Thursday, January 17, 2013


This is a follow up to Deacon Greg Kendra's change of heart concerning kneeling for Holy Communion and altar railings. I think every congregation in the world where standing for Holy Communion and receiving in the hand is the norm has experienced the major reasons why this is a liturgical idea gone wrong. People have lost a sense of the sacred and this took place with the dumbing down of the sense of reverence by not celebrating the Ordinary Form of the Mass as it was intended, with the same reverence as the Extraordinary Form. Simply bringing back kneeling for Holy Communion and receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, combined with ad orientem for the Liturgy of the Eucharist and a better grade of sacred music and chant, will help greatly in the return of a more traditional reverence and piety for Holy Communion.

Yesterday, Father Jay Finelli posted his experience with the return of an altar railing and more and more people choosing to kneel to receive Holy Communion in his parish once the railing was reinstalled. You can read "My Experience of the Altar Railing" in full by pressing these two sentences.

He recalls why Pope Benedict XVI has been distributing Holy Communion to people as they kneel and receive Holy Communion on the tongue:

During Mass at St. John Lateran, on May 22, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI began giving Communion to all who received from him kneeling and on the tongue. His master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini stated that Communion kneeling and on the tongue helps to emphasize “the truth of the Real Presence (of Christ) in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful, and introduces the sense of mystery more easily.” Since that Mass, the practice has become the norm at all Papal Masses.

At the Cathedral in New Orleans and I believe at St. Patrick's Cathedral, I've seen ushers or security people standing near those who distribute Holy Communion who's primary job is to make sure the communicant receives Holy Communion and does not walk off with it.

While this extreme practice is laudable, wouldn't it be more laudable to just insist that people kneel and receive on the tongue.

Will this prevent all abuse? No! Even in the pre-Vatican II Church there were stories of satanists stealing the host during Mass for their untoward sacrilege and of small children, not properly catechized, taking the host out of their mouth and bringing it home. There is even one report of a child who had done this quite frequently and eventually flushed all the hosts she had taken home down the toilet.

But this was very rare and the shock and disgust of those in the Catholic community who learned of it was palpable. Today these kinds of abuses are so common place in so many parishes that people simply shrug their shoulders either apathetic about it or recognizing that the Church has brought this on herself by allowing Holy Communion in the hand while standing. They feel powerless in the face of this kind of sacrilege since the Church herself won't do what is necessary to protect the sanctity of Holy Communion and restore traditional reverence and piety during Mass and specifically in the manner in which Holy Communion is received in the Latin Rite.


rcg said...

Try this: male servers, female enforcers.

Robert Kumpel said...

poI’ve told this story before, but I think it applies to this post, so I’ll share it again:

In the 1990’s when I was first married, I used to catch the daily 5:15 Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Downtown San Diego after work. I usually sat in the same spot, as did many of the regulars. There was a man who brought his children every day, a boy and a girl, both of whom were old enough to received Communion, and like all good Catholics catechized by modernists, they received in the hand.

One day, I happened to notice that the boy was carrying the Host back to his seat. That alarmed me. I was alarmed even further when I saw the boy picking up the host and nibbling on it like a cracker.

When Mass was over, I noticed the man standing outside with his kids. I walked up to the man, bracing myself to be told to mind my own business, and I shook his hand and introduced myself. I then said, “Please forgive me for saying this, because I’m not trying to give offense…(I then looked at his boy)…son, you may not be aware of it, but when you go to Communion, you are actually receiving the physical Body of Christ. That is not a Ritz cracker. We’re not supposed to take the Host back to the pew with us and nibble on it. We’re supposed to consume the Host immediately while we’re in front of the priest.” I gulped, expecting his dad (a big, biker-looking guy) to let me have it. To my surprise he looked at his son and said, “See? I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT!” He then thanked me and shook my hand and was friendly as could be from that day forward.

Unfortunately, our words of correction had little effect on his son. The next day, I went to Mass and saw the boy doing the same thing. Only now, he was shooting suspicious glances at me to see if I was watching him.

To this day, I don’t understand why the boy’s father did not forbid him from receiving Communion until he did so properly. I would probably not intervene if I saw it happen today, but I cannot forget how troubling it was to witness this abuse, which could easily have been prevented if Communion was distributed according to the Church’s worldwide norm: ON THE TONGUE.

Joseph Johnson said...

A few years ago, I saw the renovations at Fr. Finelli's parish on the New Liturgical movement website. His church doesn't appear to be very different than many churches (such as my home church in Waycross, GA) built in the last thirty or so years--but look at what they were able to accomplish despite the original architecture!

I got so excited about this at the time that I actually telephoned Fr. Finelli and we talked about how he and his parishioners accomplished all this over a period of several years. First of all, he can do machinist work and he has a talented woodworker and a talented seamstress in his parish. The beautiful flat-fronted lined and galloon-trimmed frontals were made by a lady in the parish. Fr. Finelli turned out some of the brass candlesticks in a machine shop (he has been involved in the hobby of making miniature working live steam locomotives upon which the operator rides and can pull passengers--as in amusement parks).

This little church should serve as an example and and encouragement to people in the Savannah Diocese as to what is possible (even with smaller "modern" church buildings).

Robert Kumpel said...

Upon deeper reflection, I don't understand why none of these posts about Communion abuses bother to state the great secret: The Church's worldwide norm for receiving Holy Communion is on the tongue. We receive Communion in the hand because of an indult granted by Pope Paul VI. Further, the indult that grants us this practice was obtained under suspicious circumstances which, at very least, reflect a manipulation of the US Bishop's conference. You can read about it here:

The Holy Father could revoke this indult any time, and I pray that he does one day soon. However, trusting his wisdom, I suspect he does not want to impose changes upon the Church as abruptly as they were imposed upon us in 1970.

John Nolan said...

He's done more than simply install a rail, he's created a proper sanctuary. I like the fact that the altar now has an antependium and 'Benedictine' arrangement of cross and candles. Now for ad orientem! Particularly noteworthy is the 'Sacrament House' for the tabernacle.

Henry Edwards said...

All this--kneeling, reception on the tongue, ad orientem celebration--is so obvious and beyond argument to those who share the full Catholic faith of the ages, that I wonder how to escape the conclusion that those with "progressive" attitudes toward the liturgy simply do not share that full faith.

Which raises a lex credendi, lex orandi question. Should one expect proper liturgy without first addressing the lack of faith among current Catholics? Or, conversely, can one expect a return to proper liturgy to be a corrective to inadequate faith?

Hammer of Fascists said...

Robert Kumpel said: "The Holy Father could revoke this indult any time, and I pray that he does one day soon. However, trusting his wisdom, I suspect he does not want to impose changes upon the Church as abruptly as they were imposed upon us in 1970."

The fact that he could revoke it at any time shows once more that the hierarchy seeks to mollify orthodox Catholics with platitudes while in practice continuing to let modernists do largely what they please.

With respect, I've never accepted the idea that we must avoid the mistake of rapid change that the modernists made after VII. In the first place, it wasn't wholly, or even mainly, the speed of the changes that were the source of the catastrophe; it was the nature of those changes. The speed merely allowed the changes to become entrenched. When you've taken a sudden, sharp turn off the road and towards the cliff, the remedy is a sudden slamming on of the brakes. A sudden return to more reverent liturgy and orthopraxis isn't a problem except to lukewarm and so-called Catholics who, if they were being true to their own consciences, shouldn't be in the Church anyway. But I guess their money is as green as anyone else's.

That last sentence is a blunt one, I'll admit, but in many ways VII is the mirror-image of Trent. Trent found the Church committing abuses in the name of money and having a liturgical free-for-all by poorly-trained priests; it banned the abuses, reformed the liturgy, educated the priests, and clearly enunciated doctrine together with clear penalties for deviation from it. VII found the Church full of highly-educated clergy and Religious, highly uniform and reverent liturgy, and turned it all into a wishy-washy nonuniform mess in which "Catholics" can dissent and publicly attack the Church with impunity and the hierarchy is afraid to proclaim basic Catholic truths lest many laity leave and take their money with them. Look at this and tell me that VII, in effect if not in intention, wasn't an anti-Trent.

Perhaps it isn't always about money; for many clergy it probably isn't. I imagine that in many cases their main goal is to keep these people in the fold in order that they perhaps might receive _some_ graces. But in fact it's false charity to want to keep these people in the Church when a) they really don't believe or practice what the Church teaches and b) they're spreading error and discontent by their very presence. As we've noted in a recent post, Jesus may have been saddened to see people leave (or not) but he clearly let them go. Perhaps he realized that they'd be better off being true to themselves than by trying to be something they plainly weren't. Maybe these people were included in his petition to God the Father to forgive because they knew not what they did.

Henry Edwards said...

What seems apparent to me is that differences about the liturgy--how it should be celebrated, how communion should be received, how the altar and sanctuary should look, etc.--are not mere differences of opinion among common believers. Instead, they are differences of faith between believers and non-believers, that is, not believers in the same faith.

Therefore, in emphasizing reform of the liturgy (and our behavior at it), are we not merely treating the symptom rather than the disease, which ought to be cured first?

rcg said...

Henry, you final conclusion is, I think, correct.

Henry Edwards said...

"During Mass at St. John Lateran, on May 22, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI began giving Communion to all who received from him kneeling and on the tongue."

Only 4+ years ago, so maybe not to worry. Perhaps another 40 years of teaching only by papal example will do the job. But how many millions of souls left adrift in the meantime?

James I. McAuley said...

Father, when I got home at midnight last night, I sat and went through my collection of books on the liturgy pre-dating the Council. Of those written by those involved in the Liturgical Movement, Virgil Michael, Martin Hellreigel, H.A. Reinhold, Godfrey Diekmann, Mary Perkins Ryan, Aime G. Martimort, Clifford Howell, Dom Lebbe, Martin Strausser, Pius Parsch, Gerald Ellard, and John Murphy, not one of them stated that we needed to abolish the practice of kneeling for communion and replace it with standing. In fact, I find it mentioned nowhere.

Interestingly, In Ellard's book the Mass in Transition from 1956, we see a picture of Cardinal Cushing giving communion to a little girl in her hand, and she is standing.

DumbOx said...

The order in which to effect corrections designed to repair abuses to the liturgy, the faith, and the behavior of the faithful can be determined by looking at the ancient axiom: Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. The law of prayer will inform the law of belief which will inform the law of how we live. As usual, Holy Mother Church has held the answer all along.

Pater Ignotus said...

Henry - I disagree with your conclusion strongly. The suggestion that those who choose to receive communion in the hand rather than on the tongue are "not believers in the same faith" is a calumny against many, many good Catholics who are as devoted to the Gospel and the Church as ANY person who chooses to recieve on the tongue.

I know these people - their generosity, their self-sacrifice, their kindness and compassion, their willingness to suffer - personally. Your accusation is simply false.

Pater Ignotus said...

Moral Panic: "A condition, episode, person or group of persons (those who recieve on the hand) emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests (they destroy reverence and, thereby, the Faith); its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical (ridiculously so with the twins, Hyperbole and Hysteria) fashion by the mass media (including bloggers and blog commenters); the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people (if you don't think like us, there's something wrong or evil with you); socially accredited experts (or those who THINK they are experts)pronounce their diagnoses and solutions (it is SO simple to fix this complex problem - all we have to do is...); ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more visible."

And panic is never a good thing

ytc said...

Vatican preparing guide for priests on how to celebrate Mass:

This is so sad it is almost comical.


Gene said...

Ignotus, Generosity, self-sacrifice, kindness and compassion, and willingness to suffer are works, no? They are the fruits of Justification and not the effective cause. Many of those Henry mentions are not intentionally and willfully separating themselves from the True Faith as you and your ilk are, but the effects are the same. These low-information sheep may, indeed, be returned to the fold through the reform. I'm not so sure about you wolves in sheep's clothing.

Henry Edwards said...

Pater Ignotus: "The suggestion that those who choose to receive communion in the hand rather than on the tongue ....."

I did not say anything about people who choose to receive communion in the hand. I myself know many faithful individual Catholics who do so.

But the present situation in which they do so--a Church and its liturgy in a state of chaos--is nevertheless the result of dissent of their pastors and shepherds from the Catholic faith of the ages.

The distinction is between the storm and the chip tossed by a wave. The chip cannot be blamed for the storm, and so we cannot blame individual Catholics innocently affected by the winds of dissent that have blown through the Church in recent years.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - It's the "Catholics" who skip mass when it suits their fancy who have separated themselves from the Church.

Pater Ignotus said...

Henry - When a pastor does what the Church officially allows, how is this "dissent"?

James Ignatius McAuley said...


I must respectfully say that I agree with Father Mike Kavenaugh (Pater Ignotus). I can read people fairly well, but I cannot read souls, and I doubt most priests have this gift that St. Pio of Pietrelcina had. Now, note exactly what Father Mike states "many, many good Catholics . . ." He qualifies his statement by saying "many" and most prudently does not say "all." Father Mike notes that this can be fairly applied to those who receive exclusively on the tongue.

Now, I have a solution that Father McDonald and Father Mike might have experienced. In the Diocese of Buffalo, when communion in the hand was introduced, it was done so when people were kneeling. When someone receives in their hands kneeling, they are forced then to eat the host, because almost everyone I know has to push themselves up off the communion rail or kneeler -- it is simply the laws of physics applied to the human body. Sure their are exceptions, but the exception is not the rule. I remember as an altar boy in those days, and I observed this in other parishes,we used the paten and placed it beneath the communicant's hands -- I actually caught more hosts from those who received in the hand than in the mouth. In any event, receiving in the hand kneeling - why not - it address most of Deacon Greg's issues, and we have the reverence of kneeling.

I would state that I do not receive in the hand, I do not favor reception in the hand, nor do I encourage it. But, to accept pastoral reality, I think this would be an acceptable, but not perfect compromise.

Gene said...

Ignotus, once again, and predictably, you are wrong. There is this thing called "Confession" that is available to devout Catholics who are tempted to sin because of the degeneration of the Church into a social work, feel-good, Woodstock experience and, therefore, either skip Mass in anticipation of a carnival or leave in disgust. They are engaged in a genuine spiritual struggle, unlike Priests such as yourself who knowingly and intentionally continue leading them astray. Fortunately, it is not me to whom you will have to answer...

Henry Edwards said...

P.I. and J.I.M.,

To do what the Church allows is not dissent. And I would not think to--let alone do it--attempt to characterize the unspoken motive of any individual, whether worshiper or priest.

My concern is rather with those "pastors and shepherds" of the faithful who (in positions of authority and leadership) have fomented the present crisis of faith and liturgy, their own actions rooted in dissent from traditional Catholic faith.

I believe it is naive to suggest that this crisis is not rooted in dissent and loss of belief.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - "The devil made me do it" was a cute TV catch phrase, but when it comes to moral culpability, it doesn't wash.

Ever since Adam tried to blame someone else for his sin, and ever since Eve tried to blame someone else for her sin, finding a scapegoat (you "skip Mass in anticipation of a carnival") is as worn-out an excuse as humans have.

And "I'll skip mass because it may be a carnival and go to confession later" is yet another sin - presumption. Maybe you should try "I'll steal from my neighbor but go to fonfession later" or "I'll lie about my income and go to confession later" or "I'll tell racist jokes and go to confession later" or "I was engaged in a genuine spiritual struggle so I'll skip mass and go to confession later."

Sorry, no cee-gar. Neither the Church nor the world was put here to live up to your expectations.

John Nolan said...

Pater Ignotus

Your post on Moral Panic is too close to the truth to be easily dismissed, even by those who might disagree with you on other issues.

I would take issue with you, however, on your implication, made on this thread and on previous ones, that those who object to sloppy liturgy and dreadful music are looking for an excuse to 'skip Mass'. It is precisely their devotion to, and understanding of the Mass and the liturgical music appropriate to it which fuels their concern.

We've heard a lot in recent years about cases of clerical sex abuse. This is bad enough, but liturgical abuse is worse, both in itself and in the damage it causes, and it is far more widespread.

Gene said...

Ignotus, Have you always missed the point like this or did you take special classes on reading mis-comprehension? LOL!

Anonymous 2 said...


“We've heard a lot in recent years about cases of clerical sex abuse. This is bad enough, but liturgical abuse is worse, both in itself and in the damage it causes, and it is far more widespread."

I do understand your sentiments, and I do not mean to be critical or overly picky or to minimize either sexual abuse or liturgical abuse, but I suspect that caution may be warranted here. Even assuming we could all agree on what exactly constitutes liturgical abuse (a notion that is in any event surely rather less precise than sexual abuse), and however widespread it might be, I am not sure that the two types of abuse are sufficiently commensurable either in terms of their intrinsic undesirability or in terms of their deleterious consequences to permit a meaningful comparison between them. In addition, how can we ever really know about consequences (the problem of Rumsfeldian “known unknowns” as well as “unknown unknowns”)? So, I am not sure one can really say that one is worse than the other, either way.

Gene said...

Anon 2, Sexual abuse and liturgical abuse go hand in hand...after all, they screwed up the liturgy...

Hammer of Fascists said...

PI: While I agree with your statements regarding presumption, there's an argument to be made that you mischaracterized Henry's point, but I'll let the two of you hash that out. My contribution is simply this: I for one have never missed Mass for liturgical reasons, though there was one year that I drove for more than an hour each way to go to a church that I found acceptable, when the nearest parish was literally two blocks from my house.

The deeper question, though, is _why_ a bunch of Catholics who tend to be sticklers for "following the rules" (such as the people on this blog) would even feel _tempted_ to miss Mass or feel the need to drive for hours to fulfill their obligation. I submit that they must reasonably believe that something is severely wrong with the Mass in question for them to consider such things--something that certainly involves aesthetic displeasure but which is by no means limited to it.

For me, if I had to enunciate it, that "something" would be "The beliefs of this parish, as expressed through its worship, are so fundamentally different from my own that I am not _materially_ in communion with it, even though it _formally_ proclaims itself to be Catholic." (I have actually had that experience at a Mass when, during the homily at a Kumbaya Mass, the priest forcefully declared the Holy Father to be in error on a doctrinal matter and the congregation applauded loudly.) A step even farther down the road would be "The liturgy at this parish is so problematical/deficient that I have reasonable doubts about its validity."

In my own experience, horrid '70s liturgy has nearly always been accompanied by significant (and sometimes extreme) levels of modernist dissent that is explicitly expressed in the Mass, and vice versa. I imagine that that's been the experience of most others here. It's a simple manifestation of lex orandi, lex credendi.

John Nolan said...

Anon 2, I beg to disagree. Liturgical abuse is not difficult to define (we have the documents against which it can be objectively measured) although obviously there are degrees of seriousness. When the abuse of minors and the attempted 'ordination' of women were simultaneously classified as 'graviora delicta' the secular press was quick to come out with headlines such as "Rome says women priests are as bad as paedophiles".

Sexual abuse is much less precise. In the UK at the moment there is something of a witch-hunt going on in the wake of revelations that the late Jimmy Savile, a DJ, TV personality and philanthropist, knighted by both the Queen and the Pope, was in all probability a serial sex offender. Showbiz figures, some of them now retired, have been arrested and bailed (amid a glare of publicity) as a result of what the police refer to as 'historical allegations'. A well-known comedian was recently arrested because two women claimed they were molested by him twenty-five years ago when they were in their mid-twenties. The exact nature of the allegations or the identity of those making them are not made public. With talk of massive compensation payouts we can expect more and more 'victims' to come crawling out of the woodwork.

Anyone who knows anything about the music business in the 1960s and 1970s will tell you that plenty of young women were queueing up to sleep with pop stars and their entourages, and no doubt some of them were underage. It is they who were the sexual predators, not those who took advantage of the opportunity offered, and who were in most cases too stoned to go out on the prowl themselves.

As yet, not a single allegation has been tested in a Court of Law.

Pater Ignotus said...

Anon 5 - I am all for following the rules. THE rules, not the personal preferences. An OF mass celebrated according to the OF rules is the mass, whether the music is St. Louis Jesuits or Gregorian chant. It is the mass whether the vestments are brocade or burlap. It is the mass whether communion is distributed by the priest only, or by extraordinary ministers assisting in the process. It is the mass - the Traditional mass - whether the sanctuary contains only males, or includes girls or women in any of a variety of approved roles.

Others on this blog have chastized people who have left because of terrible preaching, inhospitality, verbal abuse by clergy or religious, or a variety of other reasons. But if someone from the "traditional" side says "I anticipated it would be a carnival (whatever that might mean) so I skipped mass" he is defended as a "stalwart" among Catholics.

I would suggest that what some hear as "dissent" may often be disagreement or a failure to "toe the line" on matters where there is not necessarily the kind of clarity that some people desire.

Double standard? You betcha.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

PI, seems like you are promoting the lowest common denominator when it comes to liturgy and have no goals for an higher level of beauty and inspiration that challenges the banal status quo. Have you been cooked in the toxic crock pot banal stew of St. Louis Jesuits (or country western sounds) and burlap vestments and liturgical theology stuck in the 80's?

Anonymous 2 said...

Thanks for your response, John.

I am not sure that liturgical abuse is so easy to define, even in light of standards set by governing documents. There was a thread a few weeks ago regarding use of the vernacular and style of music, for example, in which some of the interpretative issues in the governing documents were addressed. Moreover, I take your point about both the definitional issues and the evidential issues regarding sexual abuse. I would only observe that there is likely a material distinction between pop stars and priests in this respect (at least I would certainly hope so).

But even assuming, for the sake of argument, that liturgical abuse is not difficult to define and even perhaps that it is easier to define than sexual abuse, there is still the problem of their commensurability in terms of intrinsic undesirability and consequences.

And then there is the problem of measurement and quantification, even regarding certain commensurable consequences. For example, how many have left or been turned away from the Catholic Church because of “liturgical abuse” on the one hand and “sexual abuse” (admittedly fueled by extensive and very hostile media coverage) on the other? I suspect it is impossible to know or even to make a reasonable estimate.

Gene appears to be suggesting that the two types of abuse are causally linked in some way, although whether one causes the other (as in liturgical abuse contributing to sexual abuse), whether both result from another common cause, or whether both types of causal link have co-operated in producing sexual abuse is perhaps unclear. It is an interesting suggestion, however.

Anyway, we can all agree that both are bad.

Brennan said...

I certainly applaud a greater return of kneeling and communion on the tongue, I believe it helps fulfill an innate desire to worship God with our bodies as well as our heart.

I found this quote interesting:

"People have lost a sense of the sacred and this took place with the dumbing down of the sense of reverence by not celebrating the Ordinary Form of the Mass as it was intended, with the same reverence as the Extraordinary Form."

And while I certainly agree with the loss of the sense of the sacred, I don't necessarily believe that the committee that reformed the liturgy after Vatican II really meant for it to be celebrated with the same reverence as the traditional Latin Mass. There seemed to be a concerted effort to rework the Mass to adapt it to "modern man" while also attempting to make it more appealing to Protestants by bringing it closer to their type of service.

God bless.

Hammer of Fascists said...


Following the rules may be enough for you, but I made no mention of the rules as a benchmark for my test of material communion. One particular parish I attended had three priests. The one who most closely followed the rules (i.e., the rubrics) was the most heretical (and I don't use that word lightly; he openly and explicitly preached, taught, and encouraged dissent from clearly established Catholic doctrine). Although he followed the liturgical rules, the liturgy still tended to be aesthetically awful, with horrid music, politically correct intercessions, enforced hand-holding during the Our Father, and a bunch of other usual suspects (and one or two unusual ones as well). Yet the rules were generally followed.

I will tentatively agree with you that if someone skips Mass purely for aesthetic reasons, that isn't a valid excuse. My point is that in my experience--I cannot speak to that of others--poor aesthetics have always been accompanied by at least some degree of doctrinal defect, and so going elsewhere _isn't_ for purely aesthetic reasons. The aesthetics may be a litmus tests, but we use litmus tests because they do accurately indicate pH. But this raises a deeper question of the relationship between Kumbaya Masses and doctrinal dissent. You would have to have strong arguments to convince me that there's no connection, and I have yet to see any such arguments.

John Nolan said...

Where there are rails, people will kneel. A parish near me has two churches, one with rails and one without. People have no difficulty in switching from standing to kneeling, depending on which of the two churches they are attending (the Mass times are staggered).

Some years ago I was attending the Solemn Latin OF Mass at the London Oratory when a lady, who was by her accent a visitor from North America, seeing the kneeling communicants, asked anxiously of me whether Communion was in the hand or on the tongue. When I replied "either" she looked mightily relieved!

Hammer of Fascists said...

John Nolan; You make an important point. One of the "go-to" arguments of reactionaries is that change will cause huge problems and upheavals of adaptation, and that we should thus change not at all or with glacial slowness. Today's modernists, in defending Kumbaya liturgy, are the reactionaries, and they ignore (and hope the rest of us fail to remember) how quickly they changed things 40 years ago. In reality, though, people can and will adapt pretty easily. The ones who can't or won't adapt are for the most part people we'd be well rid of.

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father Chicken Little - I understand that "beauty" is not formulaic.

A poem that slavishly falls within the parameters of the iambic pentameter is not necessarily more beautiful than one written in free verse. A painting in the Fauvist style can be every bit as beautiful as one from the Impressionist or Expressionist schools.

Music you find banal may be the source of great strength and/or consolation to another person. A church built in the Russian Revival or the Romanesque or even Post-Modern/Neo-Ecletic vernacular may serve to lift to God the minds and hearts of the faithful who worship there.

A church building need not have naves and apses and clerestory windows to be beautiful - and Catholic.

Gene said...

Ignotus, theology is not impressionistic. There are theological norms that are based upon proper doctrine and belief that we are to follow. Certain actions, structures, art, and accoutrements reflect proper doctrine and theology, others do not, or reflect it much less clearly. Since you like art, one might say that the traditional Mass and Catholic identity are like representational painting. The post Vat II depiction of the Mass and theology has gone beyond Impressionism to Cubism, post-modern, to absurdist. These things do matter...if one is concerned with right belief.

John Nolan said...

Yes, PI, but there is good art and bad art, and good music and bad music, unless you are an out-and-out cultural relativist. Relativism is something the Holy Father constantly warns against. The first Oratory church in London (1850s) was a gin warehouse in King William Street (although every effort was made to beautify the interior) and when the fathers moved to the present site in South Kensington they made do with a temporary brick-built church until Gribble's magnificent Italianate church was opened in 1884.

I would happily attend Mass in a garage if necessary (in fact from a chant point of view the acoustics would probably be better than in those re-ordered churches with wall-to-wall carpet). But informal, subjective and community-centred worship, accompanied by music which is inappropriate in style or content or in both, the perpetrators of which fail to distinguish between simplicity and banality (it doesn't take a D.Mus. to do this); I will not have anything to do with it. It might be a valid Mass (depending on the intention of the celebrant) but in all other respects it is a grotesque aberration, made worse by the fact that many of those attending would no doubt appreciate something better, but are not given the choice.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - The notion that one style of architecture or adornment does a better job of reflecting proper doctrine than another style is absurd and un-historical.

To make such an assertion is to reval an almost complete ignorance of the development of art and architecture in our churches through the 2,000 year history of the Church. Monastic chapels, such as the chapel at Conyers, are unadorned. Romanesque buildings with Baroque decoration schemes that are visually overwhelming are all over Europe. Hagia Sophia in its Byzantine speldor, Notre Dame in its Gothic splendor, the neo-classical Basilica of the National Scrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in its splendor - all of these, in their dazzling variety, reflect our proper doctrine.

And I am concerned about right belief. I am also concerned about assertions based on ignorance.

Pater Ignotus said...

John - I agree that there is good and bad art and music. And I agree that, as the National Association Pastoral Musicians' button declares: "Carpet Bedrooms Not Churches."

The questions become "Who decides what is good and what is bad?" and "What are the criteria for this decision?"

Is one arrangement of notes on a scale inherently more "beautiful" than another? Can one declare that a semiquaver is better than a minim for singing a syllable in the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a motet composed for the feat of the Immaculate Conception?

I believe that worship must be, based on our belief in the Incarnation, both community-centered AND God-centered. Grace builds on nature. Sometimes that nature is of the style of Palestrina, sometimes it is of the style of Corsican monophonic song, sometimes it is in the style of Anton Bruckner, and sometimes in the style of Omer Westendorf or my seminary classmate, composer Fr. James Chepponis.

John Nolan said...

Pater Ignotus,

Not for the first time, I find myself in broad agreement with what you are saying. However, the liturgy as developed for a millennium and a half does not allow of subjective interpretation, and it is this in the last forty-odd years (a mere blip in the history of the Church) which seems to have gained general acceptance - its challenging in the 21st century should not have been surprising.

What is good and what is bad certainly cannot be laid down by a Vatican directive. There is a 1987 opinion from the CDW regarding sacred music which is most certainly wrong, and has been shown to be so in the actual practice in papal Masses.

I have never attended Mass in your church, nor in Fr Allan's for that matter, but I would hope that the same integrity (in both understandings of the word) prevails in each.

Pater Ignotus said...

John - I wonder if, in thinking about the pace of evolution in the liturgy, we ought not consider this something of a new norm. (I will not say "paradigm shift"... I will not say "paradigm shift"....)

Considering the vastly increased pace of developments in technology, computing (Moore's Law), travel, etc., why might it not be reasonable to conclude that developments in liturgy will come, also, at an increasingly rapid rate?

I'm not suggesting that this is necessarily good or bad, but that it is the reality we face.

John Nolan said...

Pater Ignotus, that is an interesting observation. I was in my teens when the liturgical revolution happened (1964-1967)and that febrile era was certainly dominated by the idea of "on va changer tout cela". It took another decade to be fully worked out, but for my parents' generation it looked like the rug had been pulled from under their feet. However, they were conditioned to the idea of obligation, and went along with it, albeit with a heavy heart.

But my generation was the generation not of obligation, but of choice. There was no way I was going to accept sloppy liturgy and bad music (by which I mean music that was meretricious in itself, as opposed to potentially good music that was badly performed). There was better to be had, even in the dark days of the 1970s, and I took advantage of it.

We think we are living through times of great change. Anyone in mid-Victorian times would have felt the same. Scroll back to St Augustine and you get an idea of what it felt like when the Roman Empire in the West, which had lasted almost half a millennium, collapsed in a single person's lifetime.

I don't see any likelihood of the liturgical experimentation of the 1960s being restarted. Its destructive effects are all too clear to see. Also, the variety in local usages pre-Trent was a result of natural development over centuries and it can't simply be manufactured, which is why 'Comme le prevoit' was a step too far, even for Paul VI.

There is nothing wrong in honest disagreement provided it is carried out in a spirit of charity, so if I disagree with some of the things you say, I would beg you not to take umbrage.