The Reform of the Reform of the Reform…

In a recently published interview, Pope Francis was again disparaging those with a preference for the traditional Latin mass, referring to them as nostalgic and marginalizing them and the mass itself. He also quashed the notion of a “reform of the reform” as a restoration of certain elements of traditional liturgy:

“Pope Benedict accomplished a just and magnanimous gesture to reach out to a certain mindset of some groups and persons who felt nostalgia and were distancing themselves. But it is an exception. That is why one speaks of an ‘extraordinary’ rite. The ordinary in the Church is not this. It is necessary to approach with magnanimity those attached to a certain form of prayer. But the ordinary is not this. Vatican II and Sacrosanctum Concilium must go on as they are. To speak of a ‘reform of the reform’ is an error.” (trans. by Rorate-Caeli)

The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote about a year ago. Bishop Floyd Begin of Oakland, California (1962-1977) had attended every session of the Second Vatican Council and had even claimed to be the author of Council documents. When it ended in 1964, he returned determined to renovate the cathedral, built in 1893. If anyone knew what the intention of Sacrosanctum Concilium was, it would have been Bishop Begin:

INFLUENCE OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

St. Francis de Sales became known as the “…first cathedral in the United States to be completely remodeled according to the liturgical spirit of the Second Vatican Council”. (All quotations herein are from: Jeffrey M. Burns and Mary Carmen Bautista, We are the Church: A History of the Diocese of Oakland. Strasbourg: Editions du Singe, 2001). The enthusiastic bishop had a bold plan for remodeling the Cathedral:

“With the priest now facing the people, the bishop found the venerable stained glass windows behind the alter distracting. ‘The rather colorful windows in the sanctuary impeded the vision of the service, just like the headlights of an oncoming car do.’ The stained glass windows were covered over by redwood paneling. The interior was whitewashed and the exterior was painted in a creme color [it was red brick]. The alter rail was removed as were all the statues, except for that of Jesus. In sum, the remodeled building followed Vatican II directives and created ‘…an atmosphere conducive to participation, worship, and prayer.'”

The Cathedral interior before the renovation:

cathedral3

The Cathedral interior after the renovation:

st francis4

The new altar:

st francis6

THE NEW LITURGY

Since the inspiration for these changes was “…the liturgical spirit of the Second Vatican Council”, by 1969 the Cathedral’s liturgical spirit had incorporated elements from contemporary arts:

armstrong
Neil Armstrong

“Dance, slide presentations, photography, innovative preaching [?], all became regular features in the Cathedral liturgies. …In late 1969, the Cathedral featured an Advent series entitled ‘We Hold a Strange Hope’ to explore how to maintain hope in the midst of the social chaos that was engulfing the United States. The first week featured four blown-up portraits hanging in the sanctuary — Che Guevara, Joan Baez, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Neil Armstrong” (p.52).

The historians report that the organ was replaced by an ensemble of strings, brass, piano, and various musicians (p.51). The liturgical innovations attracted national attention:

“In May, 1971, Time Magazine observed, ‘twice each Sunday, the music runs the scale between such unlikely extremes as Gregorian chant and rock. On one recent Sunday, the mixture embraced both Bach’s Aire for the G-String and Amazing Grace. On another, included a Hayden trio, Bob Dylan’s The Times They are A Changin’ and Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is our God.'”

The historians recount that in 1971, during one of the themed liturgies, a song was performed that was composed especially for the occasion, “A Traditionalist’s Lament”. It mocked anyone still attached to the traditional form of the mass. It was sung to the tune of a song from the film Mary Poppins, “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious”:

Refrain:

Introibo. Tantum. Ergo. Kyrie Eleison.

Give me back my pamphlet rack and surplices with lace on.

If Catholic means rock-and-roll I’d rather be a Mason.

Introibo. Tantum. Ergo. Kyrie Eleison.

You can read the rest of the post here. The Cathedral was destroyed in an earthquake some years later, reminding me that in too many cases the vernacularization of the liturgy brings to mind the Tower of Babel rather than Pentecost.

…rjt

Where the Second Vatican Council and Modern Architecture Converge

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St. Francis de Sales, Oakland, CA, (ca. 1970)

The history of the cathedral of the Diocese of Oakland is instructive for understanding the early influence of the Second Vatican Council on the subsequent design of many Catholic churches. The recently-installed bishop of Oakland at the time, His Excellency Floyd Begin, the Diocese’ first bishop, had attended every session of the Council and returned in 1964 determined to renovate the existing cathedral, built in 1893, rather than spend a large sum on of money on a new one.

INFLUENCE OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

St. Francis de Sales became known as the “…first cathedral in the United States to be completely remodeled according to the liturgical spirit of the Second Vatican Council”. (All quotations herein are from: Jeffrey M. Burns and Mary Carmen Bautista, We are the Church: A History of the Diocese of Oakland. Strasbourg: Editions du Singe, 2001). The enthusiastic bishop had a bold plan for remodeling the Cathedral:

“With the priest now facing the people, the bishop found the venerable stained glass windows behind the alter distracting. ‘The rather colorful windows in the sanctuary impeded the vision of the service, just like the headlights of an oncoming car do.’ The stained glass windows were covered over by redwood paneling. The interior was whitewashed and the exterior was painted in a creme color [it was red brick]. The alter rail was removed as were all the statues, except for that of Jesus. In sum, the remodeled building followed Vatican II directives and created ‘…an atmosphere conducive to participation, worship, and prayer.'”

The Cathedral interior before the renovation:

cathedral3

The Cathedral interior after the renovation:

st francis4

The new altar:

st francis6 Continue reading “Where the Second Vatican Council and Modern Architecture Converge”

The End of American Hegemony

100billionIn St. Hildegard’s vision, the five beasts represent five brief historical periods of time that precede the arrival of the Antichrist (more here). I argue that the first three have passed and the fourth, the era of the Black Pig, I suggest in my book, is coming to an end.

Each one of the previous eras ended with major international crises that led to a redrawing of the map of Europe and a change in the world’s global power structure (the dramatic events of the year 1914, for example). When I look at the present situation in Europe and the West, I think the answer to the question of what sort of events will mark the end of this present era for future historians are not difficult to speculate about.

America has been Western Europe’s defender since the end of WWII. The demise of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War in 1991 left America as the sole hegemon. It might have been a good opportunity to close most of America’s European military bases. Much of Europe was in the process of integrating, eliminating borders and forming the European Union. What chance was there of a WWII happening all over again? Today, America supports hundreds of military bases or facilities in Europe and the world. The question is: how long is this sustainable?

Do you remember the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, otherwise known as Bowles-Simpson? It was commissioned by President Obama in 2010 and charged with coming up with a plan to improve the long term fiscal sustainability of the U.S. government. It failed miserably. The vote against it’s recommendations in the House of Representatives was 382 to 38. It would have sliced 4 trillion off the National Debt, which at the time was about 12 trillion. Today, five years later, the debt has increased to 18 trillion. But there’s more to the story.

Continue reading “The End of American Hegemony”

Msgr. Pope’s Comment on Traditional Churches

Msgr. Charles Pope of the Diocese of Washington (DC) wrote a powerful article for the diocesan blog entitled, “‘Alas, Alas for the Great City!’ An Urgent Plea for Prayer at the New Year!”. He compares today’s America to ancient Babylon as referenced in Isaiah and the book of Revelation, recalling in detail the country’s decline since the 1960s and then assesses the present situation:

So here we are in 2015. And if we have any sense and any faith at all, we need to fall on our knees and pray for miraculous conversion. I love this country and Western culture. I do not think anything finer has ever graced this globe. But we have become collectively corrupted. Our freedom has become licentiousness; our sense of human dignity has been debased; our comforts have made us lazy and inimical to the Cross and to discipline.

America, he warns, may share the same fate as Babylon:

…And before you exultantly say, “Bring it on!” please consider how instantly different our lives would be. Are you really ready for a world with no electricity, no Internet, and no central government with a Bill of Rights? Are you ready to live without roads, running water, and trash collection? Repentance is a far better solution. So pray for a miracle!

Strong words for a diocesan blog. But something he wrote in response to a comment, however, struck me as utterly capricious. Somebody had put the blame for this situation on the Second Vatican Council, adding a quote by Archbishop Lefebvre. This was part of the Msgr’s response:

Frankly why aren’t traditional movements and attendance at TLMs growing? The number in DC haven’t grown in over a decade. And lets not forget that the number of Catholics worldwide is growing not shrinking. So, I think we have a cultural problem compounded by a weak-kneed church.

I think the Council and Liturgy are not the “supreme catastrophe” you described. And lets not forget it was the “brats” schooled in the old system and raised with the TLM who threw the revolution. So something bad was already going on.

Rather dismissive, perhaps he hasn’t seen this chart:

mass_chart_2010

Continue reading “Msgr. Pope’s Comment on Traditional Churches”