Department of Redundancy Department

We bring you this Tweet from Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, New York:

Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo speaks for the Department of Irony . . .

“This beautiful temple, the altar of which we consecrate today, . . .”

We are frankly puzzled by the following observation . . .

Monsignor Paul J. E. Burkard, Pastor of Our Lady of Victory, noted that the church has had a temporary altar for the past 30 years.

. . . as our gaze fixates on that structure at the top of the steps behind His Excellency.

How modern liturgy sunders man from the Divine

Observations penned some years before Summorum Pontificum by German essayist Martin Mosebach. (The reader should bear in mind that Herr Mosebach writes from a land most of whose bishops were already beginning to hurtle toward open schism.)

Perhaps the greatest damage done by Pope Paul VI’s reform of the Mass (and by the ongoing process that has outstripped it), the greatest spiritual deficit, is this: we are now positively obliged to talk about the liturgy. Even those who want to preserve the liturgy or pray in the spirit of the liturgy, and even those who make great sacrifices to remain faithful to it — all have lost something priceless, namely, the innocence that accepts it as something God-given, something that comes down to man as gift from heaven. Those of us who are defenders of the great and sacred liturgy, the classical Roman liturgy, have all become — whether in a small way or a big way — liturgical experts. In order to counter the arguments of the reform, which was padded with technical, archaeological, and historical scholarship, we had to delve into questions of worship and liturgy — something that is utterly foreign to the religious man. We have let ourselves be led into a kind of scholastic and juridical way of considering the liturgy. What is absolutely indispensible for genuine liturgy? When are the celebrant’s whims tolerable, and when do they become unacceptable? We have got used to accepting liturgy on the basis of the minimum requirements, whereas the criteria ought to be maximal. And finally, we have started to evaluate liturgy — a monstrous act! We sit in the pews and ask ourselves, was that Holy Mass, or wasn’t it? I go to church to see God and come away like a theatre critic. And if, now and again, we have the privilege of celebrating a Holy Mass that allows us to forget, for a while, the huge historical and religious catastrophe that has profoundly damaged the bridge between man and God, we cannot forget all the efforts that had to be made so that this Mass could take place, how many letters had to be written, how many sacrifices made this Holy Sacrifice possible, so that (among other things) we could pray for a bishop who does not want our prayers at all and would prefer not to have his name mentioned in the Canon. What have we lost? The opportunity to lead a hidden religious life, days begun with a quiet Mass in a modest little neighborhood church; a life in which we learn, over decades, discreetly guided by priests, to mingle our own sacrifice with Christ’s sacrifice; a Holy Mass in which we ponder our own sins and the graces given to us — and nothing else: rarely is this possible any more for a Catholic aware of liturgical tradition, once the liturgy’s unquestioned status has been destroyed.

The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy (Ignatius, 2006)

On liturgy and nostalgia

Observations by Catholic scholar Peter Kwasniewski:

Though Our Lord first appeared on earth in a humble manger, hidden and poor, the sacred liturgy is not time-travel to Bethlehem circa 4 bc. The Mass is a living image or efficacious likeness of the perfect worship offered by Jesus Christ as Head of the Church — the sinless Lamb slain on Calvary, now reigning in the heavenly Jerusalem — and so it makes present in our midst the glorified Savior whose second coming will not be in quiet poverty but in earth-shattering splendor. For this reason the instinct of our faith has always been to maximize the beauty of the liturgy and its diverse furnishings and surroundings, yearning for what is to come rather than indulging in backward glances. From that point of view, the liturgists who clamor for a return to evangelical or apostolic “simplicity” are the ones guilty of nostalgia, not the faithful who desire the traditional Roman rite. They want to go back, we want to press forward. It is the difference between archaeology and eschatology. The irony, in fact, is greater: one of the most ancient liturgical customs of all, and one that survived all ages and cultures until it met its match in the hubris of the modern West, is that of facing eastwards when we pray to Christ, the true light that enlightens every man (cf. Jn 1:9). In having the priest turn his back to the Sun of Justice and “face the people” in a closed circle, as if he were the coming light, advocates of the new liturgical style disdained universal symbolism and banished one of the few customs we can be certain the church of the early centuries practiced. Once again, those who defend Tradition find that they are more capable than their adversaries of preserving what the latter claim to value most — in this instance, antiquity.

Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church (Angelico Press, 2014)

The winter of our unbelief

Catholic author and educator Peter Kwasniewski on the effects of the 1960s liturgical “reform” on ecumenism and evangelization:

What we need for a sane Christian life together is a truly noble simplicity, the silence of anonymity, clouds of beautiful song and incense, a healthy routine of life marked by feasts and processions, a life of worship spent in churches that foster an ecstatic praise of God, bearing witness to his transcendent beauty. This is what the Middle Ages had in abundance, for all that the poor peasants lacked; this is what we fundamentally lack, for all the cleverness and comfort we have. Every time an ugly church is built or the Mass is offered unworthily, faith is endangered, distorted, thinned out. In the Church on earth, half a century out from the great springtime that was supposed to follow the Second Vatican Council, we are in the midst of a darkening Age of Unbelief, a winter colder than the Enlightenment itself.

Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (2014)

The Liturgical Fidget

It bears noting that not everyone was sanguine about the prospects for liturgical change on the eve of the Second Vatican Council. Protestant denominations not noted at the time for radicalism had begun carrying out experiments, some jarring, as had the Catholic Church in some places.

Here is C. S. Lewis, an Anglican, on the subject as published in the early 1960s, shortly before his death:

. . . The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. . . .

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.” . . .

It may well be that some variations which seem to me merely matters of taste really involve grave doctrinal differences. But surely not all? For if grave doctrinal differences are really as numerous as variations in practice, then we shall have to conclude that no such thing as the Church of England exists. And anyway, the Liturgical Fidget is not a purely Anglican phenomenon; I have heard Roman Catholics complain of it too.

Letters to Malcolm (1962)