August 30, 2007

Letters to the Editor-Catholic Spirit

The Catholic Spirit printed my response to Father John Mitchell's opinion column of August 16th in today's issue of the paper. It is not online. Here is what I said. I took no pleasure in writing this letter. Contradicting a priest does not make me happy, but I felt that something needed to be said. I prayed on it for five days before I sent this letter to the editors.

I read with concern Father John Mitchell's assertions in the August 16th issue.

Summorum Pontificum does not really offer anything new to anyone who paid attention to Pope John Paul II's Ecclesia Dei 20-years ago or what the documents of the Second Vatican Council actually said.

I believe a large reason for the Holy Father's issuance of this motu proprio was in response to the fact that the prior, applicable, church documents are not being appropriately implemented, if at all. However, rather then "turning the clock back" Pope Benedict in Summorum Pontificum gives us, the Faithful, an extraordinary form of the Mass that may be new to some while still leaving intact the more familiar ordinary form.

I think the fact that we have another valid form for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should be an occasion for rejoicing, not, fear and anger.

The Mass, in either form, is NOT the priest's nor the people's. It never has been; it never will be. It's God's.

Janice LaDuke
St. Andrew
St. Paul, MN

Oh, and my buddy Ray gets in on the action too!

Father John Mitchell in his Catholic Spirit "My Turn" article of Aug. 16, is "very sad and very angry". In his opinion, "the Tridentine Mass is a huge step in the wrong direction for our beautiful church".

I would bet that the result of the decision by Pope Benedict to loosen the restrictions on the offering of the “Tridentine Mass” (more properly, it should be called the 1962 Latin Mass of Pope John XXIII) will be that six or so parishes might offer that Mass occasionally.

Why is Father Mitchell so angry about that? Is he being required to say or go to those Masses? No. Is he angry about the far more than six parishes in this Archdiocese who make a travesty of the Novus Ordo Mass of the Second Vatican Council by their improvisations and omissions? I don’t know.

Is he angry about the Minneapolis pastor who allows his parishioners to personally intinct the Sacred Host into the Precious Blood in direct contravention to Canon Law?

What is there about church progressives that drives them to demand that only their view be permitted?

I respect and love our priests. But I really wonder about priests who won’t let me worship in a way that others feel will bring them closer to their God. And by the way, I’m not a real fan of the Mass in Latin. I might go occasionally, but not as a general rule.

Ray Marshall
Basilica of St. Mary
Minneapolis, MN

There is also a letter saying the Latin Mass does not send the church backward by Mr. Timothy Kay of Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul.

Cross Posted to Stella Borealis


Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Excellent letters, and not at all disrespectful of the priest you are responding to. Good writing guys!

August 30, 2007 10:29 PM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

Way to go, guys!
I loved reading them.

August 31, 2007 7:00 AM  
Blogger japhy said...

Well-written letters, folks. Keep it up.

FTA: "The endless signs of the cross over the gifts of bread and wine. Five signs of the cross, which, because of our human nature being what it is, became five circles."

Oh well... abuse then, abuse now! There's a clear hermeneutic of continuity!

I recently read Mediator Dei. Let's see what it says about the participation of the faithful at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass...

5. The majestic ceremonies of the sacrifice of the altar became better known, understood and appreciated. With more widespread and more frequent reception of the sacraments, with the beauty of the liturgical prayers more fully savored, the worship of the Eucharist came to be regarded for what it really is: the fountain-head of genuine Christian devotion. Bolder relief was given likewise to the fact that all the faithful make up a single and very compact body with Christ for its Head, and that the Christian community is in duty bound to participate in the liturgical rites according to their station.

6. You are surely well aware that this Apostolic See has always made careful provision for the schooling of the people committed to its charge in the correct spirit and practice of the liturgy; and that it has been no less careful to insist that the sacred rites should be performed with due external dignity. In this connection We ourselves, in the course of our traditional address to the Lenten preachers of this gracious city of Rome in 1943, urged them warmly to exhort their respective hearers to more faithful participation in the eucharistic sacrifice.

34. ... Not only through her ministers but with the help of the faithful individually, who have imbibed in this fashion the spirit of Christ, the Church endeavors to permeate with this same spirit the life and labors of men - their private and family life, their social, even economic and political life - that all who are called God's children may reach more readily the end He has proposed for them.

35. Such action on the part of individual Christians, then, along with the ascetic effort promoting them to purify their hearts, actually stimulates in the faithful those energies which enable them to participate in the august sacrifice of the altar with better dispositions. They now can receive the sacraments with more abundant fruit, and come from the celebration of the sacred rites more eager, more firmly resolved to pray and deny themselves like Christians, to answer the inspirations and invitation of divine grace and to imitate daily more closely the virtues of our Redeemer.

77. ... In a certain sense it can be said that on Calvary Christ built a font of purification and salvation which He filled with the blood He shed; but if men do not bathe in it and there wash away the stains of their iniquities, they can never be purified and saved.

78. The cooperation of the faithful is required so that sinners may be individually purified in the blood of the Lamb. For though, speaking generally, Christ reconciled by His painful death the whole human race with the Father, He wished that all should approach and be drawn to His cross, especially by means of the sacraments and the eucharistic sacrifice, to obtain the salutary fruits produced by Him upon it. Through this active and individual participation, the members of the Mystical Body not only become daily more like to their divine Head, but the life flowing from the Head is imparted to the members, so that we can each repeat the words of St. Paul, "With Christ I am nailed to the cross: I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me." {Gal. 2:19-20}

80. It is, therefore, desirable, Venerable Brethren, that all the faithful should be aware that to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity, and that not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and day-dreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with the High Priest, according to the Apostle, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." {Phil. 2:5} And together with Him and through Him let them make their oblation, and in union with Him let them offer up themselves.

82. The fact, however, that the faithful participate in the eucharistic sacrifice does not mean that they also are endowed with priestly power. It is very necessary that you make this quite clear to your flocks.

87. Moreover, the rites and prayers of the eucharistic sacrifice signify and show no less clearly that the oblation of the Victim is made by the priests in company with the people. For not only does the sacred minister, after the oblation of the bread and wine when he turns to the people, say the significant prayer: "Pray brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty;" {Roman Missal, Ordinary of the Mass} but also the prayers by which the divine Victim is offered to God are generally expressed in the plural number: and in these it is indicated more than once that the people also participate in this august sacrifice inasmuch as they offer the same. The following words, for example, are used: "For whom we offer, or who offer up to Thee . . . We therefore beseech thee, O Lord, to be appeased and to receive this offering of our bounded duty, as also of thy whole household. . . We thy servants, as also thy whole people . . . do offer unto thy most excellent majesty, of thine own gifts bestowed upon us, a pure victim, a holy victim, a spotless victim." {Ibid., Canon of the Mass}

88. Nor is it to be wondered at, that the faithful should be raised to this dignity. By the waters of baptism, as by common right, Christians are made members of the Mystical Body of Christ the Priest, and by the "character" which is imprinted on their souls, they are appointed to give worship to God. Thus they participate, according to their condition, in the priesthood of Christ.

92. In this most important subject it is necessary, in order to avoid giving rise to a dangerous error, that we define the exact meaning of the word "offer." The unbloody immolation at the words of consecration, when Christ is made present upon the altar in the state of a victim, is performed by the priest and by him alone, as the representative of Christ and not as the representative of the faithful. But it is because the priest places the divine victim upon the altar that he offers it to God the Father as an oblation for the glory of the Blessed Trinity and for the good of the whole Church. Now the faithful participate in the oblation, understood in this limited sense, after their own fashion and in a twofold manner, namely, because they not only offer the sacrifice by the hands of the priest, but also, to a certain extent, in union with him. It is by reason of this participation that the offering made by the people is also included in liturgical worship.

104. Let the faithful, therefore, consider to what a high dignity they are raised by the sacrament of baptism. They should not think it enough to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice with that general intention which befits members of Christ and children of the Church, but let them further, in keeping with the spirit of the sacred liturgy, be most closely united with the High Priest and His earthly minister, at the time the consecration of the divine Victim is enacted, and at that time especially when those solemn words are pronounced, "By Him and with Him and in Him is to Thee, God the Father almighty, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and glory for ever and ever"; {Roman Missal, Canon of the Mass} to these words in fact the people answer, "Amen." Nor should Christians forget to offer themselves, their cares, their sorrows, their distress and their necessities in union with their divine Savior upon the cross.

105. Therefore, they are to be praised who, with the idea of getting the Christian people to take part more easily and more fruitfully in the Mass, strive to make them familiar with the "Roman Missal," so that the faithful, united with the priest, may pray together in the very words and sentiments of the Church. They also are to be commended who strive to make the liturgy even in an external way a sacred act in which all who are present may share. This can be done in more than one way, when, for instance, the whole congregation, in accordance with the rules of the liturgy, either answer the priest in an orderly and fitting manner, or sing hymns suitable to the different parts of the Mass, or do both, or finally in high Masses when they answer the prayers of the minister of Jesus Christ and also sing the liturgical chant.

106. These methods of participation in the Mass are to be approved and recommended when they are in complete agreement with the precepts of the Church and the rubrics of the liturgy. Their chief aim is to foster and promote the people's piety and intimate union with Christ and His visible minister and to arouse those internal sentiments and dispositions which should make our hearts become like to that of the High Priest of the New Testament. However, though they show also in an outward manner that the very nature of the sacrifice, as offered by the Mediator between God and men, {cf. 1 Tim. 2:5} must be regarded as the act of the whole Mystical Body of Christ, still they are by no means necessary to constitute it a public act or to give it a social character. And besides, a "dialogue" Mass of this kind cannot replace the high Mass, which, as a matter of fact, though it should be offered with only the sacred ministers present, possesses its own special dignity due to the impressive character of its ritual and the magnificence of its ceremonies. The splendor and grandeur of a high Mass, however, are very much increased if, as the Church desires, the people are present in great numbers and with devotion.

108. Many of the faithful are unable to use the Roman missal even though it is written in the vernacular; nor are all capable of understanding correctly the liturgical rites and formulas. So varied and diverse are men's talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people; for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them.

150. In an earlier age, [recitation of the Divine Office was] attended by many of the faithful. But this gradually ceased, and, as We have already said, their recitation at present is the duty only of the clergy and of religious. The laity have no obligation in this matter. Still, it is greatly to be desired that they participate in reciting or chanting vespers sung in their own parish on feast days. We earnestly exhort you, Venerable Brethren, to see that this pious practice is kept up, and that wherever it has ceased you restore it if possible. This, without doubt, will produce salutary results when vespers are conducted in a worthy and fitting manner and with such helps as foster the piety of the faithful.

201. Above all, try with your constant zeal to have all the faithful attend the eucharistic sacrifice from which they may obtain abundant and salutary fruit; and carefully instruct them in all the legitimate ways we have described above so that they may devoutly participate in it. The Mass is the chief act of divine worship; it should also be the source and center of Christian piety. Never think that you have satisfied your apostolic zeal until you see your faithful approach in great numbers the celestial banquet which is a sacrament of devotion, a sign of unity and a bond of love. {Cf. Saint Augustine, Tract. 26 in John 13}

WHEW. I should write an article on my blog about that some time.

Anyway, it seems clear to me that Pope Pius XII did not have in mind what we have today. He wanted, very simply stated, to see more earnest, devout, and faithful participation from the laity, so that they would concentrate more on what was truly happening in front of their eyes, FOR THEM!

That's enough for this morning. I have to get to work.

August 31, 2007 7:32 AM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Great comment, japhy!

Unfortunately, my letter to the Catholic Spirit got censored and one of my all time great metaphors got deleted: "I wonder if Father Mitchell is sad and angry about the activities of the "Unholy Trinity" parishes of _____, _____ and _____? Those parishes are in virtual open rebellion against the Archdiocese and the Vatican. Is that the right direction for our beautiful church?"

August 31, 2007 12:15 PM  
Blogger japhy said...

Ray, that wasn't censored, that was BUTCHERED.

What metaphor in particular did you miss?

August 31, 2007 4:46 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...


Well, in the immortal words of a priest whose name escapes me at the moment, who spoke at the 2006 Chestertonian Society Event (Father Jaki?), it might have been a paradigm or an allegory, but I thought my reference to the "Unholy Trinity" was delightful, and a bit radical, I suppose.

August 31, 2007 9:22 PM  

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