Wednesday, March 9, 2016


I've posted the video of Elvis Presley singing at the Mass as it was celebrated when the movie was made around 1965. It is the transitional Mass but very much the Ancient Rite except for Elvis and cohorts singing from the front a rock and roll ditty.

Soon and very soon as the Council was concluding new idioms of music were imposed upon the four hymn sandwich of the Mass even in the Extraordinary Form as it is now called. Faithful orthodox Catholics knew that they could despise the music but not the Mass for to despise the Mass was a sacrilege even if one had to rely upon ex opere operato, so poorly was the Mass celebrated.

I think Catholics, orthodox Catholics are allowed personal likes and dislikes when it comes to the Mass. My father in pre-Vatican II times liked the low Mass that didn't take too long to complete and in the summer we all loved it when Fr. Quinlan told us it was too hot to preach and that he would dispense with the sermon. And yes, it was as hot as hell in the our low roofed church and giant fans made hearing nearly impossible anyway. We had no air conditioning and often in the summer even at 8 AM it was approaching 90 degrees for a day that would end up over 100 with the same percentage of humidity. But I digress (but I love summer in the south as I associate it with the carefree days of being out of school)!

The Novus Ordo Mass as Pope Benedict when His Holiness was cardinal stated succinctly,  is more similar to the EF Mass when celebrated in Latin with Gregorian Chant and ad orientem and following the rubrics. Of course the legitmate option of receiving Holy Communion kneeling at an altar railing would close the gap between the dissimilarities of the two forms.

He said that where differences diverge isn't between the two forms celebrated by the book and in Latin but when creativity overpowers the vernacular version of the Novus Ordo and it is in its celebration widely different from parish to parish.

Orthodox Catholics have a right to dislike altar girls, standing for Holy Communion, receiving in the hand and access to the common chalice and a proliferation of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. 

Orthodox Catholic have a right to like altar girls, standing for Holy Communion, receiving in the hand and access to the common chalice and proliferation of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. 

In the Novus Ordo either position is possible depending upon the parish. Some would say this is a weakness of the Novus Ordo, others would say its flexibility is a strength. 

I would go so far as to state that in theory, an orthodox Catholic could well like and advocate that the EF Mass allow altar girls, standing for Holy Communion, receiving in the hand and access to the common chalice and a proliferation of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. But for a priest who may advocate for these sorts of things, he doesn't have a right to do so under the norms and rubrics of this form of the Mass.  But there is nothing heterodox about desiring it and liking it. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would be valid but illicit to implement these things in an EF Mass.

Would an orthodox Catholic have a right to "hate" these things being implemented in an EF Mass? Yes! But an orthodox Catholic does not have the right to hate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass if valid only by means of ex opere operato! 

The same applies to the Novus Ordo of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! Your are either heterodox or orthodox when it comes to the bottom line in terms of any valid Mass.  


Anonymous said...

One observation, about the movie Change of Habit, not the point of your post. If you look at the movie from the beginning. During the filming inside of the church you can see a free standing altar already in the sanctuary. At the end of the film it is removed. Even then they knew a traditional altar was better visually. The effect wouldn't have been the same with the free standing altar. It's like the habit. By the time the film was made in '69 or '70 the traditional habit was already a thing of the past but it looks better. There would have been no movie if the nuns only worse lay clothes like they do today.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I haven't seen the entire movie in years and years and years, but what you point out are good points and the problem of editing in movies does present these oddities which I presume the editors don't think people will notice like how full a glass is in one shot and it is different in another shot, higher or lower.

But yes, the focal point of my church is the high altar. Before I renovated the sanctuary and elevated the floor to make our new marble free standing altar the height at the altar portion of the high altar, everyone's eye went naturally to the old altar not the new one three steps down. Not the case any more as both appear to be one unit from the congregations point of view.

The same with habits. Most shows that have nuns will have them wearing some kind of habit rather than frumpy street clothes.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I should add that the 1962 Missal and other sacraments associated with that time should remain a viable options for clergy and laity. I continue to pray that the Novus Ordo in the normal Latin Rite will have the options to use the Order of Mass of the Ordinariate's Divine Worship, the Missal, with its prayers at the foot of the altar, the EF's offertory prayers and washing of hands/incensing prayers and the three fold "Lord, I am not worthy" as well as the Last Gospel. I would hope too that we could have the option of praying the Roman Canon as in this missal with its rubrics that are more EF-like and with the Elizabethan English as it comes across as a sacral language, although I know that technically it isn't just as Latin actually is not. But from the affective point of view it is.

James said...

We do all have a right to like or dislike altar girls and so on, but we also have an obligation to question the basis for our judgments and make sure that they don't reflect irrational prejudices. I wince when I see an altar girl, but my wife would tell you that this reflects a more deep-seated sexism! I also have problems with Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, especially when employed in great numbers as they are in our church; over the years, I've put together an extraordinary range of arguments to justify this aversion, but in truth it's more a matter of taste than anything else.

In the modern world, it's hard to switch off the consumerist mentality: we all shop around for what we prefer, and we tend to justify our personal tastes by kidding ourselves that they have a deeper rationale or an objective grounding. I've no problem with someone preferring the TLM over the OF, provided that they concede this is merely a matter of taste. But the danger is that devotees of either form elevate their preference as a God-given truth, and come to despise the preferences of others. This is why I'll always attend whatever mass is nearest, no matter how much it makes me wince, seethe and grumble...

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with the Novus Ordo, although I prefer the traditional Mass. My problem is that priests don't celebrate the Mass according to the rubrics or what I call a traditional mentality. The Novus Ordo should be celebrated in continuity with the past. But the majority of the priests celebrate Mass with little or no reverence, they change words throughout and forget about decorum. Every priest should visit an Anglican Ordinariate parish. They really care about worship. They take their time, they don't rush and everyone from priest to lay person really wants to be there and really really cares about dignified worship. It is a totally different experience than one finds in an ordinary parish. What have we done to ourselves. I don't understand.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The problem with the Novus Ordo is how priests celebrate it and this is quite true. The greater problem, though, are bishops who allow such a variance of celebrations of the same and do nothing, absolutely nothing, to improve celebrating this Mass by the books. There are only a couple of notable bishops who are making a mark in this area, but not enough.

If the local bishops and archbishops of Southern California could be an end to the stupidity of the liturgies at the Religious Education Conference and force them to model the OF as it could and should be celebrated, that would be a huge step!

James said...

I'm sure that lots of priests who perpetuate these kinds of variations actually think that they're doing things by the book. It's just so easy for idiosyncrasies to creep in and accumulate, until they start to swamp everything.

Maybe priests should be made to watch videos of their own masses (teachers and professors are normally forced to watch their own classes), as this would serve to show up their faults mercilessly. This is particularly true of endless ad libbing. One priest I know gives extemporized summaries of each of the bible readings before they're read; I'm sure this started out as a brief, well-meant introduction, probably directed at children, but the summaries have got more and more drawn out, and really have little point to them. I'm sure he'd desist from this if he saw how they came across, and how they detract from his homilies (he's actually an excellent homilist).

TJM said...

Ft. McDonald you are spot on. I have toyed with the idea of speaking with a Canonist about suing my pastor for his Sunday abominations. I don't know if there is a cause of action under canon law but it would be great fun to see.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM - From

"Catholics who are anxious to "sue" should first of all note that in the Code of Canon Law, the verb "sue" doesn't exist.

"...such a lawsuit is, by its very nature, virtually doomed to fail from its inception."

TJM said...

Fr. Cavanaugh, so that's why disobedient priests can act with impunity. Thanks for confirming the laity's second class status.

John Nolan said...

Perhaps some aspect of contract (not in the narrowly legal use of the term) can apply here. I accept that I am obliged to attend Mass and in return the Church is obliged to provide a liturgy that is free from gratuitous abuse. If practices which have been definitively reprobated (for example in Redemptionis Sacramentum) defiantly persist, my obligation as far as that Mass is concerned is effectively cancelled.

Obligation is a two way street. A subject is obliged to obey his sovereign and in return the sovereign is obliged to uphold the laws and protect the subject. Charles I was deemed to have broken his side of the contract and was condemned and executed for it.

As for the Novus Ordo, Louis Bouyer wrote 'After all of this, it is not much of a surprise if, because of its unbelievable weaknesses, the pathetic creature we produced* was to provoke laughter or indignation ...' Sounds somewhat contemptuous to me, but I would hesitate to call Fr Bouyer heterodox!

*'l'avorton que nous produisîmes' - even more scathing in the original French.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

If I had to put up with a Sunday Mass similar to what was at the Religious education conference in LA, I would not go either. And therein lies the rub. Bishops who have a responsibility for the liturgy who allow this sort of thing and celebrate it themselves. Why? Because people put up with it and like it.

I don't know the solution to this problem. It is a lack of leadership but I suspect the bishops who allow it think this is what will save the liturgy and the church and keep the young engaged.

I don't see the solution to our liturgical problems in any practical way in a return to an all Latin Mass and the 1962 Missal. It is a boutique Mass. Most Catholics if having a choice between what goes on in southern California and attending a 1962 Mass, will pick the one in California. That's sad, but that's a fact.

Only a consistently well celebrated OF Mass with sober chanting even if more modern idioms are chosen is the only way out. And the more traditional we can make it with "bells and smells" the better formed will our people become liturgically where they can distinguish between the southern California type liturgy and what is actually the liturgical ethos of the Latin Rite.

I had hoped Pope Benedict's liturgical agenda would have taken root and I suspect if he had remained in office and had some good people around him to clean house that even in a enfeebled state, there would still be some excitement concerning the reform of the reform. Of course all of that has dissipated but if the 1970's can make a return inspired by octogenarians, I think those informed and formed by the John Paul II and Benedict generations can do the same once the natural process of dying has occurred for the 70's and 80's generation, meaning chronological age, not decades!

TJM said...

Fr. McDonald - ah, the "Biological Solution." The priests and bishops who tinker with the Mass are committing mortal sin and will have to answer to God. They are sick, self-centered people and I do believe a good punch to the jaw would fix many of then because they are basically cowards and time-servers. And I don't need some limp-wristed priest telling me that striking a priest violates canon law. Well, the greater good would be served. After all, Christ violently drove the money changers from the Temple!

Anonymous said...

John Nolan and Fr. McDonald: To play Devil's advocate, is there some objective standard by which we can say "At point X you're no longer obliged to go" or conversely "At point X you're justified in not going?" Or is it to be a purely subjective decision?

A related issue: Let's say I find a mass triggering or somehow clearly destructive to my spiritual peace. Which course do I choose: a) I know my own mind and psyche and soul well enough to know that the Mass will damage me and decide the prudent thing to do is to absent myself; b) offer it up and go anyway, figuring that Gd knows what He's doing with me? When is one justified in not offering something up?

John Nolan said...

Fr McDonald,

Fr Bouyer, although scathing about the Novus Ordo as it eventually appeared, recognized that there were certain 'pearls' scattered within it, the result of real scholarship as distinct from the faux-scholarship which pervades it. He believed that it would have to be reformed (sooner rather than later) and that the genuine improvements would be retained. The new calendar and lectionary would NOT have been included.

He was not only an eminent liturgist, but also (having been brought up a Protestant) a genuine ecumenist.

Looking at the ridiculous LA 'liturgies' reminds us that that even bishops and cardinals feel themselves powerless to counter certain inbuilt habits, although were they to do so they would have the full backing of Rome. However, creativity on this scale can be seen as a 'one-off' event, not normally replicated in parishes.

Fr Z tells us that 'not liking the music' is insufficient reason for missing Mass. This was always the case, although some of the more pop-inspired performances would try the patience of any musical person, especially one versed in the musical-liturgical tradition of the Roman Rite. I have sometimes had to grit my teeth during 'Here I am Lord' and suchlike ditties, but have persevered with the rest of the Mass. Fortunately I rarely have to do so.

Most liturgical abuse is low-level but persistent and cumulative. There comes a time when the performance is sufficiently anti-liturgical to make one's withdrawal imperative. Discerning people know when this bar has been reached and act accordingly.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

If the manner in which the Mass is celebrated is an occasion of sin and anger, I would say that an individual has a right to make a decision of conscience about this, even if the Mass is basically valid. Or, and better yet, that one suffer through it as Jesus did on Calvary, by the way and allow that suffering to be transformative by God's grace.

If there is no other Mass that is soberly celebrated and by the books, then I think it would be heroic to attend a Mass like in southern California as a personal penance but also as a penance for those fabricating this sort of thing.

For someone though, to despise the Mass that is promulgated by the Church, be it EF or OF, and gets angry even when celebrated as intended, then I would classify this a a mortal sin.

John Nolan said...

Fr McDonald

I agree with you. My late father (b.1920), like many of his generation, cordially disliked the new Mass as it was celebrated in his parish (not the Novus Ordo per se, I might add) but attended nevertheless out of obligation.

I remember telling him that I thought the idea of attending Mass as a way of mortifying the flesh was intrinsically wrong; I had been brought up to love the Mass for itself, and could never regard it as an extended penance. Therefore I would have dearly liked to attend every Sunday, but it was not practical to do so.

Nowadays I am in the fortunate position of being within easy travelling distance of Sunday and Holy Day Masses reverently celebrated in both forms, and sing at three of them (Gregorian Chant) on different Sundays.

Anonymous said...

"Or, and better yet, that one suffer through it as Jesus did on Calvary, by the way and allow that suffering to be transformative by God's grace."

I think it is one thing to suffer personally due to poor taste, terrible music, a bad homily, noisy kids, etc. but another to witness sacrilege (if that is what is occurring) and call my uncomfortable hand-wringing "suffering" yet keep going back week after week. The first would be suffering with Christ, the second seems diabolical.


Anonymous said...

In the '80s we were told by some good orthodox priests that it was okay to arrive before the consecration at Mass and leave early so as to avoid some of the dreadful music etc. They said that was permissible because, in reality, it is the consecration they said that constitutes the Mass.

John Nolan said...

Jan, Lateran IV (1215) said that to fulfil their obligation the faithful have to be present for the Offertory, the Consecration and the priest's Communion. This still applies.