So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Mission of Joy

The mission of the Church is to make known to the world the person of Jesus Christ and His saving Gospel. Jesus sends us out into the world to baptize, to bring souls to Him that they may be saved and enjoy eternal life.

How effective will that mission be if we cannot or do not accurately communicate the Faith of the Church? If the very summit of the Faith, that is, the Holy Eucharist, is obscured by distorted and discordant celebrations of the sacred Liturgy brought about by faulty theologies imposed upon the Liturgy, then our mission will not be in harmony with Christ's mission.

Recently I have encountered some liturgical abuses that, for those who are familiar with the typical problems and are interested in overcoming such things, could easily fall into the category of predictable problems plaguing the Mass.
  • a priest who breaks the host during the Consecration rather than at the Fractio Panis.
  • a priest who chants the older (English paraphrased) version of the Per Ipsum.
  • laity who routinely change the words of the Suscipe Domine prayer following the Orate Fratres from
  • May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His name, for our good and the good of all His holy Church.
to
  • May the Lord accept the sacrifice at our hands, for the praise and glory of God's name, for our good and the good of all God's holy Church.
  • laity who pray aloud the prayers reserved to the priest.
  • pouring the water used to purify the chalice and purificators down a sink instead of a sacrarium or directly returning the water to earth.
  • laity not consuming the Host immediately upon receiving the Body of Christ.

Liturgical abuse requires correction.

I am reminded, by having confronted these issues in the past and now, again, having had them brought to my attention by concerned individuals, that one must first ascertain the attitude that is responsible for an abuse in order to construct corrective action and then offer the tailored correction to the person(s) in need of guidance.

Typically, those making serious errors in the Liturgy fall into one of two categories:
  1. those who commit abuse due to poor formation and/or are most likely demonstrating mere ignorance or momentary carelessness due to a distraction;
  2. those who commit abuse due to willful dissent from liturgical law.
Seek council from others you know to be well informed in liturgical law. Priests should be familiar with liturgical law. However, there is a shocking level of ignorance among priests concerning the true celebration of the Mass. If you are blest to be friends with a priest who is well acquainted with the ars celebrandi, i.e., the artful, beautiful and true celebration of Holy Mass, touch base with him before you engage in any confrontation. Remember, too, confrontations do not need to be confrontational. Think 'teachable moment' rather than 'nuclear option'.

Regardless of the infraction, charity demands that we consider the salvation of a brother who commits an abuse. Do not be quick to thrash someone who is merely misinformed. Look for opportunities to engage a priest or layman by asking a timely question such as one of those listed below. If, however, he resists changing his practice, bring along another person to speak with the individual. If that fails, write a brief letter to the Bishop explaining the liturgical abuse. Include: 1) when and where the abuse occurred; 2) your attempts to address the situation; 3) and persistent misbehaviour. In my experience, having communicated by email or directly on a few occasions to priests serious examples of liturgical abuse, priests are usually grateful for information which helps them more effectively guide souls.

If a layman is the source of abuse, raise the issue with your parish priest prior to informing the bishop about your concerns. If the perpetrator of liturgical abuse is a priest, write the bishop a brief letter as outlined above. Observe the proper forms of address:
  • Your Excellency, or Dear Bishop N.
  • Dear Fr. N., or Reverend Father N.
Express your concerns using language that expresses regard for the person's well being. It may be enough to simply state a general concern without mentioning specific names. Priests can then use the information to construct a message for the parish bulletin to provide instruction. Think of your letter as an observation providing useful feedback to those charged with the care of the Liturgy, i.e., the clergy.

Why correct liturgical abuse?

If we reject the authority of the Church which insists that we be configured to the Liturgy rather than the other way round, then we are rejecting the authority of Christ Who invites us to His altar to receive Him as He is, not as we would have Him be. Manipulation of the Liturgy is, in essence, indicative of an idolatrous attitude which seeks to conform the One to Whom the Liturgy belongs, i.e., Jesus Christ, into a mere caricature.

The following principles might help to provide others with an opportunity to reevaluate their attitudes toward the Mass.

So then:
  • By what authority are you making [this] change in the Liturgy/Mass?
  • What is the basis of your action? Are your actions consonant with the continuous teaching of the Church?
  • Have you ever read Sacrosanctum Concilium, the document of the Second Vatican Council relevant to any discussion on the Liturgy? Are you aware that no one may make changes to the Mass on his own authority? SC 22
  • Bear in mind, we still live in an age when people have an allergic reaction to anything that smacks of legitimate authority and which requires adherence to doctrine. Most people, when confronted with the obligation to live the Faith without compromise, fear a loss of freedom to do whatever they want. This applies to basic questions of faith, interpersonal relationships, the Liturgy, etc. So, reassure people that obedience actually liberates. Are spouses properly configured to God and to each  other in Christ suffering a loss of freedom? Hardly. By being configured to Truth, we discover who God is (Creator) and who we are (creatures). Concern for Truth actually requires we ask more honest questions than fewer. We must use our God-given intellects to discover God's will for us, how to love as God loves, and so forth.
  • Invite others to consider the implications of Tradition and history. Discuss Catholic identity and its origin. Firmly but gently insist on humility or docility toward the Holy Mass and Holy Mother Church. Refer: Oasis of Heritage and Identity.
  • Study the theology of the Mass. Know that Christ is the principal actor in the Mass. Thus, our actions are necessarily grounded in receptivity of revelation and a response to Christ. The Mass does not focus on us but upon Jesus and our entering into His Sacrifice. In other words, the Mass is something and Someone we receive, not something we manufacture or invent.
  • Promote rubrics and liturgical law as the necessary scaffolding that helps us worship in spirit and truth, and the necessary scaffolding to help us to avoid misappropriating the Liturgy and turning it into a caricature of Christ's Sacrifice.
The Liturgy demands that we sacrifice our narrow provincial concerns and embrace the totality of the Sacrifice endured by Christ for our salvation. How can we discover Christ's will for us if we are constantly remaking God (and His Divine Liturgy) in our own image? Which is to ask, how can we know Christ if we change the Liturgy and by so doing obscure Who Christ is and what He is saying to us in the Mass?

At this point, there is an urge to simply state to those habitually committing liturgical abuses the following: Don't mess with the Mass.

It is a joy supreme to love the Liturgy. Love of Jesus leads to love of the entire Trinity and the forum, if you will, in which we encounter the living God—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.