It seems to have become stylish for Catholics to complain about the mass. But that behavior is always out of style if we intend to become saints.
Recently Matt Fradd posted a clip of his interview with Fr. Mark Goring on his Instagram page. I usually like both of these guys, but sometimes they frustrate or disappoint me with their rhetoric, because I feel they are unintentionally misguiding the faithful (Pope Francis doesn’t hold a monopoly in that business); particularly on issues of the mass/liturgy, “traditionalism”, wrongly-ordered rally cries, things of that nature. Matt occasionally takes a jab at the state of the mass today (usually passive-aggressively). As much as I like him, that bothers me. I think that tendency, or disposition, resulted in lines of questions or a rhetorical climate that resulted in the clip posted to his Instagram. My direct issue in this post is with Fr. Mark Goring’s words. Here’s the clip, followed by the rest of my thoughts and reaction.
If you’re a fan of either of these guys, please don’t throw rocks at me for taking issue with them here. I like them, too, (mostly) but I can see errors and imperfections in people that I like as much as I can see virtues in people that I may not be fond of.
Fr. Mark’s words in this clip bothered me; not because they’re necessarily bothersome in and of themselves, but because it’s another iteration, and representative of, a malady of the modern Catholic layperson: “Mass hysteria”.
Here’s the portion of Fr. Mark Goring’s words that bugged me.
While I agree with everything else he [very brilliantly] said in the clip, I disagree with how he started off (particularly because I believe the first part of his comments nulify the second part, but I digress).
I think what has arguably done more harm to the Catholic faith is that there are people in the Catholicsphere who continue convince the faithful that the mass “Should be like this“. And that the “new mass” while ‘still a valid mass’ isn’t Catholic enough. As long as Catholics are being told that the mass “should be” what the Latin mass is, they will never really get from the mass what they’re supposed to get from it. They’ll only get out of it what they bring to it—frustration.
Most Catholics’ frustrations with the mass are manufactured, they aren’t organic. They come from misinformation, from ignorance or from miscalculation; either by their own ignorance, or by misdirection from others. They expect the mass to be a demonstration of the faith, rather than the culmination of the substance of the faith. As long as people continue to manufacture frustration and outrage toward “the Novus Ordo mass”, people will continue to trip and fall over their own feet on the road to sainthood.
Bad, sloppy or irreverent masses aside, we have to understand and accept in true and good faith that the mass is the mass and its being has nothing to do with our preferences or often subjective requirements and expectations. The mass is what IT is. If it isn’t Catholic enough for some, then they are looking for an experience or a benefit in the mass that the mass wasn’t intended to provide. They’re looking for the wrong thing. The mass, in its nature, isn’t a bombastic or verbose demonstration of the Catholic faith. It’s a quiet, but spiritually dynamic culmination of all that we believe. It’s intended object is God, not us. We are only participants. And very blessed we are to be! In the grand scheme of things there are better and worse masses, according to our preferences. Some are lacking characteristics that are present in others, such as, for example, incense, more traditional music, a stronger homily (which isn’t always necessarily “better”), and so on. But while one mass may be lacking what the other mass offers, neither mass is lacking in everything that we need, even if it doesn’t include everything we like. It’s the “everything we need” that we should care about, because that’s all that matters. In the end, if the mass isn’t ‘Catholic enough’ for us, should we be asking ourselves whether or not we aren’t Catholic enough to be there?
I’ll conclude this post—and hopefully further make my point—with the comment that I left on Matt Fradd’s video clip on Instagram.
[My Instagram comment] I understand the frustrations with the liturgy but many frustrations are manufactured by people who want the liturgy to be a demonstration of something, rather than the culmination of something more. Without this predisposing of the expectations of the faithful, a Catholic can be nothing but madly in love with the liturgy, REGARDLESS of which form it’s celebrated in. The more we convince the faithful that the liturgy “should be…THIS” and fail to form them in what the liturgy IS (its nature, its substance) the faithful will always have enmity toward the liturgy that “isn’t Catholic enough”. It’s nonsense, and it is a major obstacle to the formation and confirmation of saintly hearts. I’m not saying that sloppy or irreverent or illicit liturgies are acceptable. They aren’t! But most liturgies are not problematic. The only problem is what the faithful are bringing to it. They make even good masses just as sloppy as a bad celebrant (of a bad liturgy) does, because they fail to adorn it with a passionate heart. The mass is what it is, of its own nature. It is not dependent, reliant upon, or subordinate to our preferences or desires.
-Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis