as they lose more and more members each year and each of them is quite liberal on all the issues in the CNN report and each of them too has sex abuse issues although CNN and other liberal news outlets could care less about that since the other aspects of liberal Protestantism fit in so neatly with the mindset of secular liberalism espoused by these media companies.

The survey suggests too that there is dissatisfaction with bishops being politically pro-active and thus this is called the politicization of the Church. And yet some people no longer go to Church because they say they have no voice in the Church and no one seems to care they are missing. That sounds like more to me of the “politicization” of the Church when one wants to be a member in order to participate in the process of manipulating and desconstructing the Church according to a liberal, secular model for intra-political purposes.

Let’s face it, the biggest reason people are leaving the faith and evidently most are not joining liberal Protestant denominations, in fact more are going to conservative evangelical denominations, while perhaps the majority are not joining any organized religious group, the biggest problem is secularism and the ambivalence it creates toward religion and personal salvation. If at the heart of our participation in the Church isn’t personal and communal salvation and experiencing the Saving Passion of Our Lord in “The True and Perfect Sacrifice of the Mass” and receiving Him worthily in “The Sacred Banquet” then why be Catholic? Why be Christian? Why be religious? Be secular and be ambivalent about salvation and damnation. It seems to me that people are leaving the Church over those damn sinners who create the problems that the CNN report indicates are the reasons they leave. I’m sorry that the saints who don’t stay with the Church are missing out on our (us sinners who stay) salvation in the Holy Eucharist.

Either way, this is the only event that will save sinners from the punishment due their personal actual sins and Original Sin. To absent oneself intentionally from this is to die in sin and be damned! Go ahead, be ambivalent, be contrary, be absent. Freewill is a marvelous gift and a two edge sword!

Friday, March 30, 2012


The poor half-breed Italian that I am with so little in my southern pantry, I came up tonight with the reform of the reform of the Ordinary Form of Spaghetti a la Carbonara. For those of you who don't know, a major ingredient in this classic dish from Rome is pancetta which is a non-smoked Italian bacon. It's Friday, folks, no pancetta today and no other ingredients to make it in the classic way either, but this Italian mind can make do and make good with what I have:

So my ingredients are:
--Minced bottled garlic packed in olive oil
--dried onion powder
--light canola/butter
--red pepper flakes
--an accidental dash of Balsamic Vinegar (I grabbed the Balsamic instead of the Olive oil, anyone could have made this mistake! But this will now be my super-secret ingredient!)
--three eggs
--half a cup of Kraft grated Parmesan Cheese
--half a cup of Kraft grated Romano Cheese
--one can of tuna packed in water

Saute all the above ingredients until well melted and cooked, add a little bit of more Olive oil,[this is where I added Balsamic vinegar in a look alike bottle], but wow, it made all the difference in the world! Then add the tuna drained of water and let cook for a while, stirring frequently

Cook your pasta, no spaghetti in the house only linguini, so that's what I used.

Beat three eggs.

When the concoction is cooked and the pasta al dente, ladle the linguini into the simmering concoction of tuna fish and other exotic ingredients, quickly stir in the Kraft cheeses into the beaten eggs and quickly remove the pasta in its exotic Carbonara concoction from the heat, rapidly stir in the beaten eggs and cheese mixture, stirring quickly so the eggs don't cook into scrambled eggs. Plate and eat.

Let me tell you, I have to be Italian, because this was good!

Pictures are worth a million words:
With a nice bottle of white wine, but really champagne, you've got to make do if you are a good, poor Italian!
I kid you not, this was oh so good!


I want this humble version of the Dies Irae chanted at my Requiem Mass--it is the sequence before the Gospel:


In our parish we have a liturgical celebration of the Sacrament of Penance twice a year, once during Advent and the other during Lent. Our attendance is rather good and we have about six priests hearing private confession after the Liturgy of Penance concludes.

In the past, we always had a nice procession of ministers, and the whole array of the Liturgy of the Word, with Two lessons, Responsorial Psalm, Gospel Acclamation and Gospel. I've even used incense for the procession and Gospel.

Then there is a homily, followed by an "Act of Contrition" and a closing prayer and private confessions. By the time private confessions take place usually 45 minutes have been spent on the Liturgy leading to Confession and Absolution.

For the past two years, I've made our Penance Services more noble in their simplicity. This was the Order of Service last night:

Processional and Introductory Rite: Our Father , We Have Wandered"

Chanted Greeting and Collect (Collect is the first option for the Mass for the Remission of Sins in the Roman Missal)

Liturgy of the Word

One reading from St. Paul

Brief Homily

Silent Examination of Conscience

Rite of Penance

Act of Contrition (Kneeling)

Chanted Kyrie

Standing, The Lord's prayer chanted with the priestly embolism and concluding doxology

Then using the Roman Missal for Mass, the chanted "Peace I leave peace I give you" and the chanting of "The Peace of the Lord be with you always" and "Let us offer each other the sign of peace."

The Closing Prayer prior to Private Confession which is the second option for the Collect from the Mass for the Remission of Sins in the Roman Missal

For private confession, the penance is listed on the penitent's program. Our Common Penance was:

"As you reflect upon the Passion of our Lord and your part in His Crucifixion pray:

One "Our Father"
10 Hail Mary's
One "Glory Be"

and the following prayer:

My good and dear Jesus, I kneel before You, asking you most earnestly to engrave upon my heart a deep and lively faith, hope and charity with true repentance for my sins and a firm resolve to make amends. As I reflect upon Your five wounds, and dwell upon them with deep compassion and grief, I recall good Jesus the words the prophet David spoke long ago concerning Yourself: "They have pierced my hands and my feet, they have counted all my bones!"

(Of course a plenary indulgence can be gained if one also prays for the intentions of Pope Benedict and worthily receives Holy Communion with a week of doing this.)

Since the Act of Contrition was prayed during the Liturgy and a common penance is given, these are not repeated again in private Confession, although the priest is encouraged to substitute or give an added penance if he deems that to be appropriate.


There are two very serious civil trials going on or soon to occur. One is a misdemeanor trial of a bishop in Kansas who failed to report criminal activity of one of his priests in a timely fashion. The other is much more sordid and involves a Vicar General of Philadelphia following the orders of the now deceased Cardinal-Archbishop in covering up the sexual mortal sins and crimes of several priests and failure to report them to the authorities.

All of this re-opens wounds not only for those who are abused by supposedly trusted bishops and priests but for the rest of the Church both clergy and laity who are bewildered by the way so many bishops mismanaged their dioceses in terms of priest personnel and their ministerial role in the Church. Many of these priests got away with murder, killing the souls of children and teenagers and killing the souls of those who discovered their deeds done in darkness without impunity!

I pray that the suffering of so many because of this horrible scandal will not be in vain, but will lead to the continuing purification of the order of bishops, priests and deacons. I pray too that the laity will be drawn closer to God in this time of suffering and anguish of so many, especially the true victims of sexual abuse.

But this brings me to the point of this post, the dereliction of duty of some bishops (many bishops) in the supervision and discipline of their priests and priests themselves who were the epitome of the antithesis of what it means to be a priest, abusing children, adults, and the Church not just through sexual abuse but also the abuse of prayer and liturgy especially in these past 50 years since Vatican II. It is the abuse of religious power and authority!

We have to ask the hard question about the "spirit of Vatican II" opening up Pandora's box to all kinds of liberality as it concerns the identity of the bishops and priests and the abuse of their ministry through mortal sin, cynicism or just plain incompetence, intellectually and professionally, not to mention spiritually and morally. The bankruptcy that many dioceses are experiencing financially is a powerful metaphor for the moral and professional bankruptcy that has been going on for way too many decades. The chickens have come home to roost.

The two most important roles of a bishop is firstly to minister and manage their priests in order to protect the faithful's souls, spirituality and moral well being, not to mention their eternal salvation. When bishops and priests fail in their high calling they fail to be Good Shepherds and become wolves in sheep's clothing. For the most part, this scandal that came to international light at the turn of this new century could have been entirely avoided if bishops simply followed existing canon law in the discipline of their priests. But they didn't because law in general (civil law) and Ecclesiastical Law (canon law) in particular came to be despised during the 1960's in both the religious and secular worlds. In the religious sense, the once scrupulosity that so many Catholics had in observing moral and civil law as Divinely given for the benefit of Church and society was thrown under the bus for situational ethics and "do your own thing" regardless of what authority tells you to do. I'm the master of my own domain mentality developed as well as "let the buyer beware" when it came to the ministry of priests.

Secondly bishops should be ministering and supervising the liturgy of the Church and her devotional life. But isn't this linked precisely to the ministry and management of priests? After all, the Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief. That is how important the Church's official prayer and liturgy is! And when that law is corrupted or neglected it will and has had a deleterious effect upon the entire Church!

I've been around the country and seen first hand the quality or lack thereof of the manner in which the Church's liturgy is celebrated and the godawful music that is shoved down the throats of parishes as supposedly "good, modern" liturgical music. I've had so many tell me of the horror stories they experience in their own parishes where priests manipulate the texts of the Mass because that prideful priest thinks their judgement about language and style of worship is of a higher authority that the Magisterium who gives us the Liturgy, even if that language and style has some warts. Pride is the source of the scandal in the priesthood in all of its forms as well as a lack of proper management and discipline of priests who break liturgical law not to mention moral and civil law.

Isn't this the main scandal of the Church today; priests gone wild with children, teenagers and adults and priests who fail to celebrate the liturgy of the Church as Vatican II actually intended it and as Pope Benedict is now modeling; and most importantly bishops who fail to manage and discipline their morally bankrupt priests thus diminishing the morale and enthusiasm of the majority of priests and laity who simply want direction and encouragement in doing what the Church now asks and Pope Benedict now models?

Isn't there a failure to make sure that every priest be encouraged now to celebrate the EF Mass and learn how to do it? I promise you if a priest takes this seriously it will change how he celebrates the normal and Ordinary Form of the Mass. This is a no-brainer and so many of our bishops just don't get it and after all of the revelations about errant priests and bishops' failure to protect the faithful from them. This remains a scandal.

Pray for our bishops, priests and deacons. God will purify the Church through secular means if the religious authorities fail to do it as God commands them. Save the Liturgy and save the priesthood and then save the world!

Thursday, March 29, 2012


And listen to this take with Bill Hemmer of Fox News and the Catholic bashing by a talking head he had on which lets you know just how President Obama and his fallen away Catholics on his team feel about the Catholic Church, Press this sentence for the audio stream.


The Former Jesuit, now new name diocesan priest but bi-ritual too:

First of all I couldn't agree more with Taft or your comments. Celebrating in both Rites, Latin and Byzantine, I can't help but note that the Latin Tridentine Mass and the
Divine Liturgy are very different takes on the same reality. There is much more engagement by the deacon and the celebrant with the people in the Byzantine Rite but it is
ritualized engagement. Their personalities are left behind in favor of their ritual roles. Having celebrated the Tridentine Mass, I found it very beautiful but there wasn't
much engagement with the people. Your notion of using the new translation while keeping the chair and the readings as well as the gospel procession would solve, for me, that problem.
Of course the KEY to a more reverent celebration is the altar ad orientem. I believe with you that the revised Mass of Paul VI was an attempt to turn our churches into tasteless home settings
for a celebration which doesn't make sense in large churches and cathedrals. Suddenly we moved from the cathedral to the catacomb: a regression not a development.

The former Episcopal Priest, Russian Orthodox Priest now Greek Catholic Priest, married with bi-ritual faculties in the Latin Rite and his take on Taft and me:

Wonderful suggestions but some nuances are in order. First, the priest facing the altar (notice how it is said) is not because the priest is "praying for the people" but essentially because "we are all facing God (East)" in our sinfulness seeking redemption. The private prayers of the priest in the sanctuary (the Holy Place)are intercessory prayers for the people (including the priest). The icon screen (iconostasis) reveals and obscures IE it reminds us that "we see through a mirror dimly". Divine revelation is not exhaustive nor can we understand it exhaustively. But this is not merely intellectual-it reminds us we are creatures and there is one Creator. Consisting of doors for the processions, the screen is "held up" by the central (Royal) doors that always has the icon of the annunciation. These Royal Doors are "passed through" (Emmanuel)for the reading of the Gospel and administering Communion by the clergy and strictly for a "good" reason. The point here is that even recognized sacred space cannot be abused by clergy. Two more things. There is no kneeling except during Lent and kneeling means lowering to your knees, bending at the waist so your forehead touches the floor (I think the Muslims learned it from Middles Eastern Christians). The recognized position of servant-hood is standing at attention so to speak (the deacon chants several times during the Liturgy "Let us be attentive!)and this true even for receiving Holy Communion. There is no genuflection but bowing (a small prostration). Finally, the Tradition is that the Liturgy is always in the vernacular with some use of Greek, Slavonic or Arabic depending on the cultural origin of the jurisdiction or parish. This is not always followed especially with the Greeks where you will find many parishes using completely Greek or a few Russians using Church Slavonic (these treat the language of their cultural origins like some Westerners treat Latin!). The recognized norm is the vernacular. I think there are many points of connection between East and West. The new English translation of the Roman Missal reminds me of that (syntax!)but I'd be a little careful making too much of a "this for that" comparison. If the law of prayer is the law of belief, then the respective liturgies should reflect and support the theological and mystical emphasis of each "lung of the Church". We shouldn't be afraid of legitimate orthodox diversity.


Father Robert Taft, SJ, gave me another light bulb moment in reading his article on the Eastern and Orthodox Divine Liturgy when he wrote: "But liturgy is not ceremonial. It is prayer. And so these ceremonies are the ritual expression of a text."

The light bulb moment would not have happened for me if not for Pope Benedict's broad permission to celebrate the Tridentine Mass also known as the Extraordinary Form.

That liturgy which is offered by the priest in soft tones and many inaudible prayers, but prayer nevertheless, does precisely what Fr. Taft describes in the ceremonies of the Eastern Rite's Divine Liturgy, "ceremonies that are the ritual expression of a text!"

We don't use ceremonies in the Ordinary Form of the Mass as a ritual expression of a text to the extent that we do in the Extraordinary Form where movements are more scrupulously choreographed and signs of the cross more frequent during the recitation of prayer.

Let me give but two examples from the Extraordinary Form Solemn Sung Mass for the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary this past Monday:

1. At Monday night's EF Mass for the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Roman Canon as usual was prayed in a low voice. However, the choir sang a rather lenghty Sanctus/Benedictus (the two separated). So as the choir sang the Sanctus, I recited it and began to quietly pray the Roman Canon, the people were kneeling. Even with my back to the people, they could see my ritual action giving expression to the text they could not hear.

The Sanctus was finished as I began the Hanc Igitur. The bells were rung, the profound bows of the priest at both consecrations, the double genuflections, the ringing of the bells at each consecration, once for the first genuflection, three times for the high elevation, and once again for the second genuflection were all ritual actions giving expression to the consecration narrative or text which was prayed quietly! That's liturgy!

2. Then the Benedictus was sung as I prayed the remainder of the canon. Of course there are numerous signs of the cross over the consecrated Species which are ritual actions that give expression to actual words of praise being heaped upon God as I asked God to accept the Sacrifice in praise of Jesus Christ present who is the Sacrificial Victim. Even though the choir was singing the Benedictus as I quietly prayed the Roman Canon, the actions of the priest gave voice and expression to the texts.That's Liturgy! However, even if there had been no music overlay of the Roman Canon by the choir, the Roman Canon would nonetheless have been prayed in low voice and thus the ceremonial actions of the priest still give "ritual expression to the text!" How cool is that?

The Ordinary Form Mass is too sterile and wordy, too verbal! And this critique has been offered about it since the 1970's for I recall that critique but did not fully understand until now what that critique actually meant. We have much to learn not just from the Eastern Rite and Orthodox expression of Liturgy but from our own organic development of Liturgy that has its apex in the Extraordinary Form. That doesn't mean returning exclusively to the EF but it does mean allowing the EF to seriously impact the way the OF is today celebrated to liberate it from its banality, sterility and verbosity.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


In my previous post on the Eastern Rite's Divine Liturgy and its corresponding Orthodox counterpart, the Jesuit priest, Fr. Taft writes the following about processions in the Divine Liturgy:

"...Right after the intercessory prayers following the readings, is a procession bearing to the altar the gifts of bread and wine prepared before the beginning of the liturgy. It is said to prefigure Christ’s coming to us in the sacrament of His Body and Blood. Both these fore-shadowings are fulfilled in two later appearances, the procession of the deacon with the gospel lectionary to the ambo for the reading; and the procession of the celebrant to distribute in communion the consecrated gifts, after they have been blessed in the Eucharistic prayer."

I've never thought of the Communion Procession as the priest processing with the Eucharist to distribute Holy Communion to the faithful, in effect, Christ processing to the faithful, "Coming to us in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood." The truth of this statement is that Christ comes to us, accepts us, makes us a part of the Church through Holy Communion and thus saves us in all these actions which are God's actions in the Liturgy, not ours! The only reason we are in the Church and even at Mass is because of Jesus. His grace has brought us here.

But most of us modern Catholics were taught that we (the laity, the congregation) form the Communion Procession to come to Christ, but isn't that a corruption of what this procession actually is? The Priest is the one processing with Christ to bring Christ to the faithful, similar to a Eucharistic Procession with the Monstrance in Lourdes, where the sick are blessed by the Eucharist as the priest passes by them in the procession.

We've gotten it backwards since Vatican II and truly obscured the Communion Procession by eliminating altar railings and the priest walking back and forth to bring Christ in procession to them, Christ coming to them! This is tied into that other post-Vatican II corruption that we ourselves make the liturgy, we do the liturgy but in fact the Liturgy is God's work to save us! Why were we duped by such rubbish that was taught as though it was truth, a newly revealed, post-Vatican II truth? We were led down the garden path to the slaughter in these idiotic theological "spirit of Vatican II" corruptions.

The light bulb moment that the Latin Rite has a Communion Procession as the Eastern Rite understands it came to me when I recalled as a child receiving Holy Communion at the altar railing. The priest is the one processing--thatis the Communion Procession! Duh! But liturgical theologians told us, our coming forward to receive Holy Communion was the Communion Procession. It is a procession of course, but not the Communion Procession, the Priest is doing the Communion Procession and acting in Persona Christi in doing so! We've hidden that reality with the modern manner of distributing Holy Communion on the run, standing and in the hand!

Watch how Holy Communion is distributed to Communicants kneeling at the traditional altar railing and please comment on who is really processing in this video--its the priest to the faithful--the Procession of the Celebrant to distribute in communion the consecrated gifts!

And from Cardinal Burke about Pope Benedict's teaching us about kneeling for Holy Communion as a powerful form of due reverence to Christ in Holy Communion:


Was it wise to go from this:
to this, thus dismissing centuries of organic "mstygogic development" in the Latin Rite:
Compare how the Byzantine Divine Liturgy is more like the Tridentine Mass:
The Entrance of the Gospel procession:

The Byzantine Liturgy of the Eucharist in the Holy of Holies, isn't there a clearer correlation of this to the Tridentine Mass? (Go to minute 4 for the actual chanted consecration)

From The Evolution of the Byzantine “Divine Liturgy”
By Fr.Robert Taft S. J.

To the Westerner onlooker, perhaps the most striking quality of the rite that has evolved from the Eucharist of the Great Church is its opulent ritualization, a ceremonial splendor heightened by its marked contrast to the sterile verbalism of so much contemporary Western liturgy,(our reformed Latin Rite) where worship often seems just words. The Byzantine Mass ritual is structured around a series of appearances of the sacred ministers from behind the iconostasis or sanctuary barrier (of which the altar rail in the Latin Rite is/was a remnant). The most important of these appearances are the two solemn introits. The minor introit or “Little Entrance” of the Word service, after the opening rite of the enarxis, is a procession with the gospel, said to symbolize Christ’s coming to us in the Word. The other, major or “ Great Entrance” at the beginning of the Eucharistic part of the service, right after the intercessory prayers following the readings, is a procession bearing to the altar the gifts of bread and wine prepared before the beginning of the liturgy. It is said to prefigure Christ’s coming to us in the sacrament of His Body and Blood. Both these fore-shadowings are fulfilled in to later appearances, the procession of the deacon with the gospel lectionary to the ambo for the reading; and the procession of the celebrant to distribute in communion the consecrated gifts, after they have been blessed in the Eucharistic prayer.

Most of the ritual is taken up with such comings and goings. But liturgy is not ceremonial. It is prayer. And so these ceremonies are the ritual expression of a text. In the present-day Byzantine rite the liturgical formulae comprise two distinct levels. While the deacon stands outside the doors of the iconostasis chanting the litanies and leading the people in prayer, within the sanctuary a parallel service is proceeding. Through the open doors of the icon screen the altar is distantly visible, brilliantly lighted and enveloped in clouds of incense, impressing upon the worshipper a sense of mystery and sacredness. Before this altar, within the holy of holies stands the celebrant, his back to the people as he faces the East, reciting in silence the priestly prayers. When the priest has to bless or address the people he comes out. Inside he is talking to God.

My comments: In the centuries of organic development that led to the Tridentine Mass much of what is in the 1962 Roman Missal's ritual and symbolism evolved in much the same way as what Father Taft writes of the Byzantine Rite's organic development: "This ritual pattern is the result of centuries of slow evolution, in which many rites, at first added for a specific purpose later lost their original scope, then decomposed under the pressure of later changes and additions, acquiring in the process new mystagogic interpretations often far removed from their actual historical roots."

The Reform of the Tridentine Rite into a "new order" stripped it of centuries of organic development and symbolic meaning given to practical ritual. The "mystagogic interpretations" of the elaborate rituals of the Tridentine Mass were denigrated, mocked and removed out of the misguided desire of liturgical academics and elitists whose untoward desire for "noble simplicity" and the removal of "useless repetition" dismissed centuries of organic development in favor of the 1960's mantra of "if its new and modern" it is improved.

If that isn't modern eyes looking at historical tradition from a sterile point of view, I don't know what is! For example in the seminary we were told that the incense was used not for ritual purposes to begin with, but as "air freshener" for the fowl smells of people and livestock in the great cathedrals that were also market places. The washing of the priest's hands was purely practical since after receiving the offerings of livestock, his hands were dirty. It was only later that these actions were given spiritual, symbolic meanings, what Taft calls a "mystagogic interpretation" which the Byzantine's appreciate and would NEVER discard because these "mystagogic developments" were somehow considered by modernists as illegitimate accretions.

Even the priest facing the altar in an eastward fashion (his back to the congregation), somewhat removed from the nave, higher than the congregation and cordoned off by an altar railing was mocked by the reformers who were trying to devolve the liturgy back to the home churches of the pre-Constantine era. These organic developments in great cathedrals and churches were decried as clerical subterfuge to disenfranchise the laity and remove the liturgy from them, even going so far as to build rood screens that only had doors to the sanctuary outside of which the laity were remanded to remain. There is no such negativity about the iconostasis in the Eastern Rite, where only the clergy are allowed.

The Orthodox and the Eastern Rite of the Church understand clearly the symbolism of the holy of holies and the sacramental role of the ordained priesthood that is exclusive to him. In other words there is no post-Vatican II erasing of the unique role of the ordained priest or making the laity into ordained priests during the liturgy as though there are no distinctions between clergy and laity. Our post-Vatican II Latin Rite modern architecture for churches betrays again this "devolvement" of even the ordained ministry of the priest and his unique role in the liturgy which in and of itself also had centuries of organic development that post Vatican II liturgical and sacramental theologians denigrated in their apologetic for radical change in the Catholic Church!

In other words, the post-Vatican II reformers of the Mass had and have a great disdain for the organic development of the Liturgy of the West up until Vatican II. They wanted and want a liturgy, a modern liturgy, with sterile verbalism and reduced ritualism that approximates the iconoclasm of the Protestant reformers' version of the Lord's Supper, closer in detail and ritual to what Jesus did at the Last Supper in a home setting and at a family table. Post Vatican II liturgical development is inspired by puritanical sensibilities and disdain for "Romeish, popeish, European cultural accretions" imposed upon the liturgy over the centuries.

At the same time they wanted to make large and grand the signs of the liturgy, dunking for baptism, bread and wine that was more like what one would eat and drink at a table meal in the home where the preoccupation of the various signs made them into gods themselves rather than pointing to the hidden God under sacramental signs, which in the Tridentine period were sober and noble in simplicity, obscuring the sign in order to ritually point to the One hidden who alone should be adored!

The way to recover our Latin Rite's organic development that occurred over centuries is to recover the ethos of the 1962 Roman Missal, allow for some vernacular and look at the parallels of the Byzantine understanding of its highly symbolic liturgy and realize that in the Latin rite before the reform we had the same symbolism, especially with the altar railing, the elevated ad orientem altar and the canon prayed quietly (although the post-Vatican II recovery of the chanted canon accomplishes in an audible way what the quiet canon accomplishes silently, a sense of the holy of holies!) It wouldn't take much to have an organically developed Tridentine Mass with very little revision that the laity can understand in a positive light respecting the unique role of the ordained priest as he enters the holy of holies to pray on their behalf, to be a priest for them as Latin Rite Catholics should understand the role of the ordained priest!

As well, what we have recovered in the reformed liturgy, that of the Gospel procession and the procession of the offerings of the people can be given the ritual significance found in the Eastern Liturgy also. This is true of the universal prayer (Prayers of the Faithful) after the Creed as well.

So what are my humble suggestions for the recovery of liturgical tradition and centuries of organic development in the Latin Rite?

Have a vernacular Mass using the revised Roman Missal, but the 1965 missal's slight revisions to the order of the Mass and its rubrics. Keep the modern calendar which the additions of the "gesima" Sundays, Passiontide and the After Epiphany and After Pentecost designations. Maintain the modern lectionary but evaluate and make changes to that lectionary and make adaptations to allow for an added one year cycle that is the Tridentine Lectionary for Sundays.

Eliminate some of the options for the Eucharistic Prayer and mandate that it be prayed quietly if spoken but with the preference of it being chanted and the entire Mass being chanted with the vernacular clearly an option that should be viewed as an organic development.

We need to recover the plan of the Tridentine sanctuary although the Liturgy of the Word and the priest's presiding chair should be what the modern liturgy had recovered and that too should be viewed as organic development with symbolic and ritual meaning.

In practice, this means the recovery of ad orientem at an elevated altar decorated in the Tridentine tradition, and altar railing where Holy Communion is brought in procession to the laity who receive by intinction the Body and Blood of our Lord kneeling in humble adoration to receive their Savior hidden under these sacramental signs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I am amazed at how deep the discussion can go when simply using the Baltimore Catechism as a springboard. The reason I suggest it for catechesis, in a discussion type group or a small group home setting, is that it is so easy to do and with very little preparation.

As the chapters are so brief and the questions very good with very tight answers, all the leader as to do is to read each question or explanation and then open it to discussion. Of course it does help to prepare ahead of time to bring other ideas to the discussion table as it concerns the content of this particular catechism which was written for children and to pique the religious imagination of children.

For example in the chapter on the resurrection of the body, respect for the human body even in death by treating it with dignity, giving a proper Christian burial, etc is very much needed in today's cremation culture and contempt for the human body in life and in death especially with our piercing and emerging tattooing culture, not to mention our face lift culture, tummy tucks, buttocks enhancement and so on.

What heaven is like, what hell is like and what purgatory is like also allows for more nuanced discussion of these realities and what these might be like. As adults and even as children we can understand the symbolism of fire in both a negative and positive way.

In our adult class on Sunday I was able to explain burning and fire in a more positive light as well as what God's love and justice for people in hell might be like. I'd like to think that in hell people are perfectly happy, because on earth they were partially happy with their deeds of darkness, the pleasure it brought their bodies and minds and that they loved hating God and neighbor. They loved not going to Mass but rather substituting other activities for it, such as working, sleeping in late or ignoring God and neighbor altogether. If that's what makes you happy on earth, you'll be perfectly happy in hell! Now that's another way to look at eternal damnation without it looking like God is getting even or people in heaven are singing nah, nah to those in hell to make them squirm even more, although if that happens, those in hell will like being taunted in that way by those hypocritical people in heaven--it gives them one more reason to prefer hell to heaven!

Using the Baltimore Catechism's chapter on personal judgement, purgatory, heaven and hell, how would you describe these in a more positive way in light of God's unconditional love and how can one view suffering in a positive way. Our culture today, especially our Christian culture and sadly to include many Catholics, no longer see suffering, even in purgatory, as a good.

On this chapter on the last things, even suffering is given a positive slant: "Love is purified, increased and perfected by suffering. This means not only bodily pain, but crosses of all kinds. God sends everyone all the sufferings they need on earth to cleanse, strengthen, and perfect their love. But most people waste their sufferings. They do not want them, complain about them, and try to escape them in every manner possible, even by committing sin. Because of this attitude, the fires of their sufferings are unable to burn away the selfishness from their love, so that it will be perfect. Then they must go to purgatory where they will have to suffer much more intensely than they would have if they had accepted the sufferings of earth. Their love is purified in purgatory...In purgatory, God's cleansing fires burn away the soul's selfishness till its love becomes perfect and it is ready to fly to heaven" Now if that isn't a discussion started (and it was on Sunday!) for understanding suffering in a more positive light, I don't know what is. This is especially true when we meet Christians who join denominations that promote the Gospel of prosperity and like Joel Osteen's version of Christianity avoids suffering at all costs!

And then the description of heaven in this chapter is very profound as well. I wonder if the majority of Catholics today could describe heaven this way:

"Heaven is the place, or state, of perfect happiness. Happiness comes from complete union with the one we love. In heaven, the saints share fully in God's life and love. They are perfectly united with Him and can never lose Him. Now at last they are perfectly free to love Him as they have desired. All their desires are satisfied, since these desires are all for the things of God. They have the companionship with Christ as man, with our Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints Everyone loves one another perfectly and all are completely and everlastingly happy in God!"

This description of heaven is written for children, but when I read it, it renews my desire to want to be there even more too. How basic is that!

Let's get back to the basics with our catechesis of children and adults, that combined with the recovery of the ethos of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and also applied to the Ordinary Form of the Mass will do much to accomplish God's plan for the world, the salvation of our souls! Isn't that the reason for Christ and His Incarnation, life, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and His return at the end of time? Is there any other religion that makes this evident? Let's not hide what we have under a bushel basket, but place it on a hill to be the Light of the world. All else in the Catholic Church flows from her ministry of saving souls for salvation begins in the here and now also and has ramifications for the lives we live, the love we express and the way we treat each other not only in the Church but in the social order including the ways governments act and assist in making people's lives what they should be. Let us remember that the way to salvation here on earth and finally in heaven is through God's gifts of faith, hope and love. These gifts are not imposed on us by God or else these wouldn't be gifts, but are given to us in order to be received by us. Thus the way to heaven is through faith and good works. Salvation hinges upon both, thus the Church's social teachings are very much tied into "saving one's soul" and "saving souls collectively." And all this from the Baltimore's Catechism used as a springboard to so much more!