A Message for Pastors

St. Augustine and a Unified Voice

As part of the cycle in the Office of Readings in the Roman Breviary each year we read excerpts from the sermon On Pastors by St. Augustine. The sermon is divided into 12 daily readings in which the great saint is exhorting a unified voice among Christ’s shepherds. Today we concluded the cycle with St. Augustine reminding us of the primacy of St. Peter (and his successors) and the need for unity among all the shepherds, a unity that must be ordered to the Shepherd. St. Augustine says, “All (shepherds) should speak with the one voice of the one shepherd, so that the sheep may hear and follow their shepherd; not this or that shepherd, but the one shepherd. All should speak with one voice in Christ, not with different voices. Brethren, I beg all of you to say the same thing, and to have no dissensions among you.

In this statement, one can find many levels of meaning. One that is particularly relevant today is the need for a unified voice in the sacred liturgy. When using the word “voice” here, it should be taken in the unified sense of the Shepherd speaking through the Act of the liturgy. It is not a voice but the Voice that speaks and this is most especially true with regard to the Holy Mass we celebrate. With this image in mind, we should recall that there should be unity in the celebration of Holy Mass from one parish to the next and one diocese to the next and one priest to the next. Such was the point made by Denis Crouan in his book entitled, The Liturgy after Vatican II: Collapsing or Resurgent? With all of the liturgical deviations that have become commonplace, by both the traditionalists and the progressivists, the Voice that speaks in the liturgy has been effectively stifled. Rather than being the unified Word spoken by the Voice of Christ, most liturgies today have become the whim of the parish priest.

In 2004, Cardinal Arinze addressed the various deviations and called all priests to celebrate the Sacred Mass as set forth by the Church. In this document, he reiterated the norms found in the General Instruction that have been in effect since Vatican II, norms that have been widely ignored. In the document, he reminds us that we are “servants” of the Liturgy, not its master, and thus all distortion should be set aside so that “the saving presence of Christ in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood may shine brightly upon all people.” In other words, every Mass must speak the Word of God clearly and consistently without interference from one shepherd to the next. This must be so even in the smallest of details which can detract from the Message and thus promote dissension.

After reading St. Augustine, I opened our local Catholic Newspaper and found a picture of a new pastor being installed at his parish who was wearing the stole over the chasuble (see LI Catholic photo below by Gregory Schemitz). For some reason, this practice began to grow during the 80s and 90s, even though the General Instruction was specific in this area. Yet this particular liturgical abuse is still happening despite the fact that, in 2004, Cardinal Arinze (section 123) and, in 2011, our own bishop (section 2) reminded priests that, “The chasuble is to be worn over the alb and stole.” The lack of equivocation can be clearly seen in the photo as two have the stole under the chasuble and two have it on top. While some may see this as trivial or nit picking, it is only one small example or a much larger epidemic that plagues the Church today. Particularly at a time when Religious Liberty has been deteriorating in public circles, the Church more than ever must speak with One Voice, that is, the Voice of the Shepherd.

May all who participate in the Holy Mass do so in accord with the sublime dignity and obedience it deserves!


The Altar of Sacrifice

A Consecrated Space!

The parish church of Our Lady of Victory in Floral Park New York recently underwent renovations, which included the installation of a new Altar. Last evening, the new Altar was consecrated by the bishop in a beautiful and ancient rite. At the heart of the rite is a moment when the bishop consecrates the new Altar using Sacred Chrism. In a very visual manner, everyone realizes that the new Altar is something very different and, in addition to the Altar, the chrismation is extended to the walls of the church. After attending this rite, one can easily see the reason why all Sacraments should take place in a church.

Every Catholic should attend the dedication and consecration of a church at least once in order to better appreciate the sacredness of the space where Holy Mass is celebrated. Too often today, there has been a growing complacency with regard to the church building and many people no longer recognize it as a wholly different and sacred place. Through the consecration and dedication of a church, we come to realize that a Catholic church is not just another edifice but one specifically consecrated for worship. And it is the liturgical rite of consecration that makes it clear we are entering a sacred space.

Holy Mass

It Is More than a Translation

Some months ago the newly translated Roman Missal was implemented in every English Speaking country. In our diocese, there was plenty of catechetical opportunities offered to catechize the priests and the people in order to demonstrate that the Holy Mass is more than words. The Holy Mass is about prayer and ritual. The Holy Mass is about the sacrificial offering that has reconciled Man to God. The Holy Mass has a very strong vertical component that was deemphasized over the years by well intentioned liturgists. For many years, priests in the English speaking world took many liberties with regard to the celebration of Holy Mass and effectively reduced the celebration to a social gathering. As the abuses multiplied, the pews emptied. For sure there is a direct correlation.

The new translation remains an opportunity to overcome the deficiencies that have crept in and restore the Mass to its sublime dignity. However, having concelebrated Holy Mass with priests from other English speaking countries in recent days, it seems they have decided to impose many of the same abuses into the new translation. Using the new translation without rediscovering the beauty of the liturgy is a clear indicator of the catechetical failure and it is essential that we begin with the reform of the liturgy if the failure is to be properly addressed. This particular part of the reform must begin with the priests and religious whose love for Holy Mass must take center stage.

The first step is to recognize that Holy Mass is not a feel good moment given to us by Christ in order to address the congregation's psychological problems. Holy Mass is not a popularity contest or a "sales pitch" seeking to impress a target audience. At the core of praying the Mass is reconciliation with God, which must precede reception of the Eucharist if It is to be effective. At the core of praying Holy Mass is self-abandonment. Cutesy additions and personal piety by the priest or the people do not accomplish this end. Prayerful faithfulness goes much further…

Christ Risen!

The Truth Be Told!

Throughout Easter Week, the most solemn liturgical week of the year, the Church keeps proclaiming the Joy Christians have in the Resurrection of Christ. Each day of the week following Easter is a Solemnity in the liturgical calendar. Ironically, particularly after seeing increases in Mass attendance during Lent, the Octave of Easter tends to be a week for people to slow down and many do not come to daily Mass.

It is good to remind ourselves that this week is a week to celebrate Christ Risen! There is no better way to celebrate than through the Eucharistic Banquet. After spending the weeks of Lent, at least symbolically, in sackcloth and ashes, we are encouraged to celebrate the Joy our penance brings about. May the Octave of Easter instill the hope in Resurrection for each one of us so that our Joy may be full.

Linguistically Beautiful

The Power of Language

Several weeks ago the Church implemented the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Having prayed with these new texts for some time, I have to admit that there is a regal beauty in them that raises our common prayer to new heights. Making the transition has been hard because our culture does not appreciate true beauty in language anymore, mostly from the news media who package everything in simplistic terms. However, the Holy Mass is far more than a report or statement and demands a higher language. While there are many priests and lay people who are struggling with it and believe it is a mistake, I think the judgment is hasty and the beauty will shine through when all begin praying the texts rather than just saying the texts.

Coming Soon...

If the Contemporary Liturgists had Their Way!

Here is one of those videos that has a sarcasm which captures the trend many think is the solution to empty pews. The scary thing is that this is what many contemporary liturgists would love to see. God willing those days are behind us in the Catholic Church and the Truth of the Liturgy will not fall prey to the contemporary music lovers and liturgists…

More Meaning?

The Modern Attack on Meaning

Today more than ever we must remain keenly aware of the “Dictatorship of Relativism,” which at its core employs the well-intentioned “meaning” maneuver. For the relativist, meaning is matter of perception and under the dominion of Man. In this model, Man believes that he can create or change meaning by changing elements and perspectives. This process has insinuated itself deep within certain circles in the Church today.

For instance, for decades there were those who experimented with various aspects of the Sacred Mass in an attempt, as someone recently noted, to make it more meaningful. Such a statement completely ignores the Truth of the Mass which was established by Christ Himself in the original Triduum and continues to be revealed to us to this day. The meaning of the Sacred Liturgy is in se. Nothing an individual perceives or does can change, add, or subtract from what Christ did and does in perpetuity in the Mass. Our responsibility is to enter into the mystery as it has been handed to us through the great Tradition of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Today we suffer liturgically in the Church because there are many priests, deacons, religious, and so-called liturgists who are under the dominion of the Dictator and feel compelled to thwart the meaning that already is the Liturgy. Yes, their intention is to help but a relative perspective can never be better than the great Tradition handed to us from Christ through the apostles and their successors. As these new translations are implemented, the hope is that many will come to know the Truth of Christ’s Act that is the Mass and come to realize that we need not do more -- we just have to let what is speak for itself.

So to all who participate in Holy Mass, be faithful and obedient.

More to Discuss?

Two Species at Mass

In the years following Vatican II, there was a frenetic move by many dioceses in the United States to restore the supposedly lost tradition of distributing Holy Communion under both species. The practice had stopped some eight centuries previous, quite probably for good reason. In the centuries leading up to and since the initiation of the practice of distributing Holy Communion under one species, a solid theology developed and this theology, which is now called concomitance, was concretized by the Council of Trent. Thus, for centuries there has been a continuity of theology and practice in the Church. And now today this is one of those practices that has the power to divide rather than unite.

For good reasons, the council fathers at Vatican II did raise a question regarding the so-called fuller sign and called for a very limited restoration of distribution under both species. The fact that the practice became so widespread so quickly would indicate that it is more from the hermeneutic of discontinuity than of true reform. While a discussion was certainly needed and the limits of good practical sense, the widespread establishment of the practice should have been held in abeyance at least until the discussion was complete. Instead, particularly in the United States, the practice went from obscurity to commonplace seemingly overnight. A careful reading of the documents indicated a need for a concurrent suitable catechesis on the Teaching of concomitance to accompany the reinstitution of the distribution, if it were to be reinstituted at all.

Where things have fallen apart is that the practice was being added in parishes around the country during a period in which catechesis was generally falling into total disarray. Simply put, as the catechetical failure took hold, the practice took off. And the result is that so many today truly believe that they are receiving more when they receive both and are being cheated of something if they are not offered both.

Also, as a result of the catechetical failure, there are more and more Catholics today who do not believe they are truly receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament (the percentage varies depending on the study consulted and the frequency of Mass attendance). Yet this important doctrine and the practice of distributing Holy Communion under two species must necessarily go hand-in-hand. And both are currently suffering from the catechetical failure.

The fact that the practice outstripped the catechesis is why so many think today that the discussion of Holy Communion under both species should continue. While the practice has merits and should have a highly limited scope, the reality is that a great number of so-called practicing Catholics believe they are more fully communicated when they receive both. These are the same Catholics who may attend Holy Mass weekly or more yet hardly ever go to Confession. These are the same Catholics who say they believe in the real presence yet have no problem holding idle conversation before the tabernacle and never come to Adoration. These are the same Catholics who say they are in union with the pope yet promote and/or use contraception. These are the same Catholics who say they espouse the Ten Commandments yet have no problem with abortion.

The irony in this discussion is that those who do attend Mass weekly believe that doing so makes them a better and fully informed Catholic and we priests should be happy they are still there. These would be members of the generation that are victims of the catechetical failure and yet think they know more than enough about the faith. This would be the same generation of Catholics that do not attend adult formation classes or, when they do, come with a chip on his or her shoulder.

So is it a further discussion that is needed or better catechesis?

Take a Vote?

One Holy Catholic and Democratic Church?

Why do so many Catholics think that the Church is or should be a democracy? The most probable origin of this way of thinking is from the priests and other pastoral leaders who took surveys in the parish or diocese about what should be done, usually dealing with basic things like the color of the carpeting in the sanctuary. Now there are many parishioners and clergy who would prefer to put everything to a vote and if the majority speaks, even if it be against the direction the pastors of the Church are leading, the Church should implement the popular whim.

The sad reality is that many priests agree with this way of thinking. Rather than accept the legitimate authority of the bishop and follow willingly, many would prefer to rebel and garner popular support against something he does not want to do. The most recent spate of this way of thinking regards the upcoming new translation of the Roman Missal. Some priests were recently heard saying that they were never consulted about the implementation and would have voted against it. Fortunately we are part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which will now have the opportunity to take the best step forward, taking with Her the liberal hoards who think this is a step backwards.

For those interested in learning more, here is an excellent video from EWTN:

The Enemy Around Us

The Media

So often the liberal media have no clue what they are doing or saying. It seems every reporter these days takes a class in making everything reported into a controversy. And the anti-Catholic sentiment of Newsday strikes again in their feature article in today’s paper on the new Roman Missal. Not only did Mr. Jones get his facts wrong, he collected many quotes from an organization that has separated itself from the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Although Mr. Jones may claim that he is only attempting to cover the various opinions, the new translation is not a matter of opinion or the democratic process. Rather than report faithfully about a Catholic news story, he instead spent most of his article making the Vatican look like a dictator that does not have the Salvation of Souls in mind and the bishop as if he is out of touch. Nothing is further from the Truth.

For all those wondering, the new translation is the best thing to happen for the Church in quite some time. For too long things have been “dumbed down” and it has cheated people of the depth and beauty of the Mass. The new translation accepts the fact that people are actually intelligent and will get it. Yes, the initial moments of change will require some effort but it will not be disastrous because those who come to Mass are attending with the eye on Salvation. The words used are to that end alone.

The problem we still have in the Church in this country is the case of laryngitis in the public square. The sad reality is that most of the Catholics on Long Island will only see what Mr. Jones wrote. Until the local Church develops a better avenue for social communication, we will always look bad in the eyes of many because there is no secular reporter who truly wishes to report something from the perspective of those who Truly believe.

The Excitement Builds

Change Brings Excitement and Anxiety

The New Translation of the Roman Missal is both an exciting time as well as anxious. The anxiety grows as there are many details that still need to fall in place before the final implementation. The excitement grows over anticipating the beautiful texts to pray each day. In either case, no one has yet to speak of the historic moment that is at our door. And yet when this implementation occurs, it will mark a very historic moment that English speaking Catholics will talk about for decades to come.

For those who sit in the pews, the change is going to be fairly straightforward and simple. All of the changes that will impact the people can be summarized on a “pew card.” The real challenge will be for the priests who will be anchored to the Missal at every Mass for some time to come. This is because everything that the priest will pray from the Missal has been changed. The key in these last few weeks is to spend time with the texts and begin making them one’s own.

Many have said that the Mass really should be chanted. For those interested, the Archdiocese of Boston has put all of the chants from the new Missal into MP3 and FLV format. It is a great resource and will help all who are working on the final preparations.

More Abuse Please

Get Out the Calculators!!

As we enter the final days before implementing the New Translation of the Roman Missal, Bishop Murphy recently sent a memo to all priests (see post for October 10) asking that various abuses be eliminated from the sacred liturgy. Or course, the reaction was strong by those who are entrenched in certain practices that should never have been implemented. For obvious reasons, the memo issued by the bishop could not detail every abuse that goes on and he should not have to as many of them have been addressed through Church Teaching over the years. Of course, that assumes that priests have been reading the documents issued by the Church.

Among the items not covered in the memo but continues to spread like wildfire is the practice of inviting hoards of people into the “presbyterium” for the Consecration and Our Father. This practice was addressed in 1981 by the Congregation of Divine Worship and yet still continues to this day. It is bad enough that there are still parishes that continue the practice but it is even more distressing that the local Catholic paper “reports” its occurrence as if it is a wonderful thing. What makes this most difficult is the impact it has on parishes that try to remain faithful to the Teaching of the Church because of the confusion it creates.

Does anyone have a way of calculating the exponential growth of these abuses and the impact they will actually have on the future of the Church?

R U Ready 4 It

The Difference Language Can Make

The new Translation of the Roman Missal is long overdue and should be something to which every English speaking Catholic should be looking forward. For years we have used an approved translation that had merit and was completely valid but was filled with many shortcomings, not because of malice but because of language. For those who wonder if there are good reasons for this translation, Anthony Esolen has a response.

The mistake many make today when critiquing the new translation is they want to use words like good and bad or right and wrong. It is not that we had bad and are now getting good. It is not that someone did something wrong and we are now getting it right. While such arguments can be made, it seems they miss the point. The problem that many overlook is that language is revelatory and, generally speaking, we all should be concerned with choosing the right words when communicating with others. The original language, Latin, makes a connection to revelation and this connection was weakened in the current translation. We should keep in mind that the Mass is a form of revelation and it has to remain True to its purpose. Word choice is very much a part of revelation.

Today, many do not appreciate the power of language and word choice. After decades of imprecise speech, many do not realize how much they betray the Truth with the words they use. Language should be about communicating through the revealing of one’s person to another, that is, it should be about establishing a Communion through expressing the Truth. For those who think the new Translation is a matter of picayune haggling over words, there is a depth to language that he or she may not have considered. Probably the best work in this regard is by Josef Pieper called Abuse of Language Abuse of Power.

At this point, the new Translation cannot be implemented soon enough.

Case in Point

When and Where Do We Start?

As we prepare for the New Missal later this year, it is also a good time to begin teaching the faithful about Liturgy and correcting the errors that have been propagated for too long. For instance, holding hands during the Our Father. Having recently said that this is not the practice of the Church, someone replied, “Is it really worth upsetting the people who just don’t know better?” This is the position many take today as if to say that the Catechetical failure should remain the norm.

So if not now, when?

Changes are Coming

No One Likes Change

It is true that no one really likes things to change, even though change is inevitable. The resistance to change is often found among Catholics since for centuries it seemed to many that the Church did not change, particularly in Her Liturgy. And there is a truth to that perception -- The Church has always been and always will be what Christ founded and what God brought into existence.

The struggle over the centuries has been our need to come to grips with the reality that God established. Just because something changes or develops does not mean the reality has changed, only the expression or understanding of it. The clearest expression of the Church in Her reality has been the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which the English speaking world will go through some changes in the near future. Of course, these changes are not to the Mass Itself but to the language used in praying the Mass. However, the perception will be that of change nonetheless.

The hardest part of making the move to the new translation will be avoiding the perception that the Church is changeable or malleable. The reality for many English speaking Catholics will be a major overhaul to the familiar ritual prayers for the third time in their lives. It is unfortunate that the change must occur but absolutely necessary that the prayers be brought in line with the reality celebrated. The key for all of us is that we not focus on the change but on the Truth being expressed. Anyone who really knows the Church and Her Liturgy will embrace these changes with Joy.

Liturgy and Obedience

The Trials of Obedience

Do the Red, Read the Black! This simple axiom has been so hard for many priests to follow since the Novus Ordo was released. Our diocese has prepared a document in preparation for the implementation of the Third Edition next month exhorting priests to stick to obey this simple rule of Liturgy. Hopefully this axiom will be given to the priests who say the televised Mass on our diocesan channel.

Time to Embrace It

As if it were up for a vote...

The New York Times has decided to weigh in on the New Translation of the Roman Missal. It is interesting how the modern mind works. The liberal media thinks that there is something left to debate and that, because there are dissenting voices, there must be controversy. That is not the case.

For those priests who have expressed some doubts or concerns and given the media what they want, recall once again that day when you knelt before the bishop and promised obedience. Fortunately the article states that only about 10% (in Ireland no less) have expressed doubt. Could the article have been any less fair to the 90% who are OK with it? Could the article have done anything more to make it seem that using it will be optional?

At the heart of the article’s argument is the question of people’s intelligence and ability. While the wording of the new translation will be less familiar, the people and the priests are more than capable of understanding it and following it. With a minimal amount of effort, everyone will be comfortable with the wording in a very short period of time. Case in point, the wording is very similar to the English used in the interim missal in the 1960s. The people then did not have a problem nor will they come next Advent.

To all the naysayers I say -- rather than fight the inevitable and turn the implementation into a problem that the rest of us will have to mop up, how about embracing and loving it as the Sacred Liturgy demands? Rather than resist, it is time to welcome...


The Council of Trent...

For some reason when the Sacramentary was translated into English and promulgated in the United States a decision was made to add a “rubric” regarding the distribution of the Precious Blood. Anyone who spends a few moments and actually reads the section of the General Instruction referred to in this added “rubric” will find that there was no intention to have the Precious Blood made available to every congregant at every Mass. In fact, the General Instruction refers the reader to the Church Teaching handed down at the Council of Trent with regard to Concomitance and charges the pastor with the responsibility of making sure the faithful are well instructed in this regard. This Teaching clearly states that anyone who receives one of the species has received the fullness of the Body and Blood of Christ. They are in no way deprived of any of the graces necessary for salvation.

Our catechesis and liturgical practice has been off base for so long that there is an “anonymous person” who claims he or she is being “denied” something when the Precious Blood is not distributed to the congregation at Mass. In fact, the person continues by suggesting we can use “disposable cups or cups that are washable” which would be “a great idea.” There are just too many errors present to even begin to list them and refute them.

Even now the bishops of the United States would prefer to raise this error to the level of norm. While there is a value to be discussed in the distribution of both species, there is a greater question involving the hermeneutic of continuity and the precision of Eucharistic Theology. If a “sign” is what it is in itself and the fullness of Body and Blood is contained under one or the other, it cannot be the “sign” itself that is any fuller under the distribution of both. Why not just spend more time teaching rather than changing?

However, we should ask the all important question, “Is this anonymous person an icon of a lost generation?”

Liturgical Mania

Is it working?

For some time factions within the Catholic Church have been experimenting with the Sacred Liturgy and have promoted an error that the vernacular is the norm and that Vatican II taught that more experimentation in the liturgy was needed. Yet all of the gimmicks and adaptations have only succeeded in making the Sacred Liturgy confusing at best.

While Vatican II made it clear that Latin is to remain the normative language of the Liturgy and is to be preserved in the Latin Rites, there are those who completely reject its use and even reject using the approved translations. Those who argue for a lessening of liturgical rubrics and have continually engaged in open abuse of the Divine Liturgy claim that they do so because it is best way to keep people connected to the Church. In fact, one recently argued that reintroducing some Latin in the Mass would only succeed in alienating people and would definitely cause the numbers would drop. It is ironic that since the vernacular has been used, the attendance rates at Sunday Mass have gone from over 80% to 20%.

If only these progressive and well intentioned factions would step back for a moment and ask themselves the all important question, “Is it working?” they would come to realize that they should have actually followed the teaching of Vatican II rather than the whim of “open minded” liturgists.