Saturday, August 16, 2008

Liturgy of the future???

Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles enters to preside Pharoah-like over his diocese 2008 Religious Education Congress. I find this type of thing fascinating. It is liturgy shaped not by Tradition but by set-designers, choreographers, costume designers, lighting engineers. It is liturgy broken loose from any constraints, designed for "modern man", to give instant satisfaction, a feel good factor. It is Catholicism submerged in the best of Evangelical Protestant worship, Catholicism drawn to a liberal extreme.

A generation after the introduction of this kind of "pastoral liturgical" Catholic worship is at a crisis point. Either we continue to move forward and this becomes an ideal: note the number of people involved, the "celebration of ministry", the lack of gender selectivity (except for the clergy), the real enculturation, or we move back to the solidity of Tradition. The alternative is that we hold both this and something approximating to the Tradition in tension.

Cardinal Mahoney's liturgical style, actually makes me feel physically sick, but it draws in the punters, "All are welcome". It is contrary to everything I understand by worship, but I have to admit that for many people it is the ideal. It is light on theology, but strong on "feel good". Unlike much contemporary liturgy it is stylish and lavish, triumphalistic even.


Annie said...

That was truly, truly, awful...

Anonymous said...

What the He** was that!

Catholic protestantism at its direst. That's what.


When oh when will Catholics learn that it isn't about 'us' and our 'feelings', that the focus should never be about us and our pleasure receptors getting a kick.

By all means let people enjoy Catholic music and concerts, but this...Eucharistic? This....Liturgical?

Dear Lord, have Mercy and save us from ourselves!

alban said...

The manner in which the Sacred Liturgy has been celebrated has changed over the centuries; the gatherings of the first Christians were much more informal than what took place 2 centuries later. The Liturgy underwent a further vesting in formality after the legalisation of Christianity. By the time of Trent there were several rites within the Latin Church. Then followed what is commonly called the Tridentine Rite and the promulgation of the missal of Paul VI. Added to this, we had the movement from the simplicity of plainchant, through polyphony and baroque, the rousing (and sometimes insipid) hymns of the Victorian era to where we are today.

Whilst some of us in the European world prefer to use Latin, either with the missal of Pius V or Paul VI, it would be foolish to expect all Europeans or people in Africa, Asia or Latin America to embrace this practice. I watched the video clip from Los Angeles, and found it to be uplifting in its energy. The inclusive participation was not offensive; after all, what was done (as far as I could tell) within the parameters of what is permitted. Although, it is not the kind of style that I would wish to take part in each Sunday, it was an example of how the celebration of the Mass can legitimately reflect the culture of the worshippers. Los Angeles is a highly multicultural society. I have been blessed to participate in the Eucharist in various parts of the world; from rural Malawi to St. Peter’s Basilica, from Baptist-dominated Alabama to the amazingly vibrant and fastest growing diocese in the USA (Houston). Whether it has been the solemn beauty of the Tridentine Rite in London and the magnificence of the Byzantine Rite in Chicago, or the rambunctious Mass in a black Louisiana parish and the ‘craziness’ of the Eucharist in the Charismatic Centre in Los Angeles, I have been deeply moved and edified on many occasions.

The celebration of the Liturgy should be meaningful to those who participate, whether this is done using the missal of Pius V or Paul VI, the Byzantine Rite or the Zairean Rite found in central Africa. I believe that tradition and enculturation are not mutually exclusive; after all, what we refer to as ‘tradition’ emerged from specific western cultures. Nor does there have to be tension between various rites, appropriate approved; tension occurs only when one group sees itself as being better, more orthodox, more reverential than the rest, and this can be the downfall of we ‘traditionalists’ as much as those who are considered ‘liberal’. Those amongst us who prefer a more traditional style have begun to witness a revival of our fortunes under Benedict XVI; let us not fall into the trap of triumphalism.

Ches said...

Oddly enough, I just blogged on a similar topic yesterday. What is the future when red hats go to individuals like Cardinal Mahony?

Fr Ray Blake said...

What is the "Zairean Rite"?
How do you know that what happened in the first two centuries was, "much more informal"?

Anonymous said...

I only looked at the first few seconds, however, the impression I got from this was one of it being like a concert.

To be fair this has always been a concern of the church and, many moons ago in the days long before the Council, there was exactly the same concern about Polyphonic High Masses.

It is a fine line, and one of the reasons the Second Vatican Council was concerned that Plainchant should be given due prominence.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that it's fair to say this is "Catholicism mixed with the best of Evangelical protestantism". I have some experience of evangelicals, and I'm not sure that Mahoney would cut it with them.

It's easy to look at something one isn't predisposed to be in sympathy with and find fault. I found myself looking for things to make clever snide comments about. Then I asked myself, was there anything I could appreciate? Well, yes, the language of the hymns (that I could make out) praising God. There was an absence of the 'we are God's people and so wonderful' element.

The liturgical dancers were good, the set design professional - it was more of an entertainment really and that's why it didn't seem right as a Mass. I have no real beef with this kind of thing as part of a prayer meeting, but there is a lack of the contemplative spirit which you need for liturgical worship, and certainly the Mass itself, which recalls Christ's suffering at Calvary.

How much would a celebration like this cost? The projected words, the costumes, the giant feathers, etc, not to mention the screens? At least at the TLM one doesn't need a screen to show what is going on, because everyone knows what is happening, even those at the back.

I don't want to sound negative because I felt there was a spirit of joy in the place, and that praise was lifted towards God rather than 'us', but as part of a Mass it felt wrong, too much of an entertainment. Dance isn't traditionally part of Christian worship but entertainment. And yeah, the 'all are welcome' is ultimately man-centred.

I fear that in twenty years' time this will all look dated. That's what is ultimately wrong with being 'relevant to the age' - fashions change.

Delia said...

It seems utterly self-indulgent to me, more concerned with stirring emotions to an appropriately pleasurable pitch than faith. This is Cavalry, after all. I disagree that it's inclusive - where is the place for the grief-stricken or sad or the person who's just done something terrible and who needs to pray? Admittedly, of its kind it's well done, but it's totally shallow, and third-rate imitations would just be embarrassing.

Volpius Leonius said...

I couldn't bear to watch it all, but I will say this if I want to watch a musical I would go to the theatre. Quite simply they are better.

Mass is not supposed to be for our entertainment, its not supposed to be about us at all, does anyone really think this kind of thing saves souls? That a person can receive the Blessed Sacrament with the proper disposition in this kind of atmosphere?

Now the million dollar question: Why has this kind of disgrace which has regularly been done by this Cardinal been allowed to continue unopposed by anyone in the hierarchy?

"the gatherings of the first Christians were much more informal than what took place 2 centuries later."

There were you? Is the way the Church worships in time of persecution when to be Christian is to die the ideal?

I tell you one thing for certain they did not worship like this!

Anonymous said...

Truly awful, but thank you Father for showing it. This epitomises the 'man-centred' 'meaningful', 'participatory' notion of liturgy which we have had for so long, from various official and unofficial quarters of the Church. Don't be so quick Alban to believe that 'inculturation' means 'bongo drums and gimics'. There are also dignified celebrations of the Holy Mass outside Europe, for example in Africa, where the Roman Rite is used and indeed other ancient rites - I am thinking for instance, of the rite in use of Ethiopea. We have to return to a more traditional form of liturgy and 'liturgical understanding' before anything can 'naturally' develop. Inculturation is no excuse to turn the Mass into a pop concert or some form of entertainment which detracts from the essence of what the Holy Mass is all about. Without being offensive, this form of 'popular' liturgy fits well with those who demand women priests, a lay-led Church etc. In short, Protestantism.

Fr. A.J.G.

Anonymous said...

After watching a portion of this video, I appreciate our Holy Orthodox Church all the more. Sheer madness!

Anonymous said...

Not very manly


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that eventhough there is ceremonial, fine vestments, etc in the traditional liturgy, the focus is firmly on God and the sacred action taking place on the altar. The vestments and the reverence shown the wearers is due to their office. The music is there as vocal prayer. Everything is clearly focused.

It would be easy to think watching that video that somehow reverence was being shown to the archbishop himself and that what was being celebrated was some form of community togetherness.

It is interesting to see how they have almost completely redrawn Catholic ceremonial but to me it appears triumphalist in the extreme. You would never have had such a hullobullo about the entrance of the celebrant in a traditional liturgy. Those fan thingies remind me of the ostrish feather fabule.

In a way I wouldn't mind all this too much if the cardinal also celebrated Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form occasionally for those who wished it, but I have read that his diocese is a desert when it comes to the tradition liturgy. If people attend this Mass and feel that this essentially is what it means to be Roman Catholic then they are being misled. You have to be a bit suspicious and question why they have felt compelled to transform everything so completely. It's down to good old Lex Orandi/ Lex Credendi/Lex Vivendi. It is a form of Catholic liturgy invented on the spot but it is a shallow feast. The traditional liturgy developed gradually over centuries with the same guiding mind of the church and as such is an expression of what the church teaches and believes. Things are not done for effect but because of their meaning and in many cases for real reasons. Perhaps we could club together and buy him a ticket to Oxford if the LMS society hold another conference next year.

That really is a very insightful comment by Delia regarding the inclusiveness or otherwise of the celebration. Especially at the EF Mass no one is forced to be happy; of course they can be if they wish, but they can also bring their sorrows before the Lord and weap quietly if they wish.

Anonymous said...

It seemed like a perfectly reasonable liturgy fitting of a celibate male priesthood, didn't it?

Anonymous said...

"The liturgical dancers were good, the set design professional - it was more of an entertainment really and that's why it didn't seem right as a Mass. I have no real beef with this kind of thing as part of a prayer meeting,"

I wonder if one effect of returning to Mass being identical in every respect in every church and no innovation whatsoever allowed, would be a revival of other services and groups within parishes.

Ie people would go to Mass to worship God, full stop. People would celebrate the community they are in at additional services which could be more creative and things like processions plus quasi social functions

ie; people go to church several times a week and are a real community not once a week.

The trouble with lay ministry is that it has trampled on the lay apostolate.

gemoftheocean said...

I'd say Roger is dumber than a box of rocks, but then that would be an injustice to the rocks. What part of "NO liturgical dance" does this pinhead simply not "get." No wonder this bozo is having trouble with the word "ineffable." I'd really like to slap silly whomever it was that proposed this moron to be raised to the episcopacy.

FWIW, there is a silver lining in this...despite the happy, claapy claptrap that was sung for a crowd that size there seriously should have been a lot more noise and clapping if everyone REALLY wanted that sort of bleep. The only ones singing appeared and sounded as if they were part of the official choir. I bet it would have been fairly easy to get a small group of people to start chanting "stop the dance, stop the dance" and have had a goodly number of people join in.

The sooner this "prince of the church" is greeted with worms, the better.

Anonymous said...

Alban you need help.

alban said...

Fr Ray: You ask me 2 questions; (a) “What is the Zairean Rite?” and “How do” I “know what happened in the first 2 centuries was much more informal?”

The Zairean Rite was proposed by that country’s bishops in the early 1970s (between 1972 and 1973, I think) and approved some years later in 1988 (…of this date I’m sure) by the Congregation for Divine Worship. However, I believe it is in use as the Roman Missal for Use in Zaire and it is thus restricted to the dioceses of that nation.
Some of the variations from the Roman Rite that I remember are: There are no children permitted to act as altar servers. As a sign of their role as guardians, servers carry a spear for most of the Liturgy. The celebrant (dressed in the robes and headdress of a Zairean chief rather than a chasuble) and servers dance around the altar at the beginning. As he dances, the celebrant venerates the altar from all four sides, bowing low and stretching out his arms in a V shape. Each Mass includes not only a litany of the saints but an invocation of ancestors. The penitential rite comes after the Creed in preparation for the offertory procession in which there is, once again, dancing. As a sign of attentiveness, the congregation sits during the proclamation of the Gospel. There are also frequent congregational responses during the Eucharistic Prayer, though I confess I am unable to remember the exact moments. Those who bring the bread and wine to the celebrant also address him in formal words before handing over the bread and wine; the celebrant has a formal response (the words of which escape me). Needless to say, drums are considered an essential element as they are needed to accompany the dancing. Unlike in Europe, most parishes in Zaire are lucky to have Mass once a week; those parishes which do have the Liturgy more often tend to use the missal of Paul VI on weekdays.

As for the level of formality of the first Masses, we read in Acts 2, that the first Christians “…devoted themselves to meeting together in the Temple area and to gathering in their homes for the breaking of bread.” Further, we have St Paul criticising the way in which some Corinthians behave during the Lord’s supper, eating and drinking without waiting on anyone (I Cor. 11:20). We also know that for the first 300 years or so, Christians had to meet in secret. My point is this: gathering in homes or in secret (perhaps even in catacombs) does not lend itself to the formality of the Tridentine Rite, or even of the Liturgy as celebrated in most of the parishes of today, and I am sure you would not say that the Tridentine or Byzantine rites were developed in those very earliest days of the Church.

Fr Ray, thank you for asking about the 'Zairean Rite’; it brought back wonderful memories of my visit to Africa, and of the amazing resilience and devotion of the people.

PeterHWright said...

I was most interested in Fr. Ray's description of the liturgy in this video : "It is contrary to everything I understand by worship." I couldn't agree more.

It was triumphalist, too. And, I thought, exclusive in the sense that I would feel totally excluded.

This will always be the problem with modern liturgies which have been invented, constructed, choreographed. They represent something very different from a traditional liturgy which has been handed down, received, which leads the celebrant and congregation.

Father raises the fascinating question : can the Church continue to hold these these two liturgies in tension ?

No, I honestly don't think it can. The theology and ecclesiology of the one is too much at variance with the other.

The zeitgeisted modern liturgy will eventually become out of date, and be replaced with liturgies which are even more outrageous and un-Catholic.

The traditional liturgy will endure.

penicuik said...

Mafeking's comment prompts me to place my first post on this excellent site (I’m more someone who just reads) Mafeking exhibits the arrogance and rudeness that alban speaks about in a previous post regarding the slanging matches between liberals and traditional Catholics - and thus proves alban’s case in spades. Rudeness and lack of charity are not of God and if they are not of God then there is only one other source.

As for you Father Ray thankyou for your work and God bless you and your parish.

George said...

george said...
It seemed like a perfectly reasonable liturgy fitting of a celibate male priesthood, didn't it?

I don't know who this 'george' is, but it definitely isn't me! This stuff isn't liturgy - it is sheer and utter garbage, made up by liberal faddies who have lost the plot and been cafeteria catholics much of their lives. Even Novus Ordo with the worst hymns beats this dancing, incense wok carrying non-sense. It is diabolical focusing totally on the creature instead of the Creator. The solid return of the Latin Mass will eventually stamp all this sacriligious bunkum into the ground.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Alban, Interesting, was the "Zairean Rite" ever given approval? Invoking ancestors makes me doubt it. In what sense is it seen as a "Rite", again I presume not like the ancient African Rites.

The Liturgy of the first two centuries from the fragmentary Judaic sources, and the little patristic evidence would seem to have been highly formalised and structured towards the end of that period. Indeed many of the early patristic seem to be rubrical and regulatory.

alban said...

To Michael: There are indeed parishes in Los Angeles which offer the Mass according to the Tridentine Rite. A dear friend of mine is pastor (as they say in the USA) of one; St Francis.

alban said...

Fr Ray: As far as I am aware, the Zairean Rite was approved by the CDW(I refer to that in my earlier post)in 1988, and appeared to be widely used (along with the Missal of Paul VI) at least when I visited Africa a few years ago. Like you, the invocation of ancestors was strange to me, but it is not at all ancestor worship, but the calling on of those who have gone before us (in other words, the non-canonised saints). For me, by far the most uncomfortable element was the servers carrying spears. There was widespread (unofficial) persecution of the Church in several areas Zaire not long ago, and it's a wonder the people held firm. The Holy Spirit works where we are unable to tread.

As for you other comment regarding the Liturgy at end of the Patristic period, I agree absolutely; but the period stetches 350 years, from 100-450AD. I would even say that several elements of Christian worship were quite proscriptive in the 3rd century let alone the 5th, but that does not mean that the highly stylised ceremonies such as the Tridentine or Byzantine rites were extant in the 3rd century. (Some in the traditional movement believe that they were, although there is zero evidence). All I am endeavouring to say is that the Liturgy has developed, and I know that's a point on which we are in accord.

Fr Ray, if you permit me, I would like to make it clear to some of your (well-deserved) fans that I have always been one who believed the suppression of the missal of Pius V to be a real mistake, and rejoice at its resurgence under Pope Benedict XVI. However, I do not believe that it would be appropriate for this to be the only rite used throughout the Latin Church. If this position makes me a liberal then I happily embrace the term; besides, it would cause many of my friends shake with much-needed laughter :)

alban said...

Oops. Fr Ray, I neglected a part of your question. I believe you are correct in that the Zairean Rite (as I mentioned, interestingly published under the title “Missal for Use in Zaire”) is not seen as a rite in the same sense as the ancient rites used in North Africa. By the way, did you know that it is thought Latin was the language used in these African rites? Of course, Latin was the language of the people in that area, but interesting nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, was that the Holy Mass or the National Democratic Convention?

Anonymous said...

If you'd like to read more about it, this pdf( seems to give quite a good overview. The 'ancestors' section seems to be viewed in a different way in Africa to the way we might see it.

Pope Benedict also had a passing mention to it in "The Spirit of the Liturgy":

"The Christian West, in particular, well into modern times saw such variations taking place within the general framework of a fundamental ritual form. An example of this kind of developement seems to me to be the Missal that may be used in Zaire (the Congo). It is the Roman rite "in the Zairean mode". It still belongs within the great fellowship of the apostolically rooted Roman rite, but that rite is now, so to speak, clad in Congolese garments, with the addition-this seems to me to make perfect sense-of certain elements from the Christian East. For example, in line with what is said in Matthew 5:23-25, the sign of peace is exchanged, not before Communion but before the Presentation of the Gifts, which would be desirable for the whole of the Roman rite, insofar as the sign of peace is something we want to retain."

Fr Ray Blake said...

Thank you Alban, that is most informative.

Volpius Leonius said...

"Rudeness and lack of charity are not of God and if they are not of God then there is only one other source."

You are mixing up God with bourgeois standards of behaviour, how God wants us to behave is not as simple as "always be nice and don't offend anyone."

Our Lord:"Ye brood of vipers," Matthew 3:7

Our Lord:"You are of your father the devil," John 8:44

Our Lord to his host while sitting at his table as a guest."Now you Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but your inside is full of rapine and iniquity. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without, make also that which is within?" Luke 11:39-40

Anonymous said...

What does Fr Martin think of it?

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I couldn't even watch 2 seconds of that!

I being in the Archprison (I mean diocese) It disgusts me that this some how made it to video.

I agree Fr, it's contrary to our understanding of Liturgy.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the money spent on that spectacle have been better spent on the poor?

Paul Knight said...

It makes me feel ashaned that these things happen in the Catholic Church. I often think what the Orthodox think when they see things like that.

Anonymous said...


Get a thicker skin. I won't be browbeaten by the likes of you.

To be frank I think the saints and martyrs of the church would be ashamed of all this. That's my take on it.

Anonymous said...

Alban seems to be too conciliatory in regard to the Mahoney 'incident' (I hesitate to call it liturgy) and too conciliatory in regard to such performances. May I make a few comments?
The Liturgy of the early Church was not so much informal as primitive and restricted; the worship of a people in persecution. What ocurred after Constantine was not formalisation but organic growth; a tree from the acorn. These developments diverged over the centuries until they were purified and united by the Council of Trent, but no divergence included so-called religious dance. I tend to think that these developments were guided by the Holy Ghost, Who has never inspired the kind of thing we see in Novus Ordo celebrations and which, in fact, are not legitimate, being an addition not forseen by the Rite -abherations of the worst kind since they place the talents of man front and centre rather than the adoration of God. As such this is not an authentic inculturation. The Cardinal should be ashamed of being part of the event. I do hope he took them to task afterwards, but he seems to have a habit of allowing anything to go at these events.
In regard to Latin, the peoples of Africa, Asia etc, were using this before the Novus Ordo without any problem.
May I respectfully add that I know several Traditional clergy and lay people for whom there is no sense of Triumphalism; a number express fears that we are only experiencing a breather from persecution during the present Papacy, being well aware that the new juridical situation in force with Summorum Pontificum can be overturned in the future.

Anonymous said...

english pastor,

good points!

The progressives never talk about the Holy Spirit in reference to the organic development of the Mass. The Holy Spirit created the ancient liturgy and He codified it at Trent.

However, according to the Holy Father Pope Benedict, the Holy Spirit was in fact NOT at work in the development of the Novus Ordo Missae. It was a complete man-made fabrication.

Anonymous said...

Hmh...I saw something just like this at a Disney parade in Florida. It makes me wonder if Disney executives are not scripting, producing, executing, etc, this liturgical celebration. The music sounds like it came right out of The Lion King or something. It is complete lunacy, but the music does indeed have a HUGE warm and fuzzy feel good factor.

Anonymous said...

I saw something just like this at a Disney parade in Florida. It makes me wonder if Disney executives aren't scripting, producing, choreographing, etc, this [liturgical] celebration. The music could have come right out of The Lion King (or any number of other Disney movies). Although it is complete and utter lunacy, it does have that warm and fuzzy feel good factor. I can laugh at this, because it is NOT AUTHENTIC worship. It makes me vomit because a supposed "Cardinal" has completely trashed whatever connection the Novus Ordo might have had to the historic Roman Rite.

Anonymous said...

After a couple of minutes of this fascinating performance the nausea begins. Think pagan, Hollywood representations of pre-Columbian cultic ceremony and tack on some non specific "Christian" liturgical action and ritual, plus that toe curling affective schmaltzy, kitschy stuff the US seems to enjoy and you do indeed have a future liturgy for the Planet of the Apes world we are speedily becoming. Many in the contemporary Church do find this style very accommodating to their secularized worldview and the fact that they do highlights how de-Catholicised the Church has become; and how menacing the future for Orthodox Truth appears. HE Cardinal Mahoney is a rather dangerous man. He is a potential schismatic and heretic. His influence needs to be curbed. St Augustine knew of such men. Let us pray the Holy Father is in this particular well informed and also watches YouTube...

Anonymous said...

This is theatre, not sacred Catholic Liturgy! It belongs on Broadway! The people are ignorant and do not know any better.

Anonymous said...


wish I could say more but you summed it up well!

Joseph Fromm said...

That was.....? Ridicules.

dbo said...

That was the work of Satan Himself!

It was the most shocking thing i've seen n my life!

that bishop has got to GO!

he's also the geezer behind the extremely UGLY cathedral in Los angeles isn't he?

excommunicate him!

Anonymous said...

actually, I said I couldn't add anymore because Father summed it up so well...

but rereading some of the comments, particularly those concerning the first two centuries' liturgies, may I make a recommendation of an excellent book I read not too long ago?

It is called THE MASS OF THE EARLY CHRISTIANS and it's by Mike Aquilina.

absolutely fantastic book!
you will be gobsmacked by it, I guarantee.

He is an author who always dots the i's and crosses the t's so you can trust his scholarship. And it is fascinating to read the early Fathers commnets on the mass as well as have some of the early liturgies transcribed for you.

give it a shot, amigos.

owenswain said...

Cool, the Catholic Mass meets Willow Creek and Saddleback. Looks just like the mega church where I was children's pastor except (I assume) with the Real Presence.

Cool, not really. Gwad awful. This gives credence to the common protestant misinformation that we Catholics kill Jesus again at every Mass because I can't help think that for Jesus to be in the midst of this, well, it must be just killing Him.

Like Volpius Leonius I shut the thing off before the end - in fact I never even made as far as the entrance of "Cardinal" Mahoney.

owenswain said...

In a less flippant tone I would like to add that this being a "Religious Education Congress" I have to wonder what exactly religious education must look like in that diocese. Shameful.

Tom in Vegas said...

This is beyond what I can digest.

The theatrics, the genericalness, the Broadway motifs, sweep through this assemblage to nullify anything with theological value.

And a Cardinal, of all things.

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