Page 5, 15th April 1977

15th April 1977
Page 5
Page 5, 15th April 1977 — The Liturgy question

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The Liturgy question

Somewhere in the article by Fr Anthony Boylan, Secretary of the Liturgy Commission, of April 8, may lie the germ of the answer to the liturgical problems which currently trouble us, and which I'm sure all "men of goodwill" wish to resolve.

Since people like labels, however inaccurate or unfair labelling is, write as a "disillusioned radical", one who welcomed the prospect of change, recognises the need for some change. but is deeply concerned by both the content and effects of many of the changes we have actually got, as I wrote in my letter of March 18.

Fr Boylan starts by writing: "Only one out of every three Catholics in England and Wales is happy with the new Order of Mass in English. This is the astonishing conclusion — in the Catholic Herald Gallup Poll Survey."

With all respect, in which circles does this astonishment arise? The poll is helpful in that it confirms what many people have known for some years; hut, unless communications have completely broken down, there should not really have been much astonishment.

The question is then put: "Why are so many people dissatisfied with the new Order of Mass in English?" and followed on with another, one that indicates what Fr Boylan and many feel contains the bulk of the answer to the first, namely: "How often have you been present at a Mass celebrated in English according to the New Order which was carefully prepared, celebrated with dignity and was edifying in every way?'

Great Debate

I hope that the contribution of Catholic educationists to the "Great Debate" will not be devalued by the unproven and unsupported claims that E. J. M. Lawn makes for Catholic schools in his letter of April 1.

All schools have as their objectives, either implicit or explicit, the encouragement and maintenence of high standards, order and courtesy among their pupils. Equally, all schools would claim to assert the privacy and dignity of the individual . child within the community life in the school.

The reality is, of course, that many schools, including Catholic schools, fail to achieve these objectives with an increasing and significent minority of their pupils. The recognition of such failure, and the reasons for it, are at the heart of the increasing public debate in education.

The essential contribution of Catholic educationists must therefore be to prove their claim that they possess a unique solution, to an increasing complex and difficult problem.


In view of the raa that many non Catholics, even those with other allegiances, are interested in the history and practice of the Catholic Church, and in some cases would appreciate a closer link, may one suggest an 'associate membership' as with some Free Church congregations, or corporate membership like the local branches of the United Nations Association?

A parallel membership of two churches is not unknown among the non Catholic churches. Could not the same principal be applied to the Catholic church, helpful to the individual and to the Church in the long run?

El. V. Molesworth Surrey.

I can answer the latter question: Several times, but such celebrations are very much the exception rather than the rule: the norm is variable banality, and I have experienced ,many more dreadful liturgies than ones which could be described as edifying in every way.

Fr Boylan then writes: "What a sad reflection this is upon the instruction given during these years." He follows immediately in his next paragraph with: "One is obliged to admit that the many who do not see the point of active participation understand little about the liturgy. There is only one remedy for that: more effective instruction",

Somewhere, I feel, we are getting near the nub of the problem: preparation, dignity, edification, participation, understanding and instruction.

'the reverential celebration of the New Order so often seems to demand more than the bulk of priests and congregations have in fact got to give. Priests have said to me: "It is of course far more difficult and tiring than the old Mass" . . . "It needs a histrionic talerit that unfortunately I just do not possess, and neither do many of my brother priests" . "Unfortunately, we're not all extroverts" ... "I quite simpIdy cannot concentrate when I'm dog-tired after a night at a deathbed, and this personal failure is ruthlessly exposed by the new order, whereas it was largely hidden, as far as the people were concerned, in the old".

The exposure of the variabilities, imperfections and inadequacies of real, rather than copybook, priests and people surely cannot be entirely overcome by better preparation, since at the grass-roots the time is seldom, in practice, available. Dignity? Some priests have natural dignity, some can cultivate it, but some just are not dignified, either in voice, appearance or posture. Surely dignity and histrionic talent are not going to be made prerequisites of a vocation? There are few enough young priests already.

Widespread edification? I submit that our innovators are being unrealistic, are making the mistake of requiring on a wide scale something that just does not exist. Please, come down to earth, friends.

Participation? One needs a psychiatrist to write on the variability of the human wish to participate, but I cannot condemn the proverbial washerwoman who saidher beads as she sat near the back during Mass, wearing her husband's cap, and a black eye acquired during the preliminaries to a "loving relationship" with the drunken husband.

She was Mere through thick and thin, and would go to the stake while plenty of 'thinkers" were producing convincing reasons, marvellously clever reasons, why they should not.

Understanding? Modern Man is of course different from the past: he is so much cleverer, isn't he? I am reminded of the generation of scientists just before my father's. They knew, with massive certainty, that given just a very few more years they would have the bulk of man's problems solved — disease, hunger, poverty, etc.

After all, the atom was one and indivisible, and everything was discoverable! They were atheist almost to a man. It is interesting to note how today scientists are far more humble, and far more theist. And they deal with much that is empiric, unlike the liturgist or the catecheticist.

Instruction? All dogs can be trained to jump through paper hoops, all horses can be made to drink when led to water!

No. In the simplest outline, with all respect to Fr Boylan, I cannot agree that when the laity have been taught to understand the essentialness of participation, edification will result from dignified, well prepared liturgy. This attitude gives vastly too much regard to only one characteristic of Man, his wretched brain, has somehow lost touch with the gap between the normal and the ideal, with people as they actually are rather than as they might be. with unchanging, fallible human nature.

Fr Boylan's language is clearly English, so mine must be some Patagonian dialect, and sadly there is no interpreter around.

J. C. L. Inman Barrow,

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

In your issue of April 1 you publish further findings and observations about the Survey, but one important factor has been overlooked: the direct comparison between preference for the Old Rite as opposed to the New Rite in Latin.

Having checked the facts with a patient • member of your staff, it would seem prudent, owing to some confusion, to leave aside the 47 per cent who voted for an optional liturgy. though there are indications that not a few of these would, in fact, opt for the Old Rite; the relevant questions did not allow for an expression of personal preference plus genuine altruism. This is a pity.

There is, however, a clear distinction between the 14 per cent who prefer only the Old Rite in Latin and the 2 per cent who prefer only the New Rite in Latin — a difference of 12 per cent, Our views having been sought and given, and, in this narrow field, clearly expressed. it is surely not unreasonable to ask that greater attention he paid by those in authority to what is a genuine pastoral need: that Mass in Latin in the Old Rite should again be made available to those who prefer it, without restriction.

(Miss) Merryn Howell Hon Secretary to Diocesan Representatives, The Latin Mass Society Bewdley, Worcestershire.

The discussion on English in the Mass should take some account of the quality of ICEL English simple, clear, yes: ,but lacking in beauty, cadence or rhythm. The language is impoverished. One of the translators put it clearly: "We had to produce a translation that

President Amin could understand."

But they have not even succeeded in this simple aim. At a recent meeting of secretaries of National

I iturgical Commissions with the ICEL Secretariat more than one national secretary complained that the ICEL English was beyond the comprehension of the people !

Really there should be at least two English versions of the liturgy: one for those who appreciate the richness of Shakespeare's English and another in Basic English for those who cannot.

Downside Abbey,

Stratton on the Fosse,


Fr Boylan says in his article on the choice of liturgy that he was astonished by the number who still wanted the Tridentine Mass. When I saw that figure I simply believed that Tridentists had bought up copies of the questionnaire, to try to swamp the response.

Fr Boylan gives much needed encouragement to press ahead with raising the standard of worship.

Many priests say the New Mass with a Sunday congregation with the same attitude and in the same tone of voice as they said the old Mass with a single server,

They mumble, they speak the words as though no one were listening and they do everything themselves and do not cncouraee any lay participation.

Perhaps it is because so many say the new Mass in the spirit of the old that many still prefer the old.

I come from a parish where the priests do make every effort to say the New Mass with convection and dignity and the idea that there should be a return to the Tridentine Mass would be laughed at, It would be like advocating the return of burning heretics.

The Tridentine Mass belonged to tt different age. It contained essential truths,. just as the New Rite dots, but they were wrapped in a language dripping with the political and cultural attitudes of a world which has passed. They were legalistic, anti ecumenical and triumphalist.

To allow the Tridentine Mass to return would he to encourage these attitudes, They must have no place in modern Christianity.

London NI.

In his article of April 8, Fr Anthony Boylan draws attention to the fact that "only one-third is happy with the New Order of Mass in English". It follows, therefore, that there must be reasons. And so, by what right does Fr Boylan tell us that "complaining about translations must end."

The reason we complain is that we have been let down by him and the majority of our bishops, They supinely accepted the ICEL translation despite that fact that, in the

main, their own by the National Liturgical Commission, was vastly superior. This can be seen from a

certain Mass leaflet which shows the NLC and ICEL translations side by side.

It is the acceptanee, of this banal and ambigious translation of ICEL which has caused all the divisiveness in this country, with socalled Tridentinists out on a limb; youth (who appreciate beautiful English more than their elders think) being forced out of the Church by sheer boredom; and others like myself who, an. active member of the Vernacular Associa

tion up to Vatican II, now prefer to attend a Latin (Normative) Mass in order. to be sure of getting sound Catholic doctrine.

In 1975 I was invited to the meeting of ICEL held in London, and since then 1 have had much cor respondence with them and I am assured that the points I raised will

be considered by their standing committee to improve the translations over the years.

I have sent photo-copies of all the correspondence to various bishops which have been acknowledged very kindly, and one archbishop wrote: "I confess that I ant entirely in agreement with you concerning your comments on the ICEL translations."

And so, pace Fr Boylan, I shall go on complaining and encourage others to do so. I ant hound to say the Catholic Credo but not the Protestant authored Credimus with its at least playing down of Catholic doctrine.

"Of one being with the Father" is not a true translation from the Latin, but is also a different mean ing from "of one substance". Are we so stupid that we can't under stand the latter, when even the Anglicans have been using the phrase for the past 400 years? And

we also know the meaning of "visible and invisible", of which "seen and unseen" is an over simplification.

I cannot answer for my fellow Catholics by using the plural form, and Ronald Knox was quite clear when he wrote: "When we sing the Credo, we are not meant to lose

ourselves in a crowd. Every clause of it is an expression of my opinion, for which 1 am personally responsi

ble . . each of us, in lonely isolation. makes himself or herself responsible for the tremendous statement, 'I believe in God'," I will not say the truncated Gloria, also from the same stable, nor will I deny that the Church is "Holy" by omitting the adjective from the English version of the Sitsciplat.

But these are only a few examples. If we ever get the suggested committee in every parish to advise on liturgy, Fr Boylan will find that he will have more complaints than he ever imagined.

Pimlico, London

Since many correspondents complain that they receive quantities of unsolicited materiel through the poet after ' having their latters published in these columns, we will not print full addresses of correspondents unless requested to do so.

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