Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reason 7 Why The New Mass Is an Improvement over the Old Liturgy

As I make my way around to various meetings and conferences, I am always a little leery about where I will end up for Mass.  The other week I was in northern Illinois and “caught” the 10:45 AM Mass at Saint Paul the Apostle Gurnee. I am sure that neither Good Pope John nor the “Fathers of Vatican II,” ever dreamed that the changes in the Liturgy for which they called would have resulted no only in such a radically transformed mode of worship, but such a dynamic and mission-minded Christian community.
Being off-radar these past two weeks have convinced me that I need to focus more and to tie up my various “series” lest they get lost in the pile of postings that are scattered over my hardrive.  One of those series I am close to finishing is the one on the ten reasons why the Liturgical Rites promulgated in the1970 Missal are superior to the rites of the 1570 Missal incorporating the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent.
I had begun my series on why the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council are an advancement over the rites used prior to the Council in response to an article published on the Neo-Traditional website New Liturgical Movement making the counter claim in the NLM agenda of restoring the pre-conciliar rites as the normative.
So lets get back to the subject of why the current liturgical rites are the best available for the Roman Rite.  I am not saying that the current rites could not be better.  They could be much better.  But they are a vast improvement over the old rites.
And so to reason 7:
The Liturgy introduces us to the life of discipleship as we follow the saints through the Church year. 
This may sound strange because the “Old Mass” had a calendar of saints that rolled on day after day, in season and out of season, piling up two, three and four saints for any given day.  (If you checked out the martyrology for any given day you may find another dozen or so who didn’t make the Missal but who still, under certain circumstances, had an expectation of being commemorated.
The priest “reading the Mass” had to read, in order of importance of the feast assigned to each saint of the day, collect after collect, gathering them under a signal concluding
Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.
 This complex roll-calling of the Saints is one of the reasons that priests—both to avoid lengthening the daily morning Mass and to escape the liturgical ennui that is a by-product of saying Mass every day—took cover under the choice of saying the “Black Mass” (i.e. the requiem) leaving the saints unmentioned. 
There also are the numerous popes, bishops, virgins, and martyrs rattled off by the priest during Eucharistic Prayer I.    However, since both the (most often multiple) collects and the Eucharistic Prayer were recited sotto voce, the faithful in the pew was left in the dark about which of his heavenly brothers and sisters may be today receiving the honors of the Church.  The absence of homilies at daily (and not infrequently, Sunday) Mass did not help either.  We may have had saints but they didn’t get mentioned from the altar.  And when they did get mentioned it was too often for incredible legends of beheaded bishops walking the streets of Paris or a young virgin martyr suddenly springing a new pair of breasts to replace those the pervert executioner had amputated.  (If you want some omg laughs, read the antiphons for some of he feasts in the pre-conciliar breviary.)   
The calendar of the 1970 Rites has been pared down considerably and Lent and Advent have been designated for very few commemorations in order to allow the focus to remain on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.  There are norms to allow Saints from the older calendar, from the martyrology, or significant to the local church to still be celebrated but, excluding S N. and companions,  only one saint to the day is to be commemorated.  While many have been removed from the calendar, several hundred remain including more recent saints who have been introduced into the Liturgy in order to inspire contemporary Christians in the choices of discipleship. 
Most important, however, is the shift of place in which the saints have found themselves.  The current rites of the Church make it clear that Chris is our only intercessor at the Throne of Grace.  The saints today stand not above us presenting our prayers to God, but with us—praying with us, strengthening us, inspiriting us, accompanying us.  They are still powerful in their prayers but even stronger in the communion we share that knits us, saint and sinner into the One Body of Christ.  


  1. Glad to see you back. I believe the collects in the former rite were said or sung aloud. In either case, I want to put a plug in for a return to multiple collects -- maximum of three with the single concluding "Per Dominus." There are many times when, faced with a choice of Mass texts on a given day, I am torn between more than one option, e.g. the collect from the previous Sunday, a saint, a votive Mass, a Mass for a special need or occasion, even a Mass for the Dead. This is one reason, I believe, that so many of the new texts and collects in particular in the present Roman Missal are rarely if ever heard by the congregation -- that, and the liturgical ineptitude of the clergy. So I think this was an example where the previous rite had a preferable way of doing things -- though, of course, I agree with your overall estimation of the current disposition.

  2. I generally agree with you, but I am shocked about your description of St. Paul the Apostle in Gurnee. That is actually the parish I grew up with. I can tell you that many of the issues that you criticize are present in that parish. My parents have been very active in the parish but have not been well served by the priests. When my grandma was near death, the pastor of St Paul the Apostle couldn't be bothered to provide counsel to my father. My father asked him for that but he couldn't provide it. Oh, and my parents are such devout Catholics that they gave thousands of dollars to build St. Paul the Apostle, my father served as a lector, and my mother used to be head of Religious Education.

    St. Paul the Apostle was the Carmelite parish that they provided in return for the Carmelite high school in Lake County, IL called Carmel. I graduated from Carmel and remember the issues with students who weren't rich alumni fitting in. I remember situations of harassment where the rich kids were allowed to bully the poor kids and get them expelled from the school. I was a witness to such situations and they continue to upset me.

    I am assuming that you had a Mass presided over by the associate pastor, Father David. And he is one of the few younger priests who are very mature. My parents love him and my father absolutely hates the pastor for obvious reasons. I think that religious training creates better priests than the dioceses seminaries,but that is just me.

  3. I am very sorry that you were so deeply hurt both in your parish and in your Catholic High School. my experience at Saint Paul The Apostle is limited to having been there for one Mass but a Mass that was an extraordinary worship/prayer experience. Looking at the bulletin and speaking with parishioners I was also impressed by the parish's sense of mission. And I must say that person after person with whom I spoke at the coffee hour had nothing but good to say of the priests, particularly one Father Farrell who, I gather, had recently died. nevertheless, my point was not that Saint Paul's was a wonderful parish but that the experience I had at Saint Paul's would have been beyond the imagination of the architects of Vatican II--the Council was far greater than the sum of its decrees. Would that there were more parishes like this. Again, I am sorry for what happened to your at Carmel High School and to your father in your parish. I hope you can find healing and , if not, a parish community where you can move beyond your pain