Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Grace and the Form of the Mass

The Latin mass issue is a great mystery to me. (By Latin mass, I mean the Tridentine rite, not the Novus Ordo celebrated in Latin.) I can understand how people would react to abuses associated with the Novus Ordo, that have little to do with it in itself, but simply with how a particular priest executes it. I can understand how someone could irrationally extend their disdain for the specific to the general - but certainly they would admit as much were they challenged, wouldn't they?

Oh, no, it's not that at all. What it is has been difficult to determine since I have observed two things when I try to figure this matter out: 1) Inconsistent replies from pro-Latin mass people, 2) a Gnostic feel to their responses, or, rather, non-responses.

As to the first, some comment on the reverence of the mass, its antiquity, the holiness of the celebrant, its 'prayerfulness,' or the abuses of the Novus. None of these things are strong arguments, and so one can't possible have thought about them on a deep level.

As to the second, I find there is another level of Latin mass defender, the non-defender. The defenders seem to be the low-level neophytes, the simpliciores. There is another level, the mystic Latin mass proponent. I think this person grasps the weakness of the above arguments, but that they constitute good apologetics, although not the truth itself, that is to say, its best expression. So, this person when asked about his attachment to the Latin mass never offers much of a response. In that taciturnity one gets the sense that this person knows you would never understand because you just aren't that spiritually advanced. If you were, you'd understand.

This leads me to the main thrust of my argument. For starters I am not against the Usus Antiquior. Only one thing about it am I flatly against. I am against, in every way, the use of the "old calendar." I am against it to such a degree that I feel it is grave matter, schismatic. No Catholic should tolerate references to such a calendar other than in classes on Medieval or Early Modern History. In my mind it is a heresy equivalent to the quartodecimarian heresy of the Early Church. The Latin mass does not set up an alternate church; use of the old calendar does.

There is an aspect of the practice of the Latin mass that bothers me and that is really what prompted this post. The most perplexing thing to me is the speed at which it is celebrated. Having been told about how reverent the LM is, I expected it so to be. And then I went, and it was like listening to an auctioneer. But surely, that was just the fault of the priest and not of the mass itself, right? And then I went to another, and then another - by different priests. If anything, these priests were worst than the first. I figured the first priest was bad because his Latin wasn't very good and so he was trying to prove how fluent he was... Nope. Is it my problem because I understand a decent amount of Latin - more, it seems than most Latin mass goers, and I want to listen and translate in my mind, and so I actually know what parts of the mass are being recited, and know that Augustine would never recite them that quickly, and that the only people who would actually speak that quickly are auctioneers or people in a panic? As for auctioneers and people in a panic, would one describe listening to them speak peaceful, relaxing, prayerful?

Now, bearing in mind that the speed of recitation is not the specific fault of the celebrant, but is being 'sold' as a part of the beauty of the mass, we need to explain this. Add to this the fact that there seems to be no correlation between a desire to learn Latin and attendance at the Latin mass, the sociologist in me draws a couple of conclusions (mixed in with the theologian in me).

The first, and more trivial one is, there are some people who like old just for the sake of old. In this group I would throw monarchists, antique collectors, most hard core Thomists, and most Latin mass people. It is traditionalism plain and simple. And let us acknowledge the vast difference between a republican of Augustus' era and one of Romulus Augustulus' or Boethius' era. The later is just silly. As for Latin mass antiquarians, whether we are speaking of a ninety-year-old or a thirty-year-old, the difference is significant. The thirty-year-old never lived in the pre-Conciliar Era. And so he is kind of in fantasy land. The other is nostalgic, and that is understandable. I reminisce fondly about my childhood too. As for the Thomist, there is a vast difference between a Thomist who understands what his philosophical commitment amounts to and an undergrad who has no idea what he is talking about. Maritain and Gilson had well-considered and informed reasons for their Thomism, which they described as a method rather than a commitment to set conclusions.

So much for sociology. Now for theology.

Theologically, why I have such a problem with the Latin mass as I have experienced it, and can only conclude, as it is being understood by its celebrants and advocates, is that it is fuelled by an erroneous sacramental theology. Long ago Augustine said that there are two elements to a sacrament, the part the has nothing to do with human involvement (he called ex opere operato, the work itself) and that which does depend in some way on personal involvement (ex opere operantis). For instance, in the sacrament of penance, the right intention of the recipient matters as to whether it actually happens or not. Marriage actually doesn't happen in the absence of the intention to form a permanent bond, etc. So what about the mass? Well, if the congregation doesn't need to understand the words being said, that they are being recited so fast that neither celebrant nor congregation can understand them, well, that argues for a certain understanding of the sacramental theology at work here, doesn't it? It means that the mass is being viewed only from the perspective of ex opere operato. But isn't a really exaggerated sense of this, a total exclusion of the operantis, a view of the mass as a sort of magic spell, for which the 'full and active participation' of the faithful is irrelevant?

That is the only explanation I have been able to come up with for this auctioneering. What have I missed? In the end, I am at least saying that the Latin mass people have done a dreadful job selling their wares, and if it is as important a matter as they seem to think, shouldn't they do better? Ultimately, I think they should be reforming this fast-mass. It seems to me that the pope celebrates mass in Latin and it is also like two hours long, right? What's the rush? Erroneous sacramental theology is the rush.


  1. No comments yet? Hmmm. Another post that proves the fine nature of your mind. Wow.

    1. There are some now, like mine that finds it ironic that Colin here thinks groups that use the old calendar are schismatic. That'd make the FSSP, which is under the authority of the Holy Father, schismatic. Me thinks Colin is somewhat confused about the direction of that thrust of his.

  2. It's always a curious thing, commenting. I suppose that this unusual spin I put on the issue has left many puzzled.

  3. You want comments? Fine, I'll comment! :)

    First, was Quartodecimanism actually a heresy (does it directly involve a rejection of any dogma)?

    Second, on the speed, I've wondered about that too. I'm on the fence about it. I've tentatively concluded that the idea is that you should go ahead and know in advance what the readings and prayers will be, and then just have the actual mass be the occasion when those readings and prayers - and yourself, since you have already made the readings and prayers a part of your own being - are offered up to God through the celebrant.

    Third, what group am I in? I don't think I like old just for the sake of old. But I abhor new for the sake of new, as well as contempt for the old just because it's old, and I do appreciate the embodiment of beautiful continuous living tradition and the linguistic incarnation of the Church's unity. One thing which disposes me favorably to the Latin mass is that it is so often attacked in caricature form by dishonest, anti-intellectual hippies.

    Fourth, I'm not calling Colin a dishonest, anti-intellectual hippie, but the notion that the ''operantis'' is excluded from the Latin mass just because you have to read along in your missal if you want to understand the words of the priest... that's just not accurate. I would say, based on my experience, that the Latin mass can actually force one to "fully and actively participate," just in order to be able to follow along with what's happening. It also seems to me that critics of the Latin mass actually tend to talk as if the use of the vernacular - as opposed to Latin - had some kind of magical property which would function purely ''ex opere operato,'' like a spell, whereas in reality you can talk to countless Catholics who have said the Creed hundreds of times in their mother tongue and still have no clue what half of it means (never mind believing it), or more generally, who have the words of the mass passively wash over them, simply because it is routine and banal and the priest likes to say stuff like, "everyone has his own idea of God and no one's idea of God is any better than anyone else's." Really, Father (OMI)? Well, yay for hippies!

    Finally, it seems to me that anti-Latin types are often just lazy anti-intellectuals. A lot of Muslims learn Arabic so that they can read the whole Quran and some even memorize the whole thing! We should be prepared to expend at least that much intellectual effort for the sake of the mass, but even the new English translation of the Roman Missal had lots of people complaining about how difficult it would be to understand. News, people: some things ARE difficult to understand; IOW, you have to actually be prepared to put some effort in, if you actually even care. I think Jesus or Moses or God or someone might have even mentioned something about that once - which maybe you'd know if you had been listening all these years of going to Mass.

  4. I'm a quasi-exclusive Latin Mass goer. I'll make a few brief comments (btw I'm 37):

    The proponents of the Novus Ordo tell us that the changes were made:
    1) To bring back elements from early Christianity that were lost.
    2) To make the Mass more meaningful to the people and encourage more active participation.
    3) Because the Council said so.

    My response would be:
    1) Liturgical development is a good thing, but moving backwards to an earlier time makes no sense and on the whole isn't good. There may be a "nostaligia" here, but it would seem to me that it's on the part of the Novus Ordo proponents to try to get back an early Church that no longer exists (just like the Church of 1962 no longer exists). This is like an adult wishing to be an infant again. What this has done is frozen those of us who favor the Extraordinary Form in the year 1962 with no way to further develop, waiting for the Novus Ordo to "grow up" from the "infant form" they've reduced it to. (This isn't meant to be insulting, I hope it doesn't sound that way.) Once this is done, a more natural development can begin again. (BTW I don't like the calandar issue either. That could have been handled better back in the 60s.)

    2) I've tried, and tried, and tried going to Novus Ordos, and I just can't seem to be able to connect even half as much with God as I can at an EF Mass. There's too much noise, too much coerced physical participation, and not enough mystery. I just can't PRAY (i.e ACTUALLY participate). So the argument that the Novus Ordo is more meaningful, encourages participation, etc... just doesn't work for me. Maybe it's my personality. I don't feel bad about it though, it's a subjective argument for both sides. Actually to me the EF promotes the sacrificial nature better, and quite frankly, being a Catholic can require a lot of sacrifices for the sake of God, so I need that sacrificial support.

    3) All I'll say is that the EF resembles what is said in the Council better than the Novus Ordo. IMHO they need to scrap the Novus Ordo experiment, go back, and start over and do what the Council really said to do. If they had done that in the first place we wouldn't have all these problems. That being said, if I were pope I wouldn't just throw the Novus Ordo out. Too many people are attached to it now and it wouldn't be a pastoral thing to do.

  5. And this is why the Mass is to be sung.

  6. Irony - You thinking that the use of the old calendar is "grave matter, schismatic", when groups like the FSSP use it. So in other words, according to you, a group that was approved by Blessed Pope John Paul II, is totally under the authority of the pontiff, is schismatic. Well doesn't that just make you the authority...
    (P.S. - I'm posting anonymously because I don't have an account for anything you offer. If facebook was an option I would not post anonymously. Clarifying because I never know when someone will try to call me a coward for not saying who I am).

  7. Dear Dr. Kerr,

    I hesitate to respond to your post as I am fully aware of my inability to either refute your points or defend my support of the Extraordinary Form. With that in mind I will attempt to respond to the arguments you laid out with only my personal opinion and unsubstantiated evidence.

    To your first point, I fully agree with you that of the two types of people you presented who argue for the EF, neither one gives a complete or accurate representation of why they choose one from over the other. That said, in the first case, Beauty, Antiquity, Spirituality, ect. are arguably tangible or, if you will forgive the expression, 'physical' attributes. And when trying to offer explanation one man to another, would not anyone first present to their listener those attributes that are most easily perceived?
    In the second case, you present the person who "never offers much of a response" and therefore gives a 'holier than thou' impression. In my personal experience, an impression received has more to do with the man who receives it, than the man who gives it.

    Moving on to the first stab of your argument, you said that the EF should not use the old calendar and that doing so was tantamount to heresy. Firstly, in must respond that to use the EF properly on must use the Missale Romanum of 1962 which has a specific calendar, to change that calendar would be to change to format of the Missale which is forbidden under pain of sin by the Church and would render the EF illicit.
    Another thing I would like to point out in the use of the new calendar is the apparent diminishing or outright dismissal of certain feasts in the year. Two examples of this diminishing respect are the Feasts of St. Micheal and Christ the King, respectively.
    St. Micheal is the patron and defender of the Universal Church, Prince of the angels and ultimately the power by which God will cast Satan out of the world. His feastday was one of the most widely celebrated festivals of the Church under the old calendar. In the new calendar, St. Micheal (I once again stress that he is the Prince of the heavenly hosts) must share his feastday with two of the other Archangels, who have also lost days devoted specially to them. This year his feast fell on a Sunday, which necessarily takes the forefront, but, (at least in my parish) his name went unmentioned, even in the prayers of the Mass where it would necessarily fall at least once in Eucharistic Prayer III under Patron Saint of the day. Had his feast not been conglomerated maybe our priest would have actually called on his protection on the day relegated by the Church.
    As for the Feast of Christ the King, the old calendar positions this feast on the last Sunday of October respectively. The new calendar places it on the last Sunday of the year. The reason given for the upheaval of this feast by the cardinals who proposed it is that Christ the King can only be truly recognized as such at the end of time when he will return in splendor. I ask you, which calendar sounds as if it wants to live up to the mission of Christ? The one that places His champion on a pedestal and works hard to prepare for His reign upon earth? Or the one that lumps His champion in with the other soldiers and says, 'You do all the work for us, we're going to sit back and enjoy the show'?

  8. It seems my response to this is as long as some of the papers I wrote for your classes, oops.

    Regarding the speed with which the EF is said, I agree with you whole-heartedly that it is occasionally said at a much faster pace than should be necessary. That said I disagree with you that it is 'one of the selling points' and that it is not the fault of the celebrant. When I received my server training for the EF, I was told make sure you keep up with Father and don't deliberately slow him down, to do so would be the utmost hubris. The pace of the Mass is at the discretion of the priest and if we want it slowed down then we need say, 'Father, I know you have a lot of pressures on you to perform, to get me into Mass and out without taking to long and frustrating my patience. But I am willing to sit through an hour long Low Mass and a two and a half hour long Sung Mass." How many Catholics would be brave enough to say this, and how many new converts do you get when you tell them you sit in Mass for two and a half hours on Sunday every week? When people go to the Pope's Mass they are so struck by the fact that they are there and that the Pope is saying it they don't care how long he takes or that he is cutting into their day. Try doing that in your home parish with Fr. Joe who you see every week. Priests are feeling the pressure to perform from us and it results in speedy recitation.

    Your sociological survey is correct, there are those who go the the EF only to view a museum piece, and there are those who go because the miss their childhood. But you are leaving out a growing demographic of people who legitimately are not feeling the presence of God in their OF parishes. I was raised in the OF, I find that there is nothing wrong at all with the OF if it is said with reverence and straight from the book with no alterations or 'enhancements'. But how many are celebrated in this manner? You, Dr. Kerr, are spoiled silly by a church in the wilderness. Most parishes today don't have the luxury of a conservative minded priest and council. They have to do the best they can with whatever they have been able to salvage after years of liberally minded priests and parish councils. In some cases it's not enough to keep a quiet, conservative flame of faith and hope alive. And that's where the EF comes into their lives with all it's stability and emphasis on quiet, personal prayer.

    To end I would like to put forward the idea that though the Church is one and united in belief. There is plenty of room in Her vasts halls for two expressions of that belief, one focused more on the Sacrifice of the God-Man and one focused more on the active participation of the laity. In the same manner as there are two kinds of Saints on earth, those who stayed in their monasteries and those who braved the vastness of the earth.

    God Bless

  9. I am afraid you underestimate the importance the calendar. Before anything else, it ought to be noted that the church does tolerate multiple calendars, and in varying degrees. Differing rites have a differing calendars, and with the west, the Ambrosian calendar differs from the Roman calendar. Likewise, religious orders have their own modified calendars.

    The use of the 1962 calendar does not amount to being the same situation as Russian "old calendarists". The cycle of the liturgical year is part and parcel of any liturgy; it cannot be restricted to the ordo missae. In your essay, you seem perplexed why Catholics would choose the TLM over a well celebrated NO. One answer, among many, is the desire to worship in the mode that has been handed down organically. The development of the liturgical year in the west is part and parcel of that development. The liturgy teaches through its whole structure: the old readings and propers cannot be forsaken if the integrity of the Roman Missal in its late medieval form, with an even older history, is to be maintained. The genius of the rite has to be understood in the full context of its selection of time and scripture. This is what Benedict XVI desired of the '62 books, that their riches be open to the Church in the present day. It's temporal cycle is included therein.

  10. The TLM it is fueled by an erroneous sacramental theology ?

    Don't fear Anathemas huh ?

  11. Wow. Thanks for this post. All this time, the Latin Church had a sacramental theology that was lacking. Yes, yes, all those saints, especially Pius V, they were not inspired enough to contemplate the depths of Augustinian thought. Well thankfully Bugnini was, like you, an expert in this area. It took 1500 years but finally we have the true Mass. I'm glad someone said it.

    And you're correct. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei is a group of schismatics. My Bishop said a Mass (I prefer to call them celebrations of worship and praise) the other day according to the (schismatic) old Calendar. I'm stuck now in this schismatic diocese. Can you help me?

  12. FYI, you're attracting some attention:;boardseen#new


  14. Part 1:
    First off, this isn't worth my time to respond, because of your complete and utter ignorance. But, I'm having fun writing this. So, here goes.

    Truth be told, Esrb99, he shouldn't be attracting any attention. What he writes here is rubbish and absolutely wrong. He is denigrating and accusing devout and holy prelates and priests of being schismatics (anyone associated with PCED, ICKSP, FSSP, Bp. Rifan, any priest who follows Summorum Pontificum, presumably then-Card. Ratzinger when he offered the TLMs on occasion, the list goes on and ON!).

    It also shows a complete and utter lack of understanding the Catholic Church and her liturgy throughout the centuries. To say the TLM is based on erroneous sacramental theology is ... mind-numbingly asinine. The TLM was the liturgy known to 99% of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church from well before the 1600s until the mid-1960s. How could Holy Mother Church get liturgy SO WRONG for SO LONG? Mr. Colin Kerr, please dial up Pope St. Pius V (the promulgator of the Traditional Latin Mass) and tell him HIS THEOLOGY WAS WRONG.

    And now to deal with your (terrible) blog post in a more linear fashion:
    You can't figure out the Traditional Latin Mass "issue"? How about "Catholics want to worship with a liturgy that has been handed down over centuries, not weeks, and by a collection of saints and holy prelates from time immemorial, not a committee of some 1960s bishops and priests?" Or better, "I want to worship as my ancestors worshipped." Or "I want to render unto God a liturgy that more fittingly represents Calvary"? There's a host of reaosns people want the TLM. Are you just lazy or ignorant?

  15. Part 2:

    Your feelings do not determine what is grave matter. You should know that, holding a doctorate of theology (which, giving this blog post, causes me to doubt, or to doubt the "university" you received it from...). Holding to the old calendar is HERETICAL? Son, you need to figure out what heresy is. Being lazy and using the NewAdvent entry on heresy, this is what is says:
    "St. Thomas (II-II:11:1) defines heresy: 'a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas'".
    So, the liturgical calendar is dogmatic? If so, aside from you being COMPLETELY wrong, you'd also be a heretic. The calendar is old. The calendar from 1962, when it was in effect, was dogmatic (per your insinuation the calendar is a dogma). The dogma was changed (corrupted) in the 1960s by the Consilium. The Consilium was full of heretics, and now you are a heretic for holding to a corrupted dogma.

    You complain about the speed? Where have you attended Mass and experienced "fast" TLMs? I've attended the TLM for going on 6 years now - they have ALL been *just* as long, if not LONGER, than the average Novus Ordo. A Sunday Low (TL) Mass will typically run 45-55 minutes. The NOs I used to attend would range anywhere from 45-60 minutes. The Sunday High (TL) Masses I've attended are ROUTINELY 75-90 minutes long. The TLM Solemn High Masses I've attended have stretched into 2-3 hour liturgies. The longest liturgy I've ever attended was a 4 hour Traditional Latin Mass ordination for the (by-your-terms heretical Fraternity of St Peter, established by Pope John Paul II in 1988).

    I've literally never heard of anyone saying the speed of the Latin Mass is 'sold' as part of the beauty. First, I've never heard anyone nowadays say the TLM is faster than the NO (ask my brother who attended the TLM Easter Vigil with me!). I consider this claim of yours absolutely dubious.

    I know a large number of old Catholics who grew up and lived in pre-conciliar times. They do not attend the TLM out of nostalgia. Please, let this canard die. You look like an idiot using it. These people attend it because they either believe it is a more fitting sacrifice and liturgy than the NO or they want to worship as their ancestors have done.

    As a 26 year old, I attend the Traditional Latin Mass (I've never lived in a pre-conciliar world) for a multitude of reasons, the primary one being a desire to worship God more fully than at the NO. There are more, but that's not the point of all this.

    You have a severe deficit in understanding liturgy, the sacraments, and theology. That you actually hold a doctorate in theology terrifies me.

  16. This idea that it's merely a magical spell... This has been a common charge leveled against the Church since the first few centuries. It's addressed countless times throughout various periods of the theological history.

    The power of the sacrament comes through Christ, and God is the principal agent. Even the minister of the sacrament is merely an instrumental cause. As the sacramental reality of the Eucharist is Christ Himself, the recipient does not affect validity, which you seem to be proposing.

    The article from the Catholic Encyclopedia on sacraments helps to illustrate this.

    "(b) In adults, for the valid reception of any sacrament except the Eucharist, it is necessary that they have the intention of receiving it. The sacraments impose obligations and confer grace: Christ does not wish to impose those obligations or confer grace without the consent of man. The Eucharist is excepted because, in whatever state the recipient may be, it is always the body and blood of Christ (see INTENTION; cf. Pourrat, op. cit., 392)."

  17. Sir, if you hold a doctorate in theology then that is a disgrace. What convocation of dullards and heretics granted you this degree? The quality of your thinking is poor, and your despicable opinions are a slap in the face to Jesus Christ.

  18. The Traditional Latin Mass was set into law for all time in Quo Prium.

    "Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul."

    This article is the same old rubbish everyone complains about. So, the Holy Sacrifice is too long or you? For real?

    The Holy Sacrifice is the greatest miracle on earth. I could stay their forever. I wonder if you'll complain to God that you have to worship Him too long in Heaven. Just saying.

    And for what it's worth, the Novus Ordo is man-centered liturgy focued on us and it was put together by a freemason and a bunch of protestant heretics. That's your Mass?

    Wait, I know it's all about active participation. I forgot. We all have to touch the Holy of Holies with our grubby hands, and be "greeters" and "singers" and hold hands, acting like protestants and what not. God forbid that we're not doing something.


  19. Hi Colin, I see the tone got rather savage in some of the responses here. I re-read what I wrote and it occurs to me that my last sentence could sound like I meant to address *you*, Colin, and not just a general 'you,' with my remark - which would be horribly condescending and not at all what I intended. Sorry about that if it came across wrong!

  20. "We may use different ways to assist well at Mass, with faith, confidence, true piety, and love. We can be attentive to the liturgical prayers, which are generally beautiful and full of unction, elevation, and simplicity. We can also recall the passion and death of the Savior, of which the Mass is the memorial, and think of ourselves as standing at the foot of the cross with Mary, John, and the holy women. Again, we can apply ourselves to rendering to God, in union with Christ, the four duties that are the ends of the sacrifice: adoration, reparation, petition, and thanksgiving. Provided we pray, even while piously saying the Rosary, we assist fruitfully at Mass. We may, like St. Jane de Chantal and many saints, with great profit continue our mental prayer during the Mass, especially if we are inclined to a pure and intense love, somewhat like St. John resting on the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper." - Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

  21. You should expect things to get a bit more rough when someone declares good and devout Catholics of schism, mortal sin, and heresy.


  23. Which is worse? The Lefty Libtard who seeks to make the Mass man-centered according to hedonistic man, or the Traditionalist who seeks to make the Mass man-centered according to Gnostic enlightened man?

    It's rhetorical question, since I already know which one is worse.

    And by "worse" I basically mean "more dangerous".

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