Shallow Definitions of Beauty, The Pope is Not Impressed…

… Beauty and ornamentation are not the same thing. You can have a stunningly beautiful liturgy without a drop of ornamentation. Just ask the Carthusians, Trappists, or other ascetic religious orders.

Yes, I am a visual person and have referred to myself as a Catholic magpie… Oooo, shiny. I need the ornamentation to keep me focused, but not everyone does. And just because a church isn’t Baroque-d out doesn’t mean the liturgy is necessarily “ugly” or less reverent. Also, the Eucharist isn’t any less Jesus because the mass is celebrated in Latin or not. Celebrating mass in Latin doesn’t automatically equal beauty or reverence anymore than not celebrating it in Latin makes the mass irreverent or invalid.

The beauty is in the liturgy and the miracle of the Eucharist.

While the ornamentation directs our attention to the beauty of the liturgy itself, the mass is never less beautiful without it. The key is reverent respect. And I must ask you, naysayers of Pope Francis, in all those videos you watched did you once see the pope celebrate mass irreverently?

Even in this crazy video…

which I watched three times, as an act of penance. Pope Francis retains a reverent demeanor and respect for the holy Eucharist. I mean seriously… watch it. No, watch him. Not the balloons and the clapping and the giant puppets- tune all that out – and just watch him. What do you see? Be honest with yourself, put your cultural & liturgical preferences aside for a moment and just focus on Pope Francis and his demeanor. He’s not participating in the kook buggery around him. He’s focused on one thing and one thing only. The mass.

People have been looking to this video and his preference for liturgical simplicity as proof of the pope’s heterodoxy… as if no one in all the history of the church every mutter a heresy in Latin and Catholicism remained without scandal until 1960.

When I watch this video I see a man who looks like he got ambushed by the liturgy committee or whatever you call the people responsible for organizing those types of large youth masses. Do you really think he picked out the music and crafted those puppets himself? He showed up to celebrate mass and did a fantastically solemn job, given the circumstances, and exhibited patience and respect. But by all means… just see ugly.

The truth is the Church Militant is never going to be without controversy because it’s comprised of men – as in mankind. The only perfect church is the Church Triumphant. Even if liturgical purists got their wish – as if the Church existed solely for their wants and desires – and we got a perfect pope [no such thing] and the novus ordo mass was suddenly declared anathema there’d only be something else… how much incense do you use to measure fidelity to the Church, I wonder.

The Pope only prays 15 decades of the rosary daily instead of twenty? Well, how many decades do you pray daily? Latino Catholics are charismatic and celebrate the mass too exuberantly? Well, get on your knees and thank the sweet Baby Jesus we didn’t get an African Pope. Clearly we aren’t as culturally diverse and accepting as we claim.

Anyway back to beauty and ornamentation. Pat Archbold thinks humble liturgies are like ugly babies. This is what happens when you place too much emphasis on external ornamentation to measure beauty. The fact that he would even think any baby ugly speaks of the shallow definition of beauty that the liturgical purists have.

Ugly baby? Sill made in God’s image.

So the pope likes to keep things simple. That’s is not the same as keeping things simply irreverent. Ornamentation is not beauty. Simple things are beautiful. The beauty of the mass is the liturgy, not the man lace or the language in which it’s celebrated. And there are no ugly babies.

Now, can we all go back to our green beer?

Related Links For You To Consider: To follow every rubric in saying Mass but to ignore the plight of the poor is to tear Christ in two. And this article at Chant Cafe, Is Chant In Danger;

“The new Pope’s emphasis on austerity, humility, and simplicity — underscored by his choice of name and his tendency to eschew material signs of wealth or position — shouldn’t necessarily be a cause for concern.”

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • FuquaySteve

    I have been to some reverent N.O. Masses, but I’ve been to many more jokes of a Mass with the importance shifting from the source and summit of our Catholic Faith to the spreading of man’s peace. I’ve never found that at a Tridentine Mass. You are stretching here – the way of beauty leads to God, not to man and hence we need to become transformed. You can’t be transformed without God’s presence and I’m pretty sure tambourines are not the preferred instruments to summon Him. Bring on the liturgical dancers. I am sure that will work. / sarc off. Please leave those that find beauty in the Latin Mass alone and we’ll be fine. You are not required to go to one, Do not require us to go to the ballet Mass. Fair enough?

    • Katrina Fernandez

      King David liked his tambourine. Just ribbing ya. Listen, I attend a mef here in Charlotte from time to time. I am not unsympathetic to your concerns. And I would probably leave that mass in the first video after the first minute. I agree with you, the way of beauty leads to God… but simplicity is not ugly and ornamentation is not beauty – my point.

    • Iota


      Just thought I would comment on one thing. You say:”I have been to some reverent N.O. Masses, but I’ve been to many more
      jokes of a Mass [...]”

      I’ve seen hundreds of reverent N.O masses, or at least they seemed entirely reverent to me, a liturgically uneducated layman.

      when I say plenty I mean like almost every single one for the last 6-7
      years when I attend Church regularly (I confess to too weak a memory to
      remember the earlier masses very well, but in general I do think the
      balance is that they too were reverent).

      The thing is, I’m not in
      the US. But the next thing is, the Novus Ordo is not a US rite and so
      it’s not like every country around the globe has to have

      (a) entirely identical norms for reverence
      (b) the same liturgical abuses as the US.

      On the whole, (this is not directed at Steve specifically) I’m watching
      this whole low versus high church, “let’s discuss the Pope’s track record on
      liturgy”, thing with a little amusement and a lot of concern… It
      sometimes looks as though the consequences of liturgical abuses that apparently happen in the US (ones I hadn’t even ever considered imaginable, before I started reading the Anglophone Catholic part of the internet.) are kind of hijacking people’s concern for the Church in general, taking up way too much space and attention.

      • Katrina Fernandez

        “…hijacking people’s concern for the Church in general, taking up way too much space and attention.”


  • Molly Kidwell Davenport

    I’m sure there are tons of papers/studies/dissertations/opinions following this line of thinking but . . . how much of this is related to culture, and the passing of time? I realize that the EF represents not straying from the traditions of the Church to Traditionalists, but how much does accepting that it was THE CHURCH that approved the NO and dealing with it also represent accepting the Tradition of the authority of the Magisterium? Was there a time when the EF would’ve been seen as new and non-traditional? I love the EF and love getting to go when I can, but I also see that, barring another council — which I’m not saying I’m opposed to but only that the convening of which would NOT be up to lay people — the celebrating of the EF must be tightly controlled to avoid the risk of people making the truth of the Mass about what it is they want in a Mass, instead of what the Magisterium’s authority tells the people can be a Mass right now — i.e. as stepping dangerously close to the line of thinking that led us to Protestantism in the first place. Benedict obviously loved the EF and made a lot of headway into liturgical reform and I LOATHE liturgical abuse. But that doesn’t mean we have any say in the matter, other than to trust what our current Magisterium says the rules are and report liturgical abuses (not what we THINK are liturgical abuses) as we see them, and that’s it. Ranting, I know, and not making any sense probably but I’m annoyed that we just got a new Pope and I’m reading more about the in-fighting within Catholicism than I am about the joys of having a new Pope! Trust Jesus, therefore trust the Church, therefore trust those in position of apostolic authority, therefore trust the previous popes that appointed the current cardinals, therefore trust the current cardinals, therefore trust the new Pope!

  • Katrina Fernandez

    Cammie, not to pick on ole Pat, who I usually agree with, I know he was writing more in response to Mahony (nffh) but I was just so struck by his reference to humble liturgies being like ugly babies… humble simplicity and babies are never ugly.

    • terentiaj63

      That depends on what is being called “humble.” I live in a diocese that had a bishop and still has many in the diocesan offices who were and are involved in “Call to Action,” Ugly baby is an accurate description of many of the liturgies. Reverence was denigrated openly as not being “horizontal enough, Too vertical,” “Illicit” was considered a compliment. Trite is the best thing that can be said about the music. There was nothing truly humble about it. These types of liturgies are frequently self centered, self serving and agenda driven. I am an RN who worked years in OB. I have seen many less than pretty babies who are, none the less gifts of God, So even ugly liturgies are the Eucharist. The liturgies are still ugly,though.

  • Neal Meyer

    In defense of the Pope during that Liturgy….I know very well that bishops have to go to some terrible liturgies that they would rather not do. I mean, Cardinal Burke, CARDINAL BURKE, has had to celebrate at terrible liturgies, believe me, not of his own choice! But out of humility (Cardinal Burke is a good example of how a man can wear a Cappa Magna and still be humble, of using externals not to aggrandize himself, but the liturgy itself) and pastoral care Cardinal Burke still celebrated the Mass, even though it was terrible on a human level.

    I must say that I disagree with you about liturgy never being ugly, with a great deal of distinctions of course. The liturgy, in so far as it is an act of men, can be ugly. In so far as it is an act of God, it is of incomprehensible beauty. On a human level, that liturgy, aside from the Pope’s actions, was terrible. I think that’s what Pat Archbold was saying, but using clever analogy and hyperbole rather than MY preferred style of debate: Boring and through.

    Is simple liturgy ugly? Not necessarily. A low Mass is very simple, yet beautiful in it’s own way. A simple NO mass is beautiful as well, in it’s own way. The Masses in the videos were terrible, from a human perspective, and not very simple!. Ugly simplicity is ugly, ugly ornamentation is ugly. There is, however, a certain gravitas that aught to come with certain celebrations. Midnight Mass should be more glorious than a weekday feria in OT, and perhaps the concluding Mass of the conclave could have been a bit more embellished. I don’t fault the Pope though, he’s still new, give him time to adjust!

  • sonofbosco

    Found the following over at to back you up.

    “Beauty is not just a part of Christ. Christ IS beauty itself. If anyone can see a man proclaiming Christ — and see people responding to that proclamation — and complain about the lack of beauty, then that person does not know what beauty is. That person only recognizes aesthetics.’

  • Jeanne Chabot-Baril

    I actually really like the African one. It is liturgy that is culturally integrated. And it doesn’t feel “fake” or “put on”. The one in Argentina on the other hand came across more as people trying to make mass into something like a pop music concert. I have been to mass for kids (in a home for street kids) in Paraguay and it was nothing like this. The music was typical of Paraguay, but it was appropriate, and it didn’t feel like a pop music concert or something. Music doesn’t have to always be traditional. It’s not like only medieval composers were capable of composing good music. But mass isn’t a “show” and when you turn it into one, that’s when something is missing. And that thing that is missing the appreciation of the mass for itself.

  • Susan Windley-Daoust

    Damn straight, Kat. Get your Jerome on.

  • Paula

    I have a dream. That the 1054 Schism will end soon. And that as a sign of welcome and good will toward our eastern Orthodox brothers now returned to Rome, the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom will become mandatory for lets say at least 1 year. No more pews, everyone must stand. Chairs only for the old people. Kneeling directly on the hard floor for the Gospel reading and during Epiclesis (30 min at least). Sunday Liturgy may take between 2 hours (minimum) up to 4 hours. Solemn slow chants and lots of incense. Bowing low while you cross yourself. Strict fasting starting with Saturday evening before the Liturgy even if you do not take Communion.
    Kissing the icons and low bows after you enter the church and before you leave etc.
    I bet that after one year of such a regime some people :-) would beg the Mass back. They would not even mind even if it is Novus Ordo.

    • Katrina Fernandez

      I love the divine liturgy and it holds a very dear place in my heart. Have you seen this;,-ecumenical-patriarch-to-attend-pope's-inaugural-Mass-27408.html

      “Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I will attend Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass. The Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Office informed AsiaNews about the decision, noting that this is the first time such an event occurs since the Catholic-Orthodox split in 1054, an important sign for Christian unity.”

      • Paula

        Thank you Kat. I have seen it. I am very excited and hopeful. I am an ex-eastern Orthodox and I attend the Greek-Catholic Liturgy when I am back in my home country. Here I go to a Novus Ordo Mass served reverently by an old Japanese Capuchin. I converted while in Japan and the most difficult thing was to adapt to the Mass and to a church without icons. But God wants me in the Catholic Church so…here I am.

  • Katrina Fernandez

    “Unless the committee/liturgist/music director are dishonest or disobedient, or someone on the archbishop’s staff is too lazy to make a phone call…”

    And since we have no way of confirming this was the case or not we must stop speculating. Without facts it’s just plain ole gossip. I gotta make the call based on what I see with my own eyes, not what I can assume without any proof, and my eyes show me a man making do the most reverent way he can with the circumstances he finds himself. I don’t see him clapping along, dancing around, yukking it up for the crowd etc. So I can’t assume he ‘s ok with it or not.

    • JaneC

      So, you make the call based on what you see, and I’ll make the call based on what I see. You see a man making do with the circumstances in which he finds himself, and I see a man who had the power to object but didn’t.

  • Patrick Archbold

    The ‘humble’ was in quotes for a reason. What Cardinal Mahony refers to as ‘humble’, like some of the horrific liturgies he oversaw, were not truly humble at all. They were ugly babies.

    • Katrina Fernandez

      No ugly babies!

      I know what you were trying to say, it was just one ugly baby quote, oh and the rags quote – are the Pope’s masses now liturgical rags? – that got me. It seemed to perfectly illustrate this idea some cling to that exterior ornamentation is the only form of liturgical beauty and that simple liturgy is in some way bad.

      Don’t mistake me… I love me some man lace & ecclesiastical bling. I just don’t love how orthodoxy and fidelity to the church is being measured by liturgical preferences.

      • Patrick Archbold

        I did not mention or insult the Pope in the rags comment. Certainly not. My tweet ‘Would you dress the bride in rags as a sign of your humility?’ means only that some things deserve to be made as beautiful as you can. Humility is not served by such purposeful dressing down. Agree or disagree, no need to read into it more than is there.

  • Lydia Hart Cubbedge

    I am nodding vigorously in agreement. :) Let me share a fun little story about liturgical ambushing. I was confirmed when I was seventeen in a diocese that had its problems. My CCD teacher was vocal in her support for women priests. The folk mass at the parish used the Rolling Stone’s Evening of the Day as the setting for the Our Father. The pastor was, as far as anyone could tell, a careerist. The associate an orthodox, lovely good priest, who, I think, went in fear and trembling of his pastor and the DRE (also a supporter of women priests). Anyway, the auxiliary bishop who was supposed to confirm us died rather suddenly. He was very popular with the women’s ordination conference, actually, and the DRE was very disappointed when the military auxiliary at the time stepped in. This bishop was very, very orthodox. He walked in our parish and was informed at the last minute about the liturgical dancers with the incense bowls, the twirly ribbony things, the talent show (no joke) before mass started and the wonderfully embarrassing turn and give a Roman salute/blessing to the congregation we were forced to do. That poor bishop calmly and quietly said mass and confirmed me with a very gentle tap on the cheek. His face was one of stoic resignation with hints of “Why me, Lord?”. Sometimes, celebrants are brought in without knowing the shambles they are about to witness. It’s terrible, because people assume the worst about the poor priest. Generally, youth masses and extra-parochial things like that are put together by a liturgist who may be completely insane. The celebrant, particularly is he’s an invited bishop or speaker, has no say in what happens.

    • Teena Blackburn

      Which is why I wonder why the Latin church has these “liturgists” in the first place. It would seem to me a bishop has immediate authority over any parish in his diocese, and does not need to bow to the insanity of such people. If you’re going to have a liturgy committee, it should pick the songs and the flowers. There should be no question about it introducing inappropriate elements into worship. Perhaps the bishop should have said, upon being informed, that he was going home to report such nonsense to the main bishop, and that the sacrament would be administered when the parish started worshiping according to the Roman Rite, as opposed to the Carnival Rite.

  • JohnMt427

    “The fact that he would even think any baby ugly speaks of the shallow definition of beauty”

    Perhaps he should have made a comparison between Swiss Guards and disfigured hunchbacks to get the point across to you ;-)

    Point is: interior dispositions aside, there is an objective standard of beauty (as I’m sure you would agree). And as of late, the beauty of the liturgy is often disfigured under the pretext of simplifying things when in reality it makes it more banal and ugly.

    They’re only expressing their concerns here. Perhaps imprudently. But yes, with the current Holy Father there are some grave and well founded concerns about the future of the Liturgy that go well beyond noble simplicity.

    Anyway, we shall see in the coming days!

  • Jay Anderson


    I’m not sure what to make of your criticism of Pat’s point. It’s basically a point you’ve been making – and much more stridently and outspokenly and colorfully than what Pat has done – for as long as I’ve known you.

    You have your reasons for changing course here, I am sure, but it seems to be based on a misplaced (at least in Pat’s case) sensitivity to anything that might be perceived as criticism of the Holy Father. But I don’t see Pat as doing that, certainly not in his responses to the abominable Mahony. Save your fire in this regard for the folks who really are attacking Pope Francis.

    But, again, given your own colorful and voluminous canon of writing condemning the exact same thing Pat has condemned, I’m finding this criticism of Pat somewhat difficult to swallow.



    • Katrina Fernandez

      I will contend with you, because I try to be as frank and honest on here as I can, my re-consideration [not change] of course is 100% due to criticism directed to the holy father. It is my constant struggle with humility, obedience, and trust.

      If we are to be faithful and trusting Catholics we need to trust the Church and give the poor man a chance.

      I think attacking the Pope for his liturgical simplicity is embarrassing the Church and I am trying to strike a middle ground with my readers… and mostly with myself.

      A lot of what I write is just me trying to figure things out. I cannot process things without putting them in writing in first.

      When I was at my most outspoken, my colorful and voluminous canon you called it, I was at the most miserably spiritual place in my life. I could not attend a single mass without critiquing everything around me. Then I started attending the local mef, and that when I still found things to critique and criticize I knew the problem was liturgical superiority complex.. the problem was me.

      So a lot of my reconsideration on the matter has to do with the that.

      *grammatical error warning: It is very late and I am very tired. Forgive the incoherent nature of this reply. .

  • Diane K

    ROFL at Baby-Bean.

    Yeah, the Pope’s Ars Celebrandi is seriously reverent, especially with regards to the handling of the Eucharist. In that Mass the other day, I was awestruck at how he raised the Body and Blood of Christ during the Elevation, seemingly with some slight difficulty, but persevering to push the Host and the Chalice higher, respectively. It’s seen here in a video-short made by EWTN where they found footage of him discussing the Mass and translated a little. The video switches to that point in the Mass the other day that he lifted the Chalice.

    I saw that balloon Mass. I didn’t like it, it was rather disquieting to me with that action going on up front. I don’t know that future papal Masses will be like that. We will have to see. I’m sure there will be some discussion with him going forward and we may not see those kinds of things happening at his Masses. World Youth Day has been in the works for two years now and with specifications laid out by Benedict XVI. If you see something like that at a WYD Mass then it will likely happen spontaneously. That may have been the case here. We really don’t know if all of that was sprung on him, or if he approved of it before hand. All I know is every picture and video I’ve seen of him during Mass depicts a man who is in love with Our Eucharistic Lord.

  • Diane K

    Incidentally, that Mass from Zambia may be precisely the kind of thing Cardinal Arinze was speaking of when he said that in some nations, especially in part of Africa, dance during worship is ingrained culturally (and he said Americans have no claim on such a thing – LOL). In 1994, there was clarification, and that video seems to be of the nature described here (not a performance, but a manifestation of spiritual joy)

    42. Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by handclapping, rhythmic swaying and dance movements on the part of the participants. Such forms of external expression can have a place in the liturgical actions of these peoples on condition that they are always the expression of true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication, and not simply a performance.


    As one who has listened over and again to the Power of One soundtrack, I actually love that kind of singing and I could sit there listening to them, if it were outside of Mass. I wouldn’t want it in my Mass here in the US, but if I encountered it while traveling in Zambia or Ethiopia, I would err on the side of presuming this could be what is considered allowable in those regions.

  • JoAnn Elder

    My mother used to say: “Simplicity is the essence of elegance.”

  • janet_baker76

    Coming to this discussion late, but just want to say that ten years ago I wrote a similar couple of lines about the use of Latin for the Pittsburgh Catholic, and they paid me for it, but when, like Judas, I tried to take it back, they wouldn’t.
    I changed my mind, though. I see now that I was reflecting values I didn’t really actually believe–that clarity of understanding was the principle key, the best lever, the linchpin, to getting folks to do just about anything, from writing a decent essay to living the life that will get you into heaven. But I don’t think it’s like that anymore. I think I was overly influenced by the Enlightenment–boring people. Because they’re boring, they over-explain things, they explain away the magic, because real change needs a spark and that spark very very often comes from less understanding and more feeling.

    Well, Latin’s like that. Speaking Spanish is a little like that for me, an English speaker, too (I feel like my hair darkens and my eyes turn brown). But Latin is really special. I’ve never lied in it. God likes it. Our special language. Understanding is more fluid, maybe it’s the punch up one gets from having to puzzle over a word before getting it. It does not kill us to veil, in this case the sacred words.

    Regarding Pope Francis–I really like his Palm Sunday sermon today. I love hearing him invite and invite the world to just flat out follow Christ. Yeppers! Now, if he would also invite us to put Christ first in our nations through the brave enactment of civic laws that stop us from killing the unborn and the elderly, that encourage real marriage, like for example Hungary is doing right now (and the Vatican up to this point has not supported), and just this week Liberians, for pete’s sake, went to their government to ask for, ‘Please, a Christian religious state, and here is our petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures.’ To make the kingdom of Christ live again, and for which Vatican II frankly desired to write the epitaph! But I was happy enough with his sermon today.