Fifty years ago yesterday, Pope Paul VI celebrated the Mass in Italian leading to great changes in the Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. Within another four years, the Tridentine Mass of the ages was dropped and the new Mass replaced it. We know that the Tridentine Rite was developed over centuries from the first days of the Church, and the Council of Trent codified the Mass so that the Mass would be celebrated the same and preserved from the introduction of novelties.
Decree Concerning The Things To Be Observed And Avoided In The Celebration Of Mass
What great care is to be taken that the holy sacrifice of the mass be celebrated with all religious devotion and reverence, each one may easily conceive who considers that in the sacred writings he is called accursed who does the work of God negligently. And since we must confess that no other work can be performed by the faithful that is so holy and divine as this awe-inspiring mystery, wherein that life-giving victim by which we are reconciled to the Father is daily immolated on the altar by priests, it is also sufficiently clear that all effort and attention must be directed to the end that it be performed with the greatest possible interior cleanness and purity of heart and exterior evidence of devotion and piety. Therefore, since either through the depravity of the times or through the indifference and corruption of men many things seem already to have crept in that are foreign to the dignity of so great a sacrifice, in order that the honor and worship due to it may for the glory of God and the edification of the faithful be restored, the holy council decrees that the local ordinaries shall be zealously concerned and be bound to prohibit and abolish all those things which either covetousness, which is a serving of idols, or irreverence, which can scarcely be separated from ungodliness, or superstition, a false imitation of true piety, have introduced.
. . .
Furthermore, they shall permit no one who is publicly and notoriously wicked either to minister at the altar or to be present at the sacred services; nor suffer the holy sacrifice to be celebrated by any seculars and regulars whatsoever in private houses or entirely outside the church and the oratories dedicated solely to divine worship and to be designated and visited by the same ordinaries; or unless those present have first shown by their outward disposition and appearance that they are there not in body only but also in mind and devout affection of heart. They shall also banish from the churches all such music which, whether by the organ or in the singing, contains things that are lascivious or impure; likewise all worldly conduct, vain and profane conversations, wandering around, noise and clamor, so that the house of God may be seen to be and may be truly called a house of prayer.
Finally, that no room may be given to superstition, they shall by ordinance and prescribed penalties provide that priests do not celebrate at other than proper hours; or make use of rites or ceremonies and prayers in the celebration of masses other than those that have been approved by the Church and have been received through frequent and praiseworthy usage. They shall completely banish from the Church the practice of any fixed number of masses and candles, which has its origin in superstitious worship rather than in true religion; and they shall instruct the people as to what the very precious and heavenly fruit of this most holy sacrifice is and whence especially it is derived. They shall also admonish their people to go frequently to their own parish churches, at least on Sundays and the greater feast days. All these things, therefore, which have been summarily enumerated, are in such wise set before all local ordinaries, that by the authority given them by this holy council, and also as delegates of the Apostolic See, they may prohibit, command, reform and establish not only the things aforesaid but also whatsoever else shall seem to them to be connected therewith; and they may by ecclesiastical censures and other penalties, which in their judgment they may impose, compel the faithful to observe them inviolately; any privileges, exemptions, appeals and customs to the contrary notwithstanding.
Now, think about what goes on in your own Novus Ordo parish at Mass every Sunday after reading the foregoing. Do people know what’s happening at the Mass? Of course not, except they’re supposed to “feel good” or something, and get the cookie. Are people quiet? Hah! Are they reverential? Ha! HA! Are they instructed “as to what the very precious and heavenly fruit of this most holy sacrifice is and whence especially it is derived”? HA! HA! HA! Are those who are publicly and notoriously wicked forbidden to be at the sacred mysteries? HA! HA! HA! HA!
So what has happened that has relegated these decisions of the Council of Trent to a forgotten closet? Well, the Second Vatican Council, which unleashed in the Church the Spirit of ’68, and the “Spirit of Vatican II” that infected the new Mass that was foisted and forced onto the Catholic world happened, combined with the actual prohibition of the Tridentine Rite for nearly thirty years, until it was reluctantly permitted again by Pope John Paul II and then everywhere and without permission necessary by Pope Benedict XVI.
We all live with the fruits of the Spirit of ’68 and the Spirit of Vatican II. The main experience is the liturgy, at times very much infected by the Spirit of ’68 and the Spirit of Vatican II. This new Mass is what I was raised on, even though in my toddler years the Tridentine Rite was the Mass, but my memories are vague of those days. In fact, what I most recall was my father taking me to the vestibule to watch the Mass through glass, I guess because I was getting too vocal. But I do remember the new Mass being introduced. I remember that new Mass then being changed. I remember versions of the prayers being one that I had even memorized and those prayers then being changed. I remember going from kneeling at the Communion rail to standing in line, and being instructed by the Dominican nuns that taught us at school how to take the Eucharist in our hand and feed ourselves. I also distinctly remember being taught how we were to offer the sign of peace. I remember the sudden appearance in the sanctuary of the guitar ensembles strumming the “hymns” and “Kumbaya” unfortunately all too well. I also remember being truly horrified and disgusted particularly with that “folk Mass”, and I was only nine or ten years old. In fact, as an altar boy, I refused to serve at any “folk” Mass, emphatically. I remember learning and singing hymns in Latin and then those hymns being forgotten and replaced by “contemporary” “songs” that just were no more appealing than the bubble-gum music on the radio, and usually much less so.
I also remember that the Church was full, for several Masses every Sunday. My parish had the original small Church and the new much larger Church and Mass was held in both at the same time for at least three Masses on Sunday. Then, as 1980 approached, the pews became emptier. The message I and others actually received was that all this was not really important, and probably not even true. When I was younger, I was a real believer, but by the time I turned sixteen, I felt that I had been duped. Within a year, I left, partly out of disgust with all the changes that robbed me, I believed, of my beautiful Church life and Faith, and partly because I pursued the promises of the world. As a spectator, it all became so much worse as I kept hearing the social justice denouements from Church prelates, priests and nuns and rarely the real Faith. I watched nuns toss aside their habits, priests their collars, watched them march in anti-nuclear and gay parades and became more convinced that the Faith was really a bunch of BS, and said as much to myself and others. I kept hearing of priests I knew who left the priesthood, this one married now, this one driving a taxi, this one a faggot, and heard of many more such priests everywhere. I kept hearing how nuns “left”, actually abandoned, the schools they used to teach in for doing whatever they were doing which struck me as having nothing to do with the Church. I kept hearing how nuns were leaving their orders and how there were every year less and less of them.
I also know that during these years, bishops and cardinals got less and less respect from Catholics and from the secular world. I also rarely heard the Faith expressed by them, because I looked. I saw them repeatedly allow publicly vocal proponents of abortion welcomed at Mass and given Communion. Even though I wasn’t practicing the faith anymore, it seems that I was quietly yearning and hoping that I would hear again the real Faith that I thought I had known when I was younger. I often think that my own life would have been much different, much better, if I had the certainty of the Faith and would have had a much more difficult time walking away when I was coming of age. I wonder what might have happened if I had heard regular and forceful articulation and defense of the Faith. But I didn’t.
As the ’80s unfolded, I learned of real goofiness and outrageous things happening at Mass, which drove many of my friends out of the Church. It didn’t seem right because it wasn’t. Yet, it was permitted and continued. It got to the point that I didn’t even want to go to Mass for family things anymore, nor for even the holidays with the family.
Then the ’90s came, and with that time came the first stories of priests preying on adolescent young men, of more and more priests announcing that they were “gay”, and the brutal jokes made about priests in general. Even though I wasn’t practicing, I was married in the Church. The priest who celebrated our Mass left a few years later. We heard he was “questioning his sexuality” and I didn’t want to know any more. When my daughter was born, our first, we had to attend a baptism class for a couple of nights. The priest who conducted the class was a limp-wristed, full blown queer, who exuded more feminine qualities than many of the women in the room. He was pathetic and a reason I wouldn’t go to Mass with my wife and new baby; even though I didn’t think I had any faith then, I might have gone to Mass just for them, but he was such a turn-off and epitomized the Church that I refused to go to be exposed to that. It was maddening that the Church would tolerate this and put this type of man into the priesthood, and it was so sad that this continued knowing how many young men had been assaulted by men like that. But the Church didn’t do anything other than to encourage more of this. This is not a way to get men to come back to Mass, let alone the Faith. Three years later when my son was born, that priest was gone, but I still was not coming back.
Then the 2000s dawned and the news exploded with the pederasty practiced it seemed on a wide scale. I thought I would never come back, and I was truly disgusted to the point of nausea. I recall even thinking back to my own days as an altar boy and just being thankful that the priests I was with had never done anything to me or anyone else I knew. How crazy is it that in those days I thought I was one of the lucky few, the stories were so prevalent.
Yet, in the darkest hour of the Church in my lifetime, I was given the gift of Faith, and brought back to the Church. Go figure! Yet, that combined with the fact that I got my call when I wasn’t deathly ill or in dire straits or suffering any trauma told me that I hadn’t imagined my experience of instantaneously being given to know that God is real and He was with me when he touched me.
Nevertheless, no one can deny that over those decades, the Church has become less and less relevant to Catholics and less so to the secular world. There are too few priests and very few religious brothers and sisters, and even less that actually show themselves to be brothers and sisters, except by their haircuts or sensible shoes. The Mass has seen all kinds of craziness, with puppets, priests dressed as clowns, then-Archbishop of Milwaukee Dolan wearing a cheese hat for the football team (being so relevant!), nun-administered “parishes” with priestless “communion services”, heretical writings by priests, bishops, cardinals, theologians and laity, and all with fewer and fewer Catholics bothering to join them in the pews, and bishop after bishop lauding those who are opposed to the dogmas of the Faith, and persecuting those who defend the Faith.
It is impossible for me to ignore the glaring link between these things, these dire problems, and the introduction and implementation of the new Mass. The link is much more real than the man-made “global warming” claims of so-called scientists that the pope would have us adopt as Catholic priorities and concerns. The time-honored maxim of “lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi” has been proven to be a very true maxim.
I’m not condemning the new Mass. It is my Mass nearly every Sunday and I know it is true worship when done reverentially. I know some may argue with that, but I was brought back and this is the Mass that I was brought back to, not by me, but by God. However, there are some points in the Mass where I know instinctively and intuitively that it is contrived, and inauthentic. It seems to me that the Mass is a hybrid of right worship and accretions of man-centered self-worship. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe God is not pleased with that and so we see and live the bad changes that have occurred to the Church, within the Church, and to each of us who have to suffer through this.
So, as this fiftieth anniversary has arrived, I have to wonder if this is a cause of celebration or if it a cause of reflection and profound penance for what we have wrought. My conclusion is that the Church needs to go back to drawing board and reorient the Mass toward the worship of God, to making the priority the sacrifice of Jesus, to get rid of the forced, inauthentic prayers, which are really explanations for us in the pews rather than true prayers, bring reverence back to the reception of Holy Communion by prohibiting reception in the hand and administering Communion to kneeling communicants, and prohibiting bubble-gum songs masquerading as hymns. Another bold but necessary gesture needed is to prohibit forcefully and even bodily any Catholic who defies Church dogmas from Holy Communion, by name if necessary. Finally, get rid of the whole hoard of “Eucharistic Ministers”!
Of course, others have their opinion of what the fiftieth celebration ought to be, and what changes are necessary to get back to a completely authentic and true worship of God. That fact alone tells us all that this anniversary is nothing to be celebrated but an anniversary to be mourned. It is also an opportunity to focus attention on what needs to be done to help fix the Church and which will then help fix the world.