A reader’s liturgical observation and Fr. Z’s ironic ranting light-heartedly serious response

From a reader:

Tonight [15 August], due to work, I was not able to attend mass at my parish for the Feast of the Assumption. That was not a problem, because my office is a block away from my diocese’s cathedral, and I still had time to attend the last scheduled mass of the day there. [And thus fulfill your obligation.  Well done.] Since the cathedral is also a parish church that serves a multi-cultural population, the mass was said in Vietnamese.

I had two recurring thoughts during the mass:

1. The choir, singing in Vietnamese, was better than most of the English-singing parish choirs I have heard. The music was truly beautiful and uplifting.

2. If only the Church had a universal language so that at all masses, the attendees, no matter their native tongue, could worship and pray together in one voice.

What an idea.

I’ve had enough of this!  Universal language?  Beautiful music?


You must be one of those lockstep sheep and papist throwbacks!

You must hate Vatican II.

As we have constantly been told, Vatican II forbade Latin.

It also required that high altars be ripped out of our churches and that ironing boards be set up in their place. It mandated that people must stand for Communion which they are obliged to receive in the hand. Vatican II ordered that priests – sorry – ordained ministers – are to be called “Bob” or “Frank”, not the oppressively patriarchal “Father”, and they are to hand over their roles to hoards of non-ordained ministers.

Furthermore, Vatican II said that our music should be ugly, second-rate stuff involving pianos, tambourines, and out of tune guitars poorly played.

Karl Rahner said that Vatican II was the most important thing that happened in the Church since the Council of Jerusalem. Hans Kung said that Vatican II didn’t go far enough!

Seriously, Vatican II was just one Council among many. In the Church’s history it wasn’t anywhere near the most important Council!  It seems to be a big deal right now because it was in living memory and fewer people today pay attention to history.

Finally, liberals actually hate the Second Vatican Council which they incessantly invoke. You can tell that by the way they ignore or twist its documents.

Thus endeth my rant.

Have a nice day!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I once attended a Vietnamese Mass as well. I found the devotions and music to be far more traditional than anything in your typical American English-language Mass. Even with the funny projector screens advertising before Mass like the previews at a movie theater, it was still more traditional. I think they even chanted the devotions (lay-led) before Mass (I can’t remember what devotions they were…maybe litanies).

  2. disco says:

    Imagine that — a universal language. You’d think in 2000 years of church history someone would have thought of that one….

  3. tech_pilgrim says:

    I know a seminarian who is 9 months from his transitional diaconate ordination who is half Mexican-American and half Irish-American. I think once he said he might as well say his first Mass in Latin, make BOTH sides mad!

  4. wmeyer says:

    And imagine, with Latin as our language, no more wrangling over translations.

    The catechists under whose ministrations I suffered two years of RCIA waxed poetic about Vatican II, but I swear, they cannot have read the documents. Had they read Sacrosanctum concilium they would all have had strokes.

  5. DLe says:

    My mother has told me that back in Vietnam, children were typically made to memorize and recite many prayers. I think that explains why even now, many join in chanting prayers before Mass: they still remember them, having been taught so thoroughly.

  6. AnAmericanMother says:

    I keep saying that this is not rocket science.

    Anticipated Mass for the Feast of the Assumption. Our music director was manning the organ with no choir. We were in the choir loft. Right before the homily, he caught everybody’s eye and whispered, “Let’s sing something for communion!” We nobbled a high school kid who sometimes sings with the choir, passed out the music for the chant “Ave Maria”, and just sang it. A cappella. We thought about doing “Regina caeli” which we sing with the chant alternating with the Lotti 4-part setting. We had all the parts covered – one each – but our soprano got cold feet.

    It sounded very nice indeed (the emptier our church is the better the resonance, and the church was about half full). The congregation seemed surprised, the priest was very pleased and thanked us afterwards.

    Straight up orthodox, traditional, requiring no preparation to speak of. Good music does not need to be complicated or expensive.

  7. monmir says:

    Universal language? What a splendid idea! But didn’t we have that for centuries?
    We took the wrong exit and are driving on the wrong road, time to make a U-turn.
    Asking prayers for my project please: starting a regular low Mass in the Dominican Rite, Dominican parish and the Pastor is fine with it…but difficulties.
    Many thanks.

  8. PA mom says:

    I have wondered why so many ethnic backgrounds seem to demand their own Masses, but if you factor in that they will not have to hear They Will Know We Are Christians, and I Am the Bread of Life, then it is a slam dunk to hold on with both fists. Hopefully ours will rise to theirs before theirs slips down to ours…

  9. lucy says:

    Amen! After being Protestant for 24 years, RCIA for 3 years with the whacky woman wanting to be a priest, then many years of New Mass and now 8+ years of traditional Mass – I can see how it all works. If only folks would give the traditional Mass a good try. One of our priests has said take the six month challenge – if you go to traditional Mass for 6 months only and then return to the new Mass, your eyes will be fully open. There’s no question that for our family the traditional has done wonders for us. We pray more, receive solid sermons with joy, our hearts are lifted up by the gorgeous male voices of our schola’s chant, all of it lifts us up to God. We don’t bring God down to us. It’s God centered, not man centered.

    The hijacking needs to be fixed and soon. We wouldn’t be losing our country right now if folks were properly catechised and hearing meaty sermons every Sunday!

  10. The Masked Chicken says:

    The same thing happened to me when I was in Tokyo with a musical ensemble. We were there to do a command performance and I went to Mass every day, since the Church was across the street from the hotel. I understood one word of the Mass – Amen.

    We also did a tour of Japan with home stays for each member (a sixty piece instrumental ensemble). It was Saturday night at one of our home stays and I really wanted to go to Mass on Sunday. I found out that there was a Catholic Church in town and called to check on Mass times. The pastor answered. He was a Jesuit from St. Louis (no, not THOSE Jesuits) who had been stationed in Japan for thirty years. I am afraid my enthusiasm for Mass must have caught my home stay family off guard, but they were accommodating. I was the only person in the entire ensemble who went to Mass (I think some of the Prtestants had a Bible study). Just before I left or Mass I asked my home stay hostess for a glass of water. When I looked at the glass she brought me my jaw must have dropped. On the glass were little squares and triangles connected by lines. One of God’s little winks, I’m sure, because who but a Catholic musicologist would have recognized the patterns to be Gregorian Chant symbols! We were told never to admire something at our home stay or the host would feel obligated to give it to us. Just before I left her house, the hostess must have taken my amazement for admiration and she insisted I keep the glass. I still have it.

    The pastor stopped during the Japanese homily and started talking to me in English, asking me how I was, explaining the musical tour to the congregation, and translating questions back-and-forth between myself and the congregation. You know, everyone bows to one another in Japan, but at the kiss of peace, when members of the parish bowed to each other, it was different. These people bowed to one another in love. It was quite a contrast between the secular and sacred bowing.

    Bring back Latin. Bring back chant. It would have been really cool to have that conversation with the pastor in Latin. That reminds me of another time in Luxemberg, but I’ll save that for another time.

  11. coeyannie says:

    I would love to send your rant to every parish priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Mpls. We really need you here, Father, but I’m afraid if the Archdiocese got a hold of this rant, you would be relegated to a nursing home. Not as a patient to sit by the drapes, but as a Chaplain where your access to the outside world would be limited, as is one other priest who dared to disagree with Archbishop Flynn. However, the pastor at St. Frances of Cabrini has been taking pot shots at the Pope, at the Archbishop, is in favor of married priests, women priests and homosexual marriage, and he is pastor of two, not one, but two parishes. Go figure.

  12. Michelle F says:

    I’ve wondered off and on whether now, in this age of globalism, we should make “globalism” a key feature of our argument for using Latin in the Mass instead of arguing from the need to reintroduce reverence and accuracy. People who are into do-it-yourself liturgy may be able to sneer at the notions of reverence and accuracy, but I think they would be hard-pressed to come up with an argument against the sense of “community” created when everyone can pray the same prayers together, and everyone knows what he is saying.

  13. jasoncpetty says:

    Vietnamese? Downtown cathedral? Last Mass of the day?

    Dude, were you in Houston? If so, why didn’t you walk the extra few blocks to Annunciation? We had a high TLM with Gregorian chant that, I guarantee you, is better than any Vietnamese liturgical music (which is, you are correct, better than practically any English liturgical music). There was a good crowd, too.

  14. Clinton R. says:


    Vatican II also ‘teaches’ that it is not to be called a confessional, but a reconciliation room.

  15. Clinton R: “Vatican II also ‘teaches’ that it is not to be called a confessional, but a reconciliation room.”

    Perhaps you are correct, but offhand I don’t recall any mention of confessionals versus reconciliation rooms in the documents of Vatican II. Could you provide a reference for your claim?

  16. Lori Pieper says:

    I’ve attended the Vietnamese Mass at my parish here in the Bronx a number of times. Beautiful reverence, beautiful music.

    But then if the Mass were always all in Latin with Gregorian chant, we’d be missing out on this particular beauty, wouldn’t we? There is beauty of all kinds in all cultures. That too is a reflection on the universality of the Church

  17. Clinton R. says:

    @ Henry Edwards,

    I didn’t mean to say that Vatican II made any mention of what it is to be called. In the spirit of sarcasm as Father was talking of how some like to believe Vatican II called for everything to be changed or discarded, it occurred to me that you almost never hear of the word ‘confessional’, it is almost always the reconciliation room. Just like Holy Mass is oft referred to as the “liturgical celebration”. The modernists have done well in hijacking the Church Militant and installing their own vernacular.

  18. Supertradmum says:

    I am so tired of hearing the Vat II types going on about “diversity” as if it were one of the four cardinal virtues.

    And, from where I am standing, if one likes the Latin Mass, one is considered an Uber-Conservative, or Uber-Trad, both of which I have been called lately and that by people who know I go to the NO as well as the TLM. What must they think of those who only go to the TLM?

    I liked it better before 1967, when I could count on going into any church in America and attending the same Mass. What is wrong with uniformity of worship? It makes us all both more humble and more objective to have a universal tongue.

  19. Kathleen10 says:

    I enjoyed the comments. Father Z., we’re with you, totally.

    I also dislike intensely the term “multiculturalism” and “diversity”, also “globalism” and “tolerance” and a few other buzzwords that people come up with to shove agendas down somebody else’s throat. Working at a university in the 90’s, I saw those words associated with practically everything! It showed how meaningless it all is, it’s just a cover for someone’s opinion on social manipulations. On this campus, you could get applause and funding for anything as long as you included the above terms or ones similar in meaning. The willingness to go along to get along, made me queasy then and still does. People learn the buzzwords and apply them, as needed! It’s all so…bootlicking. ugh.

    If we all champion the Latin Mass it must say something to our Bishops. I’ve not championed it myself. It is available only on the other end of my state. About an hour away. I have been meaning to write a letter to our Bishop asking why not in our corner?

  20. wmeyer says:

    I liked it better before 1967, when I could count on going into any church in America and attending the same Mass.

    Amen, amen! Now I can’t even go a different Mass in the same parish and find consistency.

  21. jaykay says:

    Even Henry nods… :)

    Over here in Ireland it’s quite common for Priests to throw in a bit of Irish in the Mass e.g. usually starting with “In ainm an Athair agus an Mhic agus an Spioraid Naoimh” (In nomine Patris… etc). and then continuing in English for the rest. Or even having an entire Mass in Irish. Very few people actually speak the language fluently, despite it being taught to kids from the age of 5 on. Which points to something in its own right but anyway… (yeah, the national trait of self-delusion). But, in fairness, people do recall things they’ve learned at school and there’s no objection. Because it’s tradition and part of our heritage and … yada yada yada.

    Ooops… wasn’t there about 1900 years of universal (as opposed to parochial) tradition there before the new springtime? Duh…

    Now if any Priest were to start with “In nomine Patris et Filii…” well: strong men would blench, womyn would have the vapours, the tender ears of children would be shielded…

    To clean out the 70s death-grip of the liturgical Establishment over here is truly an Augean task, as witnessed by the closing Mass of the Eucharistic Conference in Dublin.

  22. Indeed, Clinton R, my sarcasm detector was nodding off on that one. Incidentally, I belong to a parish whose beautiful and historic old church was never wreckovated, sin and confession and the four last things are still preached regularly (and not only at our TLM), and has confessionals with kneelers in front of the opaque grate and red and green lights over the door. Many of us locally call it The One True Church.

  23. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says:

    I am so tired of hearing the Vat II types going on about “diversity” as if it were one of the four cardinal virtues.

    Actually, the way to have diversity is Latin liturgy. As it stands now, 99% of those at a Vietnamese mass will be Vietnamese. Ditto those at Hispanic masses. The same is true for the American subsets: Liberals at liberal masses (or parishes). Trads at Latin masses. Conservatives at conservative masses (or parishes).

    In fact, vernacular liturgy has suppressed diversity.

  24. Bryan Boyle says:

    robtbrown: “In fact, vernacular liturgy has suppressed diversity.”

    And, like the consequences of the Tower of Babel, have divided us along linguistic and cultural lines, and thus divided our One True Church into language-based ghettos.

    The root of “Catholic” means “universal”…I would posit that no greater damage would be evident in damaging the faith than by removing the capability to universally worship, wherever on God’s green earth you went, in one language, one understanding, one expression of the Faith.

    The wreckovators of the liturgy couldn’t have done a better job of confusing the faithful if they had tried.

  25. germangreek says:

    Another mistake, Father. We don’t have ‘ordained ministers’, we have ‘presiders.’

  26. VLL says:

    In the Chicago area, I have seen the NO performed with reverence, even with exemplary music, IN ENGLISH. St. John Cantius even does the NO in Latin, which makes it easier for us novices to follow in the chap book missals from 196*. Even my local (sigh. chosen) parish has recently purchased new missals with better music… and even sung a song or two in Latin!!

    However, it seems to me where the NO really falls down in English is the proclamation of the Mystery of Faith. Is it just me, or no matter whether one chooses A, B, (strangled sound) or C, it just sounds… beneath the essential dignity of the occasion? St. John C. neatly handles the problem by always proclaiming the Mystery of Faith in Latin.

    For me, the worst part about the Latin Mass is that panicked feeling one gets while trying to find your place in the book. However, If I’d been doing this for YEARS on a consistent basis, I’d probably already know (the relevant) Latin and I’d be able to give Our Lord the full attention He deserves. Or as close as this flawed creature can come, at least.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    I think the emphasis on “ethnic liturgies” in the past 40 years has caused more harm than good. Of course, we have the old, traditional Rites which are always to be loved and valued. But, to let every tribe of Catholic choose to worship in their own way has, indeed, not only causes the Tower of Babel to be rebuilt in our midst, but to state that there are no human standards of beauty and majesty which transcend cultural lines.

    This is SO politically incorrect that I can type this but usually not state this without being banned from conversation as a “cultural fascist”. Objective truth is the mark of a Catholic and objective beauty should be as well.

    To pretend that the Cathedral of Rheims is the same as a hut on the edge of a beach as a appropriate locale for Mass is relativism. And, to pretend that Latin, as the official language of the Church is not only more appropriate, but objectively more beautiful in chant and even in speech, is to deny a logic of order and art. But, our society can no longer think in terms of religious symbolism or sacred music as things transcendent. We are not allowed to have excellence, only mediocrity.

  28. Banjo pickin girl says:

    monmir, my prayers for your intention. i hope you are in my parish!

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