Another’s conclusion

My recent change in blog design was not unanimously acclaimed, and there was even a gentle but heartfelt plea for a return to the previous theme. So the innovation has been abandoned and the traditional theme restored. This seems spookily emblematic of something… cannot think what though…


Dom Mark Kirby of Silverstream Priory in County Meath, Ireland, has noted (with unwarranted kindness) my cri de ceour on the Mass. He admits to having been a fellow-traveller in the Reform of the Reform school, but has now reached a somewhat different terminus than the one at which I find myself. He concludes:

The cracks in the post–conciliar liturgical edifice became evident almost as soon as the new rites began to be “lived in.” Today, the same edifice appears like so many shabby buildings put up hastily during an economic boom, now revealing their structural flaws, and threatening imminent collapse.

He has both reason and experience in his rhetorical arsenal, and the courage of his convictions. He and his brethren have found a happy home in the bosom of Mother Church, enjoying the freedom to use the liturgy of 1962 as confirmed by Benedict XVI. He is no sectary. It is his community’s just-getting-on-with-it that is so attractive and so compelling. Arguments must be made, of course; still, to see a community making the old liturgy not so much an ideological stand but, well, normal daily practice is consoling. It is how liturgy is meant to be: not something controversial and almost political, but part of the warp and weft of Christian life.

I still think something can be fruitfully salvaged from the liturgical reform, and in large measure it will come from communities such as Silverstream quietly and faithfully worshiping as the Church has always desired we should. For some it will be with the liturgy of 1962, and for others the liturgy of 1969 and after. I still think there might be something in those interim missals immediately after the Council. They merit further study as they are far more clearly in communion with the previous liturgy of the Church, while just as clearly reflecting the desires expressed by the Council Fathers. They are not so much a via media but more of a path too quickly ignored.


12 thoughts on “Another’s conclusion

  1. How I smile at the irony Father. You continue to inform, educate and mentally stimulate from a brilliantly reasoned standpoint. How I pray for the same reasoned view from those who raise their eyebrows and beat their breasts in dramatic disbelief that someone might dare to even contemplate embracing something other than the Ordinary. There is still a long road to walk to reach The desired Liturgical light at the end of the tunnel but I have faith that we will get there.


  2. After three years of catechesis, an one year of doing it, our bishop has forbidden me to say the OF ad orientem. The resistance to the EF, or any “reform of the reform” in my diocese (Little Rock, Ark., USA) on the part of almost all the clergy is disheartening to me. When I leave this parish this summer, the Sunday offering of the EF will cease. To paraphrase one of your own statesmen at the time of the Great War: “The lights are going out all over Arkansas.”


    1. Oh Dom Gregory, what sad news. And how sad that you are probably, and not unreasonably, looking forward to moving away from a local Church which is enmired in the rut discussed. You can be sure your work was not wasted, and that you have probably planted a seed in those whose souls were fertile, though it may not blossom for some time. It is just like teaching kids: it can seem all battle, and then years later you discover these same kids valued one’s teaching and remember one fondly. Catechesis too usually offers delayed gratification! But I am sure you know this already.

      One little thing – I am not convinced that a bishop can forbid the OF being offered ad orientem, not least since the rubrics (eg at the orate fratres) rather assume the priest has not been facing the people!

      Hang in there. You’ve kep t a candle burning in the darkness of Arkansas.

      Pax semper.


      1. Thank you for your kind words, Dom Hugh. The bishop told me that “it is against the law” to celebrate the OF ad orientem, or wear a maniple for it. Where do they get these “laws”? You can go on YouTube and see many celebrations of the the OF that are ad orientem. I guess that they’re all wrong, too. I find it strange that the amice and cincture are optional, but a maniple is forbidden. Quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra aliena?


      2. Considerabam ad dexteram et videbam, et non erat qui cognosceret me.

        I wonder if your bishop is making it up as he goes along. The maniple is optional, not forbidden. Facing the people is optional, not forbidden. Oh dear. Shake the dust off when you leave.

        Until then, hold firm, stand fast and take heart, and trust in the Lord.



  3. I have to admit that it took me a minute to realise that by “theme” you meant the visual layout of the blog, but I agree that returning to the earlier one was a good idea. Regarding the more substantive “theme” under discussion, I find myself in agreement with what you have written, and I am grateful to you for sharing your “lament” with us.


    1. Hi Joseph. I had not foreseen at all the ambiguity of “theme”, which must have given a few seconds of head-scratching. Thanks for pointing it out – I have gone back in changed it to design, which is much more specific. Thanks also for letting me know that you share the same feelings on the liturgy, as it is always good to know we are not alone.



  4. Father, as a non catholic, I don’t have a “dog in this fight” so I reluctantly come here to add my 2cents—I am a person who deeply prefers the 1928 prayer book of my Anglican/ Episcopal roots—as well as preferring the Rite 1 service vs the more streamlined modernized quickie service of Rite 2–I have watched our gem of the english language, the Book of Common Prayer, altered chopped and changed–all for the changing times you know.
    What I do know is that after having followed your blog now for some time, I have found you to be a man of deep committed faith, a learned man who is honest and very reminiscent of the one whose voice cried out in the wilderness.
    It is because of the depth of your spirituality, wisdom and honesty that I eagerly await your posts—I feel as if the posts are the homilies I greatly miss from a regular church attendance, which I sadly admit has been years—as you know I have left the Episcopal church—as my godfather so sadly states, “the Episcopal Church speaks with forked tongue”—this from the 92 year old Dean Emeritus of the Cathedral of St Philip in Atlanta and former president of the house of deputies of the governing body of said national church.
    I fear we attempt so much reform, seeking in vain, some sort of gauze to stave off a blood letting, when in actuality it is not such things as liturgy or rite of service, or hymnal that are the root of the bleeding.
    Blessings Father


    1. Yes Julie, you are a neutral indeed. And you are particularly welcome here as you are precisely the sort of person the Church needs to be more zealous in reaching out to. Your roots in the Episcopalians seem deep, so it must be doubly difficult for you. You remind me that too often the Catholic Church seems to have followed too closely the developments in other denominations, those especially that are in their death throes. Instead of trying to be more like them , we need to be more unlike them, re-presenting our treasures to you as something we wish to share and which will multiply in the sharing. Thankfully, there are places that do so, and which fully and surely in the bosom of the Church, and which offer a safe and happy harbour to newcomers. May you find one soon!

      Blessings, and thanks for your kind words.


  5. Having found the texts of the 1965 rite online, I firmly agree with you that these do appear to achieve what the Council mandated: they simplify the 1962 rites greatly while retaining their form, structure and, largely, content.

    By comparison, the Pauline Missal seems cluttered and alien.


    1. It’s amazing, isn’t it (especially for one born in 1968), that we had what might justly be called the Mass of Vatican II and it was taken away from us. In fact I feel a little cheated!

      Someone mentioned to me that the Australian version of that Missal has a different, and superb, English translation at the relevant parts. If anyone ever finds a copy please let me know! Not that I am unhappy with the American edition I have available, but my national pride clamours to be appeased.

      Perhaps, in this new age of liturgical diversity, we could have a Summorum Pontificum for the 1965 Missal? I’ve heard worse ideas…



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