Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Rant

"This chasuble is horrible!"

"I have to drive 100 miles just to attend a reverent Mass!"

"That alb has too much lace-- how cheap."

"What an ugly church, it doesn't even have enough pews for the congregation."

"The music is laughably poor; how do they expect us to worship?"

"Don't these people realize that they shouldn't be praying their novenas during the Mass?"

Many "traditionalists" are quick--often too quick-- to point out what's so wrong with the Church today, yet ironically enough mire the situation further by their incessant bickering and complaining. We all know who they are; and I have to admit, I was once part of that group. Alb too lacy? Priest mumbling his words? No air conditioner working? Noisy brats running along the aisle? Guess what: such things have been a fixture of the Church even before the "golden age" of the 1950s. Deal with it. Are we honestly too superficial and shallow as to dwell on these things?

It seems as though the more "stiff-upper lip" the liturgy is, the better. Men should all wear suits, women should all wear long skirts, their veils should at least cover their necks, children below the age of seven in the cry room or left behind at home, face buried in Missal, absolute silence. Give me a break. What we need to realize is precisely the fact that this stiff upper lip mentality is very much a Protestant innovation. Belloc often said that the saddest and greatest "achievement" of Protestantism was the separation-- the compartmentalization, to be more precise-- of religion from daily life. The Catholics who lived in the Middle Ages were undoubtedly simple folk: they were a merry people, who feasted on the great Feasts, who treated holy days like holidays, who viewed something as mundane as traveling as a 'sacrament'.

The problem with us today is that we hold such a disdain for the mumbled Mass of a rural barrio priest in something shabbily decorated barrio church-- and instead opt for the seraphic, multi-colored, over-the-top splendor of the Anglo-Catholic Mass. I'm not saying we Catholics should adopt a Low Mass mentality; God forbid. But there is a vast difference between actually worshipping God and worshipping the rubrics. Perhaps the greatest difference lies in the fact that even a 10-minute mass of a barrio priest is an unconsciously and therefore fully traditional thing, whereas the spikiness and overall obsessive compulsion in an Anglo-Catholic service tries its damnedest to imitate what it is not; and whereas the Mass comes to us naturally as part of nature, these 'rubricist' services are, at best, a pale imitation of art.

The next time a nitpicking 'rad trad' comes to you and complains about how his chapel had such poor airconditioning, tell him about the wartime soldiers, who worshipped in the midst of the tropical heat. So you drive one hundred miles for Mass? Our former parish priest had to take a four-hour boat ride across Communist territory, hike for some fifteen kilometers on foot across a barren hilltop, drive for three more hours, say Mass for one community, and repeat the whole process so he could reach the next community in time. He still does this every Sunday. Too few pews? Then stand; besides, pews here in the Philippines were only introduced during the American occupation. Noisy children running along the aisle distracting your form prayer? Don't send them to the cry room-- instead, go there yourself. Afterall, did not Christ say, 'Let the children come to Me?'.

I realize I may be being unfair to most people. For that, I am sorry-- but I do believe that my concerns are a valid one. Traditionalist Catholicism, the way I see it, is nothing more than a hybrid of Jansenism and Calvinism (at least in practice), with some vestments and ritual thrown about. Really, what makes it different from mere catechesis-- though admittedly with props? The only thing 'Catholic' about it is the name; all else is mere translation, and all of us lost in it.

There is a saying here in the Philippines, which is also a running joke against most 'born again' Evangelicals. When confronted by a self-righteous 'I'm saved, you're not' Fundie, remember to say this always: 'Ang bait mo, sani kunin ka na ni Lord'. Roughly translated into English, it reads: 'You are too good, I hope the Lord takes you now'.

Have a nice day.


Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Hey, stop stealing my ideas!

Seriously, though, this is why I have a real problem calling myself a traditionalist. (Did mothers bring their babies to church in the old days? I think in middle class families, they didn't. But in poor families, who else was going to take care of them?)

Catholicism is either something you have or you don't. You are either raised on it as a way of life or you have to acquire its spirit with much effort that goes beyond merely following rules. You don't get into Heaven just because you behave as if you have a rod stuck up your a#s.

P.S. I am going to put up an official link from my blog to your blog soon.

Archistrategos said...


I have to confess the 'catechesis with props' line was from your blog, lol. As for middle-class families bringing children to Mass, I'm pretty sure they did; my dad himself always went to Mass with his parents, even when he was barely two years old. I myself find children to be a helpful aid to prayer; their cheerfulness and overall 'I'm feeling so at home' attitude never ceases to impress and move me.

Andrew said...

I find that traditional leaning people, especially those who are liturgically aware, have sometimes let themselves be too distracted and loss the sense of joy in the presence of the Lord. I've blogged about this trend which I see myself sometimes lapsing into.

Although not condoning abuses and the stuff that passes for Catholic architecture and liturgy these days, we must always keep this in perspective and retain a sense of joy in God's presence. We can't convert anyone to our cause if we are Pharisaical in our attention to the details while missing the big picture.

Archistrategos said...

@ Andrew: I agree with your assessment that liturgy is serious business. But we should take care not to take away the sanctity of it and turn it into something sanctimonious. The problem with many trads today is, for me, the dilettante mentality, in that nothing seems too good for them. Liturgy should be celebrated worthily and reverently, I agree, but we must take care not to turn it into a show, because it is about Christ, afterall, and not who celebrates it.