Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thoughts on Archbishop's Homily at Eucharistic Congress

My PhotoI’m very impressed that Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Canada has a blog!

And I’m impressed that he can and does say the Extraordinary Form of the Mass! Thank you, Your Excellency!

On his blog, this archbishop has a post about his celebration of a Solemn Pontifical Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland. There are great photos there, and also at the New Liturgical Movement blog.

Archbishop Prendergast also posted his homily for that Mass. He introduced the topic of the difference between the two forms of the Mass, noting that (my  emphases throughout):

This is an important point as we gather to celebrate the Mass in its Extraordinary Form during an International Eucharistic Congress when most of our fellow Catholics—and we ourselves—will celebrate in the Ordinary Form.

For, sometimes many in the Church make the mistake of thinking that the Roman Rite has two different Masses, and it’s a matter of taste, which one a person prefers. But the beautiful, profound truth is that we have only one, holy sacrifice of the Mass in two usages: the ordinary and extraordinary forms. This is perhaps one of the best examples of that most Catholic expression of “both/and” and not “either/or.”

This may the true – that we have one, holy sacrifice of the Mass – but it is an unfortunate practical fact that the two “usages” are widely discrepant in most parishes where I’ve seen the NO celebrated. There is so little of the one in the other that it is no wonder we tend to view them as to different Masses. As the Archbishop says:

The differences most often grab our attention. We can overlook the shared, fundamental basis of the sacrament of the Eucharist. Sadly, for some, a particular devotion to one form can result in a reluctance to appreciate the truth, goodness and beauty of the other. Tragically, the preferred form of celebrating the sacrament of the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ can divide Catholics. In our human weakness, we can become competing camps rather than a united Mystical Body of Christ.

Again, I see the grain of truth here. Yes, there is division. I suppose it cuts both ways, but considering that the NO is so widely accepted and the EF so narrowly tolerated, the divisiveness cannot really be said to come from both “sides” equally. But let’s not point fingers…

Just a different "usage"?
And yes, there is the “shared basis of the sacrament of the Eucharist”. In my neck of the woods, though, I find it a huge challenge to remember this when I attend local Novus Ordo Masses. There is not a lot of beauty to be seen in the way these liturgies are celebrated nor in the way the sanctuary is appointed; the truth is often distorted by liturgical abuses; goodness is spoiled by trite homilies, bids for applause and laughter (canned jokes, for instance), and just too many extraordinary ministers.

Both usages of the Roman Rite, when celebrated with attention, devotion, and full and conscious participation, are beautiful, dignified, and moving expressions of our Catholic Christian faith.

Again, this is only true when the Novus Ordo is celebrated according to the rubrics. It is only true when we dispense with guitars, trumpets, and tambourines, happy-clappy ditties that pass as music, overly dramatic readings of Scripture, and adlibbing of prayers by the celebrant.

I hasten to add that I have seen the Novus Ordo celebrated with attention, devotion, and reverence; it was beautiful and dignified. This was largely because in addition to the rubrics being followed, the music was the music chosen by the Church – the propers for the Mass and the seasonal Ordinary – in the language of the Church – Latin. Yes, it is possible to also have a beautiful and dignified and reverent Mass in the vernacular, but it’s a little more  difficult to attain.

And I must also hasten to add that despite having participated in a NO Mass that was celebrated in the just about the best manner possible, I came away with the distinct feeling that something was missing. Too much has been omitted from the NO, and you don’t notice that until you experience the EF Mass for a time (at least, that’s how it was for me).
His Excellency goes on to say:

The Holy Father expressed the hope that each form might have a positive influence on the other. There is a lot of speculation about what that might mean. What it does not mean is that we blend the forms together. We must celebrate each form according to its proper Rite. Instead, perhaps, we might see each one’s strengths enhancing the other.

From the Ordinary Form, for example, we might hope to see a more robust presentation of the texts of Sacred Scripture. We can include new saints whom the Church has declared since 1962, who themselves celebrated or attended the Mass of what we know today as the Extraordinary Form. St. Padre Pio, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and St. André Bessette—whose faith led to the building of St. Joseph’s Oratory in my home town of Montreal—immediately come to mind.

From the Extraordinary Form, we might hope to see the influence of a careful attention to the words and gestures. We also hope to see the sober, careful dignity so characteristic of the Roman Rite.

He’s making a good and charitable point here, but think about it: he suggests that the EF can benefit from, basically, calendar changes that the NO has added. Granted, the calendar needs to be updated with the feasts of new saints.

But look what the extraordinary form can offer to the NO: “sober, careful dignity”. That, I would suggest, is a much more substantive change. In other words, I don’t think the NO has much to offer the EF, but the EF has much to offer the NO – and it’s all stuff that probably shouldn’t have been taken away in the first place.

The Archbishop, in his homily, assumes the best of both worlds concerning the two forms of the Mass – and I think that was a great way to discuss the issue at a Eucharistic Congress. We need that optimism!

Still…there’s a long road to travel before the two forms are on equal footing with each other, and those who desire unrestricted access to the EF Mass actually have it – even though it’s a liturgical right they have been given by Pope Benedict XVI.

For other posts on the EF Mass, click on the "TLM and Liturgy" tab at the top of the page.


  1. Hi Jay: That was an interesting post and I agree with and appreciate your thoughts throughout.

    One quote of his, "Both usages of the Roman Rite, when celebrated with attention, devotion, and full and conscious participation, are beautiful, dignified, and moving expressions of our Catholic Christian faith." I beg to differ, respectfully.

    The new Mass does not express nor teach the fullness of our Catholic faith. It just doesn't, no matter how reverently it's offered. It was created to appeal to Protestants by making the Holy Mass more like a Protestant service, not to sustain and continue to teach Catholics their faith.

    And when one takes a close look (heck, you don't even have to look very closely), comparing it with the Traditional Mass and what it expresses and teaches, there's just not really much comparison.

    It's valid, it's licit, but it's very, very unfortunate that generations of Catholics have grown up with nothing but the new Mass. It's no mystery why we have lost so many souls, so many have lost the Faith. And ironically, I sincerely doubt we brought in many Protestants by this brilliant move (tongue in cheek).

  2. Elizabeth: AGREED! on all points.

  3. One is a plain Jane Chevy and the other a Rolls Royce. They will both get you from A to B but that's about the only thing they have in common

  4. I always read your posts on liturgy with great interest and was especially intrigued by Elizabeth's comment above, which states a bold conclusion without providing any reasons to support it. Inquiring minds want to know!

    I'm in the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., where we all have easy access to the Traditional Latin Mass at St Mary Mother of God ( My family also attends Mass at the National Shrine (because they have a chapel devoted to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, who has aided my family at every turn) or at our neighborhood Parish St Jerome. Both the Shrine and St Jerome have beautiful N.O. services filled with chant and usually a Latin Gloria and Agnus Dei. So I feel happy with these three choices, but truly so long as I can receive Our Lord in an appropriately reverent setting I will not complain.

    I suppose we all have been to Masses that were more like Pop concerts with very bad music. I have never been to a Latin Mass that was less than reverent.

  5. Brother Juniper, I'm not sure which conclusion of Elizabeth's you mean... that we haven't converted many Protestants to Catholicism with the new Mass? Or that the NO was created with Protestants in mind (and it seems Paul VI had Protestants advising him as he considered changes in the Mass.

    You are indeed fortunate to have access to NO Masses that are reverent and dignified! Such NO Masses are in extremely short supply (indeed practically non-existent) in Eastern Oregon. Guitars and tambourines abound, and there is a certain animosity toward Latin and chant.

    And I agree with your last statement: I think it would be very difficult to celebrate the TLM in a less-than-reverent way, unless the priest departed signficantly from the rubrics. Reverence is built into the TLM; it's NOT built into the NO.

  6. Dr Phire (if I may): Sorry, should have been specific. The sentence that jumped out at me is that the N.O. does not "sustain and continue to teach Catholics their faith." How so?

    Regarding music (apparently dear to both our hearts), our parish has an 8:30 Mass Sunday with guitars and tambourines, and a 10:30 Mass with incense and chant (tho' still N.O.). In this case, early birds not only get, but deserve, the worm.

  7. LOL! Well, we can look at some evidence and see that Catholics have left the Church in droves since the advent of the NO. That is not proof positive that it is the NO that is to blame, but there's other evidence, too. The NO is very protestantized, purposely as well as accidentally.Guitars and tambourines mean someone is not paying attention to Church teaching on liturgical is the case with most NO Masses I've been to.
    Just keep reading this blog and see what I come up with along these lines!
    PS I kinda like "Dr. Phire"!! ;-)

  8. People have left the church because they want to use birth control, are told their gay sons and daughters whom they love are disordered and the church offered them blame, rather than kindness when their marriage broke down, which will not have been missed by the children of the marriage. Why would children want to stay in a church that rejects their parents? The NO masses just happened at a time of massive social change.. many of those that remain Catholics go to mass because of NO.


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