(Photo from Father Lawrence Lew, O.P. - God’s Excessive Love - Used With Permission)
" “The trouble with the world is me.” - St Catherine of Siena

Monday, February 20, 2012

Are The Masses You Attend Celebrated Worthily and Holily - Part II

In a previous post, we reviewed the definition of a “worthily and holily celebrated Mass” that Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. offered in his book ThePriest In Union with Christ - a book I again highly recommend.

As painful an exercise as the following may be, it would be worthwhile to take a look at two other types of Masses the good Friar describes – “the hurriedly said Mass” and the one that is “outwardly correct but lacks the spirit of faith” - neither of which has resurrected or can resurrect the sense of awe and amazement in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Eucharist to which Catholics are entitled and that Blessed John Paul II advocated and so longed for each of us to experience.

 This is, in part, what Father Reginald has to say about a “hurriedly said Mass”:

“This haste in saying Mass shows that the priest has lost sight of the true importance and seriousness of his life. For him it is no longer the Mass that matters most, but outward activity and a pseudo-apostolate. With the disappearance of almost every vestige of an interior life, there has disappeared also every hope of a fruitful apostolate, since that is the heart and soul of any genuine apostolate…

 A Mass offered in haste is a scandal, in so far as the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo and Sanctus are recited mechanically, without any spirit of faith…The prayers of the Missal are read as though they were of no importance, whereas they are pregnant with such meaning as will only be fully grasped in the light of the Beatific Vision.

The Mass becomes a mere formula of words, rendering contemplation impossible. And yet, if there are any words which ought to be recited with the utmost care and contemplative insight, they are the words of the Missal – the Kyrie, the Gloria and the Credo. But in the hasty Mass they are recited mechanically in order to finish Mass more quickly. Genuflections are made with equal haste – empty gestures, devoid of the spirit of worship…”

The wise friar then describes another deficiently celebrated Mass, one that is “outwardly correct but lacks the spirit of faith”:

This Mass is one in “which the priest pays careful heed to the external rite, to all the rubrics – perhaps he himself is a keen rubrician - but he offers the Mass as though he were nothing more than a mere ecclesiastical official, seemingly devoid of any spirit of worship. He knows the rubrics and observes them, but he pays little regard to the infinite worth of the Mass or to the principal Offerer whose minister he is. Such a priest is another Christ in outward appearance only, in so far as he possesses the priestly character enabling him to offer Mass validly, but he displays no signs of the true spirit of a priest. It would appear that since the day of his Ordination, Sanctifying Grace and the sacramental grace of Orders have not increased to any appreciable extent, although they were given as a treasure to yield rich dividends.

True the priest who celebrates in this way will think he is saying his Mass extremely well by reason of his scrupulous regard for the rubrics, but that is the limit of his aspirations. The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, the words of Consecration and the Communion prayers are said without any spirit of belief.”

A short handed way to express these concerns is to reference the heading of a column written by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. entitled, “How we pray shapes what we believe.”  The Latin phrase, Lex orandi, lex credendi, expresses the same concept.

Catholics will unlikely come to a true appreciation and understanding of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass if all they ever see is a “hurriedly said Mass” or one that is “outwardly correct but lacks the spirit of faith”.

The words of Father Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. are an invitation for all to recognize the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the single greatest daily event happening on this planet, and a reminder to all priests, as St. Pius X taught, that “The sanctity of the Christian people depends in large measure on the holiness of their priests.”

This great Dominican author and teacher would have appreciated the words of Blessed John Paul II: “Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or the community in which the mysteries are celebrated…No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands; it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, note 52).

He certainly would have been heartened and encouraged by the expanding availability of the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the recent revisions to the Roman Missal, as should we and our priests.

Pray for our priests, particularly for any who may not treasure the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as they ought.

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