Sunday, September 20, 2015


Pope Francis chose Cardinal Robert Sarah to be the new Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship. Cardinal Sarah, certainly a candidate down the road for the papacy, has more in common with Pope Benedict XVI when it comes to manner in which the Liturgy should be celebrated.

But in this critique, you will see what progressives want when it comes to the Liturgy. They want it to be horizontal and very clerical, that is based upon the personality of the pope or priest celebrating it who becomes very affective and animated in the Liturgy using his own words and very loose with the rubrics and words of the liturgy. It is very sad and very retro a la 1970's. But that's the way it is.

This is a critique of Pope Francis' style of celebrating Mass this morning in Cuba:

The Eucharist unfolded in a way that has come to be expected under Francis.

This means not much wandering from the rubrics and text, or from the gestures and postures as found in the current editions of the GIRM and Roman Missal...

Whereas Francis has come to be associated with going beyond the borders in terms of mission – that is going to the margins and peripheries even to the point of pushing the boundaries pastorally, his approach to liturgy gives very little evidence of this. Instead we see a very controlled, precise, and careful celebration. Certainly it is clearly the liturgy that has ensued from Vatican II but with the retention of accretions by Benedict that point to a more staid, methodical and ritualistic approach to liturgy.  (And this this stupid snark:)At least he’s moved the six candles to the side of the altar instead of blocking the view and the lacey, fancy European vestments have gone back into the closet.

The only place where there is a bit of pushing of boundaries is in Francis’ blending of popular piety and the liturgy. (Keep in mind devotions are anathema to progressive liturgists most especially within the Mass!) This was seen at the beginning and at the end of the Eucharistic celebration. The first example was the incensation of the image of Our Lady of El Cobre as part of the incensation of the altar at the start of the Eucharist. The second instance was prior to the final blessing and dismissal, when he led those present in the Angelus and Prayer for the dead.

The inculturation of the liturgy in the Cuban context as a result was quite limited. Even the music as performed tended to be very controlled and less exuberant than that found in many US Cuban parishes, and I suspect in Cuba itself. Perhaps it was the fact that most of the hymnody, though in Spanish and with Caribbean rhythms, was accompanied by an orchestra. Though well played by the orchestra and well sung by the two choirs, it generally lacked “spirit.” (this is very horizontal and affective, no?)

Yet, it was significant that Francis preached from the ambo rather than from his chair as he usually does. (This is down right silly and inaccurate as Pope Francis always preaches from the ambo when he travels and even at St. Peter's a podium is placed before him and the following comment is just plain dumb and wishful thinking. It is actually laughable:) From my perspective, this revealed an attempt to break out of the overly controlled liturgy in order to speak to people heart to heart.  In his homily he used homey examples to illustrate the disciples’ desire to be first or the most important – like a child asking a parent which one is the favorite.

Living in Rome I have had the opportunity to participate as a concelebrating priest at various papal masses both inside St. Peter’s Basilica and in St. Peter’s Square during this pontificate. What I saw in the transmission today could have just as well taken place here in Rome except for the language and the rhythms. Perhaps the other liturgical celebrations during his time in Cuba may reveal otherwise. Clearly attention to liturgical development is not high on the agenda of this Pope but at least there has been no attempt to undo the principle reforms of the liturgy emanating from Vatican II.

Rev. Dr. Raúl Gómez Ruiz SDS is Vicar General and General Secretary in the Curia Generalizia of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians) in Rome, Italy.


Michael (Quicumque Vult) said...

Was the Holy Father using Eucharistic Prayer IV?! I never get to hear that prayer, unfortunately, which is a shame, because, IMO, it's the second best after the Roman Canon (which, conveniently, I also never hear--always EPs 2 and 3).

Michael (Quicumque Vult) said...

Regarding the article quoted...I can only breathe a sigh of relief that this priest's desires haven't been fulfilled.

Rood Screen said...

Why does the author care about how little Cuban culture is incorporated into the Masses there? What business is it of his? Is he a Cuban citizen?

Anonymous said...

Enough incorporating "culture" into the Mass. Personally, I think "culture" diminishes the Mass and turns it into a dog and pony show. I want the same reverent Mass in South America, or anywhere else, as celebrated at St. Joseph, in Macon or Immaculate Conception, in Dublin.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again with that phrase word "culture" polk, salsa, mariachi, rumba, rock, folk, country, marimba, do not belong at Holy Mass, you are more than welcome to have SECULAR music after Holy Mass. That is the problem with the Novus Ordo, with the TLM you have Mozart, Palastrina, Hayden, Gregorian chant this is Roman Catholic music for the Mass, I don't want to here Celia Cruz, Lady Gaga, Frank Sinatra, or any other SECULAR artist played at Mass. There is a time and place for everything, just like not having a eulogy at a funeral Mass, you can say what you want after the funeral.

TJM said...

I guess these liturgical "progressives" won't be happy until no one shows up for Mass. The reforms of Vatican II have done a great job in emptying the pews and this guy apparently wants to finish the job. If this were industry, the board and management would try and figure out what went wrong with their "product." No such introspection here. I guess "being liberal means never having to say you're sorry:"

John Nolan said...

The music was performed well but was more appropriate for a cocktail bar - except for the Agnus Dei which was actually a rather nice setting. It was good to note that the deacon chanted the Gospel. The crowd were well behaved, but that's only to be expected from those who have lived under a communist dictatorship for over fifty years.

I suspect Fr Gomez-Riaz would have preferred Piero Marini-style liturgies, complete with dancing girls. The First Communion children who received from the Pope (by intinction) showed, I think, a wonderful example of reverence and appropriate dress.

During the Liturgy of the Word the cameraman focussed too much on the massive icons which dominated the square - Saints Karl Marx (complete with halo!) and Che Guevara. No doubt he had his orders.