Monday, January 12, 2009

Catholic Liturgy - What We Lost, And Why We Need It Back

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The above videos are extreme examples of just how bad it can get. History will not write well of the Catholic Church during this era, and most of it will center around the Church's failure (in the western rite) to uphold the sacred liturgical traditions passed down through the centuries. In most places around the western world, especially in the English-speaking nations, the Roman liturgy has become nothing short of a free-for-all for any type of innovation and invention imaginable. However, these extreme cases do not happen all by themselves. They are the product of a cascade of events, spanning years of liturgical abuse, which usually starts out quite subtle.

The United States is particularly prone to liturgical abuse. Why? It began in the most subtle way with our particular English translation of the Novus Ordo missal. Ours is probably one of the worst English translations in the world. The text of the liturgy is so paraphrased in the American English version, that it's virtually a commentary on the mass, rather then the mass itself. So poor is the American English translation, that the Vatican was prompted to call it "defective" and revoke permission for the American bishops to continue using it. So the American English translation of the mass is set to expire some time in 2010, soon to be replaced by a more accurate rendering of the original Novus Ordo liturgy.

The defunct American English translation in many ways emulates the Episcopalian liturgy of the Episcopal Church USA. Yes, that's right. When you see an Episcopalian liturgy, and compare it to the current American English translation of the Novus Ordo, the resemblances are striking. When the American bishops decided to go this way, they may have unwittingly sent a signal to the laity that we should imitate the Protestants in even our most sacred celebrations. So when the Protestants went "hippy" in their own services, many U.S. Catholics quickly followed suit. It wasn't long before all sorts of hippy, New Age and folk practices ended up a part of so many Catholic masses around the nation. While most parishes are not so extreme, a good number of them still engage in innovation and liturgical abuse, even if it's subtle. Sometimes it might be as simple as the priest adding words to the liturgy ad lib. His intentions may be sincere, but his actions are still inappropriate. Sometimes it amounts to nothing more than a simple abandonment of traditional Catholic customs. Maybe in your parish the tabernacle is off to the side, or maybe there are no alter rails for kneeling. Maybe in your parish, the priest never uses incense, or maybe the alter servers never use bells. Maybe your parish prefers contemporary pop music to traditional sacred chant. These subtle changes are exactly what Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) warned us about in the videos above. Liturgical innovation and abuse can start very small, in a seemingly harmless way, but it has a way of "one thing leading to another."

We Catholics must be diligent to rediscover and zealously protect our Catholic liturgical heritage. We must be charitable toward those who oppose us, but at the same time we must also be stubborn. It is not hard to request that some traditional practices be brought back into our sacred liturgy, and when appropriate, we should seek to help make that a reality in whatever way possible. Can you sing? Offer to start a Gregorian chant choir in your parish. Don't know how to chant? There are plenty of resources available to learn on the Internet. Do you think we should bring the bells back into the liturgy, and use more incense? Volunteer to become an alter server and make your desires known. Do you think the tabernacle should be at the front and center of the chapel? Get on the parish council and start lobbying for it. Don't like some of the things going on in the mass? Respectfully and charitably explain your concerns to the priest - on a regular basis if necessary.  

Let's face it, the innovators and modernists have gone to a lot of trouble to bring about the liturgical abuse now common in English-speaking Catholic parishes. They spent the greater part of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, getting on our parish council boards, becoming "liturgical coordinators," and taking over the choirs. There aren't going to be any positive changes back toward historic tradition, if tradition-minded Catholics don't do anything about it. It's time we start taking our parishes back; one-by-one.