Friday, 20 February 2009

"That Was Not My Mass"

The only downside of facing the same way as your congregation at Mass is that someone could stab you in the back at any moment.

The Tablet this week lay heavy blows upon a very highly regarded Catholic priest of the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, one Fr Tim Finegan. Thankfully, there are enough men and women who admire his determination to be faithful to the expressed desire of Pope Benedict XVI to see the Latin Mass implemented in parishes alongside the Novus Ordu, that he will not feel too isolated. Many will have leapt and will continue to leap to his defence.

Elena Curti, who penned the article, sadly, has quoted some of his parishioners who have expressed their disapproval of Mass in the Extraordinary Form on Sundays, even though, Fr Tim has made it widely known that on the very same day, Mass is also celebrated in the ordinary form slightly earlier at 9am.

The real giveaway in the article is the headline, which reads, "That was not my Mass." This headline is actually at the heart of the 'divisions' in the Church over Sacred Liturgy and the Mass.

Why? Because no, it wasn't your Mass, never was and never will be. It is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and like all things Holy, the Mass belongs to God. A great part of the problem that a minority of laity, some priests and many Bishops struggle with is really about seeking a balance of power and authority in the Church and an inordinate desire to view Church liturgy and decision-making over it, or even the Church itself, as a 'democracy.'

Listen to some of the complaints which the parishioners made about Fr Tim's implementation of Mass in the Extraordinary Form...

“It is a matter of principle.” What is the principle? As far as I know the chief principle of the Laity is to attend Mass as part of our Sunday obligation. The Laity have not been placed in a position of authority in the Church. The Priest has been, by virtue of his Office at his ordination. Therefore, arguably, our personal feelings about the liturgy we really need to put to one side. God knows, I've sat through some pretty awful guitar Masses in my time, but I don't go and tell the Catholic Herald about it, because I respect the Church and the Priest enough to hold back. I won't say I haven't been tempted, mind.

"I won’t be driven out." Nobody is driven out of the Church. If we leave the Church we leave of our own free will. Ultimately, if I was marooned on a very tiny island and only able to go to one parish and it was full of guitars, keyboards, singers and liturgical dancers, it would be a pain in the arse but I'd still have to go to Mass.

"I have no objection to them having it once a month or once a week, but it should not be the main Sunday Mass and it should not be imposed over the whole parish.” My first reaction to reading this was, 'Who on earth asked you?' Nobody consulted me on any aspect of Church matters. I can't see why they should. Clearly, this person is disgruntled, but really, it is up to the Priest. Also, where he says, "the whole parish", read, "me," because "the whole parish" may not be so keen on the Novus Ordu either. Let the people decide? By majority vote? It is always worth recalling that 'the people' voted Blair in 3 times and Thatcher in twice.

“People who have been away from Church come back at Christmas and Easter and are totally put off. It is so sad.” I see. Yes, it is sad many Catholics only go to Mass twice a year. So, the New Rite didn't retain their interest in the Church and the Old Rite didn't either. Heck, you can't please everyone! Mass attendance is an obligation incumbent upon those souls and it is not up to Holy Mother Church to devise a Mass which is simultaeneously pleasing to everyone because someone will always want something different.

The only Mass which would suddenly attract hoards of lapsed Catholics is one where the Font is a jacuzzi, where the bar in the corner serves free cocktails and where young ladies in Playboy outfits served cheese and pinapple on sticks for those souls yet to be reconciled to Holy Mother Church and who deem themselves unable to receive Communion in good conscience. The moment Priests design Mass around the congregations' whims rather than the worship of God is the moment Mass becomes little to do with God and everything to do with us. Which is why it is best to let the Priest do his job. For proof, look up the words 'Rock-teen/Balloon Mass' on Google and eventually you'll find some pretty horrendous videos.

“I grew up with the Latin Mass and remember sitting watching men and women saying the Rosary, slyly reading the newspaper or making responses they didn’t really understand." Tempting as it often is, watching others at Mass is not advisable. At Mass we should be been praying, revering and adoring God. It is a bit presumptuous to think that just because one doesn't feel like one is 'getting anything' out of Mass, that those around you are not either. The one thing that has struck me about the Latin Mass is that I don't really have to say anything, which is actually a great relief. Thank God for some silence. It's rare I can tell you.

"The English Mass made us participants and co-celebrants in the Sacrifice of the Mass. The instruction to ‘open the windows and doors’ is one of the most liberating things to happen in the Catholic Church. If you listen carefully you can hear them being shut in Blackfen.” Ah...Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. We are participants in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in as much as we participate in the Mystery of the Trinity and the Company of Heaven, but this is the case regardless of which rite is used. Our participation in the Mass is not dependent upon us, our endeavours or our efforts. It is always worth remembering that if nobody turned up to Church one Sunday, the Priest would still offer Mass. Pope Benedict's call is for men and women to 'open the windows and doors' of our hearts to Christ...

The word, 'co-celebrant' insinuates a little that the Laity are a bit like the Priesthood in that the Laity respond vocally and utter the sacred words which used to be uttered by the Priest alone. Some people have described this as the 'clericalisation' of the Laity. The idea of the vocal responses, the congregation's vocalisation of the pattern of the Mass, the hymns, bidding prayers, Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, the need for Eucharistic ministers and lay readers all being removed from us and being done by the Priest leaves some people with a feeling of disempowerment. This of course, at a time when society says that only empowerment is good.

Now, I'll grant these parishioners one thing. Disempowerment does not necessarily make us feel warm and cosy but it is undoubtedly holy. Why? I'll tell you why. It's because..."All Power, all Glory and all Honour is Yours, Almighty Father. Forever and Ever. Amen."

Power belongs to God and is shown forth through the Pope, who speaks infallibly on Faith and Morals on the Throne of St Peter, through Bishops who are under obedience to the Pope, through Priests who are under obedience to the Bishops (who, remember, are meant to be obedient to the Pope!) and there the power line stops. Why does it stop there? Because only these people can offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or be instrument's of Absolution in the Sacrament of Penance. Only these people have been ordained to serve God in the Church.

We, the Laity were never meant to be 'empowered' in any other way than to proclaim the Gospel joyously in our daily lives and work. Anyone who thinks Heaven is going to be a 'democracy' will be in for a big shock, when Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal King of Glory, sits upon His Throne at His Glorious Second Coming.


Anonymous said...

I really hate all this argument about the Latin mass; you can barely click on a Catholic blog without reading about it! If we are not very careful, we will create two distinct factions in the church - those for the Latin and those agin' it!

Personally, I cannot see what everybody is getting so excited about. Does God really care what language we speak in when we worship him? I don't think so...... it is the words we say that matter, not the language we use. It is the kind of lives we live that interests Him, rather than the number of Latin masses we attend!

Please everyone, let's keep a sense of perspective here......

Anonymous said...

I think there is already two factions in the church.I would rather be in a parish, whose priest took heed of Pope Benedicts "Summorum Pontificum"than in a parish where it has been totally ignored.There can be no unity without orthodoxy.God Bless Fr.Finigan,may he long continue to be open to the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

An excellent criticism of the article Lawrence. You are rivalling Fr Z! Have you thought of sending it to the Tablet for publication? It deserves a wider readership.

The comments from Anon make me wonder whether he/she has ever attended Mass in the EF.

As for creating two distinct factions - I had that fear too at one time until I learnt there were many other Rites all in the Catholic Church. It is unity in belief which is the crux of the matter and priests like Fr Finigan and Fr Ray who are willing to celebrate Mass in both forms are enriching their parishioners who may choose in which rite they can best worship God.

Anonymous said...

That was an excellent post!

Unknown said...

Great post Laurence. I think that when people finally realize that that, as you so beautifully stated, it is NOT our Mass, the TLM will be more lovingly accepted. No matter what form of the Mass is celebrated- it's not about us- it's about Jesus.

PeterHWright said...

As has already been said elsewhere by other people, I don't understand how a priest who provides three novus ordo Masses and one "old" Mass every Sunday can possibly be divisive.

What is under attack here seems to be orthodoxy and loyalty to Catholic tradition.

Inevitably, but very unfortunately, a good and kind and genereous Catholic priest finds himself under attack.

The Tablet article is despicable.

The Bones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Bones said...

'As has already been said elsewhere by other people, I don't understand how a priest who provides three novus ordo Masses and one "old" Mass every Sunday can possibly be divisive.'

I think the very small minority are annoyed that TLM should take 'central', i.e, mid-morning Mass. I think Fr Tim is very bold for doing this. Some feathers would have been ruffled, but ultimately he is their Shepherd. He wants to give God the best worship and lead souls into that worship.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the comment that 'People who have been away fom the Church and only come back at Christmas and Easter will be totally put off' great?

Perhaps I can share may own experiences: in 2006, I attended Midnight (trendy NO) Mass in my local parish (where, incidentally, I had been worhipping since childhood, but where I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied by the growing casuality (and abuses) in the liturgy). On this occasion, I was accompanied by a lapsed Catholic friend who was contemplating a return to the Faith, and who had asked if he could come to Mass with me. all started well, and he enjoyed the carols and meditation before Mass; the liturgy itself was a different story, and ended up with my friend leaving, saying that he had doubts as to whether this was actually a Catholic church, and that 'if that's th way it is, I don't want to be part of it' (expletives deleted - my friend had spent quite a lot of Christmas Eve p.m. in the pub!).

The following year, I again attended the same parish's Midnight Mass (a new PP had been appointed, and I hoped for an improvement - in vain!). I was treated to another wishy-washy liturgical farce. Also, I felt unwell during Mass, and briefly had to go out for fresh air - the lack of concern and consideration from others in the congregation was almost studied! Needless to say, my Christmas was agin spoilt.

Last Christmas, I was determined to avoid another repeat performance at all costs. Browsing the Latin Mass Society's website, I discovered that Fr. Finigan was planning an EF Midnight Mass, and so travelled to Blackfen (by cab, at considerable expense, since there are no buses at Christmas) - it was probably the best Christmas present I could have given myself. Mass was celebrated as a High Mass, with the two permanent deacons of the parish assisting Fr. Finigan; there was no sense of stuffiness or remoteness - accomodation was made for all, including the subdeacon (whose Latin was obviously rather 'rusty'), for those who wished to receive communion in the hand, and for those who wanted to sing (a good mix of traditional and modern hymns was provided along with the Proper chants). Even the girl altar servers (yes, they do exist in Blackfen, serving some of the NO Masses!) were given a place as a liturgical choir outside the sanctuary.

It is evident that Father had done everything possible to see that all present had an opportunity to engage with the litugy. I do not recall seeing any 'factions' there.

The sense of reverence and joy in the church was profound - it made my Christmas!

Oh, how I wish this had been the Mass I had taken my friend to!

May God bless Fr. Finigan and the work he is doing.

The Bones said...

Wonderful story. Email it to the Tablet!

Anonymous said...

Good post, but you miss one thing: check out the ages of the whingers in the parish, and the ages of those who support Fr Finigan. The nightmare of the past 40 years is slowly drawing to a close. We only have to wait...

The Bones said...

Well said.

PeterHWright said...

Lawrence makes a most important point here.

Fr. Tim Finigan has attracted criticism (from a tiny number of disgruntled people) precisely because he has very courageously introduced the "old" Mass into the heart of Sunday worship. I think it is very true that he probably would have attracted less criticism if he had introduced a lower profile "old" Mass on Sundays, tucked away at an inconvenient time of day.

I agree it was a bold move, but then the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum was a bold move by the Pope. And further bold moves must be made if the rich spiritual heritage of the Church is ever to regain its rightful place in parish life.

Fr. Tim is doing the right thing. He is implementing Summorum Pontificum in his parish.

And the Devil doesn't like it.

Mulier Fortis said...

The 10:30am Mass was chosen because this was the one with a senior choir - and so it allowed the propers to be sung in Latin. It was actually less well attended than the 9am Children's Liturgy Mass, which also had hymns and altar servers...

The Bones said...

That fact only adds more weight to the glaringly obvious bias in the article.

Catholic XVI said...

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

I myself am a very traditional Catholic. I love and prefer the Tridentine Mass (the TML). Here are my reasons:

1. When the priest faces the people, people focus too much on the priest and not enough on God.
2. The meanings of words in the Mass in English, German, Spanish, etc. can change in culture (e.g., gay used to simply mena happy, but that would not be easily stated at Mass without someone becomign upset)whereas Latin is a dead language whose words do no change in menaing.
3. Only priests can bring forth Communion, and receiving on the hands makes it seem that the people can do this.
4. The Latin Mass is not easily used incorrectly unlike the Novus Ordo Mass, which was supposed to be said with the priest facing the tabernacle and parts of the Mass still in Latin (such as the Our Father), which is why the Pope always says the Our Father (Pater Noster) in Latin during Mass.
The Tridentine and Novus Ordo Masses are both valid and licit... they are both also of God. It is simply that some people have a closer connection to the old ways than the new... just as some Byzantine Catholics are more accustomed to the Divine Liturgy of Our Father Saint John Chrysostom rather than the Latin Mass.

Et Cum Spiritu Tuo.

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