23 February 2016

Agony Aunt

People sometimes do me the honour of asking for solutions to problems ... which is one reason why I endlessly reprint my old articles on how the Novus Ordo may be (as it is commonly done) an unpleasant experience but no way is it invalid. Abuses do not make a Mass invalid. (I imagine these articles can easily be found via the search engine attached to the blog.) But I don't think I've ever tried to offer an answer to what a devout Catholic might do if he/she has no choice but to fulfil the Sunday Obligation by his/her presence at a Mass which in important repects is contra mentem Ecclesiae (perhaps, for example, because of its disobedience to the rubrics and the GIRM).

I do have some experience of this unpleasant dilemma: I had to spend fifteen months 'in lay communion' after we joined the incipient Ordinariate. And in so many churches, the problems are considerable. I do know.

Even Bishop Richard Williamson is prepared to discern patches of sunshine in what he calls the newchurch. I would advise everybody whose local church does the Novus Ordo decently to join their fellow-Catholics in praying that Mass devoutly. But there are very many churches in which (to give an important example) the First Eucharistic Prayer is never used; and, even worse, hundreds of churches in which, at Sunday Mass, the second Prayer is invariably used, despite the very clear language of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. This latter I would regard as a very serious abuse. In such circumstances, what is one to do?

It is, I think, advisable to consider the possibility of reverting to habits which sanctified Christians in many earlier centuries. If you foresee that, by Communion time, your mind is going to be full of irritated thoughts about the illegalities and irreverences you have experienced, it is probably best not to receive Holy Communion. Most people, through most of the Church's history, have 'received' very rarely. This abstinence can have the effect of making your much rarer communions more significant. Old-fashioned books of devotion used to suggest forms of devotion on preparation for Communion to be said on the Friday and Saturday evenings beforehand.

Does the church have a quiet corner near the back, or behind a pillar, where you might be able, without being too conspicuous, to kneel quietly down and to pray the Rosary throughout Mass? Millions, over the years, have done that for centuries. But DON'T make a show of it.

Or might you prefer to take your Missal along and prayerfully go through the propers of the Day's Mass? If you do that, I would recommend that you 'labiate'; i.e. gently and inconspicuously move your lips silently as you read the words. (Clergy do this with regard to the Divine Office.) Otherwise, the risk is that your eye will just slide down the page without your really 'inwardly digesting' anything. Remember that the celebrant will probably be using the ultra-short pseudo-Hippolytan dewfall-in-the-Trattoria-in-the-Trastevere shall-we-order-another-bottle Eucharistic Prayer (or else something even iffier), so it might be best to start the Secret, Preface, and Canon in good time. Do not fail to break off and to worship most devoutly when the celebrant gets to the Consecrations. At Communion time, remember that the people moving around you have God Incarnate within them. Try not to feel superior to them, because there are rumours that God rather dislikes that sort of thing. And, in any case, you aren't. Considering the graces that have been lavished on you, why are so much less holy than your fellow-worshippers to whom God has not given nearly as much?

Indeed, all through the Mass remember that (even if you are the only person there, possibly, who understands this) you are present at the Most Holy and Adorable Sacrifice, the Oblation of the Incarnate Word, the Immolation of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

This is what the Church means by Actuosa Participatio.

ON NO ACCOUNT start persuading yourself that, for some reason, you might be exempt from your Sunday Duty. You aren't. Don't go there.

I'm sure some readers will have other, far better, ideas.


KnotWilbur said...

Thank you, Father. There is a particular prayer I often pray after receiving Our Lord, no matter the frustrations inherent in how a given Mass may have been offered.

"O most Holy, O most benign, O noble and glorious Virgin Mary, who wast worthy to bear in thy sacred womb the Creator of all, at thy virginal breast to nourish Him whose true, real, and most Holy Body and Blood I, an unworthy sinner, have dared to receive: vouchsafe, I humbly beseech thee, to intercede with Him for me a sinner; that whatsoever, by ignorance or neglect, by accident or irreverence, I have left undone, or have done amiss, in this unspeakably holy Sacrament, may be pardoned through thy prayers to the same our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen."

I know that I'm not worthy of Him, and that it is a blessing to be able to receive Him, even in the midst of some of what may occur during some Novus Ordo Masses. The above prayer helps me to remember my small and lowly place in things, as well as His exalted one, even in the land of the second Eucharistic Prayer.

Vince K said...

Dear Father - You say, "I would advise everybody whose local church does the Novus Ordo decently to join their fellow-Catholics in praying that Mass devoutly." By "local church" do you mean one's territorial parish or do you mean the diocese in which one resides? That is, for the non-Ordinariate attendees, would you advise one going to his or her territorial parish if the Novus Ordo is done decently over attending a parish outside one's parish boundaries in order to attend a parish that offers the Extraordinary Form (or a much more reverent Novus Ordo)?

Bernard Brandt said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke,

For most of my life, I have infested the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the U.S., where what C.S. Lewis would call 'liturgical fidget' is a veritable St. Vitus' Dance among RC clergy. During the time when I sojourned among the Romans, some ten or so years, I was present perhaps three times at a Mass where there was not one form or another of liturgical desecration. Most masses at that time were an occasion of sin for me, the sin in question being Wrath.

Thirty years ago, I began going to St. Andrew Russian Catholic Church, on the day that my parish priest, Fr. Alexei Smith, was ordained to the service of that church. I have been there ever since. It is only on occasions when RC friends have weddings or funerals or baptisms that I go to an R.C. liturgy. On those occasions, I grit my teeth and thank God for St. Andrew Church.

Seaneinn said...

Thank you father.

Currently I am unable to attend my usual church on Sunday's because of railway works and so go to the local church and to tell the truth I did not think it possible to exit a church with such feelings of to be honest and to my shame anger. I have been tempted to not go at all and it is with a sense of dread I walk to the church so thank you for your timely advice.

Take care

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father, for a very nice contribution to the needs of long-suffering faithful. Even minor abuses today (particularly, but not exclusively, in the novus ordo) can trigger repressed memories of decades of liturgical, auditory, and visual abuse -- post-traumatic stress?

When feeling particularly set upon and ungrateful I like to try to model and ask the help of the saints in Heaven, particularly those who were for long periods of time unable to go to Mass at all. To regain perspective I think of the Church in Korea, where Christians spread the faith & were martyred for 50 years without missionary priests; or the Church under persecution in any era.

Sean W. said...

I have often wondered about cases that are of such a nature that they pose a real threat to passing the faith on to one's children. By this I don't mean mere minor editorial insertions into the liturgy or occasional acts of ritual impiety, but cases of serious scandalous (borderline heretical or blasphemous) preaching by the celebrant, or liturgical abuses of such a nature as to seriously misrepresent the faith (e.g., the celebrant inviting the laity to circle the altar with hands held and to jointly "concelebrate" with him, because after all, we're all the body of Christ, etc.). It is one thing for an adult without the care of children to deliberately suffer through such a sacrilegious offering of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass for love of Our Lord, but quite another to expect an impressionable young child to do the same and also develop Catholic understandings of the faith (as well as healthy habits of piety). Surely, for people in such situations, the total absence of Mass would be difficult, but they would not be in a situation much different than Catholics in various ages of persecution, and it would be prudentially better to forego the graces of Mass than to allow it to be the vehicle by which your own children are seduced to apostasy, no?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Vince

A very good question ... about which my post was rather slippery! Briefly: I would go to an EF Mass if one were reasonably accessible; otherwise, I would do my best with the OF. I don't think anyone nowadays would be fierce with you about sticking to Parish boundaries. Here in Oxford, the Ordinariate Mass (attended by people from far outside the parish boundaries) is followed by a Portuguese Mass (ditto). In big towns like London or even Oxford, people used to travel, even before Vatican II, to churches where the ethos was more helpful to them.

I was thinking more, in my blogpost, about folk in areas where Catholic Churches are few and far between, and all of them are less edifying than one might wish!

Liam Ronan said...

It is exceedingly difficult to stand by quietly while the high priests and temple guards slap Jesus on the face, Father. Even so, the Blessed Mother and Saint John stood in silent prayer and reverence at the foot of the Cross as Jesus was so horrifically and providentially sacrificed through the agency of those same high priests.

Jacobi said...

I must say Father, that I frequently find myself irritated by things in the New Mass I normally have to attend, particularly when hearing the previous night's news repeated by the bidders (sometimes even children, which really bugs me).

That is why I (and Herself incidently?) do not always go to Holy Communion to the sometimes perceived annoyance of the shufflers who think we just blocking the pew, and are a bit odd.

“not out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect”

Then there is the handshake, but I had better not get started on that!!

Like St John XXIII, I sometimes say the Rosary.

Anonymous said...

"the Immolation of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world."
Lordy Father! Are you sure you want to say this?
This Gnostic Eternally Slain Lamb idea - rehabilitated by Hans Urs von Balthasar?
Surely some mistake?
At it's least problematic I suppose you could go down the Scotist rather than Thomist line on why God becomes man but surely not something more than that?
So what does the Greek itself say (and how should it be understood)?
καὶ προσκυνήσουσιν [k]αὐτὸν πάντες οἱ κατοικοῦντες ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, [l]οὗ οὐ γέγραπται τὸ ὄνομα [m]αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ ἀρνίου τοῦ ἐσφαγμένου ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου.
Is the 'before' a best rendering? Most translations use 'from' or 'since' to translate ἀπὸ which I guess would allow for a Scotist interpretation on why the Incarnation happens: the Incarnation expresses something of the divine nature in a more perfect way (slippery slope to Chardin's Omega Point imho but there) distinct from the Thomist view: Incarnation on view to the work of salvation as a response to sin.
Some translations have the 'before' to refer to the names of the elect inscribed in the book of life before the foundation of the world. I prefer this, but it might be less respectful of the Greek text.

Tom Broughton said...

I am not understanding what your real contention is in your commentary of today. From what you wrote, I surmise that you and many people do not prefer the Novus Ordo Mass. (I agree, too.) You also think that the second Eucharistic prayer about "send down thy spirit like the dew-fall ..." is too short and--I am guessing--trite. You think they should use the first Eucharistic prayer because that is what they are really suppose to do. Did I understand correctly?

Other than that, what is your real contention? I am trying to read between the lines, but--I am afraid--I am unable. Please clarify.



Woody said...

Dear Father, I ask this question not because I resort to the type of thinking I will mention, but because I know of others who might. The thinking of some that I have read about, anyway, if not met, is that one is excused from the Sunday obligation if it is "morally impossible" to assist at Holy Mass. I believe these folks would say that if assisting at a blatantly bad (one could say even sacrilegious, in the sense of testing God) OF Mass makes one so mad that smoke exudes from one's ears, or one's head explodes, then for that person it is morally impossible to go there. Would you please critique this line of thought for us?

Woody said...

With respect to my last comment, having briefly consulted Callan and McHugh's Moral Theology (MT), it seems that tempting God is a sin of irreligiosity, not sacrilege (cf. II MT 2305-07), while one type of sacrilege is "scandalous manner of enacting sacred rites" (II MT 2311(c)). May one suspect that the kind of man-centered liturgy one not infrequently encounters in the OF in many places perhaps qualifies as both tempting God and scandalous enacting of a sacred rite?

Anonymous said...

"Considering the graces that have been lavished on you, why are so much less holy than your fellow-worshippers to whom God has not given nearly as much?" All too true. Of course, I don't know what graces others have been given, but the undoubted fact that I have wasted and trashed so much that He has given me puts me in no position to feel superior to anyone.

Perhaps that's a little easier to remember when sitting at work, for example, listening to routine blasphemies and quietly offering some little reparation to Our Lord. Then I'm saved from feeling superior to the pagans around me when I remember that I at least claim to be a disciple and lover of the Lord, yet some friend I've been! But it is a bit harder in church when the 'feedback' from the second 'children's liturgy group' spouts neo-humanist waffle at great length and then demands applause for the little ones as they inevitably race all over the church to find their families and talk excitedly as the offertory prayers are rushed by the priest before cruising through Eucharistic Prayer 2 again.

And yet, it is undeniable that I must be the worst and most ungrateful soul in the building. Better to switch off as best I can from all the hububb and concentrate on asking the Lord for mercy as well as greater charity and patience. In fact saying the Divine Mercy chaplet is something I find helpful and appropriate at those times.

There are other parishes within driving distance and more peaceful and reverent masses which I can go to, but it isn't always possible with other commitments. I hope that trying to humbly 'offer up' the trials and frustrations of being confronted with so much that is imperfect and/or downright disobedient, ugly and wrong is somehow more salutary than being cosseted in a spiritual comfort zone all the time. Our Lady must have felt like that all her life on earth. And she probably feels like that still any time she deigns to turn her loving attention to me ...

Fr John Hunwicke said...

SEAN: I get the point about children; we had five. But they will have to meet the reality of Novus Ordo worship eventually ... best that they should do so under your tutelage; with your explanations.
TOM: "Why don't I like Prayer 2?" The problem here is that I do quite often explain what is wrong with it; but I can't explain it daily, or regular readers might get bored. This creates a problem for occasional visitors. I can only suggest that, if you really want to know, you explore my blog through the Search Engine provided.
WOODY: But, dear thing, that bit of bread which that fool of a priest is holding is the Body of Almighty God. Imagine yourself appearing before your Judge and being interrogated: "I was there; I was there for you to adore; just taking the trouble to travel to Me would have been in itself an act of adoration; but rather than adoring Me you indulged yourself your disapproval of others. I was there, the Eternal Offering, but your judgement of others interested you more".

Tom Broughton said...

Fr. Hunwicke,

What I have surmised from using the beloved search engine is that you find Eucharistic Prayer 2 to be too short to do justice to the Eucharist--and feel that this prayer was composed in a haphazard manner. I have endeavored to summarize your point of view in a pithy manner, as it should be. Did I get this right?


Fr John Hunwicke said...

No, Tom, I don't think you did.

I've put a fuller reply onto the blog, indicating some for-starters reading if you really DO want an answer ...

Tom Broughton said...

Thank you, Fr. Hunwicke. I appreciate it. I just saw your reply and am delving into your blog as I we speak to educate myself. Yes, I really do want to know. Thank you for your help.