Sunday, February 05, 2012

Group Masses

I am not interesting in condemning people for their sexual proclivities anymore than was the Lord himself when he was confronted with the adulteress but I think that it is interesting that in the comments that appeared on the previous post and elsewhere on the net about the Warwick Street Masses was the thought that this kind "customisation" could not possibly occur with the Trad Mass, it is something that seems to be exclusive to the Novus Ordo.

Again, as various commenters point out the problem is that the congregation is celebrating itself. It is the same thing as lies behind puppet or clown or balloon Masses, or even the great Solidarity Masses and political rallies of the 1970s in Poland. They are designed to include people but of course Masses designed for a particular group always excludes non-group members. Children's Masses exclude teenagers. Mass for Flemish speaking Belgiums excludes French speaking Belgiums. Many Poles who attend Polish Mass here would prefer to miss Mass than attend an English or even Latin Mass. I have a Nigerian friend who is very circumspect about celebrating Mass in the five or six local language he knows: they are divisive and sometimes lead to anger (rather than violence), he prefers English even for non-English speakers, though he is now discovering Latin.

We have always had Masses for particular groups. Guilds and trades would have had their own altars or chapels, often dedicated to their own patron, sometimes with vestments and other ornaments decorated with their own symbols but the Mass was always the Church's Mass, not theirs, it was always above personal or community ownership.

Is the Novus Ordo that different? The answer is really no! The problem is that we have so long flouted the Church's liturgical law, or taken a minimilistic approach to rubrics. Where do we get Mass facing the people from, when the Missal states clearly when the priest is to turn to face the people? Why do priests and those who organise liturgies choose songs, often with little reference to the Liturgy, rather the preferred option of the Enrance, Offertory and Communion Antiphons? Why do we metrical or highly rhythmical music?

It can be argued there is a radical difference in fidelity to the rubrics in the two Forms of the Roman Rite but then many priests before the Council seemed to have been quite cavalier about the use of the vernacular or omission of various payers, what is new is perhaps the addition of rites, but the very fact Pius XII warms against "liturgical archaeology" might suggest a trend to introduce things from the past.

One of the problems is readers. There is always going to be a problem with having a figure Tony Blair read in London, it is always going to change the dynamic of the Mass, as is having someone wearing gym clothes or a Chelsea football shirt - at least as far as a Spurs supporter is concerned. Indeed, I always have someone complain if two women read but then some different complains if two men read.
Bidding prayers too are problematic, but may be not so much so if the rules are followed carefully.

But in both Forms it is the homily which is most problematic, whether it is the Liberal in Soho preaching secular sexual ethics or the "Trad" at a Le Pen Front National Mass banging on about "France for the sons of Clovis". Perhaps we need less preaching and more catechesis.

Priests are always the problem!


John said...

Thank you, Father, for this timely post.

I'm sorry to have to agree with you that too many priests are, indeed, responsible for the loss of attention to liturgical detail and thus responsible for the ubiquitous liturgical abuse in our day. I wonder how many dissenting priests would answer an unqualified "yes" if asked "Do you love the Church?" The actions of so many errant priests contradict the very witness to which christians are called, i.e., selfless service.

Who, but other priests, are capable of convincing our errant priests to be the servants of the Mass and not its master? They won't listen to the laity. Mind you, I'm not surprised their ears are stopped up. They somehow justify ignoring their bishops too.

An image comes to mind from the time when I worked on our local ferry system to put myself through college. If orcas (killer whales) were spotted, there would be a rush on to the outer deck. The ship would actually list considerably as hundreds of passengers, with only a thought to appease their curiosity, crammed against the railings trying to get a glimpse.

From my vantage point, which is certainly limited, the Barque of Peter is slowly righting itself (pun not intended). Although I'm convinced that the Ship is piloted by an infallible captain, i.e., Christ and His earthly vicar the pope, and She will not founder like the Costa Concordia, at times I feel like She is listing either far to port or starboard because the crew is asleep and the passengers crowd the deck with only a thought to appease their curiosity for things which tickle their eyes and ears.

Aaron S-C said...

I think this is a nuanced and well read definition of the problem Fr !

The real problem with the Warwick St masses is absolutely, as you say, that the congregation is "celebrating itself" : absolutely agree!

Whilst I am sympathetic to the desire for a pastoral response to those who are faced with particular challenges the "Soho Mass" is the wrong pastoral response: it effectively places sexuality and the "pastoral care" of homosexuality above the praise and adoration of God which the Mass is properly ordered towards; this is perhaps evidenced by the bidding prayers of the videoed Mass which are all introspective, turned back in on themselves and tailored to the identity of the congregation.

The real and proper pastoral response for non-heterosexual men and women who struggle with particular sexual challenges is the Eucharist: Our Blessed Lord and the comfort, consolation, and healing that He, God-alone, brings in the Mass.

To use the Mass as a vehicle for a pastoral response, or to use the Mass as a means of bringing unity to a "particular" group of people is a sort of violence to Christ: it says "Christ is present, in this House of God, for our needs and to help us exclusively this once a month", when of course we know the Cross, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is "universal" in its scope, in its riches, extending to all peoples and nations and colours and sexualitie(s).

I don't have a problem with a Mass (preferably the Usus Antiquior - oh why not the Usus Antiquior!) being "offered for the intentions" of a particular group of people, and it may well be the case that this Mass attracts a good number of men and women of that kind...but they would gather to pray the Mass of the Church and *not* to, as Fr. put, "customise" the Mass to express their own identity and needs.

The "teleological end" of Mass should always be the praise and adoration of God: the re-presentation (not representation) of the Sacrifice of Calvary. To "privatize the Mass" for any group and plunder the inexhaustible riches of the Mass to bring consolation to "this" or "that" group seems to provoke St. Paul's response in 1 Cor 1:13: "Is Christ divided?"

In short: the Holy Father in Summorum Pontificum speaks about the "twofold use of one and the same rite" ; surely if there was only "one use" of the Rite then we wouldn't see the aberrations and customisations of the Mass we do to-day (which as we all know, is not just limited to Warwick St!)

Paul, Bedfordshire said...

I always wondered what became of all the props when "Its a Knockout" ended

David said...

I do wonder if some of the writers here are are not making an unwarranted judgement on the motives of others. If I make the needs of a perticular person or group of persons my intention at Mass is that wrong? If I and a group of friends decide to attend Mass together because of our friendship and common interest, is that wrong? Who but God really knows my motives?

And I really do think that to muddy the waters of the discussion of the Soho Masses with debate about Ef or OF is wrong, and dangerous. I'm sure we have all met people who think that to attend an OF rather an an EF Mass is wrong - and vice versa. Let us judge not, lest we are judged. Lest us attend Mass, in whatever form, in humility and faith - because we know that it IS the Mass - however wonderful, inspiring, dignified, correct - or slapdash, unworthy, or downright cringe-makingly awful - and that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly there. I have often said that those who express a want for the OF actually want good liturgy, in whatever form. By all means let us try to work towards good liturgy and obedience to the Pope and the teaching of the church, but I become increasingly uneasy at the self-righteousness of some comments here and elsewhere. I know that "What would Jesus say/do" is not a popular phrase amongst Catholics, but perhaps we should take more notice of how He taught - without compromise but with great love - and go and do likewise.

Amfortas said...

I agree with many of the points made by Aaron Saunderson-Cross. The Mass throughout the ages has been plundered to bring consolation to this or that group or cause. This is just the most recent example. It's not the form (OF or EF) which lends itself to this but the intention of the celebrant, the congregation and the person or persons paying the stipend.

credidi propter quod locutus sum said...

I'm afraid I'm slightly confused about the issue here. The intention of the celebrant,it is true, only God can know.
But from what I understand, Fr was saying that the O F tends to be the prayer of the publican, in the sense of rejoicing in one's own blessings, rather than giving glory to God. And as it becomes Self-appraisal rather than appraisal of God, each self-made liturgy becomes exclusive to those to whome it is celebrated.
I hope I've understood the issue.
If this is the case, the only solution would be to return to something which is inclusive to everybody, whatever thier language, intellect or physic. The church needs to rebecome universal, rather than peticular, and the best way to do that Is to turn the liturgy back towards God.

John Nolan said...

The Mass as normatively celebrated since the mid-1960s encouraged subjectivism and overt didacticism. This has so permeated the consciousness of priests that the idea of allowing the liturgy to speak for itself (shouldn't the vernacular facilitate this?) seems totally alien in I suspect the majority of cases. It has little to do with the Novus Ordo as such, as it predates its introduction.

I would take issue with Wendell's comment "they [priests] won't listen to the laity". In my experience most parishes are effectively run by middle-class liberal-minded laity who sit on committees, take charge of the liturgy (and arrogate liturgical roles to themselves) and constitute the greatest obstacle to liturgical and musical improvement.

As for 'the community in effect celebrating itself' this was remarked on by Benedict XVI some years before he became Pope.

Pétrus said...

I think it is important to realise that masses can be had for any group. Importantly though these masses should be open to all.

Even if you had your own private chapel, how could you turn away anyone from what would still be the house of God?

What is vital is that we all have the same mass. Mass is the ultimate form of prayer. It is about God - not man.

Aaron S-C said...

Slightly playing 'Devil's Advocate', and this is a question that Fr. Ray is perhaps better positioned in his knowledge to answer:

A good friend of mine has raised the point of the annual "Red Mass" held for law people...and wonders whether this is not entirely dissimilar from the intentions of the Soho Masses (e.g. Masses held for particular groups/ societies).

In-fact according to one source it is invitation only! I am wondering how we hold together the seemingly exclusivity of, for example, the Red Mass, with the widespread (and often vicious) condemnation of the "gay" Soho Masses...

Any input/ comments/ clarification on this would be most welcome.

Jonathan said...

I think the bidding prayers are also a problem. In my parish their composition seems to be in the hands of a very partisan clique. I find that sometimes I cannot in good conscience add my own voice to these prayers.

Fr Paul said...


Can I go off the point here and comment about priests and how some priests abuse their positions not only changing parts of the Mass but also not carrying out their management roles as leaders ie. Abbots, Bishops, VGs or Cardinals?

Several days ago, the identity of a Benedictine priest Richard David White age 66, who had abused at least two boys under the age of 14 years, was sentenced to custody for 5 years. The sentence is not long enough. The abuse took place in Downside School in Somerset.

I call for the removal of the Abbott from his post. He knew about the first offence and did not report is to the police.

One of the victims has publically and very bravely said how this has ruined his life, his relationships with others etc.

The Abbott must hold some responsibility for this. he is accountable to his position.

Fr Paul

A Reluctant Sinner said...

@ Aaron Saunderson-Cross

The Red Mass is a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit (red vestments) offered for those who work within the judiciary and as law-makers. It is an ancient tradition, especially here in England. At these Masses the Church asks God, through the most perfect Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, to send His Spirit to guide those whose judgements / decisions truly affect the lives of others.

As someone who attends the Red Mass at Westminster Cathedral (it always falls on our around Michaelmas Day), I can assure you that it is not by invitation only (I have sometimes found myself, in scruffy clothes, sat just behind Judges of Court of Appeals and the High Court). In fact, all those who assist at this Mass - including non-legal types like myself - do so a) specifically to join their prayers to the intentions of the celebrant, and / or b) because they want to go to Mass and just walked in (it is usually advertised in the weekly bulletin).

Also, I have often found myself at requiem (funeral) Masses and nuptial Masses - either by chance or as a server - only to notice that in some instances the majority of the congregation are there because they wish to assist at Mass. I happened to be standing at the back of a church during a nuptial Mass once, only to realise that of the 20 or so who received communion, only about 3 actually knew the bride and groom!

Mass can never belong to an exclusive group. Sadly, it often seem to be the case that those who claim that "All are welcome!" to "their" Mass already have an excluding (them/us) mentality. It is a way of thinking that is not compatible with the Catholic (universal) faith. Hence, I would argue that those ecclesiastical groups that pretend to be welcoming of homosexuals, such as the SMPC, but which appear not to 'embrace' same-sex attracted people who want to live according to the precepts of the Church, are not properly Catholic. This is one of, but by no means the only, fundamental flaw of the so-called Soho Masses.

The Soho Masses group is exclusive, even if it believes it is being inclusive. As you said, and as Fr Ray has pointed out, the Mass in recent times has become all about the community falling in on itself. A collective egoism. As we know, the Mass should actually help us 'get over ourselves', by returning our focus onto those outside the community through proper worship of Almighty God.

gemoftheocean said...

All excellent points, A Reluctant Sinner. Another point is there is nothing at a so-called Red-Mass that is contradictory to the faith that is said at the Mass from the sanctuary. Someone who just 'wandered in' to assist at Mass will not have to wonder if the faith is being openly undermined. You will not hear during the prayers of the faithful (i.e. bidding prayers) such things as 'Lord, please ignore us if we create law out of thin air if it goes contrary to what the faith teaches.'

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