The liturgical mood of the moment

Is it possible that the mood of the moment, in liturgical terms, has changed to such a degree as to be irreversible?

Dom Mark Kirby OSB of Silverstream Priory states his position in his clear and balanced way, as one who had laboured for the new rites and made no headway in the direction that had been set for those rites by their own creators.

On the New Liturgical Movement we find a useful introductory synthesis by Dr Peter Kwasniewski of the increasingly public lamenting of the liturgical status quo.

Dr Joe Shaw investigates more deeply yet accessibly both the real disadvantage the Reform of the Reform (RotR) has faced, and the obsession with the text that was the fatal (?) flaw of the Liturgical Movement. In the first case, I think the real disadvantage is not necessarily insuperable (why not, for instance, offer a RotR Mass alongside the normal one, much as he advocates offering the old Mass alongside the prevaling liturgy?). The focus on the text, on the human word, is soberingly accurate, and it is an obsession that expresses the hyper-rationalism of modern man.

Mark Lambert examines Archbishop Roche’s telling if more subtle words on the liturgy at the Roman symposium last week on Sacrosanctum Concilium. Of particular note was the Arhcbishop’s highlighting the fact that:

…first of all, we attend Mass because we are in need. We are there because we need to be fed.

This could do with much fruitful unpacking. We go to the Mass not because there is something we can give (other than our bodies as a living sacrifice, our spiritual worship) but because there is something we must receive. We go not to do something but to have something done to us, to put it a little crudely. This is an essential insight for an authentic and fruitful liturgical spirituality.

There may well be more out there that I am yet to see.

jimmy-fallon-hosting-gettyPerhaps most surprising of all is an interview given by Jimmy Fallon, who is about to be promoted as Jay Leno’s successor on The Tonight Show, one of America’s biggest and most influential modern TV shows. This is the voice of one of the multitude whom we have lost in the wake of the liturgical reforms. Of his childhood he reveals what was probably the common experience of so many Catholic boys,

I loved the church. I loved the idea of it. I loved the smell of the incense. I loved the feeling you get when you left church. I loved like how this priest can make people feel this good. I just thought it was – I loved the whole idea of it. My grandfather was very religious, so I used to go to Mass with him at like 6:45 in the morning, serve Mass. And then you made money, too, if you did weddings and funerals. You’d get like five bucks. And so I go ‘Okay, I can make money too.’ I go, ‘This could be a good deal for me.’ I thought I had the calling.

Though ever the comedian he is being sincere, as will become obvious in his answer to being asked if he still goes to church:

I don’t go to – I tried to go back. When I was out in L.A. and I was kind of struggling for a bit. I went to church for a while, but it’s kind of, it’s gotten gigantic now for me. It’s like too… There’s a band. There’s a band there now, and you got to, you have to hold hands with people through the whole Mass now, and I don’t like doing that. You know, I mean, it used to be the shaking hands piece was the only time you touched each other…  I’m doing too much. I don’t want – there’s Frisbees being thrown, there’s beach balls going around, people waving lighters, and I go, ‘This is too much for me.’ I want the old way. I want to hang out with the, you know, with the nuns, you know, that was my favorite type of Mass, and the grotto, and just like straight up, just Mass Mass.

It is obvious to see why a Swiss cartoonist penned this sharp little cartoon in 2012.

“Vatican II has opened up the Church”… “and the people have left”!

It is time to get these guys back.

Revive ’65.

16 thoughts on “The liturgical mood of the moment

  1. Some enduring rituals of our lives are imperative to hold on to— there should not be attempts yielding “improve” or modernize—no glitz, nothing gimmicky, no smoke and mirrors needed–the basic ritual of a people communicating with their Creator and Savior does not need changing or improving—it can’t be made “better”, it is as great as it gets—we just haven’t figured that out yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Father, ‘Just Mass Mass’ is a very shrewd wish. What was it Reagan used to say was his wish for the US government: ‘Don’t do something – just stand there!’.
    Btw, in that sharply observational Swiss cartoon the passé composé meant as a narrative past, which makes it is even sharper and sadder:
    ‘Vatican II opened up the Church…and the people left.’
    Emphasising that the damage was done – and completed – some time ago. Catholics did abandon Mass, en masse, so to speak, round about 1971. And in many cases – among the young – it had nothing to do with Humanae Vitae, and everything to do with the liturgical changes.


    1. Good morning!

      Thanks for correcting my schoolboy French. Thankfully the gist was intact.

      I tend to agree with you about HV and the Mass. Those who rejected HV would have been more likely just to ignore it in practice rather than abandon Mass over it. Instead, if Mass has become some sort of public meeting with a singalong thrown in (I caricature for effect!) then the motivation for going would have to be very strong indeed. The sad irony is that all the changes designed to be relevant to modern people, especially the young, have not only failed in their objective but been positively counter-productive. Of course there are larger cultural factors that have to be considered, but they do not absolve the liturgical free-for-all that was inflicted on so many.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly, Father. Imagine the culture shock of going from, exclusively, the TLM of 1962 (or indeed as you say of 1965) to, exclusively, the current NO, within three or four years of constant revolutionary post-VII changes, every Sunday some further novelty, justified by outpourings of obscure tabletese – none of it understood except by the revolutionaries themselves.
        As the full pews of the 1950s/60s emptied in the 1970s, the social mix, and the style of liturgy, and the content of sermons, was increasingly reduced and focused on a narrow ideological and aesthetic range of viewpoint, almost a monopolistic clique. (Still is, in some places.) And the Traditional Latin Mass was deliberately suppressed – for all practical purposes, and to most of the faithful. The result was, often, apostasy.

        This is why off-the-cuff musings about ‘fads’ tend to set off alarm bells among those who have lived through what one might describe as the longest fad of all.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You touch on another issue, indirectly. The clamour for liturgical change came not from the people but from the liturgists. Especially among the early Liturgical Movement the ideals and intentions were the highest. The hand missals for the laity produced in the middle of the last century still serve as wonderful resources. The fact is that in 1969 a Mass was imposed on the people that the people had expressed no desire for. It is a valid Mass, and celebrated obediently, reverently and without recourse to too many options it can be a rewarding experience and spiritually uplifting; happily in my monastery we can manage to do that with some degree of regularity. Of course it works best when some mutual enrichment is going on!

        The Council’s documents present no problems for me, and as I am saying so often now, the Missals of 1964/5 represent to me a post-conciliar liturgy that authentically corresponds to Sacrosanctum Concilium. The Agatha Christie indult was for this Missal, and one of the commenters on this blog has put forward the view that this indult has not been abrogated, a claim I must verify if I can as it is an exciting one.

        Ultimately, I do not think it will ever come to abolishing the Ordinary Form. Rather, in this age of diversity, the Church would be best served by allowing not only the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinariate’s liturgy, but also the Missal of 1965. What a wonderful mélange of mutual enrichment that would afford us. And in time we find things settling on a much more fruitful place.


        Liked by 1 person

  3. The Church is in need of true healing and that will come through the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. So many Adoration Chapels are closing due to the older people not able to go and the younger ones not understanding it. So sad. I think there will be a great rebirth of life in the Church after a persecution… God help us.


    1. But adoration is experiencing a comeback in many places. Benedict XVI’s adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Hyde Park in London in 2010 was breathtaking in its simple solemnity and profound silence. All the young people there ‘got it’. Keep praying: the night is far gone, and the day is at hand.



  4. Alas, the ‘public meeting with singalong’ has long since, aesthetically speaking anyway, turned countless parishes around the world into little more than tired experiences of what one might call ‘Jesus karaoke’, made all the more jarring and offensive because of the technical means of amplification with which so many church buildings are equipped. As for appealing to the young, why would they want to spend an hour every Sunday in a big stuffy room packed with elderly and middle aged people, dazed participants in a kind of ‘liturgy meets Lawrence Welk’ experience, the mediocrity of which is spiritually stultifying to a degree immediately apparent to almost anyone? But I take great courage in what the best of those disillusioned young people are rediscovering and sharing with the rest of us: the Roman Church’s rich liturgical and spiritual patrimony, slowly but surely being made available on a regular basis in more and more parishes, religious communities, publications, on websites and blogs, etc. I do not advocate a return to any one period of the past, if such a thing were even possible, but a gradual re-enrichment of today’s Church, admonished by the failures and lessons of recent decades, with the profound liturgical and spiritual treasures which are the heritage of us all. I think many young people are finding these and are far ahead of many of the rest of us in making them a part of their daily lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed mutual enrichment seems the way forward, and I am sure that is what Benedict XVI had in mind. If there had been no deficiencies in the OF then he would have had no need to restore the EF. As the latter enriches the former, so too the former might help rescue the EF from the hands of those who cannot see that the EF can and must develop, and already has. Let it, too, live.

      Still, I cannot help but winder that 1965 saw a pretty good attempt at realizing this project. Why re-invent the wheel?!

      Blessings as always.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that Fallon had hit on something very Socratic in his “Mass Mass” statement. It is the “massness” of the Mass. Perhaps over analyzing, but there is something to be said for the internal longing being able to discern better than the intellect or senses.


    1. Oh, Josh, I think you are quite right. The modern liturgical obsession with the text above the liturgy as a whole, ritual action included, speaks of a rationalism that reduces the liturgy to a didactic tool. The liturgy teaches us, of course, but not as its primary purpose. Rather, how could we not learn from scripture solemnly proclaimed, and ritual action pregnant with meaning and grace. But it is not only in our brains that we learn.

      Cor ad cor loquitur probably sums up your approach. Heart speaks to heart indeed, the Heart of Christ to our hearts at Mass.


      Liked by 2 people

      1. I like your use of the term “didactic” concerning the errant view of the liturgy as some sort of quasi-communal classroom, but it does fit into a view of a unevangelized rationalist.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.