Friday, 15 August 2014
Let's Be Honest About...
The altar-facing position was, along with the silent canon and Gregorian Latin chant, distinctive of Catholic liturgy; its near-disappearance is thus a significant loss. It is liturgically superior to the people-facing orientation since it clearly puts the priest at the front of the pilgrim people on route to the Lord. By contrast, facing the people has priest and people focus on one another rather than on the Lord; it is a static picture. And yet the altar-facing position is still the rubric of the Modern Rite of Mass; it is not limited to the Extraordinary Form.
Gregorian Chant, as developed by Pope Gregory the Great, is the Catholic Church’s unique contribution to Western music and, according to Vatican II, retains pride of place in the modern liturgy. To fail to use chant (and Latin) is to fail in following Vatican II -and to dispense with the whole of Catholic liturgical Tradition.
Communion on the tongue proclaims the Host as sacred; it is reminiscent of a mother feeding her child. Conversely, Communion in the hand reduces receiving Our Lord to the level of receiving a bus ticket or, at best, grains of the yellow-metal. Communion in the hand only arose in disobedience to the norms and was permitted by Pope Paul VI (Memoriale Domini, 1969) only in countries where it had already -and illicitly, begun. Prior to issuing Memoriale Domini Pope Paul had consulted the Bishops world-wide –those who sat at Vatican II three years earlier- and they overwhelmingly rejected it. But continuing disobedience by clergy and weak Bishops ensured its extension to such places as the UK who were not practicing it prior to 1968 -and who thus abused the permission granted by Memoriale Domini.
We also need to return Holy Days to their proper days; not only for the sake of an ordered calendar but because moving them to Sundays was simply a way of looking away from the decline of Holy Day attendance rather than reinforcing them.
Vigil Masses too are a problem: they take focus from the Lord’s Day. Our parish lost no attendees when we introduced the Extraordinary Form in 2007, but we lost a good number when moving from a Vigil to a Sunday evening in 2013 because, I was told, “Mass on Sunday interferes with family time”.
I favour a return to ad orientem for Mass in both Forms and to the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue in both Forms (as found in both the 1962 and 1970 Missals) but I also favour use of the vernacular for the Liturgy of the Word in both Forms, with Latin always used for the Proper.
...Parishes without Priests
The laity have an authentic, irreplaceable vocation given to them by Christ, and it is the evangelisation (Christianisation) of society. Having lay-leaders diminishes the valuing of that apostolate, as though only ministry in the sanctuary and work in the committee room had value. Laity usefully cooperate as Finance Committees, pastoral care workers, catechists, secretaries, bookkeepers etc, and play an important role in liturgy (as musicians, servers, readers, sacristans, etc) but their proper apostolate must be their primary concern.
We need a well-formed laity who value their vocation and are skilled in its living, and a priesthood that is valued by all as the continuation of the ministry of Christ the Good Shepherd; as the irreplaceable Bridge between heaven and earth. Priests themselves need to be prayerful, pure and pastoral –men who do the truth in charity (the proverbial iron hand in the velvet glove).
...Catechesis & Evangelisation
Much of contemporary catechesis is a danger to souls since it follows a relativist methodology: “the Church says...what is your opinion?” We have thus taught our youth to ‘fight’ the Church and the Gospel rather than follow the Church and the Gospel. Older Catholics, getting nothing but social justice from pulpits for the last forty years, have for the most part given up the Objective Truths they were taught in years gone by and are consequently of no help in realigning our youth. Meanwhile, Bishops seem unable to speak out strongly and clearly against the evils of contraception, abortion, homosexual pairings, euthanasia etc. They receive a lot of criticism for this, with some folk saying the Bishops have abandoned the Catholic Faith. The reality is that no matter how many and how strong the statements our Bishops make, unless we have a properly catechised laity active in their proper apostolate in politics, the media, education, health services, industry, retail life etc., statements by the Bishops will be powerless to effect any change. We do not need the Bishops to simply make statements; we need them to catechise the flock for evangelisation of the world via politics, the media, health care, education etc.
We need a return to teaching the Catechism with a full explanation of why we teach what we teach, and a critical review of what the secular world teaches.
While our schools follow relativist methodology, our youth workers provide a formation that focuses on social justice issues and worship that is geared towards providing a jaunty and affirming experience, as though the reason d’être for the liturgy is that God can affirm (applaud) us and have us applaud ourselves, when in fact liturgy exists to have us adore and propitiate Him. Today’s youth liturgy is thus an inverted liturgy which misses the mark. Sadly, it is typical of most parishes too.
We need good solid catechesis for our children, our youth and our parishes, with a liturgy that focuses on adoring and propitiating God rather than the affirming and cheering of man.
It is good that we can be on friendly terms with non-Catholic communities and those of other Faiths, and good that we can work together on social needs and in raising a common voice for the correcting of social injustices. But to act as though all religions have equal value and can all give access to salvation is to stand in contradiction to our entire Tradition. There is but one Church established by God to hold His authority in teaching, sanctifying and governing souls, and her sacraments are not inconsequential. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the entire Christian life; it is the Sacrifice which saves us, and a participation in the Banquet of Heaven which brings us a pledge of future glory. Would anyone who truly cares for their fellow man not want to share with him these great and marvellous gifts of God? Only the man who could happily sit down to steak and potatoes while his neighbour sat down to rice could be happy about not sharing our spiritual food too. To proclaim the Church as the one True Church is not about proclaiming Catholics to be superior Christians, but about proclaiming the riches of the Church as given by God for the benefit of all -riches we should all want all men to share.
We do need good relationships with all and shared social action where possible, but we also need a firm adherence to the promotion of the Catholic Faith as the one True Faith.
Pastoral Sensitivity is a misnomer, because it is used to mean ‘don’t hurt already hurting people’, which is pastoral sentimentality, not sensitivity; it is a care that focuses on the feelings rather than on the soul. True pastoral sensitivity applies the Church’s teaching in a gentle but firm, clear manner that souls may not be lost; it does not avoid the Truth which is Christ. Thus the divorced who have entered a civil union; homosexuals who have entered a civil contract, persons who have been involved in abortion etc., can be encouraged to continue in a life of prayer, charity, and Mass attendance -from whence flows grace from the Cross of Christ; grace which strengthen us in our resolve to live the Christian life and in the leaving behind of our wounded and wounding past.
We need a pastoral sensitivity which, in gentle but clear tones and words, explains the Truth of The Faith and the dangers of following ‘self’ rather than the Gospel; pastoral care which remains faithful to Doctrine while encouraging and supporting souls in doing all that they can to live the life of faith (pray, attend Mass and live in charity) while petitioning God for the grace of conversion and healing.