In Philadelphia: “A Burlap Church No More”

Brick by brick, folks.

From the of Philadelphia.

This is pretty long, so I will just give you the link. Here is the title:

A Burlap Church No More

Read and come back to discuss what you think is important.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I think it is important to note that the author was only 11 or 12 years old and had the savvy to recognize what was happening to the Church and the Mass at the time.

    I hope some bishops get the opportunity to read and reflect on this article. There is still a lot of “burlap” in cathedrals and churches across the nation.

  2. revs96 says:

    This is proof that the VII reforms were forced down many peoples throats and did more harm than good. It’s like the Catholic Church stopped being Catholic. The article also made clear that many people need proper instruction regarding liturgy, especially the EF, due to the poor catechesis and the lack of catholicism in catholicism since VII.

  3. apagano says:

    Until 4 years ago I was one of those 20 somethings who never even knew the TLM existed. Now we’re weekly Church goers at an exclusive TLM parish in NJ. I feel so much turmoil and confusion about the last 40yrs. But as you say Fr. Z… brick by brick!

  4. lofstrr says:

    “in the Extraordinary Form—he sometimes sees people crying as they kneel at the altar rail.”

    What else is there to say? This is how much people long for their Mother. This is how hungry they are for real food. Some are so hungry that they don’t even know what it is they desire.

  5. TJerome says:

    That story could have been written by me – except that I stayed and endured the nonsense. Which makes the revival of Catholicism even sweeter to me. Deo Gratias. Tom

  6. Robert says:

    “When I walked into St. Paul’s I noticed the quiet that precedes a TLM. It’s Quaker Meeting House quiet, not the gabfest that precedes many Novus Ordo Masses in some churches.”

    I notice the same thing. Is it necessary for Novus Ordo Masses to exclude silence, before, after and during Mass?

  7. momoften says:

    The points I see that are important.The consistency of the congregation attending. I noticed in our small rural parish we have always had that…looking at the past two years, the number consistently has gone up. I have always heard the word quiet reverence used when describing the Mass. People that come are not just ‘old timers’ there are usually many young families also. Finally I believe when the EF of Mass is celebrated, it seems there are a lot more traditional processions, and ceremonies that are performed, and asked to be performed by the priest.

  8. AnnaTrad51 says:

    What a great article, that is the way I feel in our TLM parish. I’ll never leave it or stop thanking God for having the opportunity and the great blessing of been able to attend Mass their and been part of that growing community.

  9. doanli says:

    I am so grateful my son and I can attend a Latin Tridentine Mass.

    I think it gutted my grandparents when it was removed but they hung on. One of my uncles stopped going to Mass like the author but has since returned.

    Thanks and God bless you richly, Pope Benedict. The TLM is truly a treasure.

  10. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    People wouldn’t dream of watering down the soup in a soup kitchen or bread line, or water down a vaccine.

    Why in the hell is our faith being watered down?

  11. shellac says:

    I am yet to go to my 1st Tridentine Mass as an adult. I was born in 1966. Yet It fills my heard with sorrow to hear good people like the folks here talk down the Novus Ordo Masses. Is it not the same Body and Blood of our Lord at both Masses?

  12. kjh says:

    I have been missing a lot of things at the “Novus Ordo” Mass lately, and really feeling a big void especially as we recently were assigned a new pastor for which “speed” seems to be the ultimate goal – this article really brings many issues to bear. I think that there has been an overemphasis of “we are the church”, and a complete forgetting of why we GO to church. You can see it in the demeanor of the people there, the way that they dress, the attitude seems to be all but proper. I would dearly love to see the reintroduction of some Latin into the Mass (the closest we get is the “Agnus Dei” during Lent, and the Greek “Kyrie”.) People seem to like it for those few weeks. But even a “Novus Ordo” Mass can be beautifully and reverently prayed. (We have some priests in our cluster / diocese who take more than 2 seconds to elevate the host at the Consecration – even that is a big thing, for it reflects the importance of that awesome event…) Perhaps EWTN’s Daily Mass isn’t exactly “Novus Ordo” – but is very beautifully and reverently offered.

    Maybe the TLM just inspires that reverence and awe, which corrects many of the attitude problems? We never see (smell) incense because “it makes me sneeze” (not me personally, but that’s one of the comments that you hear.) The “smells and bells” – they add such a different dimension.

    Interesting article – I’m going to try and start attending a Traditional Latin Mass and work my way back into it. (I used to serve at the altar in my youth, pre-Vatican II.) So I need to get back to it.

    Thanks be to God that it is slowly finding its way back to use!

  13. SkiingCatholic2010 says:


    That’s the whole point! It IS Our Lord at both Mass, and often (not always) they don’t reverence Him as such at the Novus Ordo.

  14. Henry Edwards says:

    shellac: Yet It fills my heard with sorrow to hear good people like the folks here talk down the Novus Ordo Masses. Is it not the same Body and Blood of our Lord at both Masses?

    You have not (and will not) see anything here from me “talking down” the Novus Ordo Mass. However, I realize that the anguish and distress many people feel and express, when Our Lord is not given the very best worship man can offer, may well measure their love for Him, and their reverence for His Body and Blood in the Mass. If you are not saddened by casual treatment of Our Lord, do you really love Him above all?

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    Ken: Perhaps EWTN’s Daily Mass isn’t exactly “Novus Ordo” – but is very beautifully and reverently offered.

    I wonder what you mean here. The EWTN daily Mass is celebrated precisely according to the Novus Ordo Missal (“Say the black, do the red”), so in what sense might it not be exactly Novus Ordo?

  16. irishgirl says:

    I’ve been watching EWTN’s Daily Mass nearly everyday online lately. This is how the NO ‘should’ be said.

    I even sent an email to the network thanking them for the beautiful Mass that was on St. Joseph’s Day!

  17. TMA says:

    shellac – God gives some souls the grace to perceive what offends Him in the liturgy. Whatever offends God ought to give us sorrow. Some of us have lived 40 years in liturgical exile, so the return of the TLM gives us, dare I say it, inneffable joy. Still, you are right that we should take care not to offend Our Lord in what we say.

  18. New Sister says:

    TNCath – I agree w/ you; I’m fascinated by the wisdom & taste for beauty (and aversion to formlessness) the author had as a 12-year old.

  19. lux_perpetua says:

    this brings up something i wrestle with from time to time.

    though the quote about sts. ss. agatha/james was a bit unfair [shouting, absolutely not, it’s actually quite tame compared to other no’s i’ve been to], the church does suffer from its fair share of happy-go-lucky musical nonsense. however, there is a young priest there, a fiery Jesuit who delivers wonderful homilies, leads Adoration every Wednesdays, chants, uses Latin when he can, etc, etc. so, do we stay, give him our support and encouragement? if we all leave, what will happen to the fledgling priests attempts to reintroduce reverence into the Liturgy?

  20. ray from mn says:

    It does get very tiresome reading the pompous comments of the self appointed liturgy cops on these posts.

    Judge not lest ye be judged, folks!

  21. Glen M says:

    This article reflects very accurately what many post-V2 Catholics experience when introduced to the fullness of our faith. Having discovered a FSSP TLM two years ago, getting strong catechesis, learning what novenas are, daily rosaries, etc, I now feel like being Catholic is part of my identity. Previously, “Catholic” was the designation of the bricks and mortar church I attended a couple times a month. Now I’m living the Catholic faith, thanks be to God and traditional Catholics who never gave up hope.

  22. MargaretC says:

    irishgirl: “I’ve been watching EWTN’s Daily Mass nearly everyday online lately. This is how the NO ‘should’ be said.”

    I, too, have seen the NO done well and reverently. EWTN masses are probably closer to what Paul VI had in mind.

  23. AnAmericanMother says:

    shellac: Yet It fills my heard with sorrow to hear good people like the folks here talk down the Novus Ordo Masses. Is it not the same Body and Blood of our Lord at both Masses?

    Our family attends a fine and very traditional parish – which celebrates the OF only. Very, very reverently. We have holy priests, who really believe and preach accordingly. Latin is being introduced, Adoration is scheduled regularly, we send more than our share of young men to seminary, and we have (if I may say so) the best music in the city. And we sing the Popule Meus. In full.

    And yes, the same Body and Blood are here.

    I think the caveat that has to be introduced is that the OF can be more easily abused by those who do not care to celebrate it reverently. I shudder when I think of some of the local parishes (not all) that I have visited while traveling. Yes, the Body and the Blood are present, but I fear that Our Lord is not always treated with the reverence that He of all should receive.

    But we have only one EF parish in the entire archdiocese. Better to work for more Latin, more reverence, and probably the EF (via the Latin OF) in our future here, rather than ghettoize the EF to one (very lovely and very holy, but only one) parish in Mableton.

  24. Robert says:

    It does get very tiresome reading the pompous comments of the self appointed liturgy cops on these posts.

    Judge not lest ye be judged, folks!

    Often enough, folks who tell others to “judge not!” don’t realize that they’re judging other people. Log, say hello to the eye.

  25. RichardT says:

    I loved this line:
    “The Catholic Church has survived greater disasters … When you’re 2,000 years old, you’ve seen it all.”

    That should give us hope, even if not for ourselves personally.

    Eastern Europe suffered for nearly 80 years under Communism; 40 or so years of the Novus Ordo isn’t so bad in comparison.

  26. dcs says:

    Mr. Nickels column is carried (or used to be carried) in one of our neighborhood newspapers. This particular column is nothing short of astonishing. A couple of years ago if you had asked me my opinion of his column, I would have told you that he was a run of the mill urban liberal.

  27. The Egyptian says:

    Ah, yes, the modernist bishops were certainly unique, with their miniature miters and potato sack vestments; they seemed to go hand-in-
    hand with the secularized nuns in pant suits and fem-Nazi hair.

    She hit the nail on the head, but now the nuns are in skirts and frocks with pearls and ear rings just like all little old blue haired ladies on their way to the nursing home, over joyed to be getting their obama care, too bad they will be the first to be offed as nonproductive

  28. daniwcca says:

    I think we must remember to treat our current batch of young people gently, as change is difficult on them. We don’t want to lose them in a sea of traditional “rhetoric”, for lack of a better term.
    I love how the author can remember what it felt like to change, how difficult it was for him. I am sympathetic to the young people of today, whom have known only this “Burlap Church”. The changes could be hard on them, especially, if they are not taught the meaning and beauty behind them.

  29. RosaMystica says:

    Well I know first hand that just because Pope Benedict says so doesn’t mean that a priest can say the TLM mass without permission from his bishop. If the bishop doesn’t like it, the priest just disappears (on leave), or is reassigned, or is retired early. He learns pretty quickly that he is not to say the old mass, or use Latin. If only the pope really had the power to grant such freedom!

  30. Rosamystica: But a priest DOES have the right to offer the Holy Mass in the Ext. Form. No bishop can prevent him…he has recourse to Rome, the proper authorities, if this happens.
    However, in the case of the Parish, that might be a different story…prudence, accountability and communication are very important here.
    Fr Z. has given the proper documentation on this blog.
    Any bishop who prevents this is against the legislation and will of the Holy Father.

  31. shellac says:

    Hi. 1st I would like to thank my brothers and sisters for the kind words and love they have shown. 2nd I can’t find my spell cker so I am sorry if I am hard to understand.

    “I realize that the anguish and distress many people feel and express, when Our Lord is not given the very best worship man can offer, may well measure their love for Him, and their reverence for His Body and Blood in the Mass. If you are not saddened by casual treatment of Our Lord, do you really love Him above all?”Henry Edwards

    Mr Edwards is right. We can all feel the anguish and distress when we see a lack of reverence at Mass for our Lord. I will say something althow I know we all know it. Some things we just need to keep in mind. Our foe will try to keep us from our full attention on the mass by making us aware of folks lack of reverence.

    I feel Mr Edwards would join me in saying that as part of the body of Christ. We can and should offer up the anguish and distress as penance for our sins. As well as the sins of our Brothers and sisters.

  32. Henry Edwards says:

    shellac: Thank you for your reply. We are indeed one in what you say, in particular, that it’s most appropriate and rewarding to offer as personal sacrifice at the offertory all past anguish experienced at worship.

    I just returned from a most beautiful OF Mass of the Annunciation. The priest chanted everything except the quiet (though not silent) Roman Canon, and sang the Gospel beautifully, an elaborate Kyrie (Greek, of course), the Sanctus, Per ipsum, and Agnus Dei in Latin. His brief homily reminded us that the Church is the bride of Christ, and that Holy Mass is its wedding feast. At the end of Mass, we knelt to recite the Litany of the BVM. No anguish at worship today, Deo gratias!

  33. kjh says:

    I should probably have done some due diligence and determined what the “Novus Ordo” Mass is really _supposed_ to be… I was comparing it to any other “Novus Ordo” Masses that I have participated in. I agree that it is very beautiful. But they say so many prayers in Latin, they always say the “Gloria” on days when they are supposed to say it (:)) – it made me wonder if they use a slightly different version of the Roman Missal than every other “Roman” Catholic church that I have been to (and I’ll grant you that it is not a large number – but certainly in the dozens within recent years.) I have the Magnificat in hand when I am at Mass, and I see on a feast day, such as the Feast of St. Joseph last Friday, it clearly indicates “Gloria” in the order of the Mass… no mention of it during the Mass I attended. Maybe it is just a lack of attention to detail?

    I love EWTN, and I love their Daily Mass (as well as their Sunday Benediction – if I lived within 50 miles instead of 1500 miles, I would go there most Sunday evenings!) They get things right – if they are using the same Missal that we all are using, and they are “Saying the Black, doing the Red”… I wonder if our priests in the Northeast are color blind? :) or maybe :( – It does show you that the Novus Ordo Mass can be simply beautiful. (Add to that, for EWTN, their absolutely beautiful vestments, use of incense, blessing of salt and holy water and the people on Sunday, excellent homilies (or are they sermons) based on Scripture and Church teachings, great reverence during the Mass… it’s just awesome!) I’ll keep praying for more of that to be showing up in a church near me… but because I cannot hold my breath for more than a few seconds – I’ll have to find places to get that spiritual nourishment and refreshment that hearken back to my younger days.

    Thank you all – I just joined as a member of this group, although I’ve been reading off and on for a while.


  34. asperges says:

    Delighted for the author. He writes well and his experience mirrors the fate of many disillusioned Catholics, but who now can be reconciled.

    Now will somebody please explain to me what a “Burlap” is: a lapsed Catholic? I have never such a term before. It isn’t used on this side of the Atlantic, I’m afraid.

  35. Henry Edwards says:

    Ken: Welcome to the “group”. About 15 years ago, I was about where you are now. (Though I should add that with your Magnificat at Mass, you’ll well beyond where I was then, unaware as I was of anything like a real missalette for the Novus Ordo.)

    There was no EWTN where I lived, and on a trip I turned on the TV in a motel room, saw the EWTN Mass for the first time, and was amazed to see the Mass on TV as I’d not seen it in a local parish church in decades. Even nicer in some ways is the Mass as the EWTN friars celebrate it daily 30 miles up the road at (Mother Angelica’s) Shrine–essentially all Latin, Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, etc) sung in Gregorian chant, communion kneeling at the altar rail, celebrated ad orientem (people and priest both facing the altar), etc. I believe they use at the Shrine Mass the actual Missale Romanum 2002 (3rd edition)–Latin only as opposed to the English paraphrase of the Missale Romanum 1970 (1st edition) that we continue to hear in this country, pending the faithful and accurate English translation of the newer edition perhaps next year.

    Incidentally, it seems to me that omitting the Gloria on a solemnity is something worse than mere “inattention to detail”, though I don’t know that it qualifies officially as “reprehensible”. It’s certainly not doing the Red or saying the Black.

  36. Henry Edwards says:

    asperges: “Burlap is a woven cloth created from jute, hemp or flax fibers. … the result is a coarse fabric with a large weave pattern and natural beige coloring. Burlap is often used to form storage bags for grains, potatoes and other bulky materials.”

    Farmers buy hog feed in burlap bags (on your side of the Atlantic, also, I’d bet), but urban Catholics see burlap used only to make banners hung in churches that are stuck in the 1970s, where aging hippie guitar players sway under them strumming crowd-pleasers like “Blowing in the Wind” or “On Eagles Wings”.

  37. kjh says:

    Henry: I also feel that is worse than “mere inattention to detail”… but I was trying to be charitable. I think that a glance at the Ordo for the day would probably indicate that it should be said. Maybe it’s just a lack of preparation, or a desire to be hasty (don’t want to spend too much time at Mass, you know! :) or something? It does make your heart yearn for just a little more ‘attention to detail’. But I feel like a voice crying out in the desert when I mention anything like this.

    For some examples: When our previous Pastor was lamenting the turnout at Eucharistic Adoration, I suggested, perhaps, an occasional Benediction after the Sunday Mass… a nice little homily about the Eucharist, kind of like what I see on EWTN. (That would be “preaching to the choir”…) The Pastor before that, when I suggested maybe mentioning that after Mass it would be appropriate to have at least a few minutes of quiet to offer some prayers and Thanksgiving… (“Oh, no – we want the people to talk to each other…” but Father Dave, it’s right in front of the Tabernacle… a regular gathering place for animated conversations, even when someone is attempting to kneel there and pray.) We are currently talking about renovations to our church to make it handicapped accessible… Me: “I have a concern about where the tabernacle is, and we are going to put _yet another_ distraction – the choir – in the area in front of it. Maybe the tabernacle should be moved back to the main altar.” Pastor: “I don’t want to climb those three stairs.” (granted, he does have some physical limitations, but… I think that he could probably handle the three stairs, and it’s not just for now, it’s for the future, too!) sigh…

    Thank you for the welcome, and I’m sure that I’ll appreciate the discussion and thought-provoking commentary here.


  38. Frank H says:

    Ken, Henry, I share your pain with how Ordinary Form Masses might be celebrated on Solemnities. Our parish provides a stark contrast. Last Friday for the Feast of St. Joseph, our young (under 30) associate pastor celebrated by the book: three readings, Gloria, Creed, even the Confiteor. Today, for the Annunciation, our Pastor (mid 50s) said it just like any other weekday. And I was so looking forward to genuflecting during the Creed! No such luck. Our Pastor has many, many fine qualities. But Saying the Black and Doing the Red is not a priority.

  39. ssoldie says:

    I have always wanted to know why; if the Traditional Latin Mass which the Holy Father calls the “Gregorian Rite” was never abrogated (and which was celebrated during the council and after the council till the “new” mass was made up) was so deliberitly surpressed, and when many asked for it we were told, It (T.L.M.) couldnt be done? Now we are told it is NOT to be considered the Ordinary Mass,( which grew organically from St. Gregory The Great, 604 to the codifing at the Council of Trent. Now that T.L.M. Mass is traditional and about 1500 years old. Why is the new mass that was NOT grown organically, and was made up, a manufactutred process ‘fabricated’ a banal on -the-spot product of 43 years old called ‘extraordinary’????

  40. ssoldie says:

    What I meant to write “fabricated” a banal on-the-spot product of 43 years NOT called the ‘extraordinary’??? sorry about that.

  41. Henry Edwards says:

    ssoldie: Although I regularly attend OF Masses celebrated in such a way as to suggest that the Novus Ordo really is a form of the ancient Roman rite (which I once doubted on the basis of decades of less satisfactory experience) and need not be banal in any way, I wonder whether you wouldn’t agree that in comparison the EF is indeed “extraordinary”.

    Which is why, although I am happy with my daily OF Mass — admittedly somewhat exceptional, with both Red and Black observed religiously, some Latin, always the Confiteor and Roman Canon, a TLM-like ars celebranda, appropriate smells and bells — I truly treasure the glorious EF missa cantata I attend each Sunday.

  42. MAJ Tony says:

    This whole burlap thing reminds me of the joke about the protestant claiming Catholics worship statues, to which the Catholic retorts, tongue-in-cheek, that the protestant needs to get with the times, and doesn’t he realize Catholics now worship banners.

  43. asperges says:

    Henry Edwards: Thanks for the explanation of “Burlap”. The OED has the word (from the Dutch, apparently)but I would never have associated its use within the context you explain. We don’t seem to suffer quite with the same traits, even in the worst churches. Childish paintings, daubs and other bic-a-brac, yes, but burlap, thankfully not! All very tired 70s, isn’t it?

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