SIR.—As one who claims friendship with both Dr. Arbuthnott and Fr. Daniel, and has ample experience of Mass with and without the ocal co-operation of the faithful, I would offer some comments on the matter of " depression"!
Dr. Arbuthnott quoted a word-picture of a silent and rapt congregation, and confessed he felt " depressed" at Fr. Daniel's remarks on such silent Masses.
I am sure we all agree as to the beauty of the picture drawn, for any Mass said reverently is a lovely thing; yet could we say that the scene is really that of liturgical prayer as regards the people depicted'?
Identical words would describe any set of devout people at prayer, as, say, at Exposition. Indeed, some might deduce from the passage that such peace and prayerfulness is only obtainable at a " silent " Mass.
That is not so. Experience has proved that there can be an extraordinary sense of peace at a recited Mass. At one church where the dialogue Mass prevails, all who attend its services comment on the great peacefulness, and the visitors note the deep prayerfulness of the congregations. I may add that no one who has acquired the habit of reciting Mass with the priest ever wishes to return to their former practice of silent prayer at Mass. As one Catholic said to me : "1 have had a new panorama of prayer opened out to me."
After all, at both types of Masses there are the same audible prayers and the same silences; only at the recited Mass the priestly people take their full share in the public liturgy and do not leave it all to the celebrant and his server.
What is the liturgy but the corporate worship of God's entire Church—a worship expressed by visible acts and audible words?
When Fr. Daniel spoke of being depressed by the silence of congregations at Mass, be voiced my own experience. Once a priest is used to hearing his people respond "Et cum spiritu tuo" •to his " Dominus Vobiscum," and finds his appeal, "Orate fratres," really answered with the very form provided—"Suscipiat," he invariably experiences a sadness when the gracious rhythm of the liturgical dialogues is broken by silence. Such a silence is not a peace but as the shock of a sudden failure of some instrument in the midst of a beautiful passage of music.
After all, we have all the day for silent prayer.. Can we afford to neglect our one daily opportunity for corporate, common
prayer. so loved by Our Lord'? At the institution of the Eucharist Christ and His disciples prayed in common and aloud. He commanded: " This do." Can we fulfil that command better than by following the example given?
ARTHUR JOHN VALENTIN. The Catholic Rectory, Stevenage, Herts.
Sta.—Having carefully perused Fr. David Arbuthnott's quotation from the very subjective impressions of " a very well known writer," I am still unconvinced that the Roman Liturgy is best expressed by the unpretentiousness of " paper flowers and tinsel ornaments " combined with " swift ritual, business-like gestures" (!) and the lack of articulation described as a " blessed murmur."
Religion, despite the Bolshevik slogan, is not an Opiate but an Inspiration. The small congregation so poetically described by the well-known writer might have been augmented by a brisker element if the beatific mumbler had made himself intelligible! Many people find silence as depressing as the tawdriness and tinsel—so often associated in a presentation of Catholic worship which has notably failed in many lands.
His Lordship of Leeds reminds us elsewhere in your columns that we should give up " the bad habit of judging things and ruling our lives by sentimentality rather than by right reason."
The Rubrics tell us quite clearly how to say Mass. Our personal sentiments are of no importance.
IVOR DANIEL. Pembroke Dock.
sut,—lt is with great interest that I have been watching the correspondence between Fr. Daniel and Fr. McKenna concerning the Mass, and would beg of you a little space to voice the humble opinion of a layman.
Fr. Daniel's view of the active participation of the laity in the liturgy is one, I think, that is shared by a good many, if not the majority, of the younger clergy of today, and prompted by an intelligent understanding and sympathy of the lay Catholic's attitude and feeling towards the Great Sacrifice.
Undoubtedly, there exists a division of opinion amongst the laity concerning their active part in the Mass, though this is greatly due, I think, to the lack of understanding of the corporate nature of the Mass.
Having been in the fortunate position of being an altar server for sixteen years, can readily appreciate the difference between being present on the altar and assisting the priest both vocally and actively, and that of being a " mere spectator," as it were, at the back of the church at High Mass. (It's worse at Low Mass). One gets that feeling of utter helplessness, then a great longing to join with the choir — to share spontaneously that great inward joy one can get—all too often stifled, made to listen to the choir " performing " some classical Mass.
One sees a lot from the back of the urch. Restlessness, turning around, whispering, etc., when one would expect great concentration on the altar wherein is He Who is so much to us. A friend of mine, when gently reproached for dashing out of church immediately the " Ile missa. est " was sung, replied, "Well, dash it; he tells you to hop it, so why not?"—a view which, I'm afraid, is shared by more than I care to imagine.
A silent Mass never impresses me. It depresses--badly. One regrets to see divisions amongst the clergy over this highly important issue, and I see no hope for stopping the great leakage of our youth from the church until a greater understanding and active participation of our great centre of worship is encouraged more often. Perhaps I am unduly pessimistic. I hope so.
3, Pitvillc Place, Bristol, 6.
SIR,—I am surprised to find anyone defending what seems to me the indefensible --the inaudible Mass.
Apart from specific rubric directions, the structure of the Mass is without point if certain parts of it are inaudible. The Mass is a corporate act of worship, not a private one at which others look on. It was not designed as a piece of dumb-show.
If the Mass is said inaudibly, those who would unite their thoughts with those of the Church cannot do so. They cannot look at their books and the priest simultaneously—a feat which is necessary where the priest cannot he heard.
The " inexpressible stillness," described so attractively by the Rev. David Arbuthnott's convert, is fitting enough at a Quaker meeting or a Holy Hour, but scarcely appropriate to that act of family worship which is the Mass.
NORMAN C. REEVES.
398, Slade Road, Erdington, Birmingham.
SIR.—May I venture to intrude into this correspondence, which frankly seems to me to be somewhat unrelated to any actual behaviour in churches of this country, by pouring a very cold douche?
At one of the great Catholic public schools of England it used to be—and I believe still is—the custom (authorised by the religious authorities) for boys to read any book out of the Spiritual Library during the course of High Mass, up to the Canon. Such books included such " spiritual fiction as the novels of R. H. Benson and Newman.
Doesn't this thought make the correspondence rather airy?
S1R,—May I thank Topcliffe for his article on "Some Common Mispronunciations" and, incidentally, for teaching me how to pronounce despicable? There are two further points I should like to raise. In his first paragraph he says "to mizzle would make a good verb to use of the weather when it was something between a drizzle and a Scotch mist." Now the word to mimic is used with precisely that meaning in Leicestershire—it also has another and more slangy meaning which does not concern us here. Remembering this, I looked the word up in my dictionary, and there I found " mizzle . . . To rain in
very fine drops." Is this a case of unconscious memory on Topcliffe's part? Etymologically the word may he related to the Dutch word " miezelen "; it would be interesting to find out how it came into use in the Midlands.
The second point: I should like Topcliffe's opinion on the pronunciation of the word refectory. Is it ref' ectory or refec' tory?
W. J. SPARROW.
59, Chestnut Drive, Erdington, Birmingham.