Thursday, November 29, 2012

Devotions other than Mass have enabled large portions of the Church to survive liturgical revolution

In his book "The Banished Heart", Geoffrey Hull explores the role of piety in Catholic life and worship and its great absence in the religious practice of most Catholics today which is largely rationalistic.  And he points out an irony that involves those popular devotions and praxis today: it may be the personal and private devotions that cropped up in the wake of the Council of Trent that helped many Catholics to survive the loss of the sacred in the liturgical revolution of the 1960's with their faith intact.

In the context of discussing the Mass of Trent and the problem of language which it presented with its requirement of Latin he recounts the efforts of the Jesuits, among others, to excite the devotion of the faithful through the use of hymns and devotions in the vernacular during the Mass.

"In the aftermath of Trent, there remained only two solutions to this cultural problem of language, both of them proposed and pursued by the Jesuits, and both of them hinging on the celebration of low Mass.  The first was to let the vernacular in the back door by encouraging the singing of vernacular hymns (rather than direct translations of the sacred texts themselves) during Mass.  St Peter Canisius, the Jesuit apostle of Germany, did much to popularize the so-called Singmesse in that country, and this practice also caught on in Poland.  The second was to engage the faithful at Mass with devotional practices in their native tongue such as the Rosary, litanies and (in the case of the literate) meditations read from prayer books.  ... the new extra-liturgical devotions ... spread throughout the church and became enormously popular."

Priests who beg their people to come to the Triduum liturgies each year with little or no effect will be sympathetic here:

"No doubt the most deplorable lacuna in the religious experience of most of the Roman-rite laity (and one quite incomprehensible to Eastern Christians) was their lack of familiarity with the great and dramatic climax of the liturgical year: the Sacred Triduum, including the solemn Easter Vigil which St Augustine had called 'the mother of all vigils'.  In 1642 under Pope Urban VIII, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday ceased to be holy days of obligation for the Roman rite. Small wonder then that by the twentieth century, while the mass may have commanded the loyalty of the faithful, it was not the liturgy in all its richness but the popular devotions, practiced in virtual competition with the opus Dei, that held their affection.  It was this situation that caused Mgr Giuseppe Sarto, Bishop of Mantua and the future Pope Pius X, to sigh:

" 'Oh, if we could only bring it about that all the faithful would sing the ordinary parts of the Mass, the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei, as they now sing the Litany of Loreto and the Tantum Ergo! This would be the most wonderful triumph of sacred music.  For then the faithful would nurture their piety and devotion by taking a real part in the sacred liturgy!'

"But a Church in which such dreams would remain generally unfulfilled was also one ripe for liturgical revolution: it is no coincidence that in the early twenty-first century, when the traditional Roman Mass is now the treasure of only a small remnant of Western Christians, the principal devotions of the Counter Reformation have weathered the storm of Vatican II with remarkable resilience.  By and large, those Catholics who continued to practice their religion during and after the Pauline liturgical revolution were those sentimentally attached to some private devotion - daily prayer, eucharistic or Marian piety, the cult of the saints, intercession for the Holy Souls, penitential practices - or other.  For the far greater number of Catholics who went to Mass regularly but were not particularly pious at other times, no comparably potent inoculation was available to help their faith survive the epidemic of heteropraxis.  For what is sound in the new order survives only by drawing on the capital of the old order it wishes to forget.

"Indeed, of the millions of Latin Catholics who have quietly given up the practice of their faith since the Second Vatican Council, most have done so in the context of the official liturgical reform, emblematic of a novel religion of 'options' with a God of modern devising who makes few demands and refuses to condemn. These are the same souls who, in the last decades of the regimented post-Tridentine era, were attending Mass regularly and receiving the sacraments perhaps more for fear of losing their immortal souls than out of an instinctive and disinterested love of the sacred liturgy, that wonderful place where the human soul encounters the life of the Divine."

("The Banished Heart", by Geoffrey Hull, pp 175-176)

1 comment:

gaymoore said...

This is OUTSTANDING, Father!
Pls return to Little Creek on occasion, now that we have weekday Mass.
MG Moore

Thank you for visiting.


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