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NEW WORDS DURING MASS WILL SERVE CHURCH IF THEY ARE A STEP BACK TOWARD SANCTITY AND NOT MERE TWEAKING OF THE LITURGY
The new words in the liturgy will constitute either an adjustment or a turning point, hopefully the latter. If they're a turning point that means, perhaps, we are headed back to the kind of Mass that attracted the majority of Catholics to Sunday liturgy before the tumultuous 1960s, when -- among other changes in the world around us -- Mass was modernized as an accommodation to, well, modernity (or as some might argue, the "world"), and Mass attendance subsequently plummeted.
We respect the reasons for many changes our Church authorities have made since Vatican Two and don't blame all the attendance issues on those changes (the culture was also plummeting) but respectfully suggest that the new liturgical verbiage introduced last Sunday be joined sooner rather than later by further changes.
-- A real campaign to replace Church art that depicts Jesus as effeminate with depictions that display His strength and masculinity. Look at the Shroud of Turin: when they project a hologram or otherwise construct models of how He looked based on that relic, they come up (as a museum dedicated to the Shroud in Jerusalem did, see left) with a very strong Man indeed. False effeminate depictions (mainly since the age of "enlightenment") have turned men away.
-- Radically improve homilies. If there is one thing that disrupts Mass and discourages the less than devout from attending, it's a homily that drones on and says nothing. Apparently, priests feel obligated to say one -- even when they don't feel there is much to convey. When invited in his role as Bible expert and intellectual to open a course on the spoken word at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi said that too often preaching "is so colorless, flavorless and inodorous as to be irrelevant" when what we need to rediscover is "the spoken word that 'offends', wounds, unsettles, judges,' the 'speech that is healthy, authentic and leaves a sign." In short, speak like Jesus (strongly, directly, simply, not intellectually, like the Pharisees). A writer for Vatican Insider recently said, " a homily that drags on, loses itself, wanders off, touches on many different points, often is not helpful in maintaining our concentration and the spiritual tension created by the Reading. Quite the opposite."
-- Reconsider the greetings during Mass. Perhaps it's a good thing that everyone offers peace to one another. Perhaps not. There is an endearing, personal quality to the greeting. But it is one that warrants further review. Has it become a mere formality? Does this also disrupt the sanctity and flow of Mass?
-- Regulate music. Mass should not be an ego trip for cantors. It's not a performance. Too often there is too much music, at least too much modernized music. This also disrupts sanctity -- particularly when it booms forth as one meditates upon just receiving Communion. There was nothing whatsoever wrong with the music that predated Vatican Two; in fact, there was everything right with it.
-- Instruct parishioners about the holding of hands during the Lord's Prayer. This is another candidate for reconsideration. If it is kept, congregants should be taught not to impose hand-holding on those who find the deepest prayer and concentration to be private.
-- Instead of focusing too much on priests, we need to focus on their humility and the sanctity of the liturgy -- something the Latin Mass did brilliantly. At the least, there could be the partition of altar rails, which lends dignity.
-- Prohibit priests from inserting ad-libs and jokes in the liturgy itself. Humor is great. It is even Godly. No doubt, Jesus has a sense of humor. But place it where it belongs: in the church hall or before and after Mass.
-- Re-institute the Prayer to the Archangel Michael at the end of a solemn liturgy. Why this was ever removed remains a mystery -- one found, perhaps, in darkness. It is a brief prayer but it is powerful. Put it back in. It's more important than announcements.
-- Hold national meetings of bishops at monasteries. An atmosphere that is more holy than bureaucratic and businesslike will offer further real solutions to intensifying the liturgy. Pray, pray, pray. The greatest crisis in the priesthood (and laity) is lack of prayer.
-- During Mass, insert a few Latin phrases. There is majesty in ancient tongues. Our Bible is based on Aramaic, on Hebrew, on Greek, on Latin. Why negate them? Perhaps we can do with one or two less times during Mass when one must bound up and stand, which can further intrude on deep prayer -- which is the best form of participation.
Our apologies for this forwardness.
But our Church needs one thing more than anything: a sense of the sacred. A connection with the (2,000-year-ago) past.
Look at the religions that are prospering so greatly, that are growing:
However flawed, they're growing in leaps and bounds because they believe fervently, are very strict, and refuse to compromise with the world -- as Catholicism, so much greater than any other faith, than any religious discipline, must also do to maintain its rightful pre-eminent strength.
[see also: The debate at the Vatican]
[resources: Where is that in the Bible?]
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