Added emphasis

I think it was Ronald Knox who described heresy as elevating one aspect of dogma at the expense of another. Thus our belief in free will and our belief in the power of grace are so difficult to reconcile that we may only know the answer in Heaven. Meanwhile the heresy of Pelagianism (and semi-Pelagianism), by emphasising the power of will, tempts us into believing that we are able to turn towards God, at least initially, before we receive grace.

Thinking about this led me to consider, not where we necessarily fall into heresy, but where we may get the emphasis wrong and, in so doing, impoverish our understanding.
My first candidate is the Mass. Before Vatican II, a great deal of emphasis was put on the sacrificial nature of the Mass. It made sense for us as congregation, to be behind the priest who, in the person of Christ, made the offering to God. We knew that it related to the Last Supper, but this only really affected Holy Communion.

Nowadays, without of course denying the sacrificial element, the emphasis appears to be on its nature as a meal. And the churches are re-ordered so that the priest faces us across the ‘table’, and of course we converse in a common, rather than a ritual, language.
Putting full weight behind both the sacrificial and the social element of the Mass may be relatively easy for us old fogeys who were around for many years before the Council. But how about the young? Is it possible that the Mass as sacrifice is neglected?

How about the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, finally abolished in 1966? It was certainly a strange list of forbidden items. I mention random examples such as Simone de Beauvoir, John Milton, David Hume, Blaise Pascal. But not Darwin (thankfully) nor Mein Kampf (less thankfully).

The apologists made a straightforward case for at least the principle behind the Index. They argued that, just as we protect the young and the general public from the dangers of, say, contaminated food, so the Church was right to protect its members from contaminated books. And, after all, if anyone had a serious reason to read, permission was easily obtained.

While I am disinclined to argue for censorship I cannot help wondering whether giving free rein to the young is really such a good idea. And when I hear of the pubescents who now appear to be learning the uses of sexuality through pornography on the Internet, and are given to ‘sexting’ naked (and sometimes obscene) photos of themselves to their friends, I do pause for thought.

I now have a definite impression that our Catholic-educated young are more familiar with the arguments against religion than the arguments in its favour. Removing ecclesiastical censorship need not mean handing the field over to the foe. Where should we put the emphasis here? On protecting the young from contamination, allowing the young to read as they please, or teaching them much more robust apologetics? But even the most robust apologetics will be no protection for the young mind that is being presented with pornography. Whether intended or not, the child is abused and the psyche damaged.

My third question about where we should put the emphasis is one which has often figured on this Blog. It concerns the matter of conscience. There seems to be a range of views here. There are those who appear to argue that although we should nominally consult the Church, we are pretty well free to make up our own minds. And there are those who hold that to make a moral choice contrary to the Church’s teaching must be a very last resort, which can only be justified if the chooser has done all that can be done to understand and accept that teaching.

Both ends of the range tend to quote Cardinal Newman. But he clearly holds the more rigorous position. He describes the modern (i.e.Victorian) distortion of the right of conscience as, the right of self-will. In considering solemn, but not infallible, moral teaching, he says: ‘Unless a man is able to say to himself, as in the Presence of God, that he must not, and dare not, act upon the Papal injunction, he is bound to obey it, and would commit a great sin in disobeying it. Prima facie it is his bounden duty, even from a sentiment of loyalty, to believe the Pope right and to act accordingly.’ But don’t stop with that well known sentence, read the whole of the section  on conscience. It’s at http://www.newmanreader.org/works/anglicans/volume2/gladstone/section5.html If you have not read it all before, ten minutes study will give you the best instruction on conscience you will ever have.

So come and tell us what views you have on these questions, and do please raise other issues where you think some of us may be getting our emphasis wrong.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Church and Society, Moral judgment, Philosophy, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to Added emphasis

  1. St.Joseph says:

    I read all the above a few times I could not take it all in for now. All I can say and that is as I see it at the moment, we all have different consciences which we apply to our experiences and how we live in life Forgetting about the Natural Law which man knew before Moses -we did or ought to have a sense of right and wrong. even as atheists .But even atheists have been over the centuries guided by the Church whether they believe it or not in morals. and are able to recognise right from wrong, and to work it out as time goes by seeing past history and its failures..
    Just one example in the news at the moment about the wastage of food when so many are hungry-will we learn from that-or the big Supermarkets.It surely will touch their conscience!
    Our conscience tells us how wrong abortion is when we see the real facts-which the media is afraid to show because they know it would cause an uproar if they did.
    When it comes to the Pope as I said in an earlier post, I follow my conscience, but it is formed by the teachings of the Church- and as long as the obedience I follow does not take me away from the Lord who will always comes first before the Pope.
    The thing that concerns me is when people decide what is right for them in conscience-and it is against the Churches teachings, go all out to prove the Church wrong and they are right.
    When it comes to the Sacrifice of the Mass it is both , an unbloody Sacrifice and a Communion Meal. But not like sitting around our table at home and having a meal to satisfy our stomachs-I think maybe that was thought about in the early Church before there a was better understanding of the Cross, Salvation.and the Eucharist, when the Passover as it was then at the Last Supper,.
    Jesus came to change that.- with the ‘New Covenant’.That we may all be one

    I think reading this post back I may have missed the point Quentin-but as the comments come in, I might be able to get some understanding of your post, and comment clearer. on what I am trying to say.

  2. Horace says:

    Re the “Index Librorum Prohibitorum,”

    When I was at school (circa 1940) I wanted to read a book by Sigmund Freud of whose works I had heard. I was told that this could not be allowed because it was “on the Index”. Instead it was suggested that I should read a “Critique of Freud” (I forget who was the author).
    I declined because it seemed to me unreasonable to read a critique of a book that I had not read.

    I ended up reading “Jung” instead!

  3. St.Joseph says:

    Horace.
    Re the “Index Librorum Prohibitorum”
    I didn’t know about that years ago-then I wasn’t into reading lots of literature beyond my means of understanding. I would be interested to know if you missed out because you didn’t read Sigmund Freud and reading Jung instead. I don’t know much about either, not being the intellectual type.
    I do believe that the Church has to put their stamp on books that teach ‘against’ Her teachings .
    I don’t think one can go far wrong by studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It has everything one needs to form their conscience.
    Vincent.
    We do need to have an active presence in the media. I have never heard of the Catholic Voices.
    I can only say that any catholic voices in the media that I have heard has been mostly a ‘shilly shally’ ‘point of view’ (to use my grandmothers expression) . But then maybe I have been missing something!.Someone tell me if I have. One young man on the Big Question made it clear once, He spoke very well for the Church and I felt he really believed what he said.But he got shot down in flames but stood his ground!
    Archbishop Vincent Nichol’s had a golden opportunity to speak about what we as Catholics use for spacing families, but did he?
    I don’t feel I need to defend my faith on Spiritual matters to the media-I know the blog is different when we discuss subjects , but when it affects society and my conscience then I will stand my ground. to anyone even bishops and priests.People need to know then why we think and defend what we believe.Not just because we are RC’s, but because we are responsible citizens and Christians.

    • Horace says:

      St.Joseph:- Your question “I would be interested to know if you missed out because you didn’t read Sigmund Freud and reading Jung instead.” is rather difficult to answer.
      There is no doubt that the inclusion of Freud on the Index was well justified, for example see Wiki :-
      “Freud regarded the monotheistic God as an illusion based upon the infantile emotional need for a powerful, supernatural pater familias.”
      My memories of Jung are rather vague but I do recollect some ideas about a ‘universal consciousness’ – which was elaborated in his later works.
      Again from Wiki I notice “Jung’s ideas on religion gave a counterbalance to the Freudian scepticism on religion.”
      Perhaps I did miss something – but it was probably a good thing!

  4. Geordie says:

    I think that the Mass as a sacrifice is neglected. One of the Sunday Masses at our church is like a social get-together; the noise is unbearable (and that’s not just from the children). If some of the parishioners can’t make the vigil Mass on the Saturday evening, they just don’t go at all, because they come home from Mass thinking all the wrong kinds of thoughts.
    The doctrine of the Real Presence is also neglected or perhaps not even believed. During weekday Masses at the sign of peace when the Blessed Sacrament is on the altar, people are wandering around all over the place and that includes the priest. They chat and joke; it all seems as though we have lost the awe that we should feel when Almighty God, the Second Person of the Trinity is present with us in a miraculous way.

    • John Nolan says:

      Geordie, I could not in conscience attend a social get-together like the one you describe, although strictly speaking it is probably a valid Mass (provided that the celebrant has the correct intent). If he doesn’t, you might as well attend the Anglican church down the road, or better still, go to the pub.

      • Vincent says:

        I take a different view from John Nolan. For my own comfort I would like Masses to be reverent and quiet. So much so that I even dislike the celebrant wishing me a good morning from the altar. The sign of the Cross is all I need to start. But if the Mass is noisy, I am pleased that people could at least attend. If Jesus could put up with prostitutes, publicans and tax collectors than I guess I can put up with my noisy neighbours. Though it wouldn’t stop me suggesting to the pp how one might make things a little more peaceful.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Geordie.
      I think the best way to cope with that situation is to speak to the priest, I am sure he will listen to you, we have a duty to express our feelings if you are upset.
      Don’t go to the Anglican Church or the pub as John say’s(I am sure he doesn’t mean it).
      You would miss out on the Real Presence. Remember it is your Church as well as those who don’t understand We do well to educate the priests and the laity I say that as a female, and priests are our ‘sons’.I believe we have the authority to do so and the responsibility
      Our Blessed Mother would!.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      If you acted like that in our chiurch -chatting and joking on the altar-someone would most likely show you the door. Not that I’m a great fan of ‘eratz awe’ you understand and I only say this to show that the situation varies greatly.

      • Quentin says:

        9am Mass, this Christmas Day. Fire alarm started after the Offertory. finished by Communion. Turned out to have been caused by a potato (don’t know how). Celebrant declared that 2012 Christmas would be henceforth known as ‘Fire Alarm Christmas’. Someone had lost the bidding prayers after the Midnight Mass. I was serving and reading so had to make them up on the fly (forgot the Hail Mary). That’s real life in a busy parish!

  5. St.Joseph says:

    When the sign of peace was first introduced the Altar servers after receiving it from the priest gave it to each person on the end of the pew and then it was passed on to the next person.
    I don’t feel that its takes away from Our Lord,but perhaps a different time maybe before the last Blessing would be better.I think that when people refuse to give the sign of peace to those next to them is rather ignorant,but I do see what you mean when it is goes over board, but I can accept it as we ought to feel happiness in our soul at Holy Mass-we are in communion with each other in the Lord.and sharing something as you say miraculous. If I get to Heaven I hope I will be able to dance and sing for Joy in the Presence of God, the Angels and the Saints, not forgetting Our Blessed Mother.

  6. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin.
    I just saw and heard the video,I will listen to some more sometime!
    But just a thought, did he say ‘How he knew’. It would be interesting to know..

  7. Singalong says:

    The Mass has always been celebrated in widely differing ways, even when it was always in Latin, and with the priest and congregation all facing the same way.
    On weekdays, some priests would ‘gabble’ through the Latin at top speed, and would take all of 20 minutes, others of course would be more reverent and measured.
    Masses on Sundays and big feasts would be much longer with hymns, plainchant and otherwise, and sometimes more like concerts.
    They still are in some places. At the English Mission in Zurich, a few months ago, a very carefully prepared Mass included a wide variety of music, from classical solo singing, which was clapped vigorously by the congregation, to a Nigerian procession with instruments and chant, How Great Thou Art, and Amazing Grace.
    There is always a balance to be made between our awe and reverence for Almighty God and Christ`s emphasis on His humanity as our brother and friend. I think of Him speaking to the gathered crowds while they thronged about Him, no doubt talking and laughing with each other, at the same time.
    I sometimes wonder, when in Church, is this how Our Lord wanted His life and teachings to develop, as He carried His Cross to Calvary.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      In my National Service on a mixed station, mid-1950s, the (American) chaplain regularly got through a weekday Mass in 15 minutes flat. I’m not aware that we missed anything.

  8. Singalong says:

    I should have said it is the English Speaking Catholic Mission in Zurich, I do not know which country or diocese is responsible.

  9. St.Joseph says:

    I remember the days of the 20 minutes Mass,.
    In Ireland when visiting my grandmother-which was often ,.Mass was every half hour on a Sunday, just time enough time for people to leave and come in. They used to have Mass on the side Altar going on at the same time only starting quarter of an hour after. Each Mass was packed.
    I never knew what was on-my mother used to often faint at Mass and sat at the door,and had a bottle of Holy Water in her bag to drink when she felt weak .
    I didn’t know what was going on, I was about 8,and remember saying ‘What’s he doing now Mummy’One time the priest was giving Holy Communion so fast forgot me kneeling and I wanted to wait for the next Mass- but my mother wouldn’t as she wanted her breakfast-I was kicking up a fuss so she took me around to the Presbytery and the priest brought Holy Communion to me.
    We don’t want to go back to those days again. My son would kick the seat in front, the more I told him not too, the more he did it and all I got was shush shush, so out we had to go.
    Ok so there is a lot of noise but we can switch ourselves off. Didn’t Jesus say to His Apostles ‘let the children come to me’! I go to a Monastery with only a few people-If I went to my parish, and it was noisy-sometimes little ones running up and down the aisle-although I wouldn’t have allowed mine to do that- I know I can go on a weekday and it will be peaceful and quiet

  10. Iona says:

    Pascal? Why on earth was Pascal on the Index?

    • Quentin says:

      Pascal was a leading Jansenist. Jansenism started as a very demanding form of Catholicism, with an important element of predestination. It was condemned by the Church but, at least when I was young, its philosophy was still influential in France. He and the Jesuits were at loggerheads. Pascal wrote the (brilliant) Lettres Provinciales against them.

  11. John Nolan says:

    To read the Low Mass shouldn’t normally take more than 20 minutes, provided that there are few communicants and the server is brisk with the responses. It doesn’t imply lack of reverence, simply proficiency. The NO Mass, if offered in the same objective way, would be over in half the time, which is why it has to be padded out with homilies, mini-homilies, readings ‘proclaimed’ portentously by lay readers, and sacerdotal histrionics. It ends up being needlessly didactic and, quite frankly, a bore.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan.
      Mass in the week is over in 20 minutes even in the parish Church,where I went last Monday (not usually to that Church) but it was an in service day at my 9 year old’s school so he came to a later Mass with me as I look after him on days off.
      I used to take my children to Mass on a Thursday evening before they were old enough to go to school-the Church was 5 minutes walk, a new Church and it was only about 20 minutes 1967,but no Mass on a Sunday until a parish priest could be there..
      We had no transport on a Sunday and the Church then was 4 miles away- so evening Mass there was by a bus. But I did not take the children-I went on my own.
      I think that Sunday Mass now is more to do with families and there it is so good to see children -babies in their fathers arms and a few little ones joining in the singing and perhaps a pregnant Mum.To me that’s what it is all about Worship ,and not forgetting the ‘Praise’. But I do understand your comments.I don’t know if you had any young children-if you did you would understand that 1 hour on a Sunday with parents and granparents ‘alive’ in the Mass joining in the liturgy, and not having those who thought we should have kept the children at home as they interfere with the holiness-I would rather see the Church full even if the hymns (songs) are not to my liking! And after all we are supposed to be involved in the liturgy as readers, although I am not one, and a sermon is necessary and so are the Psalms and the singing .I don’t feel it a duty or an obligation as many did years ago. I used to love the High Mass as a teenager-but not as a 5 year old.The only experience I had was ‘ stop fidgeting, say your prayers,’ no you can’t go to the toilet, you will have to hold it’ until you get home, The only enjoyment I got was receiving Holy Communion when I was 6 yrs old-and then looked forward to that. But the rest was a nightmare.!

      • John Nolan says:

        When I was 5 I loved the High Mass – so much going on. I sat transfixed and tried to act it out when I got home. I got to love the Low Mass when I learned to serve it three years later. A sermon was something you had to endure on Sundays, and at the standard evening service of ‘Rosary, Sermon & Benediction’. As a boat boy to the adolescent thurifer I would of course (at High Mass) repair to the sacristy after the Gospel, ostensibly to change the disc, but in reality to miss the sermon. There was usually time for him to smoke three cigarettes. When I served the early Mass on a cold winter’s morning the curate would give me a glass of altar wine afterwards. I liked serving funerals – a chance to get out of school on a weekday morning, and a ride to the cemetery in a big black car. Weddings I wasn’t so keen on, especially if you got a stingy best man who only tipped you half-a-crown.

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      John Nolan,
      Sorry John I simply miss the point hee…what is the ‘NO Mass’?…simple descriptive terminology please!

  12. Mike Horsnall says:

    Given the nature of the topic I have a simple question for you all. This is not a theological question nor is it intended to make a point or catch anyone out. When mass is cut to the bone -down to 20-30 minutes- with little focus on singing for example and carried out in such a manner as to resemble a smoothly oiled ecclesiastical machine…does it have the effect of ‘dulling’ the heart? I am not seeking any theologised answer nor advice on how to act nor admonition….. just a brief note on peoples experience yeah or nay would be helpful!

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      I was well satisfied with the army chaplain’s 15-minute Mass, but then I generally regard brevity as a virtue.

    • johnbunting says:

      Mike,
      Perhaps an analogy would be helpful here.
      The austerity and simplicity of a monastic cell is one expression of the religious impulse. The exuberant decoration of a baroque church is another. So with the different ways of celebrating the Mass. We all have our preferences in such things, and indeed may feel more at home with the one or the other at different times, depending on our circumstances or state of mind. I just feel grateful that the Church has room for both.

      • St.Joseph says:

        johnbunting.
        You are so right. what you say ‘depending on our circumstances and state of mind.’
        I am pleased that Mass is 25 minutes in the morning after 7 minutes Terce.In that time we have an entrance hymn nothing modern, a short sermon, petitions ,then quiet reflection after Holy Communion, One can stay there all day if one likes, no locking doors., I could go to mid day prayer if I wished.
        4.45 Vespers. Hymn again not modern. sing Psalms, and Magnificate and Lords prayer.
        and can stay there as long as one likes as I do often until 6. as I didn’t go to my daughter for evening meal.to-night. But do the same when I can in the afternoon.
        I can do that now a widow, but obviously if my husband was alive I couldn’t or wouldn’t as he would not do that, and I could respect him for that, so I wouldn’t either He would have been to Mass, and loved it , but not all the children and noise and modern hymns etc, but coped with it. It did not stop him from becoming a catholic.Or he would not resent me if I did go.
        Our Lord wants us all to be one,but I believe one in the Spirit of Truth and Understanding and not forgetting the Heart .

  13. mike Horsnall says:

    Thanks John,
    Actually I was hoping to avoid analogies and generalities, I’m chiefly interested in experience-not what’should ‘ we feel but how do we feel about the issue of a pared down mass as mentioned.

    • John Nolan says:

      Interesting question, Mike. In Hungary in 1994 I was on the last day of my visit and about to leave for the airport when I heard a church bell. Given that it is always good to hear Mass before a journey, I entered the lovely little baroque church. The Mass was in Hungarian, there was no music, no sermon, and I had no way of knowing what the scripture readings were about. I joined in the congregational responses using Latin. Since the priest followed the rubrics exactly, I knew where I was. Twenty minutes later, as the small congregation were leaving, an elderly gentleman, realizing I was a foreigner, came over and shook my hand.

      I remembered a line from one of Hilaire Belloc’s travel books. “The Mass was low and short, for they are a Christian people”.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John Nolan.
        Your comment Jan 13th 11.21.
        I know exactly what you mean and it is a wonderful feeling, for a man.
        Neverthless for females it is a no go area.I wont say unfortunately as God forbid it would not work. (maybe it would for femenists who would want to change it all. But should if they are mothers with boys.Altar servers were a pathway to the priesthood,, if they had a vocation not any more unfortunately.
        I understood that I could never be up there on the Altar and never yearned to be, but could feel the beauty of it , I felt my priesthood would be in motherhood and still is as a grandmother in showing them the beauty in our faith before they become lapsed!!
        Perhaps that is where the Church is failing with not many vocations. I know 5 or more young men who have become priests from a parish priest in a church I worshipped in and now all celebrate the Latin Mass.Through him my children and grandchildren defend what they learned from him- especially my son who is now 49 and a foundation governor of a catholic school for that reason.
        It is not just the Latin mass that will show them the path-it also needs the home and the schools. as Daphne Mcleod all her life fought for, proper catholic education in the schools. We will then have vocations.Both to the priesthood and motherhood in plenty.

    • johnbunting says:

      Mike,
      As you use the terms ‘pared down’ and ‘cut to the bone’, I wonder if you can be more specific about what you think is missing from the sort of Mass you describe. Provided it is liturgically correct, i.e. nothing essential missing, and the celebrant acts and speaks with due reverence and clarity, not rushing things, then I would be happy with it.
      You say ‘little focus on singing’: does that mean none at all, not well chosen or sung, etc.?
      Perhaps some plainsong settings of the Credo etc., preferably known to the congregation, would be suitable.

  14. mike Horsnall says:

    Hi John,
    The singing was just by way of an example of being ‘pared down’ in that the Mass can be carried out with very little human reaction at all beyond the mouthing of the words themselves. I guess I mean tending more to letter than spirit. I am trying to get my head around what people mean when they describe mass as ‘mechanical’ and ‘boring’. I don’t mean ‘shortened’ or ‘lacking’ in any way, perhaps ‘dry’ might be the best term.

  15. St.Joseph says:

    I am sure Jesus didn’t think it was boring when He hung on the Cross and suffered a most bloody and cruel death for us and those who are bored .I am sure Our Blessed Mother wasn’t entertained.
    That would be the best reply for those who say that!

  16. Mike Horsnall says:

    Yes, but thats not what I’m interested in. I’m interested in the case of decent men and women being put off faith by dull renditions of Mass DESPITE the miracle that takes place for those who believe. I’m not looking for clever answers-I don’t think people always choose the acidie which overtakes them, they don’t deliberately and for no reason slip into robotic attendance then fall away, something happens.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    Mike Horsnall.
    That is not meant to be a ‘clever’ answer as you put it! It is an ‘honest’ answer and the most
    TRUTHFUL answer that one should hear. That will wake them up from any ‘self pity’ they may have for not understanding the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Tell them to contemplate on the Crucifix and they will soon no longer slip into robotic attendance and fall away. Then something ‘will’ happen as you say.!! That is what you ought to be interested in, not searching ‘their soul’ for the answer. .
    The Last Supper may have been the first Mass, however the crucifixion was the implementing of bring it into fruition, His death bringing us Life.His Resurrection showing us Hope.
    I will suffer dull renditions of Mass, not DESPITE the Miracle BUT because of it!

  18. Mike Horsnall says:

    Yes I agree with that completely.

  19. Singalong says:

    While I entirely agree with this also, and with John Bunting`s Comment, I also accept that we are constrained by our human condition, and our fallen human nature, so that sometimes, or often, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and needs the support of good and reverent presentation, and opportunities to take part physically as well as spiritually. One innovation which I personally find very helpful, is the Bidding Prayers, especially when the congregation is invited to publicly add their own petitions.
    I remember preparing for this in a way, when there was no male altar server available on a weekday, a female could say the Latin responses from the front of the congregation, and then during the 1950`s Dialogue Masses were introduced where the whole congregation joined in saying the responses aloud.
    I think that sometimes the way we talk about going to Mass can sound rather mechanistic and uninspiring. When adult children visit, for instance, we may discuss whether they would like to come to the 9 o`clock, or perhaps the 10.30, or we could go to 6 pm on Saturday, as if we were talking about a train journey.
    It is always impressive to me how much less inhibited some evangelical Christians are in talking about their services, and their spiritual lives in general, and in spontaneously bringing mention of Christ into their everyday conversations. I mentioned this once to a relative we were visiting, a contemplative nun with a very structured timetable, which includes much prayer, and beautiful chanting of the Divine Office in Latin, but she did not seem to share my feelings, or really understand them.
    On the whole, we find the balance between emphasising the Mass as sacrifice and communal meal is usually quite good now, though it has taken a long time, which unfortunately encompassed our children`s growing up, which is another subject.

  20. John Nolan says:

    A number of factors contribute to many (probably most) parish celebrations of the Mass having a tendency to be boring or irritating (when I’m irritated I’m bored and vice-versa).

    1. Whether he’s at the chair or the altar, the priest is always facing the people. Since the ritual gestures have been pared down to the absolute minimum, it is wordy, and the fact that everything is in the vernacular emphasises this. The silences are enforced and artificial, not the ‘filled silences’ of the EF Low Mass. There is little sense of the numinous or the transcendental.

    2. The Responsorial Psalm. How often have you heard this from a reader? “The Responsorial Psalm. The response is … (reads it out, and everybody repeats it. They then robotically repeat it after each verse. Makes you want to tear your hair out).

    3. The frankly appalling music. “Lord have mercy etc” sung to a tune of mind-numbing banality. Then, unbelievably, the same tune used for “Holy Holy Holy” and “Lamb of God”, with the words altered to fit. The “folk” settings which deliver a line of text, repeat it, and then repeat it again for good measure. Believe it or not, on the First Sunday of Advent the middle-aged guitarist kicked off with “This is the day that the Lord has made”.

    4. The Bidding Prayers. Anodyne and politically correct. After an horrific massacre of Christians by Muslim mobs in Egypt it was “we pray for justice and peace in the Middle East”. At this point irritation turns to anger. Who writes this guff?

    5. Before the blessing and dismissal the priest tells you everything that’s in the parish bulletin which you were given on the way in. Words, words and more words. Then all seven verses of the closing hymn.

    Most Sundays I go considerably out of my way to avoid these things. The liturgical reformers were certainly concerned about a ‘mechanistic’ attitude on the part of the laity with regard to the liturgy, but missed the point that this matter-of-fact approach is actually quite a mature one. Objectivity in worship is not in the Protestant tradition, and in my opinion Catholics need to recover it.

  21. mike Horsnall says:

    “Most Sundays I go considerably out of my way to avoid these things. The liturgical reformers were certainly concerned about a ‘mechanistic’ attitude on the part of the laity with regard to the liturgy, but missed the point that this matter-of-fact approach is actually quite a mature one. Objectivity in worship is not in the Protestant tradition, and in my opinion Catholics need to recover it.”

    Yes, this is the kind of thing we need to discuss. The reason I ask opinion on the matter is something to do with what we expect to gain from Mass. Matthew tells us that sooner or later the love of most will grow cold (Matt24v12) on account of the increase of wickedness in the world but that those who hold on will be saved. I often think of this scripture when talking to people who have ceased practicing their faith or are just slipping away.
    On the other hand I sit in our church sometimes quite disconnected with the process on account of the terrible acoustics of the place, its poor sound quality and our failure to persuade the PP to invest in a new loudspeaker system. Part of me wonders whether the ‘matter -of -fact-approach’ is what one is being pointed towards or not. I find it interesting that several of our paragon saints , toward the end of their lives almost lost completely the sense of Gods closeness,car or even of Gods very existence. One’s thoughts then drift naturally to the crucifixion and towards pondering as to the nature of this seeming withdrawal of consolation; in other words , for us today, is the disenchantment mnay feel a neccessary function of maturing or is it in part simply a fact of poor theatrics which could be completely avoided?

    For myself I cannot somehow fully accept (yet) a pragmatic matter-of-fact approach to Mass, part of me clamours against it and wants to change the choir, buy a new sound system etc etc etc until the process ‘feels alive’ This yearning in me is quite strong and I don’t think people can be blamed completely for their attention thresholds being high or low. On the other hand we do not go up to the House of God for mere entertainment but for something deeper.
    Thanks, John, for your thoughts on ‘matter -of -factness, its good to see that written down.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I don.t think C of E churches are full. I am fortunate to have 5 churches with 2 Latin Masses (and 1 Latin in the week) to attend Mass on a Sunday, and I can say that none of them are like how you describe here. But the I don’t go to them often..John’s description sounds just like my late husband’s words from the grave, and my son’s description of how they felt, only they called it a pantomime.
      My son used to say, if I want to go to a disco, I will do so, but when I go to Mass I go to pray.He still sometimes has a moan where he lives.
      However I was asked years ago early seventies by a priest (not my parish) to join the Liturgy group,I was flabbergasted that there was such a thing-I thought it was the parish priests duty to do that and choose the hymns , I didn’t think it had anything to do with the laity-but he informed me in was in the spirit of Vatican 2!!But where I did worship the priest choose the hymns and was most unpopular,until eventually he had to go. A pity.
      I don’t wish to be involved in any of that now, I had enough of that years ago, I choose a peaceful life now.I think of the saying I forget who said it now,’Accept the things you can not change, and change the things you can’. Hence my pro-life efforts and teaching fertility awareness, which I did hopefully along with many others change.
      But I am sure that if one is unhappy with where they worship-they could make a difference if they applied there unhappiness to the Priest or Bishop.That is what we are here for to voice our opinions and speak out, when something is so important in their lives, or as John and Mike say vote with your feet.but it could make a difference.
      One thing though- people at Mass do look happier today than years ago! Perhaps it just needs a little adjustment and communication. Maybe join the Liturgy group or choir and have one,s say!. Because others may believe that they are providing a service to the ‘community’ !!!!!! It is not always what we get out of it, but what we put into it!!!!! Dare I say it but ‘in the Spirit of Vatican 2 -too’!!!!!!!!!

  22. Geordie says:

    I totally agree with John Nolan’s points 3 and 4. There are some beautiful modern hymns but for the most part they are excruciatingly bad. I just can’t join in.
    There are some bidding prayers that are appropriate but many are laughable.
    I may sound like a pompous old “git” but I’m not wrong.

  23. John Nolan says:

    One of my options for Sunday Mass has been a small church about 45 minutes’ drive away, where the PP (who died a month ago) offered an EF Low Mass every Sunday morning. It was the only Latin Mass (in either form) in the entire county. A disinterested observer would remark on the following. Firstly, there is a balance between words and ritual action. A profoundly deaf person would have no difficulty in following the Mass with a hand missal. Secondly, everyone, priest and people alike, are focused on the object of the liturgy. There is a clear sense of common purpose, helped, it must be said, by a common orientation. The concentration during the Canon is almost palpable. Thirdly, it is clear that what is going on is out of the ordinary. It is not a group of people gathered for common worship led by a ‘presider’, nor is it a Bible study class, or a chance to reflect on contemporary world issues; I am not saying that these are not valuable, but they are extraneous to the liturgy.

    What attracted Evelyn Waugh to the liturgy of the Catholic Church was not the elaborate ceremonial (he was not particularly musical, and found High Mass tedious) but the idea of the priest as an artisan, stumping up to the altar with his tools and his apprentice, to do a job that he alone was competent to do. It is a striking and not inapt analogy.

  24. St.Joseph says:

    St Dominic’s Catholic Church. Dursley Glos; 5.30 every Sunday Latin Mass.
    Fr Redmond has 2 parishes St Joseph’s Nympsfield and Dursley, every Mass even school Mass’s are celebrated with his back to the people on the High Altar. 5 miles from me.
    My daughter doesn’t mind ,can’t say that for everyone though.!
    I don’t go only when I go with them.I am quite happy with where I do go.
    I thought Prinknash Abbey had one on a Sunday,but they do every Saturday a Tridentine Mass.11am.

    • John Nolan says:

      That’s great, St.Joseph, but not much use if you live in Bucks. Fortunately Oxford, London and Birmingham are (relatively) easy to get to. I would have thought that 40 years on a decently celebrated OF would not be too much to ask. However, things are improving, albeit slowly.

  25. Singalong says:

    There have always been different kinds of spirituality within the Church, from the different practices of the Roman and Celtic churches, which Bede wrote about extensively, to the varying emphases put on ritual, spontaneity, and emotions, by religious orders, Benedictines and Franciscans in particular.
    Perhaps Mike, when people fall away, it is because they lose sight of what is actually happening at every Mass, regardless of its varying forms, which we need to be reminded of constantly, or taught properly to start with.

    • Quentin says:

      An article has been published today which is relevant to our discussion on the liturgy.
      ‘Vatican Preparing a Manual to Help Priests Celebrate Mass’
      January 16th
      http://www.zenit.org/article-36355?l=english

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin
        Thank you. But I don’t put much hope in it being implemented-after all it has been said before. Maybe if the Tabernacle was put back back to its proper place-which incidentally was never meant to be moved in the first place,or the Altar rails.
        More attention was put on the lectern and chair.
        The Chair is important but it is meant to represent the Lateran Basilica in Rome.

  26. Singalong says:

    Thank you, Quentin,

    the liturgy, whose renewal must be understood in continuity with the Tradition of the Church and not as a break or discontinuity. A break either because of innovations that do not respect continuity or because of an immobility that freezes everything at Pius XII, he said.

    I think this is very reassuring, and probably feel more optimistic than St. Joseph. We came across some quite outrageous ‘experiments’ in the 70’s, but since then our experiences have been of Mass offerred with great reverence and devotion, so we are fortunate.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Singalong ‘
      I admire your optimism and pray that the faith will be taught in the schools . Maybe we have learnt something from all this liberalism, I somehow think that it was expected to bring in a greater understanding of our Catholic faith. Open the windows and let the Holy Spirit out was the term used as if we were all indulging in our own self and needed to spread our wings and blow the cobwebs off,
      Maybe in one sense it has opened up the Catholic Church to the world and we have become less tight lipped about speaking as to what we believe , but we could have done that without losing so much of its beauty and traditions., and losing perhaps a couple of generations to the religious life.

      • Quentin says:

        A major problem here, St Joseph, is that we don’t know what the Church would be like now if Vatican II had never taken place. Yes, I know there were excesses after the Council — there always are when you have freed people from the heavy controls of the last several hundred years. An organisation has to learn how to be free when it first gets a taste of freedom. And the rear-guard action, which remains powerful, is trying to keep it that way — increasingly out of touch with the society it was sent to save. We have a long way to go in order to become a Church which the 21st century can hear. But without Vat II we still wouldn’t have come up to the starting post.

    • John Nolan says:

      We were spared most of the grosser manifestations of liturgical creativity in this country but instead settled in the main for a culture of sloppy mediocrity and lack of attention to detail. Even the attenuated rubrics of the new Mass are ignored or altered to suit the whim of the celebrant. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen priests addressing the Eucharistic Prayer to the congregation – “Take this, all of you and eat of it” said while looking round the assembly and gesturing to them with the Host. This is why more and more people want a return to a common orientation for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

      And it’s not just the priests who are to blame. If the middle-aged woman with a copy of the Celebration hymnal and an electronic keyboard thinks it is OK to replace the ancient text of the Gloria, recently restored in translation, with something along the lines of “Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory Hallelujah!”, then she is clearly as ignorant of liturgy as she is of music. In my earlier diatribe I mentioned Rambling Syd Rumpo who rummaged in his gander-bag on Advent I and came up with “This is the day that the Lord has made” (a repetitive kindergarten paraphrase of the Easter Sunday Gradual ‘Haec Dies’ which I suspect he’s never heard, let alone sung).

      This, I am afraid, is the depressing norm in parishes up and down the land. It will take more than a Vatican doument to change it.

      • St.Joseph says:

        And some middle aged men!

      • Quentin says:

        “This is the day the Lord has made” continues with “let us rejoice in it and be glad.” So the NRSV has it at Psalm 118 v.24. The King James’ bible — that repository of great English writing — has “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Not too different. When the children were young my wife wrote it on her kitchen wall. It was her ready reminder on the difficult days that everything can be turned to good.

  27. Singalong says:

    What a lovely positive thing to do! Perhaps not the best choice for a hymn on the First Sunday of Advent! O come, O come, Emmanuel, Veni, Domine, et noli tardare, Long the Ages rolled and slowly . . .

  28. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin.
    I agree with what you say regarding Vatican 2.The problem I see it is that instead of saving society, the liberals lost sight of the saving power of Holy Mother Church and was likely to become part of the society it was supposed to protect Catholics from!
    We can only go so far without destroying ourselves.
    I say thank God for the rear-guard action!

    • Quentin says:

      Now this is getting back to where I started in my original posting. It’s not an either/or situation it’s a both/and situation. Heresy (or in this context misleading emphasis) is when we insist on the new while forgetting the old, or insist on the old while forgetting the new. A phrase ‘ecclesia semper reformanda’ — a Church always in a process of reformation — is pertinent here. We must continuously reform and we must continually remain the Church.

      Incidentally we only speak of the Protestant churches as the Reformation churches out of consideration for feelings and respect for the sincerity of their members. Historically they were not a reformation of the Catholic church they were entirely new foundations.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Well said Quentin
        And we do have to have movement to expand.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        … which is why they can appoint whoever they like to ministries that, however estimable, are of their own devising, and I don’t see how we can ever recognise their orders as valid in the sense of the Catholic priesthood.

  29. John Nolan says:

    The ditty I was referring to continues after this fashion: “This is the day, this is the day that he rose again, that he rose again, this is the day, this is the day that he rose again, that he rose again; this is the day that he rose again, this is the day that he rose again, this is the day, this is the day that he rose again”. Yeah, Syd, I think we got the message the first time. it’s about Easter, right? Rambling Syd was tuning up for a faux-folk Gloria until the priest, realizing what was happening, reminded everyone that there was no Gloria in Advent. This would seem to indicate that Syd hasn’t much of a clue about liturgical seasons, but I shall be charitable and suggest that his choice of material was probably dictated by the chord progressions he felt comfortable with.

    In case anyone thinks I am making this up, I shall give date and place. First Sunday of Advent 2012, Winslow, Buckinghamshire. (Diocese of Northampton)

  30. St.Joseph says:

    Peter Wilson.
    Yes, but that is the fault of how weak the elasticity is!.Too weak and it breaks. Strong and it will remain fast.

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