authentic worship or insanity

I had a prof for philosophy, a retired Marine, who made the point that minds which consistently produce the wrong results are insane.  If people are constantly being fed the wrong material, artificial or distorted data, they will start producing more and more aberrant results in their lives until they are crazy and self-destructive.

Sound familar?

This appeared on Catholic Exchange

My emphases and comments.

True Worship of God is the Cure for Insanity

April 3rd, 2009 by Christi Derr

Three earth-shattering events converged in my life recently and radically altered my whole world view. I attended a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, I attended a Latin Mass, and I visited my hair stylist.

To begin with the last: Everyone knows that the most astute social scientists in the world are bartenders, taxi drivers, and hair stylists. [I an big city, this is true.  I confirmed it many times in Rome, though via a barber.] So, recently I climbed the mountain, so to speak, to seek the latest wisdom from my personal stylist. In the midst of a cut and style she casually informed me that the most abused drugs are prescription anti-depressants. I later discovered through news articles that the abuse of anti-depressants is indeed a fact. Abusers range from pre-teen kids to every age of adulthood. I can’t even imagine how many children and adults are in therapy.  [I know that depression is a very real thing.  But sometimes I wonder if there isn’t now a cult of depression?] I am completely overwhelmed by the obvious conclusion that so much of the treatment contains some sort of prescription! It is impossible to not ask the question, "Why?" The United States is one of the most affluent nations in history; there are no current wars on our soil, no famine, or great plague sweeping the nation. We have antibiotics, modern dentistry and indoor plumbing; even the economy cannot explain why we are all so depressed.

Next snapshot: Many Catholic families whose faith and lives I greatly admire have started attending Latin or Byzantine liturgies. There are not enough, probably to justify a trend article in the news, [though there have been those articles… as WDTPRS as reported…] but enough in my personal sphere of acquaintance that I took note. Here, I must admit to a kind of impatience with criticism of Vatican II that I have listened to over the years. I had some initial reluctance over attending these “throw back” liturgies with them, but I eventually accepted their invitations. What I experienced at these parishes was truly life changing to me!

After participating in the liturgies I walked away with the same reaction from both. [Get this…] I was filled with a sort of holy awe and struggled to come to grips with what I was feeling. I had just worshipped the Almighty Triune God. I realized that up until participating in those liturgies, I had gone to Mass, but now I had worshipped God. I suddenly felt like I had never worshipped Him before. It isn’t very modern to worship; I was almost uncomfortable saying the word. I experienced a radical shift in my understanding of the sacrifice of the Mass. There are so many “helps” throughout these liturgies that make the average church goer really understand what he is participating in! Here are a couple of elements from both Masses that really struck me as a newcomer to worship.  [She could have been reading WDTPRS all this time and gotten to this point more quickly… in theory.  But the actual experience… that encounter with mystery I keep talking about is critical.  This is the whole point of liturgy: worship… encounter mystery.  A liturgy which does not produce this opportunity is failed liturgy.]

In the Byzantine Liturgy the priest sings out, “Wisdom, be attentive!” before the readings and Gospel. How effective! I suddenly stop looking at the shoes of the woman in front of me and am attentive to the Word of God. [Good liturgy, sound worship, clears away the distractions.  It is alluring.] Similarly, before the anaphora, again the lector sings out, “The doors! The doors!” the doors of the iconostas open and we are reminded in a physical manner of a great spiritual truth — that heaven itself has been opened to us and we are allowed (we do not by any means deserve this privilege) to participate in the heavenly banquet of the Lamb. The most powerful aspect of the Eastern liturgy, though, is its overpowering beauty! The prayers and praises sung throughout the celebration are so splendidly beautiful that one is almost convinced that the Holy Spirit dispensed with His usual custom of inspiring man to write, and just took up a pen and wrote everything Himself — so much does the beauty seem to be beyond anything man is able to produce. [MYSTERY]

In the extraordinary form of the Latin Mass there is an effective use of silence[Ummm…. and music.  Remember, the paradigmatic Mass of the Roman Rite is not the Low Mass.] If there is any single overpowering trait of the modern world, it is a lack of silence. Much of what the priest prays during consecration is prayed quietly. The people are left in silence to reflect upon what is happening, dare I say, to contemplate. In fact there is time for reflection throughout the whole of the extraordinary form of the Latin Mass. [I am glad she writes "Extraordinary Form of the Latin Mass"!  "The Latin Mass" is a misnomer we should all work to avoid.] Brilliantly, this silence is then contrasted with Gregorian chant of the Psalms. The most powerful attribute of the “old Mass” to me though, is the time spent kneeling at the altar rail, waiting for the priest to bring Our Lord to each communicant. Why in the world did we ever do away with altar rails? I was raised on the Novus Ordo, [Get this next part… this is the sort of observation that drives the liberals to tear their hair…] so it is not like I am going all nostalgic here. I can not tell you how much that time for reflection accompanied by the appropriate body language helped to remind me of the great truth — Jesus Himself, God in the flesh, is allowing me to receive Him and thus become a part of Him!  [Two points.  First, true participation at Holy Mass should be rooted in active receptivity.  Making a good Holy Communion is the highest form of active participation.  Second, whereas when we eat regular food, which we transform into ourselves, the Eucharist is the food which transforms us into who It is.]  Look at the difference in symbolism and instruction: Waiting in line and putting out my hand is no different from a million different activities that I do daily. I wait in line and put my hand out for movie tickets, to get change, airline tickets, etc. In contrast, there is no time ever that I kneel down, open my mouth and someone “feeds” me. Body instructs spirit. My body is telling me that something is happening here that is like nothing else in my life. The fact I am “fed” reminds me of my true helplessness and the fact that God Himself is stooping down to feed me! The fact that I am kneeling tells me that God and I are not equals, He is greater than I. The fact that I have to wait teaches me that I do not command God; I wait on Him.

The modern Mass is of course, valid. [Thud.  Or course this statement isn’t meant to be a perjorative.  But think about it.] Jesus in the Eucharist is still Jesus in the Eucharist. But it is too often celebrated in way that is “bare bones” and minimalistic. What are missing in the “normal” American Mass are the “helps” that some of us ordinary Catholics need. What is missing is our preparation to receive Him properly. He is not changed, we are. To me, it is the difference between pouring water on a sponge and pouring water over concrete. God is all powerful and in His Mercy He comes to us in any valid Mass but our disposition in receiving Him is radically different in the three discussed liturgies. The chants, the silence, beautiful music, bodily postures and poetic descriptions all help us to understand what great act is really taking place at the Mass and prepare us to receive Jesus with love. Should we ever be matter-of-fact or comfortable with the idea that Jesus comes to us in the Holy Eucharist[No!  Our encounter with mystery is both alluring and terrifying!] Shouldn’t we be in perpetual shock? Where is the awestruck gratitude? [She got it.] Where is the worship of the Word made flesh? Or are we so comfortable because we really don’t believe it anymore, or worse, can’t wait to change the subject back to us[Exactly.  Our timor mortis is distorted… torn away from wisdom its goal and redirected back into that horrifying "daily winter" as Augustine calls our fear of death.]

“Wait a moment, average church-going lay woman,” you protest, [You know… I get the sense that maybe this person has read… well… you know…] “didn’t you just say that you were impatient with complaints about Vatican II and handwringing over the Novus Ordo? Is this whole article a subversive way of encouraging rebellion against the new Mass and enlistment in Fraternity of St. Peter or Eastern Rite churches all over the country?” Well, no. Mother Teresa became a Saint by attending the Novus Ordo Mass; the Mass is still holy. What we need to rebel against is the way we have been participating in it. (And perhaps the music — well, one song at least and immediately. I would like to nominate, “Sing a New Church into being” as the first to go!) We need to blow on the glowing ember of our worship of the Holy Trinity and rouse it to bright and hot flame.

Pope St. Pius X, whose name, sadly, has been dragged through the mud by schismatic traditionalists, [Wellllll…. no…..  but….] prophetically stated that the modern heresy would be man worshipping himself. He writes in E Supremi , “[M]an, with infinite temerity, has put himself in the place of God…[and] made of the universe a temple wherein he himself is to be adored.” And so the reason for our depression becomes clear. If man is god, what a pathetic and weak god he is! I mean, we can’t even solve the smallest of our daily problems — traffic for instance. We all are familiar with the pettiness, selfishness, lack of love, and sometimes even cruelty, we experience in ourselves and others. Who wouldn’t be depressed if we, with all these evils, are god?

Which brings me back to my hair stylist…A definition of sanity is when one’s perception of reality matches reality. [As I said at the top.] For instance, if there is a paper in front of me, and I perceive a paper and not an army of flying monkeys, I am sane. On the other hand if mankind, despite all evidence to the contrary, starts to think that man is God, we are collectively insane. No wonder so many people are being prescribed anti-depressant drugs. For many of these people the answer to all this sadness and hopelessness is: Worship! Adoration! Our souls are nourished on truth, beauty and goodness in the same way that our bodies are kept alive with food, water and air. Without worship and adoration our souls become sickened.

Again, it is not practical, nor even a good idea for all of us to run out and join a Church with ancient liturgies. [hmmmm  It is as if at the end, she cannot take that next logical step.  She draws back from the conclusion.] However, just as midwives making an entrance into health care reformed the ways doctors were delivering babies, and the remarkable success of homeschoolers in the educational scene has challenged schools to improve, we need collectively to be inspired by the worship that is occurring at these liturgies and emulate it. [Question: will the "liturgy" you attend let you?] We need to quiet our souls and realize that participating in the Holy Mass is THE most important thing we will ever do in our lives. The most immediate and practical response to this challenge of worship would be to fill up the hours of adoration at our parishes, or to start adoration there. We need to cry out with the angels, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” We should fall down in worship before Almighty God, thereby realizing the truth that He is God and we shall not have any false Gods before Him! As with all things connected with Our Good Lord, if we begin by trying to render Him a service — true love and worship, He will turn it to a good for us — in this case, the reclamation of our sanity!

Christi Derr is an average, church-attending, EWTN-watching, married mother of five, lay Catholic.

Very well conceived.  She is dead on target in 99%.

I would want to discuss the conclusions.  She is right, of course.  We must change our attitude no matter where we attend Holy Mass.

However, perhaps the question of the Form is a matter with which she doesn’t yet have sufficient personal experience?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Giovanni says:

    In part she is right, it is the enrichment of the NO and not just the increase use of the NO that is the goal. The Pope’s intention is to have the Tridentine be offered at every parish and not just one for a particular area.

    She must go and spread the word of what she has seen and heard and make people realize just how far we have gone from the solemnity that God is due.

  2. Giovanni says:

    I meant to say Tridentine instead of the second “NO”

  3. Ann says:

    I so agree with her about the need for worship. It is really sad how empty our Novus Ordo masses seem to be here. I go, and the people clearly do not see the Holy, they chat, sometimes even during the consecration, they socialize before and after the mass and make it rather difficult for anyone to pray.

    The choirs are often behind the altar instead of in the choir loft, and that puts the focus on performance rather than worship, and at those masses where the choir is up front, parents with small children take them into eh Choir loft so that they don’t “disturb” anyone–but the loft is so the choir can be heard–which means the kids ARE rather louder than they would be in the downstairs area.

    The lack of reverence is such that the devout person attempting to pray is treated as an aberration on Sunday mornings, but since only the devout come weekdays, there is less of that then.

    I’ve been to some of the older mass forms, and they were so much better at helping a person to focus.

    I would love to see classes for chant so that Mass could be chanted by everyone together–or at least by a good choir.

    I would love to attend Mass that helped me worship instead of going to mass and struggling to worship in spite of all the barriers to doing so put up by the way mass is done here.

    and pu-leeese~ make the charismatics keep their tongues for private prayer and NOT during the consecration!!!!

  4. RichR says:

    I could write volumes, but I will simply say that this post gives me hope. The average, well-formed Catholic sees the obvious.

    Thank you for the commentary, too, Fr. Z. Insightful, as always.

  5. Sean says:

    If you have children you absolutely cannot take them to a parish where the liturgy is anthropocentric. Get them to a TLM or Byzantine Divine Liturgy.

    It may be acceptable for an adult to “tough it out” in your average, banal suburban parish, but children will be ill formed in true worship. More likely than not your kids will be bored out of their minds and cease to practice the faith (I know one very faithful Catholic lady who “toughed it out” at her parish and not one of her ten kids practice the faith anymore).

  6. Irenaeus says:

    Wow. Just wow. This woman fundamentally gets it. When she writes,”It isn’t very modern to worship”, the corollary is that services — Catholic, Protestant, whatever — which are fundamentally modern aren’t really worship.

  7. Mike says:

    Any creative poets or inspired writers out there? Perhaps it is time for someone to draft a novena or another prayer petitioning God for the revocation of the Novus Ordo from the Church. Quite simply put, the Novus Ordo is not a saintmaker, never will be, and serves no useful purpose in the life of the Church.
    How about you, Father Z. – do you have your creative juices flowing?

  8. Mark G. says:

    A lovely and spot-on article. My experience exactly.

    I agree with her last comment – it probably is not practical for most people to join another parish with right worship, the assumption being that there isn’t one nearby.

    While I participate in the only regular Sunday TLM in my diocese, I continue to participate in my local parish, too, including adult and children’s education, though, so as to help others to see what I have come to see.

  9. dustiam says:

    You’re the best, Father, for selecting items to publish and comment on. Thanks again.

  10. Franzjosf says:

    Thank you, Father, for finding and posting this article. Excellent.

  11. PS says:

    Frankly, having been to both sorts of Mass and being an adult convert, I must say that both the NO and “throwback” Masses fill me with similar wonder and reverence. Might a considerable portion of the complaints about the NO have to do with people jaded with the Mass they have been attending for many years now? Is the chatting a function of the Mass (though, admittedly, the sort of relative facile-ness that surrounds the NO might encourage this disrespect) or a function of the laxity of the parishoners?

    I also think there is a danger here in suggesting that we all go back to older forms of Mass; there are Church communities wehere I live (largely Black) whose celebration of the Mass would be unthinkable in a more austere celebration (extended sign of peace, much more communal feeling, etc).

  12. I am not Spartacus says:

    I have been to the only two EF Missa Cantata Masses available in my part of Palm Beach County, FL this Lent. They were so beautiful and enspiriting and they caused me such joy that not being able to go to the EF Mass until, prolly, next year has caused me to court spiritual depression.

    The Normative Masses in my area fall so far short of authentic liturgy that they would have to have dozens of weather balloons attached to them just for them to rise to the level of insipid.

    What was so encouraging about the two EF Masses were both the number of young folks gathered there and the total raw number of souls (pun intended) who gathered for these unpublicised Masses.

    The first Mass drew close to two hundred, the second even more.

    There is a hunger for the true, the good, and the beautiful and one gets that in spades in the EF Mass.

    An interesting item is that the Priest, the youthful. Fr. Kevin Nelson, who offered the Masses, had never even seen the EF Form prior to Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio. He learned how to offer it from the Canons of St. John Cantius.

    In his sermons at each Mass, he noted how much more he prayed when he first saw the EF Form of Mass (as opposed to the Normative Mass) and how much he appreciated the periods of silence within the Mass.

    It is both a wonderful and depressing experience to be able to go to two EF Masses during Lent and then realise you may have to wait almost another year to go to another in your area.

    I think I will be visiting my Mother-in-law more often now. She lives 45 minutes away from Sarasota, Fl and the FSSP will have their new Church dedicated April 15th.

  13. Mark G. says:

    Iraneaus: Are you suggesting that the new form of Mass is not true worship, or just the way it is all-too-often celebrated? I’m sure the Pope believes he is worshipping when he celebrates Mass.

    Mike: “no useful purpose”? Again, the ultimate authority in the Church says otherwise. The problem with the new Mass is more a problem of catechetics and obedience (for both clerics and laity) than the structure of the Mass itself.

    I feel a beautiful breeze sweeping through the Church. Only charity, humility, & gratitute will serve the Lord’s cause now.

  14. I am not Spartacus says:

    I go, and the people clearly do not see the Holy, they chat, sometimes even during the consecration, they socialize before and after the mass and make it rather difficult for anyone to pray.

    Ann. I am not making this up. I go to St. Thomas More Church in Boynton Beach, Florida and after The Bride and I settle in our pew, The Bride puts her pocketbook on the seat to save my place and I go outside into the Parking Lot so I can find a silent place to pray prior to Mass.

    C’est la vie.

  15. Jim says:

    The greatest problem with the NO is the manner in which it often is celebrated. A new priest was assigned to our parish a couple years ago. Sunday Mass became 45 minutes of stand-up comedy; the average sermon lasting 5-10 minutes; the creed eliminated; the gloria no longer sung. I found myself angry during mass and really could not tolerage the liturgical abuses that suddenly appeared. The closest TLM was and is a couple of hours away.

    I discovered a nearby Byzantine Catholic parish, and have been attending it for the past two years. It has transformed my life. There is a constant sense of connection to the apostolic age. The Divine Liturgy is entirely in English (as it is in many Orthodox churches today), except during Pascha when a few hymns are sung in Church Slavonic. My first Great Lent was a truly transformative experience.

    Anyone who has yet to discover the glories of Byzantium should give it a try. There are quite a few Eastern Catholic churches in the US.

  16. Irish says:

    The EF is the cure for depression: And I will go in to the altar of God: to God, who giveth joy to my youth.

  17. Nathan says:

    In my experience with the TLM, it’s the praxis (kneeling for Holy Communion, silence, mystery) that gets you, and it’s the texts (the depth and richness of the prayers, the explicitly sacrificial composition of the words, and the rich psalmody throughout the Mass) that keeps you.

    In Christ,

  18. LCB says:

    I may be a bit of a hardliner, but I would advance the argument that some Eucharistic Prayers are theologically deficient. They are valid, but the theology expressed in them is not “full enough. It is my opinion that this is part of the fundamental flaw in the NO.

  19. JC says:

    The one claim made by many bishops (e.g., Cardinal Arinze) before _Summorum Pontificum_ that I tended to agree with was the fear that a wider restoration of the extraordinary form would limit the Reform of the Reform and limit the Ordinary form of the Latin Mass.

    Cardinal Arinze has often called for at least one *Ordinary Form* Latin Mass in every parish, every Sunday.

    You can find all sorts of Extraordinary Form directories, but it is difficult to find specifically Ordinary Form Latin Masses (e.g., what used to be the “EWTN Mass” or what traditionalists inaccurately call “the hybrid Mass”).

    Many conservative bishops worried, before SP, that such a document would just mean that traditionally minded Catholics would flock to the Tridentine liturgy and would stop fighting for liturgical reform in their own parishes. Of course, Our Holy Father’s hope is just the opposite: that wider use of the Tridentine liturgy will inspire people–like this author–to reintegrate such reverence into the Ordinary Form.

  20. Immaculatae says:

    My favorite part is:
    “I can not tell you how much that time for reflection accompanied by the appropriate body language helped to remind me of the great truth — Jesus Himself, God in the flesh, is allowing me to receive Him and thus become a part of Him! [Two points. First, true participation at Holy Mass should be rooted in active receptivity. Making a good Holy Communion is the highest form of active participation. Second, whereas when we eat regular food, which we transform into ourselves, the Eucharist is the food which transforms us into who It is.]”

    The article itself is good and your comments make this a joy to read,Father.
    I have only been at 2 or 3 Masses in the EF in person, though EWTN has offered more chances to experience the beauty and it is compelling. Everything I have read has confirmed to me that it is the best expression of our faith, and the best protection of it.

  21. AlexB says:


    A directory of Ordinary Form Latin Masses is here:

  22. David D. says:

    If all Ordinary Form Masses were suddenly offered in Latin, ad orientem, in chuches with traditional Catholic architecture, with communion at the rail kneeling, with traditional vestments, with chant and sacred polyphony and without EMHC’s and altar girls (I’m probably missing an item or two but you get the picture) it would obviously be a 100% improvement. However, what then wouid be the point of having the Ordinary Form at all? It seems odd to say that we want ad orientem and communion at the rail on one hand but not the prayers at the foot of the altar on the other. Mind you, I’m not for a minute questioning the validty of the Ordinary Form and I ask this question in all sincerity.

    p.s. my question leaves aside the issue of the expanded lectionary which seems to me a whole other can of worms

  23. Maureen says:

    First off, a beautiful article which is also very telling.

    Second, it really does depend where you go. An OF Mass can be highly reverent, and it’s not particularly difficult to celebrate and assist in one in such a way. The trouble isn’t the Mass; it’s the catechesis that went along with it all these years. All the other factors combine to make it worse than it could be.

    (And this is totally typical. There are a lot of things in our society which are in themselves beautiful and helpful, but which are changed out of recognition by what is added, subtracted, or done alongside them.)

    Third, the lady is talking about _increased_ depression, not all depression. Depression and/or melancholia was so common back in the palmiest days of Catholicism that one-fourth of the human race was deemed to have a basically melancholic temperament. (Interestingly, the “custody of the thoughts” which was recommended by spiritual works is pretty much the same as the usual non-drug therapy recommended by a good chunk of psychologists today. If you don’t brood about stuff and avoid the rut worn by “trigger thoughts”, “all or nothing thinking”, or “automatic negative thoughts”, you can feel a lot better.)

    Fourth, I think even the most progressive are starting to feel this spirit of beauty calling them. A parish near me was “wreckovated” within the last few years, to the horror of many of the old parishioners. But now a second phase of renovation has unexpectedly transformed what was first a nice old fifties brick church and then a modernist auditorium, into a church where gold paint gleams against the brick, there were tiny moves toward veiling images (in a weird modern style, but still!), and the old gleaming tabernacle and decorations have suddenly reappeared in the Adoration Chapel to great effect. It was… pretty amazing, really. And it looked very splendid and set-apart from the world even on a gray day, which is a big factor that’s usually ignored.

  24. mbd says:

    Christi Derr’s description of her encounter with God in the liturgy that we now term the Extraordinary Form reawakened in my memory the description I once heard from the late Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand of his own encounter in what was then the only form of the liturgy. It has been years since I read his Liturgy and Personality, but I suspect that some of the same insights are to be found there.
    I am not Spartacus – when I spoke a couple of weeks ago with Fr. Nelson, he indicated that he was hopeful of again offering a Missa Cantata in the EF this coming Advent. Your wait may not be quite as long as you fear.

  25. Mike says:

    To respond to Mark G.’s comment above:

    “Mike: “no useful purpose”? Again, the ultimate authority in the Church says otherwise.”

    I stand corrected…every celebration of the mass serves a “useful purpose,” and so does Novus Ordo.

    To allow for a somewhat crude comparison, Novus Ordo vs. TLM for me is a bit like Coke Zero vs. Coke Classic: sure, both are valid Coke products, and Coke Zero is even supposed to be better for you. However, every time I drink Coke Zero, all it does is to leave me longing for the real thing…perhaps one day, quietly and without much fanfare, Coke will get rid of Coke Zero, much like it did with “New Coke” several years ago.

  26. Charlotte says:

    Even if everything she (Christi) observes is correct and true, it doesn’t change my perception that some of the PEOPLE who attend the Latin mass ruin it for those of us who aren’t yet (or may never be) in the lifestyle/mindset of the Traditional Catholic. Most of the time, I see gross judgmentalism from these people. For example, a semi-recent comment on Fisheaters forum where someone proclaimed that the only Catholics going to heaven are those who shun Vatican II and attend Latin mass.

    I keep reading Father Z’s blog for encouragement, but overall, I am left dumbfounded at the venom spewed at those who aren’t yet ready to embrace Traditionalism or who aren’t comfortable doing so. (And I say this as someone who IS attracted to Traditionalism, otherwise, I wouldn’t keep reading and thinking about it.)

    As concerns depression – I have come to shun anti-depressants in my life, after being on and off of them for many years. I decided that what’s wrong with me has a spiritual basis, even if there are true and real non-spiritual factors playing into it. The result is that I suffer, yes. But I believe my suffering is meant to bring me closer to God and understand my true human nature (and failings). For the record, I am NOT one of those anti anti-depressant people, who thinks no one should use drugs like that. No way. I definitely needed them at times in my life, and there are some people who I would be scared for their lives if they weren’t on them. But for myself, I decided to take the risk of looking deeper and figuring it out. My path isn’t for everyone, but it’s a path I think some should consider. Modern psychology has become complicit in stagnating people, rather than helping them grow and move on.

  27. Jason Keener says:

    Interesting post. Raises some important questions.

    It’s not surprising that Americans are depressed and sick with all sorts of diseases. We live totally out of synch with nature and how God created us.

    Look at the foods we eat that are stuffed with chemicals and preservatives. Does anyone even eat real raw and whole food anymore? Look at the sleeping routines of Americans. Who gets a good eight hours of sleep every night? Who rises with the sun and goes to bed when it’s dark? Look at all of the prescription medications that people take. Were our bodies meant to process all of those chemicals and toxins? Our cures are often worse than our diseases! Look at how many people engage in no physical activity. Our bodies weren’t meant to be sedentary drones sitting in front of a computer all day.

    I agree too that our current popular ways of worship are also out of synch with man’s nature and his needs. Where is the reverence in our Liturgies? Where are the periods of silence? Where are the beautiful rhythms of Gregorian Chant? Why do we face each other instead of turning together towards the Lord?

    Modern man is supposed to be so enlightened and advanced, but in the end, I wonder where all of our convenience and technology has gotten us…

  28. Aaron says:

    Good final point, Fr. Z. If someone has been attending NO Mass all her life, probably hundreds of them in various parishes; and a couple TLM or Eastern rite Masses bring her to a level of worship that all those NO Masses never did, why is the conclusion always: “Well, we can’t just all go to those all the time, so we’d better fix the way we celebrate the NO.”

    It’s as if I drove Fords for twenty years, and they seemed serviceable but not particularly fun or reliable. Then one day I test drove a couple Chevys, and was blown away by how much better they were. Am I going to write a bunch of letters to Ford, trying to get them to make better cars? Heck no, I’ll just buy one of those Chevys.

    Why CAN’T we all–or at least everyone who recognizes the difference–attend the Extraordinary Form all the time? What’s stopping us, other than the stubbornness of some clergy and the scorn of our more progressive brethren?

  29. Keith says:

    Attending a Byzantine Rite “Liturgy of The Presanctified” last night, I was particularly struck by the sense of worship the author mentions, when immediately before communion the priest/deacon turns to the people, raises the chalice and sings “In the fear of God and with faith draw near!” – emphasizing the awesom nature of the moment (like approaching the core of a nuclear reactor).

    I just recently attended a few eastern Liturgies after a long interlude of NO Masses. The lasting effect of the former is striking. I leave feeling like I have really worshiped.

  30. LCB says:

    “However, what then would be the point of having the Ordinary Form at all?”

    That is correct. Really, what is the point of the Ordinary Form at all (as it currently exists)?

  31. The article was indeed good. Some of the analysis was… not.

    I have no problem whatsoever with the Catholic who prefers the Extraordinary Form of the Mass of course. However, others prefer the Ordinary Form – Properly celebrated. So long as both accept and obey the teaching of the Church, this is good.

    However, once one starts judging another Catholic on account of the form of the Mass he prefers, something is fouled up. Once one starts judging the Magisterium of the Church on its decisions based on whether it does or does not do what we want, there is a problem.

    Remember too, all the references to the clown masses and other abuses have as much to do with the Ordinary Form of the Mass as Malpractice does with Medicine. The abuses within the Mass has to do with the rejection of authority, not the form of the Mass intrinsically.

  32. Andy K. says:

    David D.:
    We have the same thoughts.

    If we’re going to have ad orientam, Communion on the tongue/at the rail, with Latin, incense, and chant, why not go full-boat and go TLM?

  33. Jim says:

    The prayer recited by the congregation before communion sums up the sense of mystery in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy:

    “I believe, O Lord, and confess that you are truly Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. Accept me this day, O Son of God, as a partaker of your Mystical Supper. For I will not tell of the Mystery to your enemies, nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas, but like the thief I confess to you: Remember me O Lord, when you come in Your Kingdom; remember me, O Master, when You come in Your Kingdom; remember me, O Holy One, when You come in Your Kingdom.

    May the partaking of Your Holy Mysteries, O Lord, be not unto me for judgment or condemnation, but for the hearing of soul and body. God have mercy on me a sinner. God cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me. I have sinned without number, forgive me O Lord.”

  34. Juli says:

    Kudos to Maureen for mentioning the melancholic temperament.

    I love the EF, like a decent NO, and LOVE a reverent NO. Those are not easy to come by, but they are to be treasured when you find them. I found a great one in Manhattan while there for work for a few months. It’s the only thing I miss (I went to daily mass). It’s a great article, but I think that the writer “goes wobbly” at the end because she realizes that not everyone will like the EF.

  35. martin says:

    Excellent article and comment Father. I am reminded of a Missa Cantata I attended on The Feast of the Assumption in 2008 – it was the most awesome Liturgy I’ve ever attended. Amazing.

  36. Ed the Roman says:

    A short reminder that the worst thing at any Mass is me.

  37. Allan says:

    This is tangential. I am on a variety of meds, including antidepressants. I am on chemotherapy and right now am sick as a dog.

    How EXACTLY does one pray the Our Father when His “will” may be that I die a painfull, lingering, horrible death?

    It just sticks in my mouth when I pray. If it is His will that I die such a death, I don’t WANT His will to be done, I want my will – to live – to be done.

    So my faith is a pretty wretched thing these days. If you good people could tell me how to pray honestly and justly I’m listening.

    Sorry to bring you down but life sucks right now.

  38. Michael says:

    “before the anaphora, again the lector sings out, “The doors! The doors!” the doors of the iconostas open and we are reminded in a physical manner of a great spiritual truth — that heaven itself has been opened to us and we are allowed (we do not by any means deserve this privilege) to participate in the heavenly banquet of the Lamb.”

    She has got it wrong. “The doors! The doors!” has nothing to do with the doors of the iconostas. It goes back to the time when the non-members were not alowed to be present during what we now call the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It was a call to the door-keeper to make sure that no one enters the church.

  39. Michael J says:

    Sorry,Mark I have to disagree.
    The problem with the new Mass is not problem of catechetics and obedience. These, in my opinion, are symptoms of the problem.

    Please hear me out before jumping to conclusions, but the problem I think is that the New Mass exists at all. No, I am not suggesting that the Mass is invalid, but the fact that it was created to accomodate the dissatisfaction of the world planted a dangerous seed.

    I can easily imagine people thinking “Hey, it IS about me after all!”. All of the many reported complaints about the way the New Mass is celebrated, in my opinion, stem from this.

  40. Gail F says:

    This is a fabulous article. I am taking a class on sacramental theology at a seminary, and (to keep with the theme) it makes me very depressed. NO WONDER the liturgies around here are so bland. I can’t really argue with a lot of the theory in my class, but it’s quite obvious to me that the theory does not hold up in real life. I’m sure that some parishes really do worship, as this writer explains it, at E.F. masses. But without the “helps” she’s talking about, I think it is far more difficult for people to do so. Far too much is left to the individual being properly disposed for mass, by which I do not mean having gone to confession. People are supposed to prepare themselves so that they are ready to worship and ready to encounter Christ, etc. etc. etc. And I’m sure that some people do. But the vast majority of people? I doubt it. This would require hours of prayer, reflection, etc. And I do not mean to be dismissive of my fellow Catholics, but I just don’t think most people put the kind of time and effort that is required to get themselves ready — which is why having very little help once you get to mass is such a loss. Add to that the fact that so many people have to teach themselves how to pray and what it means to be Catholic because of the sorry state of catechesis in the past couple of decades and you get a real problem. Also, although the sacred meal aspect of the mass is a worthy one, it has been emphasized so much that the sacrificial aspect has in many cases all but vanished from consciousness, and I do not see that the symbolism of a shared meal is enough (by itself). While, apparently, the sacrificial aspect was not stressed by the earliest Christians, they obviously felt that the shared meal wasn’t enough either because understanding of the sacrificial aspect soon developed and became paramount. I can’t see that as a nefarious plot, it seems to me that it was a necessary development.

  41. Anna says:

    Hey Allan,
    One thought is that God never wishes evil on us. The pain and suffering you are experiencing isn’t willed on you by God, though He can use it to help you grow in holiness, to help others for whom you offer your pain, to give you the gift of letting others care for you as God does with nothing in return. So His will isn’t the pain, now or in the future, but since it is there, you can allow Him to use it.
    The other thought is that sometimes it is too hard for us to really pray “Thy Will be done”; so we can take it back however many steps we need to to pray sincerely. “I want to want Your Will” or “I want to want to want Your Will.” Once we hit the point where we can really pray with openness to God, He will use that invitation to get us to where we really do want His Will.
    Prayers for you.

  42. Peggy says:

    It’s funny. I don’t think of the OF as “bare bones” or “minimalist.” I know that she means in terms of spiritual depth and worship and mystery. I agree in that sense. When I go to the OF at my parish (and some others) I find even the simplicity of the content of the OF (however reduced from its magnificence in the EF) much more meaningful without all the song and dance (sometimes literally) of the OF. I prefer the silence of weekday OF’s without music or the various created rituals to “add meaning” or “relevance” to the parishioners. The parish also is frequently compelled, especially during that long ordinary time period from Pentecost to Advent, to do something to focus on the parishioners, ie, blessing some segment periodically, recognizing new parishioners (DURING THE MASS). They have even raffled off cakes on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day after communion. UGh!!!! We do not enter the raffle or go to another parish on those days. They crowd out the mystery and load up the Mass with all this junk, in other words. It’s not so bare bones as a result,but it’s lacking in true worship.

  43. Sal says:


    I’m really sorry that you’re going through this. You’re on my prayer list.

    I don’t have any great advice to offer you, but I’ve always said the Morning Offering, where we offer up our sufferings of the day. In your case, it’s a really big deal, not like the stuff I think is suffering. But it might help.

  44. elmo says:

    Allan — A few months ago, I was in a lot of pain. Doctors told me I most likely had cancer. I kept asking God to help me accept what was happening to me. At one point, I was in so much pain, that I couldn’t pray at all, so I gave the Lord my pain and asked him to make that my prayer. I was brought so low that I knew that I had nothing to offer but this death that was inside of me.

    I don’t know why, but when a biopsy was done, there was no tumor. Once I recovered from the biopsy the pain was gone and hasn’t returned. It is a mystery. He is the sculptor. I am the clay. I can offer no other explanation.

  45. On a light note: I suspect the reason she was looking at the woman’s shoes was because she was wondering why they weren’t dress shoes. It’s because we don’t have pews, and even in churches that do, most because they were originally some other kind of church, we stand throughout, save for the homily (except in Great Lent, when we do prostrations except for Sundays).

    Onto the serious. I have a young friend who is shipping out to Iraq Tuesday. I took him to the Presanctified Liturgy Wednesday evening. He was given the Gift of Tears, and said afterward that during the final prostration, his whole body had started shaking, and he had felt God touch him. He echoed some of the things this young woman said. Never had he been to a wholly theocentric service. Father John has put him on the parish prayer list, that he will return safely from Iraq. He wants to start catechism and regular attendance when he returns.

  46. Tomas says:

    “The modern Mass is of course, valid. [Thud….]” Father, you’re a riot, a regular riot (to quote Ralph Cramden). I love the “validity” defense. It reminds me of someone listing all the reasons why homosexuality is a sin and a disorder, but concluding with “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

  47. A wonderful reflection. To my mind, the modality of the Gregorian High Mass (what are we calling it now these days?) is, while distinct, very much aligned with the modality of the Byzantine insofar as both train the senses and sensibilities of the faithful for heaven, and both bring us into communion with the Most Holy Trinity through a form of liturgical parousia.

    I will say that I think that the EF-HM still makes use of silence very effectively. I do not believe that we do so as a Byzantine tradition, which is just fine.

  48. Arizzzona says:

    Now I see the true fear of those opposed to these “old style Masses.” It’s the holiness – like a light – that will be seen and rediscovered, and taken by others to their liturgy, helping transform it from a christian social activity to true worship.

    True worship, that’s what’s to be avoided. Now all the opposition to “yesterday’s Mass” makes more sense to me. It could light a fire.

  49. LCB says:


    It sounds like you are in a difficult situation. Anyone would be under such circumstances.

    What you have to say is important, and it’s clear that your spiritual difficulties are very real and troublesome. You aren’t bringing us down at all, your contribution is appreciated and we look forward to your continued participation on this blog.

    If you are Catholic, have you had an opportunity to speak with your parish priest about this? If not, some other pastor? Though much can be written about these difficult spiritual challenges, sometimes talking in person is simply more helpful. Darkness is often the greatest challenge in the Faith, and in such darkness many find comfort meditating on Jesus in the Garden, and being scourged. He did not understand his pain, suffering, isolation, and loss of dignity. Many friends left him. And, when we experience similar things, Our Lord is closer to us than ever.

    If I may to be so bold as to recommend two books that you might find fruitful:
    1) Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light– in this book of her private writings she reveals how, most her life, she felt distant from the Lord. Yet the darkness she felt fueled the light she shone in the world. When we experience darkness, we may be closer to the Lord than we realize.
    2) Arise from Darkness: What to do when life doesn’t make sense, by Fr. Benedict Groeschel– a serious and deep exploration of our Faith in the face of life’s greatest challenges.

    Know that our prayers are with you, and that many here will be interceding for you before Saint Peregrine. We welcome and look forward to your future postings.

  50. peregrinator says:

    David D. “If all Ordinary Form Masses were suddenly offered in Latin, ad orientem, in chuches with traditional Catholic architecture, with communion at the rail kneeling, with traditional vestments, with chant and sacred polyphony and without EMHC’s and altar girls (I’m probably missing an item or two but you get the picture) it would obviously be a 100% improvement. However, what then wouid be the point of having the Ordinary Form at all? SNIP I ask this question in all sincerity.”

    p.s. my question leaves aside the issue of the expanded lectionary which seems to me a whole other can of worms.”

    David D., I’ll hazard an answer to your question.

    I attended for 28 years an OF Mass such as you describe (not, however, ad orientem) at the parish of my birth.

    Much of my answer is too verbose to be appropriate for a comments box, but among the main reasons for my marked preference for the OF properly celebrated is that I have the opportunity to pray the Mass through (Gregorian) chant. To me, chanting the Mass is a form of prayer– the same type of prayer as when one chants the Divine Office/LOTH– and a very precious and effective one that I will take advantage of as long as the Church permits me to do so. So, I suppose my preference is based on an issue of “participation.”

    My experience of many, many EF’s (including Low, High, Missa Cantata & the Dialogue Mass) is that the EF is just not conducive to this sort of prayer. Often in an EF High Mass, either the music is not chant or one has to choose whether to chant with the choir or pray the prayers silently with the priest.

    I feel about chanting the prayers of the Mass rather the way I imagine many Eastern Catholics feel about their litanies and chant– they would be rather unhappy if they were not permitted to pray this way. I don’t know, maybe I’ll write my own “Mass experience” letter on the OF to Fr. Z. I have thought about it, but I suspect it would not be well-recieved.

    This is, of course, not the whole of my reasons. I’m fluent enough in Latin to understand the prayers and–at the risk of being cyber-stoned– I rather like most of the changes to the prayers of the Mass. I’m not fond of the -issimi. But I’ll stop with that for the sake of brevity.

    P.S. Yeah, and the expanded lectionary and calendars are issues too. =)

  51. peregrinator says:

    Suffice it to say, I – unlike the majority of posters here, and, I suspect, Fr. Z himself – find that the OF does have “something to offer” as a liturgy. More than just “it’s valid.”

  52. mother undercover says:

    You’re in my prayers, Allen. May God bless you.

  53. ssoldie says:

    David D, I would be praying the ‘Traditional Latin Mass’ “Gregorian Rite” all the time. Yes, even if they clean up the N.O.M., and I even prefer the ‘old’ Low Mass to the N.O.M. I ask you to compare the most holy words of the Mass that was put together by St Pope Gregory The Great (truly with the Holy Ghost) (700 A.D.) and was codified at the Council of Trent, so that the Traditional Latin Mass, and the Gregorian Rite, that has been aroun for 1500 hundred years does very much take president over the N.O.M that has been around for 40 years for me.

  54. meg says:

    Charlotte (3 April 2009 @ 11:49 am) – if you’re still out there – don’t let the strong language on the blogs spoil the EF for you! Blogs are anonymous so they tend to bring out the more assertive side of people and things get nasty quickly (think: road rage). Believe me, it’s not reality.

    I don’t think *most* trads even blog. None of my trad friends do. I read this blog because as a new attendee to the EF I need to play catch-up and learn as much as I can. I am ever thankful to Father Z for helping with that.

    But in my 2 years attending an FSSP chapel I’ve never encountered the strong language used here or been treated uncharitably.

    It’s so beautiful, Charlotte….follow your interest in the EF….don’t let the human keep you from the divine….

  55. Greg the Beachcomber says:

    Charlotte – I second what Meg said. There will always be those who, while claiming to be first among sinners, cast aspersions far and wide. Perhaps as experts, they see themselves in the best position to judge(!). But to stay away from the EF because of some lippy people hiding behind the anonymity of the web does more harm than good.

    PS (from way back when) – You asked “Might a considerable portion of the complaints about the NO have to do with people jaded with the Mass they have been attending for many years now? Is the chatting a function of the Mass (though, admittedly, the sort of relative facile-ness that surrounds the OF might encourage this disrespect) or a function of the laxity of the parishioners?”

    To the first question: No, at least in my experience. The EF Mass I attend has people who have been attending this form for as long as the typical parishioner in my old OF parish, and there is no chatter.

    To the second: I think some aspects of the OF service, as practiced in the parishes I’ve seen, could very well contribute to the noise. I’m thinking particularly about the Sign of Peace and the lovefest it often becomes, but simply the number of people talking within the Mass who aren’t the priest has also strangely seemed to diminish reverence.

    Sadly, I think there’s a significant number of Catholics who only know a noisy, freewheeling OF and they LIKE it. It’s what they’re used to, they’re comfortable with it and it doesn’t ask too much of them. If all Catholics cared as much about their faith as Mrs. Derr clearly does, I don’t think we’d be having to use the qualifier “properly celebrated” when discussing the OF, and any discussions comparing the OF to the EF would be far more nuanced than “liturgical abuse vs. Latin.”

  56. rudy says:

    I’ve never heard of anti-depressant “drug abuse”, what is that? You can’t get high from taking anti-depressants, in fact most (all) of them take several weeks to get any real effect from them.

  57. Nancy says:


    As someone who has had two different cancers, each with ongoing complications, I understand. I’ve struggled with acceptance of God’s will since the first diagnosis.

    I do not want to offend…and I’m not going to assume what helped me will help you. Each of us has our own unique journey towards knowing, loving and serving God. But, I had to try to help. I’ve been there. I know.

    What helped me – note – these don’t always work!
    I meditated on:

    – redemptive suffering and the passion of our Lord (if He suffered so much for me, I can try to unite my sufferings with His).

    – Cardinal Newman’s prayer on serving God – Google A Meditation by Cardinal Newman

    – Chapter 14 of the Love of Eternal Wisdom of St. Louis de Montfort – it’s available on the EWTN library – Google “the love of eternal wisdom”

    – I ask God to help me carry my cross as Simon helped Him – for acceptance, for courage, for perseverance in faith, for the strength not to do anything rash and to help with the pain, anguish, anger and hopelessness…basically with anything – as you eloquently state it – that sticks in my mouth.

    And remember – God’s will for us is that we join Him in heaven. God doesn’t will this awfulness. He allows it. Jesus asked that the cup be removed. Matthew 26:42

    Hang in there. I’ll be praying for you. God Bless.

  58. Anonymous (ya think?) says:

    About American depression . . .

    I wonder if there isn’t a simple genetic explanation. Currently people who are prescribed an anti-depressant are often told that they’re not crazy, their biochemistry is off-kilter, and they require a chemical to re-balance their brain chemistry.

    I’m one of those people. My family members are extremely bright, but we’ll never make it out of the lower to middle middle class. We’re generally underachievers, bi-polar, alcoholic, physically or emotionally abusive. Not very long-lived either, due to hereditary weaknesses. Dear Lord, we sound like the Jukes and Kallikaks. There is the other side, of course. Other people love being around us. We’re fun. We’re experts at gallows humor. We know how to make lemonaid out of lemons, how to come together and support each other. We’ll do anything for a friend or an acquaintance in need. There are very similar personalities and problems in relations like uncle/nephew, where direct environmental influence isn’t really there, which sounds like good support for the brain chemistry theory of depression.

    So, I take anti-depressants. Yes, environment matters, and I had a pretty abusive childhood. But I’ve had many years in which to deal with this, and there’s little that I haven’t truly put behind me. I tried to go off of them last year. With my current medication I don’t feel anything euphoric, I can just function. I feel so normal I just want not to be on the meds, so I went without for six months. I would sit try to watch TV at night with a sense of dread, wondering how other people could bear to focus on a television show when the very air was filled with vague menace. Two days after I went back on my meds my husband directed a comment to me that annoyed me. I knew that if I had heard that a week ago it would have felt like a fishhook gouging me and I would have cringed in pain and resentment and struck back.

    So how does that relate to American depression? I think this is the Founder’s Effect. The whole nation consists of people whose ancestors were unhappy with where they were and thought if they went somewhere else things would be better. As much as we like to see them as noble, courageous, adventurous, etc., couldn’t that also be “I’m miserable here, maybe if I go there I’ll be different”? The people of any nation were probably pleased when the malcontents left. Maybe we improved their stock by leaving. We also may have taken their enterprise and technical curiosity with us, as part of our “maybe if I try this things will be better” mentality. The malaise of Europe could be due to losing us from their gene pool.

    Anyway, thanks be to God for antidepressants.

  59. rudy says:

    The problem with the “chemical-imbalance” theory is just that, its a theory thats never been proven (much like the so-called gay gene theory). Not sure about your “founders effect” theory, although I’d say many immigrants being of Irish or German ancestory may have something to do with it.

  60. Fr. "Paul" says:

    Very fine article. However, a word of caution is in order: the awesomeness of even the TLM and the Byzantine Liturgy can wear off with time and repeated use. I grew up with the TLM when it was all we had. People had trouble with distractions, talking in church, hurried and sloppy rubrics, slurred Latin, etc. then too. What is so ironic, though, is that things like the vernacular and standing to receive Communion were sold to us on the grounds of “that’s what they do in the Byzantine Liturgy.” Another ecumenical irony: on the eve of Vatican II, our assistant priest talked the pastor into changing the proposed Latin inscription over the door of our new church to English because the vernacular liturgy was coming, and it would be more considerate of our separated brethren. Later the two of them visited a brand new Lutheran church and there carved into the altar were the words, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus!”

  61. Cacciaguida says:

    “Remember, the paradigmatic Mass of the Roman Rite is not the Low Mass.”

    Well, no, as long as you’ve got the Tallis Scholars on hand to lay on some Palestrina. But if you’ve got a passel of tuneless old ladies, as at my local e.f. chapel, you rapidly rediscover the joys of silence and the liturgical profundity of Low Mass.

  62. Mark G. says:


    I have found praying & meditating with the Psalms to be a comfort in dark times.

    Also, I’ve read an excellent book about finding God’s will in a seemlingly hopeless situation called “Lessons from the School of Suffering” by Fr. Jim Willig about his struggle with abdominal cancer.

    God bless you. You’re in my prayers, too.

  63. Allan says:

    Thanks to all. Good advice and reading suggestions. Anna – you got me started on praying again. Thanks.

    (and YES, I’m Catholic and my pastor is very supportive, as is my son and wife but it takes so much out of them too).


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