Archive for September 17th, 2007

Enjoy the Silence


After mass on Friday I picked up an old copy of The Wanderer (9/6/07). In it Fr. Z writes about some of the responses to a blog post, on Aug 21. To my surprise I found that he quotes me. Here is the article (with my bit in red).

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

What Does The Prayer Really Say?

SPECIAL: Motu Proprio S­ummorum P­ontificum
The most amusing piece of feedback I have received in a while was from a Rev. Philip Chir­cop, SJ, in Canada, who apparently goes about giving workshops and retreats. He writes about his experience of the
WDTPRS Internet blog (emphases mine): “I happened on your web-site and blog and I had to quickly move elsewhere as I found myself entering a prison! You yourself put it so beauti­fully and powerfully well ‘Slavishly accurate Li­turgical Translations’! What a pity it is to be a prisoner of accuracy and prisoner of the letter when we are called to be not ‘slavishly’ but ‘LAV­ISHLY’ and creatively free, open and awake enough to listen to the ever fresh daily rhythms of the Spirit who is beyond all boundaries and who as you know breathes where She wills! Be blessed John and may you know true freedom in the one who came to set us ALL free.”
Just what are “ rhythms of the spirit”? I think they are what prompted the older incarnation of ICEL to render
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus
as “Father.”
On August 21 I posted on the blog an entry entitled “ New to the older Mass? Your experi­ences.” I asked people, especially those rela­tively new to the older form, for their reactions. I wanted to know if they were repelled, or in­different, or now hooked on it. I was unprepared for the torrent of comments, to date 280 people responded, all with their insights. We saw some of their comments last week.
Quite a few of those who were negative about the older form, the
usus antiquior, were put off not so much by the Mass itself, but by the oth­er people in attendance. They felt unwelcome, as if their coming was an imposition on the reg­ulars. They were made acutely aware that igno­rance of what to do was no excuse for not do­ing what others considered obligatory. Their comments reveal the impression that many of the regulars at the older Mass thought them­selves superior as Catholics to those who attend­ed Novus Ordo Masses.
Another negative point was the inability to hear even those prayers which were supposed to be audible. Monica, 47, wrote ( edited): “[ I] t seemed to me the priest and altar boy ( who was about 87 years old — the altar boy, I mean) were mumbling to each other. I could fol­low nothing. I greatly missed the participation. It was indeed ‘ hearing Mass’ but I couldn’t hear much and I understood less. I was not ‘ hooked.’ I was grateful for the Novus Ordo. And I am greatly distressed by problems in the Novus Ordo and all sorts of abuses done ‘ in the spirit of Vatican II’ ( which have little to do with the Holy Spirit or Vatican II). I do know it was Mass, and Christ is Christ and He is offering Himself to the Father — whether I can hear and under­stand the mumbling or not. I’ve been a few oth­er times to an indult Tridentine Mass, but I’m still not ‘ hooked’ and I much prefer a reverent Novus Ordo Mass. The prayers used in the Tri­dentine ( when I could read them in English) are very beautiful, and I might prefer the Triden­tine if it were said in English. I am taking a course in the Tridentine Mass at my parish, which starts in September. That might help me understand and appreciate more. But count me a Novus Ordo ( done obediently and reverent­ly) type of person.”
The priest and his ability with the Latin make a difference. Another poster, a 28- year- old cra­dle Catholic “ peregrinator” ( which seems ap­propriate for
The Wanderer), offered this ( edit­ed): “ The priest had difficulty with the Latin where he didn’t know the prayers and sped through the prayers he did know — that put me off initially.” On the other hand, the way the priest handles the Latin can be helpful, as com­mentator “AMDG” explained: “ The rhythm of Latin in just sufficiently audible tones for the Ordinary prayers was moving and stirring and peace- giving.”
This point of the priest’s ability with the lan­guage deserves attention. Pope Benedict wrote in his Motu Proprio
Summorum Pontificum that the priest must be idoneus, “ qualified” or “ ca­pable” to celebrate the older form in regard to the Latin and rubrics. The Latin word to de­scribe this qualification is idoneus, which indi­cates a minimum ability, not expertise. It means, as Edward Cardinal Egan explained, that he can accurately pronounce the Latin words. Some bishops who quite clearly seem hostile to the provisions of the Motu Proprio say they are go­ing to “ test” priests before they will permit them to say the older Mass. Even though that ap­proach imposes an unjust double- standard, for you can bet those bishops will not be testing priests, say from other countries, on their En­glish skills, I cannot disagree that the priest must be able to pronounce the Latin properly. For some men, this is going to be difficult.
I think some of us who are steeped in Latin and traditional liturgy forget how foreign Lat­in can be to younger men who were never per­mitted to study it. This occurred to me the oth­er day as I struggled with something in Manda­rin Chinese, which I am learning. Latin must seem to them like Chinese sometimes does to me. So, if Latin Church bishops want to make sure their priests won’t make a hash of the Lat­in, and thus celebrate Mass poorly, they might try
avoiding the intimidation tactic of impos­ing exams and rather offer to them help in learning to pronounce the language of the Rite we were all ordained for. Bishop Michael Sheri­dan of Colorado Springs wrote in his statement about the Motu Proprio, “ Several priests in the diocese have indicated to me that they would like to learn to offer Mass in the Tridentine form. I will certainly provide them with that oppor­tunity, and so there will be more priests avail­able to accommodate the faithful.”
Pronunciation of the Latin is important, but so is
enunciation. Every once in a while a “ sea­soned” Catholic, hard of hearing, will come up
to me and say something like, “ Father, your sermon was just wonderful. I could
hear it!” Not being able to hear the prayers is a huge obsta­cle for some not just because of the loss of a sense of more outward, physical “ active partic­ipation,” though that is a serious problem, but also because newcomers simply can’t connect to what is going on. “ DebbieInCT,” 53 and a convert in 2006, now very much appreciates the older form of Mass. She wrote: “ I have diffi­culty following along with what is going on when I cannot hear the priest at all… plus flip­ping back and forth in the Missal takes some getting used to and preparation, if I were bet­ter about it. But these are minor frustrations that can either be overcome or borne.”
Jeffrey, 32 and a convert, wrote something echoed by quite a few people about “ follow­ing in the book”: “ In the beginning I would follow my St. Joseph’s Missal to the ‘ T’ and read every word that the priest was reading. However, I found that I wasn’t really praying and I was just distracting myself by reading and trying to pass it off as prayer. Now, after becoming more familiar with the Mass I am able to unite my own prayer to the prayers of the Priest (instead of just reading what he is saying) and also enjoy the silence as it teaches me to focus and be with God and listen to Him.”
Several readers offered advice about this is­sue of following along. First, it helps to have someone close to you who is willing to help you follow along. Otherwise, it is also good to put the book down, not try to follow for a while, and simply “ take it in,” give yourself over to what is happening. After getting used to the very different experience of Mass, so very different from many parishes, then return to fol­lowing in the book.
Folks, the expansion of Holy Mass with the

Missale Romanum
of Blessed Pope John XXIII is a fantastic opportunity. Many have gotten the impression from these columns in The Wander­er,
my blog, and interviews I have done in the press, that I am pushing for celebrations of the older form
against or rather instead of the No­vus Ordo. In a recent article in the lefty En­glish Catholic weekly The Tablet I was called a “ traditionalist priest.” I don’t think I am. What I am is steeped in “ tradition.” I want our patri­mony. I want what we do in church to be con­sistent with what we Catholics have always done. I want continuity. If I seem to be push­ing for widespread celebration of the usus an­tiquior,
and I can’t say I am not to a certain ex­tent, it is from my conviction that the older form will exert a “ gravitational pull” on celebrations of Holy Mass with the newer Missal, in Latin or the vernacular.

Pope Benedict has implemented a kind of Marshall Plan for our Church.
After the hor­rors of World War II, the United States under­took to help Europe recover from the devasta­tion. After the Council many sectors of Church life suffered devastation and internal conflict because of an attitude of rupture with the past. Healing and rebuilding are needed. Benedict knows that Catholics, living in a post- Christian age imbued with relativism and cynicism, must recover an authentically Catholic sense of iden­tity. In order to make the right kind of contri­bution to the world, according to the mandate the Lord gave His Church, we must know who we are as Catholics.
At the heart of Catholic identity and life is how we pray. His Holiness made the argument in his Post-Synodal Exhortation
Sacramentum carita­tis
that we are our rites. The Eucharist, both the Blessed Sacrament Itself and its celebration which is Holy Mass, is the source and summit of our lives as Catholics. We must not perpetuate the dis­continuity, the break with the past and tradition that has so influenced those in positions of au­thority for so many years. The Motu Proprio is one part of this larger vision Pope Benedict has for the Church and her recovery in this modern age. Thus, the use of the older form of Mass, whose worth has been proven through the centu­ries, is, today, not an end in itself.
Every Mass unquestionably deserves the very best we can bring to it. But given the vi­sion His Holiness is subtly presenting in his writings and provisions, it is even more impor­tant that those who want the older form of Mass must now redouble their efforts in bringing “the very best” to what they do. This “ very best” certainly includes liturgical excellence and precision. It must also extend to behavior as in­dividuals. How newcomers to the older Mass are treated is going to get around. They will talk to others about their impressions. They come out of curiosity. They come out of long­ing for reverence. Sourness on a part of very few people, squinting down their noses at peo­ple who are dressed differently or who do some­thing at the wrong moment, will be more dam­aging now that the Pope Benedict’s provisions have been issued.
I suggest that in those places where the old­er form of Mass is now enjoyed or is projected, some careful planning must be done to help newcomers have a positive experience. More is at stake than simply the here and now of this parish or that. There is a larger vision and plan to consider and each of us must play our part.
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