Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mutual Enrichment Goes Both Ways


This is a video of President Kennedy's funeral in 1963, amazingly it is 'Low Mass of a Bishop' with music, as opposed to a sung Mass or Missa Solemnis.
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It is pretty apparent when the Old Rite influences the New, since Summorum Pontificum, that has been quite considerable, which I suspect was the main reason for it promulgation but people often ask to what extent the New Rite has had an influence on the Old. I don't think that today a prominent Catholic figure would be buried today with such a perfunctory Rite celebrated in such perfunctory way, even though Low Mass in the Old Rite without music is normal. Apart from a Mass with a Bishop I have never attended Low Mass with music, before the Council it seems to have been quite usual, in Germany first, then elsewhere there was Mass with hymns, before Veterum Sapientia hymns in the vernacular were widespread, hence the large repertoire of Catholic hymns. In Frances there were those pretty organ Masses.

Cardinal Cushing's manner of celebration today would be regarded as unusual even shocking to a Catholic who normally attends the Traditional Mass, it certainly seems to be light on prayerful recollection, possibly even in 1963 prelates were getting used to the use of not always reliable microphones.

Of course what we might do with Old Rite today might well regarded by our forefathers as a bit prissey

27 comments:

Terry Nelson said...

You wrote: "Of course what we might do with Old Rite today might well regarded by our forefathers as a bit prissey."

Having been around in those days, as well as having been an altar boy 'perfunctory' was indeed the 'ordinary form'. It strikes me as very much in keeping with the adage, 'say the black, do the red'. More to the point, I think our forefathers would regard what is done with the 'Old Rite' today as overly pious and affected.

Pax Britannica said...

This famous/notorious event - Kennedy's funeral mass - was 'merely' a low mass because the intense confusion after the stunning and devastating assassination 'did not allow time' to organise anything more complex (an argument I have heard, which doesn't seem very convincing, and nothing had been planned (which is likely, if negligent of the authorities). The dreadfully inadequate musical bits were the request of Mrs K to have the things that had been performed at their wedding. This appalled Erich Leinsdorf in Boston, who offered a Mozart Requiem with his forces, duly celebrated (and recorded) by Cushing in Boston 2 months later. But this extraordinary film does convey strangely the exceptionally 'provisional' and surreal mood after this incredible and tragic event.

Pelerin said...

That was quite an eye-opener and the first time I have seen this.

It does all seem very mechanical - Cardinal Cushing made the Dies Irae sound almost Shakespearian and I agree true prayer seems to be somewhat lacking. (It is a pity that the Consecration seems to have vanished from the film altogether.) Perhaps those today who seem to have a horror of what they term the 'Latin Mass' remember Masses celebrated in this way. However I must have been lucky as the Masses I attended in various churches during the early 60s were all dignified and prayerful and not at all perfunctory.

John Boyle said...

I watched some bits of this. The lack of reverence with which the Celebrant comports himself is in stark contrast to the beauty that generally accompanies the celebration of the EF Mass today. I trust this video is edited - the Mass is over in such a short time. Perhaps the "pious and affected" way the Old Rite is done today is to be welcomed as a recovery of the senses of the sacred that was already being lost in the early 60's.

Mark said...

Maybe it was a casual Mass to see off a casual Catholic?

Pelerin said...

Fr Boyle - it was definitely edited as there was a break in the film and no Consecration at all!

TLMWx said...

I think Modernists generally consider the virtue of piety prissy in itself but I do not know what these people would make of the devout TLMs we have nowadays. I would hope that they would consider them a real improvement judging by this recording.

I watched it with the sound off and he seemed dignified in the main. The slurring nasal twang does give the impression of a lack of attention I would admit. The ablutions were very poor at the end. It looks like washing up duty. The music is well out of order and absolutely nothing compared to a sung or solemn requiem. I wonder whether it was low key because of JFKs poor and sad Catholic witness.

Father I have never heard of a low Mass with music has Fr Fortescue? Is that just a Mass with liturgical abuses held up as an example of traditional Catholic Liturgy 1960's style i.e sadly lacking.

Who cares for the liturgical abuses of the Germans and the French. The Churches norms up to and including St Pius X are the proper model. Needless to say there will always be forces of degeneration and the Liturgy must be constantly renew by renewed faithfulness to the Churches norms in every period of history and at every Mass celebrated.





Sixupman said...

You are probably too young, Father, to have heard, on BBC Radio, Fr. Agnellus Andrew OFM [later bishop] speak a commentary on the Celebration of The old Mass. Superb. [n.b. BBC Choral Evensong - then seven days a week - coincided with our own Vespers for the particular day and could be followed from our larger pocket missal.]

Weekday early morning Masses were 'quick' to facilitate those on their way to work. Sunday early Masses were fairly quick. 09:30 Mass was with solemnity and hymns. 11:00 High Mass, no Communion made available [due to 'fast' rules]. The Low Masses provided the space for prayer.

Happy days.

Re the comment upon the perfunctory Ablutions: a priest friend of mine took such care with the Ablutions and recited, within the NOM, the TLM prayers, being most moving. The same reflecting that which had just transpired.

Konstantin said...

The Saints were always "prissy" when it came to celebrating the Mass. I don't think the recording of this Mass should serve as a model of how the Old Mass should be celebrated today.

Mitchell Hadley said...

As an amplification of what Pax Britannica said, the Low Mass was specifically a request of Mrs. Kennedy (through her brother-in-law Sargent Shriver, who was responsible for most of the planning). It was felt that the "ordeal" of sitting through an hours-long Requiem was something Mrs. Kennedy was not up to, and this was agreed-to not only by Shriver and Cardinal Cushing, but by Archbishop O'Boyle of D.C. I suspect that the subsequent Requiem which Cardinal Cushing celebrated was something he may well have felt personally should have happened at the time, but he felt it in the best interests of the family to accede to their wishes.

According to contemporary accounts, Mrs. Kennedy was deeply moved by the Mass, particularly when the Cardinal broke into English in referring to Kennedy as "Dear Jack," and many of the accounts of the time referred to the Mass as one consisting of simple dignity. Perhaps that was what was expected at the time.

Following up on Fr. Boyle and Pellerin - the Mass, including the selections read by Fr. Philip Hannan following the conclusion of the Mass (there was no eulogy, appropriately), ran for exactly one hour.

I most certainly agree that a Requiem High Mass would have been most appropriate, but it is important to remember that judging by the standards of the times and the utter shock of the nation (not to mention the funeral being held just three days after the assassination), as well as the "foreignness" with which most Americans still regarded the Mass, the choice of a Low Mass was considered an "obvious" decision.

George Lee said...

Stanford's wonderful Milton scholar, Martin Evans, (himself a Welshman) recounted to us how struck he was at the time by Cardinal Cushing's perfunctory, mechanical, impersonal tone and delivery at this Mass. He said that it later dawned on him that it was only by distancing himself from the proceedings that Cushing was able to get through it at all. Had he allowed his sympathy and affection to govern his demeanor he would have been overwhelmed and made a halting, tearful mess of it. Cushing actually helped the congregation by treating, as far as possible, this requiem Mass about the same as he would have treated any other one back home in Boston. Everyone across the country, as I remember those shocking, sorrowful days, was stunned, and the unemotional recitation of the Latin benefited the listeners, especially those of us who were Catholic.

Of course, as far as the Kennedys go now, as the song has it, "Wish I didn't know now, what I didn't know then..."

Pax Britannica said...

Mitchell Hadley explains perfectly the 'mystery' - thank you. And George Lee is most useful. In fact, Mgr Cushing's Bostonian twang - an inadequate description of an extraordinary noise - was notorious. He is likewise audible on the recording that was made of the Boston requiem. The whole funeral is weird and shocking in its liturgical inadequacy - and yet seems to convey powerfully and like nothing else the shock and horror of those days, let us not forget in the middle of the chaotic and provisional sixties. And this file is cut - the consecration most certainly is recorded, and available on another YouTube file here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZCWHzJswRQ It is difficult to know if the bizarre music track is synchronized with the pictures - probably it is. The entry of world leaders at the beginning of this clip is memorable.

Cosmos said...

Seems like Pax Britannica explains a lot of what was going on... People might need to re-adjust their comments based on that post. Jackie Kennedy was notoriously heterodox and had very idiosyncratic views on religion and art.

As far as the comment that "I think our forefathers would regard what is done with the 'Old Rite' today as overly pious and affected," that seems about right. That generation seemed very concerned with how they looked--especially to the movers and shakers in the secular world.

Thomas said...

I found the commentary far more edifying and illuminating than the celebration. Although George Lee's comments may be true, I think there is a lot of false nostalgia about the "good old days". There was obviously an urgent need for reform, which does not justify what we actually got, but the motives were not necessarily malice and stupidity.

B flat said...

We had a sung requiem in our suburban parish in England immediately after the deaths of Pius XII and John XIII. Although the altar servers were unused to the notable differences from a normal sung Mass, everything was done decently and in good order. But the parish priest refused to organise a special Mass for JFK because he was a secular, and foreign, notable, and prayers for him would be a matter of private choice, rather than a duty of the parish towards its own superiors. Very sensible of him, I think now, although I didn't understand it then.

As to Low Mass with music.... I never attended any Mass in a Polish church, weekdays or Sundays, before the New Rite was introduced, without hearing the people singing, very often unaccompanied by organ, at all the important points of the Mass, Offertory, Canon, and Holy Communion. It was spontaneous, prayerful, and quite moving. I expect they still do it wherever the N O allows, and anyone attending a Polish Mass in an English church can verify.

Sadie Vacantist said...

I am not in the least bit offended by the perfunctory manner of the celebration. The Cardinal's Latin sounds awful but he actually understood what he was reading and that's all that matters.

Pax Britannica said...

The tenor bawling Schubert's Ave Maria was Luigi Vena from Boston (who sang it at their 1953 wedding). For the record, the Washington Star documented the music at the funeral as '...sung by the St. Matthew's Choir: "Subvenite" (Gregorian, choir); "Pie Jesu," Leybach (tenor solo), "Ave Maria," Schubert (tenor solo); “In Manus Tuus,” Novello (tenor solo); “Sanctus and Benedictus,” Perosi (choir).' Timing: 62 minutes (12:13 to 1:15). To his credit, it has been suggested Mgr Cushing was very bold and discerning in allowing the unusual magnificence of Mozart for the Boston requiem (rather then the usual schmaltz), and indeed the non-Catholic Leinsdorf to conduct.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Cardinal Cushing and almost all the bishops of the USA were in Rome when JFK was assassinated, attending the second session of the Vatican Council. That was also a factor in preparing for the funeral. I was in my third year in the Columban seminary in Ireland at the time. I remember some speculation/discussion about the possibility of getting permission to have the funeral Mass or parts of it in English. (The Constitution on the Liturgy was promulgated by Blessed Paul VI a few weeks later, on 4 December 1963). I don't recall hearing or reading any criticism at the time of the way the Mass was celebrated. George Lee makes a very valid point above. Cardinal Cushing, who was a most generous man, knew JFK personally.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Cushing had a hand in writing Nostra Aetate. The role of the USA and their proxy, occupied West Germany, during the Council is rarely discussed in ethnic terms as in this is what happens when one country blows to bits another. I was born in 1959 into a time of fools. The generation before me were the first victims of this folly. Mine was the second.

GOR said...

Good points, Father Coyle. I was in Rome (1st year Philosophy) at the time. The news came over the radio and, as we hadn’t as yet a TV in the college, we didn’t get to see the Mass. We did have a Requiem Mass for the president later. It was an international college and we had two Americans in the student body.

It was in Latin of course and the only liturgical controversy I recall at the time was about the use of the “Gelineau Psalms”. Anyone who wasn’t French was opposed to their use!

sarto2012 said...

For "perfunctory", read "sloppy". Was Cardinal Cushing drunk, with grief or otherwise?

sarto2012 said...

Give me prissy [sic] any day.

Sadie Vacantist said...

On YouTube it is being claimed he had a drink problem. On which point one of the laments from Mrs K was learning from Robert Kennedy that Martin Luther King arrived intoxicated at the funeral.

The perfunctory celebration is perhaps better explained by the fact that Cushing had said low Mass ten thousand times before. The dynamic of the Mass rendered TV cameras, the congregation and watching millions an irrelevance (as Evelyn Waugh observed) so possesses a charm all of its own.

John Nolan said...

The odd thing is that Cushing says the Offertory prayers and the Canon aloud. I didn't find the Mass itself perfunctory - if anything his Latin was on the slow side, and the style too declamatory - trying to make himself heard over the music?

The whole funeral was fairly shambolic and many contrasted it with the impeccable ceremonial of Churchill's funeral 14 months later - a rather unfair comparison since Churchill's had been years in the planning.

Mitchell Hadley said...

John Nolan - when I first saw this video many years ago I noted as well how Cardinal Cushing appeared to be saying the silent prayers aloud. From what I've since read from attendees and technicians both, it appears that we are hearing his voice amplified by the television microphones - he did say those prayers aloud but not so loud that the congregation, aside from the first couple of rows, would have been able to hear him.

Maureen Lash said...

I find many of the comments on this funeral and Cardinal Cushing's manner rather disappointing. This evidently comes from a post-conciliar mindset which still thinks that the purpose of the liturgy is to entertain and edify. It isn't. It is a holy work and there to be done, that's all. Edification and entertainment are the department of the homilist not the celebrant.

Maureen Lash said...

I find many of the comments on this funeral and Cardinal Cushing's manner rather disappointing. This evidently comes from a post-conciliar mindset which still thinks that the purpose of the liturgy is to entertain and edify. It isn't. It is a holy work and there to be done, that's all. Edification and entertainment are the department of the homilist not the celebrant.