The problem of Zombie-Robot parishioners and ‘active participation’.

3UZw1v

Have you ever sat in Mass and felt like this?! I know I have. There have been many times where I have just zoned out. I realise the priest has got to the end of his sermon and I haven’t really heard a word because I was daydreaming.

I suppose it doesn’t help when most other people around you are doing the same thing. To my horror, I realise that I have become one of those legendary Zombie-like parishioners that I used to marvel at as a child.

I remember the droning monotone chorus of the congregation during the creed, the robotic expressionless handshake of peace, the lifeless melody of the organ with literally 2 people singing out of the entire congregation. The ones who used to hit the ESCAPE button and walk out straight after communion – I guess they’d fulfilled their weekly obligation right? And yet we, and the same other people used to turn up week after week and filter up the isle into the same old pews that we almost seemed to be pre-programmed to return to.

A congregation of mindless robots.

robot-human-hand-shake.jpg.560x0_q80_crop-smart

And it wasn’t as if our church wasn’t trying – they got the parishioners involved in the offertory procession, the choir, the readings and bidding prayers, they even got the children to go up onto the sanctuary during the consecration to see up close what the priest was doing. But still, before long it began to dawn on me that I really wasn’t getting anything out of Mass.

By age 13 I had stopped going. I just didn’t see the point. It was so boring. The people there were so boring. The final nail in the liturgical coffin for me was the ‘Teen’ mass. The cringeworthy band with their ‘Rock’ hymns, the priest trying to be cool, the fact that they were trying so hard to include and please us… It was just embarrassing.

I felt quite sorry for them in a way. I could see how hard the few motivated ones were trying to make it work, but it wasn’t cutting it. It didn’t have any interest whatsoever in going to a dead church full of robots. There was nothing in it for me.

po15ch0c

It wasn’t until 5 years later, age 18, when I had my first ridiculously powerful, life changing personal encounter with Jesus after a failed suicide attempt that I began returning to Mass.

Because of that encounter, I suddenly realised that Jesus Christ was real, alive, and truly present in the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist during Mass. In those first few weeks of returning to Church as a young adult, on my own, I remember how the words of the readings and the Holy Gospel would just fly accross the church out of the mouths of the readers and just penetrate my heart like a flaming spear. I remember getting butterflies in my tummy, and my heart racing as I approached Jesus in the Holy Eucharist for the first time in a long time. And I remember the gentle peace of Him, as He surrounded me with reassurance and calm during my first tentative steps of my conversion of heart, that I was wanted and loved by Him.

And yet, I was still surrounded by those loyal, yet long suffering mindless robots that surrounded me as a child. The droning creed, the robotic handshakes, the 2 lonely hymn singers… They were all still there! In some ways I found it quite funny 🙂 but I also found that it broke my heart. I was home, but my family were zombies.

I would just watch them week after week, just going through the motions. It was like they were asleep inside, while my heart was completely on fire for Jesus. I learned pretty quickly that I was not going to fit in.

39986

After another 10 years or so I began my Catholic studies at Maryvale university, and for the first time ever came accross the term “active participation” in the Vatican 2 document Sacrosanctum conciliumthe Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. I learned here that one of the main aims of the day in and around the 1960’s was to get the laity to participate more in the Mass. I was amazed because I thought the robotic zombie parishioner was a modern phenomenon. It seems not.

The other bombshell I learned was that up until the late 1960’s, the priest always used to say Mass with his back to the congregation!! I couldn’t believe it! Why on earth would he do that? The Mass before the late 1960’s was very different. It was said in Latin, the priest had his back to the congregation, people used to kneel to receive Holy Eucharist and would only receive on the tongue. Women were required to cover their hair in church, members of the congregation would often say rosary during Mass if they didn’t understand the Latin. Things were really different.

I can really understand why people were calling for reform in the church and pushing the idea of the “active participation” of the laity in the Mass. How easy would it be to zone out during Mass if you were just sitting there not even able to understand the language? So the Council Fathers developed this idea of active participation:

“14. Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.” – Sacrosanctum concilium

Although it was never actually an official part of the reforming documents of Vatican 2, the radically new idea of the priest facing the people began to creep in a few years later. The idea behind this was to make the people in the congregation feel more welcome, more involved and for the first time ever they could see what the priest was doing on the altar. It was all aimed at moving towards this idea of active participation.

offering2

I can totally understand what they were trying to do in the late 1960’s, but 50 years later with obviously dwindling parishes, lack of religious vocations and widespread theological ignorance within the church, the million dollar question is:

Has this radical idea of active participation actually worked?

It was initially implemented to reduce parishioner zombification during Mass. But as i’m sure you will agree, the zombie robots are alive and well and STILL filling our churches today.

churchladies

 

Now, as you have probably heard, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, urged priests and bishops at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London on July 5 to start celebrating Masses ad orientem (with their back to the congregation) beginning on the first Sunday of Advent this year 2016.

This had caused uproar in the more progressive circles of the church as they believe it would take us back 5o years and undermine all the efforts made at active participation since then.

However I think they have got the wrong end of the stick here…

I think that it is pretty safe to say now that the active participation thing has not worked as intended. In all honestly, I think it has backfired massively and has actually drawn the people even further away from participating actively.

You see, the active participation that occurs currently is focused on outward signs and physical gestures. But this is not what active participation is meant to be. The true meaning is for the persons spirit to be actively involved in the mass, not though superficial things like carrying the offertory gifts, but to carry out our Baptismal ‘priestly’ role by offering our entire lives to God as Christ did on the Cross.

Of course it was never explained to me as a kid – or even as an adult that we are actually present at Calvary in real time during Mass. I never knew that. I also never realised that the Mass is something that is directed at God – not at the people. I never knew. The first time I realised that was during my first ever Tridentine (Traditional Latin) Mass where the priest had His back to me. When he lifted up the consecrated host with his back to me, I suddenly realised that Mass was not all about me. It was all about God.

We all face God. The priests offers the sacrifice on our behalf. Man is not the centre of the liturgy – Christ is.

Traditional-Latin-Mass

During Mass, by right and duty of my Baptism, my job is to offer my whole life – joined to the eternal sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, to God.

Why oh why did no-one ever tell me this? How can anyone possibly be luke warm during Mass armed with this knowledge? THIS is the active participation that we are meant to be carrying out during Mass – not joining the priest on the sanctuary or clapping during the Gloria.

I can see now that all those external participations actually served as distractions that drew my attention away from what I should really have been concentrating on internally. Even the priest himself can become a distraction during Mass – especially if he is young and handsome (yes, this has happened to me before during Mass *cringe*).

So to cut a very long argument short – I can totally see where Cardinal Sarah is coming from. He is trying to move the focus of the Mass back to where it should be – onto Christ, and eliminate the many distractions that have crept into the liturgy over the years. He is also trying to educate us as to the real meaning of “active participation”.

Ad-Orientem-Cartoon-Meme-640x578

There is one last thing…

Offering Mass this way would also be a wonderfully unitive thing to do with the Eastern Churches. They all offer Mass with the priest having his back to the congregation – they never changed. And as with everything in Catholic culture, this posture is highly symbolic. I spoke to my Byzantine friend who put it perfectly:

“Every movement in the Liturgy is symbolic. For instance, we face west during the exorcism part of the Baptism ceremony and then turn to the east (the altar) to declare our allegiance to Christ. It seems strange that the priest would face west to lead us in prayer/speaking to God on our behalf.”

Yes, that does seem strange when she puts it like that doesn’t it? I’m going to have to think more about that last part very, very carefully.

 

 

SSPX, 50 years of Vatican 2, and the Family Synod.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Today Pope Francis sent a letter to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, and made a completely unexpected announcement regarding the SSPX:

“A final consideration concerns those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X. This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one. From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity. In the meantime,motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.”

For those of you who are not familiar with the SSPX here are a few brief facts:

  • The Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) is an international organisation, founded in 1970 by the French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, of traditionalist Catholic priests.
  • It was born out of opposition to changes in the Catholic Church that followed the Second Vatican Council.
  • It is commonly believed that they disagree with the whole of Vatican II, but it is only just five paragraphs. These are the ‘pelagian’ paragraphs relating to conscience.
  • The society is known as a strong defender and proponent of the Tridentine Mass.
  • The central controversy surrounding the SSPX concerns the consecration by Archbishop Lefebvre and a Brazilian bishop, Antônio de Castro Mayer, of four SSPX priests as bishops on 30 June 1988 in violation of the orders of Pope John Paul II.
  • The following day, the Congregation for Bishops issued a decree declaring that Archbishop Lefebvre and the four newly ordained bishops had incurred the automatic canonical penalty of excommunication reserved to the Holy See.
  • Lefebvre argued that his actions had been necessary because the traditional form of the Catholic faith and sacraments would become extinct without traditionalist clergy to pass them on to the next generation.
  • The canonical situation of the SSPX has been the subject of much controversy since the 1988 Écône consecrations. The Society claims to possess extraordinary jurisdiction for celebrating masses and for other sacraments like penance and marriage.
  • The view of the Holy See, as expressed by Pope Benedict XVI on 10 March 2009, is: “Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”

So you can see now why today’s announcement was so surprising.

Archbishop Lefebvre

Archbishop Lefebvre

The SSPX responded to the announcement on their website:

“The Society of St. Pius X learned, through the press, of the provisions taken by Pope Francis on the occasion of the upcoming Holy Year. In the last paragraph of his letter addressed September 1, 2015, to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the Holy Father writes:

‘I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Society of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.’

The Society of St. Pius X expresses its gratitude to the Sovereign Pontiff for this fatherly gesture. In the ministry of the sacrament of penance, we have always relied, with all certainty, on the extrdaordinary jurisdiction conferred by the Normae generales of the Code of Canon Law. On the occasion of this Holy Year, Pope Francis wants all the faithful who wish to confess to the priests of the Society of St. Pius X to be able to do so without being worried.

During this year of conversion, the priests of the Society of St. Pius X will have at heart to exercise with renewed generosity their ministry in the confessional, following the example of tireless dedication which the holy Curé of Ars gave to all priests.”
A Tridentine Mass

A Tridentine Mass

Well this is all big news! I’m slightly confused as to why the SSPX were not contacted first regarding this monumental decision and rather (as they stated in their response) found out about this “through the press”. That seems very odd indeed to me considering the magnitude of the announcement. No-one seems to have an answer to this. I’m inclined to file it away under “stuff that Pope Francis does”. 🙂

However, it struck me that the timing of the announcement was rather significant. The opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy will take place on December 8th 2015 – the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Lest we forget, that the SSPX was born out of opposition to the Second Vatican Council.

The optimist here will tell you that this announcement is an extremely exciting step that shows real hope of reconciliation between the SSPX and Rome. That it is following the same direction as Summorum Pontificum in which Pope Benedict XVI stated that all priests may once again freely celebrate the Tridentine Mass, and that Pope Francis is really reaching out to these guys.

The cynic however will tell you that it is just a way of publicly sweetening the SSPX as Rome prepares to celebrate 50 years of the thing that caused the SSPX to come into existence in the first place. And that this gesture means very little to the SSPX as far as its interaction with Rome goes because according to the Normae generales of the Code of Canon Law, their sacrament of confession is valid already – and always has been.

And the end-times watcher will tell you this is just a way of trying to include and appease the traditional side of the church, when what is really about to happen is that the church is going to be taken over and completely remodelled by a set of uber liberal diverse cardinals at the family synod in October all under the banner of the ‘spirit of vatican 2′.

Well I suppose we will have to wait and see what happens at the synod before we start to imagine all sorts of monstrosities – but I can tell you this: If things do go pear shaped at the Synod and the so called ‘spirit’ of Vatican 2 and Cardinal Kasper’s version of mercy prevails, the SSPX is gonna get real busy, real quick.

Catholic Priest Denies Burning Down 17 of the Ugliest Churches Ever Built.

Polish born Fr. Pileov Ash.

Polish born Fr. Pileov Ash.

Police are questioning a 38 year old Catholic priest on charges of arson after 17 out of 18 churches he was stationed at burned to the ground over a 13 year period. Polish born Fr. Pileov Ash denies the charges saying that the events are an “unexplainable co-incidence”.

As part of the interrogation process, Fr. Ash has been asked to take a lie detector test while being exposed to a series of slides – each containing photographs of some of the churches he was stationed at before the fires took place.

“Fr. Ash, please could you tell us a little about each of these churches?”

St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Austria.

St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Austria.

“Oh yes! I remember this one – there was so much glass used in the design of this building. It used to heat up like a greenhouse. Sometimes temperatures would reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I felt so sorry for the congregation. They reminded me of trapped ants getting frazzled under a magnifying glass. One time a woman’s hair set on fire – just like that! Spontaneously combusted. I think it was a weave…”

Catholic Cathedral of Brasilia.

Catholic Cathedral of Brasilia.

“Ahhhh! Brazillia. I always said those candle stands looked dodgy. They wobbled if you looked at them. Really, really wobbley. In hindsight i should have done more to fix them than just jamming a folded up parish newsletter under one of the feet. Live and learn I guess?!”

L'église Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay, France. And 'Mater' from Disney's Cars.

L’église Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay, France. And ‘Mater’ from Disney’s Cars.

“To model a church on a Disney character is something I never really understood to be honest. Especially one that has a petrol engine. Petrol = fire. That’s all I have to say.”

Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Vienna.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Vienna.

“Jesus wept… *long deep sigh* The architecture of the 1970’s was as stupid and ugly as its theology… *another long deep sigh* Forgive them Father, They didn’t know what they were doing… *yet another long deep sigh*

Santa Monica Catholic Church, Spain. And a Spaceship.

Santa Monica Catholic Church, Spain. And a Spaceship.

“I have no idea how the fire started, but at its peak there were flames literally shooting out of the windows at the back. It reminded me of an episode of StarTrek from 1968 where the Klingon’s were attempting to jump to warp speed. I almost expected the entire building to lift off and boldly go where no man has gone before.”

San Paolo Catholic Church, Italy.

San Paolo Catholic Church, Italy.

“Forensics traced the source of this fire back to the sacristy. That didn’t surprise me at all. There was just so much polyester in there. At night you could hear crackling and literally see sparks as the low quality vestments brushed against each other. The levels of static electricity in that place were OFF THE CHART. Vanpoulles has got a lot to answer for.”

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, England.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, England.

“The Metropolitan famously has the nickname ‘The Chimney’. You can see why. The place was literally one big furnace. An accident waiting to happen if you ask me. White smoke was bellowing out of the top like a new Pope had just been chosen! I guess that’s why all the people were clapping and cheering?”

Iglesia de la Consolación, Spain.

Iglesia de la Consolación, Spain.

“This one deserved to die. I hated it. It was so ugly, so embarrassing, so rectangle, so depressing. It actually made me ashamed to be a Catholic. Not that I started the fire of course – you understand that right? Are you recording this?”

Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, California.

Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, California.

“Now this one was the fault of the architect. Who in their right mind would create a window that long at the front of the building? When opened, the whole place acted like a giant bellows. It created a back-draft that whipped up the votive candles in their pastel coloured glass holders into an inferno the likes of which I have never seen before – or since. The front doors burst open and several giant fireballs shot out. It was like watching a huge angry metal dragon with indigestion.”

Catedral Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora da Glória in Maringá, Brazil.

Catedral Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora da Glória in Maringá, Brazil.

“This one reminded me so much of a witches hat. You know what they used to do with witches in the middle ages? They used to burn them. Oh yes, they used to burn them. WHAAAAAaaaaaaa!!!!”

St. Anne's Church, England

St. Anne’s Church, England

“Now this was such a shame. I was trying to make a cup of tea and I accidentally left the large box of PG Tip’s on the gas stove. It wouldn’t have been a problem except that the gas stove was on at the time. I had also left a pan of hot oil on the boil and accidentally tossed my lit cigarette end into the bin – which was located just underneath the 1960’s purple paisley patterned nylon curtains. Silly me! Silly, silly me!”

Christus, Hoffnung der Welt in Donau City, Austria.

Christus, Hoffnung der Welt in Donau City, Austria.

“Oh c’mon! It’s a giant microwave! What did you expect?!”

Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Ronchamp in Ronchamp, France.

Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Ronchamp in Ronchamp, France.

“Seriously, I was only at this parish for 2 weeks when the accident happened. The best person to speak to about this is the 94 year old permanent Deacon based in that parish. Go and speak to him. His name is Offring – Deacon Burt Offring.”

Kappal Matha Church in Uvari, India. (This. Really. Is. A. Catholic. Church.)

Kappal Matha Church in Uvari, India.
(This. Really. Is. A. Catholic. Church.)

Fr. Ash remained silent when shown this slide, but detectives did notice that his heart rate went up to almost 190 bpm and he started sweating profusely and omitted a low growling noise.

The Vatican has responded through the Liturgical Art and Sacred Music Commission, saying that Fr. Ash and Deacon Offring are obviously innocent of any crime. “The real crime” they say “is that these monstrosities were allowed to be built in the first place.”

Sources in Rome also report that in a highly unusaul move, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has recommended Fr. Ash and Deacon Offring for immediate canonisation stating that “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” and that “The fire of the Holy Spirit moves where it will.” He went onto to say that it was “Miraculous” that not a single person was hurt in any of the fires and that God has obviously chosen these two men to “clear the way” for new architects that want to restore the “dignity, beauty and reverence” that has been disregarded in Catholic architecture over the last two generations.

The case continues…