Card. Sarah: Reform the liturgy! “The future of the Church is at stake”

At Sandro Magister’s place there are some English translations of selected paragraphs – fantastic paragraphs – from Robert Card. Sarah’s new book, with Nicholas Diat, out only in French for the moment, La force du silence. Contre la dictature du bruit (Fayard, Paris, 2016)… The Power of Silence: against the dictatorship of noise.


I wrote about this book HERE.

My emphases and comments:

“The reform of the reform will happen, the future of the Church is at stake” by Robert Sarah


Some priests today treat the Eucharist with perfect disdain. They see the Mass as a chatty banquet where the Christians who are faithful to Jesus’ teaching, the divorced and remarried, men and women in a situation of adultery, [hmmmm] unbaptized tourists participating in the Eucharistic celebrations of great anonymous crowds can have access to the body and blood of Christ, without distinction. [Timely.]

The Church must urgently examine the ecclesial and pastoral appropriateness of these immense Eucharistic celebrations made up of thousands and thousands of participants. [THANK YOU.] There is a great danger here of turning the Eucharist, “the great mystery of Faith,” into a vulgar revel and of profaning the body and the precious blood of Christ. The priests who distribute the sacred species without knowing anyone, and give the Body of Jesus to all, without discernment between Christians and non-Christians, participate in the profanation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist. [Even at parish Masses the priest can’t always know everyone, but at mega-Masses…] Those who exercise authority in the Church become guilty, through a form of voluntary complicity, of allowing sacrilege and the profanation of the body of Christ to take place in these gigantic and ridiculous self-celebrations, [!!!] where one can hardly perceive that “you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).

Priests unfaithful [!!!] to the “memory” of Jesus insist rather on the festive aspect and the fraternal dimension of the Mass than on the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The importance of the interior dispositions and the need to reconcile ourselves with God in allowing ourselves to be purified by the sacrament of confession are no longer fashionable nowadays. [GO TO CONFESSION!] More and more, we obscure the warning of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill” (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-30).


At the beginning of our Eucharistic celebrations, how is it possible to eliminate Christ carrying his cross and walking painfully beneath the weight of our sins toward the place of sacrifice? There are many priests who enter triumphantly and go up to the altar, waving left and right in order to appear friendly. Observe the sad spectacle of certain Eucharistic celebrations. . . Why so much frivolity and worldliness at the moment of the Holy Sacrifice? Why so much profanation and superficiality before the extraordinary priestly grace that makes us capable of bringing forth the body and blood of Christ in substance by the invocation of the Spirit? Why do some believe themselves obliged to improvise or invent Eucharistic prayers that disperse the divine phrases in a bath of petty human fervor? [!!!] Are the words of Christ so insufficient that a profusion of purely human words is needed? In a sacrifice so unique and essential, is there a need for this subjective imagination and creativity? “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words,” Jesus has cautioned us (Mt 6:7).


We have lost the deepest meaning of the offertory. Yet it is that moment in which, as its name indicates, the whole Christian people offers itself, not alongside of Christ, but in him, through his sacrifice that will be realized at the consecration. Vatican Council II admirably highlighted this aspect in insisting on the baptismal priesthood of the laity that essentially consists in offering ourselves together with Christ in sacrifice to the Father. [. . .]

If the offertory is seen as nothing other than a preparation of the gifts, as a practical and prosaic action, then there will be a great temptation to add and invent ceremonies in order to fill up what is perceived as a void. I deplore the offertory processions in some African countries, long and noisy, accompanied with interminable dances. The faithful bring all sorts of products and objects that have nothing to do with the Eucharistic sacrifice. These processions give the impression of folkloric exhibitions that disfigure the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and distance us from the Eucharistic mystery; but this must be celebrated in sobriety and recollection, since we are immersed, we too, in his death and his offering to the Father. The bishops of my continent should take measures to keep the celebration of the Mass from becoming a cultural self-celebration. The death of God out of love for us is beyond all culture.


It is not enough simply to prescribe more silence. In order for everyone to understand that the liturgy turns us interiorly toward the Lord, it would be helpful during the celebration for us all together, priests and faithful, to face the east, symbolized by the apse.


This practice remains absolutely legitimate. [NB] It is in keeping with the letter and the spirit of the Council. There is no lack of testimonies from the first centuries of the Church. “When we stand up to pray, we face the east,” says Saint Augustine, echoing a tradition that dates back, according to Saint Basil, to the Apostles themselves. Churches having been designed for the prayer of the first Christian communities, the apostolic constitutions of the 4th century recommended that they be turned to the east. And when the altar is facing  west, as at Saint Peter’s in Rome, the celebrant must turn toward the orient and face the people.

This bodily orientation of prayer is nothing other than the sign of an interior orientation. [. . .] Does the priest not invite the people of God to follow him at the beginning of the great Eucharistic prayer when he says” “Let us lift up our heart,” to which the people respond: “We turn it toward the Lord”? [This takes us back to Gamber and Ratzinger.]

As prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, I am intent upon recalling once again that celebration “versus orientem” is authorized by the rubrics of the Missal because it is of apostolic tradition. [Wait for iiiit….] There is no need for particular authorization to celebrate in this way, people and priest, facing the Lord. If it is physically not possible to celebrate “ad orientem,” a cross must necessarily be placed on the altar, in plain sight, as a point of reference for all. Christ on the cross is the Christian East. [And yet some bishops seek to bully priests into not turning to the East.]


I refuse to waste time in opposing one liturgy to another, or the rite of Saint Pius V to that of Blessed Paul VI. What is needed is to enter into the great silence of the liturgy; one must allow oneself to be enriched by all the Latin or Eastern liturgical forms that favor silence. Without this contemplative silence, the liturgy will remain an occasion of hateful divisions and ideological confrontations instead of being the place of our unity and our communion in the Lord. It is high time to enter into this liturgical silence, facing the Lord, that the Council wanted to restore. [This is why I have always called for the wide-spread side-by-side celebration of the older, traditional form of Mass. This was part of Pope Benedict’s “Marshall Plan” as I have called it.]

What I am about to say now does not enter into contradiction with my submission and obedience to the supreme authority of the Church. I desire profoundly and humbly to serve God, the Church, and the Holy Father, with devotion, sincerity, and filial attachment. But this is my hope: if God wills, when he may will and how he may will, in the liturgy, the reform of the reform will take place. In spite of the gnashing of teeth, it will take place, because the future of the Church is at stake.  [THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH IS AT STAKE!  DO I HEAR AN “AMEN!”?]

Damaging the liturgy means damaging our relationship with God and the concrete expression of our Christian faith. [YES!  God is at the peak of the heirarchy of all our relationships and, by the virtue of Religion, we owe Him due worship.  If that’s screwed up, then nothing else will go well.] The Word of God and the doctrinal teaching of the Church are still listened to, but the souls that want to turn to God, to offer him the true sacrifice of praise and worship him, are no longer captivated by liturgies that are too horizontal, anthropocentric, and festive, often resembling noisy and vulgar cultural events. The media have completely invaded and turned into a spectacle the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the memorial of the death of Jesus on the cross for the salvation of our souls. The sense of mystery disappears through changes, through permanent adaptations, decided in autonomous and individual fashion in order to seduce our modern profaning mentalities, marked by sin, secularism, relativism, and the rejection of God.

In many western countries, we see the poor leaving the Catholic Church because it is under siege by ill-intentioned persons who style themselves intellectuals and despise the lowly and the poor. This is what the Holy Father must denounce loud and clear. Because a Church without the poor is no longer the Church, but a mere “club.” Today, in the West, how many temples are empty, closed, destroyed, or turned into profane structures in disdain of their sacredness and their original purpose. So I know how many priests and faithful there are who live their faith with extraordinary zeal and fight every day to preserve and enrich the dwellings of God.

Read the whole thing there.

Meanwhile.  Get this for your parish priests.

God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith  by Robert Card. Sarah

Sarah God Or Nothing 200

Buy it.  Get one for your parish priests. UK HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices, Turn Towards The Lord and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    May it please God that our next Holy Father hails from Africa, and knows how important the proper celebration of the rites of the Church is to the mission of the Church.

  2. MikeR says:

    I pray that “ad orientem” worship & silence in the pews will return to the Church in Australia, but have no hope that it will. Modernism has us by the throat in Oz.

  3. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Sarah 2016. Make liturgy great again.

  4. FrPJ says:

    Why was 1 Cor 11:27-30 totally omitted from the Novus Ordo lectionary? The faithful never hear these salutary words proclaimed at Mass and what is worse, most priests are oblivious to the need to explain them to their congregations. Methinks “some enemy has done this”!
    Fr Z, can you please start a campaign to get them restored to the lectionary?

    [1 Corinthians 11:27-29 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA) 27 Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.]

  5. Grumpy Beggar says:

    This bodily orientation of prayer is nothing other than the sign of an interior orientation. [. . .] Does the priest not invite the people of God to follow him at the beginning of the great Eucharistic prayer when he says” “Let us lift up our heart,” to which the people respond: “We turn it toward the Lord”? [This takes us back to Gamber and Ratzinger.]

    The French version of this prayer/exhortation which carries us into the Preface can take us even further back . . . to the Jerusalem community described by St. Luke in Chapter 4 of the Acts of the apostles.

    There’s a notable difference in nuance of the English used in the Ordinary Form and of the French version of the same:

    The Lord be with you
    And with your spirit.
    Lift up your hearts.
    We lift them up to the Lord.

    Le Seigneur soit avec vous.
    Et avec votre esprit.
    Elevons notre coeur.
    Nous le tournons vers le Seigneur.

    In English, it is rendered:”Lift up your hearts“. . . and ,”We lift them up to the Lord.”

    In French , “Let us lift up our heart” . . . and “We turn it toward the Lord.”

    One heart.

    The French version better expresses a sentiment of the unity described in Acts 4:32 ” The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”

    Being of “one heart” is a common theme in French Catholicism. In song and prayer, one finds no shortage of the words , “d’un seul coeur.”

    I consider it a blessing to be able to attend and serve and/or assist at Mass in both languages.

    It is surely less of a “blessing” to be subjected to these “chatty” elements where a presider or celebrant feels obliged to inject these little mini-sermons throughout the liturgy of the Eucharist. I guess they have no idea how distracting this can be to the faithful who are trying to pray with them . . . not quite one heart and mind.


    The importance of the interior dispositions and the need to reconcile ourselves with God in allowing ourselves to be purified by the sacrament of confession are no longer fashionable nowadays. [GO TO CONFESSION!]

    Thanks Fr Z. . . . on my way to Confession right now – early this morning, and I’m definitely looking forward to it. . . Jesus is waiting there for me, and for each of us = Mercy.

  6. FarmerBrawn says:

    Is Cardinal Sarah having a Saint Athanasius moment?

  7. benedetta says:

    I love Cardinal Sarah. He is just so very real. His experiences growing up in a place where the Gospel was new and untested make him an ideal witness and leader for our times.

    Still, I think that those who have grown up without benefit of sacraments or scripture, looking in from the outside, as it were, incomprehending due to the lack of a working vocabulary for faith, prayer, the transcendent…well, sometimes I think that from their typical sources of information they must conclude that the Body of Christ is really just walking around giant intellectual head, theologizing incessantly, and ignoring the pleas of friend and neighbor by the wayside, shutting out the crazy seeming, the holy fools, the prophets, the Bartimaeus of our times…”Go away woman, I am done with your concerns…I will block you…I will not listen…I will abuse by neglect. I do agree that renewal liturgical is renewal, and yet, with this being the prevailing gestalt in Church relationships, no one will have reason to be edified by us. We have the Holy Spirit; it seems we care not to work together with, and be alone again or rather.

  8. tlawson says:

    THANK YOU, Grumpy Beggar!

    Your translation note “hit the nail on the head!” The French translation MUCH more conveys the reality, the TRUTH, that we “TURN” to The Lord (not just “lift up,” as our English translation says — which dovetails perfectly with Cardinal Sarah’s words on ad orientem, and the perfectly rational, reasonable, TRUE, REAL, and correct response: to “turn and face The Lord Who is coming.”

    Versus Populum might be “an option,” and it is virtually all you find today, but it is far, far, far inferior (virtually nonsensical, in my own not-so-humble view), when one takes into account the reality that the Mass is filled with signs that point to REALITY, and the reality is that we, in the One Mass of the Universal Church (not my Mass, or parish X’s Mass, or bishop milktoast’s Mass), we turn to and face The Lord Who is coming. Cardinal Sarah (and all the “troublemakers” like Fr Z, Benedict XVI, etc) are thinking with The Holy Spirit. I have no idea who the mainstream is thinking with, or if they are thinking at all, but are rather still being led by old militant feminist “sisters” from the 60’s…sigh, when will their influence be washed away, dear Lord?

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Because of my present geographical location, the only masses I can attend are celebrated by priests in their 70s and 80s who have expressed that they “hate” the TLM, even saying this from the pulpit. a few days ago. I have never understood the antipathy of some priests towards the trad Mass.

    Some points from the desert, as I am living now, and not by my will but God’s apparently, in one of the most liberal dioceses in America,:

    1) Word meal is still used by both celebrants and attendees;
    2) Attendees do not fast, as the teaching of fasting, even for one hour, was dropped years ago here;
    3) I am the only one in the congregation who receives on the tongue;
    5) Until I hurt my knee, and there are no pews, only chairs in this particular church, I was the only one kneeling at the Consecration;
    6) There is room for ad orientem, but the people do not want it nor does the bishop;
    7) Mega-churches are the future and one is being planned for this diocese, because of the acute priest shortage and the fact that the smaller parishes, in the country, have old churches, and dying congregations;
    8) Local seminary has only one or two Latin Masses per academic year;
    9) Permanent deaconate aspire-rs take theology classes at very liberal “Catholic” university where there is never, never a Latin Mass, never;
    10) Sermons are still liberal interpretations of the readings, adding to the aura of disobedience in this diocese…a few days ago, a priest preached on the need to change the marriage without divorce rules and reception of Holy Communion, which most of his attendees agree with….sad but true.

  10. Benedict Joseph says:

    One is left speechless in the face of Cardinal Sarah’s willingness and ability to offer the clear truth, which appears to elude those who exercise authority over all the Church, as well as the local Church.
    From what else have they adverted their eyes, and why?
    Why was this man overlooked in 2013?
    Ah yes, I remember, those Africans, “…they should not tell us too much what we have to do.”

  11. tlawson says:

    Why the heck isn’t this man’s teaching in every seminary?? Good God, he is Aquinas, Bishop Sheen, JPII, and Benedict XVI all wrapped into one. The Real Vatican II.

    Not an insipid, smiling, cowardly bonehead like we have so many of, with totally zero credibility.

    Again: young priests, seminarians worldwide, young men and even boys wondering about the priesthood, THIS is the guy to listen to, form yourself after, to be like. The “total package.”

  12. Grant M says:

    In fairness the Latin Sursum Corda does indicate “Lift up your hearts” (plural).

    Some years ago, a priest told my former parish during the sermon: “Before Vatican 2, the priest used to have his back to the people. Then Vatican 2 told the priest to turn around.”

    I know that etiquette demands that the faithful listen quietly and politely during the sermon. Yet sometimes the temptation is overwhelming to rise from one’s pew and turn the homily into a combox debate. But I held my peace, thinking “Great! Now this congregation ‘knows’ that V2 mandated mass versus populum, and that anyone who desires ad orientem is against the council. Grrr…”

  13. tlawson says:

    Yes, you are correct, literally speaking. However, I think that the French translation “captures” and conveys the truth more directly – and, we know that The Lord “will come” from the East, and that He comes “from above,” so “lifting up” and “turning” seem to be the same thing. But in both Scripture and Tradition and the Liturgy, facing East, turning to face East, in all its symbolic meaning, is the way it has been understood. Thus, again, you are literally correct, but there is more to it than that.

    And, I’ve had the same parish experience. Priests (who obviously got their “formation” from modernistic minimalists with no Theocentric or Christocentric thought) have said so much garbage about The Mass, Vatican II, AND Cardinal Sarah himself, you just want to yell out and correct them. Well, the Church has been here before, as Fr. Z says…God bless

  14. Another thing that needs to be done: bring back the Communion rails. Number one, this is charitable to those who want to kneel for Communion but can’t without something to lean on so they can get back up. Number two, approaching Communion as if it were a buffet line can only contribute to non-Catholics wanting to receive. If people who shouldn’t receive had to kneel, that might make them think twice. Yes, I know the Byzantines receive Communion standing; but they also never receive in the hand, as the priest spoons the intincted Particle into their mouths. Besides, in the Latin Church we kneel for Communion; and when we stopped doing that, it sent a message.

    It is asked, why are Cardinal Sarah’s teachings not given greater prominence? Simple: because the hierarchy of the Church is infested with unbelievers. I suspect a substantial majority of priests and bishops in our day are unbelievers.

  15. Semper Gumby says:

    Amen. Thanks to Sandro Magister for this. God bless Card. Sarah.

  16. Rob83 says:


    One of the parts I find most interesting is the idea that the Cardinal would prefer to leave aside the OF/EF discussion in favor of an urgent reform of the praxis of the OF Mass. Facing East, returning silence, returning the altar railings, ditching the Home Depot altars, getting rid of the terrible “hymns”, these are all things that would have a great impact even while still using the OF Mass text.

    A return to a more terse (Roman) style of speaking would also be helpful for priests. Whoever has been in charge of priestly formation here must have had the idea that wordiness was a virtue. Most Masses start with at least a paragraph of blather, and they frequently end with one as well. Even outside Mass and in Confession, Father usually adds words upon words, making it tempting to ask him to get to the point.

  17. PTK_70 says:

    “I refuse to waste time in opposing one liturgy to another, or the [Missal of 1962] to that of Blessed Paul VI.”

    Well, amen to that.

  18. Geoffrey says:

    I dare say His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah is the heir to Benedict XVI’s reform of the reform / new liturgical movement. Deo gratias!

  19. John Nolan says:

    Mgr Bruce Harbert, who worked on the new English translation, made an interesting point about the Sursum Corda. Everything suggests it should be first person plural, as it is in the French. One suggestion was ‘Let our hearts be on high’. Fr Hunwicke in a sermon rendered it as ‘Hearts up!’ and compared it with the traditional Navy pipe for the rum ration (abolished in 1970) of ‘Up spirits!’

    However, this was too much for the bishops who insisted on the ‘traditional’ version, which of course is Cranmer’s. In French ‘Elevons notre coeur’ is of course plural – in English we can say ‘our heart’ to indicate that we do it collectively, but it is an unusual construction.

  20. Agathon says:

    God bless Cardinal Sarah. I pray for him regularly. Would that our bishops would take their cue from his authentic servant-leadership.

  21. Nan says:

    @Supertradmum, I don’t think my archdiocesan seminary has Latin Mass ever, yet it still manages to form solid men for ordination. The Rector is great. While we do have some crazy parishes, there are fewer and fewer every year.

    One of our young priests was on the Biretta list. My spiritual director is learning TLM. A favorite priest hails from our hosts parish of origin.

  22. PTK_70 says:

    Here’s an idea. Just say the sequence in Latin.

    Sursum corda.
    – Habemus ad Dominum.

  23. Grant M says:

    The Indonesian Mass uses the verb ‘arahkan’ meaning to point direct or aim.

  24. Grant M says:

    So you direct your heart towards God or literally your liver, the liver being the seat of the affections and the will in Indonesian.

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  26. Maynardus says:

    The good cardinal seems to be made of sterner stuff than perhaps his opponents expected, he has certainly not trimmed his sails in the face of negative responses to his previous exhortations. As such I am afraid that one day soon we will learn that he has been “Burked”, perhaps by being nominated as cardinal patron of some defunct or obscure entity – perhaps the “Order of the Moor” will be revived for this very purpose – with e.g. Abp. Piero Marini taking over at the CDW. Hate to think it, let alone say it, but who thinks that is can’t happen in a time when e.g. a bishop of Blase Cupich’s ilk is promoted to a major archepiscopal see and then elevated to the Sacred College? (to use only the latest example)… May God protect Cardinal Sarah and continue to install him with wisdom, courage, and fortitude!

  27. Grant M says:

    Interesting point that the Sursum Corda, which of course indicates no person, should be translated using the 1st person plural. I’ve been reading the text of some of the eastern rites in English translation and they do just that. The Sursum Corda comes into so many different rites that it must be very ancient, so its exact significance matters a lot.

  28. PTK_70 says:

    Perhaps it would be helpful to think of sursum corda along the lines of an “Attention!” command so common in the military, as in, “Company, attention!” or “Room, attention!” (typically pronounced tench-HUT!). Under this hermeneutic, sursum corda might thereby signify, “Heart (or, liver, depending upon your organ prepossession) tench-HUT!” To this the response “We direct it to the Lord” seems entirely natural.

  29. Grant M says:

    In the Indonesian Missal:

    Marilah mengarahkan hati kepada Tuhan

    Literally: Come (let’s) direct heart (liver) to Lord

    Response: Sudah kami arahkan

    Literally: We have directed.

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