In a thread below, Steve A. comments on the dreariness of so much liturgical practice and preaching, not just now but over recent years. I sympathize. I thought two recent experiences were worth noting here, just to bring out the “brick by brick” process that, say, Fr. Z writes about.

Two weeks ago we went to Mass at a completely typical suburban Cincinnati church. We were in town for a family wedding–at a big born-again church up near Kings Island, of a family member who left Catholicism some years ago. So we go to Mass way out on the East side at a parish I had never set foot in. Interior: pretty plain. Mass: lots of lay people moving around, stalling the liturgy until their special layfolkness could get to the pulpit or pick up their supply of His Body or Blood. Homily: forgettable. Music: syrupy me-and-Jesus stuff nearly indistinguishable from the holy show tunes we heard at the born again place the day before. No crucifix on the front altar, which itself looked like it had been a special from Home Depot down the street. Nobody in our family was too happy about it, but the really amazing thing was that the building was PACKED. I personally had to stand up in a balcony. I don’t get the attraction, other than the Eucharist, but there it is.

Other Mass, about a month ago, here in our Southern diocese not known to be overly hospitable to Tradition. Our pastor, new as of last summer, learned the EF so that he could step right in and start celebrating Low Masses. He is a good, solid guy, and the parish has Masses in 4 languages: English, Latin, Spanish, and Vietnamese, so he already had plenty of language work to do. Then a month ago or so, we walk in and see 6 rather than 2 candles lit. There was a crowd around the organ in the back, which turned out to be the schola. And then, a passel of altar boys, and then and then, when Father started to chant the Mass it turns out he has a fine tenor voice. The whole thing was unusually beautiful and reverent. Here was a Mass to pray together towards the Lord. Really powerful.

Thinking about the evolution of the Church since the Council, these two Masses really brought out how things have changed *for the better* over the last 20 years or so. Late 60s, all of the 70s, and much of the 80s were liturgical wastelands. Two words: Guitar Mass. Then, partly from below and partly with some help from JPII, and with a lot of help from the Holy Spirit, people who understood the power of Tradition in connecting man with God started acting to keep that Tradition alive. Of course there was variation in liturgical quality before and after the Council, but I think in my parents’ day the median Mass was pretty reverent. The probability that you could walk randomly into a well prayed Mass was pretty high. Today, the median Mass has the wandering layfolk and saccharine music much like the megachurch down the street.

Few people today can just randomly drift into a reverent Mass. But they are out there,and that was not the case in the immediate aftermath of the Council. Today, *if you look* you can find places with reverent Masses–might be EF high or low Masses, might be ad orientem NO. They also might be an hour’s drive or more away. But they are there, and for that we can thank God and be optimistic about the Church our children will have when they grow up.

As Rich occasionally posted, it’s not uniformly the case that It’s Getting Better (TM). My guess is that the deep problem in the Church in the US is an incurably politicized and very liberal chancery bureaucracy. Time is not on their side. My loose contact with seminaries and young and orthodox priests suggests that over time, as the apparatchiki retire and move to Woodstock they’ll be replaced with more tradition minded folk, or perhaps the idea of a centralized church bureaucracy will go the way of mainline protestantism.

But for the folk in the pew, the good news about the Good News is that 60s-types Bishops and lay bureaucrats cannot stop the spread of reverent liturgy. That’s something that gives me hope.

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In vespers tonight, the antiphon 2 for the opening Psalm 72 reads:

“The Lord will save the children of the poor and rescue them from slavery.”

Does anyone know the source of this sentence? It sounds pretty Old Testament-y, but Professor Google only returns the exact words as Antiphon 2 for Thursday evening, Week II, or alternatively, little bits and pieces from unrelated writings.

I’m writing a history of an orphanage and was thinking it would make a good epigraph.

Thanks to those better informed in advance!

I was wondering about how well city Catholic schools are doing in Cincinnati.  The project to maintain Catholic schools in largely non-Catholic city neighborhoods has seemed of questionable worth to me, off and on.  Running a school is expensive, and taking resources from other Catholic parishes, many with their own schools, simply to provide an alternative to failing public school systems sounds backwards–at least if the goal is to make the next generation Catholic.  The big question is how Catholic these city schools can be with so few Catholic students.

So I just got back from a Mass at our parish that made me think a little more.  Some background: Memphis public schools are, by all accounts, truly, deeply, abysmal.  There is no Walnut Hills here.  As a result, some local philanthropists, few if any of whom are Catholic, have donated huge sums to city Catholic schools here–google Memphis Jubilee Schools.  The goal from their perspective is to provide an alternative to the disastrous public schools for Memphians who want their kids to learn something.  The Catholicism of the schools is neither here nor there to the donors.  To the diocese–that’s something I’m curious about.

So we belong to a parish (Blessed Sacrament) that has one of the Jubilee schools (De La Salle), and it in turn has connections to the local Christian Brothers’ community.  I wondered how Catholic the school was, but we’re homeschooling ours so it wasn’t an urgent question.  My wife goes to Mass daily and takes our girls 2-3 times a week.  She decided to go to Blessed Sacrament this morning, and I went too before getting back to grading final exams.

It turned out to be Mass day for the De La Salle students.  There were 120-150 students, maybe equally split among black, white, and Mexican kids, all in school uniforms.  Choir on one side singing those songs that nobody here likes, and neither do I, but they sang well. Lay teachers here and there, maybe half men and half women, and one Christian Brother in the back–the principal.  The students were REVERENT.  It was really impressive.  No chatting before Mass, paid attention during Mass.  The homily was very Catholic–on Our Lady of Guadeloupe, which I can see our padre really likes.  I am guessing that maybe 75 percent of the students were not Catholic–including the little girls with the Muslim get-up scarves–but all went up for Communion, and the vast majority who were not receiving crossed their arms over their chests and bowed before Our Savior.  It was really reverent.

I wondered if this kind of reverence might at some point come back to help these kids when they are older and thinking and praying about their place in the world and their relationship with God?  If they are not Catholic now, maybe they will see the Church as a source of wisdom and a way to connect with God when it comes to the appropriate time in their lives.  That’s way off in the future, and it’s hard to imagine chancery bureaucrats having that kind of vision, although it’s easy to imagine the Holy Spirit having that kind of vision.

So, I have no way of knowing how this school runs the other four days a week, but at least at Mass, I didn’t see any watering down, and I did see a lot of solid Catholicism, so I’m somewhat more optimistic about Catholic schools for non-Catholic kids than I was.  I wondered if this was an issue in Cincinnati, and how Catholic the city schools are.

John Murray

Glad Rich got this thing going! I am a Cincinnatian in exile, of course now the exile part has gone on for more years than I lived in the city….Still, both my wife and I have plenty of family in Cincinnati, so we get back there occasionally.

My job on this blog is to pass along unsubstantiated rumors we hear from our family, no, just kidding. I would like to comment on positive developments in particular. Some of those might be from our current location in the Diocese of Memphis, Tenn. It actually is not sunny here right now. When it rains, it really rains here.

According to information at Fr. Z’s blog a few years ago, this Diocese was not too Summorum Pontificum friendly, or at least our Bishop (+J. Terry Steib, SVD) wasn’t too thrilled by the motu proprio. And yet, we have been to Latin Masses in three different parishes, said by four different priests. My wife thinks it’s 5 priests, but I have lost count. There is also an active Catholic homeschooling group we participate in, so Memphis is a good place for tradition minded Catholics.

I hope the TLM is doing well in Cincinnati too. A big shout out to any and all alumni of the late great Ss. Peter and Paul in Norwood!

John Murray