Thursday, February 25, 2010

Two options

I so much appreciated everyone's thoughts in the comment boxes below yesterday's post. Since there's a lot to say about the whole Novus Ordo/Extraordinary Form debate, I wanted to delve into this topic just a little bit further.

I have this idea that what the Council fathers really envisioned, in terms of the new Mass, was a relatively uncomplicated set of changes which would have simplified things a bit, made the Mass easier for newcomers to understand, and removed some of the things which had been, in a sense, "tacked on" to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass over the centuries. (The Last Gospel, for instance, was not initially a part of the Mass, but was a private devotion added on gradually which was officially added to the rite in 1570, according to this.) Instead, wholesale changes were made which not only disturbed the faithful, but also led to quite a few totally unauthorized changes appearing, which, along with a poor catechesis about what the Mass really is, has had devastating effects on Catholics in many places, including our own country.

When I wrote yesterday's post, I wanted to highlight some of those effects. The gradual "dumbing down" of even the language we use to talk about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the persistent view that the community's participation is somehow necessary for the Mass to take place, the echoes of a lot of bad 1970s psychology about affirming us all in our okayness, are things we still have to deal with as Catholics in America as we seek to help with Pope Benedict XVI's vision of a reform of the reform.

I really do believe that the pendulum has swung just about as far as it can swing in the wrong direction. The generations that gave us guitar Masses and happy-clappy theology are beginning to retire from their roles as clergy or lay leaders of various "ministries" (and I think dropping the use of the word "ministry" for everything under the sun is one thing we still need to work on). Young, faithful priests are beginning to emerge from seminaries as older, more "creative" ones (shall we say) reach the evening hours of their day of labor in the vineyard. More lay Catholics have had access to solid, orthodox Catholic programming, books, websites, and other sources of information than ever. It is no longer necessary to read one's inky copy of The Wanderer in secret to find out why something being done in the parish seems really wrong to you; The Wanderer can be read online, along with many other wonderful Catholic news sources. It is harder for a not-quite-orthodox priest or a well-intentioned but wrong-minded lay person to get away with something that really oughtn't be done, especially in those dioceses which have been blessed with faithful, orthodox bishops who are willing to stand up for the right of the laity to have the Mass as it ought to be, not as someone's personal plaything.

This does not, of course, mean that we are out of the woods--but at least we're no longer stuck deep inside the woods being attacked by the liturgical equivalent of rabid squirrels. (Sorry, E.S.).

What do we do, going forward?

I think there are two paths to take, both of which are valid options. The first is to choose either an Extraordinary Form parish or Mass to attend, and build up the community there, strengthening it and helping draw other people to experience our Catholic liturgical heritage.

The second, and the one I've chosen, is to work within a Novus Ordo parish or Mass, by doing whatever you can to help influence more traditional aspects in terms of the liturgy, the architecture or art, the music, the sense of reverence and holiness, and the like. I wouldn't always have taken this option, but at present it's my best one. It does require patience, something I could use a lot more of; but it can be rewarding, too. For instance, during Lent we're using the Latin Chant Mass settings in our hymnals. We're even going to learn the Gloria for Holy Thursday Mass. I'm not sure how the congregation is taking things, yet, but I think it's wonderful to hear the Latin, the simple solemnity and reverence of it reminding us that we're there to worship. I'm so glad our choir director has chosen to do this, and glad to lend whatever support she may need in doing it.

However we choose to help with the reform of the reform, let's not forget to pray. God will lead us to do what He wants us to do, and so long as the spirit of anger or bitterness remains far from us, we can do anything He asks with joy and peace.


Aaron said...

"...the persistent view that the community's participation is somehow necessary for the Mass to take place..."

That line struck me, because a couple days ago I was at a Low Mass with six other people in the pews. The priest didn't do the readings in English, we in the pews were all silent, and the lights over the pews were down low, so it really emphasized the fact that our presence (let alone our participation) isn't required for Mass to take place. It was kind of like peeking in on his private Mass, in a way.

It reminded me of how someone on another forum had said he felt like a spectator at Low Mass, and I thought maybe that's not a bad thing, and something we should all experience once in a while. There's been such an emphasis on group participation that maybe we need a reminder that we are spectators in a sense: the priest is doing something we can't do for ourselves, and it's going to happen whether we're there and involved or not.

That's why I like the phrase "assist at Holy Mass" so much. It says that we are more than spectators, whether we assist with our voices or our prayers or both; but it falls short of implying that our participation is necessary or equal to the priest's.

Jacque said...

First of all, you need to know I haven’t turned into a Latin Mass snob :)
I will say it a hundred times if I have to, but I do believe that the NO is valid and can be done very well. In my opinion even when it is done well, it still sets itself up for irreverence by the Presider and the congregation just by its nature of being slightly theatrical.
You mentioned active participation: I don’t think you have to be actually doing something, speaking or whatever, to actively participate. Paying attention and praying along with the Priest is actively participating to me. I think that’s why the Responsorial Psalm bothers me. When I’m in the congregation, all I can think of is getting the tune right. When I’m the Cantor all I can think of is singing it on key. Now I realize that everyone doesn’t think like me. (thank goodness) My daughter the school teacher says I’m just a little A.D. D. and she’s probably right. It doesn’t take a whole lot to distract me. When I’m distracted, I become a distraction for others.
I agree with you that the pendulum has swung as far as it can to the left, so it’s not going to be long before it reaches the middle again; starting with the new translation!
I have to say though… I love my Catholic faith!

Red Cardigan said...

Jacque: no worries! :)

I agree with you that it's arguably harder for the NO to be said with the proper reverence and humility. I'm hoping the new translations will help with that, too. We'll see!

Dino said...

Here's a second to dropping the label "ministry" from the vocabulary.
Is there anyplace in Church documents that identify the "Flower Ministry", the "Welcome Ministry", the "Sound System Ministry", and could the church janitor just go back to being that rather than the "Maintenance Minister"?

freddy said...

Have you read John Zmirak's article at Inside Catholic? I can't write as eloquently as he does, but basically, "what he said."

(Maybe some day I'll have time to learn how to do that linky-thing!)