ESOLEN: 50 Years of Effete and Infertile Liturgical Culture Is Enough

Anthony Esolen, author of the new book Nostalgia (BUY IT NOW! US HERE – UK HERE) has a column describing the dangerous roll of the dice it is to find a place to go to Sunday Mass when away from home and something known, decent and reverent. You never know what you are going to get, but, when those dice stop rolling, it’s probably against you.

By sure to check it out at Crisis

50 Years of Effete and Infertile Liturgical Culture Is Enough

At last…

“By their fruits ye shall know them,” said Jesus, and fifty years is long enough for us to pass a fair judgment. Sacrosanctum Concilium is an orthodox document. But I wonder if we would have done better merely to say, “Let the Mass be said sometimes in the vernacular, let there be three readings from Scripture for Sunday Masses, and let most of the priest’s prayers be said aloud.” That would have required no concession to modernist iconoclasm. Instead we have endured fifty years of lousy church buildings, lousy music, lousy art, banal language, lousy schooling, dead and dying religious orders, and an unfaithful faithful whose imaginations are formed more by Hollywood than by the Holy One. We have been stuck in cultural and ecclesial neutral, rolling backward and downhill, or neuter, effete and infertile.


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  1. siculocatholic says:

    “Let the Mass be said sometimes in the vernacular, let there be three readings from Scripture for Sunday Masses, and let most of the priest’s prayers be said aloud.”

    I asked my very good and traditional priest friend why the Traditional Mass was not translated into
    English and if it is possible to do that. He said no because it was codified. That is as much as I know.
    But we can avail ourselves to the Anglican Use liturgy which is, in effect, the traditional liturgy in English and which satisfies, I think and correct me if I’m wrong, the mandate of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

  2. veritas vincit says:

    I converted to the Catholic Church over 30 years ago. I have never known anything but the Norvus Ordo Mass. Some of those Masses have been banal or been in banal modernistic church buildings, but many of them have been, at least in my opinion, reverent liturgies. And all of them have had the Real Presence of Our Lord, which the Methodist church of my youth never had.

    I respect Anthony Esolen’s learning, his skill at writing and his passion for the traditional pre-Vatican II Mass. And yet, reading his Crisis article, I almost had the impression that he was saying I might as well have stayed Protestant. I’m sure that was not his intention, but the tone of his article was still disturbing.

  3. maternalView says:

    Once again Dr. Esolen nails it. I have to admit I laughed out loud at his descriptions as I have had the same experiences and reactions. It’s obvious that these liturgical people all go to the same conferences. They all do the same things yet I wonder how many hours a week are wasted in preparing for each Sunday’s “liturgy “? Some parishes have committees and others have paid staff doing this junk! What a waste of time. Most of it comes off as an affectation that doesn’t fool anyone. It’s all so lame and everyone knows it. But the audience all plays along ; otherwise, there would be some explaining to do! One Sunday as I sat in the back of a parish given to such nonsense a sense of dread and sadness swept over me. I couldn’t imagine any one there ready to die for their faith. I don’t presume to know anyone’s spiritual state but I was rather frightened that there seemed to be no challenge to the faithful that would strengthen them for a battle. No. Rather they were patted on the head for their part in the day’s “show” (Mass to you and me). Basically, they received a participant award for showing up (communion). Thanks for coming. We are so glad you came! Isn’t our music ministry so wonderful? Let us read the 15 announcements that show you we are so wonderful here. We are the best club in town–our mission statement says so.

  4. Fr. Reader says:

    The article is worth reading.

  5. JonPatrick says:

    I especially liked this bit, which I feel applies to all of us when we do God’s work, not just priests:
    “You know how they put down little reflectors of red glass at the corner of the road where there is a cross-roads, or where some sharp turn makes it dangerous; and as your car comes up at night, the light of the headlamps is caught by these and reflected back? Well, the priest ought to think of himself as one little piece of red glass; the moment when he consecrates, when he offers sacrifice, is the moment in which the prayer of the universal Church is caught up and reflected in him. Only for a moment; then he goes back to being a dull, ordinary piece of glass again.”

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    Insightful article by Anthony Esolen. The effeteness and infertility he observed at that Mass alludes to the decadence of our wider culture. The self-indulgence and androgyny of that Mass is matched by secular culture’s addictions to pornography, social media, and cursing (these days, for whatever reason, females seem to employ vulgarities more frequently than males).

    Centuries ago Popes such as St. Gregory the Great sent missionaries to convert the pagans. Today that process, as others have pointed out, is reversing as a significant number of Catholics are overly influenced by secular culture. One serious effect of this secularization, as others have pointed out, is widespread ignorance of Church and cultural history.

    Educating oneself on the origins and benefits of the free-market, entrepreneurship, and a constitutional Republic (while acknowledging their imperfections) requires time and patience. Ultimately, it is rewarding to uncover their Catholic origins.

    These Catholic origins are resisted by secularized and semi-secularized Catholics. Often, they engage not in debate but in repetitive and vapid sloganeering, usually accompanied by ad hominem, in order to protect their self-indulgent, that is to say decadent, personal agenda. At times they resort to irony, which can be humorous, but irony is also employed to shield them against the realities and disappointments of the world. As they angrily tilt against the windmills of “Capitalism” and “Americanism” may God protect them from Sloth, Pride, and Acedia.

    In Acts chapter 16 Paul sails from Troy and lands in Europe at Philippi. He brought with him the Word of God and the heritage of Jesus of Nazareth. Though decadence and barbarity descended on Europe, and Islam conquered the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, and lands eastward to India, the Catholic Church survived. Because of its survival in Europe the Catholic Church was able to positively influence (the occasional mistakes provide us lessons, and we need not wallow in those mistakes) the development of government, economics, education, and science.

    The effeteness and infertility of the liturgy Esolen wrote about, and the misguided revolutionary zeal of certain Catholics, is a sign of self-indulgence, that is to say decadence. Decadence in a person or in a civilization is not incurable. We’ve rebuilt before and, acknowledging bad days along the way, we can do it again.

  7. jfaz says:

    After trying that “take a chance” of finding a reverent liturgy so many times with the same banal or worse results, we never travel any place without first scoping out if we can attend a TLM—if not—the trip doesn’t happen—especially if it is Sunday Mass obligation. Chances of finding a reverent NO Mass? Not that I have ever encountered by chance!

  8. jaykay says:

    siculocatholic: “I asked my very good and traditional priest friend why the Traditional Mass was not translated into

    It was, progressively, from the first Sunday of Lent 1965 up to end-1969, before the NO came in in 1970. As a kid back then, we learned the “people’s parts”, off by heart. But it was the “Traditional Mass”, albeit things like ps. 42 had gone at the Prayers at the foot of the Altar”. The “Priest’s prayers” were still in Latin, including the Canon, up to around 1968, as I remember, when they started using an early version of what became Eucharistic Prayer I in the NO, and it was no longer said sotto voce. The “acclamation” after the Consecration started around then also, but it was only “My Lord and my God”. But, up to the end of 1969, we still had the “Traditional Mass”. As kids, we were surprised when the NO came in, because we just hadn’t been told. I was 9 then, and clearly remember being amazed when our “new” prayer books wete given to us

  9. The Cobbler says:

    Semper Gumby,

    “(these days, for whatever reason, females seem to employ vulgarities more frequently than males)”

    Near as I can tell they believe good character is a tool of the patriarchy and would gladly go to Hell just to prove men can’t deny them the freedom to go to Hell.

  10. Imrahil says:

    Side-issue, but let’s not confuse “cursing” with “using vulgarities”. The former (I am thinking, for instance, about a homophone to an earth-wall protecting the land from high flood) is a sin; the latter, taken by itself (I am thinking, for example, of a well-known expletive with the meaning “human feces”), is a mere matter of style.

    (Oh, and by the way, “swearing” means confirming the truth of a statement, or a promise, by an appeal to God or by the words “I swear”. And nothing else.)

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    The Cobbler: Good point. Fortunately, their are many ladies today who are not striving to enrich and wield a vocabulary of vulgarities, but rather are interested in becoming most accomplished in the good, the true, and the beautiful- such as the piano-forte.

    Imrahil: Good point.

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