Wednesday, November 15, 2023


Good taste in beautiful vestments that resemble the kingliness of heaven, similar to the king of hearts, the Sacred Heart, is highly encouraged:

While some of the reforms the good bishop is requiring pertain to African deformities of the manner in which the Mass is celebrated, there are parallels in the American experience. I copy this from La Croix, but embed my astute comments in the body of the text in RED:

African bishop warns against "unruly" liturgical celebrations

Archbishop Roger Houngbédji OP of Benin denounces liturgical abuses he's observed in his Archdiocese of Cotonou, especially inappropriate dress and rambling homilies

Archbishop Roger Houngbédji of Cotonou has moved to correct bad liturgical practices and habits that he has observed during his seven years as head of Benin's largest Catholic diocese. 

The 60-year-old archbishop, a member of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), issued an instruction at the end of October to remind priests, deacons, consecrated persons and laity of the archdiocese of numerous points concerning the attitude to adopt during Mass.

For instance, he says "the practice of sometimes proclaiming liturgical texts or singing the responsorial psalm from a cell phone" is "prohibited". He also says "untimely movements" during the liturgy – particularly during the sign of peace – should stop. (The cell phone thingy is a new one on me. I guess the “untimely movements” at the Sign of Peace means traveling around the church to greet people making a sign of peace not a sober symbol but rather a fundamentalist experience of physical contact and greeting with everyone. The USA seems to have nipped that in the bud back in the 80’s and 90’s.)

"Avoid vague homilies"

Archbishop Houngbédji's warnings also apply to the way people in the assembly are dressed.

"Avoid, as far as possible, outfits that are too brightly colored, too conspicuously printed or too imposing in shape," the archbishop urges in the new instruction. "Skirts and dresses should be of decent length and not too tight. Similarly, revealing tops, crop tops that expose the chest, stomach or back, shocking tattoos, aggressive piercings and ripped jeans are contrary to the spirit of the liturgy," he points out. (Yes, it is time for bishops to help pastors establish proper dress codes in the USA and start with wedding parties. We have a new culture of tattoos that is truly the sin of disfiguring the body, going way beyond enhancement, it is the mortal sin of mutilation. T-shirts with slogans and advertisements and sexual expressions. I’m seen these! Readers in short skirts, who when they bow to the altar, reveal it all leaving nothing to the imagination.)

"During the liturgical celebration of a funeral, closing speeches are forbidden, except for the word of thanks, which must be made by the presider," the Dominican archbishop says. "At Mass and before dismissal, no civil or military authority, and no well-known benefactor of a parish community, whatever the importance of the services rendered, may speak publicly," the archbishop reminds the roughly one million Catholics of Cotonou. (Thank you, Jesus, for this bishop in Africa, a role model for all bishops in the USA.)

And he is especially concerned about the quality of homilies in the archdiocese, instructing his priests to "avoid vague and abstract homilies, as well as useless ramblings that risk drawing attention more to the preacher than to the substance of the Gospel message". (He named the elephant in the room, bishops and priests, not just risking, but completely given over to making themselves the center of attention and not just with silly preaching but other liturgical antics not foreseen in the Roman Missal.)

Archbishop Houngbédji has also instructed the archdiocesan liturgical commission to "work to remove tendentious songs from the liturgical repertoire". He says these various reforms are necessary because "liturgical celebration cannot be content with unbridled ritual ordering, still less with individualistic attitudes left to the arbitrariness of each person". (I have no idea what those songs might be in Africa, but may I suggest that in the USA, the following ditties be removed: “On Eagles’ wings, Be Not Afraid, Hear I am Lord, Hail Mary, Gentle Woman, and anything by the Saint Louis 1970’s Jesuits and some others that fail to come to mind. How about mandating the propers!)

Observations made during pastoral visits

Houngbédji, who was appointed archbishop of Cotonou in 2016, says the instruction is based on observations he has made during pastoral visits to parishes and pastoral centers throughout the archdiocese. "Among the many questions I've been asked by the various parish communities is the question of harmonizing liturgical gestures and practices," he says. He asserts that he has been "repeatedly challenged by Catholics on the urgency and necessity of working towards a better understanding of the faith and its proper celebration in liturgy".

Maurice Hounmènou, the priest who heads the archdiocesan Commission for Liturgy and Sacred Art, notes the rise of a certain liturgical personalism, "typical of those who think that in the liturgy, everyone is free to do what they want". He says this attitude has led to introducing "all kinds of prayers and devotions, testimonies, and so forth" into the Mass. (I think one of the major problems in the USA is the Universal Prayer, made up or canned which are more political and “breaking news” than these should be. I think the Universal Prayer needs to be rethought with a formal “Litany of Prayer” found in the Missal and not be be adjusted. My suggestion would be a formal introduction, with four petitions: For the Church, we pray to the Lord; For the peace of the world, we pray to the Lord; For those who suffer, we pray to the lord. For the Faithful departed, we pray to the Lord. And then a formal written conclusion—based on the official offertory Antiphon which then makes sense not to repeat it. Creative liturgies initiated by the laity or the clergy should stop. Proper postures for the priest and laity should be followed. For example, the orans position is not the posture for the “Our Father” or any other part of the Mass pertaining to the laity and kneeling is the norm for Holy Communion and the Liturgy of the Eucharist facing the liturgical east.)


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"Avoid, as far as possible, outfits that are too brightly colored,"...

One is reminded of that 'too brightly colored' outfit you appeared in at Sacred Heart not that long ago - the one that resembled the colors worn by the Queen of Hearts from a pack of Bicycle playing cards....

TJM said...

Mr “Charm,” drinking already?

Unknown said...

But-but-but the Zaire Use! Inculturation! That bishop must be a racist who hates Vatican II! /s (obviously)


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"Good taste in beautiful vestments that resemble the kingliness of heaven, similar to the king of hearts, the Sacred Heart, is highly encouraged:...

Do your homework, and when you can, please tell us where the tastes of the Kingdom of Heaven are revealed so that we can go and do likewise...

ByzRus said...

I stand with holy Pope Francis.

Fr Martin Fox said...

I find the mention of "cell phones" thought-provoking.

While the actual use of a cell phone specifically sounds bad, what about a tablet which could be about the size of a book? It's not even hard to imagine such a tablet being disguised as a book. What's wrong with that?

I'm not assuming the answer. We didn't stop using candles when kerosene or gas lamps, then electric lamps, came along; so perhaps we will want to insist that the Word of God be proclaimed from an actual, printed book.

Some people consider such questions pointless, but there language isn't merely a matter of words, it's also about symbols and ritual; and when we deal with the things that matter most, the choice of language and ritual matters a great deal.

If you think about non-religious rituals that we all know about can share, one comes to mind: the ritual of how military personnel guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Any number of details involved could be dismissed as fussy or not so important in themselves; yet I am not aware of any push to simplify it or be loosey-goosey about how either the guards or the visitors deport themselves.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Fr. MARTIN Fox - Regarding books, disguised or otherwise, the last I heard was that the powers-that-be have stated that tablets are not to be used on the altar or at the ambo.

rcg said...

I have an app with the daily propers in it for the NO and VO. I use my regular hand missal most of the time, but will use the mobile app when traveling or for convenience. I was told off by a fellow once who must havre thought I was cruising Southern Orders during Mass.

@FrMJK: the lillies of the field, birds of the air, and the stars in heaven are a good starting point for colourful guidelines.

TJM said...


Thanks for the laugh!

Fr Martin Fox said...

Fr Kavanaugh:

What "powers that be"? I'm not being contentious; I just don't know to what you are referring. Do you mean in your diocese or order, or do you mean at a higher level?

Also, I am not sure why you do it, but I don't need you to capitalize my first name. Perhaps you have a great devotion to my patron? Awesome!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Fr. MARTIN Fox - I believe the instruction on not using electronic text devices at the altar and ambo is from USCCB. I'll look for the citation later today.

ByzRus said...

Fr. Fox,

We'll see what Fr. MICHAEL comes up with.

Perhaps there was an instruction, I do not recall.

The one issue I see with such usage is, take for example, the gospel proclamation. Would the priest kiss the phone, or tablet at its conclusion?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Byz - Although I don't see much difference in reverencing the Gospel by kissing a book or a tablet or phone - the Gospel is the Gospel in whatever form the text appears - it would seem, certainly at first, odd to kiss an electronic gadget.

At present I have found references to a USCCB instruction, but not the instruction itself. The search continues...

ByzRus said...

Fr. MJK,

I can't disagree with your assessment. To reverence an object used for calls, social media, online shopping, whatever would certainly be odd as well. Perhaps one could argue that the gospel text, in view at that moment, could be held to a different standard - the intention is to reverence the word, not Samsung/Apple. Regardless, it certainly would not be ideal operating model.

During my days cantoring Divine Liturgy, I'll confess to using my phone when surprised with a request. While using, however, I was neither on the altar, nor at the Holy Table. Perhaps then a moot point.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think it is a mistake to think that the use of electronic means of mimicking the liturgical books of the Mass is no different than the actual books, the lectionary or Book of the Gospels cases in point. The use of these should be the rare exception and certainly not encouraged. The liturgical books are “sacramentals” in that they are real, not virtual, tangible, not electronic, and sacred as books are blessed, not digital images of their pages.

The use of these digital devices for the liturgy shows apathy, a lack of appreciation for the sacramentals of the Church, especially liturgical sacramentals. It is utilitarian, ugly and ethereal. It is lazy too.

I despise that when our priests on retreat in my diocese celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours, the presiders do the vest, use their digital devises and make it just plain ugly. It’s one thing to use an app for the Liturgy of the Hours when one prays alone but sloppy altogether to use it in a communal/liturgical setting.

God help us!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Fr. ALLAN McDonald - Typically, your reading comprehension needs work.

I did not say that electronic devices are "no different than the actual books, the lectionary or Book of the Gospels..." I said the GOSPEL whether in printed or presented in electronic form, is the GOSPEL. It is the Gospel we venerate.

Paper books as sacramentals came into existence when paper books books came into existence. Before that it was vellum/parchment folio, before that a vellum scroll. We use chemically produced ink now, not carbon black, honey, oil and vinegar.

Was there something unpleasantly "utilitarian or ugly" about paper books when they took the place of vellum scrolls?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Short answer: YES!

TJM said...

Fr K Orwell obviously failed his Dale Carnegie course as well as moral theology. After all, would a properly trained priest vote for a Party whose raison d’etre these days is abortion on demand, gay marriage and the mutilation of children to satisfy the mentally ill transgender sickos?