A 1965 Missal Surprise

It has been a busy day (and not over yet), in part due to another newborn lamb to attend to. Say hello Flora.

Flora, still a little messy from her birth.

One of my fine blog correspondents (and there are some really good people who drop me a line) has sent me some interesting news, confirming and elaborating information received from another correspondent Michael over at St Bede Studio.

It seems that the 1965 Missal is not as dead as I had thought it to be. The monks at the thriving monastery of Fontgombault have been known to use it. It is reported that in 2011 the 1965 Missal was used for the Mass at which the new Abbot of Fontgombault, Dom Pateau, received the abbatial blessing from the Archbishop of Bourges.

Abbot Pateau receives the mitre

Formidable, Fontgombault! Revive ’65.

 

The New Lectionary is Dead – † RIP

The silence over the last year on the new lectionary’s progress has been unsettling. We had it from the Chairman of ICPELL himself that the new lectionary would make use of the ESV Bible, a revision of the RSV originally authorized for vernacular worship back in the mid-60s, and that things were advancing to the point that we might even this year see a first volume published. Then he, and everyone else, went quiet.

Br Tony Jukes SSS has discovered the reason for the silence. He has come across a statement from the Education Officer for Liturgy of the Archdiocese of Brisbane (Australia), Mrs Elizabeth Harrington, that explains all. It can be trusted as the Archbishop of Brisbane is (oops! was)  the Chairman of ICPELL. She gives a valuable and balanced summary of the dynamics of the process over the last decade, and comes to this climax:

After 10 years of unsuccessful efforts by ICPELL, it became apparent that the whole lectionary project was in serious jeopardy. It had proved impossible to find a lectionary that suits the Holy See, the copyright holders of the scripture translations, and bishops’ conferences. Another issue was that the Revised Grail psalms, which were planned to be part of the revised lectionary, have also lost support in some quarters.

At the end of 2013 the decision was made to dismantle ICPELL and leave each conference of bishops to make its own decision regarding a lectionary for Mass. Consequently, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference agreed to discontinue its involvement in the international lectionary project and to reprint the existing lectionary. It would contain a slightly modified version of the Jerusalem Bible currently in use and the Grail translation of the responsorial Psalms.

The general opinion is that some poor translations in the Jerusalem Bible are easily remedied and that other required changes to the text can be made fairly quickly.

So the cat is out of the bag. ICPELL is dead. Each bishops’ conference will make its own provision. For a start, we know now what the Australian bishops propose to do. The often unsuitable Jerusalem Bible will be retained, though with some attempt to remedy its “poor translations”. The New Grail Psalms are to be abandoned and the old Grail retained. Finally, they hope to have the new lectionary ready for the end of 2014 (the First Sunday of Advent I presume).

jerusalem

Most probably the bishops of England and Wales will not depart much from the Australian plan.

This will be something of a blow to some in the Reform of the Reform movement. For liberals and traditionalists, to use those sweeping labels for brevity’s sake, this development is probably welcome. The former tend to like the current lectionary as it is; the latter have their eyes firmly on the Vetus Ordo and its vastly different lectionary.

One factor in the demise of ICPELL might be the desire of Pope Francis to devolve as much as he can to local bishops’ conferences. ICPELL was not a curial body as such but it did represent centralization of sorts, and that is no longer encouraged.

It would have been nice to have heard it from someone more responsible in this matter than a diocesan education officer (though we must be grateful to her).

We could always Revive ’65.

**NB: the new lectionary was never envisaged for North America. Both the USA and Canada already have their own lectionaries in place. The new arrangement has at least the virtue of being consistent with what has happened in North America.**

The Liturgical Status Quo: Clarifying the Issues

When I typed, rather unwittingly, my personal reaction to Fr Thomas Kocik’s re-assessment of the Reform of the Reform initiative, little did I know the the issue would be such a lively one. Most of it has been interesting. Only once has it descended to invective (under the guise of muscular Christianity or something similar). 

Dom Mark Kirby’s more recent contribution is another personal contribution, from one who did his best for the new liturgical order and found it to be exhausting and in vain. His reference to Thomas Merton’s trepidation at the prospect of liturgical reform was an eye-opener. His own later confusion seems to mirror and coincide with that of the liturgy.

There are three posts which have really captured my attention. One is by Dom Mark again, looking at (in part) the merits of the 1965 Missal which has occupied my recent speculation. Purists argue, rightly, that this Missal was not conceived as a permanent Missal but a transitional one. Put another way, it was not an editio typica for posterity. That ultimately seems irrelevant, since the point Dom Mark makes (and I agree) is that this Missal was never given a decent chance. It was an opportunity lost. He explains in his post 1965′s continuity with the pre-conciliar liturgy, and also its modest reforms. He cites the Vatican Secretary of State, writing on behalf of Paul VI in 1966, who expressed the view that,

 (t)he singular characteristic and primary importance of this new edition is that it [the revisions of 1965] reflects completely the intent of the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

It took me aback to see in writing, from the highest authority, what appeared to me to be so obvious of the 1965 Missal: it fulfilled the mandate of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and no further novelty was needed (save, maybe, for refinements or restorations in light of pastoral experience). But what should have been an end-point for immediate reform ended up being commandeered as one in a sequence of changes, each of which softened the blow of the one following. The results we have seen all to clearly in some truly horrific travesties of Mass.

wmd-weapon-mass-disruption-cartoon-598x451

Dr Joe Shaw has not agreed with this view, and did so with his usual logical evenness. One excellent point he makes in an earlier post in his series is that the Novus Ordo of 1969/70 and the Vetus Ordo of 1962 are radically different in their methodologies, for want of a better word at this time of night. The new Mass is built primarily on verbal communication and comprehension, and exalts the text; the old Mass operates primarily by non-verbal communication and silence, and exalts ritual action (I have paraphrased and grossly simplified his writing: please go and read him direct). For him the 1965 Missal is fatally flawed in that it seeks to compromise between the two methodologies, and such a compromise is doomed to failure, as “falling between two stools.” His analysis is compelling and convincing. For him, naturally, the only solution is a return to the Missal of 1962.

Dr Shaw focuses most of his critique on the 1967 changes made to the 1965 Missal, and which were the subject of the Agatha Christie indult. It is the existence of this indult that led me to mention the 1967 changes, since they appear to be licit, permissible even now in England and Wales. By preference, I would prefer the 1964 or ’65 reforms This is not to quibble with Dr Shaw, but merely to clarify.

One thing I do quibble with is his assertion that “none of these changes find direct support from the Council.” That seems not to be a compelling point. The Council Fathers were not concerned with itemizing individual changes, so I would expect to find such direct support almost no conceivable change. This of course raises the issue of the naïveté of the majority of the Fathers, those who came without a fully-worked out agenda and plan of action. They left the field to those who did. Their vagueness served very well those who desired radical change.

Lastly, please do go and read the latest from Dr Peter Kwasniewski at the New Liturgical Movement. He expresses my own position far more coherently than I do. He accurately identifies the two approaches that make up the Reform of the Reform movement: to use the current books with with rubrical integrity, and with as much reverence and traditional beauty as possible; and to revise the books themselves and restore what was too hastily discarded while removing what was too hastily introduced. At present, I live by the former, and I yearn for the latter.

Dr Kwasniewski then goes on to explain that to recognize the apparent futility of the Reform of the Reform is not to have abandoned the prevailing liturgical order lock, stock and barrel. If that were so, I (for one) would not still be daily celebrating, or even concelebrating, the new Mass. “One cannot recover lost continuity by stubbornly insisting on it”, writes Dr Kwasniewski. The options are a complete return to the status quo ante concilium or such a radical revision of the new Mass as to have effectively abolished it, not because it is not valid but because it represents,

a detour, an evolutionary dead-end. It is like those modernist churches that do not suffer gently the passage of time, that are trapped in their own era and mentality, never able to escape from it. The way forward is not to keep developing the modernist aesthetic but to abandon it resolutely and definitively, embracing and cultivating in its place the noble artistic tradition we have received, which retains tremendous power to speak to us of realities that are timeless and transcendent.

Some no doubt see that a “detour”, a new departure was precisely what was needed for the liturgy, to make it relevant to modern circumstances. Whether that view is right or wrong is one question, but what is beyond question is the fact the Council did not mandate any such detour from liturgical tradition.

But we need to remember that any resolution needs to be done fully in the bosom of the Church, as far as possible bringing her members with us willingly and not dragging them by their hair. For now, we must employ the two options universally and licitly available: the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form, and present each at its very best – a new Mass with reverence and traditionally-consistent beauty, and an old Mass performed with loving care and joy as something in which all are invited to share as an enduringly and intrinsically Catholic means of worship. The first must never involve the abandon of liberty hall (as some might see it) and the second must never be the work of a traditionalist ghetto (as some might see it).

For most of us some sort of personal resolution of the issue is possible. For the pastor, and just as much for the faithful Catholic too, the desire must be for a communal solution. For me, as is clear, the glimmer of hope that reconciles the realpolitik of the conciliar teaching on liturgical reform with the urgent need to recover a radical and authentic continuity with the liturgical tradition of the Church’s worship lies in the 1965 Missal. It exists, was used for an obscenely brief period of time, is post-conciliar and yet more comfortably sits in the liturgical tradition. Perhaps it could even be introduced as a third Form (despite my horror of too many options) and allowed to sink or swim on its own merits. Perhaps it would attract those who continue to attend the OF because it is seemingly the only viable option for them, for whom the EF would be too much, too soon. Perhaps it would serve as an excellent entrée to the EF.

Perhaps it could go some way to addressing the acute and chronic haemorrhaging the Church has endured in the last 50 years or so. The need to reverse this dismal decay in the Church is something we can all agree on.

Revive ’65.

The liturgical mood of the moment

Is it possible that the mood of the moment, in liturgical terms, has changed to such a degree as to be irreversible?

Dom Mark Kirby OSB of Silverstream Priory states his position in his clear and balanced way, as one who had laboured for the new rites and made no headway in the direction that had been set for those rites by their own creators.

On the New Liturgical Movement we find a useful introductory synthesis by Dr Peter Kwasniewski of the increasingly public lamenting of the liturgical status quo.

Dr Joe Shaw investigates more deeply yet accessibly both the real disadvantage the Reform of the Reform (RotR) has faced, and the obsession with the text that was the fatal (?) flaw of the Liturgical Movement. In the first case, I think the real disadvantage is not necessarily insuperable (why not, for instance, offer a RotR Mass alongside the normal one, much as he advocates offering the old Mass alongside the prevaling liturgy?). The focus on the text, on the human word, is soberingly accurate, and it is an obsession that expresses the hyper-rationalism of modern man.

Mark Lambert examines Archbishop Roche’s telling if more subtle words on the liturgy at the Roman symposium last week on Sacrosanctum Concilium. Of particular note was the Arhcbishop’s highlighting the fact that:

…first of all, we attend Mass because we are in need. We are there because we need to be fed.

This could do with much fruitful unpacking. We go to the Mass not because there is something we can give (other than our bodies as a living sacrifice, our spiritual worship) but because there is something we must receive. We go not to do something but to have something done to us, to put it a little crudely. This is an essential insight for an authentic and fruitful liturgical spirituality.

There may well be more out there that I am yet to see.

jimmy-fallon-hosting-gettyPerhaps most surprising of all is an interview given by Jimmy Fallon, who is about to be promoted as Jay Leno’s successor on The Tonight Show, one of America’s biggest and most influential modern TV shows. This is the voice of one of the multitude whom we have lost in the wake of the liturgical reforms. Of his childhood he reveals what was probably the common experience of so many Catholic boys,

I loved the church. I loved the idea of it. I loved the smell of the incense. I loved the feeling you get when you left church. I loved like how this priest can make people feel this good. I just thought it was – I loved the whole idea of it. My grandfather was very religious, so I used to go to Mass with him at like 6:45 in the morning, serve Mass. And then you made money, too, if you did weddings and funerals. You’d get like five bucks. And so I go ‘Okay, I can make money too.’ I go, ‘This could be a good deal for me.’ I thought I had the calling.

Though ever the comedian he is being sincere, as will become obvious in his answer to being asked if he still goes to church:

I don’t go to – I tried to go back. When I was out in L.A. and I was kind of struggling for a bit. I went to church for a while, but it’s kind of, it’s gotten gigantic now for me. It’s like too… There’s a band. There’s a band there now, and you got to, you have to hold hands with people through the whole Mass now, and I don’t like doing that. You know, I mean, it used to be the shaking hands piece was the only time you touched each other…  I’m doing too much. I don’t want – there’s Frisbees being thrown, there’s beach balls going around, people waving lighters, and I go, ‘This is too much for me.’ I want the old way. I want to hang out with the, you know, with the nuns, you know, that was my favorite type of Mass, and the grotto, and just like straight up, just Mass Mass.

It is obvious to see why a Swiss cartoonist penned this sharp little cartoon in 2012.

vatican-2-opened

“Vatican II has opened up the Church”… “and the people have left”!

It is time to get these guys back.

Revive ’65.

Perfect papal timing

[updated]

Yesterday Pope Francis sent a message to the symposium recently concluded in Rome, entitled “Sacrosanctum Concilium: Gratitude and Commitment to a Great Ecclesial Movement”, and held at the Pontifical Lateran University. So far there seems to be no English translation of the Italian text, but we can still delve into it a little. There are a couple of interesting moments. Acknowledging the 50th anniversary of the publication of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Council’s first document and its manifesto for liturgical renewal, Pope Francis declares that the anniversary,

…inspires gratitude for the profound and widespread renewal of liturgical life, enabled by the teaching of the Council, for the glory of God and the building up of the Church; and at the same time urges a revived commitment to accept and implement this teaching more fully.

This might sound like the beginning of another paean of praise for the post-conciliar liturgy: we’ve heard the formula before. However, maybe all is not quite as it might seem. “More fully” might imply in the eyes of some a desire for even more changes and modernizations. Yet it could also mean that the full meaning of the text of the document itself is yet to be implemented. The Missal of 1969/70 has but a tenuous link with what the Council Fathers actually wrote.

The Holy Father continues a little later by affirming the crucial truth that “Christ is the true protagonist at every celebration”. Neither the people, nor the priest, are the subject of the Mass: it is Christ, gathering His people together and leading them, through the priest, in His perfect worship of the Father.

It gets better. Pope Francis restates the truth expressed by St Paul in Romans 12:1 that “to celebrate true spiritual worship is to offer oneself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”. A liturgy without this element of spiritual worship risks being empty of true sacredness and becoming “quasi-magical and an empty aestheticism”. That might sound like a shot across the bows of those who value the old Mass or more solemn worship, the Reformers of the Reform for example. No doubt the pope has little time for those who obsess about lace or the depth of bows (if such still exist in any numbers). Yet aestheticism works in more than one direction. It is also a type of aestheticism that seeks to manufacture an atmosphere of community, an emotive and artificial sense of togetherness, mutual-affirmation and acceptance. The rainbow stole is just as affected as an obsessive use of lace.

He goes on to say that “being the action of Christ, the liturgy from its innermost moves us to put on Christ, and in that dynamic all reality is transformed”. The liturgy should transform us into Christ, and since we are the salt of the earth and the yeast that leavens the bread, through us Christ transforms the world. It brings to mind Fr Z’s tag line, “Save the liturgy, save the world”. What Pope Francis is pushing here again is the centrality of Christ, not ourselves, in the liturgy.  He elaborates this dynamic of transformation by quoting Benedict XVI, which is surely significant. More on that in a bit.

His conclusion is also worthy of noting carefully:

To render thanks to God for that which has been possible to carry out, it is necessary to unite in a renewed willingness to move forward along the path set by the Council Fathers, because much remains to be done for a correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on the part of the baptized and of ecclesial communities. I refer in particular to the commitment to a strong and organic initiation and liturgical formation, as much in the faithful laity as in clergy and consecrated persons.

Pope Francis, so fond of the off-the-cuff, is here using very well measured words indeed. In fact, it takes no great stretch at all to see this encouragement for those who yearn for a renovation of the liturgy along the lines discussed in a previous post, one more obviously in line with the 1965 Missal. That certainly is closer to a “correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”. Correct (in the Italian, corretta) - not normally a word we might hear from this pope. But here he uses it, in relation to worship. He emphasizes the need for a “strong and organic… liturgical formation” for both laity and clergy. As Arhcbishop Gänswein said of Pope Francis, he seeks to change not the Faith but the faithful; or here, by transference, he locates the more urgent need as in the faithful and clergy to understand, correctly, the Council teaching on the liturgy, rather than to change the liturgy at will.

And as if to provide a lens, or a hermeneutic, by which to view and interpret his short teaching, he quotes only scripture and Benedict XVI. It is hard not to see this as an implicit affirmation of the liturgical theology and praxis of the Pontiff Emeritus.

The two popes today

The two popes today!

Given that Pope Francis is not overly concerned with liturgy, having other fish more urgently in need of frying, his message can reasonably be read as an encouragement, indeed a mandate, to the Church to recover the “correct and complete” understanding of the conciliar teaching on the liturgy – not least that it is the work of Christ not man; that the people’s most essential role is to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice in union with Christ’s –  our spiritual worship; that all the faithful might be actively engaged in the mystery of worship so that the mystery of worship might permeate their lives (the nub of Pope Francis’ quotation Benedict XVI). This is wholly consistent with Francis’ repeated emphasis on a faith that is expressed in daily living; that putting on Christ in the liturgy our whole life might be transformed.

Pope Francis clearly wants doers of God’s word, and here he affirms that we must first hear God’s word, or Word, and that we hear Him in the most privileged way when we turn from ourselves to Him in the liturgy. This is the timeless teaching of the Church, and not least of the Second Vatican Council. If the current liturgy as very often celebrated does not correctly express that teaching, we need urgently to embrace a liturgy that does before our churches are totally empty. The 1962 liturgy has the centuries of proven achievement; and the 1965 Missal enhances that liturgy, correctly interpreting the Council Fathers’ express desire. Is it too late to give it another go?

Revive ’65. It is not such a silly hope. This pope has shown himself adept at breaking moulds, and surprising us in our complacency. It could well be, for example, that the Vatican bank, or IOR, might not be around in its current form for much longer. Is it impossible that Pope Francis might do something bold and dramatic with the liturgy? He might if he hears enough of us clamouring for it, especially the young. Moreover, he seems to surf the net and read papers for himself. To quote Pope Francis, go out and make a noise!

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On the matter of the interim liturgy, between Sacrosanctum Concilium and 1969, Michael at St Bede Studio plans to do a series on this process of imposed liturgical change and acceptance, which he introduced briefly today. It should prove very interesting indeed.

**Caveat: my Italian is not brilliant so when the official translation comes out it might not be in precise agreement with my rough and ready one. However, mine hopefully captures the essential meaning of Pope Francis’ message.**

Another’s conclusion

My recent change in blog design was not unanimously acclaimed, and there was even a gentle but heartfelt plea for a return to the previous theme. So the innovation has been abandoned and the traditional theme restored. This seems spookily emblematic of something… cannot think what though…

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Dom Mark Kirby of Silverstream Priory in County Meath, Ireland, has noted (with unwarranted kindness) my cri de ceour on the Mass. He admits to having been a fellow-traveller in the Reform of the Reform school, but has now reached a somewhat different terminus than the one at which I find myself. He concludes:

The cracks in the post–conciliar liturgical edifice became evident almost as soon as the new rites began to be “lived in.” Today, the same edifice appears like so many shabby buildings put up hastily during an economic boom, now revealing their structural flaws, and threatening imminent collapse.

He has both reason and experience in his rhetorical arsenal, and the courage of his convictions. He and his brethren have found a happy home in the bosom of Mother Church, enjoying the freedom to use the liturgy of 1962 as confirmed by Benedict XVI. He is no sectary. It is his community’s just-getting-on-with-it that is so attractive and so compelling. Arguments must be made, of course; still, to see a community making the old liturgy not so much an ideological stand but, well, normal daily practice is consoling. It is how liturgy is meant to be: not something controversial and almost political, but part of the warp and weft of Christian life.

I still think something can be fruitfully salvaged from the liturgical reform, and in large measure it will come from communities such as Silverstream quietly and faithfully worshiping as the Church has always desired we should. For some it will be with the liturgy of 1962, and for others the liturgy of 1969 and after. I still think there might be something in those interim missals immediately after the Council. They merit further study as they are far more clearly in communion with the previous liturgy of the Church, while just as clearly reflecting the desires expressed by the Council Fathers. They are not so much a via media but more of a path too quickly ignored.

Pax.

The Lament of a Liturgical Loner

Monks live liturgy. “Let nothing be preferred to the Work of God” (Rule of St Benedict 43:3) our holy father St Benedict bids us. The Divine Office and the Mass punctuate and structure our day, uniting our lives with Christ’s sacrifice of perfect praise in his Body and Blood on the Cross. This union is what gives the monk’s life its truest and deepest value. A monk with no taste for liturgy is akin to a bird who fears to fly: things can only be difficult and frustrating. So if some of us monks seem to be endlessly focusing on liturgy, you might cut us some slack. For us, the liturgy is the privileged way to live in Christ’s Body, a privilege which necessarily imposes demands on our daily living outside the liturgy. These demands we spare no effort to meet faithfully, though we so often fail.

If liturgy was a live issue before the Council of 1962-65, it has become in the wake of that Council an explosive issue. Liturgy seems never to be at rest. For some, the Council gave a licence to change comprehensively the performance of the Church’s liturgy, and the change has been unrelenting. For others the changes were unjustifiable, unconscionable even, and they reject them outright. For others still, liturgy has been something to be coped with, an unavoidable battlefield on which they try to find shelter in some compromise that acknowledges the reality of change and seeks somehow to keep it organically connected to the Tradition of the Church. Few have been satisfied.

We might ask ourselves: where is my foxhole, my bunker, my bastion, on this battlefield? So much of my reading the past year or more has shown my foxhole to be filling with mud, slowly but ever more surely. It is not a tenable position in the long-term. Two things that have brought that conclusion home with a whack in recent days. One is an article by Fr Thomas Kocik at the New Liturgical Movement. Fr Kocik is one of the leading lights of the Reform of the Reform movement, which sought to modify the reformed liturgy imposed in the wake of the Council by realigning it with both the actual teachings of the Council Fathers and with the rich liturgical tradition that had developed gradually and organically from the times of the primitive Church to the 20th century. Fr Kocik cites Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI as a prime example of a Reformer of the Reform, who proceeded

not only by his teaching and personal liturgical example but also by legislation. He accentuated the liturgy’s beauty, promoted the liturgical and musical treasures of the Western Church (including of course the usus antiquior of the Roman rite), and introduced more tangible continuity with tradition in the manner of papal celebrations (e.g., the ‘Benedictine’ altar arrangement, offering Mass ad orientem in the Sistine and other papal chapels, administering Holy Communion to the faithful on their tongues as they knelt).

But Fr Kocik is throwing up his hands in surrender. The Reform of the Reform cannot be done. It is impossible. He finds that

the ‘reform of the reform’ is not realizable because the material discontinuity between the two forms of the Roman rite presently in use is much broader and much deeper than I had first imagined.

Things are so far advanced now that it is necessary to go back to the beginning (or rather, to 1963) and start afresh on the basis of the Council’s actual, explicit, written teaching in Sacrosanctum Concilium:

[T]he road to achieving a sustainable future for the traditional Roman rite—and to achieving the liturgical vision of Vatican II, which ordered the moderate adaptation of that rite, not its destruction—is the beautiful and proper celebration, in an increasing number of locations, of the Extraordinary Form, with every effort to promote the core principle (properly understood) of “full, conscious and active participation” of the faithful (SC 14).

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The other thing that has sobered me up was a video embedded at Catholicism Pure & Simple. It compares the old and the new Masses in the act of their celebration. It is a little weighted in one direction: the sole example of the post-conciliar Mass is a portly late-middle-aged priest with some annoying American habits (and please, it is not only American priests who can have annoying liturgical habits, I know) who is set against more than one youthful and much slimmer celebrant of the Mass of 1962. The young guys are indeed examples of “best practice” of the preconciliar liturgy, though perhaps many ordinary Catholics back then did not always receive best practice. The older, new-Mass man, is not what you would call an example of best practice; though he is by no means the worst, and perpetrates none of the more spectacular abuses that could so easily have been found on Youtube.

The video, however, put a living face to the theories and principles of the liturgy that have been at issue. And they left me torn, almost asunder. Why?

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Both had aspects that did not attract. The new-Mass man was a little too cavalier in his bearing and demeanour before the most sacred things the Church has in its gift. The loud munching on the Host and the long swig of the Chalice both jar. The music was dire in its banality. The poor man felt a constant need to inject meaningfulness into the words he pronounced, even when they were addressed to God and not to the people. He fiddled around with the traditional formulas (eg “…in Jesus’ name, who reigns gently with You…”) in order to be relevant, or caring, or creative, or whatever. He gave out Communion like it was corn chips and not his God.

Yet, it is hard not to conclude that the structure and the rubrics of the new Mass lend themselves to such a practice and attitude. If you remove so many of the sacralizing elements of a ritual, of course it is going to end up secularized. Rather arbitrarily included after the Council among the “useless repetitions” the same Council had deprecated, nearly all the signs of the cross and genuflections and kissings of the altar were removed from the Mass. To one not formed under the old Mass, these gestures can appear to be fussy and pedantic and almost obsessive. They seem to cry out for some rationalization. But is such a principle appropriate to the symbolic and sacred ritual of the Mass? Are time-and-motion principles suited to something that should take us out of time and out of ourselves?

It is this same unfamiliarity with the old Mass that can make it seem quite alien. Even with my theoretical knowledge of it, it can still throw me to watch it. While I have no beef with the idea of rubrics in liturgy (for one thing, they spare the faithful too much of the priest’s ego), the old Mass can seem dizzyingly rubrical: where exactly the Missal sits on the altar, the depth and direction of bows, the placement of the paten, and the like. It does not come naturally to me. Mind you, should it?

That said, a solemn and formal liturgy does feel right. A solemn, chant-filled new Mass is wonderful. Even the vernacular does not normally worry me, and in fact I have rarely said a Mass in Latin (apart from singing daily the parts of the Mass in Latin). The ritualized movement, if not overplayed, makes sense. One hides, subsumes, oneself into it. Using the little logic that God has given me, it is apparent that in the old Mass this submission and surrender to ritual is taken to the next level. It is hard to object to it in terms of liturgical logic.

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Here probably comes the nub of the issue: the new Mass has the inherent quality that it allows the celebrant to take over. He is “president” (an awful word in liturgy), and too easily he becomes star of the show. I have seen regularly the pressure that some priests unconsciously feel to be creative, to say something relevant or meaningful, to be constantly babbling. Being in the vernacular allows the priest to dominate the Mass, in a way that is near impossible in Latin. In the vernacular he can interject and extemporize at will. There is the modern plague of the opening mini-sermon telling you what the readings are going to be about (cannot the people understand vernacular readings for themselves?!). Then there are the myriad changes and “improvements” that some priests feel that they must impose (must the people be patronized so?). The most dangerous thing of all, perhaps, for the priest is facing the people. Now, everyone’s eyes are on him and not on God and his Christ, who will return from the East. Instead of priest and people together facing God they face each other, a closed and often self-satisfied circle. Many a priest will recite the Eucharistic Prayer with his eyes on the people, and so inevitably end up talking to the people, even showing them the Host as he pronounces “Take this all of you…”, talking to the Father, but looking to the people.

In other words, there is a disjunction between what we are taught happens at Mass and what seems so often to be happening. There is an incongruence between the words and the actions. It is possible to do the new Mass properly; but the new Mass seems to have the inherent flaw that it is so easy to do improperly.

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Then there is the dazzling array of options and variations now available: options for penitential rites, for readings, for Eucharistic Prayers. More is not always better. The more the range of options, the less is it possible to have ritual in the truest sense of the word. The new lectionary has many flaws, not least that it swamps people with chunks of scripture, often out of their context, and too much for people to assimilate in any deep way. Priests either have to retrain themselves as amateur scripture scholars or waffle about some experience they have had or some story that comes to mind to illustrate the easiest point that can be mined from the readings. And not a few end up talking about themselves. Scripture is wonderful, and we should all be spending time with it in some systematic way each day. But Mass is not a scripture class. Nor should it ever be one. The Word serves the Sacrifice which is the real reason we have gathered: to unite ourselves to Christ’s perfect worship of the Father on the Cross. Anything else is secondary in the Mass.

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So this priest is left dazed and disquieted, and feeling rather alone in it all.

It is clear that so many of the young are abandoning the liturgical practice of the Faith, and who can blame them if all they were to get is Fr Superstar and pop muzak they would never want to hear outside of church, and clearly do not want to hear inside either. Why would they come if they are talked down to like children, and are never challenged with hard truths that will give them quality of life? How often do priests confront them, challenge them on things like sex before marriage, pornography, alcohol abuse? Children thrive on challenge, and youth can handle hard truths as long they can see they are not being talked down to but called upwards. If we do not tell them, then we are complicit if they go astray for lack of guidance. And we should all remember our Lord’s warning regarding those who lead his little ones astray. And when was the last time a priest mentioned hell as a reality, and a real prospect for grave and unrepentant sinners?

Communion in the hand is too often an awful spectacle. The Sacred Host – Jesus Christ no less! – is handled and fingered and self-administered in a way that does not seem congruent with what we believe the Host actually is. How I respect the goodly number at our abbey Mass who receive the Host in the throne of their hands and then raise that throne straight to their mouths, not a finger in play. They are usually converts who have made an often painful decision to submit to the Saviour in the Host. But Communion in the hand was a concession that has become the rule, and it can really jar.

Just as many youth are just leaving the churches to an ageing generation who are usually either faithful no matter the cost or who find some sort of forum for self-expression in creative liturgy, so too a healthy number of young are also finding their way into church where the Mass is celebrated properly, with dignity, with a clear sense of worship of God and not a tacky public meeting led by a dominant self-appointed few; and in fact where very often the Mass being offered is the old Mass. They participate actively enough, not by doing things but by losing themselves in the mystery. It resonates with them, it makes sense, and it challenges them, takes them out of themselves towards God.

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So is there no hope for the new Mass? Is the solution for our many dying parishes to return to the Mass of 1962 and then try for a renewal of the Mass that is more consistent with what the Council Fathers actually mandated? We certainly cannot rule out the old Mass – it is the Mass that admirably served the Church for well over a millennium, for which saints thrilled and martyrs died, which so firmly directs our gaze to God and from ourselves. It is authentic worship.

That said, the Council Fathers were neither stupid nor total dupes. They were on to something. I look at some of the interim Missals that emerged towards the end of the Council and just after and see what we might have had. One Eucharistic prayer, in Latin (since it is addressed to God, and he does speak Latin!) with readings in English, facing east but with more streamlined (and not gutted) rubrics; no vast array of options for this, that and whatnot but some apposite offerings for seasons and certain days. In those missals we were seeing the fledgling emerge before, seemingly inexplicably, a cuckoo took over the nest: a new and totally different Mass, constructed by a committee according to their personal theories of what in liturgical antiquity was to be revived (and which often, we know now, never really existed in the form asserted. Eucharistic Prayer 2 is supposedly Hipploytus’ canon, but if you read the original it differs markedly from this rudely brief composition we now have. It’s just one example. Mass facing the people is another. Communion in the hand is yet another). Alcuin Reid gives some insight into that committee which composed the new liturgy in the wake of the Council, here and here.

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So there is life beyond the old Mass, but we will need the old Mass around to inform a renewed liturgical practice and spirituality. Surely the new Mass can be saved, though it requires surgery. The revised Missal of 2012 was a step in the right direction, giving us a vernacular more suited to worship. Yes, it can be clunky, but better that than simplistically banal. But as Fr Z often says, if you do not like the translation you can always go back to the original – Latin. Moreover, maybe I need to learn the old Mass to know what I am talking about in more than abstract theory, to give it a chance. After all, I have given the new Mass over 40 years of undivided attention. Moreover, perhaps the Missal of 1965/67 which is the subject of the Agatha Christie indult should be given another, longer and better chance that the paltry few years it was allowed.

One thing seems sure: without a wholesale renewal of liturgical practice and spirituality the New Evangelization will remain just another expensive white-elephant of a programme. And priests will remain faced with the temptation to entertain and be creative in worship, and in so doing seriously undermine that worship. Without authentic worship the faithful, especially the young, will not be truly challenged to live with integrity, treating their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, and their neighbours as Christs in disguise.

It is a daunting task, and if the Church is relying on me then all may be lost. There are many places where such a renewal is already underway, or where the desire for a true renewal is brimming up. Many priests and people are discovering the liberation of a more God-centred liturgy, and its child, a more surely God-centred life. Many other priests and faithful feel the same I am certain.

Pax.

A New-yet-Old Treasure from St Edmund Campion

This year seems already to be flying past, with so much happening that it is hard to keep up. Perhaps mercifully, this blog has suffered from relative neglect.

Today is a post long overdue. It should have appeared in December. Better late than never?

At the great Jesuit school Stonyhurst, in the remote wilds of Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, some pupils have been involved in the fading art of letterpress printing. The St Omers Press (harking back to the school’s origins in exile at St Omer, near Calais) seeks to publish works associated with the school and its Jesuit heritage, not least by dipping into its important archival collections. They use a rescued and restored Albion Press, and have received significant help from Stanbrook Abbey in the venture. They have their own web page if you are interested in learning more about them.

One work which happily came to my attention, and which is not listed on their website, is a lovely little piece of work. The publication date is actually November 2010 but the work has not received the exposure it surely deserves.

To prolong the suspense, let’s delay discussing the content and deal with the wrapping. It is an A4-sized card booklet containing slightly smaller (as folded) parchment paper, one large sheet making four pages. The text is set in the Poliphilus typeface, which was used in a work printed by the great early printer Aldus Manutius in 1499 and revived in 1920 by a modern great, and Catholic convert, Stanley Morrison (who gave us the important, if vastly overused, Times New Roman typeface). Pupils past and present worked on the typesetting. Only 250 copies were printed, and there are a goodly number left. The price for what must be, as you shall see, an important and even historic publication, is remarkably low. Too low for me to print! [Update: 'tis a shame to keep the price a secret - £5! For goodness' sake, buy one. Just email Mrs Jan Graffius at St Omers Press.]

It is the text that elevates the printing onto such an elevated plane. It is a fine translation, by Anastasis Callinicos (a Classics master at Stonyhurst) of an intimate, intensely personal prayer to God and the heavenly court by St Edmund Campion in the lead up to his martyrdom in 1581. Entitled Anima (“The Soul”), until now it has been lying quietly, and in its original Latin, in the Jesuit collections at Stonyhurst. This is the first translation, and in it we hear Campion not in the confident public voice of his famous Brag, but in a mood of penitence, self-offering and self-surrender, and of faith. There are no bitter arrows aimed at his persecutors; rather is he preparing himself for the great trial of his last torture and execution, and his coming before the judgment seat of God.

It is a beautiful and moving work, and the translation does it full justice. There is in it both food for lectio divina, and general spiritual balm. Below is the text, and pictures of the publication taken hastily on my mobile phone. It really is worth trying to get a copy, so go to the Press’ webpage and put in an order. The poignancy of the words are only enhanced by the simple charm of its printed form.

THE SOUL

I have deserved it, I confess; and, when punished,
I do not so much feel its bitterness, as I grieve,
That I, trusting in vices and sin, have displeased you,
That I have done injury to so great a Monarch,
That I have done harm to your spirit, which is of my Saviour.

How foolish I was, to have dared so often to yield to sin!
To have reprised again so many sins, so many empty words!
To have prostituted my good hours!
To have nourished the poison within!
So often to have adventured the uttermost perils of everlasting Death!
To have turned Salvation from many!

O where would I now be,
Had Your Grace not rescued me from my loathsome failings,
Filled me with a better light,
And exchanged, for the eternal Fires of Hell,
The holy fires of Love!

Give pardon to the one confessed,
And, as much as You are pleased to temper your Justice with a father’s
kindness,
As much as You grant the power to prevail to those petitions,
Which the whole Church pours out,
Bride to You, Mother to me;
As much as You, Christ, will be, of Your own will, the Sacrifice on
splendid altars,
As much as the Solemn Rite of the day demands,
As much as Your compassion bears,
So assuage the great agonies I deservedly suffer.

O Heavenly Ones, repeat the prayers, release the prisoner.
O Fathers, say again the sacred words and take pity on us.
O Brothers, hear and lighten my heavy plaint.

Were it permitted to me to return to the airy sunlight,
Such things as I have now learnt,
Were I to have a life longer than six hundred years,
At every hour I would gladly commemorate those Departed,
And offer reverent vows on their behalf.

All around, I see old companions, beloved hearts,
Some whom I drew into the ways of sin,
Some also who drew me into ruinous friendships;
Well do they now gather about the Venerable Body,
Well do they now rejoice;
Let them, their earlier faults now repaired, look upon me, I.pray,
And let them store me in minds that remember.

Hope, greatest and ever-present to the Dead,
Hope is the Host which I behold;
Here, be assembled here, I pray;
Here celebrate God, and for the afflicted seek peace.

Now I have spoken: I am going back.
For, though I undergo bitter tortures,
I have no desire to climb, blessed, to that High Seat, before I am purified:
But this is not the place for such sordid matters.
Only this I ask: have pity, Sweet Jesus.

Rightly do I owe thanks without measure to you, my Guardian Angel,
Who have brought comforts joyous with light,
That light which has borne witness to the manifold Majesty of the Lord,
And vouchsafes the distinction, stature and honour of God.

St Edmund Campion S.J. martyred 1 December, 1581
(Translated by Anastasis Callinicos)

Vocations, New Evangelization and such like

Happy new year, belated though the greeting might be.

The past year has seen a lot of talk, using both ink and air, about vocations, and the culture of vocation, as the Church in this sceptred but Godless isle seeks to repair the damage of the last few decades that has been visited upon the priestly and religious life. For a long time I have been one of those happy to talk of religious and priestly callings as being just two among many possible vocations, such as marriage or single life, or even more narrowly to a range of what are more traditionally termed careers. Some have noted the danger of reducing vocation to career-choice and have changed the rhetoric to centre on vocation as state in life: celibate priest or religious, married, consecrated virginity or the single life. (Yet some die-hards, yea heretics, still hold to vocation being a call away from the normative state of life for humanity as elaborated in Genesis, namely marriage and the raising of a family: marriage is hard-wired into human nature, not a call external to it. Yes – I am a heretic now.)

This rhetorical shift was satisfyingly sensible: job and vocation are not synonyms. Yet still something indeterminate and indistinct gnawed away at satisfaction. Partly it was empirical: all the talk and preaching on vocation, all the initiatives initiated and courses run, the literature and websites produced, the psychology and affective skills employed seemed impressive in scope. Yet if one stopped to look at results, they were meagre. There has been a growth in vocations in the traditional sense, yet it seems to have been almost in spite of the vocations industry than because of it. So many of the vocations that have emerged have come from the more traditional sources, or been inspired by the example and teaching of recent popes. All this feverish promotion of the traditional vocations, situated with an avowed egalitarianism among other states of life now also called vocations, seemed remarkably fruitless.

Perhaps, one thought, the promotion of the New Evangelization was missing link. To promote a culture of faith leading into mission, employing the latest media and insights, going out into the marketplace, and making evangelization (hitherto not a common Catholic word if I remember rightly) a mission, even a ministry, shared by the laity as well as clergy and religious. The implication, and sometimes the assertion, was that this mission flowed from our Baptism, and now it is time to revive it.

However, troublingly, it was easy to detect the emergence of what has all the markings of yet another industry. The industrialization and democratization of vocation and evangelization seems to meet the needs of our 21st century world with its new media, more literate and technologically-savvy laity, especially youth and a revived urge to be doing something.

And here comes my heresy. I just do not see it working, either thus far or in the near future. There is immense goodwill and fervent desire to be righting the listing ship. Yet these positive energies are being directed into what is all too often mere activity. There comes to mind the old tag-line (or was it a poster?): Jesus is coming. Look busy. Busy we are, to what appears no good result.

If we survey the history of the Church, we see readily enough that it had its periods of decline and resurgence, its vigour waxed and waned. At the risk of gross simplification, it seems that most of the decline coincided with the blurring of the necessary distinction between Church and world, with the decay of Christian identity leading to Christians being in the world and all too clearly of the world. Resurgence coincided with the emergence of individuals, men and women, whose initiatives and insights did not emerge primarily from the progress of secular knowledge and its insights. They had a common, unifying thread: a radical, uncompromising return to the Gospel which is ever present in the Church but its lustre too easily tarnished by her members. To put it another way, and to employ the idiom of the Second Vatican Council, it was about the universal (and we must say also, perpetual) call to holiness, of the integrity that comes when the movement of our lips matches the movement of our lives.

All our striving for vocations and for evangelization will mean nothing if they exist merely as techniques and strategies which are effectively the focus of a relentless activism. There is need for relentless activism, but first and foremost it needs to be directed towards prayer, sacraments, the works of charity and of mercy, walking the extra mile, turning the other cheek, offering both our shirts and our cloaks – and these not on some impersonal, macro level. Our Christian living begins on the micro level, wherever we find ourselves, and with whomever: the troublesome relative, the annoying confrere, that hateful colleague, the needy friend, the homeless man sleeping on a busy city street. We are not called to change the world, but we are called to change our hearts by concrete acts empowered by our prayer. This prayer need not be the prayer of the professional religious, or the mystic, but the common, and too often scorned, recitation of set prayers or frequent offering of interior words and aspirations to the God who is ever at our side, or the lighting of a candle, or the tingle in our heart as we read holy scripture.

The more meagre our prayer and our sacramental nourishment, the more tepid our faith, the more anemic our living, the more soulless our activity. Too many like this, and we find our Church in decline, and so too vocations and evangelization. And no amount of talking and self-examination will solve the problem unless they lead to real holiness. Vocations and witness to the faith emerge from a healthy Church, a Church healthy in her members most of all. Too much of our vocations work and evangelization and mission is focused on what are actually symptoms, not causes.

So, most likely, until we rediscover what it is to be Christian both in word and in deed, to be devout in our worship and prayer and brave in our charity and compassion, to be in the world but never one with the world, to value our faith and our sacramental life as more than a conscience salve we compress and cram into an hour before Sunday lunch (or Saturday night on the town) – unless our lives as members of the Church conform more truly to the Gospel call and to the grace ever offered us (and too often ignored by us), then none of these initiatives for vocation or evangelization will ever bear much lasting fruit. At best they may occasionally strike lucky. But is that good enough? Read Matthew 6:33, and think about it a little.

One should never write late at night. The purple passages abound, and perhaps a little perspective is lost. But really, the only activity that God really needs of us now is that daily commitment to conversion that bears fruit in our living, a turning from self to God and to others that ultimately is the gift of God himself. Let us pray that we do not receive the gift in vain. Let us rend our hearts, not our garments. (Cf Joel 2:13)

I do begin to see that perhaps this is what Pope Francis is on about.

Jesus is coming. Be holy.

The Holy Innocents & Infant Baptism

At the office of Matins this morning, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, we hard read an excerpt from a sermon for the feast by St Bernard of Clairvaux. It is simple, direct and resonant even today:

Blessed is he who came in the name of the Lord! For the holy One born of Mary did not come in vain, but spread abroad abundantly the name and grace of holiness. Thence surely came the holiness of Stephen, of John, and of the Innocents. It is well for us that these three feasts are associated with the birthday of the Lord, for besides helping us to maintain our devotion, their coming one after another, as a kind of escort makes the fruit of our Lord’s birth more evident.

In these three solemnities, three kinds of holiness can be seen, and I think it would be hard to find among humans a fourth. In blessed Stephen we have a martyr both in will and deed; in blessed John we have the will alone; in the blessed Innocents the deed alone.

As for the Innocents, who could have any doubt about their reward? Surely, no one who believes that children born again in Christ receive divine adoption can doubt that these children slain for Christ are crowned among the martyrs. Otherwise, why did the Child who was born to help us, not to hurt us, allows these babes of his own age to be killed on his account? Since he could certainly have prevented their murder with a mere nod, he must have had some better thing in store for them. Therefore, as Baptism suffices for a child’s salvation even though he receives it without any act of will on his part, so also did the involuntary martyrdom of these children suffice to sanctify them.

Stephen was a martyr in human eyes. His willingness to suffer appears most clearly in the fact that on the point of death he was more concerned for his persecutors than for himself. John was a martyr in the sight of the angels who, being spiritual themselves, could see the spiritual proofs of his dedication.

But these, these Innocents, are clearly your own martyrs, O God; because they do not seem either to humans or angels to have earned any reward, your special favour to them is shown with greater clarity. Out of the mouths of children and of babes you have received perfect praise. The angels sang: Glory to God in the highest and peace to people of good will. That indeed is magnificent but I dare to say not perfect praise, which will be found only when He comes who said: Let the little children come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Then, through the mystery of God’s goodness, there will be peace even for people who cannot use their will.

The role of the will is important in Catholic theology, especially its moral theology. Full and free use of the will is required for full responsibility for any act, be it the negative (as in sin) or positive (as in marriage). Yet the Church numbers the Holy Innocents as martyrs even though they could will nothing, and were pure victims. St Bernard sees the answer lying not in the will of the Innocents but in the will of God. Though they could not will to die for Christ, they did in fact die in place of Christ. So, by the will of God, their death is part of the unfolding of the plan of salvation, enabling it just as much as the freely-willed cooperation of Mary and Joseph did. Is that itself enough for them to merit heaven? No; rather, it is Christ’s future dying for them (and for us!) that gives their sacrifice its merit and sanctifying power. The death of the Innocents in place of Christ is indeed a type and foreshadowing of Christ’s own death for them and for us. Thus did God will it to be, among the many possible ways he could have willed it.

Thus when we consider the Baptism of infants, so much disputed in recent centuries and even in the early Church, we can see one principle that supports it. Human will is not all-sufficient; the divine will is sufficient and efficient. While it may be that God will not disregard the free and full operation of human will (else we would not truly be free), he can exercise his will with regard to those who cannot exercise their own human wills. God willed that the Innocents’ death in place of Christ would be their sharing in Christ’s Cross and so their entrée into heavenly glory. Likewise, God wills that through the Church’s Baptism, itself a sharing in the death of Christ, infants receive the gift of heavenly glory till that day they would will to forsake it through sin.

The Innocents’, too, received Baptism, but by blood and not water. Is this straining things too much? If we think so, we might spend time reflecting on the fact that on the Cross, there flowed from Christ’s pierced side blood and water. In this blood and water from the Cross is established the whole sacramental and salvific economy of the Church. Whether we are bathed in the water only, the blood only, or in both, we are washed clean unto salvation.

The eternal perspective cannot remove the pain that the loss of an innocent occasions, not least for the parents. The darkness is there, but the divine light of faith shines through it, however dimly, to remind s that the Innocents, then and now, are in God’s hands.

Rachel weeping in Ramah

A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matt 2:18)

But in Christ we know – they are!