Lately heard at a Catholic Novus Ordo Mass.
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do;
therefore I ask blessed Mary Ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
And no, I am not kidding.
I’d like to say a few words about a rather strange experience of some weeks ago, in a small church in one of the Home Counties.
When the distribution of communion began, I just got up and went to take communion; then went back to my place and started to pray.
Seriously, I do not think I did anything difficult, or source of potential confusion. I could clearly see the sanctuary from where I was sitting, so there was no real danger of losing my way and having to ask for directions. Similarly, I did not experience any dangerous rabble, and I can tell you very confidently that I would not have been in any danger of being trampled even if I had been, say, a 95-years-old with a walking stick. Finally, I did not remember seeing anything atypical or having the impression of being in the process of doing anything dangerous, or wrong, or in any way needing of instruction.
I was, therefore, happily praying (sitting on my pew, not kneeling, as I did not want to be of obstacle to anyone) when a lady asks me whether I have been to communion. Strange questions, thinks I. Isn’t it not, in the end, my business? When has an obligation to go to communion every week been introduced? Should I not be free to decide myself whether I am willing – or, in fact, worthy – to receive communion?
Life being what it is, I didn’t start the discussion with the old lady asking me, and answered “yes”.
“Oh, next time you are here you must say to me beforehand if you go to communion before your turn”, more or less says the lady and I apologise if I do not remember the exact words, by such matters I never do. After which, she proceeded to channel my bench neighbours toward the sanctuary and only at that point I understood that I was, in these people’s mind, supposed to wait for my turn like a good boy, possibly in the hope of getting a pat on my back from the old lady.
I must… what? And… why exactly? I left kindergarten an awful lot of years ago, and the idea of having to tell mistress that I am going to get up from my bench is not exactly my own idea of “adulthood”. Besides, even after the most honest of efforts I am utterly, utterly unable to see what necessity should there be to have this kind of “helped” flow to the sanctuary.
It might be shocking to some of the readers, but I assure you that irrespective of how crowded the church is (and I have attended for a long time in really crowded churches; churches who would have caused the old lady to faint before she can say “you must”) people are able to do these things without any help, without anyone being injured, and without any discomfort for anyone.
Do you see such ladies helping people to board a bus, or a train? Or to buy a cinema ticket? Or to do anything else where there is some beginning of halfway less than orderly proceedings? Have you ever asked yourself why? The answer is, because people are perfectly able to do these things by themselves, and do not need any help, or helpers.
I can almost hear the objections that would be opposed to this: oh, but this is soo uncomfortable for the oooold people, who are sooo frail. There might be (let me think…..) absence of oxygen; a sudden stroke with no place for the ambulance; or they might die just standing whilst waiting to receive communion!
I grew up attending Mass in a small church (a provisionally converted stall), where two thirds of those attending mass did so in standing. As a child you were obviously expected to stand, and many adults also had to stand in order to allow older people to sit. There was no need of service personnel, everything happened out of common sense and common courtesy. The church was, in fact, always so packed that some people always ended up staying outside of the church, following from outside what was going on inside through the door left open. You can imagine the rabble.
Still, the flow to receive communion was perfectly ordered, perfectly safe and perfectly sensible, without any need of any help from absolutely anyone. No strokes, either.
Nonetheless, if I were a tired nonagenarian fearing the, say, six-minutes queue to receive communion I’d use my God-given brains and get up for communion only towards the end, when the queue has been more or less dissolved. I am sure I’m not the first or the only one coming to such genial revolutionary conclusions.
Whenever I do not attend at the Brompton Oratory I end up wondering whether at Novus Ordo Masses it is considered a deminutio not to have any particular “role” at Mass: the number of gift bearers, children gift bearers, readers, sanctuary cleaners, “flow helpers”, and what not being nothing less than prodigious.
I must now admit that, sadly, this appears to be the case.
In the last few days, two events have impacted the blogosphere:
1) The Birmingham Oratory announced the return to the Tridentine version for their sung Sunday Latin Mass. This must be, if London is any example, an old version of the Novus Ordo, very similar to the Tridentine already. I can easily imagine the other UK Oratories will follow suit in the near-ish future.
2) A high-profile blogger has announced a trial period of the Tridentine as the 9am Sunday Mass.
Both events are, in my eyes, clear indication of the following:
A) Even in the UK, the Tridentine’s march is now slowly becoming unstoppable. The more Tridentine masses there is, the more there will be, as imitation sets in and the faithful begin to know that the Tridentine mass exists in the first place.
B) The rediscovery of traditional Catholicism after the drunkenness of the post V-II years doesn’t go through a more pronounced use of the Novus Ordo in Latin (the Novus Ordo was, actually, meant to be mainly in Latin, with exceptions where allowed by the bishop), but through the rediscovery of the Mass of the Ages. This seems to be additional confirmation that within the Church there is a more and more pronounced feeling – expressed, or not – that there is no need to “integrate” Vatican II in the liturgy by rediscovering the Novus ordo as it should have been. What we had before V II was perfectly OK, and can be used exactly as it was. In particular, the decision of the Oratory seems very indicative to me, as the present Solemn Novus Ordo (Latin) very probably used is so similar to the Tridentine, that the decision to switch can in my eyes only have the ideological background I have just described.
In my eyes, this also takes care of all the waffle about the supposed liturgical enrichment brought about by Vatican II. Enrichment, my aunt. If you ask me, the fitting place for the liturgical innovations of V II is the rubbish bin. It seems to me that whilst others – particularly if religious – would not express themselves in the same way, this train of thoughts becomes more and more spread. At least I cannot detect any “renaissance” of the Novus Ordo in Latin, for sure. Not even as a by-product of Summorum Pontificum, or as an intermediate step.
In the next years, we will see an increasing number of Tridentine masses around. It will take some patience, but in time its beauty and reverence will be clearly perceived by the faithful. I can well imagine that those who will have the patience to persevere, and will make the small effort to absorb the Latin and follow the mass with a missal or bilingual booklet, will soon wonder how they could cope with the kindergarten version of the original for so long. Give them some more time, and they’ll be speechless when asked what were all those ladies doing in the sanctuary, and why exactly were people receiving from laymen.
We are not there yet, but already at this point I can’t see how the march of the Tridentine can be stopped, as its celebration is the best advertisement it can receive.
The future isn’t Vatican II. The future isn’t a desperate attempt to create some strangely concocted liturgical hybrid, either. The future also isn’t a mixture of elements of the Tridentine with elements of the post-V II era (a Tridentine with altar girls, say).
If you ask me, it is clear enough what the future will be: it will be our beautiful, solemn, reverent past.
I have already written a blog post about Bishop Fellay’s intervention in favour of Summorum Pontificum.
In the same interview, he deals with Assisi III and this is probably worth of separate consideration.
Bishop Fellay points out to the following problems:
1) That Pope Benedict heavily criticises relativism in religious matters (and rightly so, of course) but indirectly promotes the same relativism by starting the Assisi 2011 initiative.
2) That Pope Benedict is now celebrating an initiative which he himself clearly boycotted in 1986.
3) That in his idea that it be impossible for Catholic and non-Catholics to pray together, but that it be possible for them to gather together as members of different religious affiliations he is “splitting hairs”.
I find his criticism perfectly right on all points and whilst we will have to wait to see how Pope Benedict organises and shapes this meeting (that is: how he limits the damage that he has already done, the bomb of “interreligious gathering” being one which always causes a powerful explosion however orthodox your intentions), it is interesting to note that Bishop Fellay makes a supreme effort of explicate the inexplicable and theorises a desire to counteract the recent spate of persecutions as the real motive of this initiative.
Personally, I cannot see this as a real motive. Christians have always been persecuted and they always will; to water down the Christian message and to try to appease the persecutors will in my eyes only have the effect of increasing their aggressiveness. You just don’t fight religious intolerance by watering down the Christian message.
If you ask me, I can only see one – or all – of these three motives:
1) Pope Benedict wants to re-make in the right way what Pope John Paul once made in the wrong way, thus erasing as far as possible the bad memory of Assisi I and II with a theologically impeccable Assisi III. This seems to me a bit like trying to make dung smell good but one can – with a stretch of the imagination – understand the logic.
2) Pope Benedict thinks that conservative Catholics are becoming too cocky (utter and complete dominance on the Internet; vast support among young clergy; resurgence of the popularity of old, once forgotten or ignored heroes like Pius XII and Fulton Sheen) and wants to help the “other side” a bit. The beatification of JP II before the beatification of Pius XII, the oh-so-liberal sounding convocation of Assisi III and, perhaps, a restrictive interpretation of the scope of Summorum Pontificum would all be parts of the same thinking.
3) Pope Benedict is simply trying (in the wrong way, if you ask me) to promote the JP II brand as he sees in it a powerful instrument of evangelisation. Again, one understands the logic. I just wonder why he would allow himself to be persuaded to pick the most controversial of JPII’s many controversial inititatives to do so. It seems to me a bit like promoting Bill Clinton’s presidency by remembering the Lewinsky affair.
We’ll have to wait and see how all this pans out. In the meantime, I allow myself the comment that Pope Pius XII would have never dreamt of an initiative like Assisi (whatever numeral you may put to it); that Fulton Sheen would have never dreamt of encouraging interreligious gatherings of any sort, but exclusively Catholic gatherings of every sort; and that Padre Pio would have never dreamt of the necessity of a Novus Ordo mass, however “reformed after the reform” it may be.
In recent months, Pope Benedict seems to have been skating on rather thin ice. More the reason to pray for him.
This is the Ford (Europa) Scorpio Mk II. This car is remarkable for being one of the ugliest cars ever made, and one of the least successful cars ever to be produced by a mass car producer like the giant Ford.
The genesis of such an opprobrium is very simply explained: at the time, Ford Europe was led by an American, and this chap insisted that the lagging, but not gravely unsatisfactory sales of the Scorpio Mk I could be improved by giving the Mark II a decidedly american flavour. This, he thought, would spark enthusiasm and be enthusiastically received by the European crowds, now yearning for something new and impressive. The result was what you see here and now that you have survived the first shock I can show you a photo of the back without running the risk of causing you a heart attack. Predictably, the car was massacred in the showroom and its failure became the epitome of automotive seppuku.
Why do I mention the unlucky and deservedly failed Scorpio Mk II? Because this ungainly car shows uncanny parallelisms to the Novus Ordo mass.
This car was not of particularly bad quality. Its underpinnings were those of the Scorpio Mk I, a car able do honestly do its job and sold in halfway decent numbers for many years. Neither was this car very expensive and in fact it gave its owners (in pure “Detroit metal” tradition) a lot of kilos for their hard-earned money. True, it never came with prestige attached, but neither were the first Scorpio or the later Opel Kadett /Omega or the older Ford Granada, all cars which always managed to sell in satisfactory numbers.
In short, this car was perfectly usable as a car. It was a car all right. You could never deny that it was a car. But it was such an ugly way to make a car, that most potential buyers decided to stay well away of every risk of being seen at its steering wheel.
In this case, the mess was such that the reputation of the house for making big cars was damaged in such a way – and the financial hurt from the car was so keenly felt – that since then Ford never again produced a car of comparable size and market position. Not only the name “scorpio” was irreparably destroyed, but the market for Ford was destroyed too. This tells you how many clients you lose if you abuse them by trying to give them things they don’t want, just because you think they’re hip and modern.
Now, I am not saying that the Novus Ordo doesn’t have sacramental validity. It certainly has. Like a Scorpio Mk II, it fulfils the function for which it is celebrated. But like the Scorpio Mk II, it does so in such an ugly way that I am all astonishment as to why people should insist in using such a mess, when they have the wonderful Mercedes 600 Pullmann available.
The latter is not the most modern of cars. It is, in fact, very old-fashioned. It doesn’t have all the thrills and frills usually employed to attract the superficial, and the gullible, nor does it try to cut corners and be cheap to purchase. It is authentic, unmistakeably valuable and almost painfully beautiful. Every bolt in it, every screw says “I am wonderful but not easy to understand and not ready to follow the fashion of the day. I will not try to please you. You will have to deserve me.” It is, in fact, a car that requires an effort, in the purchase and in the upkeep. It is the car for those who want it authentic and serious, rather than shallow and wanna-be.
Both cars fulfil their function. Both are authentic specimens of the genus. Both are valid examples of what you would call a car; both do what you expect from them.
But do yourself a favour: take the time to find and appreciate the Mercedes, even if this costs time and sacrifice both in the purchase and in the upkeep, and ditch the Mondeo Mk II.
Believe me, once you have learned to know and appreciate this car, you’ll never look back.