Bishop David Zubik took to Twitter today to asks the following question:
If you could change one thing about your #Sunday #Mass to bring back #friends and #relatives, what would it be?
I’ve written about Bishop Zubik and the Diocese of Pittsburgh before (We need sacred liturgy not “better” worship) and the ongoing collapse of the Church there over the last twenty years.
In my previous article I noted:
The solution to declining Mass attendance and “active” Catholics today isn’t the need for “better worship.” Such a vague and subjective term is frankly no real solution at all. What is needed, possibly now more than ever, is for our sacred liturgy to once again be just that, sacred.
While I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of Bishop Zubik, I do question the judgement of those who seem at a loss on how best to offer the Mass.
Let me propose a revolutionary idea for what we can “change” about many of today’s Sunday Masses: start being more Catholic and less Protestant in our liturgies.
Some questions that our bishops can ask themselves:
- Since Latin is the liturgical language of the Roman Rite (and has been for 17 centuries), how many of your parishes are actually offering (some or all) of the Ordinary Form Mass in Latin?
- If the Church has repeatedly stated that sacred music best suits the Roman Rite (Vatican 2 used the term “pride of place”), then how many parishes are actively incorporating chant & polyphony into the Mass?
- If the tradition of the Catholic Church is to receive the Eucharist kneeling and on the tongue, how many parishes still have -and actually use- a communion rail and communion patens in their Sunday Masses?
- Since Catholics adore and reverence Our Eucharistic Lord, have tabernacles in your diocese been returned to the sanctuary, behind the altar, in a place of prominence?
Many will argue that none of the above will “bring back friends and relatives”, but make no mistake: that is simply their bias and not based upon any actual data. Anecdotally, those of us who attend traditional parishes can attest to the power of beauty and truth to attract, both young and old.
Confident Catholicism…triumphant Catholicism…a faith that embraces its tradition and sacred liturgical beauty is appealing. It is attractive. Pandering isn’t.
None of this is to suggest that a restoration of sacred liturgy is the fix all for our self inflicted ecclesial wounds. Of course it isn’t. But how well we worship God is very relevant to any discussion about the faith.
What is most unfortunate, however, is the reluctance -or should we say the resistance- often demonstrated when Catholicism is proposed as the solution to liturgical woes.
How quickly do Catholics today look to a 16th century heresy and the liturgical descendants of Cranmer and Luther for “changing” the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
How quickly do those in authority today look to rebuild parishes in the mold of trendy evangelical churches. How quickly they look to promote intentional discipleship or tell Catholics how they can be better versions of themselves, while refusing to study thriving, traditional, parishes and dioceses that are worshipping in the way Catholics have for centuries.
Just once could we stop trying to change the change that we changed years ago when we changed the (historically) un-changeable?
Just once could we see Twitter hashtags from a bishop like #authenticity, #tradition, #sacredbeauty, or #reverence?
And yet another suggestion worth considering: #RestoreTheSacred.