Learning from the Liturgy


There’s been a fair bit of comment about fine liturgy and the lamentable state of liturgical practice. I’m on the side of those who want to improve things, and have enough Catholic liturgical horror stories to write a book. Top of the list was the old Irish priest in Northern England who used to wipe his nose with the purificator in the middle of Mass. We do need to improve liturgy, and Fr Newman’s blog gives a link to a group that helps.

Liturgical abuses abound, so what to do? Go church shopping? Hang on. It’s Lent. You want penance and self denial right? You know, it might actually do you some good to attend a church where the liturgy is awful. While you may not be able to worship just as you’d like, you may learn some other lessons. You might learn that you’re not the pope for one. Second, you might acquire virtues like humility and loyalty. You also might learn to find God in what you don’t like, rather than finding him in what you do like. Better men than me have advised this: check out the quote from Tolkien that the Roving Medievalist has posted.

This is the most ironic and profound lesson to learn. If we only ever expect to find God in what we like, and what is according to our taste, then we will never be able to find him elsewhere. So, for example, if my thing is happy clappy mass with a fuzzy sermon and lots of hugs, and that’s where I find God, it might do me good to start attending the Latin Mass. Like vegetables, what you don’t like might be good for you. Similarly, if a solemn high Pontifical Mass with a choir singing Palestrina is your idea of heaven, maybe it would do you good to go to Fr. Folkmass’ latest offering. If my hunch is right, then maybe the very thing you should not do if you want to grow spiritually is attend the sort of church you like.

Going church shopping is just so Protestant, and underneath it all is the nagging conviction that, “I know what is right for me spiritually and I am going to go find it.” I don’t know about you, but the one thing I am finding as I grow older, is that the one thing I don’t know about myself is what is right for me spiritually. My biggest growth points spiritually have been when I have been introduced to something I didn’t like, and then learned one way or another how to like it, how to value it, how to find something good in it, and so how to find God in it. Conversely, when I’ve had everything my way and got ensconced in a cozy little church where all was to my taste, that’s when I was most prone to become smug, complacent and self righteous. “Oh, aren’t we good! We not only are nice people, but our liturgy is also better than anyone else’s.”

When I hear everybody moaning about this little liturgical detail that isn’t quite right, or that little liturgical nicety that isn’t done properly I can’t help thinking that I’m listening to a load of spoiled children who didn’t get the candy they wanted. What were they really looking for? Andrew speaks eloquently about this here.

Let me finish my rant with a story. A dear friend of mine called Bill and his wife Janet converted from Evangelicalism, and their parish was run by a priest I’ll call Father Pat McGee. He was a kindly old Irishman from Ohio who was fond of baseball. He had what I can only call the ‘Johnny Carson’ style of liturgy. He’d come out in his vestments and say, ‘How are you all doing this morning? Anybody been to Cincinatti recently? How are the Red Sox doing?…The Lord be with you.” Fr. Pat was casual and easy going. His worst offense was making personal comments as you’d receive the body and blood of the Lord. He once said to my friend at communion, “The body of Christ…I like your new moustache Bill.”

Janet was fed up with Fr McGee. She wanted to switch to Holy Name parish where a young conservative priest ran the show, had processions, perpetual adoration, the works. “We’re not doing that.” Bill said. “We’re Catholics now, and this is our parish. I reckon if Fr Pat puts up with us we’d better put up with him.”

So they gritted their teeth and they put up with Fr Pat. They got involved in the parish and helped Fr.Pat, and soon they realized that while Fr Pat was no liturgist, he was actually a very loving and pastoral priest. Loads of people loved Fr Pat, and he had helped many people in their faith. He wasn’t perfect, but he was real. He was human and there was no nonsense about him. Three years later Fr Pat got cancer and died. Bill and Janet cried at his funeral and were sorry to see him go.

They didn’t learn much about liturgy with Fr. Pat, but they learned what being a Catholic really means. They learned how to stick it out and not complain. They learned that church shopping is for sissies. Most of all, they learned to see everything from a different perspective. Their world widened and their hearts opened.

They learned more by putting up with what they didn’t like than going on the never ending ever grumpier quest to find the church of their choosing.

Most of all, even thought they didn’t love Fr Pat’s style of liturgy they learned to love Fr.Pat

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  • I like your thoughts here. I often think re-instituting territorial parishes would help as opposed to allowing more on both sides (more Tridentine and more Folksy).

  • Jennifer

    Father, I think you’re right (despite myself). But sharing a story:I never understood why the liturgy police got so up in arms, especially over issues that were matters of preference, i.e. no rules were being broken.Then I went to a mass in another city in another diocese, where every possible extreme (liberal, in this case) option and abuse of an option were combined in a single hour. My non-catholic husband was along, and turned to me in disbelief — “Are you sure this is a catholic church?” he asked.After that, I had sympathy for those who get up in arms about good liturgy. ***I expect though, that if everyone took your advice, there would be fewer extremes between parishes.

  • Thanks for your comment, and I hate the crazy abuses too, and think they should be properly resisted. I’m just trying to get people to stand things on their head a little.

  • Thank you for another wonderful post!!

  • Father, I said the same thing recently about needing to find joy in God’s presence regardless of the liturgical nonsense that goes on around us. Sometimes, it’s so easy wanting the priest, choir, kids, cantor, lector, bishop et al, to change, but it’s so much more difficult to change ourselves and rediscover joy in the presence of God.This is a particular danger for those of us who are liturgically inclined.But if you really can’t pray and these liturgies cause you to sin by being judgemental and have murderous thoughts, then I guess that hopping off to another parish is the lesser of 2 evils.

  • Anonymous

    Mandating the geographical parish would crush the Traditionalist movement like an egg shell–or at least, the movement within the Church. The only beneficiaries would be the schismatics on the one hand, and the liturgical Visigoths on the other. Many–perhaps even most–serious Traditionalists would be driven into despair or schism. Many of them are hanging on by a thread as it is, and most Latin Masses are attended almost entirely by people from across town or across the state. I don’t think I’ve ever actually been to a Tridentine Mass attended primarily by “locals.” And the “inclusive faith community” types wouldn’t be under any compulsion whatsoever to accommodate the desires of the conservatives in their midst. Why would they? What’s the incentive for them? And to think that flaming progressives are just going to start showing up at the local FSSP parish just because it’s the closest thing to them–well, it ain’t happening, I can assure you. They’ll quit the Church first.What do you think made the ghettoization of the Latin Mass necessary in the first place? What do you think drove a stake in the heart of the geographical parish? People choose to drive 140 miles to go to a decent liturgy precisely because there is nothing whatsoever that they can achieve by doing battle with Father McHappyclapper and His Technicolor Dancing Dryads.The effect wouldn’t be at all what you intend, Chad, and I think you underestimate the breadth of the gulf separating people on this issue. When you object to every last detail of the way the liturgy is being performed, regardless of where you’re coming from, there’s not much room for discussion with the celebrant.

  • I read way too many blogs, but rarely post. However, I feel compelled to do so now. I love the idea of attending a “neighborhood” parish. I also agree that we must not expect liturgical perfection. With those admissions gladly offered, I unapologetically admit to worshipping at a parish some distance from my house. The reasons are many, but the most important is this simple reality: this concerns the HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS! (Sorry I just yelled.) Grave liturgical abuses aren’t simply matters of taste or preference. It is an affront to Our Lord. It is incumbent upon all Catholics to insist that the REPRESENTATION OF CALVARY be done with the reverence and solemnity it DEMANDS. (Sorry for yelling again.) If you insult my wife, you and I will have problems. Have we grown so soft that I have to say that we will problems if you insult Our Lord in and through HIS liturgy? How sad. My comments are not offered in machismo or bravado, nor am I implying my response would lack charity. I am, however, unwilling to sit in the corner and take the abuses for fear of being labeled a sissy. In short, orthodox Christians of all stripes have are pathetically soft. I say Lewis works well here…”We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful.” A second reason I travel past two Catholic parishes to get to the one in which my family is registered relates to my role as the spiritual head of my family. God has entrusted to me my wife and four children. It is a grave responsibility and one for which I will answer to God someday. I simply will not subject those under my care to what goes on in many parishes. First, and most importantly, it could undermine their faith. Second, it is not healthy to (partially) teach my children the faith through constant explanations of why item #1, #2, #3, and #4 at “St. X” are all either inappropriate, unwise, prohibited, invalid, or illicit.

  • After rereading Father’s post, I would like to again stress this isn’t about personal taste or preference, about the smug knowledge that I know better than everyone else. All I want is an honest effort to celebrate the Mass the way the CHURCH has dictated, through the GIRM, canon law, and the documents of VII. Is that really so much to ask?

  • Problem there is that the vast majority of Masses ARE celebrated in accordance with the Church’s orders. The clown Masses and trees in place of processional crosses are as rare as the perfectly performed Latin Mass. Everyone needs to start recognizing that and work for change through the proper channels and in the right spirit.

  • Doug, you might also be teaching your children: 1. that they know better than the parish priest 2. That they know what’s best for themselves spiritually 3. that personal preference comes before loyalty and duty 4. that its okay to be a cafeteria catholic.

  • Father,I’m sorry to say I think you’ve missed the point. You artfully accuse me of cafeteria Catholicism, yet that is what I am accusing the priest of and what I will not condone. I do not “prefer” altar girls, but the Church permits it. I would never, therefore, make too big of a stink about it. I despise guitars at Mass, but they are apparently permitted, so I wouldn’t make too big of a stink about it. However, when the priest (1)refuses to (ever) recite the Creed despite his obligation to due so under the GIRM because it is “sexist” or (2)literally profanes the Body of Our Lord during the Eucharist in violation of Church teaching, then he is placing himself above the Church.In short, your charge won’t stick. I submit my “preferences” to the teaching of the Church, and I teach my children to do so as well. I only insist that the parish priest do the same.

  • Doug, I can’t comment on individual circumstances, but if there are matters of continued, grave and real abuses, (like omitting creed because it is sexist) and not just preferences, then I personally think you’re correct to monitor and report such real abuses and finally to vote with your feet if you need to.

  • I think Doug brings up some interesting thoughts here. Just where do you draw the line? At what point do you have to say “ENOUGH!” and “go where you’re fed,” as a charismatic friend of mine likes to say. I’m inclined to agree with Fr. Longenecker that we owe duty and loyalty to our territorial parish; I’m just thankful that the worst thing at my parish in Missouri is boring homilies & loud rock-&-roll youth masses. I was tempted to go parish shopping to find a much more traddy parish, but I think it’s good for me to learn to get along with others who don’t share my more conservative (almost monastic) bent. To borrow a 70’s saying, “Bloom Where You’re Planted.” 😉

  • Father, You have given me something to think about. I am currently arguing with you in my head, but I am wondering if it is because I am defensive and need to ponder what you have said.

  • Schultz

    As usual, your comments are spot on. Your story about Fr. Pat reminds me of a local pastor of an ethnically Italian parish. He’s not the most solemn, reverent person. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. He’s known for his quick Masses, although he’s not really rushing things; he just talks fast all the time. He’s known for the same kind of comments Fr. Pat made. While he doesn’t play with the liturgy, he’s also not the most observant in following the proper rubrics. But his parishoners love him and he loves them. The love of God and His Church exude from his very being.And it has been some visiting armchair lay “priest-cop” who has caused trouble for him by alerting the ordinary and this pastor’s superior (he’s a Redemptorist) about his approach to liturgy. There’s nothing wrong or sinful in the way he does things…it’s just a bit cavalier, so to speak. I know I couldn’t go there all the time (the liturgy geek in me would be far too tempted to try to “fix” things) but when we do attend Mass there with my in-laws (their home parish) I appreciate it for what it is…the presence of God manifesting itself in a way that I may not particularly like, but God is still there. As you wrote, it’s a great way to foster some humility and proper vision.

  • Anonymous

    What Catholics must realize is that we are in a liturgical crisis. It runs very deep and all the way to the highest levels of the Vatican. Very few church officials are willing to admit it with the notable exception of the current Pontiff. Most church officials (i.e. Cardinal Arinze) think it is simply a case of isolated liturgical abuses here and there. It is truly much greater than that and because 99% of Protestants don’t know that much about liturgy to begin with — when they convert to Catholicism they can be overwhelmed with all the liturgical confusion. So let me give you a little historical primer:There was a liturgical movement that had begun well before Vatican II which was an effort to rediscover the riches of the liturgy and gregorian chant. It can be traced all the way back to Dom Prosper Gueranger (a benedictine monk in Solesmes) in the 2nd half of the 20th century. Pope St Pius X continued this movement with his reform of the Divine Office and encyclical on Church Music. Pius XI furthered the liturgical movement by instituting in some areas “dialogue” Masses where the congregation would respond in Latin at various points of the Mass. At Vatican II, the liturgy was the first issue discussed and the Fathers of the Council wanted to implement minor changes to the Mass. Such minor changes include vernacular for certain parts of the Mass (namely scripture readings and the collects or prayers of the day) plus potentially paring down a few of the parts of the Mass (such as eliminating the last Gospel of John said at most Masses). The Council Fathers were quick to state the Latin should remain for most parts of the Mass (in particular the Canon or “Eucharistic Prayer”) as well as Gregorian chant should have pride of place. Thus was the Vatican II document Sacrosanctam Concilium approved. Well after the Council Pope Paul VI appointed a liturgical commission that went well beyond what the Council actually called for. Instead of making minor changes and implementing a little bit of the vernacular, they completely “wrote” a new Mass which is what we have today (Novus Ordo Missae promulgated in 1969-70). Many people will tell you the Novus Ordo is same as the liturgy in use before the Council…this is wrong. Consider the changes made to liturgy in use before the Council:1) The beginning prayers (“Judica me”) were eliminated.2) Only 17% of the collects/post communion prayers were kept from the old liturgy. 83% of the ancient prayers (some of which were over a thousand years old) were either eliminated or re-written.3)Three new “Eucharistic prayers” were added as an “option”. Before the Novus Ordo, the Roman Canon was the only Eucharistic prayer in the history of the liturgy.4) The beautiful Offertory prayers of the old liturgy were completely replaced by an old Jewish prayer (“…fruit of the vine and work of human hands..etc.”)5) The consecration prayer was changed so that “the mystery of faith” part was moved to another location in the Mass6)Other prayers in the old liturgy were eliminated as well (including the Last Gospel)7) The scripture readings of the old liturgy were completely scrapped in favor of a new “3-year cycle of readings.”8) The priest is given a lot more options in the Novus Ordo — including making introductory remarks after the beginning of Mass.Needless to say that what followed after the promulgation of the Novus Ordo was the wholesale abandonment of Latin and Gregorian chant. 99% of priests today know very little latin and have had almost no exposure to Gregorian chant. The point of all this is to say the liturgical problems run a lot deeper than the occasional abuse.Greg

  • I left the seminary after my first year of theology and returned two years later. When I came back my old classmates were naturally curuious about my reasons. Without any forethought, I found that my first answer was (with tongue only slightly in cheek): “Because if I don’t become a priest, I’ll have to stop going to Mass!”I have lived in many places across the United States, and in most of those of those places, I have found the celebration of the sacred liturgy in far too many parishes to be not simply sloppy or uninspiring but death dealing. It is little wonder that between 75 to 90% of the Catholic people in the First World no longer go to Mass regularly. Why should they? If the reality on the ground puts the lie to the Faith we confess, we should expect the people to walk away sad.I’m afraid that I must gently disagree with my friend and colleague Fr. Dwight. I share his conviction that living and worshipping in one’s own parish ought to the norm of Catholic life, but we do not live in normal times and many norms do not, therefore, apply for now. The baptized have a right to the Gospel proclaimed and the Sacraments celebrated exactly as the Church intends, and if the local parish does not provide those things, then not only may they seek another home, I suggest that they must…especially when children are involved.What I am describing, of course, does not include simple matters of taste, personality, and preference, and if that is all at stake, then Fr. Dwight is correct. But I do not need to be convinced that far more than those things are at stake in many places, so I have no hesitation in giving to the perplexed lay faithful the same counsel given by Gandalf to the Fellowship of the Ring:FLY, YOU FOOLS!That’s what this fool would do.

  • I currently attend a church where I am not a fan of the liturgy. We prayed long and hard about switching parishes, but God is there – in spite of the problems. We are staying put. Maybe we can have a positive influence. Maybe God wants to teach us humility. I don’t know – but he clearly called us to stay.

  • I’m grateful for Greg/Anonymous’ quick outline of liturgical development, but we have to ask not, “Do we like what the fathers of the Second Vatican Council did, but do we believe they had the authority to make such changes under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” If we answer ‘no’ then we’d better find another church. If we answer ‘yes’ then we’d better find a way to appreciate and continue to improve the Novus Ordo.

  • Sometimes, when we cannot find joy in God’s presence at our local liturgy, then the lesser of 2 spiritual evils is preferred and Gandalf’s counsel would be the correct one.We’re not all saints and we cannot always see through the liturgical junk to discern God’s presence. Perhaps, in time, some may be able to do so. But if your spiritual health is at risk, then flying would not only be prudent, but necessary.Perhaps Robk’s method, to stay on as leaven in your parish would work too. If you’re alone, then that’s fine. But when kids are involved and the catechesis is fudgy, the you’d better run for the hills. If you’re alone, there’s no problem in getting your spiritual fix in another parish and come back to yours to help out.Fr. D, I understand your story. My elderly parish priest is the one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. He sweeps the Church floors! When not celebrating Mass, he sits with the people. But he kneels from the offertory and throughout until the Great Amen. He’s very reverent when celebrating Mass, genuflecting and purifying the vessels properly and carefully, but messes and ad libs the Eucharistic prayers. He supports women’s ordination but is very understanding and pastoral and has even allowed us to sing the Latin propers. So, in the presence of such a priest, a humble worker in the Lord’s wineyard whose sneakers we can’t untie, what can we do?

  • Yeah, I struggle with all of this. I came back to the Church in the town where I grew up. When I received Reconciliation, I automatically went back to my “home” parish; the priest who confirmed me was still there 23 years later. It was only later that I realized there were two parishes closer geographically. It takes about 15 minutes to get to either of them, compared with the 20 I drive now, so I didn’t think it matters all that much.I have attended Mass at all four local parishes, and I can honestly say I have never seen true liturgical abuses, thanks be to God. My only frustration is that I prefer more traditional music (chant, polyphony, etc) and my parish ranges from middle-of-the-road to uber-contemporary. Even inside of a parish, one can do a lot of “shopping”; I switched from the 6:00pm Sunday mass (where most of my friends attend) with its never-ending drumbeat, to a more serene 12:00noon mass.Both of the priests in my parish are outstanding homilists. Having preached quite a bit myself in the past, I’m a snob on that score.Every parish in town uses battalions of XMHCs, without suitable cause IMHO. My own parish is probably the worst offender in that regard.OTOH, one thing I appreciate about Catholic parish life is that people are not really “territorial” (in a non-geographic sense) about ministries. At my own parish, I sing in the men’s choir and am involved with CRHP. But I go to Reconciliation and sometimes daily Mass downtown, a monthly men’s rosary-and-catechesis group at the university parish, and monthly Secular Franciscan meetings at the other parish.

  • I also have left my beloved home parish of over 36 years because of the unorthodox culture. I am still registered there and still tithe to my home parish but attend another parish nearby which is reverent and solemn. I left the Catholic church for nearly 15 years due being poorly catechized (sp) I cannot risk my childrens souls becuase our priest wants to be a standup comedian.

  • Anonymous

    Father Dwight,The question is not whether we like what Sacrosanctam Concilium said…the question is “Is the Novus Ordo really what was called for by the Council Fathers or is it far beyond what was prescribed?”Certainly the complete loss of Latin & Gregorian chant was not prescribed by the Council Fathers. Neither were the awful translations. Neither were altar girls, Communion in the hand or Mass facing the people. But, was a whole new Rite of Mass what the Council Fathers really asked for? Has it really been “for the benefit of the faithful” as the Council called for?Greg

  • Father,My parish priest some years ago told me two things; “it’s called the ‘General’ Instruction, not the ‘exact’ instruction;” and to “pick your battles carefully.” May God bless him, an orthodox and tireless man who has given so much and taken so much abuse. While I do not comprehend why any faithful priest would not desire to fulfill in strict justice what is due to the faithful in the worship of God, I understand that this doesn’t happen, and enter into the silent contract of complicity, offering my prayers, and sometimes with tears, for them in return. But at the Cathedral parish I now attend; preaching dissent and rebellion against Holy Mother Church from the pulpit? to cheers? what have we come to?One can certainly identify with Jesus as He wept over Jerusalem; a tremendous lesson, but to have to learn it at mass? From St. Augustine, On the Good of Marriage (de bono conjugali): For marriage is in no place condemned by authority of our Scriptures, but disobedience is in no place acquitted.Obedience is in a certain way the mother of all virtues.I call that obedience, whereby precepts are complied with. and from St. Teresa of Avila, quoted in Divine Intimacy, #101 Venial SinAlways be fearful if you do not feel sorry for the faults you commit, for even venial sin ought to fill you with sorrow to the very depths of your soul…. For the love of God, take care not to commit any deliberate venial sin, even the smallest… And can anything be small if it offends God? (Way 41).If these things are little, then why is it so hard to do? (rhetorical question)Thank you, Father, and by proxy all priests, for your gift of yourself to Jesus Christ through the ministry of the priesthood, without which there would be no Church. May we all grow in union with our Lord who is our Way and our final end.To Father Newman, I would add, there is nowhere for this fool to fly… God bless,Mark (former Episcopalian)

  • Dear Mark,All roads lead to Greenville! Come on down and join the parade.But if moving to SC is not a realistic option, do what you can to make marginal improvements where you are, and perhaps you can take advantage of other places when you’re on the road.

  • Anonymous

    It’s awfully easy (and smug) to tell other people to just go to whatever Mass is closest to them when you’re in a position to celebrate Mass any way you’d like, Father. I’m frankly stunned by your suggestion that the laity have no idea what’s good for them, and should just open wide and swallow whatever is fed to them, no matter how offensive and debased, lest they be labeled “cafeteria Catholics.”I’ve thought many times of moving to Greenville precisely because of the high reputation of the state of the Church there (I grew up in SC). Question: Does that make me a cafeteria Catholic, in your opinion? It’s a serious question. Because my understanding of that phrase has always been that it refers to a person who picks and chooses doctrines. Now you say the same thing applies to people choosing between parishes. Radical Traditionalists of various stripes have been saying for years that the Novus Ordo Mass professes a different faith from that of our Fathers. By suggesting that a choice between liturgies, or even parishes, is a choice between Catholicisms, you seem to concede the point.But I doubt that’s what you mean to say. What I think you mean to say is something more like, “eat your spinach.” Again, it’s an easy thing to say when you’re the one holding the spoon.

  • Dear Anonymous,Up above I gently disagreed with Fr. Dwight; now let me presume to speak in his defense. I can see how your reading of his original post might lead you to conclude that it all comes to nothing more than “pay, pray, and obey”, but in truth, that was not Fr. Dwight’s point. He was making a case for an older wisdom which tells us not to seek solace only in the things which please us….that too easily becomes just another form of solipcism. And there is a legitimate sense in which Catholics ought to belong to the parish in which they live. Then I added my own counsel that this is true, unless the parish in which they live is a place which will poison their soul. These are difficult times for faithful Christians everywhere, and it is to be expected that our nerves get frayed in the battle. But we must never allow that agitation to deprive of us of the joy found in the one thing necessary. Finally, the next time you’re in SC, stop at St. Mary’s for Mass and find a little rest for your soul.

  • Anonymous

    I hear your point, Fr. Newman, but when pejoratives as powerfully loaded as “cafeteria Catholic” start getting hurled about, the gloves have truly come off. I’m not a heretic because I seek out the Old Rite, whatever Fr. Dwight may say. And I’m not infected with spiritual pride because I refuse to attend a parish with tamborines, girl altar servers in sandals, photographs from the Third World in place of the stations, no crucifix (or even tabernacle) in sight, insanely goofy introductory commentary, heterodox literature for sale, and all the rest of it. That was the case when I was in Indiana. During football season, they didn’t even have confession “on game days.” Needless to say, I elected to register elsewhere.I, and many others at my parish there, made enormous personal and financial sacrifices to attend the Tridentine Mass in Indianapolis (many of us drove more than an hour to get there). It just so happened that one couple there had been forced to leave Greenville, SC because of a layoff. (Small world, huh?) They suffered every kind of hardship imaginable in search of a job that placed them near a parish with a solid homeschooling community, good liturgy, orthodox pastor, and so on. They finally landed with us in Indianapolis, the first place they were able to find work within a hundred miles of a brick of incense. The sacrifices that man and woman have made for the spiritual health of their children literally shame me in my gluttony.Those are no cafeteria Catholics. And as to what their children are learning, well, contra Fr. Dwight, those children are NOT being taught spiritual pride or disdain for the authority of the Church. The unique spiritual nourishment they are recieving by being immersed in the Traditions of the Faith cannot be overstated. The subtle Chestertonian mental handstand required to pull off Fr. Dwight’s little exercise is beyond the ken of any child–they learn by what they see the adults doing, period. Having no opinion on what constitutes good or bad liturgy, they will be incapable of responding to hand-clapping absurdities with an increase in humility. Surely I’m not oversimplifying this?

  • You will see from my comment to Doug above, that in my opinion, when the abuses are doctrinal in nature and beyond bearing for the good of one’s soul and one’s family we are obliged to register our dissent in the proper way and then vote with our feet if need be.In saying that, I admit that I have very limited experience of the Church in the USA. However, in my post in the UK for seven years I visited a different parish every weekend. I have to honestly say that I was only in one parish where I thought the abuses were intolerable. The other parishes may have had awful music, sloppy liturgy from time to time, but the vast majority were very ordinary, with the Mass said simply and without ornament or abuse. While the liturgy was not splendid, neither was it a Halloween Mass.

  • “You know, it might actually do you some good to attend a church where the liturgy is awful.”Seriously Father. This is some really bad pastoral advice based upon flawed theology.The people have a right to have Mass celebrated according to the mind of the Church. In the Traditional rite, it is obvious to all what this means.In the Novus Ordo rite, I don’t think there is a consensus among even “the reform of the reformers.”One does not go to Mass to offer up liturgy that mocks God. That is called sacrilege.

  • Anonymous

    Fr Dwight, I’m with you on this one. I am not very limited in my experience of the RCC Mass in this country. There are highs & lows just like there are in any big family. The point is, you don’t leave your fam & go find one that suites you better. You stay & trust & hope & cry & pray & sooner or later, God triumphs in the situation. I am speaking from 40 years of experience…in my personal family & in my Church family. When there is such a knee-jerk response from some segments in response to this, it makes me think the ‘issue is not the issue’. Thank you for your thoughtful blog!

  • So the moral of the story is to shut up, pay up and put up with your parish priest no matter what? Sorry, I can’t go for that. I’d rather be a Cafeteria Catholic than none at all which is what I’d be now if I’d stayed in my geographic parish.

  • Dymphna, if you find this difficult, maybe that is exactly what you should do. In the spiritual life why go the way of least resistance?But if you read my other comments, blind obedience forever is not what I’m advocating. I think there is room for proper dissent, respectful dialogue and working from within a position of loyalty to change things. Sometimes, if there is real heresy and the situation is totally intolerable you have to vote with your feet.

  • Exhortation If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.If today you hear Gregorian chant, harden not your hearts.If today you hear drums at mass, harden not your hearts.If today you hear traditional lyrics that seem today to be politically incorrect, harden not your hearts.If today you hear changed lyrics that seem to forsake tradition in the name of political correctness, harden not your hearts.If today something at mass distracts or even annoys you, harden not your hearts.Harden not your hearts, for none of these things have the power to bring about or take away what makes us Catholic, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart. The center of our faith is the Holy Eucharist, which cannot be put asunder by relatively peripheral elements in the sacrifice of the mass.The genius of the Sacred Liturgy is not so much found in its verbal eloquence, rich musical tradition, long standing rubrics and norms of various rituals, but in its ability to gather a people to God in any and every age so that from east to west a perfect offering made be made to the glory of His name, through Jesus, our Savior.Like life itself, our own offering at mass is never perfect, never sufficient for obtaining salvation. Choices are made and our “selfs” often get in the way. It would all simply add up to futility, if it weren’t for the Cross of Calvary. Jesus perfects our offering with His sacrificed body and blood.Mass is a foretaste of Heaven. It is also a work of the people. Thanks be to God that the perfection of mass is not subject to our different tastes and dispositions! We are all united even when we are divided! What ultimately matters is what is in our hearts.So, if today you are a sinner among other sinners coming into Gods presence for sanctification and salvation, please, harden not your hearts.Peace be with you.