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, March 10, 2015

Change will arrive in the Mass when people change.

When priests and people are tired of the entertainment approach to Mass, and when people and priests make the time to become better informed about the true nature of the Mass, and thus truly care about the worthy celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, there will be movement away from the quirky and irksome liturgies (which obscure the Liturgy of Jesus) toward authentic (reverent, dignified) liturgies that better manifest in one celebration the Institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the Sacrifice on Calvary on Good Friday and the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday. Each and every Mass should manifest the Paschal Triduum with dignity and reverence.

What kinds of behaviour obscure the Liturgy of Jesus?
  • The behaviour of homilists who draw attention to themselves by roving about the sanctuary and/or the nave when stillness should accompany the homily to draw attention to the word of God.
  • The behaviour of priests who perform magic tricks or use props during the homily in some strange attempt to explain the Mass readings but only succeed at reinforcing in people's minds the impression that the Eucharist is merely a magic trick.
  • The behaviour of priests who, during prayers, seem to turn their attention to the congregation as if praying to the congregation instead of to God.
  • The behaviour of clergy who, for whatever unfounded reason, routinely change the text of the Mass contra Sacrosanctum Concilium 22.
  • The behaviour of laymen and laywomen who lord themselves over the Mass by ignoring the music of the Mass and who instead impose shabby compositions that badly mimic pop songs.
  • The behaviour of laymen and laywomen who turn parish sanctuaries into (e.g., yoga) exercise studios or impose some other profane activity on the sacred precincts of the parish church. Such behaviour is a sure sign that parishioners have forgotten that the sanctuary belongs to the Lord. Though this type of activity might occur outside of Mass, the loss of a sense of the transcendent and disrespect for the reserved Sacrament in the tabernacle reinforces a community's loss of a sense of the sacred.
  • The behaviour of priests who add personal greetings to the Introductory Rites which destroy any sense of transcendence in the Liturgy. "The Lord be with you... . Hey everybody, g'morning... (followed by several agonizing minutes of poorly prepared comments that constitute a mini pre-homily)."
What kinds of behaviour should we promote?
  • Ad orientem worship that returns the focus to the worship of God.
  • Communion on the tongue while kneeling to show the appropriate respect due toward the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.
  • In addition to the smattering of Aramaic that has been retained (e.g., Amen, Alleluia), the return of the language of the Latin Rite, i.e., Latin: responses, acclamations, Ordinary chants (Greek Kyrie, Latin Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei).
  • The return of the Gradual psalm and all propers: Introit, Offertory and Communion chants.
  • Respect for the choir as a distinct liturgical entity responsible for specific parts of the Mass apart from the congregation. E.g., the Gloria and the Sanctus.
What else might we look forward to?
  • Strengthening of the pre-Mass fast.
  • An end to eulogies at Requiem Masses.
It's Lent. Meditate on death. Take life seriously.


  1. Not to pile on, but we might add the propensity to append a lengthy monologue between the closing blessing and the dismissal, on a seemingly random topic of the cleric's choosing. Also, the soliciting of applause for the efforts of one ministry or another.

    As far as the music goes, I'm afraid we'll have to wait for the Biological Solution to take effect. I once e-mailed our Music Minister about the wretched Marty Haugen ditty chosen as the Recessional Hymn at every Ash Wednesday Mass over the past few years: God of Day and God of Darkness, featuring the lyrics:

    Gentle Father, loving Mother, Jesus: brother, savior, friend;
    Spirit of all grace and power, may we praise you without end.

    I think it's 467 in Bishop Lahey's CBW III. In any case, after outlining the various problems associated with sticking "Mother" in there, and after being perhaps needlessly provocative about Bishop Lahey's butchering of many great hymns, I concluded:

    The Church has a musical heritage going back almost two thousand years. The current GIRM reiterates in the clearest possible terms (echoing Sacrosantum Concilium) that Gregorian chant and polyphony should be the primary music of the Church. We have a beautiful building with excellent acoustics in which the Church's musical heritage can be displayed to great effect. Why, then, does [unnamed church] rely so heavily on mediocre contemporary selections from the past forty years, especially questionable material from non-Catholic composers like Mr. Haugen?

    To which our Music Minister replied:

    I do not want to comment on your opinions of the music as this varies from person to person and it would be difficult for me to please everyone. All I would like to add to your comments is that the Catholic church since Vatican 11 has called us to "full and active participation by all the people " in our Liturgies . Hence we use the Psalmody, hymns, ordinary(s) of the mass and responses that are best suited to our local church so everyone can participate as fully as possible in the singing. We use a variety of styles of traditional as well as contemporary music to achieve this end. Gregorian chant and renaissance polyphony are used but difficult for those who do not read music. We try to embrace our traditions of chant with some of our responses and sacred polyphony when choosing choir anthems so the choir can enhance the music of the liturgies over and above what the assembly sings.

    So many misconceptions! I can't decide which is worse: the notion that liturgical music should be a smorgasbord attempting to satisfy every subjective taste, or the distortion of "active participation" to mean that everybody should be encouraged to do stuff all the time. The GIRM is not my "opinion", and my personal taste in music has no bearing on anything. (Some of the contemporary liturgical ditties are quite pleasant in and of themselves, but so what?) And as far as "active participation" goes, I am weary of being shepherded through the liturgy like a schoolchild, when the original intent had little to do with external actions.

  2. Murray, I share your frustration. The root cause of much abuse can be attributed to the incorrect translation and misapplication of participatio actuosa. If there is any argument for the importance of right theology (and against shabby liturgical practice), it is the experience you have conveyed regarding the sophistry proposed by the music minister you cited. Bad theology leads to bad practice. Our current situation is a corruption of the lex credendi, lex orandi, lex vivendi. A selective reading of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and the partial application of the teaching, has magnified the likelihood and range of abuses. A typically Sunday Mass confirms that Catholics are being subjected to the will of ill informed and misinformed individuals who impose inappropriate music, i.e., music of low artistic and liturgical merit, on the Mass.

    Thank you, Murray, for your input!


"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.

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