Thursday, May 31, 2012


Nick Maskell was an altar boy/man here at St. Joseph until he graduated from Mt.deSales Academy and then went off to the Academy, the Naval Academy, that is. Well he just graduated and proud papa, Gregg, who is our head usher for the 9:30 AM Mass sent me a bunch of pictures of it from Annapolis.

Nick was also a crackerjack Extraordinary Form Altar Server before he departed, the first group to serve this Mass at St. Joseph!



"The real or presumed thieves of Vatican papers have declared in chorus to the newspapers, under anonymity, that they acted precisely out of love for the pope, to help him clean house. And it is true that none of the wrongdoing laid bare in the documents involves his person. But it is even more true that everything falls upon him, inexorably.

The pope theologian of the great homilies, of the book on Jesus, is the same one who reigns over a curia adrift, a den of "egoism, violence, enmity, discord, jealousy," all of the vices he stigmatized in last Sunday's homily for Pentecost and in so much more of his fruitless prior preaching."

This is serious stuff and damages the papacy and the Vatican in very serious ways. Pray for the Pope and the Church!


Many Catholics feel that the USCCB's document on voting, "Faithful Citizenship" is a flawed, limp document designed to keep the Church out of trouble with the IRS and thus not very prophetic.

My recommendation is that the following be placed on the cover of this document as a preamble to make the Church's moral teaching absolutely clear to Catholics who place their political affiliation above their Church affiliation and use limp documents such as Faithful Citizenship to do so:

Cardinal Roger Mahony:

For me there is no other fundamental issue as important as this one as we enter into the Presidential and Congressional campaigns. Every candidate must be pressed to declare his/her position on all of the fundamental life issues, especially the role of government to determine what conscience decision must be followed: either the person's own moral and conscience decision, or that dictated/enforced by the Federal government. For me the answer is clear: we stand with our moral principles and heritage over the centuries, not what a particular Federal government agency determines.

As Bishops we do not recommend candidates for any elected office. My vote on November 6 will be for the candidate for President of the United States and members of Congress who intend to recognize the full spectrum of rights under the many conscience clauses of morality and public policy. If any candidate refuses to acknowledge and to promote those rights, then that candidate will not receive my vote.


This is how to make a liturgical puritan see red!
Please note that us modern liturgists celebrating the true reform of the Mass do not hold the chasuble at the elevation--that is so pre-Vatican II! :)

When the good sisters were asked by a lesser document of Vatican II to update their institutes and when the Vatican itself in the post Vatican II era encouraged much of the change that the Vatican and many others would like to see undone today, the premise was that these institutes should go back to their founder's original intent and original documents and update accordingly. For better or worse, that is supposedly what was done, although I don't know how eliminating the habit altogether and living individually in apartments and just like any other woman except being a bachelor was what these foundresses or founders actually envisioned for the institutes they founded. Maybe these institutes should once again revisit their original founders plan and remain focused on the apostolates they embraced, such as education, nursing and helping the poor and doing that collectively from strong community life and wearing a visible sign of their consecration a habit.

But that is not the intent of this post. The intent of this post is for us to go back and reread Sacrosanctum Concilium without the adrenalin rush of changing everything that the commission that Pope Paul VI set up to "renew" the ancient Mass by recklessly abandoning the liturgical traditions of the Church and opening Pandora's Box for all kinds of silly experimentation and so-called inculturation and a "Protestant look, sound and feel" to our Liturgy to seduce or worse yet, trick Protestants into becoming Catholics by a liturgy that looks like something off of Martin Luther's playbook.

Let's face it, the Sacrosanctum Concilium was a very conservative document that was very liberally interpreted by Pope Paul VI and his commission to revise the Mass. It simply called for some updating, some vernacular and some noble simplicity. My contention is that the noble simplicity did not refer to the ordinary parish's low Mass or Sung High Mass, but to the "Solemn High Mass and the bishop's Pontifical Solemn High Mass and Papal liturgies. These were very complex and have some rather quirky things that are visually questionable, such as a hoard of priests and deacons sitting on the floor in front of the bishop's throne as he sits--that's just down right weird looking and casual looking to the modern eye.

So rather than go back entirely to the 1962 missal, we should celebrate the 2012 missal (2002 in Latin)with 1962 flair and rubrics. And this is what Cardinal Burke recently did at the London Oratory (John Nolan's parish) and what their Ordinary Form Liturgy looks like every Sunday evidently--this is true liturgical Renewal and doesn't turn everything upside down in terms of liturgical progress in the last 45 years.

This is how an Ordinary Form Mass should look, recovering that which is good from our 1962 Missal without going back to it altogether and thus being faithful to Sacrosanctum Concilium!

Press here for more pictures of Cardinal Burke celebrating the Ordinary Form Mass as it can and should be celebrated, recovering much of our glorious liturgical past with it but remaining faithful to Sacrosanctum Concilium!

We need to also recapture ember days and many other elements of the 1962 calendar which would be totally easy to do, not the least of which should be the recovery of the Octave of Pentecost!

Ember Days during Pentecost (From Rorate Caeli)

One of the most curious things concerning the traditional liturgical calendar, at least to this writer, is the placement of the summer Ember Days during the octave of Pentecost. Today is Ember Wednesday, a first class liturgy. But, if one follows the discipline of the Church in place during the 1962 calendar, it is also a day of fasting and partial abstinence (one full meal with meat and two small meatless meals).

The Ember Days this week -- Ember Wednesday, Ember Friday and Ember Saturday -- have a unique feature compared to the other nine Ember Days. All Masses this week are with red vestments. The Alleluia is said/sung. The Pentecost sequence is said/sung. It is still Pentecost. But three Ember Days are within the octave.

An interesting piece of trivia is that there was a time in the Church's history where this curious mix of feast and fast was severed. The Ember Days were observed as Masses during the octave of Pentecost like the 1962 calendar. But their corresponding fast and abstinence disciplines were delayed a few weeks. That ended when Pope Gregory VII in the 11th century treated the summer Ember Days like the other three seasons, with fasts on all three days, partial abstinence on Ember Wednesday and Ember Saturday and, of course, complete abstinence on Ember Friday.

This is all a moot point with the novus ordo, as Paul VI virtually eliminated the Ember Days and almost all fasting and abstinence in the 1960s.

But it remains a very interesting week for those who follow the traditional calendar and voluntarily follow the disciplines in place during the 1962 calendar, including Ember Day fasting and abstinence. A week of festive Pentecost Masses, yet with three days of penance during the octave, the way it was under pain of mortal sin from the late 11th century through the late 20th century.

Having said that, the purpose of the Ember Days outweighs everything else: priests. This week, during the Ember Days, we pray for many more.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


This is what the pope said at his Wednesday audience today. I copy it from the "Vatican Information Service" who like me, needs a proof reader. Can you detect the Faux Pas in this Vatican Communique? Or is it a Freudian slip? Or one more sign of the incompetence of some who surround the pope?


Vatican City, 30 May 2012 (VIS) - At the end of today's general audience, the Holy Father made some remarks concerning recent developments in the Vatican.
"The events of recent days involving the Curia and my collaborators have brought sadness to my heart. However, I have never lost my firm certainty that, despite the weakness of man, despite difficulties and trials, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and the Lord will ensure she never lacks the help she needs to support her on her journey.
"Nonetheless there has been increasing conjecture, amplified by the communications media, which is entirely gratuitous, goes beyond the facts and presents a completely unrealistic image of the Holy See. Thus, I wish to reiterate my trust and encouragement to my closest collaborators and to all those people who every day, in silent faithlessness and with a spirit of sacrifice, help me carry out my ministry".

Prayer for Pope Benedict XVI:

O God, the Shepherd and Ruler of all Your faithful people, mercifully look upon Your servant Benedict XVI, whom You have chosen as the chief Shepherd to preside over Your Church. We beg You to help him edify, both by word and example, those over whom he has charge, that he may reach everlasting life together with the flock entrusted to him. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


On Pentecost Sunday, Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, our new bishop, asked all the priests of the diocese to read a letter from him to our congregations. Since October, this has been his second letter to be read at all Masses concerning the HHS Mandate. The one on Pentecost Sunday was in support of the various dioceses and Catholic institutions bringing laws suits challenging the Mandate and asking for prayers during this very perilous time for our country.

My homily focused in on what I named the new pagan religion, godless secularism and its "most unholy trinity" that many Catholics and others are following and without question, accepting its "infallibility" in an uncritical, unthinking way. This most unholy trinity is:

1. The media in all its forms, especially the entertainment industry, news media and the internet. In the span of less than 20 years they have seduced Americans into buying into the new pagan religion, godless secularism and its moral and ethical "values" and many have accepted all of this as infallible.

2. The radical elements of today's political magisterium now wants to control the religion of the true God. Acting more monarchical and infallibly than any pope, they decree that the church will provide abortion inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception. This political magisterium wants to crush the last voice against this new pagan religion and its false moral and ethical teachings especially concerning human sexuality and gender roles and abortion and contraception and the redefining of marriage not to mention medical ethical concerns and euthanasia.

3. Academia supports both the media and political magisterium against true religion and is the scholarly brains behind the media and political magisterium corrupting the minds of young people by denigrating the true religion and the authority of the legitimate Magisterium.

A middle aged man at the Mass came up to me as I greeted people outside afterwards and said that the homily was an outright political screed against the Obama administration and went off in a huff. He had fire in his eyes because to him I had insulted what he held as sacred. His political affiliation seem to me to be more sacred to him than his religious affiliation and all that is truly sacred.

And then my mind went back to the rise of Nazi, Fascist and Communist ideologies where courageous Lutheran ministers and Catholic priests and other ministers spoke against the political regimes of their day and were threatened verbally and assaulted physically for their words by Catholics and other Christians who collaborated with the political system of that day and placed it above God and Church and all that is truly sacred.

Are we entering such a day in the USA? Not quite by a long shot. But who would have thought that a Democratically elected President and his administration would mandate that the Catholic Church must provide abortion inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives and use Catholics who collaborate with him to make it happen? I certainly didn't see that coming.

Does our Liturgy today in the Reformed Ordinary Form Mass make for strong Catholics who will stand up to the dictatorship of the state, any state? Does our revised Mass simply make Catholics who only want feel good religion impotent in the face of the real threats to religious freedom and freedom of conscience that our American government is now posing and in a very real and sinister way?

Are we in the early periods in this country where a state Church is being formed by a secular regime to promote the laws of that regime that oppose the Catholic Church's legitimate teachings in the areas of morals? And have we formed two generations of Catholics who could care less and will be willing participants in oppressing the true Church?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


And yes, this is the Ordinary Form of the Mass, or should I say, given my promulgation, the Reformed Ordinary Form Mass, (ROF!). Does it look like any pontifical Mass in the ROF! that you've attended? A picture is worth 1,000,000 words.


Is this scandal a scandal of a monarchical Church or a scandal of post Vatican II ecclesiology gone bizerk? The second link below seems to imply that with all the new administration details of the Vatican that broadening the scope of those involved in the governance of the Holy See has brought about this Machiavellian intrigue and scandal in the Vatican and the grave insult to the Holy Father and the confidentiality that those who write to our Holy Father and express concerns should have, now all made public to embarrass the Holy Father and those who wrote to him and the confidentiality that is expected from the Vicar of Christ.

In many ways, the same thing happens in post-Vatican II parishes where so many people have been given the impression that everyone needs to be consulted and nothing can be done without widespread consultation and that committees, sub-committees and the like take on a life of their own, not so much for the betterment of the parish but for power. There is more power-grabs today in the local parish than in pre-Vatican II times and more intrigue about these power plays than every before. I would not be so quick to damn monarchy as it concerns the Church!

Rorate Caeli has two interesting posts on this scandal and you can read them here:

The papers stolen from the Pope, an interview with a high prelate over this.

The disastrous bad governance legacy of Vatican II and Blessed John Paul II


Which image below is out of whack for either the Reformed Ordinary Form Mass or the Unreformed Ordinary Form Mass in terms of the banquet aspect of sharing in the Cross of Christ first and then His glorious resurrection? And what is it that is out of whack in terms of who it is that gives us Holy Communion even in a sacramental way?

What's in a name? Everything! What other name could there be for your computer's mouse; lump of coal or Peter-Paul Mound? These simply don't work. The mouse is the perfect name and is in continuity with what it is and what it does! It cannot be improved upon.

The two current names for the two forms of our one Latin Rite Mass simply doesn't cut the mustard! Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form? We all know that in English Ordinary and Extraordinary have different meanings to the ears that hear it and the eyes that see it and thus opens the Mass in either form to manipulation either positive or negative depending on one's perspective on the two Masses of the one Roman Rite.

So here is my decree that henceforth on this blog, the two forms of the one Latin Rite will be called the following with the initials indicated too!

The current name for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass will hence forth be known as Unreformed Ordinary Form of the Mass of the one Latin Rite, UOF for short.

The current name for the Ordinary Form of the Mass will henceforth be known as the Reformed Ordinary Form of the Mass, ROF for short.

My purpose in doing this is to show that in the one Roman Rite, there is currently the unreformed rite and the reformed rite but they are the same rite and the reformed rite is a reform of the unreformed rite.

Therefore none of us should worship either form of the one Latin Rite, but see them both as the means by which we are given by the Church (Head and members) to worship God, thank Him and to experience in an un-bloody way the One Sacrifice of Christ during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and at the Rite of Holy Communion, experience the Eucharistic Banquet which is our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ and He is made palatable as Food and Drink for the Soul. But this banquet is other-worldly and unlike those banquets we have at home at our dinner table, for at this Banquet we who receive our Risen Lord do not received Him in order that he become a part of us like ordinary food does, but rather that God makes us a part of Himself in Christ and through the Church. Ordinary food doesn't do that. And ordinary banquets don't center on the food and drink on the table as an object of worship for that would be idolatry for Christians. But in the Eucharistic Banquet, the Food and Drink we receive is to be adored, glorified and worshiped for it is not food in the ordinary sense, but in the extraordinary sense of this Food and Drink being our Risen and Glorified Lord's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. So let us rid ourselves of any notion of earthly food and drink and ordinary earthly banquets, suppers, meals. lunches, breakfasts and snacks, let alone fast food means of consuming food and drink.

Therefore the highly stylized bread and wine of either form of the Mass points to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, not just to the qualities of the accidents which remain after the bread and wine is consecrated, although those accidents do indicate symbolically what our Lord does for the soul in which He abides through Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. But the soul in receiving this "Bread and Wine" does not make Jesus a part of the soul, but Jesus makes the soul a part of Himself of which our adoption into Holy Mother Church does the same thing through Holy Baptism and Confirmation.

Therefore the need to be in a state of grace to receive our Lord is absolutely necessary for a worthy Holy Communion and the graces this reception in meant to bring to the soul. Unworthily receiving our Lord complicates the "disgrace" of the sinner's soul rather than heals it; It would be like receiving our Lord into a cesspool of contamination, an unworthy vessel for so great a Savior.

Therefore we attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass but do not avail ourselves to the means by which God strengthens our full communion with Him in the Church, the reception of Holy Communion, for in fact our serious or mortal sins have caused us to break communion with the Church and our Lord, which needs sacramental absolution to bring the sin-sick soul back to its pristine baptismal beauty. No one should receive Holy Communion without baptism, for that would the same thing as a baptized Christian receiving Holy Communion in a state of unforgiven mortal sin. The soul is not properly prepared to be a pristine vessel for our Lord's most Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not a memorial of Holy Thursday's Last Supper; it is a memorial of the One Sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday. Memorial must be understood within the context of the Jew's remembering the events of their Exodus from slavery, not just a historical remembrance of a past event, but God bringing that event forward to the present through their remembering of that event in a liturgical way and prefigures the Cross and Resurrection of our Divine Savior.

Finally, we must also acknowledge that the Latin word for soul is "anima" which is feminine. It is interesting to know that our Lord is the Bridegroom of the Church which is always described in the feminine, Holy Mother, she, her, bride, etc even though the Church is comprised of men and women. However, the soul of a man or a woman is always feminine, even for a man as the soul is an image of the feminine Church, the Bride of Christ. Gender is important for the Church and for the soul--many formed in the poor catechesis and liturgical translation of the Latin into the vernacular simply don't know this stuff do they? But it is fascinating that the soul of man is feminine to receive the soul's Bridegroom, our Lord!

Monday, May 28, 2012


Since I'm so good at making modest proposals for the reform of the reform of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, (proposals that in some ways could be implemented now if a priest didn't mind getting on the bad side of his bishop by doing these reforms independent of the rest of the diocese or without endorsement, which having the bishop's endorsement is always nice to have), I thought that I would make a modest proposal for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass which I think is in continuity with the hermeneutic that Pope Benedict is suggesting for the gravitational pull on both forms by having both forms of the Mass celebrated today by priests and congregations.

It has to do with the Liturgy of the Word, or The Mass of Catechumens. I had this brainstorm yesterday in fact. Currently at St. Joseph, we read the Scriptures in English and I have one of the adult servers read the Epistle on the Epistle side of the altar, but below the steps and facing the congregation.

I would see no difficulty and would find it totally acceptable for the Epistle to be read from the ambo. At St. Joseph, the ambo is on the Gospel side of the Church. I would have no difficultly reading the Gospel from the ambo also. I find it totally unnecessary for the priest to have to read both of these in Latin first at the altar and then again in English and I find it even more absurd to read it in English at the altar facing away from the Congregation. The readings are for the laity and priest to hear, these are not prayers directed to God.

If there is ever a return to a unified Roman Missal for the Latin Rite, meaning that we only have one form of the Mass rather than two as we currently have, I think for the most part the revised missal will look and feel more the like the 1962 Missal in many ways but the Liturgy of the Word will look and sound like the reformed missal. I am not clairvoyant but some think that I am. Who knows but God?

I might add that our little men's schola led us in Gregorian chant marvelously for our EF Pentecost Mass. And yes, there is a very different traditional spiritual feel that I get from a Gregorian Sung Mass and it is called the Catholic Feel! I don't get that with more contemporary sounding music we have in the OF Mass. There is definitely something different about Gregorian Chant. And the Pentecost Sequence was out of this world.

The difference in Gregorian Chant versus the contemporary styles of music we have is that it enables contemplation of heavenly mysteries without the cheap narcotic-like stimulus of the contemporary sounds!


Pre-Vatican II Ecclesiology?
Post Vatican II Ecclesiology?
And this was given to me yesterday by someone in our EF Community after the 2:00 PM splendidly Gregorian EF Mass for Pentecost! The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief:

Ecclesiology is the study of the nature of the Church. It is said that in pre-Vatican II times the ecclesiology was too clerical. That is captured in the first picture above where the Mass is the clerical domain of the priest and his private celebration as he has his back to the people, says many of the prayers, in particular the Roman Canon, quietly and there is a clear distinction between his prayers and the prayers of the congregation, for example the double Confiteor at the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the double "Communion Rite" for the priest and then for the laity.

Apart from altar boys who were meant to be seminarians in recruiting, there was no lay participation in the first picture, such as lay lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The emphasis is on the ordained priestly action, not the priestly action of the baptized which the second picture captures as the priest is facing the people and the people have a "buy-in" to what he is doing.

The nature of most post-Vatican II parish is less clerical today. Lay people bring Holy Communion to the sick and home bound. There are full-time ministries for lay people, such as DRE's and Youth Directors, Music Directors and pastoral assistants. Even our schools are totally lay run with principal and teachers. This is decidedly a different model of ecclesiology than what most parishes experienced prior to Vatican II.

It is important to understand that the battles over the liturgy are tied into a perceived ecclesiology also.The Second Vatican Council called the laity to holiness although I am not sure that means busy-ness, liturgical or otherwise.

The ecclesiology of holiness means participating fully in the Liturgy of the Church by praying the Mass. The move to encourage the laity to cease with devotions during the Mass such as the rosary or other devotions, coming in late and leaving early was an important shift. (It was said, you still fulfilled your obligation if you came to Mass for the Gospel reading and technically you could leave after receiving Holy Communion which many people did in the pre-Vatican II Church!)

But I believe apart from the legitimate participation of the laity in the parts of the Mass once reserved to the altar boys and choirs (which was meant to be a symbolic participation of the laity anyway)that the ecclesiology of Vatican II was meant not so much for churchy ministries but for the laity's life in the world and bringing the Catholic faith and morals to the marketplace or the public square.

What has happened though is that the laity have brought their distorted "private devotions" to the public square, not the Church's faith and morals. By that I mean they bring not the actual participation of the faith and morals of the Church to the public square but something that is a parody of that, such as pro-choice beliefs, pro-contraception beliefs and a whole host of beliefs that are not in keeping with the faith and morals of the Church.

Maybe we need to revisit Vatican II's ecclesiology and emphasize it to the priests and laity of the Church. Maybe on this 50th anniversary of Vatican II we should actually read the documents of Vatican II and begin to implement them. What do you think?

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Doesn't this Litany of the Saints sound awfully like a Broadway performance? Don't get me wrong it sounds nice, but isn't this dripping in pious, entertainment sentiment of the secular nature even though it is religious, very religious in the use of the ancient litany? Please note that the name "saint" is nowhere to be heard in this illicit translation of the Litany of the Saints that is today forbidden during the new English translation of the Mass!

And now the traditional Litany of the Saints--chant and very much within our Latin Gregorian Chant tradition although in English and a licit translation of the Litany! It starts as minute 1:12

Listen to the drivel of this Responsorial Psalm loosely based upon a horrible paraphrase of Psalm 23 but with a sugary, sweet pietistic interpretation of the refrain, totally inappropriate as a correct translation of the Psalm Refrain for Holy Mass:

Now listen to this which is in keeping with our chant tradition, although not Gregorian Chant, and very much appropriate for the Liturgy of the Word, unlike the sappy first one:

I attended the ordination of permanent and transitional deacons at our Cathedral yesterday. The Cathedral Deanery Choir under the direction of Mrs. Patty Schreck for the past 65 years who is also the organist did a wonderful job and their music was very uplifting.

However, the Cathedral has been stuck for some time now in selecting music that isn't always the best liturgical music nor in keeping with the move to a more chant ethos in English that is a purer form of our Latin Rite.

Two selections at yesterday's Mass shows us once again the clash of two very powerful forces in liturgical music today and the dissonance they create.

The first is the Litany of the Saints that was selected. Apart from its more trendy contemporary style it is totally illicit because of its translation. We've just implemented the new English translation of the Mass and while I'm not sure if the Litany of the Saints has been adjusted, I know that the liturgical litany of the saints still refers to the saints by addressing them as Saint Joseph, etc. The contemporary one above that the Cathedral always uses never addresses the saints as saints. This is totally unacceptable given the new translation of the Mass and the desire for purity of translation from Latin to English. The melody though I suppose we can debate, but it is far from the traditional chant in English sung at the Sacred Heart Chapel of Notre Dame and which captures the ethos of our Latin Rite, which the contemporary, Broadway version simply does not!

The second is Psalm 23 as a Responsorial Psalm during the Liturgy of the Word. The Haugen one, "Shepherd Me O Lord..." is a silly, sugary, piety-burdened paraphrase of the Psalm 23. It has no place in the Liturgy of the Word as it is a paraphrase of the Psalm! It would be similar to choosing the Gospel from the Good News Bible!

I wouldn't even recommend it for a Communion Procession, because of the pietistic quality of this sugary, tooth decaying paraphrase and its love-sick melody. It truly is kitsch in the worse sense of the word. Maybe it would be best for a devotional song outside of Mass!

There is traditional kitsch and then there is contemporary kitsch. We need to pour both down the kitchen drain when it comes to the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours. Save it for novenas, devotions and para-liturgies.


A Vatican Soap Opera, life imitating art:

Jesus crushes the head of Satan:

It seems like the perfect storm. And one wonders if it isn't the messiness of life that so many of us experience on a more intimidate, less international scale. But it does make life in the Church interesting and prepares the way for more novels of intrigue about the Catholic Church in general and the Vatican in particular. It looks like the movie The Godfather on many different levels. (The Godfather Trilogy are three of my all time favorite movies). It also reminds me of Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christwhich so vividly shows the reason for the passion based upon Satan as the serpent and Jesus' ultimate victory especially with Jesus crushing the head of the serpent!

Pope Benedict is an intellectual and an academic. He has a sharp mind. But he may have delegated too much of the administration of his Vatican to underlings who just might be a bit too incompetent. But I have no inside information. But the Holy Father hasn't been served well by the men who are suppose to be supporting him.

The first major and international embarrassment came when early in his papacy the pope spoke the truth about Islam but used an indelicate example that infuriated many radicals in the Muslim community (which actually proved the point of what the pope was saying). This tiny gaffe led to the deaths of a few innocent people and protests against the Church on a bit of a grander scale.

Then there is the attempt by the Holy See to reconcile the SSPX to full communion with the Church. In lifting the excommunication of its bishops someone failed to inform the Holy Father that one of these bishops is a fascist who has some bizarre beliefs about the Holocaust and actually denies that it happened. This bishop is clearly not functioning on all cylinders. One has to wonder though if there wasn't a plan by those who surround the pope who disagree with the pope in his "ecumenical" outreach to the SSPX and his reform of the reform, to allow the Holy Father to fall into the trap set for him to embarrass him and derail a major aspect of his pontificate, the reform of the reform. Just wondering, I have no proof.

Then there have been a few security issues too. The same woman at two separate Christmas midnight Masses attacked the pope. The first was prevented, but the second she was able to take the pope down.

But now the biggest scandal of somewhat humorous but sad proportions revolves around the Vatican Bank which for years has be mismanaged and does not follow banking norms that Europe has established. (In fact The Godfather III scene with the man hanging from the bridge with money falling out of his pocket is based on the truth of the head of the Vatican Bank hanging himself (supposedly) sometime around the 1980's!) There have been a few scandals involving this bank which for other banks may have led to the government shutting them down or taking them over. The Vatican has been trying to implement good banking practices to comply with what regulating agencies in Europe are demanding.

However, the head of the Vatican Bank was fired by the Vatican just this week and in addition to that the Pope's butler was arrested by Vatican Police and put in Vatican jail for having leaked confidential documents and correspondence to the pope that puts some of the pope's men in a very bad light. You can't make this stuff up! Can it get any more interesting and any more sad than that? The leaked documents to a journalist by this butler who had no business have confidential correspondence in the first place has been big news in Italy and a book has just been released containing the correspondence, but the news has been minor here in the USA until now.

The devil is in the details and I mean that theologically and doctrinally and not just euphemistically or symbolically. There are powers and dominions at work here as well as principalities.

1. (His enemies from within the Church)The Reform of the Reform and doctrinal certitude and a recovery of the sense of the Sacred for the liturgies of the Church have been the hallmark of Pope Benedict's papacy and legacy as the Cardinal-head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To say that Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope Benedict has made enemies for himself amongst the liberal clique of the Church in Europe and elsewhere would be an understatement. It seems to be payback time now to discredit him and humiliate him and many are taking pleasure in it.

2. (His enemies from outside the Church)The Holy Father's battle with the dictatorship of Secularism and relativism has made him enemies within the media, within radical liberal politics and in academia in Europe and the USA and has made him a target in the press. Most of this revolves around sexual issues: homosexuality and the nature of marriage, contraception and abortion, women priests and government interference in the teachings and practices of the Church. But the Holy Father clearly has enemies in the mass media, in radical liberal politics and in academia, a most unholy trinity!

3. (His enemies in hell) Of course the demons who hate the Catholic Church with their leader, the Prince of Darkness, Satan or Lucifer himself, is at the core of all of this, the last gasps of a spiritual battle these powers and dominions have already lost but continues to play itself out in time while in eternity it has concluded and they are vanquished having their leader's head crushed for eternity by the Lord Himself.



Saturday, May 26, 2012


The inelegance of liturgical disobedience--should this then be allowed liturgically?

The southern Church is a bit more conservative than the Catholic Church in the northeast and other parts of the country. This was true also in the 1970's in the midst of radical change and disobedience in the Church all of which left bishops who became bishops prior to Vatican II in a conundrum of not knowing what to do and befuddled by all the disobedient foment of adolescent acting out against their authority. (We've since discovered the apex of this adolescent pathology in adult men occurred about 1974 as that year seems to have had the biggest number of adolescent acting priests acting out with adolescent boys, a tragedy of epic proportions for their victims which include not only the kids abused but rank and file priests and laity who today have to suffer the consequences).

This acting out in adolescent ways by adult priests extended to the liturgy and liturgical renewal. We all know the extreme horror stories of clown Masses, puppet Masses and Masses that don't resemble Mass at all but some demonic deviation of it. These were extremes even in the 1970's and still are fodder for discussion and ridicule today. But these examples are extremes.

But there are three other liturgical abuses born of adolescent disobedience in bishops, priests and liturgical theologians that need to be noted.

1. Ad libbing parts of the Mass that should not be ad libbed: It is true that our former (thank God) sacramentary with the banalized translation of the English Mass allowed for improvisation in a couple of places, for example in the introduction of the Penitential Rite and even at the "Ecce Agnus Dei" and the General Intercessions. But that was it. But very early in the 1970's priests started to improvise on the fixed prayers, such as the penitential rite, the collect, prayer over the gifts, the Eucharistic Prayers and post Communion Prayers. No priest has the authority to do such.

2. Holy Communion in the hand was implemented and contrary to liturgical law, but became so widespread that bishops eventually petitioned Rome to allow it and it was granted.

3. Altar girls were implemented long before it was allowed by liturgical law and came about only because of the fact that girls were in place and bishops had no real choice but to approve it.

Is this the way to reform the Catholic Mass by acts of liturgical disobedience that then causes bishops to approve the disobedience in order for the disobedience not be be disobedience any more and thus gets the bishops off the hook for not confronting the disobedience? Just wondering.

So my question today concerns the reform of the reform and going against liturgical law and I ask, is it going against liturgical law to do the follow in contradiction to what most parish priests do today?

1. To celebrate the Ordinary form Mass ad orientem?

2. To allow for the option of kneeling to receive Holy Communion and by intinction?

3. To add a mix of Latin to the vernacular?

Are any of the three things I post as questions truly acts of liturgical disobedience comparable to the acts of disobedience in the 1970's that led to the disobedience being approved and thus no longer disobedient?

Friday, May 25, 2012


Saint Joseph Church will celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost this Sunday at 2:00 PM with the Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary Form. Our men's schola will chant this Mass. Find the readings and propers by pressing here!


My comments first: I've spoken of the academic elite and the aging liberals of the Church expanding on the use of the worn out term of radical feminist nuns of another period in the recent past "patriarchy" to describe the Church's leadership style and expanding it now to "monarchy" and "aristocracy" in order to denigrate the role of the Petrine Office in the Church and the role of the Magisterium. Some, as the 82 year old author below, even liken the pope to the dictators in Arab countries and the Arab spring that brought about their downfall. They seem to hope to foment that kind of downfall for the Church's leadership. So you get their drift, it almost sounds demonic doesn't it?

And this kind of sentiment born of the "spirit" of Vatican II that so many radical Catholics in Europe and America had hope for a more democratic style Catholicism that is like a reed swaying in the wind where polls are taken and doctrine and morals are adjusted to accommodate the Wal-mart mentality of the consumers of our Faith. The great fear of these radical Catholics is that if we don't please the customer they will go somewhere else, like to K-Mart or JCPenney or the like (substitute some Christian denomination or no affiliation yourself for these retail outlets).

But there is a very legitimate warning to those of us joining our Holy Father in the "reform of the reform within continuity of our 2000 year tradition" that we should take seriously. We cannot recover the pre-Vatican II rigidity of so many clergy, religious and laity nor should we recover the blatant clericalism of that period that accelerated in the post-Vatican II period and became an ugly beast infecting not only clergy and religious but for the first time the laity who took on more and more "clerical" responsibilities in full time positions in the parishes and bishops' offices. What has happened in the aftermath of Vatican II and with its false spirit was the laicization of the clergy and the clericalization of the laity.

As well, the "bleeding heart" "liberal" clericalism of bishops and priests of the post-Vatican II period who hid the mortal sins and crimes of abusing priests and sent them to comfortable treatment centers in order to recirculate them in other assignments to unsuspecting laity and their children needs to be forever ended.

The secrecy of the pre-Vatican II period needs to remain forever in the past too and new measures at solid transparency need to be established especially when priests become public sinners or criminals or simply break their promises of celibacy and obedience. Parishes need to be kept informed from on high as to what has happened (within confidentiality bounds of course) when a priest is removed from a parish due to scandal of whatever nature. And if the celibacy breach is consensual and non-pathological and the priest is returned to ministry, there should be a public reconciliation of such a priest by the bishop with the priest, the presbyterate and the community where the breach occurred. We've got to stop being so puritanical about sexual sins of a consensual nature all the while living in a media driven let is all hang out sexualized culture of libertine proportions. These are strange bed-fellows and the breach of the 6th Commandment and the promise of celibacy is not an unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit. We need to get real here! Of course, I am speaking within reason here, but we all know of married people who commit adultery as well as priests who break their celibacy promises who are able to reconcile their lives to their promises/vows and resume healthy, moral lives!

But do we need to become like the Episcopalians, the United Methodists, the liberal branch of the Presbyterian Church? Hell no! That is a recipe for disaster and we have the data to prove it.

What we need is liturgical reform on a major level and a rediscovery of the Church Militant and a crystal clear international Catholic identity and for these indeed Holy Mother Church can and should reach back only so far as the 1950's to discover the recipe for that all the while steering clear of pre and post-Vatican II clericalism, laityism and the like as well as secrecy and the fear of scandal being brought to the light of Christ and His Church, the community of believers.

I recommend beginning with a return to Latin for the official Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons of the Mass including the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei; all else in the language of one's choice. I also recommend a return to meatless Fridays, Ember Days and the like. I recommend a stricter Lenten Discipline and more days of fast and abstinence. I recommend ad orientem and kneeling for Holy Communion and intinction as the norm for offering the Most Precious Blood. I recommend liturgies that are beautiful, with participation that is both active and contemplative. I recommend a return to the habit for religious, men and women and clerical attire for priests and deacons. I recommend a theology of active assent to the faith to promote the unity of the Church under the pope and bishops in union with him. The theology of dissent based upon the political model of loyal opposition must cease in the Church in the areas of faith and morals.

But another warning, we must be pastoral towards those in our parishes who struggle with sexual sins. We must be pastoral to those who have found partners to live with and where the Sacrament of Marriage is not possible. We cannot though call sin a virtue but we do have to allow people the freedom to live good lives under messy circumstances without compromising our high moral values and teachings. Sometimes the lesser of evils is better than the greater of evils (promiscuity verses monogamy; support of each other and children verses destitution and abandonment). Ultimately when people choose a lifestyle that can lead to their condemnation, we have to keep that between them and God and let them by God's grace work it out as long as they don't try to convince us in radical ways that we should publicly condone anything that goes against the faith and morals of the Church. Moral rigidity of the past with the focus only on sexual sins will alienate people who otherwise need to be at least coming to Mass every Sunday even if they are not free to receive Holy Communion! There is no scandal in remaining in the pew when at Communion time! There is a scandal when receiving Holy Communion unworthily especially when one's sin is public knowledge.

BOOK REVIEW: Devout Catholic calls on church to reform, adapt to modern age
Touching on gay marriage and multiple sex abuse scandals, Notre Dame alum Thomas Arthur Nelson offers up a passionate critique of the Roman Catholic Church in “An Ordinary Catholic: A View From The Pew”

(PR NewsChannel) / May 24, 2012 / FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich.

"An Ordinary Catholic: A View From The Pew" by Thomas Arthur Nelson

In “An Ordinary Catholic: A View From The Pew” (ISBN 1475016743), former Naval officer and Notre Dame graduate Thomas Arthur Nelson calls on his church to reform. A life-long Catholic, he offers a critique for the institution to return to a Jesus-centered faith of love. In this plea for change, Nelson speaks for the millions who have the left the Catholic Church in frustration as well as those who remain in the pews, discontent concealed behind prayers.

His memoir and essay is a unique tale of the conflicts between rigid church doctrine and real-life experience. He relates this conflict to some of the headline-grabbing church issues of the day, from the clerical sex abuse scandals to the doctrinal disputes over gay marriage. At 82, Nelson recounts his life journey of faith from an uncritical follower to an unlikely activist for reform. His voice is that of the Catholic laity who breathes so much life into mass and church activities yet is largely ignored when it comes to setting the moral direction of the church. He speaks to several social issues the church has yet to touch on, including elder abuse which in his eyes is a new scandal in the making.

This book is written from the point of view of a man who attends mass and takes communion regularly. He understands the joy of Catholicism and the resilience followers get from their faith. At the same time, he knows all too well their frustrations and fear of speaking out on strict, fantasy-based church doctrine.

“The institutional Roman Catholic Church over the centuries has evolved into a rigid aristocracy in the most classical sense . . . The pope, the emperor-king, leads the aristocratic elect, the hierarchy,” says Nelson. “Finally, at the lowest level is the ignorant laity, the ordinary folks who are assigned the stature of peasants and serfs.”

In his plea for reform, Nelson warns that in an era that has seen the rebellion of the Arab Spring, the Church will not be immune to cries for change.

About the Author: Thomas Arthur Nelson is a Notre Dame graduate who was raised and educated as a Catholic from kindergarten on. A former Naval officer, he is the author of the award-winning essay, “God Gave Me a Gay Son.” He is the father of six and grandfather to a dozen grandchildren.


YTC somehow found this video and sent it to me and also somehow found that at second 45 or 46 there is a still photo of a wedding that I had in the Extraordinary Form (I believe I've had three thus far and this is the first). I've not seen this particular photo and I don't know how it made its way to this particular video, but it is cool.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I was rereading Crisis Magazine's article: Liberal Catholicism: Requiescat in Pace by Samuel Gregg and struck by the following quotes which are so true as it concerns the impending death of liberal Catholicism:

"So what are some likely results of dissenting Catholicism’s accelerating meltdown?

One is that Catholics in the West will increasingly fall into one of two categories. They will either be (1) quite orthodox on matters of faith and morals and trying, despite sin, to live the Church’s teaching; or (2) more-or-less totally detached from the Church, living lives indistinguishable from secularists. Slowly but surely, the mushy-middle is emptying out.

Another development will be what’s already obvious to many in Europe and North America: the on-going emergence of a clergy happy to articulate Catholicism’s specific truth-claims and who do so in an intelligent, joyful way. It’s partly a self-selective process. There’s no conceivable reason why anyone in the West today would become a priest or religious unless they truly believed the Church’s teaching and wanted to invite others to see its truth.

Yet another, less fortunate trend will be the relentless secularization of many nominally Catholic universities and hospitals as their token links with the Church continue to fray and weaken. And that will render irrelevant the power to which many dissenters cling in these Catholic institutions for the simple reason that no-one will regard such organizations as Catholic in any meaningful way...

...In the meantime, watch for escalating incoherence from dissenting Catholics as they fade from the scene. Judging from the “beyond Jesus” nuns’ reaction to some simple home-truths about just how far they have wandered from the Catholic faith, it won’t be pretty. But that’s all the more reason to pray for them. For no matter how great our intellectual and moral errors, the Truth can set anyone free. "

This last sentence provoked a comment from an aging former nun which I believe says it all. I firmly believe that the Church's hierarchy and patriarchy, monarchy if you will, must call the Leadership Conference of Catholic Women to accountability and reform for they are the face of sisters in country all the while not actually representing the humble sentiments of most of the sisters they say they represent.

No one believes that calling Cardinal Bernard Law to accountability for the debacle and wrong-headed leadership that he and many other bishops in this country exhibited which has led to the scandal of leadership so afflicting the bishops today is a denigration in any way whatsoever of rank and file Roman Catholics.

Yet listening to dissenting Catholics, lay, religious or clergy decry the Vatican's treatment of the LCWR one would think that the Vatican's henchmen have denigrated every sister and nun who every existed on the face of this planet. This is a tactical ploy that may have worked once in the recent post-Vatican II, power of leadership that the spirit of Vatican II liberals once held in the Church but is quickly dying out. It simply won't work anymore and is in fact the worst kind of clericalism (yes sisters orders have it in abundance, especially the radical feminist ones)that liberal Catholics are so quick to decry in others--it is the worst form of psychological projection on their part. And they fail to see the damage this has done to their orders, their members in their orders and to the Church at large.

And here is the comment to the Crisis article which I think captures it all:

There is another story within the story here. There are good, faithful women who belong to these institutes of religious life. They are not in leadership positions, and are really quite powerless and have been marginalized by their superiors. I speak from experience, having entered a community that was over 350 years established and faithful to the Magisterium. I went all through formation (8 years) and took final vows. Five years later, I had to petition Rome and ask for a rescript of vows. What happened? The mother general, duly elected after I had made final vows, made sweeping changes (with the consent of her council) to the constitutions, modernized the habit far beyond the the renewal called for by Perfectae Caritas and/or the Essential Elements of Religious Life. Schools and children's homes were closed, and sisters went into various types of ministries which were never within the vision of the foundress (an educator). Even the name of the institute was changed! All was done by vote, within the framework of canon law except for the closing of the last school where I was assigned to teach elementary students. In that situation, the local superior (with the support of the regional superior) decided that the sisters should simply walk off the job and abandon the students (and their families) in the middle of the school year. That was the last straw for me. I could not participate in what I believed to be public scandal, and so asked to be released from vows. This was my only choice, as my superiors denied my request to transfer to another institute. I was not the only sister to believe that my community was not being obedient to the Magisterium, but I was the only one to leave for that reason. The others stayed for various reasons - i.e., they could not return to their family or had no family, or they were dependent on the community for healthcare and support due to their advanced age. What do you do if you are 70 or so years old, and the leadership of your community takes you somewhere you did not want to go? Pray for these few women, living martyrs all!

Sister Mary Awol

My suggestion is to always pray for the religious sisters we still have and pray that those sisters who have marginalized the silent majority by their sick power plays may repent and accept Vatican II as it is written and the reform of the reform which by the grace of God is occurring.


This needs to be recovered and Vatican II may well see to it that it is:
And this needs to be recovered too and Vatican II seems to be assisting in this too ((This is a requiem for contemporary liturgy and music):

And this needs to be recovered too and Vatican II may well see to it that it is:

It looks like the Vatican wants to take Gregorian Chant seriously because, well, let me clear my throat, Vatican II does. And, by the way, didn't Vatican II take Latin seriously too (I think Gregorian Chant and Latin are complimentary spouses according to natural law). Wasn't it by way of exception that Vatican II merely suggested that some vernacular should be allowed in the liturgy, such as the Scriptures being read in the vernacular. But we shouldn't fuss about small details when in fact the "spirit" of Vatican II not only discarded Latin and his spouse or her spouse, not sure of the gender of either, Gregorian Chant in favor of an entirely vernacular Mass with pop music and Protestant anthems as its basis.

At another popular blog, PrayTell, someone opined why it wasn't renamed "What does Fr. Allan really say" or something like that since another person who comments on that blog always brought my blog to bear, with links galore, to his comments thus setting off a firestorm of insults which to my thick Italian skin was like olive oil. At any rate, I digress. Fr. Z on his blog (which has a similar name as the new one suggested for PrayTell)was discussing the Vatican's soon to be new initiative, which even there, seems to be controversial, but what else is new, we are talking about Italy, to bring back Gregorian Chant to parishes.(The way I pray the new translation is the way I now write, law of prayer, law of writing thing).

This is what Fr. Z says about the proper translation of Sacrosanctum Concilium concerning Gregorian Chant:

...The Council said that Gregorian chant was the characteristic music of the Roman liturgy. That fact has been entirely ignored. Also, the very purpose of liturgical music has been obscured. It is not simply ornamentation or accompaniment. Sacred music for liturgy is prayer, it is liturgy. Therefore, the idiom of the music must be appropriate for liturgical action and the texts must be liturgical texts and sacred texts. This has been widely ignored for a long time, with the result that there is great confusion and shoddy music everywhere.

Sacrosanctum Concilium 116: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as characteristically belonging to the Roman liturgy, with the result that, therefore, other things being equal, in liturgical actions it (Gregorian chant) takes possession of the first place."

If you aren’t praying with Gregorian chant, 50 years after the Council, then you are 50 years out of step with the Council mandated in the strongest terms.

The Council Fathers in Sacrosanctum Concilium go on to talk about the use of other kinds of music and they provide a welcome flexibility. But none of those other provisions eliminates or supersede or mitigate what SC 116 says. In other words, we shouldn’t justify the use of Gregorian chant. The Church has done that for us. We have to justify the use of something other than Gregorian chant.

It is time to start asking what we are going to do about that. The upcoming Year of Faith seems like an auspicious moment to take stock of this and do something about it. Gregorian chant will foster greater continuity with how Catholic have worshiped over the centuries, it will bring us into harmony with a serious mandate of the Council Fathers, and it will bring a greater sense of the transcendent to our liturgical worship. The way we pray has a reciprocal relationship with what we believe. Gregorian chant is liturgy, not decoration. Using Gregorian chant will do something to our Catholic identity. This is an appropriate goal for the upcoming Year of Faith."

My final comments: I have been a priest for 32 years. And I have to tell you that I did not really know what Vatican II actually taught about the liturgy because of the way I saw, experienced and heard the Liturgy of the Church since about 1966. The antithesis of what the Council actually taught about the liturgy was taught to me in the seminary by word and example. Latin was out, new forms of music was in and Gregorian Chant was to be discarded as a relic of the Latin Rite's past.

The first time I actually heard that Sacred Words in the Liturgy should not be set to popular music was told to me around the time of the turn of the new century by the High Anglican music director I hired for the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta, Dr. Janet Hunt, FAGO who is now the music director for Saint John Seminary in Boston, Mass (and now a Roman to boot). She had/has a love for Gregorian Chant and chant of all kinds, especially Anglican Chant. In fact she would set our Responsorial Psalm for Sunday's Choir Mass to Anglican Chant all the while telling me that Gregorian Chant was proper for us Romans! But I said, I like Anglican Chant better and she said, well yes, it is more like Polyphony, so I guess we can continue to use it and other Anglican anthems at Mass. I thought these were quite complimentary and far superior to the contemporary music almost every other parish in my diocese and around the country uses.

But we Latin Rite Catholics have our superior style too. But will the people like Gregorian Chant? Isn't that what it all boils down to these days, what people like and want? We treat our Catholic laity like customers at Walmart and want to give them what they want and cheaply too even if it destroys the Catholic identity of the Latin Rite Liturgy!

And so Pater Ignotus in his comments thinks highly of Gregorian Chant but also thinks with the majority of priests and bishops in this country that it is entirely okay to forgo what is proper to our Liturgy for other forms of music and he is correct in one way, that this is allowed by way of expansion but not to the exclusion of what is proper for the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church which is Gregorian Chant and this is explicitly, not implicitly taught by way of some obtuse spirit, in Sacrosanctum Concilium.

And so Charles Culbreth nails it when he responds: "I am the last person who would dispute your claim that other forms and styles of musical composition are finely suited to setting psalm and other texts, but that was not implicit in your question to me, so it is very disingenuous to divert attention away from my response to you with references to the Shaker hymn tradition or others (implied) as evidence to sway opinion away from the question of a nativistic and historically proven (and unequalled) sacral/musical language that is generically AND specifically known as Gregorian Chant. (Southern Orders' humble comment here, PI is notorious for diversionary tactics here!)
Nobody asked me to compare musical traditions. I was asked and I answered why I believe Gregorian Chant is supremely suitable to the Roman Rites of the Catholic Church."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I don't mean to mock this as I would recommend anyone to see it. I love this kind of entertainment on stage! But it does give you insight into the times of the 1960's and what happened to our Mass, how it was highjacked by the entertainment industry and from which we have yet to recover! Although at the end I do prefer that English version of the Confiteor even to our revised English one today! What do you think?

Leonard Bernstein's Mass is set to the traditional Latin Mass, can't you tell from this scene?

Leonard Bernstein's Mass is not meant for the Mass. It is a performance Mass or opera meant for the stage. I saw it at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC around 1978 (which is right next to that famed Watergate Complex and intrigued me to no end when I went to that center as a seminarian). I couldn't believe I was sitting at the epicenter of political intrigue and scandal as I watched this Mass unfold on stage.

This is a review of this Mass from 2008 which I copy for your reading pleasure. Does it indicate some of the problems of the Church of that period and problems today that still exist in the Liturgy and the Church? I report, you decide.

Revisiting Bernstein's Immodest 'Mass'

by Marin Alsop

Marin Alsop was a Leonard Bernstein protege. With his Mass, she has championed her mentor's most controversial piece.

September 27, 2008 - Leonard Bernstein, for me, was the greatest risk-taker in 20th-century classical music. He thrived on conflict, and this is nowhere more evident than in his most controversial composition, Mass.

Bernstein composed the piece, on commission, to memorialize John F. Kennedy, America's first Catholic president. The occasion was the grand opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., in 1971.

Bernstein chose the structure of the Roman Catholic Mass, complete with a celebrant playing the central role. But this was a far cry from your ordinary Mass. Bernstein used the traditional Mass as a framework on which to hang all of his beliefs and questions. The music embraces Broadway and opera, rock ballads and blues, with a narrative that blends Hebrew and Latin texts.

Provocative and innovative to some, appalling to others, Mass is first and foremost a celebration of human faith, but it also questions the relevance of ceremonial rituals and immutable "truths" in an increasingly faithless modern world. Audiences leapt to their feet at the premiere, reacting to a work that felt so anti-establishment and so real.

To me, Mass contains the essence of Bernstein as a complex man and artist. Sure, the music is intoxicating, but beneath the showiness on the surface is a profound statement of faith. Bernstein was a nimble composer. He moved comfortably between high art and pop culture, not confined by stylistic boundaries. This was long before "crossover" became trendy.

Today, 37 years after its world premiere, Mass seems even more vital and relevant. Political volatility, an unpopular war seemingly without end, and our ongoing struggle as individuals to find faith and spirituality in contemporary society — this was the backdrop for Bernstein's portrayal of a modern-day crisis of faith. And while the music and the text may have less shock value to our contemporary ears, the message of Mass has enduring significance.

I'm proud to be conducting this defining work of Bernstein's career with the Baltimore Symphony in October, celebrating the life and legacy of my friend and mentor in what would have been Bernstein's 90th birthday year.

When I was 9 years old, I saw Bernstein conduct at one of his New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts. That moment convinced me that conducting was the only thing in the world that I wanted to do. That alone would have been enough of a gift; but when I was 31, he took me under his wing and imparted to me the heart and soul of the craft.

Bernstein always told me that a composer spends his entire life writing the same piece, trying to answer the same unanswerable questions. Mass was his journey in search of an answer for all of society, then and now.

Marin Alsop is the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She's the conductor laureate of the Colorado Symphony and conductor emeritus of the Bournemouth Symphony.

And more delightful memories! Actually I thoroughly love this kind of entertainment with a very deep spiritual signficance for the times and it is a time warp that is very valuable for today's generation of Catholics to understand so much that has transpired in the Liturgy since the 1960's. This I find very enjoyable and much of it sends chills up and down my back and in a good way! Although I understand that some would find this sacrilegious but it wasn't intended to be at the time at all, far from it! But in a nut shell, liturgical composers of modern Masses for the actual OF Mass today were very much influenced by this genre. Can you tell????????


Crisis Magazine has a piece on "Liberal Catholicism: Rest in Peace" which you can read by pressing this sentence.

I come from a conservative Catholic family, but I was schooled in post-Vatican II theology and radically liberal Catholicism in the seminary from 1976 to 1980. As a 14 year old I loved every single change that began in our parish including most of all the Mass in the vernacular and facing the people. In fact prior to the Second Vatican Council I use to ask my father why the priest doesn't face the people and what the heck is he doing up there. My father's answer was that he thought it might be good to put mirrors up there so we could see! And then he told me that in churches in Italy, the priest did face the people. I think he was speaking of the Basilicas in Rome.

But I can still remember the palpable excitement I felt that first Sunday the priest faced the congregation and we had cards in the pew with all the new English responses we could use. This had to be around 1965 or 66. I also remember some of our friends in the parish who thought this whole endeavor was ill-advised and did not know what to make of it. I thought they were crazy!

The first time I began to have reservations about the "new and improved" liturgy was around 1967 when a Franciscan sister and two other cohorts helped us to experience folk music at Mass. They said this is the wave of the future! They sat to the left of the altar within the altar railing, all three of them on bar stools and all three of them with guitars and we suffered through it. I thought to myself, "what the heck is this?" At the same time too, the reform of the Mass was coming in drips and drabs and to me, even as a teenager, it all seem like degeneration rather that regeneration, disintegration, not renewal although it kept being called renewal. The priests kept saying that this is the "simplification" of the Mass to make it more intelligible. And then the revised English in 1969/70 clearly was less sacred and more banal than the original English first used in 1965.

Around the same time in the late '60's and well into the 1970's I began to think to myself if I hear the words the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II one more time in a homily I will stand up and say, "Give me Jesus, darn it!" Vatican II's name was mentioned more than our Lord's Holy Name and quite frankly was preached more than our Lord. How did this idolatry come about? I still wonder that to this day. How did Vatican II become the God of the Church in the 1960's. The people written about in the linked article above are the greatest idolators of this false God. And let's name it: ecclesiology, ecumenism, interfaith relations and liturgics. While authoritative, none of these lesser Vatican II teachings are "infallibly binding!" "The Second Vatican Council’s declarations on non-Christian religions and religious freedom do not contain “binding doctrinal content,” Cardinal Walter Brandmuller said at a press conference on May 21."

Then 1968 came and there was the Humanae Vitae debacle and strident division in the Church about Catholic sexual morality as the sexual revolution took hold and all the anti-authority issues of rigidly formed lay Catholics, who produced even more rigid Catholic vocations to the priesthood and religious life experienced liberation from the rigidity of the pre-Vatican II Church and lived as though Pandora's Box was the ultimate result of Vatican II. The most ultra conservative priests and sisters became the most ultra liberal priests and sisters dissenters. What a flip flop! For these religious, this was their adolescence. What was sad was that these religious were in the 30's, 40's 50's and beyond. It was not a pretty scene and from our 20/20 hindsight in 2012 we know that this adolescent acting out was more than just against rigid authority and emancipation from the pre-Vatican II rigidity. We've paid heavily for it in the loss of Catholic identity and moral leadership. The sexual acting out led to many priests and sisters marrying if they had normal heterosexual desires and others acting on perverted desires abusing their unsuspecting victims. All of it though was Pandora's Box opened in the Church and the culture at large, Catholic or not.

I'm not sure liberal Catholicism is quite dead and I won't sing a dirge quite yet and when the funeral is announced I might have a Mass of the Resurrection with "And the Father Will Dance" as the Song of Farewell. But that generation is surely fading away and dying off as the article I link above indicates.

What has replaced Catholic liberalism is Catholic secularism and the dis-connect between one's private faith and one's public life. Our Catholic politicians are the prime example of it but they are not alone.

There is clearly a strong move within the media, the political realm and academia (and Catholic academia) to make the Church, whatever Church, Catholic or not, conform to the secular agenda especially as it regards human sexuality and reproductive rights and marriage. Even the highest liturgy of the Anglican Church which makes even most Catholic high church liturgies in the Ordinary Form look like John Calvin's Church services can embrace the most liberal of politics and radical feminism and still have all the bells and smells. It is faux Catholicism at it worst.

But many Catholics, especially younger ones, are thoroughly imbued with the spirit of secularism and if they have any interest in religion it is for community and relief from the stresses and anxieties of life. They use it like a recreational drug to medicate and placate their depression.

Monday, May 21, 2012


The three experiences that need reform and a return to classical positions in the Catholic Mass, facing the congregation for Mass, Standing for Holy Communion and Contemporary Music, especially of the praise and worship variety!

What kind of reverence for the Most Holy Eucharist does this create for either the one receiving or the one distributing?????????

Recently I had a conversation with a deacon about the two schools of liturgical music today and that I'm not sure either side will win. There will be for some time in the future some tension between the two groups and within the Church but clearly more traditional chant-like liturgical music is in the ascendancy hopefully to replace the modern kitsch which as afflicted the Mass in so many parishes.

We have inherited since the 1960's the horrid "Folk Music" tradition that invaded our choirs and morphed them into ensembles and groups creating division and strife between folk groups and traditional choirs. In my first parish we had three different choirs at the three Sunday Morning Masses, each with their own director and each creating their own fiefdom. Occasionally we would want a "combined choir" experience for Midnight Mass or some other trans Mass celebration. Talk about tension! We eventually stopped doing that. (This is but one more reason to have a parish Music Director who puts an end to such nonsense between competing choirs.)

Today, folk groups have morphed into "contemporary choirs" using an eclectic mix of music but usually led with piano, guitar, drums and other instruments, but seldom organ. Their music is more upbeat. It's appeal is the same appeal that most of us have to popular music of our liking. It has a nice beat and makes us feel good. It is diversionary. It the same feeling I get when I hear "Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie" as it really is feel good lyrics and music. It has little to do with the "feeling" many of us get when we hear Gregorian Chant, Polyphony or tradition Metrical hymns either of the Catholic or Protestant variety. These have a specific "spiritual" feel when heard and processed, whereas the more "Broadway, rock and contemporary" songs seem to touch precisely that, our "Broadway, rock and contemporary music" experienced in our psyche that gives us an emotional lift.

For the last couple of decades we've had the decadence of "praise and worship" music invade the Catholic Mass as did folk music two generations ago. Our Savannah Diocese Clergy Conference speaker warned us priests about the dangers of "praise and worship" music for our laity. It has no place in the Mass and is questionable even for praise and worship services apart from Mass because it confuses our Catholics about Catholic spirituality when it comes to liturgical and devotional chant and its Catholic ethos. It prepares our young people to join non-denominational churches as we lay the groundwork for that transition. In other words, there is absolutely nothing "Catholic" about praise and worship music--it is non-denominational in genre and thus we evangelize our young eventually to feel quite at home in non-denominational settings that are casual and use this praise and worship music exclusively.

At St. Joseph Church, I have resisted the trend to use contemporary music at any of our Masses. Every Mass knows the same music and each Mass sings the same music, except for any thing the choir might do alone. The only contemporary Mass setting that we currently use is the Mass of Creation, but with organ which doesn't sound contemporary with that instrument. We have begun to learn more chant-like settings of songs and the cantor always chants in English the official Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons in additional to hymns from the hymnal.

Apart from "ad orientem" and "kneeling for Holy Communion" the greatest need for liturgical reform revolves around liturgical chant and maintaining a truly Catholic heritage for it. There are many documents to support this recovery written recently and not so recently. Even in the late 1800's the Holy Father warned musicians not to allow "secular music with sacred words" invade the Catholic Mass. Of course he was speaking of concert Masses which were very complicated with many solo parts such as Mozart's Masses and others that were not meant for the Mass but for the concert hall.

Today's secular music set to sacred words is the "Broadway" sounding sounds we hear in the Church especially those accompanied by piano. If you close your eyes and forget the sacred words you are hearing and focus on the melody or sound of the music and if you feel as though you are in a piano bar, then you know you have problems with your music ministry in your church. Let's return to chant, organ and classical orchestral instruments. Let us rid ourselves of the piano, strumming guitars, bongo and snare drums and tambourines in the Church!