On liturgy …

child 1The vocational crisis of the modern Church is often linked to the dismantling and banalization of the liturgy and this becomes clearer all the time.

Why is it that the traditional religious orders and societies of apostolic life are blossoming and booming?  The longing of the human heart for transcendent meaning and purpose in life, or put differently, for a taste of perfection and holiness, has by and large not been met by the ordinary form of the Roman rite.

child 2The problem with the new form of Mass can be stated quite simply: it has neither the mystical silence of the old Low Mass nor the political, dramatic beauty of the Solemn High Mass.  It is neither glorious in its outward expression as triumphal celebration nor glorious in its inward dimension as contemplative prayer.  So it has neither the outer splendour nor the inner profundity of the old Rite.

iIn its effort to be everything for everyone, it ends up being nothing for anybody.  In trying to reach out to the anonymous ‘modern man’, it ends up creating a vacuum and … grace abhors a vacuum no less than nature does.

For decades, liturgists have advocated special ‘children’s Masses’ and, since people tend to heed experts regardless of how little common sense the experts may have, many parishes have instituted such stripped-down Masses.  lThe sad reality is that the standard ‘adult’ Novus Ordo is already a children’s Mass of sorts, what with its simplistic prayers, workbook structure, and vapid transparency.  Indeed, and here is another bitter irony – the new Rite cannot nourish children’s souls as effectively as the old Rite is capable of doing. Conceptualize, if you will, the difference between a child seeing a Solemn High Mass according to the classical Rite and a child seeing a typical Sunday parish Mass.  mAnyone with reliable knowledge of child psychology would be able to see which one of these liturgies, when coupled with catechesis, will have the greater and deeper long-term effect.

The ultimate ‘children’s Mass’ – and I mean for everyone, from the child to the old person, who seeks to live the vocation of spiritual childhood (not for those who remain locked at a childish stage of development) is a Mass of All Times with all the stops pulled, thundering orthodoxy and whispering mystery to all present.  

If you want a church full of Catholics who know their Faith, love their Faith, and practice their Faith, give them a liturgy that is demanding, profound, and rigorous.

They will rise to the challenge.

12 Responses to “On liturgy …”


  1. 1 Marcie June 10, 2009 at 11:13

    I’m with you Gabriela! I grew up a child of Vatican II; all the novelties that developed, from guitars to clapping, were “normal” to me, as I knew no differently. As I grew into an adult, however, I found the novelties tiresome, and the attempts to be “relevant” insulting. I did not need dumbed-down translations in order for me to understand; I did not need the penitential language removed in order for my self esteem to remain intact; I did not need hackneyed contemporary melodies to make the Mass seem fresh; I did not need a priest to be hip and witty in order to relate to him. I needed to worship God.
    While a solemnly celebrated Novus Ordo as Vatican II intended is beautiful, the Traditional Latin Mass appeals on a much deeper spiritual level. It allows me to find God in silence that is holy, language that is noble, music that is uplifting, and in a priesthood that is set apart. I can participate in the Mass more fully thru silent meditation than I can thru sense-jarring sound and activity. I can worship God more as He deserves.
    The Latin Mass is part of our heritage and culture as Catholics. We cannot look at it as something foreign or alien to us. We are blessed to have a choice of liturgy and we must not show hostility towards one or the other. I am drawn to it because I see it as truly catholic in every sense of the word. It is universally catholic, historically catholic, liturgically catholic and unmistakably Catholic. It affects me at soul-level. When I attended my first Latin Mass, my soul leapt and said “YES! I am home!”
    And all my children love it!

  2. 2 Antonella Oliver June 10, 2009 at 11:14

    Gabriella…I love our Mass at St Bernadette’s (Oratory of St Philip Neri)…it is what you put into it..that you will get out….we participate fully in the liturgy…..I understand it all and the Priest faces the people which is good as he represents Christ and therefore talking to his people not having his back to them…….and together we praise God etc etc…..
    I dont know but I am quite comfortable with the new rite and I also understand the old rite. Think about our black people here in Africa..what do they understand about latin Mass etc…..instead in their own language they participate fully.
    I dont know but as long as the Pope approves of it…I am happy.
    Please feel free to comment and give your views…much appreciated. Thanks Antonella

  3. 3 Gabriella June 10, 2009 at 18:30

    Antonella, the Novus Ordo Mass is not evil or bad … it’s what people do, “in the Spirit of Vatican II”, that has dumbed-down and liberalized the new liturgy all over the world. I have travelled in many places and you have no idea how different one NO Mass is to another! The liturgy should be able to inspire feelings of awe and wonder and should be the same universally. Traditional liturgy has done this for centuries. The Mass of All Ages is the same here as there in South Africa, as in Korea, as in Alaska.
    As with you, the NO Mass close to me is one of those considered “holy and within the norms of VatII” but what is striking, in many of these new Masses that I have attended, is the immodesty, the sloppiness, the hideous banality of hymns, the utter lack of decorum and the unmistakable note of “chumminess”. More often than not the servers are in sneakers and jeans and the little kids always run around the aisles throughout the liturgy. The choir makes a big show of its hymns but virtually no one in the congregation sings. Participation seems to mean showing up and sitting back, like a casual spectator.
    I look at the priest. I see him looking out over the congregation. He looks at us. We look at him. The focus is clearly on “we who are gathered here and what he is doing for us”. Then all feel happy to participate and join sweaty palms during the Our Father and then … the cacophony that erupts, recess-like, during the Rite of Peace, the priest himself walking down the aisle, presiding over the shaking of hands all around, is the cherry on top of the cake!
    People soon begin shuffling forward (or to the back of the church, depending on where they are seated), to receive Communion. How does one receive here? Of course we have been reminded by Rome that we have the liturgical right to kneel, but where does one kneel here, amidst this confusion of milling people and Eucharistic Ministers? Nobody kneels, and neither do I. What’s the point? Do I want to call attention to myself or make a political statement? I just want to receive Jesus. Throughout the Mass I find that my focus is constantly diverted. I want to witness the Sacrifice of Christ, and to receive Him. Yet in countless ways, the elements of the Mass conspire to divert my attention away from Him, and towards incidentals – towards those who walk into their pews without genuflecting, towards those wearing what looks like beach attire, toward the chummy bonhomie of the priest, toward his unusual gestures and voice modulations, toward the Eucharistic Minister who doesn’t seem to know what to do with my mouth open and tongue stuck out at her, toward the unseemly distasteful clutteredness of it all.
    I earnestly believe that the Mass of all times stands as the form of the Church’s worship for those who are ready for more serious spiritual nourishment. This is not to say that we cannot be spiritually nourished by the newer forms and of course the Most Holy Eucharist is beyond any sort of judgment in this regard. Nevertheless we are creatures of body and soul. The rites truly matter.

    I could ask you: “why on earth would you subsist on liturgical bread and water when you can easily partake of a feast?” and you could certainly answer: “Perhaps we’re just used to bread and water.”

    I have often heard the phrase that Mass is being celebrated with the priest “turning his back on the people”. This is confusing theology with physical position. The crucial point is that the Mass is a common act of worship where priest and people together, representing the pilgrim Church, reach out for the transcendent God. The priest isn’t turning his back on the people – he is joining the people in prayer. At Mass, all of us are praying together to God through Jesus Christ.

    Latin was and is the language of the church and the church is one and universal and Catholic. The faithful should be able to go into any church in the world and hear the same mass. If people don’t speak Latin, well, one, they have a missal in their own language and, two, this is part of the Mystery, for in the Mass we don’t talk to our neighbour, but to the Lord our God.

    • 4 churchmouse June 10, 2009 at 21:32

      Ohhh, Gabriella, this comment should be a post on its own!!!
      Absolutely brilliant, beautiful and so well expressed. It’s hidden as a comment. Please publish **a la une**!

      Loved your blog post about Mass — so, so true. And, thank you for including photos of the childrens’ missals! I had the Marian Children’s Missal — same priest, same photo!! Oh, what beautiful memories. The older I get, the more my early memories of Mass — and the missals — mean to me.

      Thanks again. I’m bookmarking this for sure.

      Have a good evening. All the best.

  4. 5 andrew June 11, 2009 at 10:35

    Secondo me non è l’ambito estetico-liturgico a provocare questa cosiddetta “crisi delle vocazioni”. Innanzitutto bisogna precisare il termine vocazione. Il termine vocazione ,”the call”,la chiamata,starebbe propriamente ad indicare la chiamata alla “santità”,che comincerebbe con la conversione del cuore”vi toglierò il cuore di pietra e ve ne darò uno di carne”. E’ qui che cominncia tutto,è questa la prima e vera vocazione che corrisponde ad una vera e propria chiamata alla vita e considerando ciò che avviene nella società,in tutti gli ambiti,scuola,sanità,ecc… ecc…,la crisi delle vocazioni è soprattutto crisi di cristianità,accompagnata da mancanza di moralità, di valori… Il problema è la società. Ci sono pochi cristiani o non ce ne sono quasi affatto. La nostra “chiamata” è la santità seguendo Cristo e glorificare il Signore con la nostra vita…”tutto il resto viene in aggiunta”…
    Certo,i riti liturgici hanno la loro “grande importanza”,ma che siano ante-concilium o post-concilium non ha importanza riguardo le vocazioni. Ovviamente queste sono considerazioni assolutamente personali e può darsi che mi stia sbagliando,alla fine solo Dio sa tutto.

    Al di là di ciò,colgo l’occasione per ringraziare l’autrice di questo bellissimo blog… God bless you…e che Dio ci benedica tutti…

  5. 6 Gabriella June 11, 2009 at 11:42

    Grazie Andrew. Concordo pienamente con le tue considerazioni – “… la crisi delle vocazioni è soprattutto crisi di cristianità, accompagnata da mancanza di moralità, di valori… Il problema è la società. Ci sono pochi cristiani o non ce ne sono quasi affatto”! Ma nella mia modesta opinione anche il rito liturgico è rilevante per le vocazioni ed è a questo che pensavo quando ho scritto il post🙂 pensavo al seminario vicino a casa mia, vuoto, che è diventato ‘casa per le vacanze’, pensavo a mio figlio ora in un seminario ‘tradizionale’ perchè attirato dalla Messa di tutti i tempi e pensavo a tutti i giovani lì con lui e, credimi, sono tanti! Tutti innamorati della Messa di tutti i tempi. Ma, certamente, questo è solo un mio pensiero e solo Dio sa tutto.

    Thank you, Churchmouse. You flatter me😉 I actually believe my humble blog is nowhere as interesting as yours and I invite all my readers to check it out: http://churchmousec.wordpress.com/
    You are right about the beautiful memories. I also find that the older I get, the more my early memories of Mass mean to me – I’ve been looking everywhere for my childhood missals but only found one belonging to my mother-in-law when she was a young girl! … a real treasure🙂

    • 7 churchmouse June 12, 2009 at 02:19

      Thanks so much, Gabriella — you’re too kind!! I very much appreciate your endorsement!

      I wish I could read Italian. I have only a rudimentary knowledge.

      Re children’s missals, I have a great one printed in Italy — my oldest one, hardcover, too, which I got as a gift when I was three years old. I’ve got it sealed away in a box with my baptismal presents. The photographs are sumptuous. I don’t remember what church they photographed in, but it was large and very dark. It was looking at the photos every Sunday that got me interested in Mass and Christianity in general — and Europe, too, for that matter.

  6. 8 Cinzia June 11, 2009 at 13:15

    If I can just add my bit to this thread ….. I must confess I fully agree with you Gabriella! I was only a child when we went to celebrate Mass every sunday and even though no one had ever taught me a single word of Latin, I fully understood everything and what was going on … and even learnt every word by heart and recited the Credo and all the other prayers in Latin UNDERSTANDING what I was reciting. I clearly remember .. and that must have been a miracle in itself … cause I am certain millions of other like me simply knew! and understood and participated! I really loved all the rituals, the fabulous choirs, the sound of the organ …. alas!!! nowadays I have to confess with a great deal of shame that I have not been to Mass for a very long time … and every now and again when I do make the effort to go .. I get SO demoralised and turned-off by the dismal performance that you have so accurately described above. The thing I find most distateful of all is watching “any ol’ person” handling the consecrated hosts, giving them out, and everyone sipping their bit of “wine” all from the same chalice!

    It is not an excuse, I know, for staying away. I am merely stating the way things are for me. I should make the effort of finding the parish here that celebrates the traditional, uplifting and meaningful Mass of all time!!! … one day I will …

    • 9 churchmouse June 12, 2009 at 02:23

      Don’t feel bad, Cinzia. It may be wrong for me — and not my place — to excuse it, but I think your reaction is normal. I agree with what you say.

      No matter what people, especially converts say, the Church is in crisis. Should we be taken along with it? No, but at the same time, it is difficult and saddening to remember what we once had. And we cannot easily recapture that.

      All the best.

      • 10 Cinzia June 12, 2009 at 06:16

        Thank you churchmouse. I followed Gabriella’s link to your blog and was reading it yesterday …. all I can say is “wow!!” You know so much and you write so well. I was speechless .. wanted to leave some sort of half-intelligent comment but didn’t know what to say!! Anyhow, I am from now on one of the silent but ardent readers of your articles. With you and Gabriella I have found two marvellous “teachers” – keep up the great work. I’m impressed!
        All the best to you too.

  7. 11 Davide June 12, 2009 at 01:07

    Non c’e` dubbio che la nostra societa` stia subendo una ‘crisi di cristianita`,’ fino al punto che Papa Giovanni II chiamo` la cultura di oggi ‘la cultura della morte.’ Pensate, una societa` che ha perso il valore della vita umana. Una societa` dove una madre puo` uccidere il suo bimbo per qualsiasi motivo. Una societa` dove il concetto del bene e del male non esiste piu`. Purtroppo questa e’ piu` una ‘mancanza’ che una ‘crisi’ di cristianita`.

    Quest’ allontanamento estremo dal cristianesimo e’ una caratteristica del ventesimo secolo; lo stesso secolo che produsse il nuovo rito liturgico. Quindi, secondo me, il nuovo rito post-concilium e la crisi delle vocazioni vanno mano nella mano.

  8. 12 churchmouse June 12, 2009 at 23:40

    To Cinzia above, so glad you like the blog! I’m delighted to have you as a reader!

    You’ll see tomorrow (Saturday) that I’m temporarily turning off comments — but ** new posts will continue **! I just won’t be in a position to moderate comments.

    Once I reactivate comments, please, do leave a message. It doesn’t matter what you say — agree, disagree, hello, whatever — it’s fine. I would be pleased to hear from you.

    Have a good weekend.


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