Sunday, March 11, 2012


In the last post I stated that in the period from the Council of Trent through Vatican II,up to about 1965, the Church was more monolithic and...the Mass not very participative for the laity but the laity found it very "spiritual."

One of the things you hear today from many people, young and old is that they are "spiritual" but they aren't necessarily "religious."

When I hear that, I think that these people are very superficial in only wanting the "spiritual" disconnected from "religion."

But think of how many nominal Catholics went to Mass every Sunday, not only out of obligation, but because they found the quiet Mass and our quiet churches to be "SPIRITUAL!"

Evidently, these nominal Catholics no longer find the Mass, as participative as it is, "SPIRITUAL" so they don't bother to come not only out of a loss of the sense of "obligation" but the loss of the sense of the "spiritual!"

So now we have about 20 to 25 percent of Catholics attending Mass (presumably our most dedicated and committed) and 80% staying home (our most nominal) and finding their "spiritual" elsewhere.

That does make us a smaller and purer Church, but is that what liturgical renewal should have accomplished--the loss of the sense of the "spiritual" for the nominal in our midst and thus the abandonment from the Church and Sunday Mass for the nominal who wanted something that was "spiritual" for them? Is this a "light bulb" moment?



Bill Meyer said...

So those now attending, those who eschew tradition, ignore the catechism, and believe there is nothing special in being a priest... those are the purer, smaller Church?

Is it renewal, when we are given nothing but the "hymns" of Protestants and fallen-away Catholics?

Is it renewal, when the new translation, barely introduced, is scarred by local innovations and ad libs? Or when, armed with my very thick new Missal, I am unable to follow the liturgy, as it does not follow the Missal?

Or is it simply another shade of the same rupture experienced these last 40 years?

Henry Edwards said...

From long and intent involvement with the liturgy in both forms, my sense is that formerly a majority of Catholics attended Mass on Sunday, and that a great many of those, seemingly a majority where I was, were spiritually involved, following the liturgy prayerfully in their hand missals.

Whereas that now, with a small minority attending Mass weekly, only a minority even of those seem spiritually involved in the Mass, in the sense of following it closely and prayerfully.

Although I personally am very serious about and interested in the new liturgy, following and studying its prayers daily in both English and Latin, and sense vaguely that there is something potentially good about it--as I see it celebrated in St. Peter's if not at a parish near most of us--it is difficult to identify something tangible that has been gained, in any kind of proportion to the enormity of our loss.

Steven P. Millies said...

It strikes me that your using qualitative terms like "spiritual" rig your argument to reach your conclusion. Is it really possible that young people today yearning (they think) for "the spiritual" really mean the same thing that the ladies with veils and rosaries in white-gloved hands meant at Mass in the '50s? I doubt it very much.

Even more important, I'm confident you'd agree that the Mass, as such, has not changed even since VatII. (If it has, we're in big trouble.) I think, therefore, we can drain the question of what-"spiritual"-means-to-whom right out, focusing instead on the larger question of the role played by the Church as an institutional religion.

Again, it is a great leap to say that those 80% are staying home only because of an absence of "the spiritual" when, instead, they may be staying home because they are scandalized by the sheltering of priest-abusers, the politicization of the USCCB, or whatever, etc. All this to say, I don't think you can make VatII your bogeyman this easily.

Gene said...

Generally, when someone says, "Oh, Bill is so spiritual," or "You know, Susan is a very spiritual person," I figure it means Bill is some kind of three bong-hit David Carradine and Susan is easy...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Steven, appreciate your comments, but I doubt that a majority of the 80% are not coming to Mass due to the scandal or to the politicization of bishops. I think it is more apathy than anything and maybe they might use these as excuses. We have to look too over the long hall when the nominal Catholic was at least handing on to their children being nominal. For almost 40 years that has ceased. I'm not opposed to Vatican II at all, though, I would like to see it implemented, we haven't done a good job at all, but I think we are on course now to do so. Change is hard, but undoing the wrong implementation has to be done.

Steven P. Millies said...

Just one last word to observe that you're still leaning on "I doubt"'s and "I think"'s, but neither one of us knows.

I doubt very much that any one thing--be it the contraception furor or the scandal or apathy--can explain it. I think the questions are larger than liturgy--though I'll acknowledge liturgy as an important expression of more fundamental problems.

But my 'doubting' and 'thinking' rests on what I'm sure I don't know. I don't have a pat conclusion ready to fit my selective description of qualitative facts that are difficult to identify and express. I don't doubt you need to think again.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Steven, you are correct, if there could only be a sociological study that was accurate (and i fear that we're too far from the original source of the break) to discover what really went wrong. It began to happen with my father's generation and the confusion they experienced from the move from a more dogmatic Catholicism to a more marshmallow Catholicism in the late 60's. Then my parent's generation, meaning me, were awashed with questions not answers about our faith in this period of time. Then our children (or my brother and sister's children) were brought up with no real grounding in Catholicism, no real catechism and no real spirituality and no real understanding of the Mass and tied into that no real understanding for the need of salvation. When that happens why would anyone want to be Catholic?

Anonymous said...

I think you have it backwards, Fr. The spirituality was expunged from the mass when we lurched away from the traditional Mass. People instinctively know they are not perfect and are in need of something bigger to know and understand. So when they are made to feel good about themselves with no sacrifice they are properly suspicious. Jenny Craig does not soft peddle that her clients are FAT. She embraces it with them and tells them she can help.

We should not WANT people to leave the Church, but we should demand that they obey Her teachings to stay In most cases they would leave on their own, if the rules were enforced. We can pray for them, in ernest, but they need to be out until they are all in.


Pater Ignotus said...

So, it seems you equate "being present for mass" with "being spiritual?" Is that what you are saying?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes just like some find it spiritual being in the presence of nature.

Pater Ignotus said...

"Jack, while your data might be correct, you seem to have left your biases in tact which is unfortunate in a sociologist who should at least report the data in an unbiased fashion or people might think he is skewing his data and tailoring it to fit his fancy and ideology." (Fr. Allan McDonald post on the Pray Tell Blog)

"Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur"

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Jack is a sociologist; I'm not. My post clearly asks for input and correction, his did not. However where your logic fails is that an amateur can't look at anecdotal evidence accumulated through personal experience to reach valid conclusions. It would be like telling a person who is not a meteorologist that he can't predict rain by looking outside at the clouds he sees.

Templar said...

The only times I ever hear the "I'm a spiritual person" line it is usually coupled with "but I don't believe in organized religion". I don't know what conclusions can be drawn from that, but for my own part I will say that I personally am much more "connected" to a sense of spirituality at the TLM. Those who attend, on the whole, behave outwardly in a way that is more revenerent and more disposed to receive "something".

By comparison, at yesterday's Mass I was trying to prepare myself for Mass, was on my knees in silent prayer, and was interupted once by a Lay Minister who wanted me to be a gift bearer, and twice by a somewhat loud outburst of laughter immediately next to me by a group of parishoners and a member of teh Clergy. That is my typical experience at an NO Mass. Most of the attendees seem to be there to enjoy the comraderie and companionship and the "spirituality" of Community.

Gene said...

Templar, Not to mention the two rounds of applause and the Priest breaking out into a poorly rendered, "When The Saints Go Marching In." You can't make this stuff up...

Templar said...

Pin; ahhh, you were at the same Mass then.

The applause at the conclusion of the Homily made my blood boil, even more so since it was started by the same Lay Minister who interupted my prayers with the quest for a gift bearer. I have to correct my children (somewhat half heartedly I confess) when they jokingly refer to her as "Uber-EMHC". As a side note, I simply can not abide the "gift bearer" gimmick. I find it to be a contrived bit of nonsense that was spawned by the oft confused "full and active participation" canard.

The applause at the end of Mass, I try to be more forgiving about. It was during the reading of the messages for the laity too lazy to pick up a Bulletin, and it was an NO Mass, which as such things go is in line with the "spiritual sense" of the Mass. I often wonder why the messages are necessary....judging from the amount of peopel I see reading the bulletin during Mass one would assume the Laity are fully informed.

Despite the rendition of the the song, the Homily was otherwise solid.

Anonymous said...

There's no such thing as a religion with no spirituality...or a spirituality that doesn't presuppose a religion.

Think of the very definition of the words: spirituality is relational, a relationship.

Religion is the code of conduct, the habit, the protocols we naturally fall into in our relationships.

No matter how you strive to keep spontaneous, your relationships will inevitably begin to take on a routine quality. And indeed good relationships include both routine and spontaneous actions.

It was never the case that Catholicism was reduced to just the Mass - there was ALWAYS local or regional piety, a huge diversity of "charisms" or unique ways of relating to God. Catholicism has never been "one size fits all" even before Vatican II what with the Milan rite, the Dominican rite, and other minor rites which didn't celebrate the Tridentine Mass.

I suspect the current issue is a matter of New Agey backward arguing... because so many Christians abandoned the religion of Christ, they assume they have no religion - and yet they have political correctness, dogmas like man-made global warming, a vision of the past (patriarchy, pollution, white people = evil) and a vision of the future (progressive, socialized utopia). If you compare apples to apples you can easily find that there are 'really' as many rules and codes among so-called "spiritual but not religious" people as among any "trad-caths". Because religion is the sine qua non, unavoidable result of any relationship.

So what is the god that these former Catholics worship or are in 'relation' with? An inchoate presence or power or principality that simultaneously forgives them their individual sins while securing their opinion in the evil of others with whom they disagree (like Mom and dad or the Pope).

Just because they have yet to build big "institutions" or long lasting customs doesn't mean they aren't building their own religion.

Think Hinduism/Buddhism - a huge variety of beliefs but all accept some basic metaphysics like the existence of soul, karma (justice), and ultimate despair except through personal annihilation for the sake of some impersonal eternal being like 'the judgment of history' or "saving the planet".

They don't rebel against Catholicism because of our rules, they abandon the rules because they've given up faith in Jesus as revealed in Scripture and Apostolic tradition.

Because they don't believe that Jesus is God, that this God calls them to respond in the historic paths and routines He established.... they see the rules as simply man-made and dispensible - as indeed they'd be if Jesus wasn't God.

So now they've transitioned to another spirituality - idol building or worship of some other force.... and are slowly in the West at least, crafting the outlines of this new religion.

William Meyer said...

There is one parish nearby where there is applause after Mass. I find it disorienting, but as it comes after the recessional, I suppose it is merely an oddity.

I have had the experience of being interrupted in my prayers before Mass by a catechist, who just wanted to say hello. This happened a few times, and on the last occasion, I simply ignored him. I mean, it seems to me one of those issues which, if it must be explained, is unlikely to be understood.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A comment by Pater (not sure if PI or not) I accidently deleted on my iPhone due to my big fingers! But his comment pointed out that in an earlier comment I wrote: "However where your logic fails is that an amateur can't look at anecdotal evidence accumulated through personal experience to reach valid conclusions."
In this sentence I made a typing mistake or a proof reading mistake, I should have written "can look at anecdotal.." rather than can't. With that correction I stand by my comment.
Pater thanks for bringing that to my attention.

Rood Screen said...

A Maryknoll priest once admitted to me that the reason so many Guatemalan Catholics are attracted to certain sects is that these Catholics find the Catholic Mass to be focused on the social needs of man, while the gatherings of the sects focus on the spiritual.
It is true that before the 1960's there were various rites in both the East and the West, it is also true that all of these were clearly focused on the worship of God, and none were dependent upon the personality of the celebrating priest.
When the attention of the priest and congregation is once again oriented towards the Father through the Son, we will have achieved full, conscious and active participation in the sacrifice, and, therefore, the true foundation for Catholic spirituality.
Finally, any priest ordained more than a few months knows about the Catholic apathy Father McDonald speaks of. We minister to apathetic Catholics all the time in hospitals and at baptisms, weddings and funerals, and whenever sad parents discuss with us their fallen-away children. This apathy is not a matter of distant speculation for us, but a major demand upon our pastoral care.

Gene said...

Well, there is a semantics difficulty here. "Spiritual" is a sort of x in an indeterminate equation. It can mean most anything depending upon who is using it. Generally, however, it makes me think New Age weird. Now, if I have invited new people to a party and someone says, "You know, they are very religious," that usually means hide the whiskey and don't say "damn."
I try to avoid the word "spiritual" altogether, and only use "religion" when I am having a formal philosphical discussion. If I am speaking of someone's sincere Catholicism or their sincere belief, I generally say they are very "devout," which I consider a compliment with no negative connotation. The highest compliment I can pay to people like Marc and Templar and Henry and Squeeker and Meyer and Buck and others is that they are "kick-ass Catholics."

Pater Ignotus said...

Drawing conclusions based on anecdotal evidence is fraught with dangers for the professional as well as the amateur.

First, the value of anecdotal evidence is based on the observer’s prejudices. A person who is anti-Semitic is likely to judge that the three wealthy Jewish families he knows are typical of all Jews. That person will, we know from experience, use that “evidence” to conclude that Jews are, in general, rapacious or predisposed to be “successful” in matters concerning business and finance. The facts, however, don’t bear out this conclusion.

Second, anecdotal evidence is highly subject to what is known as “confirmation bias.” A person who accepts anecdotal evidence without testing the hypothesis in a legitimate manner is more likely to dismiss evidence that is contrary to his or her preconceived ideas. In fact, researchers have learned that without rigorous testing of hypotheses, most of us will accept the evidence that supports our preconceptions and dismiss the evidence that plainly proves our hypothesis to be wrong. (I think this is a function of our fallen nature.) The middle-class Jewish family living next door will be dismissed as atypical because they don’t confirm our pre-existing bias.

Third, it is very difficult to replicate anecdotal evidence in order to determine its validity. If my conclusions are based on the people I know or the situations I have encountered, there is little or no way for anyone else to examine the facts in the case.

Fourth, when we rely on anecdotal evidence, we are allowing all our personal deficiencies, lack of understanding, or plain old ignorance to determine our conclusions.

Gene said...

Yeah, Ignotus/Kavanaugh, but what if there is a whole bunch of anecdotal evidence? When does anecdotal evidence reach a tipping point and become a hypothesis? There is a whole lot of anecdotal evidence, based upon your posts on this BLOG, that you are a modernist/secularist disguised as a Catholic Priest. Actually, that is my hypothesis. I continue testing it by reading your posts. Soon, it will be a theory. I'm not sure how to test it further...maybe throw Holy Water on you and see if you sizzle...LOL!

Anonymous said...

While I haven't had time to respond much lately, this post got me to make time.

Pater, Are you feeling unusually generous today? just kiddin' around, well sort of..but ACTUALLY..'thank you': I'll take that compliment.....
"I'm a kick-ass Catholic".
Trust me, I'll be using that line!
(It's much better than the impromptu words that came out of my mouth a couple of weeks ago, "I'm a staunch Catholic"...sounds too antagonistic...aargh. However, it was an interesting situation where I corrected a misunderstanding about Catholic teaching on divorce/annulment...but that's for another discussion.

"I'm a kick-ass Catholic!"
It just fills me with joy and makes me smile. Quite frankly I can think of no higher compliment that I could receive!!!
Thanks Pater your own way you're a kick-ass Catholic too.

Anonymous said...

I am a little surprised at the responses to Fr's post. For starters, it was interrogative and really quite hypothetical, so his 'presumptions' are not a problem, but actually important. That being said, I don't agree with the statement in the last paragraph about purity, but then I am thinking of the way our prayers and liturgy have been adulterated to appeal to less diverse group. Inverting his statement would fit the theory that many of the stay-away Catholics are ultra-traditionalists unhappy with changes from VatII. But Fr expands that to include people who have a different concept of 'spiritual'. So that is the real question: What is 'spiritual'? I expect it will need to include many things that cannot occupy the same time and place. It must include quiet, and it must include singing; it must allow for solitude and must include service not only to others, but with them.

I expect that many people think of 'spirituality' in a popular, or vulgar sense influenced by popularised presentations of Eastern mystics. I am no expert in these, comparatively, but a distinction of the Christian and especially the Catholic spiritual tradition seems to be the retention of volition, if not subjective will, whereby the person actively seeks enlightenment and salvation as a vassal and disciple of God.

So the 'spiritual' nature of Catholicism comes in at least three stages: reconciliation of ourselves to the Creator through confession and contrition; the quiet, contemplative and yet active listening to prayer of the Mass; and secondly in the exuberant 'going forth glorifying the Lord through our lives'. There seems to be something for everyone, if it is made available in a balanced manner. Again, this seems to be a 'small cycle' of the grander calendar of the seasons with their themes and focus'. We are presently in a quieter and more demure season to be followed by a very exuberant season that gave it's name to the most exuberant of all Christian denominations. So I think the Catholic Church has 'spirituality'; is the balance that is missing from Catholic spirituality in many parishes, with quiet reverence being confused for sadness and noisiness confused for joy.


Gene said...

Squeeker, I called you a kick-ass Catholic, Ignotus did not. It was me, Pin. Ignotus would not know a kick-ass Catholic if one came up and...well...kicked him in the ass.

Templar said...

Pin...Holy Water...Sizzle...I'm LMAO over here.

I do love how the Modernists used all sorts of ancedotal evidence and assumptions to destroy what had been built over centuries in 40 years, but now that the tide is turning it's no-no-no for ancedotal evidence. Those who want to fix their damage must prove the unprovable say they. "STOP - SLOW DOWN - WAIT" cries the Modernist Cleric. Anything to cling to a dying cause. I'd have more respect for them if they donned their tie-dyed vestments, consecrated their pizza and Pepsi, and martyred themselves for their cause. But they won't becasue they don't really believe in "their" cause, what they believe in is destroying the One True Faith.