A worthy cause

Most monasteries feel short of money. Mine has been running at an annual deficit for some years but life is far from desperate. That said, there are things we need to be doing or fixing that we cannot now do due to the limitations on our funds. One huge advantage we have is that our property is an asset that can secure us loans when we need them.

So when a monastery is both short of money and living in a house not its own, the danger is compounded. It is hard to practise the Benedictine vow of stability when it is quite possible to be evicted from the place in which one’s stability is rooted.

So please spare a thought for the brethren at the recently-founded monastery of Silverstream, in County Meath in Ireland. Fr Mark maintains the edifying and insightful blog Vultus Christi, and the brethren focus on the worthy celebration of the liturgy in its monastic integrity, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and providing hospitality particularly to priests in a country which largely holds its clergy in low esteem at present. Silverstream has a flourishing community of external oblates, but more imnportantly it has new recruits who need to be formed and housed in security.

Silverstream Priory

The brethren at Silverstream do not own their monastery, but they would like to buy it. Every year that they cannot make the purchase sees 12.5% added to the asking price of the monastery. So in the last few days Fr Mark and his brethren have appealed for help to buy their house. Amazingly, in short time someone stumped up €100,000. That is about 15% of what they need to make an outright purchase.

If you have some money that cries out to be directed to the glory of God, or you know someone else who has, please consider a donation to Silverstream. Fr Mark gives guidance on how to donate in a tax-effective way for those in the UK, the EU and the USA.

Just st St Joseph provided for our Lord and our Lady, so too should the Church provide for those who serve it in the least economically-profitable but most spiritually-profitable way. Such monks are the heart of the Church which prays without ceasing for a world that so much needs God’s grace, and yet is so oblivious to it. Please help them in even a small way, if you can.

Pax.

The brethren on a community walk

 

 

The Liturgical Status Quo: Clarifying the Issues

When I typed, rather unwittingly, my personal reaction to Fr Thomas Kocik’s re-assessment of the Reform of the Reform initiative, little did I know the the issue would be such a lively one. Most of it has been interesting. Only once has it descended to invective (under the guise of muscular Christianity or something similar). 

Dom Mark Kirby’s more recent contribution is another personal contribution, from one who did his best for the new liturgical order and found it to be exhausting and in vain. His reference to Thomas Merton’s trepidation at the prospect of liturgical reform was an eye-opener. His own later confusion seems to mirror and coincide with that of the liturgy.

There are three posts which have really captured my attention. One is by Dom Mark again, looking at (in part) the merits of the 1965 Missal which has occupied my recent speculation. Purists argue, rightly, that this Missal was not conceived as a permanent Missal but a transitional one. Put another way, it was not an editio typica for posterity. That ultimately seems irrelevant, since the point Dom Mark makes (and I agree) is that this Missal was never given a decent chance. It was an opportunity lost. He explains in his post 1965’s continuity with the pre-conciliar liturgy, and also its modest reforms. He cites the Vatican Secretary of State, writing on behalf of Paul VI in 1966, who expressed the view that,

 (t)he singular characteristic and primary importance of this new edition is that it [the revisions of 1965] reflects completely the intent of the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

It took me aback to see in writing, from the highest authority, what appeared to me to be so obvious of the 1965 Missal: it fulfilled the mandate of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and no further novelty was needed (save, maybe, for refinements or restorations in light of pastoral experience). But what should have been an end-point for immediate reform ended up being commandeered as one in a sequence of changes, each of which softened the blow of the one following. The results we have seen all to clearly in some truly horrific travesties of Mass.

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Dr Joe Shaw has not agreed with this view, and did so with his usual logical evenness. One excellent point he makes in an earlier post in his series is that the Novus Ordo of 1969/70 and the Vetus Ordo of 1962 are radically different in their methodologies, for want of a better word at this time of night. The new Mass is built primarily on verbal communication and comprehension, and exalts the text; the old Mass operates primarily by non-verbal communication and silence, and exalts ritual action (I have paraphrased and grossly simplified his writing: please go and read him direct). For him the 1965 Missal is fatally flawed in that it seeks to compromise between the two methodologies, and such a compromise is doomed to failure, as “falling between two stools.” His analysis is compelling and convincing. For him, naturally, the only solution is a return to the Missal of 1962.

Dr Shaw focuses most of his critique on the 1967 changes made to the 1965 Missal, and which were the subject of the Agatha Christie indult. It is the existence of this indult that led me to mention the 1967 changes, since they appear to be licit, permissible even now in England and Wales. By preference, I would prefer the 1964 or ’65 reforms This is not to quibble with Dr Shaw, but merely to clarify.

One thing I do quibble with is his assertion that “none of these changes find direct support from the Council.” That seems not to be a compelling point. The Council Fathers were not concerned with itemizing individual changes, so I would expect to find such direct support almost no conceivable change. This of course raises the issue of the naïveté of the majority of the Fathers, those who came without a fully-worked out agenda and plan of action. They left the field to those who did. Their vagueness served very well those who desired radical change.

Lastly, please do go and read the latest from Dr Peter Kwasniewski at the New Liturgical Movement. He expresses my own position far more coherently than I do. He accurately identifies the two approaches that make up the Reform of the Reform movement: to use the current books with with rubrical integrity, and with as much reverence and traditional beauty as possible; and to revise the books themselves and restore what was too hastily discarded while removing what was too hastily introduced. At present, I live by the former, and I yearn for the latter.

Dr Kwasniewski then goes on to explain that to recognize the apparent futility of the Reform of the Reform is not to have abandoned the prevailing liturgical order lock, stock and barrel. If that were so, I (for one) would not still be daily celebrating, or even concelebrating, the new Mass. “One cannot recover lost continuity by stubbornly insisting on it”, writes Dr Kwasniewski. The options are a complete return to the status quo ante concilium or such a radical revision of the new Mass as to have effectively abolished it, not because it is not valid but because it represents,

a detour, an evolutionary dead-end. It is like those modernist churches that do not suffer gently the passage of time, that are trapped in their own era and mentality, never able to escape from it. The way forward is not to keep developing the modernist aesthetic but to abandon it resolutely and definitively, embracing and cultivating in its place the noble artistic tradition we have received, which retains tremendous power to speak to us of realities that are timeless and transcendent.

Some no doubt see that a “detour”, a new departure was precisely what was needed for the liturgy, to make it relevant to modern circumstances. Whether that view is right or wrong is one question, but what is beyond question is the fact the Council did not mandate any such detour from liturgical tradition.

But we need to remember that any resolution needs to be done fully in the bosom of the Church, as far as possible bringing her members with us willingly and not dragging them by their hair. For now, we must employ the two options universally and licitly available: the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form, and present each at its very best – a new Mass with reverence and traditionally-consistent beauty, and an old Mass performed with loving care and joy as something in which all are invited to share as an enduringly and intrinsically Catholic means of worship. The first must never involve the abandon of liberty hall (as some might see it) and the second must never be the work of a traditionalist ghetto (as some might see it).

For most of us some sort of personal resolution of the issue is possible. For the pastor, and just as much for the faithful Catholic too, the desire must be for a communal solution. For me, as is clear, the glimmer of hope that reconciles the realpolitik of the conciliar teaching on liturgical reform with the urgent need to recover a radical and authentic continuity with the liturgical tradition of the Church’s worship lies in the 1965 Missal. It exists, was used for an obscenely brief period of time, is post-conciliar and yet more comfortably sits in the liturgical tradition. Perhaps it could even be introduced as a third Form (despite my horror of too many options) and allowed to sink or swim on its own merits. Perhaps it would attract those who continue to attend the OF because it is seemingly the only viable option for them, for whom the EF would be too much, too soon. Perhaps it would serve as an excellent entrée to the EF.

Perhaps it could go some way to addressing the acute and chronic haemorrhaging the Church has endured in the last 50 years or so. The need to reverse this dismal decay in the Church is something we can all agree on.

Revive ’65.

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.

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

It is time to get these guys back.

Revive ’65.

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…

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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.

Pax.