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July 26, 2004


David Kubiak

How often does one have to say that the conception of the pre-Conciliar Roman rite given here is ignorant nonsense?

In a strange way the pronouncements of this Dominican are akin to the sexual scandals -- clergy repeating lie after lie and expecting the laity to sit still for it. And these 'pastoral musicians' are like many parishioners who don't want the truth because they have so much personal investment in the lie.

The Church has lost much credibility today for the not mysterious reason that its spokesmen tell so many lies about so many things.

Kevin Miller

But then, "traditionalist" Michael Davies writes that the proper understanding of the laity at Mass is like that of the spectators at a football game. So in fact, if what Philbert says is in some sense "ignorant nonsense," it is nonetheless a view that was held by some before the Council and continues to be held by some who didn't like the Council. I suspect there's a reason for that, and that it's not unrelated to the real need that did exist for liturgical reform.

Patrick Rothwell

If the Tridentine low mass in Washington, DC was the typical pre-conciliar experience in the United States, then Father Philibert isn't lying. The problem with NAPALM is that, for the most part, the hymns and the music championed by them are crap. Outside of enthusiastic intentional communities of their followers, the laity do not like their hymns and do not sing them, except for the so-called "Celtic Alleluia."

On the other hand, I am under no illusions that the laity will start singing with gusto if we substitute Ralph Vaughn Williams for Marty Haugen either or Mrs C.F. Alexander for Suzanne Tooley. I've been blessed to attend parishes where these golden oldies are sung, but the congregation is still largely silent.

RP Burke

Inasmuch as I am appalled that the average parish's musical standard is poor music poorly executed, I wonder what Mr. Kubiak says is a "lie" here.

While it is not incorrect to say that the priest in the old days did say the Mass for all the people, in nearly universal practice all the important action occurred on the altar side of the rail. For centuries.

Whatever is he lying about???

John Heavrin

As often as necessary, David. I'm with you.

This dog-of-the-Lord is, one hopes, regarded, if at all, as the walking, talking, warbling period-piece that he is. I was struck by what, to me, was a faulty piece of sacramental theology: the part about presenting our "selves" as a living and holy Sacrifice. I always thought, pre- and during- and post-Council, that it was bread and wine, transubstantiated into Body and Blood, that was presented for Sacrifice.
And I'm surprised to learn that I'm the "subject" of the kind ministrations of liturgists (though I feel like one sometimes).

Dale Price

The Aquinas Institute--reliable as a metronome, to continue the musical theme. You can pretty well bet the farm that anyone associated will pretend that Catholic liturgy was invented in 1970. A more marked disdain for Tradition is difficult to find.

Or imagine.

You can even more reliably bet that AIT personnel will be invited to all the big liturgical confabs sponsored by the Powers That Be.

The more I read stuff like this, the more I wonder whether the stuff we see happening in the liturgy can be properly called an "abuse" rather than the game plan.

John Heavrin

Some people can't sing. I'm one of them. What are you supposed to do, I wonder, if you don't like to sing? Stay home? I've always wanted to ask one of these guys that question.

Desert Chatter

Gee, a liturgist proposes that liturgists are the pivot points of history! What a surprise!

One doesn't become a liturgist unless one thinks that liturgy is the center of everything and that liturgical rubrics are Holy Writ.

Dale Price

More from Fr. Philibert on the same subject, courtesy of Adoremus:


It's eye-opening stuff, especially Fr.'s claim that a major problem with liturgy is the presence of unreconstructed types seeking an encounter with the transcendent God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:

"Father Philibert began by calling musicians 'architects of beauty in our parishes', who are 'attentive that the entire assembly must try with all their might to try to make symbols of transcendence, symbols of the power of God's presence'. The assembly's role in the Mass was so central, in the speaker's view, that he believes that the biggest threat to good celebration of Mass is deficiency in the motives of the people who come.

Among the 'deficient motives', according to Father Philibert, are fear of penalty, and coming to Mass only for one's own fulfillment. In the 'self-fulfillment' category he includes people who come to church seeking transcendence, which he believes demonstrates an unwholesome tendency toward 'individualistic piety' --an idea commonly found in the usual article."

chris K

I really love music and I love to participate - preferably in harmony, but what does one do when one is of good will but one also realizes that the words which are being proclaimed in the music appear to glorify one's self and those around one and seem to replace praising the One we come to try to know better? In my case it looks like it won't matter since we were told yesterday by our new pastor who happens to be the diocesan head of the office of liturgy that soon we would ALL be singing, to which my husband shook his head no - not just because he doesn't enjoy the strained lyrics but because he can't carry a tune. The question is...to what are we the spectators of - perhaps now it's just that the subject has changed from the Sacrifice, to one another and the celebrant and the many others participating.

Donald R. McClarey

Yesterday I was lector at Mass. As part of my duties I announce the hymns and attempt to lead the singing. The entrance hymn was so forgettable that, try as I might, I can't recall it. The offertory was the totally unsingable, at least by me, Mary-Gentle Woman. The communion hymn has also vanished from memory. The recessional was the excrutiating "Let There Be Peace on Earth", which my parish uses at least twice a month as the recessional and which has left me with a deep hatred for it. Yesterday summed up my experience at 80% of the masses I have attended since 1970: liturgical music that is totally forgettable, except when it is deeply annoying. Surely, we can do much better than this!


Sorry, I just can't bring myself to comment either on the topic of music in parishes or the dear author, Fr. P., a zealous implementer of his understanding of Vatican II. God bless him.
I just gave up on parish liturgy and attend liturgy at a monastery.
If I go to a parish, I just accept what they offer, and generally quickly forget the music.
I don't stand in front of moving trains, either. Sometimes its better to just move off the track.

RP Burke

A comment on Mr. McClarey's post.

Oh, my. I do know of the 'Gentle Woman' song: Luckily I did not have to fend off requests for it when we did a special Marian Vespers for our parish's 100th anniversary a couple of years ago. When I read the primary source material on Mary -- who talked back to the angel, sang a great song of praise, dressed down her 12-year-old son in the temple, and at a wedding bossed around first her son then the servants -- I don't see anything especially 'gentle.'

Then there's the music. The epitome of everything that is wrong about post-1970 Catholic music. The song gets an F in content and an F in form.

And you had to instruct people to sing it yesterday -- and Let There Be Peas? My condolences. (See -- we do agree on some things!!)

A comment in general.

I have had an article published on the subject of music in our worship, and especially the need to undertake a serious, anthropologically based study. Partisans, especially of contemporary music, dismiss any criticism as a matter of 'personal taste.' Translate this to mean, 'Your taste doesn't matter, only mine.'

A more serious study of this is available on the website of Prof. Peter Jeffrey at Princeton:


Gerard E.

Wounded to the core....he said it in Philly....Paging Cardinal Rigali....


Would it be too much to say that
what Fr. P. was doing in Philly was
preaching to the choir?

Donald R. McClarey

"And you had to instruct people to sing it yesterday -- and Let There Be Peas? My condolences. (See -- we do agree on some things!!)"

Thank you Mr. Burke! I think if American Catholics can agree on little else, I think a high percentage of us would stand united in decrying what passes for music in the vast majority of masses celebrated in this country since 1970.

John Bianco

Particpation in mass almost 40 years after Vatican II is not really all that different for the average parishoner in the pew than it was before Vatican II. I have been to plenty of Low and High Tridentine masses, and I have been to planty of masses using the current missal. The only realy difference I can see is now the conregation says the Confetior or the other rites used in its place and the Creed and the Our Father, and on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, the conregation responds to those readings, other than that, there will is no difference in parcicpation pre or post Vatican II.

The exception of course are the small number who participate in liturgical roles such as lector and EMHC, but again this is a very tiny group, often being used when they should not be used. But the net result, liturgical "reforms" have gained the church very little when it comes to active partcipation.


Music, especially singing, in the liturgy is generally a sore point with most people. Never mind the fact that most of the standard fare is unsingable; the lyrics are at best banal, at worst heretical. And then you find the overly-eager cantor or choir director who announces that "everyone MUST sing, now". Pleease! Has anyone ever asked how many people don't go to Mass on Sundays because they can't stand the music? I know at least two or three. What is wrong with no singing? I know, in heaven the angels and saints sing, as the preface says, "forever to God's glory". But then, in heaven we will all have good voices!

David Kubiak

What irritates me most about the sort of pronouncements Fr. Philibert is making here is that they assume ignorance of or the conscious desire to suppress papal teaching on the liturgy in the first half of the twentieth century, culminating in the great encyclical of Pius XII 'Mediator Dei' (whose fiftieth anniversary went by without comment from the Vatican). I believe that in 'Tra le sollicitudini' Pius X actually uses the term 'mute spectators' pejoratively in his effort to revive communal singing of the chant.

As the "Ottaviani Intervention" said so eloquently, the Catholic people never asked for a new Mass, but rather that the spiritual riches of the traditional rite continue to be opened up for them, as was emphatically being done in the immediate pre-Conciliar period.

It is to me a very great irony that precisely when an educated Catholic middle class who could come to a sophisticated understanding of our liturgical heritage came into existence, we threw out our patrimony and replaced it with a Mass that is much better suited for illiterate peasants of the nineteenth century.

A last comment on the "Big Liturgical Lie." One of the most unfortunate victims of it are permanent deacons, who in virtually every case I know of are indoctrinated with Fr. Philibert's brand of pseudo-liturgical history.


Dear David K.,

Not just the permanent deacons.
What about the RCIA folks?
What about all the "Lay Ecclesial Ministers?"
What about the children?

Like I said. It is a moving train. I decided to just step aside rather than resist.

Isn't it interesting that our beautiful new GIRM still says, as just one example, "In the dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual; (3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop." (n. 48)

To my knowledge, items (3) and (4) do not exist. How many people in American parishes have ever seen, let alone used, the Roman Gradual (option 1) or the Simple Gradual (option 2). Not many that I have met. And they don't want to. For one thing, it is in that stuffy old language of Latin (o.k. for Harry Potter or Indiana Jones or even the local yoga "chant along" nights and the Anglican church, but not in a modern Roman Catholic parish. Oh, the irony! They would rather be raised up on eagle's wings and let their little light shine.

As I said, I gave up. I go to liturgy at a monastery. Everybody chants. Not a problem. Full participation. Some of the most beautiful, sanctifying liturgical music. Did I already say Full participation? Chant and/or Latin will not kill you. But neither will "I am the Bread of Life."

Yes, those music ministers are indeed Trailblazers and leaders of their communities. Whither?

Maclin Horton

Amy, you're baiting us, right? Oh cruel!


Peace, all.

"Some people can't sing. I'm one of them. What are you supposed to do, I wonder, if you don't like to sing?"

Sing to get even.

Interesting how the liturgy threads always get action. A few thing to remember on the original quote: it was lifted from CNS from a conference of liturgical musicians, so forgetting the context leaves one hanging in the breezes. People go to conferences to bolster themselves for another 51 weeks of working with ignorant pastors, apathetic parishioners, struggling singers and musicians. And that doesn't even touch wedding planning or VBS. Of course convention speakers are going to hit the self-congratulate button.

Talk to church musicians and you'll find a common thread of hopes and frustrations: poor music getting better someday, lack of support, more arts/less sports, etc..

The big "lie" thing? Big crock, I would say.

RP Burke

A reply to John Bianco.

"The exception of course are the small number who participate in liturgical roles such as lector and EMHC, but again this is a very tiny group, often being used when they should not be used."

Actually, both the old and the new GIRM require that lay people ('instituted' or not) do the readings other than the gospel, unless no one qualified is available. It's the extraordinary ministers who seem to get some noses out of joint.

Kevin Miller

Once again, it's a "lie" only if you prescind entirely from what "traditionalists" themselves actually say. Was it the teaching of the Church? Of course not. But somehow, even as the Council approached, a lot of people were stuck in the mindset. And I maintain that that was not unrelated to the way the Mass was being celebrated (as well as continued problems with formation - that, at any rate, is not a postconciliar innovation, though of course the nature of the bad formation has changed).

Regarding "I always thought, pre- and during- and post-Council, that it was bread and wine, transubstantiated into Body and Blood, that was presented for Sacrifice" - well, yes, and. It is the Body of Christ whole and entire, Head and Members, that is offered to the Father. Now, this only happens "through, with, and in" Christ our Head, as he offers himself on the Cross, as that sacrifice is re-presented on the altar. And that truth is indeed often dangerously obscured today. But, at the same time, the whole point of Christ's action is to unite us to himself and bring us into reconcilation with, and thanksgiving to, the Father. Pace Davies and others like him, we are not spectators at Mass, and more, it's not simply that there's a coincidence between the priest's celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice and our self-offering. In fact, there's an intrinsic relationship between them - not, of course, such that you need a congregation for a valid Mass, but such that, when (as usual) you have one, what they're doing is intrinsically related to what the priest is doing. And that, I submit, was sometimes obscured before the Council, even as it approached, and continues to be so obscured among some leading "traditionalists."

David Kubiak

I will not engage in another round of polemics with Mr. Miller, who is hopelessly enamoured of the Novus Ordo. My point was and is that it is a lie to claim that the pre-Conciliar Church taught, hoped, expected, was pleased with, or any other verb you want to insert, that people at Mass would be 'mute spectators'.

Mr. Davies' relevance to this fact escapes me.

Kevin Miller

Davies is an example of the mentality that some Catholics who thought the pre-conciliar era beyond reproach actually still have - and to which Fr. Philibert was referring (note that he seems to speak of "Catholic culture," not "Church teaching"). I don't think that's hard to see. And as for whether I'm hopelessly enamored with today's liturgy - don't try to read my mind - you're no better at that than at reading Gaudium et Spes. In fact, I wouldn't have done it exactly the way "they" did it. Neither do I think that reform was unneeded or that the outcome was simply bad, though.

RP Burke

Here is what the Baltimore Catechism said about Mass in the old days:

364. What is the best method of assisting at Mass?  
The best method of assisting at Mass is to unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice, and to receive Holy Communion. 

364A. How can we best unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice?  
We can best unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice by joining in mind and heart with Christ, the principal Priest and Victim, by following the Mass in a missal, and by reciting or chanting the responses. 

So even then we were taught that we were to "unite with the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice ..."

However, as several of us noted before, in practice the congregation treated the Mass as a spectator event. Here's a good description from a collection of essays about U.S. Catholic practice before Vatican II:

Down in the nave of the church, the worshipers more or less went their separate ways. Some said the Rosary beads, while others had a set number of prayers that they said during Mass. Many followed the Mass with their Missals, hurrying to keep up with the priest who seemed to fly through the Latin. Everything had become pro forma. (Casino, in "The American Catholic Parish: A History From 1850 To The Present", Paulist 1987)

The key sentence: "Everything had become pro forma."


in practice the congregation treated the Mass as a spectator event.

And of course, depending on where you go to Mass, that can still be a problem today. Of course, it's a completely different orientation. Now we can get the Fr. So-and-So Show, complete with liturgical dancers and a veritable army of "lay ministers."

do you have a reference for Michael Davies' comment? I've read some of his stuff and that just doesn't sound like him. I'm not saying that it's not, but I wonder if perhaps some context for the remark would help. Of course, you could be completely correct, but that just doesn't seem to mesh with what I've read from him. Thanks!

Mark C.

Yesterday, I atteneded an evening Novus Ordo Mass at a large church in downtown Ottawa, as I was unable to assist at the Tridentine High Mass I usually go to. The music was the usual mix of banal 70s tunes, leavened by a spirited (but failed) attempt by the choir to sing some richer fare to an electronic organ accompaniment. Finally, as the recessional, the congregation sang "Amazing Grace". Almost the entire 500 person congregation juned in enthusiastically, even clapping (groan) after the hymn was finished. It was as if the congregation was turned from mute statues to enthusiastic Welsh coalminers merely by choosing a singable hymn that people actually knew.

It's a pity that it had to be an uber-Protestant hymn to get this kind of reaction, but I'll wager that "Faith of Our Fathers" or "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" would have got a response, too.

On a related note, I think one of the biggest failures in the reformed liturgy was in not implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium's vision for Sacred Music, in which Gregorian chant was to be given pride of place and made more accessible to the people by developing simpler arrangements, and the people were to be able to say or sing together the parts of the Mass pertaining to them (by which one presumes is meant at least the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei). The resources to do this are there, with Paul VI's Jubilate Deo music booklet, or the simplified chants developed by Taize. But I know of almost nowhere where using these chants for congregational singing has been cultivated.

In the liturgically "higher" churches (ones with Tridentine or Novus Ordo Latin High Masses), the ideal seems to be a highly skilled choir singing more elaborate chant or polyphony. In the broad mainstream of Catholic churches, Latin is almost never heard - once in a blue moon you might get "O Sanctissima" sung as a communion hymn by the choir in a "conservative" church like the one I attended last night. If there is a movement / monastery / parish that has actually tried to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium by promoting simplified Gregorian chant for congregational singing of the principal parts of the Mass, I am unaware of it. Maybe the next National Conference of Pastoral Musicians could take it up. But I doubt it.

Kevin Miller

Stacey: I've read two of the three books of his "trilogy": Pope John's Council and Pope Paul's New Mass. I believe it's in the latter, though it's literally been at least a decade and a half, so it could be the former. And I don't have a chapter or page. But the statement sticks out very prominently in my mind - I'm sure he says it there somewhere.

Kevin Miller

A further comment, regarding the citation from the Baltimore Catechism above: What it says is, of course, true (as is the observation that practice diverged from theory). But I think one also needs to go further to express the whole truth. See, e.g., CCC 1368: "The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. ..."

In other words, it isn't simply that the priest offers the sacrifice, and, if we happen to be there, we unite ourselves with him. It's that the Eucharistic sacrifice is always already the sacrifice of the whole Body, head and members. Again, that's part of the point of the words of Christ, spoken in the consecration: "given up for you," "shed for you."

We must not lose sight, as sometimes happens today, of the priest's unique role. Without an ordained priest, who makes sacramentally present Christ the Head, we don't have the Church's sacrifice.

But, constituted as such by the ordained priest, it is, still, in another respect, the assembly as a whole that is intrinsically the subject of the liturgical action. And we must not lose sight of that either, as sometimes happened before.

Kevin Miller

Oh, and one final point. I agree that much of today's liturgical music is bad. I think that we do need music that is good (both theologically and musically). I wouldn't worry so much about whether a hymn is "Protestant" in its genesis or even in its emphasis, though. Some such hymns are still good hymns (both theologically and musically). (Whereas, there are probably plenty of modern hymns that are written by Catholics but are theologically awful.)

Also, I fully agree that the liturgy today can turn into a "show," thus turning the congregation into, once again, "spectators." I said above that I don't think the whole reform was done right. If I could change just one thing that was done, I'd restore the traditional liturgical "orientation." I think it makes better sense, both theologically and pastorally, than "facing the people."


It seems that Kevin Miller and David Kubiak are largely agreeing with each other at the tops of their voices....

If people want to rant some more, this article will probably entertain you.


"There has been a great renaissance in Catholic hymnody since Vatican 2. The Catholic Church has cast aside its image as the purveyor of the second-rate and is evolving a tradition which will eventually be seen as the equal of the great non-Catholic traditions."

Hee! And what color is the sky in their universe?

Sandra Miesel

On people participating before VII: I was there, folks! My generation was being taught at all levels to follow in their Missals and pay close attention to what was happening at the altar. Dual language Missals first became available in English in 1910. My great-aunt, a woman with only an 8th grade education, had and used one. My childhood parish had the dialogue Mass and the parish did heartily sing a few basic hymns like "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name." By the time I got to grad school (1962-66), the Newman center at Illinois was having a sung Latin Mass with appropriate chants every noon, with good participation. I was sorry to see the Latin Mass go and always will be.
By the way, the Good Ole Middle Ages, there was often a barrier between the congregation and the sanctuary so the laity couldn't see much of what was going on, and of course, no opportunity for communal participation at all. The pious prayed their own prayers and listened for the bells and waited for the elevation. Some people just wandered about the church and the elite brought their hawks and hounds to Mass. We do make some progress.

chris K

I'm a "ditto-head" for Sandra's memories!

There was a time as well when either very loud bells or even explosives were set off just before the consecration to announce to field laborers the great and awesome moment was taking place so they might run to the church and look through the windows to participate in what they knew was the most sacred part of the mass. Even not being able to be there for an entire liturgy it appears that they may have had a greater awareness and respect for what was happening.


This pastoral musician did try to reintroduce simple Gregorian chants with the English texts. I used the holy, memorial acclamation, great amen, and lamb of God every week for a month or so. No one sang along. Several people came up and said they were too hard. Many Americans can't cope with meterless music, even when it's text-driven and follows speech patterns.

I went back to Mass of Creation, which they belt out with gusto. As they do all the hymns from the 1970s. My parish sings very loudly on older stuff which they know. It takes a lot of repetition for them to get comfortable with newer stuff, and that's part of the problem. Some people would rather sing bad songs they know rather than good ones it would take them time to learn.

This is also a parish where the church is pretty empty 10 minutes before Mass. A lot of people scoot in just under the wire (or late) so trying to teach things before Mass is fruitless. Those that are there are talking constantly.

Another Ken

If you want to see what proper congregational participation in singing looks like then go to your local Church of Christ. Acapella, no choir, full participation. Unfortunately, no chant.


I haven't found it yet, but considering that there are over 950 pages to go through in those two books, that's not particularly surprising. However, in Pope John's Council I did find the following, which I think at least somewhat addresses the issue:

"I well remember how, as a convert with wide experience of very vocal and emotional evangelical Protestant services, as well as several varieties of Anglican liturgy, the first experience of real worship that I encountered was at a low Mass in a working class parish. Only the server made the responses in the packed church, few present had a missal, but the atmosphere of reverence and, at the consecration, of palpable adoration was something which I had never experienced before and which I shall never forget. But at the same time it must be admitted that the liturgical life of most of these worshippers would have been confined to attendence at one such low Mass each week--and when the endless riches offered to them in the liturgical treasury of the Church are considered, this was clearly a state of affairs open to a great deal of improvement." (p. 20, emphasis in original)

Anyhow, when someone says things like that, I really do have a hard time thinking that they think that we are just supposed to be spectators like at a football game. But I'll keep looking and see if I find the quote. Of course, by the time I do, this topic will probably be archived. Oh well.

Kevin Miller

Stacey, okay. (Feel free to email me, too.) By the way, the more I think about it, the more I'm pretty sure it was in PPNM, not PJC. (I don't have either book to hand - way back when, I checked them out of the public library, believe it or not.)


"Everything had become pro forma."

Is this a matter of liturgy or a matter of the heart?

RP Burke

A reply to Ken.

From my experience, I think the answer to your question is yes. You participated in liturgy because you had to, not because you wanted to. The liturgy itself was tightly proscribed and many people -- including many priests, probably -- didn't know what all the little bowings and scrapings and repetitions really meant.

David Kubiak

"What all the little bowings and scrapings and repetitions meant."

Presumably that God is God and we're not, which you would never guess from the typical Novus Ordo. And there is evidence that Archbishop Bugnini wanted his Mass that way. His colleague on the Consilium Dom Boniface Luykx says about him: "Bugnini once told [Cardinal Joseph] Malula that the norm for the liturgy and for the Church renewal is modern Western man, because he is the perfect man, and the final man, and the everlasting man, because he is the perfect and normative man." The normative Mass for the normative man, I guess.

Kevin Miller

Right. That's why the priest does still bow and genuflect at Mass, even if not as many times.

RP Burke

A reply to David Kubiak.

"What all the little bowings and scrapings and repetitions meant."

Presumably that God is God and we're not, which you would never guess from the typical Novus Ordo.

Wasn't my idea. How about the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, to wit:

Wherefore, in the revision of the liturgy, the following general norms should be observed:

34. The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions [Emphasis added]; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.

RP Burke

A reply to David Kubiak.

"What all the little bowings and scrapings and repetitions meant."

Presumably that God is God and we're not, which you would never guess from the typical Novus Ordo.

Wasn't my idea. How about the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, to wit:

Wherefore, in the revision of the liturgy, the following general norms should be observed:

34. The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions [Emphasis added]; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.

RP Burke

Oops. Sorry about the double posting. Got an error message from Safari (my browser) that the first one didn't go through.

Aristotle A. Esguerra

Berni et al.:

Given the observation that more than a few parishioners regard even the simple chant settings of the Mass as inaccessible, it may be a more reasonable first step to encourage the singing of the dialogues and responses first.

In other words, keep your Mass of Creation if it so suits you, and focus on chanting the Sign of the Cross, the General Intercessions, the Amens, etc. They're supposed to be sung as well. And in chant, not in elaborately silly arrangements.

In the meantime, if your church has a website, have the webmaster link to recordings of the Latin Ordinaries [http://www.christusrex.org/www2/cantgreg/kyriale_eng.html] on the home page, and have them make that link prominent. Make a new web page for it. Announce it in your bulletin. If your pastor (or even assistant pastor) is bold, encourage a timeline to have these chants incorporated into at least one regularly scheduled Mass starting on a definite date - it doesn't need to be on Sunday, though it may help. Hold open rehearsals. Burn CDs. Give the parishioners a reason to chant to the best of their ability other than "Rome says so" - while that statement certainly has been true since at least 1903(!), it's not compelling. Especially now. Besides, there are other more attractive reasons to chant (connecting with history, focusing the soul, chant as an extension of quietude, etc.) that should be made known.

Lastly, I think that all of this should be encouraged with a patient "try it, you might like it" attitude. However, many will need this strategy to first convert their own priests (who are the chief liturgists, after all) to the beauty of the chant.

"Think it'll work?" - Valerie
"It'll take a miracle." - Miracle Max


I finally found what I think you were referring to, but I don't see it saying exactly what I think you thought it said. For background, it's in the chapter on Communion under both kinds(p. 444-445). I will note that he states up front that there are no doctrinal issues with the reception of Communion under both kinds, though he thinks that there are other issues to consider. No need to go into all of that here.

A Mass at which no one but the celebrant receives Communion is as much a Mass as one with a thousand communicants. The Mass is a sacrifice with a Communion banquet as an optional means of participating in the sacrifice, but no human activity can be defined in terms of an aspect which is optional. An obvious parallel from the secular sphere can be found in sporting activities. Much of the atmosphere and excitement of great sporting activities derives from the presence of the spectators. However, a football game is just as much a football game without anyone present but the players. It would thus be wrong to incorporate the presence of spectators into any definition of a football game. It is equally unjustified to incorporate the Communion of the faithful into any definition of the essense of the Mass."

In other words, he's not saying that the faithful at Mass are supposed to be like spectators at a football game, but rather that whether and how they receive Communion (under both kinds or at all), etc, does not determine whether the Mass is the Mass. Now, if you want, I can provide other quotes to show his position on the role of the laity at Mass, but they are not anything unusual and nothing that I think that any orthodox Catholic would object to.

Kevin Miller


I appreciate your looking up the exact quotation. And I agree that whether the laity receive communion under both kinds, or only one, or not at all - or, more generally, what they do during Mass - or, for that matter, whether they're there at all - doesn't determine whether the Mass is the Mass.

However, I still find the quotation deeply problematic, because of the analogy he chooses to make that point. I think the analogy implies more than that limited point, and, as I've been saying, suggests the problems with an understanding of the role of the laity at Mass that had some currency before the Council (and still does, though perhaps to a lesser extent).

I know Davies isn't advocating that the laity simply act like spectators - I wasn't trying to suggest that - and, hence, I'm sure that much of what he says elsewhere is, as far as it goes, fine, and in any case acceptable. And, again, it is of course true that the laity don't determine whether a Mass is being celebrated. The question is, why? Is it true that, when they are there (and when they participate in various ways, including, especially, by receiving communion), they're not part of "the essence of the Mass"? NO.

As I said in a comment above, the point of the ordained priest's celebration of Mass - which is what is ontologically necessary for there to be a Mass - is so that the whole Body of Christ, Head and Members, clergy and laity, can be presented to the Father as a sacrifice (of, especially, thanksgiving - cf. the CCC).

Hence, the reason that the laity aren't "essential" is different from the reason that the spectators at a football game aren't essential. And, again, the reason that the laity "should" be present and, in the right ways, participate is different from the reason that there "should" be spectators at a game, cheering and so on.

Davies's theology remains subtly but crucially flawed, and, to the extent that it's representative of pre-Conciliar "culture," this, I maintain, demonstrates that there was some truth to Philibert's point.



You said,
the reason that the laity aren't "essential" is different from the reason that the spectators at a football game aren't essential. And, again, the reason that the laity "should" be present and, in the right ways, participate is different from the reason that there "should" be spectators at a game, cheering and so on.

I really think that Davies would agree with you and that you are inferring more from his choice of analogy than he would. Throughout that section of the book, he's trying to point out that in Catholic theology, there is a distinction between the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of believers and that certain emphases tend to conflate the two. Here's another quote from the book, discussing the 1969/1970 GIRMs:

"Article 55 states (in both versions) that the Church 'offers the immaculate Victim to God the Father, in the Holy Spirit. The Church strives also that the faithful should not only offer the immaculate Victim but should learn to offer themselves.' This is a faithful reflection of paragraph 103 of Pope Pius XII's Encyclical Mediator Dei: 'If the oblation whereby the faithful in this Sacrifice offer the Divine Victim to the heavenly Father is to produce its full effect, they must do something further: they must also offer themselves as victim.' "

He agrees wholeheartedly with Mediator Dei, therefore, he also agrees with the quote from article 55. Obviously (well, obviously to me, anyhow) that would seem to mean that he agrees that the participation of the laity at Mass is substantially different from the participation of the spectators at a football game.

Kevin Miller


Okay. Maybe. I still suspect, though, that his choice of analogy is more revealing than you find it to be. Especially given that closing sentence about "the essence of the Mass" - I think that's an explicit error, even if he gets the matter right elsewhere. I.e., I'm not sure how fully he grasps what he agrees with from MD. I'm not sure that he understands that the reason the faithful "must" do what Pius XII says they must do is that there is an intrinsic (one could also say: "essential"!) relationship between the priest and the laity, contra the claim at the end of the "football" passage.

Kevin Miller

... Let me try putting that just one last way.

The Mass is ([onto-, theo-]logically) first an act of the Church - as I said above, of the whole Body of Christ, Head and members, and, among the latter, priest and laity.

To expand slightly: There is indeed no Mass to be an act of, inter alia, the laity, unless there is the ordained priest to make the Head sacramentally present in the liturgical action. So we must indeed avoid obscuring the distinction between the ordained and "common" priesthoods.

But at the same time, it's not the case that the Mass is "first" an act of Christ and the priest - and "then," to bear its fruit, an act of the the rest of the Church (the laity) "also." The importance of the priest follows from the primacy of the whole Body as the subject of the liturgical action.

It looks to me that in that "essence" line, Davies is taking the former, incorrect position, or at least showing himself unduly influenced by it, and insufficiently influenced by the latter, correct position, which becomes clear in Sacrosanctum Concilium.


But Kevin,
it seems to me that his point is that while it is necessary for the priest to communicate in order for there to be a Mass, it is not necessary for the laity to receive Communion. It it certainly very important, valuable, worthy, etc, but if the entire congregation remained in the pews for whatever reason, it would not cease to be the Mass and they would thereby also not be reduced to mere spectator status.

It is equally unjustified to incorporate the Communion of the faithful into any definition of the essense of the Mass

That's the topic of the chapter in which the quote occurs...reception of Communion by the laity, and how Protestant reformers condemned the Catholic practice (at the time of the Reformation) of reception of the chalice by only the priest. Also he's talking about how in Protestant theology, the person who presides over their worship service is ontologically no different from anybody else there, and that the entire community is essentially necessary for a worship service to benefit the entire community. Also there's the consideration that if you are having merely a memorial meal, it would be rude for everyone not to be able to recieve both "food" and "drink." (Now, where recently have we seen this problem crop up??) Obviously, Catholic theology sees the Mass as something more than a mere memorial meal.

Kevin Miller


I understand the context, and I agree that much of what he's trying to say is true. But I think the claim about "essence" is wrong on its face - for the reasons, I've elaborated, it's not an accurate way of expressing the reason for the truth he's trying to establish; hence, the context doesn't help. In a nutshell, while you can have a Mass without the communion (or even presence) of the (lay) faithful, once you have that communion (or just presence), it is part of the "essence" of what's going on. (And, again, furthermore, since the communion is the most important aspect of participation, to the extent that's not part of the "essence," logically, neither is any other aspect, or even presence.)

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