Monday, October 8, 2012

Mass, My Cry of Anguish, and the Year of Faith

For me, Sundays are…Just. Not. Good. I’ve addressed that here and other places on this blog; see the “TLM, Liturgy, and Liturgical Abuse” tab at the top of the page.

Now, however, I’ve progressed to a new level of anguish.

It’s not that we have more egregious liturgical abuses than other parishes do; it could be a lot worse.  Still, the bad music, the ad-libbed prayers, the often-ridiculous “prayers of the faithful”, the glad-handing and racing around the church at the “sign of peace”, and so on…ad nauseum…constitutes a continuous grating on the nerves.

But now the problem is that I am becoming more and more aware of the theological issues with the Novus Ordo Mass. I can’t ignore it any longer. I can’t pretend. I know too much.

On the Sundays when we attend Mass celebrated by a fairly orthodox priest, I get my hopes up a little, and I think, “Maybe this week I can hang onto my state of grace long enough to receive Holy Communion.” Because usually I don’t. Recently, though, even when I have been able to overlook the bad music and a few liturgical abuses, I cannot bring myself to receive.

That’s because, on the heels of that thought about receiving Holy Communion, I wonder how I can receive at a Mass that seems to be inherently flawed in its own perception of itself, so to speak. It’s a Mass that says it’s Catholic, but wants very badly to be Protestant. It fools most of the people most of the time. But it seems to me that it can’t fool the people who have attended and plumbed the depths of the ancient Rite, the Mass of the Ages, the “extraordinary form” of the Mass, the Traditional Latin Mass, the Tridentine Mass…whatever you want to call it. In my own mind, I often call it “the real Mass”. (And yes, I know the NO is a valid Mass, assuming the basic conditions are met.

What are the ways in which the NO Mass loses touch with theological reality? Let me count the ways…or just a few of them.

First, there is the problem of the NO Mass seeing itself as an “assembly” rather than a “sacrifice”. It’s a “memorial of the Lord’s Supper” rather than the sacrifice of the Cross. Its essence is defined as the “gathering” of the People of God”. When I was the secretary at my parish, it was my duty to prepare a little script each week for the “announcer” to read, giving a little summary of the Gospel, etc. I always included the line, “Now let us take a few minutes of silence to prepare ourselves for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” One announcer would never say the word “sacrifice”; he said “celebration”. (And most announcers could not remain silent for more than 30 seconds before saying, “Now let us stand for our opening song.”)

Second, there’s the problem of the role of the priest. In the EF Mass, you can see that the priest is really a priest, and that he offers the sacrifice for us, and that it is a Really Important Event. In the NO, the Mass is defined as “the People of God…called together, with a priest presiding and acting in the person of Christ”. The important thing to note is that the NO revisers made the priest a “presider”, and out of that he has become a talk-show host. In the EF Mass, the introit is a time of the priest’s preparation for the Mass. In the NO, we’ve lost the prayers at the foot of the altar, and the introit is now the “entrance hymn” – just a parade up to the sanctuary where the priest opens with a funny comment to break the ice.

Does it have to be this way? No. Does the theology of the New Mass expose itself to this with great abandon? Yes.

Third, the “new translation” notwithstanding, we still have weak prayers. “Sin” has been put back into them in places, but they still lack the force, the power, the no-nonsense-tell-it-like-it character of the real prayers. Just look at a 1962 Missal to see the difference.

Fourth, the concept of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist has been diluted and distorted, so that it’s no wonder people don’t really believe in the Real Presence any more. The GIRM states that “Christ is really present in the very liturgical assembly gathered in his name, in the person of the minister, in his word, and indeed substantially and continuously under the Eucharistic species.” Now, all of those things may be true, but lumping it all together that way, brings the Real Presence down a few notches, to say the least, and fails to show with actions the ineffable and sublime meaning of the real Real Presence.  

In addition, the omission of actions that show the greater reverence due the Real Presence, have led people away from the sense of awe we should experience when we are in that Presence, and when we receive Holy Communion. Reception of Communion standing and in the hand, the disparaging of veils for women, the casual dress permitted for lay ministers…these are all of the answer to the question, “Why don’t people believe in the Real Presence?”

And all of that just scratches the surface of the problems with the NO. But I ask you: isn’t that enough?!

What makes me really sad – and really angry – is that so much of this appears to have been done on purpose by those with a modernist view and agenda at the Second Vatican Council. They purposely Protestantized the Mass. The evidence is out there; there are many accounts of what was said behind the scenes, what the modernists wanted to accomplish, the involvement of Protestants in guiding the “reform” of the Mass. (See for instance, Romano Amerio’s Iota Unum, Anne Muggeridge’s Desolate City, and titles like Liturgical Shipwreck by Michael Davies.)

The saddest fact of all is that most people aren’t really conscious of any of this. Some people seem to suspect that the Mass has been “Protestantized” but don’t know how to articulate it any further than that. Others don’t even think about it. It’s Mass…that’s all…it’s just Mass. “We’ve always done it this way,” they say.  When something goes really crazy – like a clown Mass, for instance – they might object…or they might think, “Hey, that was a fun variation on a theme!”

Yet, the theological problems do manifest themselves in our lives.  Lex orandi, lex credendi: The underlying theology of the Mass does affect our sense of Catholic identity, our knowledge of our faith, and our ability – and even our motivation – to effectively evangelize others (even our own children!).

The faithful who understand the problem are labeled “traditionalist”, at best. They are often outcasts in the parish. Their concerns about liturgical abuses are dismissed as “overly scrupulous”. They are the only women wearing veils at Mass. They are the ones plugging their ears against the guitars and tambourines. They are the ones mourning in the pews at the sight of people texting while in line to receive Holy Communion. They are the ones who drive hours one-way to attend a Traditional Latin Mass, even if that Mass is said in an SSPX chapel (gasp!).

This week, officially on October 11, we enter into the “Year of Faith”. We’re encouraged to study the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Will studying the documents of Vatican II change things? I suppose it could…if the people who study them are willing to actually see that Gregorian chant has pride of place, that Latin was never meant to be abandoned, and that it was never mandated that the priest face the people during Mass. Etc.

Call me a skeptic, but I just don’t see that happening. And even if it did – which could certainly result in some improvements – we would still have the problem of the insidious creeping modernism inherent in the Vatican II docs, which has also permeated the CCC. How does faith grow in that kind of poisoned ground?

In Porta Fidei, the document introducting the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI quotes Blessed John Paul II, who said that the Vatican II texts:

… “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition ... I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.” (italics in original; my emphases)

Pope Benedict XVI adds:

I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.”

Well…there’s the rub. The Council has been “interpreted” to distraction over the last 50 years, giving us the “Spirit of Vaddican Too” which haunts many now-closed parishes. The fact that so much interpretation has been necessary in the first place ought to give us pause. That “interpretation” gave us the Novus Ordo Mass, after all.

With all due respect to the Holy Father, I think the “right hermeneutic” for studying the documents now is one that is willing to say “the emperor has no clothes”, and that there’s an “elephant in the living room”.  Until we admit that modernism has colored the Council in ways that have severely damaged the Church, we aren’t going to make any progress at all.

If that’s a “downer”, so be it. A Pollyanna attitude and rose-colored glasses will not re-fill the pews or the seminaries. Neither will it increase our faith.

At least, that’s how I see it.


  1. Jay, I certainly understand your anguish. We made the decision to go cold turkey aka only attend an EF Mass some 23 years ago and when our eldest daughter went to University many years later she decided to attend an OF Mass "just to see".
    Her words ring in my ears today: "Daddy, if you want confirmation that we are doing the right thing, go to a modern Mass".
    God bless. Richard

  2. The NO Mass is a closed circle with the priest and the congregants essentially shutting out God.

  3. Well said Jay .
    I have been attending the Traditional Latin Mass since January of this year (2012) faithfully.
    I first "stumbled" across the Traditional Latin Mass in May of 2011. I really NEVER knew it still existed .
    The moment I walked it , I knew this was HOLY GROUND !
    The SILENCE, the REVERENCE and the ADORATION was very moving to my soul and spirit within!
    I was drawn back the rest of that year....each and every time I attened I was transported to the heavenly realms ...Heaven and Earth meet .
    Then I became a parishioner of St. Francis de Sales (officallly on Ash Wednesday) but I was already attending each and every Sunday and any other solemnn Feast Day.
    There is NO comparsion to the EF and new mass .
    I cannot attend a NO Mass ...I cannot do it Jay .
    It is so watered down , its sad and makes me angry.
    Any why do people not see the TRUTH because they don't know...I had lunch with a girlfriend Saturday .
    I said when you go to Holy Mass at your parish do you realize you are going to Calvary ...and not some community meal or celebration . She did not, and she is a recent convert of 6years to the Catholic Faith , I am a cradle Catholic and NEVER realized that until recently, and why .
    Because no talks about the Holy Mass being a Sacrifice ....I do not hear that spoken from the NO parishes .
    I could go on and on. My blood pressure would be boiling.
    So I better stop.
    The Traditional Latin Mass is THE MASS , it is the REAL MASS and the Mass I will ONLY attend until the day I die .
    Blessing to all and wonderful post Jay and GREAT comments! Now I have to take a deep breath and BREATHE again!

  4. Richard - great story; it's always nice when your kids discover that you were right, isn't it! You raised her right, obviously!

    Adrienne - so true. Tell your FSSP priests to send someone to Oregon - Baker City, to be exact!

    Jeanne - I know what you mean about the blood pressure! So happy for you that you have the Oratory!

  5. Our problem (Jay's and mine) is that there is NO availability of the TLM within anything close to a reasonable distance from Baker City and winter road conditions would likely eliminate the possibility even if there was one within 100 miles. For part of last year we had a sporadic offering of the TLM 50 miles from here and we went whenever it was offered in spite of trecherous roads.

    It is a terrible thing to become depressed on Sunday knowing what you will experience at Mass....but that is our fate at the moment with no relief in sight
    Jery Boyd

  6. Wow do I ever feel the same! I'm 25 and right now I'm trying to get my friends to go to Latin Mass because so far everyone that I have brought to it, loves it. All of my friends think it's great and Eucharist centered and they keep saying that they don't get distracted like they normally do in the OF. This post articulated perfectly what I was thinking, thank you!


  7. I know exactly what you mean, Jay. Once your eyes have been opened and you SEE, there's no going back. You can't un-see it. The deal is done. But anguish for having to attend the novus ordo? You bet.

    I'd add to your list regarding the reading of VII documents the additional fact that nowhere did it say that a new Mass would be created. Of course, the Pope went along with it anyway and now the Novus Ordo is a valid Mass but to my knowledge, nowhere in the documents is the statement that a new Mass will be created.


  8. Dr. Boyd, I could kiss you for this post!! However, since we are both women, a little cyber-space hug will have to suffice!!

    Elizabeth, you are quite right. Once you KNOW, there is no going back. It is both a blessing and a curse; it is the latter especially if you are stuck in a parish even worse than the one Dr. Boyd has described, and one that is more protestant than Catholic. I have often considered just sitting home. It is better than coming home, Sunday after Sunday, angry. Traveling about in search of a parish that is actually Catholic is not an option for us.

  9. Ooops! Forgot to "sign" my name...Lorraine!

  10. Lorraine, you certainly have my sympathy! Well, as they say, misery loves company. It's good to know we are not alone! I agree with you about the travel; and here in Eastern Oregon, the minimum distance to another parish is 45 miles for us. The next one after that - in any direction - is 95 miles away. We don't have the time or money to go that far every week, and even if we did, we still would not find a decent Mass.

  11. Okay, this is a really dumb question, but why isn't the Latin offered or encouraged by the priests in the diocese? Couldn't a Low Mass once a month (for starters) be offered?

    The church around the corner from me has a Low Mass at 7am on the first sunday of the month, which I've attended a few times when I can't make it to my regular church. The Father around the corner was SSPX, so he knows his Latin. While the attendance is small - a fraction of the NO Mass at half 8 or the 10.30, for example, it still gets people in, and those I've spoken to are very happy to have it.

    Surely a couple of hours a month for the flock's needs is an important issue? From the comments here the lack of TLM is causing pain, and that can't be healthy for the Bride or Her people.

  12. The problem is that the flock is widely scattered, physically speaking, and the priests are few and far between as well. Parishes are quite a distance apart. We had the EF Mass at the next parish over (45 miles away) every Sunday for almost a year, but it meant the priest said 4 Masses per weekend, and generally we had only 3 or 4 people in the pews (plus 2 servers and 2 singers).

    The priests who are able to say the EF Mass don't have the support or encouragement they need, so I guess that means they don't have the inner motivation to say it, which kind of astounds me. But whatever.

    And then there is one priest whose Latin is certainly good enough to say the EF Mass, as he says the NO in Latin on the first Thursday of each month, but he is not willing to offer an EF Mass (and quite likely he has not been asked to do so).

    In these parts, people are not asking for the EF Mass. They just don't know! If they knew, maybe more would ask for it. But right now, they are not asking, and no one is offering because it's just too much work.

    Plus, we do have people who actively do NOT want the EF Mass, and will do anything they can to prevent it, even if it doesn't change the rest of the Mass schedule and they are not required to attend it. They just don't want it offered! I have a hard time fathoming their negative motivation! It seems selfish and mean to me.

  13. I am going through the same thing right now. Novus Ordo can be done correctly and reverently but more often than not, it is watered down and Protestantized. It is saddening to the depths of my heart. Jesus is there in the Eucharist, body, blood, soul, divinity and couldn't we act like it? He is there giving himself to unworthy sinners like you and me, where is the awe?

    I tried giving up and going to the Tridentine Mass but the nearest one is 2 hours away- not feasible. I also cry out to the Lord in anguish!

  14. I must admit, Angelo Cardinal Fratelli, that I do not know quite what to make of you! I do not often communicate with fictional characters.On the other hand, I often wish some of the characters I do communicate with were fictional!


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