Catholic Sensibility: Our Compass of Sanity

Boswell: “Then, Sir, what is poetry?” Johnson: “Why, Sir, it is much easier to say what it is not. We all know what light is; but it is not easy to tell what it is.”  —Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson 

Let me begin with an incident that I witnessed in the last year that expresses the tragedy a loss of Catholic sensibility entails. I sometimes help out with funerals at my parish by serving at Mass. It usually is an edifying experience, although sometimes I inwardly cringe at the music often sung at such solemn moments in the life of an individual and the Church.

One day I was asked to help usher at a wake of a young person. Although busy that day with work, I went over to the parish church to see if I could help out for an hour or so. There were about a hundred people milling about. Very few were kneeling in prayer. Most were talking with each other. Most ignored the Tabernacle. Nothing unusual there, sadly enough. There was a line of people waiting to offer the parents their condolences for a loss too big, at times, I am sure, for words. Nothing unusual there, either.

Then I saw the casket.

It was made of pinewood and written on it from one end to the other were the multi-colored notes and signatures of hundreds of the deceased’s friends, and presumably, family. There were boxes of markers on top of the casket to make things handier.

The pastor of this parish is a good man. I don’t mean to criticize his intentions in serving his people, especially in such a delicate time as mourning the death of a child. Yet how are we helping our children when we allow them this unseemly behavior unworthy of their Christian calling?

There are some things that cut across the grain of reality—they are just not done. Using a coffin as if it were a large bulletin board (or a Twitter screen) on which to scribble sentiments is one of those things.

This puts self-expression before the objective reality of death, fathomless in its mystery, and heart-breaking in its temporal finality, a cause for profound sorrow. That the family and friends were allowed to believe they were suitably grieving for their loved one in this way is tragically, woefully sad. In such moments, one needs to meet Christ the Lord, in all his majestic, eternal tenderness.

Using a casket in this way also shows a serious lack of Catholic sensibility.

But what is Catholic sensibility? How can one person dare define it? Shouldn’t I just heed Dr. Johnson’s advice, and be content with somehow knowing what a Catholic sensibility is, rather than trying to tell others what it is? In trying to define “Catholic sensibility” do I threaten the marvelous diversity of a Church with 1.1 billion members?

But as much as I love the diversity of our Church, for diversity to flourish in a family—even a family spanning the globe—there has to be some commonality, of creed, of practice, of hope, as St. Paul reminds us. (Eph 4:5).

And, I would add, of sensibility that is an authentic response to the essential truths of our Catholic Faith.

Catholic Sensibility is Found in Things Given by God
We often hear that Catholicism yields in many cultures and individuals “an enchanted” view of reality.

As the late Fr. Andrew Greely put it, this enchantment comes from a “pervasive religious sensibility that inclines Catholics to see “the Holy lurking in creation” where “objects, events, and persons of daily life are revelations of grace.” Greely’s work, The Catholic Imagination (2000), seeks to find a coherent narrative of data to support the idea that there is an imaginative response common to a variety of cultures that can be described as Catholic.

Unfortunately, Greely takes as an axiom of his investigations the absurd statement of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, which he has as an epigraph to his book: “Religions commit suicide when they find their inspiration in dogma.” Greely’s formulation is the death of faith with merely a patina of Catholic ambience to show for the loss. Catholic sensibility—sensus Catholicus—must be more than this if it is worth looking for, never mind living for.

To start with what should be obvious: I would say a Catholic sensibility must, ultimately, be founded on something given to us by God. If our faith is something made, even over centuries, by human hands, it lacks the first requisite for a truly super-natural reality: Divine Origin. If we lose this, we lose the Faith itself.

The second characteristic follows logically from the first: the Faith given to us by God must be faithfully handed on to us, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received…” (1 Cor 15:3). St Paul here makes plain the supernatural origin of our Faith and the importance of its faithful transmission to each generation. In our technological age, we tend to ignore the traditional for the new, the tried for the innovative. Consequently, concern for handing on the Faith in its fullness should never be labeled as an “obsession” over “doctrinal purity.” Reading one or two epistles of St. Paul can teach us this.

Thirdly, because our Creed professes the Lord as both creator and redeemer, a Catholic sensibility must always respect nature as coming from the hand of God, made according to the reason or Logos of the eternal Son, the Word made Flesh. All things are, and are what they are, by the Divine Logos.

Cardinal Ratzinger, in an essay on the sacramental nature of reality, illustrates how foreign this way of thinking is today for many people: “the sacramental idea presupposes a symbolist understanding of the world, whereas the contemporary understanding of the world is functionalist: it sees things merely as things, as a function of human labor and accomplishment….” As Ratzinger often stressed, this does not mean denigrating the modern world’s advances in technology. They are indeed a blessing, but only when used in the service of human dignity.

“All sensible creatures are signs of sacred things,” writes St. Thomas. (Summa Theologiae, 3.60.2) In fact, the whole material world is created, according to Thomas, in his discussion of the “fitness” of the Incarnation, to manifest by visible things the invisible God. (Summa Theologiae, 3.1.1)

The saints have always kept this vision of Divine immanence before them. This is why they are so crucial to Catholic piety. In fact, St. Ambrose formulated an important axiom that must never be far from a Catholic sensibility: Sanctorum vita ceteris norma vivendi est, or “the life of the Saints is the norm of living for others.” In all their rich diversity of temperament and culture, the saints are living catechisms. A young Maximilian Kolbe would write in his notebook: “each thing is a small ray of divine perfection.” Blessed Newman perhaps put it most succinctly: “All nature is a parable.”

As a child, I remember quite vividly holding a buttercup in my hand, its lemony aureole glowing in my palm. Such tiny but countless masterpieces of beauty speak eloquently of the ratio of the world as gift. Evil, however malignant or destructive, can never cancel this underlying, fundamental richness of being which sheds its light whenever right reason directs its disinterested gaze. But if we are consistent with this fundamental insight, then our ethics must also take seriously that moral goodness can only be founded on the truth of things.

St. Augustine, whose many treatises are a virtual hymn to love, describes the just soul as one who knows how to love in a manner founded on the myriad, ordered truths of reality made by God: “Now he is a man of just and holy life who forms an unprejudiced estimate of things, and keeps his affections also under strict control, so that he neither loves what he ought not to love, nor fails to love what he ought to love, nor loves that more which ought to be loved less, nor loves that equally which ought to be loved either less or more, nor loves that less or more which ought to be loved equally.” (De Doctrina Christiana, I)

How are we to become like this, when our affections and desires are often nothing but riotous whims alien to our true good? Where are we to find an unfailing source of strength to develop and live with a sensibility that is authentically Catholic?

The Mass: A Source of Catholic Sensibility
The answer is simple but endlessly real: At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the source of our spiritual life and, in fact, the goal of the entire creation, adoration of the Lord God. If we get this wrong, what can we get right?

I know a good many thoroughly orthodox Catholics who think this solution to a lack of Catholic sensibility either misguided or overstated. Of course, proper liturgical celebrations are not the only solution. Yet they must be at the center of any solution that has a hope to succeed.

Here the Church, both in the long centuries preceding and in the documents of Vatican II, gives us a resoundingly clear answer: we find this vitality in the Eucharistic Offering of the Church, “the fount and apex of the whole Christian life,” (Lumen Gentium 11) or, as the very first document of Vatican II puts it, the “summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time … the font from which all her power flows.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10)

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, often referred to as the founder of the “New liturgical Movement,” wrote in his memoirs, after much familiarity with the Church’s many challenges, “I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today largely derives from the disintegration of the liturgy.”

If a funeral Mass with a graffiti-covered coffin isn’t liturgical disintegration, then the words have no meaning.

In a lecture given in Rome in 1985 to the Eighth International Music Congress, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke about the rifts that were apparent in the liturgical life of the Church. These rifts, he said, asked us to ponder the anthropological and theological foundations of liturgy itself. In that lecture, in an almost throw-away line in the introduction, Ratzinger remarks that music and worship have always gone together because words alone are insufficient in our conversation with the Lord. He says “more belongs to the praise of God than man alone, and liturgy means joining in that which all things bespeak.” (Emphasis added)

In praising the Lord at Holy Mass we join in the silent adoration of the whole creation. When our liturgies are about us, and push the Lord to the side, when we see beauty as a barrier to worship, we have left the guiding compass of Catholic sensibility for false lights, for chimera. To exclude beauty, truth, or goodness from the path to God is to embark on a broken path that will not bring us to a healing encounter with the Lord.

Catholic Sensibility Deepens Our Value of Human Life
While the following anecdote, at first thought, may not be exactly in tune during the populist ethos of Pope Francis’ pontificate, I think a moment’s reflection will reveal quite the opposite:

The funeral Mass of Archduke Otto von Habsburg, who died in 2011, illustrates how an authentic Catholic sensibility deepens our appreciation of the value of every human life. Otto was the son of Blessed Karl Hapsburg, last emperor of Austria. After his Requiem Mass, held at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, the body of Von Hapsburg was brought to a Capuchin Cloister for burial with his many forbears in the Imperial Crypt. At the door of this crypt, there took place was it called the “knocking ceremony” (Anklopfzeremonie).

Otto von Habsburg’s coffin was brought to the door of the crypt. The Master of Ceremonies knocks three times at the door. The Prior, from the other side of the door, asks, “Who is it?” The Master of Ceremonies replies (translation courtesy of Rev. Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist.):

Otto of Austria; once Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary; Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia, of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and the Bukowina; Grand Prince of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Guastalla, of Oświęcim and Zator, Teschen, Friaul, Dubrovnik and Zadar; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg…etc. etc.

The Prior responds: “We do not know him.” Again, the Master of Ceremonies replies with more of Otto’s titles, both honorary, inherited, or earned. Again, the Prior responds: “We do not know him.” A third time, the Master of Ceremonies knocks. The Prior asks, “Who is there?” This time the Master of Ceremonies responds: “Otto, a mortal and sinful man.” The Prior responds: “Then let him come in.”

Actions have meanings as well as (sometimes more than) words. The Archduke’s burial vividly shows us this very thing: No one deserves a casket scribbled on with random wishes as if he or she were so much flotsam to be cast away from the eyes of the living. No one.

Would that we all would receive, whatever our earthly rank, a burial such as the Hapsburgs, wherein the riches of grace raise up each saved soul to eternal friendship with the source of all that is: galaxies, stars, seas, continents, nations, peoples, cultures, stories, and, yes, buttercups, all wonders, but none more wonderful than the least soul born into the kingdom of God.

Editor’s note: In the image above, Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., celebrates a solemn high Mass in the extraordinary form at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on April 24, 2010. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) 

Michael J. Ortiz


Michael J. Ortiz is the author of Swan Town: the Secret Journal of Susanna Shakespeare (HarperCollins 2006), and, most recently, Like the First Morning: The Morning offering as Daily Renewal (Ave Maria Press, 2015). He teaches English and Religion at The Heights School, in Potomac, Maryland.

  • Tim Danaher

    Agreed. The loss of Catholic Sensibility has contributed to a proportional loss of faith. Today’s liturgy, from my experience, has turned Sunday worship into a perfunctory obligation, for those who still believe that missing Mass is a mortal sin, rather than being central focus and action of our very existence. The loss of mystery, reverence, and tradition has been replaced with a cheap and artificial emotionalism. Unless the Mass is restored to its previous grandeur, the Church will continue to collapse.

    • WSquared

      But the low form of the TLM isn’t exactly “grand,” though it has this wonderful humble dignity.

      One might call the daily low-form Novus Ordo the “no-nonsense Novus Ordo.”

      As for the loss of mystery, reverence, and tradition, we are in agreement: it’s not so much that the Novus Ordo is invalid, and since it’s a valid Mass, I don’t have a problem with it, and it’s not my place to say, since I don’t have that authority.

      But what I invariably DO have a problem with is what people think they can slot into the Novus Ordo. Take the usual four-hymn-sandwich approach to Sunday Mass, for example: if you choose those hymns carelessly, that’s four points– particularly during the Offertory and Communion– where you potentially break up the cohesion of the Mass, sowing confusion and incoherence about what Mass even IS. It’s very, very easy to pit the Novus Ordo against the TLM coming either way– which is why I often try to put it to those who construe any desire for reverence as “clericalism” or “Phariseeism,” which they then use as an excuse for “anything goes”: please don’t insult the Novus Ordo. If you wouldn’t do something at the foot of the Cross on Calvary (which is where we are at Mass), don’t do it at Mass.

      Moreover, I think we’d be better off if we saw Francis and Benedict as
      the lower and upper boundaries, respectably, of how Mass should be
      celebrated with a sober joy and a solemn dignity. Benedict showed us
      how splendid the ars celebrandi can be. Francis,
      however, shows us what’s achievable in every parish: he’s not the
      liturgist that Benedict was– but it’s also a far cry to say that how he
      celebrates Mass is in any way equivalent to what we often get in our parishes every Sunday here in the U.S. Francis has also said that Mass
      is not entertainment– but it’s not like that part made the rounds.

  • Ioannes

    When you have family members who disregard the Mass and don’t see the need to listen to some priest to have faith (my aunt’s words) then you’ll see the failure of the current conditions in the Church. My geographical parish is a Novus Ordo parish, retrofitted even with a projector, where the big emphasis of well-meaning people is “participation”. However, many forget that there has to be an internal participation if you will. Many Catholics think we participate externally only, and that’s where many Protestants trap them and make them believe they’re doing superstition and offer them a highly emotional moment (a faux interior experience) when they’re in fact the ones who are superstitious, hungry to always feel something at their services. If people really understood the Mass and if we would stop whining about making sacrifices and giving preference to Tradition, we can go a long way. A lot of the problem lies in the fact that most people today aren’t taught or are willfully ignorant to what the Church really teaches because of people telling them “the priest turned his back on the people and lay people couldn’t be involved!” when in fact I feel before the changes of the Mass, the faithful participated more so because they didn’t have to worry about reading this, or be an EMHC, or read announcements. Everything in the Mass in my parish seems so artificial an orchestrated.

    • St JD George

      Interesting how Novus Ordo brings up articles about New World Order, mistranslated of course.

    • WSquared

      “don’t see the need to listen to some priest to have faith”

      But that rather begs the question of “faith in what, exactly?”

  • “There are some things that cut across the grain of reality—they are just not done. Using a coffin as if it were a large bulletin board (or a Twitter screen) on which to scribble sentiments is one of those things.”

    I think the earliest Catholics would disagree. Recent archaeology shows us that this was done at Peter’s Tomb, under the Basilica, at a time when the site was merely a graveyard.

    • Joseph

      After my initial gasp at the image of the wooden coffin with graffiti, I recalled that this casked held a young person. I thought of how kids often breaking an arm, wrist, leg, and then get their first cast. Often, it’s one of the first intimations of mortality for them (or at least a visceral experience of morbidity). Friends write onto the cast well wishes in many colors. The cast comes off, and the bone is healed. Not quite as rank as Lazarus’s tomb when he was risen from the dead, but the skin over the newly healed bone is often pink and almost virginal.

      Is the casket a cast, in which we place our broken bodies, and on judgment day, when the casket comes off, we rise again with pink, youthful flesh, and healed bones, perfect in the New Creation?

      I know I am supposed to be horrified at the image of the graffiti-covered casket, but it inspired me this morning to pray for the souls in purgatory and to think more seriously about my own death, my lying in a cast/coffin, waiting to be healed and brought back to new life.

      Sometimes the ridiculous can lead to the sublime. That, to me, is also a Catholic sensibility. There’s a cheeky humor among Catholics when they sit back and look at some of the things we do and gradually accept as normal.

      I remember the first time I saw 2 thurifers arcing their thuribles in a Holy Thursday Extraordinary Form procession, I chuckled at the ridiculousness of the sight of these two young guys looking like they were having a blast playing with weapons and fire. The arcs were high, and they approached it with the utmost seriousness, and it seemed so cool to me that I wanted to play. I burst into a smile. It seemed like something one would make up in a skit about boy scouts channeling their inner ninja into altar service. But my smile broadened into open-mouthed awe when I realized that this was profoundly beautiful, special, almost otherworldly, sublime and ridiculous, and truly emblematic of how special this procession was.

      Or St. Lawrence, depicted holding the gridiron. Yep, he was roasted on it. That’s not that unusual for our religion: Bartholemew holds his skin, for example. But once I learned that St. Lawrence was the patron saint of chefs, I laughed out loud at the cheekiness of it.

      • I was thinking more about the graffiti in the catacombs- literally writing on graves. Is this so different?

        The rest of the article, I happen to agree with, but is the natural result of the “Greatest Generation” coming home from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam and then sinking into PTSD instead of teaching their children the faith. Is it any wonder that their children fell away from the faith, their grandchildren are barely catechized at all, and their great grandchildren don’t even know how to genuflect? It is the role of the males to teach the faith- and that is a role that for the most part, has been abandoned in America since the 1960s, with predictable results.

    • michael ortiz

      And Christianity was essentially an underground religion, hence the space, so to speak, for showing public reverence to the tombs of the saints–of each departed soul–had not developed. I wouldn’t try etching your initials anywhere at St. Peter’s today!

      • But neither did you know St. Peter when he was corporal. Why deny this young person’s friends the same dignity?

        • michael ortiz

          Dignity? Peter’s bones were, actually, wrapped in purple silk–a sign of rank and respect in ancient Rome–see Tyrian purple.

          • And for some of us- the graffiti is also a sign of dignity. You don’t bother to write nice things on the grave of somebody you hated. You might write on their grave, but it won’t be nice things.

    • Craig Roberts

      Traditionalists (me included) yell “what happened to the holiness of yore?! Let’s return to the traditions that made our Church great!” Meanwhile our own magisterium calls for a “new” evangelization. What *exactly* is ‘new’ about the gospel? Inquiring minds want to know.

      • It is new to a generation that never learned it.

        • Craig Roberts


          • It has been 40 years since Christianity was replaced by hedonism in the United States. A whole generation has grown up with the gospels of Mathis and Sanger.

  • Dan

    The only hope is that the Church rebuild herself from the ground up, with the traditional Latin Mass as the base.

    • Chris Cloutier

      Agreed! Thanks to Cardinal Bugnini and Paul VI, the Mass was violently changed. Since then, men joining the seminary, and women joining the sisterhood have dropped off dramatically. something along the lines of 70-99% depending on the order. All this modernism and protestantizing of our traditions have been disastrous for the Church. We need to bring back the traditions, that reflect the beauty, goodness, and truth of Catholic doctrine. The Tridentine Mass is the best place to start.

      • winslow

        I welcome correction, but I’m pretty sure Bugnini was not a Cardinal.

        • Chris Cloutier

          You are right in this. I apologize for the mistake. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • St JD George

    I’m going to stir the pot here because I struggle with this one. There is of course nothing wrong with the Latin Mass, but sometimes when I hear the discussion I can’t help but think back on Jesus ministry and his lessons for the hard hearted. From Mathew 23 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” His ministry was a messy one, welcoming sinners and preaching in the most humble of settings, including the way he was born into this world, in a manger. Our tradition is important, but our mission should be to spread the good news and welcome as many people to hear it in whatever state they are in. The predominate faith of the ME is spreading like a wildfire through our prisons – they need people to share Christ’s message in the language they speak, which isn’t Latin. In case you haven’t noticed, our world is on fire at the moment, desperately and in need of more Christian firemen (and women) – including answering the call to Holy Orders.

    • Tim Danaher

      To use your own example against you. As you rightly note Islam is spreading through our prison system and what language do they use? They are unified as a faith through a common language, Arabic, while the Latin church abandoned it unifying liturgical language and has Balkanized its worship. I not one that says the 1962 Roman Missal should not be updated, but what resulted after the Council was something new and manmade. If we would go back to what the Council called for in its reform of the liturgy, we could have introduced subtle and organic changes that would not have resulted in the mess we have today. I keep wondering when we’ll have our first closure/consolidation of a diocese here in the U.S. We can’t keep closing parishes, schools, and hospitals without eventually shuttering a bishopric or two.

      • St JD George

        I don’t have a before and after perspective, but I do read a lot and know a lot are very passionate on the subject. My son and I have this debate often believe it or not, he being drawn to the TLM. I struggle, but mostly after the Concluding Rites until the next Mass trying to figure out how I can best go out into the world and spread the good news.

        • Tim Danaher

          The primary thing you should do is pray. Keep God first and pray for those who need His help. Also ask the Lord how you he can use you to in service to your neighbor. Much can be accomplished through prayer. We also need to pray for the Pope, bishops, priests, and parents that they many remain strong in the faith. And finally, pray for the conversions of lost souls.

          • St JD George

            Trust me, my day is full of prayer. All those mentioned and many more, including for those whose desire is to lord over us, and many special intentions.

      • eallen

        I agree; I actually offered this explanation to my professor the other day, when he inferred that Latin was used by the Church to essentially use knowledge against the people and maintain control.

        • winslow

          You need to get another professor. The one you have now doesn’t know a lot.

          • eallen

            I need to get the whole school restaffed, but they like their Marxist Atheist brainwashers.

    • Alexandra

      St JD George, thanks for sharing and I agree with you. I also think that the Mass of Paul VI could be said in a more solemn way in some places, with or without Latin being used. I attended a monthly Paul VI’s Mass in Latin and a daily Mass in the vernacular at the same place and they were just wonderful. The Mass is according to one’s faith, if someone goes to Mass well-predisposed it will be to his own good,

    • Dan

      “The Latin Mass people are all a bunch of Pharisees.” How many times have I heard that accusation, or words to that effect (including from Pope Francis). It reflects total non-comprehension of what animates love of proper prayer, which is what the traditional Latin Mass is. Are there other proper liturgical forms? Undoubtedly there are. I for one however have never encountered one that equals the traditional Latin Mass. The traditional Latin Mass is deeply holy. That, and not Phariseeism or “hard-heartedness,” is the reason it is so beloved.

      • St JD George

        I don’t believe it’s a fair comparison either as it opens a door to divisiveness that need not and should not exist. I know people are drawn to the TLM out of a deep faith, and to the tradition. I like my priest and church and for me it’s as much just being out of the routine of celebrating Mass in my parish when I travel for convenience to go elsewhere. Truthfully I can be and am in a state of adoration with Jesus anywhere he is present. It may just be where we are today after so many decades after VII and society where it is, but my feeling is that more people today would be intimidated by it than feel welcome if they were to come to a TLM. Maybe I’m wrong. I think there is room for both.

        • WSquared

          I think a lot of people are intimidated by the TLM because we are used to expecting understanding to be instantaneous, and to be done only with our minds. There’s also a very curious pitting of faith against reason among many Catholics, too, which I think becomes manifest in the way they approach the liturgy: they aren’t content to allow themselves to just “get lost” at the Latin Mass for the first time, to allow themselves to just receive it and take it in, trusting that if they just keep going, they’ll get it eventually and they’ll catch on faster than they think.

          The thing is, understanding isn’t even “instantaneous” in much of the Catholic spiritual life, period. Who can claim to understand absolutely everything about the Holy Mass, in either the Extraordinary or Ordinary forms?

          And anyway, I might add that regardless of having Mass completely in the vernacular for the last fifty years or so, despite the directives of Vatican II for the retention of Latin, many to most Catholics arguably don’t even know what the Mass actually is– not as a mere “obligation” or a “meal between friends,” but its actual spiritual reality.

          When it comes to the things of God, we are meant to understand holistically, with all of ourselves, and through constant engagement with God.

          • St JD George

            Indeed, there is so much healing needed by our culture. We live in an age of instant gratification, short attention spans, and a loss for the beauty of learning. At some level you have to adapt I know. How do you reach into souls to get them to comprehend eternal life when their life focus is only what to do today.

          • winslow

            As one who grew up with TLM what I regret most is the almost complete absence of silence and the sense of reverence. The inability to listen for the voice of God. I find nothing truly holy about the Novus Ordo except perhaps the Consecration.
            We must remember, the Novus Ordo is the product of a cleric named Annabale Bugnini, whose purpose was to “…remove everything from our Catholic prayers everything that would be offensive to our separated brethren, the Protestants.” Bugnini was a card carrying Mason. It was at his urging that the Mass we now celebrate was largely written by Protestants.

    • ColdStanding

      JD: you’ve got to know your Gospels. What does Jesus Christ say to the two disciples of St. John the Baptists after St. John had said: “Behold, the Lamb of God…”? They ask Him, “Rabbi, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Come and see.” So we follow Him to a place. Which place? Heaven of course. However we do not get there right away for this is the time of discipleship. We have the Cross to pass through first. Where is the place of the Cross? Calvary. Where do we find Calvary? In our Churches, for the altar is Calvary where the Bloody Sacrifice of Christ is continually represented and applied, in an unbloody manner. Therefore the Sacrifice of Calvary must be substantially represented. Only the ancient liturgies are arranged with this in mind.

      We are given a further indication as to where Jesus Christ is to be found in St. Luke’s account of the encounter of the, note the number, two disciples with Our Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus. He is recognized in the breaking of the Bread. One could also add that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, which is translated as the House of Bread. What conclusions can we draw from these three points? If I may be so bold as to suggest, there has to be some specific place where we encounter Jesus Christ. It is all well and good, necessary, to tell people of the Word of God, the Good News, The Gospel, but, having pointed out who He is, men of good will will want to follow Him. Follow Him where? To heaven. Where is the narrow gate through which we must pass? The door of the Church. (The teaching of the Narrow Gate is not limited to this)

      Why, then must there be liturgy? Because this is literally how we recognize Jesus Christ, in the breaking of the bread. We must follow Him to an actual place, there must be a breaking of the bread, we must meet with Him and have Him (through His ministers, the priests) explain the plan of salvation history. This is the most bare-bones account of the need for liturgy. The Church teaches that a lot more is going on than these few things.

      However, the point is that liturgy, aka the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is, watch this term, the ordinary means by which we receive God’s graces. God set it up this way so that we would get what our souls need for eternal salvation at the Mass: His Flesh and Blood which we must eat. There is no Christian religion, mind that Catholic=Christian, without the liturgy. The liturgy is, in a mystical way, Our Holy Mother, the Church, His Mystical Bride… (end here as I am taken up in an ecstasy of contemplation of the sacred mysteries of Our Holy Religion)

      At this point, an extended discussion of tradition is in order. St. Paul says that he has handed on what he has received… (but I am not going to finish it now) The take away point is that the Catholic faith is a tradition, traditions are immemorial ways of doing things in a way that points to eternal reality. Dispensing with Tradition is to dispense with (sizeable and important chunks of) the Faith.

      (Insert extended discussion about the vision of liturgy in Heaven he recorded in the Apocalypse, in which the distinction between temporal and eternal realities are discussed….)(but I am not going to finish that now) The take away point is that there is a difference between temporal and eternal realities and the Catholic religion is, primarily through Her elaborate liturgy showing you the difference.

      Finally: The things you want are watered and grow by liturgy, because the liturgy is one of the means (aka ways of providing) God’s sanctifying grace. As the thing you want is salvation for yourself and others, you, therefore, want liturgy and it can not be considered burdensome. Mission and Tradition are the same thing. Liturgy must indicate that something out of the ordinary is happening. Elaborate is not a fault.

      • St JD George

        I have read the Gospels several time now, and I listen to the liturgy daily including reflections. I find it fascinating that I learn something new and see things from different perspectives each time. I am very thankful to have them translated and not in Latin, or Greek, Hebrew … or even Aramaic. I also believe that our church’s traditions enrich the liturgy and help bring a perspective on the history of the practice of our faith passed down generations. What I don’t have is the rich tradition of Mass before VII because it was well before I was baptized.

        • ColdStanding

          But you should have that rich tradition. You really should.

          Sure, you’ve had a fast food burger for lunch. It gets the job done. But you’ve also had premium steak. Would you celebrate and important anniversary with a grilled cheese sandwich?

          Assuming that, no, you would not, then why do you settle when it comes to liturgy?

          • St JD George

            Enough … you’re making me hungry, for steak.

    • Beth

      Latin Mass sounds truly beautiful. I’ve never had the opportunity to attend a Latin Mass. Where we live, we have only NO and I will say, sloppy NO. But we worship the best we can, love Jesus, love our neighbors and that’s that. I can’t lose sleep over it. We are broken in that way but we are all broken in some way aren’t we? Yes, St. JD George. We focus on spreading the soothing balm of Christ.

      • St JD George

        It doesn’t have to be either or, but I do find my attention directed to the fires burning all around the church in the world and less focused on how I receive the Eucharist. He nourishes me, and then sends me out into the world. We need to lift each other up too and not let “things” divide us. God bless.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    The strange practice of leaving a huge mound of floral bouquets rotting in plastic wrap and decaying teddy bears reached its apogee at the death of ‘Princess Di’. These flowers turned to a black sludge.Those who had to bulldoze this foul mess said the cloying smell was repulsively similar to rotting flesh. The sterile destruction of beautiful flowers in this weirdly unnatural manner is a kind of post-modern ‘sacrifice’.

    • WSquared

      Wow! That’s very insightful.

  • Craig Roberts

    The paradox is that within the framework of doctrine there is room for creativity and originality. Many Catholics instinctively abhor anything new because they believe that it will degarade the Church. With so many obviously bad expessions of worship, they dig in their heels and demand everything harken back to a supposed golden age where God’s will was (literally) set in stone. But Christ died to give us NEW life, and life without creativity stagnates and becomes dead.

    • ColdStanding

      Your analogy is inapt. Doctrine is not framework. A house is not a stud wall. Doctrine has a framework, but it has a lot more than just that. Doctrine, aka Sacred Dogma is thorough-going. God has arranged all things. He knows best what needs to be taught and provided to fallen man for fallen man’s salvation, and He has set His Church the task of fulfilling His will. He would not leave so important a duty as the offering to Him the worship He is due, and God is due the worship of Sacrifice, to be worked out by the darkened reason of fallen man. Fallen man isn’t really capable of creativity or originality. When fallen man relies upon his own strength, it is then that stagnation and death abound. What is the great flower of man’s creativity? That bloom flowered over Hiroshima.

      The new life of which you speak is not, per se, for the things of this world, but so that we may have eternal life in heaven. The fact that it is not for this world, means that the mode of its expression is likely to be very different than that of which we are accustomed to by our secular experience. Hence, being a foreshadowing of eternity, there needs must be a significant expression of timelessness.

      I’ll stop here.

      • Craig Roberts

        Well said. I couldn’t agree more. In order to discern the true Spirit required to honor God we must empty out the human vanity and pride that makes for impure devotion. So like the quote at the begining of the article, examples abound for what worship is NOT. We have to sift through a lot of dreck to get just a little gold. BUT…

        “As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.” (2 Sam 6:16)
        How many of us Catholics would do the same?

    • fredx2

      Christ did not die to give us happy clappy masses where everyone blabbers nonstop at the direction of silly people who like to tell others what they should be saying and doing. The mass is not a participatory Broadway musical.

      In fact, it is the newer masses that are completely dead spiritually, and have driven more people away, because they appeal only to a certain kind of person who is an exhibitionist and wants to get attention. They make it harder for people to establish a true, deep, connection with Christ because we are so busy doing silly things invented by manifestly silly people with silly likes and dislikes.

      • St JD George

        You must have had some bad experiences. Conversely I have had some good ones, at least in my opinion. I really liked the priests at both parishes I have recently been involved with, both give outstanding homilies, and the Mass is full of reverence … not blabbing. Having said, I don’t doubt there are those out there that … move to a different beat, so to speak.

        • Craig Roberts

          Thank you. Amongst all the horrible examples, it is nice to hear that good homilies and reverent people still exist somewhere!

          • St JD George

            Let’s just say that I would not sit in Father Pfleger’s parish in Chicago. I thought it interesting when I just did a search to spell check that it came up with people also search for Louis Farrakhan, Jeremiah Wright, and Jesse Jackson.

      • Craig Roberts

        I completely agree. Unfortunately, a true, deep, personal relationship can only be established when risks are taken and positive creative actions on the part of all involved are attempted. What you are proposing is a college without students because the students are always the ones making mistakes.

    • WSquared

      About the oddest thing I encountered in this regard was someone who abhors the new translation of the Roman Missal on those grounds.

      When I tried to explain that the new translation wasn’t a “new Mass,” but a more accurate translation of the Novus Ordo we already had (look, it’s not rocket science to observe that “et cum spiritu tuo” does not translate as “and also with you,” and just about every country that speaks a Romance language has “e con il tuo spirito” or somesuch, and not “and also with you”), which was itself a translation of the Latin, anyway, they were having none of it!

      All I got in response was some loud, emotional(ist) and unraesonable ballyhooing from people calling themselves “old school.”

      Absolutely no sense or awareness of history (including various forms of chronological snobbery), and no sense of how Catholic orthodoxy is ever ancient, ever new– because if Christ is God, alpha and omega, past, present, and future, and Lord of all Time, it might have occurred to one that that would be a logical and reasonable conclusion to draw. But the Catholic who unthinkingly picks up what the larger culture throws down without any self-awareness or any attempt at analysis is likely not to understand paradox very well, precisely because we live in a culture that has a hard time with paradox, whereas Catholicism never met one that it didn’t like.

      • Craig Roberts

        That is SO true. Jesus explicitly warns us that being content with the status quo is spiritual death:

        “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25
        And yet how many times have I heard a homily on this that says essentially “That’s not REALLY what he means. After all, it would be unbarebly morbid to hate yourself and look forward to death. It’s not natural.”
        Exactly. It’s not natural. It’s super-natural.

    • winslow

      That comment is worthy of any Protestant of any sect.

      • Craig Roberts

        Hah. Who says Catholics have no creativity? Oh, right. Catholics do. Some people are so afraid of heresy that they won’t even examine their own beliefs. Whatever happened to the ‘adventure of orthodoxy’? Too risky? Better to stay home?

        • winslow

          The doctrines of Jesus Christ and HIs Church do not need creativity, they need fidelity. Protestants are doctrinally creative. That’s what makes them Protestants.
          Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Creativity and originality belong in Hollywood, not the Church.
          What makes you think Catholics, and me specifically, don’t examine their beliefs? I did that many years ago.

          • Craig Roberts

            I’m sorry. I must not be making myself clear. I don’t think there is such thing as ‘doctrinal creativity’. I am saying that by adhereing to the Church’s teaching we have a marvelous freedom to excercise our faith within those doctrines. Knowing and loving the doctrines of the Church allows us to be creative in our lives and our worship without fear of offending God. And so a Mozart or Bach can compose a requeim or a hymn to the glory of God without some fuddy duddy telling them to shut-up and play ‘the same old way it’s always been done’. If we fear using our God given gifts we will end up burrying our ‘talent’ in a napkin.

            • winslow

              Craig: “I’m sorry. I must not be making myself clear. I don’t think there is such thing as ‘doctrinal creativity’.”
              Really? Perhaps ‘sola scriptura’ will disabuse you of that notion. It’s the first in a a long list.
              Obviously you’re not making yourself clear.

  • A wonderful thing about this sensus Catholicus is that it’s not something explicitly taught or learned, but rather seems mysteriously infused. And this, often, all in an instant. For example, I have heard the readings of a weekday mass executed with a particular insight and clarity — following which a kind of hush would fall over the sparse congregation like a complete change of mood. And subsequently every word and gesture of the momentous sacrifice of the Mass would unfold with a certain intensity of focus — with a heightening of decorum — both perfectly comfortable and at the same time absolutely delicious to experience. By the demeanor of all present it’s quite clear that everyone feels this — but I’m not sure many would ever seek to explain it afterwards. We’d all have had moments like this before and perhaps had them many times.

  • fredx2

    Please, please, please make the priest turn his back to me.

    • WSquared

      Yeah– it would remind me that Mass is not All About Me.

      It’s also not all about the priest, either.

      One thing that the Traditional Latin Mass does so wonderfully is to meet people where they are, I think: when you listen to Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony, one of the first things you notice is what a quiet, but big, sound it is– it’s also a deep, gentle sound that invites one to come closer. It’s also Way Bigger Than You, but yet so very intimate. Well, that’s how God is, and that’s how the Eucharist is meant to work.

      Moreover, when the priest faces the altar, not the people, the fact that Mass isn’t about him, but about God, helps take a ton of pressure off: the flipside to thinking that everything is All About You is thinking that everything is on you. For more extroverted priests, it’s a good reminder that Mass is not about him, and how wonderful it is does not depend on his outgoing personality. For more introverted priests, it’s “thank God it’s not all about me!” Both are therefore to do their best and let God do the rest. It’s humbling, after all, to know that whomever God might’ve chosen to be His priest, He chose you.

  • SnowArt

    The world can not continue on like this or will be as though all are lost. There is so little love for God and His Church and so many are being lost. Pope JPII spoke about a new Springtime coming to the world through the renewal of the Church, the Faith and Truth. It will be painful for many, but not as much for those who love and obey God and do His Will. The truly faithful will welcome the Cross that is so necessary to bring the world back to Christ and Truth! Fatima is so very important at this time. Pray the Rosary, pray the Divine Mercy, pray for the conversion of souls.

  • Craig Roberts

    Why are you all so eager to seperate the wheat from the tares? The Master said to wait for the harvest. (Mat 13:30)

  • Philip Lishman

    Innovations in the Mass should be the result of new knowledge produced by theological research – they should reflect a deeper understanding of God, not a lesser, weaker and simpler one.

  • JohnE_o

    It is a mistake to conflate “I don’t approve of what these people did,” with “surely God does not approve of what these people did.”

  • Ruth Rocker

    While I dislike most of the NO nonsense, the good part is that it put the liturgy in the vernacular so everyone could understand what was being said and going on. You would think that would do away with the need for reading material in the pews (in the churches that actually still have pews). Nothing could be further from the truth. I have noticed that people around me at Mass have their noses stuck down in their missalette reading every word that is being proclaimed from the pulpit. It’s like a bad PowerPoint presentation where the presenter reads the slides word for word to the audience who is reading along with him.

    My husband and I tend more to listen to the spoken words while contemplating both those words and the beauty in our church. There is a grand old altar as well as stained glass and paintings and statutes all with only one thing in mind – the glorifying of God. The stained glass windows tell the story of the life of Jesus in broad strokes. The paintings at the front of the church are of the Ascension of Jesus and of Mary. These are directly above statutes of them with votive candle racks nearby. At the rear of the church is a small replica of the Pieta. If looking at THAT doesn’t put you in a reflective mood I don’t much that will. That is the reason we’re at Mass. It’s not a party, it’s not a social event, it’s not a private club. It’s a remembrance and a reenactment of the most singular events in human history – the death and resurrection and ascension to Heaven of Jesus the Christ. The fact that more people aren’t keenly aware of what is going on is a reflection on the teaching they have received, or more properly not received, about their faith. The fact that it is the true Body and Blood that we are receiving should be cause for trembling not chatting. I truly believe the most egregious affront to Jesus is the fact that after the consecration of the Host, with the transubstantiation miracle before us, the congregation turns their collective backs on Jesus lying there to “share the sign of peace” with each other which turns into a cocktail party atmosphere. Would this happen if we could REALLY see what was waiting? Would we be so cavalier if we believed the transubstantiation truly happened? Maybe that’s part of the problem. There is so much protestant practice present in the NO that the true nature of the Mass is no longer emphasized. There are a lot of people who view it as a meal, like the protestants, rather than the amazing sacrifice it truly is.

    Lord, please guide your people back onto the right road to you.

  • Hart Ponder

    How people process loss and endings is an amazing study in grief and letting go. I am also fascinated with what some put on their tombstone:

    “There goes the neighborhood- Rodney Dangerfield “

  • winslow

    It is gratifying to me that we have individuals like Michael J. Ortiz teaching young people today.


    It doesn’t have to be like this! It’s not like this from what I’ve seen in Europe, not in Britain, Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Malta, Gibraltar. Nor in Poland from what I’ve seen of
    the Mass online: Silent reverence before the Almighty.

    In North America, the focus is too often on one’s neighbor, not on the altar.