Back in September our Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, had a private audience with two of the major supporters and promoters of the "Traditional Latin Mass" (what Benedict calls the forma extraordinaria or extraordinary form of the Latin Rite of the Mass). Benedict, of course, was a a great friend of the vetus ordo (old order) of the Mass, not as something that would supplant the Mass of Paul VI (novus ordo/ forma ordinaria), but as the primary means through which his "Reform of the Reform of the Liturgy" would be accomplished. I attend a parish where, each week, we celebrate Mass in both the vetus ordo and the novus ordo and I can attest from personal experience that attending (and celebrating for father) the older form of the Mass "rubs off" on what we expect from the new form. Our novus ordo looks and feels more like a TLM than like the novus ordo in most other parishes I've attended. I believe, with Benedict, that the future of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will be in a reformed novus ordo, one that is in continuity with the Mass of the ages, and one that is rid of some of the unfortunate accretions of the last fifty years.
2014 was the year of Pope Francis (as was 2013, when he was elected and named "Man of the Year" by just about everyone). The ongoing media narrative of "Francis the revolutionary who will change the Catholic Church" continued unabated, as I imagine it will in 2015. Winston Churchill famously began a speech, "never was so much owed by so many to so few." I think we can safely paraphrase the British Bulldog when we speak of our Holy Father thus, "never has someone been so misunderstood by so many by so few." Such, I suppose, is the necessary result of having reporters cover the Catholic Church who know nothing about Catholicism or Church history. I've often had occasion to compare the knowledge of your average religion reporter to the New York Times hiring a sportswriter who has never watched a baseball game and expecting great Yankees coverage. Such a situation lead me to come up with the top six reasons Pope Francis is completely and constantly understood back in January, reasons which still hold true almost a year on.
In March we took a moment to lift our eyes from the temporal order, where it is all to easy to keep them forever locked as if this world wasn't passing away before them, to gaze with the great Saint Faustina at the hereafter. Known primarily for her devotion to the Divine Mercy, an often overlooked aspect of the teaching of this great saint is the reality of hell. Indeed St. Faustina has privileged to see the very pits of hell, which she didn't find empty (sorry Von Balthasar), but rather found teeming with the damned. Her vision of hell ought to propel us ever more closely into the arms of the All Merciful One and inspire us to bring as many souls there with us.
My second most popular post of the year was one written only a couple weeks ago and was prompted by a great article at Aleteia on the sorry state of music most Catholics endure each week at Mass. We often wonder why ex-Catholics have become the second largest religious group in the country, weak homilies and second rate music are two of the most important and least discussed reasons. The Catholic Church is the repository of the greatest musical tradition in the history of the world. Bar none. We have Mass settings written by the greatest musical minds in humanity has yet produced, but instead of being lifted to the Face of God by truly sacred music, we get, week in and week out, second rate sixties folk rock with vaguely worded and semi-heretical words added in. The Holy Spirit, speaking through the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, called for Gregorian Chant, Polyphony, and the organ to dominate our musical experience at Mass. Instead we've received acoustic guitars, tambourines, and inferior vocal performances which leave 90% of the typical congregation silent in the pews. This post serves as a call to action for Catholics to demand, politely of course, that our musical patrimony be restored to us.
And the Number One most popular post of 2014 was...
At the beginning of August we looked at the Congregation for Divine Worship's call for a reformation of the sign of peace at Mass. What was meant to be a sacred gesture (sacred being something set apart from the common, profane world) has turned into a "meet and greet" of hand shaking and back slapping. Such isn't the point of the sign of peace and is better suited to before or after Mass outside of the sanctuary. Perhaps the most important reminder from the Vatican on this score is that the sign of peace is completely optional. Father doesn't have to ask us to exchange a sign of peace with each other at every Mass or at any Mass. In fact, soon after this document was released, our pastor dropped the sign altogether for about a month and then reinstituted it. Unfortunately, at least in our parish, the reinstituted sign of peace looks just as it did before we dropped it. Here's to hoping father drops it altogether in 2015.
I hope you all enjoyed your 2014 and are making some great plans for a happy and holy 2015. God bless!