If this is a Liturgy War, Then Who is the Enemy?


From The Authentic Update:

An event of this past week gave me the opportunity to think about how I represent those who advocate Tradition, Traditional Sacred Music and the more generalized notion of liturgical reform. I had the opportunity to take part in the St. John’s Seminary “Theology Day” in Naples Florida this past Wednesday, an opportunity that allowed me to hear an excellent lecture by Fr. Anthony Ruff on the USCCB document “Sing To The Lord”. Fr. Ruff’s insight as one of those involved in the drafting and process of producing this document filled in some of the voids that had become the topic of discussion at seminars and on the internet, replacing them with facts about the creation and negotiation of this document. Regardless of what an individual might think of “Sing To The Lord”, it is, in my eyes, a far more incredible document than I have up to now thought.

The details of the lecture will have to be the subject of a different posting, because that isn’t really the point I want to make here. What I did discover, however, was that there is a valuable lesson for those who consider themselves passionate about “reform”… whether it be reform of Sacred Music, liturgical practice, translations or whatever. While there are exceptions, I think it can be said in general that those who continue to languish in the notion of the “Spirit of Vatican II” or the “Hermeneutic of Rupture”, or whatever name we assign to the enemy, have done so with the confidence that this is what they are supposed to be doing. Many have begun to see the light, as evidenced by many of the questions and comments heard during Fr. Ruff’s lecture. This is a critical time, a time to teach rather than criticize.

This will be something of a new idea to many… there have been plenty of hardened attitudes and hurt feelings among the traditionalists and advocates of traditional Catholic Sacred Music in the past. Forty-plus years of marginalization and de-construction of the musical heritage of the Church left it’s advocates bitter and vengeful in many instances, ready to portray anyone walking in the church with a guitar case as the enemy, and ready to aim the criticism at individuals rather than at the real source of the problem which was the widespread acceptance of a flawed and destructive vision of liturgical music and it’s role in Catholic worship.

More recently, Pope Benedict has begun to set the example for looking at Vatican II in a new light, a “hermeneutic of continuity”, and it is incumbent upon us to adopt this view and promote it as the only real path for reform. While it may have been an attractive option to call for the abolition of Vatican II, call for it’s “overturning” or whatever, the fact remains that there is no precedent for such an event really, and even if there may eventually be a “Vatican III”, it will not come about because of some kind of popular uprising by traditionalists. What we need is the faithful and authentic implementation of what Vatican II called for, following an honest and thorough discussion of those parts of the concilliar documents that are contended, perhaps rightly so. This is the direction in which Benedict is guiding the Church, and we need to follow as we have often implored others to follow.

The problem, of course, is that the very progressives who constantly mouth the mantra of “Vatican II… Vatican II…Vatican II!!!” will be the first to object to such a faithful and authentic implementation. They don’t want to hear that Vatican II called for the Mass to remain in Latin (except for the readings and homily), they don’t want to hear that the priest was to remain facing the same direction as the faithful (ad orientem), they don’t want to hear that Gregorian Chant was to remain as the normative music for worship while allowing for “other styles of music to be permitted”..(such as Renaissance Polyphony, Classical Polyphony, Mozart, Haydn, etc…). They don’t want to hear any of that. They cringe at the words of Pope Benedict when he said in his letter to Bishops last week;

“But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.”

They don’t want an authentic “Vatican II Church”, they just want the Church the way it is now, and that status quo is being challenged and exposed. The thought of having to accept the traditions of the Church because that is what Vatican II called for shatters their 40 year old facade. The idea of turning to Pius X’s “Tra le sollecitudini” as the foundational document for liturgical music sends them running. That is why the Holy Father used the figure of speech “those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the council”…. he sees the facade for what it really is. There are those who are truly responsible for misleading the Catholic faithful, and then there are those who have been innocently mislead. One is the enemy, the others should be the objects of our compassion and help.


5 Responses to If this is a Liturgy War, Then Who is the Enemy?

  1. Heidi M Wolf says:

    Father Rick: I love the Catholic faith, I love the Catholic ceremony and have raised my children in the Catholic Faith. My children enjoy attending mass with guitar music with lyrics praising God and Jesus. It inspired them to believe in God and learn more about Jesus as He DID walk this earth and WAS human like them. Are we now saying that this style of teaching and those who still love praising God in this way are the enemy? The teens and young adults are confused and so am I. How can something so beautiful as praising God with a stringed instrument and musical beat be antagonistic to the mass? I believe in Our Lady Of Medjugorje she says: “Dear children! Today I call you to open yourselves more to God, so that He can work through you. The more you open yourselves, the more you receive the fruits. I wish to call you again to prayer. Thank you for having responded to my call.” Prayer is her message to bring all ages to Her son Jesus and God. A contemporary mass is a wonderful way for all to pray and give praise to God. How can these type of worship be an enemy to the church? I believe Pope John Paul II wholeheartedly accepted all contemporary worship as a way to bring openness, a new understanding of the church and to overcome boundaries into one union. Was Pope John Paul II mislead also? Why didn’t Pope John Paul II call for the Mass to remain in Latin or that the priest was to remain facing the same direction as the faithful. Latin a is beautiful language and sacred hymns can be so lovely that they bring tears to my eyes, but a guitar mass can do this also. I do not believe that a guitar mass is a flawed and destructive vision of liturgical music and it’s role in Catholic worship. I do not believe that my parents who raised and taught me of the catholic faith would call all those years a “facade”. I do not believe I witnessed ANY mass that was a charade or pretense just because it wasn’t said in Latin or have Gregorian Chants. Is Pope Benedict saying that for 40 years the masses we attended were performed all wrong and now it is going to be done right! I believe Jesus and his Holy Mother Mary, just want us to pray to God at mass in any respectful proper way, Latin or English, sacred or contemporary songs or with an organ or electric guitar. In her most recent message Our Lady says: “Dear children! Also today, with great joy in my heart, I call you to follow me and to listen to my messages. Be joyful carriers of peace and love in this peaceless world. I am with you and I bless you all with my Son Jesus, the King of Peace. Thank you for having responded to my call.” Simple but powerful words. Thank you for reading and printing my views. Peace be with you. Heidi M Wolf

  2. mercyknight says:

    Hi Heidi,

    Thank you for your beautiful comments. I’m so glad you love the Mass so. I do too.

    I also love much of the music you refer to … who doesn’t like a good PRAISE time? While I love this music, I’m coming to understand that the Mass is something that deserves special Church decor, special reverent postures, special attire (yes, I believe we need to dress up), and a special kind of music that sets this apart from anything else on earth. Why? Because God is descending to be with us in the most unique and “special” way.

    Children, especially, need to be exposed to this unique reverence due to our Lord in the Holy Mass. In my 20 years of priesthood, I’ve witnessed the difference between a more casual church environment and a more sacred environment, and the impact that has on children …

    In those casual environments, you’ll watch many children coloring pictures and playing with their trucks and wondering when it is going to end. And, after Mass, running through the sanctuary as though it is the local playground.

    In those places where a great deal of concentration has been given to add much sacredness to the environment and music, I’ve watched children reverently bless themselves as they walk into church, and each genuflecting as they enter their pew to kneel and pray.

    Now, do we see toddlers squirming about? Sure we do. But, there is something special that happens to young children (post-toddler) when they are exposed to such sacred environment and music.

    Also, every statistic available shows that vocations to the priesthood and religious life come out of these places where more concentration to the sacred is given. Most believe that this is because there is an air of seriousness in such sacred environments. This opens youth to the gift of faith and a potential vocation.

    Let’s have special PRAISE NIGHTS with all the guitars and banjos we want. But let’s help our youth to see and experience the “Sanctum Sanctorum” (Holy of Holies) when they attend Holy Mass.

    I am SO EXCITED our Catholic Church is helping us to recover the sacred again! I pray you are too.

  3. Heidi M Wolf says:

    Hello Fr. Rick: Thank you for your response. I agree with you, I do believe the mass should be a sacred environment. I guess it is a matter of opinion on whether or not the type of music makes it more or less sacred. I do not mean to be rude, but would just like to know, if you will also be facing the same direction as the congregation and have your back to us? I would like to observe the consecration, it is one of the best parts of the mass. Will women be removed from participating in the mass, i.e., readers, servers? I’m just wondering if this will also be a part of an authentic Vatican II Church. I hope not, I think that would be wrong. I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think Our Lady, Holy Mother Mary would like it either. Thanks again for reading this. I do enjoy, learn and think about the scripture in a different (positive) way when I listen to your sermons. Peace Heidi

  4. mercyknight says:

    Hi Heidi,

    The Mass that we celebrate now is referred to as the Novus Ordo, which basically means the new form of the Mass. This Mass is celebrated with the priest turned toward the people. The traditional form is referred to as the Tridentine or Gregorian Mass. That Mass is celebrated with priest and people all facing God together. Both are accepted forms of the Mass.

    I have not learned how to pray this other Mass yet. I hope to some day, and then I might offer it like once a month or something.

    Not to worry about removing women from liturgical roles … at this point, I don’t really understanding why this is done in some places. I have some grasp of the fact that it is common knowledge that when serving is focused on boys only, this promotes vocations to the priesthood. But I have no plans to move in that direction.

    Heidi, I’m learning so much and it is all so very exciting. Pope John Paul the Great set the stage for all of this as he called for a “Rekindling of Eucharistic Amazement” in his encyclical letter, Eccesia Eucharistia: http://www.ewtn.com/LIBRARY/encyc/JP2EUCHA.HTM

    It was here that we saw such wonders re-emerge in our Church such as Eucharistic Adoration … and some frowned upon this as pre-Vatican II.

    It was here that we saw Pope John Paul II call for a return to Eucharist as the source and summit of the life of the Church … and some frowned upon this as pre-Vatican II.

    It was here that we saw Pope John Paul II call us to the “School of Mary, Woman of the Eucharist” … and some frowned upon this as pre-Vatican II.

    It was this encyclical that led the way to the formulation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which was an effort to shore up many of the abuses that had flourished over the years and give greater attention to the appropriate rubrics of the Mass … and some frowned upon this as pre-Vatican II.

    Pope John Paul II was best friends with Pope Benedict XVI. They met for dinner every Friday night. This is not a deviation from Pope John Paul II. This is Pope Benedict XVI continuing what his friend, Pope John Paul II, began.

    This is an awe-inspiring restoration of all the beautiful and sacred pieces of the Mass that had been wrongly abolished and forgotten. In fact, a better way to refer to this is not so much a “restoration,” but a push for the “ideal” in terms of what is most appropriate for the Holy Mass.

    I am truly enjoying myself as I learn more and more about all of this beauty and sacred to offer our Lord in the Mass. If you like, I could give you some wonderful resources for you to explore all of this too. It truly is an exciting time. The first book I would recommend is the Spirit of the Liturgy.

    Finally, I can be pretty sure that Our Lady is pleased anytime we offer her Son the “ideal” … the most reverence and respect for our Lord.

    Peace to you!

  5. Heidi M Wolf says:

    Thanks you so much for your answers. I’m going to print out the “Rekindling of Eucharistic Amazement” and also I will find the book you recommended. Take Care Heidi

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