Hopeful vibrant continuity v. the grim liberal watchmen

Over at Views From The Choir Loft there is a good post about music, and Latin, and our heritage in the Latin Church.  The writer is Dr. Peter Kwasniewski who teaches at Wyoming Catholic College.

Vatican II says that “care should be taken that people can sing in Latin these parts of the Mass.” Why? Because they are our heritage. They come to us from centuries of faith and prayer and art. Our heritage defines who we are. And frankly, it’s not too much to ask people to know the songs, poems, and prayers of their ancestors. How hard is it to learn that “Kyrie eleison” = “Lord, have mercy”? One figures that out in about three seconds. Or the Gloria—this is a hymn that has not changed at all in 1,500 years. We say it week in, week out. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to learn what the Latin words of the Gloria correspond to in English (e.g., “miserere nobis” = “have mercy on us”). So, the idea that we must never use a sacred language for worship because it would prevent “active participation” is simply ludicrous—a thinly-veiled excuse for not making an effort to embrace our heritage, as the Council itself and the Popes before and after it have continually asked us to do.  [How condescending liberals are.  They think everyone is stupid.  On the other hand, those who embrace tradition affirm that people can do anything!]

My experience, in many different settings, has been exactly the opposite. When they are finally exposed to it (as the Council demanded), young people are proud to be the possessors of such a rich tradition: it makes them think about their faith even more, react to it as something obviously different than what the world has to offer, and embrace it more fully. In general, when we give Catholics more to take pride in and take possession of, we are surprised to find that they rise to the challenge and glory in the result. Making things “accessible” by simplification and modernization has been tried and found wanting, again and again. One wonders, with not a little vexation at human myopia, how many more decades will have to pass in which trite tunes and superficial verbiage will be shoved down the throats of Catholics around the world, while the crisis of the mainstream Church continues, escalates, radicalizes, and implodes. I see in my mind’s eye the pathetic spectacle of a Mass, ca. 2035, in which an ancient priest preaches to an empty church while, just off to his left, three or four elderly women croak out Haugen-Haas tunes to the accompaniment of a broken-down piano. [The Biological Solution.  Meanwhile, over at the Church of St. Fidelia in Tall Tree Circle, where the older form of Mass has been celebrated for a couple decades, there are lots of young people and vocations.]

I am even aware of dioceses where the new translation of the Roman Missal has occasioned the choice and imposition of musical settings of the Mass that are even worse, in their discontinuity from tradition and their egregious lack of good taste, than the tripe that was being served up before. One asks oneself: Is this what the new translation has gotten us? One wonders if the operative motto might be: “Boldly Leading the Way into the 1970s.” Quite as if Sacrosanctum Concilium 116, Blessed John Paul II’s Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope Benedict XVI’s Sacramentum Caritatis, and a host of other documents had never even been written and promulgated! The strategy of the dying liberals is to ignore, ignore, ignore the Magisterium in the hopes that it will just go away.

“This, too, shall pass.” Meanwhile, the chapels of traditional Catholicism will continue to expand and multiply, bursting their seams with countless children in homeschooling networks, altar boys in cassock and surplice, choirs and scholas, sodalities, and so many of the trimmings and trappings of a genuine Catholic culture (or, I should say, counterculture). The grim watchmen of the liberal Church try very hard not to notice this demographic shift and, when they notice it, bitterly dismiss it as reactionary nostalgia and postmodern escapism. We can be patient and put up with the whining and hand-wrining of our foes, for they will live only a few short years on this earth, but the Tradition of the Church, already 2,000 years old, will effortlessly outlast them—indeed, will never die, and will live on in the hearts of all who love the beautiful and the eternal. Daily winning to herself converts and champions, the traditional Church in her perpetual youth is the real answer to the crisis of our wayward age.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, Liberals, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. JonPatrick says:

    Back when we still had a diocesan EF, we had a young person’s choir with kids as young as 8 singing Gregorian Chant and doing it beautifully I might add. So much for traditional music being too hard for the average Catholic.

  2. Matt P. says:

    It’s precisely when children are young that they should be exposed to this rich tradition. I was singing Gregorian Chant in a schola when I was as young as 7 years old. In fact, this particular schola cantorum insisted on Gregorian Chant for the younger grades because in some ways it was not as complex as Renaissance polyphony and gave us an opportunity to learn to sing in unison. If anything was difficult, it was learning to sing in complex time signatures. The varied rhythms of 1960s folk music is hardly easy to sing in congregation. As far as singing in Latin, I do not remember that it posed any difficulty at a young age. I knew exactly to what it referred, even if I did not understand the particularities of Latin grammar.

  3. JLCG says:

    I am disturbed. This writer asserts that our heritage defines who we are.
    Yesterday, a gentleman Vattimo, was lambasted because he stated that our world is understood by men and women that are deeply enmeshed in history and tradition. Aren’t these two statements identical?
    Should I believe one because it seems to be Catholic or the other that seems to be purely secular?
    Perhaps both are empty. [And perhaps your perhaps means you actually side with Vattimo.]

  4. PA mom says:

    Our parish switched from Catholic Community Hymnal to Breaking Bread and I feel like the music has gotten much worse. Our musicians are not ncompetent, so it must be the conscious decision of someone.
    Our Vocations Committe head invited us to our next meeting, claiming to have inspiration from Jesus Christ Superstar and encouraging us to all see it before the meeting.
    No, racing towards the 70’s or 80’s is not the way to the younger generation’s heart.

  5. Supertradmum says:

    This happens here in England with great regularity. Some priests, especially in the A and B Diocese spoke eloquently against the recent vote in Parliament. Friends of mine in a diocese east of here, heard absolutely nothing from the pulpit and when the laity passed out cards from the head office, as it were, in Westminster, to fill out and send to one’s MP, one priest stopped them from doing so.

    There is a direct correspondence between liberalism and the hatred of the Latin Mass. One priest,in another diocese east of here, allows kids to run around during Mass and even eat in church during Mass, the boys wearing their baseball caps, etc. and he is anti-Latin Mass.



    On the plus side, I was at Mass on Sunday in Surrey and the congregation sang a Latin Kyrie. A three-year-old boy in front of me, all blond and blue-eyed , sang along. It was adorable.

    He has no problems with the Latin so why should Fathers A, B and C?

    By the way, my entire family thinks I am merely an old, stupid, superstitious Catholic woman who insists on taking Communion on the tongue and wearing a mantilla. They get embarrassed by me, poor liberals. There is nothing I can do about changing their opinions. I am just dumb and not as smart as they are…..which is why Joseph Cupertino is one of my personal patrons. I am the only one who also does not vote Dem and never voted for O. All these things are connected.

  6. Matt P. says:

    I am trying to keep my comments brief (this is a subject that I find particularly distressing). I currently attend a children’s Mass at our parish with my sons in tow. For some reason, the music director believes that all children find folk music appealing, and that traditional hymns or Latin chant would fail to engage the younger generation. However, when I look around at Mass during the typical Joan Baez- or Peter, Paul and Mary- fare, no one is singing. Last Advent, the ‘choir’ (six women and a few guitars) did everything possible to avoid good, reverent Advent music. On the one occasion that they happened to sing ‘O Come O Come Emanuel’ in the traditional plainchant setting, the entire congregation sang with gusto. The children responded intuitively. I know I can attend the more traditional Mass on Sunday, but I disagree that there should be something for everybody when it comes to music liturgy (or just liturgy).

  7. ejcmartin says:

    When I first heard of the US Bishops and the HHS mandate, I thought oh my those poor people having to survive through nothing but Haagen, Haas, and Schute.

  8. OrthodoxChick says:

    “… the traditional Church in her perpetual youth is the real answer to the crisis of our wayward age.”

    A loud, mighty, roaring AMEN to that!

  9. monmir says:

    ‘Meanwhile, the chapels of traditional Catholicism will continue to expand and multiply, bursting their seam’
    The church of Holy Innocents in New York just had a 40 hour Devotion to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of the church and the unveiling of the Constantino Brumidi mural (scene of the Crucifixion). People came through the days, through the nights for Adoration. There was a First Friday Mass, the Candlemass on Saturday and a Pontifical Mass for the Anniversary of the Church on Sunday. At all Masses the church was full . The Schola gave us beautiful singing. I am still overwhelmed.
    When I was 11 I knew all my prayers in Latin, knew very well what I was saying (thanks to my grandmother) although I was not studying Latin. I had no difficulty with it, I understood it was something “special” above my regular prayers.

  10. fvhale says:

    Last night, so that I might sleep peacefully, I read one of the sermons of Ronald Knox collected in Pastoral and Occasional Sermons, called “The Fisherman,” (n. 23, pp. 498-503). It is a beautiful sermon about the Lord’s calling of Peter (relevant to coming Sunday OF Gospel, BTW).

    Knox asks some good questions about our Lord’s calling of fishermen to be apostles.

    “Why did our Lord number so many fishermen among his twelve apostles? Fishermen, after al, have not a very good reputation for telling the truth; and some of them are idle natures into the bargain. What is the quality our Lord saw in them? On thin, I think, which he prized especialy in those who were to be his apostles; an indomitable patience. ‘In your patience’, he says to them, ‘you shall win souls’ (Lk 21:19).”

    This morning, when considering a fussy neighbor, I remembered this word about patience. When a dear friend after mass this morning expressed pain over the “glaring grumpiness” of one of the “old guard liberals,” I advised patience. And in the matter of liturgical music, I keep telling myself: patience. I have no difficulties with Latin, have studied Gregorian Chant at workshops, and even heard talk about “a schola some day.” But not yet. At least we have an organ again, and seldom hear electric guitars and drums at mass. Slowly, slowly, the tide is changing. It is a combination of time working to ease old the “Folk Mass” folk (who were in residence at my parish), and slowly, slowly, more traditional music is returning (although, I must admit, I sometimes wonder if we could hear something other than Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” which is sung at almost every “more solemn” occasion after communion these days–maybe during Lent or Easter). I have found, in my 15 years that liturgical music is something that everyone has opinions, feelings, emotions about, some enough to jump parishes (which is more honest, I think, than just hanging around gossiping and complaining). But with patience, things have improved, amazingly, over the past 15 years.

    And we no longer empty the holy water on Ash Wednesday, the tabernacle is back behind the altar from off the back of the church, folks tend to pray before mass (rather than chatter loud and long). Slowly, one step at a time, “Catholicism” is coming back. Of course, it is true that a lot of the “old guard” have gone to their rewards, or gone to follow their favorite priests at other parishes.

    Patience. It is a virtue. St. Augustine wrote the book on it.

  11. JonPatrick says:

    Bursting at the seams certainly describes where I currently go for the TLM. They are building a new chapel that will double the seating capacity. These traditional families that on their own can fill up 2 or 3 pews take up a lot of space! :)

  12. momoften says:

    Traditional Latin Mass came to our Parish with beginning of Summorum Pontificum. Fruits from
    -2 years ago, 1st vocation to seminary**there would have been 2, but one was assigned another Parish
    -1 year ago, 2nd/3rd vocation (one seminarian, one woman religious vocation)
    next year, God willing 4th and 5th vocation to seminary
    ***Thinking I see a trend here that I don’t see in other parishes in our Diocese, this is the place
    to be.

  13. JLCG says:

    Deum exquisivi manibus nocte, et non sum deceptus.

  14. Shamrock says:

    These liberals seem to think that prior to Vatican II all those worshippers at mass were kneeling
    there like so many traglydites including all the saints and martyrs we look to for guidance. It was
    a time when people were bilingual in the church however as we all had missles (we carried from
    home I might add) where the mass was in both English and Latin. Being bilingual beats being
    a dumbed down Catholic of today. Why are we even having all these mass forms all over the place?
    Someone said where there is division there is sin. I wonder with all the divisions we have today in
    our church if this very disunity isn’t a factor in allowing evil into our midst?

  15. Pingback: FRIDAY MORNING EDITION | Big Pulpit

  16. JMody says:

    Breaking Bread, Good News, anything from Oregon Catholic Press — all subversive tools of the Revolution … :)

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