Mass Entertainment and Entertainment
as the Mass: musings on Opposition to Latin in the Mass
is My Body"
a "Clown Mass"
Musings on Opposition to
Latin in the Mass
and a Return to the Tridentine Rite in the Catholic Church
cant 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.
Its 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
architect of the Novus Ordo Missae, or the Vernacular
why the vernacular has failed miserably
Poor Bishop 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
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
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
renewal of Vatican II, largely became
social workers committed much more to saving
social structures and
empowerment 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,
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 from
the 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
enlightened and socially progressive orders diminish. Could Brandolini,
and co-architect Archbishop Bugnini have been wrong? Can a mistake have
The Mass 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
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
just one the guys. Thats 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
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
Applause is the also the most appropriate response to
As you applaud, the
musical entertainers accordingly bow
in gratitude for your appreciation of their performance.
I myself do not find Christ's Sacrifice on Calvary
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?
- Feeling 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
- Strive to be the focus of attention ... competing with Christ
on the Cross?
These are not facetious questions.
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.
Mass is absolutely unique
One does not watch a video to worship God. One goes to
experiment with entertainment and to be entertained.
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
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
well, why go to Mass at all? The answer is in the U.S. Census:
most don't any longer (note the qualifier
any longer) ...
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 40 years, have been nothing less than
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