Tag Archive: liturgy


         “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.”

–  St Augustine, Confessions.

 

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Every person in the world can recall a moment in their life when they looked upon something utterly beautiful, a painting, a landscape, ornate building, thread of cloth, graceful animal or blooming flower. Maybe it was a multi-hued sunset or a sky full of stars that dazzled like diamonds. I’m also sure everyone can recall a song or piece of music that captured the soul. Still in these modern days of drum & base and synthesizers, the emotive strains of Mozart, Palestrina or Bach cause one to pause in amazement. Why do these things affect us so? Because, beauty is a testimony to divinity, it places us in the presence of God.

I have heard a many atheists affirm this. The austerity of an old cathedral, the poetic meter of a sacred text or the lofty tones of Gregorian chant speak to something deep inside of them. Everything beautiful or awesome in this world bespeaks an ultimate Beauty and Awesomeness. We love beauty because God, who is beauty Himself, created it. We crave beauty because we hunger for God.

Lately, I’ve noticed that people have been talking a lot about the beauty, ritual and “pomp” of Catholicism, how much it ought to be peeled back to reveal a more simple Gospel. Truly, extravagance and luxury in the Church can take grievous heights, becoming a worldly sort of splendor and causing scandal to the outside world. We only need to look far as the excesses of the Renaissance popes only 600 years ago. Easily, we can regard the ecclesiastical affluence that fanned the flames of the Protestant Reformation. Even today, a bishop who drives a fancy car and lives in a spacious mansion causes scandal- and rightly so. There is a such thing as improper extravagance, which makes the church appear like an elitist club, which damages the soul. However, allow me to distinguish this from the proper “extravagance” belonging to our faith and due to God.

Read details of the Jewish Temple described in the Old Testament book of Kings. How it was framed in fine wood, gold and bronze, how purest incense burned there night and day. This was regarded as the place of God, where His Holiness dwelled, a place betwixt heaven and earth- and it was adorned so. Now, we all know Christ gave us a Temple of His body, made not with human hands, a real and true presence of God with us. No one would argue against that. Yet, I think few make the connections here between Jewish worship and Christian liturgy. When Jews worshiped in the Temple, they believed they were imitating the goings on in heaven. And when Christians gathered for liturgy, they believed they were participating in heaven! Man would no longer just imitate God; no, he would become part of God, become one flesh with Him in the Eucharist. What was once a dim shadow has been seen in clear light- Christ, who was crucified and resurrected, calling each one of us to be His flesh, to be His body! I don’t know about you, but this calls for some celebration.

Contrary to popular belief, a priest’s ornate vestments aren’t for his own glory. They instead represent putting on Christ, entering into His heavenly glory, a glory in which we are greatly unworthy to participate! But see how much Christ loves us. He dons His prodigal children in robes, welcomes them into new life and gives us the feast of Himself! While we may deem it rather boring to hear monks chanting for hours on end, consider that all the hymns in the world, sung ceaselessly cannot describe the depths of God’s love!

Splendor in liturgy isn’t something that should be condemned. After all, the priest only wears those gilded vestments once a day at most. He doesn’t wear them when greeting his friends or when preaching on the street. He wears them, as is proper, to partake in the wedding feast of the Lamb Most-High. At Mass, the person and personality of a priest disappears, subsumed in the vesture of Christ. Yes, we could go on over and over about how many unworthy priests stand at the altar but such critique misses the point. Consider us all sinful, stained and unworthy who stand at the altar. Our God is a God of forgiveness, second-chances and decadent love. He gives to us out of gratuitous generosity. Should we not render praise to him gratuitously?

Beauty can be simple, it can be poor and mean just like the stable at Bethlehem. No one is required to adorn their church with materials they cannot afford. No one is exempt from relieving the poor. This is why, the Catholic Church, despite its historical glories, is still the world’s leading charitable organization. With beauty comes responsibility.  To whom much is given, much is expected. A priest who dons splendid vestments while turning blind eye to the poor and suffering, commits insult against Christ. As he is dressed in Christ, so should he act as Christ. Splendor needs to speak of something higher than ourselves, needs to be an unspoken prayer to God and a token of his gratuitous love for us. It must have meaning. Splendor for splendor’s sake is never good.

I firmly believe in a simpler Church that is also a beautiful Church. Mary, Mother of Christ, in all her poverty, radiated pure, godly beauty.  Thus, so should the Church, the Bride of Christ. She should be bedecked as for a wedding-feast, a bride blushing timidly yet fearlessly carrying high the bejeweled cross.

So I say, let her priests wear the spotless, vestments of Christ while at the same time, running to spread His Gospel, to uplift the fallen and impoverished. Let his fluid chant sing a love-song to Christ and His people. Let the vast, stained-glass windows of cathedrals teach a parable, gilded altars declare thanksgiving and clouds of incense herald holy paths. Where there is love, there is an unspoken beauty; ever ancient, ever new but never meaningless.

 

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Attention Pastors, Youth Pastors, Music Directors, Deacons and Catechists:

 

I have oft heard the complaint from you that “The young people aren’t interested in Catholic faith, they don’t come to Mass and they don’t volunteer to sing, lector or help with ministries…it seems there is little hope these days!”

I’ve come to tell you, there is hope! The young people can be drawn to Catholic faith, Mass, choir and any church-related ministry. You can get them interested!

 

The Problem:

Frequently, young Catholics feel ignored, not that they aren’t being pampered or praised or given special attention, I mean they are trying to tell you exactly what they like, what they expect from the Church, what they are yearning for deep in their souls… but you simply aren’t listening.

I am in my twenties, part of the tail end of what they call “the John Paul II generation” I came into the Catholic Church just as John Paul II went out. My RCIA class was on fire for faith, for learning and for yearning. We did homework, read our catechism, got on the internet, immersed ourselves in it all! The parish that nurtured this crop of oncoming-converts was steeped in reverence and awe for tradition. Not just going through motions and singing empty songs. On Ash-Wednesday, we proudly explained the odd mark on our heads, we debated Protestants on the Bible, we learned basic prayers- in Latin AND English. Sunday night Mass ensued in candlelit splendor, amidst clouds of incense and to the tune of Laudate Dominum. You could never look at these young people and say “They just don’t care”.

After RCIA and graduation, I returned home and attended what you’d call your average parish church. I descended from a world of splendor to bare walls, hurried Masses and barebones hymns. Still fervent in the sacraments, the Eucharist and the Early Church Fathers, I lived on. Come 2012, I attend a parish in central Florida. Art covered the walls, thank God, but it was rather bare art. Mass was still hurried and hymns still barebones. Something however was very familiar: no Latin during Ordinary time, nor during Advent, nor during Lent, no incense, no Laudate Dominum.

I spoke up once during choir practice (I’d since then joined the choir because I enjoyed singing and praising the Lord). I said “You know, I’d really like some Latin hymns…Maybe we can have some silence after Mass during Lent- you know for reverence…”

I suggested to our priest once: “I think a Eucharistic procession around Christmas to celebrate the incarnation would be cool…” Deaf ears in reply. I was told by the music director: “We don’t do Latin anymore…Silence bores the congregation…” The priest said a procession would be “too inconvenient”. What I gave was the opinion of a young Catholic- a real, live young Catholic. They didn’t want it.

The problem is all these people keep telling us young folk what bores us, what we really like, what we find interesting. And guess what, THEY’RE WRONG! If one listens to the young Catholic voice, one would find we are yearning for beauty, for tradition and for truth. Traditional Catholicism honestly fascinates us! We go all week hearing perky pop-songs, jumping techno and chatter that doesn’t leave a minute of silence. We go to church and we get exposed to the same exact things. Thus, of course we find it boring! Why should we go to Mass when we can stay home and sing “Gather us in”, listen to a preacher on tv and fill our rooms with noise? Young people are sick of the world. We long for a safe habitat where we can bow before God and think. We crave contact with ancientness, with a strong grounding, with strong Catholic identity. God’s people are chosen out of the world, set apart, destined for a heavenly home. We want a taste of that!!

 

What young Catholics want:

First, we wouldn’t mind if you listened… Stop telling us what we think and what we like.  Look at traditional Catholic parishes, they are overflowing with young people and traditional seminaries are crowded with young aspirants. The next generation wants precisely what your generation has put away and tried to hide from us. There’s a proverb: “The son longs to remember what the father longs to forget!” We long to revisit the Latin oldies, incense, kneeling and chapel veils. We hate guitar Masses. We hate sappy hymns, watered-down teachings and Masses that must be kept minimal. We want the red meat that is the 2,000 year old Catholic faith and not only that, we want to sink out teeth into it!

When young people see that Mass is not like the rest of the week, that it’s not like the world, that it requires us to think and act differently- as if we’re present when heaven touches earth, we will be interested. We will wander in with curiosity, saying “what glorious thing is this?” and we will stay there.

And this is not a dilemma that has gone unnoticed either.  An article on Catholicculture.org states: “The Roman rite was always different from all of the eastern rites, of course, but the sense of the transcendence of God, which once marked our liturgy strongly, seems rarely to find expression in our worship today. And we trashed, just trashed, a glorious tradition of liturgical music which the council fathers at Vatican II explicitly commanded be fostered. ” I can tell you that many of our young people agree with this! Our generation is immensely attracted to the statements of Pope Benedict XVI that ask for a return to tradition in liturgy.  I hear countless, young Catholic college students and bloggers begging: “Please, give this back to us.”

People can pretend that worship is a strictly spiritual matter, pretend that it does not involve shallow, physical things but the Mass is precisely opposite. It is very physical just like the union of two lovers is very physical. No sane person declares love is just a spiritual thing, that saying “My dear” doesn’t matter, that singing a serenade or reciting a sonnet doesn’t matter or that a candlelit banquet makes no difference. Our worship became VERY physical the moment Christ assumed human flesh. Catholics are people of the incarnation. We don’t go to Mass to philosophize and have Bible study- no, we go to Mass to taste and see the goodness of the Lord! Mass isn’t about social gathering- no, it’s about each soul receiving perfect union with God! Shouldn’t our pastors and music directors be showing us that? Shouldn’t our priests be saying with their actions and words and prayers: “Hey, this isn’t part of the world that bombards you with noise and ugliness, that constantly seeks to entertain you, this is heaven!”

Jesus Christ came to give the hungry world that which they were so long deprived of. He came to give meaning, to give mystery, to give us the awesome presence and tender love which is God. Jesus didn’t say “Let’s get the young people interested.” He said “Feed my Lambs.” So, I sincerely ask our pastors, youth pastors, deacons and music directors to give young Catholics a taste of heaven, give us mystery, give us that presence and awesome love of God. Hit us with a meaty Catholicism that makes us stop and think, that makes us truly perceive the miraculous thing that is happening at every Eucharist, and causes us to bow down and say “Truly this is the Son of God” “Truly this is the New Covenant” “Truly this is the Promised Land- our heavenly home”!

 

“O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him.”

-Psalm 34:8

This is not intended to start a huge argument but merely to point out what the Second Vatican Council and the popes say about the use of Latin in the sacred liturgy. I simply want to make my feelings known and why I feel them.

 

The Dogmatic Constitution of the Liturgy:

“Article 36. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.

 

Article 54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be alloted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to readings and the “common prayer,” but also, as local condition may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this constitution. Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. And whenever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this constitution is to be observed.

 

Article 63. Because the use of the mother tongue in the administration of the sacraments and sacramentals can often be of considerable help to the people, this use is to be extended according to the following norms: a) The vernacular language may be used in administering the sacraments and sacramentals, according to the norm of Art. 36. b).

 

Article 101. In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office. But in individual cases the ordinary has the power of granting the use of the vernacular translation to those clerics for whom the use of Latin constitutes a grave obstacle to their praying the office properly.”

Source: http://www.catholicliturgy.com/index.cfm/FuseAction/ArticleText/Index/65/SubIndex/111/ArticleIndex/37

 

When Latin is too big of an obstacle, it is to be limited.

What is a big obstacle?? In China, they use vernacular in the Masses because Chinese language is the farthest thing from Latin. Their mindsets are entirely different and the pronunciations opposing. English on the other hand, has a vocabulary that up to 50 % consists of Latin-derivatives. Not a giant leap. A big obstacle is when learning Latin or singing it would be utterly disruptive and inconceivable for the growth of faith.

I will make my point:  Seeing as how for hundreds of years, people in America have been hearing the Latin Mass, how has it suddenly become what constitutes a grave obstacle now? When the changes were made, it was actually hard for some, who had grown up with the Latin, to adjust to the English. I know some people for whom saying the Mass parts in English was an obstacle!

We live in a country with the highest literacy rate and accessibility to high education. It is not too hard to read and memorize Latin. Even if one cannot read or memorize Latin, translations were once always available in Missals for the English. Without Missals, even illiterate, medieval peasants memorized Latin and went along with the Latin Mass. Are we here in America less equipped that peasant farmers who only knew dirt and the plow to understand Latin?  The greatest saint in the Western Church were grown and nourished on Latin chant and prayers, many of them ignorant and lowly men/women. In my opinion- and this is just my opinion, it’s not compromise but laziness.

Currently, in the Vatican, all official documents are written in Latin and during councils all that is spoken is spoken in Latin. Why? Because bonding over a universal language, bishops from China can perfectly communicate with bishops from France. Latin makes language barriers go away. A person in a Hispanic Church needs not have difficulties in an English-speaking church and vice versa. The Catholic faith is made graspable and understandable for all. With the use of Latin ordinaries (while sermons, common prayers and readings obviously stay in the vernacular), people from all countries can sing the same song before God.

 

I wish to include what the Holy Fathers have said about the use of Latin:

 

“The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself”

– Pope John Paul II (Dominicae cenae, n. 10).”

 

Excerpts from the encyclical letter, Veterum Sapientia by Pope John XIII (who called the Second Vatican Council):

“Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.”

 

“Since every Church must assemble round the Roman Church,” and since the Supreme Pontiffs have “true episcopal power, ordinary and immediate, over each and every Church and each and every Pastor, as well as over the faithful” of every rite and language, it seems particularly desirable that the instrument of mutual communication be uniform and universal, especially between the Apostolic See and the Churches which use the same Latin rite.

When, therefore, the Roman Pontiffs wish to instruct the Catholic world, or when the Congregations of the Roman Curia handle matters or draw up decrees which concern the whole body of the faithful, they invariably make use of Latin, for this is a maternal voice acceptable to countless nations.”

Source: http://www.adoremus.org/VeterumSapientia.html

 

“I would be in favor of a new openness toward the use of Latin. Latin in the Mass has come meanwhile to look to us like a fall from grace. So that, in any case, communication is ruled out that is very necessary in areas of mixed culture… Let’s think of tourist centers, where it would be lovely for people to recognize each other in something they have in common. So we ought to keep such things alive and present. If even in the great liturgical celebrations in Rome, no one can sing the Kyrie or the Sanctus any more, no one knows what Gloria means, then a cultural loss has become a loss of what we share in common. To that extent I should say that the Liturgy of the Word should always be in the mother tongue, but there ought nonetheless to be a basic stock of Latin elements that would bind us together.

–         Cardinal Ratzinger [God and the World, SF, CA: Ignatius, 2002, pp. 417-18]

 

Source: http://www.ceciliaschola.org/notes/benedictonmusic.html

 

-basically John XIII and Benedict XVI are making the same exact points I was making about the common universality of Latin!

 

Who are Roman Catholics? The Jews, who are proud of their cultural identity, show their identity by use of ancient Hebrew, the Greeks show their identity by use of Greek. Eastern Catholics employ other ancient languages. Why should Roman Catholicism hide who it is? When we fail to preserve our identity by connecting to ancient roots, we get swept up into the current of the age and this in my opinion has been the cause of many people leaving the church. They see church as no different from the world so what’s the use going? They see Roman Catholicism as no different from Protestantism so what’s the use staying?

I believe the liturgy and music are such important ministries and while being flexible they should also be transcendent, telling the world of the Church Christ established which is ever ancient and ever new. Liturgical music in my opinion should lift us out of the world and its modern age, not bury us deeper within it. It is vital that we have chants which send shivers down people’s spines and transfix them between earthly and celestial realms. It isn’t necessary that every word be understood. Indeed, understanding and analyzing every word can distract us from simply being with God so that we think of the words and not God. Sometimes mystery is a beautiful thing. After all, heaven touches earth during holy Mass.