“Here comes the choochoo!”

At NLM, Peter Kwasniewski easily handles the facile notions of Msgr. M. Francis Mannion at the ultra-progressivist Pray Tell about Latin and vernacular in the Church’s sacred liturgy.  In a nut shell, if people can’t understand the language (Latin) they will stop going to Mass, hence we have to have the vernacular.  Also, even if young people today seem to be attracted to Latin, that’ll soon pass.   I’m a little surprised that Mannion would go to the zoo like this.  Perhaps he was writing for a particular audience.

Peter ably dismantles Mannion.   I don’t have to do that here.

I would add, however, that reducing the language of our sacred rites the equivalent of a spoonful of pureed carrots and “Here comes the choochoo!” played a decisive role – not exclusive – in the constant drift of people out of our churches, men into anything but our seminaries, and respect for the Church in the public square down the drain.

As Peter touches, what is it that we are trying to “understand” in our rites?  Mystery.  Also, the content of our rites properly grasped (not twisted into the usual modern enclosed circular mutual affirmation hour it has become in so many places) is really hard.

What about Mass is easy?

If we can admit that, yes, this is really hard stuff (NB: my use of choochoo language for Pray Tell readers… and choochoo is better than airplane because of global warming) then perhaps we can take the next step and admit that the signs and gestures and language of Mass might help us encounter Mystery if it is hard.  There is an apophatic dimension of our rites that is mostly neglected.

I often say here, “We are our rites.”

If our rites are facile, then what are we?

 

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28 Responses to “Here comes the choochoo!”

  1. The Astronomer says:

    Msgr. M. Francis Mannion taught religion at Catholic University of America circa 1981-82. It was in his class I learned that the Host doesn’t ‘change’ from being bread during the Eucharistic meal (Mass), because if it were true, then Jesus would be ‘beaming down Star Trek-style’ into millions of little pieces of bread every day and his time is too important for such an immature understanding of what it means for us to ‘be Church in a nurturing, gathering way…’

  2. msc says:

    It is a huge challenge. I took a friend, who is a good, pious Catholic, and very intelligent, to an EF Mass, and she was completely alienated by listening to what she could not understand. I don’t think she will readily go to another. As I have said, my Latin is excellent (I teach it), and I still can get lost sometimes when I cannot hear the priest well. I can understand fairly well the resistance of people with, essentially, no Latin. I don’t know what the solution is.

  3. Sword40 says:

    It’s nice to be able to follow every word of the priest’s prayers BUT it is not necessary as he is not talking to you. He is talking to and offering the prayer to God. There is a HUGE difference in philosophy between the N.O. and the T.LM. One emphasizes a “Supper” and one is a “Sacrifice”.

  4. Flos Carmeli says:

    msc says: “It is a huge challenge. I took a friend, who is a good, pious Catholic, and very intelligent, to an EF Mass, and she was completely alienated by listening to what she could not understand. …”

    My understanding of how to approach this modern challenge is that we need to reteach ourselves how to “actively participate” at Mass, and to re-learn basically how to go to Mass. We have been softened by the current vernacular NO. We take it for granted that actively participating in the Mass means hearing every word the priest prays, and seeing every action on the altar, and saying our parts out loud and in unison. This is incorrect. Our active participation is mostly in our mind and heart and can be well accomplished even if we don’t hear a lick of what is coming out of the priest’s mouth. We have lots of resources, missals, reading materials, etc., to help us begin to comprehend the mystery of what is happening. So what if we can’t follow along word for word? If hearing was important, what about deaf people?! Do they not have “active participation”? or mentally challenged people? Do they not have the ability to worship at Mass because maybe they can’t follow along in a missal, or hear well? The mystery of the Sacrifice of the Mass is happening by the power of God acting through the priest, not by any action or power of our own, and we can choose to join in with that or not. If we don’t, no amount of hearing the words or saying things in unison with the congregation is going to help us actively participate in the Mystery.

  5. arga says:

    If the 1962 Mass had been “reformed” but doing nothing more than translating it entirely into the vernacular, we’d all be fine. There would be no traditionalist movement. There would be no liturgical crisis. It isn’t about Latin. It’s about the destruction of the rite. I think Latin will continue to be a major obstacle to the reform of the reform. I love the 1962 Mass and hear it every day. But not because it’s in Latin.

  6. BrionyB says:

    I agree with Flos Carmeli. The answer is getting away from the idea that going to Mass is like attending a public lecture or something, where the main reason for going is to receive verbal instruction. Yes it’s nice to have enough Latin to get the gist of the audible prayers and readings, or to be familiar enough with the structure of the Mass to be able to follow in your hand missal, but it’s not essential. Sometimes I let all that go and just “tell my beads” like my Grandma used to, or simply let my mind be still and present at the foot of the Cross.

    Funnily enough, I suspect the people most likely to “get” this mindset these days are those who have been involved in practices like mindfulness meditation and yoga, where silence and stillness are emphasised, along with a kind of surrender and letting go of the self to be united with… I can’t even remember what, something like the universal flow of “chi” or a higher state of enlightenment. Or, as the self-help books put it, be a human being, not a “human doing”!

  7. Glennonite says:

    —“…the signs and gestures and language of Mass might help us encounter Mystery if it is hard.”’—

    Like when using pot-holders when taking the turkey out of the oven. Trying to ‘take the mystery out of the Mass’ would be trying to roast a turkey at a comfortable 100 degrees (for eight hours).

    I rarely comment on a “good thing heard at Mass” because it is usually, “Snak-Pack Pudding” for our homilies. Our priest and/or deacon can spend five minutes trying to, ehem, ‘humorously’ explain why their vestments aren’t “pink” but rather, rose-colored. Anything to get little titters of laughter from the ladies….

  8. Greg Hlatky says:

    With a missal I find that while I see less and hear less in the TLM, I understand more and appreciate it better.

  9. TonyO says:

    As I have said, my Latin is excellent (I teach it), and I still can get lost sometimes when I cannot hear the priest well.

    msc, part of the answer is what Flos Carmeli said right after you.

    You don’t need to follow every word the priest is saying during the offertory, preface, or canon. You can read those prayers at your own pace, and not worry if your pace is Father’s. You can also stop at some point and allow your mind to delve deep into the mystery at that point – just because Fr. doesn’t stop at that point doesn’t mean you can’t. I am sure God delights in your pausing for a moment to smell the bouquet of a particularly fine flower He put there for your attention, there is no need to hurry along. If you don’t catch up to where Fr. is – so what? Over time – over many masses – you will cover the whole of the prayers many times, even if not the whole of every single prayer every single time.

    The most critical aspect of active participation is to join yourself to what the priest does, so that what he does actively you do by participation in his offering the sacrifice. But you can accomplish this in a general way by a general intention whereby you broadly assent to what the priest does as a whole, and also in a particular way by assent at given moments that you attend to specifically. The critical moments of the consecration and elevation of the sacred species of course stand out as THE particular moments of note, but other than that you can attend more to what he does at one point than what he does at another point: giving your heart and mind and soul to God by meditating on the preface for 3 minutes longer than the priest does is not failing to be actively participating in the Mass.

  10. tho says:

    The Mass is first and foremost an encounter with Jesus Christ. A miracle is happening, having a priest with the elocution of Lawrence Olivier is, if anything a distraction. A priest who mumbles or slurs his words does not detract from what is happening. For centuries the Mass attendees were illiterate, yet their understanding of what was happening was spot on. St. Joan of Arc could barely sign her name, yet she loved the Mass above anything in this world. I think people who adhere to the new Mass are looking to be entertained, and are not aware of what a beautiful encounter that is taking place. The Latin language should hold pride of place, in all of our Sacraments, whether we understand it or not.

  11. msc says:

    Flos Carmeli: “We take it for granted that actively participating in the Mass means hearing every word the priest prays, and seeing every action on the altar, and saying our parts out loud and in unison.” I do not, and this is not what I said or meant. My point was that if I can be lost sometimes, I can see how people with no Latin can become very lost. And if someone cannot follow the priest, it is very hard, for example, to know what responses to say — for most people, that is frustrating. I do not know how deaf people cope with Mass, but that is not a constructive response. I think it’s called the fallacy of relative privation or something like that. Telling people that they shouldn’t be concerned with not hearing or understanding (and I mean understanding the words that are being said, not the underlying meaning of the Mass) because there are deaf people won’t win anyone to the Mass in Latin.
    Briony: “The answer is getting away from the idea that going to Mass is like attending a public lecture or something, where the main reason for going is to receive verbal instruction.” I don’t think most people have that idea. Again, I am trying to have some understanding of why people can find the Mass in Latin alienating. As great as the mystery is, as wonderous as it is, it is still natural to want to hear when something is clearly being said. Few people will chose to go to a play if they won’t hear what’s being said, even if they know the play and the action (it is possible to enjoy “Hamlet” in another language). And again, before anyone tells me that the Mass is not a play, I know it isn’t. It is an analogy.
    tho: “I think people who adhere to the new Mass are looking to be entertained, and are not aware of what a beautiful encounter that is taking place.” I know a lot of good Catholics that are happy with the NO to whom that does not apply. Certainly my friend understands what is going on, and believes very much in the real presence, etc. Saying to such people “you only want to be entertained” again will not be constructive.
    My concern is with how to reach these people and, effectively, evangelize them.

  12. Kukla65th says:

    Once I got used to the TLM, and that took attending Low and High Masses a total of five or six times between both, and obtaining iMass to follow with on my phone and then more recently getting the 1962 Missal in hard copy and using that, I have no idea why people have any trouble following along at all after a while. There are audible cues given at times, and then another great way to check where one is is noting Father’s right arm moving to make signs of the cross over the Elements, etc. As someone noted above, I might look at the missal more than at the Ordinary Form, but I definitely pay more attention to what is taking place because I read all of it. And of course, the beauty of the words in the Missal is beyond dispute. That amazes me each week: that anyone ever wanted to remove so many prayers and remove some of the most emotional language the priest uses as he prays the Mass, in revising the liturgy for 1969. Overwhelmingly, it seems people’s issue with the Usus Antiquior is a lack of familiarity and the reluctance to attend consistently to get over it. It is well to remember that one other point to be made to those frustrated at first is that the bigger picture is also that the Latin represents another kind of unity among Catholics globally when it is used. That is no small incentive to learn the Mass in Latin.

  13. THREEHEARTS says:

    I have just read fr mannions blogs at http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/tag/msgr-m-francis-mannion/. I see his toner cartridge is filled with the ink that comes from the nether end of the bull. I wish you commentators would stop showing off your knowledge and giving credence to such a person whose blog claim is made show he has wit. I see his imprimatur is signed by the prince of fools. Point out to him on his comment section how stupid and foolish he is.

  14. THREEHEARTS says:

    IN THE PRECEDING BLOG I MISSED MY NAME. I REALISE HOW DISGUSTING IT IS TO BE FALSE. I APOLOGISE. MY NAME IS MIKE HURCUM

    [Please do not SHOUT in my combox!]

  15. Grabski says:

    If the two masses can be mutually enriching, wouldn’t an option for the EF in the vernacular help as Latin gains traction? Especially now that the translation has been “fixed”? I’m old enough to remember those few days before 1969….

    [No. We need a long period of stability for the traditional rites before any consideration of alterations can be contemplated. We have to bring it back as it was – of course with our improved understanding of ars celebrandi – and let it take root and be strong again. After that the potential organic development could accelerate.]

  16. Don’t the former Anglican ordinariates use a form of the Mass that’s similar to the Tridentine Mass, and in English? (Not that that is an option for everyone: the nearest Ordinariate Mass to me is several hundred miles away.)

    But I agree, we don’t need or want any tinkering with the traditional Mass. I see that one good that came out of the tragedy of its attempted suppression was that it was saved from being tinkered with.

  17. Therese says:

    I just visited NLM (to review the article Father discusses here) and noted that the seven most recent articles posted are by Prof. Kwasniewski! His output is amazing, a gift from God.

  18. Flos Carmeli says:

    Here is the article by Prof. Kwasniewski that I believe Fr. Z was referencing in this post:
    http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2019/04/do-congregations-dwindle-because-people.html

    It’s well worth the time. He addresses better than I ever could the different kinds of participation, etc., and other issues that have come up in this discussion.

  19. Monsignor Mannion was elaborating on a internet essay by the Greek Orthodox theologian George Demacoupoulos, and that original essay presents problems more sophisticated than implied in Fr. Manion’s piece and, salva reverentia, Prof. Kwasniewski’s critique. The Demacoupoulos (hereafter “D”) essay raises some important issues for (us) traditionalist Catholics.

    First, D notes a simple unquestionable fact: in Greek Orthodox churches in the United States,virtually all of the young people leave the church as young adults and never return. Of the ones who remain, more than half marry non-Greek Orthodox. And mostly they stop coming to church because the spouse does not want, among other reasons certainly, to a service s/he does not understand. The collapse of active Orthodoxy is virtually complete among the young.

    So, here we have a church were the liturgy is solemn, dignified, and in a liturgical language. And in spite of this (contrary what is often taken for granted among our traditionalists), the young people are leaving in droves. D’s solution is that the Greek Orthodox would keep more of their young if they used English in the Liturgy.

    I think both D and (oddly) Prof. Kwasniewski both have it wrong. The form of the liturgy (traditional or “modernized”) is not going to keep young people in the Church. There is a mistake about cause and effect. Of course, Christians who are “hard identity,” who reject the debased secular culture, want traditional liturgy in a liturgical language (Koine Greek or Latin–or King James English). If you have accepted the values of the secular culture, who cares what the liturgy is like?. If I have accepted the secular culture as normative, soon as I am an adult, I go my own way–liturgy be damned.

    The idea that “traditional” liturgy by itself will bring in flocks of worshipers or keep our kids Catholic is simply a myth. The Greek Orthodox reality described by D proves that is false. And my experience confirms this. I regularly supply EF Masses and virtually ALL those attending would be regular Mass attenders, no matter what. And (sadly) there are usually a few sectarians who would refuse to go to Mass if only the Novus Ordo were available. The traditional liturgy itself does not bring any real “church growth.” It simply gathers a few of the already strongly committed. And, of course, that means a good number of young people who have rejected our debased culture as well. But they have already rejected that culture–thus they like the traditional liturgy. Again, I don’t exclude the existence of the random person who walks into an EF Mass and says “wow, this is real religion.” They exist, but I can count those at the all EF Masses I celebrate on one hand.

    The fact is that religious practice depends on religious culture. I think of my father, who would never have missed Mass (Irish American Catholic born in 1923), but before Vatican II he would kneel, leaning back on the pew, bow on his folded hands and go to sleep. He was not an unusual case–as my mother, convert from Lutheranism would regularly complain. In any case, contrary to the professor’s levels of “involvement” he could not hear anything the priest said at the altar in a mumble and understood nothing. But he would never miss Mass: that was his culture. My father’s culture is gone, except perhaps among some EF attenders. So this puts K’s and D’s essay in a different context.

    If the EF replaced the NO tomorrow, virtually all the (now secularized) parishioners would probably leave. Then you would have a small church of “traddies,” Is that what we want? I don’t know. Some traditionalists do want that, even if it looks like a sect. As for D’s Eastern Orthodox, the current exodus is obvious. Will vernacular liturgy stop this? Not unless there is a cultural change. And that is unlikely. As a Greek priest commented to me when I was a professor at the University of Oregon: “Most of my parishioners think baklava is the 8th sacrament.”

    Honestly, is the future of Christianity to be a sect? As it was in the Pre-Constantinian period? Sometimes I think so, although that is obviously not the vision of the current Holy Father.

  20. BrionyB says:

    Yes the “Ordinariate Use” Missal has a lot of similarities to the TLM, and is in the rather beautiful “Prayer Book English” of the Anglican tradition. Video of a Low Mass here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS00ocIRg7Y – the sound isn’t good, but you get the idea. Maybe an option for anyone seeking a reverent Mass but allergic to Latin!

  21. robtbrown says:

    arga says:

    If the 1962 Mass had been “reformed” but doing nothing more than translating it entirely into the vernacular, we’d all be fine. There would be no traditionalist movement. There would be no liturgical crisis. It isn’t about Latin. It’s about the destruction of the rite. I think Latin will continue to be a major obstacle to the reform of the reform. I love the 1962 Mass and hear it every day. But not because it’s in Latin.

    I think the opposite is true. If the 1970 Missal, despite its flaws, would have only been used in Latin, the problems would be 10% of what they have been the past 50 years. IMHO, the core of the mess in the Church is that Catholic life, matters of Faith and Morals, have been replaced by local custom–they have been vernacularized. And guess what the cause has been.

  22. acardnal says:

    Fr. Thompson wrote, “I think both D and (oddly) Prof. Kwasniewski both have it wrong. The form of the liturgy (traditional or “modernized”) is not going to keep young people in the Church.”

    What will? You didn’t say.

  23. Gab says:

    “If the 1962 Mass had been “reformed” but doing nothing more than translating it entirely into the vernacular, we’d all be fine.”

    No. Apart from the devil hating Latin, the language is our sacred language that is also a dead language, meaning it is unchangeable. After all Christ went through for us, would it be asking too much for the laity and the clergy to get off their asses and at least try to learn a few prayers in Latin?

    The Mass of the ages, of the saints and martyrs was good enough for them to be in Latin, it’s good enough for me. Must we toss away ALL our traditions because of some whiny people?

  24. Jerome Charles says:

    I wonder if God cares what language we pray in?

    Let those who want a Latin Mass, attend Latin Mass; and those who want a Mass in English, Spanish, or the language of their culture, attend those. Or, switch it up–I attend my local church for Mass in English most of the time, and occasionally I go to the Spanish Masses. At times, I also drive into the city where there is a Latin Mass. I don’t know Latin or Spanish, but I appreciate those experiences of the Mass, also, and I participate differently.

    I understand this is about more than language, so you don’t need to point that out to me. But, there seems to be judgement about there being only one right way to worship, and that those Catholics who prefer the NO Mass are “less than” Catholics. P-lease. it’s not our place to judge one’s spiritual life, intentions, faith, etc. based on which Mass they are drawn to. It is THE MASS. Regardless of the language, the music, the homily, the way the priest is facing– it is Mass. God alone knows our heart, our intentions, our participation, our prayers, our sins, and our faithfulness.

    [Another angle of virtual signaling.]

  25. maternalView says:

    I agree with the earlier comments that active participation in the Mass isn’t about singing together and shaking hands. A few years ago a local Shrine offered the EF for a particular solemnity. I don’t know Latin and I was enthralled. Here was a youngish NO priest who’d dedicated himself to study in order to lead us in the worship of God. I didn’t want to miss a second if it! I followed along in the Latin/English book they’d distributed making sure to read all the notes while also watching the priest’s every move. I loved it! It was other-world and beyond a normal sense of time. Later in the week I found myself discussing it with some of the religious who’d attended or assisted. They groused about it and didn’t seem all that thrilled. So I made a point of discribing my experience. That put an end to the complaining!

    I have described my experience to others who are faithful Catholics but they’re not convinced of the benefit of attending a Latin Mass. They want it in English. I get it. It comfortable. It’s easy. Andvthey go to more “traditional” parishes/Masses with great homilies.

    I think NO vs. Latin is rather like bowling with a Wii rather than actually going bowling. Latin Mass as presented today and as people see it today requires more than sitting as if watching tv. Yes in the old days people slept through the Latin Mass or said their rosary but today I think it’s clear that going to a Latin Mass requires more of a person and it’s making a statement (like it or not)about one’s own faith commitment and who people want to be as Catholics.

    Due to circumstances I can’t drive to the closest Latin Mass right now. But I long for it and look forward to the time I can.

    I think the idea that the Church doesn’t need the Latin Mass or that it’s just another personal devotion is misguided. And that so many liberal Catholics have worked hard to rid the Church of it should tell us something.

  26. robtbrown says:

    Jerome Charles,

    God cares above man’s response to Him. Latin has a sense of the transcendant. It transcends a certain time and place, unlike the vernacular.

    Re comparison of those who attend NO masses to those who attend the TLM: I wonder the comparison of the percentages of both regarding the practice of contraception and/or favoring homosexual “marriage” is equal. I suspect it is not.

  27. robtbrown says:

    A few belated comments.

    In a 2014 interview with Msgr Mannion he endorses the works of Schillebeeckx and Rahner. Anyone familiar with either can confirm Astrononer’s memory of the Mannion Eucharistic confusion.

    I find the accusation silly that Latin mass advocates want a switch to be thrown to Latinize all masses, after which all will be well in the Church. I know many who attend Latin masses. I also have taught at the FSSP seminary and never heard that said by anyone.

    The irony is that was the promise of those those who pushed for liturgical vernacularization years ago: Protestants will become Catholic, mass attendance will approach 100%, seminaries and religious houses will be bursting with vocations . . . And of course everyone will love one another.

    Of course, the opposite occurred. And it only took a few years for mass attendance to collapse on France (where I was Confirmed).

    There are so many now who are used to vernacular liturgy that re Latinization will take many, many years. I have no doubt, however, that if Latin had not been dumped, the Church wouldn’t be in its present mess (cf SC, no 10).

  28. robtbrown says:

    God cares above man’s response to Him. Latin has a sense of the transcendent. It transcends a certain time and place, unlike the vernacular, which refers to local. Such a sense of the transcendent is good gpreparation for that response.

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