These words from Cardinal Sarah speak for themselves without much comment from me. Certainly, we have lost the "art" of celebrating liturgy in a way that raises the heart and mind or directs the eyes of the soul to contemplating the divine. Prosaic, earthbound, uninspiring celebrations of Mass, sloppily executed, always leave me feeling so sad and with the thought of another missed opportunity to touch hearts and minds. From the Catholic Herald site:
Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s liturgical chief, has spoken of a “serious, profound crisis” in the liturgy and the Church since the Second Vatican Council.
In a message to a liturgical conference in Herzogenrath, Germany, translated for Catholic World Report by Michael J Miller, Cardinal Sarah praised Vatican II’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. But he said the Council had been followed by a “serious crisis of faith, not only at the level of the Christian faithful but also and especially among many priests and bishops”.
The Cardinal, who is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said the “crisis” was particularly visible in the way the Mass has been understood and celebrated. He argued that many Catholics had neglected “sacred silence”, and gestures such as kneeling which express reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. They had also forgotten that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, “identical to the act performed once and for all by Jesus Christ, making present the Sacrifice of the Cross in a non-bloody manner”.
He added that the Church had experienced “devastation, destruction and wars” not only in the liturgy, but also in doctrine, morals and Church discipline. “More and more voices of high-ranking prelates stubbornly affirm obvious doctrinal, moral and liturgical errors that have been condemned a hundred times, and work to demolish the little faith remaining in the people of God,” he said.
The conference was on the tenth anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio which called for “mutual enrichment” between the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Mass, and gave greater freedom to celebrate the older form.
Cardinal Sarah had originally planned to attend the conference, but had “unexpected” obligations and sent a message instead.
He quoted several times from Benedict’s writings, including his remark – when Cardinal Ratzinger – that the Church’s crisis was “to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy”.
Cardinal Sarah suggested that the crisis had followed when God was displaced from the centre of the liturgy. Instead of directing worship towards the adoration of God, the Eucharist became dominated by merely human motives such as “the community’s celebration of itself”.
I had a wonderful time at the celebrations for the feast of St John Nepomuk, Patron Saint of Prague, last week. Staying with a priest friend in the diocese there enabled me to take a full part in the festivities. A splendid Mass in the packed Cathedral celebrated by Cardinal Dominik Duka, who was joined by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza (3rd from the left) with about forty priests in attendance and many seminarians as well.
Before Mass began, the cardinal blessed a team of horses from Moravia from the balcony of his palace.
As Mass concluded, we processed from the Cathedral with the relic of St John. The elaborate canopy to the rear hangs over his magnificent shrine, where the relic is kept.
The celebration goes back a long way, flourishing in the Baroque period, but was in abeyance for many years under the years of Communist rule. However, in recent years Cardinal Duka has re-established it as a huge public festival, with a procession through he streets and over the Charles Bridge, concluding with a spectacular fireworks display on the river, complete with full orchestra and a huge party on a river boat for the great and the good of Prague. Used very much as a way to put the Church back at the centre of the city's cultural life. (The Church suffered greatly in the former Czechoslovakia and the present day Czcech Republic has only about 10% of the population declaring themselves as Catholics.)
An open topped carriage is gifted to the Cardinal for the day, which means that he can ride for most of the procession, rather than walk (lucky him, it takes quite while).
The relic on the Charles Bridge, where we stopped for prayers and litanies at his statue and the site marked as the place of martyrdom, where he was thrown into the river in 1393.
It's not misty in this photograph - just that the thrurible was giving off a LOT of smoke!
A new feature was a salute by a parachutist, who descended from the skies and manoeuvred his parachute under the arches of the Charles Bridge, hence everyone looking heavenwards.
The fireworks were something to behold and great fun in concert with the music.
I visited the Chapel in the Archiepiscopal Palace earlier int the day, after a meeting with Cardinal Duka (he is the Chaplain General for the Order of St Lazarus). Our Lady of Fatima was still crowned after her recent feast day.
Archbishop Malcolm McMahon presided at Confirmations at St Mary's, Warrington, recently, administering the Sacrament in the Traditional Form.
How times change! Not so long ago, this would have been thought impossible here in the Archdiocese. It's good to see all parts of the Church community being catered for and warmly welcomed. Such a welcome enables the FSSP Fathers to take part in the life of the Archdiocese; it's always good to see them at diocesan functions. Thus, those looking after the Extraordinary Form are now an ordinary part of the Diocese, which, to my mind, is how it should be.
1pm Lunch at nearby restaurant (meet at St Mary's, Warrington at 1pm and walk there together)
2pm Coffee, and 40mins Talk on 'Avoiding Priestly Apostasy'. It happened to some better than us. No apostate priest means to deny Christ from the start. It begins with agreeing on mere formalities. Just a little step... Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP will illustrate 12 practical steps endangering and eventually uprooting the fidelity of priests to Christ and His Church.
Should you wish to arrive earlier to pray: Church open from 11am, with Rosary at 11.30am and Confessions from 11.40am, followed by Mass at 12.10pm.
There will also be the opportunity for priests and seminarians to have one-to-one training in offering Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Sessions are available at 11am, 12noon (memorial chapel) and 3pm. Please book in advance to be sure.
Venue for the above: St Mary's Warrington, car park accessed via Smith Street, WA1 2NS
H/T to Fr Bede Rowe for spotting an interview in the Guardian with Archbishop Malcolm the other day. I've always found +Malcolm to be someone who takes all sorts of things in his stride, so the interviewer must have been pretty annoying, for His Grace seems to have had occasion to put him in his place; asking him, "You do this for a living, do you?"
It's all about Catholic Education, of which His Grace rightly defends the principles (whatever some of us might think about the content).
I read this by Phil Lawler on Catholic Culture.org and thought that he hit the nail right on the head.
A pastoral crisis the Church cannot (yet does) ignore.
By Phil Lawler
The Archdiocese of Boston has opened a new church. That news drew headline coverage, in a city that has become more accustomed to stories about church closings.
To be perfectly honest, the news stories are a bit misleading. There have been a few new churches opened in Boston in the past 60 years, but they have been new buildings rather than new parishes: new churches that were constructed to replace buildings that had been destroyed by fire or by the wrecking ball. As a matter of fact, that’s also the case with the latest building, the church of Our Lady of Good Voyage.
So unless I’m mistaken, the overall count remains unchanged: in the past 50 years, the Archdiocese of Boston has opened zero new parish churches. Over the same span, roughly 125 parishes have been shut down or merged into “cluster” units.
This might be understandable, if the Boston’s Catholic population had disappeared. But it hasn’t—at least not according to the official statistics. On paper, it has grown. There were about 1.8 million Catholics registered in the area covered by the Boston archdiocese 50 years ago; today the official figure is 1.9 million.
The trouble, of course, is that most of those 1.9 million Catholics aren’t practicing the faith. Consequently it should be no surprise that their sons don’t aspire to the priesthood. There were just over 2,500 priests working in the archdiocese 50 years ago; now there are fewer than 300. That’s right; nearly 90% of the priests are gone. If you can’t replace the priests, you can’t keep open the parishes.
Let’s be frank. These figures are not a cause for concern; they are a cause for horror. Panic is never useful, but something close to panic is appropriate here. Things have gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Our Lord commissioned us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We’re not doing that. We aren’t even holding onto the people who were baptized into the faith. We should be bringing more people into the Church, not congratulating ourselves on minimizing the losses.
Although the situation in Boston is unusually bad, it is not unique. All around us, the same sad trends are in evidence. Parish closings and wholesale diocesan retrenchment programs have become familiar. How should we respond?
Here are two possible responses:
A) “This is a disaster! Stop everything. Drop what you’re doing. “Business as usual” makes no sense; this is a pastoral emergency. We don’t just need another “renewal” program, offered by the same people who have led us into this debacle. We need to figure out what has gone wrong. More than that. We know that the Gospel has the power to bring people to Christ; therefore it follows that we have failed to proclaim the Gospel. The fault lies with us. We should begin with repentance for our failures.”
B) “Don’t worry. Times change, and we have to change with them. Religion isn’t popular in today’s culture, but the faith will make a comeback sooner or later. We just need to keep plugging away, to have confidence, to remember God’s promise that the Church will endure forever.”
You see what’s wrong with argument B, don’t you? Yes, the Lord promised that the Church would last through the end of time. But he did not promise that the Archdiocese of Boston (or your own diocese) would last forever. The faith can disappear, indeed has disappeared, from large geographical areas—northern Africa, for instance.
Moreover, it’s both presumptuous and illogical to assume that the faith will make a comeback in another generation or two. The young adults who today don’t bother to marry in the Church are not likely to bring their children there for Baptism (if they have children). Those children, years later, aren’t likely to feel the urge to go back to their parish church (if it still stands), since they were never there in the first place. The Catholic faith is passed down from generation to generation. If parents stop teaching their children, those children have nothing to teach the grandchildren. In two generations, a thoroughly Catholic society can become mission territory. Look at Boston. Look at Quebec. Look at Ireland.
Finally, even if we could safely assume that the faith will recover in another 10 or 20 or 50 years, that would not absolve us, in this current generation, of our responsibility to evangelize. Right now, people are going without the benefit of the sacraments, because of our failure and our complacency. Lives are being lost; souls are being lost. We are accountable.
So between the two responses, A) and B), there is no comparison. One might sound extreme, but the other is just plain wrong.
There are, sad to say, two other responses:
C) “It doesn’t really matter whether or not people go to church on Sunday. As long as we’re all nice people, God in his mercy will bring us all to heaven.”
D) “Don’t bother me with your statistics. Actually the faith is stronger than ever. Our parish/diocese is vibrant! You’re only seeing the negative.
Response C) is not Catholic. Response D) is—how shall I put this gently?—not rational. Unfortunately, I hear B), C), and D) much more often than A). Don’t you?