This is My Body ...
a "Clown Mass"
Musings on Opposition to Latin in the Mass
and a Return to
the Latin Mass of the Ages
I 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 cancelled.
(Bishop Luca Brandolini
architect of the Novus Ordo Missae, or the Vernacular
Mass) upon learning of Pope Benedict XVIs Motu Proprio
on he use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the Reform of
permitting the (largely) unrestricted use of the Latin Mass
in 2007 (which Francis subsequently abolished in 2021).
Why the vernacular
has failed miserably at Mass
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
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 Pope Benedict
the Supreme Pontiff who had overthrown the stranglehold of the Vernacular
Novus Ordo Mass!
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 from
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
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, hes 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
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
If you were transported back 2000 years
and stood present at the Crucifixion of Christ on Calvary ... would
Eager to listen to the display of
virtuosity of your church pianist ( ... given that organs are now
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 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. The Internet.
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
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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