Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I get annoyed by those videos which show the Old Rite and compare it with worst examples of the New, never do these video makers compare it with better examples. In our parish for example the same chants, the same polyphony, the same orientation, was used for Old Rite Corpus Christi on Thursday and for New Rite Corpus Christi on Sunday, even to the disconsternation of a visiting priest the same Byrd Mass.

I am pretty sure that today we celebrate the Old Rite in a certain modern style which only liturgical purists might possibly have done in the past. An obvious example is the readings are invariably heard, and read in such a way that they should be understood, even at Low Mass. There are plenty of stories of the Old Rite being celebrated in a way that would horrify many today. A story from here, tells of a priest who had forgotten his false teeth sent the server to get them, who brought them covered on a silver salver, the priest took them turned to the congregation and put them in his mouth. Again in the period of the Liturgical Movement there was plenty of experiment, especially once the dialogue Mass was allowed in the 1920s,

That being said the Old Rite gave a very different complexion to the relationship between priest and people. I was recently sent a questionnaire about how I see leadership in the Church. It is always a concept I feel uncomfortable with, in many ways I suspect it is a very modern question. It might be interesting if FOTA prepared one of their excellent papers on it. My own feeling is to paraphrase Cardinal Winning, "The Catholic Church [in Scotland] has one leader, and that is not me, it is Jesus Christ". Rather than "leadership" in the past we most probably would have spoken more about obedience, whether it was of a simple priest, a bishop, or even pope.

Anyone preparing to celebrating the Old Rite first of all has to learn a different way of being a priest, he has to learn to be a servant, like the Centurion's servant "to come here, and go there". The Old Rite is very prescriptive about how the priest moves, where moves, how he uses his body, where he looks and even where he directs his eyes. The control over his body and movements results in a control over his mind and thoughts. The thing is that the rubrics are freely available to any ten year old who can read Latin or anyone who has a copy of Fortescue, O'Connel and Reid, or the like, this is important in as much as it democratises the liturgy and leaves the priest open to accountability and able to be judged on his obedience to the demands of the Church. In fact the heart of the spirituality of the Old Rite is one of being under obedience, the obliteration of the individual, to the point where in a large Church, with a number of priests one is often uncertain which priest is celebrating Mass, it is often just hair colour, or body shape that enables one to distinguish who is the celebrant.

If the priest in the New Rite chooses to celebrate ad apsidem, which is his right, in the same way as it is his right to choose which penitential rite or Eucharistic Prayer to use, he is well on his way to  begin to submerge himself in the the liturgy and the mind of the Church, and yet of course he has already made a 'leadership' decision. Similarly if he opts to celebrate the Old Rite, he has done more than any of his pre-concillior predecessors had the power to do. However the Old Rite teaches obedience, there is an entirely different attitude to preparing a liturgy in either Form of the Rite. At low Mass in the Old Rite, the priest merely opens the Missal and begins continuing until he ends, it is almost mechanical. In the New Rite even if Mass is said as 'rubrically' as possible there are a variety of options. If Mass is sung, in the Old Rite he and the choir simply sing what is in the Graduale or the Liber, if one is very fortunate the choir might be able substitute polyphony or some other musical form for some of the chant, possibly even adding the organ or even an orchestra or a band, and possibly even singing the chant in a particular historic style. For the priest and sacred ministers however it is saying or singing the black and doing the red.

The lack of liturgical choice, except to endeavour to do more perfectly what the Church demands is an important factor in the traditional spirituality of a priest. If one couples his liturgical congruence to a congruence to the mind of the Church with a traditional understanding of a priest's theology to constantly subject his intellect to the mind of the Church, together with traditional priestly asceticism, one ends up with a very different attitude to what is often referred to as 'leadership'.

I can't help thinking that when priests 'lead' we end up with all kinds of disasters, when they obey (Christ and his Church) then they build his Kingdom. It is John the Baptist, isn't it? "I must decrease, he must increase". What is rather frightening is that to those who believe the contents of the video, even if in a less Italianate and exuberant form, is what the priesthood is about are quite incapable of understanding what the great master's of priestly spirituality are saying. The Old Rite is divisive and subversive.


Anil Wang said...

I don't think that the NO encourages leadership. We all serve someone or something. A typical NO priest will tend to go with whatever makes his peers and parish less uncomfortable. If most of the parish tends to be extremely traditional, the typical priest won't balk if asked to say the prayers in Latin or face Ad Deum. If the parish is radically Protestant, the typical NO priest won't likely fight the parish be as lax with the liturgy as his conscience allows. I don't believe TLM changes a priest's ability to resist compromising obedience between the parish and God (witness how fast NO deteriorated after Vatican II, even though it was originally celebated in the spirit of TLM by TLM trained priests). What TLM gives us today is a self selective group of parishioners that allow the priest to more fully worship God without the need for compromise.

But you do point out something that is true. If there is choice, it's easy for the priest to be dragged down to the lowest common denominator because if he doesn't, he's to blame...priests are people too. They don't want to be blamed. If there is no choice, they can always pass the buck and say their hands are tied without getting blamed. Since nothing can be done, parishioners don't balk and the priest has an opportunity to properly form their parish so that they will not want to resist.

I see this in my work all the time. I work in automating business processes to help our research admins do their jobs. Although research departments are customer friendly, at the end of the day, they have to follow regulations and the auditors for compliance. When they use paper processes, researchers are usually able to get the admins to be "flexible" even if it causes compliance issues, and they can do it because the researchers know there's wiggle room and if they don't do it, the admins get a bad rap. When we automate processes, admins love us because they can obey regulations without getting blamed. "The system" gets blamed.

Paul Geers said...

50 years I have served the mass, yes in Latin for 5 years and then its changed in 1970. I saw more and more people leave the church then as well as the priests, and sisters, I believe that the sisters ruined the catholic school system too, they didn't want to teach anymore, they wanted to be free thinkers and do justice and peace work, a laugh really. then shedding the habit, many had no more respect for them, they all liked like "little old grandma's " dressed in flowered dresses and make up etc, its seems that Police, nurses, garbage men, priest's etc have a uniform to were out of respect and those who see them have respect. But if you go on a bus, and sit down, which way does the driver face? towards you or the front so he can see where he is driving, if he face back towards you, what would happen? a reck. That's what has happen in the Roman Catholic church for 50 years. Yes I have served over 25,000 masses and was written up in the papers, but after seeing all the damage priests, Bishops and nuns have done to the people and lax style of mass, a less Christ like manner. How do you pray to the priest and the priest towards the people in NO mass? its does not make any sense to me. why not face one way to the tabernacle that's why we are there?
Also, when you can make up the rubics yourself as many have, I have seen it or for get what they are doing and tell jokes during mass, I priest singing the back street boys songs in church, there is NO reason, we are there for GOD not man.
I come back to the Latin mass 14 years ago and full time in 2008, I have no interested in attending the NO mass, I know its valid but come on, its a joke in may places and I ah to walk out.

Edward.Fullerton said...

Fr Ray. Blake , I find that todays post a contradiction to what you normally write b?!!!.Sacred ministers ?, same as Eucharistic-ministers ?!!!.Do you know what the worst r the last fifty-years has been the dereliction of the clergy " Christ breathed on , two thousand years ago. I remember , forty plus years ago, asking the congregation of that time to pray for priests Waste of time. Do you know what this Pratt of a priest said to me last week , get a job. I , and, many others have ably fed his , their life styles for forty years in my case,. Here's me , basic education struggling , divorce, daughters in one case at least , who does n't want to know me.

Pete Salveinini said...

Three things are necessary for an immediate palpable change in tone. Revert to ad apsidem from the Offertory on; removal of female servers; receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and NOT in the way one eats ordinary food. As you point out the congregation looks at the PRIEST looking at Christ and not looking at Christ; women can not be ignored, men can be; and to repeat not consuming the Sacrament as ordinary food. That is just the starter, but it will IMMEDIATELY CONVEY WE'RE THERE TO WORSHIP GOD.

Fr Ray Blake said...

EF, Sacred Minister are Ordinary Ministers: Bishop, Priest, Deacon (and in the Old Rite Sub-deacons)

Jacobi said...

Leadership is critical in any human organisation. That also applies to the Church which consists of human beings. That does not discount the Holy Ghost. But the absence of leadership gives Him a lot more work to do.

Without leadership an organisation flounders. Sub-factions emerge, (National Bishops Conferences), led by would be leaders who are not recognised or respected by the other factions. The objective of the organisation, in the case of the Catholic Church the saving of souls and how it should be done, fades and becomes diffused..

Leadership does not have to be forceful . There are many different types, but it must be there, and it must be effective.

The Catholic Church does not have leadership at present. One could argue that it has not had effective leadership for the last 76 years.

Hence the “mess” we are in at present.

John Simlett said...

In a last minute rush one Christmas, my family picked me up from the airport and took me to a ‘Midnight Mass’. I am so much a traditionalist that I even felt unsettled because it started at 11pm. If that were not enough, I was greeted by a group sitting at the altar rails with guitars singing, “Michael Row The Boat Ashore.” At which point I abandoned ship.
The point is when is a mass not ALL that it should be?
To a simple person like me, the mass should be prescriptive, it should be universal (and therefore Latin). It shouldn't be about popular ceremonies built upon TV style ratings, to ‘draw ‘em in,’ which vary from parish to parish, town to town … country …
Recognising the priest by his body-shape is OK with me, I didn't come to be entertained, and I’m not a ‘groupie.’
Peter was the Rock on which the Church was built. There were no sub-clauses concerning how each generation had freedom to produce a new breed of sculptors who would reshape the Rock to reflect the modern vision.
It seems to me that the Church has constantly undergone a Weberian style stratification not only in its hierarchical structure, but within its services, to the point that ordinary Catholics feel the Church has little to do with them.
I’m no theologian, and can imagine the mass I see as traditionalist, is in reality quite a contemporary affair, nevertheless, a rationalisation to a Universal Church that I grew up in, is, to say the least, desirable.

Ma Tucker said...

Oh dear what an awful video. Then again the couple should not have agreed to let this mad man witness their sacrament. Perhaps the bride is covering her back with clear grounds for a future annulment :-)

"if one is very fortunate the choir might be able substitute polyphony or some other musical form for some of the chant, possibly even adding the organ or even an orchestra or a band, and possibly even singing the chant in a particular historic style"

This is not the mind of the Church Fr. Ray - more obedience please!
Sacred Liturgical music = Gregorian Chant. Secondly, Polyphony (only Palestrina or similar) is acceptable too. The degree to which music conforms to chant is a measure of its suitability. The human voice was made for the worship of God by God. Man made instruments are a very poor cousin. You are duty bound to give the best to God. Man made instruments are not the best. Profane musical forms whether or not religious are not the best. It is the mind of the Church that Gregorian Chant is the music of the Church. You seem to have a different mind in this matter. Where do you get your thinking from?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Ma, I agree the organ is often unnecessary, though quite licit, do you think it is licit to substitute a real oboe occasionally, for the oboe stop? or for the entire instrument? or if the organ is weak in the bass to use a da gamba or violone for a figured bass? or a serpent or ophiclyde to keep the chant together.

Though I think our interpretation of chant need not necessarily be what Solesmes has passed on to us, some might suggest that it is a little too twee and 19th cent. and that the Organun style or even the French (pre Guéranger) style might have been what the Tridentine Fathers had in mind.

Polyphony however does develope after Palestrina. The question is what is meant by Polyphony, a distinct musical style or should that just be poly-phony, many voices so t could bring us Haydn or even Mozart, or one could by-pass them and suggest Bruckner or Messiaen are the true inheritors of that many voiced-style.

I am sorry, I am teasing but though we can be dogmatic about dogma I find it hard to be so about music, especially as it has for the past 1000 years varied so much. The Western tradition is so rich, hat providing the text can be heard, and providing it isn't music of the dance hall, I see no reason that which earlier generations considered holy .......

Ma Tucker said...

Father, the organ is only to be used as a support to the human voice so there is no need to get fixated on your pipes! Of course bad chant that needs support is a sad affair indeed.
I have sung most of the usual classical pieces in choirs, and am familiar with various forms of poly-phony. There is indeed a large and varied tradition in music but it not correct to suggest that earlier generations considered these forms holy.

The Church has begged for generations the use of sacred liturgical music in her liturgy. This is Gregorian Chant. It is the Church who has so defined this. It is the Church who had pointed to the work of Solesmes as her mind in this matter. This work was simply to gather up the Church's treasure in this field. Yes there were the issues of whether this note here or there should be elongated or which manuscript with a la or a ta should be considered original etc. However the main task was a work of gathering with some correcting and a small amount of filling in for unknown missing elements.

There is a distinction between sacred music (Gregorian Chant, Psalmody and some forms of polyphony - namely palestrina and all that closely resembles it) and profane religious music(Mozart, Haydn, Schubert -at a push, all the other profane compositions with religious texts attached). You could take any of Mozart's compositions and replace the text with romantic poetry and sing it in a concert hall. You would not feel the music is out of place because you can plainly discern that the music is profane and suited to a concert hall. This type of music is not holy nor has the Church ever claimed is was. Try singing Gregorian Chant in a concert hall with the lyrics of an opera or a poem attached and you will plainly discern an anomaly. It does not fit. It is alien. It is a different form.

The form of music that is specifically composed for the worship of God ALONE is primarily Gregorian Chant and secondly Palestrinas polyphony and its VERY close cousins. This is sacred music. There maybe be less developed forms such as Organum but lets be honest who could possibly think this chant work is complex chant at the highest level. No it is not. Its form is simple. This fact is as plain as the nose on your face. As regard the trouping minstrels in the house of God - again profane.

You can be dogmatic about musical forms because you can plainly discern the sacred from the profane. The question whether it is holy to use profane music in God's house is a question that can be dogmatically answered in the negative. It is always better to use sacred forms.

What to do when the schola sings like a bag of cats - now that I'm afraid is always a painful dilemma :-)

umblepie said...

I'm sorry Father, but having read your post several times,I cannot see the connection between on the one hand 'leadership', and on the other the manner of celebrating the TLM and the NO Mass. The manner of celebration both Masses is laid down by the Church in the liturgy, and to my mind the question of leadership does not come into the equation. To suggest that faithfully celebrating the TLM somehow diminishes the 'leadership' of the celebrant, whereas the NO with its slightly more flexible rules, allows 'leadership' to be exercised by the celebrant, just does not add up.
Forgive me if I have misread your post, or have misunderstood it, but surely the liturgy is designed to be obeyed. Obedience is a virtue not a hindrance. Our Lord was 'obedient unto death', obedience and humility go together. The final conclusion in your post seems totally disconnected with what had gone before. Whether one prefers the TLM or the NO Mass, it is impossible to accept that the 'old rite is divisive and subversive'.It is not the TLM that has been imposed on the faithful, it is the NO. Thus logically it is the NO that is divisive. Subversive is a strong word to use, and is defined in the Oxford dictionary - 'subvert' 'v.t. overturn, upset,effect destruction or overthrow of (religion, monarchy, the constitution, etc)- 'subversive'- adjective.' As far as leadership is concerned, some men are leaders, some aren't. This applies to laymen, priests, bishops, and religious, and it certainly has nothing to do with their personal preference for the TLM or NO. Sorry Father, usually I am a great fan of your posts, but not this one.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, as I say the OF is not the free for all some might portray it as being but EF is much more prescriptive.
The OF is open to far more interpretation, the EF is not.
The OF has a series of options, even for the Eucharistic Prayer, the EF simply doesn't.
Any digression from the norm in the EF is immediately apparent, those who attend know precisely what the Church expects as much as the celebrant.