Liturgical Continuity?

Though it’s a couple of months old, this video of Abbot Michael Zielinski of the CDWDS makes some interesting claims for the continuity between Benedict and Francis in terms of their liturgical agendae.

It might just be spin, of course, trying to manage the revolution that is Pope Francis. On the other hand, it does present one way of applying the typically Catholic “both-and” to what seem to be the vastly different liturgical styles of the two Popes (NB: I’m not posting this as a riposte to the the article by Mark Silk that Anthony posted; I was planning on posting this before that went up).

One interesting observation the Abbot makes is about the “relational” approach Francis has toward liturgy — not just inter-human relations, but also the relation of the human to God. He celebration style is low key, but clearly seeks to connect on a personal level with the assembly. Many people seem to think that any element of subjectivity in the liturgy represents some sort of failure or capitulation to modernity. But maybe the sense of persona connection that Francis seems to bring to the liturgy answers to a genuine need of people today. Liturgy has always adapted itself (or “organically developed”) in response to the mentality of different eras. Is there any reason that Francis’s “relational” approach, which mirrors the approach of much modern liturgical celebration, might not be an example of salutary adaptation?

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29 comments

  1. The very language –whichever language– of the Eucharistic liturgy speaks of the relationship between God and humans. Consequently the liturgy is by its nature relational, organic. The ‘enactment’ of the liturgy by presider and other ministers must be such that it preserves and communicates that relational nature. Presiders and ministers are not called to be robotic liturgical functionaries but through their own personalities they incarnate God and humans together embraced in love.

  2. One of the questions the Holy Father answered above the earth, in the heavens, as he traveled back to Rome, was on the Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox and by way of that the Eastern Rites. This is what the Holy Father said:

    “They [Orthodox] have conserved that pristine liturgy, no?” Pope Francis says. “So beautiful. We [i.e., the Latin Christians] have lost a bit the sense of adoration, they conserve it, they praise God, they adore God, they sing, time does not count. The center is God and that is a richness that I would like to emphasize on this occasion as you ask me this question.”

    On another post, Richard Malcolm states that the liturgy of the Anglican Ordinariate is about to conclude its work unimpeded and will incorporate much of what a goodly number of us would desire for the “reform of the reform of the Ordinary Form of the Mass.” Could it be a template for the Latin Rite’s Ordinary Form revision which some say is in the works? I’m not clairvoyant, so who knows?

    Perhaps Pope Francis is awaiting a revised Ordinary Form Mass, similar to what the Anglican Ordinariate is producing, without its Anglican accretions, as well as their already revised calendar which includes the season of Septuagesima and the Octave of Pentecost.

    But in his change of tone that His Holiness has brought to the papacy, or the see of the Bishop of Rome, he affirms:

    ” [Latin Christians] have lost a bit the sense of adoration, the[ Orthodox] conserve it, they praise God, they adore God, they sing, time does not count. The center is God and that is a richness that I would like to emphasize!”

  3. It would be great to hear a Roman Rite pastor suggest, “Time does not count.” Problem is, Fr Allan, you guys are mostly products of your culture. Time does count. Time is money.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #3:
      And yes for us, my generation, time is sadly running out what others, not me, call the biological revolution. Please note in keeping with the new tone of the papacy, I did not use “solution.” 🙂

      1. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #4:
        Time running out? Pah! You and I are close to the same age, I suspect. The Christ we serve is timeless. It’s never about us … well, it shouldn’t be.

        As a liturgist, I feel on firm ground to dismiss this chit-chat and comparison about the so-called pristine liturgy, Roman vs Orthodox. Almighty God would seem to be suggesting better to aspire to a pristine mercy. Much tougher, much worthier goal.

  4. I’ve noticed that Latin Rite Catholics disparage their own rite (EF and ROTR) for the same things they praise the Eastern Rites for, so it’s possible Francis praised the Orthodox without really making the connection. The Orthodox have a rite that is eastward facing, chanted to the exclusion of contemporary music, has a pre Lent season, a one year lectionary, etc. They also celebrate it in highly decorated churches using elaborate vestments and archaic languages behind a “barrier” and never allow communion in the hand. Not to mention that in practice the people are allowed to move about the building kissing icons and lighting candles (devotions) rather follow the liturgy in a lock step kind of way.

    1. @Jack Wayne – comment #6:

      It’s important to remember that the Christian West (Catholicism and the Reformation traditions) and the Christian East have not encountered the various waves and movements of “modernity” in the same manner. This process of embracing “modernization” is a greater social and cultural process. Sure, maybe from a few superficial angles persons across the world share certain commonalities such as the electronic communications revolution. These commonalities often hide the very different ways distinct cultures have arrived at “today”.

      All persons involved in the Catholic liturgical debate, and indeed persons of any religion who want to know how the liturgies of their beliefs have arrived at the current moment, need to consider quite a few valences of the past five hundred years. This is very difficult, and I am no farther ahead then I have been for many years.

  5. I suspect that the forthcoming revision of the Missal that some folks in internetland talk about is vaporware. Something that would include things from the 1962 Missal such as the prayers at the foot of the altar, the old offertory prayers, and the last gospel would satisfy neither devotees of the 62 Missal nor those who are happy with the current Missal, which I think make up pretty much 95% of Catholics. Likewise (sorry Todd), I don’t think we’re going to see a RM4 that will have a three-year cycle of collects keyed to the lectionary or a more flexible introductory rite. The most we might see is an ad hoc permission to move the sign of peace (largely because both left and right — for different reasons — see this as desirable). Francis just does not seem that interested in liturgy nor (unlike Benedict) does he see fixing the liturgy as a way of fixing what wrong with the Church.

    While I might have my pet revisions that I’d like to see in my ideal Church, on balance I’d be happy to keep RM3 for, oh, the next 150 years.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #9:
      I’m well aware that MR4 is less substantial than fog, at the moment. And I agree with your sense that Pope Francis doesn’t appear to be engaged in furthering liturgical reform. I have no problem with that. I think reform should be guided more by the good example of artists rather than authoritative fiat.

      More collects, more flexibility–that should be determined by well-formed bishops and pastors. Not in Rome.

      And Allan, I’ll tell you I’m 54.64 today, to be precise. We’re in the same neighborhood, gerontologically speaking.

    2. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #9:
      “Francis just does not seem that interested in liturgy..”
      Am I missing something Fritz or is it possible that Francis is essentially happy with and content with the ordinary form as it is? Maybe he is not interested in tinkering with it?

  6. Hello Fr. McDonald,

    On another post, Richard Malcolm states that the liturgy of the Anglican Ordinariate is about to conclude its work unimpeded and will incorporate much of what a goodly number of us would desire for the “reform of the reform of the Ordinary Form of the Mass.” Could it be a template for the Latin Rite’s Ordinary Form revision which some say is in the works?

    This would be an occasion for me to say a few things about the forthcoming Ordinariate Missal. I have not laid eyes on it; I have only talked to those who have. But from what I have heard, the missal – along with the already established calendar (with Pentecost Octave, Septuagesima, Rogation and Ember days restored, etc.) and lectionary translation (Catholic RSV) – seems to embody quite a lot of what RotR advocates dearly wish to see happen in the OF Roman Rite.

    In some ways, of course, it is like the N.O. in that it allows many options. Ordinariate traditionalists are not happy with this, but recognize that 1) there is enough liturgical diversity in the Ordinariates that it’s a necessary compromise, and 2) what is gained still represents a remarkable set of victories unthinkable a few years ago. There are options such that we could celebrate something close to the English Missal, such as is currently celebrated at places like Mt Calvary in Baltimore and St. Barnabas in Omaha.

    Progressives terrified that this will be the template for an impending, comprehensively reformed MR4, however, need not worry, I think. And not just because Pope Francis is unlikely to give impetus to such a project. Even had Malcolm Ranjith been elected, he would it find it no easy thing to accomplish it – look how long it took just to achieve the MR3. If anything is possible in the near term, it *might* entail restoring those traditional seasons and days in the calendar, since these don’t alter the missal…and could be downplayed by progressive priests or emphasized by conservatives.

    For now, it’s hard to see much else.

  7. @FRAJM and Todd-
    Weak levity off topic alert!

    And Allan, I’ll tell you I’m 54.64 today, to be precise. We’re in the same neighborhood, gerontologically speaking.

    Gentlemen, gerentologically speaking I’m 62.25. Ontologically, I’m 124! That should explain a great many things for some.

  8. Am I the only one to whom it seems that HF Francis’ liturgical praxis is couched here in positive and dynamic verba such as ‘revolutionary’, ‘engaging’, etc., whilst in refering to that of HF Benedict, words sufficient of contempt, mockery, and derision could hardly be found by quite a few on this blog and other places. Benedict’s praxis was, in fact, quite revolutionary in that it attempted to remind us that the mass is a profoundly holy act at which certain strata of behaviours and music were not fitting. It was also quite engaging for those of us who didn’t quite see it as a vain and hollow renaissance court drama; rather as the act of those who had a sober sense of the utter holiness of the One with whom they were engaged.

    Nor do I mean to infer that both Benedict and Francis are anything other than like-minded about the reverence due in the courts of the Lord – only that, while merely different one from the other, they express it variously. It’s time to stop pillorying Benedict (directly or by inference), whose lessons have been scandalously and adolescently scoffed at.

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #14:

      MJO, had a bad experience in the choir loft a few hours before you wrote what you did? To me it reads like an organist’s equivalent of a “bad hair day.” And what in the world does “could hardly be found by quite a few” even mean? If you wanted to say “evidenced by quite a few on this blog,” I would ask you to provide the evidence. Folks on this blog do not mock the Pope emeritus.

      If, as a child, I had said anything in my home with the denigrating tone you used in your first paragraph, I would have been sent to my room without supper and told not to come out until I was ready to apologize to the rest of the family.

      I often appreciate what you write here and at the Musica Sacra Forum. Just as often I think you are acting like a spoiled brat that is seeking some attention. When you are in one of those moods, read the psalms but don’t blog.

  9. Francis Revolutionary?

    When Francis asked everyone assembled for his inaugural blessing to pray silently for him, he was hardly doing anything revolutionary in Catholic practice, except that it really has not been much a part of the standard papal practice. When he asked everyone to pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be he was doing something most Catholics in the world found very familiar, but not something that Popes have done much recently. Both of these things surprised people but did not shock them.

    When Francis says Mass facing the people and preaches daily to them he is doing something most priests around the world do daily. Yet it is revolutionary in terms of Papal daily Mass practice.

    So much of Francis revolution seems to be bringing good Catholic practice, much in evidence around the world, into ordinary Papal practice. Francis seems to see himself first as a parish priest, then as a bishop, and only when all that has been done well as a Pope.

    Well that is a revolution, a turning of things upside down, from the past practice which was to take things from Papal court ceremonial as a model for cathedral and parish practice. When I was an adolescent during Pius XII, my parish priest had his mother serve him breakfast while he ate alone and read his morning paper as did Pius!!!

    Since Francis is not conducting a revolution against standard Catholic practice, but rather is confirming it and bringing Papal practice out of the court traditions and into conformity with the rest of the Catholic world, one has to call it a revolution only in terms of prior popes and papal ceremonial. It is completely Traditional if you accept that Traditional is evidenced by “semper and ubique” rather than the papal court tradition.

    So Francis is not really as “revolutionary” as he might seem to be if judged from the “court” standard.

    On the other hand Benedict’s resignation was truly revolutionary; it simply goes entirely against the court tradition; if it sticks and becomes papal practice, it will likely change the Papacy permanently. Francis is going to be hard pressed to top that revolution.

    Benedict was also a reformer; he tried to reform the Curia internally both regard to the sexual abuse scandal and financially. He did not succeed in doing much; it seems most of the cardinals have come to the conclusion that an outsider rather than an insider may do a better job. That remains to be seen.

    So there are great contrasts between Francis and Benedict though many people have been too glib about the nature of those contrasts.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #16:
      Good points.

      Francis, it seems, has no bother about having the “smell of sheep” on him, and has set aside the retention of the smell of the house on that far hill.

      Pope Benedict’s resignation strikes me as a corollary of Holmesian wisdom: “Once you eliminate the impossible (such as reforming the curia), whatever remains, no matter how improbable (such as resigning and turning the task over to another), must be the truth.”

      Pope Benedict is a very smart man, and given the piling on of very human failings, the most serious of which were those of other bishops, he may well have determined the Chair of Peter was better prepared to intervene with another man sitting in it. I applaud this courageous move, in that context.

  10. So much of Francis revolution seems to be bringing good Catholic practice, much in evidence around the world, into ordinary Papal practice. Francis seems to see himself first as a parish priest, then as a bishop, and only when all that has been done well as a Pope.

    Well that is a revolution, a turning of things upside down, from the past practice which was to take things from Papal court ceremonial as a model for cathedral and parish practice. When I was an adolescent during Pius XII, my parish priest had his mother serve him breakfast while he ate alone and read his morning paper as did Pius!!!

    Bravo, Jack. Got it in one. My strongest sense of Francis’s papacy is that, having taking a step into the esoteric, we have returned to some semblance of normalcy. In that sense it is a “revolution” but in another way Francis is profoundly “conservative”.

  11. From John Allen:

    http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/revolution-underway

    Highlights:

    “Clergy who chafed under what they perceived as a mounting liturgical fastidiousness during the late John Paul II and Benedict years — showing up for a papal Mass, for instance, only to be told they weren’t properly dressed because they weren’t sporting enough crimson and lace — report all that ended in mid-March.”

    “Francis’ humbler lifestyle is having a ripple effect. Princes of the church today are more likely to be spotted wearing simple black clerical dress rather than the usual sartorial splendor, and some have begun to sign their names in official correspondence simply as “Don So-and-So,” avoiding “His Eminence” or other bits of court nomenclature.”

    “Over and over, Vatican personnel speaking on background say that Francis is his own man, collecting his own information and making his own decisions — governing, in a sense, like the Jesuit provincial he once was. There is no éminence grise, and no figure like Msgr. (now Cardinal) Stanislaw Dziwisz under John Paul or Msgr. (now Archbishop) Georg Gänswein under Benedict, serving as the power behind the throne.”

    “Francis clearly wants to enhance the lay role — not just in ceremonial ways, but in the nuts and bolts task of reforming the Vatican and governing the church.”

    “…whether it’s a matter of instinct or conscious strategy, Francis seems to be repositioning the church in the political center, after a fairly lengthy period in which many observers perceived it to be drifting to the right.”

    “The church may not veer sharply in its political allegiances, but there seems a clear preference for the social Gospel over the culture wars.”

    (would suggest this includes the liturgy wars – as JFR said best, Francis is a VII pastor.)

  12. John Allen, NCReporter: “Catholicism, after all, is a family of faith, not a political society.”

    That statement is completely incongruent with history.

    From the Council of Jerusalem, to the Crusades, to Friar Luther, to Pope Pius VII’s battle with Napoleon, to the Risorgimento … the Church is inexorably intertwined with the political fate of peoples and nations. Political ideologies and structures have risen and fallen. Likewise, the Church has never remained a static political monolith. Quite the contrary — the institution has always found an accommodation with “secular power” (the latter is a concept which, at least in Europe, is no more than five hundred years old at best.)

    I do think that Pope Francis will make a dent in a reformation of the Curia. In the very least, he will “de-feudalize” its titles and protocol. Indeed, this is already occurring. This is a welcome and logical evolution reflected in the events of other nations — Britain spent much of the 20th century moving from a hereditary peerage to a life peerage. Of course, the Curia has not been a hereditary institution, legitimate or not, since the late Middle Ages. Still, Pope Francis’s movement towards a consideration of cardinals not as feudal-like lords but as politicians somewhat akin to constitutional monarchical life peers is not a gesture towards democracy but rather a pragmatic move designed to shore up accountability, as noted by John Allen.

    I would not, however, think that Pope Francis will overturn Summorum Pontificium, despite some ad-hoc trimming. I am biased. I do not want SP overturned. Still, I believe he recognizes that a SP abrogation would inflame a small yet vocal segment of the Roman rite for no net gain. Pope Francis’s political playbook strikes me as very “top-down”: focus on not only the prelates but the grand machinery which has produced corruption, criminal coverups, and general malfeasance. The latter is more than enough work for one papacy.

  13. HF Francis’ liturgical praxis is couched here in positive and dynamic verba such as ‘revolutionary’, ‘engaging’, etc., whilst in refering to that of HF Benedict, words sufficient of contempt, mockery, and derision

    Setting aside the many problems here, the valuation here is revealing. Until Pius XII “revolutionary” was a term of contempt, while “engaging” was barely thought of. That they are now considered “positive and dynamic” is a dramatic change.

  14. John Allen also quotes Omar Bello, an Argentine Catholic journalist and author of a new book on the pope who says: “He’s very charming, but he’s also very controlling, as all powerful people are.”

    So we may well have an autocratic pope not of the European monarchical form but more fashioned from the South American raucous political scene of dictators and revolutions.

    But we should also hear what Pope Francis said about “Old Curia men” of the pre-Vatican II era and he said it in his lenghty interview back from Brazil:

    “These are scandals [of the curia/Vatican] that cause grief.

    Something — I have never said this, but I recall — I think the Curia has fallen somewhat from the level that it had some time ago, of those old Curia men… the profile of the old Curia man, faithful, who did his work. We are in need of such persons. I believe… they exist, but they are not so many as there were some time ago. The profile of the old Curia man: I would say this. We need more of these. ”

    Why were the old Curia men of a higher standard or level than what we have today? Is there something intrinsic about the experience of the Church in the pre-Vatican II paradigm of humility and worship that is full of humility that is lacking in the Post Vatican II expression? Shouldn’t the pope’s own words about the old curia men lead to some sort of examination of conscience in terms of the kinds of Catholics, lay, clergy or religious that different paradigms of the Church and her worship as formed in pre-Vatican II and post Vatican II times? I simply raise the question based upon Pope Francis candid evaluation of the old curia men of another era. Are we to make connections?

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #22:
      Fr Allen

      You appear to be putting some spin on the Pope’s words. Specifically, that he’s necessarily referring to pre-V2 curial officials. Given that he only became a Jesuit in 1960 and ordained in 1969, it could be that he is referring to the curia that implemented the Council.

      1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #23:
        The imprecision of so much he says leads others, you and me to spin and that could mean he’s all things to all people or we’re going to be spinning for a while. But keep in mind those old Curia men even if we take your spin would not have foreseen in a clairvoyant way the future of the Church or Vatican as it is today. They predicted a new springtime in a pre Vatican II triumphalistic sort of way, maybe even in a Pelagian kind of way, but they were hard workers wanting what was best for the Chirch not for themselves.

  15. Nostalgia often exalts ancestors, bestowing excellencies on them that they never deserved. That is what is happening here IMO.

    When did these wise men exist in greater numbers than today? When John XXIII was asked “how many work in the Vatican?” he replied ” about half.” Are we talking about a minority?
    John XXIII ruled that cardinals must be bishops. Has that skewed the selection away from the “wise men”, introducing another layer of ambition into the curia?
    How about Canon Law, which required in 1917 that the Curia be priests?
    What was the point of these restrictions if the Curia was full of the wise?

    Going back, we would find plenty of scandalous behavior among the cardinals, probably more than we find today.

    Of course, there is a possibility that Francis is correct and the men of the Curia are less wise than their predecessors? Was wisdom something that JP2 and Benedict sought? Or were other considerations more important to them? Can one make wisdom the main criterion for the Curia?

  16. Would suggest that the interpretation of *controlling* is an opinion based upon misguided clairvoyance. Let’s interject some *nuance* into these broad, sweeping caricatures.

    Francis – actually, John Allen, Magister, others have documented how Francis is changing the leadership or managment process:

    – instead of governance by *elite, curial* officials, Francis has gone around or just ignored the long established *lobbies*. In the process, he has broadened the playing field to include lay, experts (more lay than clerical); and appointed men currently outside of the curia. (why is this seen as controlling? and the use of folks such as Gorgeous George, Bertone, buying influence through certain curial figures is not controlling?)

    Francis exhibits the same style of leadership as most credible religious order superiors. First, they are elected; not appointed. Wise and good community leaders consult with the community (not with a select elite), they use and consult with experts (not a favored elite)…. superiors know that *controlling* decisions without consultation, without listening, etc. leads to poor community decisions and those superiors are rarely re-elected. OTOH, wise superiors may have to make unpopular decisions but they explain these and persuade using argument and documented proof/reasons (again, the opposite of a favored elite that make decisions in secret with little to no explanation much less persuasion).

    Those of us who have lived in these communities and experienced these leaders realize that any opinion that calls this *controlling* is based upon lack of understanding, experience, is fearful because it is different, or just ignores reality. What we may be seeing is a change in how decisions and leadership is being exercised – it involves wide consultation (no clerical vs. lay favoritism); it involves reaching out and listening to those most impacted, those most experienced in the field of the decison, those who will have to implement and live with the decision.

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