Monday, July 23, 2007

Father's on to something

I think Fr. Jay Toborowsky at Young Fogeys is on to something when he writes this:

For those who think the Holy Father's recent Mot -- (nope, I said I wasn't going to write those words any more) -- his recent M.P. on the '62 Roman Missal has been "the worst" in terms of reluctance towards its implimentation, I'm here to say it's not so. The resistance that Summorum Pontificum faces will pale in comparison to the whines, complaints, "pastoral concerns", wailing and grinding of teeth, and general tempter tantrums and meltdowns that we will experience when Rome eventually issues the new English translation of the Mass that the Vox Clara Commission has been working on for the past 3-4 years. Remember a few years ago when we had one or two external changes to the General Instruction on the Mass (eg- to stand before the "Pray, brethren...") and a bunch of internal changes (eg- Ordained persons should be the ones to purify Sacred Vessels, etc.)? Well multiply that squall exponentially and you get the picture of the storm to come.
I'm often the target of questions from my small social and family circle when they hear about something in the Church from the mass media. I consider it unfortunate that I'm the "local expert" for such things, but I do the best I can. Suffice it to say I haven't heard a peep from anyone on Summorum Pontificum. Not a single question - the one conversation I did have I had to start myself, and it didn't exactly have legs. But when it was mentioned in the press that some parts of what the congregation says in Mass would change, that lead to a (relatively) long discussion that even had a little emotion attached to it.

Why is that? I have to imagine that, simply, most people are oblivious to what the Extraordinary Form means and why its use could be important. Rather, they are focused on what they already do, what they already know. If, suddenly, the only Mass they could attend would be in the Extraordinary Form, then these "average Joes" would care, but since there will always be an Ordinary Form Mass around, for most people it's not on their radar screen because it hasn't happened yet. In contrast, by changing the any of the people's part of the Mass, you affect what they do today and take them out of their comfort zone. Yes, that's one of the most important functions of the Mass, but it is one people have come to miss, partly due to liturgical abuses, partly due to our generally laissez-faire social attitude wherein everything coalesces around with what and how we spend our idle time.

To put it another way, people can avoid the impact of Summorum Pontificum by simply not attending an Extraordinary Form Mass. Since it's easily avoidable, it can be ignored by-and-large. The new translation of the Ordinary Form, however, can only be avoided by a big change - either finding an Extraordinary Form Mass, moving to an Eastern Rite Church or leaving the Church all together. Since those are all significant changes, the reaction to it is logically going to be that much more significant.

Simply, the time is now to start slowly and gently educating people on both of these issues. It wouldn't take long, probably only a few sentences in a homily every couple of weeks - just enough to take the surprise and the uninformed edge off of things. The Catholic Church has been rightly chastised for frequently showing up with the right answer after the argument is almost over, but this need not be the case now. Will it happen? Only time will tell, but I for one certainly hope we get out in front this time.