The Heart of John Henry Newman: Beating with the Spirit of the Liturgy – Adoremus

Here on what’s called on for the worshiper:

Newman preached regularly and therefore commented upon much of the Biblical text having to do with ritual and liturgy. The sermon entitled, “Reverence in Worship,” takes up the “forms of worship—such as bowing the knee, taking off shoes, keeping silence, a prescribed dress.” These and the like are “considered as necessary for a due approach to God,” even from the standpoint of natural religion (310).


While reverence is “one of the marks or notes of the Church,” the world teaches man to be “familiar and free with sacred things” (310), entering the Church “carelessly and familiarly” (311). While Newman opposes the approach of the world, rather than simply adopting rote ritual postures “for their own sake,” he challenges the faithful to keep in mind the fact of being in the very presence of God and so to “allow the forms of piety to come into God’s service naturally” (311).

Externals matter:

In his sermon on the “Ceremonies of the Church,” Newman comments upon the “great importance of retaining those religious forms to which we are accustomed” (76). Indeed, there is “no such thing as abstract religion” (78).

He made sense wherever he went with his thinking.

The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma

A prayer that needs no editing:

God our Father, source of life and freedom, through Your Holy Spirit you gave the Carmelite, Titus Brandsma the courage to affirm human dignity even in the midst of suffering and degrading persecution.

Grant us that same spirit so that, in refusing all compromise with error we may always and everywhere give coherent witness to Your abiding presence among us.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord.


Clear and to the point. Clean copy.

Act of consecration to St. Joseph re-phrased

O dearest St. Joseph, I consecrate myself to your honor and give myself to you, that you may always be my father, my protector and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me a greater purity of heart and fervent love of the interior life. After your example may I do all my actions for the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. O Blessed St. Joseph, pray for me, that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.


St. Joseph, I consecrate myself to you. I want you to be my father and protector and guide on the path to salvation. Obtain for me purity of heart and love of the interior life. Help me to do everything for God’s glory, in union with Jesus and Mary. Pray for me, that I may have the peace and joy of a holy death. Amen.


Later: It’s an argument, in part, for church Latin, which is far more articulate, clear, and trustworthy in its genre than today’s (or last centuries’) devotional English — with noteworthy exceptions, as Newman’s “Lead, kindly light,” for instance — in its. Not to mention Southwell’s, Herrick’s and others’ of previous centuries. I offer my sliced and diced trimmed-down translation above as trying to make do more convincingly with the vernacular which we have now.

When early Lutherans in 1616 got liturgical marching orders and were told to get rid of altars etc. . . .

. . . and said the heck with that and kept their altars and crucifixes and communion not on the hand and bowing “as if” God were present and seeing the priest “with his back to the people” and going to confession before “communing” and not considering the words of consecration “symbolic,” etc.

Ordered to go low in 1616 by Johann Georg, Margrave of the the Silesian duchy of Jågerndorf, they faced him down.

His decree:

All images are to be removed from the church and sent to the court.
The stone altar is to be ripped from the ground and replaced with a wood table covered with a black cloth.
When the Lord’s Supper is held, a white cloth covers the table.
All altars, panels, crucifixes and paintings are to be completely abolished, as they are idolatrous and stem from the papacy.
Instead of the host, bread is to be used and baked into broad loaves, cut into strips and placed in a dish, from which people receive it in their hands; likewise the chalice [in their hands].
The words of the supper are no longer to be sung, but rather spoken.
The golden goblets are to be replaced with wooden ones.
The prayer in place of the collect is to be spoken, not sung.
Mass vestments and other finery are no longer to be used.
No lamps or candles are to be placed on the altar.
The houseling [communion] cloth [for catching the host if it dropped] is not to be held in front of the communicants.
The people are not to bow as if Christ were present.
The communicants shall no longer kneel.
The sign of the cross after the benediction is to be discontinued.
The priest is no longer to stand with his back to the people.
The collect and Epistle are no longer to be sung, but rather spoken.
Individuals are no longer to go to confession before communing, but rather register with the priest in writing. [?]

The people are no longer to bow when the name of Jesus is mentioned, nor are they to remove their hats.
The Our Father is no longer to be prayed aloud before the sermon.
Communion is not to be taken to the sick, as it is dangerous, especially in times of pestilence. [Covid
The stone baptismal font is to be removed and a basin substituted.
Epitaphs and crucifixes are no longer to be tolerated in the church.
The Holy Trinity is not to be depicted in any visual form.
The words of the sacrament are to be altered and considered symbolic.

These prohibitions have the flavor of 20th-century Catholic liturgical reform, do they not? The writer, a longtime Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor, drawing on Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism: Choir, Congregation and Three Centuries of Conflict, by Joseph Herl, has uncovered what he calls “a sort of photographic negative of Lutheran worship!

“Drop the prohibitions,” he says, “and see the description of the normal practice, the actual shape of Lutheran worship to which this complaint bears witness.

“From the images and crucifixes to the chanting of collects and readings; . . . from the rich use of the Mass vestments to the beautiful and precious vessels that distributed the Lord’s blood; from the piety that knelt to receive the Sacrament and bowed to the Christ truly present in His body and blood when approaching or departing the holy altar to the bowing of head and doffing of hats at every mention of the holy name of JESUS.

“And what truly matters and is clear is that all these ceremonies . . . were clearly heard and seen as confessions of the Lutheran faith. And that is why they had to go.”

But the “surprisingly stubborn and resistant populace . . . was not about to give up their faith for some princely whim of his; they smelled Calvinism and wanted no parts of it.” Indeed, soldiers were sent to “enforce the changes . . . and the Margrave backed down. The people got to keep their Lutheran ceremonies.”

Reminds you of Catholic traditionalists today, in any number of points, including the boldfaced proposed prohibitions above. And it give me quite a different feeling about the staying power of Catholic liturgical customs and ritual even 100 years after Martin Luther’s break from Rome.

The sermon is no joking matter

Lutheran pastor Burnell Eckardt mused about leading prayer at a church service and concluded that while doing so, he never has “the remotest thought of praying with levity or jocularity.”

Never is humor added as if to maintain the attention of people who might be silently praying along. Never in the prayers of the church, or for that matter, in personal prayers, is humor thought to be a helpful ingredient. . . .

This pastor, of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Kewanee, Illinois, thought it puzzling. “Whenever we speak to God we are dead serious. We are not trying . . . to be funny, or evoke laughter.”

(Let us hope so, though many a churchgoer would not be surprised by ill-timed attempts at humor.)

“Why then?” he asks, “is there [the urge] to employ levity or evoke laughter when it is time for us to hear God, when there is preaching?”

In the sermon, “the integration of God’s word with the words of the pastor . . . The Gospel is to be preached, not simply read aloud. . . . the same ought to be true of the sermon,” which also is “God’s word,” even if in the preacher’s own words.”

The preacher “is doing a holy thing. The sermon is “God’s word.” The sermon must be “norma normata, that is, ‘normed’ by the Scriptures,” which are to be its “guide and compass.” It must be “derived, governed by the Scriptures.” That is required of preachers, “though of course they have great latitude in how they preach and apply God’s word.”

But . . .

. . . the sermon is not stand up comedy. It is not a time to connect with the hearers in the way that motivational speakers might do. It’s different. It’s norma normata. Certainly the pastor is using the sermon to connect with the hearers, but . . . with levity? With jokes?

You don’t joke around when speaking to God, so why, then, should you joke around when you, O pastor, are the vehicle through which God is speaking? We are, as the catechism says, to hold preaching sacred. Certainly this applies to the preacher as well as to the hearers.

Indeed. This Lutheran has it right.

Shaking hands, holding hands, communion in hand as mentioned in a parish bulletin several years ago . . .

* You don’t have to shake hands (at “sign of peace” time), you can just say hi in a “genuinely warm” way, said the bulletin in 2012, concerned about germs in the flu season.

But being genuinely warm can be the trouble. What’s not to like about that. A handshake is lower-level sacred in itself, something I give myself to wholeheartedly, but here it’s distracting when one is absorbed or trying to be absorbed with God-centered thoughts, which are essential to a worship experience or any religious experience as I understand it. Am I wrong?

* Plus maybe skip hand-holding (at Our Father time).

Or any other season if you don’t mind: forget the kumbaya if you don’t mind.

* Plus reconsider your aversion to communion in the hand if you have one.

Didn’t have one at the time (have acquired one), but was and remain averse to persuading people to do things opposite to what’s done in the Vatican. Or is hostile to their belief and a trifle insensitive to religious emotions. But more than that to one’s conviction that it’s God-time at Mass and that it’s important to pay attention to that.

Something else: Control freakism here? Uniformity pushed if not subtly enforced by professionals? Some of that maybe, or probably. All part of the decline of the worship experience, loss of the sacred. I thought so then, do so now.

The Mass belongs to the Church, not the priest – March, 2012

Opinion: Letters To The Editor March 13th, 2012

Dan Haley is indignant about Bishop Braxton’s telling a priest not to ad-lib the Mass, as if it’s the priest’s Mass and he can do with it anything he wants. But it’s not his, it’s the church’s. Braxton had no choice. Once apprised of the situation, he nixed the practice. What was he supposed to do, poll the congregation?

Dan knows the church doesn’t act that way, but he continues to kick against the goad, betraying either naivete or stubbornness in the matter. He would like the church to conform in this matter. And in how many others?

It’s an institution that claims divine founding and has thousands of years of being governed pretty much as it is today. But a priest wants to remake the Mass, the center of Catholic worship? Braxton is supposed to say go ahead, suit yourself? If he has authority in any area, it’s in worship.

He doesn’t have Dan’s vote, and he may not always have mine, but in either case, so what? We’re both trying to be decent Catholics; that’s the important thing.

Jim Bowman
Oak Park

Meditating at Mass

PRAYER AND MEDITATION: I left home 8/8/1950 at 18 to study them full time. After two years of it (novitiate), I got my SJ degree, which I relinquished many years later. Even so, much of it has stuck. At Mass, for instance, I often enter the zone of prayer and meditation, which makes me a poor participant in liturgy. Doesn’t mean I think of nothing else (distractions, you know) or that I am superior to the fellow or gal next to me who belts out the songs and other responses. In fact, you could argue I’m not as good because I seem to reject the communal aspect that characterizes today’s liturgy.

So allow me to hang my head in shame at that, asking only for tolerance. Bear with me.

However, I ask . . .

Do we exceed the limits of liturgical propriety sometimes when, for instance, we extend the handclasp of peace to other pew-sitters far and wide, even getting out of our pews to hug and chat? Just asking, don’t get mad.

Communion time also. What about our meeting and greeting on way to the communion station? Ushers do it. They are the souls of geniality as if they were the host greeting you at the door of a party. And they and others seem sometimes to take it amiss if you don’t participate, like the old gent at Ascension-Oak Park a few years back who stood where communion-goers passed, glad-handing one and all. I didn’t go along, and the fellow was surprised and wounded.

Some get carried away with our communality. Something is missing when that happens. A sense of the sacred, reverence?

Communion time at a Mass of burial, an arguably solemn time on an arguably solemn occasion: Worshiper who has participated lustily throughout Mass thinks of something to call another’s attention to, does so. But the other is in a zone and working on staying there and can only nod and turn back. Later, returning from communion, same worshiper has to pass others to get to his place in the pew, puts head down and looks straight ahead. Others for whom this is a social occasion seem not sure about this, wondering what gives with this fellow.

Is something missing? The Mass of old, which encouraged or at least made time for the prayer-and-meditation aspect, is long gone. Pious chatter is the norm, including from the altar, where like a radio talker, anxious about dead air, Father almost never stops. Once there was silence. Is it time for some sort of pendulum shift? I ask you.

Acid comments on a church redecorated . . .

CHURCH AS REDECORATED, January, 2002 . . . Astute, knowledgeable reader reports a church redone in “a rainbow of colors,” including purple and pink and “new shades of blue-greens . . . all radiating from a once dramatically stark huge crucifix above the sanctuary, which now looks like a Divine Mercy wannabe, clashing with modern stained glass windows already there in bold blue, green and yellow.

“The ‘liturgy committee’ . . . saw autumn approaching and brought out last year’s hangings on either side of the crucifix in vivid orange and yellow, with nosegays of artificial orange/yellow flowers. Streamers of artificial leaves cascade down the walls of the nave between stations of the cross.

“We have either become the Rainbow Coalition or been taken hostage by Puerto Ricans. Not to say that would be such a BAD thing, but if you are not color blind you wish you were.”

She was a writer and a dedicated Catholic who has gone to her reward.