5

The way it was: “The Mass in Slow Motion” by Msgr Ronald Knox

“I suppose it is the experience of all of us that the Mass, with its terrific uniformity- unvarying throughout Latin Christendom, varying so little from one feast or season to another-does not impose uniformity on our thoughts.”–Msgr. Ronald Knox, “The Mass in Slow Motion”

As a late-in-life Catholic convert (1995, at the age of 65), I was not familiar with the Latin Mass.   My wife and I have attended two Extraordinary Form (Tridentine) Masses  given by the FSSP,,  but I didn’t appreciate fully what the Mass used to be before Novus Ordo.   I didn’t understand the Latin and, so new to the Church, didn’t really see why the different liturgical forms were important.   We’ve attended many Anglican Usage Masses, which have many liturgical forms similar to the Tridentine:  the priest faces the Tabernacle (ad orientem) for most of the service;  Holy Communion is given on the tongue at the altar rail, with intinction; and, although there is no Latin, the form of the liturgy is similar to that of the Latin Mass.

After reading “The Mass in Slow Motion”, by Msgr. Ronald Knox, I have begun to understand why there are so many people passionately devoted to the Latin Mass, the older form, and wish for its full implementation.  Msgr. Knox was an English Catholic priest, a writer of detective stories, a raconteur on BBC, and a convert.  (Do a web search, “Ronald Knox,” for a full and impressive biography.)    The book (linked  above to an online pdf version) is a collection of sermons given to a Catholic girls’ school during World War II.   There is an introduction which provides an overview of the Mass, a reprise of a talk given to adults.   I’ll quote from that:

It’s an odd reflection, then, that when I say Mass or you hear it, though the words and the gestures are the same, and you would think there was no difference at all except the sins we thought about at the Confiteor and the intentions we remembered for the living and the dead, in fact there is a difference; the devotional overtones, the mystical nuances which the words and the ceremonies of the Mass suggest to us are not, probably, the same for you and for me. So I thought I would come clean, and try to analyse, thus publicly, the inwardness of my own Mass; talk about the odd bells that ring in my own mind, the odd vistas that open to my own view, to close again at once, in the hope that they may have some value for other people. Let me say at once that I know nothing about liturgy, so you won’t get any of the orthodox side- lights on the Mass which they give you in the books. Also that I am thinking about Low Mass; it is a long time since I had to sing High Mass, and when I did, the only thought I can remember entertaining was a vivid hope that I might die before we got to the Preface.

The Psalm Judica. What a disconcerting thing it is about the idiom of Hebrew devotion, that the psalms are always saying, ” I am upright, I am innocent, I never did anything to deserve this punishment “, whereas we are always wanting to say we are miserable sinners! Here, we prepare for the Confiteor by assuring God that we have walked innocently, and asking him to distinguish very carefully between us and the wicked. When I say this psalm, then, what should I think about? Perhaps, about myself as the representative of the Christian Church, so isolated, so shut away, in idea at least, from all the busy wickedness of the world. The Mass starts with the Church pushing the world away from her; the lodge is tiled, there are no profane onlookers, it is a cosy family party, just ourselves.”–Msgr. Ronal Knox, “The Mass in Slow Motion”, p.8, Introduction.

And there’s more.   The writing is elegant, but familiar–oh, how well the English know how to put words together!

There’s one other point that is crucial:  “catholic” means “universal” and this was how the term first began to be applied to The Church–a universal Church.  If you hark back to the opening quote, you see that the Mass was universal–it was the same in Japan, Nigeria and Iowa.  The Church has lost this, but we should recover this universality, this catholicity.   So,  I will join those who plead for the return of the Tridentine Mass.

8

Mass in Santiago, Chile Today

I’m working in South America this week. Our Chilean distributer is having some technical issues with one of our products that could not be resolved via conference calls. I had to leave Saturday afternoon, fly through the night and I arrived today mid-morning; this left me little time for Mass.

After I settled into my hotel, I quickly searched “Catholic Churches near me” and behold…a beautiful little parish called Santos Angeles Custodios (or Holy Guardian Angel) was about a 10 min walk from the hotel, so I caught the last half of the last Mass of the day. The walk is extra nice since it’s summer here (88F, sunny and dry)!

This is as I walked up..

Inside…

What makes this more interesting is that a colleague of mine, who was supposed to be traveling with me, did not make it. There were multiple car robberies in his neighborhood Friday night and his passport was stolen out of his car, but the police caught the suspects and recovered some items, although no one knew exactly what items. After I went to Mass and said few prayers to St Anthony, I received a text from my co-worker that his passport was recovered and he will try to join me tomorrow if he can catch tonight’s flight.

You gotta just love a universal Church which is all over this world and has Saints all through the heavens!!!

Please pray for our safe travels…

9

Let’s Make the Liturgy Beautiful*

“The liturgy, as the worship which the Holy Spirit has given His Church, always requires beauty in its celebrations.”
—Bishop Robert Morlino, Diocese of Madison Catholic Herald

“The beauty of the liturgy is part of this mystery; it is a sublime expression of God’s glory and, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth.”
—Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis #35

BISHOP ROBERT MORLINO’S VISION OF LITURGICAL BEAUTY

We need beauty to help us celebrate the Mass. This is what Bishop Robert Morlino said in an address to St. Thomas More Parish, Scranton, September 6th (“Beauty in the Liturgy as an Aid to Evangelization”). In his published commentaries on beauty in the liturgy (see here and here), Bishop Morlino argues that Beauty, Truth and the Good are one, that we need them in the liturgy to ennoble us. That beauty must be such as “to envoke the correct sacramental attitude of reverence”.

To achieve this, Bishop Morlino has followed through on Cardinal Sarah’s appeal and required the congregation AND priests in his diocese to engage in worship ad orientem, facing the “liturgical east”—towards the apse. He is also requesting that in the near future, communicants will receive the host on the tongue, kneeling, to manifest the proper reverence in receiving the body of our Lord.

In his address, Bishop Morlino enlarged on his vision of the liturgically beautiful: beauty does not lie in the eye of the beholder; it is not a matter of majority opinion; that which is beautiful must also be true. With respect to this last criterion, there are hymns that fall short. In his April 2011 commentary, Bishop Morlino gives as an example the lyrics of “All are Welcome”:

“…All are welcome at the liturgy who truly seek salvation in and through Jesus Christ, by following God’s Will, as spelled out through His Son’s very Body, the Church. People who have little interest in doing God’s Will don’t fit at the liturgy… Thus the song, “All Are Welcome,” gives an impression that the choice for the Will of Jesus Christ, as it comes to us through the Church, makes no difference; and nothing could be further from the truth. It could therefore be concluded that the song, “All are Welcome,” is not beautiful so as to be appropriate-for-liturgical-use. Being true is necessary before anything can be beautiful.” [emphasis added]

BEAUTY IN THE ANGLICAN USAGE LITURGY

It was particularly appropriate for Bishop Morlino to talk on beauty in the liturgy at an anniversary celebration of St. Thomas More Parish.  This Parish is part  of The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter**,  essentially a diocese (spread through the United States and Canada). established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 to accommodate former Anglicans and Episcopalians who, as individuals, priests and congregations, have swum the Tiber and become Catholic

My wife and I attend Mass and evensong at St. Thomas More as often as we can (it’s a two hour drive). The Anglican Usage liturgy is part of the Roman Rite, but has  important differences in language,  being based in part on the  “Book of Common Prayer”, written by masters of the English Language from Elizabethan times and later.    I quote from the “Questions and Answers” Ordinariate site linked above

The mission of the Ordinariate is particularly experienced in the reverence and beauty of our liturgy[emphasis added] which features Anglican traditions of worship while conforming to Catholic doctrinal, sacramental and liturgical standards. [emphasis added]   Through Divine Worship: The Missal — the liturgy that unites the Ordinariates throughout the English-speaking world — we share our distinctive commitment to praising God in the eloquence of the Anglican liturgical patrimony and Prayer Book English. “

The language, including all the “thee’s” and “thou’s”,  is beautiful and a reminder of  our heritage.   (Unlike the prescriptions of some present day Catholic liturgists, there is no attempt to debase the English language by subscribing  to politically correct gender neutrality and inclusiveness.)   There is also frequent and appropriate use of Latin, again as a reminder of the Church’s heritage as the Church of Rome.

The music is without guitars and drums, using hymns from the English Hymnal (as compiled by Ralph Vaughan Williams). Communion is given on the tongue, kneeling at the altar rail, with the Host distributed by the priest with intinction in the Precious Blood. After this Mass, I feel that Bishop Morlino’s goal has been achieved:

[The Mass] must be nothing less than beautiful, reflecting the perfect beauty, unity, truth, and goodness of the object of our worship and adoration Themselves, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
—Bishop Robert Morlino, Madison Catholic Herald, Oct. 20, 2011.

*Part of this post has been published in the New Liturgical Movement Blog, September 29th, with author credit given as Gregory DiPippo, who adapted it from a piece I submitted to him.  It won’t hurt to give it more exposure.

34

The Lord’s Prayer–Sung, Chanted or Recited?

For the fifth Sunday in a row, the Lord’s Prayer at our Church’s Mass was sung, a version put out by the Notre Dame Folk Choir.   This cranky old physicist (with pretensions to musical and liturgical taste) finds the melody  banal, the whole song elevator music for liturgists,  and offputting from focused prayer.  I will dispute the argument that this is the sort of stuff that’s needed to bring young people into the Church.

The ICEL chant has beauty, dignity and supports a prayerful disposition.

And then of course there’s always the old standby, just praying the “Our Father”.

Maybe I am out of touch with what the modern liturgy should be, and should find a time machine to go back 60 years or so ago.   Let’s do a poll (even though the sampling for readers of this blog is not going to be unbiased).    Please comment on which version of the Lord’s Prayer you would prefer at Mass:

  1. the sung “Our Father” (Notre Dame Folk Choir version);
  2. the ICEL chant;
  3. spoken prayer

Thanks.

10

Wise Words from Cardinal Sarah

Some may object that I am paying too much attention to the small details, to the minutiae, of the Sacred Liturgy. But as every husband and wife knows, in any loving relationship the smallest details are highly important, for it is in and through them that love is expressed and lived day after day. The ‘little things’ in a marriage express and protect the greater realities. So too in the liturgy: when its small rituals become routine and are no longer acts of worship which give expression to the realities of my heart and soul, when I no longer care to attend to its details, when I could do more to prepare and to celebrate the liturgy more worthily, more beautifully, but no longer want to, there is a grave danger that my love of Almighty God is growing cold. We must beware of this. Our small acts of love for God in carefully attending to the liturgy’s demands are very important. If we discount them, if we dismiss them as mere fussy details, we may well find, as sometimes very tragically happens in a marriage, that we have ‘grown apart’ from Christ—almost without noticing.–Cardinal Robert Sarah, Talk: “Silence and the Primacy of God in the Sacred Liturgy“, 14 September

Ipse Dixit.