Friday, May 13, 2011

A short history of the Hootenanny Mass & other absurdities (part 27 and last)

Letter to Harold “Hoot” and Annie Gibson cont. part 27


So what do we do now? First a word to the Catholicism-lite crowd -- be who you claim to be. Tolerate diversity. If there’s a group who wants to have Mass by the book, do a Mass for them without eight mini-sermons, liturgical dancers, incense in bean pots and lay concelebrants holding hands while singing Kumbaya. Have a Mass that allows the old fogies and the young fogies (to borrow Fr. Andrew Greeley’s phrase) to kneel for communion if they want, or to say the Our Father without holding the sweaty hand of some stranger. Have a Mass that’s guaranteed to be “by the book.”

The incomparable Fr. Zuhlsdorf quotes a liturgy director as saying “Say the Black, and Do the Red.” In the Roman Missal there are things called “Rubrics.” They are printed in red (ruber, Latin for red, red=ruby. Get it?) They are the directions for how to say Mass. There are words in black. They are what we are supposed to say.

For instance, one hears the phrase, “Pray, sisters and brothers.” After all, we want to be inclusive and affirmative so we must insert “sisters” and affirmatively put them first. The semi-literate drones that our institutions of higher learning now produce have no idea that “brethren” in English is the inclusive term, like “Geschwister” in German, which sounds like the word for sisters. When I am addressed at a German language Mass as Geschwistern I am not insulted. I don’t imagine anyone is favoring women over men.

However, some that now seem to run things are afraid of insulting someone so they have to add “sister” and say it first to be on the safe side. They don’t speak English very well and unaware that “Brethren” is an in inclusive term in modern English. (It is the archaic plural of “brother”) Well, the text says “Pray, Brethren”, not “Pray, sisters and brothers.”

My suggestion is that you have one Mass at your parishes in which you allow people to go to a Mass at which the Black is said and the Red is done ─ just one, Father. You can do your liturgical dancing and affirm your artistic side at the 11AM Mass. Just say the 9AM by the book, so that if a person wants to go to a Catholic Mass, she (or he) will have the opportunity to do so. I have always maintained that the faithful have a right to go to a Catholic Mass if they want to. It is your duty, Father, to provide at least one a Sunday. You can say a Mass later of which you are the star and during which you can let your inner poet out.

Now a word to my own brethren ─ the stick in the mud, curmudgeonly, reactionary, traditional types. Lighten up on the New Mass. If you are one of those folks that think that the new Mass is somehow less, somehow not quite as holy, and worst of all, one of those who think it is not valid, it is here that we part company. Have you no trust in God? Do you think the Holy Spirit is incapable of guiding the Church? The New Mass, as I have described it and as the Council Fathers (sorry, there were no Council Mothers as far as I can tell) envisioned it, is a very beautiful thing.

They envisioned a reverent Mass with much Latin, traditional postures and gestures, with the celebrant facing the Lord, when appropriate, facing the people when appropriate. The new Mass was supposed to involve kneeling, genuflection and so on. They envisioned a Mass in which the treasury of sacred music continued and Gregorian chant had pride of place, though allowance was made for a limited use of local music for pastoral reasons provided that music was of an appropriate nature.

Well if all that’s true, how have we ended up with the triumphalist, narcissistic, battle-of-the- bands lunacy that passes for liturgy? I have spent half a year explaining that and I am not going to repeat myself. I would however like to explain, at least in my own limited understanding, why we have the new Mass in the first place: Three simple words THE HOLY SPIRIT.

The Holy Spirit anticipated the wild ride. Blessed Pope John and the Council Fathers invoked the Holy Spirit and convened the council, giving a mandate to streamline the liturgy; they could not have seen what the world would become in forty years. They could have known nothing of handheld computer phones so common that eight-year-olds would have them. Who could have imagined the world wide web, the fall of Marxism, a roaring Chinese economy and an heroic, growing Chinese Christianity, as well as a resurgent Islam, (though Hilaire Belloc had warned us.)

They couldn’t have imagined, artificial birth control claimed as a civil right and enforced abortions as a civil duty. Would they have believed anyone who told them that filth would be available 24 hours a day on handheld televisions and that computer access to pornography would be defended by leftist librarians as a right even for children? They couldn’t have imagined gay parades led by Irish Catholic mayors. They couldn’t have imagined television commercials in prime time with nearly naked models hawking things to enhance etc. (family column). They would have wept to imagine the depravity of modern society and, infinitely worse, that some of the clergy would plunge themselves and the good name of Holy Mother Church into that sea of filth.

Certainly, they could not have imagined the collapse of education that was to afflict the generations raised by television sets and day care providers. Could they have possibly known that, in a wave of pseudo-tolerance, academic excellence would take a back seat to political correctness? Who knew that the great universities, secular and Catholic alike, would produce generations of culturally and sometimes functionally illiterate graduates who thought themselves brilliant?

Had the Council Fathers a clue, that forty years of politically correct, ideologically anti-Catholic religious education, largely taught and controlled by people who had turned their backs on religious life itself, would produce two whole generations of Catholics who learned nothing more about the faith than that Jesus loves me and this is how you hold your hands for first Communion? Who could have imagined that the heritage of two thousand years of art and wisdom, of saints, martyrs and scholars would be threatened with extinction in the blink of an eye?

I’ll tell you who ¬ THE HOLY SPIRIT! We live in a world that cannot chew gum and walk at the same time. We think we are brilliant, but we are among the stupidest generations in history. We think we are wise and knowing because we can do swell things with computer graphics and the latest software, but we moderns are the least personally productive and the least individually competent group of people since the fall of the Roman empire. When I was a lad, people still knew how to play musical instruments. Now they know how to play a radio. We listen to whatever music we please on handheld devices, but pull the plug and we are bored with the wind in the trees and the chirping of birds.

In the same vein, we can’t spell, but we can access spell check. We can’t add or subtract, but we can work a calculator. Have you ever been in a fast food restaurant when the computer is down? The pierced and painted sophisticates who work there can’t make change for a five dollar bill! We don’t talk to one another; we text short shallow messages. We can communicate by key board but there are precious few who can actually read or write handwritten messages. We don’t know how to grow a potato or raise a chicken or build a chair. When the power goes out, and at some point it will, if human history is any indicator, millions and millions of suave urbanites will wander around indignant that the government is not doing anything and then they will starve to death.

I am not urging you to run to a commune in the mountains. Jesus said, “But when these things begin to take place, stand straight and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21:28) Don’t run for the mountains this time. Stay. Live among those who don’t know the Lord, because they are going to need Him. If you abandon them, who will help them? The world has collapsed before and will collapse again.

For two thousand years, the Church has been the source and guardian of the civilization. Don’t you think the Holy Spirit is still in charge? The great difference between the New Mass and the Old Mass is that the Holy Spirit designed the New Mass to be LINEAR. That’s the whole difference. We live in a generation of intellectually-challenged electrified zombies who, as I mentioned earlier, can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

The old Mass was complex. The choir would do one thing, the celebrant another. There was time for quiet. There were things that happened that were unseen, unheard and unexplained. Earlier generations could perceive the sanctity and beauty of the ritual. When confronted by mystery, this generation says “Huh? I don’t get it.” So the Holy Spirit gave us a linear Mass. It is easy to understand, even if you are chewing gum.

Inspired by the same Holy Spirit, the Blessed John Paul and his successor, Benedict, have preserved the older more complex expression of the one sacrifice of Calvary for those to whom it is meaningful. At some times, for some people and in some places, the Latin Liturgy of John XXXIII is helpful. At some time, for some people and in some places the vernacular, linear Liturgy of Paul VI is helpful.

It is time for three things to happen.
1) Let us finally implement the council’s directives by “Saying the Black, and Doing the Red.”
2) It is time for liberals to finally be liberal and respect those for whom the traditional liturgy is meaningful.
3) And finally, it is time for people like me to stop harshing on people who are not capable of entering the mysticism of the old Mass.

As in the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors, the Holy Spirit has done something wonderful, despite the questionable motives of some of those He used. He has given the Latin Rite of the Church two liturgies, as in some of the Eastern Rites. We in the West now have the Liturgy of the Blessed John, which some call the Tridentine Mass, and the Liturgy of Paul VI which some people call the “Mass of Vatican Two” or “the New Mass” There are two widely available expressions of the Latin Rite, the Johannine Mass and the Pauline Mass. There is, however, no Hootenanny Mass, at least not in the vision of the Council.

I’m done now. I’ve gotten it all out and I feel better.


The Rev. Know-it-all

PS Don’t panic. The Rev. Know it all is not about to stop pontificating or fulminating. I think I will move on to the Rev. Know-it-all’s “Guide to Reading the Bible, the Big Book on the Coffee Table” and perhaps a diatribe against Ayn Rand.


  1. I'm not as good with words as you, Father, so I will get right to the point.


  2. Thanks for the many posts Father! I'd like to see them consolidated into booklet form. There's a lot of folks I'd like to pass them to "for guidance."

  3. I'm with Jack on this. You've managed to capture most of what's been bothering me since my conversion. If you make a book of this, I'll be happy to buy a copy.

  4. Yes. Please make a book out of this. I went back when I first found this blog and read all the installments in this series. It's awesome!

    Since the Hootenanny Mass happened, God clearly permitted it in order to bring about a greater good. My own theory is that one of the purposes the Hootenanny Mass served in His hidden counsels was to blow the lid off the rot, maggots and corruption that were already under the surface in the Church and put it right in our faces. Alice von Hildebrand said that her husband Dietrich first noticed the growing secularization and loss of the sense of the supernatural among Catholics in about 1920, but it remained masked underneath the beautiful Tridentine liturgy. I am prepared to believe that by 1969, many Catholics had long ceased to appreciate the beauty of the traditional Mass. And then it was taken away, and the modernist tinkerers came out from under their rocks and ran riot, and showed themselves.

    Since the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church, I look at the Hootenanny Mass as a cure -- painful and disgusting, like lancing a boil, but there is healing at the end of it. Now, among other things, I bet the Mass of tradition is celebrated with a lot more reverence and appreciation than before 1969.

  5. Father,

    Will you plan on indexing these on one page for quick reference?

    I think in the end, we Catholics need to boast..... in the Lord. Paul never says "do not boast" but rather "let he who boasts, boast in the Lord"

    Let me give an example. I know of a liberal parish near me. at the end of mass, they look at the tabernacle with their heads, and maybe bow .0000005 degrees. most the time, they just blink their eyes. One Mass, one of these altar servers was alone in actually geunflecting before the tabernacle. Then after the procession, he came back up and prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. the lad had probably received his First Communion only a year or two before.

    I look at the Hootenanny Mass crowd as a dying breed, and little lads like that boy the future of our Church. It's a fact my generation (those currently in their 20's) in the church are showing greater signs of fidelity. Just wait til we have huge families of little copies of us.

    I don't look at all the bad and say "The Holy Spirit is still in control." I look at the good and tell the bad "The Holy Spirit is in control. Live up your brief time of fame or change course, or the Holy Spirit will change it for you, and let me show you why in the presence of an 8 year old boy."

  6. Great posts, Father! I am 40 so I'm a product of never once (yes, NEVER) receiving the Eucharist any other way than in my hand. It was when I was 40 (about 2 months ago) that I went to a Latin Mass and almost fainted at the thought of receiving the Eucharist directly on the tongue - yikes! I survived, somehow :) And, so now I have all sorts of wonderment at traditions of old while also loving the traditions that are "new". Thank you for finding a way to marry the two - I'm sharing this series of posts with my Pre-Vatican II defenders as well as my Kumbaya proponents!
    God bless!

  7. Excellent, Father. Seeing the forest despite the trees!

  8. Hmm, now you've done it. I'm going to have to go back and read the whole series. Excellent insight and explanation- I sure hope the Holy Spirit has had enough of the liberal crowd.

  9. @Jack, @HeroForge, @Anita Moore, @Kevin: everything collected into one PDF: I haven't really proofread anything yet, so if you could help that would be awesome.