Monday, February 26, 2007

My Traditional Novus Ordo Parish

My commentary interspersed with that of Judy Tarjanyi, religion editor for the Toledo Blade. Her words shall appear in blue.
 
I just wanted to point out that there are also Novus Ordo Latin Masses and "traditional" parishes that observe many of the things mentioned below. I have attended one in downtown Detroit for eight years now, and I know of at least two other similar ones in the Detroit area. They may be (sadly) few, but they exist, and I hope and pray that those who attend both Novus Ordo and Tridentine Latin Masses avoid the errors of schism and lack of faith in the indefectibility and infallibility of the Church which characterize various schismatic groups and thoughts of radical Catholic reactionaries (RadCathRs) today.
 
My church also happens to be St. Joseph's. It is a German Gothic cathedral dating from 1873, with lovely statuary and wood carvings (including a magnificent set of the 12 - actually 14 - Stations of the Cross), some of the most gorgeous stained glass windows in the country, in my opinion (which we are presently restoring at the cost of $325,000). There are three beautiful high windows right above the altar. I will comment briefly on many points raised: 
 
The first sign that something is different about St. Joseph Church at Locust and Erie streets is a polite request posted on the door that asks visitors to observe silence out of respect for the Blessed Sacrament.
 
This is always observed in our church, even without such a sign.
 
Inside, the consecrated bread from the Roman Catholic Mass is still kept in a tabernacle in the main part of the church,
 
Ours is ornate gold, and prominently displayed on the raised, splendid golden altar, right in the center front.
 
where worshipers genuflect before taking their seats and are expected to refrain from socializing in the pews after they sit down.
 
Both religiously observed in our church. My sons, 6 and 8, are very good at genuflecting, and they sit right in the second row, and know full well to be silent in church (my 2-year-old is still learning that, though :-).
 
Once the Mass begins, there are other distinguishing characteristics that set this church apart from the realm of late 20th-century American Catholicism. The priest still faces the altar with his back to the people for part of the service.
 
This is done in our Latin Mass.
 
Communion is taken at a railing where recipients kneel,
 
We do this at all our Masses. And - if it is an issue - 95% of our parishioners receive communion on the tongue. When attending other churches, I always bow before receiving communion, and try - if at all possible - to receive from the priest (and on the tongue).
 
and it is given only by the priest assisted by male altar servers dressed in black cassocks and white surplices.
 
We always do this, too. And never any altar girls or female eucharistic servers.
 
There is no "sign of peace," the exchange of handshakes and hugs that precedes communion.
 
Yep. We omit that, too.
 
Although St. Joseph's is in many ways a throwback to the days preceding the reforming Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the pews of the church are full, and not just with older, nostalgic Catholics. Young families, many of whom never knew the pre-conciliar church of their parents and grandparents, are coming here for the reverent atmosphere and style of worship, which includes a Latin Mass on the last Sunday of the month and on Thursday evenings.
 
We have Latin Mass every week.
 
"[St. Joseph] attracts people who like the traditions of the past, but it's not stuck in the past," says Chris Scarlett, a 39-year-old mother of seven who belongs to the parish and drives there each week from Maumee with her husband, Bob, and their children. Mrs. Scarlett says what she enjoys about the church is the way it preserves the best of the past and blends it with the good of the present. "Its sort of a classic church, classic being that you keep what works and discard what hasn't, yet are open to the good things without being trendy."
 
Sounds very much like our church, too.
 
Located in a poor neighborhood in the heart of Toledo's north end, St. Joseph was established as a mission parish in 1854 to serve French families.
 
Ours is in downtown Detroit, and started as a German-speaking church at about the same time (in an earlier church building). The first parish in Detroit, St. Anne's (about 4 miles from ours), was originally French, of course - Detroit having been founded by the Frenchman Antoine Cadillac in 1701. By the way, Detroit means strait in French, because the Detroit River is really a strait - between Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair.
 
When change swept through other churches in the Toledo Catholic Diocese after the Second Vatican Council, St. Joseph's retained its traditional flavor, says the current pastor, the Rev. Stephen Majoros.
 
As has ours. No mediocrity or stupid, tasteless modern art in our church. We have everything which was present before the liturgical philistines started "raping" churches and messing everything up.
 
While other churches removed communion rails, moved altars or added new ones so that the priest could face the people, relocated the tabernacle to side chapels, closed or remodeled confessionals, St. Joseph put its money into old-fashioned upkeep and restoration.
 
Yep. As have we.
 
At St. Joseph, the choir still sings in the loft at the rear of the church,
 
So does ours. We have magnificent Masses at Easter and Christmas, with orchestra and choir performing works by Mozart et al.
 
the statues remain in their places,
 
We have some 30.
 
and there often is a line outside the confessional before Mass.
 
We don't have the numbers for that, but I have observed this at Assumption Grotto, a like-minded parish about 8 miles down the street from us, where many of my friends attend, and where Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. (my mentor in the faith) recently resided.
 
And even at the English language Masses, some Latin texts and hymns are used.
 
Yep. Us too.

Those who have made St. Joseph their church home come from all over: from Perrysburg, Maumee, Rossford, Wauseon, Fayette, Custar, Bellevue, and Pemberville in northwest Ohio and Palmyra in southeast Michigan. "It's sort of a magnet parish for traditional-minded people," says Father Majoros. Yet, it remains something of a well-kept secret that is spread mostly by word of mouth.
 
We get members and guests from all around, too.

Some St. Joseph parishioners and attendees have left other Catholic parishes because of priests whose preaching hasn't supported official church teaching or who have tampered with their beloved Mass by changing the prayers or rubrics of the ritual.

I have never witnessed such an abuse at my church.

Toledoan Dick Torio, 69, says he long ago became annoyed with churches that, for example, failed to include recitation of the creed in the Mass, or preached in ways that marginalized the Bible or sliced away at the church's teachings.

Yes, it is abominable. And Catholic laymen have the right to rebuke a priest so derelict in his duties. It is to be done respectfully, of course, but such undeniable, inexcusable abuses should not go unresponded to. My church has been so excellent and orthodox I myself have not had to be confronted with such unpleasant duties. I speak out about many abuses of teaching and practice on my website, of course. :-) I attack the right and left of the theological spectrum with equal vigor. :-)
 
Father Majoros knows, of course, that the people he preaches to are among the most faithful to Rome and more likely to applaud, rather than disagree with, pronouncements from Pope John Paul II.

Unlike some SSPX and RadCathRs who regularly write to me, claiming that I am a flaming modernist because I am obedient to the pope (!!!), even when he is not exercising his prerogative of the extraordinary magisterium and infallibility "proper," so to speak. A novel concept for them, I spose . . .
 
"We consider ourselves to be orthodox Catholics," Mrs. Scarlett says. "For us, that means we follow the teachings of the church whether they be hard or whether they be easy. When the church speaks, we don't sit around and discuss whether we're going to go along with it. Its just part of our faith."

Indeed. Except - again - for those RadCathRs who despise ecumenism and the Vatican II stress on religious freedom. They find those teachings of the Church "difficult" and so feel free to disagree with them in a very unCatholic exercise of purely private judgment and disobedience.
 
Despite the presence of so many children, St. Joseph has no cry room or nursery. "A cry room is a playpen to learn bad habits in church, Father Majoros says, adding, "A nursery divides families." He recommends instead that parents sit with their children toward the front where the young ones can see what is going on.
 
We don't have that, either, though I must admit that I am not totally opposed to them, when it comes to a crabby, unruly, disobedient 2-year-old. From 3 or 4 on, I think children should and can learn proper behavior in church. As I said, we sit in the second row, and my children love it.
 
She also likes the fact that handshakes are not exchanged after the consecration. "I like to keep the focus on that Jesus has come down from heaven and we are about to receive Him."

Indeed. It is very disrupting of the proper reverence of that moment, in my opinion - and I believe that the worst, most anti-traditional liberals intended it that way (if only unconsciously). The best place for the greetings and hugs is outside of the church where members ought to really get to know each other, as part of a common community, not as a contrived, liberal "feel-good" exercise of shallow "fellowship" (as it often amounts to - though not necessarily so). I'm as affectionate and sociable as the next person, but I also prefer the expression to be genuine and not forced.
 
But liberal theology - like liberal politics - is so often purely symbolic and without substance. The greeting of peace as it is exercised in many Catholic churches reminds me of that mentality. It was intended (by some anyway, I am convinced) to undermine the reverence and emphasis on the Body of Christ. This is all in the realm of the misapplication of Vatican II, not the legitimate application of a supposedly "radical" and untraditional Council (as we are told by our self-anointed RadCathR superiors).
 
Mr. Fernandes said a previous pastor, the late Msgr Lawrence Mossing, realized there was no reason to change what didn't need to be changed. "And St. Joseph's has had that tradition. This is the only parish in the diocese where the norms of Vatican II for celebrating Mass were followed as it was intended."
 
What a shame. This shows the magnitude of the modernist crisis that the Church faces. But the Church will be victorious, as it always has been. The signs of that are already proliferating. That faith in God's promises is what distinguishes the orthodox Catholic.
 
Mr. Fernandes, who is enrolled in the diocese's ministry program in hopes of becoming a permanent deacon, explains that he believes from his study of the Vatican II council documents that many changes made under the banner of Vatican II were optional, not mandatory, or were the result of misinterpretations.

Indeed, as I just stated (I am responding to this as I read it).

Dr. Jeff Schmakel, 51, a Toledo optometrist and father of three who directs the parish's family choir, agrees. "A lot of churches went overboard with what they thought Vatican II taught. They threw out the Latin, threw out Gregorian chant, threw out all our traditions that were very good."

Vatican II dictated that Latin always be retained. But certain people had other agendas, as we all know . . .

Yet, Mr. Fernandes says, Vatican II provided for the continuation of Latin and Gregorian chant. Father Majoros says that's correct. The council document on the liturgy encourages the use of Latin in the Mass, he says. "It is our heritage. We should not bury our heritage."

Yep. Amen.

Although other churches in the diocese celebrate the Latin Mass occasionally, St. Joseph is believed to be the only one that does so as frequently.

As I said, we have it every Sunday at 10:30.

I recommend Latin Mass (either version) for everyone. And that is coming from a person who had very little use for liturgy at all until the age of 32. As a Protestant, I used to go to a church that sang rock music from the Jesus Revolution of the early 70s, and we had a guy who imitated the "Christian period" Bob Dylan . . . I wouldn't deny that there is a place for that, too (I do enjoy the music) - just not at a Mass.

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The following two related exchanges were with friends of mine, concerning the sign of peace and the use of Latin in general:
As much as I admire your scholarship, I disagree with your rejection of the kiss of peace.
 
I don't reject it; I just think (with all due humility) that it is in an improper place in the liturgy, and that the liberals abuse it just as they abuse many things. I do enjoy being congenial to people around me at church.
 
I know that I am among a minority of orthodox Catholics when I stand up to defend the kiss of peace.


Interesting.

However, the altar and the Bible are incensed at every Latin Mass at the Grotto. I turned to my Daily Roman Missal to compare the instructional notes. After the priest bows and says inaudibly, "Lord God, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts.", the instruction in red print is given "Et pro oportunitate, incensat oblata et altare." Then we turn to the Communion Rite to find the Sign of Peace. The priest says in a clear voice: "Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you. Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever." The people answer: "Amen." The priest extending and joining his hands, adds: "The peace of the Lord be with you always." The people answer: "And also with you." THEN IN RED PRINT AGAIN FOLLOW THE WORDS: "Deinde, pro opportunitate, diaconus, vel sacerdos, subungit: Offerte vobis pacem.". Since the priests at Grotto always choose to incense the altar and the Bible, why don't they ever call for the people to exchange the sign of peace? I afraid that I feel as though the priests do not trust those of us in the congregation to exchange the kiss of peace in a reverential manner befitting the presence of our Lord. I beg to differ and remain confident that the kiss of peace may add to reverence at the Mass.
 
Perhaps you are right. I think, however, for your average distracted, nominal-type Catholic, though, it is disruptive to the flow of the Mass. For someone like you (or Mother Teresa, etc.), I agree it does not have to be, and can be a good thing. Much of the same arguments I have applied to communion in the hand (or perhaps also altar girls). It is permissible, but it has detrimental effects, probably unforeseen.
 
I too have seen the excessive displays following the priestly directive to wish each other peace, probably more often than the devout priests at Grotto. I have shaken my head in wonder when members of the congregation left their pews to walk around the church to wish everyone
present peace. The racket that such marching raises fairly insures that none will find peace in that moment.

 
That is partially my point.
 
But we should heed the wise old Latin saying: "Abusis non tollit usum." The abuse (of a practice) does not take away the use. I have witnessed the kiss of peace exchanged in a kindly manner that was a true sign of devotion. Every Mass that I was blessed to assist along with the Missionaries of Charity included the kiss of peace. And certainly this practice did not interfere with the Mass. No one, except Christopher Hitchins, would question the devotion of the sisters to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; our Eucharistic Lord is the power which drives the sisters of Mother Teresa to practice such heroic charity.
 
Of course; but they are - again - not your average Catholics. I think it is a prudential judgment.
 
Unfortunately, some Cathoics who oppose the kiss of peace seem have gone on a far-flung fishing expedition in order to link this practice with real abuses in Church history.
 
No; in my opinion it is a matter of abuses of a good thing in and of itself, just as with communion in the hand. 
 
All I know is this, as long as we are going fishing I choose to remain aboard the ship that Peter
captains. The blessed occasions when I have assisted at a Mass offered by the Holy Father, or watched on television, he has regularly called for the exchange of the kiss of peace. If it is good enough for the Pope and for Mother Teresa, then who is this sinner to object?

 
That would be reason enough for me to agree that it is not a bad thing in and of itself (which I never denied) - maybe even preferable to not having it. But if it is optional according to Church instructions, then I prefer it to not be done, just as I prefer communion on the tongue. If its absence is a definite abuse (not permissible at all), that is something else again, and I would like to see that brought up to the priests of Assumption and St. Joseph. Otherwise, I think there is room for disagreement here. I am bound to accept the practices at my own church, as I ought to submit to my own priest as well, no? The pope has also left the Tridentine Mass up to the discretion of bishops, whereas I would like to see it available everywhere. Same sort of issue, I think.
 
Thank you for you patience. I enjoyed this dialogue. I might decide to put it on my website. :-)

* * * 
My dear friend, Ed Wolfrum, is always trying to beat into me the importance and acceptance of the Latin Tridentine Mass. I fully accept and intellectually appreciate the importance of Latin in the church. Ed's arguments all seem valid, ...until it comes to the propagating of the faith. Being sort of involved in communication and evangelism, I can assure you it would have been another several decades for me to have converted to Catholicism if Latin was still the only language spoken at Mass. (And my reasons have nothing to do with doctrine.) I thank Vatican II for being able to workshop God in my own language. Why can't the Tridentine be translated and celebrated in English, even if we have to add some words to the English language (...something that several of us do all the time.) BUT, as a tip of my hat to the CHURCH and to LATIN, I pass on this good article, which Ed will love.
 
I appreciate my friend Stan's open-mindedness in passing this on. I wish to mildly and altogether respectfully disagree with him on a few points. I understand what he is saying, and there is a great deal of truth to it. I'm not opposed to vernacular Masses any more than I oppose vernacular translations of the Bible (for which, I believe, a much stronger and more compelling case could be made). But let me briefly explain my differences on this score, if I may:
 
Shortly before I converted in 1990 I was profoundly impressed by one particular church (St. Joseph's in downtown Detroit) where I had attended (while still a Protestant) a magnificent Novus Ordo Latin Mass (not to mention the splendid German Gothic Revival architecture of the building), which happened to be the 50th anniversary of ordination of the pastor there, Fr. Thomas Bresnahan (since retired). I have attended this church from March 1991 to the present.
 
Far from turning me off to the Catholic Church, I found here much of what was missing in Protestantism, because Latin Masses tend to preserve elements of solemnity, sacramental, spiritual, and contemplative awareness, reverence, and "seriousness" which many Masses today (for various sociological, liturgical, and theological reasons) lack.
 
I have always objected to a certain liturgical outlook whereby the priest (consciously?) tries to achieve an "ambiance," so to speak, which to me highly smacks of Protestantism (having been one myself, and very low church at that). This was eminently true of the church at the end of my block at my former house in Detroit, which had no kneelers (I was the only person, to my knowledge, who knelt at consecration, and I never returned after that).
 
So in my case - for what it's worth - the Latin Mass was a draw to the Church, not a hindrance in any sense (though these things were not at all the major factors in my conversion). I suspect there may be many Protestants out there who are also looking for the aspects of worship and spirituality which traditional Latin Masses (whether Tridentine or Novus Ordo) seem to especially preserve and value (not that English Masses never do that: that isn't my point or belief at all).
 
As for Latin being spoken at these Masses; our missals have the English translation printed next to the Latin (my children read them), and I understand that this has always been the case. The Mass is largely the same every week anyway, so it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what is being spoken. It would do us all a bit of good, I think, to appreciate another language, anyway, especially one as historically and "Christianly" important as Latin (and I say that as one who absolutely hated taking Spanish in college). The homilies and intercessions are in English.
 
If one really wants to experience a foreign language Mass in toto, then they should attend the German Masses at St. Joseph's once a month. I have been to a few of these (inadvertently). The intercessions and homilies were in German. :-) The books did not include English translations. I was at one of these German Masses during Christmas a few years back, and singing Silent Night in German was a moving experience I will never forget.
 
They also bring in bagpipers once a year for an alumni Mass, and hearing them play "Amazing Grace" never fails to give me goose bumps and a chill down the spine. It's one of the few times I can be thoroughly Scottish (Armstrong being a Scottish clan) and listen to a Protestant hymn, while being also Catholic, in a Catholic Church -- a delightful and semi-humorous irony which I cherish every year. :-)


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Compiled by Dave Armstrong, from posts on my Apologetics/Ecumenism List; uploaded on 18 July 1999. Updated with new terminology on 12 August 2013.


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