We had an honorable mention in a piece by George Weigel today, not by name, but pretty much everyone knows what’s what.
In First Things, Weigel is rightly worked up about priests who, contrary to law and good sense, impose their own changes (preferences) on the texts of Holy Mass (and therefore on the innocent, helpless congregation).
He must have had a experience recently which set him off.
DEAR FATHER: PLEASE STOP IT [Dear Father: Shut up and pray]
In all the sixteen documents of the Second Vatican Council, is there any prescription more regularly violated than General Norm 22.3 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy? Which, in case you’ve forgotten, teaches that “no . . . person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”
If you’re a daily Mass attendant, the odds are that you hear that norm violated a dozen times a week. Sunday Mass people typically hear it violated two or three times a week, at least. Auto-editing or flat-out rewriting the prescribed text of the Mass is virtually epidemic among priests who attended seminary in the late Sixties, Seventies, or early Eighties; it’s less obvious among the younger clergy. But whether indulged by old, middle-aged, or young, it’s obnoxious and it’s an obstacle to prayer.
Especially now, I might note, given the restoration of the more formal rhythms of liturgical language in the English translations we’ve used since Advent 2011. Those translations are not faultless. But they’re a massive improvement on what we used to have (as a comparison with what’s still, alas, in the breviary will attest). [Liturgy of the Hours… you can always use Latin.] And by restoring sacral language that was peremptorily discarded in the previous translation, [after preemptorily discarding Latin] the current translation reminds us that Mass is far more than a social gathering; it’s an act of worship, the majesty of which should be reflected in the language of the liturgy—which is not the language of the shopping mall or the Super Bowl party. [Or even of everyday discourse. If only the Latin Church had a sacral language for worship which could unite us across borders and with past generations, which could elevate and provide a challenging dimension of worship which could prepare us for what is entirely lacking in the Novus Ordo: an apophatic encounter with mystery.]
In one sense, though, the new translation has made things worse. For when Father Freelance scratches his itch to show just how congregation-friendly he is [or how sophisticated] by making what he imagines are nifty changes [it’s the “nifty” that really does it there] to the Mass text, he instantly sets up sonic dissonance for anyone with a reasonably well-tuned ear. And sonic dissonance makes it hard to pray.
So with a civil new year upon us, may I suggest to our fathers in Christ that they cease and desist from making it up, juicing it up, or otherwise tinkering with the Missal? [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] As an old liturgical saw has it, referring to the difference in color that distinguishes prayers from instructions in the Missal, “Read the black and do the red.” Just that, Father. Read the black and do the red. Or, better, pray the black and do the red.
Read the rest there.
I have an antidote. Weigel won’t like it, but it works.
The Extraordinary Form.
First, it is harder to improvise in Latin. Harder, not impossible. I and a few others I know could probably do it, but… why?
The older form of Holy Mass keeps priests under control, helps them to become more transparent, suppress temptations to customize, allows them more easily to decrease.
Learning the older form of Mass changes a way that the priest sees himself at the altar, what his role is. It gives him a new (old) view of his priesthood (hint = it’s not about him).
When a priest learns how to say the older, traditional form of Mass, he doesn’t say the Novus Ordo in the same way afterwards. His use of the Novus Ordo is informed by a continuity with our tradition and his priesthood at the altar is transformed. This can produce a knock-on effect with the congregation.
It revives or even initiates a respect for the Latin texts and could help bring the use of Latin back into the Novus Ordo. Does it have to be said again that the Novus Ordo should also be in Latin?
At least juridically speaking, since the Roman Rite has two forms, a Roman, Latin Church priest who doesn’t know the Extraordinary Form is not truly knowledgeable about the rites of his own Church.
With its ethos of options, the Novus Ordo, in the vernacular and especially versus populum, is inherently open to these kinds of abuses. It needs the corrective of the traditional form.