A blast from the pre-Vatican 2 past: Jesuit spirituality “unsuitable” for English, the Anglican Benedictine told Roman priests in France

These Anglican priests were taught to pray that way, most of them “abandoned prayer altogether.”

Some years before Vatican II, Dom Gregory Dix was, rather daringly, invited by Cardinal Gerlier of Lyons to give a lecture on Anglican spirituality.

In the discussion, he was asked by an unidentified priest whether the Anglican clergy were taught Ignatian spirituality.

Dix replied that it was the only kind that most of them were taught, and that this was very unfortunate, as it was a type that was very unsuitable to English people, so that most of them, having tried it without success, abandoned prayer altogether.

“Father, that is a truly Benedictine sentiment,” said the questioner as he sat down.

“That,” whispered the meeting’s chairman to the speaker, “was the Father Provincial of the Society of Jesus.”

Et mois? It was less a response from a continental than from a Jesuit, who was right on, Jesuit prayer being is somewhat of a soulless thing, or can be understood that way — systematic, grimly prosaic and punishing to its practitioner, laying on burdens and offering at best a modicum of comfort to him or her.

Grit your teeth and keep on gritting, that sort of thing. Of course, tell Southwell and Hopkins it does not breed poetry, keeping in mind, however, that the latter was an English product through and through and came to the Society an Oxford product and in the Society suffered greatly from boorish or at least unappreciative superiors.

To face the people or not to face them (saying Mass) . . .

. . . That is the question, given a quite reasonable answer by a priest writing into Fr. Z in 2016:

After my entry into the Catholic Church from Anglicanism and ordination as a Catholic priest, I approached the Archbishop about offering the Mass ad orientem.  

His guidance to me was to “catechize the people” regarding whatever I was going to do.  Since that time, at the 3 successive assignments I have had, I have periodically done just that.

Other priests whom I have served alongside have had varying reactions, some positive and some negative.  In my current assignment, the priest here with me also started occasionally offering the Mass this way a few years ago, and has noticed that his perspective on the priesthood and the Mass has changed.

Something worth pursuing there.

With the arrival of the 1st Sunday of Advent, I took the opportunity for a renewal of this catechesis of the people as part of the homily.  Currently, of the 13 Masses we have in an average week, 12 of them are offered ad orientem, though the last one may be shifting now in Advent.

Nuptial and funeral Masses may remain ad populum at times here, but that will be dependent upon pastoral discussion with the family involved. [boldface not mine]

I call that very interesting. It coincides with what Fr. Tony Brankin did, for instance, at his Berwyn IL parish, St. Odilo’s, as I reported in 2007 for Chicago Daily Observer. It was easy-does-it at first, gently ushering his parishioners into something old and new at the same time.

Historian Joseph Jungmann in 1948 . ..

Historic historian at that, his work on the Mass a classic, here in general terms about change/reform early in his Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development:

The liturgy of the Mass has become quite a complicated structure, wherein some details do not seem to fit very well, like some venerable, thousand-year-old castle whose crooked corridors and narrow stairways, high towers and large halls appear at first sight strange and queer.

How much more comfortable a modern villa! But in the old building there is really something noble. It treasures the heirloom of bygone years; the architectures of many successive generations have been built into its walls. Now these must be recovered by the latest generation.

So, too, in the Mass-liturgy, only a historical consideration of the evolutionary work of the centuries can make possible a proper appreciation.

One of a series of references to this work, with a view to understanding what went into the reform of the Mass — or was meant to go into it, as the case may be.

Reform-minded English Jesuits cleaned house in 1954 and 1971 . . .

Fr. Humwicke tells about it.

A correspondent . . . asks for more information about my statement that the Jesuits burned the relics in the Reliquary Chapel in Oxford’s Catholic Parish Church, Alyoggers. Information is provided in an excellent, erudite, and readable little book called St Aloysius Parish Oxford The Third English Oratory A Brief History and Guide 1793-2000 New Edition by Fr Jerome Bertram, MA, FSA, of the Oratory.

I will lift some bits from Father’s narrative.

Caught up in the thing, these Jesuits went beyond the call of sacred duty:

“In 1954 the Jesuits decided to ‘modernise’ the church. Nearly all the statues and pictures disappeared, as did several memorial brasses to priests and parishioners, and the whole building was painted battleship grey, obliterating all the brilliant colouring of the internal decorations …

In the 1960s came the major changes in the Catholic Church following the second Vatican Council …The parish registers tell their story: whereas in 1959 there were forty one converts received, in 1969 there were but two. The Corpus Christi and other processions were suppressed … The Relic chapel had long been neglected …

Now the collection was dispersed. Most of the actual relics were burnt, the containers thrown away, vestments, including some mitres that had belonged to Pope Pius IX, given away to amateur actors, and the books appropriated away from the parish.

By the end of the 1970s hardly anything remained, and the chapel screen had been scrapped … The cupboards on each side were intended to display the relics and antiquities, and the body of Saint Pacificus, an early Christian martyr, was enshrined beneath the altar. … There were thirty three relics of St Philip Neri, mostly fragments of his clothing, five of St Teresa including her signature, many English martyrs such as part of St Thomas More’s cap, relics of popular modern saints like the Cure d’Ars, mementoes of the three Jesuit boy saints [Aloysius Gonzaga, Stanislaus,
John Berchmans] . . .

many souvenirs of Pope Pius IX, including the pen with which he signed the bull defining the Immaculate Conception in 1854, and a great collection of letters, several from early Oratorian Fathers such as Cardinal Baronius. In addition the collection included vestments, candlesticks, chalices and the like as well as a number of oil paintings and several crystal and marble urns from the Catacombs

All these relics and treasures were destroyed or dispersed in 1971 … “

They must have felt relieved after indulging in their yen for iconoclasm.


. . . Warmup before a recent funeral mass which I attended included an organ-played rendition of “All the Things You Are” – lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II – from the loft. Only the music (by Jerome Kern) was played, however.

The words go this way and presumably would have been applicable to Jesus, though that would be a major surprise to both Hammerstein and Kern:

You are the promised kiss of springtime

That makes the lonely winter seem long.

You are the breathless hush of evening

That trembles on the brink of a lovely song.

You are the angel glow – that lights a star.

The dearest things I know – are what you are.

One day my happy arms will hold you

And someday I’ll know that moment divine

When all the things you are are mine.

 Ain’t liturgy grand?

7/18/2004: To illegal Latin mass today . . .

. . . where reverence was palpable, vs. happy-go-lucky mainstream Catholic service, starring priest as Jay Leno, full of smiles because we’re happy to be alive! This one was all business.

People came to pray not play, not to meet and greet except after mass, when there was lots of that.

Low mass, 7:30 Sunday, in small ex-Presbyterian church (converted by hammer and nail) 2/3 full, families and others. One server (a young man), priest with back to us, all of us looking towards God.


Weeks later, 10/10/2004: Parish bulletin warns people away from my illegal Latin mass church. It’s a “chapel,” says the bulletin, “that advertises itself as ‘Our Lady Immaculate Roman Catholic Church.'” But it’s actually not Roman Catholic but is run by the St. Pius X society founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, who was excommunicated, etc. etc.

 The bulletin quotes the Pope about the “grave offense” involved in adherence to the Society leading to excommunication. I’m at risk, therefore, by now and then attending the Latin masses at Our Lady Immaculate. Would my regular parish consider now and then having a Latin mass, so as to ween me away? For pastoral reasons?

A recent special mass for gays and lesbians at a neighboring parish (which I attended,  by the way) was a one-time thing, apparently. Maybe have a one-time thing for Latin mass enthusiasts who make no claims about being born that way but only that they were raised that way? (In due time, that happened, of course.)


At church today, a young man ahead of me in line for Communion shuffled up in expensive white sneakers, baggy white pants, and abbreviated tank top, the better to show off his extremely inflated muscles. It was muscle beach at the old parish.

 Earlier, there had been quite a handshaking of peace, with free-lancers going up and down the aisle to press flesh with any reluctant worshipers. Among them was the deacon, vigorously working the crowd as if running for office, which he should, since he’s such a nice guy, very personable.

 Father’s Day sermon had been by a tall, dark-haired, white-suited layman who talked about what Mary would have told Jesus after he was found in the Temple at age 12 instructing some white-hairs: Don’t get a big head, etc.

He got a hand when he finished, which is more than the pastor and his helpers get, but then he had done it more crisply, reading from his text, which is of course a good idea for the reverend fathers too, a good discipline.


Father X discussed “what Mass is all about” in the parish bulletin, namely our coming “with full hearts to thank God.”

Moreover, it is “truly alive . . . when we bring to Mass the everyday things of our lives.” Some of his best mass-time experience, he confessed, has been when he is “truly bringing what was in [his] heart to God.”

The time-honored but now little-used phrase “sacrifice of the mass,” he said “refers to our self-offering to God”! [It does?] This self-offering “feels good” to him because it reminds him that “God is taking care of” his various problems. That’s it?

Nothing in what he said is about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and its redeeming value or its being re-enacted in the mass, whatever we bring. He speaks only about what we bring. Apart from his belief in God as protector, it’s as if there were no Christian tradition. Pagans did this much, and probably still do.

 If you are wondering what there is about liturgy that reminds you of Rotary Club meetings, picnics, and other gatherings that make you feel good, consider this foray into theology by one of our coming pastors, who does a good job and is probably as theologically literate as most.

Confessions of an American Bead Counter, Part 2 – Crisis Magazine

Writer cuts to the core of a religio-cultural divide, crucial to understanding religion in our time:

In an earlier Crisis essay, I recalled the dismay at a social gathering when the host, a graduate of a Jesuit university, learned that his guest was a “bead counter.”

Liberal Christians approve, and are even known to practice, the social gospel; however, they suspect a conflict between corporal works and spiritual devotions such as the prayer for the dead at the end of each Hail Mary.

The word “pious” is now deployed with tongue in cheek or as a modifier before fool, fraud, and hypocrite.

Pray for the dead if you like, but it would do real good for the living if you put in an hour at the food pantry. Mother Theresa might have managed both, but the rank and file really must choose.

For that matter, understanding society in our time.

Minister Friendly . . .

We are almost done with the penitential season, but it’s not too late to take note of what happened to the ages-old message that came with the ashes . . .

In the spring of ’02, I dropped in at Old St. Pat’s on Ash Wednesday for my annual reminder that I am dust and unto dust will return — good to keep in mind when I am tempted to take pride in my considerable accomplishments — only to be told by a feverishly smiling 35-ish woman-with-ashes that God loves me, or something like it. She did not tell me to have a nice day, I’ll give her that.

I believe God loves me and can hardly object to being reminded of it. But what about paths of glory leading to the grave and all that, in this case the time-honored “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return”? I believe also in resurrection, but what about death and its brand of finality? You can overdo reminding people about it, but you can underdo it too. Not good to skip it.

This was hardly my first happy-face reminder of a shift from death as helpful meditation material. Funeral masses have not involved black vestments for ages, having given way to white ones, which emphasize resurrection. Catholic funerals emphasize life after death. It’s the ultimate selling point. But you would think this cherished belief means we can stand being reminded of death and putrefaction in at least one small ritual, wouldn’t you?