Mark Francis on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

The Catholic Community at Stanford presented a lecture by Fr. Mark Francis on April 8, 2013.  This is one of a series of talks in the course “Vatican II: Catholicism Meets Modernity.” The title is “Vatican II Class: Reforming the Church through Liturgy: The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.”


  1. Did anyone else find the two women after the lecture to be a tad condescending?
    I’m not a traditionalist, but I hate these narratives where there is almost nothing good to say about the pre-vatican ii liturgy, and also talking as if there is only one sort of narrative.
    Has anyone ever written about the impact of WWII on the changes in the liturgy?
    I always get a kick out of seeing a baroque church with a gorgeous high altar say in France or in Italy, and then in front of it a very small dinky wooden table, the kind most people wouldn’t even want in their dining rooms. I once mentioned this to a friend who is a lapsed Catholic and he joked that “maybe after the holocaust, they decided that God no longer deserves grand monuments.” I almost wonder if there is that ethos at work in the liturgical reforms, at least implicitly; that it’s hard to believe in the Deus Omnipotens if things like the holocaust occur as opposed to the God who inspires the community to make the world a better place. Has anything been written on this?

  2. I dislike polemical and unqualified statements about the liturgy, whether from the progressive or traditionalist side — and especially the ones that I sometimes make. There were too many in the comments at the end of this lecture and in the lecture itself.

    I would guess that I am far less of a “trad” than Stanislaus but I agree with his concern about the comments at the end. It’s not that they were all wrong, but that there were too many self-evident truths in the claims.

    Even the main lecture had more simplifications than I would have expected in a university level course. As one example: he says at about 14:39 that hand missals were not allowed until after 1877: “Up to that time, those kinds of translations were on the index of prohibited books .. Alexander VII said that you can’t trust those laypeople … especially women (praesertim mulieres).”

    Now the bull of Alexander VII, Ad aures nostras indeed condemned a specific French language Missal, the Voison, which remained on the Index until 1897. But this was clearly a result of the Jansenist controversy; what is more, in the one copy of Ad Aures that I have found, the phrase praesertim mulieres, “especially women”, does not appear.

    I don’t question Fr Francis’s scholarship – and he is certainly right that there was active clerical resistance to the vernacular. Keith Pecklers writes in Dynamic Equivalence: The Living Language of Christian Worship (Liturgical Press) that the French Clergy Assembly supported Alexander’s prohibition of the Voison Missal: “The idea … was that members of the [lay] assembly would better reverence the sacred mysteries if they failed to understand at a cognitive level what was said, or, in the words of Joseph Jungmann, ‘if the veil of mystery were kept around it.’”

    But the problem with loose claims, especially in a university lecture (as opposed to a blog) is that they lead people to find errors and throw away valid ideas as a result.

  3. Now that you mention it, Jonathan, Father Francis’ lecture was a bit loose. I’m especially surprised at how little he mentioned of Pius XII contributions to liturgical reform, who did after all allow for vernacular hymns to be sung during low mass, stated that lay people should not be silent spectators at the liturgy, shortened the communion fast, allowed for mass in the evenings, promoted the dialogue mass (approved by Benedict XV), allowed the faithful the option of reciting/singing the Our Father along with the priest, reversed the condemnation of chinese ancestor veneration, was probably the first pope to speak of inculturation as opposed to supplanting local cultures with european culture, and, finally, tolerated mass with the priest facing the people which as a practice had already become popular in certain parts of Europe.

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