Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, April 10, 2006

You Can't Choose Your Family

MrsDrP of Marriage As A Vocation as a good post up about growing up as a post-Vatican II Catholic, and makes some points that I identify with a lot:

I got to thinking about this because the more I troll the Catholic blogosphere, the more complaints I hear about the Mass post-Vatican II. How horrible it is to have female alter servers, how there are too many Eucharistic ministers, how terrible the NAB translation is, and especially how trite, banal, and soul-crushingly bad the music is. Lately, I've been seeing the Mass through their eyes and they are right. I have no knowledge of what the Church was like before Vatican II. My mother was a little girl when the changes happened. I, myself, was born under John Paul the Great. But I have grown up in this Church. I have heard the same readings and sang the same songs all my life. I know all the words to most of the songs in the Glory and Praise hymnal. I've always held hands during the Our Father and served as an alter server until I was into college.

The complaints against the Mass feel like attacks on my tradition. It forces me to look at my Church and feel ashamed of it. When my husband finally started to go to Mass with me, I felt that I had to apologize a lot of the liturgy. But I love the Church, and it hurts when people don't see her beauty and love her like family. I know that "Ashes" is a dumb song, but I have to sing it for it to feel like Ash Wednesday.
We don't call it Holy Mother Church for nothing, Catholicism does have a lot of the peculiar dynamics of a family, one of them being that (at least for me) I feel at liberty to complain about things like liturgy, yet get all defensive when I hear the same criticisms from people who aren't Catholic.

Additionally, I think there's a danger for those of us who complain about liturgy to get too caught up in the details and find almost every liturgy an occasion of sin. On the one hand, a liturgy that properly follows the rubrics and reflections the underlying action of the mass with sight and sound is a powerful tool for evangelization. On the other hand, the best mass is the one you're at. No degree of abstract love for the mass can make up for being tiresome to be around at every particular mass you attend.

Ah the difficulties of the golden mean...


Anonymous said...

The Pauline Mass can be done correctly and reverently, but, unfortunately, in most places it has been hijacked and corrupted by priests, liturgists, and feminists with an anti-Vatican agenda. The poorly catechized congregants don't even realize what has happened or what they are missing. If you have never heard Gregorian chant or a choir accompanied by the Church's official instrument -- the pipe organ -- you might think "On Eagle's Wings" is quite nice. If you've never sung the "Stabet Mater," then "Ashes" probably suffices. Also, because of the poor (or intentional) catechesis of post Vat-II, people don't get the symbolism of the priest, in the OPEN sanctuary (recall that Christ's death tore the veil between the people and the Holy of Holies in the temple), leading us -- not turning his back to us -- is worshiping God. I'm sorry, not matter how correctly and reverently the Pauline Mass is done, it will never equal the beauty and majesty of the Traditional Latin Mass. The children of the Israelites listened to their parents' stories about bondage in Egypt but the kids only knew life in the desert. I know both Masses and don't know who is worse off, you or me, but I've been stuck in this Novus Ordo desert for 40 years. Pray that the Holy Father lifts the indult so more Catholics (including the Darwins) can enjoy the beauty -- and fruits -- of the Pian Mass.

Darwin said...

Like I said, one of the reasons I liked MrsDrP's piece is that while I can be a bit of a liturgical whiner, I also really hate 'outsider' complains. For instance, nothing gets me going like hearing Eastern Orthodox say that since you can judge a tree by its fruits, clearly modern Roman Catholic liturgy proves that the Church is actually the one in schism and not the Orthodox.

Yet, at the same time, it's really sad that one of the main things we like about our parish is that the liturgy is really bland. It's such a relief not to have things beind done actively WRONG that bland actually seems nice. (Our parish back in LA Archdiocese had dancers with incense one year at Holy Thursday mass.) And that's sad.

There is an indult mass here in Austin which we went to a couple times. I don't know if they just don't do it well or what, but in some ways I wasn't very impressed. Maybe it's having lost the connection over the last fifty years, but I don't like the long periods where the priest prays silently. (Looked like most of the congregation was saying the rosary during those parts.)

I'm wondering if they were doing a low mass, or if that's just the standard older rite. I've only been to about a half dozen indult masses.

What I really wish is that liturgical form had gone more down the "dialogue mass" form that Frank Sheed and others were excited about in the '40s and '50s, which retained the form of the Tridentine rite but had the congregation say the responses and the priest say more of the prayers out loud.

However, I have been lucky enough to be able to attend a few _very_ good Novus Ordo Latin masses. By pure luck MrsDarwin and I stumbled upon the Brompton Oratory Easter vigil when we were students visiting London. 2.5 hours of the highest Latin liturgy you'll ever see.

Bernard Brandt said...

Actually, Darwin, the only latin liturgies that I have been to in the last three years have been: 1) Your sister's graduation mass; 2) your younger daughter's baptism, and 3) your father's funeral. All of them were wonderful affairs, entirely faithful to the letter and intent of the Second Vatican Council, and beautifully sung and served. If I believed that such services were the rule and not the exception, I would have no problem with going to RC masses. The fact, however, is that I live in Mahony-land, and much as I like his Eminence as a person, it remains very painful to me to see what is being done in his Eminence's name and (unfortunately) at his direction. I much prefer the beauty of holiness at St. Andrew's Russian Catholic Church.

And while I do not think that the lousy state of liturgy among most RC churches is a sign that they, and not the Orthodox, have "skizzed" (as our mutual friend Jay puts it), I do think that the wretched state of liturgy is an indication that in the nation of Denmark there is an odor of decay, or something like that.

So, other than my occasional weblog blasts, I have given up complaining about RC liturgies. It is much more fun to do good Orthodox/Eastern Catholic liturgies.

Darwin said...


I am indeed glad not to live in Mahony-land myself anymore. One of the country's great liturgical wastelands, that's for certain.

Be assured, however, I was definately not thinking of you for any of my Eastern Catholic friends in making the comment about getting grief from some Orthodox.

Anonymous said...

We, and I include myself, really have gone overboard with all the bitching and whining.

"It forces me to look at my Church and feel ashamed of it." This is really the crux of it, and it is clear evidence that the urge to complain is not coming from the Holy Spirit, so as to improve the Church, but from somewhere, someone, else. Someone who wants to cause divide, discord, and dissension in the Church. It is causing too many of us to distrust or hate or feel ashamed of the thing we should love more than anything else, and unconditionally. Before hearing all these oh-so-orthodox folk's complaints, I knew that things weren't great at times, and some parishes were loony, but I didn't realize that the Church was a piece of junk. I cannot say that we are better off having our ignorance lifted.

in most places it has been hijacked and corrupted by priests, liturgists, and feminists with an anti-Vatican agenda. The poorly catechized congregants don't even realize what has happened or what they are missing. Of course, there is always the possibility that the over-the-top complainers, far from being the solution, are part of the problem. To say that "most places" have been hijacked, and thereby accuse "most" priests of being anti-Vatican is, to be charitable, a grave injustice and wrong.

I don't want to feel ashamed of the Church I love. I don't want people bad-mouthing the mom who birthed and raised me, and I don't want people bad-mouthing my Holy Mother Church. I don't care who you are -- in the family or not. We have gone too far. When people start feeling bad and being ashamed of the Mother they love, we have gone too far. I enjoyed and participated in the Church bashing as much as the next guy, but its time to stop. Can we voice concerns? Yes, but respectfully. If we are called to love our enemies, how then are we to treat our own priests, bishops, and cardinals?

We should be -- we should always be -- as our mutual friend Julie was wise enough to suggest, "Happy Catholics." We have a Church given to us by God Himself. Let us rejoice in that.

Anonymous said...

"You kids should thank your mother. Now that she's a better person, we can see how awful we really are."
-- Homer Simpsons at the country club, Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield