The Holy Mass: Losing Reverence means Losing Credibility

Holy Mass - Catholic Traditionalists
The Holy Mass

Today further extracts from my upcoming book (Update: now published as Cor Jesu Sacratissimum.)

While a subtle (or not so subtle!) materialism gains ever-greater credence in the Church, that which is distinctly Catholic becomes sidelined.

Nowhere is the situation more grave than in the attitudes towards the Eucharist. Following the Vatican Council, there was a widespread tendency to recast the Mass as a happy communal gathering, rather than as the Sacrifice of Our Lord.

Yet, as Romano Amerio has pointed out, the Last Supper is not simply a happy affair. It is a scene of cosmic tragedy: the Son of Man betrayed by a kiss.

The tragedy of that betrayal leads directly to the Sacrifice of the Crucifixion.

And prior to Vatican II, the Church was united in its understanding of the Mass as a sacrifice. No one disputed that the Mystery of the Mass lay in this: that in a non-bloody way, Jesus Christ again sacrificed Himself to feed us His Body and His Blood …

And so the Church was undivided in proclaiming Her central Mystery. Today’s Church is far from united in such proclamation!

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Following the Sixties’ reforms, the concept of the Holy Mass became exchanged – in many people’s minds at least – for something far more superficial than the ongoing cosmic sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

In other words, the Eucharist has become trivialised.

This trivialisation of the Eucharist, alongside the other Sacraments, did not usually proceed from the directives of the Vatican itself. However, it became apparent throughout the parishes of the world: in homilies, in catechesis, church literature, as well as through the popular press.

This trivialisation was further affirmed through local praxis. It was in horror of such things that the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre established his Society for Saint Pius X …

Our intent here is not to condone Marcel Lefebvre’s tragic actions in regards the Church. But let us be clear of this: Archbishop Lefebvre acted the way he did because his heart was broken. It was broken by the innumerable abuses he was witness to.

While traveling in Chile, for example, a Bishop came to Lefebvre’s attention, who smoked a cigarette, while celebrating the Mass – because if the Mass is now a happy family meal, why should one not relax and have a smoke? The Bishop moreover had celebrated Mass like this on television for everyone to see and emulate …

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Such travesties, however, are hardly confined to Latin America. It is terribly easy to discover countless abuses everywhere. I have already reported my suffering in Spain while the Sanctus was sung to the tune of the Beatles’ Help. In France, I suffered while Pink Floyd was played for the Communion antiphon.

But even sans glaringly inappropriate pop music, how frequently there are hymns, which are dissonant with the Supernatural Mystery being enacted at the altar. Many such hymns evolved in a Protestant complex. They were then adopted by Catholics, as the Church attempted to reconcile Herself to the Protestant communities.

In a low Protestant context, these hymns may have even been entirely appropriate. But the Catholic Mass is not such a context. It is the enactment of Supernatural Mystery: the ongoing cosmic sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is not appropriate to herald Supernatural Mystery with something originally intended for something altogether different.

Hence, dissonance exists.

There is discord between what the words of the Holy Mass say and how the words are treated. This is because the words of the Holy Mass are prayers. But so often, the modern Mass is far – very far – from being prayerful.

In catechesis (or what passes for it) the dogmas may be acknowledged in a cursory fashion, but they are often not taken seriously.  And it is the same elsewhere throughout the Church of today. It is not so much that the Church has renounced its great dogmas – but how often it acts as though it may as well have done.

Let us put this another way: Frequently, the modern Church says one thing – but does another. In the contemporary vernacular, the Church does not ‘walk the talk’.

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For if you read the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, dear Reader,you will certainly find the Mystery of the Church is still found within it.

But at the level of the grassroots, what dissonance exists! At the local celebration of the Holy Mass, you will frequently find little or nothing to indicate that the Catholic Mystery is recognised at all – let alone believed and venerated!

There is terrible discord, dissonance and disparity.

What is it to say one thing and do another?  It is hypocrisy – at least when it is conscious.

But, to be charitable, in many cases, there is very little awarenness indeed. There is no clear intention to betray the Mystery of the Church.

All of this frequently happens very unconsciously indeed. There are sincere Christians in plenty, who do not consciously wish to make a mockery of their Faith. Still, insensible as they are, they frequently tolerate the dissonance between the Mystery and a mundane mockery of the Mystery. That dissonance is not without effect.

The effect is to lose credibility.

Because people – whether individually or collectively – who say one thing and do another are not credible.

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4 responses to “The Holy Mass: Losing Reverence means Losing Credibility”

  1. Juan Senko Avatar

    Wonderful article! Here, in my parish (in Buenos Aires) I’ve protested more than once because they even sang songs to the music of KISS. I love KISS, but as a lover of their music I also know it is terrible innapropiate for Mass. I told the priest so, calling such songs “protestant sh*t” to which he answered me I was a bit too extremist. They even sing ridiculous songs before and after the Pater AS PART OF the prayer!

    1. roger Avatar

      KISS?! … God forbid!

      Just when one thinks he has seen and heard it all, even more surfaces as to the enormous tragedy of the Church today.

      While the temptation is to rant, I think weeping is more appropriate.

      The cost … the cumulative cost to the worldwide Church of what you report in Beunos Aires, Juan, what I experience in Western Europe or the inanities that countless Americans report is very high indeed.

      Thank you for adding your sad report to my own – also in regards to the Pater Noster.

      Awareness must be raised and every little bit helps.

  2. sharon Avatar

    Worst. Thing. Ever. A priest performed a “modern” dance instead of delivering a homily at our Easter Vigil Mass. I am a convert to Catholicism, a grace which I appreciate more each day. Easter Vigil Mass is a birthday for me as it began my life in communion with the faith. I am not one of those who nitpicks at every variance in the Mass, but this was just too much. Not only that, but he was a tall, gawky guy so it wasn’t even a good performance!!

    Fortunately, he is no longer with our parish, but he did a lot of other silly, trivializing things all in an effort to be “relevant.” And of course, almost none of our teenage members from that era are still practicing Catholics. This kind of silliness will never fortify Catholics to resist the fallacies and attacks of our time.

    1. roger Avatar

      A belated thank you for your sad report Sharon.

      And also your joyous report of the grace you “appreciate more each day” !

      Both kinds of reporting are very important I think.

      One has to find the right spirit of how to report the first. Too many Catholics feeling the incredible pain of this fall into ranting.

      I certainly have myself. So this is not a comment directed to you or Juan above – just something I see in many places including myself.

      Somehow we who feel this terrible tragedy must find a way to stand up and say: This is WRONG …

      And say it such a way that our authenticity of feeling (which is different from the ranting one finds in many traditionalist forums) commands some kind of respect and authority …

      Again, thank you so much for your perceptive, heartfelt comments here, even though I am slow to reply. (There is still somebody from last year I need to reply to!)