Page 5, 8th January 1965

8th January 1965
Page 5
Page 5, 8th January 1965 — For and against the liturgical changes

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Locations: London, Preston, Surrey, Leeds, Oxford


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For and against the liturgical changes

Sir,—Thank you for giving space to my letter (December 25). expressing some of the views of the dubious. Ynur own comments, however, are so wide of the mark that, little as I wish to trespass on your short space, I feel a reply is needed.

Let us be clear: I am not against experiments with the vernacular; I am against a policy which gets rid of the fully Latin Mass. I am fully conversant with the "whys and wherefores of the liturgical changes". When I say "experiment", I use the word in the Oxford Dictionary definition: "procedure adopted on chance of its succeeding or for testing hypothesis", Is this unfair? I am told, at any rate, that my own bishop will be reviewing the results of the present experiment.

You cannot justify the abolition of the fully Latin Mass by saving 1 "ignore the work of the 2,500 Bishops of the Vatican Council**. If you will again read the "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy" (Paras 36 and 54), you will see

(a) that use of the vernacular is permissive, not compulsory:

(s) that questions of policy and degree are largely in the hands of the local bishops; fel that "nevertheless steps must be taken to ensure that the faithful are able to say or to sing together, also in Latin, those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which are rightly theirs". and (d) it is specifically stated that "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites".

You do not like the word "malcontents". I wonder why? Surely, (again to follow the Oxford Dictionary) the vemacularists have been, and still are, "discontented persons", as far as the old-style Mass is concerned? And I personally am a malcontent, being "inclined to rebellion", when it comes to the present policy of proscribing the fully Latin Mass! So what?

You claim to he "in complete harmony with the mind of the Church" in your own "bias". I do not deny this to you. But is it a logical conclusion, therefore, that the rest of us are less completely in harmony'? This Council was initiated by Pope John. In the popular mind he is rightly associated with fresh air and change, but this does not justify all promoters of any kind of. change as being "John's men", May I recommend to your readers who seek a balanced view that they read Pope John's Veterum Sapientia, written in 1962 (it can be obtained from the C.T.S.) in which he not only enlogises Latin for its general cultural value but says: "the Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore. that the language it uses should be noble and majestic and nonvernacular" (italics in C.T.S. translation).

He goes further and admonishes the bishops that "they shall he on their guard lest anyone under their jurisdiction, being eager for innovation (novarum verum studios!), writes against the use of Latin in the teaching of the higher sacred studies or in the liturgy, or through prejudice makes light of the Holy Sec's will in this regard or interprets it falsely". "Mind of the Church"? This Apostolic consultation quotes Leo XIII, Pius XI and Pius XII, all in praise of Latin! The question to be answered, sooner or later, by our English bishops is this: Granted all the wisdom in vernacular experiments. where is the -wisdom in no Latin MUSS at all on a Sunday? M. J. Moroney, Purley, Surrey.

It may be appropriate to recall the words of the Liturgical Constitution itself to understand the basic reason for the changes.—Editor.

"The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's followers. when present at this mystery of faith. should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through an adequate understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.

"They should be Instructed by God's word and he nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by ()Bering the immaculate victim nor only through the hands of the priest. but also with him. they should learn to offer themselves, through Christ their Mediator, they should he drawn dirty by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other.

Sir,—Mr. Reynold's misgivings about the placing of the Altar between the priest and the people, and his desire that he should remain one of the company of worshippers by facing the sante direction as they do, show all too clearly how deeply the heritage of the middle ages still colours our patterns of devotion.

A place of worship, arranged in the way to which we are most of us accustomed caet only result in the loss of any sense of the imminence of God, that He is here amongst us. Inevitably the focal point of the building, to which the attention of the worshippers is naturally drawn, is not as the new Instruction on the Liturgy requires, the Altar, but something above and beyond it. This may be the altar, crucifix, or the figure in the reredos or window. Somehow God seems remote and transcendent, "out there beyond".

When the priest stands or sits, as occasion demands, behind the altar facing the people, the N■hole action of the Mass is drawn forward and downward and is focused quite naturally on the altar. It then becomes clear that the priest is not just "one of the worshippers" but God's deputy appointed to preside over the service of instruction, praise and prayer which is the liturgy of the Word, and the sacred banquet which is the Eucharist.

If the chairman at a secular meeting were to stand for the greater part of the time with his back to those present addressing his remarks to some unseen being we should think it very strange. Worse still if the host at a banquet were to say grace at the sideboard with his hack to the guests. Yet this is what the mediaeval "eastward position" of the priest amounts to. Is it really possible for him in the words of the Instruction "truly to be seen to preside over the faithful" from any such place?

As regards the practical questions, Mr. Reynolds need not worry. Both the altar crucifix and the gestures of the priest which seem so out of place once the mediaeval position is abandoned only arose at about the same time as it was adopted. The first thousand years of Christianity knew none of them, and before long they will be once more a thing of the past. The proper place for the crucifix, and that the older figure of the Triumphant Risen Christ, is above and in front of the sanctuary entrance, while beyond, behind the altar, should be God in majesty.

Mr. Reynolds must not forget that the Mass leads us not merely to the foot of the cross, but beyond to the resurrection and ascension into glory.

T. Sweeney. London, N.7.

Sir,—Judging by the amount of correspondence we have seen on the (admittedly important) question of the Vernacular, it can hardly be said that discussion is being curbed (as does M. J. Moroney, December 25), though 1 would agree that most of the relevant points have by now been aired. But the ten curt questions posed by the same writer are far too tempting for one not to attempt ten curt replies: 1. (Why, if the Vernacular is an experiment, has the Latin Mass been virtually abol ished?)—No question of experiment 'after years of discussion and the Holy Spirit's Council into the bargain. Anyway, most dioceses leave the language of weekday Mass to the parish priest's decision.

2. (Why the haste?) — After friteert hundred years, this is scarcely 'haste', (Were the laity consulted?)— Probably more then in any other question to date.

4. (What about Catholic workers migrating to Protestant countries?) — What about all the Catholics who arc born and bred in these 'Protestant' countries?

5. (Is Latin less use than other small languages such as Welsh, Basque, etc.?) -Tell me even the smallest place where the natives speak Latin. (Incidentally, Dutch is not insignificant with over 16 million speakers.) 6. (Why no 'parallel running' as with new soap :powders?) Community worship is not merchandise and there are other criteria besides expediency; also this is no 'experiment'.

7. (The language of worship is analogical, so why the great need to 'understand"?) — No need to make things worse! And worship is an 'act' more than an 'understanding'.

(Why not have a complete English Mass straightaway?) —Indeed, why not?

9. (If Latin is dead, why not impose English, the new international language, for the sake of unity?) — Precisely. we no longer wish to impose an international language, and anyway uniformity is the lowest form of unity.

IC. (Why the CATHOLIC HERALD'S bias and censorship of conflicting, opinions?) — On the evidence of recent weeks, the Latinists have had ample press—three letters out of six on December 25, for instance. The rest is explained in the Editor's own comment.



M. Kerrigan,


Bouyer (January 1) makes some very sweeping and quite unjustifiable strictures against all Catholics until November 29th, 1964. Our mental attitude at Mass until then has been routine and inattentive, hypocritical and a foreign piety.

What signs have we and our countless ancestors over thousands of years shown that we did not understand or take part in the Mass? Did our martyrs die and OUI Wm-Gun-mil SUftvr for SUM ill omprehensible routine in which they could not incorporate themselves? Who judges our minds and hearts at Mass? Does the Church suddenly become a "Church of today" because some prayers of the nld Mass or omitted, some are said in English and some standing?

After all the vernacular makes no difference to those who follow their missals and many thousands do and must continue to do unless they arc no longer to take part as before in the perfect prayers daily repeated and those that vary as the collect, offertory, secret, etc.

The call today is to "take a card and join in the Mass". How can one join in the Mass from a card which contains only a fraction of it and not the most important fraction either? The greatest reform and the best thing the clergy everywhere could do would be to buy (out of their parishioners pockets) a missal for every place in their church and teach their flock to use it, tell them what Mass they are going to say and for what intention. abandon the 'idea that they are onlookers with glazed faces and empty minds, and whether their responses are heard or not heard by the priest in Latin, English or Chinese, accept, as an act of faith if they find it difficult in reason to believe, that they are beard by God as they offer Him His crucified and beloved Son. Jerome Burrough,


Sir,—Mass facing the people is not a change in the true sense of the word, or an experiment but a return to the position as it was at the Last Supper when the first Mass was said, Christ at the supper table, facing His disciples who were grouped around Him.

Accordingly, when the priest who takes the place of Christ faces the people dosing the Mass they isecome directly involved in what, is happening at the altar because they can sec what he is doing and understand what he is saying, Complaints of 'distraction only arise 'because for so long the people have had little else to look at than the priest's back, and the priest will now face live people instead of a blank wall. A greater awareness of each other's presence will emphasise the true meaning of the communal act of worship. (Miss) H, Langerak, London. W.I7.

Sir,—With dismay I read Canon Burrett's letter (December 181. Those of its who deplore the passing of our Latin Mass are merely regretting the loss of' a discipline which involved tan making some effort to really understand and take part in the central act of worship. Not only the new Mass but other mooted ideas are reducing the practice of our religion to its lowest common denominator. Before ihis we took delight in helping others less fortunate in education, or converts, or out children to understand the unchanging beauty of the tongue. We were also deeply moved when we could serve Mass for a foreign priest with whom, perhaps, we could not converse in any other way, English Catholicism has always borne a taint of insularity and that taint is now deepened. We do not worship the 51 pet cent vote. The Church is not a democracy for obvious reasons. We respect our Bishops and Priests because of the sacramental mark they carry, but it does not prevent us from pondering how much the Holy Ghost comes into things after the seal is made.

Neither the Hirearchy nor clergy of this country is in touch with the hopes and ideals of the laity. This is to generalise, I admit. and therefere it allows for notable exceptions. but in most spheres of Catholic Action which I have experienced it has been usual.

There exists always the same patronising arrogance as is suggested by Canon Burrett's letter. I may speak for many when I say that we older Catholics (I am 40) would welcome some more severe discipline not as a condition of but as an addition to a little consultation and consideration.

Having written with some asperity I hasten to add that I answer Mass in English with fervour and gusto, It is, after all. a discipline in spite of the Hancock translation! J. F. Collins,

Preston, Lanes.

Sir,—On December 4, you carried a report that this 'society would he holding a meeting later in the month "at which members arc expected to decide to dissolve". is true that the vigorous way in which our bishops haye begun to apply the princktles of the Council's liturgical reform in this country means that our aim of promoting the use of English in the liturgy has been almost entirely fulfilled, but there is no present intention of dissolving the Society.

At a committee meeting on December 18, it was decided that the next annual general meeting of members should be invited to con sides the Society's future, and that in -the meantime financial grants would be made to assist the Hierarchy's translation committee, on which there are seven of our members, and the Church Music Association, No subscription will he requested for 1965, and members will he asked to send a corresponding donation direct to the Archbishop of Birmingham for the Hierarchy's translation committee. P. J. Cassidy, Honorary Secretary, Vernacular Society of

Great Britain,

We arc pleased to hear the lie! mrcalm Society, whore work has aaesi been supported by the CATHOI ir HERA, D. Li' turning its attention 10 new needs in the Church. Our earlier report about Us dissolution was based on information givers us by an official of the Society and we are glad .that it Is (1)11r:ie.—Editor.

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