Sunday, February 20, 2011

A homily which is so relevant to the situation in Malta


Extracts from a homily by Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Apostolic Nuncio, Trinidad and Tobago.


Why, even three years after the issuance of Summorum Pontificum (just to name one example), are well-meaning lay folk still treated with such great disdain by no less than bishops, bishops in communion (of heart, soul, mind and strength?) with the Successor of St. Peter when they ask for Mass in Latin? Is this anything other than blind hypocrisy (the plank!)? You tolerate no small amount of bad taste, bad music and caprice, while begrudging some few a port in the storm of liturgical abuse which seems not to want to subside? Can we be after His own Heart and not just claim to be members of Christ’s Body while still acting so at odds with the example set by the Holy One of God, meek and humble of heart? Such prelates are at counter or cross purposes to the sense in which the Church wants to go; they are ignoring what the Spirit is saying to the Churches and doing so with a backhand to some who are branded common and contemptible, but certainly not in the eyes of Christ... Let me say it more clearly! My issue is with the contempt shown for an outstretched hand, contempt such as would not be shown toward someone asking for some other benefit.


When the Holy Father speaks of his will to see these two forms of the Roman Rite (ordinary and extraordinary) enrich each other, when he and others express eagerness for a recovery of the sense of the sacred in our churches and in how we worship, I am convinced that he has indicated the true nature of the rupture which has indeed occurred and needs to be mended or healed.


You would think that those in communion with the Pope would seek to understand him and embrace his point of view. There is too much room for caprice and hence the need to reform contemporary Catholic worship. This is evidenced time and again, by way of one example, in the sense of helplessness many priests experience when confronted by musical groups moving into church with inappropriate repertoires, not to mention the dance and puppet troupes which should have been banished long ago. If a bishop does not want to discipline at least he can respect and foster those seeking good order.

St. Charles Borromeo advised his priests to fight distractions and foster devotion the same way that you keep a stove lit with only a flicker of flame inside, and that is, by keeping that stove closed up tight until you get the fire going strong. I think that has to be the aim of the reform of the reformed liturgy. That was the genius over centuries of the old Latin Low Mass, tamper-proof and self-contained throughout the vicissitudes of time. The pendulum swing to the other extreme, which has swept away everything that was popular devotion and religious expression, while at the same time opening up that stove to nearly anything and everything, has had little more effect than to have diminished the liturgy’s capacity for providing heat and light.


Contemporary worship is too often held hostage by caprice (tasteful or tasteless is not the point), by creativity, if you will, but still something not foreseen by legitimate authority.

Among the things which contribute to the crisis of faith among our youth, among those things which contribute to their dismissal of the Sunday obligation to assist at Mass (see the statistics for Mass attendance by young Catholics!) is the absence in what they experience in their parishes and Catholic school settings of an approach to Divine Worship marked by the healthy fear and trembling which time and again brought His disciples to their knees before the Son of Man. Just the other day in an airport waiting lounge I caught a conversation, in the row of seats back to back with me, between two elderly Catholic couples who were miffed at Father for having admonished them to go to confession for having failed to fulfill their Sunday obligation on the day after Christmas! The grounds for their dismissal of Father’s well-meant admonition were that such rules are man-made anyway. This is to my mind a logical conclusion to be drawn from a Sunday service as free-flowing and de-sacralized as they probably experience, as anything on cable TV or to be found in a passing revival tent meeting.

“The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom.”

Apart from this intolerance, I’ve been confronted again and again recently with the reality of how oblivious many priests, religious and laity are to the de-sacralized character of their liturgizing. Jeff Tucker at “The Chant Café” is swarming about all he sees as progress toward the reform of the reform. I wish I could see what he sees. The promotion of the extraordinary form is an encouragement to reforming vernacular liturgy. The hunger of many of the laity for a reformed vernacular liturgy marked by noble simplicity has been and continues to be fostered by encounters with the extraordinary form. My guess is that a more positive attitude by more bishops toward the extraordinary form would go a long way to moving some of the priests toward an examination of conscience concerning their approach to celebration.

Why do some successors to the Apostles seem so unaware of the injustice of the double standard they apply in reacting negatively to requests for Mass in the extraordinary form? If they are unwilling to restore decorum to vernacular worship “cold turkey” for lack of courage or whatever, then the least they could do is recognize and support those among them who seek better.