The Synod on Liturgy

So much for the Synod.

Well down the list of 58 Propositions, after inculturation, human development, social communication, urban scenarios, migrants, and other matters of vital importance, I’m sure.

Proposition 35 : LITURGY
The worthy celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, God’s most treasured gift to us, is the source of the highest expression of our life in Christ (cf. Sacrosanctum concilium, 10). It is, therefore, the primary and most powerful expression of the new evangelization. God desires to manifest the incomparable beauty of his immeasurable and unceasing love for us through the Sacred Liturgy, and we, for our part, desire to employ what is most beautiful in our worship of God in response to his gift. In the marvelous exchange of the Sacred Liturgy, by which heaven descends to earth, salvation is at hand, calling forth repentance and conversion of heart (cf. Mt 4:17; Mk 1:15).
Evangelization in the Church calls for a liturgy that lifts the hearts of men and women to God. The liturgy is not just a human action but an encounter with God which leads to contemplation and deepening friendship with God. In this sense, the liturgy of the Church is the best school of the faith.

Of course it could be argued that the propositions are in no particular order of importance.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Dan says:

    Considering that the first three are introductory, probably not in any particular order.

    Number 4 is the first “meaty” one, however:
    The Church and her evangelizing mission have their origin and source in the Most Holy Trinity according to the plan of the Father, the work of the Son, which culminated in his death and glorious Resurrection, and the mission of the Holy Spirit. The Church continues this mission of God’s love in our world.”

    The liturgy is first and foremost the work of the Holy Trinity. What is one way the Church continues the mission of God’s love? The liturgy. Therefore, if one were inclined to read it that way, the liturgy is at the beginning of these propositions.

  2. acardnal says:

    Great idea Fr. Z! I would love to see the Holy Father convoke a synod on the liturgy!

  3. Speravi says:

    Death by committee. The list bears the marks of a committee. Everyone got there input and the result is: The New Evangelization comprises everything that the Church does; just new! Conclusion: We need to do all that stuff that the Church does!!!

  4. Speravi says:


  5. As I often times say, the Liturgy is supposed to be an encounter with the Person of Christ. Using Liberal terminology, I say, how can we “be Christ to others” when Christ Himself is being veiled due to the varying abuses in the Liturgy. Even consecrating Jesus from a pitcher, all the details matter even if on a subconscious level.

  6. Jon says:

    “Great idea Fr. Z! I would love to see the Holy Father convoke a synod on the liturgy!”

    Only if HH were the only attendee!

  7. acardnal says:

    Jon, sadly, you are most likely correct.

  8. Imrahil says:

    Maybe, if I have the time, and the gusto, I’ll read the whole bulletin. I’m sure that there are many worthful things in it. I do not want to do it unjustice.

    That said, there’s something to what dear @Speravi said. We all know what Evangelization is; and if we do not, that that belongs under another heading… From a Synod entirely dealing with what New Evangelization is, I’d have expected some concrete actions to be taken, or suggestions, etc. Especially in order of importance. There is much unity on what would in a sense be a good thing; the order of importance is where the difficulties arise, in strategy, in (thinking of it) morality, and elsewhere. Something new. Or the plain assertion that we’d just have to repeat and repeat and repeat the old stuff which didn’t change since the death of the last Apostle. Or both, of course.

    Something provocative, maybe, too. Provocations are heard, and they can be for things that make sense in themselves. Such as the proposition that the European Churches teach some of their personnel (non-clergy, perhaps) to specially evangelize the immigrated minorities from Muslim background; and learn Turkish, Arab, Urdu etc. for that, so that it’s really unmistakable what this is for. (Though it is arguable whether that would be New Evangelization. – The idea is from Prelate Georg May, P.A.)

    The clear assertion that Evangelization and New Evangelization really do mean to enlarge our numbers (for their good, etc.), and that this is not a bad thing only because it has become a habit to think it is.

    That all teachers of religion have to appear officially in a solemn Holy Mass in the Cathedral, once now and then every year, to profess the Creed of the People of God and solemnly swear that they really do hold this, will make their superiors know whenever they have the misfortune lose this faith, and will not conceal any of the faith and binding morality of the Church to the children they teach.
    (Which perhaps would be too much of a provocation. Might be effective, though. The one sin modern world despises is hypocrisy, so they might really with an outrage quit their jobs instead of swearing falsely.)

    Or something of the sort.

  9. Imrahil says:

    With “then every year” I thought of those who newly get a teaching job. Though that was mere brainstorming anyway.

  10. AnnAsher says:

    Seems to me as the “primary and most powerful expression” it’d be número UNO. I find the language typically ambiguous. Send them your rant on how we need to recapture our words !

  11. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    The liturgy is not just a human action but an encounter with God which leads to contemplation and deepening friendship with God.

    The problem is that since Vatican II the liturgy has been filled with so many stimuli that it makes being led into contemplation difficult. The music in many places is not conducive to contemplation.

    Also, we take for granted what minor things like posture and eye contact do that can help or hinder being led into contemplation. The EF Mass helped me greatly because of the lack of eye contact and lack of interpersonal interaction as we see in the way many celebrate the new Mass.

    When I first went to Assumption Grotto, in May of 2005, I recall looking back at the priest and altar boys lined up waiting for Mass to start. You could hear a pin drop it was so quiet. The priest had his head forward, his eyes cast down, and the most peaceful look on his face. I realized, that I should be “there” too. That is, deep in prayer as Mass gets underway. Contrast that with the chatty environment in other places I have gone to Mass.

    As Pope John Paul II said in his ad limina address:

    Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.


  12. Peter in Canberra says:

    Obviously Pope Benedict thinks the liturgy is [vitally and indispensibly] important.

    However the great mass of his brother bishops don’t.

  13. Sieber says:

    There is a reason that the Novus Ordo is referred to as NO.

  14. joan ellen says:

    I quickly scanned thru the list for the press here:
    Though the topics are grouped into only 4 categories, 5 if the conclusion is counted, with Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, per Pope Paul VI, at Number 58. I would leave her there, because of her importance in holding us all together. I would order the other topics differently, especially according to purpose, importance, and then the conclusion. There maybe a natural cohesion and flow that I don’t intuitively see. I am expecting the Bishops to be more linear, sequential, and systematic, more ordered in their topics list.

    The who, what, where, when, why and how maybe could be used more. Starting with the question Who is God? -A Supreme Being- “The God Who cannot not be.” Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.-, Who am I? -A child of God. If Baptized, an adopted child of God.- Where am I going? -To Eternity, Heaven to be with God forever, or Hell to suffer forever.- How am I going to get there? -The Mass/Sacraments, and thinking, saying, and doing good and avoiding sin, etc., etc.- What’s my meaning? -To know, love, and serve God in this life to be happy with Him in the next.- What’s my purpose? -To save my soul and help others save theirs.- Those are the questions we who are in need of evangelization ask, and simple answers go along way in our conversions.

    The Baby Baltimore Catechism is just as effective today as it was when I learned it. Only our Catholic prayers, and especially the Mass, and the Sacraments can help our deepest yearnings. We have got to be able to communicate that. For our continued conversions and the conversions of others. The prayers and the Mass and the Sacraments are what bring us close to Our Blessed Lord. They are what Catholics have. No one else does. Scripture and the Gospel also help to bring us to the Lord. Not to the same depth.

  15. joan ellen says:

    Diane at Te Deum Laudamus – Nicely said.

  16. Denis says:

    If this is the “New Evangelization” it may be time to go back to the old. Is it a requirement of post-VII episcopal documents on the “new and improved Church” that they be soggy with pablum about inculturation, ecumenism, migrants, human development, interreligious dialogue?

  17. acardnal says:

    joan ellen, I appreciate how you often reference Servant of God, Fr. John Hardon, SJ. He was a hero of mine. But to add to your comment above, he frequently reminded everyone that not only the sacraments but PRAYER are necessary. They are the means of obtaining grace. And without grace we cannot become holy.

  18. Katheryn says:

    Okay, I understand that people on this blog prefer the EF Mass. I get it, I do. What I don’t understand the contempt that is directed at the NO. I go to a parish that would rather walk across hot coals than host a polka or clown Mass, and I love that. The priests regularly talk about mortal sins and making sure to go to Confession, as well as reminding people about the sinful nature of receiving Holy Communion when not in a state of grace. The music is never heretical, and we have the best trained altar boys I have ever seen. We can receive HC kneeling, on the tongue, or in the hand, if we so desire, and the paten is used. There are tons of Confession times, all pretty convenient, behind the screen or face to face. I have never felt closer to Jesus in all my life. Why is that so repugnant to people? I’m asking sincerely, with no sarcasm meant at all. I guess I just can’t see the “smoke of satan” when the NO Mass is celebrated the way my parish does.

  19. This sounds like the usual, non-extreme, “fluffy Jesus,” ambiguous words that the Vatican uses for any document is saying to say “We’re just going about our usual way and are not serious about the New Evangelization.” Sorry Rome but this time, you failed. Unless of course someone can present anything of interest or expand upon this ….

  20. Mike says:


    Because it so often ISN’T celebrated as your church celebrates it, and it’s generally considered the Mass where people can “let loose”. Decrees from the Holy See (like Redemptionis Sacramentum) are hardly ever heeded in the majority of churches, the opinions of the Holy Father on Mass facing the people are largely unknown, the origin of the Novus Ordo is confusing, and the Novus Ordo itself, as commonly celebrated, has led to a steep decline in faith among Catholics.

    With that said, is the Novus Ordo valid? Yeah. Legitimate? Yeah. Do I go to one every week? Yeah. But has it been a good thing for the Church and worthy of our praise? Well…maybe not.

  21. BobP says:

    Preaching to the choir in my opinion. We all know the substance of the Mass. However, the externals still matter.

  22. Katheryn says:

    I guess it’s just a little disheartening to constantly read negative comments about Mass all the time. I have been to hootenanny Masses before, as well as sacrilegious ones, and I understand how upsetting they are, but that seems to be the responsibility of actual people or pastors, and not NO’s fault.

  23. acardnal says:

    Katheryn, have you attended an EF Mass? If not, please attend a High Mass and get back to us.

  24. Katheryn says:

    @acardnal, I have attended. My parish provides one, but I am unable to attend regularly because my hubby works the midnight shift so we can’t get there before he gets home from work.
    Like I said, I understand why people love and crave the EF, but Jesus is no less present at the NO, and it is possible to have one that is reverent and focused on Jesus.

    I do not appreciate being condescended when asking an honest question.

  25. acardnal says:

    I did not mean to be interpreted as condescending. Simply asked a question. That is a problem with texting and emails. . . they can be easily misunderstood as far as emotion and intention.

    In any event, I agree with Mike above.

  26. CharlesG says:

    I just would like to point out that the way these Synods usually work is that they adopt a long laundry list of propositions, and then the Pope mulls them over and prepares an Apostolic Exhortation based on the suggestions. So it may be that something a little more structured, programatic and with more practical results will be prepared by the Holy Father. We shall see. I certainly second Father Z’s perspective that improving the liturgy is a crucial dimension to the New Evangelization, and I hope the Holy Father will emphasize that more in his follow up.

  27. dad29 says:

    Evangelization in the Church calls for a liturgy that lifts the hearts of men and women to God.

    The more familiar expression is “minds and hearts”, for the obvious reason.

    S’pose that “minds” was elided due to forgetfulness, or…..worse?

  28. St. Epaphras says:

    “When I first went to Assumption Grotto, in May of 2005, I recall looking back at the priest and altar boys lined up waiting for Mass to start. You could hear a pin drop it was so quiet. The priest had his head forward, his eyes cast down, and the most peaceful look on his face. I realized, that I should be “there” too.” (Diane at Te Deum Laudamus)

    Such a priest KNOWS what Holy Mass is, whether TLM or NO. People do notice. And if the priest is telling jokes with the servers and lector right up till they process in to Mass, even when standing by the back pews, people do notice. Reverence and a contemplative spirit in the celebrant beget the same in the rest of us. Same with the incessant chatting and joking just before and right after Mass.

  29. Edprocoat says:

    I would like to see the ” youth mass ” reformed. I have been to several as it was the only option at the time. They are the ones with guitars and cymbals and the kids show up in soccer uniforms and concert t-shirts. Another thing I feel is out of place during mass are the parishes that round up the children during the start of mass and walk them out for a childrens liturgy. I do not understand how this promotes faith or allows children to attain an appreciation for the mass. I believe the church as its formed is actually like a family, kids and all gathered to worship. Removing them from the mass seems to say its for adults and unlike other things for adults it will not have the appeal of the forbidden fruit to draw them in when older. It just feels as if they are removed as children it will be easier for them to remove themselves when they are older and other things are there to distract them.


  30. Clinton R. says:

    Is it me or does this Synod seem to have become Vatican 2.1? Again we are being spoon fed more “Church of Nice” stuff. As Father Zuhlsdorf states repeatedly, “Save the Liturgy, save the world.” Unless we return to the TLM and Catholic tradition, the New Evangelization will not be successful.

  31. StWinefride says:

    @Katheryn, you are correct in feeling upset about some people’s dislike of the Novus Ordo, however there are deep reasons for this dislike.

    To be honest, I also don’t particularly like the NO because I don’t feel that it expresses Catholic Theology in the way the Old Rite does. Clarity is everything. Ambiguity is misleading and poisonous to the faith.

    To take but one, very important example. In the Old Rite, during the Consecration of the Wine the priest says:


    The MYSTERY OF FAITH refers to the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

    In the New Rite, the declaration MYSTERY OF FAITH has been moved. It is no longer found during the Consecration of Wine. Now, after the Consecration of Wine the priest says:

    Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith:
    Dying He destroyed our death,
    By rising He restored our life

    So up until the late 1960’s the Mystery of Faith refers to the doctrine of Transubstantiation (extremely important for us Catholics) and post 1970 seems to refer to Jesus dying and resurrecting.

    This is highly ambiguous. And in fact polls suggest a huge number of Catholics don’t believe in Transubstantiation. Is it any wonder?!

    Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi!!


  33. StWinefride says:

    To add to the above:

    From Mysterium Fidei, Encyclical of Pope Paul VI on the Holy Eucharist, September 3, 1965:

    “The Mystery of Faith, that is the ineffable gift of the Eucharist that the Catholic Church received from Christ, her Spouse, as a pledge of His immense love, is something that she has always devoutly guarded as her most precious treasure…”

    the rest here:

  34. StWinefride says:

    Compare the above Encyclical of Paul VI with the definition of the Mystery of Faith from the Catechism of the Council of Trent (p240):

    “The words Mystery of Faith, which are subjoined, do not exclude the reality, but signify that what lies hidden and concealed and far removed from the perception of the eye, is to be believed with firm faith… the Mystery of Faith consists in seeing by faith the Blood of Christ veiled under the species of wine…”

  35. asperges says:

    We had the most “beautiful thing this side of Heaven” (Faber) before the reforms. In every way that liturgy manifested”.. the incomparable beauty of His immeasurable and unceasing love for us.” We had known that particular recognizable form, as had our fathers, for well over a thousand years.

    Then the liturgical reforms, however well intentioned, destroyed that: the ethos, the links and the fulfilment. The best of the NO echoes something of the classical liturgy: it does not achieve the same quality in a different way. Lucky those who enjoy a purer form of the NO at their church, but most parish liturgies are unfulfilling, tawdry and poorly executed. It is both the rites and their executions that need addressing. It isn’t an easy task. People, especially priests of a certain generation, have entirely forgotten what the liturgy is all about.

  36. StWinefride says:

    Asperges, you say “Then the liturgical reforms, however well intentioned, destroyed that…”

    For the sake of my beloved Faith, and all my brothers and sisters in Christ, I would dearly love to believe that the reforms were well intentioned.

    But I can’t.

    My own humble attempt at restoration, especially in this Year of Faith, is to promote wherever I can the EF, the Traditional Rites of the Sacraments which more fully express the theology of the Catholic Faith and the traditions and customs of said glorious Faith.

    St Michael the Archangel, pray for us!

  37. Katheryn,

    Might it be that one’s real love of the Mass can be measured by how much pain its abuse causes? Many who find liturgical abuse so repugnant are devoted to the OF Mass, and have no interest in the EF Mass. For them, therefore, the repugnance you refer to is not rooted in preference for the EF Mass, though for some it may lead to preference for the EF Mass over the OF Mass in practice as available to them where they live..

    For instance, I myself mainly attend the EF Mass, though I would love to have the opportunity to attend OF Mass as I see it in largely Latin papal Masses televised from Rome, or as celebrated in faraway places I read about. I love my new Latin-English OF daily missal, use it every day in my personal devotions, and think it is in some ways richer than the EF missal that I use more formally every day. However, the same cannot said regarding the OF Mass in usual practice and the EF Mass as they are accessible to most Catholics.

    Surely there must be many Catholics who prefer any form of Holy Mass celebrated reverently without abuse, to any form afflicted with abuse.

  38. Suburbanbanshee says:

    St. Winefride —

    You’re a bit behind the times. The new translation of the OF (in English — in most languages it was never lost) restores the wording to just “The Mystery of Faith.” So there’s that objection gone. (And yes, I know there are others.)

    An Ordinary Form Mass that is well done is an Ordinary Form Mass that doesn’t see much difference between EF and OF, and just concentrates on Mass. An EF Mass that is done well is a Mass that concentrates on Mass, also.

  39. acardnal says:

    Suburbanbanshee, I can’t speak for StWinefride, but I think she was concerned about the placement of the Mysterium Fide in the Eucharistic Prayer not the actual words used.
    She said, “In the New Rite, the declaration MYSTERY OF FAITH has been moved” and that this changes the perceived meaning.

    I also disagree with you. There is a very large difference between the EF and the OF. Many prayers of the priest in the OF, especially in the Offertory, are gone as are many others in the Ordinary. And the rubrics are much different.

  40. Mike says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, acardnal. The Novus Ordo is stripped down in content compared to the EF.

  41. joan ellen says:

    Fr. Z…I love this blog more and more each day. It will not cause my soul to go astray!!!
    It is the only blog I comment on. Some others, especially secular ones, often show souls badly disintegrating. No judgment, merely observation.

    acardnal…thank you so much for helping me along. Yes, Fr. Hardon would mention prayer. And grace. And it is as St. Philip Neri said: “There but for the grace of God go I.” It is prayer. Catholic prayers, particularly, but also our own, help us to rebuild and revitalize our souls…help us in our conversions. And the prayer of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As Padre Pio said, paraphrase, “The world could better get along without the sun than it could without the Mass for one day.” This blog is on track. It understands that.

    The Synod Bishops probably have included everything that needs attention. However, after their stated purpose, I would rather see the Mass and the Sacraments up near the top. With prayer, as
    acardnal maybe saying, first. Perhaps they will be rearranged.

    kathryn – I also belong to a parish such as you describe. It is awesome. These words of StWinefride says: 28 October 2012 at 5:30 am”My own humble attempt at restoration, especially in this Year of Faith, is to promote wherever I can the EF, the Traditional Rites of the Sacraments which more fully express the theology of the Catholic Faith and the traditions and customs of said glorious Faith.” These words say it for me also. That is not to say that the NO Masses are not valid, licit, and can even be offered beautifully. It is to say that the EF Mass is more beautiful.

    It is also to say that in too many NO parishes the parishioners, as a whole, are much more tolerant and liberal than I. I can share my Baptism, the Eucharist, and my presence with them. But my soul also needs parishioners who also share the philosophy, theology, dogma, doctrine as taught by the Church and exemplified by the Holy Father and those Bishops in communion with him and their priests. Such as is seen on this blog.

    My soul also needs to see the Hierarchy of the Church in place in a church. When the hierarchy is askew in a church, then so is my soul. Scripture and Tradition are pretty explicit in what men and women are to do in church. The fruits of the NO Mass and the fruits of the EF Mass seem decidedly different.

  42. StWinefride says:

    Suburbanbanshee, acardnal is right – I was talking about the placement of the words Mysterium Fidei (Mystery of Faith). I used it as an example (I think I now regret it as I don’t like to publicly nit-pick out of respect for all my fellow Catholics and the Church!!) to demonstrate to Katheryn that the dislike of the NO Mass goes way beyond a mere “preference”.

    For nearly 2000 years the Church has understood the words Mystery of Faith in the context of the Consecration of the Wine as meaning the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

    Then, for some obscure reason, and contrary to Pope Paul VI’s own reiteration in Mysterium Fidei (link above) in paragraphs 23 and 24 of the Church’s perennial teaching on the importance of proper wording, the words “The Mystery of Faith” disappear from the Consecration of Wine in the New Order of Mass. They are then placed straight after as a proclamation by the Priest to which the faithful have the option of 3 possible responses. And none of these responses plainly indicate the doctrine of Transubstantiation!

    I’ll say no more but I’ll end with Pope Paul VI’s own words, which demonstrate his understanding of how diligently the Catholic Church has worked during its TWO THOUSAND YEAR history to safeguard her teachings, and this is key:

    “And so the rule of language which the Church has established through the long labor of centuries, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and which she has confirmed with the authority of the Councils, and which has more than once been the watchword and banner of orthodox faith, is to be religiously preserved, and no one may presume to change it at his own pleasure or under the pretext of new knowledge”.

    @Joan Ellen, lovely sentiments!

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

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