An Extraordinary Parish Mass

Tonight I attended a local parish’s Assumption evening Mass. This isn’t an FSSP parish, or a “designated” parish for the Missal of Pope John XXIII. It’s just a regular, territorial, parish church, and this was a normally scheduled Mass for a Holy Day of Obligation.

The Mass was in the Extraordinary Form, a Missa Cantata, with a Byrd ordinary, a number of motets, and chanted propers.

The very large suburban-type church was packed and overflowing, with families hanging around the vestibule with their toddlers. And while I did see some of the folks who frequent different EF Masses around the DC area, most of the people there looked like they were just regular parishioners.

The church was chock-full of young families.

The children seemed quite happy indeed, and were generally following along in the programs, which were plentifully provided. I don’t know if it was the beauty of the music, which was quite well done, or the support of their parents, or just what helped the children to enjoy the Mass. But they did, and afterwards the vestibule was filled with the energy that young people have when they feel happy.

I guess what I’m wondering is how there could possibly be anything wrong in all of this. I can imagine that myriads of liturgists, if consulted, would have been utterly scandalized by this thoroughly joyful occasion, and I can’t help but wondering: why?

9 Replies to “An Extraordinary Parish Mass”

  1. Why? Because those myriads are ideologically committed to their culture of Intrinsically Unworthy Music Products.

    Here's a parallel situation — it's a quote from a new article in the New York Observer about the threatened closure of Holy Innocents Church in Manhattan:

    Explanations for an inexplicable closure range. Some, like Mark Froeba, volunteer co-coordinator of the Holy Innocents Latin Mass, believe it’s an issue of misinformation and miscommunication. Mr. Froeba told the Observer that priests who were trained after the Second Vatican Council grew to harbor an animosity for the Latin Mass and the old, problematic ways of the church that it came to represent for them.

    “[To] a certain generation of priests, this is … the culture of the church they rejected in their youth … They’d come to believe that it was the source of all the problems in the church: it was paternalistic, it was rubrical and not spiritual … all these sorts of condemnations that they came to believe in a heartfelt way, for them to now see it coming back is shocking to them.” Mr. Froeba said. “They’re hostile to something they fought 50 years ago that doesn’t really exist anymore and this is a whole new thing, very much a product of the things that they fought for.”

    So it's not just our own perception.

  2. I am 72, born Catholic and a daily Mass goer. My husband and I raised our children in Manhattan and attended Corpus Christi Church there where we are still members. The 11:15 choral High Mass is glorious liturgy. Our boys were altar servers even after high school. We consider ourselves very blessed indeed to have this kind of solemn and beautiful worship. But I am also very much aware of the iconoclastic inclinations of priests of my generation who detest what they refer to as "the smells and bells"of solemn liturgy. Most of these guys are Irish-American which somehow explains some of their resistance. I am very familiar with a suburban parish in nearby Pelham where the former pastor said a solemn high Mass every Sunday, with a choir, and had traditional devotions such as benediction on First Friday, Vespers on Sunday afternoon, and numerous Holy Hours. Since he retired, the administrator has totally eliminated the high Mass and all the devotions. They are not allowed. The current priest is a devout and good man, but he is a former Anglican who is there as an assistant but cannot be named pastor, so he has limited authority in the parish. Since he is new, I am wondering if he will have more sway in September to renew some of the devotions that were suspended when the pastor retired. Hard to say. There is a perception that suburban Catholics prefer a stripped down Mass, St. Louis Jesuit (and the like) hymns, no Latin or Gregorian, and the briefest of sermons. If true overall, these are cultural Catholics who do not seem to have much sense of a personal relationship with God. I don't know how the movement of the New Evangelization intends to reach out to them effectively, but since they only come near the Church for Mass, it would seem that a beautiful liturgy would be the obvious first step. I don't get much sense from the Cardinal of New York that that is at all one of his priorities. He wants people in the pews and money in the collection. Well, good luck to him.

  3. The hostility to Chant and Latin by so many of our clergy seems to extend itself into every and all areas of Catholic identity and authority. God the Father is now merely Creator, the Magisterium is only opinion and Papal statements must first be examined through the lens of the editorial section from the National Catholic Reporter.

    Nothing illuminates the sacrality of Catholic beliefs and practices like the authority of a timeless liturgy accompanied by its corresponding icons of chant and language. Perhaps authority itself (which is the enemy of power) is the obstacle for many of us overly influenced by the subtle narcissism of American consumerist culture.

  4. Michael–very insightful! You are so right in identifying the hostility that even many Catholics show to Catholic identity and authority. This is the "culture of dissent," a hallmark of the American Catholic Church. The National Catholic Reporter is the foremost fanner of the flames. Just check out the narcissism of the LCWR who are currently having their annual meeting. Elizabeth Johnson said, in her speech on the acceptance of their top award, that they are all way ahead of the hierarchy in implementing the spirit of Vatican II. And just how are they doing that? They have abandoned the fundamentals of religious life such as life and prayer in common, some sort of religious dress, and the original charism of their orders. They have politicized their religious life and, when they talk about service to the poor, they mean family planning, abortion, contemporary therapy (I"m okay, your"okay stuff), and gay marriage. Secular society will ensure that the poor have these things. But who is there who will give them the comfort of the Faith, confidence in God, trust in Jesus and his teaching? The poor need more to live on than bread alone. And the New Age "singing Creator"" the nuns like to tout is certainly not going to help at all.

  5. At the heart of this "civil war" is the failure of cardinal Dolan and Pope Francis to deal with the liturgy up front and right away. They can't afford to ignore any longer. If they do, the People of God should insist they resign immediately.

  6. My parish celebrates a weekly Latin Tridentine Mass — most of the people who attend are younger than me. When I attend Mass in the Ordinary Form, most of the people are older than me.

  7. Modernity has turned liturgy into a political football in a game faithful Catholics would have never chosen, but now must play to win.

  8. Re: the Cardinal of New York: what a disappointment…which I am sorry to have to admit.

    I have occasion to go to NYC every once in a while, and he permits "out-in-NY" parishes with Islamic propaganda posted in the sanctuary, while he tries to get away with closing The Church of the Holy Innocents.

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