Thanks to Father Mario and His Thoughts on the Liturgy

Thanks to Father Mario and His Thoughts on the Liturgy January 19, 2010

Posted by Webster 
I got quite a surprise tonight—and a renewed sense of responsibility—when Ferde, James, and I drove through ice and snow to a men’s night at the nearby Carmelite Chapel, in the basement of the North Shore Mall, only to find that the first speaker, the genial Father Mario, had something to say about . . . YIM Catholic! As in, this blog.

In particular, the California-born Carmelite said he had run across this site “providentially” in the past week and proceeded to quote from it at some length. His comments were based on recent posts about the liturgy—this one and particularly this one. Also upon comments by a certain Anglican commenter who goes by EPG. (Watch out, man; hang around these precincts much longer and you’re going to be famous!)

In his prepared comments, and impromptu remarks over coffee and donuts after the meeting, Father Mario had some insights into the questions we’ve been discussing on these posts. Quite simply, he said that the new Roman missal is going to be our missal “until the next Vatican Council”—in other words, until long after you and I are gone. He urged us men, as heads of households, to prepare our families for its reception later this year. And he suggested we read materials on the Web site of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to study the changes in advance.

He showed little patience with the campaign currently being waged by a monsignor in the State of Washington to slow reception of the new missal, implying, though he didn’t say it directly, that the campaign was simply a case of disobedience. Father Mario’s message was, The Holy Father has endorsed this new missal, and our new missal it shall be. Changes are mostly to the Canon of the Mass, that is, to the words said by the celebrant; the laity’s “line changes” are limited.

Warren would have smiled to be there, as would Frank, who wrote me an e-mail earlier this evening that read:

I think this may be an example of the “noise” (changes to the Missal) getting more attention than the “signal” (the truth of Catholic Church teaching).  Some times “noise” lasts an awfully long time. For example, the Jansenist “reform” attempts emanating from the Cistercian Abbey of Port Royal lasted from the 1640’s until 1790. Over 150 years of “noise.”  Blaise Pascal was associated with this monastery and this movement before he died in 1662. But the “signal” has stayed true as was promised by Our Lord. 

Ferde, whose e-mail sign-off reads “If the Catholic Church teaches it, it must be right,” was grinning from ear to ear, throughout coffee and donuts.

The Carmelite men’s meeting usually includes two talks, or meditations, and the second tonight provided a perfect counterpoint to Father Mario’s thoughts about the new missal. Father Herb discussed a book about Catholics in the Dachau extermination camp who had to resort to extreme subterfuge to receive communion from the few priests who were present. The host was sometimes consecrated, then carried by a priest for hours or even days before it could be passed secretly to a communicant.

When we understand that the point of the Mass is to come into the presence of Our Lord, and to Adore Him, why exactly do a few changes of wording matter?

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  • That must have been a funny feeling, to hear your own words coming back to you. How neat!

  • James

    Thanks for providing the link. In reading the examples of the changes in the responses of the Laity in the new missal the translation of which Fr. Mario spoke are evident. From what I can tell it is a more literal translation of the Latin Mass. I think it is beautiful and an exciting development that will enrich the worship experience of the faithful and give greater glory to God. Fr Mario's linking to YIM may have been providential but his use of the topic and the YIM quotes was timely,appropriate and wise. What a blessing to have such a resource available to us.

  • Father Mario is misinformed about the identity of the priest who authored the article in AMERICA entitled, "What if we just said 'Wait'?"Fr. Michael Ryan is the pastor of the cathedral parish of the archdiocese of Seattle, with a very long pastoral history, which Fr. Mario so blithely dismisses. It would do you well to read the original article and the comments, as well as viewing the associated website.The issues raised are greater than what you appreciate at the moment.

  • Webster Bull

    Shannon, If Fr. Mario was "misinformed," it was perhaps only in calling Fr. Ryan a monsignor. If I understand the clerical hierarchy, by calling Fr. Ryan a monsignor Fr. Mario was only giving him more credit than he is due. As a devoted follower of my pope, who endorses the new missal after a career dedicated to the closest study of liturgical questions, I find Fr. Mario's analysis as reported by me ("simply a case of disobedience," my paraphrase, not his exact words) to be fair and accurate. Frank hasn't weighed in on this issue yet, but as a former marine, his response is usually even more direct: "Soldier, shut up and soldier!"Our liturgical discussion of the past few days has led me to appreciate that the words (even the beloved cadences of the King James Version and the Book of Common Prayer) are less important than the Fact: the Word made Flesh, the Real Presence in the Eucharist. The rest of it, Fr. or Msgr. Ryan waging a campaign of words about words is all just . . . words. Not the Word.

  • Webster, with all due respect,as I said before, you have not yet appreciated the issues raised, nor the long journey to move away from "The Pope said it, I believe it, that settles it." Sound familiar?Fr. Mario is deeply mistaken and misinformed if he thinks this is "just about words."

  • Webster Bull

    Shannon, Perhaps you'd like to elaborate and make your cse, or Fr. Ryan's. What is it about then?

  • Webster,While I'm not sure whether I would agree with Shannon on other issues, I would agree that there is a great value in moving beyond "Rome has spoken, the issue is closed" and "The Catholic Church teaches it so it must be true" (no offense to Ferde, it seems he probably has done just that). They both represent a hurdle approach to faith. I believe it because the Church teaches it is a good enough reason to believe something. But we are called to be more than hurdle Catholics, we are called to do more than the bare minimum, we are called to not just exist but flourish. A faith that is grounded in fear of hell is sufficient for salvation, but there is so much more – more joy, more Grace, more life – available to us. Likewise, that the Church teaches it is good enough reason to believe, but there is so much more. Indeed, we can be assured that if the Church teaches it then it is true. However, we gain so much more when we understand *why* something is true, when we can explain *why* it is true, when we don't just accept that Truth but integrate it into our being.

  • As I read over the examples I see mostly good changes in store. Ultimately I leave it to our bishops and the magesterium to decide these matters, but one of the changes perplexes me. The Nicene creed changes from "we believe" to "I believe". If this is a truer translation of Latin sources closer to the original then I'm all for it, but I've always regarded the communitarian spirit of invoking "we believe" to be a powerful statement.Can anyone else here shed more light on this change?

  • Webster Bull

    Duane,I am NO authority on this but I did study Latin. And I believe that in Latin the creed begins "Credo" which means "I believe." "We believe" would be "credemus," or have some other "mus" ending. If this translation brings us closer to the original Latin, then that explains it for me. But I'm sure others can provide a clearer perspective.

  • Webster Bull

    W/W, I would add this to the "the church teaches it, so" argument. MY pope, BXVI, is one of the great Catholic theologians of the 20th-21st centuries, and he has made the liturgy the focus of much of his work. If he is the Bishop of ROme, in direct succession to Peter, the "Rock" of Christ, and if I believe that as such, he has the benefit of a little dove we call the Holy Spirit, then, yes, there is a point when one says, "Soldier, shut up and soldier." If I cannot follow this leader on this subject, who can I follow?

  • I agree with Shannon… Fr. Ryan is asking that we "wait" and "talk about the new Missal"… he is merely asking for a dialogue to happen that includes all levels of the Church, including the laity. Father Mario's indirect assertion that Fr. Ryan was merely 'disobedient' is an attempt to muzzle any kind of dialogue. From the top to the bottom of our Church, we are human beings, ALL open (and dare I say prone) to making mistakes. To close down the dialogue by saying, "Well, you're either with us or against us" is 'playground politics'… something I am not surpised Fr. Mario would engage in, seeing that he believes that men are without a doubt the 'heads of households'… I am a man, a husband, and a father… but I am my wife's 'partner', not her 'head'… and when we have a problem, we talk about it… there is no 'pulling rank'… and for our beloved Church to remain vital, there MUST be a perpetual dialogue that is of a polyphonic, multilateral, anti-hegemonic nature. Dialogue is not a threat to the leaders of our great family… let's all keep talking, and stop looking for excuses to label one another heretics or schismatics!

  • Webster,I am not advocating listening to anyone else in opposition to the Church, or ++BXVI in particular, but rather listening in addition, listening to not just what they are saying but delving into the reasoning behind what they are saying.Jesus tells us, "I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me." The good soldier need not be concerned with the why – "Ours is not to question why, ours is just to do and die" – but Jesus calls us to be His friends. A slave obeys, but Jesus calls us to be friends. He calls us to be drawn into the Truth of the Father, to act not just out of obedience, but out of unity with God.We are fallen people. We often fall short of the Call of Jesus. Sometimes obedience is all we can muster .. and looking at the state of the world and the Church today, theological obedience is no small matter. But we are called to more, and that is all I was getting at. The one grounded in simple obedience and the one acting in harmony with the Truth of God that has drawn them in do the exact same things. In the end, the actions are no different, but the *actor* is quite different. The actor is a friend and not a slave, and that is what I am getting at.

  • Webster Bull

    Response to the "loyal opposition"–First, let's take Fr. Mario out of the crosshairs, OK? I used him (perhaps I mis-used or ab-used him) to make a series of points about the liturgy in general and the new missal in particular. I wrote what I wrote, and the points made are MY points. (If you met Fr. Mario, you'd know why I'm leaving him out of the argument; he is the kindest and gentlest, also the smartest, of priests. So if you have issues, they are with ME.)Here are the issues that seem to be causing argument:1. Men, as heads of households, should prepare their families for reception of the new missal later this year. (Thespian in the Desert's issue.) -AND-2. Fr. Ryan's campaign is "simply a case of disobedience." The Holy Father has endorsed this new missal, and our new missal it shall be. (This is everyone else's issue, and T/D's as well: obedience.)(Continued in next comment box)

  • Webster Bull

    Regarding #1: men as heads of households, etc. This was a MEN'S group meeting. Fr. Mario was addressing us as MEN, not as "parents" or "spouses." I believe that one of the real crises of the Catholic Church today is caused by men who are not willing to be devout, Catholic men, husbands, and fathers–men who don't go to mass or confession, men who don't pray at home or encourage their families to do the same, men who are unwilling to get down on their knees and acknowledge (a/k/a obey, see #2 below) a higher authority. That's the real meaning of being the head of a Catholic household; it's not about who's vote wins. It's who is setting the example for the rest of the family? Answer: usually it's the mother! What percentage of Catholic men fulfill their obligation to "head" their household? I think that's what Fr. Mario was telling us, but even if it wasn't it's what I believe.The other question is that of obedience, #2. If you have read my previous post about the Liturgy, you know something about the development of the missal after Vatican II. You know that Pope BXVI has certain carefully thought-out objections, developed over a lifetime of study, to the way the old missal was discarded during the Pontificate of Paul VI. You know that BXVI considers the liturgy to be at the base of the "current crisis in the Church."Furthermore, if you are a Catholic, you believe that the Church was founded on Peter and that Apostolic succession gives our Pope and the other bishops certain capital-A Authority to weigh in on matters like the liturgy. It does not give mere priests (or monsignors!) such authority. It certainly does not give the laity such authority. The issue is one of authority, and obedience to authority. And that's the way this army works! If a Catholic has such serious objections to authority as exercised by the Pope and the bishops, I think s/he should consider the Protestant option. Which is what many "good Catholics" did and have done since the Protestant Reformation. You'll be in (pretty) good company.

  • I agree with all that Webster has said above. I knew plenty of Lance Corporals who didn't like what the Company Commander ordered, or the Commandant for that matter. Usually their gripes had absolutely nothing to do with the mission at hand. More often, it was just bellyaching because they weren't in charge.I didn't become Catholic to reform the Church. Reforming the Church is not one of the answers to the ever present question, "Why I Am Catholic". What needed reforming was myself! If the Commandant of the Marine Corps changes the uniform regulations to specify that crew-neck t-shirts are "out" and v-neck t-shirts are "in". That is the new regulation. Will you have to buy new shirts? Yes! You must comply, regardless of your personal opinion on this matter. This strikes me as a lot of bally-hoo by those who have no vote in the matter,like Scaramouch, as Blaise Pascal notes in Pensees, who talks for 15 minutes more than necessary after a 30 minute lecture.

  • James

    The Church like the military as noted is not a democracy. But neither are we mindless or without free will or input. The laity is more involved in parish and diocesan affairs now than at any time of church history in America. From what I understand of the timeline of the development of this missal it has hardly been hardly an overnight event. Fr. Ryan's 11th hour footstomping is an embarrasment to himself and an affront to the USCCB and the Pope. Vatican II very nearly threw the baby out with the bath and this missal is an important contribution to maintaining the beauty of our tradition without rejecting a commitiment to modernity and human progress. It's what I see as an improvement but even if I didn't as a Catholic I accept the authority of the Magesterium. As for the change in the Creed I can't speak for the translation but I always incorporate "I" instead of "We" because it personalizes and takes ownership of the beliefs stated therein. Sort of like when taking the oath of allegiance when going into the Army. And I emphatically second Webster's sentiments regarding Fr. Mario. Msgr. Ryan would do well to heed his example.

  • EPG

    Re the translation of the Nicene Creed ("I believe" v. "We believe")Since we Anglicans have a couple of centuries jump on you guys in translating the liturgy into the vernacular (actually, closer to four centuries, but who's counting?) (big silly grin here), I figured I could put my oar in.Until the most recent revision of the BCP (1978), the formulation "I believe," was used. And (since Anglicans can't resist having it both ways — we are really into the whole via media thing) the 1978 BCP actually inlcudes both versions. The traditional ("I believe") is usually associated with Rite I (which is the more traditional structure, and (I think) is closer in form to the Tridentine Rite).The formulation "We believe" appears in Rite II, which is more commonly used these days (and which is very similar to the current Catholic rite).Although I am no latinist (having many unfortunate gaps in my education), I'm not sure that there is any linguistic justification for the use of "We believe." I think its development had more to do with other concerns (theological? political? — I'll leave that for others to weigh in on).The change, though, has had at least one unfortunate side effect. The current Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire (Gene Robinson)is on record as saying that, even though he does not necessarily personally believe all of the propositions asserted in the Nicene Creed, he can recite the current version in good conscience, because it is a statement of corporate, not individual belief. Well . . . That convinced me of the value of the traditional formulation. It is an expression of corporate belief, because the congregation asserts it together. It remains an assertion of individual belief, because one affirms (with one's fellows), "I believe . . " (And if you can't do that, you sure ought not to be a bishop — The Rt. Rev. Mr. Robinson's sexual orientation is of far less import than his apparently cavalier attitude towards a foundational historic creed).FWIW, I was recently at a parish of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). They (who presumably skip the Latin formulation, and translate straight from the Greek) use the form "I believe . . "

  • EPG

    The thought of a priest I don't know paying any attention at all to what I may be posting is sobering. I shall have to be very very careful (grin).More seriously, I would have liked to have been there, because I would have liked to have heard his words to a group of men about their responsibility to be Christian role models. It is a gap in our culture right now — and God knows I have not been as good an example to my kids as I should be. We get them to church every Sunday, but devotions at home are limited (aside from grace at meals, pretty much invisible). Old fashioned Yankee reticence? In part, yes. A reflection of my own doubts and struggles? Absolutely. Still, I can (and should) do better.

  • Oh, Webster, about your I/We question. Both are correct in a way. The Latin says "I," the original Greek says "We." Why the Latin says "I" instead of "We," I don't really know for sure. My best guess is that it comes from the fact that the Nicene Creed was not originally a part of the mass. Liturgical needs are different from doctrinal needs, so there was a need to render it "I" for liturgical purposes even while retaining the "We" otherwise. The desire to reclaim ancient elements of the liturgy may have led the original English translators to try to recover the meaning of the Greek. IIRC, the Orthodox do not use the Creed in liturgies, so they only have it in the "We" form.

  • James: Fr. Ryan's concerns are not 11th-hour rantings… there was an earlier iteration of the Missal, and it was brushed beneath the carpet with no explanation. Concerns about the rejected Missal and our new Missal have been around for a while. So I don't think this issue should be painted as 11th-hour hysteria.Frank: I am not here to reform the Church either, but rather, to be a member of this living, breathing body (as Catholics, we are ALL constituents of the body referred to as the Church)… and I don't agree when you compare the Church to the Navy. I respect your analogy, and understand that it is your personal framework, but I largely disagree. And I think it's a bit heavy-handed to write-off somebody's concerns or questions as bellyaching. Yes the Holy Father is precisely that: the Father of our Church… but I'd rather not conceive of him as our Captain in the militaristic sense… I fully respect our Holy Father's leadership, but I see leadership as being something a little more complicated… not merely top-down, yes sir, no sir! Pope Benedict is erudite/brilliant, astounding, inspiring… but he can also make mistakes… one example is when he cited in 2006 Emperor Manuel II Paleologos (of the Orthodox Christian Byzantine Empire) "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." Reading this quote really offended a lot of Muslims, and rigthfully so. I, along with many Catholics, world leaders, etc., felt it was a passage that paints Muslims in unflattering terms, and therefore, not the best way to reach out to our Muslim brothers and sisters at a time when we absolutely need to… and Pope Benedict later apologised. My case in point is that we can ALL make mistakes, and thus, maintaining a dialogue from top to bottom, bottom to top, ensures that we truly embody and live-out the word of our Heavenly Father. Pope Benedict listened to the valid concerns of others, including those he offended, and he apologised. He didn’t necessarily admit that he was wrong, but he apologised. THAT was VERY noble and generous indeed. God Bless you Holy Father!Webster: I am a devout Catholic, a husband, a father (actually the primary caregiver of my son), and while I live my faith as my example to the world and family, I don't see it as showing my family "THE way"… my wife has so much to teach me as well, as does my son… and if both parents are fully engaged in family matters, wonderful. And while the parents are there to 'lead' the family, I don't feel that it's wishy-washy to invite your children into a dialogue, and really consider their POVs, and really remain transparent, even if you disagree…. …and although I don't appear to be fully obedient to the hierarchy of our Church, I don't believe that I should be asked to leave our family and go on over to the Anglicans. Families are messy business! But instead of excommunicating one another, let’s communicate with one another, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers… And God Bless both of You, Webster and Frank, for permitting this conversation to play out on your blog! It takes an immense generosity of spirit, and profound love for your faith, to permit this to happen. Thank-you… your brother always, Shawn.

  • EPG

    I am ready to stand corrected on the Greek (I was drawing an inference — dangerous).But, with all respect to W in W, the Orthodox parish I visited did recite the Nicene Creed — Could there be variations among the various branches of Orthodoxy? I've not been to a Greek Orthodox parish, and I really don't recall whether the Nicene Creed was recited at the Antiochian parish I visited almost a year ago. The OCA has Russian roots — I don't know if that makes a difference.

  • Webster Bull

    So finally Webster connects the dots (this whole "Anonymous" thing, sheesh): Thespian in the Desert equals Shawn! Now, as someone who once wanted to be the next great Hamlet, I just want to understand the "Thespian" part! :-)Shawn, Thank YOU for your generosity of spirit. I mean that. I certainly did not mean to imply anything about your personal devotion or fatherhood, which I'm sure is pretty exemplary if you take these matters seriously enough to think and write deeply about them. I just felt yesterday evening that I had to stand up and take the heat off of Fr. Mario, taking ownership for the main ideas presented, because, as James pointed out, FM's a pretty saintly guy, for my money. Thanks again.

  • I am actually a professional actor (haven't done Hamlet yet, though). My profile picture is of me in the role of Vladimir in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot"… gazing into his empty bowler hat… Vladimir was great fun, in spite of his bladder problems! Are you still acting?

  • Webster Bull

    Acting up, Katie would say, but not acting, no. Old enough to play Lear now . . . 🙂

  • Allison

    I appreciate this discussion. My understanding – from our own wise parish priest – is that when Vatican II happpened – they rushed the English translation. This did not happen with other languages. I believe we should be more faithful to the Latin words when translating.That said, it can be a distraction to get caught up in this. What is it exactly that folks are concerned about? If we believe in the Eucharist, in the mystical body of Christ and the power and grace of the Sacramental catholic church, we have much more in common than debating "I believe" vs. "We believe" discussions would suggest.Also, I deeply admire Catholic men who develop their spirituality. Take a look in the pews this Sunday. Go to my own parish's family cathecisis class and see how many moms are schlepping multiple children to Mass and to the class.I am so blessed to have married a man who understands our obligation to raise our boys in the faith is is BOTH our obligations. Many men, including my own husband, might not be comfortable chatting about their spirituality. But living a faith through active participation in the spiritual life of one's parish sets a powerful example to children – one's own and those in the greater parish family.

  • To Thespian:I think I understand your viewpoint, but I'm not sure if you understand mine. At what point is obedience required of us? I would respectfully submit that in matters of theology, we have taken an oath of obedience to the Church and her teachings. I know I did when I was confirmed.So the Church, ponderous and deliberate in her careful weighing of this particular matter has decided to move forward.Additionally, I don't compare the Church to the Navy, but to a man o' war. I did not invent this particular analogy either, but the Church as Ship is an ancient analogy. It does make sense to me, however. Note in my recent post the modern (1860's)painting of the vision of St. John Bosco…Keep in mind that I am not saying our duty is to obey and not think. "Children obey your parents" is not the same as "obey an unlawful order". The first, is not the same as the second. But to me, the order of the new Missal falls under "obey".