Friday, 31 August 2012

End of Life Issues - A Personal Dilemma

My siblings and I have recently had a most challenging conversation, given that our mum has severe Alzheimer’s disease, moderate emphysema, and is blind. With constant breathing difficulties, repeated respiratory infections and the limitations imposed by blindness on a demented lady of 82, we are aware that mum’s life is coming to an end.

My siblings are not Catholic and so are very much influenced by the secular belief in judging by the ‘quality of life’, which I am not since ‘quality of life’ is entirely subjective (an incapacity one person will accept or tolerate another will not accept or tolerate), and our family desire an objective criteria for care. Our discussion was not divided however, because the culture of life approach –which is eminently reasonable- we could all agree upon: to neither shorten nor lengthen mum’s natural span of life by medical or nursing omissions/interventions. Since I am not the legal next of kin, I was more than pleased to have this underlying goal agreed upon. Working it out was not so easy, and may still leave some difficulty if other illnesses develop, such as Congestive Cardiac Failure, which often comes with long-term emphysema.

There was common ground on the expectation that if mum becomes unable to take fluids by mouth, she will have fluids given intravenously or subcutaneously at a rate over each 24 hour period of 1.5L (equates to c.7 drinks per day) to 2L (equates to c.10 drinks per day) until the moment of death. if we are told giving fluids is a treatment that cannot be demanded, we might need to point out that this is a deliberate act to procure death, which is inconsistent with medical practice as commonly understood. We also agreed that we expect mum to be given oxygen support, but not mechanical ventilation, and that unless there is severe pain from cancer or such as fractures we do not expect opiates to be given. We agreed too that in the situation of a massive cerebral event such as CVA (stroke) we can allow sedation to relieve cerebral irritation or psychological agitation, but only at a level that does not go beyond that which is necessary to resolve such irritation/agitation. Finally, we do not expect antibiotics to be continued in the case of an unresponsive infection, nor do we look for Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation should Cardiac Arrest occur. We expect too that all basic nursing care (hygiene, oral care, pressure area care, incontinence care, emotional support etc) which is commonly called TLC (Tender Loving Care) be given at all times. Let us hope the medical and nursing staff can support us in this so that mum’s life span comes to a natural and dignified end which is neither shortened nor extended beyond that willed by God. All this is written down to give to whichever physicians are attending mum in her final days.

It was not easy coming to this kind of agreement, nor easy to discuss mum’s death while she is still with us, especially since she has been so supportive and wise a mum. She has kept us fed and clothed when money was short, and on the right track when we veered from the straight and narrow –which we didn’t always appreciate at the time. It was because she fought for our rights all of her life that we intend to fight for her at the end of her life, and by our discussion, hopefully minimise any disagreements at mum’s bedside when her entrance into eternity is in fact immanent. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Collaborative Ministry: Leaven and Sacrifice

Collaboration with the people of God has many benefits: not only does it help the people ‘own’ the Faith, but Pastoral Council’s can discern and respond to local pastoral needs; Finance Committees can help the priest make informed decisions; Catechists can relieve his workload with Marriage, Baptism and First Communion preparation, and a Secretary, a Bookkeeper and Gift Aid Organiser can relieve the burdens of administration. I personally could not manage without such collaborators.  But collaboration is not a new idea and we are wrong if we think it is: for years the SVP was the charitable arm of the Church among the local poor; the Legion of Mary a sound evangelical and pastoral arm in their door-to-door and street contact work; meanwhile, choirs and servers made the laity present in the liturgy –almost indispensably so. Today’s collaboration seems to be more a proliferation of Committees and meetings, and when this happens, at least three dangers threaten. First, the priest can lose his identity as father and shepherd; second, the people of God can be distracted from their proper vocation of being the leaven in the world, and third, we can empower the few at the expense of the many (with teachers used as Catechists; Bank workers and Business people placed on Finance Committees, and musical groups replacing large choirs). There can be little or no room left for Mr and Mrs Joe Bloggs.

I think we need to recover two core things. First, Vatican II’s clarification of the authentic lay vocation as the leaven in the world, which is reiterated in the Catechism:

940 “The characteristic of the lay state being a life led in the midst of the world and of secular affairs, lay people are called by God to make of their apostolate, through the vigour of their Christian spirit, a leaven in the world" (AA 2 § 2).
942 By virtue of their prophetic mission, lay people "are called . . . to be witnesses to Christ in all circumstances and at the very heart of the community of mankind" (GS 43 § 4).

Surprising as it may be to some, Vatican II always spoke of lay mission and never of lay ministry, this latter term being, I suggest, linked to the misimplementation of Vatican II. The Council’s vision of lay involvement is authentically re-iterated by Pope John-Paul II in Christifidelis laici 23:

exercise of such tasks does not make Pastors of the lay faithful: in fact, a person is not a minister simply in performing a task, but through sacramental ordination.....”.  

Apostolicam Actuositatem 24 is relevant here:

the hierarchy entrusts to the laity certain functions which are more closely connected with pastoral duties, such as the teaching of Christian doctrine, certain liturgical actions, and the care of souls. By virtue of this mission, the laity are fully subject to higher ecclesiastical control in the performance of this work.” 

There is a great need today to have well-informed Catholics influencing the worlds of the media, education, health care and politics. The vocation to lay mission must surely, therefore, be swiftly recovered.

Second, and essentially, we have to recover an authentic priestly identity. When a priest becomes primarily a co-ordinator of teams his self-awareness as shepherd of souls can be lost, along with his self-identification with Christ and the Mass which oblige him to be a man of self-sacrifice and pastoral action. It is all too easy to collaborate to the point he becomes more a Team Leader or religious Social Worker than a priest, and this can set up a conflict within him.

My own experience was that having set up hospital lay-ministry teams in two different assignments I began to focus on ‘facilitating and empowering’, becoming all-but a ‘parish manager’. Then, by opening the presbytery door at all hours of the day and night to the most troubled of people (in the attempt to be the ‘ever-approachable pal priest’ who was frequently seen in biker gear rather than Roman collar) I lost my self-identity as ‘priest’ –and very nearly my vocation. It was time with another priest who asked me to offer his twice-weekly Traditional Mass when he was on holiday that brought me to realise what I am, rather than simply who I am. I recovered a sense that I was not presiding at a community meal among friends when celebrating Mass, but offering up the “holy and unspotted Sacrifice” to the Merciful Father “through, with and in Christ” for “the redemption of souls and in hope of health and well-being” (Roman Canon).

Perhaps it is time for us to re-focus on what collaboration truly is: forming the people for their authentic vocation of leavening the world while assigning practical tasks within the parish, yet avoiding giving the impression that the Church is a democratic entity. It is certainly time to get back to seeing the priest as the man of Sacrifice and shepherd of souls, rather than Co-ordinator and facilitator. We must still have our lay activity, first because it is their Divine Commission, second because priests are all but impotent without them since we do not function as first-line troops in the world. Certainly the image of the priest as father for the family of God and man of sacrifice must be recovered. It is, I think, the loss of such a priestly identity that eases priests out of the priesthood, and what is left when sacrifice and fatherhood are gone is not attractive to young men who are called to be fathers and fighters for country or Faith –after all, who would give up the joys of marriage and family life to be little more that a celibate Team Leader or religious social worker..?

Saturday, 18 August 2012

On Loving God

I was approached by a 20-something, male parishioner who occasionally views EWTN, most especially The Journey Home (my own favourite and one I highly recommend to those who have access to EWTN). On this programme guests can often be heard to declare their love for God. The young man’s comment was, “I hear people talking about how much they love God, and I just don’t feel that, so I’m never going to be like the saints.”  There was a sense of despondency in his voice, so I pointed out that such despondency means that he already loves God, he just doesn’t feel it; that he is mistaking emotion for love.

I think this man’s plight may be more common than we think. I pointed out that as a young boy he probably thought of Superman or Batman as heroes, and was likely to be a bit obsessed by them with a desire to grow up and be like them. His parents would have facilitated this by buying him the requisite videos, comics and toys, and gleefully told people ‘Oh he just loves superman!’ As a boy he would not have corrected them, yet the truth is the sort of love he had for Superman was simply an admiration of heroism, strength and prowess etc. It would not be the kind of love he had for his dog, or even less the love he has for his mum and dad.

 What we are talking about when we say we ‘love Superman’ is admiration, respect and the like. Perhaps if we had a children’s TV series focusing on Christ which proclaimed His miracles, His teachings, His time with His Disciples etc, we might encourage the same sort of admiration and desire to imitate Christ that we facilitate for Superman. Boys might then grow up less likely to think about being like Superman than being like Christ; more likely to recognise that their love for God has to be about imitation of Christ rather than emotion for Christ.

Not that an emotional love towards God is necessarily excluded, but it should never be the basis of our union with Him, for emotions are unfixed, and can change from love to anger when life goes astray. How then, to develop a mature love for God? Well, that one needs to be answered by the saints, but as the young man’s parish priest I had to offer some kind of advice, and the advice I gave was as follows...

Read the Gospels daily –in there we find a man of compassion, wisdom and inner strength.

Meditate on the passages you read –how would you feel toward Christ if you were the forgiven sinner or the healed paralytic? Speak to Him as though you were.

Contemplate God’s attributes: God is infinite in all that we need and desire, as well as in holiness and goodness. Contemplate the fact that He is all-knowing; all-powerful; all goodness and beauty.

Contemplate with thankfulness all that Christ suffered for you. Make meditation on the Passion as that which Christ did for you a central part of your prayer life.

Contemplate with thankfulness all the good in your life, all of which flows from Him since He is the source of all goodness.

Contemplate with thankfulness the wisdom and goodness of God in that He has made all power for salvation present to you in the Mass; the application of that salvation permanently available to you in Confession, and will strengthen you in that salvation by Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick) as you leave time and enter eternity.

Contemplate the struggles you have overcome with His unseen grace and by His helps, seen (in help from those around you) and unseen (your inner strength and wisdom which come from Him).

Read the lives of the saints who show you how love of God can transform you.

Not the greatest advice, I know, but my own love for God is less one of emotion than it is of admiration, thankfulness and the desire to please by close imitation (in which I fail so often!). Emotion is not excluded from loving God, but it is not its essence. What keeps me going is my thankfulness to Him and my admiration of Him, which solicit within me the desire to be like Him and the desire to please Him by my imitating of Him, that I may be with Him forever in heaven.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Desperate Dan Digs Deep...

Our Garden has been taken in hand, shovel, spade and saw over the last few weeks by four of our parishioners, expertly supervised by our new Grounds Manager Mr. Paul Duffy who, with his new, full-face beard, bears a striking resemblance to Desperate Dan of comic book fame. There were some comical moments in the work: an old, dead and stump-filled tree fell upon and crushed some of our equipment as its last act of terrorism (it frequently caught hold of telephone wires when winds blew and rain fell); the two-foot deep carpet of ivy and weeds had to be prised off the garage roof, refusing to move until chain-sawed, hedge-trimmed, hacked and prised off with shovels... coming down in one fell swoop it very nearly took with it our own Desperate Dan, who played to the camera as if he had lost the battle.

Paul Duffy playing dead...
Paul Duffy playing dead...

Not that there is any ulterior motive in his getting the garden ‘groomed’ so to speak, but let me tell you that ‘Dan’ accepted his role as Grounds Manager just four weeks ago...eight weeks from being groom at his wedding where wedding photo’s are  planned...! How well timed was my request for him to take on the task!

Before and After

Prayers for Paul and Victoria, his bride to be, as they begin their married life please –and for me, that I don’t lose a Grounds Manager once the cake has been cut and the wine sipped...after all, married life can be hectic as many can attest!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Lost but not forgotten...

Keeping or Re-finding the Catholic Self in the College years

NB. Neither of us claim to be psychologists, only men who reflect upon our life experiences. Our thoughts in this post are drawn from those reflections, and not necessarily from professional education.

Its seems that when young people leave home to go to college they can feel excited by the challenge; freed to be their own person, yet have an unseen vulnerability, developing ‘masks’, and adopting to the values of others in this bright new world in order to ‘fit in’. For Catholics, there might be taking leave of the Faith to one degree or another. Thus the ‘real me’ can get lost along the way, leaving us asking, ‘How do I stay (or get back to being) the authentic me?’ Well, preparation is the best option, but the tasks of preparation should also be tasks of maintenance.  

First of all, we should develop our prayer life. Without this our connection to Christ grows weak. Mass must have a central focus too: if people know we are regular at Mass, Benediction, Novena’s etc, they will see us in a different light.

A good Spiritual Director is important. Not only will he help us to discern the movement of grace in our lives, but where we are ‘adapting’ to this present world and if this adapting is arising from a fear of being on the outside or just or an over-emphasis on our independence.

Writing down a list of our values and why we hold them can help us to keep or re-engage with our true self as God created us to be. Telling people our values when we first meet them helps them see our boundaries.

If we get lost along the way we can...

Re-engage with former good friends, especially someone very close who knew us well. They will remind us of who really are; who they know us to be.

Prepare current friends for an up-coming change by dropping into our conversations such ‘headlines’ as, “Well...I don’t know; I’m changing my thinking on that one”.  And the more we stand up for ourselves the more we will value ourselves and be content within ourselves.

Try looking at old photographs; they help us to get in touch with who we were, and remind us of who were truly are; of what has always been important to us.

Finally, we can let dates know we are a devout Catholic in our earliest conversations; wear something religious (cross and chain?) when meeting up; wear modest clothing; invite our date to Mass etc. These are a good gauge as to whether they are interested in who we really are or not, and any rejection of us, though hurtful, shows they are not good for us anyway.

Note the above is pastoral but not infallible or professional advice. Still, we hope it’s useful to someone, somewhere!

Fr Dickson and Andrew McDowell.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Catholic Dating : 12 Safety Rules

I thought I would post these ‘Rules or Boundaries for Catholic Dating’ because today’s hook-up culture; today’s self-directive, self-expression culture, promotes things that can be most unhelpful to the soul! I have taken these from several sources, and while I suspect many will see them as over-the-top, the question must always be, ‘Can we really take too much trouble in protecting our soul from the fires of passion and hell’?

So follow these rules and make sure your companion keeps them too, then you will be able to look your children in the eye when you have to guide them on their way to marriage and family life. If your companion isn’t willing to keep the rules they are not the person you thought they were, and if they are going to let their passion run wild with you, then maybe they would have done that before -and are not the Catholic you think they are.

While dating is part of life it should, like marriage, not be your only social outlet. Even marriages require that the spouses keep their outside friendships to prevent the spouses becoming stale and narrow, and while friendships must never disempower a marriage, dating should not disempower friendships.

1.  Be sure your life is based firmly on prayer, reception of the Sacraments and scripture reading so that you have the spiritual strength to fight temptation.

2.  Never be alone together or sit alone together in a car: such seclusion only gives space to say or do something you wouldn’t say or do in front of your parents or your priest -which probably means they shouldn’t be said or done at all. Instead, spend time with one another’s family: get to know your date in a family context; go out as part of a group; get to know what your date is like socially. Seclusion, remember, is a precursor to what is intimate and sensual.

3.  Watch your conversations: they can be used to convince one another that you are not doing wrong; while innuendo’s introduce talk of sex in a hidden (occult) way.

4.  Make your time together active times: go to a dance, to a walking day, to a fairground etc. and always have a back-up plan so that you are not left with an unexpected space to fill. The devil finds work for idle hands...

5.  Make sure your activities are wholesome: sensual activities or watching erotic films even in a group can arouse the passions.

6.  Dress appropriately and modestly; dress to look good, but not in order to make your body a focus of attraction: that would be to arouse lust and to use lust as a magnet.

7.  Avoid actions that cause arousal: if you don’t want to get burned, don’t arouse smouldering embers. Passions are powerful and lead us astray: don’t be ruled by your feelings but by your head. Inflamed emotions are hard to extinguish.

8.  Be honest about yourself: do not ‘act’ as you think a man or woman should act; that is to deceive: be truly who you are. If you try to impress by ‘acting’, you will have to maintain that act throughout life to keep them happy.  If you aren’t genuinely devout, don’t act as though you are; if you are genuinely devout, don’t act as though you aren’t.

9.  Be honest with yourself: we are all weak and broken, and we endanger our own soul and that of our date if we think we are strong enough to go ‘this far but no further’.  

10. Keep any kisses to a quick peck; keep mouths closed, and don’t let a quick hug become a cuddle.

11. End it as soon as you realise this is not the person for you. The purpose of dating is to find your lifetime spouse, so as soon as you are aware that you cannot live with your date’s attitudes, values, habits, dynamic etc., end the relationship -first of all, it cannot go where you need your life to go, and second of all, it is unjust to lead your date any further on.

12. Don’t be secretive about your dating: let your family and friends share in your joy; after all, what has to be kept hidden is not of God. Also, secrecy provides an intensity between you that is not actually about you but about the dating; the secrecy becomes the bond but can be misread by you both as being about you, when it is not.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Comparison of The Novus Ordo (OF) & The Usus Antiquior (EF) -In Brief

I was very taken with a recent post by Archbishop Gullickson, Nuncio to the Ukraine
( and the post of Jeffrey Tucker (  The thrust of the posts was the question, ‘Does the Ordinary Form have its own voice? Is there something distinct about it that makes it valuable in its own right?’ I share my own thoughts here. Please note that I do not go into arguments about whether the Ordinary Form (OF) is valid and licit, since it should go without saying that the Mass I celebrate six days a week I accept as valid and licit, even though for me it is inferior to the Extraordinary Form (EF) in expressing or at least facilitating Catholic spirituality. Indeed as a convert from 1980, the OF was the only Form of Mass that I knew for the first year of my life as a Catholic -after which year I attended some Traditional Masses with the SSPX- and it is the Form at which I assisted daily in seminary.

We should acknowledge that there are legitimate supporters of both the Revised Rite (designated ‘the Ordinary Form‘ or OF) and  the Ancient Rite, the ‘Extraordinary Form’ (EF). Some supporters of one Form or the other will have nothing to do with the other Form, but are they so different? Can one find reasons for having a preference?

I note that both Forms follow a common outline:

1.       Both have an Entrance Antiphon
2.       Both have a Confiteor where the intercession of the saints is sought
3.       Both have the Kyrie
4.       Both have the ancient Gloria
5.       Both have an Opening Collect
6.       Both have an Epistle
7.       Both have a Gospel
8.       Both have the Nicene Credo
9.       Both have a Consecration formula
10.   Both contain the ancient Roman Canon
11.   Both have the Pater Noster
12.   Both have the Pax
13.   Both have the Agnus Dei
14.   Both have Domine non sum dignus

This leads me to ask the question ‘In what ways then, are they different?’

In answer I note first that even in some of the above commonalities there are differences.

·         The prayers at the foot of the altar have been excised from the OF, yet these allowed the priest to publicly seek the mercy of God before entering the Holy of Holies. In the OF the priest now seems to enter the sanctuary as if by right and not by the mercy of God.
·         The Indulgentiam has been removed from the OF, yet this removed venial sin before approaching the Holy of Holies.
·         The Aufer a nobis upon approaching the altar has been excised, yet this usefully recalls the Jewish priest entering the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice.
·         The entrance Antiphon of the OF has had the Gloria Patri removed, yet this allows us to praise God as we begin to address Him. Though such praise is not essential, it is surely fitting.
·         The Confiteor of the OF has had the confession to the sinless in Heaven removed; only the request for their intercession remains, yet confession to the saints allows us to express our repentance to the whole Church, and not only to the Church militant.
·         The Epistle in the OF is lost underneath the themed connection between the Old Testament, its responding psalm and the Gospel, yet the Epistle is the only reading to give Apostolic Instruction to the Christian.
·         Scriptural references have been removed. The Judica me (pslam 42) at the foot of the altar has gone completely; the  Munda cor meum before proclaiming the Gospel no longer refers to the burning coals of Isaiah; and another psalm removed at the Lavabo –yet making the liturgy more scripture-based was said to be a goal of the reform.
·         The Offertory has been removed entirely from the OF and replaced by a Jewish grace before meals, leaving no link to the Sacrifice for which the gifts are being presented and prepared.
·         The Consecration formula of the OF now forms part of a continuous narrative and does not clearly denote that it is a sacramental formula when vocalised (one does not baptise while reading the Gospel narrative of Matthew, so why consecrate in the middle of a narrative?). The formula is, however, printed differently from the rest of the text in the Missal.
·         The Canon is the very highpoint of the Mass wherein God comes down to earth; it therefore all but demands a sacred silence (cf. Habakkuk 2:20) yet the sacred sotto voce has been abandoned in the OF, the Canon being proclaimed aloud as though addressed to the people. Indeed, the silence of the EF, which indicates God’s presence and allows for prayer, has given way to constant dialogue in the OF, as though Mass were an exchange between priest and people rather than the Church and God. Too many have forgotten that silence is not the absence of speech, but a sacred presence; one learns to ‘feel’ the sacredness of the silence of the Mass just as one feels the discomfort of a tense silence or the silent loving exchanged between friends at a death-bed.  Silence can be, and often is, pregnant with meaning.
·         The Pax in the OF no longer has a clear vertical dimension as coming from Christ, but is passed among the people in a horizontal manner.
·         The Trinitarian nature of the sung Angus Dei can be lost in the OF in that it can be repeated numerous times during the fraction.
·         The Trinitarian nature of the Domine non sum dignus has been removed from the OF, being reduced to a single vocalisation.
·         The Last Gospel, a reminder that we have received the Word made Flesh in Holy Communion, has also been removed from the OF  –and the Gospel cannot be regarded as a  ‘useless repetition’.

Add to the above that:

1.       few priests celebrate ad orientem as per the General Instruction and rubrics of Pope Paul VI;
2.       genuflections have been reduced from 12 to 5;
3.       Latin is very rarely heard in the OF;
4.       the distribution of Holy Communion is most frequently given in accord with the indult (in the hand) rather than according to the norm (on the tongue)
5.       that the Scripture-based antiphons (the word of God) for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion are frequently replaced by hymns (the word of man)

and we cannot help but be aware that the OF has a strikingly different voice to the EF; this does not mean it is not a Catholic voice, but that it is a voice Catholics of the preceding centuries would find unfamiliar.

There is then, I suggest, a major difference between the OF and EF. It is certainly minimised by celebrating with Latin, ad orientem, and by distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue, but these are in some way ‘window dressing’ since of themselves they are not sufficient to ensure continuity with the Usus Antiquior. After all, Anglican or Methodist Liturgies could be celebrated ad orientem, in Latin, with Gregorian Chant, but that would not make them other Forms of the Roman Rite.

Do I have a preference? Yes, for the Extraordinary Form, and these are a few of my reasons.

·         The Extraordinary Form has a heritage of c.1500 years and grew by natural development under the watchful eye of the Popes. In contrast, the Ordinary Form was a re-build after demolition by a back-room committee. (It is important to remember that, in our teaching and worship, the Church is but the custodian of what she has received, not its master, and that we are to pass on what we have received in faithful manner. As Cardinal Ratzinger noted, “The Pope’s authority is bound to Tradition of the Faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. Even the Pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development” cf. Spirit of the Liturgy, p.166).
·         There are majestic prayers in the EF: the Judica me (psalm 42) at the foot of the altar; the burning coals of Isaiah to cleanse the lips before proclaiming the Gospel; the prayer of homage and supplication to the Trinity (the Placeat tibi) before the final blessing.
·         The Gospel of the Word Made Flesh fittingly concludes our Communion reflection.
·         The focus of the EF is on God rather than on the priest. In the OF the priest sits at the apex and faces the people throughout the celebration, which cannot help but make him the centre of attention; this does not happen in the EF, the priest being clearly subjugated to the Rite by sitting to the side and facing the Lord at the altar.
·         There are at least eight Genuflections in the EF, coming before and after each and every time the priest touches the sacred Host, thus offering clear adoration to the Lord. These are reduced in the OF to three, and since adoration of God cannot be over-done, the elimination of these genuflections cannot be justified by labelling them ‘useless repetitions’.
·         Distribution of Holy Communion in the OF, in that It received in the same manner as a biscuit at a table or a cinema ticket in the entrance queue (that is, in the hand) does not give the sacred distinction to the Sacred Host that the EF gives by having Holy Communion distributed on the tongue to kneeling communicants.
·         The distribution of Holy Communion in the EF comes with a Benediction with the Host over each individual and with the prayer, ‘The Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting’. The OF simple says ‘Body of Christ’ and there is no blessing with the Host.
·         The sacred silences of the EF allow us to live the words of scripture (“The Lord is in His temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him”, Habakkuk 2v20) and to speak to the Lord in a personal and profound way. In the OF, the silences are but pauses to allow for prayer and reflection (after the Gospel, after Holy Communion etc), rather than silences which are themselves pregnant with meaning; silences which speak to us; silences which have a meaning in their own right.
·         It is rarely celebrated versus populum; an orientation which cannot help but provide for the dominance of a horizontal in which there is dialogue between priest-and-people, rather than provide a vertical dynamic of the Church addressing God.

I always propose that the altar-facing (ad orientem or ‘towards the East’) position be more –even most- frequently used; not only because it is the norm of the Missal as promoted by Pope Paul VI to give authentic expression to the reform requested by the Fathers of Vatican II, but because it has great spiritual significance:

1.       the East is symbolic of the direction of heaven; the direction in which the Lord ascended and from which He will return at the Last Day;
2.       people were traditionally buried facing East so as to be ready for the Lord’s return
3.       the priest is the shepherd leading us to God, so it is right that he face the same direction we face: he is not there to entertain us but to lead us to God and to heaven
4.       there is no time in Catholic History that priests faced the people, as recent scholarship has clarified for us. Facing the people was a Protestant innovation to change the Eucharist from Sacrifice at an altar to a meal over a table.

So is there a distinctive voice in the OF? I would say a qualified ‘yes’; ‘yes’ in that the Rite of Mass has been significantly changed; ‘no’ in that it does not essentially change doctrine; ‘yes’ also in that it is by nature more inclusive of the congregation -but not of the laity per se, since the congregation are but adding their voices to the lay choir and responding along with the lay servers. In order to ensure liturgical continuity, the voice of the OF needs to speak in the same tone and with the same intent as the EF; the voice that Catholics of the past 1500 years would instinctively recognise as Catholic, and which would be achieved more nearly by the ad-orientem celebration with Gregorian Chant and the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue to kneeling communicants. I have always believed that supporters of the OF are supporting not the Missal of Paul VI itself but its accrued innovations, since that Missal as promulgated by Paul VI to authentically provide what Vatican II called for presumes an ad-orientem celebration with Gregorian Chant, the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue to kneeling communicants and male alter servers. These are what are being supported, not the Missal. If it was the Missal they were supporting, they would be willing to celebrate it ad orientem, in Latin, with Communion distributed on the tongue and male altar servers only –all as promulgated by Paul VI. I very much doubt that they would be willing to do this, however, yet any refusal to do so only betrays them as supporters not of innovation, not of the OF.

Discussions such as the above regarding the Novus Ordo are not welcomed by some, but they are acceptable to Rome in that while the Holy See reacts to accusations against the legality and validity of the OF, it has not yet disciplined any cleric for making faithful criticism. Sadly, some clerics and lay Catholics have turned against the EF, the Mass of their formation and early priesthood. I think this cuts them off from their roots, and a plant without roots must inevitably wither and die.

To return to speaking of those who are hard-line supporters of one or other Form of Mass, we should remember two things.

First, having been promulgated by the Supreme Pontiff, Vicar of Christ, the OF is valid and licit. It thus contains the same Lord, Sacrifice and Heavenly Banquet as the EF. The EF we must remember, has, in both its texts and ceremonies, been recognised by the Church in Council (Trent) as holy, and while the Church has all authority to forbid what is evil, she has absolutely no authority to forbid what is holy. Thus neither the Church nor any of her members has the right to speak of or treat the holy EF in a disparaging manner -something too often seen today.

We can legitimately support either Form of Mass, but since both Forms contain the same Lord, Sacrifice and Banquet, what we cannot do is to absent ourselves from Mass on Sundays or Holy Days because the Form of Mass on offer is not what we promote and support.

It might be useful to ourselves, whichever side of the liturgical debate we are on, that we would do well not to resist the Holy Ghost. Rather, we should allow Him room in the discussion by giving both Forms full and equal life in the parishes. In this way He can show by the an ascendency of one Form over the other (by the number of attendees it gather and the number of vocations it produces) the Form most pleasing to God. It might be said that if we do not give such freedom to the operations of the Holy Ghost we might, in the words of Gamaliel, find ourselves fighting against God (cf. Acts 5). And which of us is willing to risk that?

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Reform of the Reform in England & Wales

The ‘Reform of the Reform’ is a goal for an increasing number of Bishops, priests and people throughout the Church, though it is not so much a ‘Reform’ as a Recovery, the Church having fallen into doctrinal and liturgical disorder in the turbulent period immediately following Vatican II. Thus:

On Doctrine:

“although great fruits have been obtained from the council, we have at the same time recognized, with great sincerity, deficiencies and difficulties in the acceptance of the Council. In truth, there certainly have also been shadows in the post-council period, in part due to an incomplete understanding and application of the Council, in part to other causes...
Among the internal causes, there must be noted a partial and selective reading of the Council, as well as a superficial interpretation of its doctrine in one sense or another.
(Final report, Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 1985) [Emphasis added]

On Liturgy:

I would like to ask forgiveness in my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate, for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through the at times partial, one-sided and erroneous applications of the directives of the Second Vatican Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great Sacrament.
(John Paul II, Dominicae cenae 1980) [Emphasis added]

In the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we began a recovery of Doctrine; with the new translation of the 1970 (Reformed) Missal we are beginning a recovery of the liturgy, though there is still a long way to go. This is particularly true in regard to the use of Latin, which remains all but absent in the UK. The English and Welsh Bishops affirmed what is desired by the Universal Church in their booklet ‘Celebrating the Mass’ published in 2005:

All other things being equal, Gregorian Chant, as being proper to the Roman Liturgy, has pride of place in the musical patrimony of the Church. It is therefore desirable that the faithful should know how to sing together in Latin some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass set to simpler Gregorian Melodies.
(CTM 81) [Emphasis added]

However, they appear to be holding back on implementing their statement. After all, how often have we had reminders to make use of Latin for the Ordinary of the Mass? How often do we see the Bishops use Latin in their own public celebrations? They need to find the will (or courage) to implement their statement or they risk being aligned with those who are seen as waiting for Pope Benedict to die so as to forget about Latin and the Reform of the Reform. Yet the recovery of Latin is not a personal project of Pope Benedict. Its use was decreed by Vatican II in a manner that is all but law:

...steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.
(Sacrosanctum Concilium 54).

Use of Latin was also willed by Pope Paul VI, the Pope of the Council, as demonstrated by Rome when issuing Jubilate Deo which was sent to all the Bishops of the world in 1974:

Our congregation has prepared a booklet entitled, "Jubilate Deo," which contains a minimum selection of sacred chants. This was done in response to a desire which the Holy Father had frequently expressed, that all the faithful should know at least some Latin Gregorian chants, such as, for example, the "Gloria," the "Credo," the "Sanctus," and the "Agnus Dei."

It gives me great pleasure to send you a copy of it, as a personal gift from His Holiness, Pope Paul VI. May I take this opportunity of recommending to your pastoral solicitude this new initiative, whose purpose is to facilitate the observance of the recommendation of the Second Vatican Council" [that] "...steps must be taken to ensure that the faithful are able to chant together in Latin those parts of the ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

Those who are charged with responsibility for the liturgical reform are particularly anxious to achieve this difficult objective. To that end, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship appeals once again, as they have often done in the past, for the proper development of singing by the faithful. [Emphasis added]

Pope Paul’s successor, Pope John Paul II, also endorsed the use of Latin (cf. Chirograph to the Roman Curia for the Centenary of the Motu Proprio Tra Le Sollecitudini, 22/11/2003):

Among the musical expressions that correspond best with the qualities demanded by the notion of sacred music, especially liturgical music, Gregorian chant has a special place. The Second Vatican Council recognized that "being specially suited to the Roman Liturgy" it should be given, other things being equal, pride of place in liturgical services sung in Latin. St Pius X pointed out that the Church had "inherited it from the Fathers of the Church", that she has "jealously guarded [it] for centuries in her liturgical codices" and still "proposes it to the faithful" as her own, considering it "the supreme model of sacred music". Thus, Gregorian chant continues also today to be an element of unity in the Roman Liturgy. [Emphasis added]

Thus Pope Benedict is simply restating the decree of Vatican II, confirming the desire of Pope Paul VI and underscoring the mind of Pope John Paul II. If our Bishops are going to keep us faithful to Vatican II, Paul VI and John Paul II they need to act on their words in CTM, otherwise they will stand in contradiction to themselves, to Vatican II, to the post-Conciliar Popes and to their own English predecessors who attended Vatican II and who stated in 1969:

There is no indication, either in the decrees of Vatican Council II or in subsequent documents, that the Church has any intention of abandoning the Latin liturgy –indeed the contrary is evident. It has already been laid down in this country [in 1966] that ‘The Sung Latin Mass should be preserved in order that Western Catholics of all nations and generations may continue to share a common heritage of liturgy and music’ ”.
(Music in the Mass, 1969) [Emphasis added]

Implementing the Reform of the Reform does not need to come with loss of face; just an honest explanation that use of the vernacular went beyond the mind of the Council simply because it made vocal participation by the singing of Introits and Communion antiphons easier in that these can -as a final resort- be replaced by hymns. There needs to be an honest admission that world-wide, Bishops (and parish pastors in particular) succumbed to this ease without referring back to the Council and without recognising the right of future generations to have access to their heritage. Indeed, we all need to remember that it is not for one generation to deny to those who follow us their liturgical patrimony; we all need to remember that Latin chant in particular is “the supreme model of sacred music” and “an element of unity in the Roman liturgy” (John Paul II) –unity not only with those who walk the earth today but with our own family ancestors, our holy saints and our glorious martyrs.

Our Bishops over the last forty years have not preserved the sung Latin for today’s generation as the Bishops of 1969 decreed. We must find ways of encouraging our current crop to give their full support to our Latin heritage and to Vatican II so that we may recover this central aspect of our Catholic identity; an identity which is weak if not absent in the Western Church today. People may be unhappy with the use of Latin at first, but I believe they want to be faithful to Vatican II and that if it is honestly and humbly explained to them that we implemented the Council incorrectly, most of them will be humble enough and loyal enough to get on board with the Reform. But the lead has to come from the Bishops; they must encourage the priests to restore the Latin chant in faithfulness to Vatican II and they must use it frequently themselves. After all, it was decreed by the very Council we all claim to support.