Bp. Donald Hying of the Diocese of Madison is issuing brief daily videos. Today he talks about “minimalism and maximalism”.
This is really important for our individual lives and for the whole life of the Church, especially in these troubling times when a majority of Catholics, demonstrably, have lost the Faith and are leaving the life of the Church – the means Christ established for our salvation – by indifference or old age and death. We are at a critical fork in the road.
In the video, Bp. Hying speaks of minimalism and maximalism in turns of love. Love, or its lack, produces in the minimalist the attitude of, “What do I have to do?”, which it draws from the maximalist, “What can I do?”. “Do I have to do more?” or “I want to do more!”
I fully endorse what Bp. Hying says.
Moreover, in a practical view, I am reminded of the distinction we use in the confessional to identify the type of sorrow the penitent has for the sake of valid absolution. We can have attrition, which is fear of punishment and Hell. We can have contrition, which is sorrow for having offended God and His Love. Both qualify as adequate sorrow for sins, and therefore for valid absolution, but clearly the latter is more perfect.
When we love we want more and more, the better and better, not just the adequate or the minimum.
This brings me to today’s rant.
Bishops almost never talk in real terms, for any length of time or depth, about liturgy. Of course Bp. Hying had about two whole minutes to squeeze in his point. You cannot say much more than your basic point in a 2:00 video. His videos are not intended to be in-depth expositions, but rather starting points. Hence, Bp. Hying did not have the opportunity to speak to minimalism and maximalism in our sacred liturgical worship.
Allow me to take the baton and run.
Our sacred liturgical worship is exactly where we need to avoid minimalism and to foster maximalism.
The whole life of the Church, at every level, is at stake.
For confirmation of this, look to the Pew Research study about how many Catholics believe in the Real Presence. That’s not just from bad catechesis and preaching. That’s the direct result of bad liturgy. Mark my word.
To those who want to study the problem, issue new DVDs and videos, form committees, ponder and wring hands, I respond, “It’s the liturgy, stupid.”
The virtue of Religion orders what we owe to God and, as a direct result, how we order our loves and priorities. Religion requires us always to set what is due to the Trinity in the first place. We fulfill the duties of Religion, firstly, through sacred liturgical worship, as a whole Church, as smaller communities and families, and as individuals. If this aspect of our life (Church life, community life, family life, your and my life) is not properly fostered, then every other aspect of our lives will be disordered.
No effort we undertake in the Church – including renewal of any aspect of the life of the Church – will succeed if it does not start in worship and return to worship. Otherwise, it is the undertaking of an NGO or a committee or a functionary.
Sometimes questions come up about the “minimum” elements of Holy Mass we must be present for to fulfill our obligation. It’s a good question if – if – in a pinch you are forced to be late, etc. Of course if there are circumstances beyond your control, your obligation is lifted. It’s still good question. However, some people use the answer to justify coming late and leaving early. These minimalists are in serious trouble. More on that sort of minimalism HERE. Their love is loafing or limping or leaving. When you love, you want to be there.
When you truly love, you really want to be there.
Of course there is the sort of celebration of Holy Mass that is so painful, so cringe-worthy, so face-palm inducing that it is hard to blame people who want to come late and leave early.
This is due to priests and bishops who, when it comes to the critically important ars celebrandi, have turned minimalism and maximalism inside out. They, willful, want to increase themselves, while the true and authentic sacred liturgical worship is decreased. They think they are increasing worship by their ad libs and their antics and their additions. They think that they are increasing the role of the laity by dragging them into doing things that are really clerical roles. Instead they are making worship and laity smaller, minimalizing them.
Our sacred worship is it’s own theological locus and its own proper way to fulfill the virtue of Religion. Our lay people are their own dignified members of Christ’s High Priesthood without being clericalized. To violate either one is to make them smaller, not larger.
The principal way we know we are worshiping God properly is by using the proper liturgical worship set down by the Church. The approved rites of the different Churches are trustworthy.
Before the Chattering Id of Tradydom has a seizure, let’s make distinctions. Qui bene distinguit bene docet.
In the case of all of our rites these days, there are better options and lesser options.
Let’s say that we have, in macro terms (looking at the rites themselves) a maximalist and a minimalist approach. For this sake of this, think minimalism or maximalism in this Mass as the micro, while macro applies to the whole rite. By the way, Summorum Pontificum gave us a juridical solution when it comes to the Roman Rite, not a historical, liturgical, theological solution. The whole “two forms of one rite” thing is juridical. It is clear to anyone who has eyes and a brain that these two forms are two rites. Both of them are juridically legal options in the Roman Rite. If the priest has faculties to say Mass (a juridical reality), then he can choose this missal or or that missal.
However, some options (missals) are better than others.
Thinking micro, some options for this Mass are better than others. Yes, that applies to the TLM, too. Low Mass, Sung Mass, Solemn? Vestments? Music? Choice of votive? Sanctus candle? It really applies to the Novus Ordo, which has so many options that the defaults are often forgotten. But that’s also the macro problem for the Novus Ordo. So many options are built into the Novus Ordo that it is hard to know what to do. It comes down to personal taste and that never goes wrong these days, right? It’s a macro problem when it comes to, you know, things like ad orientem celebration which is the norm according to the rubrics and Latin, which the Council Fathers commanded be retained. After that, in this Mass (micro), what about this prayer option or that prayer option. It’s so laden with micro options that it becomes a macro problem. It hardly every ends. That’s absolutely the opposite with the Vetus Ordo. I will leave it to Easterners to have their discussion elsewhere about vernacular worship or retention of their rite’s language (e.g., Greek, Slavonic, Ukrainian, etc.).
The East respectfully apart, with both the Vetus Ordo and the Novus Ordo minimalism and maximalism must be considered, both in this Mass (micro) and your overarching approach (macro).
At this point, those contentious liturgically conservative Catholics who embrace mostly the modern, post-Concilar Mass are saying, “Wait! Wait! There’s legitimate diversity! One is not better than the other and we can choose according to what makes our own socks roll up and down. For you it’s Latin and stuff. For us its… well.. Latin, too… but, mostly not, maybe a little, and traditional hymns with organ, and hopefully Communion rails and reverence. One way isn’t better. It’s not it’s not it’s NOT! They’re just two ways of doing the same thing!”
Yes, in a sense, they both are doing the same thing.
The Sacrifice of Calvary is renewed, we are sacramentally present in the Upper Room and Calvary and the Tomb and the Ascension of the Lord. Transubtantiation guarantees that we receive the Eucharistic Lord, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in each sacred Host. We hear the Word of God. We offer pleasing sacrifices. We pray and honor and petition and thank. Yes, all those things are possible at both the rites, the Vetus Ordo and the Novus Ordo.
Pretty good! The Novus Ordo was what I experienced when I was brought into the Church.
In the Roman Church, however, I believe the traditional rites are superior. I stand on deep foundations and long experience, as a priest, of both, at home and in Rome (also home).
The Novus Ordo’s genesis and implementation and very bones are fraught with question marks. The rites are approved, but I think we can do better. It is a minimalism and maximalism question. We fulfill our obligations and give God what is due.
Can we do more? Because we love?
That’s why I sometimes use the analogy of food for children and food for grown ups: each have their moment according to what can be handled at the time.
Some people want to be offended by this analogy, but absolutely no offense is intended. It’s just an image that is so human, so much a part of everyone’s lived experience, that it’s quick and useful.
As I have written many times before, to be grown up Catholics we need a Mass for grown ups.
Our Mass should give us thick red steak and Cabernet, not pureed carrots and milk for baby teeth.
I want meat for you, not goop. That means I want some of you to grow up into something more than you have hitherto desired. I want more for you, not less. I don’t want you to languish in the livable. I want you to long for the lavish.
Goop is fine for babies. Babies need goop. If you love your baby, you give the best that your baby can accept at this age. But when baby grows up, when you grow up, you and baby need more. Baby’s can’t eat a T-Bone. Adults can survive on goop, but they won’t thrive.
You don’t show love to your baby by shoving a T-Bone into it’s toothless mouth. You don’t love your grown ups by giving them baby goop… unless, as Jacques points out, they’ve come to that age of life when we may be “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
I want you to thrive through our Mass not just survive. I want more for you. I want you to want to have more.
Let me explain more about T-Bone and Goop in the TLM and Novus Ordo. Remember, I’m using an image that is beautiful and normal and human and tender: feeding children. Paul did the same. 1 Cor 3: ” But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready…”.
In the revisions and recreation of new prayers for the Novus Ordo we lost most of what could be characterized as “negative” concepts: sin, guilt, penance, propitiation, etc. But these are vital nutrients for Catholics. Grown up Catholics, that is. Catholics who understand that we are sinners, and that one day we are going to die and meet our Maker, who is our Savior and our Judge. When we deal with very young children we don’t, mustn’t drum on and on about the Four Last Things. They shouldn’t be ignorant of them, but we shouldn’t hammer them, either. Let children be children. But we must not infantilize adults by denying them the sustenance of TRUTH.
“Goo goo ga ga” is not enough for adults. To preach “goo goo” to them is precisely the opposite of charity, which seeks to serve the good of others.
Alas, the Novus Ordo has a lot of “goo goo” built right into now, because the experts who cobbled it together stripped the rites and prayers of many essential nutrients.
The deficiencies can be partly made up for by a good ars celebrandi and good preaching, just as in the TLM some of the optimistic eschatology stressed in the Novus Ordo can be brought in. Mutual enrichment is not an option!
But it is far easier to do that with the later than to evolve the former.
Mass must be succulent, not insipid.
People fulfill their duty to worship with the Novus Ordo, and can do so well and with benefits. But, over time, I hope they begin to long for something better, something more.
I want so much more for you. I want you to want more.
Minimum and maximum. Micro and macro. Maybe these categories will help you to sort out your life of Religion.