Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dear Mary: Are you envious because God is generous?

Thank you for visiting APL and for leaving your comment in reaction to my post on the extraordinary form Mass offered in St. Mary's County at the church of St. Francis Xavier:

"The Catholic Church once again retreated into its mirky (sic) past and put a shield between the priests, the mass and the mass attendees. The joy of a shared participation in a mass with true understanding has been cast aside to benefit a very small minority of narrow minded Catholics."

I am very glad that you have found that the options and or indults granted for Mass in the vernacular and the unanticipated and non-mandated practice of priest and people forming a close circle around the Eucharistic table have been of benefit to you since their introduction a very short time ago.

I agree with you that the Church has a past. However, the life of grace in Christ especially as He is present to the Church and the world through the celebration of every holy Mass makes at the same time the whole life of the Church as His Body in the world present to us. Thus, to say that anything that happened in the Church's past must remain in the past fails to account for the life of grace that is offered to each of us in and through every aspect of the Church's life of grace through faith in Christ. The Church never had a "murky" past because "the true light that enlightens every man", Jesus Christ, comes into the world through the Church and the holy sacrifice of the Mass that the Church now and always has celebrated. There can be no darkness where we truly find Christ.

Many fell victim in the wake of the second Vatican council to a narrow understanding of the word "participation" and in its most exaggerated form this participation was thought to be one limited for laity to activity within the altar rail, such as that of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist or lectors. Some also fell victim through the agency of some priests and other leaders in the Church to the false idea that the people and the priest must never turn toward the Lord together during the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice, otherwise known as the liturgy of the Eucharist or the praying of the Eucharistic prayer.

In many places the prayer of the priest, who must himself be free to pray as does every person present at Mass for his own salvation, through his own personal relationship with Jesus Christ, was neglected perhaps resulting in some of the dire consequences that have occurred to priests and to the Church. But even without entertaining this possibility, must we court danger in the spiritual life in the hope that it will not cause harm? Or might we better protect the life of grace in the Holy Spirit for all of the baptized with the beautiful and noble customs that have been handed down in that same Spirit of love which respect the needs of all who pray together, priest and people?

You say that the Church has "retreated" in making available everywhere once again the previous form of celebrating Mass for those who prefer it. Is not every expression of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross present in the liturgies of the Church an advance, rather than a retreat? Every possibility of receiving grace however made possible through the life and action of Christ in His Church makes growth in His love possible. I do not see how it is possible to call this in any way a "retreat".

You also call the extraordinary form Mass of the Roman Rite a "shield between the priest, the Mass and the Mass attendees". I must assume, unless you offer a different explanation that this "shield" as you call it, arises from those moments during the Mass when the priest and people face the Lord together. This orientation toward the East, also known as "ad orientem" is an ancient practice of prayer and a beautiful expression of the truth that what the Church is, what she has, does not come from herself but comes to all of us in the Church through the Lord, through His passion and death and His Resurrection which truly happened in this world, in a particular place at a particular time, a historic fact represented by priest and people turning together to the Savior who came once, becomes truly present in every holy Mass and will truly come again as we profess and believe in every Mass. Is it not rather a willful misunderstanding on the part of individuals within the Church that is narrow-minded? Is this not a self-imposed limitation that prevents the freedom to pray every Mass in the Church in the fullest way possible?

Or perhaps it is the Latin language of the Mass that is this "shield" as you call it? It is a new thing for people to refuse to learn or to pray in Latin, a language which unites the members of the one Body. It is also a very un-Catholic and narrow mentality that rejects the option of praying in Latin and the expression of unity which is makes possible. Is not rather the vernacular Mass a shield for those who, when for example the Mass is celebrated in English, cannot understand English?

You also betray a misunderstanding of "true understanding". Is understanding of the Lord, the liturgy, and the life of prayer limited to how you or I personally comprehend it? Would it not rather be a narrowing of the Church's life should you or I or any other individual in the Church restrict how others pray? The Church is a true and loving mother to all of her children and grants freedom wherever possible to share liberally the gifts of grace because "salvation is the highest law of the Church".

Does the Church not also grant to you the opportunity as you desire it to attend a Mass in which the priest's opportunity to face the Lord together with the people as one Body in prayer is severely limited and restricted, possibly to his spiritual detriment? Why then would you react in a negative way to the fact that others are able to pray facing the Lord together during the Eucharist? "Are you envious because I am generous?" Is this not less than generous on your part? This seems to me to be rather the narrow-minded viewpoint that you have criticized in your brothers and sisters, members with you in the one Body of Christ, who have chosen to attend the extraordinary form of holy Mass.

Our Mother the Church stands in solidarity with every human person and even with the smallest of minorities. There is no competition, however, in the life of prayer. Today's numerical minority might also become tomorrow's majority because the pendulum continues to swing throughout history and in the life of the Church. Whether or not those who love the previous form of holy Mass are in fact a minority is not a matter of fact. The Church is a spiritual reality greater than any one of her members can comprehend. The mystical Body of Christ is so great a reality as capable of saving the whole world.

Also, Mary, increasing numbers of young people and young families love the extraordinary form of holy Mass. The Church must love and take good care of her young as any mother should. Would you deny this truth, possibly being yourself a good and loving mother to the children the Lord in His goodness may have granted to you?

Let us continue to pray for one another as we turn together always toward the Lord "who was, who is and who is to come", whether in our personal prayers or together in the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

God bless you!



Deo volente said...

Just "Wow," Father Cusick! That is an excellent post!

Pax tecum!

Beth Lemer said...

I dont know what I'd do without our current mass....norvus ordo is good, but I NEED what we are currently doing. It is my food, my drink, and my only salvation to my Father in heaven. It is what keeps me going. I am not a very intellectual type person, I guess I just have to go by faith alone.
Thanks for this post.

gaymoore said...

Thank you, Father, for this careful and non-polemical explanation of the necessary balance between Tradition and contemporary worship. I was raised on the Latin Mass and answered it in dialogue for 8 years at 2 girls' schools. The Novus Ordo helped me to have a fuller understanding of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. I love them both, but I miss the sacred formality, rubrics and reverence of the "old" Mass.

Thank you for visiting.


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