Thursday, December 24, 2015


Someone mentioned to me not too long ago that their priest was not use to the bells being rung at Mass for the Epiclesis and elevations. I know that many parishes throughout the world got rid of bells at Mass right and left.

Why you ask? I am glad you asked. Because now that the altar was turned and planted firmly in the midst of the assembly so that everyone could see what was happening and the Mass was in the vernacular and the canon of the Mass was prayed in an audible voice, no longer did the poor, disenfranchised laity need bells to wake them up or let them know at what point the priest was.

So rather than insult the newly liberated laity with the infantile sounds of bells, bells were removed from the Mass. It was so honorable and condescending of them, no?

But in the 1980's when I went to a liturgical conference (barf), one of the gurus of modern liturgy, what is euphemistically called a liturgist, said that the laity did not and should not have "magic moments" during the Mass which bells helped to facilitate. But he did feel that the laity needed a "black hole" in which to fathom the eternal mysteries of the Eucharist and that the black hole would be the presentation of the offerings, called the gifts back then.

Yes, these humble items of bread and wine, wheat and grapes along with their financial gifts (offerings) would be offered to God, given to God as a gift, but also given to the institutional Church as a gift and then God would give them back to us to multiply His graces by making the bread and wine into the Bread of Life and the Wine of Joy.  Some black hole, no?

When I was in the seminary in the late 1970's bells were banned for all the reasons stated above. And certainly seminarians were too sophisticated for them any way.

And the trend then, which our liturgists simply knew would become the way of the future, like by the middle of the 1980's, would be for no genuflections during Mass, no elevations whatsoever and we'd have just the basics, Prayer, Word, Gifts, Offering, Banquet, dismissal.

In fact one of our liturgists began Mass after the "gathering song" by not even having the "Sign of the Cross" but rather he simply greeted us "The Lord be with you." with our then response and he would go directly to the Collect without delay.

He said that the most important part of the Mass was the Liturgy of the Word (he was also a Scripture Scholar) and that it should come immediately so important it was. Of course he believed in using the historical/critical method of interpreting Scripture and getting to the "real" Jesus of history, so that meant he really didn't believe literally in any of the Scriptures and even the dogmas of the Church could be reinterpreted according to the zenith of interpretive methods not allowed Catholics until after Vatican II. So the Nativity, take a hammer to it! The Virgin Birth, forget about it! The bodily resurrection, it is to laugh! Miracles, didn't happen. Jesus divine--oh my! He even taught that Mary was a prostitute and the virgin conception was made up to promote continuity with the Old Testament.

Oh, don't forget that 1974 was the one year that priests molested more teenagers than any other year and more priests left the priesthood and religious life and seminaries and convents emptied and parish churches weren't too far behind. Yet, the renewal was a success. Those who foisted this kind of renewal on us had to believe it was a renewal otherwise if the truth be told, they'd commit suicide for what they had accomplished.

It all has to do with the loss of bells!

Are bells rung at your Masses?


Rood Screen said...

Since the words of the Eucharistic Canon were not composed by the apostles, and since the words of consecration, according to Modern scholars, are not the actual words of Christ, I'm surprised the Modern liturgy experts didn't insist that everyone just stare silently at each other for a few minutes between the Sanctus and the Pater Noster. It would have given them time to light a joint and select a fornication partner (or, as you suggest, worse).

Anonymous said...

Fr., this post is troubling. Are you OK?

the egyptian said...

Bells can back approximately 10 years ago, unfortunately nothing else much has changed

without the bells how would some parishioners know when to get their nose out of the bulletin (kidding,sort of), we have one man who has the gall to stand up during the mass at the our father and keep right on reading the blasted thing (he's a relative I can rat on him.

the best one was at the change of daylight savings time he trotted in and sat down thinking the organist was playing the intro song, whipped out his bulletin and proceeded to read, seconds later all got up and left, he was and hour late, it was all a person could not to laugh, never saw a redder face

Tom Makin said...

Thankfully we have bells at our church. That said, our new Pastor is right out of 70's. To call him a minimalist is to be kind. He doesn't reverence the tabernacle when passing in front of it. He barely elevates the precious body and blood and the Family Liturgy is beyond a zoo. He's even using a Eucheristic Prayer that I have never heard but is interactive in parts. Yesterday was the icing on the cake; he forced everyone into a face to face confession such that those who went deliberately to the side of the confessional with the screen were told to relocate while everyone watched. Three people left line and did not receive the Sacrament. It' was so distressing. Rather than refer to him as Monsignor "X", I call him "Pastor Joe"; a not so subtle dig that is very irreverent at best.

Michael A said...

This post is only troubling when you consider the description of what the"liturgist" taught. Other than that there is nothing wrong with Father McDonald.

We've had a use of bells during the Eucharistic prayer in the Rockford diocese for some time. A small change that helped to keep the glimmer of hope alive in my heart that better liturgy will one day occur again.

Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas father, and to all those who post on your site, especially your brother priests.

Please pray for my best friend Stephen Miller who lost his battle against cancer on Dec 20th. He would have been 54 tomorrow. He was a true friend that I was lucky to consider my adopted brother for nearly 40 years. I helped guide him to the faith, but in the end he became a far better Catholic than me and taught me things about our wonderful Faith.

Anonymous said...

The Church in this country, when it discarded its Catholic identity after Vatican 2, naturally assumed a Protestant model. One sees this especially in the deformation of the liturgy. Music, architecture, preaching style you name it changed. In the Spirit of the Council everything was gone. The baby Jesus out with the bath water, to coin a phrase. Worship now is men centered. Even when we say God we mean the God-Within-us. We mean us.

The extent of the deformity prevailing in any particular parish depends on the local Ordinary and his clergy, but in the end it really comes down to the bishops. Macon is fortunate to have you father. You are successful in reforming the reform.

Many would argue that what changed in the new Mass were its the superficial aspects: polyester chasubles, dirty albs, the important things remain: the Real Presence in the consecrated host for example. Except, the people in the pews lost respect for the objective reality of the Real Presence. Their body language, when receiving the host denies the fact that they are about to consume the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Creator, Savior and Sustainer of the Universe.

The bells are not absolutely necessary to the faith, but along with the bells a great deal else was discarded as well. Look around you at Mass today, and if you happen to watch a film made before V2 where Catholics are the focus, say Going My Way, or see a film of a Tridentine Mass celebrated in the early 1960's, you will see a radically different assembly. But most importantly in the latter case the people's faces radiate faith. And yes, you will see a great deal more kids at Mass. Also, no kids are seen munching Cheerios to keep them quiet.

The incidentals, Gregorian Chant, Latin words of prayer spoken or chanted, the priest facing God when praying to God and facing the people when speaking to the congregation (Dominus vobiscum.) were they way we prayed, communicated. But it was a strange language objects the "liturgist". Yet, even today if congregations hear the greeting they will readily reply, even chant it: Et cum spiritu tuo.

Anonymous, Father is feeling just fine. However, it is Christmas and he may be a bit nostalgic for the times when Catholics were not just another Christian denomination but they "knew" the ontological truth: The Catholic Church is the one True Church of God.


Gene said...

Damn, JBS. You've been hanging around me too long...LOL!

John Nolan said...


While you were at seminary listening to 'professors' talking bollocks (at least you had the intelligence to see through it, albeit a few years later) I was a Catholic layman simply looking for a form of worship which was recognizably Catholic. Luckily, I was able to find it.

Once one starts eliminating from the liturgy things one personally deems 'not necessary', whether it be Latin, chant (or any traditional music), bells, traditional gestures, the Ablution rite, you name it, one ends up with a utilitarian desacralized form of worship which claims the virtue of simplicity by being simplistic but doesn't attract the simple. Indeed it only attracts a minority intellectual elite.

Protestants wanted the Bible in English not so that ordinary people could read it (those who were literate in English in the 15th and 16th centuries were also literate in Latin) but so that they could put their own gloss on the Scriptures. The English bible was associated with Lollardy (the heresy of Wycliffe which denied the Mass). In France and Germany the pre-Reformation Church had few problems with a vernacular bible.

The Novus Ordo has textual problems, and its manner of celebration (which is arguably part of its DNA) raises further problems. The idea of a liturgy which can be rendered in a babel of tongues (some of which aren't even literary languages) is not just unprecedented but ultimately destructive.

Anonymous said...

At Mass in the Extraordinary Form on the 4th Sunday of Advent the beginning words of the Prayer at the Foot of the Altar (Psalm 42) jumped out at me:

"Do me justice, O God, and fight my fight against a faithless people: from the deceitful and impious man rescue me."

My first thought was about a dishonest man I know who is trying to buy a property from our family, and how he distresses me. But then, in the next moment I thought of all the heterodox priests and changes to the Mass since Vatican II. Save me, O Lord, from the deceitful and impious!

Even King David knew what it was to not be able to abide the impious in the worship of God.

Though I've known for a long time piety was the issue, that moment crystallized for me that what was lost in the "implementation of Vatican II" was piety. I think even the Novo Ordo can be celebrated with piety, and when it is, it is beautiful. How I wish those words, "from the deceitful and impious man rescue me..." were restored to the mouth of every priest at the beginning of every Mass.

Bells, yes, we have them. Piety, often, not so much.

(My brother attended a 9:00 p.m. "Midnight Mass" on Christmas Eve. He said if there were 50 people there that would be overestimating. He said a soloist sang "O Holy Night" after Communion. When she finished, the celebrant/priest led the congregation in a round of applause. Nice, huh? Glad I wasn't there.)

Anonymous 2 said...

I have only just now read this thread.

In order not to receive undeserved credit, perhaps I should clarify that I am not the Anon-2 who posted at 1:29 p.m. on December 24. Regular readers probably guessed that anyway as I never sign off as Anon-2 at the bottom of a post and the content of the post is not the sort of thing I usually comment about.

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. Perhaps it was really Anon-1 who does sign off that way and his finger slipped on the keyboard. =)

Gene said...

Anon 2, I wish you COULD have posted that.