Thursday, February 13, 2014

Too Much Information

I am becoming and Ockhamist! Simplicity, that surely must be the name of the game in the future, move away  from baroque or rococo complexity to the essentials! The trouble with both is that there is just too much information. In a great baroque or rococo house or Church I am left with an overall impression, unless I latch on to a detail, like a winsome cherub or fecund cornucopia.

I was talking to some 8/9 year olds recently about Mass: what did we do at it? The answer, 'we listen to stories about Jesus', ';we gather together', 'we love one another'. After a bit of pressing, 'we pray', it took some digging, some pushing to get to, 'we receive Communion'. We never quite got to a clear understanding of the distinction between gathering for prayers in class, at school, or family prayers and Mass. In fact the dominant idea was that 'we listen to stories about Jesus'. So my next question: what if the readings were in a language you couldn't understand? Slowly we began to get to the idea that Mass was a meeting with God, through Jesus.
Some friends, good Catholic parents, with a good Catholic brood, five under 12s spoke to me a few weeks about their new discovery that makes Sunday less than hellish.
Mary, not her real name, had been a mum who took charge of 'Children's Liturgy' in her parish; taking children out at the beginning if Mass, telling them a Gospel story, then doing some 'colouring in' and bringing them back into Mass. Dad, Jim, not his real name, stayed in the Church with the older ones, trying to keep them quiet, bribing or threatening them, even giving them the occasional bag of crisps, or slightly quieter sweets. For both of them Sunday Mass was far from prayerful. Jim used to sneak off to Mass during the week. I don't think non-parents realise how difficult just bringing smaller children to Mass can be.
Well their new discovery, after a short period of Sunday Mass lapsation, was 'trad Mass'. A friend had a serious conversation with them, suggesting that taking children out during Mass might actually be suggesting to the children 'it was beyond them', in the same way bringing food or toys or 'additional colouring in' was suggesting that children shouldn't or can't participate.
Now, the children begin preparation for Mass during the week before, they make lists of people to pray for or about at the Sunday Mass, they either write or draw them, the older ones watch the news.
Mary and Jim say it is easier to explain to their children about the 'trad' Mass, 'I simply tell them that at Mass God comes down to us and we raise our minds, and everyone we know, to God in prayer. 'They seem to understand that.
I have been reflecting on this, and my experience here where at the Traditional Mass children seem to pray, even younger children, whereas at the Ordinary Form Mass parents seem to be at their wits end. I am sure that it is not as simple as TLM = good children, OF Mass = fraught parents. It could be something to do with preparation of children, diet even, the signs parents give, or even possibly that at the OF Mass congregations are larger and children less able to see, whereas at the TLM children can see, and at low Mass the prevailing mood is one of silence.

I think it is probably easier to explain to someone who has never been to Mass what to do at the TLM rather than Ordinary Form, one you can do in broad brush times, the other you have to do on detail. I wonder which form of Mass is easier to approach for someone who is almost completely un-Churched, or someone who comes from a culture where the written word is not the norm, or where the sound-bite, or the gesture, rather than the discourse is the norm.

The new -accurate- translations of the Mass have lead me to a new appreciate of the work of Abp Bugnini and his followers, the vernacularisers who wanted everyone, even a child or the un-Churched or the worker to have the same advantages as a Latin literate cleric or theologian. The problem is that today's readings, for example: why Solomon lost God's favour and Jesus' encounter with the Syro-Phoenecian woman, would go completely over their heads. There is too much detail to the point where even the basic message is lost.

I think this raises some questions about evangelisation, about the loss of faith and practice. Why have the great expectations of Vatican II come to naught? Why have so many given up on the practice of the faith?
Why do so many have so little knowledge of the faith? Why is it that families who have been faithful for a thousand years in this generation no longer practice?
Why do children after 10 years of Catholic formation invariably lapse? Why do the same children have little idea of Catholic practice or belief.


Long-Skirts said...


(or "fool me once, shame on you")

Daily Mass
In uniformed plaid
Then suddenly
Adults went mad

Priests danced round
Nuns turned hip
Fathers, mothers
All jumped ship

Michael rowed
His boat ashore
Through the Sanctuary

Garfunked too
Jesus loves you

Jesus Christ
God is dead
So who You are?

Take the pill
Eat the Bread
Grace Slicked-souls
Will feed your head

"All" were Virgins
Female Ghost
Feminist boast

Tell what's happening
What's the buzz
Bishops do
What never was

Missy-mitred men
"Even nuns said five's enough
It's too hard to do ten."

But still this day
Sacrificed dreams
From Catholic families
Sacerdos streams

As along the river banks
They line
Rosaries in hand
To warn the Rhine

We believe in God
The Virgin...the Creed
As this foul-flow goes
Your waters will bleed

But not with Christ’s
Most Precious Blood...
A mitred-muck
Of sterile mud!

NBW said...

Bugnini and his followers, the vernacularisers who wanted everyone, even a child or the un-Churched or the worker to have the same advantages as a Latin literate cleric or theologian"
Sometimes people are more inclined to respect and be attracted to something that is beyond their reach. They want to work up to that level of understanding. In my opinion, Vatican II sort of made the Church bow down to it's people instead of letting it's people reach up towards the Church. Perhaps that's why so many leave, they find the Church wishy washy and not consistent.
Thank you for the post Fr. Blake. There is much to contemplate.

George said...

You have your job up there, Father. And we support in prayer. That's the way it should be. The idea that we have to show our unity through common and simultaneous action is absurd. The priest has a job to do, let him to it. The rest of us, should approach God in the prayer, through the Rosary, through reflections on the Gospel-themed stained glass, and even if need be through the missal.

Cosmos said...

I go to a TLM parish and there are tons of kids at our mass each Sunday. Probably 40% of the 85+ that come regularly. It is still very, very quiet.

The children over 2 generally go back in the entryway when they are crying and get held in the back of the Church when they are being good.

The kids 3 and up are not an issue and I agree that they are better behaved than I have seen in other masses. For these younger children (3-8) my belief is that they are responding to and imitating the silence and stillness. It seems easy to teach them that this quiet place with all the sacred artwork is special and that silence is appropriate.

I also think the fact that the parents are quite as worried at actively participating, but can join in more contemplatively, kind of takes a little of the edge off when you are trying to teach a squirming little one. That lack of irritation from the parents (the kids aren't percieved as ruining Mass since active participation is understood differently) goes a long way.

For the older kids, my impression is that they are not as squirmy because the mass is not cringeworthy and seems like something everyone is taking seriously. Even poorly behaved kids will generally get their act together for, say, an important banquet, graduation, hosting a dignatoary, or a political inauguration, etc. On the other hand, when you all dress down, go into some ugly carpet-covered "worship space," and have to watch some silly musician and some smilely do-gooder constantly interrupt the liturgy with upraised arms saying things like "please stand and join us in singing page 503 in your Sunday hymnal to Eagles Wings, page 503, 5-0-3" kids check out because they know its not serious. If it were serious, they would appoint serious people, create a more serious space, and use a more serious tone. Lonely adults may defend these practices for their own reasons, but they send a message out to kids that Mass is not something to take to seriously.

I repeat: in a world obsessed with victimhood and minority cultures, the most effective thing we can do is make our mass appear to be more exotic. The banalization of the mass takes away its one natural defense in our PC world.

Anita Moore said...

I think the answer to the final questions in this post is simply: whatever it is people have been getting the last several decades, it isn't the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church will never perish, but the Catholic faith can and does perish in the hearts of men.

The same thing has happened to the Catholic faith that has happened to all the bedrock institutions of our society: it has gradually been replaced by an ersatz imitation. Fathers have been replaced by food stamps; marriage has been replaced by concubinage; families and friends have been replaced by social workers and counselors; charity has been replaced by state-run welfare programs; and the Catholic faith has been replaced by the Spirit of Vatican II. This is how societies are subverted and conquered from within. This is how freedom dies. Restoration can only take place with repentance and conversion.

Matthew Roth said...

It's worth noting that the Easter vigil, even in its morning form prior to 1955, was one of the most popular services, even in rural Italy.

I completely agree. I have no idea what to make of the readings from the books of Samuel and Kings, other than follow the Commandments and repent. Even if that's the basics of the Gospel, it should still point to a higher meaning within that framework, no? Faith and hope perfected in charity through the sacraments come to mind. Most preachers are very unlearned on the Old Testament, and the Sunday readings from the Epistles are not enough (as they are right now in the introductory chapters.)
One of the most lackluster homilies I ever heard was last week on Mk 5:1-20...and to be charitable, he is very available for Confession, even with his teaching schedule. :)

The older form is for everyone. The newer form is for a literate and well-catechized person. Well, obviously it's for everyone too, but its shape is what the Holy Father described as "closed-circle."

Genty said...

Having grown up with the traditional Latin Mass, I remember that I was silent and all children were silent throughout, as they are at a TLM today. The TLM is actually very calming. Your pulse rate drops and your breathing slows, an ideal state for prayer and contemplation.
In the NO there is often so much busy-ness with people walking up and down the nave for the readings, Offertory gifts, and for the distribution of Holy Communion, let alone all the standing and sitting by the congregation, that it's not an atmosphere to quiet children.
Personal prayer time is alloted at the end of the bidding prayers but is so restricted it's hardly possible to get through a single prayer, let alone name intentions. I gave up and began to time it. Averagely in parishes it's 7 seconds.
A suggestion, Father. Might it be better just to teach young children rather than asking them what they think? Once upon a time a priest used to visit a school regularly to talk to the children. Are priests not welcomed by schools any more?

Lucy said...

We always keep our children with us because I was brought up attending church and being taken out to Sunday school, and the youth seldom successfully transitioned from Sunday school to church. I am a pretty poor catholic in most ways but we try hard to make sure the kids know it is so important that they are at mass and pay attention and "fill their minds and hearts with Jesus". I think they are pretty well behaved and love Mass and run to be with Jesus there.

Unknown said...

My wife and I and four kids have been attending an "Anglican Use" Mass - and no "children's liturgy - for almost two years and, when circumstances require, we occasionally attend our local RC Church's Novus Ordo Mass - which has a "children's liturgy". (For those of you who don't know about the Ordinariate Mass, it is much more "traditional", including incensing, ad orientem orientation, and plainchant.) All four children are noticeably more fidgety and whiny at the Novus Ordo Mass - even the three who get to skip about half the Mass! I may be biased in my own preference, but my kids do seem much more captured by the reverence of the AU Mass. I have never asked them why, since I don't want them to be self-conscious about their worship, but I intend to someday!

Fr Ray Blake said...

In order to teach, I find it quite useful to know where I should begin. I prefer to teach children by question and answer.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

Thank you for showing me that there are priests who think children are capable of getting Mass. I think the Q and A is a good idea.

this from a priest's homily online: a priest asked some kids, 'if they were there on Good would they act, how would they behave and what would they be doing? would they be playing around, joking and dancing?' They answered, 'No, Father, we would be very serious.' And the Priest asked them, 'Well, what kind of music would be fitting for that occasion? Something you would tap your toes to?' 'No, Father', they said. It had to be something serious."

If kids see the grown ups taking something seriously they follow suit because kids want to do grown up things. The NO is just a mess. And all those little altar girls are gonna grow up and join FEMEN when they realise they can't be priests. It's a mess. The obese new daily Missal is, a mess. There's not doubt, the Novus Ordo church is definitely in de facto schism with the Catholism that preceded it. Plus has anyone else noticed that at NO, you show up early, kneel and start to pray and people come up to you anyway to start a conversation - even the priest! and then there's the day when you're kneeling saying prayers and the lectionary ladies corner you to do the days readings. Quite frankly I'm usually most shocked at Mass, no matter what's going on in the world. I wish i didn't but there are times when I hate going to Mass. death to the NO, and rise again ye olde Latin Rite.

Lynda said...

What Anita Moore said is true. On the particular issue of children behaving properly and respectfully in Church: if parents have taught and disciplined their children this problem would not arise. When I was a child, children knew not to misbehave, particularly in the presence of Our Lord, but also other places; misbehaviour wasn't tolerated. Any children who are not behaving themselves, being quiet, etc. - in my experience it is because they are not taught, directed or corrected by their parents, but rather permitted to misbehave.

Unknown said...

Children will generally act to the example they witness.
Such is the NO in many parishes , if they are enwrapped in noise and bustle then they will only create more noise. You shouldn't underestimate the power of silence - even on children !!
In fact , experience tells me that some of the adults at the NO need to retreat and do some colouring !!

Genty said...

With respect, Father, the best way might be to begin at the beginning with the (traditional) Catechism, vis. Why did God make me?

Deacon Augustine said...

Catechesis only "works" with people who have already made the decision to become disciples of Jesus Christ i.e. people who have been evangelized. In the case of children this means that they must come from homes where their parents are living examples of intentional discipleship. Why post-conciliar catechesis has failed (and was probably already going downhill before the Council) is that we are trying to catechise people who haven't even been evangelized yet - they are just not ready for it. If the content of that catechesis does not even reflect the necessity of discipleship, then the situation just spirals down into a meaningless attempt to impart platitudes to people who are not really interested.

With regards to behaviour of children at Mass - children are very simple to understand really - they just imitate what they see adults doing. Adults are influenced by and imitate what they see clergy and ministers doing. If I could chain my priest to the vestment press before Mass starts rather than having him wander up and down the church engaging in conversation with people, it would be much easier to instill an atmosphere of reverence!

Cosmos said...

"Why post-conciliar catechesis has failed (and was probably already going downhill before the Council) is that we are trying to catechise people who haven't even been evangelized yet - they are just not ready for it."

AMEN!!!! This is spot on.

But it is very difficult to evangelize when we don't want to say that following Jesus is the MOST excellent way. Repent and believe is the humiliating part!

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

I have toyed with the possibility of wearing ear plugs to Mass; they are usually such gaudy colours; I don't want unwanted mortal attention at Mass. then again if they played Mrs Robinson during Holy Communion at least 'Heaven holds a place for those who pray'' might shake hands with the experience rather than Deboobase-see loops befouling the moment.

momangelica said...

Long-skirts, your poems are amazing! You are a delightfully talented lady. I would love a book of them. (with the themes prefixed). Thank you

ACC92 said...

I am a student who has been trying to introduce some of my friends to the EF. One of them has really taken it. Her family decided to come along and for the other children (5 of them ranging from about 16 - 4) it would be there first time. My friend was genuinly terrified that her siblings would misbehave, make a scene, and genuinly embarrass her. And what happened? They were good as gold. The older children (10+) followed the Mass and readings in the booklets provided and the younger children sat quietly, praying privately. The youngest occassionally whispered questions to her mother and that was it. Those who say that children can't do the EF don't know what they're talking about

JARay said...

I think that the answer has already been given. Children learn behaviour by what they see going on around them. If the whole congregation is reverent then the children will be reverent also. I strongly dislike "childrens' Masses" where the priest thinks that what he has to do is to wander around asking children what they think of this or that and holding a microphone under their noses to get their childish replies. Teaching does not exclude telling people what this or that is. It does not succeed by holding a popularity vote as to what the answer might be. Jesus told us that he is the way and the truth and the life. He spelled it out and did not conduct popularity polls.

Vincent said...

@Cosmos, I definitely agree with all of that - I was brought up going to the EF Mass, occasionally to the OF. I remember from a very young age that everything was quiet. It really had an impact, I'm guessing that I was younger than 4/5 from that memory.

I think one of the reasons is that parents are more comfortable in a traditional atmosphere. Silence is much easier to enforce than "you can only make noise when everything else is", and it's much easier for a child to understand silence than periodic talking from all the people around. And children, when they get confused, tend to cry. Of course, then the parents feel they need to take the child out - and a child quickly learns that trick...

But of course, nobody minds a baby squeaking, that's what babies do! They're not meant to be silent! I guess part of being a traddie is that you perhaps rely a little more on graces being granted to you - I've served for a number of years now, and I note that after serving I don't feel I've been too Mass, because I've been concentrating hard on my duties. I guess it's no different for parents of young children - but duty is well received in Heaven!

Fr Ray, that's a really interesting point you make about the fact that the scriptures become the focus of the Mass if you have them read out in the vernacular. I shall shamelessly steal that idea :)

Unknown said...

Parents: Live your faith every hour of every day! I have 5 school-age children and this is what they can observe about their mother: has prayers and devotions taped to the wall in the kitchen; listens to Catholic internet radio while cooking dinner; has religious reading all over the house; listens to Catholic educational CDs in the car; volunteers on a parish fundraising committee; belongs to a Catholic moms group for Bible study and fellowship; donates food to the St. Vincent pantry; donates non-food articles to the homeless shelter; attends another parish Bible study after Mass; pays to have them educated at our parish school; prays with them before meals, prays with them before the crucifix at bedtime.
Some of this involves my husband as well. The point is, Catholicism is not just an hour on Sunday for us.

Unknown said...

Forgot to mention I also have a weekly Eucharistic Adoration hour. All of the aforementioned things are external actions which any person can observe. When I talk to my children and pray with them I also speak of my love for Jesus, our Blessed Mother, all the saints, our guardian angels and how we must ask them to help us reach our goal of Heaven. In the end, we all have free will to choose, but I have at least fulfilled my duty to help form their conscience with knowledge of right and wrong.

Newefpastoremeritus said...

Welcome back!

Perhaps the reason is that so many of the so-called Catechetical "programmes" contained nothing about the Faith but a lot about secular attitudes. I recall that one "programme" that was pushed by Bishops and catechetical centres was written by a priest and a sister who later left to "get Married!"

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