måndag 10 juni 2013

A New Recusancy?

The English composer William Byrd was a Catholic in Recusant times, when they were persecuted for their faith. The music he wrote for the underground Catholic community features in this edition of the BBC Early Music Show.

The English Reformation was a slow process on the ground, as many priests did their best to maintain the practices of Catholic worship despite the changes that were going on all round. This was largely a story of betrayal by the Catholic bishops and clergy - the faithful bishops were in a minority and only St John Fisher paid the death penalty. There was, however, no firm break until Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth in 1570 and then the serious persecutions began. Known as the Penal times, the persecution of English Catholics did not come to an end until the 1680s, and the last legal disabilities were not removed until the nineteenth century.

For the man in the pew, the transition time must have been a difficult one to negotiate, as it became necessary to discern the essentials. There is a contemporary resonance wt. It is widely accepted that the liturgy is a mess, though many would deny this. Some blame the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo Mass, but that is an argument that is difficult to sustain. It is perfectly possible to celebrate the Novus Ordo Mass in a way that virtually identical from the Tridentine form of the Mass. All that is necessary is for the priest to face the altar Ad Orientem and to follow the liturgy in the current edition of the Graduale Romanum ie to sing the Proper and the Kyriale in Latin/Greek according to what is in the book. This is not difficult. If the will to do so is present, there is no need for liturgy committees or even for hymn books as it is perfectly possible to celebrate Mass without hymns; these will usually be of Protestant origin and carry with them a destructive Protestant spirituality. There is no requirement for the disruptive Sign of Peace.

But the will is not present. In the majority of Catholic parishes, this does not happen. There is no contemplative sense. Attendance at Mass is a penance in these circumstances. Christ is still really present, but in the context of a liturgical rubbish heap. Such a thing is, if not impossible, difficult within the tightly defined framework of Tridentine Mass. This then raises issues about the Novus Ordo Mass, not in itself, but in relation to the rules that govern it, or rather, fail to govern it. Priests could help the situation, and bishops even more so, but as a rule they do not and then become part of the problem.

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