is My Body"
Musings on Opposition to Latin in the
and a Return to the Tridentine Rite in the Catholic Church
“I can’t fight
back the tears. This is the saddest moment in my life as
a man, priest and bishop,”
Luca Brandolini, a member of the liturgy commission of the
Italian bishops' conference, told Rome daily La Repubblica
in an interview on Sunday.
a day of mourning, not just for me but for the many people
who worked for the Second Vatican Council. A reform for
which many people worked, with great sacrifice and only
inspired by the desire to renew the Church, has now been
Bishop Luca Brandolini
architect of the Novus Ordo Missae, or the Vernacular
the vernacular has failed miserably at Mass
Brandolini, fretting that his work — which decimated the
Church — may be imperiled by the clamoring of the Faithful for a return
of Latin to the liturgy ... even the Tridentine Rite itself! His failed
— that profoundly touched ... and detrimentally changed ... the lives
of one billion people, may, he apparently fears, and to the point of
tears, become along with himself, a footnote in Church history. And
not a very proud one at that.
My question to the tearful,
and deeply personally injured bishop is this: how can he square
the fact that the abandonment of the Latin Mass and Divine Office following
the “slash and burn”
liturgical methodology following Vatican II —
“merely and strangely
coincided” with the decimation of Religious
Orders, the emptying of monasteries and seminaries, the huge loss of
friars, monks, and nuns, the unparalleled drop in vocations to the priesthood
and religious life, the precipitous drop in Mass attendance and the
overtly disaffected teaching of so many, many theologians disobedient
both to their own Mandatum and to the Holy See? Answer
me this, my good bishop, obviously in such deep communion,
in such exemplary solidarity, with the Supreme Pontiff!
Even to the most doctrinaire and zealous “reformer”,
to overlook this, to turn a blind eye to it, is an egregious unwillingness
to come to terms with the truth, the facts, and yes, the figures, that
undeniably indicate the health of the Church and Her faithfulness to
God. Are we really to believe that it just a coincidence that this tremendous
hemorrhage occurred precisely at the time of profound changes that broke
a thousand year continuity and tradition?
Perhaps there are those who can — but I cannot — simply dismiss the
fact that the Religious Orders that threw away their charisms with their
habits and went from living in community in monasteries and convents
to living in their own apartments — are the very orders that now have
the fewest and the oldest members — while the thriving orders being
filled by the youngest vocations — beyond capacity and resources in
many instances — are the very ones that have picked up the discarded
habits, renewed the renounced charisms, and reclaimed the traditions
that the "progressive” orders shed wholesale
40 years ago.
A coincidence? Possibly elsewhere, but not on the planet Earth.
Consider the venerable Sisters of St. Joseph, or the School Sisters
of Notre Dame — once incredibly large teaching orders. They are now
few, and fewer, ... old, and older. Vocations simply are not forthcoming.
Their average age well exceeds 60.
On the other hand, the relatively
few who remained after the terrible hemorrhage following
the tearing down of the walls ... not the much vaunted
“flinging open of the windows”
... of the Church following the
of Vatican II, largely became social workers committed much more to
structures” and fostering feminist
— than saving “immortal
souls”. They are politically astute and
deeply activist, some even having held political office. Nearly all
of them appear to be strongly and visibly aligned with a clearly distinguishable
body politic — called the Democratic Party (think Fr./Congressman Drinan,
10 years and four terms in Congress, among others).
“Pie in the Sky”
to a “Slice of the Pie”
They seek our social and
political franchise ... but not our souls. Odd. They work to rebuild
the City of Man, having effectively emigrated from the City of God —
pie in the sky” to the
“slice of the pie”.
I do not think that the founders of their various orders envisioned
such a mutation.
The problem for these
“progressive" orders is that they simply
have too much competition: there are already countless secular social
workers, political activists, organizations and agencies that do exactly
what they do. The prevailing charism could be summarized rather succinctly:
Why look for a “Pie in the sky”,
when you can have a “Piece of the pie?”
But the most troubling question — given this defection from the most
fundamental nature of a religious vocation itself, a vocation that cannot
be coherently understood apart from the primacy of the notion of
redemption and a Redeemer, is this: who is looking to
the souls of men and women in the meanwhile as such Religious
increasingly pursue secular ends that are the proper province
of the laity? Presumably such dimensions of our humanity as the immortal
soul are still viable concepts ... even realities.
On the other hand, a brief
look at religious orders such as the Missionaries of Charity (Mother
Teresa's order), and the Legionaries of Christ, to name just two: reveal
orders brimming with vocations and almost all of them young. They leave
politics to the politicians, activism to the activists, and social work
to the social workers (can anyone question the Missionaries of Charity
in Calcutta and elsewhere with anything less than absolute devotion
to the poor ... in body and soul?). In other words, they recognize
and respect the distinct vocation of the Catholic laity to be the leaven
of Christ in the City of Man. Daily their numbers increase —while
daily the numbers of the older “politically
enlightened and socially progressive” orders
diminish. Could Brandolini, and co-architect Archbishop Bugnini have
been wrong? Can a mistake have been made?
— as we now know it, and will continue to know it for the foreseeable
future — were it celebrated with the beauty and dignity with which it
could be ... and rarely is ... celebrated
— could in fact be in any language: it is still the Mass, the
re-enactment of Christ's Sacrifice on Calvary. But too often — much,
much too often — the Sacrifice is obscured by mindless and meaningless
innovations geared to making it “entertaining".
40 years into the “experiment and things
look bleaker than ever. The priest still leaves the Sanctuary and paces
the aisles during his homily in an attempt to emulate talk show hosts
or “Reality TV”,
ever ready with a joke, and that failing, any anecdote to stimulate
laughter from his “audience”. The congregation
fidgets and laughs obligingly to conceal their embarrassment and his
ineptitude. The wink of the eye (“what
a rogue! You devil, you ...”) is supposed
to “connect" him with everyone
“really in the know”.
After all, he’s “just one the guys”.
That’s why he leaves the Sanctuary: to “connect”
himself with the people, instead of remaining in the Sanctuary connecting
people to God. Did I ever tell you of the the Deacon in my parish who
used a toilet plunger as a “scepter”
during the Feast of Christ the King? It is true.
Mass became Mass Entertainment
and a mass “communal meal”
where the pews emptied entirely with no sinner in sight left behind
in the pews. No one knows of sin because no one any longer speaks of
sin — especially “mortal sin”
— eo ipso there are no sinners in the Church. Since Vatican
II, all, apparently, have attained to impeccability and are worthy of
the Lamb and all — and I mean all —
“approach the table”
(as they now say, once known as the Altar in those dark pre-Conciliar
days when the Mass was a Sacrifice, and not entertainment).
And, of course, every entertainer,
every MC, has his musicians. If the Mass fails as entertainment it can
always fall back on the music — but the choir-as-music fails even more
miserably, even more conspicuously were it possible, than the priest
as entertainer. And it is possible: there is absolutely no
public venue that would accept what is sung, tolerated really, at Catholic
Masses and hope to break even at the end of the night. But at the end
of Mass we are encouraged to actually applaud the cacophony that has
grated on us for the past 45 minutes.
Applause is the also the
most appropriate response to “entertainment”.
As you applaud, the
accordingly bow in gratitude for your appreciation of their performance.
I myself do not find Christ's Sacrifice on Calvary
Nor do I approach it expecting to entertained by it, as the
people around Christ at the time of His Crucifixion — those who milled
around at the foot of the Cross — did.
So ask yourself this, for it is absolutely the most fundamental
feature of the Mass — apart from which there is no Mass:
If you were transported
back 2000 years and stood present at the Crucifixion of Christ on Calvary
... would you be:
Eager to listen to the
display of virtuosity of your church pianist ( ... given that organs
are now seldom used)?
Longing for the strumming
of acoustical or electric guitars?
Tapping your foot to
the beat of drums and the clashing of cymbals?
warm and fuzzy”?
Telling jokes to those
who sat around the foot of the Cross?
Sharing humorous anecdotes
with anyone who would listen?
Wish to demonstrate
to all around you how “clever” and
Strive to be the focus
of attention ... competing with Christ on the Cross?
These are not facetious
If you would act in any way differently than you would if you stood
with your waking eyes before Christ being Crucified — then you do not
understand the Mass. It is the re-enactment of Calvary. It is not a
social, a communal meal, the opportunity to display your musical prowess
or your ability to amuse and entertain people — or to be amused and
entertained. We have television for that. Movies. Video. The Internet.
Mass is absolutely unique
One does not watch a video
to worship God. One goes to experiment with entertainment and to be
One does not go to Mass to experiment with entertainment and to be entertained.
One goes to Mass to worship God.
The two are not synonymous — except, sadly, in the Catholic Church.
The vernacular, it turns out, has failed miserably in
the people with God (its putative intent)— but it has succeeded
eminently in engaging people with each other ... which they can equally
do in countless other venues. If this is so, however, the logical question
then is, “well, why go to Mass at all?”
The answer is in the U.S. Census: most don't any longer (note the qualifier
When the Mass has to “compete”
with other forms of entertainment — it loses. And it loses badly. Nearly
anyone else is better at entertainment than a priest and a miserable
choir ... hands down.
If the experiment with the vernacular has failed (and it is vital that
we remember that it was supposed to be a limited experiment,
with Latin remaining intact as the language of worship) and has
failed with a staggering and perhaps irrecoverable loss to the Church
—- then a return to what worked in the past cannot possibly fare worse
— and given a successful track record of 1500 years with
what worked before it was discarded, it is, I think, a
pretty good bet.
The problem is that we are too arrogant to admit that we were wrong,
that what we were allowed to experiment with, and had subsequently
set in stone, did not work. No matter what the facts, what the figures,
what the loss — we refuse to admit our mistake.
The word for that is
pride. The deadliest sin of all. And the casualties, as we have
found over the past 60 years, have been nothing less than staggering
Geoffrey K. Mondello
Boston Catholic Journal
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Totally Faithful to the Sacred
Deposit of Faith entrusted to the Holy See in Rome
opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem, et servasti verbum
Meum, nec non negasti Nomen Meum”
know your works ... that you have but little power, and
yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My Name.”
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