09 January 2010


Questions. ..

1).  I recently saw "2012" and "The Road."  Why do you think people, especially Christians, love these apocalyptic stories?

I'm not sure that Christians love these sorts of stories in any special way; however, we have inherited the Jewish apocalyptic tradition and our history is stuffed full of the faithful believing and acting upon end of the world scenarios.  Here's my armchair theorizing. . .movies/stories like "2012" satisfy a couple of human impulses.  First, we love the idea of starting over.  Everything is so screwed up; everything is beyond repair--let's just wipe it clean and try again.  Second, our fav villains are cast as the cause the disasters, so we get to wallow in a little Told Ya So.  In Jewish-Christian stories, it's the sinner who brings down God's judgment on the planet.  In the eco-theistic stories, it's evil capitalists, polluters, and Christians who cause the apocalypse.  One of the many, many things I love about The Road is that McCarthy avoids completely writing about the cause/blame of the world's destruction.  This single decision saved the book from being just another disaster story.  Third, and this is likely to be controversial, I think we want to be punished. . .not as individuals but as a whole.  Strong consciences are very much aware of guilt but survival instincts tend to keep us bobbing and weaving responsibility.  Wholesale destruction relieves guilt through punishment but also makes sure everyone else gets punished too.  Fourth, and perhaps scariest, these stories have a real wish-fulfillment element to them. Reviews of "Avatar" have pointed out that it is an adolescent suicide note to negligent parents (i.e., corporations, etc.), a sort "you'll be sorry when I'm gone" film that wants us to wallow around in the narrative's pretentious eco-preaching and then do penance by living lives of consumerist self-loathing.  For Christians, none of these should matter much.  God is in control; we aren't.  All things will be well.  The secret for us is to make darn sure that our priorities are properly ordered and that we know who we are in Christ.  Come the end, that's all that will matter anyway.

2).  You said in class at UD once that you aren't really interested in learning the Tridentine Mass.  Has living in Rome changed your mind?

Not really.  I understand and sympathize with Catholics who love the Extraordinary Form and want to see it used more widely and frequently.  If I were a pastor, I'd certainly make every effort to learn the form and celebrate it regularly.  As a religious priest serving in an academic setting, there aren't many opportunities for me to preside at Mass in any form.  But quite apart from these practical considerations, I cannot find any substantial flaws in the Ordinary Form of the Mass.  The current translation is a disaster, and there's ample evidence that the newest translation will have its problems too. . .but at the very least we will have language that doesn't read and sound like people gathering at WalMart to pray that the Eucharist "have an effect in their lives."  And for the record, I do not buy for one second the traditionalist pose that the E.F. is the only valid, only real, only True/Good/Holy Mass of the Ages.  Like all liturgical texts and practices, the E.F. has a history of origination, development, change, decline, revival, etc.  Jesus and the apostles did not write the E.F. at the Last Supper.  And neither did they compose the O.F.  The O.F. can be celebrated with reverence, great solemnity, and bring God's people closer to Him.  I'll end this by saying that I am 100% in favor of celebrating the O.F. ad orientum.

3).  Fr. Z. had a poll going about whether or not the Vatican ought to start using that big sedan chair for the Pope during processions into St. Peter's.  What do you think?

My immediate reaction upon hearing the suggestion was NO!  The last thing any pope, especially this pope, needs is to appear to be even further removed from the people.  Then, Fr. Z. posted an article by a security specialist who made a good case not only for security and visibility but also for relieving the Holy Father from that long walk up the aisle, a walk that usually precedes 2 to 3 hour liturgies.  I think a good compromise would be for someone to design and build a less throne-like sedan chair. . .something tasteful, elegant, but not quite so garish as we have seen in the past.  But even then, as I imagine being at the Vatican and seeing BXVI being carried in, even then I get sort of queasy and wonder if there isn't a better way.  If you can't tell, I don't have much taste for the Imperial Papacy and its trappings.


  1. Anonymous12:29 PM

    Hi Father. I'm interested in knowing more about what you think will be problematic in the upcoming translations of the Liturgy. I think you probably agree that pretty much anything would have been better than what we had. But I haven't really done a detailed study of the new translations, mostly because, apart from the Ordinary parts, I haven't seen much. So I'd be interested in hearing from you about what you've heard/seen and think.

    Fr. Martin Farrell, op

  2. Now that you're in Rome if you don't care for the English NO translation, do you ever celebrate it in Italian or Latin?

  3. Ben, I've never presided in Italian or Latin. I concelebrate in Italian. We don't celebrate Mass in Latin here at all.

    I should say that some parts of the O.F. English translation are fine. Several sections were rushed for some reason...the closing prayers are particularly awful.

  4. Sharon8:33 PM

    I can see that the return of the Sedia would mean that more people could see the pope but he would also be a target and most of all it would be a public relations disaster. I can see the media and dissenting Catholics salavating all over their keyboards now.

  5. I don't understand the insistence on ad orientum. On occasion, I've been to Masses celebrated ad orientum, and since the Mass was in Latin, I couldn't follow, precisely because I couldn't see what the priest was doing--where he was. I don't think it matters what language, as long as I can see what he's doing. The consecration comes and goes and I missed it, couldn't see it coming, nor consecrating.

  6. As for the sedia, I think it is a great idea. This pope is a humble person and his being elevated with this chair would not inflate his ego one bit IMHO. If dissenting catholics and the MSM want to attack him for it while ignoring the obvious benefits of the sedia, then let them. The only cure for stupidity is information not compromise.

    As for the EF vs NO masses, I am a huuuge fan of the EF mass and dislike the way that the NO mass has allowed for horrid abuses to occur (sign of peace, Lay ministers, ad libbing etc) but when done properly, it can be a beautiful mass nonetheless. They are both and always have been valid masses, so I have no problem in attending either one. However, as I wait here in my apartment, ready to go to the 11 am mass here at UD I know tht I will hear and see somethings that will offend me. This simply does not occur in the EF mass. But oh well. Brick by Brik and Father Z says.

  7. Laura1:23 AM

    Faith-I can understand the confusion if you were attending an EF low mass without bells. It would be easy to miss the consecration if the church were crowded enough to obscure line of sight. But I've found that ad orientem worship rarely has this problem, and that there are aural cue that go along with the visual ones to help keep up with the Mass.

    Father-I'll note that my growing preference for the EF has little to do with questions of validity. As a mom, I've noticed better attentiveness from my 6 year old since we began attending an EF mass, and the silent canon seems to be one of the big differences. He noticed that something important was going on because the priest wasn't talking to us. Therefore he must be talking to God. Out of the mouths of babes...

  8. thanks for the form illumination!