Monday, July 14, 2008

At the Feet of Masters

A couple of you have concluded, from the post below, that I'm a bit opportunistic and that I have an agenda here, regarding the more traditional reception of Holy Communion, and a general return to reverence in the Catholic Church.

Well, yes.

As I told Irenaeus over at Catholidoxy, I learned these tricks at the feet of masters. As did nearly every adult Catholic of my generation.

Remember, those of you fifty and under, how the changes during and beyond the Second Vatican Council were made? I'm too young to remember the Tridentine Mass, but while the most radical changes came about then, lots of parishes discovered that if they employed the magical phrase "Spirit of Vatican II" they could get away with all sorts of liturgical hijinks, while the numbed parishioners, already traumatized by the forced removal of Latin, the ad orientem posture, the statues and art of the church, and lots of other good things, merely nodded, sighed, and braced themselves to endure.

So long after the Council was over, some earnest person with straight hair and a fluffy suit could approach the lectern after Mass to announce that in keeping with the Spirit of Vatican II, something they'd always been doing and never imagined changing was really all wrong, and had to be eradicated immediately. These changes ranged in scope from the dramatic and architectural (e.g. ripping out altar rails, putting the altar in the middle of the church and arranging the seating in a circle around it, removing the stained glass windows and replacing them either with clear glass or with geometric abstract patterns in place of the pictures of saints and heroes of the Church, hiding the Tabernacle in a small closet somewhere apart from the main church building, etc.) to the small and silly (insisting that the Tantum Ergo could only be sung in English from here on out, or eliminating the Sequences from the handful of Masses that still had one). No matter how disturbing or upsetting the change, some good, positive phrase was employed to justify it: "In keeping with the Second Vatican Council's directives..." "In order to conform our worship space to the Bishops' document Environment and Art in Catholic Worship..." "In order to be more inclusive..." or one of my personal favorites, "In keeping with our long-established local customs..." which was the excuse used first to mandate the use of altar girls, and then to railroad Rome into accepting them.

So if the tactics I'm employing in the call for greater reverence for the Blessed Sacrament while not actually admitting that what I'm after is greater reverence for the Blessed Sacrament seem familiar, I suppose there's a good reason. If I had to extrapolate from my experiences as a cradle Vatican II Catholic and come up with what the playbook for liturgical innovation must have been, I think what I'd come up with would follow this sort of pattern:
Step One: Announce that a change is necessary. Do not explain your real reason for the change, which is usually "In order to strip the recognizable Catholic elements of the Mass, parish, church life, and identity from our people to an even further degree..." Instead, come up with what you insist on calling a "pastoral reason" and link it back to some obscure Council document which you are fairly sure people haven't read, and which (since this was before the Internet) you can see to it is not widely available in your diocese anyway.

Step Two: Having forewarned the people that a change is going to happen, bundle several such changes together. For instance, don't just remove statues; remove statues while requiring the placement of felt banners and the implementation of other forms of new design and decoration. Live trees and plants are especially good, as they can be used to cover up niches, ornate pillars, and other objects that are expensive to remove (at least until you can justify building a newer, blander, not-recognizably-Catholic, Voskoesque multi-purpose worship and journey space).

Step Three: Be ready to implement these changes on the very Sunday they are announced. Do not, for instance, tell people you'll be changing out the hymnals a week or two ahead of time; announce it on Sunday, collect the old hymnals and burn them Sunday afternoon, and put the new hymnals in the church Sunday night. Otherwise, one of two things might happen: people might form a committee to protest the change, or people might save enough copies of the old hymnals to cause trouble when they compare such hymns as "Panis Angelicus" and "Shepherd of Souls" to "Bread For the Squirrels" (sorry, "For the World") and "Shepherd Me O God."

Step Four: Man the parish office with several volunteers who will be given the following script to use in handling the phone calls: "You see, the Church requires us to do this. The bishops are all agreed. Every single parish in America is doing the same thing, because it's what the Church wants. You are the only person who has called to complain about this." (That final line is the most important one: it must be repeated over and over to the hundreds of parishioners who do call to complain.)

Step Five: When the grumbling and complaining dies down to a dull roar, return to Step One, and repeat all steps until the goal of making the Catholic parish look, sound, smell, and feel exactly like the Protestant Megachurch down the road, or a Danish furniture store or Japanese tea room, or anything else at all so long as it doesn't look, sound, smell and feel like a Catholic parish is achieved.
So you see, my friends, I have indeed learned these sort of tricks at the feet of masters. And now, like many other more orthodox, traditional Catholics of my generation, I can't help but think that if these tactic could work to achieve the objective of de-Catholicizing the local parish, why shouldn't they work just as well to reverse the process?

And I'm only half-kidding.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That would be funny if it weren't have true!!!
Although, unlike some who think there is a sinister plot, I think it is the opposite. Everyone went really stupid and silly and yes, I think the evil one was having some fun, when he could get their attention from making felt banners!

We will have great funeral though~~~
I am leaving in my will```If you don't pray for my soul or have masses said in my and daddy's soul, I will be very upset!!