I was recently watching a part of the daily televised liturgy on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network). The liturgy there is an odd mix of English and Latin, while following the texts of the current Roman Missal. The priest and ministers of the liturgy look way too somber and serious. The ritual is performed with all the exaggerated exactness of the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy. The Mass is overly formal and mechanical. Needless to say, there are no women allowed in the sanctuary area, there is no procession with the gifts, no Sign of Peace, and, of course, no Communion from the cup for the lay people who are present. The liturgy, in effect, is unlike anything that Catholics experience in the vast majority of Catholic parish churches.
Funny, this sounds very much like the liturgy I enjoy every Sunday in my home parish. We do have women lectors and we do have a brief Sign of Peace, but the liturgy is far from stuffy or stodgy. Rather it is reverent and beautiful. Six male altar servers, three priests distributing Communion, bells at consecration and during elevation of the Blessed Sacrament and Precious Blood, a few Latin responses, traditional hymns—this befits the awesome presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We do not come to Mass for the fellowship of a cocktail party. We come to experience the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.
We come to worship, adore, and praise our Lord and humbly accept the amazing gift of Himself He offers us on the altar.
A liturgy director like Father Larson nearly drove me from the Catholic Church during my college years. The liturgy director of the Catholic Student Center promoted all kinds of foolishness. He told us kneeling was very old school and the Church was doing away with it. We were to lovingly embrace all the members of the congregation during the Sign of Peace. We took turns baking the “Communion Bread”. It was a whole wheat recipe with honey added for increased “health benefits”. We were encouraged to clap and dance along to the guitar based liturgical music. I went along for a little while, but it began to feel very foreign. I didn’t recognize it as a Catholic Church.
There was a high church Episcopal congregation across the street. I began to attend this church. It felt like the Catholic Church I used to know. My Catholic catechesis was pretty poor so I was happy if it looked Catholic without being too concerned about the reality of its Catholicism. Eventually, I took classes in order to formally enter the Episcopal Church. However, I kept hearing from the Episcopal priest how the Episcopal Church was “almost just like the Catholic Church.” I realized I didn’t want a very good facsimile of the Catholic Church. I wanted the real Catholic Church. I began attending a regular neighborhood Catholic Church. I rediscovered the Faith I thought had been lost.
Eventually I began studying the Church, its history, its teachings, and its doctrine. And I have continued to study ever since. The complete depth and breadth of Catholicism is unknowable. There is always a new insight to be gained from study, prayer, and reflection. There are always ways to enrich my relationship with Christ.
(H/T to Richmond Catholic for the link.)