Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Boring or interesting:

Whether Pope Francis intended it or not, he has undermined those blogs that focus on the liturgy. Pope Benedict made the Liturgy and thus liturgical blogs interesting, fun to read and make comments. Pope Francis though has made the liturgy boring, uniteresting and thus liturgical bloggers are flumoxed trying to make their blogs interesting. I think particularly of Praytell and the comments in particular always derailed by the EF and OF controversies and the latest thing from the "reform of the reform" to which they are/were always reacting.

Yet the more progressive of liturgists really can't claim any sort of excitement from Pope Francis, because well, he's made liturgy boring. He celebrates the Mass by the book, does not improvise, does so in the most serious way possible, and at the Vatican there is still the pre-Vatican II altar arrangement, the chanting of the official antiphons of the Mass, a great deal of Latin, and the liturgy is still very well organized and choreographed. Msgr. or should I say, Father Guido Marini (Don Marini) is still the papal Master of Ceremonies and there seems to be real affection between the two!

With Pope Benedict, the more progressive blogs, as well as traditional ones, always were highlighting Roman Vestments' return, lace, fannons and other pre-Vatican II elements of the liturgy returning to the papal Masses, but apart from liturgical wardrobe and his willingness to chant, Pope Benedict's style of celebrating the Mass is almost identical to Pope Francis. Pope Benedict was understated, held his hands in the folded manner, not straight out, often failed to make a "Full sign of the Cross" at the beginning of Mass and spoke softly.

And when Pope Benedict visited other parishes in Rome and around the world, the music went from wonderful to quite pedestrian and guitar groups were in abundance. One can also remember his pastoral visit to Germany where the opening hymn was perhaps the most horrible of his pontificate. But everyone felt sorry for Pope Benedict when he encountered local churches and the music was horrible. When Pope Francis experiences the same thing, they think Pope Francis endorses it as the wave of the future.

So just as traditional Catholics looked to see what other traditional elements Pope Benedict would incorporate into the liturgy, progressive Catholics continue to look to see what traditional elements Pope Francis will removed. 

I am not criticizing Pope Francis for making the liturgy boring again. For I have always written that there can be a sort of liturgical idolatry when one becomes preoccupied by liturgical issues to the neglect of the Catholic life lived well.

As well, there is a tendency to make the liturgy to academic, especially in the progressive sense that does not take into account the piety and devotional needs of Catholics. Progressive liturgy can be very rigid and sterile and can stretch their theology to give reasons for certain novelties incorporated into the OF Mass.

One red herring  is the Holy Communion procession which has turned receiving Holy Communion into a line where Catholics are forced to "eat and drink" on the run, never really stopping until they get back to their pews, where liturgical purists in the modern sense tell them to remain standing and singing, even with mouth full, until all have received. And what is truly important to them is the kind of bread they are eating (physically not doctrinally) and the way they drink the "wine" the Precious Blood of Christ. The focus isn't on Christ, but on the eating and drinking and the kinds of bread and wine they are eating and drinking and on the run, as in a chow line. 

Compare this to the EF's manner (actually during pre-Vatican II times) of receiving Holy Communion at the altar railing. There usually was no organized line and people just simply went to the railing, knelt waiting for the priest to come to them and then paused after they received prior to returning to the pew to give thanks to God kneeling and in the most personal and faithful-filled, individual way possible. Although their was quite a collective individualism, not an isolated type.

What was important wasn't the look, taste, smell or texture of the bread and wine, but Jesus Christ, crucified, risen and Gloriously reigning in heaven and on earth through the Church!

So, with Pope Francis, it appears that the "reform of the reform" is on hold. His papacy may give us time to reflect on what Pope Benedict proposed in terms of an acutal "reform of the reform."

Or something else may be afoot. Maybe Pope Francis doesn't want to model that which isn't the liturgical norm in the world. Let us see how the Congregation for Divine Worship will function when the new head is in place as well as members. Who is named as head, and we can presume it will be a moderate, not an ultra traditionalist, will tell us a great deal. Let us see who else will be on the congregation's committees and who is removed. If Cardinal Burke stays, that will tell us something, if he is removed and no one like him, that will tell us something too, but not too much! (BTW, I'm a moderate, not an ultra traditionalist! I'm a liturgical liberal (within parameters) in that I appreciate all the forms of the Mass in the Catholic Church, within reason of course).

Pope Benedict called people to live well their Catholic life just as Pope Francis. In terms of the public life of Catholics, the two popes are on the same page. Pope Francis just seems to make it more interesting as Pope Benedict made the liturgy more interesting and both interesting elements have to do with style, not substance.


Anonymous said...

Father, you didn't have to tell us you are a liturgical liberal. It's very obvious.

Anonymous said...

More backhanded swipes at Pope Benedict. At least Pope Benedict genuflected at the consecration. If Pope Francis is able to crawl on the floor at the feet of a female Muslim, he can genuflect at Mass.

rcg said...

My biggest beef with the NO is the lack of reverence and the attending bad theology that creeps in. I think if the NO had been done everywhere as St Joseph appears to do it I think the controversy and friction between the adherents of the two forms would be almost nonexistent.

Rood Screen said...

Since the liturgical rites, vestments, architecture, etc. are all meant to lead us into Christ's sacrifice, it makes sense that there should be a natural limit to discussion of those individual elements themselves. We don't go to Mass to hear the music or see the incense, but to experience the Redemption of Calvary. Maybe we all need to take a break from liturgical questions, and just focus on Christ's Sacrifice for a while. The Holy Ghost will let us know when it's time to take up the reform again, probably with the election of the next pope.

In the mean time, I would humbly recommend that ever Latin priest offer the EF Mass weekly, even if only privately, and offer the OF Mass with devotion. That will give the Spirit something to work with in the future.

Kneeling Catholic said...

>>I'm a liturgical liberal (within parameters)<<<

right, Father :-)

according to your own parameters!

I got to visit a neighboring parish, Sunday evening. There was guitar music, Haugen's Mass of Creation, but the priest had kneelers in front and many people knealt for Communion. I'll take that over, no-Haugen "frosted miniwheats" music but also no-kneeling for Jesus!

Henry said...

More generally, one might observe that on most serious Catholic blogs, fixation on the pope and the papacy is greatly diminished--no mention most days. For instance, at Father Z's, you can scroll all the way down through the last several days of his posts, and see nary a mention of Pope Francis.

The incredible shrinking papacy?

Not to say that this is bad; the primary role of the pope as guardian of the faith not being to model the liturgy, nor to promote change in the Church or propose new programs, but simply to preserve unchanged and undiluted the received traditions and deposit of faith.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

But Henry, technology has changed and we now know what the Pope is doing and I can download and post every papal Mass, even live that is televised by the Vatican. In the past, we only got snippets of what was happening in Rome. And the only Mass people every saw might have been papal funerals, Christmas and that was it. Today we get to see more of the pope than our own bishops.
Is that good or bad. It depends, but it is the reality and I doubt we will go back to the 1960's before Telstar and the internet!

Pater Ignotus said...

Our Dear Fr JBS - I will humbly respond that there is no need for Latin priests to celebrate - even privately - an EF mass each week.

The "externals" deserve our serious consideration and plentiful. We cannot know, experience, feel, begin to comprehend, or otherwise encounter the sacrifice of Calvary without them as long as we are on this side of the tombstone. So they matter - very much.

I recall that the "divisions" in our seminary class first appeared in our studies and discussions of liturgy. By the third week of class the lines were clearly drawn. But, praise God, we all got along famously for the remaining 3.5 years!

Henry said...

But just as technology can make a pope more visible throughout the world, it can expose lack of clarity and focus in his words or actions, and thereby dilute his effect on the actual faith and worship of Catholics. Thus "shrinking" the papacy as compared with its historically more olympian image and role.

An analogy for Georgians might be the way Jimmy Carter's over-exposure as a humble populist figure made for a weak and "shrinking" presidency (in the view of most).

Henry said...

FrJBS: "I would humbly recommend that ever Latin priest offer the EF Mass weekly, even if only privately, and offer the OF Mass with devotion."

And might not offering the EF Mass regularly lead to an increase of the apparent devotion with which a priest offers the OF Mass? So it has appeared to me in observing several priests I know who were trained in the OF and subsequently learned the EF.

Православный физик said...

To defend Pope Francis on genuflecting, there are videos of him genuflecting before his election, so i'll assume it's a major chore for him to genuflect without aid, that said I still think he should even if he need a kneeler to help him.

Rood Screen said...

Good observation, Joe Potillor.

Православный физик said...

Thank you FrJBS

WSquared said...

Eh. I don't think that Pope Francis has made the liturgy boring. In his defense, he's not the liturgist Pope Benedict was. But he's not hippy-dippy, either. Again, what keeps it interesting for me, anyway, is to think about how the EF actually makes a lot of what Francis says radiate more clearly. Moreover, what Benedict left us is a gift that keeps on giving, that continues to nourish a lot of people.

RCG, I'm the only EF-lover in my family, and so I attend the OF frequently. I'm also part of an a capella choral group that sings at Mass. So I try to bring my EF-honed sensibilities to the table. We're by no means "there" yet. Far from it. What I have found when I attend the OF is that the EF has allowed me to tune out a whole lot and to focus.

I agree with FrJBS: I've had many priests say that knowing the EF has also made a difference in the way they approach and pray the OF. It would be good for priests to be bi-formal.

rcg said...

W2, that is good to hear. I have referred to the EF as the 'adult' Mass. I have no doubt NO can be done, and is done, reverently, humbly, and lovingly. But it is often a celebration in the same manner as a street carnival. The EF is much more focused, in my experience.

John Nolan said...

Kneeling at a priedieu or at the altar rail is one thing; genuflexion (and I speak as one with creaky knees) is quite another. I have seen priests who have to "pretend" to genuflect, particularly when celebrating the Old Rite. Pope Francis keeps his hands on the altar, thus signalling the intention to genuflect, and makes a profound bow with the concelebrants. This is, IMO, more dignified than a "pretend" genuflexion, which when executed versus populum would look as if he is making no sign of reverence at all.

Just my two penn'orth.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

This disrespectful condemnation of Pope Francis for not genuflecting is simply disrespectful. I have serious knee problems also. At the last Mass in my parish on Sunday before departing for my Roman sabbatical I celebrated the EF Mass and tried to do a complete genuflection at the Credo and hurt my knee and tore a meniscus. this hampered me in Italy to do end and more than likely I'll need surgery later this year. I no longer genuflect but make a profound bow with a kind of genuflection. I need to video it to determine which is the most reverent looking, although the reverence is in my heart. It is quite different genuflecting compared to kneeling at a kneeler or the railing!

Rood Screen said...

I doubt anyone would resent the Holy Father for not genuflecting due to ailments. He has made many symbolic changes over just a few months, and so the faithful naturally seek to understand any such changes. If the faithful see him not genuflecting, and don't know why he's not doing so, they naturally ask if there is an intended meaning behind the change that everyone is meant to perceive. This is a pope who invites interpretation and discussion, after all.

Anonymous said...

Words, words,words....Liturgical Humm. Dont think Jesus wrote anything down that was done by some of the 12 that were appointed. Men...The Mass in reality is a reenactment of the Last Supper maybe all should know that..Parishioners should not get hung up on exact wording because interpretation problems exist. The mass should be of simple language of the country of your own. This will allow all to spread the word.
Thanks Pope Francis

Православный физик said...

No intention of disrespect..I have leg problems myself and it's difficult to genuflect without use of an aid (kneeler, railing of some type, etc)...

I give the Holy Father the benefit of the doubt in not genuflecting, and figured it had to be something where it was difficult to do so without major help. (Granted watching an 86 year old now emeritus pontiff genuflect was very inspiring, knowing how difficult it is)....

Thing is though, when I saw the Holy Father for the first time not genuflect...I didn't know whether it was on purpose or it was because of something else. (After finding videos of him genuflecting...I took it to be the latter)...but before that, I (and I'm sure others) thought it was on purpose...tis what happens without investigation or explanation.

Not genuflecting for anyone with knee problems is absolutely okay :), for one is not bound to perform the impossible. In this case it wouldn't be a liturgical abuse obviously.

Where as deliberately violating the established rubrics (vir on Holy Thursday for example) is something entirely different.

I think tradition has it that St James had knee problems before getting martyred from the double genuflections (Liturgy of St James)

Just go with the profound bow and don't try to genuflect :), at least until after surgery, prayers for you as always Father

Gene said...

If someone, a Pope even, cannot genuflect due to leg problems, a bow should be fine. I think we are making too big a deal of this…unless the Pope is sending a message deliberately about it. I don't think he is.
However, I believe a lot of folks use any little ache as an excuse. I think we should genuflect through a little pain as long as it does not make an injury or ailment worse. Generally, we are a spiritually lazy crowd who have forgotten humility and awe before the majesty of God.

Anonymous said...

It's on the Divine Mercy Sunday in 2015, that I saw the Pope not genuflecting. I then did some research as to why this was so, and if this was Liturgically right, it when I came to find that His Holiness has a knee problem. I myself find no problem to this, as I saw him making a profound bow before the celebrants, which seemed more appealing than the genuflects I see to some of my priests. I think what matters here is the true devotion to Eucharist, which I really see in our Pope.