Monday, October 25, 2021

An American Layman Reminisces about Liturgical Upheaval

New Liturgical Movement is grateful to James Ignatius McAuley, Esq., for sending us the following write-up of some of his memories of the period of major liturgical change. Today he is a member of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and is preparing to receive the subdiaconate. The photos are classic shots from the period about which he is writing.

As a child growing up, I noted changes in the Mass. When I asked why they were done, if the answer was not (ad nauseam) “Vatican II,” it was that we laity had asked for the changes. Then I read The Canon of the Mass and Liturgical Reform by Cipriano Vagaggini, O.S.B. (Alba House, 1967). In Father Frederic McManus’s introduction, he claims that we laity wanted the reform. I had to ask my mom, dad, grandmother, and every older person I knew who was Catholic whether this was true. The answer was invariably the same: “We never asked for these changes. Once they started, they never stopped.” “I was not consulted.” “I was told that it was part of Kennedy’s 'New Frontier' and the space program and that modern man needed a modern liturgy.” Maybe that last comment from my Uncle Dan was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but I could never figure out what poor Kennedy, God rest his soul, had to do with it.

I talked with a priest, the late Father Allan Webber, O.F.M., about McManus’s introduction to Vagaggini’s book in 2009. My fair recollection of what Fr. Allan told me: “McManus was a liar.  The laity, outside of those few involved in the liturgical conferences, had nothing to do with the liturgical reform. The reform belonged to a certain clique of priests—Reinhold, McManus, Diekmann, and some others.  These were the individuals who set up the agenda of the reform here in the United States. Certain priests and laity from the liturgical conferences were assigned to effectuate the agenda. Some were useful idiots like [Robert] Hovda, who was better for a committee than for a parish. Jim, you should take into account that honesty was not their policy. [J.D.] Crichton told me once at a conference that the liturgical goal justified the liturgical means.”

Father Allan’s story is backed up by Alcuin Reid’s The Organic Development of the Liturgy (Ignatius, 2005), especially in Reid’s interview with Crichton. Father Allen was a progressive priest who was somewhat conservative in his liturgical approach. Father Allen supported the so-called agenda but was very reverential of the Real Presence. When I was a undergraduate student at St. Bonaventure (1987–1991), Father Allen was supportive of my use of the St. John’s Abbey 1940 Short Breviary as opposed to the Liturgy of the Hours.
In 1987, when I was a student a St. Bonaventure, I observed that all of the liturgical banners were gone from the University Chapel that were just there a few years before. I asked about this and was told they were out of style. I thought that was strange as I remember being told that banners were part of the Vatican II renewal. As part of vocation group in late 1990, we were asked by Father O.F.M. #1 [name withheld because he is still alive], as to what we could do to bring diversity to the Mass. I suggested we make arrangements to allow with the local Maronite Catholic priest or Byzantine Catholic priest and we could have such liturgies in the university parish chapel. Father Dan looked at me, and spoke most patronizingly: “Now, Jimmy, that is not what we mean by diversity. We do not want any of that Byzantine stuff here. We want diversity. Diversity means you bring non-Catholic people, especially people of color, to our Masses and have them add their spirituality to the Mass.”  Father went on to speak of the need for enculturation of the mass from minorities. Whatever Father O.F.M. #1’s intentions were, what I took away from the conversation was that certain Latin priests did not believe in true liturgical diversity, but were willing to suborn the Roman liturgy for their private agendas. This was very upsetting to me. And it was the first time I had heard the word “diversity” used in regard to racial matters.
In 1992 I was a parishioner at St. Bonaventure’s Church in Allegany, New York.  Our parish priest, Father O.F.M. #2, said we needed to “bring people back to the Church.” “Why were they leaving?,” one might ask. I noted that the high altar was gone and the tabernacle was no longer at the center of the Church, but now on the side, and that people no longer genuflected. I suggested to Father O.F.M. #2 after Mass one day that the tabernacle should be moved back to the center of the Church. Father’s angry reaction shocked me as he blew up at me and said: “This change was called for by Vatican II!” I found my voice and asked where, in what document. His response: “You wouldn’t understand. The Council called for this and we must listen to the Council.” I did not appreciate being talked down to as if I were still a child; after all I had gone to college.

So I looked carefully in Flannery’s book of Vatican II documents and found nothing of the sort. No wonder people left—they were being treated as children, berated for asking obvious questions. If we were now supposed to be (as many were saying) “adults” after Vatican II, we were not treated like adults, but rather as children, and as bad children at that.

In the early years of my life I was disturbed by what seemed to be perpetual changes in the Mass. As a young child, I remember the introduction of lay lectors. Then, I remember the change in language and my parents being irritated over it. Then there was the advent of the folk band with songs like “Day by Day,” Sister Margaret Meade’s rock-and-roll Our Father, and “Let It Be.” Simultaneous with this development was the departure of the Church organist and the end of any Latin in the Mass. Statues disappeared and were replaced by liturgical banners. Confessions were replaced with reconciliation rooms, which involved scary face-to-face confession. We were told to think of the priest as our friend and counselor and discouraged from thinking of the priest as in persona Christi. I remember as a child being told that the youth folk band was for the youth and that the youth wanted it. It was patently obvious to me, even as a child, that this was something a certain clique of adults, not youth, wanted. Funny thing: the hymns changed, “Day by Day” went away and was replaced by garbage like “On Eagles Wings.” When I was a student at Bonaventure, we used to make mocking parodies of these songs.  “The King of Glory” was modified by my girlfriend (now wife) to “The King of Glory comes delivering pizzas, open the doors before Him, give Him a good tip.”

We had the introduction of albs as altar boys and the discouragement of the use of the cassock and surplice beginning in the mid 1970s. Then the introduction of communion with the cup and then “Eucharistic ministers.” Then altar girls began to show up and, as a consequence of that, boys disappeared from the altar. As a young boy, I did not want to be around girls, and when I was older, the altar girl movement seemed to attract “weird chicks” that creeped you right off the altar.

You went from having two Eucharistic ministers, usually a husband and wife team, to a plethora (the “sacristy rats” as a friend called them), all women, who seem to evolve from sacristans to liturgical planners. First standing for Communion came, then Communion in the hand, then Eucharistic ministers. The altar rail went and the tabernacle was moved from the center of the church, behind the altar, off to the side. Then the kneelers were pulled out. In that order. By the time it was all said and done, reverence for the Real Presence had disappeared. And things such as genuflecting vanished and immodest dress appeared in Church.

Holy water fonts begin to be filled with sand to remind us of the spiritual desert. I thought: “I am trying to get out of the desert into the garden of life!” Incense went out and so did the censers, but then it reappeared in the form of big bowls in which the incense was burned, the bowls looking like something out of Conan the Barbarian. Amices were dropped and no one had to wear them in the 1970s (“Jim, the amices are no longer necessary, like the maniple,” to quote Father Allan Webber). Then suddenly, built-in amices as part of the chasuble began to appear everywhere in the 1990s and I was told that this was a (another) change required by Vatican II.  I remember thinking in 1995, “the Council ended 30 years ago, why is this being implemented now?”  As a child, many of the older priests had beautiful Gothic chasubles from the pre-Vatican II liturgical movement, but if you went to mass in a different parish, you might see a priest in a burlap chasuble with strange designs on it. Pope Benedict once wore a tie-dyed chasuble. I could not but help think that this the sort of vestment you wear when you do Mass at a Grateful Dead show.

Speaking of the Grateful Dead, I remember when a well-intentioned priest, trying to encourage reverence, handed out incense sticks to be used when one said the rosary.  Now, anyone who works with the pleasant uplifting Byzantine style incense knows that incense sticks give off an atrocious sickly sweet smell and that these incense sticks are what is used by potheads to cover up their pot smoking. Poor Father!  He meant well, but handing out what some guys used to call “pot sticks” did not create an atmosphere of reverence.

The entrance antiphon, if said, was forever banished for the new “Good morning” ritual. When are they going to do a “Good-bye ritual”? What I found funny is that they justified many of the changes in the mass as a way of eliminating “useless repetitions” such as the second Confiteor, but now we have a double handshake ceremony – one at the “Good morning” greeting and another at the Sign of Peace!

Funerals: out with the black, in came the white. Sometimes the white had the sparkly sheen of a Michael Jackson glove! Wakes with Vespers services from the Office of the Dead or Rosary for the dead disappeared. I remember saying: “What will go next, the funeral mass?” A rhetorical question then, but today most people do not have Masses said for their souls or even a Catholic funeral, but the old shake-and-bake cremation and their ashes get dumped in their backyard by their fallen-away adult children.

Anecdotal evidence, but nonetheless, primary source evidence: experience. Nothing stayed the same. It was a perfect fulfillment of the Marxist theory of perpetual revolution as espoused by Leon Trotsky. In effect, the church liturgical planners, lead by that doofus Bugnini, had developed a Trotskyite liturgy—the mass was never the same but in perpetual flux. However, where Trotsky imagined that the proletariat and peasant would work together to seize power, here we have a cabal of liturgists and their priest allies who have seized power and dictate everything. I guess that is called “empowerment.”

From the 1965 Catholic Encyclopedia

Consider what Fr. Lucien Deiss, C.S.S.p., says in his book The Mass (The Liturgical Press, 1992): “We know that no reform is perfect and that the liturgy, like the Church itself, remains subject to the law that the Council with boldness and magnificence called perennis reformatio, permanent reform” (10). And: “It is here that we can ask the question of what is called the ‘Ministerial Function,’ the fundamental question that concerns all the songs and even all the rites of the liturgy…. The question of the Ministerial Function—‘What do we use that for?’—strikes at the root of the rite or the song. It is clear that if something does not serve any purpose, or if it is at cross-purposes, the rite or the song must be cut at its root” (14-15).

Pure utilitarianism. Everything measured by our own mental capacity at this very moment, our own ability to see and to understand “utility.” What if we are not good at doing that? What if there are more subtle uses we have forgotten about and will eventually rediscover, if only we are patient?

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