Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Liturgical Rubrics? So What?

November 21st, 2010, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

Due to a sickness in the family and other time constraints, I was not able to attend OLV or the TLM at St. Stan’s this Sunday. Instead I went to a large local parish and did my best to focus on the Real Presence of our Lord. I also did my best not to dwell on certain observations I made during the mass, but instead left such reflections until afterward.  One connection that seemed apparent to me is a passage I recently read from Fr. Callan’s StudentBaker Corporation.

They [Monsignor Hogan and Fr. Hohman] taught us that the happier the community, the fewer the restrictions needed, because internal happiness would anchor the members to the community and call them back when they stray. If a community is not happy and not rooted in prayerfulness, even a multiplicity of rules wouldn’t be able to hold it together. I began to suspect that if a parish celebrated holy, inspiring, and joyful liturgies which compelled people to go out and heal the world, it wouldn’t have to rely on external rules to hold it together. [p26]

Reading this book is like having a copy of the opponent’s playbook [see note below].  Fr. Callan gives voice to the mindset that many of our diocesan leaders adhere to, but don’t have the guts to verbalize.  I truly believe this is where the major disconnect is.   We can point out the numerous liturgical abuses in parishes, but for the most part people will respond with a big fat, “so what?”  The mindset is that liturgical rubrics don’t really matter.  They are just an example script that you are free to stray from when you see fit.  I don’t know that I have a great rebuttal to that at the moment.  Sometimes it just seems so obvious that it’s hard to present your case.  As a convert from protestantism, it is obvious to me why liturgical norms are necessary – otherwise you’ll end up with 30,000 different styles of worship and 30,000 different theologies.  But perhaps we need a better, more thorough explanation.  Anyone know any good books/articles explaining why liturgical rubrics matter?

And now to the actual unsettling observations (and I’m far from a liturgy expert – I’m sure there were more ):

  • lector walked by the altar several times w/out stopping to bow
  • no one bowed during the creed
  • few, if any, bowed before receiving communion
  • glass vessels were used
  • many more than necessary EMHC used and labeled as “communion ministers”
  • the music selection (not saying the musicians themselves were bad) sounded like a mix between show tunes and Romper Room
  • lots of noisy kids.  I have 2 young kids – believe me, I know it’s a balance and I know it’s not easy.  OLV spoils us with how extraordinarily silent it is given the number of small kids in attendance.  But when your baby is yelling in people’s faces during the consecration, I think everyone can agree you should take them to the back.

That said, I don’t think any of this wasn’t based on bad intentions.  I’m sure people can give lots of reasons defending the above bullet points.  And that’s where the ultimate question comes in – when is it acceptable to bend or break liturgical norms?  I will add that the parish seems like they’ve got a good community thing going on and the people seemed friendly.  The homily was also pretty good.  Not as good as this, but good nonetheless.  All in all, I will say it was basically a protestant service that happened to have the Real Presence of Christ.  I understand the enormity of difference in that fact alone, but there are many more riches that Catholicism has to offer.  We should also act like Christ is really, truly present in the Eucharist.  The casualness and lack of solemnity really makes you wonder how many people think, “sure (wink, wink) I believe this is Christ’s body and no longer bread (wink, wink).”  We must show we believe in the Real Presence not just in our words, but in our actions.  Where is the sense of the sacred?  Where is the sense that something special is going on at mass?  Where is the sense of the transcendence of God?  Honestly, you could go to many protestant services and observe nearly the same service.

[note: people are not our opponents – Satan and his demons are.  They have infiltrated the Church and we are witnessing the results.  They have warped the minds of many.  No one is beyond God’s call, though.  Pray that our priests listen and take to heart the words and actions of our current Holy Father.]

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13 Responses to “Liturgical Rubrics? So What?”

  1. avatar Dr. K says:

    Most of the east side parishes are cesspools of casualness and liturgical irregularity. Holy Spirit may be the lone exception.

  2. avatar Monk says:

    The DoR wants a protestant church. Many/most of the Catholic churches in the diocese have services that are protestant in nature. There has been a concerted effort over the past 30 years to strip the Catholic faith from this diocese. Make us all protestants, this is the DoR’s version of evangelization. It really is the devil’s attack on the one true Church.

  3. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Its an ongoing cross to bear. I go to OLV almost half the time and its so peaceful and it feels like a real Mass. Other times its other parishes and I have to remind myself that this IS a real Mass, too, even though… you know.

    When I first converted [2000] it was SO painful to see Catholics pretending to be Protestant but instead just being really bad Catholics AND really bad Protestants. The casual crossing in front of the altar – not just the Eucharistic ministers but the Priests and Deacons and everybody – always jarred me, too, as well as the big happy band of proud-to-be-up-there “Eucharisic Ministers!” (my friend says it always looks they’re like having a big private party at the altar before Communion). Then there are the strident hand-grabbers – have you ever had that happen to you at Mass?? People GRABBING your hand – already folded in prayer – for the Our Father?? That happened to me TWICE!

    But its not their fault, its our Diocese’s fault. I truly believe that with new leadership MOST people (not ALL; not the diehard “elite” that wants to run things their way) will gratefully become reverent under the coming revival. 🙂 I have great hope in that.

    The first time someone grabbed my hand, God gave me the grace to think clearly and quickly. I realized it would be more distracting to her and to others to pull my hand back, so I let the bold woman continue to hold it for the Our Father, and then I greeted her graciously (as if I had not been offended) during the big “Meet-n’Greet” (or whatever they call that gabby hand-wringing interruption in the middle of Mass). Next Mass and thereafter I would return to my normal habit. If it turned out to be a regular occurance I’d have to come up with a different tact, I told myself. But it only happened once more and then I had my plan. 🙂

    I wonder if any of the displaced St. Thomas parishoners are experiencing this one?

    I would advise them to do the same. And just be gracious and friendly and accepting of persons in order to override the TAUGHT sentiment that if you are practicing reverential behavior its because you think you are better than others. Show that, instead, its because of Jesus, and because the Mass is a Pearl of Great Price. I truly believe that by being reverent to the Mass AND friendly to people we are evangelizing the flock. Because these people are for the most part ignorant to Catholicism through no fault of their own. AND they have been continually INSTIGATED by the DOR Elitist Leaders to label those who don’t hold hands, and those who kneel at different times, or those who take communion by mouth as being, without exception: rigid, unfriendly, judgemental and uptight folk.

    And when we follow the ordinary norms of reverance at Mass (even though its dis-ordinary in the DOR), in that whole congregation there probably is at least ONE person for whom our behavior plants a thought: “Maybe this Mass has more significace that I realize”. I feel sure of it because we act in Truth and the Word does not go out without bearing fruit. So we can be confident a seed is planted somewhere and that therefore we are truly evangelizing – no matter if we don’t ever get to see the green plants.

    So next time you can’t go to one of the rare reverent Masses here, you can consider it your “Mission Sunday”. 🙂

  4. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Monk wrote: “The DoR wants a protestant church. Many/most of the Catholic churches in the diocese have services that are protestant in nature. There has been a concerted effort over the past 30 years to strip the Catholic faith from this diocese. Make us all protestants, this is the DoR’s version of evangelization. It really is the devil’s attack on the one true Church.”

    I think you must be absolutely right. I remember, soon after I converted, complaining to a Deacon or a Priest how Catholics were trying to be Protestant and I’ll never forget how quickly and with what zealous conviction he retorted, “We Catholics can learn a LOT from the Protestants!” I was speechless. He knew he was standing there talking to one whom had been a very devout, involved Protestant until only recently, and he had no curiousity about my concern. So I didn’t know how to answer. But now having reflected, I know I would answer that Catholics will ALWYAYS make bad Protestants and the result will ALWAYS be weak and ineffectual. It may be the devils dream but the evil one will never succeed. He has had his heyday with that but I think tide is changing.

    And when it turns, the undertow will be strong – and the elitist liturgists will be out to sea!

  5. avatar Choirloft says:

    Ben – A good book I found is “Work of Human Hands”. You can find it here http://www.philotheapress.com/store/work-of-human-hands/

  6. avatar Monk says:

    Eliza10,
    I once attended a Sunday Lutheran service. Being a cradle Catholic, I had never even been in any Protestant church before. I was surprised to find how similar their service was to our Catholic Mass (at least how it is carried out in the DoR). The general sequence of events, opening prayer, penitential prayer, readings, the general flow and tone of the service was very familiar to me. The BIG exception came when they skipped from the homily right to the Lord’s prayer. There was no consecration! Of course! If the devil was going to strip one event from the Mass, it would be the consecration and that is exactly what was missing! This really opened my eyes to what they had lost and what was truly precious to me – the Eucharist the source and summit of our faith! When I attend Mass at many of the Catholic churches in the DoR, it is scary how they are inching towards that experience I had in the Lutheran church. Oh, I forgot to add that the minister was a woman. When I see our priests surrounded by woman on the altar and running our parishes, I get more concerned.

  7. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Well it is concerning but I don’t think it will last. It can’t. Its weak, it stands on nothing. Like Gen said in another post, these people lack joy! They may revel in being in charge now, but when the Holy Spirit brings revival, the people will deamnd the real thing, and real reverence. And they will be washed out.

  8. avatar Monk says:

    Eliza10
    You are so right! Thank you for your hopeful comments.

  9. avatar Vox Clara says:

    Why are the rubrics so important? There are many answers and I don’t propose to deliver them all, but here are a few thoughts that came to mind quickly:
    1. Like you said, without them there is not unity. People won’t stick to norms that aren’t prescribed. You wouldn’t recognize the Catholic Mass as a distinct entity if it wasn’t kept in honor and preserved carefully.
    2. Sacred Tradition. The liturgy developed organically; diverse ruptures jeopardize that unity.
    3. The rubrics are sooo rooted in scripture! To play with the words is, in many cases, to twist the words of Christ!
    4. Reverence. If our churches are not treated as places of prayer, they will become social clubs and/or close. We must acknowledge Christ’s presence and learn to behave like we are in the presence of a king, the King.
    5. Holiness. To be holy is to be set apart. How many different rites traditionally design their churches to model this concept? The sanctuary is a place apart and the ordained priest has been called by God to be a man apart. This does not mean that a priest is not humble and it does not mean that he should remain in any way aloof. It does mean that he has a role that the rest of us do not.
    6. Reverence. Is so base a material as gold worthy to hold the precious blood of Christ? If not, then glass is so much the worse!

  10. avatar snowshoes says:

    Excellent string. It breaks my heart to hear the Creed mis-stated with the omission of “men” in “for us men”. I pray it heartily when I visit a Rochester Sunday Mass, most times I get a solo, sadly…

    And once in a while whoever reads the readings also makes them politically correct, which would be a mortal sin were the lector to realize it is serious matter. Our Lord referred to not changing a jot or a tittle of the law. He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Loving obedience to the prescriptions of the GIRM shows love to God, and to our Holy Father, and to our bishop and priests, and to everybody. Disobeying them shows a lack of love of the whole lot, and to us. This is the sad part, those who are truly bamboozled by all this think they are being loving, when in truth it’s coming across loud and clear that they do not love God OR us. (God have mercy on those who know what they’re doing.)

    Dr. Scott Hahn’s book on the Mass, The Lamb’s Supper, I think, gives a unique look at the meaning of the Mass as the divine liturgy presented here on earth, as in the book of the Apocalypse, and then of course to go to the source, you may consult the code of Canon Law.

  11. avatar Anonymous says:

    I go to OLV almost half the time and its so peaceful and it feels like a real Mass.

    We have started attending OLV and/or the Latin Mass at St. Stanislaus. One weekend when we found ourselves at our “home” parish, my third grader turned to me and said, “I really prefer the Catholic Mass. You know, where we kneel at the railing for Communion and all…” I would guess that her first choice would be Latin Mass (especially the high Mass) followed closely by OLV. If a little kid can figure it out, why can’t all these crazy priests and nuns and wayward lay people???

  12. Fr. Paul Scalia wrote a great piece on the importance of liturgical norms called “Beyond Rubricism”:

    http://www.adoremus.org/299Scalia.html

  13. avatar benanderson says:

    Thanks, Rich. I just ordered the book.


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