Facing the people in 1955, Paul Claudel’s lament

From the eminent poet, dramatist, and diplomat Paul Claudel, January 23, 1955, in the French daily Figaro a month before he died:

I wish to protest with all my strength against the growing [unauthorized] practise in France of saying Mass facing the people.

He explained:

The most basic principle of religion is that God holds first place and that the good of man is merely a consequence of the recognition and the practical application of this essential dogma.

Basic, that. Let God be God in your worship. The rest will follow.


The Mass is the homage par excellence which we render to God by the Sacrifice which the priest offers to Him in our name on the altar of His Son. It is us led by the priest and as one with him, going to God to offer Him hostias et preces [Victims and prayers]. It is not God presenting Himself to us for our convenience to make us indifferent witnesses of the mystery about to be accomplished.

We are not the focus for the priest.

The novel liturgy deprives the Christian people of their dignity and their rights. It is no longer they who say the Mass with the priest, by “following” it, as the saying very rightly goes, and to whom the priest turns from time to time to assure them of his presence, participation and cooperation, in the work which he undertakes in their name.

All that remains is a curious audience watching him do his job. Small wonder that the impious compare him to a magician performing his act before a politely admiring crowd. [Emphasis added]

This is a killer phrase, from a six-time nominee for a Nobel prize, dramatist supreme, analyzing the mass as we were to know it. Performance liturgy.

. . . more more more to come . . .

1 Comment

  1. Jim Bowman says:

    Reblogged this on Blithe Spirit and commented:

    Famed dramatist reacts . . .


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