Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Chalk It Up To Whimsy, I Suppose

July 22nd, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

A short while ago, we posted several clips from the recent Requiem Mass for Otto von Hapsburg, a Mass celebrated in the Ordinary Form (i.e. Novus Ordo), but done so according to all the norms provided by the liturgy documents. There was not one potentially-illicit aspect of the Mass, because it was offered in a spirit of humility and obedience. Someone once told me, perhaps it was even a commenter here, that “if a priest cannot be obedient to the Mass, he cannot be expected to be obedient to anything or anyone else.”

So, naturally, this made me start thinking about the whole liturgy debate. I have a love for good liturgy, no matter what Rite or what Form, just so long as it is offered for the greater glory of God. And, evidently, Cardinal Schönborn does as well. But before we go any further, let’s just look at the following two clips and discern which one reflects the timelessness of the Mass and the splendor of the Heavenly worship of God by the saints and angels:

2011 Requiem Mass for Otto von Habusburg:

2008 Youth Mass:

I should point out a few things for the sake of fairness. Perhaps the Cardinal was somewhat forced to do the latter Mass, not informed before-hand as to what it would entail. And, in addition to this, at least the young people were attentive and engaged at the Mass . . .
But guess what, folks? It’s still wildly inappropriate. Contrary to what some diocesan middle-school religion teachers tell their students, the Mass is a re-enactment of the sacrifice of Calvary, as made possible and whole by Our Lord’s Resurrection the following Sunday. It is not a celebration of the empty tomb. It is not a celebration of the community. It is not a celebration of diversity. It is a holy sacrifice, a celebration, which is intimately united with the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Son of God. Okay, great, the young people were in church (sorry, I mean “worship space,”) and participated in the Mass. Do you think that any one of them actually realized that? I can just imagine one of these teens coming home and saying to his mother, “Hey, mom, I went to this awesome concert last night, but OMG, some really retro old guy was talking to a piece of bread – the dude held up the concert for like 5 minutes! . . . Oh, that was Mass? Are you sure? SNAP! I’m set till Christmas then!”

All kidding aside, these two Masses demonstrate what is wrong with the Church at the moment. You have people reading the documents of Vatican II and interpreting them how they themselves would have them interpreted. But these things are not up for “interpretation,” but instead, are to be implemented without bias. Dove-tailing with Bernie’s recent post about “Before and After,” I must say that even though the second video, the Youth Mass, is what appears to be in the “Spirit of Vatican II,” the former video, the Habusburg Requiem, is more in keeping, nay, is almost perfectly in keeping, with the true Spirit of Vatican II. It looks older and feels older because, guess what – it’s supposed to. The Mass is not supposed to be something socially-relevant to every successive generation, but something timeless which transcends and binds them all together.

One final thought, if you’ll indulge me: as I re-watched both of these videos, I was struck by a line from “A Man for All Seasons” which was spoken by Thomas More about his soon-to-be son-in-law Will Roper. Like the Cardinal, he had the right overarching idea, but his approach to achieving and perfecting it was always changing, and changing dynamically, at that. When Roper asks for the hand of More’s daughter in marriage, More refuses on the grounds that Roper is a heretic (which, at that moment, he was). However, he tacks on this statement which has a great deal of relevance to this post about these two approaches to the “Spirit of Vatican II”:

“We must just  pray that, when your head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.”

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11 Responses to “Chalk It Up To Whimsy, I Suppose”

  1. Richard Thomas says:

    There’s another line i love from “A Man for All Seasons”. Henry is telling Thomas Morore he , Henry is the lion. People support him because they are the Jackels, implying the feed off of Henry’s conquests and gains.

    Boy, now does that ring a bell in the DOR!

  2. Mike says:


    Slightly off topic, but would you happen to know the liturgical (or theological) reason for using incense during the entrance procession, as opposed to the thurifer simply carrying the thurible with lighted charcoal (but no burning incense)?

  3. christian says:

    I definitely would pick the first. For some reason, Church leaders think young people are going to be won over by balloons and other gimmacky tactics, in addition to rock, which they could get at a carnival. At least these young people showed up.
    When reflecting on my own church experience when I was a teeny bopper-teenager, I looked forward to going to church especially at my summer cottage, because of an experience which entailed a journey and a special time; high mass at the church near my family’s cottage. High mass was at noon. My sister and I started walking early and took a leisurely walk through the different areas along the way, taking in the scene on a summer Sunday morning. We had gone to different masses in the past, but decided on the high mass at 12 noon.
    After taking in the blessed sounds, sights, smells, and feels of the beautiful summer day, we arrived at a small white clapboard church. When we walked in, we were met with the sight of the altar in the height of majesty and adoration-the multiple candles on the high altar which were lit along with vases of roses, and white linen edged in lace. (The roses did not look like they came from a florist shop, but from a private garden and were absolutely beautiful. (I could image faithful parishioners cutting roses from their gardens to place on that altar to honor our Lord. I am sure the beautiful white linens with lace edging were cleaned, ironed, and placed on the altar by faithful parishioners or a parishioner). People were filing in and sitting in the pews respectfully and reverently. (I believe that that mass was done for the greater glory of God). The liturgy was more special and longer than the usual mass, that’s why we came.
    After mass was over, we began the leisurely walk back to our cottage. It was a usual sight for neighbors and they would hail us on our way to or from church. Even now, at a much, much older age, it remains a cherished experience and memory.

  4. Raymond F. Rice says:

    To all:
    First of all, the cardinal was not “somewhat forced to do the latter Mass”. A cardinal is not forced to do anything he does not want to do in the position he is in unless under direct orders of the Vatican (Pope)as the cardinal from Portugal did recently when he withdrew his implicit support of woman priests. He was also not “blindsided” because a man in his position and with his staff, generally knows what to expect at a youth liturgy.

    The requiem Mass by Haydn (?), contrary to what you may think, is in the direct spirit of the council of Trent.There is nothing wrong with the spirit of the council of Trent, although some aspects of it may be more appropriate to a different time and culture.

    Lastly, if we wanted to really do the liturgies in the strict spirit of christian faithfulness to tradition , we should be saying the Mass in the traditional and historical Aramaic as Christ did or at least in Greek which was the common spoken language of the Roman Empire. At that time, Latin was not as common and was not known for its nuances, beauty, and precision as the Greek language was, being the basic language of all the Greek philosophers, writers and playwrites as well as theologians and historians. We have retained only a fraction of this in the Kyrie and Christe which are Greek, of course.

    I really think we have to delve into REAL tradition and what it’s place is in the Church. Otherwise we end up canonizing nostalgia and a particular place in time..

  5. Mike says:

    For anyone interested, the entire Requiem Mass is available here, along with footage of other funeral-related events.

  6. Raymond F. Rice says:


    About the acolyte coming in with the thurible at the beginning of the procession. The theology I do not know but hygiene I do know. They were coming into a cathedral in the old days which was packed with all sorts of people who bathed about once a month and wore tha same clothes day after day. Look sometime at the thurible at St James of Campostella. It is bigger than a phone booth!!! You can probably see it on YouTube.

  7. JLo says:

    There surely is something in what you say, Raymond Rice, in being wary of the very human tilt toward “canonizing nostalgia”. Whether talking about liturgy or about closing churches, we have to be sure we aren’t just stoking the fires of our own emotions. Thanks for putting that in my mind… where I myself hope to always apply it appropriately. +JMJ

  8. Mike says:

    Raymond Rice,

    The “air freshener” aspect occurred to me, but I was hoping that was only a pleasant by-product of something more liturgically significant.

    A long time ago I was taught that the smoke rising from burning incense is supposed to symbolize our prayers rising to God, along with the idea that the very act of burning incense is sacrificial, as incense is not cheap. My question was an attempt to find out how this understanding might fit in with – and be appropriate to – an entrance procession.

    Yes, I’ve seen videos of the thurible at St. James of Compostella (there’s a recent one – with the Pope presiding and 8 guys swinging it – here). That sure is one impressive piece of hardware!

  9. Ink says:

    A couple rebuttals.
    1. Gen is giving the cardinal the benefit of the doubt and suggesting popular pressure from someone close to the cardinal. He is trying to be charitable and avoid flat-out finger-pointing.
    2. When the seat of the Church was established as Rome, the languages began to shift towards Latin. Greek may have been the common spoken language, but Latin filtered in and became standard. The Greek we still use in the liturgy is actually Byzantine Greek–if you read the letters, it would not ordinarily sound like “kyrie” but rather “kurie,” but the Byzantine dialect pronounced many upsilons as an “ee” sound rather than an “oo” sound. As the Church grew to be more universal, eventually the liturgy was standardized in Latin. This standard liturgical language allowed for the liturgy to be exactly the same all over the world. Now that Latin is a dead language and does not “adapt to the times,” it is appropriate for the Latin liturgy to be used as the standard by which all liturgical translations are measured–which is the case.

  10. christian says:

    The point I would like to make in regard to young people being drawn to church: Young people pick up more than you would expect. There is a difference patronizing young people with balloons and other gimmicky things and allowing young people to be join in the liturgy by the genuine piety, humility, obedience, and reverence of faithful parishioners they view around them. It also depends on the individual propensity of a young person and the Holy Spirit.
    But as you note from my previous description from High Mass at a Catholic church near my cottage: The high altar dressed in splendor of white linens, lit candles, and vases of roses made an impression on me as I walked in especially as it was a small church and the altar was very visible. I noticed the roses were the kind that came from a private garden. I noted Someone put a lot of time and effort into making that altar scene fit for a King.
    I noticed the other parishioners come in and seat themselves reverently in a pew and usually pray before mass began. The liturgy was special and longer. We joined with other parishioners in worship. Parishioners left the church reverently and were hospitable and conversant outside.
    Parishioners did not mind the longer length of time. They were not in hurry and just worried about “putting their time in” for Sunday obligation. Parishioners were not racing out to the small parking lot, practically knocking each other down as I had seen at another church when I was young.
    Young people pick up the spirit of reverence and true worship from adults. Adult parishioners seem to need to be busy all the time nowadays, infrequently stopping for a moment of silence and prayer before or after mass. In fact, even on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, many adults do not seem to be able to leave in silence and grasp the significance of quiet, prayer, and deep reflection at those times. For many adult parishioners “it’s business as usual.” You can hear conversation in normal volume, jokes and laughter.-These statements pertain to various Roman Catholic churches in the Rochester area.
    If we want to draw young people to church, we should look first to our own participation in the mass. Are we truly present and caught up in the worship of God or we caught up in the distractions of the day’s activities, personal tensions and problems and somewhere else? Do we act like mass is special and it is a privilege and honor to be able to honor and praise the King of Kings or do we act like it is just an obligation? People are drawn to join in worship when they notice something special going on around them and want to know what it is and want some of that. Are we good representatives of Jesus?

  11. Eliza10 says:

    You wrote:
    “One final thought, if you’ll indulge me: as I re-watched both of these videos, I was struck by a line from “A Man for All Seasons” which was spoken by Thomas More about his soon-to-be son-in-law Will Roper. Like the Cardinal, he had the right overarching idea, but his approach to achieving and perfecting it was always changing, and changing dynamically, at that. When Roper asks for the hand of More’s daughter in marriage, More refuses on the grounds that Roper is a heretic (which, at that moment, he was). However, he tacks on this statement which has a great deal of relevance to this post about these two approaches to the “Spirit of Vatican II”:

    “We must just pray that, when your head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.””

    I also really like that scene, ending in that brilliant line that speaks perfectly of wisdom and loving charity at the same time. Certainly it was accompanied by prayer and sacrifice on More’s part, as Roper did finally spin his head in the right direction! I say loving charity because it so reminds me of Jesus’ patient love with his apostles and with us. St. Thomas More is an example of what I have been saying – a chaste life, like More’s, brings rich friendship with God and a wealth of moral wisdom and fortitude – such qualities that are so grossly lacking in the business-as-usual DoR, along with the black-hole void of preaching on chastity in the DoR!

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