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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

But...!

This weekend at class, our professor gave us a GREAT analogy, after he pointed out to us that something is happening today that has never happened in the HISTORY of the Church.

When there is something NEW after over 2,000 years, well, maybe we should take notice. After all, most heresies are not actually new and innovative; they're just rehashings of of the old tired stuff like gnosticism and pelagianism.

What am I talking about?

Is there anyone who HASN'T heard the following phrases or related variations?

"It's still the Mass."

"It's still valid".

"Jesus is still present."  
"No matter what happens, it's still the Lord."

 Can you BELIEVE the excuses given for what people CLEARLY know is wrong?

Our professor wasn't attacking liturgy. He wasn't attacking anyone. He was only pointing out a discrepancy that we've all been lulled to accept.  

I'm the one making it polemical. He didn't. But it's my blog, and I feel like being controversial, and I don't have to worry about accreditation, so here I go: The Rant is ON! 

I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems that whenever someone politely and specifically points out issues that are contrary to the GIRM or, maybe to music being used in the Mass that is not liturgical or maybe is outright heretical, someone comes along and says, "But...it's still Jesus on the altar."  

(Note the prefacing and self-effacing term..."but".  "But" is ALWAYS  a term that denotes a change in direction.  And in this case, it's directing a change against faithfulness to Canon Law, which is what the GIRM IS!) 

Moving on...

Maybe you're having a polite (really!) discussion with someone about the fact that Haugen-Haas-S-guy is the dominating voice of God in the liturgy these days, even though their music, at best, only paraphrases the psalms and often contradicts Catholic theology outright.  And maybe you grumble a little that "Soon and Very Soon", which is a Protestant hymn which does not recognize the True Presence of Christ in the tabernacle at ALL TIMES is actually fully improper for a post-Communion "meditation", and that same dear misinformed soul (or one just like it in bad formation) pipes up, "But...the Mass is still valid", and too often that same dear person is still tapping their foot to the soulful bongos which continue to ring in an unbearable ear worm

[As an aside...some complain about "All Are Welcome".  At least they're not hearing "Soon and Very Soon" in their nightmares as I am.  When did I become a Southern Baptist?]

Or maybe you've just left the LA Religious Conference, replete with scantily-clad liturgical dancers that have no relevance to any part of American culture (which includes ALL cultures of the world), and you've listened to speakers of other races than yours complain that the Mass isn't relevant to their middle-eastern ancestry. And maybe you're Vietnamese and you're astounded because...the Roman liturgy ISN'T an American event, but AROSE out of the Middle East/Africa and if anyone has a right to complain about relevance, it's the Anglos who aren't included in its history. 

But we Anglos don't complain, do we?  

Because we're the only ones without a voice and we watch with irony while people of African and other descent who've been raised in a victim culture deconstruct the very liturgy that arose out of their own ancestral traditions but found a home in Rome, anyway. 

So much for oppression.  The Church loved the people to the south of Rome so much that she made their liturgical practices her standard.    (It's also very Franciscan, as it was the Franciscan form itself that was standardized while all other rites were suppressed in the interest of unification in liturgy in the Latin Rite.)  

Welcome to America. Land of the Historically-Idiotic, Home of the Free-to-Deconstruct what was never a problem in the first place. 

Let me offer you our professor's synopsis of the liturgical problem we face in this age, all across the world. For indeed, this is not an American problem, but one that infects and poisons us across the world.  Maybe you'll have to substitute the metaphor, but you'll see the point. 

*(Important Disclaimer:  I've embellished on the original analogy because it's more fun and it gives me the ability to reach a wider audience.)   

The Event at the Faithful and Joyful Ranch

Someone happens by your house, says "Peace be with you" and hands you a porterhouse steak.  Now, this is a PRIME piece of meat, perfectly marbled and aged. This thing could actually feed your entire family, and dang, you've been STARVING in the last week.  This is a GIFT!

So as you behold this wondrous, amazing cut from a very happy steer which gave its life to feed your starving family, you realize that what you have there in your hot callused hands is an EVENT. 

So you set out to make it happen.  You prep the grill with the right amount of charcoal, maybe even add hickory chips to make the smoke more aromatic and impart a certain importance to what is being offered.  

You choose the choicest vegetables from the field or the garden or the grocery store. Because only the right greens and corn is going to be proper for this feast.  And then you choose the most perfect wine, maybe a deep ruby Zinfandel or even a Shiraz or Sirah.  

Everything goes into this steak.  Because the accoutrement's that surround it point to its goodness and help you enjoy it more. Sure, it's a lot of work to put all of this together, and you need the help of your family to make sure the corn is soaked and then grilled or maybe boiled to perfection, and the greens are garlic-steamed just right, and maybe the potatoes are on the heat in the coals for just the right amount of time so that their skins are crispy but the inside is soft but not too much so. 

And all of this leads up to the main event, which is the porterhouse.  And you put that juicy perfectly-raised hunk of muscle on the iron and dang it if you don't fall to your knees in anticipation of what this is about to become!  

And then you take it off the grill and cut it and serve it to your family, and all of you rejoice in awe at this incredible event that is the Porterhouse steak. 

Or...Back at the Backwards Ranch where the Left Hand makes a Y

Someone happens by your house, says "Peace be with you" and hands you a Porterhouse steak. Now, this is a PRIME piece of meat, perfectly marbled and aged. This thing could actually feed your entire family, and dang, you've been STARVING in the last week. This is a GIFT!

And you take a look at your children and your family and decide you're all pretty hungry but you haven't seen a cow or a steer in a long time because you actually decided they weren't environmentally safe since they killed your grass in order to sustain themselves, and it meant you had to take time away from protesting Bush or or the war or free press in order to take care of them.  Some actually starved and died under your watch, but hey, they were just cattle that weren't being used, so what difference did it make? 

But then this porterhouse came your way and was given to you, and you looked at your progeny and realized maybe you were wrong about the importance of meat. And so you decided that it was really all about the stuff it contained in it that might make your family live a little longer. 

So you take that steak and because you can't serve it raw, you throw it into a pot of boiling water so as to kill the bacteria and inorganic materials that surely covered it. And you didn't want to grill it for fear of making chem trails in the sky above your ranch. Besides, you wouldn't have enough to feed Algore and his camera crew.   

So when it's done boiling and tough as the hide of the mummified bull you left to rot out in the home paddock, you decide it's safe to consume. But maybe it'll go down more quickly if it's blended and served in shot glasses and trendy finger bowls.  So you toss it into the mixer or the blender and you put it on "puree".

And maybe you toss in a few vegetables to blend with it, but when it's done, it's the same goop everyone eats, right? All you gotta do is garnish it with a few lentils and maybe some organic wheat grass

And you serve this mushy porterhouse steak in tumblers to your family explaining that it's all the same as the stuff that comes off your neighbor's grill.  And the mother, even though she secretly objects to how dinner is being prepared and served, says to her astonished children, "But it's still a steak, right?  The meat is still present, it just seems different because it's prepared differently. But it's all the same.  No matter what you do to it, it's still a porterhouse steak!  Slurp up!

And eventually the children, accustomed to eating in this manner, take on the same astonished litany, because they have to in order to convince themselves that the Left Hand Makes a Y Ranch is experiencing the same benefits as the Faithful and Joyful Ranch.  

And one day someone comes to town and visits the Y Ranch and experiences their idea of dinner. They partake because they, too recognize that what is served is in fact a steak because they saw it before it was transformed into goop. And even though they try to DESCRIBE what a Porterhouse is like, the family at Y decides that's too much work and no one would like it because boiling and blending is so much easier and understandable.  Who needs spices and rubs and flavorings and accoutrements like garlic steamed broccoli?  Or cheddar mashed potatoes? 

Does anyone see a problem with this? 

Anyone who knows what a Porterhouse is about can clearly see that the Y Ranch is actually not aware of the import of what the Porterhouse is really about.  It is an event. A major event. It feeds the starving children.  It isn't just about the substance, but the understanding of what it is. And understanding what it is about is made more clear by what leads up to it and surrounds it. 

Certainly, you can boil a steak and serve it with water and a thickening agent. But really...is that what a Porterhouse is about? 

Those who have ever worked in health care will understand this analogy most clearly.  I remember blending food for those who could not chew. I remember adding a thickening agent to gel water so that my patient wouldn't choke and drown.  I remember spooning a ham and cheese sandwich from a plastic bowl into the mouth of another dear person, wondering if they'd EVER have the pleasure of knowing what a ham sandwich was really about.  

The Rights of the Faithful

The fact is that the Liturgy matters.  The entire Liturgy prepares us for what we are about to receive. And if the accoutrements make us say trite and improperly defensive things like: "But...Jesus is still present!", it is indicative that we are not being presented with the reality of what we are supposed to be receiving. It means we're spooning up mush when we should be gnawing from the bone. 

People, if you leave Mass commenting, "Jesus was still made manifest" or "It was still a  valid Mass" or "The people of the Congo would have died for what we just experienced"....

Well...

First of all, if you're making those comments, it is an act of trying to justify or rationalize something you recognized is very, very wrong.  If your latter comment about experiencing what people in the Congo or in India or the Sudan or Bosnia would die to experience...don't count on it. It's quite possible they'd rather die than see such a lack of reverence given to Our Lord.
   
If you're going to bring up the martyrdom of those who suffer for the Mass, I must ask you this:    are you suggesting they don't DESERVE a properly celebrated Mass with all the  accountrements that draws them in to Christ?  Are they not deserving of all the elements of the liturgy we are supposed to be celebrating in honor of Christ?  Would that not also edify their souls?  Or don't they deserve reverence?  

Secondly, if you're going to cite the poor Catholics of those awful war-torn parts of the world, are you suggesting they have no TASTE?   Just because certain American Catholics think that it's OK to wear blue pastel paint swipes on a scarf over a plastic summer tablecloth doesn't mean that those who have lost everything have also lost appreciation for true beauty.  In fact, I'm pretty sure they'd give up food for MONTHS in order to purchase proper liturgical vestments for their priests.  

Thirdly...are you suggesting that because we live in a country that has access to all those things that make the liturgy proper and beautiful, we SHOULD NOT utilize those things just because other people in other parts of the world cannot because of their persecution? 

Here's the reality:  

The liturgy here is present everywhere. We go to Mass not for ourselves, but ON BEHALF OF those who CANNOT!  We have the potential to experience the full effects of Grace, and that grace is brought to fulfillment by a liturgy properly celebrated and experienced, and we can offer that for those who are deprived of the ability to even seen a priest, much less attend a Mass offered by him.  

If you're making excuses saying that liturgical disharmony is OK because everyone doesn't get to experience what is written in the GIRM or other things that honor God in the liturgy, then what you are saying is that you don't understand what the liturgy is about, nor do you understand that the Mass isn't relevant only to the location where it's celebrated, but EVERYWHERE and in ALL TIMES.  

Period. 

So stop with the excuses.  If you're happy with mush, then go eat mush, but don't enforce it on the rest of us.  We who know what steak is about are happy to share it, but it means you need to leave the puree behind and never look back. Don't waste our time or our salvation suggesting that the unidentifiable dinner your having is anything like the great feast the rest of us are celebrating in everywhere else. 

I am so sad for those parishes that have a liturgy which is unrecognizable as being Catholic.  We have a few in my diocese, and there are many that have not obtained fame.  The fact is that those people are suffering because their Sacraments may be invalid, they are not experiencing the Word of God, they are not learning the Gospel message.  The Liturgy is the face of the Church, and it is what most people recognize about Catholics. 

When you walk into a Cathedral or a beautiful church, who do you see walking around in awe, taking photos, asking questions?

Protestants.  People of no faith.  People who are seeking. 

So many Catholics in the past (and sadly, today) have had this impression that if we look more Protestant, then we'll be more attractive. The opposite is the truth. 

The non-Catholic people who enter our churches take a look cringe, and comment, "What did you do THAT for?"  

They can no longer even find a representation of Christ in our parishes. They find blobs of stone or resin and wonder at the religion that would permit something so utterly blasphemous to be contained within the walls of what is supposed to be sacred space. 

And so often, people visiting Catholic Churches can't even find the glowing red candle that is supposed to mark the tabernacle.  How do we bring people into the Presence of Christ...but can't point to Him?  

So I say, save your useless platitudes. Don't make excuses for what is wrong. Admit that something isn't right and work to establish what should be present, and what elevates us to Christ.  

The Church does not exist to save the world. It exists to save our souls.  THAT'S what we need to understand and follow. And if we don't vibrantly live out what we believe, then  we'll be violently spit out in the very form of the lukewarm mush with which we liturgically choose to disregard the honor due to God.  

I guess we all have a choice.  I, for one, have no time for excuses. You?  


*This rant has been brought to you by Adoro and does not represent the opinion of her priests or her bishops in any official capacity, although she thinks it's possible she might be stating what they think but are far too polite, holy, and well-formed to state outside of private conversation with other of the ordained persuasion.  In other words...nothing contained above is Catholic Doctrine. Don't sue me if you're not practicing custody of the eyes.  I'll go to my judgment for writing this, and you can go to yours for reading it. Agreed?  Agreed. Thank you.  Expect time in purgatory just for reading this.  Sorry. I'll do your time for you. * 

14 comments:

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

This rant is echoed by Joe of St. Therese who agrees 100% with this and is happy to take on your purgatory time ;)

That's the problem, we settle for the minimum when there's much greater. What use of it is it to say Jesus is still present? Yes, Obviously, but do we settle for the the status quo, or do we go for our fullest potential.

The difference between the "A" student and the "C" student isn't that much (besides for better reguritating what their liberal professors say) The "A" student does not settle for anything less than the best, neither should we when it comes to the Catholic Liturgy, this is why I'm a "liturgical snob" because I don't want the minimum, I want the full array of graces in blocked by human interference by disobeying the rubrics. Is that just too much to ask? Apparently so.

And besides, as much of a sinner as I am, I need ALL the graces I can get.

Kelly said...

Some very good points are made here Adoro! Bravo! If reading this gets me time in Purgatory then I'd hate to see what reading the newspaper will do. Keep it coming, I love it.

makemeaspark said...

The problem with your analogy is this. If i may borrow it for a minute for a third possibility. At our house, we have run short of food, and when given something nice like steak we do not have the luxury of getting lovely vegetables to go with it. So we do the best we can, we mix up the instant potatoes given to us by St. Vincent De Paul and use some real butter, cause we had some of that in the freezer, and add some garlic salt to cover the instant flavor. we do have onions in a bag, just the yellow kind and we throw those in the pan with the steak, cause we can't afford a grill. And then we have the meal with Milk or juice or whatever we have on hand. To us it is still a feast and the steak is still wonderful steak and we are very grateful, perhaps more grateful than when we had steak more often. We savor every mouthful because it is indeed the most special part of the meal.

And we are glad and remember the giver of the steak in our prayers.

Yes, I agree, "Gather us In" is drivel and it does not even mention God, but The Mass of Creation, written by Haugen, was used at the Washington DC mass for the Pope last April and i saw the Pope singing along with a smile on his face. Which indicated to me that he was familiar with this particular piece of music.

No its not in Latin(and i like the Te Deum mass better) but the Pope himself did not refuse to partake of the Lord that day.

So although i agree with much of what you said, I think that you need to edit your ideas here considerably before they are wholly accurate.

Love you girlfriend and keep those ideas coming at us!

Maria said...

Can I hear an Amen? Yes!

Great analogy about a proper steak dinner.

Don't be afraid to write what you really think! Remember this past Sunday's reading about St. Thomas? Notice that Jesus let Thomas see and feel his wounds--He didn't kick the man out the door for asking questions. Indeed, blessed are those who do not see and yet believe, but God also smiles upon those who see the evidence He offers and comes to exclaim "My Lord and My God!"

Maggie said...

Hear hear! We don't want to simply mollify ourselves, saying "Jesus is still there... it was still a valid Mass..." Since Jesus is there, and it was a valid Mass, why is that not reason to make the liturgy the most beautiful thing on the planet?

I agree. By watering ourselves down into Protestant wannabees, we cheapen the liturgy and cheapen the faith. We're Catholic, darn it. Let's be proud of it!

See, now you've got me ranting too :-)

Adoro said...

makemeaspark ~ I think you're making an argument here that I'm actually not: This ISN'T about Latin vs. English or vernacular of another language. It's not TLM vs NO. And, in fact, your description of using what you have, i.e. instant potatoes, etc., reveals that you DO understand the event that is the steak. So no matter how little you have, you wouldn't even CONSIDER boiling it and throwing it in a blender.

To do so would be to entirely wreck the steak. Is it still a steak? Yes. But you still do everything you can to do the best to bring out the reality and fullness of that steak even if you don't have the things you'd prefer.

I'd rather not get into a discussion on specific "liturgical" music and how the Pope did or did not react. Remember that he's quite polite and even if he was cringing he certainly would not have shown us that side of him when he was here. So we really can't comment on how happy he was or wasn't with what he was hearing and seeing when he was here last April. (I'm also afraid if we mention specific songs this will degenerate into a discussion about that, and NONE of us wants that!)

So really, you are getting my point perfectly and you aren't disagreeing at all with what I'm saying here, only with what you THOUGHT I was saying.

youknowwho said...

I would love a discussion about how we CAN "fix" the liturgical music problem. Following your analogy, in my opinion, green vegetables and decent spices aren't even in the cupboard or freezer. Honestly, I"d rather have a mass with no music than the songs available on the market today. You can only sing the old classics so many days in a row before they get OLD OLD OLD ... and does old, stale garlic really benefit the steak in the end?

But I"m getting into my own rant now. Adoro, delete this if you want. I won't be offended.

Adoro said...

youknowwho - and EVERYONE ELSE :

Let's just put the analogy aside for a minute because you're all getting WAY too hung up on that.

The point my professor was making (and the point I'm making) isn't about the freshness of the vegetables.

I don't have that stuff, either.

Let's look very plainly at the Mass: Christ is truly present. Period. And because that's true, isn't it proper to take the BEST of what we have available to us and make sure it all points to and enhances what is really HAPPENING in the Mass?

Now, return to the analogy again: focus on the steak you were given: in one case, you grilled it and spiced it and used what you had on hand because you realized what a treasure it was.

On the other hand you stuck it in a blender and served it in plastic cups.


In the first case, if you didn't have fresh veggies available, you'd still use the best of what you have because those things ENHANCE the experience of the steak and point to its reality.


In the latter case you disregarded everything the steak is about and totally ignored the importance both of IT and the idea that what is "served" with it brings out its flavor and reality even more.


I get the impression that often people think I'm saying something I'm not. Please note that although I slammed the popular liturgical faire, I did not denigrate the NO and uphold the TLM. I did not mention specific hymns. I'm not a rad trad. If you're basing your comments on the idea that I think the TLM is the only way to go, then you're basing your responses on a premise that isn't there.

Look at the analogy and just see it for what it is. Focus on the steak and how to bring it into fulfillment, and how you would do that.


I would HOPE none of you would throw it in a blender (unless of course you couldn't chew!)

Hidden One said...

I agree with Adoro.

I was Confirmed and entered the Church shortly after the EV of 2008. I've been to Mass daily for most of the last 8 months, and weekly for a year before that, and a couple other times besides. Do you want to know how many licit Masses I have been to? I can count them on figures and toes, give or take a couple amputations or genetic mutations.

Do you want to know how many truly beautiful licit (afaik) Masses I have been to? About 5, including the single FSSP usus antiquior that I participated in (before I was able to partake of the post-baptismal sacraments). While we're at it, the validity of a couple Masses I've attended is doubtful.

These Masses have been in more than half a dozen parishes in two dioceses, celebrated by not less than a dozen priests (retired and not), including two bishops (one retired) that together represented 3 or 4 notable religious orders.

[While we're at it, the homilies I'm better for for hearing number only a couple more than the number of licit Masses that I've been privileged to participate in - in the pew.]

For crying out loud, the Mass was meant to be done properly. And beautifully so.

Allow me a spontaneous poetic rant, s'il vous plait.

If the king of Belgium was setting there
Upon that wooden tabernacle square
You, lib'ral would show deference
Though you show it none each day
You come for the Mass to say
Or hear, celebrate - or participate
In this Mass you do castrate
More than human things.

When "ars celebrandi" is more than can be said
Of the priest whose people are to be fed
And "in persona Christi" is all forgotten
And the music's purely rotten
Envision Belgium's king, sitting there
Trad, don't abandon Christ to go get some fresh air.

Bind up your wounds
And be glad that it's valid
Even if the meat is salad
The potatoes fried and mushy
in the homily so gushy
With environmental praise.

Pray in reparation
And act within your station
And mourn with me the dearth
Of disrespect - is Christ not worth
A beautiful thing
More than 60's bling
A licit sacrifice
Of Him who's be-yond price?

Fear the God you worship
And let that horror perisheth.


There. I'm done. Time for lunch.

Kurt H said...

Your rant is resonating. I am saddened that you had to write it and that what prompted it seems to be so widespread. The liturgy can be such a beautiful and edifying thing, if it is only done properly. I don't know why it is so hard for some liturgists to just comply with the rite! When done right, the liturgy teaches us about our faith; when done improperly, it teaches the wrong lessons.

Adrienne said...

Amen - I have nothing to add except the profound sense of sadness experienced at most Masses I attend.

Sadness, not only for myself, but for the millions of people who have never had the experience of attending a beautiful liturgy.

Kimberly said...

Adoro:

I just read this post to my 15 yr. old son, who is a Master of Ceremonies for the TLM. His reaction:

Brilliant...positively brilliant. From a young man who had only experienced the "goop" you so humorously referred to, for the first 11 years of his life. It doesn't take an adult, a rocket scientist of a theologian to get this analogy. This young man gets it, I get it and we sincerely appreciate your thoughtful post on this subject.

Not to mention that it was gut-shaking funny!!

Anonymous said...

How about mechanical santas and easter bunnies on the altar,a bird chirping tape during the concecration and the priest saying the words, "you matter" after the concecration. I have witnessed it all. Why are we dumming our faith down?

makemeaspark said...

poor anonymous, that is truly awful, I thank God every Sunday for faithful and holy Priests in our city! The one who used the Creator, Redeemer etc formula was politely asked to desist years ago or leave, he chose to leave. We are truly blessed here and i am truly Grateful!