22 June 2007

Renewing the Renewal of the New Liturgy (UPDATED)

Fr. Al Kimel offers a few suggestions for renewing the renewal of the new liturgy. . .

(1) Abandon the versus populum, immediately! Let priest and people face God together. The single most destructive feature of the “renewed liturgy” is its anthropocentric orientation. The people of God are sanctified by worshiping God, not by celebrating each other. (This is not a huge worry for me. I understand the theological reasoning behind putting the priest behind the altar facing the people. Like most liturgical novelities of the N.O. this one can be reverently managed by a priest who does not see himself as the focus of the Mass. I'm not opposed to returning to celebrating Mass facing liturgical east, but I think the grand hopes that some hang on this change are a bit overblown.)

(2) Restore the chanted liturgy. Prayers are to be sung according to the ancient forms. (I love a chanted liturgy...if the priest and choir know how to chant. Chanting for chanting's sake seems to put the emphasis on performance rather than celebration--properly understood. I cannot and do not sing or chant alone. This is 90% nerves, I know, but nerves or not, my chanting would not be conducive to a reverent Mass. Again, chant will make the Mass more solemn but we have to be careful not to hang too many overblown hopes for a renewal of the faith on a few liturgical changes.)

(3) Ban the musical compositions of Marty Haugen and David Haas and anything similar. Gregorian chant must be restored as the primary music of the Latin rite. Given the magnitude of the problem, it is probably best to simply ban all music composed after 1960. Perhaps one day the good music that has been composed during the past forty years can be retrieved, but that day is not now. Catholic priests and musicians today do not know what sacred music is. (This is exactly right! I had no training in music while in seminary. We had the daily office and Mass in the priory but the emphasis in hymn selection had more to do with choosing politically correct lyrics than anything else. Even now I have a tendency to throw my trust at the musicians and never interfere! The English Church has some beautiful hymns with theologically sound lyrics that also manage not to offend or alienate. I wonder if they would spare a several million copies of their hymnal?)

(4) Restore the use of incense. (I use incense all the time. I didn't know it had been banned! Watch out for the "allergic" folks, though. They will swarm you immediately after Mass complaining about the smoke.)

(5) Eradicate ritual informality. (Not sure exactly what this means but if it means eradicating the "Chatty Priest," then I am all for it. There is nothing more distracting during Mass than a priest commenting on his words and actions, or giving unnecessary instructions to the congregation. I'm also in favor of getting rid of inappropriate improvisation with the rites. And I'll add here: get rid of the announcements after the closing prayer; NEVER use homily time to beg for money or volunteers; NEVER follow the homily with an appeal for money or volunteers; move the exchange of peace to the offertory--where it belongs!; and use the intercessions from the sacramentary rather than those booklets.)

(6) Drastically reduce electronic amplification. (YES! But then we would have to build actual churches with real acoustics rather than these Danver's restaurants with popcorn stucco walls and ceilings. Those who are hearing impaired can be easily helped with targeted infrared hearing aids.)

(7) Encourage eucharistic adoration both within and outside the Mass. Let the people prostrate themselves before Christ Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. A bow of the head is not sufficient! (If this means allowing folks to prostrate as they take communion...no. Logistically, this would be a nightmare. And we would get into the same problem I've seen many times at the adoration of the cross on Good Friday: one act of extraordinary piety sets the standard for everyone who follows and everyone who follows has to reset the standard even higher. Kissing the cross is no longer enough. The last person there has to prostrate, genuflect, flagellate himself, kiss all four points of the cross in the form of a cross, and then ask to be nailed up! OK. I'm exaggerating but I've seen the Escalating Piety Syndrome before.)

After much thought, I have finally become persuaded that all Catholic priests should be authorized to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, despite the inevitable confusion this will create. While I personally believe that liturgy should be normatively celebrated in the language of the people, I also believe that the practical abolition of the Tridentine Mass was wrong and destructive. We must retrace our steps and attempt to undo the blunders of the post-Vatican II Church. In one way or another, we must forge new connections to the liturgical tradition and the Mass of St Pius V. (Couldn't agree more. Simply eliminating improvisation where it doesn't belong and training priests to be icons rather than game-show hosts would help a lot.)

NB. The entire article can be found on Fr. Kimel's impeccably argued and always insightful blog, Pontifications (no longer updated)


  1. I agree with most of the proposals except for the reduction of electronic amplification. You see, I am profoundly hearing impaired.

  2. I would love to never hear a homily begging for money again. Where would they put things like the Diocesan appeal, though?

  3. Anonymous12:00 AM

    I think you need professional help.

  4. Anon,

    Yea, you're probably right...but at least I have the courage to sign my posts.

    Fr. Philip, OP

  5. Anonymous10:50 AM

    Hi Father,
    Interestingly, his comments and yours did not touch on the "Where is the tabernacle in the church?" issue, and the role this plays in the renewal of the renewal.

    Good to see a Mississippi boy make good. I'm a LA boy living in MS. I know there are lots of Dominicans out there, but do you know Fr. Vicente? He was in Houston last I knew. He was my parish priest growing up.

    Dan P.

  6. Andy P.3:03 PM

    Fr. Vicente is wonderful! Last I heard, he was stationed at Holy Rosary church in Houston, which is the church my wife and I went to before we left Texas. He was the priest who married us, and chanted a WONDERFUL Latin novus ordo wedding mass.

    Fr. Phillip -- are you the same Dominican who was stationed at Holy Rosary 6-7 years ago or so?