19th Century Rediscoveries: The Mass as Experience Not a lecture, not even a prayer meeting. Being moved by the Spirit

In 1840 the Benedictine monk Dom Prosper Gueranger published his Les Institutions liturgiques [“liturgical institutions”] , “a closely argued attack on the neo-Gallican liturgies and a wonderful demonstration of the antiquity and the beauties of the Roman liturgy,” says Bonnetere his 1980 book (Angelus Press, 2002), The Liturgical Movement: Gueranger to Beauduin to Bugnini, Roots, Radicals Results.

 Neo-Gallican refers to newly revived separatist liturgies in northern Europe, especially in France. Neo because Pius VI had struck a mighty blow to the separatist movement Gallicanism (French-ism) with his condemnation of the Synod of Pistoia in 1794 at a time when “the whole of Europe . . . was floundering in an “anti-liturgical heresy.” (Bonneterre)

 Gueranger was on the side of traditionalist angels, standing up for the wisdom of the ages, opposing changes meant to keep up with the times, etc.

 Primarily, he wanted to bring the clergy back to the Roman rite. By the time of his death in 1875, all the French dioceses had abandoned their separatist ways. Their liturgy, wrote a fellow Benedicine in 1948, was replete with “confession, prayer and praise, rather than instruction.” He had “rediscovered the liturgy . . . discerned [its] essence” as worship that “sings to God its faith, its hope, and its charity.”

 It formed and educated worshipers, but was “lyrical rather than didactic . . . essentially God-centered.” As if, participating in it as good in itself, the worshiper, throwing himself into it, is only secondarily if truly improved, we might say.

 Sanctification of the worshiper and his or her supernatural education is accomplished in due course as worshipers “raise themselves up so that the devotion they offer to God is more worthy of Him.” People are changed by the experience. It’s a sort of osmosis. You can’t plunge into it week after week without reacting.

 It’s an experience not to be compared to a lecture, for instance. It’s far more than that. I have to think of the old pop spiritual song of the 1940s, with its refrain, “When that spirit moves you, you will shout hallelujah/ it hits you you’ll holler/ yes indeed.”

 Or as Pius X said fifty years later, the liturgy was “essentially theocentric . . . for the worship of God rather than for the teaching of the faithful.”

 Crucial theme here, with a provocative question. Is the mass a teaching moment, to the exclusion or diminution of it’s being a sacred event, a sacrifice? Is it to be valued in itself. Not for which the priest is “presider,” as at a committee meeting, not even the not-quite-there “celebrant,” or even one who “says” the mass or even prays it (close), but its central performer or agent, his function captured in “priest,” one who does the sacrifice?

 Major issue here, on which more later. The concept was affirmed by the Council of Trent and the entire Counter-Reformation gestalt, in stark contrast to that primary structure of the Reformation, whereby the central figure in worship became not the priest-sacrificer but the preacher and leader of prayer. A permanent diaconate long before ours of today.

Note to author of soon to be published Dominus Vobiscum . . .

Dear Jim:

In your soon to be published book, do the anti-Novus Ordo (New Mass) part, interspersing it with with the pro. Can you do that, Jim? Keep it dry and detached? If you try, yes. But will you try?

Jim: Good question.

Note, continued:

Make your posts a foreshadowing of arguments to be fleshed out along the way.

And remember: keep it flat and noncommittal. It’s only right and it’s less you might have to apologize for.

Be not overly concerned with order and sequence, but be willing to test your readers for their ability to connect things. Does that mean not concerned at all? Hardly. That would be a slatternly procedure, to be sure.

Go rather for the lasting image or hit-home phrase, the (dare I?) poetic. Absolutely. Do not shrink from the poetic. Do you dare?

Don’t overdo the explanatory or saying where you got such and such, as from so and so, who is not paying attention anyhow and furthermore probably does not give a care.

For instance, recall the Synod of Pistoia, a regalist gathering called for by a secularly reforming grand duke seeking to clip papacy’s wings who got almost no local support in his territory Tuscany, as we saw in the last installment.

The duke and the bishop who sided with him lost that one, we have seen. The bishop resigned, the duke lost and when he went on to become emperor, the air had been removed from his balloon, even before the pope kiboshed the whole matter.

It would after all be a several generations later before papacy wings were clipped — by Garibaldi’s and his red shirts, chasing the Vatican I bishops and cardinals from their holy city.

We have noted too that the Pistoia proposals were eerily prognosticative of the yearning for vernacular liturgy, instituted 150 years or so later.

Pistoia was too much, too soon, a trial balloon of liturgical and other change and became a mere footnote. . . . .

more more more . . .

The bishop who lost his way: Tuscany in the 1780s

Pius X (1903-1914) is best known for promoting frequent communion, seen by some at the time as making a sacred thing unduly common and therefore less highly regarded.

This problem seems not to have risen until after Vatican 2, when communion became not only frequent but standard for mass-goers and everyone went — as I noted in a National Catholic Reporter essay in the 1970s, calling attention to an unsung achievement of the council, namely that it had abolished mortal sin.

In any case, this change of his and another, to teach catechism in the vernacular (!), are pretty tame stuff by today’s standards.

Let us, however, put a hold once more on this tenth Pius and his works, looking back a mere hundred or so years before him to the synod of Pistoia, a diocese in Tuscany, in 1786.

Liturgy was dying on the vine. Jansenists had made worship barely approachable with hard-nose demands on worshipers. Quietists had made it irrelevant with their insistence on a God-to-individual hot line as more than adequate.

Gallicanism (French-ism) was chopping away at the idea and practice of a universal liturgy, in fact universal lots of things, promoting church as federation of independent entities and the papacy as a first among equals, if that.

The issue or issues came to a head with this Pistoia synod, called by the local bishop at behest of the grand duke, Peter Leopold — later Emperor Leopold II — who pressed all 18 bishops in his duchy to do it, of whom three did. One was the Pistoia man, Scipio de’ Ricci, who was buying into some highly questionable ideas and causes whose time had come and gone. Bishop de’ Ricci was to regret this sorely.

To each bishop the duke, seeking to limit what some considered the “overweening” church power, had sent fifty-seven “points of view of His Royal Highness” (himself) on doctrine, discipline, and liturgy and said each should hold a synod every two years “to restore to the bishops [themselves] their native rights abusively usurped by the Roman Court.”

He was stirring the revolutionary pot, revving up a supposed discontent — ineffectively, he was to discover. Promoting his points of view and giving a finger to the pope were things all but one of the 18 wanted no part of.

The Pistoia synod made its points, however, approving these items about church authority:

* Church authority came entirely from church members.

* Therefore bishops were on their own. They needed not make an oath of obedience to the pope before their consecration. Same went for priests.

* Excommunications had only external effect. None were reserved to the pope.

* Civil rulers could decide divorce cases, dispensing from marriage vows as they saw fit.
Two others:
* Each parish church should have only one altar; liturgy should be in the vernacular, only one Mass should be celebrated on Sundays.

* Religious orders should all amalgamate, with a common habit and no perpetual vows.

The pope of course would have none of it. He gathered four fellow bishops and some theologians to examine the offending enactments. They would have none of it either, unsurprisingly, and condemned the synod, calling most of its propositions completely out of line.

Which indeed they were, considering how they upended the centuries-old structure of a centuries-old organization which for all its fault its adherents for the most part loved still.

Notice, however, the part about vernacular masses among the anarchic deviations and the emasculating, you might say, of religious orders, also centuries-old and competing in their own way with both papal and secular power, adding their mix to the central structure.

In due time, as we know, vernacular worship became the order (New Order, or Novus Ordo) of the day.

As for religious orders, with varying support from popes, they have managed over the decades to keep calm and carry on.

In 1794, eight years after the Pistoia fiasco, the pope made it official with his bull “Auctorem Fidei,” condemning this diocese-rights doctrine.

The duke had left Tuscany, succeeding his brother as emperor in 1790, and Bishop De’ Ricci, bereft of his support, had to resign. He subsequently submitted to the pope and retired to a monastery.

Do not put your trust in Princes, the Psalmist had told him, but he apparently wasn’t listening.

Sic transit gloria episcoporum. That is, bishops should look before they leap (as should we all.)

Tale of several popes. Unfolding drama unfolds further . . .

The first modern-day papal liturgical reformer, Pius X, 1903 to 1914, is claimed by later reformers as one of their own. But it’s truly an afterthought for them because his ideas and theirs were worlds apart. Or drifted that way, as we shall see.Indeed, this Pius was more in the mold of Pius V (1566-1572), who wound down a council, of Trent, or Tridentum, 1545-1563, and followed through on its edicts and findings with the mass called Tridentine.

This 5th Pius curiously has this in common with his successor-reformer of four centuries later, Paul VI, who followed through on a council he also had not convened with a new mass, “Novus Ordo,” with radically new script and stage directions.

The two masses endure, the first as barely tolerated (by never-Tridentiners among higher clergy and arguably the pope) or lovingly cherished (by traditionalists, or “traddies” as some call themselves) — whereby hangs a dramatic tale.

To these latter this book is mainly aimed, they being a hard core (corps, you might say) of worshipers and increasing numbers of the religiously curious, a curiously growing bunch. (See Western Canada millennials in this 11/30/2018 Crisis Mag piece)

As for the the new mass, it has been offered for much of its life on pretty much a take it-or-leave-it basis, illegal at first — with an endearing exception — and restored in stages by two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It remains a minority experience, however.

Of which more later . . .

History of “the movement” — What went wrong?

Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB and Pope (St.) Pius X were at the origin of the Liturgical Movement in the early 1900s, working towards “renewal of fervor for the liturgy” among clergy and faithful.

Promoters of the New Order (Novus Ordo) of the Mass say that’s where the new Mass got its start. Not so, wrote Fr. Didier Bonneterre in his 1980 book, The Liturgical Movement: Gueranger to Beauduin to Bugnini, Roots, Radicals Results.

The fact is, says Bonneterre in a detailed, fascinating, aggressively partisan argument, the liturgical movement was diverted from its course. It was his business to tell how that happened, discover who set reform off on  the wrong track, what was its early deviation, what the main error, who “hijacked” the movement so as to “propagandize” for Vatican II and a New Mass.

He identified major protagonists who would be “hounding” the Popes of the decades to come, names to conjure with in liturgical history, heroes, even icons, of the religious left (progressive, liberal) — Beauduin, Bea, Parsch, Guardini, Casel, Jungmann, Lercaro, Botte, Reinhold, Winzen, Congar, Harscouet, (Gaspar) Lefebvre, Danielou, Fischer, Bugnini, Nocent, Bouyer, Thurian, Gy, etc. Quite a list.

Thanks to them and their followers, the New Mass had been conceived — “the poisoned fruit of the perversions” of the Movement. How did it happen? His book “helps us to know what to reject and what we must carefully conserve” of the Movement, he wrote.

Alternate titles

Those Old Novus Ordo Blues: How Vatican 2 was betrayed by liturgical enthusiasts in the late 1960s and since then within the bosom of the holy Roman Catholic church

My Novus Ordo Blues: Extremely Old Catholic Looks Back

Novus Ordo Reconsidered: A Meditation

The New Mass Reconsidered: A Meditation

The Mass Since Vatican II: A Meditation

Novus Ordo: The Catholic Mass Since Vatican II

Novus Ordo: The mass since Vatican II and how it tore the heart out of religious devotion

Novus Ordo: The mass since Vatican II and how it offers the church opportunity for respect for conscience

Opening shot, 11-17-18

I began this book in the role of a crabby old (very old) objector to the new mass, intending to issue primarily a cry from the heart, an extended complaynt at the plundering of liturgy as I knew it, which I sometimes considered akin to Henry VIII’s rape of the monasteries — Shakespeare’s “Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.” A despoliation, I feared — and to some extent still do.

You can imagine the shift involved, to go from complainer about the New Mass — Novus Ordo (new order of mass = new mass) — to looking for what I had to learn about it and charting a course for myself among Vatican 2 and other documents and assorted commentary and my own experiences and my own commentary including my complaynts.

So it’s an adventure, a journey of a soul, some might say, but not I. In fact, I shrink from grand statements. Don’t like them, because they glorify a common — not common enough — process of changing your mind or at least somewhat re-positioning yourself in a matter of wide discussion.