Monday, October 14, 2013


Today I would like to reflect more on Pope Francis' liturgical style. I've already described it as austere when compared to Pope Benedict but only in terms of vestments and vesture. I must admit I miss Pope Benedict's flair for style and the use of the variety of vestments that the papal closet over the centuries has acquired. In this sense, Pope Benedict was and is much more liberal than Pope Francis in that Pope Francis's tastes and use of vestments is very, very narrow and now becoming a bit boring.

Of course he wants to show forth a poor Church. But let's face it, that is rather difficult to do in the Vatican with all the splendor that is there which is to remind us of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is meant to transport us to the other worldly in the midst of our struggles and good works here on earth.

So I am concerned that Pope Francis in trying to show a "poor Church" might make us look impoverished. There is a difference.

For example, I will visit my mother's birthplace and home until she was about 35 years old, Livorno, this coming week to celebrate what would have been her 94th birthday. My mother and her family were very poor as was most of Italy in the post World War I period which was magnified a bit in the post World War II period. Yet they were not impoverished. They appreciated the finer things in life even if they didn't have them and had a sense of style with what they had. They were clean also.

I suspect the Church culture of Italy with its magnificent churches and art helped to instill in them the appreciation   for that which is beautiful, including family life and taking care of each other and others outside the family but also the nicer material things.

I hope Pope Francis doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater and for the bathwater he thinks is bathwater really isn't!

Now for Pope Francis' liturgical style, apart from vestments is quite similar to Pope Benedict. In fact, I would say that Pope Benedict was a bit more "flamboyant" that Pope Francis during Mass in two slight ways that really aren't flamboyant. When Pope Benedict arrived at the altar to kiss and incense it, especially at out door Masses, he would always extend his arms to acknowledge the faithful who would cheer and applaud him. This is true also when he was in procession in the Basilica in and out.

The other is Pope Benedict always chanted his parts of the Mass for better or for worse, which quite frankly, added to the solemnity.

Pope Francis does neither of these. Once the procession begins, he is very somber, introspective and focused only on the Mass and not what is going on outside of him during the liturgy. He never acknowledges the faithful prior to Mass or during the processions as Pope Benedict did and certainly as Pope John Paul II.

His voice in speaking the Mass is subdued and somber and sometimes difficult to hear. It is like the closed door of the iconostasis and adds to the "Mystery" of the celebration and turns the focus vertical and not horizontal. He has entered the "holy of holies" as he begins Mass. This is why I say that he celebrates Mass in an "ad orientem" sort of way while facing the congregation.

He has maintained the Benedictine altar arrangement and in a sense when the Mass is in the Piazza it is the same arrangement as when in the Basilica and the altar is actually facing the geographical East.

The only exceptions to the somberness and inwardness the pope exhibits during the actual Mass is a bit during his homily, but certainly not too much and of course his homilies are less theological and doctrinal and more practical and devotional that Pope Benedict's.

The other is when the gifts are presented to him. Yesterday it was very moving to see the amount of time he spent with the family with very young children who brought the offerings to him. He stood to receive the offerings and spent a bit of time acknowledging the family and speaking to them. This was the only "horizontal" touch to the liturgy and an appropriate way to show it at this particular time.

The music was wonderful for the Mass with much of it in Latin, from the Kyrie (Greek of course) to the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen, Pater Noster and Agnus Dei.

The final blessing was in Latin, but no other parts of the Mass spoken by the Holy Father. To be honest with you, I think that the parts of the Mass should be mandated to be in Latin and the other parts of the priest and congregation optional, while still promoting Latin as the official liturgical language of the Church.

Finally, prior to the Mass, the Holy Rosary was prayed by all and led by priests and laity. This was a wonderful way to get the immense crowd of people into a more prayerful and solemn mood for the Mass.

I think Pope Benedict started to get people to refrain from making this out door Masses into a sort of pep rally which was normal during Pope John Paul II and had really gotten out of hand with banners and all kinds of other things waving in the congregation during Mass. There is a concerted effort now and I think Pope Francis has increased that effort to make the large congregations to be more like worshipping communities rather than raging concert goers.

Finally just a bit of speculation. After Mass, the Holy Father undresses at the foot of the altar with a retinue of people around him so that it is more discreet. Then in his white cassock he greets people who have been pre-arranged. After this, I saw him speak for a bit with Monsignor Guido Marini. He's done this before, but this time I saw it in person. I couldn't help but wonder what in the world the Holy Father was saying to him. Was he praising him for a suburb liturgy, or making a critique of this, that or the other?  It was an animated discussion but nothing that I think bodes ill for Msgr. Marini but for him I empathize and have much compassion during this startling transition of popes and style of being pope, especially in the liturgy sense. I do believe that Msgr. Marini is a brave martyr in this regard.

Then after the pope left and went to greet others, Archbishop Ganswain went and had a little pow wow with Msgr. Guido Marini and the other MC. Msgr. Ganswain (spelling?) is Pope Benedict's personal secretary and still lives with him but is also the head of the Pontifical Household. This makes him I think the most interesting person in the Catholic Church and in her history second only to the Popes themselves.

I would love to know how this transition has affected the old guard. But in a sense, that happens all the time in dioceses and parishes when a new bishop comes or a new pastor. I know it was my experience at St. Joseph Church in Macon, when in 2004 I replaced an icon and much beloved pastor who had been pastor since 1974 and is still visible in the parish to this day.

People, some, not all, had a hard time with me and my different style and personality. That's human. But I might add, I had a hard time with the different style and personality of my new parish compared to my old. We all have to adjust and by God's grace and the virtue of our "adulthood" we do. We are not children living in the past but need to live in the present with what we have with an eye on the future.

Archbishop Gaenswain wearing the lacy surplice which Pope Francis has apparently banned for his MC's to wear at his Masses. Is there a message in this to the pope?


John Nolan said...

In the second picture of Abp Gaenswein the small rotund priest walking in front of him is wearing the 'polyester poncho' type of vestment so prevalent these days. It is not Gothic (the style favoured by AWN Pugin), it is shapeless and ugly, and if worn with one of those modern cincture-less albs it makes the wearer look twice as fat as he actually is. There is a photograph from last year of the bishops processing into Portsmouth cathedral for the episcopal consecration of Bishop Philip Egan. A sudden gust of wind has blown the voluminous but cheap and lightweight chasubles over their Lordships' heads, with ludicrous effect.

'Noble simplicity' does not mean embracing a cult of ugliness in vesture, architecture or music which is all too obvious since Vatican II. St John Vianney spent next to nothing on himself, but made sure his little church had the finest vestments he could afford. There is a lesson here which seems to be lost on the reductionist philistines who occasionally comment on this blog.

Joseph Johnson said...

Let me make sure I have this straight:
The Pope stopped to talk with the former MC, Piero Marini, with the current MC, Guido Marini present?

All this talk of a resurgence of Piero Marini does concern me so far as it pertains to liturgy.

By the way, a couple of nights ago on EWTN they showed one of the live Masses (at night, with crowds holding candles) with the soon-to-be retired Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, as main celebrant. He was wearing a gold Roman ("fiddleback") chasuble.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

O my! My bad, I meant Guido! Pierro no where to be seen! On fact, think he is in the USA! I'll fix it!

Joseph Johnson said...

The picture of you celebrating Mass ad orientem, which is part of the current "masthead" of this blog, is today being used at the top of an article on the "New Liturgical Movement" blog! Check it out!

Gene said...

Yes, Joseph, and the article on "Silent Worship" by Peter Kwasniewski is quite good.

John Nolan said...

The NLM photograph is a puzzling one. The altar cards would suggest an EF Mass, and yet the rubrics are OF (at this point in the EF the subdeacon would be holding the paten in a humeral veil and kneeling behind the priest but not on the altar steps). Can someone shed any light?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

1965 American rubrics or the OF's gravitational pull on the EF?

Henry said...

"1965 American rubrics or the OF's gravitational pull on the EF?"

Where has any deviation from rubrics been authorized in the name of "gravitational pull"?

Pater Ignotus said...

Gravity works, with or without "authorization."

Gene said...

Ignotus, It is really so neat how up front you are with your scorn for tradition and rubrics.

Luke said...

Guido is toast. He'll be "promoted" to get rid of him. The Holy Father replaced all of the consultants with Marini I disciples. The reform of the reform will have to continue without papal support.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Amidst all this hoopla, we all seem to be missing the elephant in the "consecration" room:

What about Russia?

rcg said...

You it does bet. Just ask Daedalus.

Joseph Johnson said...

Tonight I'm feeling like an outcast in my own parish:

My pastor just sent out an email to the PRE teachers in our parish (I am one of those folks) which has material from the "Catholic" organization called "Futurechurch." His email appeared to endorse this organization.

Check out their website and their positions on such things as women's ordination and you should easily understand why I wish I could just pull up and move to another parish! Pray for us!

Althea Gardner said...

Glad to see that you are enjoying your time in Rome! We really miss you a lot in Macon. I love seeing your pictures and reading your weekly letter in the bulletin, but nothing beats having the "real deal" at mass.

I don't really care much about the formality and reform of the reform. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the politics of things that we fail to see the simple majesty of the Mass. I am always in awe of the sacrifice made for us lowly sinners. I am there for the liturgy, prayer, community and Holy Eucharist. Vestments, procedures, personalities and such are nice, but the real reason the church exists is Jesus.

Православный физик said...

Poor Msgr Marini...

John Nolan said...

Joseph Johnson

For the sake of your sanity, not to mention your immortal soul, you have to 'up sticks' from this heretical 'parish'. If you have a family it is all the more pressing that you do so. Appeals to the bishop are likely to fall on deaf ears; their Lordships witter on about 'subsidiarity', which I agree with in principle, but since National Conferences were set up in 1967 diocesan bishops have been effectively emasculated.

Given that the example from the centre is less than encouraging, it is incumbent on us to have a 'zero tolerance' approach to heresy and liturgical abuse. We cannot stay silent.

Anonymous said...

John Nolan:

I know of what Mr. Johnson speaks. I too, live in a Georgia parish that is a bit removed from any city. Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson and I face the same dilemma: To stay in our current parishes is difficult and often trying and other parishes are far away. If we want an EF Mass, we have to drive exasperating distances to either Savannah, Atlanta or Jacksonville. With Pope Benedict, we had hope that the EF would eventually reach to some of the smaller areas, but we are denied and our new pope seems determined that we stay denied so we can continue with more postconciliar breakdown for one more papacy. Most bishops don't seem to care much about this problem as they are dealing with so many other issues. Trying to educate your fellow Catholics to understand what they have accepted is not what the Church is about is even more futile. I fear it is our fate to continue a "crucified" existence, dying to our needs and praying for a renewal that is being delayed for at least the duration of one more papacy.

SSPX Bishop Bernard Fellay recently said that the faithful have been left to fend for themselves. That's not a universal, but it's certainly more the rule than the exception. Parishes today exist, for the most part, to support a structure that is in place and if Catholics who embrace tradition dare to so much as ask what is rightfully theirs, they are labeled, demonized, ridiculed and worse.

Gotta love that new springtime.