I’ve closed my original Papal liturgy thread down there and opened two new ones. I’ll be adding my own thoughts to those in a minute, but first this message from your sponsor.
I wanted to start a pool as to how long it would take for commentors to be scolded for critiquing the liturgy, but since I’m here by myself, it wouldn’t have been a fair competition.
Look and listen. After six years of blogging on these subjects and two decades of writing on them, here’s my philosophy:
1) We should, as much as we can, drawing on the Holy Spirit, resist the temptation to view the Mass from a critic’s standpoint. It is destructive. No one knows this better than those involved in Church ministry, and not only liturgical ministers. It is a temptation for anyone whose relationship with the Church, the parish or the diocese is that of employee or professional volunteer. We evaluate, we judge, we have meetings afterwards in which we assess.
(Which is why those who critique critiquers are usually off-base when they accuse the critiquers of being Monday-morning quarterbacks. The most practiced critiquers are those who are, surprise, actually involved. Who do you think is sitting around right at this moment, most closely critiqueing the papal liturgy? Musicians, liturgists and priests, probably, who know full well how much work is involved. That, however, then becomes the great risk to one’s own faith as one involved in liturgy)
In fact, I know someone who wrote a book about this very issue – my husband, whose How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist was written to help people find Christ in the Mass, no matter what the obstacles – internal or external. He wrote it because as he was going around giving talks on The How-To Book of the Mass , the after-talk questions tended to be all complaints about Mass: “Too much music” “Not enough music” “Priest is too gabby” “Priest is cold and impersonal” Etc.
The guiding arrangement of the book is centered on the first letters of one word: SACRIFICE.
Knowing that, you can probably guess what he’s trying to communicate.
2) HOWEVER. Despite that – and with that constantly in mind, it is fine to spend time evaluating a liturgy. To do so in charity, respectful of persons and the work they put into the event, to be sure. But the Mass is not anything. It is Something. And the form of the Mass should express that Something as much as humanly possible. There is a degree of subjectivity involved, but actually not as much as we might think. Particularly in this case, when we have a pope who has written extensively on liturgy, whose views are well-known, and whose liturgical priorities as pope are also no secret. It is fair to compare what happened today with the principles of Catholic liturgy as well as the Pope’s own writing. That’s fair.
But even so – everything I saw and have heard indicates to me that the liturgy was a prayerful, wonderful experience. Joan Lewis on EWTN compared it to Masses in St. Peter’s Square – very favorably, in terms of the deportment and reverence of those present.
So keeping all of those realities in balance, I think it is fine to discuss a liturgy like this as long as we don’t let it dominate our sense of the event, overwhelming the Pope’s own call to unity in the Church for the sake of a more powerful, Christ-centered presence in the world.