Wednesday, September 27, 2023



I will embed in RED, my comments to Bishop Kemme's excellent treatise on what he expects for liturgies in his diocese. But let me say a couple of things.

The Mass, since Vatican II, as we all know and have experienced, is more clerical than it ever was prior to the Council. Bishops and priests make up their own rubrics or dismiss the rubrics present in the modern Mass in a minimalist way--that's clericalism especially if the words of the Mass are changed to suit the priest or bishop. 

Part of the clericalism is placed on steroids given the legitimate options in the Mass which include variations on the penitential act and which one is chosen and who chooses. The same with the Eucharistic Prayer, the Mystery of Faith acclamation. One can chant the propers, aka, introit and other antiphons, but other options allow something similar or completely different. 

But the one thing that trumps all other problems with the Modern Mass boils down to taste! A variety of styles of music and instrumentation, which are all over the place, in terms of options, makes the chanting of the Mass based upon taste, not tradition. And whose taste? We all know what kind of music we all like. To demand that my likes be included and my dislikes be removed is the height of clericalism. But that's the modern Mass. 

What is sung and how it is sung in the Mass has caused me more stress as a priest than any other liturgical issue.

 Let's face it, many who have an opinion on music for the Mass, prefer kitsch to art. And they prefer it in a vociferous way!

Let's dig into Bishop Kemme's pastoral letter on the liturgy with my astute comments embedded in RED.

‘Let us sing with the Lord,’ Bishop Kemme urges in pastoral letter

Bishop Kemme’s pastoral letter focuses on making the liturgy a transcendent experience. (Advance photo)

Dear Priests, Pastoral Musicians, and Lay Faithful,

A few years ago, I came across a promotional video for a program for liturgical music called “Source and Summit.” The video outlined how restoring the sacred nature of music in the liturgy significantly impacted the Sunday worship of a parish, which, in time, brought the parish from the brink of closure to a great renewal of parish vitality and growth. Seeing this video reignited in me a desire that I have had throughout my priesthood, serving for many years as a pastor and now as a bishop, to restore sacred music in the liturgy. (Excellent!)

Bishop Carl A. Kemme

When done well, I am convinced that music in the liturgy facilitates a transcendent experience, lifts our hearts and minds to God, and helps to bring about a fully conscious and actual participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Because of this, I have asked the Office of Worship to implement certain principles for Sacred Music as a model for what I would like to see at the liturgy throughout our diocese. I hope our episcopal liturgies will inspire priests and musicians to take a serious look at the Sacred Music in their parishes and help align it with the vision for music in the Church. In the following words, I would like to share my vision for Sacred Music in the Diocese of Wichita. This vision is less my own; I consider it to be the Church’s vision for sacred music.

“On Sacred Music: Let us Sing with the Lord.”

I have entitled this pastoral letter “On Sacred Music: Let us Sing with the Lord.” I believe this title expresses a profound reality about the liturgy. The Mass is the action of the whole body of Christ. In the liturgy, we, and the entire Mystical Body, participate with Christ the head in offering the one perfect sacrifice to the Father. This reminds us that the liturgy is an act of worship to the Father, through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. In the Liturgy, Christ offers God the Father the perfect sacrifice. By baptism, we are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ and can partake in this offering.

Christ left us the memorial of his sacrifice so that we might learn what it means to offer ourselves as a complete and total self-gift to the Father. By participating in Christ’s sacrifice to the Father, we also learn to give our lives as a living sacrifice. When the entirety of the liturgy is prayed, ad Deum, which in Latin means toward God, the liturgy sends us back into the world to live life as self-gift ad Deum. (Thank God the good bishop encourages ad orientem and the simple cogent reason why!) Indeed, many aspects of the liturgy portray the idea of self-gift; however, I want to emphasize how it is revealed in sacred music.

As we begin the liturgy, the priest and assisting ministers process toward the sanctuary. This represents our ascent to the Heavenly Jerusalem, where we pass from this world to the world to come. In the liturgy, we transcend space and time to participate in the sacrifice of Christ at the one altar that remains in the temple of the Heavenly Kingdom. From the onset, the music accompanying this procession should direct our thoughts to the particular mystery being celebrated, and it should resemble the song of the angels and the saints revealed to us in the scriptures. However, too often, we sing music that focuses not on God but on us. When this happens, the liturgy loses its focus on God and can become self-serving rather than self-giving. (Amen! Bishop Kemme! You get it!)

The church invites us to sing

Rather than entering into a discussion about which hymns may or may not be appropriate for use in the Mass—a subjective judgment that too often relies on personal taste and preference (personal taste and preference is clericalism pure and simple!)—my humble guidance is to turn our attention toward the texts of the Mass, which the Church herself invites us to sing. For example, just as the Church proposes texts for us to sing for the Responsorial Psalm and Alleluia, we also have proper texts intended to be sung at the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion processions.

These scripture verses, commonly called the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion Antiphons, are chosen by the Church to help reveal the particular mystery being celebrated. Therefore, rather than agonize over which hymn to choose, it seems fitting and preferable to use the texts provided by the Church as they are found in the Roman Missal and the Roman Gradual. (Wow, I am out of breath! Bishop Kemme gets it. So often choices are made with these chants which enables the congregation to sing along. But these are Sacred Scripture, for the most part, and like the liturgy of the Word, we don't pick and choose Scriptures so the entire congregation can say it along with the reader or understand the reading! We are given the Scriptures which must be implemented!)

Throughout the tradition of the Church, most of these proper texts provided have been set to different Gregorian melodies, and even at times, the texts have been set in pieces of polyphony. A distinguishing characteristic of these texts is that the word always comes first and is more essential than the musical composition. This is important because the sung word in the liturgy is the Word that became flesh. (Just wow!!! He gets it!)

At first, singing the antiphons may seem like a significant shift; however, it is a form of singing that we are already familiar with since singing the antiphons with their Psalm verses resembles the singing of the Responsorial Psalm. The antiphons, with their Psalm verses, are a part of Christ’s prayer to the Father, and when we sing them in the liturgy, we unite our voice to the voice of Christ. (Indeed! these are never omitted, sung or spoken, in the Traditional Latin Mass!)

Sing the Mass

What I desire most for sacred music in the liturgy is to shift our mindset from singing AT Mass to singing THE Mass. (I'm beginning to think Bishop Kemme has been reading my most humble blog. I have written this over and over and over again!) This may seem like a minute distinction, but I believe it is crucial. Utilizing the texts Christ has given us through the Church, we can restore the sacred and transcendent nature of the liturgy, emphasizing three important principles: the sanctity of sacred music, the intrinsic beauty of sacred music, and the universality of sacred music.

Sacrosanctum Concilium, a document of the Second Vatican Council, calls for a reform of the liturgy. Paragraph 112 reminds us how to evaluate the sanctity of sacred music when it states, “Sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites.”

A transformation

This way of understanding sacred music in our churches could truly transform how we approach liturgical music in the Mass. I believe that giving our attention to choosing music that is closely connected with the liturgical action will help us foster an encounter with the Divine. (Who chooses? What is it they choose, what is not allowed, if anything today, is part of the problem.)
When sacred music is closely associated with the liturgical action, it facilitates a more profound encounter with beauty, which is the second characteristic or principle of sacred music. In an audience with International Choirs, Pope Francis said, “Liturgical and sacred music can be a powerful instrument of evangelization because it gives people a glimpse of the beauty of heaven.” Earlier, I mentioned that in the liturgy, we ascend to the altar in the heavenly Kingdom.

A heavenly reality

In other words, we can say, through signs and symbols, the liturgy presents the beauty of the heavenly reality. There can certainly be a temptation to try to sanctify popular or secular music, even secular Christian music, by admitting it to the liturgy. However, we should avoid this temptation because the liturgy is meant to be something totally other so that when the priest dismisses us from the liturgy, we can go eagerly back into the world to transform and consecrate the world to God in our daily lives. (Wow, just wow, a bishop writing this as though he is an authority on the liturgy! Of course he is, but a bishop's authority comes from knowing the liturgy and Bishop Kemme does!)

To exhibit the uniqueness and beauty of sacred music, we should hold fast to our tradition and give pride of place to the Church’s preferred musical instruments, which are the human voice and the organ, and to musical repertories of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony. When liturgical music holds fast to these elements of our tradition, it expresses heaven’s true beauty because these particular traditions are primarily reserved for the liturgy. When an environment of beauty is cultivated, we encounter something other than ourselves, someone other than ourselves: we encounter God. (Wow! What more needs to be written! God bless Bishop Kemme!)

Music is universal

Lastly, we should consider the universality of sacred music. By this, I mean music should not be based on personal preference or overly dependent on cultural expression. We should avoid the ever-present temptation to sing what is popular or expedient. Still, considering the other fundamental principles of sanctity and beauty, we should strive to employ music that transcends personal preference and leaves all who have attended with a sense of encountering something marvelous, regardless of cultural experience or other subjective factors. In summary, when liturgical music is sacred, beautiful, and universal, I am convinced that we can truly sing with the Lord during the celebration of the Mass, which offers us a powerful and life-changing experience. (Every bishop in the world should read this document!)

Some may question why it is necessary to outline a vision for Sacred Music in the Diocese of Wichita. Some may consider other issues to be of greater importance. However, I believe that promoting and restoring sacred music aligns with two important priorities in our pastoral plan. The third priority of our diocesan pastoral plan is the “renewal of parish and family life by reclaiming Sunday as the Lord’s Day.”

The Mass must be given the highest priority to achieve this goal. The worship of God each week on Sunday is, without a doubt, the most important thing we do as individuals, families, and parishes. Since it is the most important thing we do each week, we should treat it as such. The liturgy should be carefully prepared and thought out. (Sunday Mass is where we reach the majority, the vast majority, of our Catholic parishioners and others who attend. Yes, Bishop Kemme, you are right--Sunday Mass is Sacred and the most important thing we do each week!)

Offer our best to God

It should be evident that every detail was given attention and that we took the time to ensure that we would be offering our best in worship to God. The liturgy should never become an afterthought or just something we do. The Mass is at the core of our identity as Catholic Christians, and by celebrating the liturgy well, we can, as I have said, more fully direct our hearts and minds to God. (Amen! Alleluia!!!!)

Reclaiming Sunday as the Lord’s Day becomes easier when we do this. It has now become clear that Sunday is something special. It is a day where we pause, think of holy things, re-center our lives on what is most important, and remember who God is and His message of his salvation. (Bishop Kemme, we need to also celebrate Sunday Mass on Sunday, even if early in the morning to reclaim Sunday as the Lord's Day. People go on Saturday night so they don't have to worry about Mass on Sunday morning! What does that say to Catholics about the Lord's Day?)

When our Sunday celebrations of the liturgy allow us to encounter the heavenly liturgy, the Lord’s Day becomes a day of re-creation so that throughout the week, in the ordinariness of life, we can consecrate the world to God. When the liturgy is well prepared, carefully thought out, not rushed, and prayed with reverence and devotion, we begin to see that we can carefully plan our whole day in a similar way.

Renewing stewardship

Additionally, I think that appropriate attention given to the liturgy can help with the second priority in our Diocesan pastoral plan, renewing the Stewardship Way of Life. At the heart of our understanding of Stewardship is the belief that everything we have received is a gift from God and that we are called to offer all we have received back to him as a gift. In short, the Stewardship Way of Life is characterized by how we live out self-gift, self-sacrifice, and giving our lives to God in grateful response for all we have received. In no better place is this modeled for us than in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where we re-present the moment Christ gave himself freely so that we might have an abundant life. (My title says that Wichita is first in Stewardship, so much so, that if you tithe to your parish, you pay no tuition for the Catholic school your child attend! That is breathtaking to say the least!)

Christ, the perfect gift

The sacrifice of Christ is the perfect gift given once and for all. Christ’s self-gift inspires us and expresses how we are called to offer ourselves as an offering to God. I desire that careful attention to the liturgy will fan into flame in our hearts the desire to give of ourselves freely. The renewal of the Stewardship way of life separated from the authentic renewal of the liturgy and, with that, sacred music, would be to lose our identity as people who are primarily called to join ourselves to the perfect gift of Christ to the Father as we participate at Mass.
In the Mass, we are taught what it means to live a “Stewardship Way of Life,” and it is there that we receive the abundant grace necessary to live as faithful stewards. Without this grace, our efforts are doomed from the beginning because, without God, we can do nothing. The renewal of the liturgy and the renewal of stewardship go together. (Do I hear an Amen?)

A grateful response

In the liturgy, our grateful response as Christian disciples is most perfectly manifested; it is there that we recognize that all we have received is God’s gift to us, and it is there that we return to the Father all that we have shared in love of Him and neighbor. I sincerely hope we can relearn what it means to be faithful stewards through the restoration of sacred music and the liturgy as a whole.

I humbly offer these reflections on the importance of sacred music as an encouragement and exhortation to us all. I reiterate my hope that we will not merely sing AT Mass but sing with the Lord. We want everything we do and say to be directed toward God (ad Deum) and to offer fitting worship to him. (This tells us that ad orientem assists clergy and laity in directing everything we do toward God, not the closed circle of a "narcissistic congregationalism!")

In our episcopal liturgies, I have asked that we model the preference for singing the antiphons given to us by the Church, also incorporating some elements of Latin as the Second Vatican Council suggested, and singing by the priest celebrant at the times asked for by the Church. At the very least, I ask that we carefully choose our music to be theocentric – that is, focused on God. When the liturgy becomes about me or inordinately focused on the gathered assembly, we have lost our focus. I sincerely hope our music can always bring us into an encounter with the transcendent. (Wow! However, take the bold step and mandate the chanting of the official propers and the diocese should provide workshops for parish music directors to learn how to do it in a beautiful and inspiring way!)

Lastly, I encourage you, my dear priests, liturgical musicians, and lay faithful, to give due consideration to these thoughts on the sacred music in our liturgies. I know many demands require your attention, but none can be more important than the way the sacred liturgy is celebrated in your parishes. I want to thank you for the many ways I am already seeing this vision becoming a reality across the diocese.

I pray that the music we choose for our Sunday celebrations will reflect Christ’s prayer to the Father. The Mass is the sung prayer of Christ to the Father, and our Church has a rich tradition of setting the texts of the Mass to sacred music. My brother priests, I encourage you to sing the Mass. I realize this is more challenging for some, but I sincerely believe it sets the liturgy apart. (I have mixed feelings here. If a priest can't chant and it is a penance for him and others to hear him, he should not chant. The same with a schola. If they can't chant the propers in a beautiful way, but make it tedious and embarassing, don't chant them!)

Sing – even a single note

Even if it is sung on a single note, I hope you will offer your best efforts to sing with the Lord. I recommend that you consult documents such as Musicam Sacram, which implements the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on sacred music, as well as Sing to the Lord from the USCCB, which outlines the Church’s preferences for which texts are intended to be sung. Let us give greater attention to preparing sacred music for the liturgy. Let us lead the people in reclaiming Sunday and renewing the “Stewardship Way of Life” by emphasizing that the Mass is Christ’s sung prayer to the Father.

My dear musicians, choirs, cantors, and all those assisting with preparing the music for Mass, I encourage you to think and act with the mind of the Church. Let us sing the words that the Church asks of us and do so to the best of our ability. I realize that this task is not without its challenges and limitations. Still, we can all take small but determined steps to align ourselves more closely with the principles of sanctity, beauty, and universality.

Glorify God with song

Finally, dear lay faithful, I ask for your openness to our efforts to align the music in our churches with the vision of the universal Church. Change can be difficult, but our efforts to glorify God most fitting will unquestionably be blessed. I encourage you to participate in the singing of the Mass and allow the sung Word of the Mass to transform your interior disposition. When we arrive at Mass, let us come prepared to participate as fully as possible in Christ’s offering to the Father. (To chant the propers and have the priest chant his parts, both done well, is a challenge to the kitsch that is sung in so many parishes, completely disconnected from the texts and rubrics of the Mass!)

To all I say: let us sing with the Lord.

Humbly Yours in Christ,
+The Most Rev. Carl A. Kemme
Bishop of Wichita


TJM said...

A "visitation" from the Vatican is just around the corner for this bishop. The nerve of him encouraging the people to do what the Church requires. He should be in charge of the Vatican Dicastery of Worship, not the Roche.

Inherent in all of this is the hydra-headed monster, the Novus Orso. Noble simplicity, don't make me laugh. And there is ZERO unity. Mass is totally dependent on the whims of the priest and his liturgical goons. Sorry, we need to go back to the TLM, the soul of noble simplicity.

I am very happy for the people of this diocese.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Four hands lifting that chasuble!? Man, it must be REALLY heavy......

Jerome Merwick said...

Let us stop singing altogether. Really.

I mean, have we really LISTENED to ourselves lately? Fingernails on a blackboard would be a generous comparison.

ByzRus said...

Agree with Jerome Merwick.

Any effect is localized. Shame as liturgical music within the RCC is mostly in shambles.

Fr. MJK, regarding the 4 hands, let's go kick their a$$e$!

Otherwise, and like Fr. Fox said, it's as wonderful as wonderful could be!

Quotes, quotes and more quotes.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Byz - My point is that, when something pointless becomes fetishized, liturgically speaking, it should be carefully examined and, if necessary, jettisoned. I would suggest that hem-lifting is one we could - and should - so without.

ByzRus said...

Fr. MJK,

I appreciate your point. To me, the lift is harmless. Some of those lifting should tone it down. It's as though the distinction between lifting and removing isn't well understood.

Could we argue that the sign of peace has been fetishized? It does seem removed from its origin in the West. It certainly is in the East.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Indeed, FRMJK, when something pointless becomes fetishized, liturgically speaking, like Mass facing an enclosed circle, standing for Holy Communion and sloppy or not liturgical vestments, kitsch to substitute for chant and artwork, it should be carefully examined and, if necessary, jettisoned. I would suggest that all of these and much more, we could-and should do without! Thank you for agreeing with me.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Byz - I would say "harmless" is not a reason to include or to continue including gestures in the liturgy.

I would say the sign of peace has not become pointless. Rather, it's ancient meaning has been restored, organically, over time, to include all present, not only the clergy.

Fr. ALLAN McDonald - When Christ is the center, the hub, the core of the circle, then the circle is a good thing.

It is probably true that there was, at one time and due to the structure and weight of the chasuble, that hem-lifting had a point. Now, it does not.

Sloppy vestments are not unique to the NO mass.

And when you can define what constitutes non-kitsch art, please do. Be sure to start with "What I like is..."

ByzRus said...

Fr. MJK,

Per the Missal, the ritual is complete following the verbal exchange. The physical gesture is a "may add, where appropriate". Perhaps said gesture is always appropriate, no matter how fetishized those involved choose to make it. Of course, it lacks rubrics.

Suspecting that lifting the hem isn't random, as most/all of the TLM's symbols and gestures are not, I looked this up.

At the lifting, we are symbolically touching the power of Christ the High Priest and Savior. The gesture emphasizes the foregoing narratives and theology. Paraphrased from the internet.

Shoe buckles aside, there is much meaning to gestures and things that are to often denigrated as useless, repetitive, or antiquated within the TLM. My own opinion, we should be very careful not to jettison any/all too quickly in this context as we have just become too desensitized to meaning at every turn from the perspective of the NO. In the East, nothing is random, all has meaning and movements and gestures are neither meaningless or wasted.

TJM said...

The Novus Ordo has been a flop, chasing millions away and inspiring no one other than leftwing loons trying to make the Liturgy into their own image and likeness. It is clericalism on steroids. The TLM constrained the priest, the Novus Ordo does not. Just like Democratic policies destroying the larger US cities, the Novus Ordo has done a great job destroying Catholicism. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I think it is high time for our bishops to stop alibiing for failure and go back to what works.

ByzRus said...

Fr. MJK,

Curiously, where else aside from the NO have you witnessed sloppy vestments?

Like the TLM, the Eastern Byzantine Churches have prescribed, not optional prayers for the mandated vestments that are to be followed without exception. The Orthodox Byzantine Churches adhere to the same disciplines. Many of our priest's take great care to not sit on their vestments as well.

Despite the latitude taken in the Syro Malabar Church, they always appear to be properly vested as well. In the East, I have seen unattractive vestments, I have never seen sloppiness on the scale regularly witnessed in RCC NO parishes - some, not all.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Byz - We too often spiritualize or give unwarranted significance to things that never had it to start with.

Hem-lifting was purely practical. Along the way, someone thought, "Oh! Let's say that it is about "touching the power of Christ the High Priest and Savior!" Along that same way, someone said, "Touching the power of Christ is restricted to men only, and only those men serving mass."

Suddenly, this gesture has taken on not only unnecessary importance, but it has become yet another way of diminishing the full, conscious, and active participation of the laity.

ByzRus said...

Fr. MJK,

How is this simple gesture, performed by servers, diminishing participation? This is a great example, it's simple, contained, brief, and mostly something to gaze upon while absorbing what's taken place.

The same could be said about the meaning of many things, I suppose. If we strop away the meaning at every turn, based upon your argument that I'm guessing is derived from the Sacred Constitution, what's left? Has that served the Church and her people well in this age of social upheaval and unprecedented rejection?

Your response could extend to Divine Liturgy as well. Here, the iconostas prevents that definition of participation as well. Our frequent gestures are likely trite and useless.

What I just wrote is total bosh to us Easterners. We're very busy during Liturgy. But, tying it all together, where does this participation argument, that as i get older I honestly feel is more imagined than real, stop??

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Byz - Who gets to, "touch the power of Christ"? It's not the laity and it's certainly not female altar servers in the "T"LM. Who is in and who is out when it comes to touching the power?

Part of the genius of the reformed liturgy is the paring down of gesture, the removal of the unnecessary (no repetition of the Confetior), and the elimination of the superfluous.

If the meaning is there to begin with, all well and good. If we have to concoct a meaning, as we in the West have tried and failed to do with the Sacrament of Confirmation since we foolishly separated it from Baptism, then we need to reexamine things.

I have seen threadbare vestments in sacristy closets, ones used by those who celebrate the "T"LM.

TJM said...


Notice how Father K NEVER addresses the myriad failures of the Novus Ordo? How it promotes disunity? How it puts the priest in command of the Liturgy rather than its servant? It helps slobs become priests - these guys could never cut it in the TLM world. Tha Novus Ordo world is collapsing because of the demographic sinkhole. Our last best hope to keep the lights on is the TLM. The youth are not marching miles and miles for the Novus Ordo and these evil old men know that so they try to ignore this inconvenient fact. Did Pope Accompany send a representative to the Chartres Pilgrimage?

Anonymous said...

ByzRus, September 28, 2023 at 8:21 AM:

To do so would require an intolerable amount of cognitive dissonance.


As for "fetishizing liturgical practices", there are plenty of "pointless" things done in the Novus Ordo. Once upon a time, the offertory procession, of people bringing their crops, livestock, etc., to the church to support it, had a meaning rooted in reality. The practice slowly died away and, if we listened to "the democracy of the dead," it might have stayed that way, or at least we might have thought, "why?" rather than proceeding with "fetishizing" antiquarian, allegedly-historical liturgical practices. Now, it's a once-dead practice revived, zombie-like, in which a couple random members of the faithful are cherry-picked out to carry some hosts and wine that came from the sacristy twenty feet away and carry them up to the altar another twenty feet away. Some might say it's a hollow symbolism; others, that the exclusivity of having just two lay people do this is a form of lay clericalism.
Same goes for lay-read readings--one person out of a 100 might be participating more actively, but 99% of the faithful are in the same position as before. What richness has been uncovered for that one special person!

But we could accept that some people other than the priest can stand as "proxies" for all the faithful--symbolizing the whole congregation presenting their offerings to the altar, perhaps, or even symbolizing all of the faithful reaching out to touch the hem of Christ's garment (whoops!).

Maybe our liturgical practices aren't meant to be limited to the practical. Perhaps there is an environment of mystery created by doing things that, though practically "pointless," point towards something more. The Eastern liturgies do this; much to Fr. MJK's chagrin the TLM does this; does the Novus Ordo?


ByzRus said...

To Whomever,

Fetishization is in the eye of the beholder it would seem.

As mentioned, as I've gotten older, notions of active participation seem more imagined, then real.

Shoe buckles, fans and gold straws aside. My own feeling is that those who sought to gut Roman Liturgy had a much broader agenda than active participation and removing repetition considered by some to be useless.

Having grown up with the NO, the notion that it encourages participation is puzzling. Other than a chosen few, most in attendance have few demands made of them. Most observe passively.

The TLM, and, of course, Divine Liturgy, per my experience, engage me differently such that I feel compelled to participate through prayer and gestures like crossing and bowing. I have Divine Liturgy mostly memorized and pray it in entirety along with the priest.

Last, threadbare vestments are not sloppy. They are worn. Additionally, they might be all a priest and parish can afford, so they continue to be used. They might not look new; at the same time they could easily not look sloppy as well.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Nick - We don't have to try to create an "environment of mystery."

THE mystery - Christ's life, death, and resurrection - is re-presented in the mass each time it is celebrated. Cluttering up THE mystery with the mysterious is, in my view, unhelpful, even counter-productive.

What we strive to do is celebrate the mass in a way that helps people appreciate the depth of THE mystery, and how, by living a life of Christian virtue, we participate in THE mystery in the most efficacious way.

This coming weekend we hear what, in my opinion, is one of the most powerful presentations of THE mystery in all the Scriptures:

"Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him..."

THERE is all the mystery we need - and we DO need it - to have hope for salvation, the hope that THE mystery may be realized in us.

ByzRus said...


Who said mysterious?

Liturgy, at least per the definition of the East is mystical.

I don't wish to be confrontational, however, your candor has almost an Anabaptist and cafeteria tonal quality. Remove, remove, remove and keep that which appeals to someone's sense of "participation", whether useless or not.

We are simply temporary stewards of our traditions. To be otherwise is to have rupture resulting in something new, no?

Anonymous said...

Has "decluttering" the liturgy led to a greater appreciation of THE mystery, or have we observed an unprecedented collapse in Mass attendance and belief in the power or significance of the sacraments, regarding which we can't commiserate with, say, non-Catholic Christian groups? Does the use of non-essential sacramentals in the celebration of the sacraments clutter up the sacraments, or add to the depth of richness in those celebrations? You may prefer a way of doing things that sticks to what is strictly essential, but that has been tried this past half-century and it has gone about as well as introducing New Coke.

Moreover, a number of post-Vatican II documents on the liturgy, such as "Built of Living Stones" and Liturgiam Authenticam, speak at various points of creating a "weight of mystery, awe, reverence, and wonder" in the liturgy, even an "aura of mystery." Do you reject these documents as "cluttering up THE mystery", or do you simply quibble with my calling it in "environment" rather than an "aura"?


TJM said...


Father K is like Mark Thomas - both of them never address inconvenient facts which undermine their points

Anonymous said...


I've been reading this blog long enough (though only commenting recently) to know that. I enjoy the give-and-take, except where slippery sophistry, a la Humpty Dumpty's "Words mean just what I choose them to mean," is overused to avoid addressing inconvenient facts. I also like talking about and coming to better understanding of God and the liturgy. I also enjoy Fr. AJM's sense of humor, most of the time--lol.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Nick - I don't share your view that changes in the liturgy have resulted in " unprecedented collapse in Mass attendance and belief in the power or significance of the sacraments." That view ignores many things that, in my view, have had tremendous deleterious impact not only on Catholic culture, but Western culture as a whole.

Bellah et al described the rise of radical individualism in “Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life” published in 1986. From a review: “The quest for self-reliance and autonomy has become so exaggerated in contemporary America that even the traditional bonds with others in work, love, and community are slighted. Bellah and his colleagues are convinced that "a minimum of public decency and civility is a precondition for a fulfilling life."

In his 2000 book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” Robert Putnam documented that attending club meetings, such as those held by Rotary and Kiwanis groups, has declined by 58 percent in the period 1975-2000. This trend continued and even accelerated in the 21st century. Putnam notes it’s part of an overall trend by Americans who also have 43 percent fewer family dinners. Thirty-five percent fewer of us have friends who drop in to see us at our homes. In the past two decades Rotary down 20%, Jaycees down 64%, Masons down 76%.

“Fraternal organizations have also witnessed a substantial drop in membership during the 1980s and 1990s. Membership is down significantly in such groups as the Lions (off 12 percent since 1983), the Elks (off 18 percent since 1979), the Shriners (off 27 percent since 1979), the Jaycees (off 44 percent since 1979), and the Masons (down 39 percent since 1959). In sum, after expanding steadily throughout most of this century, many major civic organizations have experienced a sudden, substantial, and nearly simultaneous decline in membership over the last decade or two.” (Why Did Membership In Fraternal Organizations Die Out Over Time?” Thesociologicalmail September 26, 2018]


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...


MAINLINE DENOMINATIONS: According to the latest release from Pew Research, fewer Americans identify as Christians today than in 2007. In general, Christianity declined almost 8 percent as a share of the U.S. population. However, the real collapse came among Mainline Protestants. The share of Americans who affiliate with a Mainline church fell below 15 percent. In addition, the share of American Catholics fell to 20.8 percent.

In my opinion, your error is in thinking that there is an exclusively INTERNAL cause to the decline in attendance and subsequent decline in acceptance or belief in Catholic doctrines.
Inasmuch as these declines are seen across the board in American society, and inasmuch as the changes in our liturgy cannot have resulted in the declines in Protestant denominations, social service organizations, or fraternal organizations, your assertions that the changes are the reason for the problems and a return to previous liturgies will fix the problems is well off the mark.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Not so fast, FRMJK, “ inasmuch as the changes in our liturgy cannot have resulted in the declines in Protestant”. Protestants liked the post Vatican II liturgical changes because these were so Protestant. The followed Rome’s lead, went from ad orientem to facing the people, adopted and adapted our new lectionary and use the seasons of the year and Catholic type vestments.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

As well, Rorate Caeli has an interesting take on Cardinal Dolan’s take on Mass attendance decline:

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Not so fast, Fr. ALLAN McDonald... When did Baptists or Methodists or Church of God go "from orientem to facing the people"?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

After Vatican II! DUH!

Anonymous said...

Fr. MJK,

The declines in question are not "across the board in American society." You will find that non-mainline Protestant sects have essentially held steady in membership rates and some are even growing as a portion of the population. Perhaps because of this, Gallup has found that Catholics have "disaffiliated" twice as frequently as Protestants. Hispanic Protestant groups are doing quite well--at the expense of the Catholic Church. In general, put Protestants and Catholics head-to-head statistically, as a sort of "control" for the overall decline of civil society, and Catholics don't come out too well.

You continue to ignore (forget?) parts of posts for which you can't find an answer: a number of post-Vatican II documents on the liturgy, such as "Built of Living Stones" and Liturgiam Authenticam, speak at various points of creating a "weight of mystery, awe, reverence, and wonder" in the liturgy, even an "aura of mystery." Do you reject these documents as "cluttering up THE mystery", or do you simply quibble with my calling it in "environment" rather than an "aura"?

Perhaps you latch on to the one weakness in a comment with which you disagree and choose to ignore every other aspect because you have no answer. Surely that can't be it--TJM must be wrong. 


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Nick - I am not forgetting or ignoring any posts. I respond as I have time.

Some denominations are growing. However, "Depending on whether religious switching continues at recent rates, speeds up or stops entirely, the projections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070. Over that same period, “nones” would rise from the current 30% to somewhere between 34% and 52% of the U.S. population." (PEW Sep 13, 2022)

TJM said...

It is beyond peradventure that when the Mass was in Latin about 75-80% of American Catholics attended Sunday Mass while only 17% at best attend the New Wonderfulness created by clueless men of ill will who could not have given a tinkers dam for the laity. Leftwing loons, rather than admit their HUGE mistake, desperately look for excuses to deflect from their failure. These types are wethers and should be ignored, particularly bishops and priests who vote for the Party of Abortion as “Healthcare.” They are corrupt and have nothing to offer us.