Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Counter Courier

September 10th, 2011, Promulgated by JBCatholic

As many of you are well aware we await the coming of the new translation of the Roman Missal this coming Advent season.  This has prompted the Diocese of Rochester (DOR), which is to be expected, to issue several statements concerning the roll-out of the changes which are at hand.

While this  article from the Catholic Courier is a month old, I would like to begin a series of articles loosely titled “Counter Courier.”  In them, as you can well gather, I will examine a given article pointing out errors, and filling in data that might prove enriching to you the reader.

In the article listed at the bottom of this text, Mike Latona, the author, speaks about the efforts of Father Robert Kennedy (chair of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission) in preparing the priest of our diocese to implement the new translation. He begins, (all italics are my own)

“It might not seem that speaking from prepared text could be a daunting task. Yet when the words have been crafted to lead people toward deeper relationships with God, it’s crucial they be uttered with clarity and conviction rather than monotones and hesitations.”

Father Kennedy further questions the priests,

How can I (we) pray this with some kind of meaning?”

And goes on saying,

“(The) priests’ responsibilities will go beyond simply reciting words while leading their congregations in prayer.” And, “My concern when we do this all new is (that) we’re going to sort of be glued to the page. But what we do at liturgy is more than just reading liturgy.”

What then are we to gather the priests’ role or responsibilities are within the context of the Mass?  Is their chief purpose to inspire the laity who has gathered for Mass?  Or perhaps to sell the prayers with conviction?  Or maybe his job is to convince God that they really mean the prayers they pray?  With all candor, the sentiments conveyed in the above quote are not done (more than likely) out of malice or ill will, but rather, from a desire to instill in the faithful belief in the prayers and to convey in the hearts and mind of the gathered community a deep love for God.

However, we must ask, is this really the point of the prayers, or for that matter of the Mass? The answer is simple, “No.”  Priests fill both an awesome yet simple role, to be an alter Christus, another Christ. It is within this role that the personality of the individual must be absorbed into the person-hood of Christ.  It should not matter where you go to Mass, or who the priest is, the Mass and the prayers are the same.

The message from Fr. Kennedy seems quite different.  The personality of the priest and the personal touches he will add to the prayers is what, “give(s) it some kind of meaning.”

I have posted two different pictures just to make a visual of a point I’d like to make.

In the first we see a priest offering an Extra Ordinary form Mass in a fiddleback style chasuble.  In the traditional rite, each priest while receiving their training in seminary was taught very precise gestures and how to perform them.  For the most part the lay faithful present at the Mass, except those who view the priest at an angle, were unable to see the gestures and movements of the priest which are by–in-large out of view.  The priests’ words and movements , while hidden from the ears and eyes of the faithful, are directed toward their intended “audience” or object of the Mass, namely Almighty God.

In contrast, the above picture shows a Catholic priest offering an Ordinary Form Mass where his arms are extended in an exaggerated orans position.  Every movement, gesture and word being watched and heard by his intended “audience.”

In the first picture, the notion of the priest praying the words of the prayers with an audible or outward conviction seems almost absurd.  God desires His priests to come before Him inwardly disposed with hearts, minds and souls which have been shaped through living the Liturgy in the Mass and the Divine Office.  In the second picture the priest has become a conductor, leading the faithful in praying the prayers “with clarity and conviction.”  Without this role being filled the prayers would apparently have no  meaning according to Father Kennedy.

The issue, really, is not how the prayers are said, but to whom they are said.  For whose benefit are they being spoken? In the article Fr. Mull says,

Despite the many adjustments in store, Father Mull said he feels his challenge isn’t as steep as the one priests confronted immediately following the Second Vatican Council: “Those changes were much more difficult,” he remarked, noting that it was much harder to adapt “if you faced the wall for 25 years and now you were facing the congregation, if you said the Mass in Latin and now it was in English.”

This is an interesting statement, and by the word interesting I really mean appalling.  For, I would not call the Eucharistic presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Tabernacle, “the wall”!  As crazy as this statement may be, it is reflective of where this diocese currently is, and the long road ahead of us.  This road will be marked by small transitions like the one we will receive this Advent.  The gift by the way will not come via a flawless and impassioned recitation of the prayers, but rather, because the words of the mass are fitting for that which they convey and the Sacrament it confects.

Sentire Cum Ecclesia



Link to article: Catholic Courier

In case you’re interested: To aid in the adjustment process, Father Kennedy said he’s referring priests to a special area of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website at, which includes the updated Eucharistic prayers as well as prayers for the Advent and Christmas seasons.






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19 Responses to “Counter Courier”

  1. Raymond F. Rice says:

    One of the things I find interesting (amusing?) is the recitation of the “Gloria” at Mass and it goes back for years. The people continue to say “and peace to His people on earth” while the priests generally say ” and peace to God’s people on earth.

    And now we are implementing NEW changes?? I hope the priests and laity are one in mind during the new prayers.

  2. snowshoes says:

    I mentioned back a few days in reply to Gen’s wise and enjoyable post, that I read a statement, over in one of your featured great Catholic blogs, The New Theological Movement, made by a fine young priest, lately graduated from the seminary in Rome. Father stated that it is the intention of Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, that the OF and the EF gradually become one form, “through mutual enrichment”. He also said that there are “people in the Vatican” working now on the elision of the liturgical calendars of the OF and the EF! Those of you who have been around as long as I will note that the very terms OF and EF are recent.

    Father opined that the elision of the lectionaries would be a bit more complicated. So, we can’t get too comfortable with “our” form because by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit given to the Pope, there will eventually only be one form of the Latin Rite Mass. Now, before you run out and try to find the new Missal in the bookstore, Father also opined that this gradual mutual enrichment will probably take about a hundred years…

    This was great news to me, because I loved the Latin Mass prior to the changes in the 60s. It is good news because it completely changes the “playing field”, as it were, or should I say, it turns the tables… One thing I bet we can all agree on is that the 3-year lectionary is certainly a work of the Holy Spirit. God bless.

  3. Bernie says:

    I had the same general reactions when I read the article the week it came out.
    I would be happy if each priest would just read the prayers as written but I doubt that will happen. We have some priests now who make it all up, including the Canon, as if the Mass belonged to them. There is a certain retired priest at a certain cluster in –well, Rochester (sort of)– who pretty much does his own thing. More priests than you might think won’t even use the translation, or will use only parts of it, and others will tweak it to their own satifaction citing “pastoral needs.”

  4. Nerina says:

    Raymond, I notice the same thing about the recitation of the “Gloria.” What is really funny is that all the terms that follow, are identified solely with men – “Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father.” I don’t know what the priests think they are accomplishing by replacing one pronoun. It just seems silly.

  5. JBCatholic says:

    Bernie, the OF Mass to some extent sets the priests up for this type of thinking. As you well know, the Missal is littered with phrases like, “He may use these or similar words.” It only was a matter of time before those vague liberties would be transformed into complete rewrites and ad lib prayers. Likewise it was only a matter of time before the Canon itself was fair game as well.

    I recently was listening to a CD series in which the speaker was talking about the heresy of minimalism; the notion that Catholics are only required to believe those doctrines and dogmas that have been infallibly defined through the extraordinary teaching of the Magisterium. He noted that if people begin to feel free to take or leave the ordinary teachings of the Magisterium, they will without a doubt abandon the extraordinary teachings sooner or later. This concept applies to the mass as well and how priest and the laity perceive and understand it.

  6. Mike says:


    I apologize if I have mentioned this before, but Peter Kreeft makes a very strong case for the masculinity of God in relation to his creation, especially the Church. See here.

  7. Soldato di Dio says:

    It is late so I didn’t read the article that involves Fr. Kennedy, so I won’t comment on that. However, regarding the pictures, I don’t know if they came from the “Courier” or not but I must cry “FOUL!” The photo of the priest offering the Ordinary Form of the Mass represents only ONE of the tens of thousands of Masses that are offered throughout the world. You won’t see banners in every church so you cannot use this one picture as an example for all churches. The second thing you may want to know is that a priest saint, I can’t recall which one, but it was told to me by one of Fr. Groeschel’s priests, told me that priest religious should hold their arms out in the form of a Cross because we are at Calvary when we are at Mass. That doesn’t mean we should hold our arms straight out, but it does mean more than four to six inches apart from one another as I have seen some priest do and call that their orans position, even at the Ordinary Form of the Mass and at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. I have seen priests who have their arms extended in such a way that they are not too far out and yet they hold to the cruciform extension taught by this saint. Please don’t use one picture and say that it represents all Ordinary Forms of the Mass. You may not have meant to convey that message, but I received it loudly and clearly when just looked at some of the article. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is just as efficacious as the Ordinary Form of the Mass and I don’t like to see this blog even hinting that one is more efficacious than the other.

  8. JBCatholic says:

    Firstly, no, the pictures did not come from the Courier, I just selected two pictures one of the OF and one of the EF. I actually didn’t even look at the banners until you mentioned them. But to my defense on choosing these pictures, both of them look exactly or nearly identical to most OF/EF Masses respectively that I have attended. I’m fairly certain that you will have a hard time making a point that either of these pictures depict something that is not the MO of either Mass.
    Secondly, I would really like you to provide the name of this saint, I would like to look into that. But even if it were the case that a saint said or taught something to this effect, even with the backing of Fr. Groeschel, what does that have to do with how the Church functions. The orans position in the EF form is performed by in most cases transitioning from a posture of the priests’ hand being joined to the orans. The orans position has the hands at or just below shoulder height, and according to the rubrics in front of the breasts, which in most cases will be 12-14″ apart. Whether or not you have seen priests derail from this established norm is another thing, and would not be much of a surprise especially if it were just before or during the Second Vatican Council when many of the innovations of the OF were going through a trial run per say.
    Thirdly, I would never contend that the OF is either not efficacious or valid, but the argument of whether it conveys the Churches teaching with utmost clarity and fidelity is the topic of another article.
    Soldato, if you received, “loudly and clearly” my misrepresentation of the OF Mass, why did you not also feel that such a foul had occurred with respect to the EF picture as well?


  9. Bernie says:

    My understanding is that the position of the priest’s arms at Mass derives from the ancient pose for prayer; that is, the orans position. I am not aware (which is not saying much) of any other interpretation in our tradition. The priest stands-in for Christ in offering the prayers/sacrifice; he does not stand-in for Christ as victim (in reality –obviously– or symbolically). In my opinion, too exaggerated an orans position conveys a message not in harmony with the theology of the role of the priest in the Mass. I have no idea what the rubrics for positioning the arms are, presently, but, I have been told by priests, it used to be very specific -something like 9″ to 12″ apart if I recall. If we look to early Christian art for some guidance we can see orant images with apparently wildly waving arms fully extended as well as poses at the other extreme, with palms forward almost appearing to say “stop, stay away”, or expressing surprise. Some of this has to do with what is called “descriptive perspective” by art historians and so can’t be relied on as photographic description can be. But, considering the whole history of Christian imagery of the priest at Mass, the repertoire seems to suggest a restrained pose with a limited extension of the arms. In my opinion, priests today need more specific guidelines in order to rein-in at least some of the overly dramatic priests that serve us.

  10. Eliza10 says:

    Reading Fr. Kennedy’s words here, I was confused. What is he getting at? Why so much ado about nothing? What is the un-nameable thing that is so hard about the new changes, which requires all this dizzying circular dialogue?? I also wonder why it takes the U.S., under the guidance of our so-often-misguided U.S. Bishops Conference months and years to implement the new GIRM changes — as if there is something terribly difficult about them, as if the sheep are SO DUMB that some kind of super-manipulations have to go on to implement the changes.

    Its weird!!!

    What is a “Diocesan Liturgical Commission”, anyway, and WHY do we need it? Are chairs of “commissions” like this paid a stipend in addition to their salary? [Oh, sorry, how the DoR spends our money is a SECRET. I almost forgot!] Why does Buffalo Rd. have so many committees and commissions and positions no one ever heard of, anyway?? Like what is that woman who is always holding Bishop Clark’s book up for him to read, who is sometimes called “Master of Ceremonies!!” – and how much is that position paid for, and WHY do we need it??? What exactly is a Master of Ceremonies anyway? And who pays for all the circuitous discussion and commissions and committees required to change the words of the Mass, when its not open to debate anyway, and the lay people are NOT the ones worried about this???

    So many unanswerable questions! Praise God, we can count on a much saner diocesan administration after Bishop Clark finally leaves. As to Fr. Kennedy’s baffling words above, I think JBCatholic gives a reasonable explanation for the otherwise unexplainable:

    “The message from Fr. Kennedy seems quite different. The personality of the priest and the personal touches he will add to the prayers is what “give(s) it some kind of meaning.”

    I agree with this assessment because one of the first things about I noticed about so many of the priests of this diocese – who were in such STARK contrast to the ones I read about or saw on Catholic TV – was a vainglorious fixation on self. Why did I see the virtue of humility as such a mark of “Catholic” among the lay people, yet, such a marked LACK of it among DoR administration?? There is an excess of elitist self-importance and self-involvement in the DOR administration. They must TEACH it at St. Bernards! And there seems to be a drive among many DoR priests to have to have a “personality!” to project to the people. It is so very shallow. Its this strange cult-of-personality fixation gets them all tied in knots in thier strange discussions about the “difficulty!” of implementing the new words for the Mass!

    Is it some kind of brainwashing? That the people are NOT going to have a problem with these changes AT ALL, but since its contrary to DoR admin and like-minded dissident “Catholic” activists country, they have to create a big fuss about it for an extended period of time so they can infuse mistrust in the people about the new changes (who would otherwise accept them easily! Can’t have that!).

  11. Richard Thomas says:

    I remember going to a conference and then going out to dinner on a Friday nite with several priests and lay people. All the lay people ordered fish. All the priests ordered steak!

  12. Raymond F. Rice says:

    I think one of the things that is being missed here is what these things ( word changes, rubrics etc) will probably result in is rousing our congregations to, as the hymn says, “Awake from your slumber! Arise from your sleep!
    A new day is dawning for all those who weep.
    The people in darkness have seen a great light.
    The Lord of our longing has conquered the night”!!!


  13. Raymond F. Rice says:

    Richard Thomas:

    There were probably no lobsters left for the priests to order on the menu!!! lol lol lol

  14. Nerina says:

    I remember going to a conference and then going out to dinner on a Friday nite with several priests and lay people. All the lay people ordered fish. All the priests ordered steak!

    Richard, I can do one better. I remember a parish council meeting held on Ash Wednesday where baked goods were served. This was after coming from the Ash Wednesday liturgy.

    (Sorry to JBC for being off-topic)

  15. JBCatholic says:

    It sort of reminds me of immigrants who slowly abandon the traditions of their homeland. Before they know it they no longer retain those things that define them according to the title they give themselves. We are surrounded by “Catholics” who have left behind as antiquated or no longer relevant the things that make us sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God on Earth but they still go on pretending that they’re Catholics.

  16. Richard Thomas says:

    I only hope that most people in the pews, like any other issue with the church have been pooly educated and catechized. Hopefully, if a strong bishop comes in and cleans house, the usual whiners will cause trouble but hopefully, the majority of lay people will come on board.

    I hope I am not pipe dreaming!

  17. Eliza10 says:

    I don’t think you are pipe-dreaming! I pine for a strong bishop, too — but I often think that even a regular-Catholic Bishop will be a jolting and efficacious contrast to this decades-long, unabated endeavor to brainwash our Catholic identity away. True, Bishop Clark has been highly successful at his undertaking; the evidence is under our noses, and the shocking stats don’t lie. Yes, it seems he has made significant headway in his single-minded endeavor; he seems to have won this battle – but we know Who wins the war!

    Our Church, through the Holy Spirit, has made promised us – first spoken by Pope John Paul II and then backed up by our very own Pope Benedict XVI – that we are headed for a New Springtime. The scandalous St. Januarious wreckovation, the deceiving spin Clark had published on it in the Courier, and the sacrilegious jackhammering of the altar during Holy Week at St. Januarius by Fr. Ring and Bishop Clark is just a last, desperate attempt to forward the agenda of destruction because His Eminence’s days are numbered [and we are counting!].

    What we read here in the story of Fr. Ring and St. Januarius is the ugly, mucky, debris-strewn early-springtime of March that we know so well in Rochester. After a very long and very cold winter, the snow that has been hiding the DoR filth is melting into shriveled grimy curbside mounds. The sky is gloomy, the wind blows, and its not a pretty sight. Its just too early for the real signs of spring. But the hidden new growth is alive, and its gearing up in secret, and will soon burst forth for a glorious New Springtime.

  18. Richard Thomas says:

    Thanks Eliza,

    I hope the truth comes out. I can think of people like St Francis DeSales who went to protestant Geneva Switzerland and made significant headway. And we cannot forget the contributions of the Jesuits, also during the protestant reformation, although God help them now for they are a dying breed.

  19. Abaccio says:

    The fact is that the pose shown is not proper orans position. His hands are supposed to be something like 9-12″ apart.

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