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Twelve Reasons Not to Prefer the Novus Ordo: A Reply to Fr. Longenecker

This post originally appeared at OnePeterFive. Permission to post here graciously provided by the author.

Fr. Longenecker has written some fine books and articles. Years ago, I enjoyed and benefited from his book on St. Benedict and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and his recent book on the historical veracity of the Magi is interesting.

It would appear that in matters liturgical, however, Fr. Longenecker is out of his depth. Each claim he puts forward in his article “Twelve Things I Like about the Novus Ordo Mass” can be and has been refuted in the ample literature written on the subject, of which he appears to be ignorant. Indeed, the article betrays minimal knowledge of the history, process, and content of the liturgical reform (as, for instance, well documented in this biography of Annibale Bugnini) and of the contrasting richness of the traditional Mass.

Let us walk through Fr. Longenecker’s Twelve Things (printed in boldface).

  1. It’s accessible. Having the liturgy in the vernacular helps it to be understood by the people. How can that be a bad thing?

It is characteristic of the rationalism of the liturgical movement (based on its Enlightenment precursors) to prioritize verbal comprehension over a more synthetic and holistic understanding of the mystery of faith, which draws on all the senses and appeals to the heart as well as the intellect. The use of Latin, in addition to being simply what the Western Church did for over 1,500 years, creates for worshipers a numinous and sacral atmosphere that invites meditation and adoration.

Moreover, seeking the goal of easy intelligibility led the reformers to dumb down much of the content of the Mass so that it might not be “too hard.” What is the heavy price we pay for the all too obvious “accessibility” of the Novus Ordo? Superficiality and boredom. It’s so accessible that it “fails to grip,” as P.G. Wodehouse would say. This is why we have a new self-help genre on getting over one’s boredom with Mass and various faddish movements like LifeTeen for pumping up the Novus Ordo. In contrast, the traditional Latin Mass is steep, craggy, and sublime, offering the worshiper the kind of challenge that befits his rational dignity and supernatural destiny, and opening up an endless vista of new discoveries in the age-old prayers and gestures.

Finally, no literate person is incapable of using a daily missal, where all the antiphons, prayers, and readings may be found in vernacular translations – but without any attempt at an “official” translation of the impossible-to-translate ancient Latin texts, thus avoiding the intractable battles over what “style” and “register” of vernacular should be used in the liturgy. The major prayers of the Mass are fixed and repeated from week to week, so it is not difficult to follow them, as one can see from wee lads and lasses who do this at the traditional Latin Mass.

  1. It’s flexible. We’re supposed to honor Latin as the language of our church and it is easy enough to integrate a little or a lot of Latin into the Novus Ordo Mass. It is also flexible musically. You don’t have to use Haagan Daz, hootenany and soft rock music. Learn Gregorian chant and polyphony. It fits.

The idea that a liturgy should be a matter of “picking and choosing” among options is foreign to the historical development of Christian liturgy in East and West, which has always been toward greater definition, consistency, and stability of liturgical texts, chants, and ceremonies. A liturgy is a ritual action in which the actors lose their idiosyncratic individuality and adopt a persona that befits the mysteries enacted. The clergy should come across not as the ones steering and coloring the enterprise, but as stewards of a treasure they receive and place humbly before the people; the people, for their part, find it easier to pray when the liturgy is not a moving target, but one can enter again and again into the same sacred routine. This intrinsic quality of good liturgy is absent from the Novus Ordo by design.

Concretely, what does this flexibility end up looking like? We can choose the Roman Canon, that which defines the Roman Rite, or a Eucharistic Prayer patterned after a pseudo-anaphora written by pseudo-Hippolytus and finished on a napkin in Trastevere. We can have the chant that grew up for a thousand years with the rite, or some sentimental piano tune by an ex-Jesuit. We can have Mass facing East in accord with apostolic tradition (as St. Basil and others testify), or we can try our luck with the novel “closed circle” approach of versus populum. We can have people line up for communion in the hand like customers queuing for bus tickets, scattering fragments of the Body of Christ hither and yon, or place the Lord on the tongue of believers kneeling in a posture of adoration. All this great flexibility! The devil delights in it, since it usually plays in his favor.

Such flexibility has also destroyed, for all intents and purposes, the distinctions among a Low Mass, a Missa cantata or High Mass, and a Solemn High Mass. In practice, one usually gets a bizarre mixture of high and low elements with no discernible order or hierarchy.

I address the spiritual dangers of this flexibility in a talk called “Liturgical Obedience, the Imitation of Christ, and the Seductions of Autonomy” (full recording here; some excerpts here).

  1. It travels well. As much as we love beautiful architecture, music, vestments and pipe organs, there are times when the Mass is celebrated at camp, in prison, on the battlefield, in a tin hut or on a mission field, a mountaintop or a beach. The simplicity of the Novus Ordo means it can be celebrated more easily in such situations.

This is probably the flimsiest of the twelve reasons, given that thousands of the greatest missionaries the Church has ever known, as well as military chaplains in many wars (including both World Wars, as plenty of vintage photos online give testimony), offered exclusively the traditional Mass and carried on their backs what they needed for it.

Indeed, one of the objections raised by missionary bishops at the Second Vatican Council is that the proposed liturgical reform would greatly multiply the number of books necessary for liturgy. All a priest needs to celebrate the old Latin Mass in its integrity is a single altar missal. To celebrate the new liturgy in anything approaching completeness, on the other hand, one needs the altar missal, the lectionary, and a gradual or book of antiphons. A “sung Mass” requires a veritable library of books, as I know from firsthand experience as a choir director for many years at the Novus Ordo.

Here is a gallery of photos of priests celebrating the traditional Latin Mass outdoors, showing how well it can be done, including on backpacking trips many weeks long. Besides, as Martin Mosebach says, it’s not ultimately the architecture that makes the difference, but the Mass. The great Catholic Mass of tradition takes possession of the place where it is offered and dominates it; the Novus Ordo brings even a lofty cathedral down to its own impoverished simplism. This is why it usually feels so out of place in the great churches of the past.

It should also give us pause that prisoners would respond so positively to the Latin Mass coming into their lives. I received a letter from a prisoner in Louisiana who prays the old breviary and is requesting a weekly Latin Mass. Don’t prisoners also deserve and respond to that which is beautiful, rich, and profound? The modern world is already too much awash in abridgements, shortcuts, diet drinks, and lite snacks; we would benefit from the original version, the scenic route, the robust nourishment.

  1. There is more Scripture read, and it is read in the language people can understand. How can it be a bad thing for there to be a wider range of Sacred Scripture being made available to the people?

All things being equal, familiarity with more of Scripture is better for the Christian people. But all things are not, in fact, equal.

First, the new lectionary is so cram-jammed with Scripture that it works against familiarity, whereas the old (indeed, ancient) lectionary features a more limited number of readings of optimal length and liturgical appropriateness, which encourages a deep familiarity with them. Since the Mass is not meant to be a Bible study, and no Catholic can be expected to acquire a well rounded understanding of the Bible from the liturgy (even the new lectionary features only 13.5% of the Old Testament and 54.9% of the New Testament outside of the Gospels), the claim that it is better to read more Scripture at the Mass is simply begging the question.

Second, the old lectionary, as limited as it deliberately is, demonstrably features more of the “tough sayings” of Scripture. It is not afraid to present the wrath of God, the evil of sin, or the danger of sacrilegious communions – the kind of passages that are frequently left out of the new lectionary, in spite of its much greater size. In other words, the new lectionary suppresses parts of Scripture that are “difficult” to “modern man.” Thus, it presents less of the total message of Scripture, even as the Liturgy of the Hours presents a reduced Psalter, expurgated of politically incorrect material.

Six major arguments against the appropriateness of the new lectionary may be found here; an explanation of the nature of the omissions and distortions in it may be found here; and a case study on the exclusion of 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 may be found here.

  1. The gospel procession is restored. Moving the book from one side of the altar to the other? That’s not really a procession is it? In the Sarum rite – the ancient English rite–there were a good number of processions–the gospel procession being one. Nice to have that ancient custom restored.

The old rite in its normative form, the Solemn High Mass, has a magnificent Gospel procession that starts at the high altar and comes over to the front of the sanctuary, where the deacon chants the Gospel to the north, to symbolize confronting the world of unbelief and evangelizing it. Even in a Missa cantata, the transition from epistle side to Gospel side is accompanied with candles, incense, and a striking change in chant tone, making it an impressive moment in the liturgy. The ceremonial of the Novus Ordo is pathetic in comparison.

Fr. Longenecker speaks as if the daily Low Mass is the epitome or measure of the ancient Roman Rite, whereas it is a monastic devotional version of it. Nevertheless, even in a Low Mass the transition from the epistle to the Gospel by way of the Gradual and Alleluia, the profound bow at the center and the prayer invoking the prophet Isaias – all conducted upon the altar of sacrifice, where the Word rises up as a sweet fragrance to the Father, showing in a striking way the inherent unity of the “liturgy of the word” and the “liturgy of the Eucharist,” as well as the ordering of the one to the other – is still far more impressive than a priest strolling over to the ambo to read out the Gospel in Nabbish. 

  1. The prayers of the faithful. These are often abused, but when they are well composed and fitting they are a great assistance in leading the people in prayer.

This point gives us the opportunity to state Fr. Longenecker’s central weakness, which he shares with all the tinkering liturgists of the mid-twentieth century – namely, if there’s a “good idea,” we should insert it in the liturgy. It doesn’t matter how it’s been done since time immemorial; our “good ideas” deserve their day in the sun – pontifically legislated, no less! The “Prayer of the Faithful” was added to the Mass on the basis of scholarly theories that maintained that the early Mass always featured such intercessions, as one finds them in full flower in the Good Friday liturgy. However, better scholarship has argued that the Good Friday Mass is not a model for the rest, but a unique day, which is what common sense would have suggested.

In any case, there is no evidence that the Roman liturgy featured lengthy litanies or intercessions along the lines of the Byzantine rite. Almost all of the things we usually pray for are already prayed for in the Roman Canon and in various other parts of the Mass. The “Prayer of the Faithful” is just another novelty inserted into the Mass because the experts thought it was a grand idea. As Joseph Ratzinger noted more than once, it is a dangerous business to yoke one’s public liturgy to the theories of scholars, which are proposed and overturned every quarter-century or so.

  1. The offertory procession is restored. The offertory procession is an ancient part of the liturgy in which the people of God bring forward the gifts of the altar. That’s a beautiful restoration of an ancient tradition.

The “offertory procession” as it was fashioned by the Consilium bears little resemblance to any historical precedent in the West; it is a fanciful creation loosely based on the custom of people handing in bread and wine before the service began. (See Paul Bradshaw’s article “Gregory Dix and the Offertory Procession.”) Its current form seems to be another method for giving jobs to lay people, like the Works Progress Administration for the unemployed in the Depression.

Besides, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei (1947) warned liturgists against the “exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism” of those “who, in matters liturgical, would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by the disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.” In other words, the simple fact that something seems to have been done a thousand years ago or more is no compelling reason to reintroduce it today, when it would certainly take on a different meaning based on the very different context in which it is performed. As the same pope explained:

Ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity. … It is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive table form; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer’s body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts.

Curious, isn’t it, how every example given by Pius XII as a case of “straying from the straight path” turned out to be characteristic of the liturgical reform as it was implemented everywhere – replacing the ad orientem altar with a versus populum table, excluding black for Requiems, destroying images, installing weird crosses, and repudiating polyphonic music?

Fr. Longenecker decries the loss of these meaningful customs, since he is on the side of the “reform of the reform.” But the presupposition of many of his points is precisely the false antiquarianism that led to the loss of so much that was distinctive of Catholicism, in favor of supposedly “more ancient” practices. Taking away what we gained from the Middle Ages and the Baroque period and replacing it with questionable and always selective reconstructions of antiquity is the hallmark of liturgical eggheadedness. It always looks better on paper than it does in reality.

  1. The offertory prayers. That’s a connection with the Jewish prayers Jesus would have said at the Last Supper. So that’s a bad thing?

This point had me scratching my head. The Novus Ordo faux Jewish offertory is a fabrication that bears no relation to the liturgical offertories found in all Eastern and Western rites from the Middle Ages until 1969. Nor should we be surprised that Christian rites as they developed over time did not reach back to unaltered Jewish material for inspiration, much less for specific texts.

In reality, the Consilium wanted to abolish all offertory prayers and have the “offertory” consist simply in the gesture of a symbolic raising up of the bread and wine. Pope Paul VI objected to the lack of a text and requested the “drawing up” of one (since there was apparently complete agreement among the architects of the new rite that the way the Church had prayed for about 1,000 years was obviously mistaken). The Jewish table blessing was conveniently laid hold of. Shabbat shalom!

Is it really possible that someone of Fr. Longenecker’s intelligence is unaware that it is a serious problem to go about constructing liturgy in this manner, when liturgy is and has always been seen as the corporate prayer of the Church handed down from one age to the next, augmented by the devotion of each generation? The idea of canceling out a significant part of the rite and replacing it with something never in currency among Christians was inconceivable, and so it should remain.

  1. It’s adaptable. The adaptability means the abuses have come in, but it also means all sorts of traditional customs can be retained. Pope Benedict wished for the Extraordinary Form to inform the celebration of the Ordinary Form. So it can be celebrated ad orientem, with altar rails, communion administered to the faithful kneeling and on the tongue, well-trained altar servers, good music, vestments, architecture and art. Yes, bland and banal is possible, but so is grand and glorious.

This is a bit like saying, “The great thing about our political system is that it allows the March for Life to flourish alongside funding for Planned Parenthood.” No, this shows the catastrophic failure of our political system to adhere to the natural law and promote the common good.

In like manner, the fact that the Novus Ordo is a matrix of possibilities that can be realized by each community according to its own ideas of what is right and fitting is not a perfection of it, but a sign of its internal incoherence, anarchy, and relativism. The traditional rites of the Church follow time-honored rules that require (even if they do not always guarantee) serious, reverent, orderly, and theocentric worship. The result is that anywhere I go in the world, I can walk into a traditional Latin Mass and know what I am going to see and hear. The same texts, the same gestures, the same ethos, the same Catholic religion. As long as the priest follows the rubrics, the Mass will be prayerful, focused, and edifying. Tragically, this cannot be said for the Novus Ordo.

  1. Hymns. Yes, I know hymns are supposedly a modern “Protestant” innovation…it’s debatable, but simply taking them for what they are, there are some excellent hymns which really do help the people lift their hearts in worship, express their faith and help to catechize. Used to complement the liturgy they can be a good thing.

This point is faint praise. Hymns are not an exclusive preserve of the Novus Ordo world: communities that worship with the traditional Latin Mass often include a processional hymn on Sundays, prior to the Asperges, and a recessional hymn after the Last Gospel. Be that as it may, the over-use of hymns long predates the Novus Ordo. The “four-hymn sandwich” comes from a sick phase of the Liturgical Movement where the ideal of some clergy (especially American) was a Low Mass into which an Entrance Hymn, an Offertory Hymn, a Communion Hymn, and a Closing Hymn had been inserted for the “people’s participation.” Sound familiar?

The real story is that hymns began in the Divine Office, which is their proper home. Every hour, from Matins and Lauds through Prime, Terce, Sext, and None, to Vespers and Compline, has a hymn. This body of poetry and music is among the richest that Catholics possess, yet almost no one encounters it “in the wild.” It seems that shepherds of souls have still not taken to heart Vatican II’s recommendation that the faithful be introduced to the public chanted celebration of the Divine Office.

On the other hand, the idea of paraphrasing Scripture or writing devotional poetry and having a congregation sing it during the “Lord’s Supper” is unquestionably a Protestant invention, one that tends to give a Protestant feel to the Eucharistic liturgy – as its ecumenical proponents intended. I’m sorry, Fr. Longenecker: it really doesn’t matter how nice the hymns are. The Catholic Mass has its own hymns, the Gloria and the Sanctus, as well as its own native music: the Gregorian antiphons and Mass parts, or their great polyphonic settings down through the ages.

The point of the Mass is not to give catechesis, nor to foster “praise” (in the sense in which charismatics use the term), but to offer worship to the Triune God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No one has explained this point better than Fr. Christopher Smith in this article and this follow-up. The liturgy does not need “complementing”; it needs to be celebrated with integrity and purity, for that is how it will be most effective in doing its proper work. Without a doubt, there are other occasions when hymns may be used to better effect.

  1. Its accessibility makes it better for evangelization. I know the Mass is not primarily for evangelization, but when potential converts start attending Mass, to be able to understand and follow the words and actions eases their entrance into the church and enables the process to be more welcoming.

I am disappointed to see Fr. Longenecker parroting the usual rhetoric of the liturgists, who always assume that what potential converts are seeking is rational content, verbally delivered. We have already touched on this point above. Here it may suffice to note that traditionalism is above all a youth movement (see here, here, and here, for starters). As anyone can see from paying a visit to them, traditional Latin Mass parishes attract a disproportionate number of young adults and young families. Conversions and reversions are numerous, which is striking when one considers the ghetto-like marginalization under which traditional communities still suffer in dioceses where the bishops have chosen to ignore Summorum Pontificum.

All of this suggests that what “modern man” is looking for may not be this now old-fashioned notion of “accessibility” or “being welcomed,” but an encounter with mystery, a confrontation with the divine, a brush against the ineffable, an immersion in the sacred. The Novus Ordo is singularly poorly equipped to accomplish any of that, nor does its sleek Bauhaus design naturally prompt it or encourage it. By 2019, the new liturgy looks and feels dated; many adhere to it from custom or lack of awareness that there is any alternative. The old liturgy has a perpetual freshness that beckons world-weary pilgrims who stumble across it into the haven of the Church.

  1. It’s simple. The plain words and actions of the Novus Ordo provide for a celebration with noble simplicity. Just saying the black and doing the red has a down-to-earth dignity – not overly ornate and fancy nor banal and vulgar.

Should the mystical representation of the supreme sacrifice of Christ, which collapses the 2,000 years that separate us from Calvary and brings us right to His Cross, into His holy wounds, His precious Blood, His pierced Heart; the awesome crossing of the abyss that separates man from God and Earth from Heaven; the revival in our midst of the mysteries of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord; the commingling of His acts of love, adoration, sorrow, supplication, thanksgiving, with our own, so that we, the members of His Mystical Body, may glorify God in union with our Head – should this be “simple”? Could it ever be? Only at the price of falsifying it utterly. Liturgical rites, Greek or Latin, Eastern or Western, developed under the beneficent hand of Providence toward ever greater fullness of expression of these glorious realities, ever greater amplitude, exuberance, and detail. The contrary motion appears in history as iconoclasm: the will to destroy the inexhaustible beauty of God that has found expression in material things.

“Saying the black and doing the red” is only as valuable as the black to be said and the red to be done. The theological inadequacy and spiritual narrowness of the texts of the Novus Ordo have been thoroughly documented and critiqued (e.g., in this book, this book, and this book), and as for the rubrics, they were a standing joke from the first printing of the missal to its latest edition. No wonder a private cleric on his own initiative had to supply a complete set of rubrics; the Vatican apparently felt that Catholic liturgy was better off without taking into account such fussy details as where ministers should be positioned or when and how they should bow. What we see with the Novus Ordo is a contradiction in terms: an unliturgical liturgy, an unceremonious ceremony, a relaxed ritual, a do-it-yourself template for collective devotion.

* * *

Comprising the usual bromides on behalf of the Novus Ordo, none of which stands up to critical scrutiny, Fr. Longenecker’s article is yet another restatement of the neoconservative party line that “the postconciliar Church is fundamentally sound, ladies and gentlemen, so keep moving along.” Those who are going to defend the monumental rupture that is the Novus Ordo are going to have to find much better arguments than the ones proffered to us by Fr. Longenecker.

It is a classic straw man to claim, as Fr. Longenecker does at the start of his article, that “there are some who seem to think every problem in the church and the world can be laid at the door of the dreaded Novus Ordo.” I have never read any traditionalist author who thinks this or says it. Yes, we all think the Novus Ordo is a rupture with Catholic tradition and a disaster in the life of the Church, but we are well aware that it does not exist in a vacuum. Other problems regularly pointed out include modernism, consequentialism, hyperpapalism, feminism, the homosexual clerical power caste, the liberal separation of Church and State – indeed, the list is lengthy. All of these problems are, sooner or later, connected with one another. The liturgical reform is the “poster child” of the revolution that has divorced today’s Catholic mainstream from the Catholicism of all ages, but behind every poster is a propaganda office and an ideology.

The traditional liturgy has taught me that my likes and dislikes do not and should not have any effect on the Mass. Rather, it is the Mass, pre-existing in its solidity and density, that shapes my loves and hatreds, in accord with what it shows me, impresses on me, leads me to understand after a long apprenticeship. It was the same way with the disciples and Jesus. He was not as they expected He would be, but He did not bend to the likes and dislikes of zealots, Pharisees, tax-collectors, or fishermen. He patiently but authoritatively made them conform to Him.

I can understand a priest wishing to believe that the liturgy he has been given by “the Church” could be simply accepted as it is, no worries, no bones about it. But the Lord is extending a special mercy to us during this seismic reign of Pope Francis: the opportunity to wake up to the dangers of an exaggerated ultramontanism that prompts Catholics to swallow whatsoever a reckless pope wants to shove down their throats, even when it runs against the papacy’s ministry of receiving, preserving, and defending tradition.

This new year of grace is an invitation to rediscover, or renew our appreciation for, the inheritance we have received as Catholics. One place to begin might be a different list from the one we have critiqued: “Ten Reasons to Attend the Traditional Latin Mass.”

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By Professor Peter

Today (November 20) on the traditional Roman calendar is the feast of St. Felix of Valois (†1212). Who is this obscure saint, you might ask, and why is he cluttering our calendar? Would it not be fitting to cancel him out? And so, indeed, it was done in the 1969 Novus Ordo calendar: Felix evaporated into thin air, or rather, retreated to his page in the Martyrology where few souls remember him.

But I would like to suggest that, as always, Holy Mother Church proceeded with a wisdom beyond her years, and that the removal of this saint and so many others is yet another instance of ecclesiastical Alzheimer’s.

St. Felix is said to have been a member of the royal court in France. He is known, in any case, to have renounced all his worldly possessions to live as a hermit. He was sought out by St. John of Matha, who had heard of the reputation of his holiness, and together they founded the Order of the Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives, usually known as the Trinitarians. The members of this order would travel to the Holy Land and exchange themselves for the release of Christian captives held by the Moslems. A similar order was founded in 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymund of Peñafort, and King James of Aragon, the Order of Our Lady of Ransom.

What lessons can St. Felix teach us? Unlike so many of today’s prelates in the Church, who cling to their power, prestige, and pleasures, and who refuse to reform themselves or the institutions over which they stand in charge, Felix was willing to abandon everything for the “pearl of great price” that is Jesus Christ. He gave up his opportunities of advancement, position, and influence, in order to do that which was inherently worthwhile for his immortal soul and for the health of the Church. In this respect, Felix is the antithesis to the worldly bishop or priest, whom we may call the “anti-Felix”: unhappy in his own sins, be they of commission or omission, and the cause of an unhappy flock.

What did the order co-founded by St. Felix do? It redeemed Christians from the hand of their heathen oppressors. Today, nothing, nothing is more necessary than that the Catholic Church rediscover her radical opposition to the world, the flesh, and the devil, three enemies over which she has spiritual authority, and from whose heavy yoke she can rescue the faithful. This she does by preaching sound doctrine and feeding a holy life with the sacraments and the liturgy reverently enacted. Again, St. Felix was truly felicitous in his uncompromising battle with the forces of darkness—the darkness of Islam in particular. Would that Europe’s bishops, clergy, faithful, would recover even a fraction of the courage and conviction of these saints of the Crusades!

One last point to make. Several times each year, the Church in the sanctoral cycle of her traditional liturgy begs the Lord to deliver us from bondage or captivity. Let me offer four examples. The Collect for today’s feast of St. Felix reads:

O God, who didst vouchsafe by a voice from heaven to call blessed Felix Thy confessor to the work of the ransoming of captives: grant, we beseech Thee, that his holy prayers may free us from the bondage of sin, and may safely lead us to our heavenly fatherland. Through our Lord…

On February 8, we pray to St. Felix’s companion:

O God, who didst vouchsafe to institute by heavenly direction, through St. John [of Matha], the order of the Holy Trinity for redeeming captives from the power of the Saracens, grant, we beseech Thee, that by the suffrage of his merits, we may be delivered by Thy grace from captivity of soul and body. Through our Lord.

On September 24:

O God, who by means of the most glorious Mother of Thy Son wast pleased to give new children to Thy Church for the deliverance of Christ’s faithful from the power of the heathen; grant, we beseech Thee, that we who love and honor her as the foundress of so great a work, may by her merits and intercession be ourselves delivered from all sin and from the bondage of the evil one. Through the same our Lord…

On August 1:

O God, who didst loose the blessed apostle Peter from his bonds and didst send him forth unharmed: loose, we pray Thee, the chains of our sins, and in Thy great mercy keep us from all evil. Through our Lord.

These are prayers that we desperately need to make—for ourselves, for our loved ones, for the Church wherever she is hemmed in by the heathens, suffocated by the Saracens. The liturgy knows our needs, knows them intimately, and places these words on the lips of her priests and in the hearts of her children.

Where are these prayers in the Novus Ordo?

They are all gone. All of them. Along with the prayers that talk about “despising the things of earth and clinging to those of heaven.”

Bondage, captivity, chains? Too negative. Too difficult. Too medieval. Too otherworldly. The pathological optimists who staffed the Consilium took out their modern scissors and cut away whatever no longer conformed to the times, even if it meant discarding material that had sustained Catholic souls for centuries.* In doing so, they showed themselves to be ungrateful, self-absorbed, and short-sighted.

This is one among a thousand reasons why we must, patiently, say to our Novus Ordo friends, again and again: the problem is not “how the new liturgy is celebrated,” as if dressing it up like the fanciest Infant of Prague is all that needs to be done to make things better. No, for the problem goes much deeper: it goes to the very core of the texts and rubrics of the new liturgy, which are deformed, skewed, bowdlerized, inadequate, misleading, and corrosive of Catholicism. What is needed is not any “reform of the reform,” or any lavishment of smells and bells, fiddlebacks and candlesticks, as appropriate as these things certainly are. What is needed, ultimately, is the restoration of the true Roman liturgy in its plenitude, fully matured over centuries of faith and worship, and unambiguously Catholic in every gesture, word, and chant.

May the Lord deliver His Church from the bondage of a new liturgy simplified, abbreviated, redacted for political correctness, and give all her children access to the uninhibited rites of our salvation—which includes our deliverance from the evils that oppress us.

St. Felix of Valois, pray for us!

* St. Felix’s feast began to be celebrated in his own diocese in 1215, and was extended to the whole Church in 1679.

 

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

The Word of the Lord Remains Forever! A Homily for the 33rd Sunday of the Year

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

No doubt Msgr. that you are a remarkable profit to many. You certainly are
to me and I thank God for leading me to you.

My He continue to bless you and may his voice be heard through you by
countless numbers of his children

As winter approaches and the end of the liturgical year draws near, we ponder the passing quality of this world and the fading of its glories. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reading must surely have shocked, even horrified, His apostles. Let’s look at His stunning words and seek to apply them in our own life.

The Place of this Gospel – Jesus is standing just outside of Jerusalem. In the last two months we have followed Him on His final journey: leaving Galilee, heading south along the Jordan River, passing through Jericho, and now making the nearly 2000-foot ascent to Jerusalem.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is at the top of the Mount of Olives with His apostles. From this vantage point, they look across the Kidron Valley to the magnificent Temple and all of Jerusalem spread out before them. The apostles marvel at the glorious beauty of the Temple. Its large, perfectly-carved, white, gilded, ashlar stones gleam like the sun. Indeed, it was one of the wonders of the ancient world, so beautiful and majestic.

Jesus challenges their admiration. He shocks them with the admonition that all the glory they see is soon to be destroyed, that not one stone will be left on another, that it will all be thrown down (Mk 13:2). Shocked, the apostles ask Him when this will happen and what signs will precede this awful event.

In what has become known as “Mount Olivet discourse,” the Lord warns, in great detail, of the coming destruction of the Temple and indeed of all Jerusalem. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all contain similar descriptions of what Jesus said on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem in her glorious heyday.

Jesus warns of wars and rumors of wars. He speaks of a time in the near future when nation will rise against nation and a terrible conflict will ensue. In effect, He warns His disciples and their followers to have nothing to do with the coming wars. He tells them that when they see Jerusalem being surrounded by an army, they should know that her destruction is at hand. If someone is on a man’s rooftop, he should not to go back into the house to gather his possessions; rather, he should get out immediately. If someone is out in the field, he should not reenter the city of Jerusalem; rather, he should flee to the hills. Jerusalem is doomed for its lack of faith and zealots are picking up the war with the Romans that they are destined to lose (Luke 21, Matt 24, Mark 13).

All of this leads us to today’s Gospel (from the Mount Olivet discourse), which picks up in the middle. Jesus warns of days of tribulation, when the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky!

In reading a text like this, we must not fall prey to an overly literal interpretation. Jesus is using prophetic language, a way of speaking that is meaningful, but not to be understood scientifically or literally. Stars do not actually fall from the sky!

If I were to say, “The world has been turned upside down,” you wouldn’t expect that if you looked back toward Earth from outer space you would see Australia at the top and North America at the bottom. If I were to say, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” you wouldn’t expect to look out your window and see animals coming down from the sky and landing on the front lawn. Although I’m speaking figuratively, you understand what I mean.

So it is with Jesus’ use of prophetic imagery. Speaking of the heavenly luminaries as being darkened or cast down is a prophetic way of saying that all the fixed points, all the ways by which we tell time, know the seasons, navigate, and find perspective will be lost to us! The world as the Jewish people know it, centered on the Temple and rooted in their liturgical calendar, is about to be swept away. To the ancient Jewish people, the Temple was Big Ben. It was both the clock of the liturgical cycle and the great visual center of Israel.

The Lord is teaching them that what they see as the hub of all they do is about to be taken away. The Temple, with all its rituals, its liturgical cycles, and its endless slaughter of animals in sacrifice for sin, is about to be replaced. These ancient rituals merely pointed to Jesus and all that He would do. Jesus is now the Temple; He is also the Lamb Sacrifice. All that the Temple pointed to is fulfilled in Jesus. Thus, the Temple is at an end. Jesus is ushering in a New Covenant.

In the Mount Olivet discourse, Jesus prophesies the end of the Temple, which will take place in a biblical 40 years. Sure enough, 40 years later (in A.D. 70), the Roman Army, after having surrounded Jerusalem for a period of 3 ½ months, breached the walls, poured into the city, and destroyed the Temple and all of Jerusalem. In this epic battle, according to Josephus, 1.2 million Jewish people lost their lives. As Jesus prophesied, not one stone was left on another. According to Josephus, so complete was the destruction of Jerusalem, that when the Romans had finished their work it was not clear that the city had ever existed.

So, this is the place of this Gospel, a place of epic significance in the ancient world. An era of 1000 years was coming to an end. The world as the Jewish people knew it was ending. The Temple has never been rebuilt; it has been replaced by a Judaism without sacrifice, a rabbinic, a synagogue system. In 2000 years, despite several attempts, the Jewish Temple has never been rebuilt. Everything Jesus predicted came to pass. This is the historical place and context of today’s Gospel.

What does this mean for us, some 2000 years later? Let’s consider three basic themes.

1. The Perspective of Passing – Toward the end of the Gospel passage, the Lord says, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Note the definitiveness of this statement: this world will pass away. All of the things that impress us: the might of the powerful, the influence of the popular, the glory of all the glitterati—all of this will pass away.

Indeed, even now it is passing away, its destruction is at hand. Scripture says,

The world in its present form is passing away (1 Cor 7:31).

We have here, no lasting city (Heb 13:14).

Put not your trust in princes, in mortal men in whom there is no hope. Take their breath, they return to clay, and their plans that day come to nothing (Psalm 146:3-4).

Yes, all of the glory, even what seems beautiful and fair, is passing away. Don’t be so impressed by this world’s offerings. All of it—no matter how powerful, influential, or sturdy it may seem—is slated for destruction. It is already passing away.

Some years ago, I was in a museum and in one of the exhibits saw a photograph of a family from about the 1880s. At the bottom of the photo was this inscription: “My family, as it appeared for a brief time last summer”—a poignant caption. I thought of the people in that photo, every one of them now dead. I also knew that the house in front of which the photo was taken had long since been destroyed, replaced by an expanding city district of buildings. All is passing; nothing remains here for long.

Painful though this perspective may be, it is important and healing. It brings with it a string kind of serenity. Like every truth, the truth that all things are passing sets us free. As for man, his days, or the flower of the field are like the grass. The wind blows, and he is gone, and his place never sees him anymore (Psalm 130:15-16). We are reminded not to set down too many roots here so that we are not resentful when this world passes away.

2. The Permanence Proclaimed – The Lord tells us that His words will not pass away. Although the world will pass away, the truth and the Word of God will remain forever.

Too many people root their lives in passing things. The challenge for us is to root our lives in the Word of God, which remains forever. Worldly glories, power, access, and wealth—all these things fade and disappear, but God’s wisdom and His plan remain forever.

Consider, for a moment, the Church. The Lord has said that the forces of Hell would strive to prevail, overpower, and destroy the Church, but He promised that such attempts would never be successful (Matt 16:18). The Church is indefectible, by God’s Word, by His promise. No weapons, no war waged against the Church, will prevail.

In all of this the Lord has been proven correct. The Church has seen the Roman Empire, the Carolingian Empire, the British Empire, the Soviet Socialist Republic, and many others rise to power only to fade and disappear.

How many heresies, how many philosophies have come and gone in the age of the Church? How many have laughed at the Church, announcing that she was passé, that her day was over, and that they would bury her? The Church has buried every one of her undertakers, outlived every one of her critics. Despite every prediction of her demise, she has persevered until this very day. By God’s grace, she has a permanence that outlasts every one of her enemies. She has read the funeral rites over every single prophet of her doom, and she will continue to do so.

In recounting all of this we do not simply gloat that an institution known as the Church has survived. Rather, we announce that the Church is the Bride of Christ and also His Body. The Church cannot be destroyed, not because of human ingenuity but on account of the power and grace of God. She will endure even though at times she will suffer, be ridiculed, or be marginalized. She will outlive every enemy. She will emerge from every persecution. She will never be removed. For the Church is the Body of Christ, the living Word of God. Though the world will pass away, the Word of the Lord will remain forever!

3. The Priority Prescribed – If this world as we know it is passing away, and the Lord, His Kingdom, His Church, and His Word will remain forever, what should be our priority? The Lord says, in effect, that we know very well what our priority should be, but we willfully ignore it.

Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates (Matt 24:32-33).

Yes, we know very well that the Day of Judgment is coming. Too easily, though, we dream on and do not follow the prescribed priority. Wealth, fame, and glory are all uncertain and clearly passing, but death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell are certain and remain forever. We too easy fiddle on with things that are uncertain and passing while neglecting what is certain and eternal. Ridiculous!

It would be foolish to book passage on a sinking ship. Similarly, it is imprudent to make this world and its demands our fundamental priority. It is wise to set our sights on, and lay hold of, the Kingdom that lasts forever.

It is sad that so many spend people their time “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” of this world. It is tragic how much time, effort, and passion we spend on things that pass through our fingers like sand. So much of our effort is expended on furthering our career, amassing wealth, and enlarging our home; so little is spent on improving our spiritual life.

Parents spend more time worrying about what college their children will attend than where they will spend eternity. If their child is failing math, they will go to great lengths to hire tutors to improve his test scores. Never mind that the child barely knows the four Gospels, the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, or even who Adam and Eve were. Never mind all that; we need to make sure they understand polynomials! It is fine that parents care about math scores and college venues, but how sad it is that eternal things often go unattended.

The greatest duty of parents is to prepare their children for eternity, yet far more time and effort is often spent preparing them for passing things like a career. While education and career are important, eternal life is far more so. A son or daughter may graduate from Harvard Law School and become a famous attorney yet still go to Hell!

What are our priorities? Frankly, most of our priorities are not things that matter to God. Even if we attain the passing things for which we strive, they will all ultimately slip through our fingers. We obsess over passing things like our physical health while neglecting enduring things like our spiritual health. We should care for our bodies, but even more should we care for our souls. If we would expend as much effort looking for a time and place to pray as we do searching for a restaurant for dinner, we would be spiritual heavyweights rather than physically overweight.

In today’s Gospel the Lord stands before the Temple: an impressive building, a symbol of power and of worldly glories. Impressed by it though the Apostles are, the Lord is not impressed with passing things. He counsels us to get our priorities straight and to focus on things that last: His Word, which never passes away, and our ultimate destiny, where we will spend eternity.

We find time for everything else, why not for prayer, Scripture, fellowship in the Church, and the sacraments?

What are your priorities? Be honest, now, be honest.

This world is passing away. Far more essential for us than power, prestige, money, possessions, worldly philosophies, and the latest trends, is the Word of the Lord, which never passes away.

The world will laugh and say that God’s word is out-of-date, old-fashioned, or even hateful, bigoted, and intolerant. In the end, time will prove where wisdom is. Long after our current critics, those who scorn the teachings of the Lord in the Scriptures and the Church, have passed on, we will still be here preaching Christ and Him crucified.

None of this is meant to sound triumphalist. It is simply rooted in a Word of truth that the Lord spoke long ago on a hillside overlooking glorious buildings soon to be reduced to rubble and an age soon to pass away. He said simply this: Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.

In the end, Jesus wins. I know because I checked the end of the story. You can look it up (Rev 20-23). Get on the winning team. Stop trying to amass a treasure here that you can’t keep anyway.

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Rediscovering a Lost Work of Mercy: Admonishing the Sinner

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

In the first reading from Mass for Monday of the 23rd week, St. Paul is practically livid that the Corinthians have not sought to correct and discipline an erring brother who is indulging in illicit sexual union. He orders them to act immediately lest the brother be lost on the day of judgment.

The current crisis in the Church is certainly connected to the widespread reticence to admonish and correct the sinner in our culture. This obligation is one of the seven spiritual works of mercy and is also referred to as fraternal correction. Sadly, even in the Church correcting and admonishing sinners has been on a kind of hiatus. Within many families, a flawed idea of love as mere kindness and approval has replaced the proper notion that true love wants the ultimate good of a person, not necessarily present joy and affirmation.

In the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas describes fraternal correction as an act of charity:

[F]raternal correction properly so called, is directed to the amendment of the sinner. Now to do away with anyone’s evil is the same as to procure his good: and to procure a person’s good is an act of charity, whereby we wish and do our friend well (Summa Theologica II, IIae, 33.1).

The world and the Devil have largely succeeded in making Christians feel ashamed of doing this essential work. When we call attention to someone’s sin or wrongdoing, we are said to be “judging” him. In a culture in which “tolerance” is viewed as one of a person’s most important qualities, judging has become an unpardonable offense. “How dare you judge others?” the world protests, “Who do you think you are?”

To be clear, there are some judgments that are forbidden us. For example, we cannot assess whether we are better or worse than someone else before God. Neither can we fully understand someone’s inner intentions or ultimate culpability as though we were God. Regarding judgments such as these Scripture says, Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the LORD looks into the heart (1 Sam 16:7).

We are also instructed that we cannot make the judgment of condemnation; we do not have the power or knowledge to condemn someone to Hell. God alone is judge in this sense. Scripture also cautions us against being unnecessarily harsh or punitive:

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. … For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:36-38).

In the passage above from Luke’s Gospel, “to judge” means to condemn or to be unmerciful, to be unreasonably harsh.

Another text that is often used by the world to forbid making “judgments” is this one from the Gospel of Matthew:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matt 7:1-5).

However, pay careful attention to what this text is actually saying. As in the passage from Luke, the word “judge” in Matthew’s Gospel is understood to mean to be unnecessarily harsh and punitive or condemning; the second verse makes this clear. To paraphrase verse two colloquially, “If you lower the boom on others, you will have the boom lowered on you.” Further, the parable that follows does not say that you shouldn’t correct sinners; it says that you should get yourself right with God first so that you can then see clearly enough to properly correct your brother.

Scripture repeatedly tells us to correct the sinner. Far from forbidding fraternal correction, the Scriptures command and commend it. Here are some of those texts, along with a little of my own commentary in red:

  • Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 18:15-18).

Jesus instructs us to speak to a sinning brother and summon him to repentance. If the matter is serious and private rebuke does not work, others who are trustworthy should be summoned to the task. Finally, the Church should be informed. If he will not listen even to the Church, then he should be excommunicated (treated as a tax collector or Gentile). Hence, in serious matters, excommunication should be considered as a kind of medicine that will inform the sinner of the gravity of the matter. Sadly, this “medicine” is seldom used today, even though Jesus clearly prescribes it (at least in serious matters).

  • It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. … I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you” (1 Cor 5).

The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, commands that we “judge” the evildoer. In this case the matter is clearly serious (incest). Notice that the text says that the man should be excommunicated (handed over to Satan). Here, too, the purpose is medicinal. It is hoped that Satan will beat him up enough that he will come to his senses and repent before the day of judgment. It is also medicinal in the sense that the community is protected from bad example, scandal, and the presence of evil. The text also requires us to be able to size people up. There are immoral and unrepentant people with whom it is harmful for us to associate. We are instructed to discern this and not to keep company with people who can mislead us or tempt us to sin. This requires a judgment on our part. Yes, some judgements are required of us.

  • Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any sin, you who are spiritual should recall him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ (Gal 6:1-2).

We are called to note when a person has been overtaken in sin and to correct him, but to do so in a spirit of gentleness. Otherwise, we may sin in the very process of correcting the sinner! Being prideful or unnecessarily harsh in our words is not the proper way to correct. The instruction is to be humble and gentle, but clear. Patience is also called for because we must bear the burdens of one another’s sin. We do this in two ways. First, we accept that others have imperfections and faults that trouble us; second, we bear the obligation to help others know their sin and of repent of it.

  • My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19).

The text is ambiguous as to whose soul is actually saved, but it seems that both the corrected and the corrector are beneficiaries of well-executed fraternal correction.

  • You shall not hate your brother in your heart: You shall in any case rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him (Lev 19:17).

This text tells us that refusing to correct a sinning neighbor is actually a form of hatred. Instead, we are instructed to love our neighbors by not wanting sin to overtake them.

  • If anyone refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother(2 Thess 3:14).

The medicine of rebuke—even to the point of refusing fellowship (in more serious matters)—is commanded. However, note that even a sinner does not lose his dignity; he is still to be regarded as a brother, not an enemy.

  • We instruct you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who walks in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us (2 Thess 3:6).
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom (Col 3:16).

In this passage, to admonish means to warn. If the Word of Christ is rich within us, we will warn when that becomes necessary.

  • All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16).

Reproof and correction are part of what is necessary to equip us for every good work.

  • And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thess 5:14).

Fraternal correction is described here as admonishing, encouraging, and helping. We are also called to patience in these works.

There are many more examples, but the point is that fraternal correction is prescribed and commanded by Scripture. We must resist the shame that the world tries to inflict on us by saying (simplistically) that we are “judging” people. Not all judgment is forbidden; in fact, some is commanded. Correction of the sinner is both charitable and virtuous.

That said, it is possible to correct a sinner poorly or even sinfully. If we are to have any shame at all about proper fraternal correction, it should be that we have so severely failed in fulfilling our duty to do so. Because of our failure in this regard, the world is more sinful, coarse, and undisciplined. Too many people today are out-of-control, undisciplined, and even incorrigible. Never having been properly corrected, too many are locked in sin. The world is less pleasant, charitable, and teachable because of this; it is also in greater bondage to sin. We can certainly see what the failure to correct has done within the Church, but the world at large is also in grave need of recovering this lost work of mercy.

To fail to correct is to fail in charity and mercy; it is to fail to be virtuous and to fail in calling others to virtue. We are all impoverished by our failure to correct the sinner.

  • He who winks at a fault causes trouble; but he who frankly reproves promotes peace (Proverbs 10:10).
  • A path to life is his who heeds admonition; but he who disregards reproof goes go astray (Proverbs 10:17).

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Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form
Saturday, September 29 at 12 PM – 1:45 PM EDT
St. Mary Catholic Cathedral, Miami

Come witness and pray the Solemn High Pontifical Mass in the ancient rite, celebrated in all its splendor.

As part of the annual international conference of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, His Excellency Thomas Wenski, archbishop of Miami, will celebrate a solemn pontifical Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite for the feast of the Dedication of St. Michael, Archangel (Michelmas). Ceremonial assistance for the Mass will be provided by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) and the Latin Mass community of the archdiocese of Miami.

Victoria’s Missa Ave Maris Stella and chants of the day’s Mass will be sung under the direction of Mr. Gustavo Zayas, director of music at St. Mary’s cathedral.

The public is cordially invited to attend this Mass.

Attendance at all other conference sessions requires registration for the conference. More information about the conference and registration are available at: http://liturgysociety.org/annual-conference

TM St. Charles's Church Vienna, Austria

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

On the Problem of Arrested Spiritual Development

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

Consider a five-year-old child who had not yet learned to walk or talk, who could only lie in his crib, who could not eat solid food. Most of us would consider this a great tragedy, a case of arrested development. Surely as he failed to pass expected milestones his parents would consult multiple doctors in an anxious search for the cause of the problem and its cure. No one would fail to see the problem or shrug it off.

Now, let’s look at a case of arrested spiritual development and compare the typical response:

Consider a young adult—say 25 years old—who has graduated high school and even earned a college degree. Perhaps upon graduation he landed a job in a cutting-edge field. Despite being a highly trained expert in his secular field, his spiritual development is arrested; he has progressed little since the second grade. In some ways he has even gone backward: he can no longer recite an Act of Contrition or even the Hail Mary.

He still goes to Mass, but he is incapable of expressing much of anything about his faith. He knows that there is a God but does not know for sure if Jesus is God—he thinks so, but he’s not sure. He is aware of the Bible but can’t name all four Gospels and wouldn’t even be sure exactly where to find them in it. Names like Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, David, Peter, and Judas all sound familiar, but he can’t tell you much about them except that they’re in the Bible—somewhere. He’s heard of the sacraments but can’t name them; he isn’t sure he’s received any of them or if they are only for priests and nuns. Every now and then he thinks to pray, but he really doesn’t know what to say or how to do it. Sometimes he remembers a prayer from Mass, but when he tries to recite it on his own he gets stuck because there aren’t other people around him saying it and helping him along. He can recite the Our Father, though; we have to give him that!

Mind you, this is a smart guy: he has a lot of knowledge in his field and is sought out for technical advice in the corporation where he works. Spiritually, however, he’s an infant.

The interesting question is this: why were his parents and others in his parish not alarmed as they noticed his arrested spiritual development? As he went from second grade to third and then on to fourth, not only did not progress, he regressed. Why were his parents not concerned? Why were the pastor and catechists not shocked that he seemed to show no progress in the spiritual life?

As he advanced to high school his moral life began to slide. Soon his language coarsened, he resented authority, and he began consuming pornography on the Internet. His parents were irritated by this, but not alarmed enough to intensify his recourse to the sacraments or to augment his spiritual training. Spiritually he was frozen in time, but no one seemed to care enough to do anything about it.

But, by God, when he almost failed a math course his parents sprang into action and hired a tutor! After all, a failing grade might threaten his ability to get into a good college. In contrast, his failure to grow spiritually didn’t seem to faze them much. When he went off to college they drove up with him, toured the dorms, met a few professors, and attended orientation sessions—but they never thought to meet the college chaplain or to ask who would be spiritually teaching or pastoring their son. That sort of stuff just didn’t occur to them to ask about.

Well, you get the picture:

  • Expectations are low. Most people don’t really expect that they should grow much in their faith. Advanced knowledge and deep prayer are for priests and nuns. Too many laypeople just don’t expect much and thus are not alarmed that they and their kids know next to nothing about the faith.
  • The faith is a side issue to many people. What really matters is that you study hard to get into a career that will get you access to the “American Dream.” Never mind that worldly things don’t last or that it’s pointless and harmful to climb the ladder of success when it is leaning up against the wrong wall. We’ll think about all that tomorrow.
  • The sense that faith really matters at all is muted.Many people today have the unbiblical view that almost everyone goes to Heaven. This removes motivation to grow in the faith or be serious about living in a countercultural way. They think, why work hard or seek to develop yourself when the “the paycheck has already been deposited and you’ll continue get paid no matter what”?

So, here we are today with many Christians who have a very bad case of arrested development. Scripture says,

  • We have much to say … but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil(Hebrews 5:11-14).
  • Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly (1 Cor 3:1-2).
  • Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults (1 Cor 14:20).
  • My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good (Jer 4:22).
  • When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me (1 Cor 13:11).
  • It was [the Lord] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ (Eph 4:11-15).

Scripture is clear that the normal Christian life is this:

  • To be constantly growing in our faith.
  • To go from the mother’s milk of elementary doctrine to the solid food of more advanced understanding.
  • To progress from being young students to mature teachers.
  • To exhibit mature knowledge of the faith and behavior that bespeaks mature Christianity.
  • To go from being worldly in our priorities to being spiritual.
  • To be able to distinguish false doctrine from true.
  • To show forth a stability of life and not be easily carried away by all the latest trends and fads.

Yes, this is the normal Christian life. Maturity pertains to the human person in general and it certainly ought to pertain to men and women of faith. I pray that you who read this blog are well along this path and are seeking to grow. I presume it, in fact.

Many are not maturing, however, and I wonder if enough of us in the Church today see this for the horrifically strange and tragic phenomenon that it is. It is far stranger and more tragic than a five-year-old still lying in a crib, speechless and unable to eat solid food. It is vastly more serious than the high schooler who is failing math. To fail math may affect college and a career, but those are passing consequences. To fail in the faith affects eternity.

Why are we so serious about passing, worldly threats and not so much about threats that have eternal consequences? Arrested spiritual development is by far the most serious of all developmental issues. Parents may give their child every good thing, but if they do not ensure the gift of strong and mature faith, they have given him nothing but sand that will slip through his fingers.

Only what you do for Christ will last. Pray God that we get our priorities straight and make sure that we—and everyone—grow up in the Lord. It is true that we must accept the Kingdom of God like a little child in order to enter it, but this well-known scriptural text refers to our dependence not our ignorance. God made us to know Him and to fail to do so is to miss the whole point and dignity of our life.

RELATED: A Child’s Plea for Eternal Life (made to his parents)

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