Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Comments on: "Anthony Esolen on the Communion Rail"

Archived comments to the post: "Anthony Esolen on the Communion Rail" (Musings, May 23, 2006):

Oh please.

Back in the 50's everybody knew their place. Men were men and ladies wore hats to church. There was an altar guild and a Holy Name Society and boy oh boy bring back those days.

Those were the days when you were young, when your Catholicism was fresh, and CNN didn't bring every battlefield into your den 24-7. That was back when my 5 cents allowance bought a movie and a coke and popcorn, and Susie Lee let me kiss her on the cheek after the dance.

There's a reason we can't go back: Look at the clock. It goes FORWARD. Nostalgia is great but you can't live in it because the past doesn't exist anymore and never really did, not like you remember it. Quit dragging your heels like a bunch of moaning myrtles, will you, and move with the arrow of time that the good Lord gave you--forward.

And anybody who thinks I'm Hegelian gets a sock on the nose.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.23.06 - 1:56 pm | #

I am at a loss for words.

"Quit dragging your heels like a bunch of moaning myrtles, will you, and move with the arrow of time that the good Lord gave you--forward."

Where are we going?
Paul Borealis | 05.23.06 - 3:39 pm | #

Heck, back in the fifties you had to get to Sunday Mass early just to get a seat, a seat of really hard wood. Now you can sometimes stretch out with a whole padded pew all to yourself.

Back then, the parking lot would fill up, and you might wind up on the street a block or two away. Today there's always plenty of room.
Terrence Berres | Homepage | 05.23.06 - 3:56 pm | #

Kathy, I just remembered an old song by the Kinks, written 1974. I looked it up. Please excuse this secular music, I mean not to offend, but entertain. I fear people here might not forgive me for this post.

"Belle [the female singer/character]: we had our good times pal,
We thought they'd last forever.
But nothing lasts forever,
Nothing lasts forever.

Time goes by and people change
It's best we go our separate ways
And it was wrong to think our love would never end
My friend
Nothing lasts forever,
Nothing lasts forever.

Time goes by it takes us all,
Nations crumble and empires fall
And who are we
To think that we would always be,
You see nothing lasts forever,
Nothing lasts forever.

Flash [the male singer/character]: i know that you'll survive
And you'll get by whatever.
Though you say goodbye.
My love will never die,
It will last forever.

Your love will die but mine will last forever,
Your love will fade but mine will last forever.
Your feeling might go but mine will last forever.
And though you're gone you're in my mind forever."
Paul Borealis | 05.23.06 - 4:28 pm | #


I'm curious whether you've ever attended Mass at a parish that used a communion rail. The first time I encountered one, I was shocked at how wonderful it was for reasons that Tony Esolen expresses far better than I ever could.

At 36, I cannot, by definition, be nostalgic for communion rails. They were largely eliminated before my time. I am, however, thrilled to recover any past expression of authentic Catholicism that was jettisoned by modernists with an agenda.
Doug | 05.23.06 - 4:40 pm | #

Terrence, that depends on the parish and neighborhood demographics a lot more than it depends on the altar rail. I know plenty of parishes that are SRO every Mass.

Paul, hmmm.

St. John of the Cross said "Well and good if all things change, Lord God, provided we are rooted in you." Whereas some people seem to be saying that there is no being rooted in God unless the particular forms and customs of my boyhood are revived. That's just worldly nostalgia talking.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.23.06 - 4:44 pm | #

Doug, the only place where I encountered communion rails was at the Cathedral in Cologne last World Youth Day. I thought it was really awkward (even before the big crowds) and had no similarity to the PROCESSIONAL character that the Communion PROCESSION is supposed to have in the current rite. I could probably get used to it so that it wouldn't be awkward, but there's no way it could ever be a procession.

Paul, Dei Verbum 8 (from the Council that some people are apparently ambivalent about) told us where we are going:

This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.23.06 - 4:52 pm | #

I'm 19 and I've never been to a Church with a Communion rail. I'd like to go. And I'm sure if I went, I'd want one too. I've only seen pictures.

I also have read the review of "A requiem of male friendship" and I'd have to agree. I mean, if you are a guy, and hang out with a guy, then you're automatically gay. This society is insane. It really is.
Anonymous | 05.23.06 - 5:12 pm | #

Right now things are crazy, but in some areas (e.g. liturgy) they are on a trajectory towards the good. And we'll bounce back from the rest. We really do always recover from the grossest aberrations. It's hard to say how, but we regain our heads.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.23.06 - 5:24 pm | #


On this point, I'm afraid you have your antennae in the wrong fish bowl. The communion rail isn't looking backward, but forward. As my family matures (the eldest is turning 10 in September), the younger boys actively look forward to going forward to the communion rail at Mass in our parish. My 6 year old, in what can only be described as a Kodak moment, went up to the communion rail before Mass started this Sunday, knelt reverently, said a short prayer, and reverently returned to his seat. The hippie generation may not see any value in the altar rail, but the young people do, once they're given the chance. At school, while we don't have a rail, we have a prie-dieu at which we receive two at a time. No one begs to stand. No one insists how little of the modern world we have absorbed.

Having worked in classrooms with teenagers for almost all of my professional teaching career, except for a stint when I taught soldiers (professional teenagers, really), I can assure you that the only reason children don't ask for such things is that they have never been allowed to be exposed to them.

Here's another illustration. School rules (in another school) required that faculty not raise religious issues of any kind. My students, having time on their hands at the end of an exam, asked me a question about how the French (being Catholic) are different from them (being mostly Protestant) -- and in this context began to discuss issues they understood only in the vaguest of ways. THEY WANTED the conversation, so I had to help them see the issues with greater clarity.
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 05.23.06 - 5:40 pm | #

Kathy - Even then Card. Ratzinger acknowledged that the reforms were not organic and were absolutely destructive. I mean, these people in the 60s destroyed altars and statues. That is NOT Catholic. It's something the Protestants did during the Reformation. That's just sick.
Anonymous | 05.23.06 - 5:43 pm | #

To be Catholic in today's day and age is to be counter-cultural.

Pop culture sucks,
Pope culture rocks.
Andrew S. | 05.23.06 - 5:46 pm | #

Anonymous: I very much doubt Cardinal Ratzinger said the forms were "absolutely destructive." I think he would say that the reforms were not done correctly and that the Council's intentions were misunderstood and wrongly implemented. If I understand correctly this is not unusual for the first generation or two after a Council. Nicea's immediate effect, for example, was a huge increase in Arianism.

Incidentally I'm rereading Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins at the moment, and Rev. Kev Kevin is sitting with his feet up on the (unmentionable) console, reading Commonweal and taking readings. I can see that it's funny and tragic--and also that we've come a long way since 1971, when former-priests-turned-Kinsey-researchers seemed like the wave of the future. The pendulum is swinging back. That's why I'm being so adamant about the REASONS we do things. The new wave of reverence will last only IF it's well-founded on good principles, but not if it's based on nostalgia, imprecise thinking, or principles that are any less than theological, including Esolen's earnest, articulate, but ultimately unsatisfying thoughts about the basis of community.

It certainly won't last if it's founded on the desire to negate the last Council.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.23.06 - 6:02 pm | #

Assuming it's a good principle to use information beyond the anecdotal when we can, surveys indicate there were fewer Catholics at Mass on Sundays in the U.S. in 2005 than in 1965. Not just a lower percentage, but fewer in total, even though the number of Catholics had grown by 20 million.
Terrence Berres | Homepage | 05.23.06 - 6:27 pm | #


Please make an argument against altar rails. You reference a "procession" argument, but don't develop it. Rather, in nearly every post you simply urge those of us that disagree with you to "move forward" and to quit being nostaglic. This is a straw man. Dr. Blosser didn't grow up Catholic and his conversion was obviously post-Council. Others, like me, are 40-ish and under. By any estimation, it is the "young" who are thrilled to recover much of what was lost in the 1970s and 1980s. You may be able to make a solid argument against communion rails. But, by my estimation, you haven't yet even tried.
Doug | 05.23.06 - 7:47 pm | #

Doug, I'm not arguing against altar rails. Move into that subject if you'd like. I'm arguing against "the argument from nostalgia," which is a very poor substitute for an argument from "the hermeneutics of fittingness."
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 8:39 am | #

Doug and Chris make a relevant point against the "nostalgia" cavil. Many of those who are voting with their feet for the Traditional Latin Mass, its Communion Rail, kneeling, etc., have no memory of the pre-Vatican II Church. Chris's students certainly don't. Converts after Vatican II (like me) certainly don't. Nor can the motivation be a desire to "negate the last Council."

Furthermore, Doug raises the all-important question concerning Communion rails when he asks for an argument against them. This is precisely the question we raised in the article on Communion rails in our series on the hermeneutics of fittingness, and there was little in the way of a plausible rationale for removing them, as I recall, beyond a nebulous (and hardly theologically justifiable) notion of fostering a greater horizontal sense of 'community' in the 'worship space' by softening the distinction between the roles of clergy and laity.

The cavil about "turning back the clock," of course, is a red herring. While it's true that one cannot literally reverse time, that is not at issue. What is at issue is whether changes in the architecture of the liturgy are more worthy of divine worship than hitherto and have improved Catholic devotion. If so, well and good. If not, one may without any inconsistency whatsoever mount a case, precisely, for "turning back the clock": ad fontes!
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 8:53 am | #

Esolen's argument depends very much on nostalgia.

All right: While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants' union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the "communitarian" nature of the PROCESSION to receive Communion. The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful. If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner. GIRM 86

Most liturgical acts are a combination of personal piety and communal sensibility. But processions are less emphatically personal and more communal. The moment of receiving Communion is personal; the time after Communion is very much personal:

When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately. If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation.

There is a symbolic contrast here between the communal and the personal. Among many other things it could mean (symbols usually having some multivalence) perhaps its primary significance is the analogy to the common life of believers (procession) and the hours of death and judgment (private prayer after Communion.) Esolen correctly points out that it is WHAT (i.e. WHOM) we esteem that is the source of our unity. But kneeling at the altar rail makes the processional character disappear. Reverence is restored--and I agree that the category of reverence must be regained in the future, as is being done even now with Chris's students--but at the cost of legitimate balance within the liturgy of community and personal devotion.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 9:14 am | #

My second quotation above is from GIRM 88.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 9:16 am | #

You can't turn back the clock? A nice rhetorical flourish, and utterlt false. As Peter Kreeft says, that is just what you do if it is telling bad time. Be it nostalgia or desperation, either works as justification for me. Empty parishes, pagan Catholics, heavily gay clergy, music that is more a cacophony... No offense intended, but mere intellectual reaction against nostalgia seems comical, especially against a practice like the communion rail which is so clearly designed to instill reverence. Is it nostalgia to clasp ones hands while praing? Then shall we kill the practice? Such an analagy seems absurd until we witness the equally moronic decision to do away with the confessional in favor or the 'Reconciliation Room.' I do not have the knowledge to speak of the historical nature of a processional, but I can contribute the contemporary observation that Paul VIs liturgical instincts have resulted in the ironic situation of the Church with the highest view of the Eucharist becoing the Church with the hands-down ugliest and least inviting aesthetic rite amongst litigrical denominations. The fact we need an *argument* to have a rail where we stop and bow to receive what is the Body of Christ as opposed to what amounts to a check out line... that speaks volumes right there.
Joe M | 05.24.06 - 9:36 am | #

As do my typos, but hopefully on another and lesser level!
Joe M | 05.24.06 - 9:38 am | #

[ Esolen's argument depends very much on nostalgia. ]

Well, you continue to assert that, but have yet to demonstrate it. Make the argument if you can, but don't just assert.

[ But kneeling at the altar rail makes the processional character disappear. ]

Not at all; this is an overstatement. We process to the rail. We kneel and receive. We recess down the opposite aisle. It is still a communal, processional act, crowned by a personal reception. I think I remember in a previous thread that your argument hinges on the fact that there is a slight interruption in the flow as each rank of the faithful kneel to receive. But there is a slight interruption in the flow as each person receives standing in the hands too, just of a shorter duration. Taking the argument to the absurd, then, the faithful should be able to move continuously from the time they leave their seats until they return, hence the Sacred Hosts should not be distributed by ministers to individuals at all (and this individual reception too is out of place in such a communal/processional act) but should be left in containers so that they can be snagged on the way by and consumed on the move. This, it seems, would truly express the processional character of a pilgrim people of God on the march toward the City of God. Let's try it, eh?

The future good of the Church lies in her past. The hearts of the young (and the not so young, like me) turn to Tradition. As Dr. Blosser says, ad fontes! And there are any number of calls for *that* even in Vatican II.
ThomistWannaBe | 05.24.06 - 9:46 am | #

"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive." (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
ThomistWannaBe | 05.24.06 - 9:48 am | #

If you want to argue about altar rails that is fine: let's argue about altar rails.

If you want to argue that the huge COMPLEX of changes of the late 60s-70s and beyond has led to a lack of reverence, I have no argument. But please don't argue both at the same time, by saying that the altar rails were the source of reverence.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 10:07 am | #

Procession vs communion rail is a red herring. The procession takes place regardless of whether or not communion rails are used. It's Shoe Leather Express either way, unless the USCCB has decreed we must levitate.

Nostalgia for a proper relation of God to man only verifies that that relation is currently out of sync.
ralph roister-doister | 05.24.06 - 10:10 am | #

I don't know how people can justify arguing that my arguments are red herrings when their only argument is the red herring that my argument is a red herring.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 10:21 am | #

Kathy's basic rule:

Liturgical errors are caused by the decision either to make 1) the moment into a process or 2) the process into a moment.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 10:34 am | #

Sorry Kathy, but I think that Ralph R-D and I have successfully punctured your procession argument.
ThomistWannaBe | 05.24.06 - 11:13 am | #

... their only argument is the red herring that my argument is a red herring.

I don't quite see how that is true, unless you can show me.

And as for interrupting the 'procession' dynamic, I can think of nothing more effective than the host of EMHCs dispersed throughout the 'gathering space' with their chalices and ceboria, awaiting parishioners (as our friend Ralph suggests) with their tip jars. If the Communion Rail 'interrupts' the procession, I would suggest it does so precisely where and as it should: at the 'gates of paradise', before of the high altar, where we properly fall to our knees in adoration. Who in his right mind really wants to be caught on his feet processing -- let alone doing the LA sashay or Mahoney Tango -- in such precincts, at such a moment? Isn't Kathy's basic rule that liturgical error is caused by confusing a moment with a process? When, if all is process, is there time for the holy and climactic moment?
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 11:45 am | #

"I thought it [using communion rails] was really awkward (even before the big crowds) and had no similarity to the PROCESSIONAL character that the Communion PROCESSION is supposed to have in the current rite."

Kathy, surely a bit of awkwardness at the communion rail is natural and fitting, considering what has just occurred there.
ralph roister-doister | 05.24.06 - 11:47 am | #

PP, the fact that all the alternatives that are apparent now are inadequate does not mean we should go backwards.

We should be singing a Psalm (that is what the rubrics provide for) as we move forward.

TWB, congratulations for puncturing my argument in your mind. If you can come up with an altar rail schema that doesn't ordinarily involve people standing around waiting for other people to finish, that would begin to answer my "procession" argument.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 11:57 am | #

Hey Paul Borealis,

It just dawned on me that the "Dei Verbum" paragraph ( Kathy quotes so rapturously above is the same paragraph over which you and I wrangled decorously last summer, in connection with remarks made by Msgr Calkins.

In your research, you were kind enough to reveal that that paragraph was regarded as problematic by a number of cardinals.

I don't think that train of comments has been saved. Do you remember this exchange, by any chance? I fear that Kathy may never know how close she has come to the brink of apostasy . . . . [wink]

Funny how this paragraph keeps turning up.
ralph roister-doister | 05.24.06 - 12:12 pm | #

ralph roister-doister | 05.24.06 - 12:12 pm | #

[ If you can come up with an altar rail schema that doesn't ordinarily involve people standing around waiting for other people to finish, that would begin to answer my "procession" argument. ]


Easy. If the "processional" character is really so important as you're making it out, then let those in each pew give those in front of them some space and then process slowly. The waiting will certainly not be any greater than it is at the NO where, as Dr. Blosser says, "as for interrupting the 'procession' dynamic, I can think of nothing more effective than the host of EMHCs dispersed throughout the 'gathering space' with their chalices and ceboria,..."

I was just at a NO Mass yesterday (a funeral for a tragic death in which, we were assured repeatedly, there was no doubt that the person was in Heaven. But that's another topic....) The non-processional character (by your standards) of pausing and starting, then weaving my way through the phalanx of ministers of Communion which was cluttered by some receiving the Precious Blood, others not and so having to navigate around them, is still fresh in my mind.

Of course, the Eastern Catholics have the same "problem" as traditional Latin Rite Catholics, namely, that the Eucharist is only distributed by the priest(s) and is done by intinction off the end of a spoon, thus destroying the processional character of their Eucharist too.

As I have said, if stopping and starting is the problem, you would have to let people self-communicate from containers, under one species only. Unless you're willing to go to those lengths to preserve the "processional character" of the Communion line then I think you should reevaluate the weight you're putting on an idiosyncratic notion of "procession".

No, I'm 100% with Dr. Blosser on this one. A pause on the threshold to collect one's thoughts and prayers, followed by falling to one's knees, is emminently fitting and is by no means based on mere nostalgia.
ThomistWannaBe | 05.24.06 - 12:26 pm | #

Calling the Council into question, eh, Ralph?

Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 1:15 pm | #

TWB, under no circumstances may the laity self-communicate. So I think we don't really have to discuss that, okay?

Your suggestion about the procession breaks its continuity. Pew #1, process. Now pew #2, process. It's supposed to be one procession, continuously, not one-per-pew.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 1:20 pm | #

Hello ralph roister-doister

I hope you are well. Yes, I do remember the general issue, but am hazy on the specifics. In this context, I am at a loss to understand why Kathy called attention to the passage, "Dei Verbum" paragraph eight. I know it was in response to my question "Where are we going?" i.e., what is/was the reason, intent and aim for the changes to the liturgy, or what were the purposes/criteria for these changes, specifically pertaining to the general abandonment of kneeling for Holy Communion at an altar rail? That said, what does the 'development of dogma' and the deepening theological understanding of Divine Revelation and the Deposit of the Faith, have to do with the issue here under discussion?
Paul Borealis | 05.24.06 - 1:21 pm | #


It IS confusing, isn't it?

As best I can tell, Kathy persists in confusing the "process" of receiving with the "process" of the merry-go-round, in which the body of Christ is a kind of brass ring.

The rest of it is unrestrained enthusiasm for moving forward, which is exactly what my old high school religion teacher, Fr Luke, used to enthuse about back in The Day, before he left the priesthood, got hisself a wummin, and embarked on a career selling soft pretzels at Yankee Stadium.
ralph roister-doister | 05.24.06 - 1:29 pm | #

"what does the 'development of dogma' and the deepening theological understanding of Divine Revelation and the Deposit of the Faith, have to do with the issue here under discussion?"

That we must go forward, not backward. Boyhood memories are no substitute for theology.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 1:33 pm | #

[ It's supposed to be one procession, continuously, not one-per-pew. ]

"Supposed to be"? Where is that in the rubrics, Kathy? As I've said, I think you're just applying a very idiosyncratic and subjective view of "procession" to bolster your case.

You still haven't answered the argument that even the present situation causes delays in the line, which then (according to your standards) destroys its processional character.

Self-communication was practiced in the early Church, so given today's standards I don't see any reason why a campaign to speed up Communion lines by way of this practice should not be practiced throughout the U.S. The GIRM's mention of the processional nature of the line is the perfect "official" excuse. Clearly we have two conflicting liturgical norms from Rome--procession vs. no self-communication--so the principle of oikonomia can be invoked to ignore the latter in favor of the former. And if the practice becomes widespread enough it'll be approved by Rome anyway. Why not?
ThomistWannaBe | 05.24.06 - 1:38 pm | #

Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 1:42 pm | #

Or as that one girl kept saying in Joe Vs. the Volcano (Tom Hanks' last decent movie), "I have no response to that."
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 1:55 pm | #

"The rest of it is unrestrained enthusiasm for moving forward, which is exactly what my old high school religion teacher, Fr Luke, used to enthuse about back in The Day, before he left the priesthood, [...] and embarked on a career selling soft pretzels at Yankee Stadium."

Let us hope that he did not write on the job application form, or in his resume, that he had gained experience in facilitating and catering 'meal events' at the post-Vatican II 1970s+ liturgy. I do not think that selling and distributing "soft pretzels" and hot dogs to large crowds has anything to do with, or ought to be compared to, the sacred priestly act of giving Holy Communion. However, the ‘progressive’ Fr Luke might have thought the comparison proper.
Paul Borealis | 05.24.06 - 2:07 pm | #

Only on this blog (and on other blogs that don't count) am I ever accused of being progressive. Most people think I'm boring and always taking the Magisterium too seriously.

God made time go forward. He put the eschaton in the future. That's where we're headed.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 2:12 pm | #

Would this be a bad time to make a lighthearted remark about the propensities of woman drivers?
ralph roister-doister | 05.24.06 - 2:29 pm | #

Hello Kathy

I enjoy reading what you write in debate, and like your participation at this blog. I hope you did not think that I was calling you down, or "accused [you] of being progressive" - 'progressive' being used in a negative sense in this case. Please do not get the wrong idea, or be offended.

"And anybody who thinks I'm Hegelian gets a sock on the nose."

I do not doubt it. You can handle things, and take care of yourself. Thanks!
Paul Borealis | 05.24.06 - 2:39 pm | #

Yes, ralph, it probably would.

And I have nothing useful to contribute in any fashion to this discussion.
Flambeaux | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 2:41 pm | #

Sorry Paul, I was mostly honking at Ralph Roister-Doister. No offense taken.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 2:43 pm | #

[ God made time go forward. He put the eschaton in the future. That's where we're headed. ]

And in the Catholic Church there is a time to return to the past too. It has happened more than once that Popes have reversed completely the disciplinary and/or prudential policies of their predecessors. For example, prior to the Deformation, Communion was received in the Latin Rite exclusively under one kind. After the Council of Trent, some bishops requested and gained permission to have Communion administered under both kinds. But they found, in the end, that it did not solve any pastoral problems but certainly created some. And so they went back to the prior established custom.

Similarly, if it be found that many/most/all of the liturgical changes that have taken place in the Roman Rite since Vatican II have not borne good fruit, then it is perfectly reasonable to return to the prior disciplines and even to the prior Rite as normative for the Roman Church. And there is nothing disloyal in taking the position that, indeed, the "reforms"--even the official ones--have harmed the Church much more than they have helped her and that, indeed, she should return to her previous disciplines and liturgical texts. As C. S. Lewis would say, that would make me more progressive than you.
ThomistWannaBe | 05.24.06 - 2:57 pm | #

TWB, for once we agree.

With one proviso: that pastoral problems are not the only reason for recapturing customs of the past. Two reasons: 1) unless there is a solid theological grounding for a change, it will not last (thank God) and 2) we rarely see clearly enough to discern valid cause-effect relationships.

The Pill is the reason liturgy is often irreverent. Not altar rails.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 3:14 pm | #

Please forgive me if my comments repeat others in the thread; however, I read the whole thing, and I don't believe this is the case.

Our beliefs, of course, have an incarnational aspect, and therefore it is fitting that we desire that our faith becomes "enfleshed" in music, art, and, most especially, in the Gesamtkunstwerk which is the liturgy.

So the question must be answered: What kinds of liturgical action at Communion best express our beliefs?

Doesn't kneeling, a posture which in modern minds is one of adoration, express more clearly and suitably our belief in the Real Presence? Surely it is more appropriate than a bow, which involves not much more effort than what one puts into greeting the mailman. (I am not trying to be sarcastic; I think this is really true.)

Besides the Real Presence, however, one must of course consider the journey to Paradise. Each of us will stand before God--in a particular judgement, and at the end of time, when all of mankind will be divided into two groups, the sheep and the goats. Maybe this is a stretch that comes from my having had too much caffeine, but could it not be said that, given the two different judgements, it is also suitable for there to be communal AND personal moments in the procession to the Kingdom of Heaven? It seems to me that the modern rite focuses entirely too much on the community, and that a balance needs to be restored. So I would agree that processing to the edge of the sanctuary and kneeling at the altar rail would be the perfect synthesis of these considerations.

It is not enough to trust in catechesis and theology. The liturgy is the embodiment of the faith (I'm told that Thomas Aquinas argued that the liturgy trumped theology in any matter of discrepancy--I wish I could find this and cite it), and I know many wonderful Catholics whose faith was nurtured by it. More importantly, if there is a disconnect between what the true teaching of the Church is and what the actions of the liturgy communicate we cannot expect people to maintain orthodox belief.
Ekkehard VI | 05.24.06 - 4:21 pm | #

BTW, my last sentence is not to excuse people from orthodoxy, but merely intends to say that a liturgical mess only too quickly leads to heretical views among many.
Ekkehard VI | 05.24.06 - 4:41 pm | #


I promise not to accuse you of being progressive. On this one issue, however, you are simply mistaken. An altar rail facilitates both community and procession. First, especially if the altar rail is the length of the transcept, a large number can receive in turn, as is appropriate in any procession. I suppose this could also be done standing, but when one pro-abortion politician comes to receive, and is refused by a priest, he holds up the line. Kneeling, in this case emphasizing the utter equality of all before God, allows the offending politician to kneel to his heart's content while the priest simply bypasses him.

Processions have necessary stopping points -- marches to the White House, rallies at a court house and Communion processions all stop. We queue up to receive theater tickets, but no one supposes that "stopping" to get tickets interrupts the procession. In fact, such is a necessary part of the procession in order for it to make sense.

The real danger I see in the emphasis on a procession showing our unity is that those who sit in the pews, regardless of the states of their souls, must simply join the queue. Frequent communion is a good thing and a great blessing to the Church, but sacrilegious communions do no one any good at all.
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 05.24.06 - 5:53 pm | #

Gosh, such a copious discussion of communion rails. And never on this weblog have I seen any discussion of social justice or torture -- Nero fiddling...
Spirit of Vatican II | Homepage | 05.24.06 - 9:11 pm | #

Spirit, is there anything of Tradition that you like at all? I mean, anything? Vestments? Pipe organ? Anything? ... A Church???
Andrew S. | 05.24.06 - 9:31 pm | #

I do recall a conversation on this blog that highly involved social justice, and it was only a few weeks ago.
Ekkehard VI | 05.24.06 - 9:54 pm | #

Father O'Leary:

Before we can be just with our neighbor, we must make ourselves "right" with God. Otherwise, how are we to know what God wants for our neighbor?
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 05.24.06 - 11:50 pm | #

"Before we can be just with our neighbor, we must make ourselves 'right' with God"

1. The Bible suggests the opposite. Mt 25 fin. I Jn. "I the Lord am Holy" appended to commandments of social justice.

2. We are already made right with God by the atonement. Altar rails are not a matter of making ourselves right with God.

3. A torturer should stop torturing first, then he can consider the question of altar rails.
Spirit of Vatican II | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 2:54 am | #

Ok, let me see. If breaking the procession by kneeling or any pause to receive Communion were a problem (I don't think it is), and if one may not self-communicate, there are few options left. As Olympic marathon runners have aides that run along side them with bottles of water for them, I suppose EMHCs could be trained to process along side each communicant with chalice and ceborium to prevent a break in the procession, although this would require the inconvenience of having double the number of EMHCs as communicants providing you want to communicate under both species. I dunno. Could be a tad challenging.
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 8:03 am | #

That we must go forward, not backward. Boyhood memories are no substitute for theology.

True. But Kathy, if Newman (whose genius underlies some of Vatican II's thinking) is right about the distinction between organic development and heretical degeneration, then there must be some way of understanding and interpreting the mind of the Council Fathers in continuity with Catholic Tradition that makes sense of their words, would you not agree? And if that is true, then what might such and understanding or interpretation be? Isn't that the million-dollar question?
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 8:13 am | #

Gosh, such copious discussions of the glories of homoerotica and same-sex rights from this "Spirited" priest in this weblog's comment boxes. Yet never on this weblog have I seen from him a spirited defense of social justice or opposition to torture a propos the daily slaughter of helpless thousands of unborn children who are the by-products of the sexual promiscuity of the progressive social milieu he champions. -- Nero fiddling...
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 8:32 am | #

there must be some way of understanding and interpreting the mind of the Council Fathers in continuity with Catholic Tradition that makes sense of their words

That is indeed the million-dollar question.

(Incidentally, your comment underscores my argument about the continuity of the Communion procession.)

I think that we have to be careful, though, about what we mean by Tradition. Some people think traditional hymns are the Marian hymns of the 50s. Nowadays you meet folks who think that traditional hymns are Here I Am, Lord, etc. MOST people think traditional hymns are those from the 19th century. Esolen's altar rails were installed in the 50s.

Kneeling is fine--that does not delay things in and of itself. Altar rails cause longer delays. People are sort of hanging around for awhile.

BTW I'm highly in favor of ordinarily communicating under one species--though I'd hope that this would be done rationally. In other words, distribution of the cup restricted to clerics properly-so-called. Not to whatever altar servers happen to be around, for example, unless they are instituted acolytes.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 8:41 am | #

The Pill is the reason liturgy is often irreverent. Not altar rails.

Good point, Kathy. But Ekkehard VI's question in the comment immediately following ("What kinds of liturgical action at Communion best express our beliefs?") suggests a distinction. Liturgy may be irreverent (or reverent) in two ways. In one way, liturgy may be irreverent on the part of the subject's disposition. In another way, liturgy may be irreverent on the part of its objective form.

The former, I presume, is what you intend when you suggest that the 'pill' is the reason liturgy is often irreverent. The latter, however, is what I would argue remains relevant a propos the question of the altar rails. Ekkehard VI's question clearly addresses the latter question, as do my posts on the "hermeneutics of fittingness" of various liturgical practices.
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 8:48 am | #

I think that we have to be careful, though, about what we mean by Tradition. Some people think traditional hymns are the Marian hymns of the 50s.... Esolen's altar rails were installed in the 50s.

I'm not sure what your point is here, Kathy. The Dogma of the Assumption of Mary was not defined until 1950 either. What's your point?
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 8:56 am | #

I'd like to suggest that the GIRM has some flawed theology underlying certain of its directives. For example, it states that the presidential prayers demand "by their nature" to be spoken in a loud, clear voice, yet the longstanding tradition of the sotto voce canon in the latin rite and in some of the others would seem to suggest otherwise. Perhaps the "procession" theology is similarly novel.
Dave R | 05.25.06 - 9:04 am | #

Longstanding since when, Dave?

(That's my point, PP.)
Kathy | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 9:07 am | #

The Pill provoked a widespread culture of doubt in the Church. I've heard Humanae Vitae was timed badly, inasmuch as people had already been counselled by parish priests that their individual consciences were the supreme law. Sexual license, apparently, is not something that you can give people and then take back. It's like wrestling with a child over candy his grandma gave him before dinner. So the Church is in a bad state until this really gets dealt with: currently MOST people in the Church could give a hang what the Church says in its teaching on a certain matter. According to St. Thomas, dissent in one matter is equivalent to dissent in all, because what we are doubting is not the matter but the Revealer, First Truth Himself.

A crisis in faith leads, it goes without saying, to a crisis in reverence.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 9:49 am | #

Kathy, your point is that Tradition has to have been longstanding to be accepted? I grant you that "Gather Us In" is unlikely ever to thus classified except by the company of Barney and Friends, but what about the Dogma of the Assumption (1950)? What about Transubstantiation (1215)?

Protestant Fundamentalists like to argue that Catholic dogmas like 'Transubstantiation' and the 'Assumption of Mary' are simple novelties and therefore dismiss them as 'unbiblical' (and in that sense 'non-traditional') Christian doctrines.

My point would be that our interpretaton of Tradition has to be parsed and nuanced a bit more carefully than a simple timeline reference, and I doubt you'd disagree.

E.g., though the language of 'transubstantiation' was not dogmatically defined until 1215, the 'transformationalist' understanding and language was present as early as St. Ignatius of Antioch (contemporary of Apostle John). Though the Assumption wasn't dogmatically defined until 1950, the belief developed from ancient sources.

I would argue the same for liturgical developments such as genuflection, kneeling, Communion on the tongue, the altar rail, etc. That is, these things were not introduced until relatively late in Church tradition (sometime in the Middle Ages). But this does not mean that they are simple novelties, as Protestant Fundamentalists would suggest. Rather, as with other elements in Catholic Tradition, they are organic developments rooted in longstanding convictions -- that Christ is truly Present in the Sancturary, that one genuflects when one enters the court of one's King and falls to his knees in adoration when worshipping God, that He is Bodily Present in the Host (Holy, Holy, Holy -- such that I would be a fool to want to communicate myself with my profane hands, or even, perhaps, to take Him rather than to receive Him from the priest in persona Christi Himself).

My quarrel is not with the notion of liturgical development, as you can obviously see from this. My argument presupposes it. My quarrel is with the notion that what we have in the contemporary implementation of the Novus Ordo is anything like an organic development of the Traditional Latin Rite liturgy. Even the former Cardinal Ratzinger has spoken of it as a "rupture" with liturgical tradition, as I have pointed out on more than one occasion.
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 10:10 am | #

PP, I hope that you are not putting the dogma of the Assumption on the same level as kneeling at the altar rail.

One aspect of the altar rail is definitely of long standing: there has long been a definite separation/ barrier between the sanctuary and the nave.

I think that the problem is to find which of the elements you mentioned are truly developments and which are not. And of those that are true developments, it would be important to distinguish between those that were good for a time, versus those that were good for all time.

Personally, I would trust that your judgment on the hermeneutics of fittingness was truly rational if you didn't always line up on the side of the radtrads.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 1:19 pm | #


You are quite right about the GIRM. And the laughable part is that they claim the Novus Ordo is in continuity with the Church's whole tradition.
Ekkehard VI | 05.25.06 - 1:29 pm | #


Explain to us how your vision of what the Communion Rite ought to look like better expresses our Catholic faith than the one which PP and several others have proposed. You haven't done it.

Secondly, I wouldn't say that our Pertinacious Papist friend always lines up with the "RadTrads". I've never read anything of his that suggests that the NO is invalid, or that there was an imposter Pope Paul VI, or that the Third Secret of Fatima which the Vatican released is a sham, or that the modern rite of ordination of a bishop is invalid, etc., etc. He, like all Catholics, has a right to examine whether our liturgical rites are true to tradition.

By the way, the "sotto voce" Canon was in use for at least a millenium before the II Vatican Council. At all times until the council, the Canon was either said sotto voce or sung. Protestant sects spoke their "Eucharistic Prayers," and this is the first time this happened in the history of Christianity. See Dom Gregory Dix's _The Shape of the Liturgy_.
Ekkehard VI | 05.25.06 - 1:36 pm | #

Gee whiz, Ekkehard, next you'll question whether the Missa Normativa is even valid.

In my perfect world the Communion Rite should optimally go like this:

Procession to the priest-celebrant who holds the ciborium, who is assisted by an altar server with a patten, and on special feast days is also assisted by a deacon who holds the chalice

All the while the Communion chant is being sung, with a refrain for the people

Communion is given by intinction. Kneeling is possible but the recommended posture is genuflection before receiving, standing. As you may have observed, genuflection is a clearer sign of adoration than kneeling. (Note how customs surrounding Benediction have the priest or deacon stand, then genuflect, after kneeling.)

The procession is of course only for communicants, not for blessings or what have you.

After Communion a reverent silence is observed, though on special feast days a Marian hymn may be sung.

That's my dream. You can help make it a reality with your non-tax-deductible contribution of a car, truck, or boat on a trailer.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 2:00 pm | #

Is PP trying to make radtrads of us all? Only his confessor knows for sure.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 2:01 pm | #


There is a careful distinction to be made between the validity of the Mass and the degree to which the Rite of Mass is in continuity with tradition. I have said nothing that suggests I'm headed for the camp which says that the Novus Ordo is invalid. I tire of your unfounded accusations.

I do like the fact that you make no mention of EMHC's. But I do question whether the Communion Antiphon needs to have a response for the people given that 1) the traditional antiphons in the Graduale Romanum are not intended for congregational singing and 2) listening can be as active a participation as singing.

I'm still not sure you've answered my question as to how your scheme more fully expresses the meaning of the Communion Rite. Is there not both a communal and a personal encounter with God at the Gates of Paradise? Like I said earlier, it seems to me that this synthesis is best achieved when the communicant, having processed with the rest of the congregation, has the ability to kneel at the altar rail and be personally prepared for the sacrament. When I receive standing, I always feel like it's over before it even started.

Let's also look at something else, though I'm prepared to be accused of a "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" argument. How many Catholics attended church in the bad old days of Communion rails? How many of them believed in transubstantiation? How many attend now? How many of those who attend church now believe in transubstantiation? (One survey listed 33% of Catholics as believing in the Real Presence, though the questions remain as to how "Catholic" the respondents actually were, along with what was meant precisely by "Real Presence.") My experience is that many--though most assuredly far from all--"practicing Catholics" are embarrassed by this, and other, doctrines. Have the changes in the liturgy, including the different Communion Rite, been a catalyst in what seems to be a slackening of belief amongst Catholics?
Ekkehard VI | 05.25.06 - 2:52 pm | #

Ekklehard, I wouldn't have thought that There is a careful distinction to be made between the validity of the Mass and the degree to which the Rite of Mass is in continuity with tradition. It would seem that a Rite that is completely discontinous would in fact be invalid. Please feel free to explain the distinction.

The "gates of heaven" moment would begin, in my scheme, with reception and continue during the silence.

Post hoc, ergo proter hoc: you said it. I restate my understanding of the cause-effect relationship: The Pill caused the decline in reverence.

This does not preclude the possibility, in fact the likelihood, that the way out of the present situation is in fact liturgical. However, as I restate tiresomely yet I hope somewhat winsomely, the reasons for the ways in which we regain the lost ground must be themselves GROUNDED in theology. NOT in any sentiment having to do with the good ole' days of 1953.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 3:16 pm | #

The Novus Ordo is valid because it has the necessary matter and form.

I would not say that it is completely discontinuous with tradition, but neither is it completely continuous. You are probably right that a rite which is completely discontinuous with tradition would be invalid.

Many of the traditional elements that have been expunged in the 1969 Missale Romanum did a beautiful job of expressing the theology of the Mass. The old offertory prayers needed to be restored yesterday. There is no precedent in Catholic liturgy for the current offertory prayers. Elements of the Roman Canon were expunged in the Novus Ordo, and now we have several Eucharistic Prayers, some of which do not express the fullness of the theology of the Mass. (For instance, Eucharistic Prayer II, incorrectly attributed to St. Hippolytus, does not mention the ASCENSION!...and by the way, Happy Ascension Day.)

These are among the more important traditional elements that have been left out of the Novus Ordo, though there are many more. Keep in mind, as the (Roman Catholic) bishops of the Province of Westminster, England once said, elements can be added to tradition, but they should never be taken away. In this respect, I even entertain reservations about some of the effects, however unintended, which the Council of Trent had on the liturgy in some places.

I don't detect any sentimentality amongst those here who are advocates of the altar rail. Seems like everyone on this thread is trying to get at this objectively, in spite of the fact that we might find it difficult to come to agreement, so why do you keep bringing this up?

It seems to me that the belief in the Eucharist would stand to be most affected by the very Rite in which the faithful receive the Sacrament, rather than by other matters of faith or morals, no matter how important they might be, such as the pill. I, for one, found Dr. Ralph McInerny's book _What Went Wrong with Vatican II_, the thesis of which was that the Council's problems were related to the pill, to be rather simplistic. It ignored some of the more obvious problems, such as the way the Church worships God. (I am not saying that the Pill is merely a nuisance that should be tolerated or ignored. That, I suppose, is a whole other subject.)
Ekkehard VI | 05.25.06 - 3:54 pm | #

Kathy, There is one gift of the Holy Ghost that seems you do not have in your heart. THE FEAR OF THE LORD and it is not your fault for it does not have a place in the modern Church. If and when you get it your heart will be filled with a feeling that even when you hear the Holy Name of Jesus you'll feel your knees bend and you head will bow then and only then you'll realize why you should kneel and recieve the Body Blood Souls and Divinity of Our and Savior Jesus Christ at a alter rail on your knees praying to yourself Domine non sum dignus.
Michael Brennan | 05.25.06 - 6:07 pm | #

Dang, Michael, you sound like a Pentecostal describing the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. I guess some churches won't admit a member who hasn't had that Holy Ghost feeling. Goodness gracious I'm glad you don't write canon law.

Besides, is there a complaint center I can write to about my apparently defective Confirmation, during which I received six gifts (and possibly not even them!) instead of seven? I'd better go find out what happened.

Dang, Michael.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 8:14 pm | #

Ekkehard, here are ome examples of sentimentality-or at least high subjectivity-in this thread:

"I was shocked at how wonderful it was for reasons that Tony Esolen expresses far better than I ever could."

"I'd like to go. And I'm sure if I went, I'd want one too."

"a Kodak moment"

"The hearts of the young (and the not so young, like me) turn to Tradition."

"Pope culture rocks."


Nothing wrong with sentiment, but it's awfully hard to discuss. You are right that after Esolen's essay and some early remarks by others there hasn't been a lot of hearkening back to the 50's, which was a straw man of mine though I wasn't seeing that, sorry. Also I was misspelling your name unawares. Sorry about that too.

I hadn't heard of Dr. McInerny's thesis. Interesting. I agree that the liturgy can be pedagogical. But honestly when I look at the liturgy I see the possibility of what can be superadded to the often minimally valid, sometimes illicit Mass that occurs, by merely following the rubrics. I'm spoiled, though, and maybe that is part of the problem. I usually attend Mass either at the National Shrine in Washington, the Dominican's formation house, or at the parish in Arlington where I cantor, where the pastor is obviously, literally a saint. I mean he shines.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.25.06 - 8:30 pm | #

Oh Kathy, No pentecostal here nor American Catholic just a simple Roman Catholic could you explan what fear of the lord means.

Michael Brennan | 05.25.06 - 10:12 pm | #

Professor Blosser,

Many thanks for your kind words; I'm gratified to see that the article has occasioned a spirited discussion here.

Let me clear up one thing: I'm not old enough to feel nostalgia for the communion rail. But on those few times recently when I have knelt at the rail, I remembered the difference -- it was like a lightning bolt of early memories, long forgotten. In any case, my article used the rails as a symbol (and a symptom) of what went wrong.

The argument was based on my observation of human communities -- not clubs, but tightly bound communities of people fiercely loyal to a place or a cause. If you don't honor the sacred, you don't have a community. And people honor the sacred by setting it apart (the meaning of Latin "sanctus"). They proscribe who may not enter, who may not see or touch, when the doors may be opened, and so forth.

So when the innovators diluted the sense of the holy in the name of building a community, they failed on their own terms. Conversely, if you want to build a Catholic community -- I don't mean a Catholic cafeteria, wherein you can mix and match your doctrines, like sides of beans and coleslaw -- you have to return the sense of the sacred to the liturgy. May I suggest, for starters, that we cut out the chatting in Church, and that we refrain from baring our legs, shoulders, bellies, and backsides? Also it would be helpful to clear out ALL the laity from the sanctuary (except for the boys belonging to a once-again recognized minor order of acolyte). I have dozens of reasons for that last recommendation, but for now I'll only suggest that people are united more by what they none of them dare touch than by what they all handle in common.
Tony Esolen | 05.26.06 - 1:01 am | #

Michael, it used to mean that God was pleased that the people were afraid to approach Him. (Deuteronomy 5)

Now it means that God is angry when people refuse to approach Him through Christ Who passed through the veil. (Hebrews 12:18 ff)
Kathy | Homepage | 05.26.06 - 11:11 am | #


"But honestly when I look at the liturgy I see the possibility of what can be superadded to the often minimally valid, sometimes illicit Mass that occurs, by merely following the rubrics."

Can you provide an example? I am having a hard time interpreting this. I do understand, of course, that a Mass that is very plainly "by the book" is far more glorious than a Mass at which rubrics and even, regrettably, the prescribed words are thrown out the window. Do you mean to contrast this idea with what I was saying earlier about elements of tradition being excised from the Novus Ordo Missae? me out....slow brain day or something.

And don't worry about misspelling my name.

And I can't vouch for the Dominican House, but the National Shrine is indeed a lovely place to go to Mass, especially on weekdays when it's in the crypt.
Ekkehard VI | 05.26.06 - 2:17 pm | #

The National Shrine is indeed a lovely place to go to Mass, especially on weekdays when it's in the crypt.

Exactly. Pardon if this seems strange, but it's like having Mass in the womb of the Blessed Mother. Absolutely integrated structure, very beautiful.

I wish everyone could go to Mass like that all the time, instead of going to Masses where rubrics are loosely followed, where processions are rushed and casual, etc. etc.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.26.06 - 2:46 pm | #


Not even close. If you gave that answer to Sister Miriam Deloris she would say miss stand up an acknowledge your ignorance. It is always about sin Kathy it's the fear of hurting God through sin the fear of loosing God through sin and most of all the fear of loosing Gods love because you love sin more. That is why you should kneel in Gods presents recieving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to let Him truely know that you know He is God and you are not.

Michael Brennan | 05.26.06 - 4:56 pm | #

Michael, please give Sister my regards and ask her if she would please say a prayer that I will complete my last few requirements for my licentiate degree in sacred theology from the Dominicans. Good solid East Coast Dominicans at that.

Dominicans, by the way, have a history of physical prayer in which they have NINE prayer positions, not just the one that means so much to you. And to me, by the way.

You seem like a nice earnest person but you really don't know anything about my soul. I wish you would stop making these assumptions.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.27.06 - 9:30 am | #

Ekkehard, I don't want to hammer this point, but the Crypt manages to have reverent Masses without the altar rail. In fact I think something would be lost if one were installed. (The pictures below don't show the appropriate view but do give an idea of the place.) Not that this is the only way to go, but I think it at least relativizes any suggestion or claim that altar rails are necessary.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.27.06 - 2:24 pm | #

Actually, Kathy, not to argue too much, but the position of the altar, etc. is the one thing I don't like about the crypt. It is a beautiful altar, etc, but the influence of antiquarianism (as Pius XII called it) on the layout is rather apparent.

I confess that the liturgical layout upstairs (that is, if one were to use the high altar with the baldachino) is much more appealing to me. I like more of the accidentals of the crypt, such as the furnishings, the pipe organ, and the better acoustics which seem to do a better job of supporting the singing. It's also more intimate. One can easily "get lost" in the Great Upper Church.

But I respect your opinion and I don't mind agreeing to disagree.
Ekkehard VI | 05.27.06 - 5:46 pm | #

I hope that you are not putting the dogma of the Assumption on the same level as kneeling at the altar rail.

Kathy, I hoped that comparison would tumble you onto the floor with a bit of laughter. BTW, I know a nun in California who would laugh her head off if she heard you call me a RadTrad. Convenient pigionhole, maybe, but not much more than that. Cheers! --Pertinaciously yours, PP
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.27.06 - 6:37 pm | #

Tony Esolen, thank you for writing to make the point that the missing altar rail is a symbol of the lack of reverence that now exists in too many Catholic parishes. That was what I thought you were saying and I think it is very important. I am probably not going to express myself very well, that's why I hesitate to post. I often have a feeling of grief that I feel alienated from my fellow parishioners. So many are good, well-meaning people (I don't mean to damn with faint praise), but there seems to be a huge ignorance of the Faith which leads to irreverant behaviour in all the ways which you mention. How is this to be corrected though when so few of my fellow parishioners do any Catholic reading, even when there is an excellent library at our parish? It seems to me that we need an even greater emphasis on reverence now than was needed in the past because we have had so many years of a general assault on decorum in the secular world. Yet I notice even restaurants know that if they want to have a "classy" atmosphere they need to insist on a dress code for their clients as well as providing appropriate furnishings, etc. When there is solemnity and reverence, people instinctively know there is something important. Charity begins at home, and "home" is the local parish I attend. These are my closest relatives in the Mystical Body (apart from my family) and I pray that we'll all meet again in Heaven. Yet they are being short-changed I think. Tony's comment about "deep funds of knowledge about Christ and His Church allowed to trickle away into the banal and the secular, a feel-good paganism that would have made Cato turn in disgust" really resonated with me. That sums up my feelings of sadness and alienation. I am guilty as charged of feelings of nostalgia and sentimentality. Sorry about that, but what can you expect of a 62 year old pew warmer, no college or university degree, just a nobody! However, I am still home schooling a 14 yr. old and a 16 yr. old, so I have to "get over it" and do the best I can. This blog is one of the best aids I have encountered. Thanks, P.P.
ellen | 05.28.06 - 7:58 am | #


I was getting caught up on my reading of the comments in this comment box (quite a few at 90 now!), and I noticed that nobody responded to Tony Esolen when he, the author of the original article about which the post was originally written, came along and visited our Blogville community to say a few things to us -- at least, nobody until YOU! I was thinking to myself. What! Have my friends forgotten all their manners? We have a guest in our midst, and are we just going to all ignore him as if he didn't exist and keep talking amongst ourselves? THANK YOU, Ellen, not only for having the courtesy to address Mr. Esolen's thoughful remarks with your kindly comments, but for speaking to the issue of decorum in our churches from substantively and from the heart! God bless you!

Thank you, Tony Esolen, for your thoughful remarks once again. We always appreciate your articles and comments.

And thanks to all of you -- the usual suspects as well as newcomers in this combox -- for your contributions to this lively debate. It's always good to read all of your remarks. I may have to incorporate all of this, someday, into a book or something.
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.30.06 - 3:20 pm | #

Dr. Blosser, I was going to reply but didn't want to insult your guest.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.30.06 - 8:51 pm | #

Thank you, Prof. Pertinacious, and you too, Ellen. I'm going to write another article, on man's innate longing to give praise, to worship. One of the distorted forms of this longing is the bleak terror before some unnamed Power, often portrayed in grotesque form -- as for instance the hideous colossi on Easter Island, or the great gaping furnace-mouth of Moloch. The ancient Israelites felt a just form of this terror when they begged Moses to go up to the mountain for them, so deeply did they fear the voice of the Lord.

Now that Christ has come and taught us to call upon our Father, we enter into the sanctuary more boldly than any old woshipper of the nature gods could imagine; that's one of the meanings of the Eucharist. Indeed we are all members of the priesthood of believers, and Christ our High Priest has entered into the Holy of Holies, tearing the veil of the Temple in two, from top to bottom. Yet it seems that this welcome should increase in us our awe in the presence of God, not blunt it; simply because God is the infinite and ineffable, and we now are granted by grace to know Him more fully than others, which is another way of saying that we know more fully than others how infinitely he abides beyond our comprehension. He is the object of our desire, that we should know Him to the depths that such creatures as we are can know Him; but our consciousness of this desire should lead us to praise Him all the more.

Now the act of praise is strange, isn't it? It's an impulse of self-offering, yet it focuses not on the self but on the surpassing grandeur of the One praised. It partakes of gratitude, yet gratitude seems to depend upon something that the Lord does for me, but my praise is moved merely by my apprehending that He is. It is also a mysterious act of love, and if God made man to praise Him, then it must be that the act of praise unites man with God, even as it acknowledges the infinite distance. Nor would the true lover want it any other way.

The question is, how do we construct our churches and plan our liturgies so as to express this Christian praise, wherein for our own good and to satisfy our own love we direct our hearts wholly to the One we love?
Tony Esolen | 05.30.06 - 11:46 pm | #

Thank you, Tony and P.P. for your kind remarks. Tony, I hope you will write your essay on our longing to worship God. I remember reading one time that Fr. Faber wrote that in the first moment of Our Blessed Lord's conception in the womb of His Mother, Almighty God at last received the adoration and worship that is His due. (Hope I've said that correctly.) I need to find the book again, I think it was "Bethlehem". Our purpose in life is to know, love and serve God and to help others to do the same. If we know Him (as He has revealed Himself), we will love Him and if we love Him we will want to worship Him. We have our community in the Mystical Body, but we need to experience that community in our local parish, as you point out so beautifully in the last paragraph of your essay. Thanks again for your essay - such a lot to think about.
ellen | 05.31.06 - 9:04 am | #

Yes, thank you, Tony, for your essay, but also for the essay (and others still) to come. We look forward to more from you in the future.
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.31.06 - 12:25 pm | #

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