Another “We are our rites!” rant from Fr. Z

At Crisis there is a piece by Paul Krause which knocks one out of the park.  He writes about reverence in worship.  His starting point is a Christological view of anthropology and, therefore, the virtue of Religion (though he doesn’t use those specific labels).

From the onset he makes a good point.  :

The desire for reverence is not the desire for a valid Mass….

There is a minimalist tendency among some Catholics.

In libs it manifests itself in the desire to twist, bend, force the liturgy into their own image, so long as it remains valid.  This is an element in the lib desire constantly to dumb-down the Mass for immediate comprehension by the lowest common denominator in the pews without effort or discomfort.  (I’m reminded of those who promote the diabolical “rapture” theory, which seeks to remove the need to embrace the Cross from salvation.) The result is the reduction of the supernatural to the nature which is the essence of that doctrine from Hell, modernism.

It has its manifestation among trads who focus too much on questions like “What’s the latest I can arrive at Mass and still fulfil my obligation or go to Communion?”  Sometimes that is a real, practical point.  If it takes over and becomes a matter of regular practice, that’s bad.  This too can strip the Mass of the essential register of the mystery which transforms us.  Again, the immanent supersedes the transcendent.

Catholics who have a true Christian spirit want more not less in their sacred liturgical worship.  This fundamental truth reflects the reality that “we are our rites”.   It reflects the dynamic interchange of worship, belief and conduct of life.   Of course, because Christ is all in all, we make adjustments for the ascetic worship of individual Cistercians and Carthusians… who when gathered aren’t that minimalist at all.

Let’s see some of Krause’s argument.  Keep in mind my labels of Christological anthropology (understanding who man is by contemplating Christ) and the virtue of Religion (what we owe to God as God, which is primarily worship).  My emphases:


Part of the fundamental truth of the Catholic religion is not merely the recognition that Christ is present in the Eucharist, but the awareness that we ourselves are temples of the Lord and part of the Body of Christ. Every Catholic is an instantiated extension of the Body of Christ in this world. This is why Catholic ethics are “tough.” The heart of Catholic ethics centers not on forbiddance or restrictions but on dignity, on virtue. This body of mine, as St. Paul says, is not really mine but the Lord’s. We do well to heed this truth and not defile, therefore, the Body of Christ. St. Augustine, to my mind, offered up the greatest expression of the full appreciation of this reality: “Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us?”  [Leo the Great at Christmas: “O Christian!  Recognize your dignity!”]

It equally does us well to remember that when we enter church we also enter into the presence of Christ. For Christ is also present in the Tabernacle located in every church. To enter any Catholic church is to enter into another instantiated extension of the Body of Christ. How beautiful it is that the Body of Christ is assembled together in such a unity.

But since we have become Christ and Christ dwells in the church, why, then, is it too much to ask for the recognition of this through the very church itself and the liturgy which is meant to express that appreciated worship? Just as we ought not to defile the Body of Christ through all the myriad means by which one can defile the Body, this principle should naturally be extended to the church in which Christ is present.


Since we are instantiations of Christ, individually and collectively, we defile ourselves and the mystical Person of Christ, through unworthy sacred worship.

Liturgical abuses defile ourselves, even those Christians not present, because we belong to the Person of Christ. We also defile through minimalism or half-assed efforts.  Naturally we have to be guided by the virtues of prudence and moderation in ramping up our liturgical spaces and accouterment.  We have to be guided by what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote and sang: quantum potes tantum aude!  Dare to do as much as you are able!  That prompts us always to be improving, not just resting complacent.  It also tells us to do so according to the golden mean of our means, balanced against other responsibilities as Christians, especially regarding works of mercy.

You who have been around here for while know about my analogy for the Novus Ordo and the TLM along the lines of Paul’s analogy of spiritual food for children and for adults.  It is uncharitable to force children to eat what their bodies are not yet ready to take.   Their nourishment needs and the form of the nourishment must be determined by what is truly good for them, not merely by our whim or will.  It is also uncharitable to refuse to feed the mature anything other than the pabulum proper and good for the young.   We make progress in the spiritual life.  We have to make progress in our liturgical life as well.  We must not be minimalist or complacent.   And people should not be held down, their spiritual and liturgical maturation prohibited through the denial of what is good for them.


We are our rites!   We reflect them.  They shape us.

Check out the whole of the piece at Crisis.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Your calling some Catholics “libs” bothers me, it comes across as disrespectful. It is almost as offensive as the term “libtard” used by many right wing political supporters. We are all children of God. A little respect goes a long way.

    I honestly do not believe Monsignor Schuler would have used this term. I may not always have agreed with him but he was respectful to those who were not as conservative as he was.

  2. philosophicallyfrank says:

    Let me try again to promote the Mass of Sacrosanctum Concilium. I would suggest that it is a more reverent and more offering of ourselves then the Tridentine Mass, which I used to prefer. Let me describe the Novis Orde/ordinary Mass as offered by the people in the pews. The way that the church was designed had pews on the sides of the Sacristy, perpendicular to the main pews; so from them one could observe the people in the main pews. Nobody had missals; they stood up, knelt down, sat down, stood up, etc., etc. with totally blank expressions on their faces. They looked like pre-programed robots. (Of course there was one exceptional moment; that being the “Sign of Peace” when all of a sudden everyone came to life and there was hugging and kissing and waving to each other all over the place. Then it was over and the robots returned.
    And then there was the time for First Communion for the children. Well, there were so many children that Fr. had to spread it over four successive Sundays. you ask; how many children were there. Grand total of both the boys and the girls was twelve. it got to be that I was upset on my way to Mass every Sunday wondering what “little touch” Fr. would include this Sunday. And he almost always came through and I’d leave Mass after it was over, furious. Perhaps Fr. Z has dealt with this previously and I missed it; but the old Mass with the changes requested in Sacrosanctum Concilium such as English for the Propers and Latin for what is the same every day and it to be chanted by everyone; the organ for the music and remind everyone that inside the Church is being inside the the home of God and respect Him with silence before and after Mass. Oh, the joy of being part of something thoroughly reverent and worthy to partake of it for God. We need the Mass of the Holy Spirit; not the Mass of Bugnini.

  3. WVC says:

    @NurseNell – Can I assume you’ve never read St. Thomas More’s opinion of Martin Luther? Or how St. Cyril treated Nestorius? Being nice is not the same thing as being charitable, and niceness is not a virtue.

    @philoshopicallyfrank – the problem I, and I assume many others, have with the proposal that we just need to return to the Mass of Sancrosanctum Concilium is who, exactly, is going to implement that change? Does anyone in their right mind who takes their Faith seriously trust Pope Francis to do this? Or for Pope Francis to put together a committee of Cardinals that would trustworthy? Especially now that Cardinal Sarah has retired? Would priests and bishops just randomly implement what changes they felt were good and pious? That’s a recipe for anarchy, not reverence.

    As Fr. Z pointed out in another post, how can the Latin Rite consider itself unified with such an insane variety in the MOST FUNDAMENTAL RITUAL that DEFINES that Rite? Fortunately for all of us, there already exists a reverent, pious, holy, unified, and TIME TESTED Rite of Mass, and that’s the Traditional Latin Mass. That can be implemented EVERYWHERE TOMORROW if bishops and priests so chose, without the intervention of any committees or popes or councils or anything.

    After we’ve got the listing Barque of Peter stabilized and upright again, say, a few hundred years from now, THEN let’s consider what authentic growth to the Traditional Rite of Mass can be integrated. The sinking ship NEEDS attention NOW. The Traditional Latin Mass is available for use NOW. Can we get All Hands to pitch in ASAP and actually try to fix the problem, or shall we sit around and argue about our individual opinions on what would make a nice reverent Mass for another few years while the waters continue to rise?

  4. philosophicallyfrank says:

    The Mass of Sancrosanctum Concilium was totally ignored. What followed the Council was not that Mass; but, what Bishop Bugnini had been wanting to implement. He was considered a Progressive and had no use for what the Council called for. The “Novis Orde/ Ordinary Form was a concocted mass and a product of the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II” rather then the actual “Realty of Vatican II”. “Sacrosancrtum Concilium” is available in many places online. Read it and see what the Council Fathers guided by the Holy Spirit “actually” called for and which was accepted, signed and “ordered…… to be promulgated” by St. Pope Paul VI.

  5. WVC says:

    @philosophicallyfrank – I’m not disagreeing with you that the Novus Ordo does NOT fulfill the requirements set out by Sancrosanctum Concilium (S.C.). I’m asking who, at this point, is going to be conducting the liturgical reform necessary to create a Rite of Mass that does fulfill S.C.? Pope Francis? Some commission of his cronies, er, Cardinals? Does anyone think the number of progressives in power at the Vatican has gone down since Bugnini’s Litrugical Concilium? Has anyone seen any of the recent liturgies coming out of Germany? Or the Vatican Nativity Sets for the last several years? Does anyone trust THOSE PEOPLE to create a reverent liturgy?

    I’m talking in purely practical terms. There is NO WAY a Reform of the Novus Ordo will happen anytime soon and be a good thing. There is NO WAY a New Form of the Mass will be created any time soon and it be a good thing. If folks of good will want to unify worship in the Latin Rite with a TIME TESTED and REFVERENT liturgical form, they can use the Traditional Latin Mass right NOW, without needing the Pope’s permission, a council’s review, or a liturgical overhaul. That is the genius of Summorum Pontificum.

    Any desire for liturgical tinkering should be put on the shelf for no less than 200 years. We are not a fit people to impose anything upon the sacred liturgy of the ages. After 200 years of offering the Traditional Latin Mass, we may then have enough of a well formed understanding of liturgy to again attempt to see what organic accretions might be integrated into the Mass. Maybe.

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