Good news from Georgia (USA)

I got this nice e-mail which I now share with my emphases and comments.

Dear Fr. Z,

Long-time reader; first-time e-mailer. [Makes me think of a call-in radio program!] Wanted to pass along this great letter our former priest (now in Macon, GA, whereas we are in Augusta, GA) put in yesterday’s Sunday bulletin at his church:

"Dear Friends in Christ, 

        Pope Benedict’s papacy has certain themes emerging. One of his major themes is that the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council is the same Church after the Second Vatican Council. In other words, the Second Vatican Council was not a rupture from the past but was in continuity with what had preceded. The reason the Pope has taken this as one of his major themes is that many in the Church immediately following the Second Vatican Council pursued an agenda concerning the Church that in fact portrayed the Council as a rupture from the past. The key words for people promoting this unfortunate interpretation were “the spirit of the council.” This innocuous description for what the Second Vatican Council seemingly intended led many astray, some even into heresy. 

       The area that touched the laity the most was the reform of the Mass. The Second Vatican Council asked that the Mass be reformed to reflect a noble simplicity, active participation by the laity and that the vernacular could be introduced, but that Latin should be preserved. The first reforms began in 1965. It had the very same form as the Old Latin Mass except for some minor simplifications and the partial use of the vernacular for the people’s parts. 

       It was not until the late 1960’s that the form of the Mass we have today was introduced by Pope Paul VI. Pope Benedict has described this Mass as something that was designed by a committee of Liturgists that was a rupture from the previous Mass rather than an organic development. [This fellow has been reading the right stuff!] Since the 1970’s liturgists in the church have taken the rupture even further through the design of modern churches that over-emphasize the congregational elements, for example churches in the round. Also an emphasis has been placed on the personality of the priest while celebrating the Mass, creativity and the community as the primary actors of the liturgy. In fact, the primary actor of the Liturgy is Jesus Christ crucified, everything and everyone else must be oriented to Him; this includes the priest and congregation.  [Very well done, Father!  Very much in harmony also with Sacramentum caritatis, especially in regard to the ars celebrandi.]

        As you know, our English Mass is being revised in some rather substantial ways. We should begin to experience it within the next two years at the minimum. There may be some other changes as options. For example, the crucifix may be placed directly on the center of the altar so that both the priest and congregation face it, or to emphasize the continuity of this Mass with the previous Latin Mass, priests and people may face the same direction, the liturgical east. Only time will tell. Please note the altar arrangements when the Pope celebrates Mass in our country next week. He is coming April 15th. Stay tuned. God bless you.  [I suspect Father is preparing the terrain for a shift to ad orientem worship.]

Your Pastor,

Fr. Allan J. McDonald"


He celebrated the High Mass in the Extraordinary Form Sunday afternoon as well, complete with (*very* professional, "Santo Domingo de Silos"-sounding) chant coming from the choir loft and all–it was beautiful and well worth the two hours’ drive it took us to get there!  here were some 100 people present; afterwards, when we thanked him for the mass, [Thank you for thanking him!  That is very important!] he told us he had been celebrating the Low Extraordinary Form once a week during Lent, with very positive turnouts and feedback from his parish church of St. Joseph’s. (BTW–The church website doesn’t do justice to the renovations he implemented at St. Joe’s when he got there several years ago, nor the renovations he undertook at Most Holy Trinity Church*, in Augusta, when he was it’s pastor for some ten years or so in the 90s.) It’s spreading!

Brick by brick.

As diocesan priests get on board with the Marshall Plan, great things will start happening.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Deborah says:

    Excellent, Father! I really like the way he systematically presented the reasons for what is going on in the Sacred Liturgy. By first addressing that the faithful have been misled over the past 40 years is a necessary step in turning them in the right direction.

    The old “spirit of VII” foundation must be brought down before the new foundation can be set. So, when the faithful ask “have we been misled all these years” they need to hear a definite “yes, but now it’s time to correct them by following the Church’s actual directives and not someone’s creative opinions of them”. They will be shocked at first but then more willing to work together to get things right.

  2. Lee Gilbert says:

    Fr. MacDonald is doing something invaluable here, and that is helping the man in the pew understand what the Holy Father is doing. His remarks could be/should be submitted to pastors throughout the world for inclusion in their own bulletins. It’s within the power of laymen to do exactly that. Copy it, attach a brief note in the upper right corner, “Father, could you run this in our bulletin? We want to keep up with the Church!”, put it in an envelope and mail it to your pastor.

  3. TNCath says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “As diocesan priests get on board with the Marshall Plan, great things will start happening.”

    Great letter! This is quite encouraging that a pastor feels perfectly comfortable publishing this. It takes a lot of courage to write such a letter. Fr. McDonald must be quite fearless. The problem with many diocesan priests’ getting on board at this time is fear of retaliation from their local bishops. I know for a fact that at least three pastors in my diocese are reluctant to re-introduce ad orientem worship, Latin, and the Extraordinary Form into their parishes for this reason. Incidentally, these good priests also experience a not-so-insignificant amount of ridicule from their older confreres as well. Until we can get more bishops on board with the “Marshall Plan” as well, the “themes emerging” from Pope Benedict’s papacy will continue to be “contained,” a term used by our bishop to describe implementation of Summorum Pontificum. Brick by brick, indeed. We could use a few more bricks, though! Oremus pro invicem!

  4. RichR says:

    I remember after a service of Tenebrae my men’s schola assisted at, we asked our priest to do a Latin Mass, and he laughed and said, “No thank you. I want to stay in good standing with my bishop.” I don’t understand what the fear is. Are they afraid someone will call the chancery? If people are asking for it, what’s the problem, as long as it isn’t disturbing the usual routine?

    We have found that some priests are open to celebrating the OF in Latin – some even doing it ad orientem, but even that is few and far between.

    The funny thing is, parishes are so happy to have a Spanish Mass, a LifeTeen Mass, or a Mass with Praise and Worship music….but the moment you ask for a Latin Mass, there is a double standard.

    Here’s another thought…..with the abandonment of Latin, the parishes have effectively been cut off from the musical heritage of the Church. So we are forced to “invent” a heritage – Haugen, Haas, Glory and Praise, etc…… That’s what so many consider “Church music”, but few realize that if John Vianney, Therese of Lisieux, or Padre Pio were to hear the pop music you hear today at Mass, these Saints would be horrified.

    Rupture indeed. Kudos to the good Father for standing up amidst the winds of chaos. What the Lord needs now are saintly men to rise up and stand behind the HF.

  5. Templar says:

    I assist weekly at St Joseph in Macon, and always make sure to assist at the monthly EF there as well, despite the fact that it is not the parish of registry for my family. I do so because Father MacDonald has been, for me at least, an answer to Prayers.

    Someone said he must be fearless…and I suppose that would be correct, but honestly, his manner is so charitable, his faith so clearly genuine, and his love for the liturgy and his parish so evident, that I must confess that fearlessness never entered my mind in connection with Father MacDonald. If he is under pressure from anyone in the Diocese you could not tell it from his actions or his demeanor.

  6. Tom says:

    “Pope Benedict has described this Mass as something that was designed by a committee of Liturgists that was a rupture from the previous Mass rather than an organic development.”

    However, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II declared that the liturgical “reform” was 100 percent in line with organic development and completely loyal to Vatican II’s liturgical declarations.

    The majority of Latin Church bishops continue to insist that the liturgical “reform” is fully in line with the Roman Liturgical Tradition.

    For decades, liberal and conservative…yes, conservative…Catholics bashed Traditionalists who insisted that a liturgical rupture had transpired within the post-Vatican II Church.

    Conservatives in particular cited Pope John Paul II praise for the liturgical reform as “proof” that Traditionalists were wrong…even worse…were schismatics…for having dared to argue that the Church was in the midst of a liturgical rupture.

    The bottom line: Traditionalists (once upon a time labeled “schismatics”) are correct in their assessment of the post-Vatican II liturgical “reform.”

    Conservatives, at long last, have caught on regarding the liturgical “reform.”

    Let us work together to bring about the authentic liturgical reform that, despite the offical party line from Rome and our bishops, the Consilium had failed to achieve.

  7. Deo Gratias!

    St. Joseph’s Macon is a church headed in the right direction! (soon, literally, if they begin ad orientem worship!)

    And that the reform-of-the-reform can apply to the Novus Ordo– how spectacular!

    I’ve long wondered how to get the TLM out of the old churches in the crummy parts of town and into the round spaceship churches of suburbia. Though St. Joseph’s in Macon is a beautiful old church, hopefully is’s another positive step to bringing the Extraordinary Form into the circle-churches. After all, if young soldiers in Korea could receive the Blessed Sacrament while kneeling in the mud and facing a crucifix hanging on the back of a munitions truck, certainly we can bring glory into the spaceships!

  8. Tom says:

    “Since the 1970’s liturgists in the church have taken the rupture even further through the design of modern churches that over-emphasize the congregational elements, for example churches in the round.”

    “Liturgists” are to blame for the construction of “modern churches” that advance the liturgical rupture?

    Sorry, but the bishops…and, for that matter, Rome…permitted the construction of “modern churches.”

    Bishops ignored Traditionalists who expressed concerns regarding the construction of ugly churches.

    When their bishops refused to respond to their letters, Traditionalists forwarded their concerns to Rome.

    The typical response from Rome was…”Please refer the matter in question to your bishop.”

    Let us not revise history at the expense of reality.

    “Liturgists” are not to blame for the collapse of the post-Vatican II Roman Liturgy.

    The reality is that the party line during the reigns of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II was that the Latin Church had experienced a beautiful liturgical “springtime.”

    Rome and the bishops, not “liturgists,” govern the Mass and are responsible for the collapse of the Roman Liturgy.

  9. Jayna says:

    It’s not often that one hears good news from Georgia regarding Catholicism. If only that would spread north into metro Atlanta!

  10. Carolina Geo says:

    Jayna – you know, there is always St. Francis de Sales in Mableton. Now if only we could get some good news in South Carolina.

  11. Kelly says:

    Saint Patrick’s in Norcross, GA is very good too. The priest there is very orthodox, and moving that parish in the right direction. Now, if those of us in Mobile could get some good news!

  12. @Tom

    I want to heartily resound with your comments about the blame going to bishops. But we can’t exonerate the self-proclaimed liturgists… Remember that after the council, theologians began to take on themselves the role of “empowering the laity” and basically told everyone that they had to challenge their priests and “help” the recalcitrants get “up to date” with the “spirit of vatican II.” In a lot of ways, the theologians (professional and amateur) are to blame for browbeating priests and congregations into abominations. And by abominations, I’m not so much thinking the new or the old Mass as much as the tyranny of the vernacular, the tyranny of Marty Haugen and the tyranny of experimentation.

    Bishops are certainly to blame, but liturgists have been and continue to be a particular problem. Primarily because they take experience and (orthodox Catholic) training to be the same thing. I know there are some excellent lay liturgists out there and God Bless You. I know the ratio is, thankfully, changing, Thanks be to God. But blame is due where blame is due.

    All the same, thanks for your comments Tom.
    Fr. Ryan

  13. CatholicSoulJa says:

    I believe that there has always been a very valid and ‘inspired’ reason for Vatican II. What the good Father McDonald has proven is the fact that Contemporary Catholics can appreciate both aspects/facets of the Catholic Faith. One form of worship does not necessarily preclude the other. As Catholics we should embrace our Faith in its totality.
    Should we allocate blame? We should not, I believe, but rather, acknowledge that there may have been an error, find a solution and move on. Thanks and God Bless.

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