Wednesday, March 20, 2013


But first, let us speak of His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Pontiff Emeritus. He brought new interest and vitality to the Liturgy and many blogs began because of his interest in liturgy. It brought new interest in the music of the Church, Gregorian Chant but also newer forms in the vernacular that are consistent with the musical heritage of the Mass.

The music of the Mass is not hymns (except for filler here and there) it is the Mass itself, what are called the Propers, meaning the Introit and the offertory and Communion antiphons. There are many fine motets of all kinds that can be sung at the offertory and communion in addition to the propers but in addition not in place of and as filler, to kill time so to speak.

All of the parts of the Mass belong to the music of the Mass. And all of the parts of the priest belong to the music of the Mass. Even the readings of the Liturgy of the word belong to the music of the Mass as these can be sung too.

Hymns belong to the Liturgy of the Hours which most parishes do not pray liturgically. Convents and monasteries do and some parishes have had valiant efforts at doing so. More needs to be accomplished in this regard.

Now onto Pope Francis and what we have seen ever so briefly. How much change he will continue to bring to the office of the papacy and the style in which he celebrates the Mass remains to be seen. Pope Benedict moved very slowly his first year keeping the "first" Marini in place and the liturgies of that first year, including the Installation Mass were in continuity with the first Marini's style.

Will Pope Francis keep the second Marini. Msgr. Second Marini seemed more relaxed and joyful at the papal installation Mass. Do you think they had it out with each other and resolved issues of differences in liturgical taste and papal tastes? I think there may have been a discussion or two! I think we can't underestimate the "power" of a Master of Ceremonies in the Vatican or a local Cathedral.

When I was the Master of Ceremonies at our Cathedral (1985-1991), then Bishop Raymond Lessard was at first a bit weary of my ideas of what a Cathedral Liturgy should be but as he saw the attendance at the Cathedral Mass increase under my high church embellishments, especially the ones he had, he warmed up to my more high church approach to liturgy. Prior to my going to the Cathedral things were a bit abysmal there and very low church and careless. He got some criticism from some in Savannah that I was pre-Vatican II. Sound familiar? Same accusations against Pope Benedict's Master of Ceremonies and the Holy Father himself.

Yup! That's me! Master of Ceremonies Marini McDonald called back to MC Bishop Boland's Episcopal Ordination in 1995!

Let me make clear, I had a reputation in my first assignment of being a progressive and liberal. I was and still am, but my progressiveness has shifted to a broader love of liturgies and the variety the Church allows including the EF which when the indult came out in the 1980's allowing for its broader celebration, I opposed Bishop Lessard's desire to have it in Savannah! His successor implemented the indult, long after I was gone. I was in my first years of priesthood way too much into improvisation and that new always meant improved and improvisation was a friend of the liturgy, but now I know that it is its enemy.

What have we seen so far in two public papal Mass with Pope Francis and are these anomalies or his part in the reform of the reform?

First of all, I do know that he was a part of the Congregation for Divine Worship in the past and so must have a love for the liturgy. I have no clue as to why he was selected and what are his qualifications. I do not know of anything that he has written on the Liturgy unlike Cardinal Ratzinger who was well known for his thoughts on the Liturgy prior to becoming pope. But Pope Francis must have some expertise, although he can't sing a lick!

Let me highlight the three things we have noticed in his Masses:

1. Brevity! As Pope Francis was departing St. Peter's Basilica after praying the its "confessio" and approached the exit to the square he looked at his watch. I've never seen a pope look at his watch during a liturgy and in fact there is a venerable tradition of removing one's watch to celebrate Mass, although both Popes John Paul and Benedict always wore theirs.

Pope Francis gives short homilies. The one on Sunday was about 6 minutes or less! His installation Mass homily is perhaps one of the shortest ever! Less words and more action might be his motto for liturgy and life? The two are interrelated for us Christians which sometimes liturgy geeks seem to forget!

2. The Offertory Procession! Neither on Sunday at the parish Mass or at the Installation Mass was there a parade of laity with gifts for the offertory and where they kneel before the Holy Father to give them the gifts and the Holy Father chats with them. Some say this is a part of his desire to get on with the Mass because he likes to shorten things. Others are saying that the offertory procession is considered superfluous by many liturgists and need not be done. So Pope Francis eliminates it. I don't know if it is for brevity's sake or some deeper liturgical reason and I would like to know! The EF Mass of course does not have it. Is this a "reform of the reform" and the gravitation pull of the EF on the OF? I hope Pope Francis will tell us!

3. The manner of distribution of Holy Communion! At all of his Masses thus far, Pope Francis only distributes Holy Communion to the deacons of the Mass who kneel before him and receive on the tongue and by way of intinction as the MC holds the chalice and the Holy Father dips the Host into it. But then the Holy Father sits as Holy Communion is distributed. It is the deacon or deacons who take the principle position in the church to distribute Holy Communion and at all three Masses the communicants have knelt to receive Holy Communion at the principle station!

This was especially true of the Installation Mass. Unfortunately the camera did not focus on the principle station for it was not the pope at it! It was there though! The very place that Pope Benedict would have distributed Holy Communion and the camera would have zeroed in on was given over the one of the principle deacons of the Mass! And yes, the communicants knelt to receive Holy Communion at this station.

Some say that the pope is transitioning the manner in which Holy Communion will be distributed and he doesn't want to be seen giving Holy Communion to the laity who are kneeling. I find that implausible given what he has already changed, in terms of the papal paraphernalia and vestments, shoe, mozzettas and the like.

Surely if he did not want to see people kneeling for Holy Communion he would have done away with the principle station altogether or made the deacon distribute Holy Communion without a kneeler in front of him to people who thus stood. I think it is far more radical that he doesn't distribute Holy Communion and there may be a broader liturgical reason for this.

I want liturgists out there who know to tell us why the pope didn't distribute Holy Communion in the Extraordinary Form, him doing so is an OF innovation, like the offertory procession. Is there a liturgical reason?

Pope Francis is now the Pontiff. He is the bridge builder bring the world over that bridge to Christ and the Church. In the Church he is a bridge builder too, keeping the various factions within her on the same bridge.

There is a progressive and traditionalist side to Pope Francis. Time will tell if his bridge will withstand the diversity of Catholics there are or if it will crumble. Will the next pope be a restorationist?


Joseph Johnson said...

I find your comments regarding Bishop Emeritus Lessard and the EF Mass (back in indult days) very interesting. I had always viewed him as a liturgical "progressive" or liberal, based on my limited personal experiences of him. Based on that, I would've thought he would have opposed any reintroduction of the Tridentine form. I'm glad to know that he actually supported having the EF in Savannah back in Ecclesia Dei days.

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father - Do you contend that "high church embellishments" lead to increased numbers in the pews?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, over ones that are banal and sloppy and done with little care and with any sense of the space in which it takes place, yes, yes, and yes yet again.

Gene said...

Ignotus, do you think puppets and guitars work better...LOL!

Gene said...

Both Pelosi and Biden received Holy Communion at the installation Mass. This is unconscionable, hypocritical, and inexcusable on the part of the Vatican. I am not very hopeful about this Pope's future actions. The Church is, again, moving into a Babylonian Captivity. This sends a message that even the Vatican winks at politicians who openly and defiantly espouse views on homosexuality, abortion, and marriage that are diametrically opposed to the doctrinal and dogmatic beliefs of the Church. Already, this Pope is a disappointment.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Lombardi said that the Master of Celebrations expects that the ceremony will not last much more than two hours and, always with the intention of simplification and not making the rite overly long, there will not be an Offertory procession. The Eucharistic gifts will be brought to the altar by the ministers who prepare the altar. Also, the Pope will not distribute Communion, which will be done by the deacons on the “Sagrato” and, in the various areas of the piazza, by priests.

WSquared said...

I saw the Inauguration Mass of Pope Francis last night.

It was simple and beautiful. Again, I wish to reiterate that more ornate does not necessarily make something less humble, just as humble does not make hokey and downright ugly permissible. Again, the EWTN Franciscans are a good visual guide.

Furthermore, "closer to the people" is one thing, but unlike what a lot of people seem to think, "closer to the people" and "meeting them where they are" does not mean reflecting and confirming the people's desires. After all, one should ask what those desires are formed by-- again, from that last interview, I thought then-Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was refreshingly blunt about what he thinks forms a lot of people's desires and consciences (so there goes the liberals' "sensus fidei" argument, too).

Many of those who like harping on about how the Church should sell all of its cultural treasures and give the money to the poor can start with themselves: for one example among many, until you start questioning why your ideal family of four nonetheless consumes more than, and thus has a larger carbon footprint than, a good many families of nine, why should anyone take you seriously when you talk about "humility," "simplicity" in the Church and "concern for the poor"? So just zip it, already.

And frankly, why is it that it usually seems to be those who live comfortably who make every excuse for being careless and even scruffy and ugly when it comes to anything Church related-- be it the liturgy, Church teaching, and theology? I think Mark Shea referred to stripped-down churches and big houses. Is it just me, or do I detect a subtle or not-so-subtle imposition of an unfair burden here? Fr. John Trigilio has pointed out that he's celebrated Mass at poor parishes, but the poor have always dressed well and modestly for Mass-- their clothes may be second-hand, and not fancy, but they are still nice and good clothes. So what makes any of these folks who espouse the above attitudes think that they can speak for the poor when the poor do what they themselves can't be bothered to do?

On a related note, I was thinking about the classic cruciform church building, not just in terms of the worship of the Temple, but also the Eucharist and how it really does speak to proclaiming Christ Crucified: the Body of Christ is formed by the Eucharist, and within the auspices of a cross-shaped church, being conformed to Christ Crucified through the Sacraments becomes much clearer. I'm not sure one gets this through any "theater in the round."

Going back to the papal Mass: okay, so one may not be thrilled to bits or over the moon about the chasubles worn by all the cardinals as much as one was with some of the ones they wore while Benedict XVI was still Roman Pontiff. But those chasubles and the way this papal Mass was celebrated were still dignified, and a very far cry from, say, the Mass celebrated at the Eucharistic Congress in Ireland either last year or a couple of years ago.

That Mass doesn't even compare. Those chasubles (and miters) had very little that was dignified about them, and neither did the music (Sorry, but no multilingual "Credo, Amen!" will ever hold a candle to a simply chanted and confident, "Credo in Unum Deum!").

Henry said...

Some of the omissions in the inaugural Mass were puzzling. Especially the complete omission of the introit chant and psalm--the Justus ut palma florebit antiphon (Ps. 91:13-14) preceding and following each of the 4 verses 2, 3, 5, 6 of Psalm 91, which occupied the entirety of page 31 of the printed booklet posted in advance at

You can check this by starting at about the 59-minute mark in the video posted at

After the obedience--during which the Tu es Petrus (page 27) was omitted except for its first 2 lines--Pope Francis went to the altar and immediately began the confiteor.

Of course, this would occasion little surprise in you local parish church, but every recent papal Mass has begun with a full introit chant. Brevity?

WSquared said...

And maybe those "high-church embellishments" remind all of us that there is indeed something and Someone higher than we are as individuals, to say nothing of higher than "the will of the People."

Militia Immaculata said...

Gene, how do you know the deacons who distributed Holy Communion knew about Pelosi and Biden's views? In Europe, it would seem that people would be far less likely to know whether or not a given American politician were pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage. I mean, we here in the States don't know nearly as much about any given European politician as those in said politician's country would know!

Gene said...

Militia, Europe knows who Biden is. I am sure others there know of the controversy, as well. Besides, it is the business of those in the Vatican to know these things. That is no excuse. There are also plenty of Bishops and Priests in this country who have allowed them to receive, as well.
Biden and Pelosi are doing a deliberate, self-conscious "in your face" to the Church. Their message is, "look at us, we receive and we believe in abortion, gay marriage, and anything between two consenting mammals. Nobody really takes this stuff seriously." In an age when the Church is fighting for its life, a message must be sent. It ain't happening.

Carol H. said...


I think a message has been sent. Biden and Pelosi most likely wanted a photo-opp with the new Pope giving them communion. They didn't get it.

Anonymous said...

It is very nice to see some people are perfectly aligned with the will of the Holy Spirit that they can say "Already, this Pope is a disappointment." Yes, Pelosi and Biden, very grave oversight indeed, but to judge after a week that this Pope is a disappointment seems a bit rash.

With this criteria one would imagine JPII was also a disappointing Pope as well, but turns out he didn't do too bad, considering he is a Blessed, but then if they don't believe he is a Blessed then I guess that would just make them schismatics or maybe these non believers consider themselves the true Church.

This judgment seems a little rash, considering we cannot necessarily judge the sinfulness of a particular drunk man, but only universally that it is a mortal sin. Or maybe the definition of disappointment is not clearly defined by these kind of people.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I still contend that those who are so negative about Pope Francis, even if they rail against me as an ultra montanist, are missing so much of our Catholic heritage and respect for the Holy Father as well as love.
They are relating to the Holy Father as they relate to a politician and nit picking at everything in this secular vein.
It is the progressive "spirit of Vatican II" at work in traditionalist who are cut from the same cloth!

Gene said...

Perhaps I should have said that this particular oversight of this Pope is disappointing. I do not consider concern over major issues of morals and doctrine to be "nitpicking." Neither is it done in a secular vein...last time I checked these issues were doctrinal ones. Still, I support this Pope and the Papacy; that doesn't mean I can't bitch about it sometimes...