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.