Thursday, 12 July 2012

Traditional Catholics and self inflicted wounds

I have been mulling on this post for some months and it took some sound comments from Parapedimos (regarding my last post on Hot Dogs and Homilies) to put thoughts into words.

I am heartily sick of traditionalists who, once they achieve the victory of having a Latin Mass celebrated in their parish, then proceed to snipe at minor 'irregularities'. "The priest turned the page with the wrong hand", "the altar server forgot to genuflect as he passed the tabernacle", and, "my dear, did you hear his latin pronunciation?"

"Look at that altar server Carrutthers. He placed the
 missal at a 20 degree angle doncha know?"
Of course, those are all errors but priests and servers are on a steep learning curve and it will come right, in time.

What they do not need, after Mass, is some pompous twit poking them in the chest with their index finger telling them how to do it.

As Parapedimos wrote:

"Some time ago, I attended an EF Mass in a neighbouring parish; it was being celebrating by a sympathetic young curate (Fr D) for the first time and the plan was that he would do so every fortnight. The PP was supportive. Afterwards, at coffee, I was disheartened to see various 'experts' gather around Fr D in order to patronisingly point out his mistakes and offer their 'guidance'. I did not attend any of the other EF Masses he celebrated (I prefer a well celebrated Ordinary Form Mass). After 4-5 times, he decided not to continue. When I asked an elderly priest friend (Fr M) why this was the case, he replied that Fr D was simply tired of the continuous bickering and criticism aimed at him and the servers who, in the minds of the 'experts', couldn't get things right".

A sad tale but one that takes place across the land all too frequently.

Worse still is when those who should know better, completely foul up and turn off the laity in their desire to attend the EF Mass.

Some years ago I attended the first Mass ever to be held in a parish church (it had been built in the 70s).

It was a sung Mass, courtesy of a visiting choir and, at the Credo, the congregation, ignorant or forgetful of the fact that it is customary for choir and people to alternate, joined in with gusto. and who could blame them? For many it was a revelation, seeing and hearing the Mass that they once believed was banned, back in strength and with the wonderful Missa de Angelis Credo to inspire and excite them.

Tragedy was to strike as afterwards, before the wax had cooled on the candles, an irate Latin Mass Society representative took to the pulpit and berated them for not observing the choral niceties.

The next month, that congregation of 60 plus souls had reduced to 30. And, bless them, if they didn't fall into the same trap yet again. It was as if they were just carried away by the enthusiasm and beauty of the Credo.
They belted it out and enjoyed every second of it.

Again, after the Mass an even more irate LMS chappie got on his soapbox and told them to get their act together.

The following month, the numbers in the congregation were down to 15 and they have remained at that level (so I am assured) ever since.

As well as witnessing this saga the PP also related the story to me at a much later date (not realising that I had been in the congregation). He, too was disheartened and, I suspect, will not continue saying the Latin Mass much longer.

It is tragic that, whilst some priests and people are steadily undertaking the brick by brick process, others are following behind equally steadily removing them.

I suspect that nothing will change their attitudes except for one thing.....death. You see, those who make snide comments are all the old brigade. What I call the "Knightsbridge Catholics". You will see them in any parish of the land, waiting to pounce on any poor server who holds the wine cruet in his left hand instead of the right or any poor cleric who forgets to keep index finger and thumb together.

Their days are numbered; in ten or fifteen years the problem will have gone....trouble is....will the TLM have gone also?


  1. I think posts such as this one will first highlight and then heal the situation, given God's grace.

    Knightsbridge Catholics to be sent to Fr Z's biological solution concentration camps whilst avaiting hiz furzer orderz eh??! ;)

  2. I am truly humbled that my comment helped you to put thoughts into words. As I said previously, although I prefer a well celebrated OF Mass, I am very supportive of those who want to see the EF Mass grow. This position makes me something of an oddity amongst my EF-or-nothing brethren who seem to regard me with a certain degree of...sympathy...yes, I almost wrote 'suspicion' :)

    Through priest friends, I have been blessed to attend Masses where the congregation has been African, Mexican, Vietnamese, charismatic, Eastern Rite; Masses filled with quiet contemplation and Masses overflowing with exuberance; Masses with a few people and Masses with well over a 1,000 worshippers. Even a lovely Mass with Blessed John Paul II.

    My point is that it is possible to feel the presence of God in all these Masses: I did, and I am not exceptional in this regard. Catholicism is rich enough to embrace exuberance and stillness, monastic contemplation and charismatic fervour. Although I am uplifted at an EF Mass, I would be foolish and arrogant to wish to say that this is the only worthwhile form, or wish to impose the EF (or Latin) on the peoples of Africa, Asia or Latin America.

    Although I certainly advocate that every Mass should be done with reverence (and Africans certainly dance with reverence) I believe it is ultimately a matter of being open to God's presence no matter where we find ourselves and we should never - ever - mock how others experience the grace of God.

    I know the above is not exactly on topic, so I ask your indulgence :)

  3. An excellent post, Richard. Thank you. I also think that parepidemos made some very good points.

    I hope you & yours are wellRichard. God bless you.

  4. This brings to mind Mosebach's comments about "liturgical innocence."

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  6. At our Latin Mass, a low Mass, our elderly priest struggles with the variable parts of the Mass (I think his eyesight is not the best) and one of our 2 altar servers is learning, slowly, but has to be continually nudged in the right direction. Despite this everyone is so grateful to be allowed a Latin Mass, and we all love our priest so much, that no one complains. My only concern is that on the weeks we don't have a Latin Mass (we only have it every alternate week) some members of our congregation don't go to Mass. They say the New Mass would 'destroy their Faith'! That's worrying.

  7. Yes, it must be terrible for these priests to have people constantly telling them all the things they're doing wrong.

  8. Well posted Richard. I often have to listen to comments about one particular server who upsets a member of our congregation who in his day was an excellent MC but also somewhat pedantic. I try to point out that because many of us in the congregation come from different parishes we are all used to minor differences in custom and practice. I also try to point out that we are very fortunate to be able to assist at TLM every Sunday and that this form of nit picking does nobody any favours. All said in a charitable way of course !!

  9. Excellent post, thank you. I too have witnessed some know-it-all LMS people (and I am a member myself) lording it over others. There is something terribly pharisaical about one or two of their ilk.

    As far as the Credo is concerned (and the Gloria for that matter), there is no hard and fast rule that insists on alternating. It is done that way in many places, but it is also sung striaght through in many others - we certainly did it in my home parish when I was a choir boy and in the parish where I now live. In both I was organist for many years. Some people look for rules where there are none and see their own traditons/interpretaions as being the only right ones.

    Keep up the good work.

  10. I think perhaps a fitting reply to those who criticize priest or congregation at the EF (a liturgy that I attend weekly), was the one Hilaire Belloc gave to a verger at Westminster Cathedral when, thinking he was a visitor, gently told the kneeling Belloc, "We stand at this point, sir," to which Belloc, exhibiting his truly Catholic culture, replied, "Go to hell." And the equally Catholic verger replied, "I' sorry, sir, I didn't know you were a Catholic."

  11. Thomas Storck - thank you for that. Utterly brilliant.

  12. I believe, as with the Pharisees who nit-picked the law to the tiniest detail and COMPLETELY missed the good news of Jesus Christ, there is a special place in Hell for these tormentors.

  13. Well said. I don't want to hear liturgical criticism from any lay person, whether it's directed at EF or NO Masses. It's Mass, not an evening at the theater. If you don't think the priest is reverent or orthodox enough, then pray for him. Silently.

  14. On the flip side, I once reassured a saintly Dominican that he need not worry over tiny rubrical details after he expressed his concern about all the "mistakes" he made in his first EF Mass in 35 years. I even quoted St Thomas to him but he countered with St Augustine "minimum minimum est, sed in minimis fidelem esse magnum est". Seeking to be faithful in small things is indeed a great virtue but perhaps it's best to achieve it completely oneself before attempting to teach it to others.

  15. I agree that there is a problem with lack of judgment and charity in many EF communities that lies behind their failure to grow.

    We certainly don't need people beating up congregations over things that are customs not rubrics, or patronising new priests.

    But there are some important distinctions to be made here.

    We shouldn't gloss over the fact that some 'traditional' priests believe themselves just as free to be 'creative' in their approach to the rubrics as the most extreme extemporising liberal.

    I've seen curious admixtures of older versions of the Easter Vigil for example, insertions of unapproved extra prayers, vestments in colours not approved for liturgical use in my country, and many other curiosities.

    Very close to home for me, for example, is a priest seems to think he can ignore the 1962 rules and randomly import Sarum elements into the Roman Rite, ignoring feasts in the calendar in favour of his preferred ones contrary to the rubrics, ignore the rules on the dressings for the altar and more.

    Most of the time these things are arguably relatively harmless in the greater scheme of things, not going to validity. But occasionally they are not!

    More fundamentally, it encourages the attitude of disobedience that has effectively destroyed the Church in the West.

    The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum makes it clear that Catholics are entitled to a Mass performed according to the (currently) approved liturgical books. Failure to follow the rules as set out in those books are abuses and should be taken seriously.

    The Mass is not owned by the priest or a congregation, but is the public work of worship of God.

    Things that merely offend the ideas of certain traditionalists as to how things should be done, on the other hand, need to be firmly squashed.

  16. Finding myself on a trip to my native city [New York] for the birth of my granddaughter, I went to the nearest Catholic church for Sunday Mass. I discovered to my delight that the Mass was to be in Latin. I had forgotten [if ever it was the case] that the Epistle and the Gospel were recited in Latin. In ye goode olde dayes I would have had my missal with the Latin and a translation. Alas I did not have it with me. My attention wandered.

    I fear that, in my 76 years, I have become accustomed to English. As has happened, I have attended Masses in French and Portuguese. I have survived.

    The complaints about holding the Missal in a certain way are trivial remnants of former times. The complainers had done better to pay attention to the Sacrifice and less to their frettings.

  17. Kate, I quite agree and part of my post does concern the 'new wave' of priests who, without being aware of the rubrics or, even, the ethos of Latin Masses, seek to impose OF type add ons.
    I also believe that some change is necessary from time to time but that it must take place in an orderly and fully approved fashion.

    Gabriel - one of the great elements of the Latin Mass is that it does not require you to follow it word by word, blow by blow. You can meditate (ideally) or let your mind wander on to higher planes as a result of being inspired by the Holy Mass (although, planning the evening meal is far from the ideal). God bless.

  18. I am an American who became a Catholic in England. (Our Lady and the English Martyrs [OLEM] in Cambridge on Easter Night 2000) Since about five years ago, I only assist at the Traditional Latin Mass. (I'd love to talk to anyone interested why that is, but I do not wish to digress here.) If I may, I'd like to offer dissent from the article and the previous comments.
    1. True love is willing to fight for the beloved. To the extent that I am a real Catholic, I am willing and zealous to fight for the Catholic Religion for the love of God.
    2. Think of any English Saint. Edmund Campion. Edmund Jennings. Thomas More. Margaret Clitheroe. Thomas Becket. Augustine of Canterbury. Bede. (I love them all, but these are some of the big ones that likely come to everyone's mind.) Now, imagine how any English Saint would react to a priest who can't offer the Mass. If you imagine they would just giggle at poor old Father, then you are self-deluded.
    3. The Mass is the Sacrifice of the Cross. Our Lord Jesus Christ is truly present. If you believe the True Faith, is it possible to treat the Mass as something ordinary and unexceptional that doesn't deserve a whole lot of fuss?
    I leave you with Saint John Fisher's prayer: "Jesus, convert England! Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us."

    1. 1) Certainly, fight for the Catholic Religion for the love of God ... but don't forget that the primary virtue the Catholic religion teaches us is charity.
      2) So if Fr. Neophyte doesn't get every detai 100% correct every time from the first, he "can't offer the Mass"? Do you really think any of those saints set the bar that impossibly high?
      3) I think we can make a valid distinction between erring and disrespecting the Mass.

  19. Good points Tony...totally agree....but you are late to the table my boy, that was one month ago.

  20. Anthony, thank you for your reply.

    One question: What is charity?