Fr. Stravinskas breaks it down to the essential

At Catholic World Report, we find an address Fr. Peter Stravinskas recently gave to a chapter of Legatus about liturgical issues.   He breaks down, Barney style, some super important issues which, today, are controversial. Inter alia he:

  • strongly endorses Robert Card. Sarah and his invitation to priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem
  • he explains the utility of Latin in a highly mobile age
  • examines distribution of Communion by lay people
  • looks at Communion in the hand – quite a bit of space, to this! – and advocates Communion on the tongue while kneeling

He has an amusing rejoinder to those who say that we are just trying to “turn the clock back”.

These issues are controversial today.  They shouldn’t be.  But they are.

They are controversial and they should be.   We must talk about them.  In fact, we have to have the fight about them, that’s how important they are.

Why?  Because our sacred liturgical worship is our collective ecclesial unum necessarium.

I have long advocated a widespread increase in the use of the traditional Roman Rite from the conviction that it will, as Pope Benedict intended, exert a strong “gravitational pull” (my image) on the way the Novus Ordo is celebrated.   As priests learn the older form, their ars celebrandi changes.  In turn, that will have a knock on effect on congregations and, thereafter, the whole life of the Church in every sphere.

Why?  Because WE ARE OUR RITES!

As I have been pounding away at for years, decades as a matter of fact, if by the virtue of justice we are bound to give to human persons what is owed to them, then also by the virtue of religion we are bound to give to the Divine Persons what is owed to them, chief of which is worship.   

In our relationships and in our actions there is a hierarchy.  What goes to God must be first and foremost.

If we don’t have worship of Almighty God squared away, then nothing else that devolves in our hierarchies of relations and actions will be properly ordered and effective.

This is why I am constantly harping on the fact that no initiative we undertake in the Church will be effective unless it begins in worship pleasing to God and returns to worship.

God helps us to get all of this straight by giving us a Church with His own authority to teach us and to tell us how to worship in sacred liturgy. The Church’s sacred liturgical worship is pleasing to God when we are faithful to it and we give our very best to it.

Hence, my perpetual lament – echoed just the other day – that priests and bishops (especially bishops!) get up in front of people and make speeches about this or that issue but they almost never bring liturgical worship of God into the picture.   When they occasionally do, I get pretty worked up (for example HERE).

It is as if most bishops see themselves as senators or aldermen rather than as priests.

Again, all our initiatives are doomed to failure if they are not rooted – first – in sacred liturgical worship.

Remember that whole thing about the Eucharist (Itself and Its celebration which is Mass) being the “source and summit” of our Christian lives?

Again, we are our rites.  Change them and you change our identity and, hence, our impact in the world around us (as in “Save The Liturgy, Save The World“)… not to mention our path to salvation.

Hey bishops and priests!  Wanna promote social action with real fruits?  Then revitalize worship!  Clean up the abuses!  Say the Black and do the Red (after all, each gesture and worship in our liturgical rites is Jesus Christ the High Priest gesturing and speaking)!  Get down on your knees before God!

Stravinskas hit for six on this point in the opening section of his talk, where he wrote/said:

I told an archbishop-friend of mine that I was going to address business people about liturgical concerns. He was slightly bemused [sigh] and said, “With all the problems in the Church and the world, you’re going to talk about liturgy?” He went on: “Of all the clergy I know, you and Cardinal Sarah are at the top of my list, but I don’t get the stress on liturgy.” I replied: “The principal reason for the existence of the Church is to offer fitting praise and worship to Almighty God. There is nothing more important. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] If we can’t get that right, we can’t get anything else right, either.[My exact perennial and incessant point.] Indeed, every other good thing we may want to accomplish flows from our life of worship.” He seemed to “get it,” although I am not sure if it will stick with him long-term. I hope I can have a more lasting effect on you.

I’ve disagreed with Fr. Stravinskas on a few practical issues now and then, but there is absolutely not the hint of a question that, on the connection of liturgy and – well – EVERYTHING that we hold dear as Catholics, he truly gets it.

Would that in the future and soon more priests and bishops, especially, will get it.  Then we all have to close ranks and really get to work… together.

Enough of the fragmentation and turf-defending B as in B, S as in S!

Lay people: You have a role to play.  You have great influence.  You have a right to sound sacred liturgical worship, faithful to the Church and consistent with what our forebears understood, loved, foster and bequeathed to us as our rightful and honored patrimony.

Priests: I’m going to promote myself.  If you want a serious talk about these matters with your own parish, I’ll come and do the heavy lifting.  I always weave this stuff into what I speak about, for example during parish missions.  Just ask the great iPadre, whose parish I recently visited for a parish mission.   I’m sure that Stravinskas and other good priests who get it would also do this well and often.   We should form a team, a kind of Joint Sacred Liturgy Task Force…. Joint Catholic Identity Task Force?  Joint SURVIVAL Task Force? Same thing.

We need a revitalization of our worship here, there and everywhere.  Let’s get on it, together.


  • Liturgical catechesis
  • Communion on the tongue and kneeling
  • Fewer lay ministers
  • Ad orientem worship

¡Hagan lío!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    May I suggest that those who wish to be dismissive of your valid points on getting the liturgy right first know exactly what they are doing?

    They know you are correct. But it takes more than a superficial examination of their hearts to determine why they are so afraid of proper worship. And I don’t think they’re ready to do that.

  2. Spade says:

    “Over and above that, for a universal Church (in an age of high mobility), the ability to worship in a common language is most important.”

    A year or so ago one of my favorite priests went on a rant, justifiably so, because he overheard somebody make a nasty comment to the people leaving the Spanish language Mass (at like 1 PM or something) regarding their “use” of the Church. He went on and on about how that was out of line, because they’re Catholics to, and part of our parish family, and so on.

    And he was 100% right. But…

    The more I thought about it the more I realized, the Spanish Mass goers AREN’T part of our Parish Family. In my years at my current church I’ve never met a single person who even occasionally goes to that Mass. Not in church, not in activities. Never. I don’t know them, they don’t know me. Maybe we sit near each other on a HDOO, but that’s it. If the Mass and everybody who went up and vanished or went somewhere else, I’d never notice and vice versa. So, really, we’re not part of each other’s parish family. We just happen to worship in the same box.

    And it brought up the whole, gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a universal language in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church that would unite us all. Maybe some day.

  3. QuietContemplative says:

    Conversations of this nature always put me to mind of the quote by Chesterton:

    In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.
    -G.K. Chesterton’s 1929 book, The Thing, in the chapter entitled, “The Drift from Domesticity”

    The people that tore down and continue to demolish the liturgy seem to not even take the time to know why it was there in the first place. Chesterton was so sadly a prophet that saw more of our times than most admit.

  4. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Does anyone else think it’s strange that, back in the 60s, just as international travel and satellite communications were becoming common and globalization was getting underway, the only truly international institution that had a world-wide common language suddenly decided to give it up? Was this really an idea from the Holy Spirit?

  5. frjim4321 says:

    I think his rationalization of presider’s-back-to-the-assembly is anti-incarnational.

    Also, for him, where is God? Up in the sky? In a wall decoration? And if he’s referring to the tabernacle, that’s even worse, because the mass is not a prayer to the reserved sacrament. If anything on that order, it’s much more a joining in Jesus Christ’s prayer to the Father.

    I really think we need to go back and study up on the implications of a truly incarnational sacramental theology; and remind ourselves about the indwelling of the Spirit in each of the baptized, then go back and re-ask the question about where God is to be found.

    I’d admit that he makes a good point about the anaphora NOT being a dialogue between the presider and the assembly (while, of course, it is dialogical in its structure), and I think many of those who pray the prayer aren’t typically able to break through that fourth wall.

    [And you need to read Razinger’s Spirit of the Liturgy. Someone! Anyone! Please get this guy a copy of the book? Then he’ll have enough to work with in order to stay on pace with us.]

  6. Deacon Ed Peitler says:

    Looking for reverential Catholic liturgies? Come to Front Royal, Virginia. You have your choice of St. John the Baptist Church or, if you child is lucky enough to get into Christendom College, here as well.

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