Wednesday, September 2, 2015


This is an actual letter over a befuddled and depressed Catholic who can't find a parish that is, well, normal and with traditional elements. This could be anywhere in the USA. Unfortunately, it is Everywhere, USA. I've deleted names and places to protect the innocent and guilty.

But really, this is sad for the person and it isn't helping her Faith to grow but hindering it. This reminds me of what the bishops of the USA once said about the Liturgy: Good liturgy builds up the faith; poor celebrations can weaken or destroy the faith (or something like that):

I am really struggling to find a church here (Anywhere, USA, but Macon). The churches are all relatively modern and so they feel very institutional, with cement and tile, lots of gray, not a lot of statues, and they tend to be "in the round."  Almost none of them have the tabernacle in the worship space.  One of them was just beyond terrible!  It had the congregation facing EACH OTHER on opposite sides of the aisle, with the altar sort of jutting out from one end with the chorus behind the altar!!  I couldn't believe it.  Their tabernacle was in a completely separate part of the church, so they have to carry the host out of the sanctuary and through two rooms. 

There are almost no nurseries, so parents pay no attention to Mass, sometimes having loud, unrelated conversations with their children or friends.  There is a constant flow of people in and out of Mass with kids.  The churches frequently do not have crucifixes (a couple just have crosses, some have nothing but the cross which comes in with the Priest during the procession, some have what I call "Happy Jesus" which is a cross with an ascending Jesus on it), people participating in the Mass wear shorts or jeans, most people do not genuflects, the music is all "modern" and people applaud for it, like we're at a concert, and the altars do not contain the small crucifixes I'm used to.  It was my understanding that, post Vatican II, when the priests decided they could face the congregation, they basically abandoned high altars and made the table altars.  But I thought that they still had to have some sort of crucifix or something that faced the priest? Oh, and they all do that “raise your hand to pray over someone” thing.  Not my style.

I am really struggling to feel like Mass is “real.” I even went to the Cathedral for Mass with the Bishop, but it was no better.  They had a “Happy Jesus” and the lector wore jeans.  I understand that some of this is education, but I’m just feeling very hopeless.  There’s a large Catholic population here and many churches (somewhere around 20 in the area) so I thought it was going to be easy to find ONE that suited us.

I’ve tried reading the Catechism to alleviate my worries, but I can’t find the specific answers I’m looking for.  How can a Catholic Church have no crucifix?  No visible Mary statue?  What about the smaller crucifix on the altar?  Sorry to bother, but I truly feel like I am losing my faith out here.  I miss St. Fill in the Blank more than I could have ever imagined.  People in You Name the State do not understand how blessed they are to have three great churches in You Name the Town alone, and the beauty and pure joy of St. You Name the Saint.  You truly feel the presence of God when you walked into those doors and it lifted the entire Mass.  Here, I feel like we could be anywhere and it would be the same.  That’s not the way a sanctuary should feel.
My final comment: Please pray for this wandering Catholic in the liturgical desert which could be Anywhere, USA and worse yet, Everywhere, USA (except Macon of course!).


rcg said...

I was in her place until a few years ago. This is all the more puzzling that the priests don't sense this and encourage some stable group to learn to serve and help him have a traditional Mass one service on Sunday. It is really like exercise: it is difficult at first until you get the hang of it, then it is not bad at all.

gob said...

Luke 18: 9-14

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Traditional mass is celebrated in every Catholic Church every weekend in Macon and in every church in the Diocese of Savannah.

Anonymous said...

I suspect if she shares her frustration with anyone at the parish, they would be aghast that she can't see how "wonderful" the architecture, design and "celebrations" all are.

We have so many priests and bishops that don't have a clue, it's not even funny.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! The new Order of the Mass is celebrated everywhere which results in the same sacrifice and Real Presence (but not the same resulting piety and reverence)as the Traditional Order of the Mass. There is new and there is traditional.

Loony LeFebvrian said...

While Maconites are lucky to worship in a church that looks like a 14th-century European cathedral, I've never understood why that is the only acceptable style.
Lovely as it is, St. Joseph's looks nothing like the historic old Spanish missions that you see in California or the soaring modern churches of Nigeria that reach to the heavens or the humble little first-millennium churches of the Holy Land.
God is present in all these places and also in the buildings that look like they were built in 20th-century America.
You don't live in a thatched hut and ride to church in an ox cart. God can have new things, too.

rcg said...

To Fr Kavenaugh's point: the woman feels left behind in some way. To simply state that traditional Mass is offered seems to insult her presence. I think you have presented some arguments to support your statement and you should be willing, as a priest, to offer them again frequently when people, such as this woman, ask about it.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

rcg - My point is, and always will be, that the NO and the EF are both Traditional. If a person wants a Traditional mass, that person can attend any church in Macon and any church in the Diocese of Savannah.

If, on the other hand, someone wants to say that the EF is Traditional while the NO is not - well, that person is dead wrong. Too often I see the word "traditional" being used in exactly this way.

I celebrate the TEM - Traditional English Mass. In every way it is traditional, in every way it is the Mass of the Ages, in every way it is the Immemorial Mass. While it differs in historical aspects from the EF, it is, and always will be, Traditional.

I'm not going to allow the EFers to co-opt and misuse the word.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I grew up in a very humble parish church in Augusta, but it was warm, inviting and devotional. Prior to the changes of Vatican II,the tabernacle was dead center with the traditional altar set up.

The ugliest sanctuary we have in Macon (meaning altar area) is Holy Spirit's which desperately needs help and could be fixed easily by simply building tabernacle reredos and returning the tabernacle to the center of the church, moving the priest's chair to the side and moving the choir and its stuff, to include a bookcase that is up against the side-placed tabernacle to rear of the Church. At six candlesticks on either side of the tabernacle, move the statues to the front (of Mary and Joseph) currently on a back wall in the narthex (which is the nicest part of that church) would be the icing on the cake!

Tin Foil Amice said...

Maybe Fr. Kavanaugh will publish your comments in his next bulletin.....

Irving Schmoitz said...

Father Kavanaugh keeps insisting that the Novus Ordo is traditional. Obviously, a Philistine like myself could not possibly argue the point with a man of such superior education--which we are constantly reminded of. Therefore, I will quote the ever-intrepid Christopher Ferrara from his book The Great Facade. Mr. Ferrara suggests that maybe, just maybe the New Mass isn't quite so traditional as some would have us believe:

"To claim that the new Mass represents a striking departure rom tradition, which it obviously does, is not necessarily to say that it is invalid per se. We certainly do not think so, and neither do the overwhelming majority of traditionalists. Archbishop Lefebvre himself never held such a position. Having said this, however, surely we have a right to insist on more than the are minimum of mere validity. No one hosting an elegant dinner party announces with pride that nothing at the table is fatally poisonous.

"But for the neo-Catholic the bare minimum seems quite enough, and everything else is dispensable "externals." Thus, in The Pope, The Council and The Mass, we find the following defense of liturgical minimalism: 'But Christ must always remain the proper object of our faith, and never the externals of liturgical practice which admittedly have been confusing over the past few years…' It does not seem to have occurred to the authors that the 'externals' of Catholic worship are what mediate faith in Christ and the Blessed Eucharist to the members of His Church, and that when the externals become 'confusing' (as the authors admit) the faithful themselves become confused, and no longer believe as they once did. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. The way one worships determines the way one believes."

______ _______ _______ ______

Irving Schmoitz said...

"As for the author's false antithesis between Christ and 'externals,' this is something one would expect to encounter in Protestant theology, with its rejection of the incarnational aspect of divine worship. For the Catholic, the Incarnation of Our Lord has clear implications for divine worship. Although we must be careful not to be seduced by the false pleasures of this world, it is not a fundamentally evil world. God Himself lived in it, interacted with it, and used it to convey His Word. We, too, ought to use the created things of this world for the glory of God, to sanctify the created order in every area of endeavor--from philosophy to the arts, from literature to liturgy. For that reason, we wish to adorn our churches with beautiful things: statues, stained glass windows, an impressive high altar, stunning vestments, and the sounds of Gregorian chant. For the same reason, we treat with great reverence the earthly vessels through which the things of God are transmitted to us."

"…Where the Catholic wished to dignify these natural things by consecrating them to the service and worship of God, the Protestant rejects them as diabolical distractions from the worshipper's purely spiritual and individualistic kathy toward God."


"As an incarnational religion, Catholicism should be the last to suffer gladly the dismantling of its traditional forms of worship. And yet that is what the new rite has done, as a whole and in its parts. We all know what a new-rite Mass looks like, with its denuded sanctuaries, embarrassing "hymns," and barren architecture. The Last Gospel, which was St. John's own meditation on the Incarnation, was removed. The wonderful texture of the liturgical year, with its various seasons, the Ember Days, and its countless traditions, has been flattened out into what the new rite refers to as "ordinary time," a designation we believe speaks for itself. One could go on and on. The neo-Catholic insistence that all that matters are the so-called "essentials"--e.g., the words of Consecration--reflects a profoundly sterile an anti-incarnational attitude that would have filled churchmen with contempt in every other generation but our own. It is, truly, a Protestant approach to worship, emphasizing the purely spiritual nature of worship and neglecting our created nature as human beings. The view that the sacred traditions of Catholic worship can be safely viewed as matters of indifference has absolutely no pedigree within the Catholic tradition."

And so, I can only agree with Mr. F. And I apologize as a Catholic to the poor woman who wrote because she is suffering through this profoundly sterile, anti-incarnationl epoch that we are all waiting to end. It will probably take about two more generations and a wrecking ball to end it for good, but end it will. It certainly isn't vibrant and it certainly hasn't born any "fruits"--unless you consider a near collapse of the Catholic identity and lost vocations and fallen-away Catholics to be a "fruit."

Anonymous said...

"I'm not going to allow the EFers to co-opt and misuse the word."

Sorry Father K, but you're a bit late. That term has already been co-opted and (in your view) misused. When people mention the Traditional Mass, they sure don't think of what most of us suffer through every Sunday. And you know it.

God bless you, but we'll have to agree to disagree.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Irv - I never claimed to have a superior education. I have a good education and have continued to learn since I left seminary 30 years ago. Others who post here may have educations superior to mine. But I adhere to the wise maxim, "Comparisons are odious."

As far as the externals are concerned, you and Mr. Ferrara may side with those who think that the EF liturgy was perfect, or nearly so, or that no substantial changes were needed. I'll side with the Church, as always. "In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it." (SC 21)

And again, to assert that the changes in the liturgy are the direct cause of, "the near collapse of the Catholic identity and lost vocations and fallen-away Catholics" without offering any evidence is merely fantasizing.

rcg said...

Dang, Fr K, it isn't about you. the woman is trying to find a way of relating to her Church and the Mass. Even if she is wrong she deserves at least the same consideration any other sinner gets when they are at odds with Church policy. It could be the church is near a highway and traffic noise intrudes on the service. Teaching her how to concentrate through the distractions would be helpful. In this case the distraction emanate from within the church itself, but she can be helped to benefit from the Mass in these circumstances. I had to put up with some pretty disrespectful environments before I found my current parish. I think the ability to concentrate and pray during Mass while others socialized around me has helped me in my prayer life. Yet, It is hard not to develop the same overt contempt for the other worshipers as the Pharisee had for the publican or the soft contempt of low expectations. If the woman suffers the sin of arrogance the antidote is not more arrogance.

Anonymous said...

Certainly not in Augusta, either I would hope?!? Or Atlanta...Sounds like some place "up North" with reference to so many churches in the unnamed area in question.

As for Macon's Holy Spirit parish, how many members are there at that location? Would not seem to be that given Bibb's (County) population stagnation and lots of Maconites moving to other counties like Houston, Jones and Monroe, enough Catholics to support 3 parishes in Bibb/Macon.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

rcg - Dang it, the woman can relate to her Church and the mass if she chooses. The distractions, I suspect, do not emanate from within the Church itself, but from within a person who says, "This is not what I prefer" or "This is not the way I want it done." It is, I think, another example of self-imposed victimhood.

Every newly introduced style of church architecture was, at the time of it's introduction, was, in her words, "relatively modern." People facing each other is the style of, among other churches, St. Peter's Basilica. (Built in its present form in the 1500's. There's a real "modern" innovation!

My parents had no nursery to take me or my siblings to. We didn't go to church until we were old enough to behave and, if we didn't, there was heck to pay. If you have trouble with your kids' behavior, don't blame the church for not having a cry room or a nursery.

If she can't tolerate the people coming and going, I suggest she not attend mass at any church with a substantial Mexican congregation. Culturally, they're not as wrapped up in the stiff formality we Anglos prefer, but they still worship with gusto while little ones meander about. I had a tough time getting used to this when I first pastored a church with such a congregation, but then I realized that I didn't have to be in control.

There is no requirement for a crucifix to be on the altar and every church I've been to has one (sometimes several) in the sanctuary. Some are Cimabue-esque, some are hung from the ceiling, and some are processional crucifixes that find a place near the altar for the entire mass.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anon - We have appx 220 families registered here at Holy Spirit. In the last 10 years we have had a 3% drop in attendance according to the October pew counts while St. Joseph has had a 30% decline.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Holy Spirit should simply become a mission of either St. Peter Claver or St. Joseph, it certainly doesn't a full time pastor and now that SPC has 2 Francican priests and one brother they could easily handle it.

Irving Schmoitz said...

Good Heavens Father, you need evidence?

I am very happy that you have "enjoyed" only a 3% drop in attendance. However, I ask you to consider the bigger picture over the last 40 years.

Do a Google Search with the term "Catholic Indicators". The statistics speak for themselves.

Anonymous said...

People who leave parishes because they feel it's too liberal: Sympathy and violins.

People who leave parishes because they feel it's too rigid and authoritarian: Bad, hippy-dippy, misguided cafeteria Catholics.

How about this: Church is not a movie or a restaurant. It's not about you and your "choice."

Anonymous said...

Fr. Kavanaugh has become increasingly as irrelevant and redundant on this blog as he apparently is in the parish. But, his arrogance blinds him to the opinion of others who are far superior to him in knowledge, understanding, and devotion.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Irv - The question was about Macon parishes, so I answered accordingly.

I know the statistics as well as anyone, but no one has ever shown a causal relationship between the changes in the liturgy and the decline in attendance.

I have shown that the declines we have experienced have also touched the other major Xtian denominations in the USA. So if the cause of the decline is changes in the liturgy, why did Presbyterians and Lutherans and Baptist's also see similar declines?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The decline in religion, be it Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or whatever happens when there is a loss of identity and an acquiescence to secularizing trends. Baptists, Lutherans and Presbyterians loss their specific identity and thus loss souls to other more conservative denominations or to the nones. I would also say it had something to do with drifting away from their own roots in terms of worship.

The same for Catholics. The decline is multi-faceted but the core is the loss of Catholic identity as symbolized by the sloppiness and banal way the Liturgy in the Ordinary Form is celebrated in most parishes in the world. The despicable state of the liturgy today fits more the quote of Vatican II than the state of the liturgy when it was written: "In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it." (SC 21)

Anonymous said...

The free-fall in vocations, decimation of religious orders of women, closing of Catholic schools and sudden exponential drop in Mass attendance, all beginning with the introduction of the New Mass is surely just a coincidence.

That's it. Coincidence.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anon - It may well be coincidence. We don't know, and that's the point. If there is a causal relationship between changes in the mass and the declines, show it.

The Pew Research Center actually asked people why they left, and their data indicates that it wasn't "the changes":

Just gradually drifted away 71%
Stopped believing the teachings 66%
Spiritual needs not met 56%
Unhappy with teaching on:
abortion/homosexuality 56%
birth control 48%
treatment of women 39%
divorce/remarriage 33%

Dissatisfied with atmosphere at worship 26%
Clergy sexual abuse scandal 27%
Opposed to celibacy for clergy 24%

Religion drifted too far from traditional practices such as Latin mass 8%

If the other 92% who left did not cite "drifting from tradition" as a cause for their departure, why keep claiming that's the reason they left?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Former PI, as I have said over and over again, there has been no survey of Catholics my parent's age (your parent's age) and what effect the loss of Catholic identity immediately following the Council had on them and their off spring of which you are one, but what about your siblings?

The changes in the Mass are simply symptomatic of the changes in the Church done too hastily and as though in a rupture with pre-Vatican II ways of doing things. The bottom line is a loss of Catholic faith in so many things that Catholics once took for granted and would never question. And when presented with choices, they the whole idea of "taste" and gearing Mass to specific groups based on music, language and style.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

From Pew, same survey: "When asked in the open-ended question to explain in their own words the main reason they are no longer part of their former religion, roughly half of former Catholics who are now unaffiliated give an explanation related to religious and moral beliefs. The same is true of roughly four-in-ten former Catholics who have become Protestant and former Protestants who have become unaffiliated."

% saying important reason left former religions:
Just gradually drifted away from the religion
Raised Catholic, now unaffiliated 71%
Raised Protestant, now unaffiliated 71%
Stopped believing in the religion's teaching
Raised Catholic, now unaffiliated 65%
Raised Protestant, now unaffiliated 50%

If the cause of the decline in the faith of Catholics is the changes in the mass, how did this influence the Protestants who left their denominations in similar numbers for the same reasons?

Calvin of Hippo said...

The general drifting away from religion among protestants and Catholics, although a great concern for our culture, is not the issue.
The issue is the integrity of Catholic worship and liturgy and the concern that protestantized and watered-down liturgy and practice will drive others away and keep prospects, who are fleeing a failed protestantism, out. The integrity of Catholic worship, which ultimately reflects doctrine, should not be tied to social statistics about church attendance.

Dave Burkovich said...

The Pew survey is bunk....nobody ever gives the real reason they left, they have to justify themselves.....the real reason and its only one is loss of faith and embracing our secular culture, which incudes self gratification.... period

Calvin of Hippo said...

Dave, simply and correctly put. It is unbelief that is the issue.

Anonymous said...

Dave, how do you know this to be so?

Dave Burkovich said...

To Anonymous....because at one point in my life I was one and would have stayed that way but for the grace and mercy of God.....undeserving as I was.....It is still a mystery to me....I was truly a worthless piece of garbage