Pope Benedict talks about the rite of Mass, inculturation, mystery!

Our friends at Rorate have given us part of the Holy Father’s ad limina address to bishops of Brazil.   Let’s have a look with my E & C.

Wonderful words on the true meaning of active participation

Today’s speech of the Holy Father to the Bishops of Brazil (North II Region) in their ad limina visit was a true course on sacred liturgy, active participation, inculturation, and the Holy Mass. We particularly refer to the 4th, 5th, and 6th paragraphs of his address (in Portuguese).

VIS excerpts; complete translation coming up:

    Speaking of the Eucharist, the Pope recalled that it constitutes "the centre and permanent source of the Petrine ministry, the heart of the Christian life, source and summit of the Church’s mission of evangelization. You can thus understand the concern of the Successor of Peter for all that can obfuscate this most essential point of the Catholic faith: that today, Jesus Christ continues alive and truly present in the consecrated host and the chalice." [NB: "most essential".  When we speak of "the Eucharist" we need to keep in mind both the Sacrament and its celebration.]

    "Paying less attention at times to the rite of the Most Holy Sacrament [i.e., Holy Mass] constitutes," he said, "a sign and a cause of the darkening of the Christian sense of mystery, [EHEM… sound familiar?!?  Not only is this redolent of the whole "Save The Liturgy – Save The Word" thing I have been pushing forever, it also directly bears on what I have pounded for several years, ever since the unveiling the the text of Summorum Pontificum: if our worship does not bring us to an encounter with mystery, then it has failed.] such as when Jesus is not the centre of the Mass, [stressed by ad orientem or ad Deum worship] but rather a community preoccupied with other things instead of being taken up and drawn to the only one necessary: their Lord."  [Fantastic.]

    Benedict XVI emphasized that "if the figure of Christ does not emerge from the liturgy … it is not a Christian liturgy". [OORAH!] This is why, he added, "we find those who, in the name of enculturation, fall into syncretism, introducing rites taken from other religions or cultural particularities into the celebration of the Mass."  [It loses its proper identity.  And we, therefore, lose our identity.  This is rich fare.]

    As Venerable John Paul II wrote, "the mystery of the Eucharist is ‘too great a gift’ to admit of ambiguities or reductions, above all when, ‘stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet’."

    The Pope highlighted that "behind many alleged motives, there exists a mentality that is incapable of accepting the real possibility of divine intervention in this world to assist human beings. [That is modernism.]  … Admitting God’s redeeming intervention to change our situation of alienation and sin [The Holy Father is speaking of sin more often.  And I predict he is also going to be speaking more about worship.] is seen as fundamentalism by those who share a deist vision and the same can be said about the sacramental sign that makes the salvific sacrifice present. For such persons, the celebration of a sign that corresponds to a vague sentiment of community would be more acceptable."  [A "vague sentiment of community"… embodied by versus populum worship and the clericalization of the laity, non-sacral language, music reduce to the lowest denominator.]

    "Worship, however," he continued, "cannot come from our imagination: that would be a cry in the darkness or mere self-affirmation. [Here it comes:] True liturgy supposes that God responds and shows us how we can adore Him. ["how we can adore Him"… i.e., proper worship] … The Church lives in His presence and its reason for being and existing is to expand His presence in the world."

There are times when I feel like I am shouting down a well.  

Then someone like this comes along.

The Holy Father introduced this section by mentioning his own office, the Petrine office of the Successor of Peter.   Then he goes on to talk about proper worship in the rites of Holy Mass.  Then he speaks of evacuation of the meaning of the rites and the effect on people when the rites lose their proper orientation. 

This seems very much in keeping with what I have been saying about his "Marshall Plan" for Holy Church during his pontificate.

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  1. Agnes says:

    … “a sign and a cause of the darkening of the Christian sense of mystery,such as when Jesus is not the centre of the Mass, but rather a community preoccupied with other things instead of being taken up and drawn to the only one necessary: their Lord.”

    Only one thing suffices; God alone is enough.

    Christ our Light.

  2. Magpie says:

    Wonderful stuff Father, but how do we get this into the hands of parish priests who do not read Catholic blogs and were poorly formed in the seminary? I’d feel awfully patronising as a twenty-something layman presenting my priest with ‘stuff’, as necessary as I think it is that he should read it.

  3. r.j.sciurus says:

    Keep shouting down the well, Father. I think I’m down there somewhere…

  4. Gwen says:

    I subscribe to Zenit (go to zenit.org) by email and I get the Pope’s speeches, addresses, letters, etc., plus Vatican press releases, various interviews, and the like. You might suggest that your priest subscribe–how could he be offended by you offering him a good source of information straight from the Vatican?

  5. “we find those who, in the name of enculturation, fall into syncretism”

    That’s gotta hurt Fr. Chupungco.

  6. Thomas S says:


    GREAT advice. Priests who would be hostile to your bringing this information more directly to their attention will simply ignore it anyway, but those priests who would be open to it, but to whom you would feel uncomfortable “lecturing,” would benefit greatly from the resource.

    How easy would it be to say after Sunday Mass, “Father, have you heard of Zenit? I just found out about it and it is a tremendous resource for keeping up to date on the Holy Father’s teachings.”

    In fact, I’d recommend everyone do just that this weekend.

  7. Magpie says:

    That’s good advice Gwen, thanks.

  8. Tradster says:

    Wonderful words from His Holiness and I praise God for them. However, I find it difficult to reconcile them with World Youth Day extravaganzas. And doesn’t “…introducing rites taken from other religions or cultural particularities into the celebration of the Mass” run contrary to inviting Anglicans to bring their Protestant rite into the Catholic Church?

  9. Kate says:

    What a beautiful gift after viewing the Fr. Pfleger video. God bless Pope Benedict!

  10. Rafa Nascimento says:

    I’m from Brazil and nevertheless the words of the Pope were brilliant I know that none or little effect it will have on your bishops.

    I don’t have idea the kind of things that we have here in the name of “enculturation”. If you think that the Diocese os Los Angeles is bad, you don’t know nothing about the dioceses of North of brazil (the amazon area is even worse).

    And you National Conference of Bishops are very busy with politics (communism and socialism, even though the Holly See has already opposed to it), social justice, the poor and the opressed. But about the proper way to worship, the new translation of The Roman Missal and other things so precious to live a life with Christ they say nothing.

    So I pray that the words of the Holy Father has some effect on the bishops of Brazil and of the world.

  11. ejcmartin says:

    Our priest, just ordained last year, read B16’s speech adding his comments yesterday for his homily. He has taken up the “Marshall Plan” and has manned the front lines.

  12. You know something? I bet that a lot of priests would be more open to reading stuff like this found by laypeople in their parishes, if you present it more as being “beautiful” or “inspirational” than “educational”. If somebody already thinks they know everything, “educational” won’t do it for them. (Unless they take pride in only reading educational things, because you have to take personality into account.)

    This is really a lovely lovely set of excerpts. Thank you, Fr. Z, for putting them up!


    At WYD Masses, the Pope is giving countries the chance to show their best to the world. The fact that many countries don’t take that opportunity is not the Holy Father’s fault. However, it does allow him plenty of exposure to the bad ideas of a country, which is no doubt useful for diagnosis of each patient’s problems. Most of the time, people try to hide what they’re really thinking. Not then. (And until ours, most of the WYD stuff was getting better.) The fact that the Pope always sermonizes on liturgy, the Church, beauty, and proper ordering of our response to God as part of WYD is a Honking Huge Hint to people who listen. (And it does sink into a lot of attendees when they return home. Not everyone, but many of them. The transformation often takes place over years, but you watch it happen by following them on the Internet; and you’re amazed.) The opportunity to teach the people directly subverts whatever crazy stuff a country’s hierarchy and liturgists decide to flaunt.

    And to be fair, if you watch footage of big Eucharistic Congresses of yore, you find plenty of iffy practices back before Vatican II, both ‘progressive’ and weird-ultramontane. Big groups always brought out the exhibitionist in people; but there’s a lot of good things that happen in crowds also.

    Re: the Anglican Use, there’s a whole lot of difference between having Pope John Paul II rewrite and clean out Cranmer (who was ripping off old 14th century Sarum Rite translations anyway) and duly releasing it to the world under his gracious papal powers, and having Fr. J. Random and Sr. Scary holding Anglican/Islamic/Hindu prayer services during Mass because they felt like it. Seeing as how the Anglican Use has already helped lead to many people abandoning schism and returning to the arms of Mother Church, I would think that it would be obvious that God smiles upon Pope JP2’s pastoral use of his powers in this instance. Given B16’s open support of the Anglican Use folks (as opposed to staying politely silent while working to make unfortunate stuff disappear), I think you can be secure that it’s a solidly justified thing for the Church to do as part of following her marching orders, not just J. Random’s innovation.

  13. Scott W. says:

    If the wiki is accurate, World Youth Day is organized at the diocesan level, which I assume means whichever diocese gets the nod is in charge of putting it together. If future WYD’s are already alloted, there is not much the Holy Father can do and is only going to get liturgy like the diocese. WYD Diocese of Lincoln ftw!

  14. RichR says:

    “we find those who, in the name of enculturation, fall into syncretism, introducing rites taken from other religions or cultural particularities into the celebration of the Mass.”

    I wonder if he had this fond memory in mind when he stated this.


  15. He’s from Germany. I’m sure he’s seen all kinds of ill-judged stuff done by all sorts of people. Tribal liturgical dance is the least of his worries. (Heck, it was a lot more dignified than the stupid “liturgical movement” people try to deploy in my town. Less of an impression of being scantily clad, too.)

    The more you reorient people’s thinking and feeling, the less stupid stuff people will try to do.

  16. Sedgwick says:

    …if the figure of Christ does not emerge from the liturgy … it is not a Christian liturgy…

    I kind of wish he had said, if the sacrifice of Christ does not emerge from the liturgy, etc., but who am I to quibble?

  17. FYI, the Holy Father’s address is the subject of my Monday morning segment for the Son Rise Morning Show on April 26 at 7:35 am EST. You can catch it on EWTN radio network. You know, this talk would make a good monograph or pamphlet. I wish we had something like the UK’s Catholic Truth Society here in the States.

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