Whit Monday: Paul weeps.

Today is Whit Monday, the Monday in the Octave of Pentecost.  Or it was.  But still is.  Or…wait, let me explain.

How we worship as Catholics is central to expressing our identity as Catholics, and how we relate to one another and to the world as Catholics.  There can be different modes of expression, certainly, just go to an Melkite, Maronite, or Ukrainian Catholic Church.  Better yet, go to them all.  However, all of these rites grew up organically in different cultures as expressions of their particular culture.  They were not contrived by a committee to be forced on the whole world.

In the late 60s, rule by committee is exactly what resulted in what is termed the Novus Ordo Missae or the “Ordinary Form” of the Mass.  I am not opposed to the Novus Ordo; it is not inherently defective as many opine.  It is, however, inferior to the Extraordinary Form, or the “traditional Latin Mass.”  There are many reasons I say this, but the simplest is its origin.

Without getting into any conspiracy theories (there are plenty), let me summarize my issue in a clear, non-controversial (?) statement: the Novus Ordo was contrived by a select few men and was not an organic development of the expression of the faith of a community.  For this reason, it is culturally inauthentic and inferior to other liturgies, valid though it may be.

Why am I posting about this here?  As sex addicts, community is essential to recovery.  As Catholics, our community is principally expressed in how we worship.  But the form of worship that most Catholics participate in divided us from the centuries of tradition that proceeded it.  We have divided ourselves from our elders in the faith.  I remember struggling to understand many writings of the Saints on the Mass, until I came to understand that my Mass was not just theirs in English rather than Latin; it was radically different by design.

But do you mean I shouldn’t go to Mass at St. Lively’s Catholic Community? No, I’m not saying that at all.  If the Mass is reverent and it draws you closer to God, keep going, and by all means, be active in your parish! If you tried your local traditional parish (one that’s approved by the Archdiocese such as those run by the FSSP, Institute of Christ the King, or a diocesan priest; avoid SSPX if possible until they’re fully reconciled; do not enter the doors of an “independent” Catholic Church or a sedevecantist [“no-pope”] sect like the SSPV or CMRI), but they’re all bitter fogies who are negative about everything (it happens, but it’s not common), do not think you’re obligated to go there. Pray, follow the Church, and go to confession.  My comments are my experience, strength, and hope, not my commandments.

Back to Whit Monday.  Fr. Z has shared a story over the years that is an anecdote about Paul VI.  Take it for what it’s worth, but it illustrates well this concept of division.

Some years ago … gosh, it was decades now… I was told this story by a retired Papal Ceremoniere (Master of Ceremonies) who, according to him, was present at the event about to be recounted.

You probably know that in the traditional Roman liturgical calendar the mighty feast of Pentecost had its own Octave.  Pentecost was/is a grand affair indeed, liturgically speaking.  It has a proper Communicantes and Hanc igitur, an Octave, a Sequence, etc. In some places in the world such as Germany and Austria Pentecost Monday, Whit Monday as the English call it, was a reason to have a civil holiday, as well as a religious observance.

The Novus Ordo went into force with Advent in 1969.

The Monday after Pentecost in 1970, His Holiness Pope Paul VI went to the chapel for Holy Mass. Instead of the red vestments, for the Octave everyone knows follows Pentecost, there were laid out for him vestments of green.

Paul queried the MC assigned for that day, “What on earth are these for?  This is the Octave of Pentecost!  Where are the red vestments?”

Santità,” quoth the MC, “this is now Tempus ‘per annum’.  It is green, now. The Octave of Pentecost was abolished.”

“Green? That cannot be!”, said the Pope, “Who did that?”

“Holiness, you did.”

And Paul VI wept.

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Multiple Liturgies

In the Catholic Church, there are multiple rites, such as Byzantine, Maronite, and Western (Latin).  The essence of the Mass is the same, but the style is different.

Within the largest, the Western Rite, there are further divisions, the Ordinary Form (OF), Extraordinary Form (EF), and Anglican Use, which is set up primarily for converts from the Anglican (Episcopal) Communion.

The OF is the post – 1970 rubric that is allowed to be celebrated in the vernacular. It is the most common. The EF follows the rubrics of 1962 laid out by Pope St. John XXIII.

The EF Mass is commonly referred to as the “Traditional Latin Mass” or the “Tridentine Mass.” The OF is commonly referred to as the Novus Ordo, after its Latin title. 

Why does this matter?  You are here because you identify as Catholic.  Yet, perhaps you don’t agree with the Church’s moral teachings on homosexuality, fornication, abortion, or birth control.  Maybe you think the idea of a virgin birth or an afterlife is preposterous.  Maybe you don’t even believe in God.

Your identity as a Catholic comes from your experience as a Catholic: the Masses, the prayers, the processions, the Rosaries.  These still mean something.

After the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, there was a purposeful experiment to reshape Catholic worship and identity.  Some embraced the changes, some rebelled against them, and some simply fell away.

The internet is full of debate on what was good, bad, and ugly.  I am not here to engage in debate.  Though I prefer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the Ordinary Form is a valid form of Catholic worship, despite the sometimes bizarre innovations some have engaged in.

The key, though, is that the liturgy provides us a sense of identity and unity with one another.  It holds people to the faith when they might otherwise fall away.  Atheist philosopher George Satayana considered himself Catholic because of the beauty of the liturgy.  Andy Warhol, despite being gay and living a lifestyle he knew was at odds with much of Catholic moral teaching, frequently attended daily Mass.

My hope is that you will come on your own to believe that the Catholic Church is all that she claims to be.  But if you cannot accept it all right now, you can make the steps you feel comfortable making.