This week we're altering some things a bit to accommodate the Thanksgiving schedule. In place of Pat Ludwa's popular VIEW FROM THE PEW we're flipflopping our editorial today. In Wednesday's issue we'll bring you Pat's column as well as our weekend lineup for that will be our special Thanksgiving/Advent issue covering four days from Wednesday through Sunday. That means there will be only three TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY this week beginning today with the 16th selection: Cardinal John J. O'Connor, a worthy recipient. While we have had some who question a few selections, we can guarantee you there won't be any controversy over the top 25 which will finish up on Thursday, December 16th with the NUMBER ONE TOP CATHOLIC OF THE CENTURY.
While we're on the subject of controversy, there has been too much of it over the past thirty years as a result of the spawning of the "spirit of Vatican II" which was allowed to run wild in the seventies, eighties and early part of the nineties by the American bishops. But, as we point out in today's profile on Cardinal O'Connor, the pendulum is finally swinging back. The bishops have come to their senses and are about to stop the madness. This has to be the most heartening news we've had in a long time. We were ecstatic over the the overwhelming vote the bishops cast for endorsing the Holy Father's document Ex Corde Ecclesiae on guidelines for Catholic institutions of higher learning. It should put to an end the aberrations going on in major Catholic universities. Either they conform to what the Church mandates or they drop the name "Catholic" and go it on their own. If we were delighted over that turn of events at the Bishop's Conference, we were absolutely giddy over a paragraph buried within the news article on some other things they discussed; specifically architecture. But it is more than architecture, it's all about the reverence necessary to return the sacred to the sanctuary. Finally the bishops have seen the light that the experiment of starkness doesn't work. The churches that look like gymnasiums without kneelers remind one more and more of a Protestant service. It all goes hand in hand. Over the years, as ill-advised architects built plain, box-like, spireless, crucifixless taj majals, the liturgists followed suit with mundane hymns that bordered on new age in many verses. Mediocrity begets mediocrity and what we are left with is a plain, vanilla liturgy and environment. Finally, the bishops have seen the light.
Since this is the Feast of Saint Cecilia, patronness of music, we feel it's necessary to also address the state of music in the churches today. We've always felt a deep loss with the disappearance of Gregorian Chant. It's not that difficult to sing. In fact, it's a much easier and a more reverent melody than anything the liturgists have offered today. It was good enough for nearly 1,400 years. Why has it been shelved during the past 30 years? Is it because before the 1960's they didn't have electric guitars, percussion woofers and a sound system that often is more apt for a sound stage? If that is so, it shows God's wisdom in keeping civilization without all the newfangled musical instruments and technology that takes away from the intimacy, the reverence, the importance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Our new parish is consumed with modern music, most of which we don't recognize. Every Mass is filled with music and we mean "filled" from the entrance song to the closing procession. Very few minutes are left for quiet meditation for everything is sung, and not very well, we might add. We're asked to sing during the entire Offertory, when we should be offering up our petitions and prayers with the celebrant when he raises the paten, pronouncing the beautiful prayers that can't be heard because they are drowned out by off-key singing for the sake of sound. Then, other than the Consecration, there is constant noise masquerading as music right on through the time when we should be in quiet prayer in preparation for receiving Our Lord worthily and then after coming back to our pew, spending quiet, intimate time with Him in giving Jesus thanks. But there is so much cacaphony from either the modern music or the socializing during Mass that we leave Holy Mass feeling empty from the experience. It is only in realizing that we spent the time with Jesus that we take comfort. But even He has to be wondering what His Church has come to for it no longer resembles anything like the Church of the past millennium or so. Finally, the bishops realize this. Yes, it's time to put a muzzle on those music cantors who think the whole congregation can sing. True, Saint Augustine said when you sing you pray twice, but he was referring to Gregorian Chant, not this modern mass of notes that passes as music. Why can't we have a return to the Gregorian Mass for the Novus Ordo in each parish for at least one Mass a week? Give us a choice. We predict it would soon be packed. Afterall, the faithful recognize reverence and class. It has been imparted over the years by numerous visionaries and mystics that thousands of angels are present at every Mass. We can imagine they too would rather do away with the earplugs and once again be edified by hymns that are recognizable and Catholic!
Now, too, it looks like the bishops are beginning to recognize the need to return reverence as well. It was refreshing to hear they want to return the Tabernacles to center stage, so to speak. For the last several years there has been clamoring by more and more for this, and the bishops are finally listening. When these changes were first made the excuse was given that the Tabernacle and the statues take away from the focus on the Mass and the public bought it lock, stock and barrell. If that were true, why did the Church promote the beautiful statues, paintings and ornate tabernacles for fifteen hundred years? The bishops realize now that the reasons for denuding the sanctuary was a cock-and-bull story concocted by modernists and liberal liturgists in a throwback to iconoclasm. It hasn't worked. As the saying goes, if it's broke, fix it!
With the increase in conservative bishops in America we are confident that over the next few years we're going to see a return to a more orthodox semblance of sanity within the churches and once again we'll be able to walk into a church, find the holy water font without searching, and see the Tabernacle visibly in sight so we know whether to genuflect. No longer will the Blessed Sacrament be stuck in the back room or a side room no bigger than a closet. Our Lord and Savior will rightfully be returned to His proper place in the sanctuary. We can only pray that soon, in every church, His Blessed Mother Mary and foster father Saint Joseph will also be returned to their proper places along with many other saints and angels to remind the faithful of the virtues we should emulate. We can only pray that the Stations of the Cross will return as a constant reminder that we too must walk Calvary and carry our Cross if we are to be His disciples. We can also pray that the bishops will return the bells and even be more open to allowing the Latin - either the Tridentine Mass or Novus Ordo complete with Gregorian Chant. Tune in to Mother Angelica's EWTN and experience the reverence at the Masses at Holy Angels Monastery. It's the Novus Ordo with Latin and English and said the way it was meant to be by the Fathers of Vatican II. Why have so many bishops not generously allowed the return of Latin within the Novus Ordo? We can only pray that with the pendulum swinging back they'll be more open to this in addition to taking the socialized Kiss of Peace out of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and placing it where it should be - in the Liturgy of the Word so more emphasis can be placed on Jesus, present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity on the Altar from the Consecration on.
Finally, while we're on this wish list for the new millennium, let's also hope the bishops will rethink the whole Eucharistic Ministers concept. The Holy Father has been adamant about the fact there will be no women priests. Despite the pesky petitions of we are church, call to action and that ilk, it is a closed subject. Yet throughout every church in America we have so many women who serve as Eucharistic Ministers at Sunday Mass, not only distributing Holy Communion, at times instead of the priest, but also officiating at the altar in preparation and "cleaning up" after Communion with the celebrant often sitting. Is it just a few of us who think this sends a mixed message to the faithful? Or, as we suspect, do throngs of others feel the same way? Whether the feminists like it or not, the altar and sanctuary are no place for a woman. No woman had ventured there for nineteen and a half centuries in the Church and, after this miserable thirty-plus-year "experiment" foisted on us by malcontents following Vatican II, it should be scrapped immediately! We repeat the oft-heard refrain by orthodox Catholics: If Christ had intended women to distribute the Holy Eucharist, wouldn't He have appointed or charged His Apostles to not only appoint His Blessed Mother, but Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene and other holy women? After all, other than Saint John, it was the women who stuck by Our Lord during His Passion and Death. So to reward them it would have been a natural for Jesus to do so after He arose. But He didn't and the bishops should realize that and correct this. This, like the altar girls situation, was grandfathered in through loopholes that the Vicar of Christ had no control over. It's time the bishops take control and return the reverence and sacredness to the sanctuary. We realize it will take time and the process of weeding out and waiting out the liberal prelates will take awhile. After all Rome wasn't built in a day, but Rome shouldn't be weakened over a thirty-plus year period either. We can only hope that in the new millennium the bishops will further see the light and restore the traditions the Church is known for.
We close in a positive frame in the fact that the bishops are finally going to seriously consider a return to the reverent. We thank God the bishops have been enlightened for the first step is to bring Christ out of the shadows into the light, because He, present in the Tabernacle, is the Light! And so, on the threshold of the new millennium we echo the request in every Catholic church to let the Light of the world shine forth!