Frequent Communion' 'versus" Sung Mass
OR, Can We Have Both ?
By DOM BERNARD McELLIGOTT In a recent letter to the Catholic Herald Mr. Basil Krauth alluded to two articles by Dom Martin Rochford which appeared in Music and Liturgy (July and October, 1936).
Incidentally, Music and Liturgy deserves to be much better known. Edited by Dom Gregory Murray of Downside Abbey (and obtainable from him at Downside) it caters both for the scholar and for the " man in the pew," the general Catholic who wishes to know more about the Liturgy and to take his part in it. It is the quarterly magazine of the Society of St. Gregory, whose principal aim it is to bring back the Liturgy to the people by encouraging active liturgical worship among congregations.
Father Rochford's two articles, brief and much to the point, deal with a practical prOblem.
With the Sung Mass at 11 o'clock, as is the custom, how can frequent Communion be combined with the people's full active part in the Liturgy? Both arc urged by the Holy See as of the first importance for the renewal of a truly supernatural life among us. By encouraging participation in a congregational Mass at 11 o'clock are we not making them alternatives for most Catholics?
A Congregational Mass As the perception or our need of ;le active social offering of Mass grows and deepens, as our response to the teaching and clear command§ of the Holy See becomes a ready and enlightened loyalty, The Rev. Alec Robertson's book, The Interpretation of Plainsong, will be the subject of Fr. McElligott's next article.
the principal parish Mass on a Sunday will more and more become a congregational Mass. The choir will sing the Proper (perhaps to a psalm tone at first) the Ordinary and Responses will he sung by the congregation, who will make united sacrifice to God in full co-operation with their priest.
But, as Father Rochford points out, how can this be brought about if we maintain 11 o'clock as the hour for the Sung Mass? For it is on the whole just those people who will take the corporate Liturgy seriously as the centre of their lives who will also wish to go to Holy Communion. Some, of course. would go to Holy Communion at an early Mass, go home to breakfast, and come back for the congregational Mass. But obviously it cannot be expected that the congregation as a whole will do this.
By having the Sung Mass at 11 o'clock we are in fact giving the congregation a choice between Holy Communion and taking an active part in the Sung Mass.
What is the solution?
Father Rochiord's suggestion is to make the Sung Mass one of the earlier Masses, at 9. 9,30, or possibly even 10 o'clock.
The II o'clock Mass would then become a Low Mass with a long sermon. There will be a responsive smile to his suggestion that the longer this sermon is, the better. Those whom he calls the "practising" Catholics, who turn up at 11.20 or 1130 for the 11 o'clock Mass, managing to dodge the sermon and to scrape a technical conformity with grave obligation, will perhaps be led to think again.
An Attendance Analysed
No doubt some will come in at the last possible moment for the last possible Mass. Apart, however, from these, many choose the Sung Mass simply because it is the last.
Father Rochford comes to the conclusion that the average congregation at the "Eleven " may be roughly divided into:
(a) A few devoted people who have been to Holy Communion at an earlier Mass and conic back for the Sung Mass.
These are often the people who feel the need of liturgical prayer, are learning to love the Liturgy and long to take part in it. There are many others of like mind at the earlier Masses, but either they have not time to come back for the "Eleven" (they may be cooking the dinner or looking after children) or they do not feel called upon to endure being dumb auditors of the choir.
(b) Those who go to Holy Communion legs frequently and who rather like a 25-minute sermon at the principal Mass— the elderly portion of the congregation.
(c) Those we have already mentioned, who choose the "Eleven" because it is the last Mass.
I don't know if Father Rochford would agree, but we might perhaps add:
(d) Those who have conic to regard the "Eleven " as the main social function of Sunday, an observance of religion which demands the wearing of smart clothes, a certain social sell-consciousness and an
aloofness of mind. These rather resent being asked to join in singing the Mass as being something new tangled and not quite respectable. In this attitude to the Mass (not confined to any one social sphere) there is obvious danger of unreality, and an absence of the true purpose of worship. It is certainly one of the chief obstacles to holiness of life among us.
Difficulties—and a Suggestion If Father Rochford's analysis of the average congregation at the " Elevere'' taken as a very general estimate, is sound (and many readers of Music and Liturgy have concurred) the difficulty of corribining weekly Holy Communion with full practice of the Liturgy is clear.
Another difficulty, I think, is that the " Eleven " congregation, so constituted, is less likely to take to corporate liturgical worship than those who come to earlier Masses; several priests are expetienting this.
Why not, then, try making the 9 or 930 Mass the principal Mass?
Sung congregationally to plainsong a Missa Cantata, with many going to Holy Communion at it, would take no longer than 45-50 minutes; and with brief notices and a five-minute instruction, would 'be over within the hour. (Let us remember what the Pope says about the Liturgy itself being the greatest teacher of the truths of Faith).
The fast is not difficult for the majority, and there is the 8 o'clock Mass for those who do find it so.
Two Great Advantages
Are there any real difficulties in the way of such a scheme?
It has at least two very great advantages.
1. It makes active practice of the corporate Liturgy compatible with frequent Communion for the congregation as a whole.
The reception of Holy Communion is, as we know, the natural complement of the corporate Sacrifice. The practice of this would of itself arouse a deeper appreciation of Mass and Holy Communion —Corporate Sacrifice and Social Banquet would be seen as one supernatural whole.
2, The Sung Mass would become far more of an active spiritual centre of congregational and parish life than it is at present. Sung by the congregation and including the reception of Holy Cornmunion, it could not fail to strike both the devout and the apathetic with a new realisation of what the Mass is. The laggards and the self-absorbed would begin to understand what we go to church for, and the attraction of the supernatural in the parish generally would surely be strengthened.
Hungarian Calvinists Raise the Cross
A message from Budapest brings news that the Calvinist parish council of "Uj Lipotveros,the most modern part of the city, has decided to erect a cross on their new church.
In the course of an explanation, the council state that " a church whose greatest feast is Good Friday cannot be opposed to the 'Sign of the Cross.'" " By the use of the cross we protest against the empty and therefore dangerous anti-Catholicism. We are not afraid of the use of the cross for the Calvinist consciousness, but our heart bleeds for that negative kind of Calvinist who blindly protests against the sign of the cross and we would wish this Calvinist consciousness were a deep and Biblical consciousness and not just empty antiCatholicism. In the acceptance of the cross we see the symbolical settling of a historic score. We clearly feel that from our standpoint the 250 year old wounds are best borne and forgiven under the sign of the
cross, The cross cannot remain for the Hungarian Calvinist Church the sign of itreconcilability."