This is No Way to Start Off a New Year: Liturgical Rant

Mark Shea addresses the perennial question: Should I parish shop? He answers exactly how I would answer and have answered. Then comes a bunch of comments. One no doubt well intentioned comment made by someone no doubt holier than me set me off:

Perhaps the reader in question doesn’t like the worship style in general… it seems like it is a more contemporary worship style geared toward young adults and they want a more old school worship style.

LA Cathedral tabernacle
What might this be? the unwary will ask. If we search deep within ourselves, shutting out all sources of confusion such as logic, precedent, tradition and common sense, and, most important, have a student of modern art explain to us what it means in a post colonial multicultural Dali-esque ironically deconstructed world, we could see, if we weren’t such reactionary fuddy-duddies, that it’s a tabernacle. Oh.

What I wrote, but thought better of posting it there, so I post it here:

Just as an aside: this ‘geared toward young adults’ stuff is nonsense: If I wanted to see a Mass full of young adults (and their plentiful children) I’d go to a local EF mass. The so-called ‘contemporary’ masses around here are mostly run by and for elderly hippies and wannabe musicians who couldn’t get a gig playing for free at a coffee shop.

Sorry if this seems overly strident, I know you’re only saying what is always said and what we’ve always heard, but can’t we please leave the ’60’s behind and just look around? I don’t know 2 people I went to high school with in the ’70s that still attend Mass, even though we were the first cohort at whom the updated mass and religious education were aimed. Up to about 10 years ago, it only got worse: the more ‘contemporary’ the Mass and education, the less likely you were to see very many young adults involved. University parishes mask this fact by having an almost exclusively young adult population to draw from. What happens to those folks when they go back home? Statistics suggest few of them attend Mass much.

But all is not lost, because God truly is leading this church. Now, I sometimes find young people steeped in contemporary liturgy yet full of devotion, but totally indifferent to Baby Boomer me-ism. An example I saw this summer was the contemporary music group at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in St. Louis – young people with talent, enthusiasm, and spirit – and no discernible musical taste whatsoever – beautifully singing songs that were clearly intended to praise God. And the very young priest celebrated Mass like he really meant it. Was the music artistically atrocious? Yes. Was the Mass holy, reverent and directed toward God? Yes! The dynamic in such a parish is clearly pushing toward better liturgy, especially as the Boomers die off and take their bitter self-absorption with them.

I love the Ordinary Form. 95% of the masses I attend are OF. It’s not the form itself that is the problem. If priests and liturgists (like educators, a class of being that didn’t exist until the Unfolding Spirit required them. Or something.) would, you know, do the red and read the black, most simply liturgical issues would vanish. If they were to spend some time understanding the historical context of what they are doing, it would address many of the other issues.

Of course, only holiness really matters. Liturgy that springs from a holy desire to honor and serve God is what we’re after, no matter what the artistic merits. But holiness is humble. Nothing is more humble than simply doing what you’re told.

My young adult son told me he likes the EF because he knows nobody will be goofing around at a EF Mass. Out of the mouth of young adult babes.

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

4 thoughts on “This is No Way to Start Off a New Year: Liturgical Rant”

  1. This is very well-said. To my mind, if everyone would simply read Sacrosanctum Concilliam to understand what the Council Fathers were really after when they reformed the liturgy, and then just did what they’re told, we would have no problems at all, and I’d be very happily back at an OF parish…

    But, round these parts, the EF is the only place I’ve found where I know people won’t be “goofing around”, as your son said…

    1. I’m lucky – well, blessed: There’s an OF Gregorian chant mass down near Stanford, CA, that one can count on to be goofing around free (and to have great music – http://www.stannchoir.org/). And St. Margaret Mary’s in Oakland, CA, does OF, OF in Latin, and EF – always nice no matter what form, and lots of kids.

      Other than that, I tend to go to Mass at a big, happy parish where the goofing around is mitigated by the enthusiasm and crowd size. As I get older, it means more to me to just see a lot of people attending Mass and seem happy about it. That’s a great comfort, outweighing the sometimes painful extemporizing and putzing around.

  2. I wish you’d have a talk with our music director. Our otherwise reverent parish has a “Youth Mass” a couple times a year. It is gosh awful, and I can’t think of anything more sure to convince kids that the Church is out-of-touch and irrelevant. It’s all very aggravating.

    No extraordinary form around here. We’re in central Virginia – we’re lucky we have Mass at all.

    1. Perhaps this helps you appreciate Mass more, dunno. But it is nice to have 3 parishes within 3 miles, and probably 10-12 within 10. And this is worst I’ve had it as an adult: San Francisco & Berkeley (!) have lots of Catholic churches in them.

      The downside: that’s about the only positives of living in those places for a Catholic (and the great bishops we’ve had for the last decade or so.)

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