Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Mass Is Also For the Faithful

The other day I quoted from the book Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis, by Peter Kwasniewski, to make the point that the Mass is celebrated for God, as an act of worship that is due Him, and that it doesn’t matter how many people attend the Mass.

But, reading on in Kwasniewski’s book, I see that he also makes the point that there is a two-fold purpose to the Mass. He writes:

The liturgy has two purposes: to worship God with all due reverence and love, and to feed, nurture, shape, and perfect the worshiper. God is not changed or moved for the worse by our bad liturgies; it is we, the Christian people, who are deformed by the Novus Ordo Missae as it is celebrated in most of our churches. God does not suffer if we refrain from attending a superficial ceremony that verges on mockery of his Son and does violence to Catholic worship as it has always been known.

This almost sounds as if he is advocating not attending Mass if the choice is one full of liturgical abuses. But I don’t think that’s what he is saying, exactly. He goes on:

It is true that there are times when it is necessary to attend even a most disgracefully celebrated liturgy in order to fulfill one’s obligation to the Lord, and at this time one ought to go with the express purpose of suffering for one’s own sins. 

This is the conclusion I have come to, and that is the frame of mind in which I try to attend Mass. I also take along my little Latin Mass missal booklet to pray the prayers that more fully reflect a truly Catholic liturgy. But Kwasniewski makes more good points:

It is true, too, that we can and must seek our consolation in the wondrous presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, a presence so much beyond all that we can deserve no matter how beautifully and reverently we sing the songs of Sion. Still, there is far more to the substance of liturgical cultus than merely the provision of a moment’s adoration in the midst of an ocean of banality and noise; the liturgy, both as a whole and in each of its parts, is not itself supposed to be a mortification, a cause of pain, but a consolation, a reservoir of peace and joy for building up the inner man.

In this sense, then, the Mass is for the people, as well as the worthy worship of God. The Mass should form us and teach us how to worship, and why to worship. Alas, it is too often simply a mortification, though, in my experience! Sometimes I see that the priest and the ministers are doing their best to be reverent, but the Novus Ordo Mass simply does not lend itself to that supreme reverence and piety to which we should aspire.

Continuing with the excerpt:

The purpose of the liturgy is to form our souls in the beauty of holiness; and if the human elements of the liturgy are, on the contrary, deforming our souls, then we must not allow it habitually to do so unless, as was just said, we have no choice in a given situation.

He inserts an interesting footnote here, stating that if a family finds itself in a situation where the only available liturgy is so poorly celebrated that it fosters bad religious habits, and if the family has little chance of contributing to a positive change in the situation, then the family should move to a different parish or even diocese where there are better options available. Ah! I agree! But how difficult that can be! And how “bad” does the liturgy have to be before one becomes aware of the bad habits being formed? Once, when my husband and I were in charge of the music at a local parish (very small “mission” church) I had a sudden awareness of the bad habits inculcated by the casual atmosphere of the Novus Ordo; the three of us who were doing the singing found ourselves making a little joke to each other…in the middle of Mass! I suddenly was aware that I was engaged in this, and was appalled at myself.

Finally, Kwasniewski adds this thought:

By attending poor liturgy one implicitly accepts it – that is, one says to it: “Shape me, shape my soul, form my spirit. Make me like yourself.” But this is what one must not allow to occur with experimental, horizontal, anti-sacral liturgy; its habits, as it were, must not become my habits.

There are no easy answers in this. I would love to move to a place where there is an FSSP parish nearby; but this is not really feasible for us, for several reasons. And there is little hope of a traditional Latin Mass becoming available close to our home – though God does have a way of surprising us at times! So I continue to pray the traditional prayers at the Novus Ordo Mass, while ignoring the mundane, watered-down prayers the priest is required to say (and frankly, I find this much easier to do at the Spanish Mass, since I don’t understand Spanish all that well, and so the words don’t interfere with my meditation on the old prayers).

But after reading what Peter Kwasniewski has to say, I now have a better understanding of why I generally do not receive Holy Communion at the Novus Ordo Mass. It has everything to do with what he has said in the excerpts above – the knowledge that something is just not right about the theology of the Novus Ordo, and the feeling that I should resist making myself a part of it by receiving Holy Communion (I am not saying that I think the NO Mass is invalid; just that, as Kwasniewski puts it, I am not willing to have it shape my soul and form my spirit). Thanks be to God I am able to attend the TLM elsewhere while on retreat every couple of months.  And I make an effort to make a spiritual communion in the context of the Mass prayers at home on a daily basis. Still…

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Mass is For God

Here’s another excerpt from Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis, by Peter Kwasniewski:

The Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated for God, on his account, as an act of profound worship directed to Him.  The new Mass, as it has been allowed to be celebrated around the world, often looks like an exercise mainly for the sake of the people – almost as if the people are the point of the Mass, and not God. (p. 67)

At our local parish, there was no midnight Mass at Christmas last year. This year, an announcement in the bulletin a week or so prior to Christmas noted that there was a “renewed interest” in having  midnight Mass, and that if 75 people put their names on a list saying they would attend, then there would in fact be a midnight Mass.

This struck me in two ways: first, that it was a sign of life, perhaps, that people did actually seem to want the midnight Mass (though who knows the motivation behind each individual?); second, that the priest himself should have a desire to celebrate that Mass – one of the three Masses that the priest is privileged to say on the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Ideally, a properly formed priest, it seems to me, would desire to say all three Masses, and would do so whether or not there were a certain number of people present. I even commented on this to my husband, saying, “Isn’t the Mass for God? It’s not about how many people show up; it’s not really for them. The Mass is an act of worship directed to God.” It’s so nice to find that same thought expressed so much more eloquently and clearly by Mr. Kwasniewski!

A little farther on, Kwasniewski says:

Recall how vehemently the reformers both of the sixteenth century and of the twentieth attacked the idea of a “private Mass,” where a priest and server offer the sacrifice without a congregation. And yet, if the essence of the Mass is an act of profound adoration of the Holy Trinity, in the shadow of Whose wings the priest then intercedes for the good of the entire Church and the conversion of the world, nothing could be better than the multiplication of such Masses devoutly offered. The critique of the private Mass runs parallel with the demise of the contemplative religious life: a nun or monk in a cell seems useless “for the people,” even though in reality such a person’s prayers are the only reason the Church does not collapse in a minute, the blood of martyrs run dry, or the world vanish in a flash of fire.

How refreshing to see someone express that last thought! I find that I am often in need of reminders that my prayers mean something to God, that they are efficacious, that God desires them, and that the Holy Spirit prompts us all to pray in certain ways for certain things (it is our discernment that is lacking!).

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

It was a good Advent for me...more "productive" than usual, I think. In part that was because for the first time EVER, we didn't have Christmas decorations up starting the day after Thanksgiving. I would have had it this way for the last 10 years, but was outvoted by past, pre-traditional-Catholic traditions... But this year, my daughter was too busy with work and other things to push the decorating, and it ended up that we decorated the tree just yesterday afternoon. 

In the meantime, we were besieged by rain. It's a necessary evil, I know, but I don't like rain, and we don't get much of it here, comparatively speaking. We had a number of days like this:

Gray. Somewhat oppressive, especially after several days. Then, we had this:


Then there were more clouds, but they brought snow this time, and that is better than rain, most of the time! Plus, it gave us a white Christmas. There's not much snow, but there's enough to qualify!

And now, Christmas is here, and the chapel has a new gold antependium and tabernacle veil:

The photo really doesn't do it justice, so just use your imagination to enhance it!

Merry Christmas to all!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Monday, December 22, 2014

More on Emptiness and Silence in the Mass

Here’s another quote from Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church, by Peter Kwasniewski:

In the old structure of the sanctuary, everything leads the eyes and the soul up to the majestic altar of God, where our youth is replenished where the Lion of Judah, with all the roaring of silence, descends in a flash of invisible light. There, in the empty and silent sanctuary, is the symbol of the soul thirsting for God, the soul which lacks and knows where to find its plenitude. In the space, the very space is a home for the homeless God who dwells everywhere and nowhere, who dwells in inaccessible light.

I have noted more and more just how much noise we experience in the novus ordo Mass. Sometimes I think to myself, as I listen to the priest recite every word aloud, “could you please just stop talking for a minute and let me focus?!” In the Traditional Latin Mass, so much of what the priest prays is silent. I follow along with the prayers in the missal; I don’t need to hear them all said aloud. Also, sometimes, I don’t follow along! I let the priest do his “job” of taking the prayers to God for me; I know what he’s saying, and I rest in a more contemplative mental silence while he prays silently.

The paragraph goes on to describe the role of the priest. This description, when I really think about it, actually gives me chills. This is what I experience at the extraordinary form of the Mass, though I could never have articulated it in this way:

 Moreover, the priest standing at the altar, the small priest swallowed in the empty space and in the silence, his arms raised in a solemnly hushed prayer of sacrifice, represents the ultimate smallness, one might even say the nothingness, and yet the infinite dignity and incomparable glory of man incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, offering the very sacrifice of Jesus Christ (per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso…) – he is a true participant in the cosmic liturgy, where earth and heaven unite in the person of Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest. This one lowly man, ordained to mediate as a living sign of the sole Mediator, stands there at the juncture of every ontological axis. He is, for a moment, the centermost point of the cosmos, in imitation of Christ, the Word through whom all things live and move and have their being.

Does that describe the priest at a novus ordo Mass? Certainly not in my experience! Even the most reverent priest saying the new Mass in the vernacular while facing the people has an air of the mundane about him. It’s just not the same.

No wonder the old Mass has converted people to Catholicism! I don’t think the new Mass does so; in fact, I have always maintained that I came into the Church in spite of the way Mass was celebrated, rather than because of it!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Emptiness and Silence

I’m reading a book entitled Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church, by Peter Kwasniewski. I highly recommend it. This author not only knows the Mass, he obviously understands it, he obviously prays it, and he obviously lives it. He is very articulate, and at times eloquent; you can almost pick a paragraph and random and then meditate on it.

Here’s an example, where he talks about the fact that traditionally, “there was a large open space between the communion rail and the high altar, a space in which the priest and ministers could freely move…This open area accentuates the magnitude of the mystery, not by putting it at a distance, but by giving it ample room, so to speak, to descend into our midst.” [Emphases in original.]

He comments that this abundance of space suggests the divine Presence, and that adding chairs, tables, pedestals, a lectern, etc., simply fill the space and bring it down to human level. He concludes:

In many new or renovated churches, gone is that awaiting emptiness of the stable of Bethlehem, the emptiness of the wounds in Mary’s heart, the emptiness of conceptual understanding in Joseph’s mind, the emptiness of the world awaiting its longed-for Savior – this pregnant and richly-decorated emptiness is gone, filled instead with clutter.

Emptiness. Silence. These two indispensable characteristics of the spiritual life are sorely lacking in the way the novus ordo Mass is celebrated in many (most?) parishes.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The View Along the Way

I've been away since last Saturday - off on retreat to my favorite place. I was there both for Mass on Sunday and for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Monday. It's nice to be able to socialize after Mass with people who are like-minded on traditional Catholic topics!

The drive on Saturday was quite beautiful; at home we'd been having a lot of cloudy, gloomy days, but once over the pass, the sunshine was bright and cheery.

The drive home was overcast, but it didn't rain - that was a plus. And the cloudy skies made for a certain beauty all its own:

Our spiritual journey is like that, too; isn't it? There are the bright, sunny, consoling times, but the gray times can be edifying as well. And through it all, we learn that God is there, no matter what "weather" might be.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thoughts from Anne Catherine Emmerich

Here are some quotes that have caught my attention as I continue to read The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich:

“How sad that the priests of our day are so neglectful of their power, we might even say ignorant of what the sacerdotal benediction is! Many of them hardly believe in it. They blush at a blessing as if it were a superstitious and antiquated ceremony, whilst some never reflect upon the power given them by Jesus Christ.”

And if that was true then, think how much more so it is true today! I think it is sad that so many priests today have probably never been taught about the power they have. They don’t know the power of Latin, for the most part, either. So many have not experienced the extraordinary form of the Mass; I find that particularly sad, because my own experience of the Old Mass is that it allows the priest to be a priest, rather than a talk-show host.  Not only that, but the current English version of the Book of Blessings has been watered down so much that it seems to be (in the words of my spiritual director) nothing more than a “book of good wishes”.

Blessed Sister Emmerich understood the power of a priest’s blessing. The quote above continues:

When they neglect to give me a blessing, I receive it sometimes from God Himself; but as Our Lord has instituted the priesthood and imparted to it the power to bless, I languish with the desire for it. The whole church is but one body. All must be deprived of what one member refused to bestow.”

She knew the value of holy water, and sought to make that her only drink. She knew the value of blessed bells, too:

“The sound of blessed bells has always been to me like a ray of benediction which banishes hurtful influences wherever it reaches. I think such sounds terrify Satan.”

We seem to have lost so much of our understanding of these things in the Church today. That is why it is important to truly know the faith – the way it was taught “in the old days” before the bishops started making it politically correct and inoffensive.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.