Thursday 19 August 2010

Question: Did Vatican II or the Church since want and direct us to have Mass Facing the People? Answer: No. And there's not proof it did either.

As readers will know, the Glorificamus Society promotes the celebration of Holy Mass "ad orientem" (i.e. facing liturgical east or turned to the Lord).

We do so for many reasons, not least of which is that this the will of the Church as expressed in Her custom and teaching in continuity with Tradition, and She has never changed that teaching.  In this post we won't examine the reasons why ad orietnem is better.  Rather, we want to understand how it practically disappeared.

And yet, as we all know, we have a curious reality: world-wide this is ignored in practice.  Mass in the Ordinary Form is celebrated facing the people virtually everywhere and is celebrated ad orientem virtually nowhere. 

How did this happen?  Was there any directive that it should?

The short answer is: No. None.

So how did it happen?

Somehow, some liturgists before the Second Vatican Council and after promoted the idea, influenced by a false idea of what was done in the early Church and a false idea that it was best because it was done in the early church, liturgists were, no doubt, influence by protestant ideas and practice, and, having promoted the idea enough and, in some cases implemented it anyway, priests just went ahead and did it, people were told this was what the Church wanted and it was done.   When necessary it was justified on the basis it's what the Council wanted, even though the Council said nothing of the sort and nothing of the sort has been said since.

The ideas were not corrected, the cat was out of the bag, and it was difficult to reign it in.

Yes, we must recognised that (a) there was historical precedent for celebrations versus populum, including in the first 3 centuries of the Church  (b) 1950s revision of Holy Week rites involved more "facing the people" (c) some in the Liturgical Movement were promoting versus popolum and experimenting with it for the Tridentine Mass even before the Council, promoting an "archeologism" that was shown soon after the Council to be false, inaccurate and misguided.  Here's a parish in American where it happened and before the Council too.

But we can't argue for the "is" to the "ought"

And, we have never been able to find any proof that the Holy See authorised or expressed any preference for it. 

An entry today over at Fr Z's What does the Prayer Really Say, is delving into this issue, and contributors are having the same problem proving any authority for the proposition.  First, let's look at what Fr Z says:

There was no document that required the destruction of existing altars. Vatican II did not required it. There was experimentation with it during the Liturgical Movement, often by those with protestantizing tendencies. The scholarship in those years which was advanced in support of Mass "facing the people" as an "ancient" practice, was later repudiated by the authors (e.g., Bouyer, Jungmann). The fact that they changed their minds was never given as much press as the errors they had committed earlier. This was a desideratum of liberals from long before the Council.

The great liturgical scholar Klaus Gamber said that of all the harmful things that came from the post-Conciliar reform, turning altars around was the most damaging.

There was a document which stated that for new construction, it should be possible for one to walk around the altar. The new GIRM in 299 [Fr Z is speaking of that in force in USA], widely and infamously mistranslated, states that if it is possible altars should be constructed in such a way that Mass can be said from either side.

The rubrics of the post-Conciliar Missale Romanum clearly assume that Mass is not "facing the people", that it is actually ad orientem...How was this assumption of "facing the people" imposed?...
And here are some of the comments which reflect our understanding too.

From Father Augustine Thompson OP:

I have done research on this question for the Dominican Rite in the 1960s. There was no piece of legislation requiring the move to ad populum for us either. For those who want to read my study, go to and skim down to the section on the mid-1960s.

The change seems to have happened on the local level because “everyone” was saying it was what you were supposed to do. As I describe, at our house of studies, St. Albert the Great Priory in Oakland, some of the graver fathers read about the change as being instituted in the San Francisco archdiocese in the diocese paper (Oakland is in the Oakland diocese by the way). So they went after dinner, took one of the side altars to the center of the choir and Mass was celebrated on it from then on. There was no real discussion. It was “what you were supposed to do.” I have this from one of the priests who helped move the altar.

Comment by Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. — 18 August 2010 @ 6:07 pm
P.S. In am inclined to think that lots of documents will be found even from before the Council saying “it can be done” etc., but I seriously doubt any “order to change” will be found. This is one of those cases where the control of the discussion (since the 1930s when it was already being done in the Portland archdiocese) was in the hands of the liturgists and experts who for one reason or another favored it. They controlled the discussion in the academic and popular Catholic press, so it came to be assumed that it had to be done.

We can see the same phenomenon today: I doubt there is any document that requires the huge wading pool baptismal fonts just inside the door of the church blocking the aisle. But many people in charge of renovations think it is required. Another example would the big fancy “sacrament houses” in the nave to hold the holy oils—often more impressive and visible than the tabernacle. Nothing requires this, but those “in the know” say it must be done. I am sure examples could be multiplied.

Comment by Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. — 18 August 2010 @ 6:28 pm
From Andy Millam (with Father Z's comment):

My friend and mentor, Fr. Richard J. Schuler wrote on this issue in 1993 [One of the great American priests that was faithful to the actual directives of the Council and continued to celebrate the Traditional Mass in his church too and implement the directives on sacred music, Gregorian Chant and polypholy that the Council actually asked for]. His words will be quoted, I will respond directly below.

“One of the most evident reforms following the council is the practice of having the priest face toward the congregation. Much of the propaganda that brought about the priests’ change in position alleged that it was only a return to a custom of the early Church. History and archeology were both cited (but without true facts) as evidence in the claims. [Sounds familiar.] Without much study or questioning, priests and parishes across the country accepted the stories and tore out their altars, replacing them with tables of wood and blocks of stone that allowed the priest to face toward the congregation. The designs of the original architects, the over-all lines and focus of the church were set aside and thrown out. In most cases the artistic results were bad, and at best the new arrangement looked like a remodelled dress or suit.”

One of the keys that Schuler hits upon is that there is a sense of archeologicalism going on in the post-Conciliar Church. When he wrote this article in 1993, he was one of the few who had the courage to challenge this. As has been proven since, archeologicalism is now a commonly held error in defense for versus populum. Ratzinger has spoken on the issue as did Gamber before he passed and several since, including HE Peter Eliot, Fr. Adian Nichols OP, and John Saward, as well as others.

“He [Ratizinger] explained that there is no historical data, either in writing or from archeology, that establishes the position of the altar in the early centuries as having been turned toward the people. To look at the people was not the question in the early Church, but looking toward the east where Christ would appear in His second coming, the parousia, was most important. Thus church buildings and the altars were “oriented” (faced to the east) so that the priest especially would see Him on His arrival. If because of the contour of the land or some other obstacle, the church could not be so located, then the priest, always looking toward the east, would have to stand behind the altar and face toward the people. That he was looking at the congregation was only accidental to the eastward position he took. Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome is a good example of this, because the church could not have the usual west entrance because of the Vatican Hill.”

Support of Monsignor Schuler’s position provided by Papa Ratzinger in ‘Il Sabato,’ 1993.

The destruction of the church and sanctuary was unfortunate and often costly. In some parts of the country, the damage done to the churches by the altar-bashing reformers was greater than what the Vandals did to Spain or North Africa. But the greater evil was the damage done to the liturgical presence and actions of the priest. He was told to make eye-contact with the people, to direct his words to them, to become the “presider” at the community assembly, the “facilitator” of the active participation of the congregation. The notion of the Mass as sacrifice was discouraged, while the idea of a common meal was promoted. The altar became the table, much like in the days of Archbishop Cranmer in England.

Schuler also speaks compares the liturgists to Vandals, I would tend to agree with that line of reasoning. The hi-jacking of the orientation has led to many other issues, including the changing role of the celebrant from mediator to presider. Schuler is alluding to a “Protestantizing” of the Mass through the orientation mimiking that of Archbishop Cramner.

The following is Monsignor Schuler’s final thought, I think that it speaks for itself. “The interesting aspect of the discussion brought about by Father Gamber’s book is that little by little the propaganda and false assertions invoked to bring about the liturgical reforms following the council are now being exposed and found to be without truth or basis, historical, archeological or liturgical. The errors swallowed by the clergy and laity alike in the sixties included such lies as the elimination of Latin, the forbidding of choirs, tearing out of communion rails, statues, tabernacles, and vestments-all in the name of the council or perhaps the “spirit of the council:” Thank God the truth is beginning to re-appear.”

[Sounds familiar. Thanks for posting this.]

Comment by Andy Milam — 18 August 2010 @ 7:26 pm

And, just one example, of what we all suspect (or know) was a common experience the world over:

All I have to add is my personal experience.

I was received into the Church in 1961. I was a member of the parish (Newman Hall) choir. The change came quite abruptly in 1965. The pastor informed us that the altar was to be turned around and Mass said facing the people. The choir (an excellent schola directed by a professor of music) was told it was no longer free to sing the Gregorian mass or renaissance polyphony. The choir disbanded shortly thereafter, and the rest is history.

The pastor implied that this was the way things were to be done as a result of the Council. I have no idea where he got this, but I am sure variations of the same thing occurred all over the world. I have to assume that the U. S. bishops as a group, and other national bishops’ conferences, interpreted the Vatican II documents as requiring these changes.

Comment by jfk03 — 18 August 2010 @ 9:43 pm

Wednesday 18 August 2010

The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, in continuity with Tradition: not difficult after all.

If it can be done in a field...

Photo and the following, courtesy New Liturgical Movement:

Some of our readers in Michigan were inspired by the pilgrimage of Chartres and determined one year ago to start up their own small pilgrimage. We reported on this last year, and this year, they have continued their efforts with the "Pilgrimage for Christian Culture". The walking pilgrimage, which took place from August 13th to 14th, left from Camp De Sales, Brooklyn, Michigan and proceeded to Queen of the Miraculous Medal Parish, Jackson, Michigan -- 27 miles in total.

Liturgically, I would note that this pilgrimage includes Masses in both forms of the Roman liturgy -- a very "Benedictine" pursuit indeed -- as well as the Divine Office (chanted according to the Mundelein Psalter).

The organizers report:

We believe that ordinary lay Catholics can and should work together to transform our culture.

On Friday, August 13th, following a Mass celebrated by Fr. Mathias Thelen in the Sacred Heart Chapel at Camp De Sales in Brooklyn, MI, a group of young adults received the pilgrimage blessing from him and set out on a 27-mile pilgrimage route to Queen of the Miraculous Medal, Jackson. The pilgrims sang, prayed for Christian Culture and greeted onlookers as they traveled the pilgrim road.

In the course of the two days of the pilgrimage, a total of 31 young adults from around the state joined in the walk or (actually) participated in the pilgrimage's liturgies, which also included the sung Liturgy of the Hours (chanted according to the tones in The Mundelein Psalter), an Extraordinary Form Mass celebrated by Fr. Paul Ward, the chaplain of the Trailblazers WYD pilgrimage group out of the Archdiocese of Detroit, and the Vigil Mass of the Assumption at Queen of the Miraculous Medal, celebrated by Fr. Tim MacDonald. 8 of the pilgrims came from St. Thomas parish, the home of Generation Christ; 7 came from other Ann Arbor parishes; 8 from the Archdiocese of Detroit; and the rest from Saginaw, Lansing, Flint and the greater Jackson area.

The focus of the pilgrimage was Christian Culture - praying that God would inspire the pilgrims as to how they might best win the culture for Christ as well as making concrete efforts towards cultural contributions (in the form of the sung Liturgy of the Hours) and intercultural understanding (in the form of learning and praying the Rosary in Latin and Spanish, in addition to English).

Sunday 1 August 2010

Gregorian Chant: the Paradox - why people hate chant. Plus ca change...

Courtesy of Jeffrey Tucker's magnificant new blog Chant Cafe (do yourself a favour and read it regularly), we have this telling piece about how, without Gregorian Chant, the Catholic people have no voice, coming from Father Ruff at Pray Tell.  It could have been written yesterday.  But it wasn't; the date is 1936:

Orate Fratres

February 22, 1936 NO. 4


IT is a well-known fact that the chant of the Church is not appreciated. Everyone who has been connected in some capacity or other with its restoration will bear witness to this statement. But no one really likes to admit it. It seems strange that, thirty-two years after the demand of the saintly Pius X for a return to the sacred chant, such wide-spread prejudices still prevail. This is the more painful, because Catholics are decidedly slower than non-Catholics in realizing the value of a treasure in their keeping.

Whereas here and there (and at that oftener than one would surmise) those outside the fold are curious to know about it, those of the flock are in general very reluctant to show any genuine interest. While a "Guild of Protestant Organists," or the department of music of some secular university, or again some musical group, will professa sincere eagerness to penetrate the charm of Gregorian melodies, Catholic institutions and societies (not to speak of parishes), have ignored the fact, sometimes even contemptuously, that there is such a thing as an art called Gregorian. Some readers who have not gone through the hard grind of introducing the chant, wonder, perhaps suspiciously, at this frank statement; but it would be convincingly vindicated by all teachers who have tried in some way or other to labor in the barren field. No illusion can prevail against such an acknowledgment; and it will serve the restoration of liturgical music better than a proud denial of guilt. Remedy can begin only where there is consciousness of the evil.

Why should it be within the Church herself that the chant is today mostly discredited? If there is an intrinsic value in Gregorian art, we have utterly failed to make it one with our religious concepts and our actual religious experiences. And thus we ask ourselves if the problem of the chant is not just as much of a religious as of a musical nature? This has long been our personal conviction. In other words, if our people cannot give vent to their inmost religious sentiments through the chant, it is because these sentiments have taken a direction entirely estranged from the inspiration of the chant. A break between the chant and our religious sentiment does not prove the chant wrong; it proves that we are wrong. For the chant was the most authentic utterance of religious experience in the early centuries.

It is deplorable that so far nothing has been able to overcome the prejudice against the chant, at least to a marked degree. It has, indeed, been welcomed in a few places; but in the majority of churches and chapels there is not even heard the faintest echo of its wondrous strains. We can by no means say that the chant is the general vehicle of Catholic devotion; in very few places indeed has its authority prevailed to the point where it is made the main source of inspiration in Catholic services. The chant was perhaps by "mission" the "voice of the Church"; it is not any longer the "voice of the people." And having lost its tradition, the people have truly no voice at all which can be claimed Catholic.

The most intruding vulgarity has invaded the temple, and holds fast against the most courageous attempts towards the restoration of the chant-attempts which, indeed, have been multiplied during the past twenty years. Many came to the rescue of the dishonored chant; paleographic science has vindicated its glorious authenticity and its unique place in the evolution of musical art; men of genius and taste have marvelled at its simple beauty; schools have opened their portals to students eager to learn about its beauty and form; demonstrations have proved that it can enhance, by its own power, the greatness of our liturgical services. But the choir loft has remained estranged.

Although the authority of the Church is unchallenged by the opposition, both of these have been traveling in parallel ways without ever meeting in open clash. While the decrees of the Holy See and the ordinances of the ordinaries have repeated or interpreted the principles of the Motu proprio with an ever increasing clearness, choir and people alike have been drifting along carefree and forgetful. And perhaps sheer authority will never give back to the faithful the voice which they have lost. Chant is not to be confused with a matter of faith. Were it such it could be enforced through penalty; but such is not likely ever to be the case.

Pius X was the first to realize this difference. This he expressed in his introductory letter to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, when he insisted on having obedience prompted by the knowledge of the motives which command a reintroduction of the chant into Catholic life. Undoubtedly Catholics do not like it because they do not appreciate it. And until they are educated to like and enjoy it, it is unreasonable to hope that they will sing the chant.

Therefore, instead of deploring sine fine this sad lack of appreciation, let us survey the groups which make up Catholic opinion in the matter. After we have studied them, remedial plans can be suggested. Proceeding from the altar to the choir-loft, we will meet the clergy, the children, the congregation, and the mixed choir.

The restoration of the chant depends largely on the stand taken towards it by the clergy. We take this opportunity to mention this attitude though our doing so requires respectful criticism. Would it be offending in any way to say that the clergy at large does not profess an enthusiastic admiration for the chant? Is it not true that priests in general are not crediting Gregorian melodies with being the "supreme form of liturgical music" and doubt very much its practicability? Such a skeptical attitude has its excuse: most members of the clergy never received a good foundation in the knowledge of the chant, and many have been quite disgusted with the failure of their loyal attempts to introduce it in their churches.

However, one would not be bold today in asking the following questions: "What would eventually be the vote of the clergy, should a free poll be organized on the question of restoring or rejecting the chant from our liturgical services?" "Can it be said that a concerted effort' has been attempted by an organized priesthood to bring about the restoration commanded by the Holy See?" "Is the study of Gregorian chant still a side-line or rather (what it should be) a main feature of the program of education in our minor and major seminaries?" Whatever answer you give, blame or excuse, it remains evident that the lack of efficient leadership among the clergy in this matter is apt to have a disastrous influence on the opinion formed by the laity. And this is sufficient to diagnose the most important cause of the great difficulties encountered in the work of restoration.

Close to the sanctuary we meet the children. And what they feel about the chant is a very important matter. Their opinion is likely to be free from unjust prejudice, and everyone is conscious that it has an important influence on the future. American children show a delightful openness of heart towards the chant. You may call to the witness-stand all those who have ever worked with them in any State and none will deny this optimistic affirmation.

Exception made for rare, forlorn places, and even there, they always respond to an intelligent presentation by a soulful rendition. Children never dislike the chant, and are prompt to express both their lovely appreciation of it as well as their sharp criticism of vulgar sacred music.

This attitude calls to mind the ex are infantium of the psalm. More than once we had to learn from the little ones what our sophistication or indifference had forgotten and sometimes forsaken. Before the children discovered for us the chaste beauties of the chant, they brought back into the world true Eucharistic life. And their spontaneous return to charming Gregorian songs was preceded by their intimate friendship with Jesus in the divine Eucharist. Now then, we have the experimental proof that like or dislike of the sacred chant is more a religious than a musical problem.

The congregation presents a more complex attitude: it is neither "likes" nor "dislikes." It is the same apathy into which the loss of liturgical cooperation has brought them. How could they be expected to sing with pleasure the musical expression of a prayer which has no longer any meaning for them, especially since they have been gradually reduced to mere onlookers and listeners? This attitude is more or less passive; but all pastors who have tried to overcome it know how hard they have to fight and how many times they have to retreat before a new effort. However, the faithful in the pews appreciate the chant. It has been a repeated experience with the writer that if you do not advertise Gregorian chant with the undiplomatic publicity that it is the music imposed by the Church, but just prepare a service well with a group, many comments will attest that the congregation is pleased. And they all will emphasize that "it was very prayerful and soul-stirring." We have had so far but a single inscance to the contrary; it came from a "high-society center."

It is in the choir-10ft that the enemy is entrenched as in a fortress. Oftentimes the pastor looks on his choir as his crux, and rightly so, though he may at times forget the good will, the regular attendance, the fidelity of many members. The choir members are not to be blamed; the institution itself is the deep-rooted evil. It has grown and outworn itself into a spirit entirely opposed to the essential objectives of a liturgical choir. It is neither religious nor musical. A religious, a liturgical, a parochial spirit are usually well-nigh impossible with the mode of enrollment, the lack of religious functioning, the location for singing; a musical spirit cannot be formed with the usual repertoire of vulgarities or secondrate music which has been for so long the lot of Catholic choirs.

Add to that the sore fact that many of those who assume (or have to assume) the mission of directing the choir are not prepared to exercise a real authority to educate their group. Their musicianship and their knowledge of the liturgy are too elementary. Unfortunately, improvised musical directors, unless they be humble enough (and some are indeed), will either discredit the chant which they do not appreciate or will ruin it by lack of real presentation. And even when they do fulfill their task, they will encounter many difficulties which at times look insuperable to the most courageous pioneer.

From the examination of groups which make up this criticism, as well as from general considerations, we may sum up the reasons why the chant is not liked, or positively disliked:

1. The loss of that special spiritual feeling which comes only with the experience of liturgical life.

2. The lack of positive leadership impossible to many priests who did not have the opportunity to study the sacred chant welt

3. The passive attitude of the laity in the liturgical services.

4. The incomplete formation of many of our choir-directors.

5. The deformed spirit of our mixed choirs.

The picture looks dark. Perhaps it is well to see it thus. But there is a very bright spot among the shadows, and so the situation is much more hopeful than is our description of it. It will be the object of the entire series of these articles until next Advent to propose remedies. We ask the reader patiently to wait for them.