Friday, December 30, 2011

If I Say So Myself, Happy Birthday To Me!

December 31: It's My Birthday!

Yeah, I'm gettin' old.

My birthday comes on the last day
Of the year, but it’s really okay.
This year I just wish
That we’d get a new bish.
Please God! No further delay!

This is the collect from the votive Mass for the election of a bishop.
May we have a holy shepherd in the Diocese of Baker soon.

Deus, qui pastor aeternus,
gregem tuum assidua custodia gubernas,
eum immensa tua pietate

concedas Ecclesiae (Bakeriensis) pastorem,
qui tibi sanctitate placeat,
et vigili nobis sollicitudine prosit.
Per Dominum...

Lord God, you are our eternal shepherd and guide.
In your mercy

grant the Church (of Baker)
a shepherd who will walk in your ways
and whose watchful care

will bring us your blessing.
We ask this through Our Lord…

The New Translation is a Good Start, But...

I have no doubt that the new translation of the Roman Missal is a good thing.  As a follower of Fr. Z’s articles on the collects and other prayers of the Mass, I’ve come to appreciate the Latin language and the way our Catholic identity and theology is wrapped up in the words of those prayers. A translation that is more faithful to the Latin and keeps Catholic theology in the forefront is most welcome.
The bottom line, though, in my humble opinion, is this: the new translation, in and of itself, is not enough to go very far in deepening our understanding of the Sacred Liturgy. Why? Well, for one thing, it’s really a small matter for the laity to learn a few new responses at Mass; the bulk of the changes are in the prayers the priest prays. Now I could be way off the mark here, but I have a feeling that most people will not notice most of the changes in the priest’s prayers. I’m not saying they don’t pay attention, and I’m not saying that the words are not important: they are. I’m just saying that the changes will not make a huge impact on the laity, unless there are other changes in how the Mass is currently celebrated in most parishes.
In its promotion of the new translation on its website, the USCCB noted that
[The Church] has been blessed with this opportunity to deepen its understanding of the Sacred Liturgy, and to appreciate its meaning and importance in our lives… [T]he parish community should be catechized to receive the new ranslation.  Musicians and parishioners alike should soon be learning the various new and revised musical settings of the Order of Mass. [emphases added]
Some parishes prepared, and some didn’t; some did a little, and some did a lot. 
But the above quote from the USCCB website hints at a very important component of the new translation which could make a big difference:  “musical settings”.
The third edition of the Roman Missal contains more music than the previous editions, and it reflects the Gregorian chant roots of the liturgy. There has been much talk (at least in some circles) of “singing the Mass” instead of simply “singing at Mass”, and this is where the difference will be made, in my opinion. Singing the Mass – especially singing the Mass in the way it is presented in the new Roman Missal – is a much more far-reaching change than the changes in the translation. It’s a change not just in the words, but in how the words are presented – with music that is truly liturgical.
Singing the Mass requires a priest to be willing to sing his parts; it requires the choir director to motivate the choir to learn a new style of singing along with some changes in the words; and it requires a congregation that will embrace the effort to learn new, sung, responses. None of this is easy, but it would be well worth it. It would bring up the sense of awe and reverence in the liturgy by more than just a few notches. It would lead souls toward holiness.
I’m speaking here particularly about parishes like the ones I have access to, where guitars and tambourines abound, and Gregorian chant has been effectively banished. The preparation for the new translation in these parishes consisted of a few notices in the bulletin, and early distribution of pew cards with the new “people’s responses” printed on them. There was no talk about new musical settings.

 For some time now, the wonderful pipe organ in our Cathedral has stood silent, and the choir loft is empty because the “Folk Group” plays and sings from just off to the side of the sanctuary. In another parish near us, the choir loft is used, but the singers share the space with guitars, piano, trumpet, and tambourine – and sometimes a CD player. The liturgical music is from JourneySongs or Breaking Bread, and Latin is used very, very sparingly. The new translation is not going to overcome the overwhelming mediocrity and self-absorption conveyed by this type of music.

Other liturgical changes must be made if the new translation is to have a chance at deepening our understanding of and reverence for the Mass. The priest will have to stop taking the role of talk-show host. He will need to make sure that he absolutely “says the black and does the red” – that is, that he faithfully follows the rubrics and does not ad-lib. He will probably need to introduce the people to Mass being said ad orientem.

And to be truly faithful to Vatican II, the priest should lead his parish toward a greater appreciation of Latin. That’s pretty easy to accomplish just by standardly singing the Gloria, the Agnus Dei, the Sanctus, Pater Noster, and even the Creed in Latin – the parts that we’re supposed to know as a minimum according to Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium).
Granted, the typical parish would probably not be able to handle all of these changes at once. But changes could be introduced gradually, with appropriate catechesis and preparation. My experience has been that choir people who are shown how a properly sung Mass all fits together become very excited about leaving their guitars and folk songs behind. And if they are excited, they will infect the congregation.
All of this requires a pastor willing to implement these kinds of changes. But even more crucially importantly is a bishop willing to lead both the priests and the people in this direction, and to adequately support his priests who are working toward this goal.
It’s got to be a top-down effort: the bishop must encourage the priests, who must then lead the people into greater reverence for the liturgy. It can begin with the new translation, but it must not stop there…for the good of souls.
Save the liturgy, save the world.

See also: How to Undermine the TLM in Your Parish

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What's Not Catholic About Michael Voris?

I think we all know that, while the Archdiocese of Detroit is saying that RealCatholicTV cannot use the name “Catholic”, they are directing their criticism at Michael Voris. (The ins and outs of the canonical situation are out there; you can google it, or go to this one, which is very good, especially if you read all the comments.)
But…what’s NOT Catholic about Michael Voris?
I’ve seen some negative comments on various blog posts about Voris, but haven’t seen any substantive criticisms. Push come to shove, it’s just darn hard to say that the guy is not speaking Catholic truths.
Catholic Culture, though, does offer a review of RealCatholicTV, with some criticisms that they back up with a few examples. You can read their full review at the link, but the main thrust seems to be that the programs are too critical of the Church and of Church leaders, and purport to present “the real Catholic” position on various issues. “Thus, those who disagree find their Catholicism put in question”.
Well, no one denies that Michael Voris – especially in “The Vortex” episodes – is often “in your face”.  But few can deny (and keep a straight face while doing so) that he is right. You simply find very, very few critiques saying he is wrong – and giving evidence thereof – about what he preaches and teaches. 
Basically, I think, it comes down to the fact that Michael Voris’s style offends some people. And his content offends others. Michael Voris holds up the “ugly mirror”, to use a term of my new bloggy friend, Wendi. She says, “Ugly mirror is a term my husband came up with to describe the act of convicting someone about their actions.  It's harder to rationalize sin when someone holds a mirror in front of you and you can see it reflecting back at you.”
Indeed. And when that mirror is held up on “The Vortex” or other RCTV programming, people do notice…whether they consider themselves “liberal” Catholics, or “orthodox”, or “traditional”. There’s always room for progress toward holiness.
Michael Voris says it best himself, in this “Vortex” episode, which was released last April to respond to the Scranton, PA situation, when a Voris conference had to be moved to a secular site from the “Catholic” college site where the talks had been originally scheduled. Be sure to watch all the way through – the most cogent remarks are in the last two minutes.

 Regarding the general issue of orthodox priests and laity alike being treated like criminals, “Tantamergo” sums it up nicely in this excerpt from his blog (my emphasis):
Why are the orthodox often given rough treatment, if not outright dismissed/ignored?  So many faithful Catholics are outraged or severely disappointed by so many actions taken by ordinaries, from allowing heterodox, apostate “catholycs” to be employed and corrupt the minds of Catholics at local universities, to allowing Sr. Militant New Age Lesbian Feminist to lead a parish retreat.  We’re not blind.  We’re not stupid (well, we are, in a way, more later).  We see what goes on.  Many are outraged.  Why are we having to do what is in actuality their job?  Why are the bishops often attacking (or ignoring, or blacklisting, or…..) those faithful Catholics, who, in the words of Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand, should be their very pride and joy?
We are sort of suckers, though.  Many of us keep going back to that parish with the new age nun DRE, or the heterodox vicar, or whatever.  Most of all, we keep sending in the checks.  If you want to see change in your local church, wherever it may be, MOVE.  Stop going to or supporting in any way heterodox parishes. Most of all, stop giving them your money.  Find an orthodox parish and go there.  It’s infinitely more important for you to go to a faithful parish than it is to “be loyal” to your neighborhood/town parish.  The latter is a fool’s game.  And, no, we don’t go to Mass or to a parish to “witness” to others- we go there to get holy and get saved.  It is the job of the priest to lead us in sanctification.
If you want change, stop going to the bad parishes.  If the whole diocese is bad, pick out the least worst one you can find and assist at Mass there, but send your money to an orthodox religious order like the Benedictines of Norcia or our good Carmelites here locally.  Stop sending money.  Attendance is one thing, but if you want to see change, stop sending in money – make sure you let them know why. 

I couldn't have said it any better! Go there and read the rest of the post, and the comments.(And Michael Voris made some of the same remarks on a recent “Vortex” episode, which I discussed here.)

Pray. Fast. Fight the good fight.

Monday, December 26, 2011

7 Reasons Why You Should NOT Go to the TLM

1.       It will make you wonder why we have lay ministers of Holy Communion in the Novus Ordo Mass.

If it’s the same Mass, and it’s the same Jesus in each Mass, then why is it that in the extraordinary form of the Mass (the TLM, as it is often called), only the priest may handle the Body and Blood of Our Lord? Could it be because (gasp) he is ordained for that purpose? Could it be that his hands are anointed for that purpose? Could it be because he is a…priest? Once you experience that a few times, it starts to look quite unsettling to see lay ministers – or even deacons and acolytes – distributing Holy Communion, or purifying the vessels (which they’re not supposed to do anyway), or just in general traipsing through the sanctuary. Those things don’t happen in the TLM, and it makes a huge difference in one’s sense of reverence and awe during the Mass.

2.      It will make you more aware of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Precisely because the priest is the only one who may handle the Eucharist, awareness is instantly raised as to the importance of that little “wafer” – the True Body of Christ.  Because the faithful receive on the tongue while kneeling, reverence is cultivated. It cannot be otherwise. Receiving Holy Communion becomes more humbling. It makes one more aware of Jesus and what He does for us by coming to us in the Eucharist. Truly.

3.      It will make you wonder why we have guitar music at the Novus Ordo Mass.
After a period of adjustment, as your musical “palate” is cleansed of the sugary sweet pop tunes of OCP origin, Gregorian chant will impress its spiritual flavor on your heart and mind, and you will experience the way in which this sacred music – which was designed for nothing but the worship of God – lifts your soul to God.

4.      It will bring you to a new understanding of the liturgical worship of the Catholic Church.

The interior logic and spiritual integrity of the extraordinary form will manifest itself to you over a period of time. It is an integrity that no longer exists in the Novus Ordo – at least as it is celebrated in most parishes. And even in the best of situations, you will sense, after some time, that there is something missing in the Novus Ordo. Part of that has to do with the abbreviated nature of the prayers; yes, the new translation is a good start, but the prayers are still…well…incomplete, when compared with those of the extraordinary form.

5.      It will bring you to a new awareness of your own sinfulness…and it will make you more Catholic in your understanding of Church teaching on things like homosexuality, abortion, and artificial contraception.

The prayers of the extraordinary form talk about sin (and some of this sense of our sinfulness has been restored with the new translation). The sung Kyrie is an extended plea for mercy. The prayers at the foot of the altar and the Confiteor are much richer and piercing than anything in the Ordinary Form. Read the prayers of the TLM.  How does this relate to an increase in understanding of Church teaching? I don’t know, exactly. But it does.

6.      It will make you aware of how “horizontal” the worship is in the Novus Ordo.
I’m talking here about the typical experience of the NO in the typical parish in my experience.  It’s flat. It’s not aimed upwards; we aim it at each other. The priest faces us; we interrupt our worship to extend the “sign of peace”, which in some parishes is tantamount of a free-for-all of pious handshaking and smiling and crawling over each other to greet everyone. The songs chosen (instead of the music proper to the Mass) are sometimes of questionable theology, and often are pure “schmaltz”, playing on our more secular emotions rather than lifting our minds and hearts to God. Why? Because they resemble secular music – not sacred music.

7.      It will make you hunger and thirst for true worship every time you attend the typical Novus Ordo Mass at your parish.
This is because, as Richard Collins says over at Linen on the Hedgerow,  “the two Masses are as different as chalk is to cheese”. Even in a Novus Ordo that is said properly – even with the Gregorian chant propers and ordinary, even with the priest celebrating the Mass ad orientem – it is quite likely that you will feel that something is missing. Because it is.

In short, you should not attend the TLM because it will make you more aware of your Catholic identity. And that is precisely what the enemy does not want.
Even if you decide, after my dire warnings, that you’d like to try the TLM, the enemy still has a few tricks up his sleeve for you. See, if you’ve had a long history of attending the Novus Ordo, and if you enjoy singing the songs from the “JourneySong Book” or “Breaking Bread” or any of the others of that ilk, and especially if you are an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, you will not experience the effects listed here immediately. It would take some time before the changes could take hold. So if you go just one time, you might feel like a fish out of water; it may seem odd and quiet and just plain different. And since we are human, and since humans don’t like change, you will quite likely say, “I guess it’s fine for all those trad types, but it’s just not for me.”
(And that’s part of the problem, too. The Novus Ordo should not seem so very different from the TLM – not if we really had a “hermeneutic of continuity” happening here. But, of course, we don’t.)
So, if you are forced to attend a TLM, or if you go just one time to prove you gave it a shot, fear not! You may be quite able to hold onto your Protestantized view of worship, and you will be able to continue to speak disparagingly of the use of Latin and the fact that you can’t understand the words (but if you know how to read, you have no excuse, because there will be an English-Latin booklet available for you to refer to, almost certainly).
If you really give the TLM a try, though – because maybe you seek a greater “actual” participation in the Mass, and you are a Catholic who wants to be truly Catholic – you will experience all of the above effects, and they really are good things and not bad.
But a word of warning is still in order:
Once you experience the effects noted, you will probably talk about them. You'll want a TLM in your parish. And then you will probably be criticized, if not ostracized, by many in your parish. You’ll hear endless arguments about how you are being “divisive” and not promoting the unity of the Body of Christ in your parish or diocese. And you will not be happy about this. It will hurt.
But I’ll tell you something: it’s worth every bit of the pain.


Be sure to see this "companion" post: How to Undermine the TLM

Along with Paving the Way for the EF Mass

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Sing It With Me!

NOW we begin the Christmas season – the 12 days of Christmas, to be exact, which precede the Epiphany of the Lord, which is supposed to be celebrated on January 6.  Of course, in our current misguided liturgical calendar, the Epiphany will be celebrated on Sunday, January 8. God forbid we should ask Catholics to consider going to Mass more than once in a week!

And of course, Christmas season for Catholics (at least, those using the “old calendar”) lasts past Epiphany – a whole octave past it! And beyond! The FEAST of Christmas actually lasts the 12 days until the Epiphany, but the spiritual focus remains on Christmas until Candlemas (the Purification of Mary, or the Presentation of the Lord) on February 2.  (See Fisheaters for some good information on all this.)

Many of these thoughts have been lost…more’s the pity. The liturgical life of our Church is incredibly rich! But few take advantage of it these days, it seems.

Oh well! Let’s celebrate this season of Christmas with a new rendition of that old favorite, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”!

On the first day of Christmas, the Pope did give to me
A Bishop for our local vacant see.

On the second day of Christmas, the Pope did give to me
Two maniples
And a Bishop for our local vacant see.

On the third day of Christmas, the Pope did give to me
Three corporals

Two maniples
And a Bishop in our local vacant see.

You get the idea; here’s the full meal deal:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Pope did give to me
Twelve cantors chanting
Eleven bells a-ringing

Ten priests in cassocks

Nine nuns in habits

Eight black birettas

Seven chapel veils

Six censers swinging


Four altar boys

Three corporals

Two maniples

And a Bishop in our local vacant see.
(Usquequo, Domine?!)


Merry Christmas!



Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Introit for Mass of the day on Christmas:

Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis:
cuius imperium super humerum eius:
et vocabitur nomen eius, magni consilii Angelus.
V. Cantate Domino canticum novum: quia mirabilius fecit.

Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.
The insignia of His reign is on His shoulder
and His name shall be the Angel of Great Counsel.
V. Sing unto the Lord a new song,
for He has done wonderful

Here is the opening paragraph of the Holy  Father’s homily for the Midnight Mass. Words are important! He explains briefly here about a “programmatic” word – a word which the Church packs with meaning and which we should be able to unpack.

The reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to Titus that we have just heard begins solemnly with the word “apparuit”, which then comes back again in the reading at the Dawn Mass: apparuit – “there has appeared”.  This is a programmatic word, by which the Church seeks to express synthetically the essence of Christmas.  Formerly, people had spoken of God and formed human images of him in all sorts of different ways.  God himself had spoken in many and various ways to mankind (cf. Heb 1:1 – Mass during the Day).  But now something new has happened: he has appeared.  He has revealed himself.  He has emerged from the inaccessible light in which he dwells.  He himself has come into our midst.  This was the great joy of Christmas for the early Church: God has appeared.  No longer is he merely an idea, no longer do we have to form a picture of him on the basis of mere words.  He has “appeared”.  But now we ask: how has he appeared?  Who is he in reality?  The reading at the Dawn Mass goes on to say: “the kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed” (Titus 3:4).  For the people of pre-Christian times, whose response to the terrors and contradictions of the world was to fear that God himself might not be good either, that he too might well be cruel and arbitrary, this was a real “epiphany”, the great light that has appeared to us: God is pure goodness.  Today too, people who are no longer able to recognize God through faith are asking whether the ultimate power that underpins and sustains the world is truly good, or whether evil is just as powerful and primordial as the good and the beautiful which we encounter in radiant moments in our world.  “The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed”: this is the new, consoling certainty that is granted to us at Christmas.

Words are important because they are signs of the Word, the One Word that God spoke, the all-encompassing Word - the Son of God.

Our Savior has appeared!