Tuesday 4 November 2014

A Recent Conversation...The Saints; the Extraordinary Form and Lay Leadership

A recent conversation with one of the high-profile priests of this Diocese set me thinking. Having confided to him that my self-image is rather low even though I seek daily to be more charitable, humble, industrious and challenging, he asked what spiritual reading I was doing. I told him I was reading ‘The Way of Divine Love’ and had just finished ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’. He smiled and said, ‘You don’t have much confidence in what’s going on today do you?’ My response was ‘No. I don’t’. (I silently wondered, ‘why put aside the wisdom of the saints for the musings of today’s gurus..?)I have never understood why Modernisers who promote new ways are seen as the open and intellectual folk, while those who hold to tradition are seen as closed and less than intellectual. Do the Modernisers, I wonder, choose to see a practitioner of alternative medicine when they are ill, or do they continue to trust themselves to a traditional physician? If they really believe new is best, what is stopping them giving up on traditional medicine?

To be honest, I wonder how anyone can have confidence in ‘today’. I wonder why, as Mass attendance continues to fall and why, we have been closing so many organs of the Church (schools, convents, seminaries and parishes) that those of the modernising ilk insist the Church is healthier now than she has ever been. Basic physiology tells you that when organs of the body are shutting down, death is imminent. There is great naivety in the modernising folk who seem to have only one goal in mind: get the laity in charge of parishes and devolve doctrinal authority so as to change our doctrine to fit the anti-life mentality of today (as the recent Synod all but attempted to do).

The conversation with my brother priest then turned to our parish celebration of the Extraordinary Form: “Don’t you a lot of think people come to it simply to fulfil their obligation, but don’t like it?’.  Well, yes, I do. Some have told me in no uncertain terms that they don’t like the use of Latin; others that they don’t know what to do in the silences. In the former case they mistake word recognition for understanding and responses for conscious participation (if they understood the Mass and the Eucharist they would not be talking during Mass, and if they were consciously participating they would not be parrot-fashion saying ’Amen’ in the middle of a reading where the words ‘forever and ever’ are used). In that they don’t know how to handle the silence they are demonstrating that they don’t know how to pray or even rest in the presence of God; they need the pantomime dialogue of the Novus Ordo to keep them ‘engaged’.

Truly, I cannot believe it is the Holy Ghost who inspires Modernisers with confidence in their strategies and to push for ‘more of the same’ when we can all see the Church dying away in front of our eyes. Only the enemy could encourage us to think of closures and falling Mass attendances as good; only the enemy could have us scorn and disparage a form of Mass sanctioned by the Popes, loved by the saints, and defended by our martyrs. Only the enemy could have us turn from the wisdom of the saints to the musings of today’s gurus. When it has become a sign of wisdom and intellectual acuity to deride what the Church always treasured and abandon her liturgical and spiritual heritage, something very evil is happening in the Church that is simply not being recognised by the great and powerful.


  1. Your penultimate paragraph shows quite a lot of contempt for your people, as well as the routine denigration of contemporary liturgy that traditionalists go in for. Maybe you need to forget all that and the terrible state of the world and the Church (they have always been terrible), and work on that poor self-image. If you don't love yourself first, how could you ever love others or God? That modern guru may be wiser than you give him credit for.

  2. Thank you for commenting, which i appreciate.
    However: a poor self-image does not need to be read as pop psychologists would have us read it; I simply recognise myself as one of those whom the Lord called 'the sick in need of a physician' -and I hope we can all recognise ourselves in that.
    Routine denigration of the new liturgy is what most who celebrate the Novus Ordo go in for: clowns and puppets at Mass; pop groups providing music (even CD's played which is not live worship at all) and priests being comedians etc, These are not the worship of God but the entertaining of man, and is a misuse of the liturgy.
    Finally, there is no contempt for the people in my words, but one cannot help but speak of automated parrot-fashion responses are made in in the middle of a reading when what they are doing is using a phrase that closes a prayer. It is the people themselves who say they cannot pray in the silences of the Old Rite; that they prefer to be talking. We have become damaged by the constant talking of the Novus ordo, I think, and that does not indicate contempt for the people, but concern.
    God Bless.

    1. THE

      We are St. Joan,
      Philomena, Campion
      The Faith in its whole
      Is what we do champion.

      We are St. Margaret,
      Pearl of York
      Where the bowels of the Faith
      They tried to torque.

      We are Sir More,
      That's Thomas the Saint
      Whose reputation
      They could not taint.

      We are vocations
      Large families and kneeling
      Adoring His presence
      It's not just a feeling.

      We are descendents
      Of Tradition and beggin'
      To stop all the men
      Who are turning us pagan!

      We are the poor,
      Uneducated ones
      But in faith well-informed
      Modern guru always shuns

      And when Synod says,
      “God’s Word, just ignore.”
      Since we are true Catholics
      We kneel and ADORE!!

      You are so on target Fr. Dickson!!

    2. Thank you, Long-skirts.
      I do hope I am moving in the right direction!
      God Bless.

  3. Not settling for a dumbed-down, "banal fabrication" (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) of a liturgy is not contempt, but rather comes from a belief that God is worthy of better and that the people of God have more to offer Him than insipid Sunday School/school assembly type worship.

    When Jesus said we all have to become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, He didn't say we have to be childish or make a racket all the time. It was in the silence of the still, small breeze that God came to Elijah, not the raging tempest.

    1. Thank you, Deacon Augustine.
      The New Form is, I think, very dumbed down textually and ritually, and very much given over to the idea of 'jollity' in its concrete celebrations. Very sad, really.
      God Bless

  4. I'm not sure what to think ! Sometimes I think that some of the congregation at our Sunday Mass is there for different reasons - maybe a longing to belong , a desire to reach a spiritual realm , a desire to pass on a something to their children , a longing for stability .....etc. Even nostalgia ! It might be true that those people will sort of progress to the Mass in its E.F. Really difficult to say. I do know , however , that people who go to the Latin Mass feel that regulars look down on people who usually go to Mass in its N.F. Sad in a way but we Catholics do vary in our experience. In the end Love is paramount. Lyn.

  5. Thank you for this, Fr Dickson and I'll give my name, as you do and unlike "Savonarola". Light you light be known before men (and women) Savvy!

    On the theme of some people claiming that despite all the evidence the Church is in a golden age (more golden oldies if my parish is representative) you may be interested that the former great missionary seminary of All Hallows, Dublin is for sale: http://www.wkn.ie/assetmanagement/

    Brian Cassidy

    1. Thank you Brian.
      Indeed, with so much shrinkage in terms of numbers at Mass and 'satellite' organs (seminaries, convents, schools etc) it can only be those who walk in the dark who can see this as a time of maturity and growth. This is not a golden age but more an age of rust and corrosion.
      God Bless, Brian.

    2. What's in a name? The use of pseudonyms may be a useful guard against comments becoming overly ad hominem. Savvy?
      By the way, I no more believe today is a Golden Age for the Church than I think there ever was such a thing at any time in the past.

  6. How I fully accept all that you have said both in your blog & response to 'Savonarola'. To me he epitomises those who support the Novus Ordo regardless. Never let it be said that most traditionalist don't accept the Novus Ordo Mass but also let it be said that we accept it when celebrated correctly, with dignity & according to the rubrics. I'm sure we don't need the antics of some priests who, as you rightly say, are there to entertain not to sanctify. I sometimes wonder if someone cannot bear silence (either theirs or someone else's) has a real grip on the meaning of prayer. To quote the old catechism of my youth; "prayer is the lifting up of the hear and mind to God". It doesn't mention lifting up the voice or have I missed something? It is said that praising God can be done with voice but not all of the time. There are, I hope, times when we speak privately & personally to our God.

    1. Thank you david.
      Indeed, while most of us who prefer the TLM will accept a reverent, faithful Novus Ordo, when needed, many of the N.O. supporters will not accept the TLM under any circumstances. I think that lacks in the Catholic spirit. That we are placed on the edges of the Church as 'closed' and 'fearful' is not true: the 'bold' and the 'new' have simply lost sight of the safety margins and put themslves at risk of following and and every fad or fashion the world deems 'bright and new'.
      You are right about raising mind and heart -this is what those who cannot cope with silence cannot do; they seem to have become dependent upon raising their voice (and their arms) in public prayer!
      God Bless.

    2. You say that I epitomise those who support the Novus Ordo regardless. Regardless of what? Pope Benedict called the NO the Ordinary Form of the Mass, indicating that it is the form that expresses the mind of the Church today. The older form is precisely extraordinary, not the norm. Those who prefer it may have good reasons for doing so, but I do wish they would not routinely denigrate the NO and perpetrate fantasies about it - such that it entails pleasing or entertaining the people and indulging in circus tricks. The EF can be just as badly done (listen to the older people who remember it if you want to know what liturgical abuses are) as some OF Masses sometimes are, but in most OF Masses that I have ever been to both priest and people are perfectly reverent and God-centred.
      As it happens I follow a daily practice of silent contemplative prayer and often attend a Contemplative Eucharist where 15 or 20 minutes of such prayer follows the receiving of holy communion. I find that most Catholics have no difficulty with silence in the Mass. Perhaps they need encouragement to be silent rather than belittlement by those who consider their liturgical tastes make them spiritually superior.

    3. Thank you again.
      I welcome your comments. May I respond?
      You speak of the 'mind of the Church today'; but the mind of the Church today must be the same mind as the Church of the last two millennia since the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. As such it speaks with the voice of Christ because it thinks with the mind of Christ -who does not change: He is the same yesterday, today and forever. If the Church of 'today' has a different mind than she did 50 years ago something is wrong with her 'today'.
      You also say the Extraordinary Form is not the norm; in fact, in canon law, it is: it has parity with the Missal of 1970. The terms Ordinary and Extraordinary do not therefore mean normal/usual/authentic and unusual/inauthentic; they are rather arbitrary designations of two forms of the one Rite.
      I don't know if David will reply but I would like to say that we make no judgements about you or your holiness of life, but speaking for myself, the New Rite is very much dumbed down and replete with abuses that are so common not even the clergy are aware they are abusing the Rite.
      God Bless.

    4. I don't want to prolong this exchange too much - you probably have better things to do - but it is rather misleading to introduce the idea of authenticity. To say something is the norm is not to claim that it is authentic whereas something else not the norm is inauthentic. Pope Benedict says that the OF and EF are two forms of the one Roman Rite, but that the OF is what is now the norm - why else call it Ordinary and the other Extraordinary?
      For myself I am glad that those who prefer the EF and find it more nurturing of their faith and spiritual life are able to celebrate it. As the mass that nourished generations of Catholics over the years it clearly is of great importance to us today in many ways. Nevertheless the Church has decided that it is not the preferred norm now. I simply wish its devotees would not keep on doing down those who do not agree with them and exaggerating the inadequacy as they see it of the OF, as you do again in your final sentence. It is condescending and it does smack of spiritual one-upmanship (to say we make no judgments about your holiness of life conveys the impression that that is exactly what you are doing, as from your point of view you must do since you clearly do not think the OF could foster holiness of life).
      A final point, if I may. The mind of Christ may not change, but our human apprehension of it does and must change as we ourselves and the world constantly change. In this sense the mind of the Church today is always going to be different from the mind of 50 years ago. The great thing is that God will still be God through all our changes.

  7. Father Dickson,
    I worship in a city-centre church with a hard-working priest, universally respected, particularly in the hospitals. He is not much of a liturgist, but I assure you that our Novus Ordo has never involved puppets, pop or comedy, and our Masses are full of young people.

    1. Thank you, Recusant.
      I have no doubt you have a hard-working priest; I don't know of any priest who does not work hard today.
      I don't think every New-Form Mass has puppets and comedic homilies, but most New Form Masses are focused on people-pleasing and engagement of the priest with the people (its how we were taught to do it in seminary) rather than people and priest together engaging with God.
      God Bless you and your parish & priest.

  8. Father Dixion, I salute you as a priest after the heart of the eternal high priest, Jesus Christ and a faithful servant of His holy Bride, the Church. Thank you for humbly and obediently adhering to the Church's clerical attire and discipline. I read many Catholic Blogs and by far yours have been the most inspiring, hopeful, courageous, truthfull and Catholic. I actually recommended a couple of your posts be published/ reposted at stoneswillshout.com/wp. I hope you don't mind. Here in the Diocese of Sale, Australia the Church is in the throes of death because successive bishop's pastoral plans which advocated lay leadership and ministry, throwing sacraments at unevangelized parents and children and disengaging the faithful in spiritual combat by not preaching about sin. Catechesis on the holy Mass as Jesus' prayer to the Father in the Holy Spirit has been non exsistent for over 40 years. The great majority of Catholics have no idea what they are participating in. It's all very sad, but we never grow tired and give up hope because Christ is our future and end.

    1. Thank you Gregkanga.
      I say what i beliebe to be true and do as I am asked by the Church in her current magisteriu and her Tradition, but I am still on the road to overcoming so many faults and failings; weaknesses and sin -as we all are...
      I hope the blog is useful to folk, though many are far more erudite and better informed, we do seek to be balanced here.
      Your experience of promoting lay 'ministry' and giving Sacraments to all and sundry is not isolated, and contributes to the death of the Church (people simply will not value that which comes to them without requiring sacrifice in return).
      As you indicate, Christus vincit; Christus regnat, Christus imperat!
      God Bless.

  9. Thank you Father for another thought provoking article. This whole process within the Church and society seems to me the continued effects of the protestant reforms which are nodded through because the hierarchy is largely protestant these days.

    Worrying times indeed.

    God Bless,


    1. Thank you, Patrick.
      The Reforms were meant to solicit unity, so they cannot be denied to have a Protestant slant. Sadly, in many cases the slant has become a landslide.
      God Bless

  10. Fr. You are absolutely right. You may feel like a voice crying in the wilderness but God is with you. All these modernisers are wrong and hypocrites. They want to remake the church in their own image. They should go back to basics. God became a man and walked on this earth and rubbed shoulders with the ordinary people of His day. Don't they get it? Who do they think they are these modernisers? Who said they had the right to interfere with the ancient liturgy built up over hundreds of years? The Church will continue to decline while these so called top people continue to water down the Faith. The synod was so transparent to ordinary Catholics as an attempt by the Pope to change practice when we all know that practice follows doctrine.
    Reading the Introduction to the Devout Life is wonderful. Where are the bishops of today who are capable of such a work?
    They don't even have the courtesy to reply to our letters. St Fracis de Sales always replied to letters from his flock.
    Our bishops are too busy having their portait painted in oils at huge expense or chasing women. By their fruits you shall know them.
    The best spiritual reading by far is The Imitation of Christ. To just read a little bit each day keeps us close to Our Lord.
    God bless you Fr.

    1. Thank you, Paul.
      I want to say 'deceived' rather than hypocrites, because I think they do what they genuinely think is good. But you are right that they are wrong.
      God Bless.

  11. Fr Dickson, sorry for getting your name wrong. I read many blogs and posts, but I am still learning how to respond and make comments. Thanks for bearing with me. I particularly admired your forthrightness in what you had to say about the recent Synod. At the time, it was the most insightful and sensible posts doing the rounds on Catholic blogs. Thanks and keep up the good work. I regularly write about the state of the Church in Australia for the publication called Into The Deep at stoneswillshout.com/wp. Gregory Kingman.

    1. Thank you, Gregkanga.
      Don;t worry about a misspelled name; if that was all we had to regret in life we would be doing very well indeed!
      I must look up 'stones will shout'.
      God Bless

  12. Dear Father,

    Thank you for another thoughtful and truthful article.

    Your final paragraph in particular is such an accurate description of things that it hits the ball right out of the park!

    May God bless you and your ministry.
    Alan and Angeline

  13. From: Brian Cassidy: Fr Dickson this is your blog and thanks for doing it. Many people find hope and building up faith via the internet.

    Dear Savonarola (and despite internet warnings not to feed the troll) I must ask if your strictures on the "Extraordinary" Form apply also to "Extraordinary" Ministers of Holy Communion? We are not in Penal Law times so the Mass that my parents and grandparents loved is not to be despised.

    I grew up in an Catholic parish in N Ireland, first evangelised by St Patrick 1,600 years ago, but all my family and their dependents are lapsed, many not even baptised. I don't think that is progress.

    And by the way, Savonarola, who are you? I'm sure you believe in dialogue and encounter so in the words of that great Catholic Delia Smith: "Let's be havin' you".

    1. Dear Anon. or Brian Cassidy (whichever it is - by the way who are you? To me you are just a name, so let's address ourselves ad rem, not ad hominem), you didn't read what I wrote about the EF. I certainly did not make any strictures about it, quite the reverse. I merely pointed out that Pope Benedict called it the Extraordinary Form, therefore not the norm. It is available for those who wish it: so why cannot we use Extraordinary Ministers if we find it useful. In the church I go to we could not manage the number of Masses that we have and the numbers of people without EMHCs, as we offer the chalice as well as the host in accordance with the mind of the Church (GIRM281).

    2. The mind of the church is also set out in GIRM 282:

      “Sacred pastors should take care to ensure that the faithful who participate in the rite or are present at it are as fully aware as possible of the Catholic teaching on the form of Holy Communion as set forth by the Ecumenical Council of Trent. Above all, they should instruct the Christian faithful that the Catholic faith teaches that Christ, whole and entire, and the true Sacrament, is received even under only one species, and consequently that as far as the effects are concerned, those who receive under only one species are not deprived of any of the grace that is necessary for salvation.”

      And in Vatican II, which as you will know, has higher status even than GIRM, taught in: Sacrosanctum Concilium (55):

      “The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism.”

      Though certainly in England these limited norms have been ignored. “The purpose, then, of receiving Holy Communion under both kinds, is not that the faithful receive more grace than when they receive it under one kind alone, but that the faithful are enabled to appreciate vividly the value of the sign. Sadly, this distinction has not always been made clear and some people, when not offered Holy Communion under both kinds, have expressed a sense of bewilderment, even thwarted entitlement, or a feeling that Holy Communion under one kind alone was, to some extent, deficient” (taken from: Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff: Doctrinal Formation and Communion Under Both Kinds

    3. It might be more accurate to say that the norms have not so much been ignored as extended. No. 283 goes on to say that diocesan bishops may establish norms for communion under both kinds and delegate to priests the faculty to permit both kinds "whenever it may seem appropriate." Many bishops and priests have clearly come to the conclusion that 281 implies that it is appropriate whenever mass is celebrated. This is how the mind of the Church develops.
      I find that the faithful for the most part welcome communion under both kinds, but are by no means dismayed or feel thwarted when it does not happen. The people of the Church have rather more sense and awareness than their leaders credit them with. Also, one might well ask, why should anyone want to keep the chalice from the people?

  14. What I like about the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is the reverence, the awesomeness of the Trinitarian, Chrystological and Ecclesiolical mysteries I have by the grace of God been made worthy to participate in. Also, there is no scope for abuses and the liberals to engage in occupational therapy. Thus, the true meaning of the sanctuary is respected.

  15. Not long ago we had the 'Year of the Priest' and someone, very wisely, selected St. John Vianney as the model for priests. He suffered diabolical assaults, could read hearts, credited all the miracles that abounded around him to the intercession of St. Philomena and lived on a diet of mouldy potatoes. He was consulted by some notables in the Church and by various European nobles but especially loved the poor.
    I often wonder what the modernist priests make of their 'model' and what on earth he would say about the changes we have seen for the last 60 years.
    No doubt they believe that he suffered an over-active imagination along with the witnesses to the miracles.

  16. “is simply not being recognised by the great and powerful”

    Sorry if this depresses you further Father, but I have suspected for a long time now, and I’m certainly not the only one, that we are in the middle of another Reformation. I would now promote this idea now from a hypothesis to that of a theory. St Pius X warned of this danger. He called it Modernism. The terms Relativism and Secularism were also used to describe aspects of this phenomena.

    The danger of Relativism is not as seems at present, an attack on the Real Presence and Marriage, serious though that is. It is ultimately a denial of the very concept of meaning, of the concept of Sin itself, which of course means that Christ was a deluded religious fanatic who died needlessly on the Cross.

    That is the ultimate line of thought that your “high profile” priest is following, whether he realises it or not.

    Now to cheer you up! Just think of the many problems that lie ahead. It will keep you busy. Never a dull moment!

  17. The NO may be presented with reverence but not always. It is open to lack of reverence and prone to be man centered. The NO seems to forget Our Lords command to "Do this in memory of me" It should be to remember the death of Our Lord. But it seems to lack that aspect. The Holy Mass evolved over the centuries under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Then along come a bunch clerics who think they have the right to create in a very short time a completly new version and that with half an eye on heretics. At the same time to abolish what has been our heritage for centuries. How can that be pleasing to Almighty God? What is the result of that arrogance? A great disintegration of the Church. A division of Catholics. A lack of respect in Church. Where is the prayer? Where is thanksgiving after Holy Communion? Why does everyone stand in the aisle chatting in groups?
    Yes you go to your NO. Be reverent be prayerful be happy. But so do the Protestants. But ask yourself is this authentic? Is this 100% Catholic? Is this what nurtured the saints? Or is it the outcome of a bunch of tinkering clerics over a very very short period in Church history which may one day be discarded as 'not good enough for God'


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