Is the Liturgy Really That Bad?

Is the Liturgy Really That Bad? January 16, 2015
Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Uploaded by Michael 1952.
Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Uploaded by Michael 1952.

We’ve recently had a dust-up here on Public Catholic because I had the temerity to (1) disagree rather strongly with Cardinal Burke, and (2) come out in support of altar girls.

You would think that I had  barbecued a kitten.

I deleted a ton of hate-women comments in the course of this discussion. I also deleted another ton of hate-Rebecca comments. According to a good number of commenters, I’ve got myself a ticket to a first-class seat in that proverbial hand bucket headed to hell, all because I think we should have altar girls.

I had to delete that claptrap. If I had let it through, any self-respecting woman would have walked away wondering why she, or any other female person, would want to be part of the Catholic Church. At the same time, someone who didn’t actually go to mass on a regular basis might think that we’re running a carny show, complete with clown suits and balloons, behind the altars of our churches.

Of course, both assumptions would be off the mark. I’m going to set aside the woman question for a moment. That will give time for all those folks who dislike the fair sex so very much to draw a breath and gather themselves for the next attack.

I am instead going to stick my head into the liturgy hay bailer.

My question is simply this: Is the liturgy really that bad?

I mean, I go to mass on a regular basis and Jesus Christ the Lord is there every single time. You can count on it. He is there.

I remember wandering back into the sanctuary after Holy Thursday service one Tridium;  after we’d stripped the altar, removed the Host and doused the flame. The difference was stark. That sanctuary, which had always held a warm Presence every time I entered it, had been transformed into an empty, echoey room. There was no Jesus in that place, and the lack thereof was palpable.

So now we have a Cardinal, a prince of the Church, telling us that the liturgy is all messed up and driving men away from the Church because it has been “feminized.” Evidently, there are a lot of people out there who agree with him.

Public Catholic was deluged with angry commenters, swooping in to announce that the liturgy at our masses — the same liturgy that soothes my soul and brings me in direct contact with my Lord — is straight from the infernal regions. It makes me wonder if they and I are members of the same Catholic Church.

As I’ve already said, and will be happy to say again at any time, I think the Cardinal is playing the blame game. I think that for a Catholic Cardinal to blame anything about the liturgy on women, is, well, almost comical. He is the cardinal. If there is a problem with the liturgy, it’s his responsibility, not that of the womenfolk who sit at the back of the hierarchical bus.

Now, I’m going to take on those poor sad Catholics who seem to live to criticize our Church and its liturgy. As I said, I go to mass on a regular basis. I’ve also gone to mass in a number of places. I’ve never attended mass on the East Coast of the United States, so maybe that’s where the priests in clown suits and tap-dancing altar servers show up to do their do. I don’t know.

All I know is that I’ve never seen it. I have gone to mass in (gasp!) San Francisco, and (another gasp!) Seattle. What I encountered there was the same mass — about half of whose attendees were male, btw — that I saw at various points around the globe, as well as here in God’s country, otherwise known as Oklahoma.

Every mass has had some sort of fumble or titter from the pews. Sometimes a cell phone rings and is then hastily silenced. Babies cry, babies crow, little old ladies belch, the priest gets the words slightly wrong, or the altar server stumbles. I’ve seen people drop the Host and people keel over in a faint and priests trip.

I’ve seen priests who couldn’t stand, sit throughout their homilies and then totter to the altar and, ever so shakily, consecrate the Host and barely lift it up.

I’ve heard applause, and seen people hold hands during the Our Father, and other people get all sniffy about holding hands during the Our Father and transsexuals looking downright odd in their wigs and lipstick and truck driver arms and tattoos. I’ve seen women in saris and men in golfing shorts, and knelt in pews beside folks who needed a bath. I’ve heard mass in Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and English. I’ve attended quick daily masses that took about 20 minutes, and full-on masses that lasted for an hour and a half or more.

Every liturgy I ever attended was unworthy of Christ the Lord. I know that every liturgy I ever attend will be unworthy of Him, as well. What I have never seen, not once, was a liturgy that was unworthy of me.

I’ve attended mass in living rooms, hotel basements, and once, on a mountaintop with the ocean spread in a 360 degree arc at its base. Every place I’ve gone, every mass I attended, I encountered Christ the Lord.

I didn’t encounter a Django Jesus, standing beside the altar with a baseball bat, ready to smack down the unworthies who try to approach Him. The Jesus I meet in the Eucharist of every Catholic mass is the Good Shepherd, the Jesus of the Cross, Who lays down His life for His sheep.

I have never walked away from the Eucharist feeling condemned. In fact, that encounter with Christ washes away the self-condemnation I so often bring with me when I approach it. I reach out and touch the living Christ, hiding in a wafer, and I walk away feeling accepted and loved.

Considering what sinful people we all are, I don’t see how anyone can approach God with hearts seething with condemnation of the people around them. Do these folks really go to mass and sit there, pick, pick, picking away at the priest, the liturgy, the music?

That is a horrible thought to me. Do you folks of the liturgy cops really, truly enter the Presence of the Lord with hearts full of rage and condemnation?

Don’t you know that you can not enter into the Presence of the Lord that way?

That, and not whether or not people hold hands during the Our Father, or the mass is in Latin or English, or if the people around you are properly reverent, is what can separate you from God.

I feel sorry for these people who spend all their time gnashing their teeth and getting all lathered up over what they see as the terrible liturgy. They are not only missing their blessing, they are taking their blessing and throwing it back into Jesus’ face.

I thank God that we have priests who bring us Jesus at every mass, who consent to be conduits of grace. I have no desire to pick at them over how high they lift the chalice, if they allow applause and whether or not they pray the liturgy with the “proper” amount of gravitas.

I don’t go to mass to find fault. I go to find Jesus.

The truth of life is that no matter what the situation, the occasion, or the event, if you want to sit back and find fault with it, you always can. If you want to go to mass and sit there, ready to carp and complain and pick away at the seams of the thing, you can do it. But if you do that, Jesus Christ will pass right by you and you won’t see Him.

On the other hand, if you go to mass to find Jesus, you will find Him. Because He is there.

My question is this: If Christ the Lord deigns to come to these imperfect masses and give Himself away to the even more imperfect people who worship there, then who are we to criticize?

If the mass and the liturgy are good enough for Jesus to be there, if we, with all our imperfections, are good enough for Him to love us and share Himself with us, then what’s our complaint?

I go to mass to find Jesus, and — this is the miracle — I find Him.

Every mass is a miracle. It is not a miracle of silk, lace and candles. It is a miracle wrought in suffering and blood.

Before we get too worked up about the particulars of the mass, we need to remember that Our Lord uses the most common things to do His work. He began with spit and dirt.

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142 responses to “Is the Liturgy Really That Bad?”

  1. For the most part, I agree. Jesus is there and smiles at our mistakes. You made me wonder what the apostles smelled like! However, if we continue to excuse mistakes, to the point where no one knows (or cares) how it is designed carefully, each prayer, to move forward to the goal of meeting Christ as purely as we can, then I say we risk grave danger in losing Catholicism altogether. The harshest degree would be to compare what conservative Islamist hold their true faith to be, with what radical jihadist hope their true faith to be. We need to know WHAT IS TRUE for us all to come together. I believe much of what divides Catholics have been artificially introduced to divide us. May God, and leaders, church militants, etc pray our way back to truth & Unity. What good we could do if we use our energies toward true good. But then, there come the problems…

  2. Rebecca, I don’t agree with a lot of what you write, but I want you to know that I do appreciate this post. It’s a fantastic sentiment, and you’ve presented it well. Thank you sincerely for that.

  3. I think the difference is in that you know Christ is there. I’m not sure everyone else does… at least, they don’t seem to acknowledge it through actions like bowing, genuflecting, etc. The problem with an irreverent, loosey-goosey liturgy is that it doesn’t convey the sense that Christ is there in a very special way. The liturgy is supposed to give us a sense of the sacred and inspire awe. Much of the time, though, it seems like we’re going through the motions and doing the minimum. That may be enough for some, but others may need a little more help and inspiration.

    • I’m going to paraphrase Jesus here: It’s not what we perceive in other people’s hearts that defiles us. It’s what’s in our own hearts.

      I’m not advocating irreverent liturgy. Far from it. Going to mass and concentrating on the flaws of the liturgy is the height of irreverence. When you go to mass, you are coming before the Lord, naked and just as you are. Think on that while you’re there.

  4. But can’t we also long for a sacred and reverent liturgy? Can’t we know that Jesus is always there, and ALSO be sick to death of silly and just plain awful hymns and crave some good sacred music at Mass? Can’t we appreciate the miracle of the Eucharist and ALSO crave some sacred silence in the church and be sick to death of the constant chatter and cafeteria atmosphere? There are valid criticisms of our liturgies. That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the miracle.of it. I think it means we recognize that it ought to be so much better because a miracle is taking place.

    • FWIW, I wouldn’t like it if there was constant chatter in the sanctuary Jennifer. That would seem disrespectful to me. I guess I’m fortunate not to have encountered this.

      • You are very fortunate indeed. My spirit longs for a holy hush when I walk into church, and it’s never there. Never. People act the way they would act in the food court at the mall. It’s all the more challenging as a parent to teach my children why they must be quiet and reverent when most of the people around them are not. The effects of bad liturgy are far-reaching.

        And for me, music is a huge part of worship, and a hugely important part of ushering in the sacred. So I crave hymns that actually worship the Holy God, and not songs that are all about us. I crave good music. I don’t think that’s asking too much. Is it?

        • Music? I think that’s often a matter of taste. I think I remember that Pope Benedict encouraged the use of Gregorian Chant. That’s beautiful, but it may be too obscure for most people. We had a priest a few years ago who used the same hymns every week. It didn’t bother me. They were good hymns, but it’s nice to have more variety, too. Now we have a priest who goes more for gospel-type hymns. Another might be inclined toward something else entirely.

          That’s why I load my iPhone down with Christian music that moves me. Even then, sometimes one song just says exactly what I need, another time, not so much. I have Gregorian chants and good ole Bach on there, right alongside Selah and Jars of Clay.

          My parish can’t match my mood and needs the way my own personal iPhone can.

          I don’t know what type of music your parish has, but I think the important thing when you go to mass is to focus on Jesus. For a lot of people, they only do that for one hour a week, so that hour is very precious.

          If the music jars your soul to the point that you can’t do that, you might consider a different parish, if one is close enough. If that’s not workable, pray for the grace to let Him reach through what disturbs you and love you to peace. Don’t let the little things come between you and your blessing.

          That’s all He wants; just to love us. Being a Catholic is as simple as crawling up in your Daddy’s lap and putting your head on His shoulder. It really is.

          • Amen to that. I know it is true. It is a challenge for me, though, because music is such a big deal to me personally. I would rather have silence than the insipid songs they sing. Our hymns should be about HIM, not about us. But I won’t keep beating a dead horse. I know it’s not the point of the Mass, and it’s not anything that prevents me or anyone else from encountering Jesus in the sacrament. I am still literally fed – Bread from heaven. Everything else fades away in the end. Having said that, I still long for a more sacred liturgy and beautiful hymns.

            • Personally, I like more upbeat, fervent music, full of praise and all about Him. If you want to avoid the chatter, stop in to your church for a visit when there’s no other person there. Jesus is present in the flesh and the two of you can have a good one on one without all the noise. It’s the best part of the day.

          • Music? I think that’s often a matter of taste. I think I remember that Pope Benedict encouraged the use of Gregorian Chant. That’s beautiful, but it may be too obscure for most people.

            Didn’t you say it’s not about us? One of the big problems at Novus Ordo is this effort to accommodate people. That’s why prottys are steadily disappearing.

            • What I was trying to say is that the mass is about the Real Presence of Christ, which is given to many. It is the parable of the loaves and fishes, writ universal and absolute. As such, yes, in a way, it is precisely about us, in the same manner that Calvary is about us.

              Jesus didn’t die on a cross because He felt like it was a fun thing to do. He did it for us. Likewise, He didn’t institute the Eucharist in order to create a really big show. He did it for us, for our salvation.

          • Rebecca, music to listen to is a matter of taste. Sometimes I listen to ccm, though I get bored with the general repetitive vapidity of it. I like some old hymns in a more modern setting and I love Gregorian chant and English plainsong.
            But, for mass, there are rubrics and instructions. There are a lot of songs sold by OCP, particularly, that are bad, some heretical, many meant to be sung by one person playing guitar. A lot of them sound like tv jingles, Jeopardy music, Pocahontas, Broadway music, a Kodak commercial, and they are addressed to us, they are not worshipful unless you worship you. We don’t build the City of God, God already did that.
            Music should lead worship but, especially, not get in the way of worship. And, the music, too should follow the rubrics for mass.
            Our parish sang “Let there be peace on earth” Twice this month! It isn’t even Christian and adds nothing. That’s the problem.

  5. I’ve been going to RCIA for a couple of months now and I was relieved to find that the folks I’ve met there and at Mass are nothing like the Catholic Internet Warriors I find in in the comboxes.

    • JohnE, brace yourself. Catholics are a cantankerous lot. There are people who see the Blessed Mother on a smudge on the wall and go anywhere to see a statue or apparition. There are also Catholics who go to mass every week who say abortion is just one thing but will travel miles to march in an anti-war march. There are also lots of Catholics who will tell you, oh, we don’t believe this or that dogma anymore. We have quite a few crazy aunts in the basement, too.
      But, there are lots of faithful Catholics who don’t know too much and just try to live their lives. As somebody said, the Catholic Church is, “here comes everybody.”
      Welcome home.

      • Thanks for the welcome AnneG – just went through the Rite of Welcoming the Candidates this previous Sunday.

        But I’m giving some serious consideration to avoiding comboxes as being a Near Occasion of Sin for me for a while – I don’t know how Ms. Hamilton puts up with it.

    • What exactly is a combox? When I’ve encountered the term before it’s been from rather scary people engaged in an ultimately successful campaign to dethrone Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America. So I’m extremely wary of it.

      • A combox is slang for comments. It refers to on-line comments on a post, such as this one. The box part comes from the box-shape of comments take in the on-line visual.

        You asked your question in a combox.

        • Ack! Ok. Thanks. As a somewhat programmer-type I come from a long line of jargon, so I will try to stop jumping when I see it. So far this is the second time in thousands of comments made in probably hundreds of venues. I’m no happier with it as jargon than when I thought it was something arcane and nasty; but if it comes to pass I shall close my eyes and think of England.

  6. The question isn’t “is the Mass good enough for Jesus to be there”. Obviously every human thing comes short of the glory of God.

    For me, it’s a matter of love.

    If we truly love God, if we truly love His bride, the Church, then we will do everything in our power to honour them both as best as we can.

    Among other things, this means celebrating the Mass in accordance with the Church’s teaching and her liturgical books.

    Maybe it’s different where I live, but I’ve experienced priests who insisted on changing every line of every prayer, priests who paraphrased the Gospel, priests who have changed the order of the rites during the Mass, and those who have skipped huge sections of rites or prayers, presumably for time.

    I’ve been at Masses where the congregation was so confused with what was going on that they didn’t respond at all when they should have. So much for “active participation”.

    Where do you draw the line? There are Masses I’ve attended where I’m sure the consecration was invalid.

    Why, O why can the priests not just follow the instructions and read the texts as written? Do they think they’re smarter and more holy than the combined weight of 2,000 years of liturgical development? Is it pride? What is it?

    Am I just being unreasonable here? I don’t think so. The Church has repeatedly affirmed that the faithful have a right to liturgy done by the book.

    It’s no wonder that the ordinary folks in the pews can be irreverent as well. People learn by example.

    It’s not that I’m trying to find fault here. But the changes and the irreverence I’ve encountered are not only distracting, but they’re heart-breaking.

    • Oh, I feel so sorry for you. The worst I have had to experience is a priest who has a beautiful voice and likes to show it off, and whose homilies are more sales and marketing pep talks than homilies. But I have learnt to deal with this by focusing even more strongly on the Mass rather than on the showman-priest. It helps a great deal.

      • The common experience before Vatican II was for the priest to rattle off chunks of Latin as quickly as humanly possible. Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectu meo, sed tantum dic verbo in sanabitur anima mea (Lord I am not worthy that you should come under the roof of the house of my soul…) should take less than four seconds, for example. :-/

        • And yet it’s still beautiful … I’d love to be in contact with those prayers more often whether said slowly or quickly.

          • I agree. Still, even at nine and ten (perhaps especially then) I was not well served by the liturgy being shown to me as something to rush through, with Ite, missa est! at the end. It was mitigated somewhat because as a soprano/alto in a pretty good parish choir that practiced five or more hours a week I knew that a lot of work went into the whole thing.

    • I’ve seen a lot less of that since the changes in the liturgy were implemented. Perhaps it’s our bishop or perhaps it’s the change in the head of the liturgy here, but even where I’m not overly fond of a change, we are supposed to do it this way and disobedience is not a virtue.

  7. Never had the chance to celebrate a Tridentine Mass, but somehow my soul is screaming to find one. I’m tired of the circus they put in front in the altar and I truly don’t think this is the type of sacrifice offered to GOD. This is Bolivia of course and I’m just a Theology of the Body Explorer, aware and conscious on why man and woman have defined roles in everything, even in Mass celebration.

    • Maybe you can find a Tridentine mass on YouTube. That’s not the same, I know, but it might help you. Also, pray that God will lead you where He wants you to be. He will do that, if you let Him. The key here is to not take so much on yourself. Just trust Jesus, He will send you everything you need to do His will.

  8. “Every liturgy I ever attended was unworthy of Christ the Lord. I know that every liturgy I ever attend will be unworthy of Him, as well. What I have never seen, not once, was a liturgy that was unworthy of me.”

    Well said, Rebecca. Thank you.

  9. Well said. There is another side though. The Liturgy can absolutely be that bad, and unworthy of any person or God, when it ceases to become the liturgy. When the Mass has been altered beyond the point where it is Mass. This is a real problem in some places (I live in New Zealand), though I don’t know how much of a problem it is in the US. Of course that is a problem well beyond whether you like girl altar servers and how often cellphones ring in the pews, or whatever horrid music is cranking from the banjo orchestra (joking).

    I did previously have a bad reaction to these bad situations and became a Liturgy Nazi of Doom, but have now come to the same conclusion – imperfect creatures participating in the perfect liturgy of heaven. As long as the Mass is valid, Christ is there and waiting to be adored.

  10. In the mass heaven opens up to earth and to us. Heaven comes down to earth and earth is pulled up to heaven. I’ve been to masses in lots of places. Some of the poorest, with no walls and a thatched roof, and some great cathedrals and basilicas. Jesus comes to us and we are able to respond to Him there.
    Sometimes it seems that the Latin rite Churches celebrate in a perfunctory, casual, not very reverent manner.
    As Thom Ryng said, I’ve seen priests intentionally change the liturgy, prayers, consecration and confession because they want to.
    I’m not talking about loosing your place, stumbling or accident. I’m talking about intentionally violating rubrics, like telling communicants to take communion themselves from the altar and leaving off the epiclesis.
    So, what’s your problem? Cardinal Burke has probably seen all these things and is reflecting on that.
    Have you ever listened to Joan Chittister? Some of what he is commenting on is intentional and I’ll tell you where it goes.
    Parishioners think it is more important how the church is decorated for Christmas than if you can see and focus on the altar. Both are important. One is more important.
    Some think it is more important that you sing during mass than that you worship. They believe those stupid songs that tell you “We are the Body of Christ,” while ignoring that that is only one part of the Mystery of the Body of Christ. I don’t think they even know.
    Most Catholics who go to mass don’t even know that we believe the consecrated Host is Jesus’ actual Body and the Chalice holds His Blood. They think it is symbolic.
    Maybe that is what Card Burke is complaining about.
    I’m not a Latin mass only person. I like the liturgy in the vernacular.
    Some people are grumblers. Welcome to the family.
    I do, though, trust the Church and know that what She teaches is important and we should listen to our Mother.
    And, we don’t need altar girls.

    • According to St. Paul, Christians are the Body of Christ. Granted, we are not His body in the way the Eucharist is; the Eucharist is His body, blood, soul and divinity and is unlike anything else in this world. It is God completely and fully.

      Also, where do you get your numbers that most Catholics who go to Mass don’t know what we believe about the Eucharist? Gallup did a survey in 2005 at http://www.thearda.com/Archive/Files/Codebooks/GALLUP05_CB.asp that included the subject (question 48), in which almost 2/3 said that a person couldn’t be a good Catholic unless they believe that “in the Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.” The poll included people who call themselves Catholic. Approximately 1/3 of them weren’t members of a parish, so that should give you an idea of whether most of the ones who don’t believe in the Church’s teaching on the matter are actually practicing Catholics rather than cultural Catholics.

      • You are right. St. Paul does say ,”We are the body of Christ.” He also says the Church is Jesus’ Body. Problem is all the songs about the table of the Lord, the meal, we are Church do not teach that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith and that it is Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
        My source is a more recent Pew poll saying that less than half believe. I’ll look it up and post the link. I’ve also encountered parishioners who say that, thus my statement. Usually, I hear Protestants and dissident Catholics like the catechisms in my diocese say that, to specifically exclude the Eucharist.

  11. I think Cardinal Burke was getting at the liberal ‘catholic’ pining for women priests and how altar girls just gives fuel for it and consequently may hinder priest vocations. The whole ‘more power for women’ in the Church is nothing new and has been around since the ‘spirit of Vatican II crowd took it upon themselves to tell us what the Vatican II documents really said. That is what Cardinal Burke is speaking up against just as he led the voice against the liberals at the Synod. The Holy Spirit has put Cardinal Burke in the right place at the right time.

  12. In Scripture we have a glimpse of how they worship in Heaven. Bowing and falling down on their faces, incense, everyone facing the throne…..Shouldn’t we be doing the same?

  13. What goes on in the liturgy is important because it is the primary catechizer of Catholics, and their primary means of spiritual formation (as well as evangelization, according to Fr. George Rutler) for better or worse.

    I agree with the article that it is somewhat pointless to be focused on whether people hold hands or clap at a typical Novus Ordo Mass. The argument over the liturgy has to do with what was done to it (by men, I note, not women) via the liturgical committee led by Archbishop Bugnini in the 1960’s. That is where the committee had carte blanche to alter prayers, drop them, change the rubrics, add new Eucharistic prayers, etc.

    And this they certainly did, with the goal (as has been admitted) of making the Mass more amenable to the committee’s notion of “modern man”, as well as more inducive to ecumenism towards Protestants. This was done to a liturgy whose patrimony stretched back to the time of St. Gregory the Great (not just Trent) and beyond.

    Now people may not care about that, or wish to discuss it. OK. But it is certainly a discussion that has been taking place for decades now. And this is not an argument over the validity of the Novus Ordo.

    Here is a quote from Dietrich von Hildebrand which succinctly lays out one of the main issues:

    “The basic error of most of the innovations is to imagine that the new liturgy brings the holy sacrifice of the mass nearer to the faithful, that shorn of its old rituals the mass now enters into the substance of our lives. For the question is whether we better meet Christ in the mass by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our own pedestrian, workaday world. The innovators would replace holy intimacy with Christ by an unbecoming familiarity. The new liturgy actually threatens to frustrate the confrontation with Christ, for it discourages reverence in the face of mystery, precludes awe, and all but extinguishes a sense of sacredness. What really matters, surely, is not whether the faithful feel at home at mass, but whether they are drawn out of their ordinary lives into the world of Christ-whether their attitude is the response of ultimate reverence: whether they are imbued with the reality of Christ.”

    http://www.catholic-pages.com/mass/hildebrand.asp

    • I would suggest that the Novus Ordo Mass included mystery, sometimes more than the new translation does. For instance, I occasionally pondered how the Father and the Son could be one in Being. What an awesome concept. Now we say consubstantial, which for most Americans is just meaningless gobbledygook and not something that can be pondered. Likewise, many of the new prayers are incomprehensible to the average person. It’s as though the powers that be decided that if we were going to keep the vernacular, we needed to at least make it as incomprehensible as possible to the average listener so that it would serve the same purpose as saying the Mass in Latin; to keep from throwing the pearls of the faith before the swine of the laity. (Perhaps I’m somewhat jaundiced here because I’ve read priestly commentary in Latin, from the 16th century, on how priests should say the Mass to keep the laity from participation, with at least 7 editions in the 16th century alone; a very popular book.)

      There were some excellent changes as well in the new version, for instance, and with your spirit. Since the spirit and the flesh make permanent war with each other within each one of us, praying for the priest’s spirit will hopefully strengthen that part of him so that he can then lead us more faithfully.

      And we meet Jesus wherever we are at Mass; we can’t soar up to Him unless he pulls or pushes us up; without His constant grace we are simply sinners. That’s why I try to go to Mass every day; I really need His strength to make me His.

      • Hi Sue,

        I see your point, but in my post I’m not really addressing the translation changes, only the original alteration of the traditional Latin Mass to the Novus Ordo shortly after Vatican II. The quote from von Hildebrand, for instance, was from the 1960’s.

        Further, we are not disembodied intelligences like the angels who can simply apprehend the awesomeness of what is taking place on the altar without aid. This is why the Church used to take the liturgy, music, art, and architecture so seriously. God can lead us up to Him, yes, but we need to cooperate both individually and corporately, and this is why liturgy is so important.

        God will not simply “push” us into His presence if we as a body do not do our part and help provide a sacred atmosphere in the liturgy. If we do, then certainly, a person who might be distracted can get swept up in beautiful, transcendent liturgy.

        I personally have never had such a sense of participation as when I’ve been at a traditional Latin Mass where the priest, the schola, and the people all sang the parts of the Mass that are appropriate to them.

        Ironically, in this article, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, argues that the traditional Latin Mass fosters more participation among the laity than the Novus Ordo:

        “How the Traditional Latin Mass Fosters More Active Participation than the Ordinary Form”

        http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2014/12/how-traditional-latin-mass-fosters-more.html#.VLqcD9XF89Y

        • Brennan, you might find the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom to be of interest, especially as found in one of the more conservative Orthodox Christian churches. Having gotten accustomed to it, served in a combination of English, Greek, Church Slavonic, I find it as far beyond the Tridentine Mass I grew up with as that liturgy is beyond the shambles that followed it.

          • I’m going to allow this, but with reservations. It is fine to speak highly of the Latin mass, or other legitimate masses. But I’m going to delete comment that attack the Holy Mass of the Catholic Church.

            I also question this obsession with the mass as some sort of performance art that is supposed to deliver an “experience” somewhat like a movie. You aren’t judging wines when you go to mass. You are — or you should be — meeting Christ the Lord Who deigned to speak the vernacular, ate with sinners and said that His Father’s house was a house of prayer. Where is your humility before God?

            • Dear Rebecca,
              Thank you. Your description of the liturgy as performance art, even posed as a hypothetical, makes me feel slightly sick to my stomach. I don’t know where my humility is, it’s among the many things I can’t find with both hands.

              A liturgy is an act of worship, an act of solidarity, an act of sacrifice, and act of Communion with God and each other. It is offered by a family on behalf of each other, in support of their priest, in humility and gratitude and repentance and awe and supplication to their God, in obedience to His command. It is a corporate act of the body of Christ, and it culminates in the partaking by the faithful of the unbloody Sacrifice which the priest has just offered.

              The design of a liturgy is likewise an act of sacrifice offered to God and to that family. It exists to bring that family together so that with one voice they may cry out to their God, singing and shouting Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are filled with Thy glory! Hosannah in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosannah in the highest!

              It is a work of the most exquisite care and skill in design focused on bringing as well as can possibly be done all those individuals in the family into such state that they will be able to make this offering with all the purity and honesty of which they are capable, and put them in the best possible spiritual condition to receive Communion worthily and not unto condemnation, and to depart into the world in a fit state to resist its domination and understanding their faith some tiny fraction better than when they entered.

              Its appeal if any to those outside the Church is of no concern. It is not a tool of evangelism, it is a tool of worship, and should be finely honed to that task; and if it fails in that task then it is a bad liturgy, an unfit tool. That doesn’t mean God is not present when the sacrifice is offered, only that the family has been let down and not given all possible help in making the sacrifice as worthy and salvific as possible for the members of the family.

              Likewise every action of every person present should aim toward making this offering the best possible in the eyes of God, which I reckon means as worthy and salvific as possible for the members of the family including the priest. Failing to do this is missing the mark aimed at; aka sin — against oneself and against all the members of the family. If the priest celebrates perfunctorily or with one eye on his watch, he is not bringing his people outside of time into company with every liturgy ever offered and with the original sacrifice on the Cross. Instead he is chaining himself and them to earthly concerns; he is not hitting what he’s aiming at. And so forth.

              Failing in any of these things by the liturgy itself or the people making the offering doesn’t mean there was no liturgy, or that God was not present, or that He did not accept the sacrifice made to Him. By definition no human offering can truly be worthy in Gods eyes; but He takes the intention and fills it with His grace and makes it worthy.

              But it does absolutely mean that that liturgy, whether by poor design or poor execution, was indeed unworthy of the family it was meant to serve. It has let them down; it should have done better.

          • Hi Dbeierl,

            Well, I have attended an Eastern rite Catholic Mass before as well as Orthodox weddings and baptisms and believe me, if one were more readily available nearby I would love to go. Unfortunately there is not (nor a traditional Latin Mass either).

            However, having attended a traditional Latin Mass where there was a good schola singing Gregorian chant and the priest and the people sang the parts proper to them I am in complete and total disagreement that an Orthodox liturgy like that of St. John Chrysostom is as far above the Tridentine Latin Mass as that liturgy is above the Novus Ordo. I find that absurd.

            Yet, Eastern rites such as you are talking about have my utmost respect and while I could never go Orthodox no matter how bad our liturgy gets I do wish we had listened to the Orthodox who were questioning why we were completely altering our liturgy after Vatican II.

            • Please, let’s not get into an argument about Eastern vs Western rite. Therein lies hurt and harm to the Body. I would have to delete to keep this blog from becoming a source of harm to the faith. Please don’t make me do that. I don’t want to

              • Hi Rebecca,

                Believe me, I have no desire to get into an argument about Eastern and Western rites. As I said, I have the utmost respect for the antiquity and beauty of the Eastern rites and thus I really have no argument at all against them.

            • I may well have exaggerated, and were I to attend such now might easily have a very different opinion. But I have no question of the essential similarity of the two liturgies in their basic attitude toward corporate worship.

      • Sue, here’s an article that shows what happened to the original translation of Novus Ordo and why fixing it makes sense. Basically the original translation was not just poor but cynically removed great chunks of meaning that were in the original text. I think it could have been done more smoothly (eg “being of one essence with the Father” vs “consubstantial with the Father” — but I think “consubstantial” was the word we used before Vatican II and it was taught to children then).
        http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/11/restoring-the-words

      • Sue, every missal when I was a child had English and Latin on facing pages; so there was not an issue of keeping understanding away from the laity. And when the priest intoned (or said) Dominus Vobiscum and we answered Et cum spiritu tuo, we all knew he had said The Lord be with you, and we had answered And with your spirit. The things that your new translation is perhaps clumsily adding are things that everyone had and were abruptly taken from us in 1962. The prayer for each communicant suddenly changed from Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the keeper of our soul in eternal life (Domine nostri, Jesu Christi, custodiat animam meam in vitam aeternam, Amen) to The Body of Christ. Thud. And so on.

        • I’m well aware of what we did long ago. I had one of those missals and read the Latin with the priest, racing him to see which one of us could get through it faster. I didn’t understand a word, but I could tell which one of us won the daily race. (Catholic schools had all their students at Mass every day. ) So the fact that a person is using a Missal is no guarantee that a person is paying attention, and silence is no guarantee of reverence.

          • Of course it’s not a guarantee. But it was there for anyone who wished to understand. I myself think it would be better to be able to hear it in your own language at least part of the time; but that’s as may be.

    • I come from (and live in) a country in which I have never been at a Latin, Old Rite mass, being born well after Vatican II (the option currently exists – I just prefer to attend a different Mass in the parish schedule).

      This is also a country in which in many parishes it is customary and encouraged for the whole Church to kneel throughout communion, my parish has two different times in the week when Eucharistic Adoration. My old parish has daily Eucharistic Adoration for at least a few hours a day. All churches I’ve been to encourage traditional devotions (Rosary, the June prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus) etc. Monthly confession (related to the First Fridays devotion) is quite popular. The problems are more due to an excess of ritual and form than of a lack of it, if I had to guess.

      In many rural areas it is customary to dress up for Church. (The dress code is more relaxed in cities – when a suit is a work uniform, wearing a suit to Mass isn’t much of a unique, special feature I guess).

      At the same time I greatly cherish the fact that I understand every
      sentence said during Mass. Especially as someone brought up in an only semi-Catholic household – I can almost bet I would not have been exposed to extensive use of Latin. It was easier to be at mass when I understood what is happening, without learning an extra language (even though I’m a linguist). I then started picking up Laton as an extra, AFTER I had accepted Catholicism was a good thing.

      Of course you can argue that had I been always exposed to the Latin Mass I would have found it more profound. I cannot argue with a hypothetical. But if the liturgy is both the illness and the cure, the ultimate problem and the ultimate solution, why were there lukewarm Catholics in Latin-Mass-celebrating Christendom including my own country prior to Vatican II?

      The assertion that “Protestantizing” mass is such a great
      threat strikes me as something Protestant-culture countries are most
      likely to worry about. No one claimed we “Stalinsed” Mass, and yet we had Stalinists, before Vatican II was even a thing. What communists did claim was that the Church was weird, feudal, traditionalist, medieval and altogether not for normal people (the Revolution of the Proletarian Masses being a better choice).

      If the Latin mass is a risk-free solution, why did this happen?

      The country is called Poland.

      • there’s a difference between having the risk free solution and not having it at all. obey, and you don’t have to worry about the alternative

        • > obey, and you don’t have to worry about the alternative

          Obedience is to the Church or more specifically to Jesus through the Church, not to a rite of Mass (as long as the Church approves alternatives), to a devotion, to a saint etc. Which is, surprisingly, a very broad thing – the Church has many completely approved devotions, spiritualities and lifestyles.

          And disobedience to the things prescribed by the Church as binding is a bad idea, whether it takes the form contraception, raging, drinking or changing liturgical rubrics when you really should not and do know better.

          That’s my basic point. Did I get it across?

      • Hi Iota,

        First, I certainly don’t want to claim that the Gregorian rite (the traditional Latin Mass) is a “risk-free” solution. It’s not as if a liturgy, no matter how good it is, can strong arm Catholics into being saints, it can just be a real help to them as long as they cooperate with the graces available.

        So it’s not surprising that there were lukewarm Catholics prior to Vatican II. I would note that they seemed to follow the Church’s teachings on things like contraception and Mass attendance much better than today, but I don’t necessarily blame everything on the liturgy.

        I also did not grow up at all with the traditional Latin Mass. From what I’ve heard, in Poland, the new liturgy was celebrated with a lot more reverence than in many other countries, so you are blessed in that.

        The main issue for me is not Latin, I’d attend a Gregorian rite Mass in the vernacular over the Novus Ordo in Latin if I had the choice. Of course there are missals, and most of the Mass is unchanging, so it’s not the case that someone can’t understand the Gregorian rite. But of course good liturgy should instill a sense of mystery and an atmosphere that is sacred, and a liturgical language helps do that.

        As far as “protestantizing” the New Mass goes, I mean to say that the new liturgy was concocted with a view towards ecumenism. And I’m talking about the actual prayers and rubrics that were changed by Archbishop Bugnini’s committee. I mentioned it because there is evidence from the reformers themselves.

        This is a quote regarding Pope Paul VI and the New Mass:

        “The distinguished writer Jean Guitton [who was a close friend of Pope Paul VI], when interviewed on the radio about the biography of Pope Paul VI by Yves Chiron, stated that the Pope had done all in his power to bring the Catholic Mass into conformity with the Protestant meal theory, and after twice repeating the allegation, concluded as follows:

        ‘Paul VI had an ecumenical intention of extinguishing, or at least correcting or diluting, all that was too ‘Catholic’ in the traditional sense of the term in the Mass, and, I repeat, of bringing the Catholic Mass into conformity with the Mass of Calvin.’

        [10]‘…l’intention de Paul VI au sujet de la liturgie, au sujet de ce qu’on appelle vulgairement la messe, c’est de réformer la liturgie catholique de manière à ce qu’elle coincide presque avec la liturgie protestante… Je repète que Paul VI a fait tout ce qu’était en son pouvoir pour rapprocher la messe catholique – au–delà du concile de Trente – de la Cène protestante – aidé par Mgr. Bugnini…Autrement dit, il y a chez Paul VI une intention oecuménique d’effacer, ou du moins de corriger, ou du moins d’assouplir ce qu’il y a de trop ‘catholique’ au sens traditionnel, dans la messe, et de rapprocher la messe catholique, je le repète, de la messe calviniste.’

        Lumière 101/ Radio Courtoisie Sunday, 19th Dec., 1993.

        http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2011/11/roman-rite-old-and-new-vi-new-mass-and.html

        Archbishop Bugnini (the head of the liturgical committee in charge of shaping the New Mass) himself stated the his committee’s task was to remove “everything that could constitute the slightest risk of a stumbling block or a source of displeasure for our Separated Brethren, that is, for the Protestants”.

        L’Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965. (Quoted from “The Banished Heart, Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church” by Geoffrey Hull, p. 7.

        But the evidence for this lies in the reform of the liturgy itself.

        Lastly, since it sounds as though you have the traditional Latin Mass available to you, I hope you take the opportunity to go so at least you can experience it. I’d advise anyone to go at least a few times, because depending on how the New Mass is celebrated, especially in the U.S., going to a traditional Latin Mass can be quite a culture shock and it may take a few times at least to get a bit more used to it.

        God bless.

        • > I would note that they seemed to follow the Church’s teachings on things like
          contraception and Mass attendance much better than today

          Well, contraception wasn’t much of a thing before the pill, so even if the teaching
          wasn’t followed there would be more children and more marriages (sometimes
          unhappy ones). Following something you can’t not follow isn’t particularly praiseworthy.

          The national sins of the Poles (to the extent there are such things) are wrath and drunkenness (to which we admit, in our jokes and history). And so they were before Vatican II (as our saints remonstrated) If you attend Mass every day of obligation, fast from meat on Fridays and kneel when the Blessed Sacrament is carried through the streets (because This is How It’s Done), but wish you neighbour ill or drink yourself under the table on a regular basis, you are not thereby a better Catholic than the one who doesn’t attend but doesn’t hate their neighbour, AFAIK. It’s just a different type of “bad”.

          • Well, I consider avoiding the sin of artificial contraception along with having more children praiseworthy in that it’s sacrificial. Thanks for the information about Poland.

            I agree that there were sinners before Vatican II.

            • > in that it’s sacrificial.

              Only in a state where it IS sacrificial. I have seen marriages that have children they despise – this is not sacrifice in the Christian sense. In other words, it’s not enough.

              I am not suggesting artificial contraception is a good idea. Merely that sin is multifaceted. Therefore, I’m not much of a fan of comparisons to the past or to different contexts in which one isn’t living with the implication that “those were surely better people, because they did/didn’t X”.

              Mostly because that might make people look for solutions that are too simple (if ONLY we bring back the mass, because it helped me it will SURELY make us ALL better Christians; if only people practiced my favourite, not-required devotion, if ONLY…)

              God bless. 🙂

                • It’s not worded well I suppose, but yes – I do know of married couples where either one or both parents seem to despise some or all of their children (I have no idea what telling an adult, average child “You are the worst mistake of my life” is supposed to mean otherwise, to take a lighter example).

                  It’s not very common, but it exists (or unrelated people who don’t know each other lie to me for no reason). I suppose not all of those marriages are sacramental, but in a country where 90% of population is nominally Catholic they are most probably marriages between people who are or used to be Catholic is SOME way. So yes, the Lord’s mercy IS badly needed.

  14. My question is this: If Christ the Lord deigns to come to these imperfect masses and give Himself away to the even more imperfect people who worship there, then who are we to criticize?

    “go and sin no more” ( 500 references )

  15. When the liturgy is conducted in the same manner as attendance at a basketball game, it is, IMHO, irreverent and selfish…but those two things are hailed in our modern society as “good”…Cardinal Burke has always had my firm support and continues to have it.

  16. I love what you have written. It has made think of all the times I was at Mass complaining in my head about the Mass. I will try and stop because you are right it is not the time. Now with that aside. While not in Mass we should all work towards a Church that strives for excellence in Her liturgy.

    Just a side note. I used to hate seeing girl alter servers but now I love them. Because I have come to see them as vocational tool for future religious sisters. If the Church needs anything, besides more priets, is lots of more nuns.

    • Not just future sisters, they are future wives, mothers, teachers, politicians, writers, scientists, etc. The Church is called to convert the world; that means vocations in front of the altar, as well as behind it.

      • Thank you hamiltonr, beautifully said. The Church is called to convert, and vocations are Priest, Nuns, Married or Single…the Church classifies they all as vocations. I love my Catholic Faith, and want to do all I can to participate and make her better. Oh, and I don’t think women should be Priests…and I don’t feel like a second class citizen because of it.

      • You’re being too literal Fred. It’s more spiritual than monkey-see, monkey-do. There’s a person called the Holy Spirit involved in all this.

      • But it should become it. If we start to show the young girls the beauty of Jesus in the Eucharist then maybe thier hearts will be drawn to Him in matrimony. The Church needs more Religious Sisters devoted Jesus and this could be the stepping stone to it.

      • Every mass I’ve attended at a community of religious sisters had women religious serving at the altar for their daily mass in the chapel.

  17. I know many folks who agree with Cardinal Burke and if they were on here would be completely kind and respectful. There is no excuse , biblically or otherwise for the condemnation and judgmentalism I’ve seen from some here.

    I agree with many things the Cardinal has said–not about altar girls–but I do not care for his attitude–while in St. Louis or towards our holy Father.

    We are called to charitably defend our faith not rush to wear millstones.

  18. That day the morning news disclosed the Vatican would permit girls as altar servers, I jumped out of my chair in tears. My daughters were in the first cohort to serve at our parish. I never expected they would be included in the reasons men don’t answer vocations to the priesthood. This is one more poorly worded statement that gives credence to those who claim that Holy Mother Church is misogynistic. I am a woman who is grateful for the Magisterium, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and God’s Holy Scriptures. No more altar girls because the Holy Spirit is leading us in a different direction to sustain the Church, then so be it. But to use inadequate adolescent psychology sounds too much like perpetuating misogyny not complementarity. Jesus lives. It’s up to us to trust Him.

  19. Much to chew on here, and I thank you, Rebecca. I am a transitional deacon studying at an orthodox seminary where the liturgy is reverent and Gregorian chant has “pride of place” as my translation of Sacrosancum Concilium states. The liturgies outside the seminary are at times a splash of severely cold water in the face: lame or downright inappropriate music, participation by the faithful on life support, priests trying to be more hip than fatherly, and the list goes on. Yet Jesus is always here, whatever the scenario, as long as there is valid form and matter. I strive as a priest to be holy and faithful and to celebrate the Mass with sincere reverence and love, whether Ordinary or Extraordinary Form, and will do my utmost to teach and catechize the faithful as to what’s going on during this extraordinary time when heaven and earth meet. I like a lot of contemporary Christian music, as well as Christian metal and alternative, but not at the Mass. I also love the Extraordinary Form, but won’t ram it down peoples’ throats. Gregorian chant is beautiful, but in the highly rural state I’m from, it’s unlikely to be well received, even with adequate catechesis. I could ramble on at length, but I’ll spare the list to just simply say thanks.

  20. The hierarchy of the Church needs to be respected. There is a way to disagree respectfully and a way to disagree in a manner that causes “a dust up”. That fault lies with the author here.

    On the merits of the issues involved, Cardinal Burke was focused on the important but rather narrow issue of the shortage of vocations, and whether or not that shortage is connected to the liturgy. This is a real issue and Cardinal Burke identifies points worth exploring.

    This discussion/rant has gone off in direction of discussing other liturgical errors (I won’t call them abuses, because I think people if properly educated would actually follow the rubrics). I actually find the lack of unity or “communion” if you would that arises from these errors to detract from the Mass. When 20% of the congregation is holding hands during the Our Father for example, it just appears to me that people are out of synch with each other. If everybody follows the rubric, it creates a much greater feeling of community, then when everyone is doing what they think is best.

  21. Very well said, Rebecca! It reminded me so much of what Fr. Richard Rohr said in an America Magazine interview about his book “Eager to Love” this past summer. What he said about the “church” can easily be applied to what you’ve said about the Mass: “Until we regain our trust that the church is really a transformational experience—not just a belonging system, not a belief system—inside of which people can really “cook,” then we’re in a lot of trouble. By and large, I’m not trying to be cynical, but I don’t think it is that right now. I think it’s a belonging system and a belief system, both of which are fine, but you can belong to something all your life and believe doctrines all your life without having a real encounter with the divine.”

    Like you, I always seem to encounter Jesus while at Mass, even though there are things that are not necessarily “right” or to my liking. For example, while I grew up singing Latin and Gregorian Chant in choir and find it to be beautiful and reminiscent of my youth, it is not a language I relate to as an English speaker! I also realize that for some people in the pews such music is totally foreign and they feel lost! Still, my grief at Mass is churned when week after week I am subjected to a homily which was either poorly prepared or not prepared at all! To compensate for the lack of inspiration I read a lot to nourish my spirit and my soul. Sometimes we need to resolve our own needs instead of criticizing.

    • True, some are discombobulated by Latin at first. But as time goes on, you learn to understand it and it, for some odd reason, it enhances the experience rather than detracts from it.

      And after a while, you prefer it.

  22. I’m a “revert,” I was away from the church for far too long. I decided, when I returned, I was going to learn as much as possible about my faith. I am a weekday altar server. The Priest was setting up for mass himself far too often, so I asked to be trained to serve. I’m also an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Oh, I’ve had lots of comments about a woman touching our Lords body, and that I’m driving men away from the Church because it becoming too feminine. What a bunch of bull crap. If the men don’t volunteer, what are we supposed to do? I’ve encountered Jesus at every Mass I attend. If you think the only way Jesus is present at the mass is if only men are on the water, the Mass is said in Latin, and that all the songs were written by some saintly song writer. At my Parish, we have the most wonderful Priests, they are the most humble, holy and intelligent men I’ve ever had the pleasure to worship with. Yet, I’ve talked to a few parishioners who do nothing but complain about the homily, the speed of the Mass or the length of the Mass…you can’t seem to make anyone happy. I never wanted to receive communion from a lay person (extraordinary minister of HC)until I realized it is still Jesus that I am receiving. Don’t get me started about receiving on the tongue or in the hand. I never understood why the tongue was somehow more sacred…especially when you hear some of the stuff that comes out of those very holy sacred mouths as they are walking away from the church.

    • No church really needs any Extraordinary Ministers, at least for Mass. (serving the home bound is another matter) I find them to be a distraction. I sometimes wonder about the ones that insist on being Extraordinary ministers, especially since they are so obviously not needed. Why would you feel the need to get your hands on the host? Do you need to feel special or something? To me it’s just more of the “Hey, look at me” syndrome.

      The ones in our church recently took to wearing large pectoral crosses, so they could appear…what? More holy? That they were really some sort of religious order or something? So we would not confuse them with non-Christians? It is all affectation. Sorry, I realize some really enjoy being special or something but I find the whole thing to be a bizarre distraction, designed to appeal to certain people’s egos, and nothing more.

      In our church, people in the weekday masses tend to line up in the priest’s line for communion, and the poor Eucharistic Minister sits there, with many fewer people in their line. So the priest, in the middle of giving communion, has to sternly waive people over into her line. Again, it’s all a distraction.

      Obviously people don’t particularly like the idea of de-sacralizting the eucharist and letting any old person hand it out as if it were something very ordinary. Letting just anyone handle it just contributes to the general lack of respect for the real presence. It is just one of many of the many banalizations of the mass.

      • It sounds to me like the people who are lining up to receive from the priest instead of the Eucharistic minister are missing the whole point. The priest is not holy. He is a conduit of grace. But he, himself, is just a man. The miracle is Jesus, not the priest.

        As for extraordinary ministers, I thank God for them. They help our priests and allow communion to be given to those of us in the pews.

        Wearing crosses? Since when is it wrong for a Christian to wear a cross?

      • Depends on the design of the Church and the number of ordinary ministers available. By the GIRM, the two mandates are:
        1. Ordinary ministers should be used if they are available
        2. Extraordinary ministers may be used if the Eucharist simply cannot be done within Father’s energy and reasonable time constraints.

        At my admittedly rather liberal parish, which recently got a conservative Canon Lawyer for a pastor, we use between 5 and 14 extraordinary ministers, depending on the Mass, the number of people present, and sadly, if those who signed up for this great honor bother to show up at Mass. But mostly, that’s because of the shape of the Church- if we are to have both bread and wine, we need at least 3 breads and 2 wines to have mere availability to the main section and both transepts. If the Mass is crowded (these days, only Easter and Christmas is it so) then you need two blood and one body in each transept, plus Father and the LA in the main section, plus four more blood in the main section, to keep everything flowing smoothly, and still it is not unusual for serving the Eucharist to take 15 to 20 minutes.

        Of course Father tried to change it, then ended up running up against the next Mass.

      • Get over yourself fred, I don’t know anyone who signed up for Eucharist Minister because I need to feel special. It’s your ego that’s out of control. If you’ve never had the honor of handing someone the Body of Christ, then be careful of your assumptions. I do take Communion to the home bound, that’s why I signed up, but there is a need for Eucharist Minister in my Parish…Oh, and your line about the “poor Eucharistic Minister sits there, with many fewer people in their line” In my Church, everyone realizes they are receiving the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, no matter who hands the host to them. And anyway, just why would handling the host in Church be “general lack of respect for the real presence. It is just one of many of the many banalizations of the mass.” and not so if I handle the host in a nursing home, hospital or sick room? Get over yourself, just maybe all those evil Eucharist
        ministers are in it for Jesus, and not themselves…I know that’s my reason. Everything I do is for God…Jesus…

        • Please don’t attack other commenters personally. Stay on the issues. Fred is a longtime commenter hear, and even though I sometimes disagree with him, I know he has a good heart.

            • Your comments were about him, not your position on Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers. I’m an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister myself. I take communion to the homebound and people in nursing homes.

    • “If the men don’t volunteer, what are we supposed to do?”

      That is completely correct. The way I see it, this entire discussion is 30 years too late. If the men ever return, maybe that will be the time to have this discussion.

      • I agree Theodore, and if the day comes that men volunteer in great numbers, I will sadly give up my ministry. I want men to be involved, my ministry has nothing to do with “I am woman, hear me roar” I love my Faith and will do all I can to participate.

  23. I recommend: Understanding the Mystery of the Mass: Reflections on the Mass by Fr. Matthew Buettner, Josyp Terelya

    Let me say, we have no altar girls at our parish but girls serve as sacristans and in the choir. Both girls and boys serve as lectors at the once a month youth Masses which are not a three ring circus. What makes them a youth Mass is that the youth serve in the various roles usually filled by adults. No child is denied an ability to serve in some capacity at the parish. There is much to do as we have a Catholic school as well. But again, we have no altar girls and no one seems to mind.

    I lived in a diocese thirty five years ago where the liturgy was rather like a circus. One priest in our area had been kicked out of his previous diocese when he drove a VW down the center aisle of church. Our bishop at the time invited him to come to his diocese, as he would fit in perfectly 🙁 I only attended one of his Masses (he filled in for our pastor one Sunday in an emergency). We got up and walked out when in his homily he poked fun at people who followed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on Humanae Vitae. Hmmm…..we left with our four children in tow AND I was eight months pregnant. I wonder if he ever figured out why we left. 😉

    Thankfully, that bishop is long retired and I hope the diocese has gotten better. But I really do not know. We moved, although we loved the state, because could not imagine raising our children in such church craziness. And yes, this diocese is on the East Coast.

  24. In answer to your question, not really. But it depends on what you think is going on. I’m a convert who became a Catholic a long time ago, and I’ve grown and changed as the years have gone by. That’s a good thing.
    When I first became Catholic it was all new to me, and I went along with anything that happened, which was pretty much a disaster, because it was the 80s. Probably I don’t need to explain that very much except to say I’ve seen a whole lot of really peculiar things.
    Then I went into my liturgy cop phase, because of all the weird things I’d seen. But what I didn’t realize then was that I had some assumptions that I was making, and those assumptions were about 95% bogus. I assumed that Catholics were all converted Christians and that when they did weird things, they knew better and were yanking people around. In the years since the height of my liturgy cop phase, I’ve realized that’s not true. Not at all.
    Now, I go to mass to worship. I know that when I’m in mass, I’m in the presence of hundreds of people, about 95% of which are there because a) they have to be, or b) they are in an early stage of the spiritual life and are there for a huge number of reasons. I cannot know what their reasons all are, or why they’re there. And basically, that’s not why I’m in mass anyway, myself. So I’ve gotten very tolerant about the baloney that often goes on in Church, from the bizarre homilies that I sometimes hear to the liturgical hijinks I sometimes see to the gum-chewing I often see. It really doesn’t bother me anymore. What bothers me more is the lack of other services. The Church should be evangelizing these people instead of letting them sit around in that condition, sacramentalized but not evangelized.

    • I went back and checked, and there was nothing wrong with your comment. It was between a couple of really abusive ones. I guess I deleted yours by mistake when I was deleting them. Apologies.

    • JRB, Rebecca doesn’t delete comments that don’t agree with her. I disagree sometimes and she posts anyway. Been reading long enough to know that.

  25. This is so very refreshing to read. As a priest who straddles the years of pre- and post Vatican II, I have found much to love in ALL liturgies, finding my vocation primarily in 40 hours adoration, the witness of true pastors who loved their congregations and a deep sense of Christ present in His Church. My heart aches every time I witness or hear of judgmental comments and attitudes, no matter their source or philosophy or theology. Indeed, I thank Jesus every day that his presence in the Eucharist is never dependent on my personal holiness, but on his mercy.

  26. I have reasons to prefer that alter servers are all boys, but that doesn’t stop me from fully participating in experiencing Jesus at mass. If you went to a church that had all boy alter servers, and you objected, would that make you guilty of all of the feelings you mention in your article?

    I doubt it. And I doubt most people that prefer boy alter servers, or not holding hands during the Our Father, are guilty of those feelings.

    • It’s not the preference Rebecca. I’m talking about the condemnation, rage that verges on hate and self-righteousness that some people exhibit over these things.. We all have preferences, but these people are doing harm to their own souls and to the Church with this behavior.

  27. Rebecca, as you have stated we are very blessed to be in the presence of The Lord. You have focused on the (infinite) intrinsic value of the Mass, but I where I think you are in error is then disregarding the extrinsic value. “While we must always regard its intrinsic value as infinite, since it is the sacrifice of the God-Man Himself, its extrinsic value must necessarily be finite in consequence of the limitations of man. The scope of the so-called “fruits of the Mass” is limited… The greater or less measure of the fruits derived will naturally depend very much on the personal efforts and worthiness, the devotion and fervour of those who celebrate or are present at Mass (Sacrifice of the Mass, Catholic Encyclopaedia).” So yes, Christ has an infinite value at Mass, but the worthiness and dignity in which it is celebrated effects the fruits that, we as finite human beings, have access to. For this reason we should celebrate the Mass as worthily as possible.

    I do not consider myself a liturgy cop, but I am interested in liturgy, i enjoy reading it, and I am of the opinion that we should make the Mass as worthy as we can. “Do you folks of the liturgy cops really, truly enter the Presence of the Lord with hearts full of rage and condemnation?” No. When I attend Mass I do my best to focus on Christ, join the priest in the offering of the Son the Father. And prepare myself to receive him in the Eucharist. But after Mass, sometimes I do think about the liturgy and how we can make it more worthy so we can derive more fruits from it. The fact is, that a priest could say the words of consecration outside of Mass, with the intention of consecrating a host, and it does become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. But that does not make what he has done acceptable.

    Does the liturgy need improving? Well we could look at some of the requests that the Vatican II Fathers (in Sacrosanctum Concilium) wanted for the Mass and see if that is happening, as well as the Missal itself, and Theologians like Cardinal Ratzinger.

    -“The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given “princeps locus” [possession of the first place] in liturgical services.” (SC:116).
    -“The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites (SC 31)”
    -“In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things (SC:120).”
    – The Missal presumes Mass is being said Ad Orientem (e.g., the priest is told to “turn toward the people” at the Orate Fratres (“Pray, brethren…).
    – “The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self- enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is closed in on itself” (Ratzinger, p. 80).

    Sure its not very often these days, in the Americas one would see a clown Mass, but there is certainly room to improve our liturgy, and whats so wrong with that?

    • Brother Francis, most of what you are discussing is inaccessible and unimportant to people who are trying to pay their bills with mcjobs and raise their children in a world where the schools are used to propagandize their kids in favor of gay marriage, abortion, insect-level sex, and, lately, gender confusion. They are struggling to keep their heads above water in a world where Christ Himself is under attack and where, as the poem says, the center does not hold.

      Preaching/teaching confusion about the mass is not only an offense to the teaching authority of the Church, it is an indirect attack on the people in the pews who NEED the mass and who NEED the Church to be the Church.

      I don’t know if you’ve been keeping score Brother Francis, but we’ve been getting our heads handed to us in the culture wars. This totally unnecessary divisiveness and picayune carrying on about the liturgy is harming the Church at a time when she under attack.

      I think that the people who are so obsessed with the liturgy would do well to practice more humility before God. There is an appalling hubris in some of the comments I’ve been reading (and deleting.) I’ve found myself deleting and then stopping to pray for that crazy person’s poor soul.

      They really are missing their blessing. I cannot imagine that some of the commenters I’ve read — and deleted — are encountering the risen Christ anywhere In their lives. They are too full of hate, rage and self-righteousness to have room in their hearts for Him.

      Clergy who are leading people down this path away from Christ in the name of the liturgy need to look at themselves.

      • Brother Francis, I re-read this and I really went off on you. I’m sorry and I apologize. Sometimes, reading a long string of nasty comments gets to me and I take it out on the wrong person. I hope you’ll forgive me.

      • Perhaps you missed the implication of Br. Francis’ statements. If the aperture through which graces flow from the mass are restricted by our lack of humility, focus and reverence, how will we resist, much less combat those forces of darkness you mentioned? Don’t you agree that our collective darkened intellect needs the graces of holy mass celebrated and widely attended with greatest reverence and humility?

        Archbishop Fulton Sheen said it very eloquently when he asserted that we must behave as we believe or we will believe as we behave.

        • I keep saying this: You are making too much of us and what we do and too little of the Lord and what He does. We don’t have to be perfect. We can’t be perfect. We are not capable of being perfect. Scripture tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord.

          We are His children. All we have to do is trust Him and let Him love us. That is what the liturgy and the eucharist are all about.

          We can not be be reverent or humble enough to be acceptable to God. We can’t do it.

          That’s why Jesus died on Calvary; because we couldn’t do it.

          What we need to do — and it appears to be a great challenge to some people — is get over ourselves and TRUST GOD. Just … trust Him. Go to mass, love the Lord and be thankful from the top of your hair to the soles of your feet that He lets you in. Because you — me, all of us — have no right to be there. We are only able to stand before God because He purchased our redemption from our sin at an unimaginably great cost. He paid that price, by the way, not us. Nothing we have, nothing we are, nothing we can do, would have been able to pay it.

          So go to mass, be grateful and trust God. That’s really all you have to do.

          • Sigh. I guess I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I missed your point and lectured you sahale93. I apologize … again. Now, I’m going to take my own advice and consider that maybe I’m too full of myself.

      • I readily agree that we have been having our heads handed to us in the culture wars for a long time now but I’d argue this is precisely why serious arguments about the liturgy are not “picayune.” We live in a McCulture, as you put it about jobs, one that is most of the time focused only on what is temporary, superficial, hedonistic, and hostile to the Catholic Faith.

        Thus it is a great act of charity to people to have a liturgy that helps lift people out of the shallow, noisy culture we wallow in into a supernatural, sacred atmosphere. And it’s not as if we have no idea how this is done, we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.

        And note I am not talking at all about “perfect” liturgy with no mistakes or even one without abuses. You can still have a liturgy where people are in contact with ancient prayers and partake in a sacred atmosphere without it being perfect or abuse free.

        And since the liturgy is the “work of God” and something that has been handed down to us through the centuries it is about what God does in and through the liturgy in order to lift our hearts and minds up to Him.

      • Thank you for your apology below. You have said a lot of important things in your response though regarding the need to win the culture wars. You see my response is, why not both? In fact I think if you want to achieve one, we must achieve the other. According to most pew surveys I read Catholics (and I am talking those who attend Sunday Mass regularly) do not believe what the Christ and His Church teaches. Why is this? Catholics are not taking their faith seriously. And if we are not taking the primary way of worship seriously, why would we take anything else seriously?

        I think it is important that if Catholics are too take their faith serious we need to take the Mass and Eucharist (pillar of the faith) seriously. Catholics need to take liturgy seriously, because liturgy is the primary way we worship God. While the teachings on humane vitae need to be also taken seriously. We do focus on our self to much today and not enough on God. But if our liturgy, the primary way of worship, becomes focused on the self by the manner in which it is carried out, then it looses its focus on God. And in order to become Saints, including living out the moral dimensions of the faith, we need to stay focused on God.

        Indeed as you said, as human beings we are not perfect. You said that “We don’t have to be perfect. We can’t be perfect. We are not capable of being perfect.” But Christ does call us to be perfect. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It is a battle we must strive for every day, for this excuse, when we give up at trying is when we loose the battle. What you have said could be said by a married couple who contracept. “Oh well we are not perfect, we are not capable.” So you see, if we give up on liturgy because its too hard, or because its not worth trying in our fallen state, then how are people going to live out the moral teachings of the Church?

        I am sorry that you have had many comments that you have had to delete because of their content. But please do consider arguments for good liturgy even if there are people are not very charitable in the manner they discuss it. Many people have really faced a very difficult time in promoting dignified liturgy.

        I really recommend (if you have not already) reading Spirit of the Liturgy by Cardinal Ratzinger. He explains why liturgy is important, and how it related to our faith. There is a latin saying that translates as “As we worship, as we believe.” I think this is very true, and improving liturgy will help contribute to resolving many of the moral problems you have mentioned.

        • Thanks Brother Francis. I haven’t read that, but I will say that Pope Benedict’s approach of allowing the Latin mass for those who need/want it, and at the same time, keeping with the mass as it is now for the most part is the right one.

      • Why is reverence for the sacred not accessible to people struggling with the bills? Why can’t poor people have a beautiful and reverent Mass? Why can’t the guy who works two jobs find in the Mass something other than everyday language and music? Why is a beautiful mass for poor people at odds with the struggle in the Culture Wars; why is this not a “both-and” proposition?

        And why are those who call for it–and not those who insist on a more casual mass, always skipping the confiteor, choosing to sing Gather Us In instead of chanting the introit, Father giving a homily like a Tonight Show monologue–in the wrong here? There are at least two sides here with an opinion about the Mass, maybe three or four, all of which can verge on sin in their efforts, and you seem to call for only one to change its behavior!

        • I’m going to say this one. more. time. It is fine to advocate for the kind of mass you want. But do not mock and degrade the Holy Mass that is celebrated in almost all the Catholic Churches in the world. I don’t want to delete comments because of this, but I will if I have to.

          • It is not a mocking or degrading of the Holy Mass to search for language to describe irreverent practices–ones which I sincerely hope aren’t part of the Mass in almost all of the churches in the world! In order to discuss these things we must be able to call them something.

            To ascribe the irreverence to the person attempting to talk about irreverence and not to the thing he’s trying to talk or write about would seem to be a lack of charity. If something is in a degraded state it will sound degraded when it’s described! But the description is not what does the degrading.

            In short: I didn’t mock the Mass, and I don’t understand why you think I mocked the Mass. If you think I mocked the mass, could you please explain how you would describe the same things differently?

    • Well said, Br. Francis King. The liturgy we celebrate should show forth the fact that we are taking part in a profound and sacred mystery, and this also helps people prepare their hearts to receive the graces inherent in such an awesome sacrament.

      Along those lines here is a pertinent quote from Pope St. Pius X in “Tra le Sollecitudini” Instruction on Sacred Music. Notice how he ties this in with the goals of the liturgy as well:

      “1. Sacred music, being a complementary part of the solemn liturgy, participates in the general scope of the liturgy, which is the glory of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful. It contributes to the decorum and the splendor of the ecclesiastical ceremonies, and since its principal office is to clothe with suitable melody the liturgical text proposed for the understanding of the faithful, its proper aim is to add greater efficacy to the text, in order that through it the faithful may be the more easily moved to devotion and better disposed for the reception of the fruits of grace belonging to the celebration of the most holy mysteries.”

      http://www.adoremus.org/MotuProprio.html

  28. Keep studying The Faith, I hope you come to see where your casual idea of the Mass is incorrect. There is a right and wrong and sometimes the wrong doesn’t jump out and smack us with tambourines or neli pots. Also, forgive me for defending the good Cardinal. He isn’t blaming women for the ills of The Church. This is a good man who loves The Blessed Mother and holds her in very high esteem and she is a woman. This is a good man who is willing to have himself be made a joke by the modern leaning members of The Church because he has spoken a truth against the modern teachings of the past fifty years. Tell me, how many practicing Catholics were there in the world before the 1960’s? How many are there today? By practicing I mean abiding by all the teachings not just those which make us feel good.

    • If I ever start going to mass in order to pick it apart and forget that I am in the presence of Jesus, I hope and pray that someone will tell me that I need to get my head on straight, for I would be in great spiritual peril.

  29. I guess I missed the ruckus. I enjoy the current liturgy. The one time I was at a Latin mass I didn’t find it any more exalting. In fact I didn’t understand half the time. What’s being proposed to improve it? I’ll listen but I don’t see the need. I’m a man, and I haven’t been driven away. What drives people away are boring, run-of-the-mill homilies. What keeps people are inspired homilies.
    And I support alter girls.

  30. Thank you i also have never seen. Those so calld clown masses either in Australia England or Polsh language mass always Jesus is There its sad when folk just. Hate why. Do that. Sad sad

  31. They show up on the left coast too. Loads of very liberal priests in Oregon turn the Mass into a show.

    I go anyway.

    There are Masses at my liberal Catholic Parish in Portland where the only man on the Altar is Father. There are communion services at that same parish, when Father isn’t available, where there isn’t a single man in the building. I once had to pick up donations for a pro-life women’s center on a first Saturday morning, and was startled to find Eucharistic Adoration going on- which I had never heard of- consisting entirely of women over the age of 60.

    So I see the Cardinal’s point somewhat. Men, lay men especially, do not feel welcome in those settings. Sometimes, feminism is destructive.

  32. Note: I delete comments that attack or degrade individual people, Jesus or the Church. I also delete comments that try to claim that any person’s sins are greater than the mercy of Christ and that redemption is unavaiable to some, unworthy, people. For this one post, I am also going to delete comments that attack the teaching authority of the Church, or that attack the Holy Mass by implying that the mass that is celebrated in almost all the Catholic Churches all over the world is somehow or other an insufficient sacrifice. I am a Catholic woman and this is a Catholic blog. That kind of talk leads to schism, and I will not allow this blog to be used as a forum to further attacks on the Church, even when they come from inside it.

  33. People who take offense at non-reverent masses aren’t necessarily there to pick it apart. The offense can be spontaneous. (And to take offense doesn’t make us Pelagian!)

    One man’s sacrilege can create a near occasion of sin for another. We’re not all where you’re at spiritually, Ms. Hamilton, where we can simply ignore liturgical abuse and sacrilegious casualness. Perhaps we should be, but for now the rest of us end up out of the communion line on Sunday and into the confessional the next Saturday every so often because we let an abuse distract us from what Christ does in the mass. And if we’re lucky, we end up going to Mass regularly at a more reverent parish to avoid the near occasion of sin, even if this separates us a bit from parish life.

    Thus reverence at mass wins on yet another level: it avoids creating a near occasion of sin for those more easily upset than you are by the profanation of the sacred.

    • If you are allowing an abuse that you see in the mass drive you from the communion line and into the confessional … well, I’m glad you’re going to confession, but how could you do this to yourself? You are standing right in front of Jesus. How can anything be more important than that?

      • Nothing we can do makes us worthy of Christ. He’s not some pagan idol we have to feed by the ritual. He doesn’t need the Mass, not even the canon, not even the institution, but we need to give ourselves over to Him, and we need to cooperate in the graces we are given.

        This is all over scripture, from the beginning. In Genesis, the difference between the Cainites and the Sethites was that the Sethites gave their best and the Cainites gave God a perfunctory acknowledgement. Abraham would have offered Isaac. Christ teaches to give Caesar the coin bearing Caesar’s image, and to give God what is in God’s image. (That’s us!)

        As was true for the Sethites, for Abraham, for the Jews in the temple: We believe as we do.

        When you get upset about something, is it a conscious decision?

        For most of us it isn’t. The perfect thing to do would be to block it all out–even sacrilege at the Mass–but I’m not perfect.

        None of us are. And this is why reverence at the Mass matters. We believe as we do, so we should be reverent. Sacrilege is upsetting and may lead others (with strong Eucharistic devotion!) to not be disposed to present themselves for Communion, so we should be reverent. And the youth and people considering becoming Christian learn from the Mass, so we should be reverent.

        If we were perfect, we would come in out of our daily lives properly oriented to God, properly disposed for Communion, and nobody would have to be catechized, and the priest could simply say the Words of Institution, and give us Holy Communion, and we would not be eating and drinking judgement on ourselves. And nothing anyone else said or did during this would lead us astray.

        And if we were perfect, we would cooperate in all of the graces God gives us, no matter what.

        But we are not, so we need instruction, and ritual. We need the Confiteor to remind us of why we need Christ. We need the Canon to be reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for us, “this holy victim, this spotless victim,…” We need the Creed to affirm our faith. We need to say “domine non sum dignus” to put ourselves in the proper place.

        And out of charity, in the new rite as well as the old, the Church does this for us as Christ–incarnate, physical, someone who spat and made mud and who had wounds we could touch!–did for the apostles and as the apostles did for the many.

        To be OK with sacrilege at the Mass would be a failure of charity. We’d be OK with giving our fellows–non-Christians, Protestants, the young–a disordered idea of what we believe and what Christ did for us on the Cross. And we’d be leading ourselves down a path of indifferentism and atheism. We believe what we do. “It doesn’t matter if I go to Mass or not.” “All religion is the same.” “The Eucharist is just a symbol.” “Jesus was just a great teacher.” That’s what we’re teaching others and what we’re teaching ourselves if we accept sacrilege in the mass.

        Excess in speaking or writing against sacrilege is sin, but acceptance of sacrilege is sin, too. We believe as we do, and others learn to believe as we do.

        So to answer your question: Why do this to myself? The path is narrow, and I, who am not perfect, am trying to stay on it.

  34. Is the liturgy really that bad?

    In some places it is. I suppose we would have to define “that bad.”

    In some places – more in Europe than over here – I have visited, bad enough that it’s not valid. Note well: It is extremely difficult to stage an invalid Mass, in *any* form, use or rite. All you need is proper form, matter, and intention – which is to say, a properly ordained priest who says the words of consecration (“This is my body” and “This is my blood”) – you can mess up everything else, and that’s very bad, but it’s not an invalid Mass, and the people are still truly receiving Christ. Yet for some reason you can still find priests who feel they must ad lib even this. Not many over here, fewer than there used to be, but they are out there.

    The primary purpose of the Mass is to give glory to God. (Yes, it exists to sanctify us, too, but that is secondary.) Christ can be made present in a Mass full of abuses, banal music, and even heterodox homilies, if it comes to that. But we should hope to do better. We should hope to give God our best.

  35. I strongly remember reading (on the Catholic Answers Forums, if anyone could find it) a story of Eastern Christians during a time of persecution.

    They met in houses, with hidden icons, if that. The Book of the Gospels was whatever they had, and from memory if necessary. They consecrated the Eucharist with pieces of bread and wine made from squeezed raisins.

    Those Divine Liturgies are as equal valid as any that you go down the street at your nearest parish, or Pope Francis at the Sistine Chapel.
    Let’s not complain about something we have to right to even have in the first place.

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