Bp. Conley on transcendence in the liturgy and the new, corrected translation

An alert reader sent me the following.  This is a talk given last month by H.E. Most Rev. James D. Conley, Auxiliary Bishop in Denver to the Midwest Theological Forum.

If I am not mistaken, Bp. Conley was one of the many converts who developed under the late, great mentor John Senior in Kansas.

Bp. Conley spoke about the new translation and sundry liturgical points.  Let’s read along, you and I.  I will offer my usual emphases and comments.  This is on the website of the Archdiocese of Denver.  It is long, and I will have to make a cut, I think. You can seek the original.

‘A Universe Brimming with Fruitful Spiritual Life’: Reflecting Transcendence in the Liturgy [I am immediately sympathetic, since this has been the constant concern of this blog, my articles, my talks and my preaching for years: transcendence in liturgical worship]

I want to begin our conversation by recounting a story a friend told me recently.During Lent this year, my friend’s parish started the worthy custom of praying the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin. My friend is in his early 50s and we converted to the Catholic Church around the same time during our college years, through a classical “Great Books” program, which included the study of Latin. He and his wife taught their children Latin at an early age and they sent their children to a private Catholic school where they prayed these prayers in Latin every day at Mass.

But he and his family were by far the exception at his parish, which is a big, suburban parish made up mainly of young families. He looked around one Sunday and noticed that only his family and some of the older parishioners were praying the Latin. Everybody else looked a little confused. [The question of identity emerges.  What does it mean when members of the Latin Church have no idea what is going on when Latin is used?]

This story gives us some important context for our conversation this evening.

The “new Mass” is almost a half-century old now. [Not very old.] A generation of Catholics has grown up knowing only the Novus Ordo. I would venture to bet that many younger Catholics have no idea that the prayers we say at Mass are translated from an authoritative Latin text.

In Advent, we are going to introduce a major new English translation of the Mass with the third typical edition of the Roman Missal.

[QUAERUNTUR:] What are Catholics in the pews going to make of the changes in the words they pray and the words they hear the priest praying? Will the changes make any difference in their experience of the Mass? In the way they worship? In the way they live their faith in the world?

These are important questions. And the answers are going to depend a lot on you and me.

Those of us who are priests, and those preparing to be ordained — we are the keys to the success of this next phase in the Church’s on-going liturgical renewal.

This new edition of the Missal is the Church’s gift to our generation. [He wants you to accept this premise.  I am at least partially on board for the following reasons.  1) The Novus Ordo is here to stay for a while.  2) If Mass must be in the vernacular, and it will be for a while, then it is better to have a good translation than a bad translation.  Some will say it is better to have a bad translation so that the Novus Ordo dies faster.  I will leave it to you to decide what to think about that.  Going on, H.E. adds a reason why this new edition is a “gift”.] It restores the ancient understanding of the Eucharist as a sacred mystery.  It renews the vertical dimension of the liturgy — as a spiritual sacrifice that we offer in union with the sacrifice that our heavenly High Priest celebrates unceasingly in the eternal liturgy.i [There are footnotes, which I include at the end.  Regarding his remarks, some will say that the Novus Ordo itself, even in the Latin original, compromises what the bishop is saying has been restored.  Leave that aside.  I ask: If we need to have these things restored, would not greater use of the older form of Mass be of great help right now?]

In order for the Church to realize the full potential of this gift, it is vital that we understand why we need this new translation. The changes are not superficial ritualism. There is a deep liturgical and theological aesthetic at work. And we need to grasp the “spirit” and “inner logic” underlying these translations. [Liturgical aesthetic. Hmmm… let’s see what he does with this.  Was that a throw away?  Will he come back to it?]

This is what I want to about this evening.

As a starting-point, I thought it would be useful to return to “scene of the crime” so to speak — that is, to the introduction of the Novus Ordo.  [Bp. Conley seems to be offering a captatio benevonentiae here.]

Let me say up front: I’m joking here, sort of! I know that some people still talk about the Novus Ordo as if it was a crime. I have close and dear friends who feel this way. I can understand their frustration. And I’ll talk about that more in a minute.

But I want to be clear: I was ordained a priest and a bishop in the Novus Ordo. I have spent my entire priesthood praying this Mass with deep reverence. Although I have a great love and appreciation for the Tridentine Rite and I am called upon to celebrate this form of the Mass from time to time, I believe the Novus Ordo is a result of the ongoing organic development of the Roman liturgy.

I do think it’s important for us, however, to recall the “culture shock” caused by the Novus Ordo back when it was first introduced. That helps us better understand the concerns and purposes of this new edition of the Missal.

To illustrate what I mean about “culture shock,” I want to recall the experience of Evelyn Waugh, the author of Brideshead Revisited and the Sword of Honor trilogy, among other memorable works.

Waugh was a brilliant novelist and essayist. He was a convert to the Catholic Church and he was not bashful about speaking his mind on what he thought was wrong in the Church. We converts can be like that!  [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

And make no mistake: Waugh thought the Church had a made a wrong turn at the Second Vatican Council[Waugh was not alone.]

In his correspondence and writings in the Catholic press, Waugh was most disturbed about the Council’s plans for liturgical reform. The reformers, he complained, were [NB:]a strange alliance between archeologists absorbed in their speculations on the rites of the second century, and modernists who wish to give the Church the character of our own deplorable epoch.”  [Sound about right?]

Waugh certainly had a way with words, didn’t he? And here, as in so many cases, he was razor-keen in his insight. [NB: Bp. Conley did not disagree with Waugh.]

His worst fears came to pass when the Mass was finally introduced in the vernacular. In early 1965, he wrote to a friend: “Every attendance at Mass leaves me without comfort or edification. … Church-going is now a bitter trial.”

He complained often — as did many others — that the Novus Ordo stripped the Mass of its ancient beauty and destroyed the liturgy’s contact with heavenly realities. [While Bp. Conley mentions 1965, above, the Novus Ordo was not actually introduced until Advent 1969.] Waugh for one, never recovered from the shock. He would say things like: “The Vatican Council has knocked the guts out of me,” and “I shall not live to see things righted.

Waugh’s end reads like something out of one of his novels. [Which doesn’t mean he didn’t mean it.]

On Easter 1966, he asked a Jesuit friend to say a Latin Mass for him and a handful of his friends and family at a private chapel near his home. [Remember: That’s not yet the Novus Ordo.] People later remarked that Waugh seemed at peace for the first time since the Council. About an hour after the Mass, he collapsed and died.ii

It was a dramatic ending to a fascinating and complicated life.

The lesson I want to draw here is this: Evelyn Waugh was on to something. He sensed that something had gone awry.

But [You knew there would be a “but” …] he was wrong not to trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Pope, the Church and the Council fathers if, in fact, he did begin to despair with the direction the Church was headed. [QUAERITUR: Is what we got, what the Pope and Council Fathers intended? I wonder.  But read on.] God in his kind providence spared him the experience of much of the post-conciliar silliness and the gross liberties taken with the liturgy. [The late Msgr. Schuler used to say, “Just do what the Council asked.”  We could start with that.  It hasn’t been tried yet.]

The Novus Ordo is an organic development of the Church’s ancient liturgical rites and traditions. [Card. Ratzinger said it was an artificial composition.] It is a genuine sign of Christ’s faithfulness to his promise — that his Spirit would guide the Church into all the truth and would glorify him in all things.iii  [Some will not agree.  But let’s take this up and go on with it.]

But [I did not think about another “but” so soon….] the new does not replace the old in the Church. There is always continuity and not rupture when it comes to the authentic development of doctrine — and also when it comes to the authentic development of the liturgy. [The key here might be “authentic” development.]

I believe our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, like Pope John Paul II before him, has given us a healthy way to think about the relationship between the Novus Ordo and what Benedict calls the forma extraordinaria. They are not two distinct liturgical rites. They are two expressions of the one Roman rite. [Here I detect a possible problem.  I think that Summorum Pontificum is mainly a juridical document and Pope Benedict’s statement was that, from a juridical point of view, both Missals are to be treated as part of a single Roman Rite for the sake of priestly faculties, etc.  However, I am not sure that that resolves the issue of whether or not they are the same rite or not.]

As I said, I have great love and appreciation for the Tridentine, or “extraordinary form” of the Mass. But I also see how the ordinary form, the Novus Ordo, has nourished and sanctified the spiritual lives of countless souls over the past 40 plus years. It has helped the Church to rediscover the Eucharist as the source and summit of our lives. And we cannot forget that this Mass nourished the spiritual lives of two great figures of our generation — Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II. [Ummm… which Mass formed them?]

And yet.

And yet I think many of us would agree with Waugh on this point: Something has been lost. Something of the beauty and grandeur of the liturgy. Something of the reverence, the mystery, the sense of the transcendent. This has been a persistent criticism since the Council — and not only from so-called traditionalists.

But I can’t agree with those who blame the Novus Ordo or the vernacular. This answer is too facile. [Not sure about that word “facile”.  There is nothing “facile” about comparing the Latin text of the Novus Ordo and how the ancient prayers were edited for content, changed theologically. Also, could it be facile to dismiss as facile the effect of a sacred language?  If we change our worship, we change a lot more.]

The problem has been with the way the New Mass has sometimes been understood and implemented[No dispute there!   And I not that he is still calling it the “New Mass”.]

I, along with not a few friends, have had the unfortunate experience that Pope Benedict has described in his 2007 Letter to the Bishops of world when he issued his Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum, on the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the Reforms of 1970:

“In many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience … I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.”iv  [We all have lived this.]

Again, the problem is not the Novus Ordo — but the license that people sometimes take in celebrating it.

I would add that another big part of the problem has been the translations we’ve been using. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

There is a banal, pedestrian quality to much of the language in our current liturgy. The weakness in the language gets in the way and prevents us from experiencing the sublime spiritual and doctrinal ideas woven into the fabric of the liturgy.

The translators had well-meaning pastoral intentions. They wanted to make the liturgy intelligible and relevant to modern Catholics. [Which is laudable, but dangerous.] To that end, they employed a translation principle they called “dynamic equivalence.”

In practice, this led them to produce an English translation that in many places is essentially a didactic paraphrase of the Latin. [The Novus Ordo itself, one can argue, has introduced greater didacticism into liturgical worship.] In the process, the language of our Eucharistic worship — so rich in scriptural allusion, poetic metaphor and rhythmic repetition — came to be flattened out and dumbed down.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra, Australia has observed that our current translation “consistently bleaches out metaphor, which does scant justice to the highly metaphoric discourse” of the liturgy.v

This describes the problem well.

Archbishop Coleridge, by the way, is a translator by training. He headed the committee of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) that produced the new translation we will begin using in Advent.

He has pointed out serious theological difficulties with our current translations, including problems related to ecclesiology and the theology of grace[Wholehearted agreement.]

The key point here is that the words we pray matter. [This wills ound familiar.] What we pray makes a difference in what we believe. Our prayer has implications for how we grasp the saving truths that are communicated to us through the liturgy.

For instance, our current translation almost always favors abstract nouns to translate physical metaphors for God. If the Latin prayer refers to the “face” of God, “face” will be translated in abstract conceptual terms, such as “presence.” References to God’s “right hand” will be translated as God’s “power.”  [Good observations.]

This word choice has deep theological implications.

The point of the Son of God becoming flesh is that God now has a human face — the face of Jesus. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Whoever sees him sees the Father.vi

Yet if in our worship we speak of God only in abstract terms, then effectively we are undermining our faith in the Incarnation. [Very good.]

As Archbishop Coleridge says:  “The cumulative effect [of abandoning human metaphors for God] is that the sense of the Incarnation is diminished. God himself seems more abstract and less immediate than ever he does in Scripture or the Church Fathers.”

I want to say this again: I don’t believe there were bad motives involved in the translations we have now. [I think the translators wanted to change our beliefs.  Is that “bad”?  You decide.]

I think the root problem with the translations we have now is that the translators seriously misunderstood the nature of the divine liturgy. [!]

Our current translations treat the liturgy basically as a tool for doing catechesis. That’s why our prayers so often sound utilitarian and didactic; often they have a kind of lowest-common-denominator type of feel. That’s because the translators were trying to make the “message” of the Mass accessible to the widest possible audience.

[NB:] But Christ did not give us the liturgy to be a message-delivery system. Of course, we pray what we believe, and what we pray shapes what we believe. Lex orandi, lex credendi. But the liturgy is not meant to “teach” in the same way that a catechism teaches, or even in the same way that a homily teaches. [I think he is settling in and is on firmer ground now.]

On this point, the words of the great liturgical pioneer, Father Romano Guardini, are worth hearing again:

The liturgy wishes to teach, but not by means of an artificial system of aim-conscious educational influences. It simply creates an entire spiritual world in which the soul can live according to the requirements of its nature. ….

The liturgy creates a universe brimming with fruitful spiritual life, and allows the soul to wander about in it at will and to develop itself there. ….

The liturgy has no purpose, or at least, it cannot be considered from the standpoint of purpose. It is not a means which is adapted to attain a certain end — it is an end in itself.vii [As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, prayer and play both have the action itself as its own end.]

This is the authentic spirit of the liturgy.

As Guardini says, the liturgy aims to create a new world for believers to dwell in. A sanctified world where the dividing lines between the human and the divine are erased. Guardini’s vision is beautiful: “The liturgy creates a universe brimming with fruitful spiritual life.” [Beautiful, yes.  And terrifying.  It is the locus of an encounter with the mysterium tremendum et fascinans.]

The new translation of the Mass restores this sense of the liturgy as transcendent and transformative. It restores the sacramentality to our liturgical language. The new translation reflects the reality that our worship here joins in the worship of heaven[That is very optimistic.  It puts a lot on the translation.  I respond that the new translation could help that along, help with the restoration.  However, if the ars celebrandi, the rest of the liturgical worship of Mass is imbued with the horizontal, the ephemeral, the immanent, not to mention liturgical abuses, the new translation won’t help much.]

The new edition of the Missal seeks to restore the ancient sense of our participation in the cosmic liturgy.

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of the Eucharist bringing us into the heavenly Jerusalem to worship in the company of angels and saints.viii The Book of Revelation starts with St. John celebrating the Eucharist on a Sunday. In the midst of this, the Spirit lifts him up to show him the eternal liturgy going on in heaven.ix

The message is clear: The Church’s liturgy is caught up in the liturgy of the cosmos. And our Eucharistic rites have always retained this vision of the cosmic liturgy. [In theory, yes.]

The Gloria and the Sanctus are two obvious points of contact. In the first, we sing the song that the angels sang at the Nativity. In the latter, we sing in unison with the angelic choirs in heaven; we sing the song that both St. John and the prophet Isaiah heard being sung in the heavenly liturgy.

The oldest of our Eucharistic Prayers, the Roman Canon, lists the names of the 12 apostles along with 12 early saints. This is meant to correspond to the 24 elders who John saw worshipping around the heavenly altar.x

The Roman Canon also includes a prayer for the holy angels to bring the sacrifices from our altar up to God’s altar in heaven. [It is nice that His Excellency is referring to the Roman Canon.  But in many places the Roman Canon is not heard.]

And of course the Communion Rite includes the Vulgate’s translation of the invitation that St. John heard in the heavenly liturgy: Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.xi

Yet we need to recognize that this experience of the heavenly liturgy has been lost since Vatican II.

This loss is reflected — I’m tempted to say abetted — by our current translation. [Agreed.  It is a major culprit in the English speaking world.] For the last 40 years we have erased this heavenly reference in the Communion Rite with our bland translation: Happy are those who are called to his Supper.

Again: the words we pray matter. What we pray makes a difference in what we believe.

The Mass is truly a partaking in the worship that St. John saw around the throne and the altar of God. This is not a beautiful idea, but a sacred reality. [Sacramental reality, met with in the sacred liturgical action, iis not less real than sensible reality.  The outward signs must bring us toward, not away from, that sacred and sacramental realm.]

This is the teaching of the New Testament, the Church Fathers, the Second Vatican Council, and the Catechism, which contains numerous references to the heavenly liturgy.xii

And for years now, Pope Benedict XVI has been urging the Church to reclaim this appreciation of the cosmic liturgy, to reclaim our great liturgical patrimony. [And I have argued that he has a kind of “Marshall Plan” for this.]

I want to underline these words of the Holy Father: “The essential matter of all Eucharistic liturgy is its participation in the heavenly liturgy. It is from thence that it necessarily derives its unity, its catholicity, and its universality.”xiii

The essential matter of our Eucharist is its participation in the liturgy of heaven. In other words: that’s what the Eucharist is all about. The Eucharist we celebrate on earth has its source in the heavenly liturgy. And the heavenly liturgy is the summit to which our Eucharistic celebration looks. [Very good.  I tend to put this is different terms, to which I advert above.]

Yet how many of our people in the pews — how many of our priests at the altar — feel that they are being lifted up to partake in the heavenly liturgy? [Tens of people?]

This is why this new translation is so important.

I want to look briefly now at some of the changes in this new translation. I want to meditate on these changes and suggest some ways in which these changes might enhance our appreciation of the essential transcendent dimension of the liturgy.

[…] [I simply had to edit some of this.  You can find his interesting examples in the original. Here is a link.]That’s why it is so important that we implement this new translation with a profound Eucharistic catechesis and mystagogy.

Through this new translation, we need to invite our brothers and sisters to know the liturgy as a mystery to be lived. As Pope Benedict has said, our Eucharistic mystagogy must inspire “an awareness that one’s life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated.” xix [“Mystagogy” is the term for what in ancient times was post-baptismal “continuing education” especially about the sacred liturgical mysteries which had not been taught to catechumens before their baptism”.  For us it can be taken perhaps as ongoing liturgical catechesis.  How to do this without making Mass a didactic moment?  Parish workshops, teaching in bulletins, some explanations in sermons without overdoing it… the choices we make about music, vestments, language, vessels, architecture, clarity of roles, decorum and reverence, ars celebrandi, etc.]

That is the great promise of this new translation and new edition of the Missal. The promise of a people nourished and transformed by the sacred mysteries they celebrate. The promise of a people who are able to offer themselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. A people who experience Christ living in them, as they are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another.xx

I want to leave you with one last image. I hope it will inspire you to always celebrate the sacred liturgy with passionate intensity and a keen awareness of the liturgy of heaven.

One of his altar servers left us this description of how St. Josemaría Escrivá used to pray the Mass. [Not, by the way, the Novus Ordo.]

For [St. Josemaría], the liturgy was not a formal act but a transcendent one. Each word held a profound meaning and was uttered in a heartfelt tone of voice. [Except for the silent parts.  Sorry… couldn’t resist!] He savored the concepts. … Josemaría seemed detached from his human surrounding and, as it were, tied by invisible cords to the divine. This phenomenon peaked at the moment of consecration. …  [and yet many liturgical liberals have sought to diminish the moment of the consecration…] Josemaría seemed to be disconnected from the physical things around him … and to be catching sight of mysterious and remote heavenly horizons. xxi  [There’s that encounter with mystery I am perpetually harping about.]

Thank you for your attention this evening. I look forward to our conversation.


i. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1187.
ii. The story of Waugh and the new Mass is told in Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief (Ignatius, 1999), 333–343. See also, Scott M. P. Reid, ed., A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Carmel Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes, 2nd rev. ed (St. Austin Press, 2000).
iii. John 16:12–14.
iv. Letter to the Bishops of the World to Present the “Motu Proprio” on the Use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the Reforms of 1970.
v. “‘The Norm of the Holy Fathers’: Liturgical Renewal Past, Present, and to Come,” Address to National Liturgical Conference, February 5, 2010. Available at: http://www.cg.catholic.org.au/_uploads/rsfil/02179.pdf.
vi. Col. 1:15; John 14:8.
vii. The Spirit of the Liturgy (Herder, 1998 [1930]), 66–67.
viii. Heb. 12:22–29.
xiv. Rev. 1:10.
x. Rev. 4:4, 10; 19:4, etc.
xi. Rev. 19:9.
xii. Catechism, nos. 1090, 1111, 1136, 1187, 1326, 2642 (“heavenly liturgy”); 1139 (“eternal liturgy”); 1195, 2855 (“liturgy of heaven”).
xiii. Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion (Ignatius, 2005), 110–111; compare A New Song for the Lord (Crossroad, 1996), 175.
xiv. Matt. 26:64; Col. 3:1.
xv. Heb. 7:25; 8:1; compare Rom. 8:34 (ad dexteram Dei qui etiam interpellat pro nobis).
xvi. See Exod. 16:13, 14; Num. 11:9; compare John 6:50.
xvii. Sacroscanctum Concilium, 24.
xviii. Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Liturgiam authenticam, Instruction on the Use of Vernacular Languages? in the Publication of ?the Books of the Roman Liturgy (March 28, 2001), 19–20.
xix. Sacramentum Caritatis, 64.
xx. Rom. 12:1; Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 3:18.
xxi. Quote in Andrés Vázquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, vol. 1 (Scepter 1997), 206.

WDTPRS KUDOS to Bp. Conley.

I think he was aiming in exactly the right direction, though I disagree with some of his rather soft-edged premises.  In the final analysis he put the emphasis on just the right thing: we must recover a sense of the transcendent which is essential to liturgical worship.  The new translation won’t do that on its own, but there is almost no way to do it with the present translation.  I say, if we must have vernacular liturgy, then let the translation be accurate in content, at least.  With am improved sense of language and content, hopefully we can get the ball moving on some of the other essential elements of liturgical worship as well.


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  1. Mark R says:

    Why is it that critics of the Novus Ordo in anglophone countries overlook the fact (because it is right under the critics noses) that the problem with watering down the faith has to do with translating the Mass merely into English. The Polish translation is great! I have glimpsed at the translation of the Mass into more common European languages and I do not see the problems which riddle the Novus Ordo in English. I was made aware of this as far back as the 1970s by an older Xaverian brother who taught me Latin.
    One thing that actually makes the Tridentine Mass unpalatable (just on a level of aesthetics — not at all on the sacramental reality that is occuring) is that for those of us who have had some Latin, it would be nice to hear the priest pronounce it more audibly and it would be nice not to get angry glares from pew-mates if we say the responses in Latin. We said the responses in the 1990s when I attended private Dominican rite Masses, (which eventually adopted the more common praxis of having the congregation make no responses). Latin is very beautiful and it would be nice to hear more of it.

  2. DWB says:

    A part of the article linked to but not reproduced above states the following:

    “We also must not forget that 80% of the prayers in the Roman Missal date before the 9th century. We have a duty to hand these treasures on faithfully and accurately.”

    I recently attended the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in one of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches (I could write for some time about that). The quote I’ve included above made me wonder if part of the duty we owe does not also extend to those that have faithfully preserved their own ancient rites and profess their communion with us.

  3. shane says:

    I disagree with Mark. Dialogue Masses definitely have their place but they should never be normative. One of the great beauties of the silent Low Mass, at least for me, is the meditative solititude of it all, which can be quite intense. (It’s very hard to pray the rosary or meditate during a dialogue Mass, or when people in the pews are saying the responses.) [The silent Low Mass discussion is a rabbit hole.]

  4. mrose says:

    While I am certainly looking forward to the upcoming translation of the Mass (given that I have a difficult time calling what we currently use a “translation”), His Excellency seems to put an enormous amount of faith in the texts themselves. I certainly agree with your point, Father, that His Excellency aims in the correct direction concerning transcendence in the liturgy. I might also point out that transcendence is also evoked by praying in a sacred, ancient language (i.e. Latin!).

    I am most excited for the new translation of the Mass, and glad that the liberal priests of my parish aren’t crazy enough to plan to simply ignore it. However, I will also be excited when they decide that because they are not above the liturgy, they will actually say the word “men” in the Creed, not consecrate most of the Precious Blood in the flagon, and not include blessings in Mass following Communion, wherein the Celebrant implores all the people to extend their right hands ala Hitler.

    I offer these examples mostly to point out that actions matter too, not just words.

  5. Frank H says:

    Over at a prominent dissident liturgy blog, they posted Bp. Conley’s talk and as you can imagine the regular commenters heads are exploding!!

  6. Brad says:

    “Yet if in our worship we speak of God only in abstract terms, then effectively we are undermining our faith in the Incarnation. [Very good.]”

    Woe. Woe woe woe.

    The Incarnation is always ground zero (I use that metaphor to conjure the image of a desperate, furious, nuclear strike: a Richter scale ticking, molten crater) in satan’s attack: make man forget, disbelieve or doubt in the sweeping epochs leading up to the Incarnation, the 33 years of Emmanuel’s life here with us, and the triduum and its gloriously redeeming (redeeming meaning a debt paid, not a non-debt paid) after effects.

    Knowledge of and faith in the Incarnation is knowledge of and faith in God’s Mercy. All of salvation history hinges upon Mercy.

  7. Flambeaux says:

    I don’t mind a silent Low Mass but I am very happy that the sung Mass at our parish is a dialogue Mass.

    I still find “silent” Sung Masses very disconcerting.

    Dialogue should be normative in Sung Masses. How else can the faithful, following the entreaties of numerous popes, sing the Ordinary as is proper to them?

    The silent Mass congregation is, as I understand it, an aberration in liturgical history and one that has more to do with ignorance and the Penal Times than any serious theological or praxeological rationale. [The silent Low Mass discussion is a rabbit hole.]

  8. David Homoney says:

    Father Z, I agree with you end statements. I would say though that, with all due respect, His Excellency is wrong about the Novus Ordo. The Mass doesn’t lend itself to reverence. Furthermore, the flaws are not limited to the translation, which you have shown so well the banality of the prayers. If the translation was the only issue we would see the reverence, understanding, and deepening faith in those places were the translation isn’t horrible, such as in Italian, German, Spanish, etc. Instead we see much of the same or in some cases worse results.

    I think we can all try and come up with excuses for the Novus Ordo, but the proof is in the numbers. We went from 75% of all Catholics attending Mass every week in 1965 to 23% in 2000. Since 1965 50% of all Catholic schools have closed. We have heard ad nauseam about the vocations crisis, something that didn’t exist in 1965 either. The proof is in the pudding and the numbers don’t lie. The goals of the Novus Ordo and really of the Vatican II have been abject failures all around. Do people know the faith better now since the vernacular or was it better when it was in Latin? Do they love the faith better now? Has active participation in the Mass lead to more or less vocations? more or less attendance? more or less understanding? I think we all know the answers to the questions. I thank God for our current Pope, I pray for his continued strength and health. I pray he is our pontiff or the next 25 years. I think God for Summorum Pontificum, and pray that we get to a since Mass and that it is the Tridentine. Bugnini’s Mass has done more to kill the faith in people than most things combined and I have to agree with Dietrich von Hildebrand when he said the demon’s of the Screwtape Letters couldn’t have destroyed the liturgy of the Catholic Church more than Bugnini did.

  9. Corinne says:

    Shane brings up an interesting point that I have thought about many times. It is the main reason I am not for bringing back the Tridentine Mass exclusively. I am talking about the temptation, if you will, to allow the Mass, particularly a Low Mass which should never be the norm and was never meant to be, to become far too individualistic. This was an argument of the late Fr. Alexander Schemamann who claimed that this “individualistic” way of viewing the liturgy and theology developed around the time of Scholasticism in the West and slowly crept into Eastern theology. One could argue that this individualistic mentality was why, prior to Vatican II, so many lay Catholics never thought of evangelization. It seems lay people believed evangelizing was only for priests and/or religious.

    The liturgy was always meant to involve the entire community or Body of Christ. Worship was understood as being individual AND communal, the sacraments were understood as being individual AND communal. That was the understanding of the Church Fathers and that is the understanding still in the Eastern churches. Now I would certainly agree that the average Novus Ordo Mass today takes the idea of “community” way too far. They take a lot of things too far. There needs to be a balance and that balance will not not come from translations (although I welcome this new translation with exuberance) but instead from catechesis. Oh how we need catechesis.

  10. DWB says:

    Brad, was that an apocalyptic “Woe woe woe”? (i.e., Revelation 8:13) ; )

  11. Brad says:

    DWB, no, but how bizarre that I wrote that without even comprehending!

  12. Geoffrey says:

    “One thing that actually makes the Tridentine Mass unpalatable (just on a level of aesthetics — not at all on the sacramental reality that is occuring) is that for those of us who have had some Latin, it would be nice to hear the priest pronounce it more audibly and it would be nice not to get angry glares from pew-mates if we say the responses in Latin.”

    I agree 100%. That is one of the reasons my preference is actually for Mass in the Ordinary Form in LATIN. However, sadly, that is a rarity.

  13. I think what’s “facile” is not the statement that the OF is an inferior liturgy to the EF, but blaming all the other problems of the Church (low Mass attendance, low vocations, widespread contraception, wide advocacy of women priests) on the change. We’re living through a period of enormous social crisis in Western civilization, and that’s going to reflect into the Church in the West. If it were because of the OF or Vatican II, it would have hit the Church more or less equally throughout the world, which it didn’t.

  14. Centristian says:

    “Over at a prominent dissident liturgy blog, they posted Bp. Conley’s talk and as you can imagine the regular commenters heads are exploding!!”

    Yeah, I’m sure. I know a few folks in that liturgical camp who are Facebook friends, so I was sure to post Bishop Conley’s talk on my Facebook page as soon as I read it here. I gleefully await the rocks that will inevitably be thrown in my direction.

    “He wants you to accept this premise. I am at least partially on board for the following reasons. 1) The Novus Ordo is here to stay for a while. 2) If Mass must be in the vernacular, and it will be for a while, then it is better to have a good translation than a bad translation. Some will say it is better to have a bad translation so that the Novus Ordo dies faster. I will leave it to you to decide what to think about that.”

    I’m not sure how persisting with a bad translation would cause the Novus Ordo to die, at all. If what some mean by “Novus Ordo” is that deformed train wreck of a thing that happens instead of what was meant to happen, then leaving it alone isn’t going to do anything but allow it to persist indefinitely. The solution, it seems to me, is not for the Novus Ordo to die, but to be transformed.

    Let the typical manner in which the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is celebrated reflect the timeless liturgical traditions and expressions of the Latin Church. Let the old influence the new. Let the spirit in which the Extraordinary Form of Mass is always celebrated be the guide for how we always celebrate the Ordinary Form of Mass.

    One day, I hope (and anticipate), the 1962 Missal and the current one will both be shelved in the Church’s library of historic liturgical texts, and the ordinary form of the Roman Rite that emerges to replace both of the current forms will have all the beauty and majesty of the Extraordinary Form, but with some of the welcome flexibility of the current Ordinary Form. I imagine, for example, a Canon in Latin, a liturgy of the Word (with two readings before the Gospel) in the vernacular, the restoration of the use of chant and traditional sacred music, the Prayer of the Faithful preserved, the ad orientem posture of the celebrant customary (when it makes sense, according to the architecture of the building), an embrace of beauty and nobility in the externals (vestments, altar appointments, sacred vessels, &c) used in the liturgy.

    This is what I imagine is one day going to emerge. This is what I believe that many of the Council fathers actually expected would emerge. Today, we see it taking shape at Rome. Reforming the Ordinary Form of Mass is what will eventually end the mess that ends up getting called “The Novus Ordo”. Allowing it to continue be it’s unruly self, while the Tridentine Rite is allowed to “hog” all the good stuff, will do nothing but make people imagine that all that “good stuff” belongs to the past.

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    Frank H: Over at a prominent dissident liturgy blog, they posted Bp. Conley’s talk and as you can imagine the regular commenters heads are exploding!!

    I went over there to see what their exploding heads look like today. Noticed one habitual screamer particularly outraged to find that Bishop Conley “frequently said EF/TLM with altar rails in Wichita”.

    Not only the TLM, but with altar rails! Imagine that.

    Conjures up the outrageous image of people actually kneeling at those altar rails. Horribile!

    [wi… wi… with… altar rails? The horror.]

  16. BaedaBenedictus says:

    The assumption about the new translation is that priests who have been ad-libbing with the old translation will now cut it out with the new one. I’m not betting on it. More than the texts need to change—a Catholic ethos needs to be restored in these priests and the laity who have only known thin gruel over the last 45 years.

  17. BaedaBenedictus says:

    The good bishop says, “The Novus Ordo is an organic development of the Church’s ancient liturgical rites and traditions.”

    He repeats this assertion, but he never backs it up. A new calendar, most of the prayers thrown out and replaced by new ones, not to mention now nigh-universal customs which are de facto law in almost every place (versus populum, etc.), is this really true?

    Organic development by the Bugnini committee of cut-and-pasters? I would have appreciated if he made his case for this very tenuous assertion.

  18. Charlotte Allen says:

    The structure of the Novus Ordo Mass is fundamentally unchanged from that which preceded it, and for that reason, when the NO is celebrated in Latin, or in an austere and reverent fashion in English (no improv from the priest or embellishments from the cantor), it is often very beautiful. My non-Catholic husband, who has, except for a few Masses he attended in high school with his Catholic girlfriend, never known anything but the NO, often remarks about the beauty of the Mass, which manages to shine through all the execrable things that have been done to it by professional liturgists and rebel priests since Vatican II. The new English translation of the NO will, I think, force a greater solemnity onto celebrants and congregations alike, which can’t be anything but for the good. My problem with the NO isn’t its underlying structure, and its Liturgy of the Eucharist, which is pretty much the same as it was before 1969. It’s the Liturgy of the Word, and specifically the readings. In the NO the Liturgy of the Word has been turned into a kind of Bible study class, with a cycle of New Testament readings that takes four years to complete, plus all sorts of stories from the Old Testament that I’m sure must confuse most congregations. Most ordinary Catholics probably can’t figure out why we have to go through a running series of episodes in the lives of Abraham or Moses or Elijah, for example, or what they have to do with the Mass at hand. In the old days there was no four-year cycle. The readings (very few of which were from the Old Testament, which was amply represented in the Psalms and other Hebrew prophecy and poetry in the propers) were highly selective, chosen specifically for their relevance to the particular Sunday, feria, or feast day that was being celebrated. You always knew, for example, which Sunday after Pentecost it was by the epistle and gospel for that day, which acquired a kind of iconic significance. This was easier on congregations, and it also made it possible to compile compact and attractive “missals” for lay people in which they could follow the Mass year after year without having to switch books. In short, the solemn procession of the liturgical year with its rhythms that corresponded to the seasons and to salvation history, not educational exposure to large swathes of the Bible, was the primary focus of the Mass readings. I’m a medievalist by training, and when I open an old-time missal from the pre-Vatican II days, I see readings and antiphonal chants that were read and sung in the West during the fourteenth century and during the ninth (the musical settings are still around). The same epistles! The same gospels! The same introits! Now, the readings are a melange of this and that, great stories and holy words all, but not having any particular relevance to anything that I might have heard or read before on the same day.

  19. Mark R says:

    “Meditative solitude” seems to be the go to answer for those preferring the so-called silent Latin Mass. I can have meditative solitude anytime I want in church…especially when no one else is around as opposed to when Mass is offered; and I can pray the rosary anywhere. If the Latin Mass is so great, why do we allow ourselves to miss out on its riches? [To quote the poet: Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone? We are fallen human beings battling the world, the flesh and the devil. That’s a partial explanation.]

  20. MichaelJ says:


    When searchig for the proper balance between individual and community, where does God fit in? I am certain this was not your intent, but you seemed to have left Him out.

    Is he indifferent to how we worship Him other than ensuring that we get the most benefit out of it?

  21. Corinne says:

    Michael J,

    You are correct, I did not intend that at all. God is “every present and fillest all things.” He is the center and source of the Liturgy. How could I leave him out? This is why I contend we need catechesis in regards to the Liturgy/Mass. We need to learn how to “pray the Liturgy/Mass again. We need to learn What it is and Who it is. All of us.

  22. Corinne says:

    *That should be “every WHERE present and fillest all things” *

  23. Corinne says:

    I would disagree Charlotte about the readings in the Novus Ordo. I have observed them to be meticulously chosen wherein the entirety of salvation history is covered in a year. With the 3-year cycle the Bible is nearly read in its entirety. Passages most of us would not have otherwise read or are unfamiliar with, as you indicated, are again matched to the Gospel and the Responsorial Psalm manificiently. I was thinking about this during Lent how well the readings come together and that whoever the theologians were that chose the readings really knew Sacred Scripture. In the earlier calendar I think so much of scripture was missed and with Catholics being notorious for NOT reading the Bible (or so it has been said) it seems to me that Catholics indeed missed many important “Bible study classes.”

    Origin said once, ” You who are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries know, when you receive the body of the Lord, how you protect it with all caution and veneration lest any small part fall from it, lest anything of the conscerated gift be lost. For you believe, and correctly, that you are answerable if anything falls from there by neglect. But if you are so careful to preserve His body, and rightly so, how do you think that there is less guilt to have neglected God’s word than to have neglected his body?”

  24. EWTN Rocks says:

    I appreciated and agree with Bp. Conley’s comments (and your reflections of his comments) on the corrected translation. I believe one of Bp. Conley’s key points was that the current Novus Ordo reflects creative (or what you refer to lame-duck) translations of authoritative Latin text to better appeal to “modern” Catholics. I have two thoughts concerning this point:

    1) In his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict states, “Creativity cannot be an authentic category for matters liturgical…Creativity means that in a universe that in itself is meaningless and came into existence through blind evolution, man can creatively fashion a new and better world…This kind of creativity has no place within the liturgy. The life of the liturgy does not come from what dawns upon the minds of individuals and planning groups.”

    2) I recall reading somewhere that newspapers write text to appeal to the “average Joe” with a 9th grade education. It seems to me that the current lame-duck translations (made in the 1970s?) simplify authentic Latin text for the average Catholic Joe in “modern” society.

  25. everett says:

    It should be noted that while the good Bishop does soften his tone in several spots, part of doing that is the good form of “pastoral.” If he really came out full-bore, many people would’ve stopped listening and missed the important points. If he were speaking in a closed forum to more like minded people, perhaps he would not have been so round about. However, in a public forum which will be released to a broad spectrum of people, you have to consider your rhetorical effect.

  26. BobP says:

    > the problem with watering down the faith has to do with translating the Mass merely into English. The Polish translation is great! I have glimpsed at the translation of the Mass into more common European languages and I do not see the problems which riddle the Novus Ordo in English.<

    Agreed. Methinks Vatican II fathers forgot to include "except the Protestant vernaculars" in its allowance for the vernacular.

  27. JMody says:

    Father Z,
    I must respectfully disagree with this:

    [QUAERITUR: Is what we got, what the Pope and Council Fathers intended? I wonder. But read on.] God in his kind providence spared him the experience of much of the post-conciliar silliness and the gross liberties taken with the liturgy. [The late Msgr. Schuler used to say, “Just do what the Council asked.” We could start with that. It hasn’t been tried yet.]

    If we read Sacrosanctum Concilium (sp?) we see that you can do almost anything, and to discern what was INTENDED is absolutely impossible. Holy Mother Church wishes to promote and foster the various rites in every way, wishes to make only those necessary changes that are in keeping with the light of sound tradition, and she wishes to appoint a panel of liturgical experts to revise the rites immediately, depending on which paragraph you focus on. So almost anything can be supported, and as we see, it often is.
    And as for haven’t tried it yet — the Holy Father Paul VI seemed pretty pleased with it in 1969 when he introduced it. Pope Bl. John Paul II made a big deal on the 25th anniversary of the Council of what a great job was done with the new Mass and how the fruits it was already bearing were obvious signs of how fitting an implementation of the Council Fathers’ wishes … so those two thought it had been tried, and implemented quite well, thank you very much.
    No, the problem will persist as long as we say that the Council itself is not allowed to be part of the problem.

    The Novus Ordo is an organic development of the Church’s ancient liturgical rites and traditions. [Card. Ratzinger said it was an artificial composition.]

    Again, Paul VI said that it was an innovation, a new thing, and a novelty in his two addresses in November 1969.

  28. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Michael Davies wrote a very detailed book called “Pope Paul’s New Mass” in which he describes Sacrosanctum Concilium as containing “time bombs” which were exploded later, in the creation and implementation of the Novus Ordo .

    SC, of course, was drafted by a commission headed by Annibale Bugnini. It seems to me that it is obviously a committee project, a committee whose members did not all have similar agendas (some, in fact, were fairly traditional in views, which is why there is so much good in the document). The result, alas, is a bit of a muddle, which is why two people of very different liturgical views can both point to lines in SC to justify their views.

    My own opinion: The same exact document, had it come out of a council held in 1900, would have been implemented in a more (truly) *conservative* way.

    So the timing could not have been worse—SC’s implementation got swept up in the euphoric spirit of novelty in the 1960s (a time, remember, when people thought nothing of destroying palatial Penn Station and replacing it with a concrete basement).

  29. Anonymous Seminarian says:

    I agree with BaedaBenedictus and JMody. The NO is in no way an organic development of the Roman Rite. This has been demonstrated most recently, and, I think, most definitively, by Laszlo Dobszay in The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite especially when one considers the Rite as a whole (all 7 sacraments, Div. Office, blessings). I also disapprove of calling the NO’s “Eucharistic Prayer I” the “Roman Canon”. The real Roman Canon contains no “memorial acclamation” borrowed from an Eastern Rite, let alone several to be varied at the whim of the priest, or, what is worse, often of the choir.

  30. Charlotte Allen says:

    @Corinne: Reading the Bible and exposing lay Catholics to the Bible are admirable, but they aren’t the point of the liturgy. (They also inspire bad sermons, as priests laboriously get into what “the Marcan community” thought about this or that, as compared to the “Lucan community” from last year.) Many of the OT readings do work fine with their gospel pairings, I admit. I am always moved by the Holy Thursday reading from Exodus (God’s instructions on the keeping of the feast of Passover) because of its profound eucharistic implications and its foreshadowing of Christ’s deliverance of us from death by the shedding of his blood. I love the seven readings for Holy Saturday that recapitulate salvation history. But in general I think that using the Mass as a Bible study class is disorienting and tends to make the Liturgy of the Word the focus of the Mass instead of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In some churches the Liturgy of the Word occupies more than half , the Mass with all the reading and the singing and the sermon and the intercessions, with the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the whole point of the Mass) seemingly tacked on as a ritualistic afterthought.

  31. Tony from Oz says:

    Whilst I laud the intent of Bishop Conley’s recognition of the, hopefully, re-enobling, and regained transcendence of the new translation – I think it is a narrow view to think that that is all that is wrong with the New Mass. Especially when it is recalled that the normative latin for the New Mass was itself heavily edited and, in parts, improvised (especially with references to all the beautiful offertory prayers in the TLM with their unambiguous reference to sacrifice and oblation, and also those of the priest’s communion, savagely pruned back to a stark minimum).
    One can only retranslate what is there in the normative NO latin to be translated, after all!
    The dynamic of the NO – borrowing as it does from that most interpretively unstable textual source
    , Sacrosanctum Concilium – with its many congregationalist references – will be a desperately hard dynamic to rein in.

    So many excellent points from those who point out the discontinuities inherent in the Novus Ordo – not least of which is the amazingly clunky, preachy and mega-didacticism of the Bugnini-ites in concocting a three-year lectionary – yawn! The usual cycle of nature is that of a year – summer, spring, autumn, winter – and thus was the pattern of the venerable rite virtually unchanged in its yearly cycle since Pope St Gregory the Great in the 5th century. If you want chunks of scripture try Matins.

    I certainly agree with Charlotte Allen that the Liturgy of the Word in the NO is just completely out of control (together with the combined effect of the sermon, I am hard pressed not to think of it as the liturgy of the Gabfest!).

    As for references to the translation being better in many non-english vernaculars: umm, certainly Martin Mosebach in his ‘Heresy of Formlessness’ does not think so viz the german translation. But, regardless, the problem of communitarian congregationalism – which has its genesis in Sacrosanctum Concilium – is a rampant spirit inherent in, as Cardinal Ratzinger put it, ‘This fabricated rite’, and will be extremely difficult to rein in regardless of improved translations.

  32. Maltese says:

    Concerning Waugh, two other quotes are pertinent here (one by him, and the other about him):

    “The nature of the Mass is so profoundly mysterious that the most acute and holy men are continually discovering further nuances of significance. It is not a peculiarity of the Roman Church that much which happens at the altar is in varying degrees obscure to most of the worshipers. It is in fact the mark of all the historic, apostolic Churches. I think it highly doubtful whether the average churchgoer either needs or desires to have complete intellectual, verbal comprehension of all that is said. He has come to worship. ” Evelyn Waugh (quoted in Nearer My God)

    “I somewhere opined that Evelyn Waugh’s death on Easter Sunday in 1966, the Sunday before the reformers promulgated the Kiss of Peace, was evidence that the Holy Spirit was in fact behind it all, but merciful in His afflictions: no imagination is so vivid as to visualize Mr. Waugh yanked from prayerful thought to clasp the hand of the pilgrim to his right, to his left, ahead, and behind him.” William F. Buckley Jr (Nearer My God)

  33. Maltese says:

    “So the timing could not have been worse—SC’s implementation got swept up in the euphoric spirit of novelty in the 1960s (a time, remember, when people thought nothing of destroying palatial Penn Station and replacing it with a concrete basement).”

    Baeda, very astute observation. I would go further and say that not only its implementation but its very inception was caught in the milieu of 1960s radicalism. We would do well to forget that it was ever penned (I know, that will never happen, but you get my drift…)

  34. benedetta says:

    Agree with abiologistforlife that not every single crisis in our culture stems from the change. But I do think that a renewed ability for us to be able to pray the NO as well as the TLM will help us to confront or sort through all of the various afflictions we are beset with and help us to be led by and be open to God’s will.

    This is an amazing, thoughtful talk that goes right to the heart of things.

  35. Nathan says:

    Charlotte Allen: I think you’re spot on regarding the didacticism of the approach of the authors of the Novus Ordo to the readings. I was struck this year by looking at the sequence of Gospels in the TLM during the Sundays of Lent–if you put them together, it is impossible to come to any conclusion than Christ was put death because he clearly and unambiguously said that He is Almighty God. While the Novus Ordo sequence of the same Sundays this year had some really good texts, they did not make the coherent whole that the TLM did.

    At the same time, those who claim that the Novus Ordo “opened up the scriptures to the faithful” miss out on a key aspect of the transcendence of the TLM–the scriptural texts, especially psalmody, of the entirety of the Mass. In Pope Benedict’s part 2 of Jesus of Nazareth, he repeatedly points to how our Lord and the Gospel writers used the Psalms to show how He fulfilled the scriptures, yet the Novus Ordo seems to have been denuded of psalmody and scriptural texts replaced by didactic prayers and readings. To make a quick comparison:

    TLM Prayers at the Foot of the Altar (Psalm 42 + other psalm texts after the Confiteor), eliminated in OF;
    TLM Introit which always contained Psalm texts, rubrically allowed to be replaced with “suitable song” in OF;
    TLM Gradual, replaced by Responsorial Psalm (usually), OF does have more of the Psalm text here;
    TLM Celebrant’s prayer before the Gospel, reference to the burning coal in Isaias, elminated in OF;
    TLM Offertory verse from Psalms; rubrically allowed to be replaced with “suitable song” in OF and not in Sacramentary or Lectionary;
    TLM washing of the hands in Offertory, Psalm 25 vs 6-12, replaced in OF by the first sentence of the same Psalm;
    TLM, after the Celebrant receives the Host, verses from Psalm 115 and Psalm 17, eliminated in the OF;
    TLM Communion verse, usually a Psalm text, rubrically allowed to be replaced with “suitable song” in OF;
    TLM Last Gospel, eliminated in the OF.

    Readings from Scripture at Holy Mass are necessary, of course, and one can in good faith debate the merits of the two approaches to them between the OF and EF. I just don’t think you can argue that the entirety of the Novus Ordo, especially as normally said in US parishes, retains the transcendence of the TLM because of the elmination of so much of the psalmody and scriptural reference from the rest of the texts.

    In Christ,

  36. Gail F says:

    I accept His Excellency’s judgment that the NO is where the Holy Spirit intended the Church to go. So sue me. Anyway, after some upsetting theological training, I have come to believe that it has been COMPLETELY hijacked by people who distort it with theology that, in the 1960s, seemed as if it might be right, but by its fruit shows that it is not right. If you attend an EF mass, you see clearly what the NO is supposed to do and can do. The fact that priests, even a majority of priests, have used to do something else (something that, let us remember, they were TOLD to do) does not negate that it can be used correctly. I think we ought to do it correctly.

  37. Corinne says:

    Full disclosure: I’m a lector at my church and I love it :-)

    The Liturgy of the Word should have a huge place in the Mass because Our Lord is the Word just as he is the “bread of life.” There should be no tug-o-war. Christ cannot compete against Himself. Just my thoughts.

    Pax et bonum

  38. Centristian says:

    “My own opinion: The same exact document, had it come out of a council held in 1900, would have been implemented in a more (truly) *conservative* way.”

    Yes, in fact, I think that had the Council been called even in the 1950s instead of the 1960s, the resulting liturgical reforms would have been more successful. I doubt that the versus populum table would have been intr0duced in that era (at least not universally or ordinarily) or that the practice of reciting the Canon in the vernacular would have emerged. Those two elements left out of the reforms, and I think it’s safe to say that the situation would have been very different, at least for the most part. Those two elements, together, mind you; any who imagine that ad orientem celebration at the original high altar, alone, necessarily precludes liturgical weirdness have never seen a woman “priest” in an Episcopal church offer a communion service at the side altar: the Episcopalian clergy aren’t afraid of using their original altars the way Catholic clergy are, but they also aren’t afraid to do stupid things at them, and neither would our clergy be afraid to do stupid things at them had they not been replaced with tables. The use of the Latin language is what really hinders foolishness the most.

    I’m not persuaded as some seem to be, however, that all the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and the deformation of those reforms are the same thing. There is a difference, and I think the emerging counter-cultural era had more to do with the liturgical aberrations that occurred (and which persist) than the reforms that are “on the books”, so to speak.

    I accept that there are problems with an all-vernacular Mass and even with the celebrant’s now universal versus populum posture during Mass. But I do not accept that reforms such as the vernacular Liturgy of the Word with an added, cyclical Old Testament reading, represents an aberration as opposed to an authentic reform. It also makes sense to me that the celebrant was moved away from the altar during the Liturgy of the Word, and that laity are permitted to act as lectors (I would rather a deacon or some cleric do this, but when none are available, the use of a competent layman seems perfectly reasonable) .

    I believe that the restoration of the general intercessions to the Mass is a genuine reform, also, although I think something needs to be done to make sure they aren’t used to espouse anybody’s partisan aspirations, as they sometimes are (and I personally believe the intercessions ought to be limited to three; beyond that many and I start hearing the teacher from the Peanuts, to be honest). The introduction of Holy Communion under both species is a legitimate reform and not an abuse, despite the abuses of that reform. And putting the dismissal at the very end of Mass was a no-brainer that should have been taken care of long before it finally was.

    Alas, with all of the aberrations that were introduced along with the reforms, many people sadly confuse the two, or at least blame all the post-Conciliar reforms, however legitimate those reforms may be, for the abuses. Traditionalists, looking upon all the post-Conciliar liturgical reforms as “Novus” aberrations, can see no solution except to pack it in and to make the “extraordinary form” of Mass–just exactly as it was celebrated in 1962, without any deviations–ordinary again. But that is a denial of the authentic liturgical development that they accuse the Council fathers and Pope Paul VI of disregarding.

    That form of Mass that we today call the “extraordinary form” would have developed by now, even without the Council. There would have been reforms to it; there had been experimental reforms to it. Had the Missal of Pope Paul not been introduced, the form of the “Tridentine” Mass would have changed eventually (thereby necessitating a new edition of the Missal anyway, and the now sacrosanct 1962 edition would have been forgotten at this point).

    Going back to 1962 and staying there, then, is no real solution. Legitimate liturgical development needs to be accomodated; the liturgy needs to breathe. And while the liturgy should not be defined by the age, it cannot be blind to it, either. It cannot be a permanent museum that reflects an age that has passed. A liturgy that combines all of our venerable traditions with the good reforms (reforms that, yes, address some of the legitimate contemporary expectations concerning the way Christians participate at Mass) is what, I believe, we ought to aspire to.

    I think that is precisely what Pope Benedict XVI does, in fact, aspire to. His liturgies wonderfully demonstrate his liturgical aspirations for the Church, and I think they also demonstrate what the Council had in mind regarding authentic liturgical reform. I also think the fact that the Holy Father has not consented to celebrate the “extraordinary form” of Mass in public is very telling. It tells us that he believes that the future of the liturgy does not merely lie in turning back the calendar to 1962. The “extraordinary form” of Mass reminds the modern Church of the traditional dignity of the liturgy, but it shouldn’t confirm for traditionalists that no reform is ever possible.

    Pope Benedict’s typical Mass IS the traditional Latin Mass (regardless of which language the readings are in). It isn’t the pre-Conciliar form of the traditional Latin Mass, it is the reformed form of the traditional Latin Mass, but the traditional Latin Mass it is nonetheless.

    “Again, Paul VI said that it was an innovation, a new thing, and a novelty in his two addresses in November 1969.”

    Every reform is new when it first appears, every development of the liturgy is a new thing when it originally emerges, every Missal published to replace an older edition is new when it first is made typical, but that isn’t to say it all comes out of nowhere, out of the blue. And it didn’t come out of the blue. It wasn’t just Pam Ewing’s dream, it was the result of many generations of liturgical scholarship, thought, and discussion. Now, we can debate the merits of what actually resulted, but it isn’t as if what resulted is something entirely new that bears no resemblance to the what Catholics understand as the Roman Catholic Mass of previous ages (when it’s celebrated properly, of course).

    The liturgical developments that culminated in the Missal of Pope Paul VI were in the makings for decades before Vatican II was called. The liturgical movement of the Twentieth Century that aspired to renew the liturgy of the Latin Rite was embraced by the Church at the Council, not invented by the Church at the Council. So energetic was the liturgical reform movement of the last century that some were already calling for a Second Vatican Council during the reign of Pope Pius XI. Would that they had held the Council in the 1920s instead of the 1960s. I doubt this blog would exist today if they had (Father Z would be only be blogging about Martinis, Manhattans, Asian cuisine, and bird feeders). Fishwrap would be for fishes.

  39. Charlotte Allen says:

    @Nathan: Yes, I looked through my old missal and couldn’t agree more. There is a separate proper for every weekday in Lent as well as every Sunday, and all the readings either point to Christ’s passion or involve fasting and penance. Many of the “epistles” are actually readings from the OT, so the OT isn’t slighted. I agree that the Novus Ordo, while increasing the number of scriptural readings, paradoxically slights the scriptures in other ways. The now-ubiquitous practice of eliminating the Introit, offertory verse, and communion verse (all scriptural passages) in favor of hymns makes the situation even worse. There is no reason why the congregation or the choir couldn’t sing those verses in an easy-to-learn chant. I think there ought to be one congregational hymn per Sunday Mass: a recessional, although if the choir wants to sing something beautiful during the offertory and communion, that’s fine by me. Congregational hymns during the offertory make no sense–you essentially miss the entire offertory because you’re looking at your hymnal, not at the altar. Aren’t we supposed to “participate” in the Mass with the NO? And don’t get me started on the “communion hymn,” an exercise in futility that cantors just won’t give up on. Hardly anyone even sings the communion hymn because you can’t read the hymnal and walk up to communion at the same time. Yet week after week….

    @Corinne: I’ve been a lector myself in the past, and I plan to do it again once our parish starts looking for more lectors. Someone has to do it, and it should be done right. But I must differ with you on this point: Christ is indeed the Word–the Logos that exists co-eternally with Father–but he is not every word spoken at Mass. That’s why the lector says, at the end of each reading, “The word of the Lord,” not “The word is the Lord.” And certainly the Liturgy of the Word is important, actually essential–as a prelude to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which is the whole point of the Mass. That’s why it’s a venial sin to skip all or part of the Liturgy of the Word but a mortal sin–missing Mass–to leave during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Like you, I don’t think the two parts of the Mass should be divided against each other, but at many parish Masses on Sunday, the Liturgy of the Word becomes way overblown–and I blame the NO for adding a third reading in the first place and then by the three-year cycle (I initially said four years and stand corrected) that tends to confuse the faithful by its lack of year-to-year consistency and focuses too much attention on exposing the congregation to a lot of scripture rather than pointing to the particular meaning that each Mass should have according to its place in the liturgical year.

  40. James Joseph says:

    Isn’t the point of the Liturgical Movement to turn the Sacred into the banal didactic? I believe I read this in Fr. Pius Parch’s writings. I mean he expressed no love for the Mass. Indeed, he said the whole Mass was “completely ineffectual since the Council of Trent.”

    I might add it is beneficial to read 20th century journals of Benedictine fathers. You’ll recieve the opportunity to see where they talk about superiors from Europe, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, telling them to smash statues, white wash murals, in the spirit of the Liturgical Movement. This and among many other things.

    Particularly poignant are those coming out of Gethesemene in Kentucky where Fr. Merton regularly and rightly complains psychology lectures and TIME magazine being handed out and that novices aren’t being allowed to read St. John of the Cross or any of the other Carmelites because “it deforms them”; all on the orders of the Europeans superiors “whom we have to catch up to”

    ‘Careful of Guardini… But, I don’t have to tell you that Father.

    The low-Mass might be a rabbit hole but it is a very snuggly and comfortable recocco rabbit hole.

  41. Dear Fr. Z (Father, bless!):

    Thank you for bringing this excellent address from His Grace, Bishop Conley, to my attention.

    While I have a number of comments to make about this address, I think it better to address Bishop Conley directly, after giving His Grace my own thanks, and my own requests.

    Nonetheless, I would like to comment here about the tenor of the comments made by His Grace, Bishop Conley, and the unfavorable responses made by some here.

    Let us just say that when one is pulling an airplane out of a fatal nosedive, the important thing is to change the trajectory so that the ‘plane does not crash. Making sure that the passengers are comfortable is a secondary consideration. This is the same as regards a 747, or the great ship of the Church.

    Let the reader understand.

  42. Corinne says:

    ” ….[the Novus Ordo Liturgy of the Word} focuses too much attention on exposing the congregation to a lot of scripture…”
    My initial reaction to your statement above is “YIKES!” Exposing Catholics to “a lot of scripture” is surely a GOOD thing…no?

    I will end our little debate with this, as we are apparently not going to agree on the topic of prominence regarding Sacred Scripture. If you haven’t already I invite you to read the Holy Fathers Post Synodal Apostolic Exortation called Verbum Domini. Wonderful exortation by the Holy Father absolutely brilliant. It can be read in PDF here:

    Pax et bonum,

  43. Having known Bishop for years as a college student and now being a father of his spiritual grandchildren and knowing his spiritual patrimony from John Senior. I know he has helped form many extraordinary form priests and is an active participant himself, even today as a Bishop. I also remember those blessed Ordinary form masses at the Newman Center, the reverence, the turning the altar around at times. The doing of the red and the saying of the black! Hooaa, thanks for the review Fr. Z

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