H/T to Fr Z for spotting this.
This American Fr Markey gets right to the point. Clangs all the right bells. I find it very insightful.
Hopefully not too distant from now in time, an Irish priest will have the balls to say the same. Or even an bishop!
January 18, 2009
Part I: These past two Sundays I have dedicated my Pastor’s Column to New Year Resolutions. First I recommended that following Pope Benedict XVI’s lead, people no longer receive Holy Communion in the hand, and start receiving on the tongue. Secondly I recommended that people start correcting themselves when they use the Lord’s name in vain. This week I recommend that everyone in the parish make it a point to attend the 9:30 am Extraordinary Form of the Mass at least a few times during the coming year.
To begin to understand why, perhaps it is best to ask a question: How many Catholics today even realize that there is a liturgical crisis currently going on in the Church? Many parishes during the post-Vatican II era fell into irregular liturgical practices to such an extent that Pope John Paul II needed to commission a juridical document in 2004 for the universal Church in order to address the issue: “It is not possible to be silent about the abuses, even quite grave ones, against the nature of the liturgy and the sacraments as well as the tradition and authority of the Church, which in our day not infrequently plague liturgical celebrations in one ecclesial environment or another. In some places the perpetuation of liturgical abuses has become habitual” (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 4).
Habitual abuse means that neither the clergy nor the laity at Mass even realizes that the Sacred Mass, that which offers true worship to God and forms Catholic identity like no other act, is being deformed. Such ignorance of the nature of the liturgy prompted Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, to write in 2000: “Liturgical education today, of both priests and laity, is deficient to a deplorable extent. Much remains to be done here.” Sadly these attempts by Rome to correct liturgical abuse seem to have been virtually ignored by much of the Church at the parish level.
Since I arrived here at St. Mary Church in 2003 I have tried to address these issues and as everyone knows, I have made the renewal of the liturgy a priority for the parish. The first thing I did as pastor was to simply bring St. Mary Church into conformity with the norms of the Church. In the following years, I introduced singing the Latin Mass parts into all of the Masses, depending on the Mass and the occasion, as the documents require: “...steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 54). Thirdly I reserved altar serving to boys alone in order promote vocations to the priesthood. Finally, I have tried to imbue the liturgy here with a sacred spirit, avoiding profane greetings and actions, and I sought to build a sacred music program that would truly reflect our rich and ancient heritage.
Most importantly, I have attempted to educate everyone about why I was doing all of this. I have held numerous evening classes on the liturgy over the years, given homilies and written bulletin columns, trying to explain the proper spirit of the liturgy, and the authentic liturgical norms of the Church.
Many Catholics, who have been rightly offended by the profanation of the sacred over the years, joyfully embraced these changes. Some while not familiar with liturgical theology, have grown to understand better why a reverent liturgy is a more prayerful experience, and have also supported the changes.
Nonetheless the decisions I have made have been hard for others, and there have been not a few complaints. I am sometimes saddened by the brazen words of people who come to me and criticize a St. Mary’s priest for actually prayerfully offering the Mass according to the liturgical norms. To me, the person’s comment is symbolic of the current liturgical crisis: many years of a more casual liturgy, and even habitual liturgical abuse, are hard to overcome. Furthermore, the fact that so few parishes are implementing what the Magisterium is asking us to do makes the changes at St. Mary Church appear even more strange.
Yet how many Catholics truly understand what the Mass is: the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ’s crucifixion to God the Father? (Catechism #1367) Some people are still coming to Sunday Mass expecting liturgical abuses or to be entertained by the priest, rather than the real reason we come – to worship God, offering this perfect sacrifice according to the means handed down to us by Mother Church.
If only more people understood that novelties and priestly creativity in the Mass take away from this transcendent reality, and suddenly the sacred act is profaned, taking on the mere personality of the priest. No! As Padre Pio says, at Mass we are to humbly pray like St. John and Our Lady at the foot of the cross. Would that more people’s comments to me about the Mass reflected this understanding.
January 25, 2009
Part II: Yet beyond the lack of fidelity to the Vatican II liturgical norms there is still a deeper question which has only now begun to be addressed by Pope Benedict XVI: whether the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council that we have today was what the Fathers of the Council intended. Addressing the discontinuity between the Council’s idea of liturgical renewal and the final form of the Vatican II Mass, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote: “(I)n the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it –as in a manufacturing process- with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”
For example, today much of what Catholics think is the Second Vatican Council liturgical reform did not in fact come from the Council: “To the ordinary churchgoer,” wrote Cardinal Ratzinger, “the two most obvious effects of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council seem to be the disappearance of Latin and the turning of the altars towards the people. Those who read the relevant texts will be astonished to learn that neither is in fact found in the decrees of the Council.” There is a long list of other changes as well that are simply not in the Vatican II documents either: removing altar rails, Communion in the hand, altar girls, etc.
For this reason Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to liberalize the Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) is essential to reconnecting us with our lost tradition, and understanding what authentic worship of God is all about. This Mass was the Mass of our forefathers, of countless saints, and which in its essence dates back to the earliest Church.
Inspired by the Holy Father, I began the Extraordinary Form at the parish every Sunday over a year ago. As your Pastor I wish more people in the parish would understand that we have been given a treasure here at St. Mary’s with this Extraordinary Form, and while the Mass is definitely growing, it is still a disappointment that more people do not recognize what this is all about. .......
I encourage people to come and attend the 9:30 am Extraordinary Form so that they will experience what is in my opinion is the fullness of Catholic worship, and which communicates the Sacred to a higher degree than the other forms. The Ordinary Mass is a simpler version of this more ancient form, yet points to this fuller expression of worship.
I ask you to attend a few times because it sometimes takes a little while to appreciate its subtly, beauty and order. Even if you prefer the Ordinary Form of the Mass, your attendance at the Extraordinary Form will at least help you understand our history and the Ordinary Form better.
With all of the liturgical growth here at the parish over the past five years I hope that these two Pastor’s columns would help people to understand the big picture of why I am making these decisions. It is not my own personal whim which motivates me, but my desire to have our parish think and worship with the mind and heart of the Church.
Furthermore I think it more than a coincidence that the crisis in the liturgy over the past forty years coincided with so many other ecclesial crises: the radical decline in priestly and religious vocations, the shrinking and closing of Catholic schools, the breakdown of the family and the growth of the culture of death, the painful clergy scandals, etc. The Mass is the heart and source of our faith. If is the Mass is deformed and weak, then so is the rest of the body. As Pope Benedict XVI has written, “I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is, to a large extent, due to the disintegration of the liturgy.”
In conclusion, nothing will affect a renewal in the Church and in the culture more than a renewal in the liturgy. The Mass not only expresses what we believe, it shapes what we believe. Come, open yourself to what the Holy Spirit is doing at this point in history, and worship our Lord in the coming year in spirit and truth.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Greg J. Markey