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Sunday, February 23, 2014

They Just Don't Get It

We can't help but stop and stare at train wrecks, or automobile accidents, for that matter.  The above video is one of these occasions.

In this case, this is a particularly sad incident.  The good Deacon Sandy, who calls himself the "Parish Director" may mean well, but, the actions of the parish in question are about 180 degrees in opposition to Sacrosanctum Concilium, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and just about every other authoritative document that the Holy See has issued on the liturgy since time immemorial.

For those of us who love Christ, His Church and her sacred liturgies, these nearly seven minutes of footage are difficult to watch.   They leave not a few of us scratching our heads in bemusement.

The first item that Deacon Sandy seems to take pride in is the fact that the parish does not have a priest serving as pastor.  Deacon Sandy is serving as "Parish Director", meaning that he has administrative control of the parish.  Canonically, this does not seem right, as there is no such title, under Canon law, as far as I can tell.  So then, what is the priest?  Obviously, one is ministering there because Mass is celebrated.  Is he a sacramental dispenser, as a parish in Rochester, New York, calls its priest?

Next, Deacon Sandy goes on to explain how the parish "celebrates" the liturgy.  It's all downhill from here.  While I can understand that they have "greeters" at the door (we have them at our parish, although I frankly don't see a need for this), Deacon Sandy goes a step further by noting that the "hospitality" extends to inside the "worship space." He stated that the faithful are encouraged to engage in conversation with each other, rather than observe silence inside the church.  This is supposed to establish "community" with each other.

What about engaging in some conversation with the One who has made all of this possible, Christ?  While getting to know our brothers and sisters is important, we cannot ignore Our Lord, who is right in our midst (although I have no idea where the Tabernacle is in that church).  Silence is important.  We are not gathered at church to get to know each other.  We are gathered to worship Christ, our Lord.  The former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made that perfectly clear:

Let us become always more clearly conscious that the liturgy also implies silence. To God who speaks we respond singing and praying, but the greatest mystery, which goes beyond all words, calls us also to be silent. It must undoubtedly be a full silence, more than an absence of words and action. We expect from the liturgy that it provide for us the positive silence in which we find ourselves
I wish that this were the sole infraction; however, as they say on those informercials, "But, wait, there's more!

Deacon Sandy then walks us through the Mass itself.  Here is where things become "curiouser and curiouser" almost by the second.  When the ministers (he does not even mention the word "priest") arrive at the altar, they reverence the altar with a bow.  That is normal enough, as that is what should normally happen at the entrance.  Good Shepherd takes it a step beyond.  According to Deacon Sandy, "because we recognize that Christ is also present in the assembly, the ministers turn and bow towards the assembly" in some misguided notion of reverence.  The faithful, in turn, bow towards the ministers to "recognize the presence of Christ in them, as well."

This makes me wonder if any of them, Deacon Sandy included, have ever read Sacramentum Caritatis. In it, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes that:

36. The "subject" of the liturgy's intrinsic beauty is Christ Himself, risen and glorified in the Holy Spirit, who includes the Church in His work.

The revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal makes this point crystal clear that the orientation of the Liturgy is towards the Lord:

16. The celebration of Mass, as the action of Christ and of the People of God arrayed hierarchically, is the center of the whole of Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually.[22] For in it is found the high point both of the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and of the worship that the human race offers to the Father, adoring him through Christ, the Son of God, in the Holy Spirit.[23] In it, moreover, during the course of the year, the mysteries of redemption are celebrated so as to be in some way made present.[24] As to the other sacred actions and all the activities of the Christian life, these are bound up with it, flow from it, and are ordered to it.[25] 
17. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that the celebration of the Mass or the Lord’s Supper be so ordered that the sacred ministers and the faithful taking part in it, according to the state proper to each, may draw from it more abundantly[26] those fruits, to obtain which, Christ the Lord instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood and entrusted it as the memorial of his Passion and Resurrection to the Church, his beloved Bride.[27]

It seems to me, that from the onset, the people are the subject of the liturgy at Good Shepherd Catholic Church.

Deacon Sandy then goes on to explain why the parish uses screens.  According to the good deacon, the screens enhance the liturgy by having visual displays during the homily.  So is preaching not enough for Good Shepherd?  Would they have been disappointed if Sts. Peter and Paul not shown up before them with a fully prepared power point presentation?

Again, we turn to the GIRM for an explanation of the importance of preaching:

Reading and Explaining the Word of God

29. When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel. 
Therefore, the readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently by everyone, for they are an element of the greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture the Word of God is addressed to all people of whatever era and is understandable to them, a fuller understanding and a greater efficaciousness of the word is nevertheless fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, by the Homily, as part of the liturgical action.[42]

Here is Benedict's observation, again, drawn from Sacramentum Caritatis:

46. Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved. The homily is "part of the liturgical action" (139), and is meant to foster a deeper understanding of the word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful. Hence ordained ministers must "prepare the homily carefully, based on an adequate knowledge of Sacred Scripture" (140). Generic and abstract homilies should be avoided. In particular, I ask these ministers to preach in such a way that the homily closely relates the proclamation of the word of God to the sacramental celebration (141) and the life of the community, so that the word of God truly becomes the Church's vital nourishment and support (142). The catechetical and paraenetic aim of the homily should not be forgotten. During the course of the liturgical year it is appropriate to offer the faithful, prudently and on the basis of the three-year lectionary, "thematic" homilies treating the great themes of the Christian faith, on the basis of what has been authoritatively proposed by the Magisterium in the four "pillars" of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the recent  Compendium, namely: the profession of faith, the celebration of the Christian mystery, life in Christ and Christian prayer (143).

The real whopper comes when Deacon Sandy explains why Good Shepherd Catholic Church does not have kneelers. "In our culture, we stand as a sign of respect for another," he explained.  He added that when the President of the United States comes, people stand to greet him out of respect.  But, in the words of Christ, we have "Someone greater" than the president.  We have the King of the Universe who has come before us in the forms of bread and wine.  He is truly present.

It's almost as though Deacon Sandy read Benedict's book, "Spirit of the Liturgy" and decided that the Pope Emeritus was wrong.  Benedict writes that:

There are groups, of no small influence, who are trying to talk us out of kneeling. "It doesn't suit our culture", they say (which culture?) "It's not right for a grown man to do this -- he should face God on his feet". Or again: "It's not appropriate for redeemed man -- he has been set free by Christ and doesn't need to kneel any more". 
If we look at history, we can see that the Greeks and Romans rejected kneeling. In view of the squabbling, partisan deities described in mythology, this attitude was thoroughly justified. It was only too obvious that these gods were not God, even if you were dependent on their capricious power and had to make sure that, whenever possible, you enjoyed their favor. And so they said that kneeling was unworthy of a free man, unsuitable for the culture of Greece, something the barbarians went in for. Plutarch and Theophrastus regarded kneeling as an expression of superstition. 
Aristotle called it a barbaric form of behavior (cf. Rhetoric 1361 a 36). Saint Augustine agreed with him in a certain respect: the false gods were only the masks of demons, who subjected men to the worship of money and to self-seeking, thus making them "servile" and superstitious. He said that the humility of Christ and His love, which went as far as the Cross, have freed us from these powers. We now kneel before that humility. The kneeling of Christians is not a form of inculturation into existing customs. It is quite the opposite, an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God. 
Kneeling does not come from any culture -- it comes from the Bible and its knowledge of God. The central importance of kneeling in the Bible can be seen in a very concrete way. The word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the Apocalypse, the book of the heavenly Liturgy, which is presented to the Church as the standard for her own Liturgy.

Kneeling is part of our culture as Catholics.  Kneeling is one of the postures of adoration.  We worship the Lord with our bodies.  Even St. Paul exhorts that at the name of Jesus, "every knee shall bend, in heaven, on earth and under the earth."  I suppose Deacon Sandy must have missed that apostolic exhortation.

Benedict goes on to explain the reasons why we should kneel, breaking open the biblical and traditional basis for this posture (this is a long citation, but, I believe that it is important enough that it be considered in its entirety, given Deacon Sandy's nonchalant regard for this posture):

Secondly, we must mention the gesture of falling to one's knees before another, which is described four times in the Gospels (cf. Mk 1:40; 10:17; Mt 17:14; 27:29) by means of the word gonypetein. Let us single out Mark 1:40. A leper comes to Jesus and begs Him for help. He falls to his knees before Him and says: "If you will, you can make me clean". It is hard to assess the significance of the gesture. What we have here is surely not a proper act of adoration, but rather a supplication expressed fervently in bodily form, while showing a trust in a power beyond the merely human. 
The situation is different, though, with the classical word for adoration on one's knees -- proskynein. I shall give two examples in order to clarify the question that faces the translator. 
First there is the account of how, after the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus stays with the Father on the mountain, while the disciples struggle in vain on the lake with the wind and the waves. Jesus comes to them across the water. Peter hurries toward Him and is saved from sinking by the Lord. Then Jesus climbs into the boat, and the wind lets up. The text continues: "And the ship's crew came and said, falling at His feet, 'Thou art indeed the Son of God'" (Mt 14:33, Knox version). Other translations say: "[The disciples] in the boat worshiped [Jesus], saying ..." (RSV). Both translations are correct. Each emphasizes one aspect of what is going on. The Knox version brings out the bodily expression, while the RSV shows what is happening interiorly. It is perfectly clear from the structure of the narrative that the gesture of acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God is an act of worship.
We encounter a similar set of problems in Saint John's Gospel when we read the account of the healing of the man born blind. This narrative, which is structured in a truly "theo-dramatic" way, ends with a dialogue between Jesus and the man He has healed. It serves as a model for the dialogue of conversion, for the whole narrative must also be seen as a profound exposition of the existential and theological significance of Baptism. 
In the dialogue, Jesus asks the man whether he believes in the Son of Man. The man born blind replies: "Tell me who He is, Lord". When Jesus says, "It is He who is speaking to you", the man makes the confession of faith: "I do believe, Lord", and then he "[falls] down to worship Him" (Jn 9:35-38, Knox version adapted). Earlier translations said: "He worshiped Him". In fact, the whole scene is directed toward the act of faith and the worship of Jesus, which follows from it. Now the eyes of the heart, as well as of the body, are opened. The man has in truth begun to see. 
For the exegesis of the text it is important to note that the word proskynein occurs eleven times in Saint John's Gospel, of which nine occurrences are found in Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman by Jacob's well (Jn 4:19-24). This conversation is entirely devoted to the theme of worship, and it is indisputable that here, as elsewhere in Saint John's Gospel, the word always has the meaning of "worship". Incidentally, this conversation, too, ends -- like that of the healing of the man born blind -- with Jesus' revealing Himself: "I who speak to you am He" (Jn 4:26). 
I have lingered over these texts, because they bring to light something important. In the two passages that we looked at most closely, the spiritual and bodily meanings of proskynein are really inseparable. The bodily gesture itself is the bearer of the spiritual meaning, which is precisely that of worship. Without the worship, the bodily gesture would be meaningless, while the spiritual act must of its very nature, because of the psychosomatic unity of man, express itself in the bodily gesture. 
The two aspects are united in the one word, because in a very profound way they belong together. When kneeling becomes merely external, a merely physical act, it becomes meaningless. One the other hand, when someone tries to take worship back into the purely spiritual realm and refuses to give it embodied form, the act of worship evaporates, for what is purely spiritual is inappropriate to the nature of man. Worship is one of those fundamental acts that affect the whole man. That is why bending the knee before the presence of the living God is something we cannot abandon. 
In saying this, we come to the typical gesture of kneeling on one or both knees. In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the verb barak, "to kneel", is cognate with the word berek, "knee". The Hebrews regarded the knees as a symbol of strength, to bend the knee is, therefore, to bend our strength before the living God, an acknowledgment of the fact that all that we are we receive from Him. In important passages of the Old Testament, this gesture appears as an expression of worship. 
At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon kneels "in the presence of all the assembly of Israel" (II Chron 6:13). After the Exile, in the afflictions of the returned Israel, which is still without a Temple, Ezra repeats this gesture at the time of the evening sacrifice: "I ... fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God" (Ezra 9:5). The great psalm of the Passion, Psalm 22 ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"), ends with the promise: "Yes, to Him shall all the proud of the earth fall down; before Him all who go down to the dust shall throw themselves down" (v. 29, RSV adapted). 
The related passage Isaiah 45:23 we shall have to consider in the context of the New Testament. The Acts of the Apostles tells us how Saint Peter (9:40), Saint Paul (20:36), and the whole Christian community (21:5) pray on their knees. 
Particularly important for our question is the account of the martyrdom of Saint Stephen. The first man to witness to Christ with his blood is described in his suffering as a perfect image of Christ, whose Passion is repeated in the martyrdom of the witness, even in small details. One of these is that Stephen, on his knees, takes up the petition of the crucified Christ: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (7:60). We should remember that Luke, unlike Matthew and Mark, speaks of the Lord kneeling in Gethsemane, which shows that Luke wants the kneeling of the first martyr to be seen as his entry into the prayer of Jesus. Kneeling is not only a Christian gesture, but a christological one.

Thus, kneeling is a christological posture.  This goes beyond some mere cultural connotation that Deacon Sandy makes in his video.

Next comes the matter of the bread used in the Eucharist.  Deacon Sandy seems to take great pride in announcing that, rather than using hosts, the parish uses "real bread" baked by the faithful so that they can have a sense of really being a part of the liturgy, that their hands have fashioned something for the Mass.  Several times, he notes that this is valid; however, if the parish already has a skewed understanding of the Mass, is the baked bread valid matter?  Are the ingredients used in conformity with what the Church requires.  According to Redemptionis Sacramentum:

[48.] The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition.[123] It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament.[124] It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances, such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist. Hosts should obviously be made by those who are not only distinguished by their integrity, but also skilled in making them and furnished with suitable tools.[125]

As noted earlier, Deacon Sandy makes a huge fuss about how baking the bread makes some of the faithful feel as though they are participating in the Eucharist.  This seems to me to be a complete misunderstanding of what active participation means.

Again, in Sacramentum Caritatis, Benedict explains what Active Participation really means:

52. The Second Vatican Council rightly emphasized the active, full and fruitful participation of the entire People of God in the eucharistic celebration (155). Certainly, the renewal carried out in these past decades has made considerable progress towards fulfilling the wishes of the Council Fathers. Yet we must not overlook the fact that some misunderstanding has occasionally arisen concerning the precise meaning of this participation. It should be made clear that the word "participation" does not refer to mere external activity during the celebration. In fact, the active participation called for by the Council must be understood in more substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life. The conciliar Constitution  Sacrosanctum Concilium encouraged the faithful to take part in the eucharistic liturgy not "as strangers or silent spectators," but as participants "in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, actively and devoutly" (156). This exhortation has lost none of its force. The Council went on to say that the faithful "should be instructed by God's word, and nourished at the table of the Lord's Body. They should give thanks to God. Offering the immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to make an offering of themselves. Through Christ, the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and each other" (157). 

I hope that Deacon Sandy is not inferring that only those who make the bread or serve at Mass in some form of fashion are the ones actively participating in the liturgy.

Deacon Sandy seems to take great pride in the fact that the parish has 70 ministries, taking in everything from building maintenance to CCD.  That is all well and good; however, if we cannot properly celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then everything else, no matter how grand and noble it is, loses its footing and falls apart.

In fairness, I do not know if the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has taken any corrective action towards the parish to guide them back along the right path.  Nonetheless, it would be the archbishop's pastoral obligation, under Redemptionis Sacramentum, to ensure that the parishes under his care properly celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Christ deserves no less.

UPDATE:  The video has been yanked, for obvious reasons; however, those of you who want to see it can still access it through this link:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Not mere nostalgia or fashion

I do not often get to assist at a Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form.  The last time I was able to do so was on December 12, 2013, when I happened upon St. Jude Catholic Church in Pharr, Texas, and the Oratorians celebrated a beautiful one for the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Prior to that, the last time I assisted at the Mass in the Extraordinary Form was on January 29, 2011, at Our Lady of Walsingham Anglican-Use Parish's Lady Chapel.  A dear friend of mine, an Oratorian, celebrated that Mass.

Even though my experiences with this form of the Roman Rite have been few and far between, I have sensed a profound sense of the divine and of the sacred the times that I have assisted at this liturgy.  The beauty, the nobility and the ars celebrandi led me into a deeper, prayerful experience of the Mass, something that I have been trying to recapture when I have assisted at the Ordinary Form of the Mass.

I suspect that this sense of the divine is what is attracting faithful of all ages to the Extraordinary Form.  Along with the fact that we are praying the same form of the Mass that our ancestors in the Faith prayed  down through the centuries, there is that strong sense of continuity.  There is that sense that we are praying as the complete Church: the Church Triumphant (the saints in heaven) and the Church Suffering (the souls in purgatory) join the Church Militant (those of us who remain on Earth), offering praise, worship and thanksgiving to God, while we make supplications to His Divine Majesty.  It is not some mere feel-good experience where we celebrate the "community".  We are focused on one thing as we turn towards the Lord.

When I read what Pope Francis said the Czech bishops about the Mass in the Extraordinary Form during their Ad Limina visit, his words left me scratching my head.

As reported by our friends at Rorate Caeli:

[Abp. Jan Graubner speaks:] When we were discussing those who are fond of the ancient liturgy and wish to return to it, it was evident that the Pope speaks with great affection, attention, and sensitivity for all in order not to hurt anyone. However, he made a quite strong statement when he said that he understands when the old generation returns to what it experienced, but that he cannot understand the younger generation wishing to return to it. "When I search more thoroughly - the Pope said - I find that it is rather a kind of fashion [in Czech: 'móda', Italian 'moda']. And if it is a fashion, therefore it is a matter that does not need that much attention. It is just necessary to show some patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion. But I consider greatly important to go deep into things, because if we do not go deep, no liturgical form, this or that one, can save us."

Now, a dear priest friend of mine also seems to be at a loss as to why folks want to return to this Mass.  I explained to him that maybe, like me, they are tired of a lot of the hootenanny that goes on in the Ordinary Form of the Mass.  There is no "meet and greet" right before the Mass.  There is a prayerful sense of reverence before the Mass and after the liturgy ends.  I found that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass makes me focus on the liturgy, itself, helping me to enter deeper into the mystery by uniting myself in prayer with the celebrant.  In both of my experiences, I saw, from the corner of my eye, the faithful following the prayers through their hand missals, seemingly intent on their focus of the sacred mysteries unfolding before them.

For me the Holy Father's words perplexed me.  In his previous homilies, he talked about the importance of the sacred nature of the Mass.  However, in these latest remarks, he does not seem to think that this applies to the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and seems to consign it to a return to nostalgia.

This was certainly not the intent of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI when he issued Summorum Pontificum. As Benedict wrote in the accompanying letter to the Motu Propio:

As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.  At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal.  Probably it was thought that it would be a matter of a few individual cases which would be resolved, case by case, on the local level.  Afterwards, however, it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood.  This was especially the case in countries where the liturgical movement had provided many people with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier Form of the liturgical celebration.  We all know that, in the movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre, fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level. Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.  I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion.  And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church. 
Pope John Paul II thus felt obliged to provide, in his Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei (2 July 1988), guidelines for the use of the 1962 Missal; that document, however, did not contain detailed prescriptions but appealed in a general way to the generous response of Bishops towards the “legitimate aspirations” of those members of the faithful who requested this usage of the Roman Rite.  At the time, the Pope primarily wanted to assist the Society of Saint Pius X to recover full unity with the Successor of Peter, and sought to heal a wound experienced ever more painfully.  Unfortunately this reconciliation has not yet come about.  Nonetheless, a number of communities have gratefully made use of the possibilities provided by the Motu Proprio.  On the other hand, difficulties remain concerning the use of the 1962 Missal outside of these groups, because of the lack of precise juridical norms, particularly because Bishops, in such cases, frequently feared that the authority of the Council would be called into question.  Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them. Thus the need has arisen for a clearer juridical regulation which had not been foreseen at the time of the 1988 Motu Proprio. The present Norms are also meant to free Bishops from constantly having to evaluate anew how they are to respond to various situations. 
In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities.  This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.  Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful. 
It is true that there have been exaggerations and at times social aspects unduly linked to the attitude of the faithful attached to the ancient Latin liturgical tradition. Your charity and pastoral prudence will be an incentive and guide for improving these. For that matter, the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal.  The “Ecclesia Dei” Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the usus antiquior, will study the practical possibilities in this regard. The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.  The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal. 
I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden.  This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.  I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide.  You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.  In return … widen your hearts also!” (2 Cor 6:11-13).  Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject.  Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows. 
There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal.  In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.  What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.  It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.  Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books.  The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.

As the Pope Emeritus wrote, there is certainly room for mutual enrichment.  He was certainly the embodiment of that in the manner he publicly celebrated the Ordinary Form of the Mass when he was Pope.  To a certain degree, Pope Francis seems to be carrying that on, even though the vestments may not seem as majestic.  Nonetheless, with all due respect to the Holy Father, it seems to me that this is a mischaracterization and a misunderstanding of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  The Extraordinary Form is neither fashionable nor nostalgic; it is a timeless expression of the Church's highest form of prayer.  I am grateful to Pope Emeritus Benedict and the Oratorians for exposing me to this beautiful form of the Mass.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hints of Continuity

On Monday morning, during daily Mass at the Domus, Pope Francis delivered what many of us have long awaited:  a teaching on the sacred liturgy.

Admittedly, not a few of us have experienced a bit of trepidation ever since the former Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio stepped onto the loggia as the newly elected Pope Francis.  Liturgically, the grandeur of the celebrations and theology of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI seemed consigned to the archives.  Monday, however, brought some glimmer of hope.

As recorded by our friends at Vatican Radio, the Holy Father observed, in his homily, that:

“When we celebrate the Mass, we don’t accomplish a representation of the Last Supper: no, it is not a representation. It is something else: it is the Last Supper itself. It is to really live once more the Passion and the redeeming Death of the Lord. It is a theophany: the Lord is made present on the altar to be offered to the Father for the salvation of the world. We hear or we say, ‘But, I can’t now, I have to go to Mass, I have to go to hear Mass.’ The Mass is not ‘heard’, it is participated in, and it is a participation in this theophany, in this mystery of the presence of the Lord among us. 
...The liturgy is to really enter into the mystery of God, to allow ourselves to be brought to the mystery and to be in the mystery. For example, I am sure that all of you have come here to enter into the mystery; however, someone might say: ‘Ah, I have to go to Mass at Santa Marta, because on the sight-seeing tour of Rome, each morning there is a chance to visit the Pope at Santa Marta: it’s a tourist stop, right?’ All of you here, we are gathered her to enter into the mystery: this is the liturgy. It is God’s time, it is God’s space, it is the cloud of God that surrounds all of us. 
...We would do well today to ask the Lord to give to each of us this ‘sense of the sacred,’ this sense that makes us understand that it is one thing to pray at home, to pray in Church, to pray the Rosary, to pray so many beautiful prayers, to make the Way of the Cross, so many beautiful things, to read the Bible... The Eucharistic celebration is something else. In the celebration we enter into the mystery of God, into that street that we cannot control: only He is the unique One, the glory, the power... He is everything. Let us ask for this grace: that the Lord would teach us to enter into the mystery of God.”

He makes many of the points that we have heard before from Benedict.  In Sacramentum Caritatis, he wrote that:

The sacrament of charity (1), the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of Himself, thus revealing to us God's infinite love for every man and woman. This wondrous sacrament makes manifest that "greater" love which led Him to "lay down His life for His friends" (Jn 15:13). Jesus did indeed love them "to the end" (Jn 13:1). In those words the Evangelist introduces Christ's act of immense humility: before dying for us on the Cross, He tied a towel around Himself and washed the feet of His disciples. In the same way, Jesus continues, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, to love us "to the end," even to offering us His body and His blood. What amazement must the Apostles have felt in witnessing what the Lord did and said during that Supper! What wonder must the eucharistic mystery also awaken in our own hearts! 
2. In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women created in God's image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:27), and becomes our companion along the way. In this sacrament, the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom. Since only the truth can make us free (cf. Jn 8:32), Christ becomes for us the food of truth. With deep human insight, Saint Augustine clearly showed how we are moved spontaneously, and not by constraint, whenever we encounter something attractive and desirable. Asking himself what it is that can move us most deeply, the saintly Bishop went on to say: "What does our soul desire more passionately than truth?" (2) Each of us has an innate and irrepressible desire for ultimate and definitive truth. The Lord Jesus, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), speaks to our thirsting, pilgrim hearts, our hearts yearning for the source of life, our hearts longing for truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth in person, drawing the world to Himself. "Jesus is the lodestar of human freedom: without Him, freedom loses its focus, for without the knowledge of truth, freedom becomes debased, alienated and reduced to empty caprice. With him, freedom finds itself." (3) In the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus shows us in particular the truth about the love which is the very essence of God. It is this evangelical truth which challenges each of us and our whole being. For this reason, the Church, which finds in the Eucharist the very center of her life, is constantly concerned to proclaim to all, opportune importune (cf. 2 Tim 4:2), that God is love.(4) Precisely because Christ has become for us the food of truth, the Church turns to every man and woman, inviting them freely to accept God's gift.

I often worried about continuity as Pope Francis' reign began.  But, as I read the two quotes, almost side-by-side, it seems to me that Pope Francis is picking up from where his beloved predecessor left.  Granted, the Ars Celebrandi of the current Supreme Pontiff is quite different from the Pope Emeritus; however, it seems to me as though Pope Francis is slowly showing some of the appreciation for liturgy that Benedict has.   I would like to think that a lot of this might have to do with his keeping Msgr. Guido Marini as his Master of Ceremonies (which is probably the best liturgical move of this young papacy).

As I read the Holy Father's words, I cannot help but think of some other sage liturgical comments that were made by then-Archbishop Malcolm Ranjinth imparted when he was in St. Louis, Missouri, nearly six years ago at the Gateway Liturgical Conference.  He delivered the remarks in his capacity as secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship.  In his speech, now-Cardinal Ranjinth noted that:

And so, the correct approach to ars celebrandi of priests and even of the faithful would be to insure that they allow Christ to take over at the altar, becoming the voice, the hands and the being of Christ, or the alter Christus. 
Sacramentum Caritatis affirms this very clearly when it states, “Priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in the first place, but Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make themselves the center of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests. The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continuously work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord’s hands. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality” (Sacr. Carit. 23). 
In everything the priest does at the altar he should always let the Lord take control of his being. The words of John the Baptist are important in this matter: “He must increase and I must decrease” (Jn 3:30) 
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen emphasized this when he stated: “the priest does not belong to himself; he belongs to Christ; he is not his own. He is Christ’s” (Those Mysterious Priests, Alba House, New York 2005, p. 221). 
It is only in this way that the priest can truly interiorize the Holy Sacrifice of Christ and of His Church so that it becomes co-natural with him. For what we do at the altar, as Pope Pius XII’s 1947 encyclical, Mediator Dei, states, is not our own, but is “worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its head and members” (MD 20). To be conscious of this before, during and after the celebration of the Eucharist and the other liturgical acts is extremely important.

Cardinal Ranjinth's words seem to echo what Pope Francis observed when he noted that we should not consider the Mass, especially a Papal Mass, to be some sort of tourist attraction.  Benedict was certainly very clear about that, to the point of halting applause during the entrance procession and wanting the faithful to pray prior to the Papal Masses at St. Peter's Basilica.  For Benedict, the central focus of the Mass was not the Holy Father, but, Christ, the High Priest.  That is why his altar arrangement, commonly called the Benedictine arrangement, put the crucifix at the front and center of the liturgy so that the focus was on Christ and not the person of the Pope.

Now, if we could only get the beautiful vestments out once in a while for the Papal Masses... But, that is for another post.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Biting and Devouring One Another

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to bishops throughout the world explaining the reasoning behind his willingness to engage in dialogue with the Society of St. Pius X.  Not a few bishops were concerned about why the Church should open a dialogue with the group.  Realizing the antagonism that this move brought, Pope Benedict explained the situation to his brother bishops, writing:

And should we not admit that some unpleasant things have also emerged in Church circles? At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint. 
Dear Brothers, during the days when I first had the idea of writing this letter, by chance, during a visit to the Roman Seminary, I had to interpret and comment on Galatians 5:13-15. I was surprised at the directness with which that passage speaks to us about the present moment: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another." 
I am always tempted to see these words as another of the rhetorical excesses which we occasionally find in Saint Paul. To some extent that may also be the case. But sad to say, this "biting and devouring" also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom. Should we be surprised that we too are no better than the Galatians? That at the very least we are threatened by the same temptations? That we must always learn anew the proper use of freedom? And that we must always learn anew the supreme priority, which is love? 

Initially, he had entrusted William Cardinal Leveda, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with these negotiations.  When Cardinal Leveda retired, the task fell to his successor, Archbishop Gerhard Muller (pictured above) to continue the dialogue.  Even though the talks are at a standstill, there could be some small inroads, we pray.

The "biting and devouring" that Pope Benedict alluded to (using St. Paul's words), have come back to the Church in a somewhat disturbing way.  This time, the object of the biting is Archbishop Muller (soon to be created a Cardinal), with Honduran Archbishop Oscar Cardinal Rodriguez Maradriaga, seeming to snipe away at his brother bishop.  At issue is the question of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics into Communion.  German bishops have engaged in this practice, something that the Church does not allow.  Last October, Muller, in his capacity as Prefect of the CDF, wrote a rather lengthy essay explaining why this should not happen.  Fr. John Zulsdorf, in his excellent blog,, extracted a quote from the essay that I believe shows a proper understanding of Muller's stance:

A further case for the admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments is argued in terms of mercy. Given that Jesus himself showed solidarity with the suffering and poured out his merciful love upon them, mercy is said to be a distinctive quality of true discipleship. This is correct, but it misses the mark when adopted as an argument in the field of sacramental theology. The entire sacramental economy is a work of divine mercy and it cannot simply be swept aside by an appeal to the same. An objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive. The mystery of God includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and his justice. If one were to suppress these characteristics of God and refuse to take sin seriously, ultimately it would not even be possible to bring God’s mercy to man. Jesus encountered the adulteress with great compassion, but he said to her “Go and do not sin again” (Jn 8:11). God’s mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the Church. Rather it supplies us with the grace and strength needed to fulfil them, to pick ourselves up after a fall, and to live life in its fullness according to the image of our heavenly Father.

From what I understand, Pope Francis confirmed Muller's document.  He did not contradict his Prefect. He did not issue any statements to the contrary.

About a week ago, Cardinal Maradriaga, in an interview with a German publication, launched an attack on Muller for the stance that he took concerning the issue of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics into Communion.

In response to a specific question about the Prefect Müller (in reference to the article - written ahead of the meeting on the family - in which the newly-nominated cardinal completely rejected any possibility of opening up the sacraments to remarried divorcees), Maradiaga said: “I think I understand him. He is German, it has to be said. He is above all a German Theology professor and he only thinks in black-and-white terms. But "the world isn't like that, my brother. You should be a bit flexible when you hear other voices, so you don't just listen and say, 'here is the wall'.” The Honduran prelate claims he is certain that Müller “will eventually come to understand other points of view as well,” even though for now “he only listens to his group of advisors.” 

Yet, it seems to me that the Honduran cardinal does not take into account the fact that Christ spoke very specifically and forcefully about the issue of marriage, as evidenced in the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" 4 He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5* and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one'? * 6 So they are no longer two but one. * What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." 7* They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" 8 He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9* And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, * and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery." * 10 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." 11* But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it." 

The Church cannot change what Christ, Himself, has taught.  She has held on this teaching for centuries.  In fact, such adherence to teaching caused King Henry VIII to break with the Church when he could not secure a divorce from his Queen, Catherine of Aragon.  While there is commentary that in the first centuries, the Church, as noted by Sandro Magister in his blog, Chiesa, made provisions for those who divorced and entered into a second marriage, Magister notes the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made several observations on the subject:

Ratzinger does not deny that there were times and places in which second marriages were admitted in the West as well.  But he sees in the events of history a precise line of development. A sort of return to the origins.  
The origins -  he writes -  are the unmistakable words of Jesus on the indissolubility of marriage. They are words “over which the Church has no power” and that clearly exclude divorce and new marriages.

For this reason, “in the Church at the time of the Fathers the divorced and remarried faithful were never officially admitted to holy communion  after a time of penance.” It is also true, however -  Ratzinger recognizes -  that the Church “did not always rigorously revoke concessions in this matter in individual countries.” And it is true that “individual Fathers, for example Leo the Great, sought 'pastoral'  solutions for rare borderline cases.”
 In the West, this “greater flexibility and readiness for compromise on difficult  marital situations" was extended and prolonged until the 11th century, especially “in the Gallic and Germanic sphere.”  
In the East, this tendency was even more pronounced and widespread and “an ever more liberal practice” has asserted itself down to our own day. Starting in the 11th century in the West, however, “the original conception of the Fathers was recovered thanks to the Gregorian reform." 

And this return to the origins “found sanction at the Council of Trent and was again proposed as the teaching of the Church at Vatican Council II.”

It seems to me that this sense of history and application is missing in Cardinal Maradriaga's observations on the subject.  It is as though we are succumbing to popular opinion than to the teachings of the Church.  Jesus, Himself, in the above reference Gospel account, notes that this teaching is a very difficult one to accept.  However, many of His teachings were and are difficult, but, they are necessary for our salvation.  Just as many found that teaching hard to accept, others had just as difficult a time accepting Christ's Bread of Life discourse.

Yes, family situations have changed down through the centuries; however, part of the problem is that, perhaps, we are no longer stressing and reinforcing the fact that marriage is permanent.  Marriage is a bond that lasts until death.  It is not some throw away notion, as Hollywood would have us believe.  One party should not call it quits at the first sign of trouble.  That is why the Church offers programs such as Marriage Encounter that help couples in their time of need.  She also offers betrothed couples Engaged Encounter so that they will understand the sacrament that they will soon receive.

Cardinal-designate Muller rightly reminds us that those of us who receive mercy also bear the responsibility of avoiding sin.  Whenever Jesus healed/forgave sins, He always admonished the recipient of the healing/forgiveness to avoid sin.  Muller, (nor Benedict, for that matter) is not speaking as some "German theologian"; he is being rather pastoral, as Jesus was.  Being pastoral means having the best interests of the sheep in mind, even if this includes admonishing them, whether they are laity or cardinals.