Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Unsalvageable Novus Ordo

In my last post ("Converting a Novus Ordo Parish to Tradition") I spoke about situations where a mainstream, diocesan Novus Ordo parish can be "converted" to a more traditional practice of the Catholic faith, culminating in the establishment of the Traditional Latin Mass on a permanent basis. I used the example of my parish and discussed the specific conditions that all came together to bend our parish back from the brink of madness to sanity in a period of five years. I offered this sort of strategy as an option for reaching out to well-meaning Novus Ordo Catholics who are open to tradition and would be amenable to the Traditional Latin Mass.

Now it is time to look at the flip-side of the coin.

Because the fact is, this is not always feasible. It's not that a parish can be "too far gone" to ever be brought back—remember, when the reform in my parish began, we were using tie-dyed vestments, puppet masses, and engaging in liturgical dancing. Only five years later we had the Traditional Latin Mass. So it's not a matter of how "far gone" a parish is. Even so, for such a transformation to occur, a lot of pieces need to come together in the right manner, some of them fortuitously. For example, in the beginning my parish was suffering financially and scheduled to be clustered or closed. Therefore our bishop didn't really care that our pastor was raising eyebrows with his traditionalism because the parish was on the chopping block anyway. Who cares if an eccentric pastor rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic? But what would have happened had my pastor tried the same thing at one of the very large, multi-million dollar urban parishes with 4000 families? Would the bishop have permitted it to go on?

So as we can see, such a transformation is not always possible, despite peoples' best efforts. Furthermore, to try to work from the inside to help a Novus Ordo parish move towards tradition presumes there is some sort of grounds for hoping this might actually occur. But sometimes, there is no rational basis for hope. Sometimes the situation is manifestly unsalvageable.

This Christmas was very complicated for me. For reasons of family, Christmas scheduling, travel, etc. I ended up having to fulfill my Christmas obligation at a parish I never go to. What a cluster-bleep. The music was just...ugh...they had a full-band with a drum kit and the whole shebang. They played traditional Christmas hymns like Joy to the World and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing but with obnoxiously upbeat tempos and power-chord guitar riffs that rattled by teeth because the acoustics of the church amplified the already obnoxiously loud sounds so much. The homily was tripe. More rock music during holy communion as an army of EMHCs swarmed down into the congregation to distribute the sacrament so no parishioner had to undergo the inconvenience of having to walk more than ten feet to receive Jesus. 

Let me ask you, what do you think of when you think of the Novus Ordo? What vision enters your head? Maybe it's crappy homilies. Perhaps it's some form of liturgical abuse, or bad music, or some other novelty. Those things would come to my mind as well. However, it was while walking back from Holy Communion at this Christmas Eve Mass that I saw something that more perfectly instantiates the spirit of the Novus Ordo than anything I'd ever witnessed. There were these two Boomers sitting there—a husband and wife, probably in their early 60s—sitting in folding chairs against the wall because there was no room in the pews. I passed by them on the way back to my seat. The wife was half-heartedly trying to follow along, mumbling the words to Joy to the World but unable to find the rhythm within the weird rock adaptation being performed. But the husband, well, the look on his face was priceless. He was hunched over, with the most blank, expressionless look of abject apathy. Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man the number of shits this guy didn't give. Total indifference. It was the quintessential "" face.

And that, my friends, is the real tragedy of the Novus Ordo. The sheer apathy it inspires, the way (at least in its common manifestations) it siphons off so much of what is truly inspiring about the Catholic faith. If I were writing a book about the Novus Ordo and had to select a single image for the cover that exemplified every objection traditionalists have to this liturgy, it would be the lethargic, drooping face of that Boomer I saw Christmas Eve.

After the Mass ended the band broke out into another Christmas rock anthem, kids were dancing around in the pews, the pastor was doing a pathetic jig in his chasuble while parishioners guffawed and took photographs. And this is one of the larger parishes in the region—one of those very affluent churches with thousands of families, the sort of place where the bishop would probably tolerate no disruption of the status quo. As I left that night, I thought to myself, "Yeah...this parish is probably unsalvageable." The process I described in my previous article would never be permitted to unfold here.

And that's what is so depressing about the Novus Ordo. What you get is entirely dependent upon the mood, disposition, and piety of the celebrant. No matter what anybody says to the contrary, it inevitably ends up being an expression of the priest's desires and liturgical vision. This can be great if the priest is traditionally minded, but even then it's a backhanded victory, as the survival of tradition depends on the priest's good graces. Even in my parish (which I hold up as an example of how a bad parish can change), were a progressive priest to get assigned there, he could undo everything that has happened since 2005. And the bishop probably wouldn't do crap about it.



consolata said...

Hi, I feel your pain: I went to an otherwise lovely church for a 7:30 Christmas Eve mass; until this year it always had a Wonderful midnight mass. the organist in the loft began Danny boy, after a medley of simply horribly loud singing et al; I had to leave. I just got up and left. I despaired of finding a Mass to attend that would not leave me in a state just like the man you mentioned. but I did, much like goldilocks and three bears; the third was,though a N.O.,reverent and I was so relieved.
a Holy Christmas to you !

FC said...

I agree with your assessment for the most part. It is very hard to put the Genie back into the bottle after you let it out, but it is possible. When I was a kid, the Novus Ordo was uplifting and done with great solemnity. If you could take a person back in time to that service, then visit a N.O. mass in my diocese today, that person would think that they were witnessing two different orders of Mass. My current pastor was trying hard to put the Genie back into the bottle and he was having limited success but is now being moved to another parish. The future is uncertain - especially when the liberals are very vocal and pushy in the church.
I believe a lot of this stems from the three groups of clergy coming out of Vatican II. 1. Those who want to go back to pre-Vatican II days. 2. Those who think Vat II accomplished the mission - no need to mess further with anything. 3. Those who think Vat II changes/reforms were only a start. It is this last group that dominates in the Catholic Church.

Michael Dowd said...

Agree. Overall, N.O. is irremediable because Vatican II Protestant theology on which it is based is a catastrophe. And this is exactly what was intended. Let us review the unguarded words of Archbishop Bugnini:

“We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren; that is for the Protestants.”
- Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, L'Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965

Here is a recent examination of Vatican II by David Martin:

The Vatican II Revolution Reexamined
Posted: 27 May 2019 05:32 PM PDT

jamesthe1st said...

In my opinion it is all about the money. At this point at least as far as the American bishops and the Papacy goes, I don't think anyone in charge really cares strongly about the liturgy in either direction. What we have now is a status quo that no bishop wants to touch because it will mean the lukewarm Catholics will get upset and leave with their money.
It will be interesting to see what happens as the slide of America away from having a Christian culture continues, and the Church loses its social credibility and wealth from new round of abuse lawsuits. I think that's when we will see bishops more boldly take up the cause of the tradition. They will see that the N.O. has no legs to sustain the faith when all the prestige and wealth is gone, while the places of lived tradition keep on growing.

Murray said...

The boomer generation and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.

We switched to an Anglican Ordinariate parish about three years ago and have never looked back. My initial plan had been to use the Ordinariate as a stepping-stone to the Latin Mass for my children, since it shares many of the same elements--traditional offertory, Last Gospel, ad orientem, Communion kneeling on the tongue--but at some point I realized that I just couldn't use these good people as a halfway house, so we ended up staying. It helps that we share the same church as our diocese's sole Latin Mass group and have good relations with them.

Our previous Novus Ordo parish was by far the best in the region, but even so, we got to a point where we just couldn't handle the intrinsically choppy hurdy-gurdy of the NO any longer. There's no coherent flow to it, the tone is constantly changing, and the whole thing was at the whim of the pastor and--even worse--the boomer "music minister", who forced us to rehearse the wretchedly forgettable "Responsorial Psalm" before each Mass in much the way that a kindergarten teacher cajoles a bunch of five yesr-olds to sing along to some infantile ditty.

But 90-plus percent of Catholics are fine with it, and many of them are much holier than I am. And that's kind of the point: the great majority of us aren't particularly holy, and aren't particularly good at prayer and reflection. And what does the Novus Ordo do to help those of us who most need shoring up in the Faith? Well, pretty much nothing.

M. Prodigal said...

I am fortunate to have a diocesan TLM offered at a parish in town every Sunday at noon and also on the holy days of obligation. But my relatives do not attend so we planned to go to a Christmas Eve Novus Ordo which I dreaded because of the C and E chatting folks in their jeans who would attend and, of course, go up for communion. I kept the thought of the Christmas TLM in mind so that I could endure the obvious sacrileges of the Novus Ordo Eve. But, my granddaughter got sick and so the family did not attend. One son, my brother, and I got to attend the TLM on Christmas. Oh, happy day!

The Novus Ordo had 4 Masses somehow at 4pm on the Eve. One in the gym, one in the Knight's Hall and one in the parish hall and one in the church but there are only 2 priests so some places must just have had big screens. Does that even count for attending Mass?

Son of Ya'Kov said...

Actually we should just chuck the Latin Rite altogether and only use Eastern Liturgies. The west is just one long novelty machine vs the East which preserves the worship of Old Testament Temple in its liturgies.

Just saying.....

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Son of Yakov. Yes, just abandon the Good, the True, and The Beautiful Real Mass rather than strive to restore it.

You are a Cuckolic

Prayerful said...

The Roman Canon is far older than any Eastern Anaphora.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

Actually the anaphora of the liturgy of Mar Mari and Mar Addi goes back to the 3rd century vs the Roman one which only goes back to the 7th.
Just Saying.


Why would you think I am actually serious? I don't care what liturgy one attends as long as it is in communion with the Roman Pontiff I couldn't care less.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting a little tired of people blaming the Boomers for everything bad that happened in the Church. As an older Boomer, born in 1952, I was just an adolescent when Vatican II took place and a teenager when the new changes were put in place. The ones that should have put their foot down were the full-grown adults, my parents' generation, I'm sorry to say — The Greatest Generation. But they didn't have the internet for info and had complete faith in the Pope and their parish priest. They'd been through the Depression and the War and were lucky if they survived. I do remember some of our parents speaking out in fury at the changes, but the tidal wave that was Vatican II was too relentless. Millennials, try looking in the mirror. Get the beam out of your own eye first. There's plenty you will be culpable for.