Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reform the Mass? Or Reform Ourselves?

Pat Archbold at Creative Minority Report did a post listing "7 Things To Restore Sense of Sacred Your Pastor Could Do Tomorrow"  [HERE].  The list is as follows:

1.  "Ad Orientum" - "the priest and the faithful face the same direction, (liturgical) east", or as some people see it, the priest says the Mass with his back to the people.

2.  "Restore chant and polyphony" - "Ditch the lame hymnal and its happy-clappy anthropocentrism and bring back chant and polyphony."

3. "Latin, yes Latin!!" - Archbold is okay with the readings in the vernacular, "but the parts of the mass that are the same every week could be in Latin".

4.  "Proper Reception of Communion, Kneeling and On The Tongue" - I think that pretty much says it all.

6. "No More Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" - 'Nuff said.

6.  "Appropriate Attire" - this is not just about the laity dressing in a more proper manner, but about the attire of the servers:  "ditch the altar server's potato sack robes and replace them with cassocks and surplices."  Also, "Priest's [sic] could teach about the sacredness of women and encourage use of the veil."

7.  "General Reverence and Sacredness" - Archbold gives these specifics:
  • Eliminating the Sign of Peace by the Faithful. It is only an option and not mandatory and often very disruptive.
  • More Incense.
  • Great attention to reverence and precision by the Priests and servers.
  • Priestly ad libs banished!
  • The priest avoid wandering around during the homily.
What is Pat Archbold really saying in all of this?  It's quite simple.  He wants to replace the Ordinary Form of the Mass with the Extraordinary Form.  He obviously has no use for the Ordinary Form as it has evolved, and for all intents and purposes, Archbold wants it abolished.

There are a couple of problems with this.  First and foremost, - it ain't never gonna happen! 

Secondly, Pope Benedict XVI gave us Summorum Pontificum so that those who want the TLM would no longer need to ask permission.  Summorum Pontificum was not about replacing the Ordinary Form with the TLM.   In fact, His Holiness told us that the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form can be mutually enriching.  However, as can be seen in this post from Pat Archbold, traditionalists feel the extraordinary form is, without question, the superior Mass, and more to the point, as one person commented on Archbold's post, "the real Mass."

I have a rather unique perspective on this subject because until recent months, I was a strong adherent to the Traditional Latin Mass for several years, attending almost daily.  The reasons for my exclusive adherence to the TLM included all the reasons stated by Pat Archbold.   I, like most traditionalists, felt that the TLM was the "real" Mass and the Ordinary Form of the Mass was just downright painful.  

But in the past few months I have done a 180 degree turn.  I now exclusively attend the Ordinary Form of the Mass.  I still love the TLM as much as I ever did, but I have come to find the Ordinary Form of the Mass as much of a prayerful and spiritual experience as the TLM ever was.  I did not change the Mass, as Pat Arcbhold suggests.  I changed myself, and that has made all the difference.

All of the suggestions from Pat Arcbhold on restoring sacredness to the Mass involve changing the Mass.  Since that is not going to happen, I think it is much wiser to work on our attitude and prayerfulness and seeing what we can bring to the Mass.  Following are my suggestions on "restoring a sense of the sacred" to the Mass.

1. If it is at all possible, try to arrive early and stay for a while after Mass. This is not as easy to do on a weekday when most of us are working, going to school, etc. We are on tight schedules then. But even if you are married with several kids, you should still be able to invest extra time at Mass on a Sunday. My Sunday Mass starts at 8:45 a.m., and I try to get there by 8:00. It's not necessary to be that early, but try to be in front of the Blessed Sacrament at least 15 minutes before the beginning of Mass. If you can, say a Rosary. Read and meditate on the readings for the Mass. Or just be in prayer, asking for the right attitude to open your mind and heart to Our Lord. This is a time to quiet your thoughts and center your mind on the fact that you are about to participate in the re-presentation of Our Lord's Sacrifice on Calvary.

2. Use the song books. You may not like the music, but force yourself to look up the hymns and sing along. It has been my experience that the words to the hymns are usually very moving and draw me closer to the meaning of the Mass. The hymns are part of the prayers. To refuse to sing is the same as refusing to pray. This is one of the advantages the Ordinary Form has over the TLM. The music at a TLM is all in Latin and only the choir can sing. But at the Ordinary Form, you are part of the choir. Sing out in praise! Chant and polyphony sound great, but I really appreciate understanding the words, and that is what we are given in the Ordinary Form. Take advantage of this!

Magnificat Magazine
2. Read along with the prayers and readings in the Mass. I find the best tool for this is one of the most beautiful monthly Catholic publications in history: the Magnificat magazine [HERE]. This publication contains daily Mass readings with evening and morning prayer, wonderful articles and artwork and more. Even though everything is in the vernacular, it has been my experience that just listening at Mass is not enough. I find I get much more of the meaning when I read along with what is being said at the altar, and it keeps my mind from wandering off. Again, I believe this is an advantage the Ordinary Form has over the TLM. You can hear and understand the prayers of the priest, and pray right along with him. Done correctly, this closely unites celebrant and laity before the throne of God.

Praying the Mass
3.  To quote from Father Z, "Say the black, do the red."  I would add, don't just attend Mass, but "Pray the Mass."  Follow the rubrics.  Stand, sit and kneel as directed in the Mass.  Try to this all of this as prayerfully as you can.  If your hands are free, fold them in prayer.  And say ALL of the responses.  Listen to (and hopefully read along with) the priest as he says the prayers of the Mass, and respond with "Amen."  As much as possible, be one with the celebrant of the Mass.

Sign of Peace
4.  Participate reverently and lovingly in giving the sign of peace to those around you. The sign of peace has a couple of different meanings. First of all, it is done as a symbolic response to Christ's command found in Matthew 5:23-24
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
As I wrote in a previous post, for me it is also a time to recognize Jesus Christ in the people around us, and realize that if we cannot love them, then we cannot love Our Lord.  We will be judged on how we treat others. We have just adored Our Lord in the transubstantiated bread and wine.  Now we must give the peace we have received from Him to others.   Once again, as in all other parts of the Mass, approach this in a prayerful, reverent manner.  You will be amazed at how this one little action can change you.

5. When the time comes to receive communion, again do so in a prayerful attitude. Walk with your hands folded in prayer, and actually be in prayer, asking the Blessed Mother to make your heart and mind humble and submissive.  Think of the greatness of the gift you are about to receive: the Body and Blood of your Creator, the One who died for you on Calvary and rose again to give you life eternal. Once more, I think our physical actions can add to the sacredness. Holding your hands in prayer as you walk up to receive will put you in a prayerful attitude. The United States bishops have asked that we receive standing, but that doesn't stop you, if physically possible, from genuflecting right before you receive.

And here I can agree with Pat Archbold - receive on the tongue. This definitely does instill a sense of the sacredness.

When I receive on the tongue, I am reminded that this is different from everything else in my life. This is not just a piece of bread that I am consuming. This is my Lord and Savior who is giving himself wholly and entirely to me. Receiving on the tongue truly instills the sense of sacredness while receiving in the hand makes receiving communion no different from anything else in my life.

Here are a couple of readings from the early fathers of the Church:

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 23:21:
In approaching therefore, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen. So then after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof ; for whatever you lose, is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members. For tell me, if any one gave you grains of gold, would you not hold them with all carefulness, being on your guard against losing any of them, and suffering loss? Will you not then much more carefully keep watch, that not a crumb fall from you of what is more precious than gold and precious stones?
John Chrysostom Homily 3 on Ephesians:
Tell me, would you choose to come to the Sacrifice with unwashen hands? No, I suppose, not. But you would rather choose not to come at all, than come with soiled hands. And then, thus scrupulous as you are in this little matter, do you come with soiled soul, and thus dare to touch it? And yet the hands hold it but for a time, whereas into the soul it is dissolved entirely.
When we receive on the tongue, we do not have to worry about fragments that we may drop or that are left on our hands. We don't have to worry about desecrating the consecrated host in any way. Remember, receiving on the hand is an indult. The Church prefers that we receive on the tongue. Just do it and you will be amazed at how it will change your life.

These suggestions come down to one thing: be in a prayerful, humble attitude. That is what will make the Mass sacred. Traditionalists tell us that the Latin Mass is what makes it sacred. If that is so, please explain why all sedevancatist groups are devoted to the Latin Mass, and yet they still remain separated from the Church.  

The First Mass, celebrated by Our Lord in the upper room the night before He was crucified, was filled with those who were clueless as to the deep, profound meaning of Our Lord's actions.  One man was actually plotting on how he was going to betray Christ.  The others had no idea what Christ was talking about.  This is His Body and Blood?  We have to wash each other's feet?   Christ is going away to the Father and they can't come?  

The apostles' lack of understanding took nothing away from the sacredness of that first Mass.  Maybe those around you don't understand what is going on.  They don't realize the great mystery that is the Mass.  But that doesn't change what is happening.  By putting yourself in the right prayerful attitude, you can be a part of the sacredness.  And just maybe, you will lead others to this same sacredness that you have discovered.  

The Mass doesn't have to change.  It is already sacred.  It is we who must change.  Let it begin with you.



  1. Thanks for this although I feel we can go further than even concentrating on the externals which are important, but work on inner reform, which is the purpose of the Mass anyway.

    1. I'm writing this strictly from my own experience. I find that my external actions have a big effect on what is happening in my mind and heart. Just holding my hands in prayer puts me in a prayerful attitude. My point in this post is basically we get from the Mass what we bring to the Mass. It is vital to come to Mass in a humble and prayerful attitude, and this is reflected in our outward physical actions. What goes on around us - provided it is not liturgical abuse - is not as important as what is going on in our minds and hearts. But this is reflected in our physical actions. If I act prayerful, I am much more like to be prayerful.

    2. This is also my attitude - I just wrote something similar. If we want reverence then we must be recollected and prayerful ourselves. Kevin O'Brien wrote a snarky post on a Mass attended this past weekend - he stood outside at communion time because he couldn't stand it. As Pope Francis said "If we don't feel in need of God's mercy and don't think we are sinners, it's better not to go to Mass."

      The attitude problem is our own.

    3. I agree, Terry. If we have a problem with a valid Mass just because we don't personally like the way it's done - be it the music is too "banal", or the priest is too "Happy" or the people are too "demonstratative", then the problem is with us. If the Mass is valid, Christ is present. The angels and saints are present. Our Blessed Mother is present. The Father and the Holy Spirit are present.

      If we want a more prayerful environment, we need to start with ourselves. To walk out on a valid Mass just because it doesn't suit our tastes is to walk out on Christ at Calvary. I'm staying with Our Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross.

  2. Hello Catholic in Brooklyn:

    "He wants to replace the Ordinary Form of the Mass with the Extraordinary Form."

    This strikes me as a speculation about unspoken motives on the part of Mr. Archbold, which I think is not likely a healthy place to start the dialogue. More importantly, however, it must be recognized that all of these options are entirely licit in the modern Roman Rite (OF), even if they are not commonly seen in practice. The Missal (the normative text of which is, after all, issued in Latin) and GIRM plainly allow for each of these, and the Second Vatican Council expressly called (just to cite a few examples) for some retention of Latin (SC 36, 54), chant (SC 116), and no where suggests that the then-universal practices of worship ad orientem, or reception of communion on the tongue and kneeling, should be changed.

    And it's worth noting that not only did Pope Benedict himself introduce many of these elements into papal Masses (and Pope Francis seems to have by and large retained them), but that a number of pastors have followed his lead, such as Fr. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's in Greenville, SC (and Fr. Newman is anything but an apologist for the TLM). It *can* be done, and the desire to celebrate the Ordinary Form in this way is entirely legitimate, and has been said to be such by the Pope himself.

    All that said, I very much agree with you that an interior renewal is essential to any reverent worship experience. Otherwise, we're just spectators. But it's not necessary to assume that one precludes the other, or that, in fact, they can't work hand in hand. We can all work to improve our interior disposition even as we participate, charitably, in the renewal of the exterior elements of our worship at the same time, and some parishes, like Fr Newman's, seem to have done just that.


    1. We all need to recognize that there are two forms of the Mass, and both are completely valid and licit. That was the whole point of Summorum Pontificum. Those who are devoted to the TLM would not accept suggestions that they allow altar girls or lay lectors, etc. In the same way those in the TLM need to recognize that the rest of the Church is not interested in their suggestions and are not going to implement them. That is not making any judgment on the use of elements of the TLM. It is merely facing up to the reality of the situation.

      My post is about what we can do on an individual basis to "bring a sense of the sacredness" to the Mass. I speak from the point of view of one who not that long ago hated going to the OF. Now I find it, in some ways, to be more of a spiritual experience than the EF by implementing the points outlined in my post.

      Devotees of the TLM don't seem to recognize the fact that one can be a very good and devout Catholic and have absolutely no interest in the TLM or any aspect of it. Trying to push the TLM on these people will not accomplish any good, and in fact will only cause disunity in the Church.

    2. Hello Catholic in Brooklyn,

      If it wasn't clear: I completely agree that both forms of the Roman Rite are valid and licit; Summorum Pontificum makes this expressly clear. Anyone arguing otherwise is clearly rejecting the law given by Pope Benedict, and by extension, papal authority in this matter.

      I'm also in a great deal of accord (as I said above) about what you suggest we need to do on an individual basis to "bring a sense of the sacredness" to the Mass. An external change to how we worship is bootless if it doesn't bring about an interior change, an orientation to Christ; a prayerful attitude on our part at every part of the Mass (as well as before and after). We are not spectators at Mass. I don't think we are in disagreement here.

      What I *would* challenge, however, is your assertion: "In the same way those in the TLM need to recognize that the rest of the Church is not interested in their suggestions and are not going to implement them." In the first place, it is demonstrably untrue that "the rest of the Church" is not interested in these rubrics and actions; in the second place, these are not, in fact, merely "suggestions" of traddies, but things expressly permitted and even in some cases very much encouraged by the law of the Church, and the liturgical instructions she has issued. Your argument, in short, isn't merely with Pat Archbold or cranky traddies at Our Lady Hammer of Heretics, but with the authority of the Church itself, to say nothing of the growing number of laity and young priests celebrating OF Masses who manifestly * are* interested in restoring some or all of these actions at OF Masses.

      In the first place: I have a wide circle of friends deeply involved in chant scholas here in the DC area, and every one of us is struck by not just the surge in participation, but in demand, which in the view of the oldsters among us is higher than it has been at any time since the 50's - and this is mainly demand for us in *Ordinary Form* Masses, not TLM's. Likewise, especially in the Arlington Diocese, the increased use of Latin and incense in the Mass, and the growing number of communicants now receiving on the tongue, which in a few places is now approaching half of communicants at some Masses. I would say that I know a good 25-30 young men around the country ordained as diocesan or religious order priests (not EF societies) in the past few years, and every one is either enthusiastic about these things, or very open to them, something that simply is not true of most priests over, say, age 50. Indeed, kneeling for Communion is actually normative in other parts of the world. The hunger for these things in the OF is out there, even if it isn't visible in every parish. To make a blanket statement suggesting that *no one* "in the rest of the Church" is interested in these things is simply not tenable, and does grave disservice to the many young people who clearly *do* desire these things. They should not be forced to troop out to a TLM to get them.

      Not least because one such Catholic very much interested in seeing some of these things restored to the Roman Rite is none other than Pope Benedict XVI, aka Joseph Ratzinger, himself. To take but one example, his advocacy for the restoration of worship ad orientem in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy: "The turning of the priest towards the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is closed in on itself." This coming from a relate who celebrated the OF Mass exclusively as Pope, and nearly so as Cardinal. He was interested in these things, and not as being exclusively as the preserve of the TLM - and his advocacy inspired the same interest in many other Catholics, most of them young.

  3. And to conclude with the question of the law of the Church, if I may be permitted:

    In fact, the law assumes either the a) acceptability of nearly all these rubrics, or b) the *normativity* of them, no matter how much the praxis has deviated from it. "Pride of place" of Gregorian chant is insisted upon by Sacrosanctum Concilium 116; Paul VI's Musicam Sacram 4, 50, 52; Liturgiam Authenticam 28, 100, 121 - to cite just the chief authorities. Similarly, it must be noted that communion on the tongue actually remains normative under Church law, with reception in the hand granted only by indult (1969 in the U.S.); when Church law speaks of the permissibility of both froms of reception, it *always* hedges reception in the hand with cautions and warnings in a way that it never does with communion on the tongue. For example, both the GIRM (160) itself, and Redemptionis Sacramentum 90 both affirm: " “However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms.” Such examples could be cited at great length. Yet there are parishes where you can still be denied communion if you attempt to receive on the tongue.

    Perhaps, one could argue, the great disparity between the law and the liturgical praxis (at least in some areas) may suggest that the law should be changed. But the law remains, and if we are indeed insisting on our obedience to the authority of the Church, we must attempt obedience to its laws as well, in both letter and spirit. And if that law does not provide traditionalists with all that they could want, neither is it always being reflected in how the liturgy is celebrated in too many parishes. And that's a problem.

    I would like to part with one final point, if I may: I am worried that you seem unaware of the danger lurking in your position - a danger that all of these more traditional rubrics must remain associated exclusively with the TLM. There's ample evidence that insisting on this, as too many clergy and lay liturgists have over the past five decades, alienates many Catholics who simply want more external reverence in their liturgy and would be quite content attending OF Masses, with the result that, after their pleas and proposals are rejected, they end up driven off in many cases to TLM communities or (where available) Eastern Rite parishes. Given the obvious surge in interest in restoring many of these things among Catholic youth (at least, those that remain), I can conceive of nothing which would do more harm to the future of the OF as the normative rite of the Church, at least in North America. You can't let external acts of reverence in the liturgy become the exclusive reserve of traditionalists. But that's the danger in the position that you are taking, I fear.

    1. You write: "I would like to part with one final point, if I may: I am worried that you seem unaware of the danger lurking in your position - a danger that all of these more traditional rubrics must remain associated exclusively with the TLM."

      You are completely misunderstanding my position.

      I don't have a problem with any of the suggestions by Pat Archbold. As stated in my post and my comments, I was a strong adherent to the TLM for many years. I love the TLM and the elements of chant, kneeling for communion, etc. that are associated with it. Even though I no longer attend the TLM, I still wear my mantilla at church because I just don't feel right without it. I would have no problem with the implementation of any of these suggestions by Pat Archbold.

      My point is that we need to face reality. The vast majority of church-going Catholics are not going to accept any of the suggestions by Archbold. They like their Masses the way they are. Most do not see any need for "improvement." And that is what we have to deal with.

      I know there are a growing number of people who love the more traditional aspects of the Mass and want to to return to them.
      And I think that is great. In the Brooklyn diocese we recently had an Ordinary Form of the Mass done in Latin with chant and many elements of the TLM. However, people still received communion in the hand and the women did not wear mantillas. The Mass was concelebrated with several priests, and the Mass was not done ad orientum. The reason is that the people would not accept it. Interestingly, I did not see anyone from the traditional community at this Mass. They stayed away in droves.

      I think what you are doing is great. But I am sure you are quite aware that you would not be accepted into most Catholic parishes on a regular basis.

      We need to accept people where they are. To tell people that they are doing it all wrong will only alienate them. Show them that what really needs to be changed in their own inner disposition, and then maybe these other things will follow.

    2. BTW, I have been to many different Catholic Churches, and I have never once been denied communion on the tongue which is the only way I receive. So I think your statement is way out of line.

    3. CIB:

      Just two quick points (I have gone on at length enough already):

      "The vast majority of church-going Catholics are not going to accept any of the suggestions by Archbold. They like their Masses the way they are."

      Again, I question that assertion. How much serious polling has been done on this? How many have even been exposed to these things? People told Fr. Newman in Greenville that he was on a fool's errand. But after months of catechesis on worship ad orientem, and other reforms, he implemented them with almost universal approbation by his parish. It *can* be done, if the pastor makes the effort to catechize - and his bishop backs him.

      In my experience, however, Catholics by and large take what is offered. They'll put up with a lot. They *have* put up with a lot. No one sought their input when record array of changes were rammed through in 1965-1973. Of course, as we have seen, some have their limits...

      "So I think your statement is way out of line."

      It has happened to *me*, personally - in the parish where I received my first communion, no less! "We don't do that here," the pastor said, with an angry stare. And no, I wasn't being a jerk about it. Nor did I react by making a scene or send an angry letter to the archbishop. And I know others to whom this has happened. But I'm glad to hear you've been more fortunate than us.

      That said, there's evidence to suggest this happens less than it used to; it was, after all, common enough that had to be singled out in Redemptionis Sacramentem at considerable length! Rome has hammered the message enough that it's starting to be received. But clearly, many clergy and laity of a certain age still regard the traditional mode of reception with disdain.

    4. As you say, it took months of catechesis in order to gain approval of the laity. That's great. But not many priests are going to do this, mainly because they don't see any need for it. Most priests are quite content to keep things as they are. Again, I am not criticizing or condemning any of the suggestions made by Archbold in any way. I am just saying that it is a bit naive to think that any of these things are going to be implemented into the average Catholic Church. I am also saying that the Mass can become a very spiritual experience without elements of the TLM, as I have learned from my own personal experience. Our Lord is as present at the OF as He is at the EF.

      So if we are really serious about restoring a sense of the sacredness, we need to start on an individual level and with ourselves. What is the problem with that?

      Your comments have also caused me to give this further thought, and I thank you for that. One big problem with these suggestions by Archbold is that he assumes the only way to restore sacredness to the Mass is by basically implementing the rubrics of the EF into the OF. That is saying that unless we have Latin, incense, mantillas, etc. as part of the Mass, there is no way it can be sacred. I am going to do a post on this and you might want to take a look at it.

      As far as not being allowed to receive on the tongue, as I said I have never experienced it or seen it. But if that happened to you, the priest was definitely wrong and you actually have an obligation to report it to the bishop. The Church still says the preferred way of receiving communion is on the tongue. All priests should know that, and if they don't, they need to be told.

  4. Wow! Catholic in Brooklyn! You sure work so hard to push this "New Catholic" thing. Are you sure your not Jewish ? Its not racist but someone who needs to use so much pomp and long drawn out misrepresentations of what people say and the Catechisms you come off more as a pompous Lawyer displaying their talent for verbosity than a Catholic. Tell me do you confess to your Gay priest regularly?

  5. One Question... "Do you want fries with your McMass, dear?"

  6. Hahahaha Your ego is sooooooooooooooo large wow, you make me and my friends laugh all day. Who cares what you think, dear. Haha what a baffoon you are! "Well, I never had that experience" wow , so it must never happen cause it never happened to you. So, Jesus never spoke to you so I guess he never spoke to anyone. " oh yeah the Jew thing... Hey ya know my family is Jewish and most of us converted so ahhh ahahahaha I know more about what i'm saying in those matters. Dear. hahahahaha rock on..your a great show its "The Almost Catholic Show" Starring, "Catholic in Brooklyn" When she's not in court defending teens that just stabbed a store owner cause he had a bad childhood, she's preaching protestantship on her Catholic web blog. What an amazing girl I tell ya hot dang! Hahahahaha


Related Posts  0