Saturday, November 14, 2015


I appreciate the essay that Christopher Shannon writes about Romano Guardini. I had not thought about the cold rationalism of Thomistic theology that affected the Church of the first half of the 20th Century and how Augustinian theology as appreciated by Guardini and his student Joseph Ratzinger is the antidote.

But I appreciate especially Guardini's understanding of the Liturgy and how the ill-advised reform also veered off-track and brought a cold rationalism to its celebration, stripping it of playfulness, and making it a "work" of the people, a druggery where we have to have, in fact are given, answers to questions of "why" and "wherefore" thus eliminating the mystery aspect of the liturgy.

This is what Shannon says of Guardini as it concerns the Liturgy:

In his classic The Spirit of the Liturgy, Romano Guardini presented the experience of the liturgy as an antidote to the cold rationalism and narrow moralism that he saw afflicting the Church of his day.  Against these, Guardini sees in the spirit of the liturgy a spirit of playfulness:  “The soul must learn to abandon, at least in prayer, the restlessness of purposeful activity; it must learn to waste time for the sake of God, and to be prepared for the sacred game with saying and thoughts and gestures, without always immediately asking ‘why?’ and ‘wherefore?’” 

Then Shannon writes:

Like so many of those French theologians, Guardini recoiled at the early efforts to implement the vision of the Council, most especially the liturgical innovations that worked directly against his understanding of the spirit of the liturgy.  Those who directed the life of the Church in the decades following the Council were bad Thomists without being good Augustinians.  It would take good Augustinians and careful readers of Guardini such as Josef Ratzinger to help set the Church back on the right path.

This path, however, involves neither a return to the pre-Vatican II Church nor a “conservative” interpretation of the Council.  Guardini, Ratzinger, Wojtyla and Bergoglio have all in various ways sought to fashion a Catholic modernity, a new Catholicism appropriate to our time yet faithful to tradition.  Catholics since the Council have largely either retreated into a fortress of unchanging, timeless truth or surrendered to the tyranny of relativism.  Our Church offers us another way to think about living in time and embracing historical particularity.  No one age can embody the entire truth of the faith.   God gives us each age as a gift embodying the particular aspect of the faith most needed at a particular time.  Romano Guardini was one of the first to offer to the modern world a vision of the Church nurturing the flourishing of free personality within community.  If secular modernity has yet to recognize this vision, it is perhaps because Catholics themselves have yet to embrace it.

While Pope Benedict did restore much of pre-Vatican II signs and symbols to his liturgies and papal vesture, he was not going backwards, but forwards in continuity with the past and in a brilliant Augustinian way. This is what Pope Benedict called "reform in continuity" and it is still sorely needed now as never before.

How can we recover the "playfulness" of the Liturgy as Guardini envisioned? He immediately saw the reform of the Mass as a dismal failure.

We must look to Pope Benedict for this. He wrote Summorum Pontificum not to return the Church exclusively to the Tridentine Mass but to go back to its celebration widely applied as the template to renew the dismal reform of the same Mass.

Today, as a result of Pope Benedict's efforts, we have the Anglican Ordinariate's Roman Missal that now becomes a sort of template to properly reform the Tridentine Mass.

Let me bloviate on how the Anglican Ordinariate's Roman Missal along with Pope Benedict's modeling of the papal liturgies could recover the "playfulness" of the Liturgy as Guardini envisioned it by abandoning the rationalism and pedantic aspects of the reformed liturgy:

As Pope Benedict modeled the papal liturgy:

1. Use of Roman Vestments with Latin Rite ornateness from alb to chasuble

2. Chanting the actual Mass to include the priest's parts

3. The use of Latin for the propers and the Canon of the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer) and the vernacular only for the changing parts

4. The recovery of ad orientem

5. The recovery of kneeling for Holy Communion and receiving on the tongue

As the Anglican Ordinariate brings this forward a notch:

1. The revision of the Roman Calendar to include elements eliminated in the Latin Rite's reform, such as Septuagesima, the seasons of time after Pentecost and Epiphany and the Octave of Pentecost and ember days

2. The mandated use of the Roman Canon for Sundays and Solemnities and only Eucaharistic Prayer II for weekdays (no other Eucharistic Prayers)

3. The return of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the Tridentine Offertory Prayers and the Last Gospel

4. Rubrics that explicitly call for ad orientem, kneeling for Holy Communion and intinction as the means of the laity receiving the Precious Blood

I would also suggest that the Eucharistic Prayer be prayed in a low voice (not silently)

Finally, Guardini and his students, Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis give an antidote to Islam's war on secularism with its senseless violence as once again experienced in Paris.

Pope Francis wants to dialogue with secularism as Guardini desired and not retreat in a monastic enclosure sheltered from the world of secularism.  None of these three popes wanted to circle the wagons and create a Catholicism that is an alternative society independent of the secular culture.

As in the early period of the Church and her engagement with secularism and pagan religions, the Church baptized what was good in society and incorporated it into the Church. Think of the timing of Easter and Christmas and praying for the dead and highlighting the saints.

The French Revolution's liberty, equality and fraternity are not alien to Catholicism.The new evangelization must not condemn everything secular society proposes but see the good behind it and the danger of secularism divorced from God and religion.


Anonymous said...

But I imagine this reform of the reform of the reform still envisages the involvement of lay people: reading, the offertory procession, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, bidding prayers. The continued involvement of the laity in this manner would not encougage those who prefer to attend the Traditional Mass to instead attend the New Mass. So the status quo would remain. But the suggested reforms would be of benefit to those attending the new Mass but I think those reforms would be largely rejected by the majority who don't even like the current translation which was a vast improvement on the old one.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I do not foresee the 1962 Missal being suppressed again, but appreciated more widely.

In terms of the reform of the reform, and this has implications for the celebration of the sacraments, we have to deal forthrightly with the spirit of Vatican II clericalization of the laity and the laization of the clergy. This is seen symbolically in the ill-advised reform of the 1962 Missal.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Jan - I celebrate the Traditional mass every time I go to the altar. The New mass is not non-Traditional.

Anonymous said...

I've been ready Phoenix from the Ashes, it goes into brief but very good detail about the reform of the reform that Benedict talked about, and which seems to be all but dead now under Francis. Essentially the book says that in a couple of generations, 30-40 years the TLM will be normative again, and for those who believe that can't happen, get the book and read it. The NO doesn't have a leg to stand on, it isn't a part of Catholic tradition, it's a "banal on the spot fabrication," and to think it will stand the test of time is quite foolish.

Anonymous said...

Father Kavanaugh I have not doubt you offer the Novus Ordo with reverence, but one cannot with all do respect compare the Mass of Pius the V to the Novus Ordo I wish you can accept this fact. The Novus Ordo can be done very reverently but lets be honest it is very different in more ways than one. The rubrics of the TLM are quite precise and take time to learn, the Novus Ordo sadly can be "made" up each and every time a priest goes to the altar. The TLM has NEVER changed for the most part, a person from 1545 in Germany would know exactly what was happening at a S.S.P.X. F.S.S.P. or Institute of Christ the King Mass, on the other hand a Novus Ordo Mass would seem alien to that person from 1545 Germany, France, Italy, Spain or any Catholic country of that time. Father Kavanaugh I know you will not want to hear all of this, but it is the truth.

Anonymous said...

Why are we always talking about the necessity of reforming the Traditional rite of Mass? That Mass was a source of grace for untold millions of souls. The great big lie is that it needed reform when in fact it did not need reforming.

No everyday average believing lay Catholic before the council EVER thought that the Mass should changed.

As usual it was liberal prelates and elitist intellectuals who couldn't stand the traditional rite of Mass. So naturally everything had to be changed because of a bunch of loud screaming liberals in the Church. In that aspect nothing has changed.

The real truth is that the reformed liturgy of Paul VI has destroyed the Faith of three far. Worldwide the Mass is not celebrated with reverence but with impiety and many times scorn. Yes scorn. Countless are the times I have attended funeral or wedding Masses where the priest or bishop almost seemed embarrassed to perform "Catholic" rites. Until the modernism is confronted in the Church and fought and true Catholic worship restored the collapse will continue. Yes and I said true Catholic worship. It is not and has never been Catholic for the Eucharist to be treated with such irrevence as is being done today. We actually have a pope who is chomping at the bit to formally teach that people who have embraced the sin of adultery don't have to change or go to confession or amend their lives but can remain in their way of life just because they have chosen to live it, unrepentant for long periods of time, and still go to communion. That's evil and I don't care if Francis wears a tiara when he teaches it. Christ said adultery is a sin and to STOP committing this sin and Francis or Kasper don't have the authority to change that. PERIOD!

Oh and still complete silence from the Pope regarding the entire country of Ireland embracing evil. Why the silence?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anonymous - I will compare the Mass of Pius V and the Novus Ordo and declare unhesitatingly that both are Traditional, that both are valid, that both are proper, full, and grace-filled expressions of the Church's expression of faith in its liturgical tradition.

They are also different, and for good reasons.

The Traditional (sic) Latin Mass has changed over the centuries, numerous times.

Anonymous said...

The French Revolution's "liberte, egalite, fraternite" does not mean what this writer seems to imply because the French Revolution had absolutely no use for God. Liberte for the French in 1789 actually meant and means even today freedom from God. Egalite and fraternite are also concepts which are understood to mean whatever the zeitgeist decides they mean. What the French Revolution managed to accomplish is empty these three concepts of their traditional meaning. As a consequence, we have abortion where the baby has none of "the rights of men."

It is true that a number of individuals claiming to be Catholic today agitate for communion for people living adulterous lives or live active homosexual lives in the name of liberty, egalite, fraternite. They do so because they prefer the words redefined in 1789 and not the words of Jesus: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)


Anonymous 2 said...

The following is from the Wikipedia article on Guardini:


His first major work, Vom Geist der Liturgie (The Spirit of the Liturgy), published during the First World War, was a major influence on the Liturgical Movement in Germany and by extension on the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. He is generally regarded as the father of the liturgical movement in Germany, and in his "Open Letter" of April 1964 to Mgr. Johannes Wagner, the organizer of the Third German Liturgical Congress in Mainz, he "raises important questions regarding the nature of the liturgical act in the wake of individualism, asking whether it is possible for twentieth-century Christians really to engage in worship. Is it possible to 'relearn a forgotten way of doing things and recapture lost attitudes', so as to enter into the liturgical experience?" It was his glad hope that after the call by the Second Vatican Council for liturgical reform, the Church might shift its focus from that of mere ceremonial (though important) to the broader idea of true liturgical action, an act which "embraced not only a spiritual inwardness, but the whole man, body as well as spirit.” He himself gave an example of his meaning: A parish priest of the late 19th century once said (according to Guardini's illustration), "We must organize the procession better; we must see to it that the praying and singing is done better." For Guardini, the parish priest had missed the point of what true liturgical action is. The questions he had asked should have been different. They should have been, "How can the act of walking become a religious act, a retinue for the Lord progressing through his land, so that an 'epiphany' may take place."

So the real question seems to be: “How do we best enter into the liturgical experience”? And not “How can we make sure that everything is done superlatively with military precision”? How, then, can our inward disposition and our physical actions, not the outward form of the Mass alone, make our participation at Mass a true religious act? Isn’t the key here that we should participate mindfully and not “automatically” and “routinely,” whatever the form of the Mass?

Anonymous 2 said...


As the author’s examples about Easter, the Christmas tree, etc., suggest, the concept or institution in question can provide valuable inspiration but is transformed upon incorporation into the Faith so as to acquire a specific Catholic meaning. Why can’t the same be said about liberty, equality, and fraternity?

George said...

"Those who directed the life of the Church in the decades following the Council were bad Thomists without being good Augustinians"

So if they had been good Thomists, things would have worked out better? Was what transpired in the decades following the Second Vatican Council influenced all that much by a Thomistic spirit or influence?
It is hard to dismiss that the way things were between Trent and the Second Vatican Council produced some of the gretest Saints of the Church. Yes, the Novus Ordo is valid. To say otherwise is to deny the validity of the greatest prayer of the Church. I do concur with those who say (many from the personal witness of having suffered through a badly done liturgy) that there has been allowed too much flexibility in the celebration of the Mass. I have heard some horror stories from some I know who have attended Mass in other parts of the country. What is needed is more liturgical constraint and discipline which would provide more consistancy across the Church in the celebration of the liturgy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2

Jesus taught liberty, fraternity and equality. For example: the truth shall make you free; love your brother as yourself; St. Paul who taught everything the Master said clearly states that before God we are all equal: rich or poor, men, women, slave or the free. So, there is nothing to learn from atheists as they just claimed to invent what Christ taught centuries before.

The French Revolution claimed these ideas too but because they were atheist the principles remained empty phrases. The French Revolution failed to implement these principles; ever since all leftist revolutions claimed to support these notions but only left millions of dead and oppressed, most prominently in Soviet Union and China.


Anonymous 2 said...


I agree with your point about the secularization of those religious concepts. But I also suspect there is a “continuing dialectic” between the religious and the secular and indeed other religious understandings that can lead to evolution in our realization of these concepts (in both senses of “realize”). For example, the early Christian understanding may itself have been influenced by the Stoic tradition:

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh, a little introspection on your part is in order. The novus ordo is the edsel of the liturgical world. If bishops were executives they would have been fired for this mega disaster. Facts are pesky things, and the novus ordo did NOTHING to bring more souls to Christ. In fact, it prompted a mass exodus

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM - I don't agree. Much of the Edsel's problems were not with the car itself, but with the Ford executive, Robert McNamara (later Secty of Defense), who didn't like the Edsel and stated, before the car was released, that he had plans for phasing it out. McNamara's efforts in overseeing the war in Vietnam didn't work out well, either.

I've yet to see the evidence that the NO mass "prompted a mass exodus" from the Church.

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh,as a Ford afficionado, I can state that the public did not like the Edsel one bit. And if you don't think a decline from 80% Sunday Mass attendance (with that mean, old, "untelligible" Latin Mass) to around 20% (with the sparkling new, lovable and meaningful Novus Ordo in the Vernacular) doesn't tell you something, then I have some swampland in Florida to sell you. In the typical parish, the Sunday liturgies are beyond banal and infantile. The only ones excited by them are the doubleknit dinosaurs in their 60s and 70s desperately trying to relive their glory days. The liturgical reform was an unmitigated disaster of monumental proportions, but keep drinking that Vatican II kool-aid, if that gets you through the night.

Gene said...

I think I would stay away from any effort to find a basis for "liberte', egalite', fraternity'" in the NT. These are concepts born of 17th century rationalism and Enlightenment Reason and are completely foreign to Biblical theology. Jesus never spoke of liberty as it is understood in the political sense, egalite is not even a Biblical concept, and fraternity is understood in the NT as a relationship among the redeemed followers of Christ. These same concepts are embedded in our own founding documents and have nothing to do with NT theology. All men may be equally created, but Scripture certainly does not view them as equal. As far as "life, liberty (that word again), and the pursuit of happiness," life is a gift from God and certainly not inalienable; the NT concept is in freedom from sin and enslavement to God's will, and the pursuit of happiness is completely foreign to NT thinking.
There is absolutely nothing Christian about our founding (or the French Revolution)...the country is de facto Christian because it was settled by Christians. It should remain Christian in spite of the efforts to erase the Faith...but the destruction of the Faith is built into that awful term "egalite."

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM - Your are confusing coincidence with causation. That two events happen sequentially - 1) liturgical reform followed by 2) decline in attendance - cannot, of itself, be understood as cause and effect.

It's a common logical fallacy: Post hoc ergo propter hoc. (After this, therefore because of this.)

Event C happened immediately prior to event E. Therefore, C caused E.

The Post Hoc Fallacy is committed whenever one reasons to a causal conclusion based solely on the supposed cause preceding its "effect". Of course, it is a necessary condition of causation that the cause precede the effect, but it is not a sufficient condition. Thus, post hoc evidence may suggest the hypothesis of a causal relationship, which then requires further testing, but it is never sufficient evidence on its own.

John Nolan said...

I agree with Fr Kavanaugh. The botched liturgical reform which produced the Novus Ordo did not start the rot. It was a symptom of the disease, not its cause.

If you want to understand the current parlous state of the Church it is not necessary to trawl the internet for Vatican scandals, rigged synods or dodgy papal utterances. Just attend (if you can stand it) a Mass as performed in the average Catholic parish. Si testimonium requiris, circumspice.

TJM said...

Fr Kavanaugh, nice gibberish, but totally off point. YOu cannot fathom that progressives drove people from Mass because progessives have "good intentions." Sorry, but the sentient amongst us are no longer buying what you're selling. I remember left-wing loon Andrew Greeley tried to tie declining Mass attendence to Humanae Vitae.But the problem with his "research" was that the deform of the Mass began in late 1964 whereas Humanae Vitae was promulgated in late 1968 and by then people had started to vote with their feet with the deforms. I had 2 uncles who went to Mass each Sunday and Holyday and a year or so into the deforms they stopped going. THey were outraged by the deforms. They were NEVER polled and there were plenty more like them. The progressives didn't want to hear that their little deforms weren't LOVED by all,

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

No, TJM, I am spot on here. Show me the EVIDENCE that ties the reform to the departure. Unless until that appears, I suggest you avoid logical fallacies.

John Nolan said...

Since there were a number of factors (internal and external) which led to a decline in religious observance from the 1960s onwards, one cannot simply isolate one, namely liturgical change. However, since people go to church to experience liturgical worship, when they stop going it may reasonably be inferred that changes in worship imposed without any form of consultation are likely to be a contributory factor. This applies particularly in the Catholic Church where a liturgy which had developed over a millennium and a half (at least) with barely perceptible alteration was radically transformed in a space of less than five years.

The evidence is the decline which can be statistically measured. Attribution of causes is necessarily speculative and one may give some causes more weight than others. This is the historian's craft - he should not be determinist, should not argue from events back to causes, but at the end of the day 'post hoc' is frequently 'propter hoc'; that is how cause and effect operates. The fallacy is to assume that this is always the case. 'Post hoc ERGO propter hoc' is not a get-out-of-jail card for those who would for ideological reasons refuse to countenance a particular cause (which may indeed be one out of many).

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The connection with the institutional Church for 99% of Catholics is the Sunday Mass.
Attitudes about the Sunday Mass changed rapidly with the revised Mass which I think led to a loss of faith. How can it be that one day only a priest could touch the Host or even the chalice and the ciborium and the next day one can receive Holy Communion in the hand and standing, moving? How can it be that one day,only a priest can distribute the Host because his hands a anointed to do so and then the next every Tom, Dick and Harriett can do it too? How can it be that one day the Mass is unchangeable and the next it changes daily? How can it be that one day even the smallest particle of a Host is to be reverently guarded from profanation and the next day a priest uses French Bread with a crispy crust which fall on the floor visible to the naked eye and no one gives a hoot (I experienced this in the 1970's at a Jesuit priest's first Mass!) How can it be that the stomach had to be free of any food or drink to receive our Lord one day and the next, you can eat up to an hour before receiving Holy Communion?

How can it be that the ritual of the Mass was so guarded that ever thing was meticulously prescribed by rubrics with no deviation allowed and the next day the priest is making up his own Eucharistic Prayer and ad libbing everywhere with his personality overwhelming it.

I would say that those who believed in the ways of the pre-Vatican II Church and took great comfort in its surety were the ones most discombobulated by the changes and most prone to lose faith and move on to nothing. Others of stronger faith could adapt but they were not the majority as we now know.

Yes, save the liturgy and save the world. It was a mistake to make radical changes to the Mass and more of a radical mistake to allow radical experimentation with the revised Mass that went way beyond the actual reforms of the Missal itself often making a mockery of the Mass itself and our Lord.

All of this contributed to what we now experience but today is much better than in the aftermath of Vatican II but the bad fruits of that awful period still affect us.

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh, and you would be saying the dead opposite, if Mass attendance had improved after the deforms took place. Thanks for the laugh, Sat Est Viatica.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"However, since people go to church to experience liturgical worship,..." This is not necessarily self-evident.

According to CARA, those Catholics who attend mass weekly list the following as their Top Four:
Feeling the presence of God 97%
Prayer and Reflection 97%
Receiving Communion 97%
Hearing the readings & Gospel 97%

Next was:
Hearing the Homily 95% (I was pleasantly surprised by this one)

Lower on the list were:
Worshipping with others 87%
Music 85%
Church environment/decorations 72%

Fr. MIchael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM - No, I'd say the same thing. Show me the evidence and I'll believe your assertion.

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh,

To take one subordinate clause from my comment of two paragraphs and attempt to refute it with statistics which, though revealing, don't actually do so, is disingenuous (what is CARA, by the way?)

To attend Mass weekly is to experience liturgical worship. If there were no liturgy, there would be no need for churches at all, and no need for priests. Isn't that self-evident?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - I'm not trying to refute anything. I added some substance to a conversation that was, in my opinion, a bit wanting in that regard.

"To attend mass is to experience liturgical worship" is a true statement. But you said more than that, offering your thoughts on their motivations.

I think the data is helpful to the conversation.

CARA is the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. They work "... to deliver practical answers to real pastoral questions and provide the factual basis for informed decisions." I like, especially, the "factual" part.

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh,

Thanks for that. The point I was making is that those who would maintain that the sole cause of decline in Mass attendance is the liturgical revolution of the 1960s (which, let's not forget, also affected the Anglican Church and with similar results) are putting too many eggs into one basket.

However, non-Catholic sociologists have identified that an apparent sea-change in attitudes and worship styles in an institution which regarded itself as being of supernatural origin, and which had maintained a liturgical and doctrinal tradition for well over a thousand years (in terms of doctrine for two thousand years) will inevitably precipitate a crisis.

No-one in the 1960s and 1970s was polled as to whether he or she liked the liturgical changes, or whether he or she stopped going to Mass as a result. These were people who had been formed pre-Vatican II and so had something to compare it with. So there can be no hard evidence on this score; as I said in my previous comment, from an historical point of view the evidence is the result, and the causes are speculative. But to rule out a possible cause because you don't want to accept it for ideological reasons is both unhistorical and intellectually dishonest.

TJM said...

John Nolan, no polls were taken because the "progressives" didn't want to learn the answer. Funny how intellectually incurious progressives are when it goes to the heart of their delusions.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - The Church is of supernatural origin, but, beyond a skeletal framework, the elements of the liturgy are not.

I don't rule out the possibility that some left because they did not like the changes in the liturgy - I'm sure some did. But I think there are more far-reaching societal changes in Western culture that led to the departure of most.

John Nolan said...

Sometime in the 1970s the Vatican asked national episcopal conferences to report how the new Mass was being received. They all replied that there was near unanimous enthusiasm on the part of the laity. 'The Universe', a rather down-market publication but the best-selling Catholic weekly in Britain and Ireland, carried a front page banner headline: WORLD REJECTS TRENT MASS.

That certainly counts as evidence, but how reliable is it? After four decades there is no way it can be tested.