May 7, 2002
volume 13, no. 87

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Catharine Lamb

Masterpiece or Plastic?

A true Masterpiece such as the Tridentine Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is priceless and its value only increases. Something made of plastic - an artificial substance - such as the Novus Ordo, will soon lose its novelty and eventually be discarded and destroyed.

    "While the ancient Latin Rite was freely trashed, this new innovation is now the untouchable Mass. No matter what the historians say about the questionable facts surrounding the development of this New Rite, the involvement of Protestant observers, or the obvious weaknesses it possesses, the Novus Ordo remains the bulwark of the plastic surgeons. This make-over job has proven to be the ticket to an endless downward spiral of chaos and disunity."

    There was a movie released a few years back called, "Wide Awake." It's the story of a young boy who, after the death of his grandfather, becomes acutely aware of the need to seek God. He comes to recognize the hand of God in his Catholic school days, his relationships and an encounter with his guardian angel. At one point in the movie, the little boy comments while looking at the toys in a department store, "Everything is plastic. It's not real." These wise words seem to explain, in a nutshell, what has become of the modern Catholic Church since Vatican II.

    After 35 years of plastic catechesis and liturgy, the thing that seems the most "unreal" is that the plastic continues to be churned out in virtually every parish and diocese. While the so-called "progressives" who hammered their agenda down our throats remain without names or faces, those of us who do have names and faces are left to sift through the ruble of today's Catholicism in hopes of finding the true Catholic Church underneath the fašade of the new plastic religion.

    While scandal after scandal has been reported to the hierarchy regarding the destruction of souls first, then the Liturgy, liturgical abuses, demolition of church buildings and sacred art, along with deplorable catechesis, etc., the Holy See has remained virtually silent. Even when a small voice from Rome has occasionally uttered forth a word of warning or reprimand it has gone unnoticed by the general Catholic population, or has given rise to myriad voices of contempt and dissent.

    More importantly, the modern church appears obsessed with presenting itself in a politically correct mode at the expense of proclaiming the truth. I'm convinced that any priest, bishop or cardinal who will forgo the actual Gospel message in order to accommodate the diverse immoral or trendy lifestyles that pervade our culture, really doesn't care about me or my children and our eternal souls. Any "Catholic" nun who trains lay people in the art of spiritual direction implementing Zen, dream journaling, and the enneagram has lost her faith and should not be allowed to hang her shingle within any Catholic diocese.

    Those of us in the trenches know that the spiritual warfare is real and we won't succumb to the modern notion that sin is a thing of the past and that we're all nice people on the yellow brick road to Heaven. No, we live in the real world where we are raising children and trying to promote family and morality. We know what our children are up against in a personal way. We know the enemy and encounter him face to face on a daily basis. That's why we refuse to settle for the plastic, imitation of Catholicism that we are being force-fed in our parishes.

    And of course, there's the New Rite of the Mass, the Novus Ordo. While the ancient Latin Rite was freely trashed, this new innovation is now the untouchable Mass. No matter what the historians say about the questionable facts surrounding the development of this New Rite, the involvement of Protestant observers, or the obvious weaknesses it possesses, the Novus Ordo remains the bulwark of the plastic surgeons. This make-over job has proven to be the ticket to an endless downward spiral of chaos and disunity.

    However, the Novus Ordo does fit in perfectly with the social apathy characteristic of late twentieth century man. For the first time in history, technology has supplanted man and his place in the life of the community. We can stay home and watch movies, play computer games, talk on the phone, and surf the web without ever seeing another human being. Women no longer have a place in the home or in the domesticity of the community, as they have invaded the workplace that once belonged to men. Most homes are vacant during the day, as children are handed over to daycare centers while mothers and fathers work all day. The "community square" which was once the center of the life and activity for a community, is no more, having given way to fast paced lifestyles leaving no time for social activities. Saturday matinees passed into oblivion along with potlucks and community card games or socials. On the religious end, vigorous Catholic social organizations such as Knights of Columbus or Altar and Rosary Society have nearly vanished.

    With the disintegration of community social life, the Church is now faced with a socially starved generation longing to be warmly welcomed, affirmed, entertained and hugged by all. The unfortunate reality is that the Mass has become the place for the modern Catholic to get his social "cup filled." With its emphasis on the assembly and the community meal, the Novus Ordo fits the bill perfectly.

    For a perfect example of this total misunderstanding of the true Mass and a heavy emphasis on the Church's need to alleviate social starvation, look no further than Cardinal Roger Mahony's, "Gather Faithfully Together." This mentality of the social aspect of the New Rite of the Mass totally eclipses the right of the child of God to enter into the holiness of worship. Instead, he must be continually bombarded with gestures of neighborliness and activity which, in fact, belong to the realm of Christian discipleship and service, not to transcendent worship.

    It becomes increasingly obvious that one of the most important aspects of the Novus Ordo is that we gather to affirm each other and feel good about who we are in Christ. The bizarre preoccupation with "active participation" on the part of the laity has eclipsed everything else about the Mass. "Active participation" is, in fact, a redundant phrase of little value. Participation in and of itself requires action. One cannot "inactively" participate. Neither can one pray without participating in that prayer. Either one is participating or one is not; either he is praying or he is not. What the liturgical innovators are after is not a participation in transcendent worship, but rather an outward sign from the faithful coupled with constant busyness, ensuring that the Novus Ordo is an emotionally busy success.

    The faithful have been led to believe that the most important thing they can do at Mass is "be" something, whether it be an usher, greeter, Eucharistic minister, lector, etc. In this way, the duty of Christians has now come down to the notion of being important at the Sunday celebration rather than to humbly adore and worship Him who is the truly important One. Eclipsed is the fact that our true duty as Christians is to go forth from the Mass renewed, to proclaim the Gospel, to live the commandments in relationship with our neighbors, family and the world we meet in our daily lives.

    Holding hands during the Our Father is a classic example of the empty charade of "active participation." Along with it goes the awkward sign of peace where we turn to those around us and shake hands, as if this really means anything to anyone, other than a nice social gesture. It is an attempt to fill the empty cup left behind by social disintegration. Many parishes have even adopted the Protestant practice of having greeters at the door to make sure everyone feels welcome when they enter. Having lost our Catholic identity, and understanding of the purpose for the Mass, we now need someone to identify us as important when we go to Mass so we will feel good. Basically, if we can "be nice" at Mass, sing all the songs and shake hands we can surely feel good about ourselves, can't we? Therefore, the Novus Ordo is a success.

    As with all emotionally based events, we will come to expect more "activity"; more charisma on the part of the priest; more gusto from the lectors; more pizzazz from the Eucharistic Ministers. And on it goes. With Cardinal Mahoney, we will come to think the Mass is dependant on our community spirit, something like a pep club and cheerleaders. But in the end, we will be ill equipped to run the race (Hebrews 12:1-2).

    I am convinced that the modern Mass as we experience it in the majority of Catholic parishes is actually sucking the spiritual life out of the faithful. The Novus Ordo prides itself in providing a showcase for our musically gifted, talented and oftentimes overbearing lay people. The actual time allowed for worship is insignificant when compared with the amount of time required for all the different "roles" the laity must "play". Having filled our various roles, nothing else is really required.

    On the other hand, the Tridentine Mass by its very nature requires worship and focus, reverence and interior participation on a level unparalleled by the New Order of the Mass. The unity of the assembly is apparent in our baptism and by the fact that we have gathered in this place to worship and offer ourselves with Christ in His Holy Sacrifice. There is no need to be telling and showing each other how important we are.

    One need only observe the little children to see the impact of the two different masses. At the Novus Ordo, the majority of children have no clue what is going on. They talk, leave to go to the restroom at any time, show little if any reverence, and play with toys of every kind. The Mass has no meaning for them. The only hope for meaning they might entertain is that they will one day be old enough to fill one of the roles for the laity during the "Eucharistic Celebration" as this concoction is called today.

    At the Tridentine Mass, little children for the most part can be seen with their Missals for children, trying to follow the Mass. They look at the pictures and watch the actions of the priest. They are amazingly quiet and attentive, even though they often get tired. Children as young as 3 years old stop to genuflect and attempt the sign of the cross before entering the pew. When they get tired, they have holy cards or other religious pictures to look at. Indeed, they understand at an early age that the Mass is something very special. Little girls wear dresses and some type of head covering, already indicating their submission to the Lord, and boys dress nicely and often wear ties. These children are already actively participating in the Mass, quite unlike their counterparts at the Novus Ordo.

    While these observations are not meant to cast judgment on those who still attend the modern Mass, it is important to reflect that the signs indicate a vapid, sterile faith is being passed onto yet another generation of Catholics. While the powers that be insist that the Novus Ordo is a wonderful result of the liturgical reform, in practice it is failing to engender, enliven and improve the spiritual lives of the faithful.

    The Tridentine Mass, by comparison, is not simply a treasure because of its beauty and aura of the sacred. It is a masterpiece in its ability to engender and enliven the faith, which it has successfully done for centuries. It would have been more prudent for modern Rome to try and erase the works and genius of Michelangelo from the face of the earth than to attempt to eradicate the ancient Latin Rite of the Mass and replace it with plastic.

Catharine Lamb

May 7, 2002
volume 13, no. 87
Shears and Tears of a Lamb
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