Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Why a weak liturgy requires a strong perfomance artist to carry it

Some three months ago we reprinted (with permission of the publisher) an article by Tom Bethell entitled "Refugees From the Vernacular Mass" (October 3, 2005), which originally appeared in New Oxford Review (September 2005), pp. 40-42. Bethell began his article with a reference to a new book by David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church, and proceeded to discuss his contrasting experience at a Tridentine Mass celebrated at 9 AM every Sunday at St. Mary Mother of God Church, on 5th Street NW in downtown Washington, DC, near Chinatown, close to the MCI Center.

In the latest (December 2005) issue of New Oxford Review, appears a most engaging letter to the editor from J. Allen of Torquay, United Kingdom. Allen writes:
I thought it very revealing that in Tom Bethell's column "Last Things" (Sept.), he said the priest in charge of his Tridentine Latin parish in Washington, D.C., was of "curmudgeonly demeanor," from which I gather that he made no attempt to charm his congregation and was of modest pastoral talent. No "welcomers," pop hymns, jokes, or rushing from the altar immediately after Mass to socialize at the church door. And yet this parish is a success, and attracts lots of male Catholics of intelligence, while modernist parishes tend to terminal decline. Why?
His conclusion? "The inescapable conclusion to all this is that before Vatican II, I received a better ministry from a priest of very moderate ability (may he R.I.P.) than afterwards from a very gifted one!" Back then, even a quite ordinary priest preaching homiletic commonplaces had the massive power of the Traditional Latin Mass supporting the congregation. "Now a weak vernacular liturgy requires a celebrant with a strong personality to support it."

Read Mr. Allen's superlative letter in its entirety online HERE.

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