When the Saints Go Marching Out
The faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, should honor the blessed in heaven and pray to them, because they are worthy of honor and as friends of God will help the faithful on earth. — The Baltimore Catechism, 1941
I am trying these days, as best I can, to come to terms with the Church’s reform of the liturgy. But when one truly examines the differences between the “Tridentine” liturgy and the “Novus Ordo” liturgy, and furthermore, compares the “Novus Ordo” liturgy to what Protestant “reformers” (if that’s what you want to call violent iconoclasm) have tried to introduce into the liturgy for the past 500 years, it is hard to remain sympathetic.
On the surface the liturgical revisions of Vatican II were aimed at “increasing participation” of the congregation in the liturgy. I’ll leave aside my complaints about that motive for now. If this were indeed the goal, however, what I cannot understand are some of the other changes that were made, changes that apparently, to my untrained eye anyway, have nothing to do with participation. When, however, I reflect upon the some statements made by Annibale Bugnini, who was at the forefront of liturgical revisions during Vatican II, the changes do make sense. Bugnini is often quoted as having said:
“We must strip from our … Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants.”
This ought to go down in history as one of the most opportunistic, unprincipled statements that has ever been uttered. How can the transformation of the liturgy to make it less offensive to Protestants be considered anything other than sacrilege? If he didn’t actually say it, then anyone who can provide the correct quote will have my gratitude (or I will find out for myself as I read his tome on the reform of the liturgy). [Update: this quote appears in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965.]
Tto get a sense of how Bugnini was pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, even those of Pope Paul VI, I turn to an op-ed column that ran in the New York Times by a Kenneth J. Wolfe:
How was Bugnini able to make such sweeping changes? In part because none of the popes he served were liturgists. Bugnini changed so many things that John’s successor, Paul VI, sometimes did not know the latest directives. The pope once questioned the vestments set out for him by his staff, saying they were the wrong color, only to be told he had eliminated the week-long celebration of Pentecost and could not wear the corresponding red garments for Mass. The pope’s master of ceremonies then witnessed Paul VI break down in tears.
This was the same Paul VI, by the way, who spoke of the “smoke of Satan” entering the Church. If experiences such as these were typical, I can understand why he said it. If only he had listened to Dietrich von Hildebrand.
Those who wish to ardently defend the “New Mass”, the “Novus Ordo”, ought to be able to answer at least this one question: why is it that everything that 16th century “reformer” Thomas Cranmer wanted to do was wrong when he wanted to do it, but right now that Bugnini has inserted it into the liturgy? Take a look at this list to see what I am talking about.
How does one avoid the logic? No one wants to be labeled an “extremist”; no one wants to be labeled a “rad trad.” But one cannot deny facts, one cannot abuse logic. If reason is God-given, it must be used. I am willing to hear counter-arguments, but what I am not willing to do is to pretend that there isn’t a problem here. There is a serious problem here.
To take only one example, one of the more obvious ones that stands out for me as someone who is not a liturgical scholar, is the near-total absence of the saints in the Novus Ordo liturgy. No specific saints are mentioned, and “the saints” in general are only invoked twice, once in Eucharistic Prayers II & IV – which are the only ones I have ever heard used at a Novus Ordo service (Eucharistic Prayer III includes one reference to a particular saint, “the saint of the day or the patron saint”). At best, then, the saints are now optional, and it is an option rarely chosen in my experience. Here is what we hear at a Latin Mass, during the Invocation of the Saints:
Communicating with, and honoring in the first place the memory of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and God Jesus Christ: as also of the blessed Joseph, her Spouse, and of the blessed Apostles and Martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Thaddeus; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Xystus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and of all Thy Saints, through whose merits and prayers, grant that we may in all things be defended by the help of Thy protection.
And this is the most we hear of the saints at a typical Novus Ordo Mass:
Remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again; bring them and all the departed into the light of your presence. Have mercy on us all; make us worthy to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with the apostles, and with all the saints who have done your will throughout the ages. May we praise you in union with them, and give you glory.
Why has the community of saints been relegated to the sidelines of the new liturgy? Of course it was part of the effort to appease Protestantism, to appease what is still heresy. How is this in any way excusable or justifiable? The idea that so many Catholics no longer invoke the saints because one man or a committee decided that it was offensive to Protestants – who I don’t think have converted in droves over these changes – is as tragic as it is appalling.
This was one of Thomas Cranmer’s aims, and the aims of many a would-be “reformer” (how I loathe the usage of that word – as if getting rid of the communion of saints were an improvement that needed to occur). In their misguided view, the saints serve as a distraction at best, and a form of idolatry at worst. Though the Anglicans and Lutherans do not take as hard of a line against veneration of the saints as other Protestant sects, they certainly didn’t want them to be a part of the liturgy.
Since I simply cannot believe that anyone seriously thought that the excision of the saints from the liturgy would actually result in some sort of ecumenical paradise, I can only conclude that the people who wanted it done were themselves Protestants in spirit. Catholics ought to reclaim their spiritual heritage and the community of saints by attending traditional Masses, or if they prefer, lobbying their priests or bishops to use Eucharistic Prayer I more often, if they don’t do so already (and as I said, I’ve yet to attend a Novus Ordo Mass where it was used).
No one wants to hear the word “heresy” since it is associated with burnings and executions. In modern times no one could or would be executed for such a thing – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or isn’t relevant. We can be friendly with Protestants, and we certainly don’t need to fight a violent war over our differences, but we can’t pretend that those vast areas of difference between their beliefs and ours are somehow unimportant. If differences don’t matter, then Unitarianism is the way to go. If differences do matter, if truth matters, then it must be defended.
A reminder to readers that I will be monitoring the discussion, and will delete comments that violate our policy. Think before you post. I’m willing to reasonably discuss anything without fighting – even if I couldn’t disagree more with you.