A sane voice

Reading this piece on Corpus Christi Watershed on the possibility of bad liturgy, in the sense of its manner of celebration, in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite of the Mass, I was struck by its sanity and reasonableness. What is more, its author, layman Andrew Motyka, articulated superbly my position at this point in time, a position in which I feel confident I do not stand alone:

As someone who grew up with the Ordinary Form, it is my preference. It is what I’ve always known and am most comfortable praying. However, I am grateful for whatever liturgy Holy Mother Church gives me, and I do not resent the EF in any way. Two forms, one liturgy. My greatest preference would be to celebrate the Ordinary Form with a priest who loves the Extraordinary. I believe this to truly be the “mutual enrichment” of which Pope Benedict spoke, and I hope that that enrichment carries into the future to the benefit of both forms.

To be honest, I am finding it very difficult to continue with my abortive attempts to learn the EF of the Mass. Not just practical difficulties are involved, but conceptual and psychological ones. It is still too alien to me. Not that I have any animus towards it, and in fact I cheered as loudly as any when Pope Benedict XVI liberated the old Mass in 2007. After all, just because I have not learned to love it does not mean I think others should be deprived of it. It is a liturgy of the most ancient pedigree, and the vast majority of the saints of the Western Church would have worshipped in and through that Mass. It needs no new apologia; the saints are its apologists.

That said, this concept of mutual enrichment is one that really does engage me psychologically. Perhaps that is partly why I am keen on the Mass forms that appeared in the wake of the Council and before 1970; in them it is possible to discern the old Mass being reformed in light of the express will of the Council. The Missal published in 1965 is a case in point. (Of course, the closer to 1970 we got the more was the Mass tinkered with, or rather, substantially reconstructed.) I can happily strive to be that priest who celebrates the Ordinary Form but loves the Extraordinary. That, for this priest at least, is a more compelling reason to learn the intricacies of the ancient Mass.

We can be sure the heavenly liturgy will not be subject to such debate and contention. With Christ as the unveiled, unmediated celebrant, how it could it be anything other than perfect.



25 thoughts on “A sane voice

  1. Father, your difficulty in learning the EF and engaging with it psychologically, even though this is simply voluntarily on your part, might give you a little – a tiny – insight into the spiritual and psychological suffering into which millions of faithful Catholics were plunged when the new liturgy, in the vernacular largely, was imposed on them, often in a bullying manner, by their own clergy. Much of what was imposed had nothing at all to do with Vat II but was simply the product of an itch for change and to be ‘with it’. As someone remarked at the time, ‘Before you get with it, make sure you know where it is going’. Well it has to be conceded that the multitude rushing about like the Gadarene swine had no idea where ‘it’ was going. Even many of those excited by the prospect of the Council and open to its insights and directions, did not foresee the earthquake which was about to be visited upon them. If you want an explanation for millions leaving the Church, seminaries emptying and monasteries closing, look no further.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hi Alice.

      Trust me, I already have an insight into the feelings of those who were befuddled and worse after the Novus Ordo was introduced. More than once have I referred to that reality. Indeed, my own mother, an intelligent woman but who looked her faith played out on a straight wicket, was so alarmed by the change from a largely Latin Mass with the priest facing east on one weekend, to a totally vernacular Mass with the priest gazing at the congregation the next weekend, that she effectively ceased to go to Mass, and no one reached out to her to explain the changes. In perhaps a majority of cases the priest themselves had little real idea of the rationale behind the changes, and merely implemented the dictates from on high, and then not too much later the dictates from the more exultantly liberated among the people of God, who appointed themselves commissars for change. OK, I am veering into caricature, but caricature can only function when it is based on truth.

      Sadly, it is pretty clear now that the 1960s was not the decade to hold the Council. Society was too unstable, and its instability destabilized the Church. 20/20 hindsight?


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for answering. I read parts of Pope John’s pre-Council speeches a while ago and I simply did not recognise his analysis of ‘the world’ at that time – given that I was just entering my teens at the time. He seemed to think the world was just there waiting for the Church to embrace it and all would be well, that the Church had been ‘closed’ and had to open the window and that everyone in the Church was singing from the same hymn sheet etc etc. Poor Pope Paul VI soon found out what a discordant choir he had on his hands! The idea that the majority of ‘young people’ (young people very soon grow up, you know!) had/have this thirst for the infinite is pie-in-the-sky. What they wanted/want is what the sixties gave them. The Church should have stood firm and sacred and beautiful so that when they grew up, obtained a little insight and left behind all the guitars, they would have indeed experienced a glimmer of the infinite. Did no one think it odd that the stream of those young people who HAD followed a vocation to the religious life and the priesthood dried up as in a drought the more youth days etc etc were held? Anyway……..better stop now.

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      2. Alice, you have put your finger squarely on two points that are still not sufficiently acknowledged let alone addressed. The first is that the popes of the 1960s, both of them, possessed a remarkable degree of naïveté with regard to the world. They were, I suspect, influenced by theologians and thinkers who themselves had been influenced, even beguiled, by the increasingly secularized world in which they were more immersed than either pope. (That in itself would make a fascinating and important study.) Having seen a world pushed to the brink of destruction by man’s actions, with almost culpable credulity they accepted that somehow man of himself could make it the world wonderful. We had to do better for our children, of course.

        Which brings us to the second point. The whole concept of youth, especially of the teenager, was being developed in this period. The young became a market force as well as a socially distinct one, and I wonder if some leaders of the Church felt the Church woefully unprepared to engage this sub-culture and rushed to find ways to do so. As you say, they ended up courting people at the most unstable, whimsical and impulsive (and vulnerable) stage of their lives. Experience and the modicum of wisdom that comes with education brings us all to a more sober, stable and realistic view of life. So, as you say, the Church should have spent more time gently cautioning them as to the dangers of their nascent culture. And of course they would have rejected it, at least openly, but the seeds would have been planted. We all know that a young person away from the pressure of his or her peers is far more reflective and sensible. So, as you say, the Church should have prepared the ground to welcome the young when they began to edge towards realism and maturity, and were more able to recognize the vacuity of this culture.

        Instead, so many priests, sisters and catechists told teens that whatever they felt was OK, they were OK, that the highest value in life was respecting the other no matter what he or she does (“Don’t judge, man.”). This was laissez faire education and catechesis, so we can hardly be surprised that we have a generation or two that is blind to the essential truths of faith, worship and human existence. We are reaping now, too, the fact that the pastors themselves too often fell into this narcissistic mindset, and used the young to satisfy their lusts, which were of course “OK”. How many of them have been led astray by those who should have been guiding them on the right path. We do well to remember Christ’s dire warning about those who lead the little ones astray. Many people indeed may well be in for a cosmic and eternal shock.

        So yes indeed – the Church failed to maintain a healthy distance from a world in flux, and failed to offer a properly Christian critique of this rapidly changing (and disintegrating?) society; likewise, it failed to be ready to recapture the young when they began to be open to seeing the world’s follies. In vocations, in worship, in morals, in discord, the Church is reaping the harvest she sowed. But it is not too late to salvage something from the wreckage, and that salvage operation is well underway. Those movements involved are, to a remarkable extent, filled with young people. Funny that…


        Liked by 2 people

  2. These answers are excellent critiques on ‘what went wrong’, and hindsight is a wonderful thing. Holy Mass and how it is celebrated is too sacred, too holy, too precious to argue over.
    It is though increasingly obvious that our Holy Father does not have the concern for the liturgy that our Pope Emeritus had. At the same time there are groups of priests and laity (ACTA springs to mind) who would have a very different liturgy (and Church) than at present.
    I think that good Pope St. John would have been sad if he had lived to see exactly what was in Pandora’s box once it had been opened.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gertrude! In a (supernatural) sense, St John XXIII is around to see what happened after his Council and I feel sure he is underwhelmed.

      Does St Pius V give him the odd dirty look in heaven? No, surely not… he just raises an eyebrow.


      Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe we should’ve revived the Inquisition rather than had a council. Just joking. However, let me say that I learned to celebrate the EF when I was 62 and it has been a great blessing to me and to my parishioners. Not everyone has to like it or attend it, but justice and a sense of our heritage demands its availability.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dom Gregory – salve!

      Just tonight in calefactory it came up in conversation that Bishop Butler’s principal reservation about the Council was that it was held too early. He was on to something there.

      You have all my respect for taking up the EF in your mature years. I’ve no doubt it is a blessing to you and to your parish. There is obviously something in it all!

      Pax semper.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Father, I for one would be very interested to hear (if you felt able to let us know) what it is that makes the TLM feel alien and psychologically difficult for you. Does the Latin language itself play a part? The ‘ad orientem’ stance, the silence/relative inaudibility of the Propers and the Canon, or perhaps you might feel detached from the faithful in the pews?
    (If it is the latter, no need to feel that at all, for they are all with you, in spirit and – if they are using their missals – to the letter.)

    Of course, what one needs for any learning is impulse and motivation. I can imagine that for a priest it must be so much more difficult: because you have the daily responsibility of having to say Mass, and to attend to the needs of the congregation, you simply don’t get the frequent personal opportunity to be a passive, meditative Massgoer. Which I think is the natural way to fall in love with the Rite.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The answer cometh, better late than never!

      To begin with, what does NOT seem alien is ad orientem. At Winchester College I say Mass in that position and it it wonderful, liberating in fact, and I can concentrate on talking to God. Moreover, I know from feedback that the boys prefer it that way too. The celebrant ceases to be the focus, he is not “in your face” as it were. But I have long been on record as preferring facing east, and for many far more theological reasons.

      Even the silence I can cope with at least conceptually. If the priest is talking to God there is no necessity for the people to hear. They know what is being said anyway, through missals or sheer memory.

      However, I do feel that the words and the actions should have a tighter fit. The dialogue Mass that developed made sense to me. There is a clear role for the people in the EF and while I am easy with Mass with only one minister present or none (and such a “private” Mass can be very soothing), I am uneasy with the the ministers assisting taking the place of the people in their proper parts. Now, I know that there are sound enough arguments for this, eg that as the priest represents the people before God (and Christ to the people) so too can ministers represent the people in their proper liturgical action. But it is not something I am naturally comfortable with yet, or perhaps not formed for is a more accurate way of putting it.

      Some of the ritual gestures and actions I find a little overused. Crossings and genuflections are fine with me (though a few crossings could be happily omitted, and I suspect this what the Fathers of the Council had in mind), but patens under corporals seem a little untoward. I am can appreciate the significance of variations in bows, but it can feel a little artificial at times – or is it affected I mean?

      Perhaps my main discomfort is the atmosphere that prevails in what little I have seen of the EF before. This of course may be due merely to a too-narrow exposure. But it can seem a little obsessive in that some, at least, appear to be watching for any rubrical slip up that might happen. Thus, while I could quite happily say a “private” EF, I would feel too self-conscious at a public one.

      That is what I feel at this point in time, aware that rational answers can be made to all my points. But it is not reason that is my hurdle, but psychology.



      1. Father, thank you for answering so frankly – much food for thought there.

        I must say I can sympathize with you about the stuffy ‘atmosphere’ that often prevails – those attending can seem rather self-preoccupied, perhaps because it is after all a self-selecting congregation, largely strangers to each other, and they tend to have their heads stuck in missals or eyes closed in prayer. Few children, few mums and toddlers, mainly older people, students, and a few diehard ultras.
        That is a cultural historical accident that will be alleviated when the EF becomes genuinely equal and widespread (after all, we now aspire to abolish *Inequality* – which must also apply to the two liturgical forms of the same rite…:-)
        I haven’t myself ever noticed anyone watching out for accidental breaches in the rubric, though I can imagine there may be those who do and waste no time in letting you know how eagle-eyed they are.
        There have been always been occasional slips, but as a child in the 1950s/60s I never ever heard any parishioner comment on them: it would have been considered pedantic, unfair and irrelevant. I certainly can’t imagine anyone raising them with the priests of my childhood!!
        Anyway, mistakes are rather endearing, as are freudian slips in Latin (It’s not like deliberately omitting the Gloria or the Credo at the OF Sunday Mass after Easter, as one priest did for years at a church I used to attend.)
        If you were to say a private Mass with a few people there who knew you’d be there only if it suited you, that would ensure an positive, faithfully adherent and grateful atmosphere. And as you grew in confidence in the practice, you’d be able to overlook the pedants who, like the poor, will always be with us.
        The complete lack of oral participation (or Silence of the Lambs 🙂 is an interesting point, but a complex one. This post is already too long: I’ll leave that topic until later.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Salve!

        It is quite probable that I am doing the general run of EF Massgoers an injustice, as one’s perceptions do not always match reality. Nevertheless it is one of the psychological hurdles I must overcome. I know, intellectually, that many if not most are as understanding as you are.

        Another commentator here has pointed out that expressing what I find comfortable or otherwise in the EF is not helpful. Possibly not. Yet it might help people understand why a goodly number of sympathetic priests have not yet rushed to the warm embrace of the EF. There are many factors involved, of course, but priestly discomfort or anxiety cannot just be dismissed as ridiculous or inconsequential. Many of us have had a formation that does not incline us easily to make the jump, even if intellectually we can see the compelling merits of it. The work of years cannot be undone overnight, which of course may explain the enduring relevance of (forgive me that word) and attraction to the old Mass.

        Blogs may be helpful in exposing these factors, but perhaps they are not ultimately helpful, least of all to the faithful. People have never really been comfortable with even the more innocent evidence of clerical humanity. There are many, many good priests around, most of them unrecognized beyond a small circle of those who notice such things. But many of us are quite ordinary, trying to make the best of what little we have to work with. If we cannot be given sympathy I hope we are at least afforded some prayer by those who wince at the sight or sound of us.


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      3. The paten under the corporal is a reference to the Passover ritual where the “afikomen” is hidden and then brought out near the end of the meal.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Salve Dom!

        That is fairly obscure and arcane symbolism, not that I am against that at all. But is it necessary? After all, the Eucharist as instituted by our Lord was not part of a Passover meal; it was after the Jewish meal was finished. This is the sort of symbolism that might have been in the Council Fathers’ mind.

        But yes, ad orientem is so right!



  5. Dear Father, wouldn’t it be a sensible idea for a Benedictine to learn about the Extraordinary Form in Benedictine Abbey such as Le Barroux and Fontgombault where these rites are part of the monastic spirituality?

    I’m not sure how helpful it is for you to be writing about what in the Extraordinary Form makes you feel comfortable or uncomfortable.


    1. Getting time off to visit Le Barroux or Fontgombault to learn the old rite is not very likely. However if you find my posts unhelpful I am prepared to stop them. Indeed I am in two minds about this blog in any event.



      1. Father, I personally find your posts immensely helpful: informative and edifying. I really appreciate the honesty with which you confront such matters.


      2. Bless you!

        People often forget that priests are on a spiritual journey too – ordination does not confer spiritual completeness or impeccability. One great value in sharing doubts, difficulties and troubles is that the articulation of them is half of the solution. Another is that in sharing them one can find help, encouragement and even the answer from others. Happily that is what I usually get from those, like you, who comment.


        Liked by 1 person

  6. I am late coming back to this thread having been on pilgrimage to Walsingham, and this is just to add – please don’t give up blogging as long as you are free to do so. If it be of lambs, of travel, of liturgy, or whatever it may be, we need Priest/bloggers as never before.

    Any chance of your being at May Procession at Belmont Father?


    1. A pilgrimage to Walsingham – you chose the better part!

      Well I am still here for the time being. That is as much as can be said.

      Sadly, there is no chance of my getting to Belmont for their famous May festivities. In fact, I have never been to Belmont for anything, mea culpa. This monk is becoming more enclosed with each year that passes!


      Liked by 1 person

  7. As to the paten under the corporal, the corporal has lost all of its significance of the place where the Sacred Species are “concentrated,” or symbolically, as the cloth that holds the body of Our Lord. It disturbs me to see priests rather carelessly (almost as if the problem doesn’t occur to them) transferring and even worse, fractioning, Sacred Hosts when distributing Communion without returning to the corporal.
    The crossings that cannot be “happily omitted” are precisely the ones that were the first targets, namely the ones after the Consecration and especially the Quam oblationem. The gesture goes with the text of the Canon…one can be hard-pressed not to extend hands at Hanc igitur. And it’s absurd that in the other prayers the imposition is followed by the Cross, but not at the place where there were once several! In my humble opinion anyways, dear Father.


  8. Where we live there is no extraordinary Mass whatsoever and people are totally unaware of the existence of Latin or Gregorian chant. The Mass is exclusively celebrated in the native language. When speaking with the elderly they tell us that as children they were always celebrating Mass in Latin and they loved to sing Gregorian. But as usual is the case people never stand up for beauty and dignity and the banal and undignified has such a strong grip, it seems like an iron fist. Trying to talk about reintroducing true beauty and dignity in the liturgy- at least to allow once a month the Misa Angelicus to be sung-seems to meet with more difficulties, or even strong resistance, than going to the moon. A German told me that he could no longer attend Mass on Sundays, when the “choir” consisting of unbearably shrieking voices and the guitars and drums dominate the liturgy to such a degree that he finds it intolerable. “i just can´t find any peace or holiness whatsoever, quite the contrary, listening to all the noise, presented as “music”.” he said. He is definitely not the “complaining” type but seems very kind, tolerant and accepting but, obviously, this is the limit.
    It is so obvious that the “choir” doesn´t even care to rehearse. And why should they since nobody seems to care. Priests apparently have succumbed and some probably even enjoy it. A clappy” Gloria” seems to be what most of the attending faithful regard as the greatest thing during Mass.
    And the chattering outside and inside the Church, shortly before Mass is ear deafening. As immediately after Mass when loud conversations start.
    One has to ask oneself why everybody who seem to share my views are so passive, not even trying to to change even the smallest detail.


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