24 January 2012

The folly of Roman preaching. . .

An anonymous commenter sent me a link to H. L. Menken's essay, "Holy Writ" (1923). Menken is one of my favorite writers, but I've never run across this particular piece of prophecy:

An excerpt:

Preaching is not an essential part of the Latin ceremonial. It was very little employed in the early church, and I am convinced that good effects would flow from abandoning it today, or, at all events, reducing it to a few sentences, more or less formal. In the United States the Latin brethren have been seduced by the example of the Protestants, who commonly transform an act of worship into a puerile intellectual exercise; instead of approaching God in fear and wonder these Protestants settle back in their pews, cross their legs, and listen to an ignoramus try to prove that he is a better theologian than the Pope. This folly the Romans now slide into. Their clergy begin to grow argumentative, doctrinaire, ridiculous. It is a pity. A bishop in his robes, playing his part in the solemn ceremonial of the mass, is a dignified spectacle, even though he may sweat freely; the same bishop, bawling against Darwin half an hour later, is seen to be simply an elderly Irishman with a bald head, the son of a respectable saloon-keeper in South Bend, Ind. Let the reverend fathers go back to Bach. If they keep on spoiling poetry and spouting ideas, the day will come when some extra-bombastic deacon will astound humanity and insult God by proposing to translate the liturgy into American, that all the faithful may be convinced by it. 

Now, I disagree with HLM strongly.  Why?  Because to agree with him would put me out of business!

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  1. I do agree with it, at least I've seen this very thing in many parishes back in the Liturgical Abuse Archdiocese.

    Preaching isn't the center of Mass, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is :D...but I don't want you out of business Father...praying for you to keep up your excellent work.

  2. Joe, no worries. . .this is pretty much all I'm any good at. Can't dance. Can't sing. Guess I could go to culinary school and learn to cut radishes into swans or something.