Sunday, May 11, 2014


In his homily for the 13 men His Holiness ordained, based on the homily recommended in the Pontifical, Pope Francis spoke about the vocation to the sacramental priesthood. Those who are ordained, he said, “are configured to Christ the high and eternal priest, are consecrated as true priests of the New Testament” so that they become “preachers of the Gospel, and shepherds of the People of God, and will preside over the liturgical actions, especially in the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Lord.”

He called on the newly ordained to “be aware that you were chosen from among men and established in their favour to attend to the things of God;” to “exercise the priestly work of Christ with joy and sincere charity;” to be intent “on pleasing God, and not yourselves.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily saying, “Have always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to seek and to save those that were lost.”

Some reflections on this papal liturgy:

1. The Holy Father has established is own take on the traditional pre-Vatican II altar arrangement that I think works better than what Pope Benedict returned. There are still the six candles and central crucifix, but the candles are now more angled, the crucifix is not as imposing as previously and the episcopal candle is now to the side, which is keeping with tradition.

2. The choir and congregation sing an Italian processional hymn with what I call classical Italian sentimentality in style and cadence.  Then when the Holy Father approaches the foot of the altar, the Choir chants in Latin the official Introit. In my mind, this is the best of both worlds, preserving the congregational singing of metrical hymns that have become quite common in the post-Vatican II era but without sacrificing the chanting of the propers by the choir or schola alone and in Latin, in this case the Introit. It doesn't have to be either/or but both/and.  While it might be startling from the style point of view, one could use even a "Folk or Contemporary" hymn, not to mention some of the wonderful and orthodox hymns borrowed in an ecumenical way from Anglicanism, Methodism or Lutheranism as the processional but keeping the Introit also as in papal Mass this morning.

3. Pope Francis on some occasions that are more international, will celebrate these papal Masses all in Latin but he frequently celebrates Masses of this type completely in Italian. However, at every papal Mass since Pope Francis' becoming pope, the parts of the Mass that are sung, such as the Propers, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei are always chanted in Latin at the Vatican. I think this is the best model for the worldwide Church and I would not be in the least shocked that this style of Mass becomes the norm for all parishes of the world or at least I would pray that it would. Of course it needs to be legislated from the pope himself. I'm not sure Pope Francis will do this, but I believe one of his successors down the road will. It would bring much liturgical unity to the local parishes of the world, especially those parishes that are multi-lingual. For example in our diocese which has many Spanish/English congregations, no matter what Mass you attended, either one that is predominantly Spanish or English, at least the parts of the Mass sung, spoken or chanted by the congregation would be in a common language of Latin.

4. There is a novelty that Pope Francis has brought to ordination Masses either of bishops or priests and I presume deacons. After he incenses the altar, His Holiness descends the altar and incenses individually those who are to be ordained.  I've never seen this before and believe it to be a novelty that Pope Francis has created. 

5. Pope Francis wears very lovely vestments at this Mass and has not skewed wearing a variety of vestments, except he does seem to have an aversion to the Roman Chasuble, which is odd, since he is the Bishop of Rome. As I've said before, I am not a fan of the Roman Chasuble and never have been, preferring the Gothic look, but when in Rome, do what the Romans do and did, at least sometimes like Pope Benedict who wore a variety of styles. 

6. It is clear to me that Pope Francis chose not to distribute Holy Communion to the laity from day one of his pontificate not only to avoid "photo-ops" for those receiving from him and showing partiality to those who are chosen for this privilege, but also because he did not want to continue Pope Benedict's restoration of kneeling for Holy Communion. This was done gradually. At first kneelers were placed in front of the papal altar for people to receive from deacons, but then this station was removed altogether. For the longest time Pope Francis continued to give Holy Communion to the deacons of the Mass as they knelt to receive from Him, but this has ceased also. The deacons now stand. However, the Holy Father continues to give Holy Communion under both kinds to these deacons by way of intinction. 

7. Pope Francis at the end of the Ordination Mass, after the Prayer after Holy Communion has no hesitation of bringing in a Marian piety to the Mass. Evidently it is also Mother's Day in Italy. So he asks everyone present to honor not only our mothers on earth but our Mother in Heaven, Mary Most Holy by reciting the Hail Mary together. 

8. Oddly enough, as much as I like Pope Francis' sobriety in terms of how he celebrates the Mass, his ad orientem style, although facing the congregation, I do miss the exuberance that is very Italian for papal Masses in that there was always applause as the pope entered and departed St. Peter's Basilica and popes encouraged it by engaging those who do so with arm gestures and blessings. This was common even in the pre-Vatican II papal liturgies. 

All in all, this papal Mass is easy for parishes around the world to duplicate. It truly is a role model for the parochial level of the Church!


Cameron said...

That is very interesting, how he incensed the ordinandi.

Cameron said...

And that silly choir is just terrible! Especially that last song.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Oh, come on Cameron, I loved that Regina Caeli especially the Italianized version of it as the Holy Father departed--I'm Italian, I love sentimentality that is gushing. Really, I do!

I know the Sistine Choir doesn't seem to be the best, but we're dealing with Italians here, cut us some slack. In addition, singing in St. Peter's is like singing outdoors. I was in a marching band one time and our band director always told us that when we were playing outside, volume not precision was what was needed. The same is true in St. Peter's.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I hope there will be a summary of the Holy Father's homily. Yes his reference point is the canned homily in the ritual book for ordination, but he departed from that text many times for off-the-cuff remarks, especially about being a good priest and not slamming the door of the church in anyone's face, especially when they come to confess their sins. Be priests of mercy!

Anonymous said...

The idea of papal liturgy as a model for parish liturgy strikes me as quite a novelty, even (to coin a phrase) a discontinuity with tradition. Aside from the fact that papal and parish liturgies have different roles, it seems likely that few popes have been models of ars celebranda (Benedict XVI being perhaps the only such in recent memory). The attributes for selection as a pope--or, for that matter, as a bishop--are likely quite different from those of a model celebrant.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

As I listened to the homily about not slamming the church doors in the face of people, in his typically Italian fashion he used a bit of humor that when the day is done, a priest doesn't go before our Lord in the tabernacle and confess that he has been too merciful as though showing mercy were some kind of sin. We are to be like Christ who came to pardon the world, not condemn it.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard, "That's how they do it in Rome" as a justification for some deviation from the GIRM.


Gene said...

Theological point…He came to pardon men. This world has been consigned to destruction. A new Heaven and a new earth await but this world, mercifully, will crumble.

ACC92 said...

Some thoughts...

Candles and altar arrangement: I genuinely do not like what has happened hear... Why the smaller crucifix, and the candles pushed to the side? Mass isn't some form of entertainment... And the forth candle pushed to one side just looks stupid in all honesty....

Kneeling at communion: it's this that genuinely worries me... Why in earth would someone who believes in Christ's real presence not want people to kneel. This is a massive retrograde step to have stopped the deacons from kneeling and it's a big rejection of the way Benedict was approaching things. I sincerely hope that his successor puts this right... Further to that, I hope his successor puts the Benedictine reforms back on track.

Anonymous 2 said...

That is a fascinating point, Gene. I have often wondered what, metaphysically, is meant by a “a new Heaven and a new earth.” One thing I do believe – they won’t be ushered in by human ideologies, whether of the right or of the left. In fact, human ideologies are probably a sure way to create Hell on earth when they become idols and humans try to create Heaven on earth solely through their own efforts (in other words, when we idolize ourselves). I believe the history of the twentieth century has made this abundantly clear.

Of course, as long as we are on this earth we have to make practical decisions, and human ideologies may be a starting point (but no more than a starting point) for wise decision-making. But their application in any given instance will depend on their interaction with other factors and the totality of the circumstances. And ideally, of course, these decisions should be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Gene said...

Well Anon 2, we are probably in agreement. But, one point, it ain't metaphysics, it is theology…Christology.
I don't make too much of a big deal of it…If God created the heavens and the earth and raised Christ from the dead, I'm confident He will create a New Heaven and earth and raise us up, as well. Metaphysics is tiring and, besides, I am a Kantian regarding metaphysics.

You know, regarding human ideologies and political systems, I really enjoy it when world leaders start acting the fool and calling each other names (like the Korean President calling Obama a monkey) because it validates everything I believe about governments and nations and human attempts at creating even a moderately good society. It gives the lie to humanism and progressivism big time.
Once, in college, I was sitting in the Commons Room listening to a theology professor argue with a philosophy professor (a Process Philosopher Prof). Now, I would run from the room screaming and tearing my hair but, back then, I was still a callow fellow. Anyway, the theology prof said something about Pelagianism. The philosophy professor said, very pompously, "Now, just what do you mean by Pelagianism?"
The theology professor replied, "The idea that man can do anything worth a damn." I just loved it and laughed out loud.

Cameron said...

Father, I'm talking about the other choir. The Sistine Chapel choir is a thousand times better than the other one they had singing along today.

While the Sistine choir is (apparently) not as good as it used to be, they are still much better than they were, say, 20 years ago. Lightyears better. Compare videos, it's night and day.

John Nolan said...

Yesterday, for the first time in four years, I visited the cathedral in Nottingham (AWN Pugin 1842, became a cathedral with the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850). Pugin's original interior was considerably altered in the 19th century, and there was a late-1960s reordering 'on the cheap'. However, in the early 1990s there was a comprehensive remodelling which retained the high altar at the crossing (but replaced the 1960s one with a very dignified one of an early medieval pattern) and restored many of the Pugin features, particularly the outstanding Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Yes, it's a cathedral, and the Sacrament is NOT reserved on the high altar, which now has the 'Benedictine' arrangement as standard.

The cathedral choir in the 19th century was mixed, and in the fashion of the day was often augmented by soloists and chorus from whichever opera company was performing at the nearby Theatre Royal. In the 20th century, following the 1903 Motu Proprio, this was replaced with an ensemble of men and boys with the emphasis on plainchant and Renaissance polyphony.

Later on, women were once more admitted to the choir and in the wake of V2 the music director (the late Peter Smedley who held the post from 1964 to 2003, his predecessor having been appointed in 1905!) managed to continue the tradition of chant and polyphony despite considerable opposition from the cathedral clergy. Ten years ago the cathedral established choral scholarships and so the choir has a number of non-Catholics, and in addition the music director is not Catholic himself.

Be that as it may, I was wondering how ROTR had affected the cathedral. My normal liturgical diet is either EF or Oratory-style Latin OF. The 11.15 High Mass was well-attended, with quite an ethnic mix, although the congregation at the 10 o'clock family Mass (with hymns) is larger. Mass began with the GR Introit, the Kyrie and Gloria were from Haydn's Missa Sancti Nicolai, the Responsorial Psalm was an English setting (by Peter Smedley) but the Alleluia was again from the GR. Credo III was sung, and at the Offertory Palestrina's exuberant Exsultate Deo. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei were from the Haydn Mass, although the latter was sung during the people's Communion; at the Fraction the choir sang the Agnus Dei from Mass I (Lux et Origo). The GR Communio (Ego sum pastor bonus) was also sung, and there was a recessional hymn.

The liturgy didn't quite come up to the standard of the music. There was a permanent deacon, an MC, two acolytes and a thurifer (all adult males). Four EMHC were deployed to offer the chalice, but they did not approach the altar until after the priest's Communion. The priest, an African, ad-libbed a bit at the beginning and tended to play to the audience, but I put this down to a cultural thing. His homily was a bit long and rambling, and I was surprised that he prayed EP IV, the first time I have heard it in the new translation. However, he sang the Collect and the Preface, although not the Super Oblata or Postcommunion. At the 'sign of peace' everyone on the sanctuary milled around shaking hands with everyone else - something so unliturgical I can't believe it is considered appropriate.

So, it was nine out of ten for the music, but only six out of ten for the liturgy. It takes time, effort and talent to sing Haydn, Palestrina and Gregorian chant; if a fraction of that effort were put into the liturgy it would be transformed overnight. It's not rocket science (scientia ballistae non est).

Anonymous said...

Rob: "I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard, "That's how they do it in Rome" as a justification for some deviation from the"

My intent was precisely to suggest that such an argument is wrong and not in continuity with tradition prior to the current aberrant era. In the Roman rite we have adequate time-honored liturgical proprieties, for which due respect can prevent aberrations based on mimicking however whoever is doing it wherever.

A priest hardly need be a liturgical genius to know what is proper, whatever pope or bishop says, though perhaps those of a certain generation need to be schooled in the EF to learn how to celebrate the OF properly. (It being my personal observation that those are the priests who can be counted on to celebrate impeccably; with others it can be chancy.)