Thursday, March 29, 2012

"The Bad Ol' Days" According to a Deacon

California Catholic Daily  recently ran this story about Deacon John Ashmore’s homily of March 11, which pointed out all the “failings” of the Church that were “corrected” by Vadican Too. You can read the news article here, and the entire sermon here.

A personal note: Deacon Ashmore’s parish is Christ the King in Pleasant Hill, California – the very parish where I had my first experiences of the Catholic Mass, as a non-Catholic. It’s the parish where our marriage was “blessed” after our annulments, and it’s the parish where our daughter was baptized. It’s also a parish where the pastor went on to celebrating clown Masses (after we moved to a new city, thank God!).

Here are some excerpts (my emphases throughout):

…I think over the period of a couple thousand years, the church developed some institutional “money changers.” The “rites,” that’s R-I-T-E-S, became failings in some ways. Just to be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with the old rites, Latin or the Tridentine Mass. They were beautiful and mystical, but sometimes they were so mystical that they cut us off from the immanent reality of Jesus with us and in us.

“Nothing inherently wrong” with the “old” rites….what a relief! It would be quite disconcerting to find that what the Church had been doing for centuries, with minor changes that evolved organically, was somehow “wrong”. And every fiber of my being wants to scream that “beautiful and mystical” does not “cut us off from the immanent reality” of Jesus!

In my little world of limited choices for liturgy here in Eastern Oregon, I see a few priests who take a minimalist view of the liturgy, and the first thing they want to minimalize is the beauty and mysticism of the Mass. They say things like “This isn’t Rome!” when asked to implement some required element of the liturgy that has been long neglected in our parishes. They want to emphasize the humanity of Jesus to the detriment of our appreciation of his divinity. Their homilies focus on how Jesus was “just like us” – which is surely important to ponder, but I am wearied by the mundane diatribes that result. Sometimes Jesus is reduced to the level of a sinner like me! Those “beautiful and mystical” rites help us to lift us up, to “be perfect” as Jesus told us to be (Matthew 5:48), and to appreciate the spark of divinity in our own souls.

Deacon Ashmore goes on to mention the Missal he received as a Confirmation gift:

I was now, at the age of ten, responsible to take my missal to every mass I attended, and follow the reading and prayers as they were said by the priest. There was just one minor problem, and it began like this: “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.” (That means, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. I will go in to the Altar of God. To God, the joy of my youth.”)

This is not a problem with the “old rites”, Deacon Ashmore. Latin is the official language of the Church. Canon law requires seminaries to teach Latin to the seminarians; our rite is called the Latin rite. And every “old” hand Missal I’ve seen includes the Latin prayers and an English translation. I’ve learned a lot of Latin just by making the comparison between the two translations. No, the problem is not with the “old rites” or the language; the problem is with one’s attitude toward them.

The mass was celebrated entirely in a language that none of us understood. The priest stood with his back to us saying words that, even if we could hear them, which we seldom could, we didn’t understand. Missals had Latin and English translations, so those who had them tried their best to keep up, eyes darting back and forth between the Latin and the English. This language confusion caused some people to just give up. People often spent their time at mass in personal devotions like the rosary.

I fail to understand why people want to hold on to the idea that they can never, ever understand Latin! Nor can I understand why they want to hold on to the idea that the priest “turns his back to us” at a Mass celebrated ad orientem. I think this is willful ignorance. And puh-lease! “Eyes darting back and forth” between translations? “Language confusion”? I think the real problem here is a lack of catechesis and Catholic identity confusion.

My eyes dart back and forth between translations when I attend a Mass said in Spanish. I don’t find it a problem, really. For one thing, I know what the priest is saying…not because I understand Spanish, but because I’ve been to Mass a few times. It’s really not that difficult. The priest does tend to say the same prayers at every Mass, ya know! The Mass is “universal” because it’s (supposed to be) said the same way all over the world. So even if travelers find the language unfamiliar, they still know the rite. They should know what the priest is praying.

The deacon goes on to complain about a variety of things. He says that the existence of “side altars” encouraged “the idea that any mass was more about the celebrant than the people” and that this was “one of the pre-Vatican II failings of the church”. Hello! The Mass is more about God than anyone else! And I maintain that the talk-show-host mentality of the Novus Ordo has led to far more focus on the personality of the priest than any of the rubrics of the extraordinary form.

Deacon Ashmore also complains about that pesky communion rail that was a “physical barrier” between the altar and the people back in the bad ol’ days before Vaddican Too. Never mind that nowhere in any Vatican II document was removal of that “barrier” mandated! Frankly, I see no problem with this “barrier”. It helps us to remember that there is a difference between us and God. It helps us remember that the priesthood is a special ministry, and that priests are set apart from the laity…intentionally, and for our benefit.

Too "ornate" for God?
We see the deacon’s minimalist leanings, too, when he complains about the “ornate carvings” on the altar, and the number of candles, altar servers, and even (gasp) steps to the tabernacle! Such excesses! (eyes rolling) And of course, there’s the usual complaint about how there were only altar boys and no altar girls and how we can thank God that now we are more inclusive. Never mind the dwindling vocations and the fact that female altar servers were not mandated by Vatican II, and special permission had to be given for their use.

But to me, the most egregious thing in his whole presentation (and this homily was given as a slide show, apparently), was this statement:

Only the priest and bishop had thumbs and forefingers consecrated so they could touch the host. To me the idea that only consecrated fingers could touch the Blessed Sacrament was a bit silly. Why is any finger more sacred than any other?

Apparently this deacon does not understand priestly ordination. He doesn’t understand that the priest’s hands are anointed.

Deacon Ashmore concludes:

Fifty years since the beginning of Vatican II, I think the reforms instituted have made our church into a much better place. The people of God are the worshiping community, not a community separated from the clergy. While we praise and worship our mystical God, we are more in touch with the immanent God who sits with us in our own skin. There is still much work to be done. There are still too many ignored and silenced voices. But let us rejoice during this anniversary in the strides that we have made, and ask our good and gracious God to be with us as we strive to chase the money changers out of the temple and become the people and church that he wants us to be.

“Much better place”?! Then why is attendance at Mass so dismal?

“Separated from the clergy”?! You betcha! That’s why we ORDAIN priests. Duh.

“Too many ignored and silenced voices”?! I couldn’t agree more! Mine is one of them - along with everyone else who would like to have a regular celebration of the extraordinary form of the Mass, and who would like to see a “reform of the reform” – or even those who just want a faithful following of the rubrics for a novus ordo Mass.

“Become the church God wants us to be”?! YES! We had some explicit instructions about that, and liturgical worship. Still do. But people like Deacon are either unaware of the rubrics – even of their precious Novus Ordo! – or simply wish to impose their own interpretation.

Well, go and read the homily for yourself if you want to see a picture of what seems to be a willful misunderstanding of the extraordinary form of the Mass. You can read about the dark, scary confessional, and the exclusion of girls from altar service, and how “terrified” the young people were at confirmation (and they were SEGREGATED, too!).

I am running out of patience with people who spout this kind of nonsense. Especially clerics who do so.


For the other side of the coin, see yesterday's post "The Vortex: Latin Anyone?"

Also related: 


  1. You belong to the dark ages. Nothing can be said to change your mind... you are too puffed up with your "knowledge". There are a lot of us that adhere and actually like Vatican II and the changes that brought about for a much needed spiritual revival that still needs more enlightenment. There is only one commandment that stands the test of time throughout the ages... as Jesus said "Love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, soul and mind and thy neighbor as thyself". He wasn't concerned with liturgy but with the attitude of the heart. You cause division and on a personal crusade with your gift of words which gives me a headache and heartache. You appear to be as a pharisee which Jesus encountered who were bent on rules and rituals and never "got" the presence of God who stood in front of them. Jesus was of the heart and not of the mind in it's vain glory.

  2. Gee Klink how very open minded you are when you describe others as being in the dark ages. I experienced the liturgy prior to Vatican II and, of course, continuously ever since. You have a preference for post V II liturgy and I, along with many others, find the Traditional Latin Mass far more reverent and meaningful. I don't know any of us who prefer the TLM that would deny you your right to worship under the present liturgy. Unfortunately many of the post Vatican II advocates argue vehemently against our right to the TLM....and it is a right, by the way, per the current Pope's direction in writing. Tragically far too many Bishops, including our present "Administrator" have no concept of their obligation to be obedient to the Holy Father. Thus, in this Diocese (and others) not only is the TLM not offered on any regular basis even when there is a group of the faithful requesting it but it has been actively suppressed by the "can't we all just get along" folks. "Can't we all just get along" seems to only apply if getting along means doing it their way.

    Since you criticize those of us who prefer the TLM let me offer a criticism of my own. There are 10 Commandments and the flowery one you claim to be the overriding one reflects simply your opinion. Frankly my experience has been that Catholics who prefer the TLM are among the most giving and loving of their neighbor to be found anywhere. It is that group which ridicules the TLM and fights so vigrously against it that often does abything but love their neighbor...particularly if that neighbor is a TLM advocate.

    Jerry Boyd
    Baker City

    1. Gee Jerry, this is beyond the preferences of Masses and goes to the heart of Christianity. I see by this website, there is plenty of criticism that is going around and that your "love" is preferential. Bishop Skylstad is just one example by being slammed through such charmed poetry and other such thoughts. How disrespectful towards a man of God, who through his years, has been esteemed and regarded for his wisdom among peers and secular alike. I leave you with this "flowery" word out of Mark 12:29-34. I will just quote verses 33 & 34 "And to love Him with all the heart and with the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." By the way, we Catholics do not hold the key to heaven; it is there for all believers of varied faiths who love their Lord and experience relationship with Him. He is an awesome God with arms big enough to hold all his children from the past, in the present and for the future. Simply put, His Love is limitless and His judgment tempered with mercy and grace. He is found in the heart.

  3. I've heard this same tripe bandied about ever since Vat II. I grew up with the Latin Mass and most of these things they are saying are just not true. I never saw anyone confused. Everyone had a missal and followed along quite well. As a matter of fact, I still "hear" the Latin while Father Hardy-har-har is saying the English. The only people I ever saw with a rosary instead of a missal were usually older immigrant women (Italian) who couldn't read English very well, but that certainly didn't preclude their participation in the Mass - with or without a rosary.

    I heard all of these talking points from my former pastor and when I explained that was not my experience (and by the time I was 14 I had been to Mass in over 20 states because my Mom believed in travel as education) in any place I had ever attended Mass, he tended to poo-poo me.

    If it is so dang difficult, explain to me why boys as young as 10 can reel off the Latin responses as servers.

    As to saying the black and doing the red? Forget it! These little potentates are going to do exactly what they want to do, even if it's is clearly wrong.

    Here's where I have a big problem with today's Catholics as witnessed by the Catholic bloggers. They refuse to recognize what is going on in the Church as having anything to do with what's going on in the secular (political) world.

    Wake up people. Marxists and communists infiltrated the Church because the Church stands between them and their radical ideas.

    Okay - rant over ;-)

    1. Adrienne
      I agree with you completely that there has been a calculated strategy to neutralize the importance and impact of the Church through intentional infiltration, over many decades, of those you listed---but at the risk of being called all sorts of terrible things (who cares) homosexual infiltration of the Church was also calculated as it has been in the media and Hollywood.

      The Communist playbook for the USA well over 50 years ago outlined the gameplan that we have seen employed. Problem is, no body believed it could happen.

    2. You won't find me calling you names for speaking the truth. I am still amazed when people keep referring to the "pedophiles" in the Church bringing to mind little girls and boys. There are no pedophiles in the Church. There are massive numbers of homosexual men who engage in ephebophilia. And if you ask people who are in support of NAMBLA, they would see nothing wrong with any of it. How odd is that??

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  5. Ah yes, the eeevils of the TLM. The one that's so confusing and all those dreadful traditions like Confession.

    Well we've been attending a TLM church now for a bit over a year, and in that time my girl has been catechised to the extent where she could take her first Holy Communion, she goes to Confession of her own free will, and if something comes up where we can't attend our usual Solemn Mass on a sunday morning, she asks to go to the early Low Mass rather than another church with a Novus Ordo.

    She's already spoken to Father about why girls can't be altar servers, and we're thinking of ways she can help with the Church.

    All this has come about through going to a TLM, where she never had any desire to participate at any other churches we went to. (long story short, we went to a baptist church for quite a few years).

    My girl will be ten in a few months' time, so don't say it confuses the kids. She pays attention, loves the Asperges Me at the start of the Mass, and loves to take Communion.

    And yeah, she's picking up a bit of Latin, too.


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