Tuesday, July 16, 2013

07/07/07, Evangelisation and the Traditional Mass

Returning one again to Professor Tracey Rowland's talk, I do not want to speak about the adolescent outbursts in some quarters that followed her edited interview on Youtube issued by CNS. It was published following her highly praised speech on the Usus Antiquior and the New Evangelisation delivered at the Liturgia Sacra Conference in Rome last month, there is a summary here.
I  had hoped that her paper might have been published somewhere by now.

Photo: Some highlights from Prof. Tracey Rowland’s address: “The Usus Antiquior and the New Evangelisation”, June 26th, 2013: -

“I want to argue that the usus antiquior is an antidote to the ruthless attacks on memory and tradition and high culture, typical of the culture of modernity, and that it satisfies the desire of the post-modern generations to be embedded within a coherent, non-fragmented tradition that is open to the transcendent.”

“The project of the 1960s generation was one of transposing a high sacral language into the vernacular of a low mundane culture, with the result that something sacred became more mundane, and when the sacred becomes mundane, it becomes boring.”

“In wrapping the faith in the forms of the contemporary culture and generally correlating the liturgy to the norms of the mass culture, the 1960s generation of pastoral strategists unwittingly fostered a crisis in liturgical theory and practice.”

“[The 1960s generation] dismantled a high Catholic culture by removing its cornerstone and they left subsequent generations of Catholics in a state of cultural poverty, confusion and boredom.”
“A Catholic who is ignorant of [the usus antiquior] is like a student who majors in English literature but is unfamiliar with Shakespeare.”

“It may be argued that [the] usus antiquior was the one thing that could bring the warring European tribes [of the 20th century] together.”

“[Benedict XVI] compared the pastoral strategy of bringing God down to the level of the people with the Hebrew’s worship of the golden calf and he described this practice as nothing less than a form of apostasy.”

“It would be a major advance if those responsible for liturgical decisions could at least get the message that modernity has not been fashionable since the 1960s.”

“Elements of Catholic culture which were suppressed by the 1960s generation of pastoral leaders are being rediscovered by younger Catholics who treat them like treasures found in their grandmother’s attic.”

“Catholics of the post-modern generations want to know how the Church looked, how the faith was practiced, when there was a coherent Catholic culture.”

“The whole structure of the usus antiquior engenders a deeper sense that there is a sacrifice, not a mere meal… There is really no greater antidote to secularism and what Pope Francis calls a ‘self-referential Christianity’ than a reflection on martyrdom and the sacrifice of Calvary and the Roman Canon sustains a person’s reflection on this reality.”

In an era when globalisation is regarded as a good thing and governments spend millions of dollars of tax-payers’ money to keep alive the memory of minority languages and pre-modern social practices like Morris dancing, the Church should not be ashamed of her own cultural treasures.”

“The usus antiquior should be a standard element of the cultural capital of all Latin Rite Catholics since is so effectively resists secularism and satisfies the post-modern hunger for coherent order, beauty and an experience of self-transcendence.”

“I believe that the proponents of the usus antiquior are often their own worst enemies and foster practices and attitudes which deter many Catholics from attending Masses according to this Form.”

“The obsession with dissecting every minute detail of the event is a symptom of what Joseph Ratzinger called the problem of aestheticism.”

“If pastoral pragmatism and its inherent philistinism is a problem at one end of the spectrum, aestheticism seems to be the problem at the other end of the spectrum.”

“Ordinary Catholics do not want to feel as though in attending the usus antiquior they are making a political stand against the Second Vatican Council.”

“The more [ordinary] people feel as though a whole raft of theo-political baggage comes with attendance at the usus antiquior Masses, the less likely they are to avail themselves of the opportunity to attend them.”

“To evangelise post-modern people [the Christian narrative] has to appear to be something starkly different from the secular culture they imbibe which is a culture parasitic upon the Christian tradition but completely decadent.”However, six years on it is worth asking whether Summorum Pontificum has added much to the Church and whether it really has much relevance for the Church today and Evangelisation.

Benedict's choice of the date 07/07/07, tripling the mystical number, to publish it seems like a rather gentle Benedictine'joke' to underline its importance. For Benedict, so concerned in his Papacy with reconciliation, saw SP as a way of reconciling the Church's past with its present. At a time when rupture was seen as the dominant interpretation of Vatican his words, "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful", came like gentle balm. That sentence and the de-ghettoisation of the ancient Rite gave a tangible foundation to Benedict's theology of 'the hermeneutic of continuity', no longer can 'Liberal' pastors and theologians speak in terms that suggest the Church had a Pol Pot style 'year zero' sometime in the 1970s.

To think that less than a decade before 07/07/07 Cardinal Noe used to mince around his basilica, he was Archpriest, and would remove the cruets from the credence ledge of any priest celebrating the traditional rite,  compare that with Fr Smith's report of St Peter's here of liturgical life early in the morning at St Peter's.

There is something about the 'old Mass' and the 4th Commandment, 'honour you mother and father and you will live long in the land', in broad terms, a connection with the past and belonging results in stability and prosperity. Vatican II's document on Christian Unity said that disunity was a scandal which impeded evangelisation. The scandal of the Church hate its immediate past is hardly healthy, and pre 07/07/07 that seemed to be how the Church presented itself.

The former Abbot of Worth, Fr Christopher Jamison, now  the Director for the National Office of Vocation spoke a few months ago about the high proportion of young men who applied to Westminster diocese whose vocational formation was much influenced often heavily by the old Mass. Here, in my parish we had to stop offering E.F. High Mass or even sung Mass because both servers who were capable of being MC both left, one to be a brother of Birmingham Oratory and the other joined an order in France that exclusively celebrates the EF. I estimate a good 30% plus of young priest I know of either celebrate the Traditional Mass as one of their 'first Masses' or learn it within a couple of years of Ordination. Along with the Mass goes a serious interest in the theology and especially the theology and spirituality of the priesthood that flows from it, often, still, to the chagrin of the seminary authorities and their diocesan bishop.

I really do not think Benedict expected every priest in the world to suddenly start celebrating the Traditional Mass, he made a point of not doing so publicly himself but he spoke 'mutual enrichment' and with it gone are the Bugnini days of stressing the rubrics of the old Rite do not (necessarily) apply to the new, indeed Benedict seemed to use the old prayers for incensation, gestures and even liturgical ornaments of the older Rite, on a few occasions he gave the impression of using the older offertory prayers, but most especially he used the older form as the source of his theology. So often the images in his sermons and quotations are from the older Rite. Rhanner and many of the Concilliar and later Jesuit theologians might well have scorned the liturgy as the source of theology but for Benedict the liturgy, as given, is the 'source and summit' of his theology and those he has, and will,  influence. It has always be the source and expression of the Church's theology, for Paul VI and JPII whilst the liturgy was in flux this may have been lacking, this was not so with Benedict whose insistence that liturgy is 'fixed' and his own example has returned us to what is theology's bedrock.

For Benedict SP is about preparing the Church to be effective in evangelisation. On the ground he has scattered seeds, they need time to germinate. Some might moan that despite SP they can't get to a Traditional Mass, even in a large city. In many places Mass is still advertised as "Low Mass at 3.45pm on the fifth Sunday of alternative winter months, telephone before coming". No-one expected that all of a sudden bishops would be sending priests brought up to mistrust 'tradition' off on training courses, there are rare exceptions like Bishop Dominique Rey of Toulon Frejus who seems to ordain more priests than the rest France put together, other than the diocese of Paris and a few there are a US bishops who actively encourage the older use, where this has happened vocations seem to be increasingly plentiful, where it has not they are few.

Today, because of SP the liturgy of the Catholic Church is plural, the older Rite belongs to everyone, it is not the preserve of an aesthetic or sartorial elite, which was Professor Rowland's point, even if they try to claim it as their own ghetto, and her most important was that it does not belong to groups like the SSPX or other groups, whose raison d'etre seems increasingly to be to oppose a legitimate Council of Holy Church.

Though one might have a preference for either form, to be solely attached to one or the other, whilst despising the other is totally contrary to the intention of SP and contrary to Catholic sensibility. Professor Rowland in her talk seems to be trying understand why Pope Benedict took the rather risky step (remember the reaction of the French bishops and others who seemed threaten schism over SP) of liberalising the ancient Mass.

She says
“I want to argue that the usus antiquior is an antidote to the ruthless attacks on memory and tradition and high culture, typical of the culture of modernity, and that it satisfies the desire of the post-modern generations to be embedded within a coherent, non-fragmented tradition that is open to the transcendent.”
Here in the UK several priests have used the TLM as part of a strategy to evangelise. Richard Collins recently made the wise observation that the TLM was a little like cigarettes or whiskey, a pleasure which at first might be not so pleasant but soon can become addictive, I suspect he had the Missa Lecta more in mind than High or Sung Mass. Here, in my parish, we have used High Mass for various important occasions, my silver jubilee, the 150 Anniversary of the opening of our church and great feasts, with encouraging results, all of these occasions have brought the lapsed or even non-believers in and caused them to wonder. In many ways solemn celebrations of the Traditional Mass are actually more accessible than the Ordinary Form.

The entrance point for the Traditional Mass is simply an openness to beauty, or the transcendent, or even western culture, for the Ordinary Form as usually celebrated it demands at least a comprehension of a vernacular language, some grounding in scripture and the current ecclesiastical culture - by that I mean at its lowest level simply knowing the hymns, a being comfortable with, or lacking a prejudice against a particular musical style. The Novus Ordo as it is currently celebrated either draws people in or repels them, Benedict's insistence on 'correct' translations of the Latin texts, the assertion of the 'giveness' of the Liturgy, was a reminder that the Novus Ordo had like the TLM an objective reality and was not supposed to be subjective as both its more liberal supporters and conservative detractors often claim. Improvisations, along with balloons, ceramic vessels and clowns are an aberration, so too the imposition of an individual celebrants personality, style or preferences.

Even so I would suggest that the TLM, in its solemn forms offers to the unchurched a 'worship experience' which can be more profound and more easily comprehended, it invites the participants into the mysteries of Redemption, by down playing the initial response of intellectual comprehension it allows a much more visceral response. A Jewish friend and former parishioner tells of his conversion beginning with High Mass, Thomas Merton speaks of his conversion too beginning by a chance encounter with the mutter of the Mass, an important part of my own conversion was stumbling into a Paris Church and hearing the singing of Introit whilst the clergy ascended the altar steps to sing Mass amidst a cloud of incense. A Filipino former member of our congregation, arriving in London to work for someone near Harrod's, with no English and as she admitted herself with no education found herself torn between a Filipino charismatic prayer group and the TLM (and the Lady Altar) at the London Oratory. The TLM, which for her like the boys at St Peter's was the 'New Mass' with no cultural baggage at all won out.


johnnyc said...

Well Father I am in a TLM parish and half of the men's Bible study group are protestant converts to the Catholic Church. Just one man's experience so.....

As far as breaking down who goes to what type Mass....I can't imagine Nancy Pelosi or her ilk attending a TLM. Maybe I'm wrong but.....

Cosmos said...

It seems pretty indisputable that people embrace religion because they are seeking to touch that Great Mystery that lies beyond our banal, everyday experience. It follows pretty plainly that presenting your Faith in an extremely bland, pedestrian manner is hardly going to be attractive to outsiders.

As a young man, I truly dreaded the mass. It was nothing a I stomach, much less take seriously. The priests seemed like either functionaries or oddballs (this was the days before I suspected anyone of sexual perversions). The music was lead by over-zealous perfrmers singing terrible folk songs about their communal love for God, or off-Borradway tunes that stretched wheat analogies to their breaking point. The priest homily was always a story that made me forget the readings and think about God's vague love for all of us. People seemed to love (1) shaking hands (to see who was there) and (2) leaving (directly after Communion).

The only masses that did not bother me were Christmas and Easter, We used the traditional music and did the whole liturgy like we meant it. The Cardinal gave a well-prepared homily. We all got dressed up and it made sense.

No one is embarassed by Gregorian Chant. We are al obsessed with multi-culturalism, and chant seems exotic and interesting. It safely appraches us from outside. But some of the music they play in Church now is literally like repellant for young men. It is affront to their identities. The music at the "rock" masses are the worst in this regard.

Supertradmum said...

Thank you for this post. I am convinced the TLM is not merely important for its own sake, but for the spirituality it creates. One lives differently, approaches God and people differently, prays at home differently, raises children differently because of the TLM. imo

Oona said...

I am unsure what Sp means anymore. We still travel an hour each month to attend Mass in the EF.

Our new priest arrived almost a year ago with the tag that he prefers the EF. Almost a year on he has yet to celebrate it.

I think this speaks volumes.

I live for the monthly TLM we attend. I think some priests are using it as a career move.

Jacobi said...


You raise the critically important matter of evangelisation which we are all committed to.

But one necessary pre-condition to evangelisation is knowledge. There is no point at all in crying the Faith from the roof tops if you have only the vaguest idea of what the Faith is. Sadly this is so of probably a majority of today’s post-Vatican II Catholics. Those who don’t believe in Confession, or accept the discipline of Sunday Mass or think contraception and indeed the morning after pill is OK, or the 80%?, apparently, who do not understand or accept the Real Presence, and so on.

Until we change this you can forget evangelisation.

On the other hand those who attend the ancient Mass,on the whole, know their Faith – and that is where you will get evangelisation!


I misread your title for a minute. I thought it said The New Evangelisation and the Traditional Mass.

Well forgive me for a minute while I go down that route for a moment and point out a great irony in all of this that I have only just noticed.

On my blog I have a ten point explanation of the New Evangelisation. It is not a made up/'wing it' explanation. It is accurate and of course much of it relates to re-catechesis. Now bare in mind that people like Michael Voris are always pointing out that....

"with the old Mass comes the authentic theology"

and also baring in mind that, in the great scheme of things, the New Evangelisation is failing in the mainstream of the church I find it highly ironic that newcomers to the Latin Mass are, on the whole, the only ones who are genuinely being re-catechised with the authentic theology.

It is almost as if the New Evangelisation was tailor made to work alongside the Traditional Latin Mass.

If we are talking about re-catechesis then the TLM is the only area of the church where Catholics are actually pro-actively learning catechesis and then trying to live it out. It may be a slight exaggeration, but I hope you get my point.

Matthew Roth said...

Father, the proper and right celebration of liturgy is what my role, I think, in the New Evangelization is all about: for me, I serve Mass well (in both forms but especially the older form), I write about my experiences, and I promote the older form. As hard as it might be, I think that (and it's a big one as I don't know what to do at this point) if I were ordained, I would go to a diocese where I could say the EF exclusively. Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post Father and for helping us to understand a little more of Professor Rowland's statements.

It is nice to read a priest present a balanced approach to this (now viral) matter: so different from recent hysterical and pompous pronouncements from priests and others on a Blog which we ought not to name, but which we should all avoid.

John Nolan said...

What happened to the young men who applied to Westminster diocese and who admitted being influenced by the old Mass? Not long ago they would have been turned down flat. Have things changed?

Fr Ray Blake said...

and of course many seminaries have young priests on their staff who regularly celebrate the EF - at least in England.

Patrick Langan said...

Thank you Father Blake for your interesting and thoughtful post! I myself as I am certain do many have great difficulty with the N.O. Can we really state we have two forms of the Mass when one is so lacking the heart and soul of the Roman Catholic faith? In all conscience I SUFFER under the so called Novus Ordo.God forgive me!

PJ said...

I like the approach you take to the liturgy Father. As a young person seeking truth and beauty, I am not bothered about the sectarianism that has dominated the church recently and the disputes associated with that. I merely want to discover Catholicism in its fullest sense and tradition which I have only recently come to truly get to know.

JARay said...

I was sent one of Michael Voris's programmes the other day and I think that fits very appropriately in with this topic. I do hope that you can get it from what I post below:-

Richard Collins said...

Thank you Father, God bless.

momangelica said...

Last Sunday, I got into Church and found I'd left my Missal in the car. Walking back to the car park I passed four extremely attractive young ladies. One of them hung back for me to catch up with them to ask help in finding the unlocked door to get in. I asked questions of them, after all, this was a SSPX church and these ladies looked aged twenty no more. It turned out that they were from Australia, two worked as nursing carers in Briton, the other sister were visiting. They had 5 brothers so there were ten children in total. I told them I wished I'd brought my camera. Their smiles and deportment were just beautiful, some natural dignity. They were Latin Mass attendees due to the parents leaving O.F.when there was the dancing on the altar, it was the last straw. Fortunately, a priest turned up in the area who said the Mass in Latin. They said Australia is turning around and many of the young are coming back but not to the O.F. but the E.F. The young want to know what on earth were their parents thinking about by taking them to the O.F. as it 'robbed' them of their faith.

gemoftheocean said...

momangelica: "dancing on the altar." Wow. Really? Any dancing in the sanctuary or church is bad enough, but on the altar is unheard of. I hope they didn't leave gouges in the wood from the taps on their shoes.

momangelica said...

Very funny GOTO. It made think about the terminology we used to use though. We called the Sanctuary 'The Altar' I never heard that reference until quite a lot later, 80's maybe?
It was always " Boys on the Altar" or " Go and kneel at the Altar steps" etc.
They would deserve to have stiletto heels marks anyway.