those persnickety liturgist having hissy fits for francis

And not just the persnickety ones, even the reasonable ones who are worried too. Just make sure you say that title out loud and laugh before you precede.

I do have sympathy for people who desire a more reverent and effortful liturgy. I desire it myself, and hope to put my strength and energy toward that when I am a priest. I also generally find criticisms of High Church being out of touch with people in the pews highly overrated, while too reliant on a competitive view of the Church that isn’t there. I also find it alarming that too so many cynical traditionalists have presumed that I must, somehow be a proponent of some sort of “hip hop mass,” when indeed I am not.

Yet, I have found myself in many settings, where to suggest Gregorian or plainchant, or any sort of intricately and ornately beautiful adornments in vestments, alter vessels, statuary, or even liturgical music would be more a burden on the people than a prayerful lifting of our minds and hearts to the Lord. It is not just a matter over lack of money, but also for lack of talents, qualified ministers, time, energy, creativity, and resources.

I say creativity, because creativity is not for “heretics” to create “clown masses” and invent all kinds of things that are not written in black or red. It takes a lot of inventive and energetic creativity to initiate a reverent or traditional liturgy where there was none before.

Being in an affluent parish where people are familiar with tradition is one thing. Being in a parish with the money, time, talent, and resources is really wonderful. But without those things? Does one simply say, “take your guitars and your 70s hymns and go home!” Does one simply enter a community, and tear down everyone’s efforts because they are nowhere near Tridentine Perfection? Does one walk into Church and demand the money to purchase the kinds of ornate vestments that will force the parish to downsize on jobs… Well not unless you’re a terrorist taking hostages, you don’t. Besides, things are always more complicated then “Why can’t we just compel everyone with better catechesis and more finger wagging to be more REVERENT!”

Just imagine being in the missions. I have had more encounters I can count with priests who I have known well, who have spent decades or more in South America and Africa. I know priests that lived in simple houses, awake all night on the lookout for hooligans with clubs ready to break in and take the nothing that they had. I know priests who have lived in villages traveling in run down cars, motorcycles, and donkeys, to get to all the villages and take care of peoples sacramental needs. I have known priests, that carrying have really had to make an exhausting effort to merely ensure the barest of necessities are met in a Liturgy. I know bishops that had no more gold than the paten and chalice that they used in Divine Worship.

Likewise, often people complain about the Jesuits, as if they have fallen off the straight and narrow. Often people despair as if there are no more Jesuit saints. Try looking in remote villages across South America. Or perhaps there’s one trotting around the Vatican in a white cassock, and plain black shoes.

Then you have this long history of “Liturgical Wars,” principally in America, and perhaps in Europe. So many older Catholics, and a few younger ones, are deeply entrenched in it’s jargon, labels, syllogisms, clichés, and especially deeply passionate disdain for the rival team. So because Pope Francis mirrors (or perhaps does not mirror) any of your labels with a proper show of vestments and pomp, he must somehow be part of the conspiracy to destroy the Church! There may be nothing I can say that is not going to get your blood boiling, and your better off being responsible for your heart health then conjecturing my suggestions to temper your liturgical idealism.

The Pope may not have been a missionary in a run down village. He is not, by anyone’s estimation, issuing a Papal Bull or Edict in condemnation of Reverent Liturgies. I think the feelings of being threatened are somewhat unreasonable. I think they are more projections and transferring experiences of “Progressives” or “Inventive Liturgists” that are not Pope Francis. Of course, it also says more about those letting their imagination get the worst of them, then about the Pope.

I do not believe you need to give up your passion for the tradition of the Church. I think it might do you well to get outside of your little American, or European culture wars, jargon, labels, syllogisms, and clichés, at least long enough for you to go on a Mission trip to South America. You do not have to stop believing that reverent, traditional, and or ornate liturgies are Catholic, but you may have to start also believing that simple, inside-a-run-down-hut-in-a-remote-village liturgies are indeed ALSO Catholic. Most of all, I hope, at the very least that Jesus Christ is on your criteria.


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