Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The liturgy: changes in store with the new pope?

I've just started to read Feast of Faith, a collection of Cardinal Ratzinger's thoughts on the liturgy. It's quite interesting and makes me wonder what he might do in the area of liturgical reform. He makes the point that liturgies have developed in the Church through the centuries, as a result of an organic process of growth. One of his criticisms of the Missal that came out after Vatican II is that "with all its advantages, the new Missal was published as if it were a book put together by professors, not a phase in a continual growth process. Such a thing has never happened before. It is absolutely contrary to the laws of liturgical growth.... The Catholic liturgy was thus reduced to the level of a mere product of modern times. This loss of perspective is really disturbing." He continues by saying there is much that is good in the new Missal, and adds, "In my view, a new edition will need to make it quite clear that the so-called Missal of Paul VI is nothing other than a renewed form of the same Missal to which Pius X, Urban VIII, Pius V and their predeccessors have contributed, right from the Church's earliest history.... The fundamental issue is whether faith comes about through regulations and learned research or through the living history of a Church which retains her identity throughout the centuries." (pp. 86-87)

It sure sounds like Pope Benedict wants to do something to make some changes in the liturgy. A few years ago in a class I took, the priest who taught it--who was not a traditionalist by any means--said that something is lacking in the new liturgy and the Church needs to address that. He said that people have told him that they feel something is missing, something of the mystical element that used to be there which they are thirsting for. And most of the people in the class agreed. It made for quite an interesting discussion. What do you think?


dundare said...

I do not know if I am qualified to answer, as my attendance at Mass has been up and down in my teenage and adult years.

On an intuitive level, I would tend to agree with that point. I have always felt that the Liturgy right now never really hooks me. Interesting readings are often lost in a poor homily. The special parts like the ringing of the bells are gone. We have to all hold hands during the Our Father. People no longer kneel until the priest has returned to his seat after communion.

I do not know what they could do to change it that would fix the feeling you mentioned. Go back to Latin? Eliminate the homily with its generally cheesy attempts to reduce Scripture to being something specific to the present day and not a timeless truth?

What options are there? I have moved several times in recent years and have heard parish priests do the following:

1) rip the archdiocese of Boston for its treatment of priests.
2) rip the archdiocese of Boston for its handling of the sex abuse scandal.
3) read letters from the archbishop regarding the sex scandal that was so graphic that people were leaving and another so cheesy people left for differnet reasons. These letters were prefaced by the priest saying I dont want to read these but...
4) issues homilies basically saying progressive ideals and politics are a Catholic duty (this was at a parish where a college professor speaks on occasion)
5) numerous factually incorrect and religiously dubious statements about the War on Terror.

How does this stuff get fixed, if at all?

Sr. Lorraine said...

One thing Ratzinger said is that the liturgy doesn't belong to us in the sense that we can just do what we want. Maybe more of an awareness of that aspect would help priests not to co-opt the liturgy for their own purposes. That would be a start at least.

Joanne said...

Music: mine the classic repertoire for some of the lost gems
Accompaniment: Church teaching affords pride of place to the organ. Here in America it can be a forgotten instrument.
Language: A little Latin now and then would remind us that our tradition is timeless.
Pace: slow down. chant the prayers occasionally.
Create space for silence. The communion hymn and subsequent communion meditation song have probably eliminated personal prayer after communion. You're expected to chime in in song, when it would really be better to spend five minutes in silent Thanksgiving and adoration, I think.

Nancy Ullrey said...

Sr. Lorraine, thanks for the post. I agree with Joanne about slowing down the pace and creating more space for silence; and I too miss the bells, even though I understand why we no longer ring them. Before liturgy last week my priest and I were chatting and he said something I thought was intriguing, that perhaps the Eucharistic prayer will be said in Latin, while the rest of the liturgy is in the local language.

Whatever the changes may be, I think one of the challenges at the parish level will be to deal with the shortage of priests. In our parish we have seven liturgies a weekend (three in English, four in Spanish) and two priests (one who only speaks Spanish and one bi-lingual), so the logistics of moving 400 people per liturgy in and out doesn't really allow for a slower pace.

Joanne said...

My parish has a 7:45, 9, 10:30 and noon on sunday mornings so we do have a little extra breathing room. People still want to be oout in under an hour though. We also have a 5 pm Sunday and a 5 and 8 pm on Saturday

With such a schedule, it seems we could further accomodate different liturgical sensibilities. 5 pm Sat is a children's liturgy. 9 am Sunday has the folk group for music. 10:30 has an adult choir with a very modern taste. Seems to me we could easily squeeze more latin into the 8 pm Saturday. People love it when we have exposition after that Mass and they sing "O Saving Victim" in Latin

Sr. Lorraine said...

The present liturgy allows space for silence, but it seems that often the priests do not pause for it. It would add a lot if they did.
It would also help if people did their talking outside instead of right in church, which makes it hard for people to pray.

tony c said...

I grew up in the 70's in a small town in PA. After drifting from the faith I returned to the Church 20 years later (in Boston) and I found the Mass almost unrecognizable. Why? Too much emphasis on the community assembled, not enough on the transcendant God. Way too casual an approach.(Benedict says much the same.)

When I would attend the Ukrainian Church or the indult Mass I had a different experience.

I think the Novus Ordo is maleable, like clay, in the hands of the priest and "liturgy committees" (are they necessary?) which the other rites are not. Too much room for pride and devil to do their work.

Tom said...

Thank you Sr. Lorraine for your blog, which I have only recently discovered. God bless. (I have visted the Pauline bookstore here in New York and everyone is most helpful.)

I too am eager to learn how Pope Benedict may put into practice his longstanding thoughtful criticisms of the actual implementation of those liturgical reforms recommended by Vatican II. He certainly has written a lot about it.

Having grown up in the Boston archdiocese in the 70s and as an altar boy -- and as the son of former monastics -- Latin, chant, etc. all seemed very antique and curious...but it did not rise above the level of curiosity because everyone around me seemed confident that the recent changes were salutary. (In retrospect I think that underlying discomfort with the changes left deep and profound and still unresolved effects.) The priest-as-performer was the prevailing mode and everyone seemed very excited about Communion in the hand and the possibilities for "lay ministry." I took the liturgy for granted through Confirmation, not long after which I sadly fell away from the church. Then when I started to practice again in the mid-90s (in NYC), I began reading about Catholicism again; also I was unsure of what parish to go to...so I "shopped around." NYC has an amazing number of beautiful churches. But I was shocked by the differences from parish to parish, by the attitude and approach taken by various priests, and by the wholesale changes that had taken place. For the first time I sought and went to a traditional Latin Mass, and that experience illuminated for me many of the problems that have been identified and echoed here by other commentators. I was astonished and intrigued, and, a little bit saddened to discover that there is a heritage of "Traditional Catholic" culture to which I can only conclude I was not given access too, as a child. However, the parish I go to now does not have the Latin Mass and I am not of the view that a return to the pre-Vatican II liturgy is necessary or that the reforms recommended by the Council were unwarranted. The Pope is acutely aware of the mis-implementation of the reforms, I think, and he certainly has spent a lifetime praying and contemplating and serving the Church so that he will be ready, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to shepherd us.

Nancy Ullrey's remark is interesting and I tend too to think that there will be an increase of the use of Latin for the Eucharistic Prayer; also a return to Latin for the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei. At my parish now, where the "Novus Ordo" is the rite of Mass, this is the norm. For awhile I encountered parishes where the Credo is barely mumbled in English, the Our Father an occasion for a hand-holding and hand-raising activity that I had no memory of even from the 70s, and where the Agnus Dei was turned into a diva showcase by local music students dressed wholly inappropriately. The result of this and other elements being that the liturgy tends to become directed toward ourselves (by originating with ourselves) and is no longer directed towards the Paschal Mystery (one of the Pope's primary criticisms). Joanne is right that a rediscovery of classic hymns and the true musical heritage is in order.

At my parish the priest typically gives the opening blessing facing the altar (then he turns around to say "The grace and peace of the Lord our God etc..."). It's a little hint, a subtle one. Also after "The peace of the Lord be with you always" he omits the "Let us exchange a sign of peace" and goes right to the Agnus Dei. Does this mean that the parishoners do not wish peace on each other, no. But there is no distracting handshaking and hugging and there is more room for contemplation and silent reverence. Personal piety and devotions are encouraged in this church, too: daily rosaries, confessions, votive candles, regular Eucharistic adoration. So that the religious experience is not reduced exclusively to a once a week "gathering of the people." The Mass is the Source and Summit, yes, but there are other treasures of the faith too. One interesting thing about my parish is that it is seeing a large increase in the number of religious vocations.

I think that Pope Benedict XVI has written somewhere about the orientation of the priest towards the people during the Mass: that returning to an orientation "ad orientem," towards the symbolic East, would be a simple change but one with a potentially profound effect, highlighting the sacrifice and reducing the focus on the priest's demeanor and countenance.

It is the Year of the Eucharist, so the time is ripe for the renewal of attention and devotion to the Real Presence. I think that reform of the reforms of the Liturgy, by the Holy Father, will manifest that attention and devotion.

It is a very exciting time! I have enjoyed reading your blog, Sister, and my prayers are with you.

Robin L. in TX said...

Going back to Latin for the prayers that are always the same is actually reforming the reform according to Vatican II. Reading the document on the Sacred Liturgy is VERY revealing.

Father Fessio has a booklet entitled "The Mass According to Vatican II" which contains the Novus Ordo Mass as promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969, but in the form as outlined in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. It is published for private use by Ignatius Press. I received mine for free at a Catholic conference where Fr. Fessio spoke. I think that going to this form could unite us more fully. It really is a beautiful union of the NO And Tridentine Masses. Now, if only our organist would allow us some silence in which to meditate and pray after Communion...

I never appreciated the symbolism of facing east with the priest also facing east until I studied the Bible and saw that we were representing on Earth what St. John saw in heaven: the Paschal Lamb, looking as if It had been slain facing God and interceding on our behalf, with the heavenly Saints and martyrs and us behind Him.

Also, in having a disagreement with a pastor who was sometimes unpastoral also made me appreciate the wisdom of having the priest ad orientam, too. It makes it easy to see the priest as "In persona Christi" without letting disagreements and human frailties get in the way of worship.

Reforming the reform, as the former Cardinal Ratzinger called it, makes so much sense.

I have sensed a crescendo in the workings of the Holy Spirit for the last eight years or so, in our parish, in my life, and in the lives of those I have come to know in various ministries at our parish. Not uncoincidentally, we have had Perpetual Adoration for about eight years, too.

This is surely an exciting time to be Catholic, though I think that is always true. However, we need to stay in conversation with God, asking the intercession on behalf of Pope Bemedict XVI, as well as on our own behalf.

In Christ's peace and love,

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thank you, Tom, for your kind words and very interesting reflections on the liturgy, and thanks also to Robin and everyone else who so far has left such great observations about the liturgy. Also Robin's point about praying for the pope is so true. Yesterday at Mass the priest said he gave a weekend retreat with Mother Nadine Brown, who is the foundress I think of the Intercessors of the Lamb. She's something of a mystic evidently, and she told the people that she's been receiving indications from God that it's very important right now to pray for the pope.

tony c said...

A member of my family has corresponded w/ Mother Nadine. Interesting ministry they have going there. Quite necessary, it seems.

Can I ask, as I used to live in Boston, what priest did the retreat w/ Mother Nadine?

Sr. Lorraine said...

It was a Jesuit, Fr. Jim Mattaliano.

Gregg said...

For many years I only attended mass when I went home to visit my parents. One Sunday I decided to attend mass at a small church next to my apartment building. It was an incredible experience that keeps drawing me back. Different from my parent’s parish, this mass has the following:

- What I would call sacred music (Joanne called classic) sung by a very strong choir.
- Organ music only. No guitars, pianos, or tambourines.
- Small portions of the mass are in Latin (Kyrie, responses to intercessions, etc…).
- Many parts of the mass are sung, including the second reading, intercessions, and responsorial psalm.
- There are two or three songs that are sung only by the choir (including Gregorian chants). While this not be quiet time, this period for individual prayer and reflection is important.
- Incense is used extensively during the preparation of the altar.

I wish I could describe better what makes this mass so special. All I can say is that there is something that makes it feel very sacred and traditional. When I attend mass at my parent’s church, I feel so disconnected (last week I was there and during one song we did this clap-clap-clap thing).

I’m not saying every mass should be like this, but I think most people don’t realize what they are missing.