A few months ago the Archdiocese of Los Angeles offered its annual “Celebration of Cultures Mass” in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. This annual occurrence sadly illustrates that anthropocentric and desacralized liturgy is alive and well in southern California.
The Mass began with “the rapid fire sound of pounding drums, which seemed to bounce off the earth-tone high walls” followed by “yellow and red fabricated lions, with two agile males under each, lead(ing) the procession with the Chinese Dragon Dance…their ancient mission…to chase away evil spirits”. (The Tidings Online, October 4, 2013).
The priest celebrant was Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar, with bishop emeritus Roger Cardinal Mahony in choir. Bishop Salazar shared the following observations during his homily:
“What a great symbol we are to one another…and what a beautiful sign we make.”
“So as we gather to be nourished and celebrate the great gift of God’s diversity…”
“Let us ask the Lord to help each one of us to realize how important we are…with respect for each other’s customs and cultures, traditions and backgrounds.”
Hearing such statements should cause us to pause. After all, isn’t the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass an offering to God the Father? When did the Mass become an opportunity for the community to celebrate itself?
In this rush to celebrate diversity and multi-culturalism the Church has embraced the secular notion of identity. Who we are by birth has now become more important than what we profess by faith. Too often the focus at Mass has shifted away from God and has instead been directed onto the community itself.
Diversity at the Expense of Unity
Further contributing to this is the nearly exclusive use of the vernacular within the Mass. Later in his homily Bishop Salazar noted that 42 different languages are spoken in the Los Angeles archdiocese, which is comprised of 287 parishes, making it one of the largest and most diverse diocese in the United States.
In many dioceses today one may encounter masses in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Polish, Italian, Hmong, Tagalog, Portuguese and many more languages. What we now have is diversity celebrated but at the expense of unity, with the balkanization of the Church through these specific language masses.
In all of her wisdom, Holy Mother Church has given extensive direction in the past on the need, as well as the benefit, of celebrating Holy Mass in the universal language of the Church, Latin.
In the encyclical Mediator Dei, Venerable Pope Pius XII noted that, the “use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity…”
Blessed Pope John XXIII noted in the Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia that “the Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society…it is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic and non-vernacular.”
Amazingly, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, with 42 languages spoken in its 287 parishes, has only 3 parishes currently offering a weekly Traditional Latin Mass, with a fourth offered at a local Catholic college.
It is unfortunate that the archdiocese with its annual Celebration of Cultures Mass fails to recognize or celebrate the very culture and liturgical heritage of the Roman Rite itself.
Below is video from the Celebration of Cultures Mass in 2012. For those who love beautiful liturgy, viewer discretion is advised.