Friday, March 18, 2016


Implied in the recent remarks Pope Benedict gave in an interview, he is framing once again that this is to be preferred 
over this:
or even this:

"...The faith community (Church, parish, national Church, Universal Church) does not create itself. It is not an assembly of men who have some ideas in common and who decide to work for the spread of such ideas. Then everything would be based on its own decision and, in the final analysis, on the majority vote principle, which is, in the end it would be based on human opinion. A Church built in this way cannot be for me the guarantor of eternal life nor require decisions from me that make me suffer and are contrary to my desires. No, the Church is not self-made, she was created by God and she is continuously formed by him. This finds expression in the sacraments, above all in that of baptism: I enter into the Church not by a bureaucratic act, but through the sacrament. And this is to say that I am welcomed into a community that did not originate in itself and is projected beyond itself. The ministry that aims to form the spiritual experience of the faithful must proceed from these fundamental givens.

It is necessary to abandon the idea of a Church which produces herself and to make clear that the Church becomes a community in the communion of the body of Christ. The Church must introduce the individual Christian into an encounter with Jesus Christ and bring Christians into His presence in the sacrament."

Finally if we are to understand why only 12% to 28% of Catholics attend Mass on any given Sunday and of those many are lukewarm or indifferent, Pope Benedict hits the nail square on the head.

This must be read with what I quote above from Pope Benedict, a horizontal Church which sees salvation coming from diverse communities or as automatic, undermines the reason for the Church. It is for salvation and the requirement of salvation is the orthodox Catholic Faith and orthopraxis (good works):

"If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost – and this explains their missionary commitment – in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned.

From this came a deep double crisis. On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself becomes unmotivated."

My final comments: We have an interfaith ministry operated by DePaul USA and run by the Daughters of Charity. It is a wonderful ministry to the homeless in Macon. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and non believers all work together to aid the homeless. This is good works, but the Catholic Faith isn't necessary for it although certainly at the foundation of this particular good work.

The government, however, or any other non governmental organization (NGO) could do this ministry as well, albeit not a well. There is nothing Christian or religious about good works and caring about people; it is ingrained in every soul, every person, for we are all created in the image and likeness of God and our ability to love is from God. 

Good works, by itself, will not save us and good faith by itself won't save us. God 's grace is what saves us which then enables us to have the right faith and the right works by a free, conscious act of the will inspired by God's grace.

But if Catholics who works as our homeless shelter think that anyone can be saved because they are working together in good works, this is a lie and undermines the mission and missionary endeavors of the Church!

There is no need to be a Catholic if this alone will save you and make you feel good about yourself:
This too must be present in  a person's life, for without it no one can be save!



Rood Screen said...

If every Catholic layman would explicitly invite their non-Catholic friends to learn about the True Faith and the True Church, then the Church in the Western World would certainly grow. The present stagnation is caused by silence.

Victor W said...

"If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost – and this explains their missionary commitment..."
The early Christians certainly did proselytize, a word from the Greek προσήλυτος meaning "newcomer", particularly in the sense of a Gentile convert. Without it, there would likely not be much of a Church today. But did not the Holy Father recently say that Catholics should not proselytize. Am I missing something here? Whatever happened to the Great Commission?
By he way, the Pentecostals are doing a fantastic job of proselytizing in South America with mass conversion of Catholics.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Facing the congregation forms a "circle," if you will, but that does not automatically create a "closed circle" that, by it's nature, excludes God.

The notion of a "closed" circle is something of an oddity it itself, since circles, by definition, are "closed." Other wise you have an arc, not a circle. One might attempt to cast aspersions on a square by calling it a "four-sided square," but, again, that's what a square is. But I digress...

If Christ is the center of the circle - and in our "versus populum" worship, He is - then there is no exclusion of God from the act of worship. When a worshipper looks across the circle, through Christ, he/she sees, first Christ, then the "other." This is, some would say, an overly immanent perception of God, but I would disagree.

In this orientation, I do not see salvation as coming from others, from the community, or from the works we might do, and I don't think others perceive that, either.

TJM said...

My mother was a Methodist who converted to Catholicism. She said the Mass (she converted in 1951) was what drew her into the Faith. She began going with her then boyfriend and she was blown away by the chant, polyphony, and the sheer beauty of the setting. She said that is what encouraged her to want to know more about the Catholic Faith. She was very disappointed when the changes came in the 1960s. She thought the Catholic Church made a huge mistake in stripping away all of the beautiful externals which encouraged her to learn more. But libs no better than ANYONE.

Anonymous said...

Save---or SaveD?---grammar here!

Dialogue, I don't think your suggestion would work well with the Eastern Orthodox Church. They claim to be the one true faith because of the events of 1054. Which is why dialogue between the two is akin to the stalemate at the 38th Parallel on the Korean Peninsula.

Victor W said...

Fr. Michael:
In a closed circle your are no longer looking towards the East for Christs's second coming, the Christ Who will judge you and the world. Apart from downplaying the eschatology of the Mass, you have closed yourselves from the world around you. Yet you are meant to be in the world, and with the world following you, you are to head towards the Christ, visually represented with great realism in an ad orientem Mass.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Frmjk, what you say is doctrinally and theologically correct, but it is the sign value of appearances that works against the doctrine or theology, especially with the OF Mass, not so much with the EF Mass. The OF Mass in and of itself needs a reform. I don't suggest that we can ever go back exclusively to the EF Mass, but we can in terms of its vertical experience even if facing the congregation. Pope Benedict and Pope Francis show the way with the central crucifix and traditional altar arrangement. Saying the black and doing the red and not improvising on the words of the Sacred Liturgy is another powerful reform without touching the missal at all. It would be novel for priests to set aside their pride and do what is printed even if they think they have a better way.

I continue to emphasize that the Ordinariate's new missal is what Pope Benedict envisioned for a reform of the current OF Missal. I pray we will get their options from the EF liturgy (not the Anglican additions though). This would be very simple even with the current translation of the Mass we have in our glorious new English translation.

Mark Thomas said...

The Holy See has declared that liturgy offered ad orientem is of "profound value" to the Church.

Instruction for applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches

107. Prayer facing the east

"Ever since ancient times, it has been customary in the prayer of the Eastern Churches to prostrate oneself to the ground, turning toward the east; the buildings themselves were constructed such that the altar would face the east. Saint John of Damascus explains the meaning of this tradition: "It is not for simplicity nor by chance that we pray turned toward the regions of the east (...). Since God is intelligible light (1 Jn. 1:5), and in the Scripture, Christ is called the Sun of justice (Mal. 3:20) and the East (Zech. 3:8 of the LXX), it is necessary to dedicate the east to him in order to render him worship.

"The Scripture says: 'Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed' (Gen. 2:8). (...) In search of the ancient homeland and tending toward it, we worship God. Even the tent of Moses had its curtain veil and propitiatory facing the east. And the tribe of Judah, in as much as it was the most notable, encamped on the east side (cf. Nm. 2:3). In the temple of Solomon, the Lord's gate was facing the east (cf. Ez. 44:1).

"Finally, the Lord placed on the cross looked toward the west, and so we prostrate ourselves in his direction, facing him. When he ascended to heaven, he was raised toward the east, and thus his disciples adored him, and thus he will return, in the same way as they saw him go to heaven (cf. Acts 1:11), as the Lord himself said: 'For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be' (Mt. 24:27). Waiting for him, we prostrate ourselves toward the east. It is an unwritten tradition, deriving from the Apostles."[85]

"This rich and fascinating interpretation also explains the reason for which the celebrant who presides in the liturgical celebration prays facing the east, just as the people who participate. It is not a question, as is often claimed, of presiding the celebration with the back turned to the people, but rather of guiding the people in pilgrimage toward the Kingdom, invoked in prayer until the return of the Lord.

"Such practice, threatened in numerous Eastern Catholic Churches by a new and recent Latin influence, is thus of profound value and should be safeguarded as truly coherent with the Eastern liturgical spirituality."

The ancient and universal practice of the True Church is to celebrate liturgy ad orientem. It is a shame that the Latin Church has all but shattered ad orientem prayer, which is proper to Her liturgy.


Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

The radical deconstruction of the text and gestures (black and red) was swiftly followed by the vulgarization of the music, and by an "ISIS"-like destruction of the architecture altars, statuary, and in some cases entire sanctuaries and buildings. The net result was a deliberate creation of ugliness. We see similar ugliness in current secular art (modern paintings and sculpture a la Warhol for example; ;Bauhaus architecture, rap music for Pet's sake!). In politics ideologies are in full bloom. Ever since man rejected the possibility of discerning objective Truth, popular movements are mushrooming each based on feelings and un-truths.

The Novus Ordo as it is offered today is a politically correct agenda. Apropos of politically correct liturgical initiative are female ministers in the sanctuary, foot washing of both sexes (male priest washing female parishioner's feet, is that cool or what?). Preaching by laymen/women, communion for all comers. Some are done by permission others are just plain illicit. One could go on and on but it is not necessary because all of this has been documented by now ad nauseam.

TJM said...

Fr. McDonald, I recall when I experienced for the first time an OF, in English, where the Priest celebrated the Liturgy of the Eucharist, ad orientem. It was stunning and for the first time I saw that the OF, if celebrated in this manner, could serve as a bridge between the old and new. It also restores the priest to the role of servant of the Liturgy rather than its master. Best, Tom

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Victor - "Closed Circle" is redundant. All circles are closed. If Christ is central to the circle, He is not excluded. Nor is a circle "closed" to the world around it. Most of us have driven through a traffic circle and have, at the appropriate moment, left the circle for the destination of our choice. (Unless one is driving the traffic circles in Washington, DC, then, you pretty much get out of the traffic circle wherever the centripetal force hurls you.)

Salvation is not coming from the east, but from the person of Christ. If He is central to worship and to life, compass directions are inconsequential.

Good Farther, if you think the arrangement of items on the altar REALLY matters, then, Houston, we have a problem.

TJM said...

Fr. Kavanaugh, with all due respect, you are the one with the problem. 50 years of failure and you keep digging that old hole deeper. A little introspection and humility might be in order.

Anonymous said...

Every action, especially those often repeated has a cumulative effect over time because the cultural and religious reality which we experience is sum of the actions of every person. Yes this does include the placement of the items on the altar. Everything has meaning.
Saint Michael the Archangel defend us in battle....

Jusadbellum said...

Fr. K, I think the problem is between the 'givenness' of the tradition vs. the ad hoc nature of the subsequent changes.

Becoming Catholic or learning as a born and raised Catholic, we learn certain things that 'just are'. Jesus is God and man. Mary was and is a Virgin. This all happened in Israel to fulfill prophecies made to the Jews.... there are certain aspects of liturgy and language and rite that "just are" or are done to be in continuity with what was.

But then we get ad hoc liturgical and other disciplinary changes that have no organic connection to our culture, ancestors, or theological icons.

Even as I personally enjoy holding hands during the Our Father, I know none of our ancestors did this. None of the saints, mystics and martyrs did that. It's just something created out of whole cloth. It feels nice and prepares us for the sign of peace - so I can justify it - but at the same time, I realize it's ad hoc in a faith full not of ad hoc but bridges with the ancient past.

One way is odd, stuffy, other-worldly...but links us to Catholics across centuries and cultures. The other is cool, feels good, but is sui generis, unique to this parish or that parish according to whimsy and taste. It connects "us" but not the royal, ecclesial, escatalogical "us".

As for the point of there being compass bearings... the Christ was made flesh in the East - from a European perspective - there not being many Christians to the West or South of Palestine until modern times. I always took this to point to the incarnational and historic basis of Catholicism - which Islam aped with their devotion towards Mecca.

Thus Christ is pointed to as being bigger than our little communal gathering.

I suspect this is all academic. We will be replaced by another people, by other tribes and ethnicities who don't share our baggage or language or cultural hangups. I don't doubt the faith will endure long after we are all footnotes in someone else's history book.

But to the degree we are grafted into the one tree, the one body across space and time, the loss of nation and civilization won't much matter as we find our eternal home in the New heavens and new earth.

Rood Screen said...

Father Kavanaugh makes some good points. However, the traditional direction of prayer helps those circled around Christ to turn towards the Eternal Father, towards whom Christ offers His Sacrifice. So, having the priest and congregation face the same direction is certainly not necessary, but it does help lead the congregation to full, conscious and active participation in this sacrificial movement towards the Father.

George said...

"the buildings themselves were constructed such that the altar would face the east"

Those who faced toward the altar would face the east. The altar itself does not face in any geographical direction. In many churches where I have attended Mass, one was not facing east when oriented toward the altar. This should not be seen in any way as there being a defect in the celebration of the Mass in those churches. There is the liturgical east after all. The east does have a powerful literal and symbolic value.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass can be seen as the our partaking of the Paschal Lamb of the New Covenant -Christ the Son of God- and signifies and re-presents in a special way our deliverance from the bondage of sin by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Unlike the eating of the Paschal lamb of the Old Covenant, which commemorated something that happened in the past, the Paschal Lamb whose dying and rising we proclaim today makes present to us Christ’s Sacrifice in our own time and place.

The same sacrifice at Calvary is re-presented in an unbloody manner by God’s representative the priest who acts in the person of Christ as at he Last Supper. The flesh and blood of the Pascal Lamb (Christ), under the appearance of bread and wine is consumed by the faithful at Holy Mass. In this way, if we receive worthily and hold fast to God’s laws, we will one day enter into a new Promised Land of the Transcendent east- the Promise Land of Eternal Heaven.

Jenny said...

Tom @ 9:56 am,
Like your mother, I too was raised Methodist; I converted to R.C. after experiencing Holy Mass pre-Vat II as a teenager. I too felt totally betrayed by the "new" liturgy of the early seventies. It was not the church I had studied, claimed and embraced. I'm still Catholic, I guess, but never a happy one since those halcyon early days. We have never had access to the E.F. here...

Anonymous said...

I think some might see that closed circle as a group of people who circle around one specific church or parish, and usually it is their life circumstances that allow them to do so. They often live in that community, and work in or close to the same community, or are employed by some branch of that parish such as the school, or are retired. They frequently volunteer at the parish, or serve on one of the various ministries, and maybe the parish counsel. They are very active in their specific parish.

People whose life circumstances are different can usually spot that closed circle quickly. While their life might be devout, they can not hover around the parish church in the same way. They might work a good distance away, or work odd hours, or have personal and professional obligations that are time consuming.

Personal opinion is that Vatican 2 has exaggerated the distinction greatly. In pre-V2 all attended mass, with V2 the closed circle are the active participants, and the others are visitors. That might be just my perception, but I also recall a priest stating something similar. He said that with the older liturgy he could walk into any church and say Mass. Now he must first ask how Mass is said at each particular church first, each has its own routine.

John Nolan said...

In England all the medieval churches which dot the landscape were built by Catholics for the Catholic liturgy but are now in Protestant hands. Most Catholic churches were built after the 1829 Emancipation Act and are rarely oriented in the traditional way. The Oratorians favour a common orientation which means facing north in London and Birmingham and west in Oxford. The tradition of facing east is useful for refuting the arguments of those who maintained at the time of the Council that celebration versus populum was normative in the early Church (see Uwe Michael Lang's scholarly monograph 'Turning towards the Lord') but otherwise isn't particularly helpful.

What is important is that priest, ministers and people face the same way for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. When an officer leads from the front he is not accused of 'turning his back on his men'. At a Pontifical Mass (EF) at the faldstool, the bishop actually faces the congregation during what is called in the new rite the Liturgy of the Word.

At St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, where the Novus Ordo is celebrated impeccably in Latin and Gregorian chant, the readings are in the vernacular facing the people, the 'presidential' prayers are from the sedilia (on the epistle side at right angles to the altar) and the Liturgy of the Eucharist is at the high altar, ad apsidem. It works. You can check it out on YouTube.

The 1960s fashion of placing wooden dining tables in front of existing high altars, still seen in some places, sent out the wrong message to those who were aware of the Reformation and Cranmer's 'Godde's board', and the wholesale destruction of sanctuaries was totally unnecessary. Even the restoration of the ambo, laudable in itself, was badly done. In some places it dwarfs the puny little modern altar; and nearly everywhere that which was supposed to give greater dignity to the recitation of scripture is used like a podium in a lecture theatre and even a music desk and microphone stand for an arm-waving and crooning cantrix.

The entire liturgical reform from 1965 to the present day was misconceived and misapplied. That is my opinion based on half a century's experience of it, and it is shared by some eminent liturgical scholars - perhaps even a consensus of them.

Rood Screen said...

John Nolan,

I'll have to remember "an arm-waving and crooning cantrix"!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Jus - I don't agree that the subsequent changes in the liturgy have been "ad hoc."

"From a European perspective" is an important comment. Much of what we had as "universal" practice is from a European perspective in a Church that is not European or Middle Eastern or South Asian or otherwise. Some here argue for the superiority of European perspective, but I would disagree with that argument.

I am never opposed to things that seem "all academic." I do not share the disdain that some here exhibit for academics - the "elite" they are called. Much of the theology that underlies our practice and belief is the product of academics, elites, etc., and I thank God for the gifts that they were given and have employed in the service of the Faith.

A little something on Tradition: "“A “return to the tradition” does not necessarily mean binding today’s Catholic to the literal acceptance of a contingent expression of Christian thought or life from some moment in the past (however venerable it might be as a part of the concrete fabric of the church). Such an expression is not identified with the essential structure of the church and in fact remains (in its material expression) something outdated and belongs to the past […]"

From Yves Congar, "True and False Reform in the Church”

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh,

It would appear that Congar is criticizing those with an exaggerated concept of 'ressourcement' and contingent 'archaeologism' which was much in vogue at the time he was writing.

Tradition being what it is, a 'return to tradition' doesn't make a lot of sense to me. If, however, there is a perceived rupture, then I suppose one could talk about 'reconnecting with tradition'.

Again, it is problematic to assume one perspective is superior to another, but the superiority of European culture in the last millennium in every field you might care to mention is so demonstrably self-evident that one would be hard pressed to find evidence to support a contrary notion. Do you have any?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - At some point it will become necessary to define what makes one thing superior to another, but that may come later.

Is the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (built ca 1581) "superior" to the Hall of Central Harmony, Beijing (ca 1420)?

Are the sculptures of the late Ming dynasty (16th-17th century) inferior to carvings from Renaissance Europe of this period?

Is European Music from ca. 1500 superior to the raga based music of India of that era?

Is the Aldersbach Monastery of Bavaria (ca 1130) superior to Ankor Wat in Cambodia of the same era?

Was European medicine of, say, 1000, superior to that is Ibn Sina (Avicenna), "whose early 11th-century medical encyclopedia was as important in Europe as it was in the Middle East"?

While you may have a notable preference for things European, I suggest it is more than a little ethno-centric to suggest that the superiority of European culture in the last millennium in every field . . . is so demonstrably self-evident..." .