25 May 2021

Letter to an ORDINANDUS

Dear soon-to-be Father 

As we approach the traditional date of the Trinity-tide ordinations, when I myself received the gifts of Diaconia and of Sacerdotium, I cannot help hoping soon to receive a First Blessing from you. In spirit, I kneel and kiss your anointed hands. In a spirit of immense humility, I offer you my congratulations, and beg the charity of your Reverence's prayers and Masses.

May I offer you just the humblest smidgeon of priestly experience?

A brother priest in the Ordinariate once found himself lending a hand in a 'diocesan' parish. Since they did not always have a handy priest around, on most weekday evenings there was a service of the Word followed by Holy Communion from the Tabernacle, all done by layfolk. Naturally (if naively) this priest did the decent thing and offered the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them during the period he was there. The very touching gratitude of the entire parish community for this daily privilege ...

Gratitude be d****d! There was uproar! How outrageous that he should arrogantly impose 'his' Mass on them! He was depriving X, Y, and Z of their own particular ministries ... the charisms they had exercised for years! Clericalism!! Self-aggrandisement!!! The horrible man should have stayed in the Church of England!!!!

Dom Gregory Dix criticised the old Anglican 'Prayer Book Catholic' practice, particularly common in Cathedrals, whereby, after Cranmer's rather truncated 'Prayer of Consecration', the Agnus Dei was immediately sung. Dix's complaint was that this made it look as if the only purpose of Consecration was to confect the Eucharistic Presence*. This resulted in the people ... or the best learners among them ... cottoning on to the Real Presence of the Lord in His true Body and Blood ... but having very little awareness that the Eucharist is a ... no; not a but the ... sacrifice.

I wonder if we now have a very similar problem, lack of awareness of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in the Catholic Church. And, if we do, I blame it upon the last half century; upon the almost universal use, within a dumbed-down ritual ambience, of the pseudo-Hippolytan-dewfall-Botte-Bouyer "we-made-it-up-at-a-trattoria-in-the-Trastevere" "shall-we-order-another-bottle?" Eucharistic-Prayer.

Are most modern Catholics aware that at the altar they are present at the august sacrifice of Christ himself at Calvary and within eternity? Has anybody explained to them that at Mass heaven and earth are made one and our altar is united with the altar of the Lamb slain in sacrifice before all the ages? Do they understand that at the Consecration their church is filled with the adoring and wondering hosts of Angels and Archangels and the whole company of Christ's Church?

Happily, the Catholic Church now has yourself and a splendid young generation of seminarians and newly-ordained priests coming through the system. Men who understand what Christ's Priesthood is, because they understand what His Oblation is. 

And here is the advice which, very humbly, and diffidently, I presume to offer you.

Don't assume that when you've explained things once, you've done it. However well you put it! Layfolk don't assimilate things the first time they hear them. They even sometimes assume (if it's something they haven't heard before) that they can't really be hearing what you seem to be saying. (A typesetter once, in kindly good faith, seeing "Sacrifice of the Eucharist" in a piece I had drafted, took it be a typo for "Sacrament of the Eucharist" and 'corrected' it for me!) 

You just have to keep on dishing out the same truths ... of course, in different ways and in different words ... year after year. And even then, only a minority of them will get it. Honest. 

Your task, of building up again the ruined places, will still be barely started when your ministry comes to its end.

In Domino

John indignus sacerdos

*In fact, precisely this point had been made earlier, in 1933, in a book entitled This our sacrifice, written by my distinguished predecessor at S Thomas the Martyr, Oxford, Dr Trevor Jalland. I owe my possession of this elegant and erudite work to my friend and benefactor Professor William Tighe. A sign of degenerate times: it had been sold off by the library of Selwyn College, Cambridge.


vetusta ecclesia said...

I am sure you are right here, Father. For the majority o Catholics today the point of Mass is communion, and to a lesser extent, the Pax

John Patrick said...

It's too bad that during the recent "pandemic" dioceses and parishes didn't use this as an opportunity to hold masses without communion of the people, thus providing an opportunity to preach on the real purpose of assisting at Mass.

I have heard that in the "good old days" at the High Mass at many parishes the people didn't communicate, partly because they were usually later in the day and back then you had the fast starting at midnight, which would have been hard for many.

Gillineau said...

Have you seen the piece on RC about SP, and it's mooted restriction? What'd this do for the Ordinariate?

I think we're in the middle of [a] schism. Oh, and a Reformation. (This is good though. We can now answer that question, which has preoccupied Catholics for a while: Why were so few bishops persecuted by Henry and his issue? Look around you!)

E sapelion said...

Lest the ignorant suppose that Botte and Bouyer thought EPII a good idea, I point to Bouyer's account of events. The proposal before the committee was for something closely akin to pseudo-Hippolytus, lacking the Sanctus and lacking any clear suggestion in the epiclesis of the transformation of this bread and wine which we receive. When Botte and Bouyer objected they were told that if they came back next morning with an alternative EP of this type, it would be considered. Bouyer's own description is that he managed to cobble together* something from historical texts, which he could justify, and which he and Botte polished up in the trattoria before the meeting.
* I don't know what the original French is, I only have a translation of the Memoirs.

Compton Pauncefoot said...

I find it so hard in these wretched times to be obliged to take the Sacrament in the hand.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Ministries!!

The Bride was the Vice President of a local non-profit and she specialised in getting the homeless off the streets, into apartments, into treatment and eventually jobs and self-sufficency.

One of the "Ministers' of a local Parish complied to her boss that owing to her success they were losing their ministry of bringing sammiches to the homeless.

No, not kidding....

Tom said...

What about the "Prayer Book Englishing" of the Novus Ordo Presentation and Eucharist Prayer II for use on weekdays in the Ordinariate's Divine Worship: The Mass instead of the "Anglican Missal style Englishing" Offertory and Roman Canon for Sundays and major feast days?

Banshee said...

It's not just laypeople, or stuff in the Church. The usual advice for teaching people is: tell people what you're going to say, say it, and then recap what you said.

It's also the normal advice for astonishing plot twists in novels: foreshadow it, then do it, then explain it.

You wouldn't think it would work that way, but it does. And people are a lot happier if you do it that way.

And yes, following up on a point is very good stuff, because then it sinks in. Sometimes it's very hard to consciously remember even a very good homily/sermon, because there's a lot going on, and it's Sunday morning and we're not terribly awake.

Following up a point, and talking about it in different ways, provides more places to tie the point into our brains. And if it's really "new," or at least has not been explicitly explained in someone's lifetime (which is quite possible for most middle-aged and young Catholics, unless they watch EWTN, etc.), we will need a lot of explanations.

Now, if you can tie it into what we already know, and show the synthesis so that we can see that we really have known it all along, on some level, it won't seem "new." It will just seem like an expansion, and we will feel very enriched and smart to understand that. And then people won't dig in their heels so much.

Banshee said...

Re: generously helping out --

Look... any group of Catholics who lived through the Seventies, Eighties, Nineties, etc. is going to be highly allergic to sudden change from above. Because Catholics went through a lot of whiplash, without explanations, and because a lot of sudden changes on the parish level turned out to have been done by people up to no good. My childhood parish got a new church without hardly any consultation by the pastor, and it was not good, and about half the parishioners ended up going elsewhere because they were so torqued off about not being asked.

So although I don't want any priest to get bogged down in Parish Council slowness of decision, I think people really want to get some kind of way to talk about these things. Also, some people really tie their devotional lives to their "parish ministries," so it's not kind to yank them around without warning or compensating activities.

I think it's usually daily Mass in the morning, and Liturgy of the Hours in the evening. If you combined Mass with Vespers or whatever it's called, I assume everybody who was used to doing the Liturgy of the Word without a priest would have plenty to do. But I don't know; I wasn't there.

Honestly, some laypeople you couldn't stuff into an alb unless it was forced, but other laypeople are just panting to wear albs and pendants and to lead from the ambo. I don't get it myself.