Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Haines

3/21/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The "good stuff" of Catholic liturgy hasn't really lacked much in the new pope's Masses. But his overwhelming affection for service can be a bittersweet reminder of what's really at stake.

Pope Francis Celebrates Mass

Pope Francis Celebrates Mass

Highlights

By Andrew M. Haines

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/21/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: pope francis, liturgy, pope benedict xvi, liturgical reform


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - This article originally appeared on "The Papal Window" at Ethika Politika. It is republished here with the author's permission.

As much as I enjoy talking him up, watching Pope Francis celebrate Mass is-at least for me-a painful experience.

From what I can tell, I'm not alone. There's an almost unchecked suspicion that the Holy Father's tendency toward simplicity will usher in the death of the Benedictine reforms. The real suffering servant, some claim, will not turn out to be the humble Bishop of Rome but rather Monsignor Guido Marini, his (at least for now) master of ceremonies. The pope's radical austerity is a sticking point for many-and a profound one, at that.

None of this, though, is why I find the new pope's liturgies to be painful. Having watched all of them to date on Radio Vaticana, there's clearly a dimension of frugality at work in Francis's approach to prayer. Of course, there's his Jesuit background-enough said, for most. Add to that almost two decades of on-the-ground, no-frills, get-your-hands-dirty pastoral work and things click even more. His Franciscan moniker is icing on the (not too sweet and maybe just a little stale) cake. Yet the "good stuff" of Catholic liturgy hasn't really lacked all that much.

The painfulness of the Holy Father's liturgies, I think, arises not from the character or celebration of the Mass itself, but from the clear lack of affection that Pope Francis maintains for the finer points of liturgical precision and splendor. It goes without saying that each of the pope's Masses has been valid, undeniably reverent, and probably more visibly beautiful than all but a handfull of Masses throughout the world. There is noticeably absent, however, the positive liturgical zeal of Benedict-that which many already (wrongly) construe as a negative and destructive force in itself. Denying that Pope Francis isn't Pope Benedict is hardly a criticism against him; furthermore, suggesting that love for the liturgy consists uniquely in Benedict's disposition toward it is short-sighted and thoroughly un-traditional.

But why does a lack of affection cause pain?

Without supposing to know the Holy Father's heart, it seems clear that the celebrated liturgy, to him, is viewed as something incomplete in itself. That's not to suggest, of course, that he considers it somehow deficient. Rather, in approaching the liturgy, Pope Francis seems always to have in mind its connection to real effects, both in the soul but also in the flesh.

We can talk all day about the theology of liturgy-which I've done many times-connecting its ordination to transcendence with the possibility for deeper prayer and more profound acts of charity in daily life. And it's all true-and hopefully even productive of real wisdom. Yet isn't there always something unnerving about leaving that reflection to pursue the inglorious work of serving others? No matter how much we know of the liturgy, its beauty and meaning, rarely does such awareness ever prepare us well to set it all aside and to take up the sullied practice of service.

If Benedict reclaimed the Spirit of the Liturgy, then perhaps next for the Church is to focus on its Flesh. I don't suppose that Pope Francis will offer a comprehensive theology in this regard, or even that he should. Indeed, it appears he sees his apostolic vocation in a totally different light than as a theologian. Still, those of us who would continue along more academic lines might do some of that work for him.

On the other hand, there is the illuminating observation by Chesterton that what St. Benedict stored up, St. Francis saw as his mission to scatter about. The work of storing up and of sowing are very different ones. The first entails arduous, long labor: gathering a full crop into the barns for safe keeping is no light task. The second, scattering, is perhaps lighter work; though it requires significantly greater risk, since an entire season's hopes are pinned on the irreversible distribution of a very limited and valuable supply of seeds.

The pain I experience with seeing the new pope's liturgies is probably more the result of his intense joy at all other times. I sense acutely that my desire to serve is much thinner than my affection for a beautiful Mass. And I'm aware that the joy I know is possible through a sacramental encounter with the Lord is not often enough reflected in my life with family and with others.

The absolute wrong response, here, is to cast off the sacred liturgy as something overblown and impractical. However, fostering an affection for the liturgy in se is hardly enough, either. I don't believe those are the only two options on the table; but determining what other concrete options do exist is not, perhaps, as easy as we'd like to think.

In the meantime, many of us will continue to suffer for a while, until we learn to love other people as much as our understanding about them. Enjoying the fruits of the harvest has the unfortunate effect of making one less eager to repeat the long, grueling process of cultivation from the beginning. At least for me, seeing someone who's willing, above all, to begin the work of scattering afresh is an invaluable, if bittersweet reminder that much more heavenly nourishment still awaits, as long as we're willing to labor.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More Living Faith

Feast of Christ the King and Advent: What Does it Mean? Watch

Image of The Church really IS the Mystical Body of the Risen Christ. That Body is inseparably joined to the Head. Jesus Christ is alive, he has been raised, and he continues His redemptive mission now through the Church, of which we are members. As we choose to actually live our lives liturgically, not just go through the motions, we can move through life in the flow of the liturgical calendar. We can experience the deeper mystery and meaning of life, now made New in Jesus Christ, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6,7) Jesus Christ is King! Jesus Christ is meant to become the Lord of our whole lives, and inform the very pattern of how we live them.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On November 23rd we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Liturgical Church year offers to each of us consider the creature which is called time, receive it as a gift and begin to really live differently. Yet, for ... continue reading


Two bishops dine and dialogue with peace activists

Image of War doesn't decide who is right, just who is left.

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops fall assembly in Baltimore, two bishops decided to forego the military chaplains dinner sponsored by the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Office, and attended instead a simple supper and discussion on peacemaking. On the evening of ... continue reading


'God always forgives, but the earth does not,' Pope warns Watch

Image of The Pope urged the world's leaders to rein in their greed and help the hungry.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A doomsday scenario in which Mother Nature would exact her revenge is possible, even likely, Pope Francis warns. The pontiff was speaking out against the exploitation of natural resources for profit. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pope urged the world's ... continue reading


Pope Francis' special message: Why Poverty? 'And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain'

Image of When we give our loaves and fishes to Christ, there is no end to the Good that can come from it.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has asked the world to do more to help those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Despite gains made in infrastructure and outpourings of food, too many people with plenty have done too little to help. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With ... continue reading


How do you raise a good, upstanding child? With daily prayers, weekly church attendance and the knowledge of God Watch

Image of Billy Graham, now 96, has reached out to millions with his joyous words of the truth of God and Jesus Christ.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Reverend Billy Graham, the world famous television evangelist and founder and chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has said that the reason the world seems to be in such dire straits is that children are not being raised right. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Learning Lessons for Life from Zaccheus and that Sycamore Tree Watch

Image of Zaccheus climbed that tree in order to see the Lord, not to be seen by Jesus. He did not care what the crowd thought of a grown man climbing a tree! He went after the encounter with Jesus Christ with a childlike simplicity and a reckless abandon. Do we?

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Sycamore tree created a clear line of vision for Zaccheus. It helped him to rise above the crowd and see the Lord clearly. It placed him in the right position for the invitation that would follow. Jesus told him to come down for he was coming to his house! ... continue reading


Jesus Weeps and Calls us to Recognize His Visitation Watch

Image of The Cross, an instrument of torture, will become the sign of peace, for those who find their refuge under its shadow and embrace the One who stretches out His arms to embrace the whole world. There Jesus will deal definitively with the great enemy of peace, the sin which impedes it in each of our lives. With tenderness He looks out from the Mount of Olives and sees the Holy City of Jerusalem. How he loves that City. Then, Jesus weeps. He knows the City will soon be overtaken and destroyed by the armies of Titus. He weeps the tears of Love and cries compassion from His Sacred Heart

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Jesus shows His disciples - and He shows us us, because we are His disciples in this hour - the pattern of living in a continual communion with the Father. He invites them - and He invites us - into this very communion of love which He has with the Father, in the ... continue reading


Children deserve both father and mother, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that

By CNA/EWTN News

Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that "the family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation." Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pope made these remarks on Nov. 17 at ... continue reading


Here are 10 Very Interesting Facts About the Catholic Church You Probably Didn't Know! Watch

Image of Pope Francis commands the world's smallest professional army.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

How much do you know about the Catholic Church? Here are 10 fun facts you might not know. See how many you know and post your result in the comments! 1.    Vatican City has the highest crime rate in the world! With a population around 500 people and a ... continue reading


Study: Latin Americans abandoning Catholic Church for evangelical, Protestant churches Watch

Image of Protestants now make up 19 percent of the Latin American population, while another eight percent now profess no religious affiliation, a figure reaching 37 percent in Uruguay.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Catholic Church is losing members in Latin America at an increasing rate. According to the Pew research Center, many Latin Americans are leaving the church for Pentecostal, Protestant churches. There is even a growing number of Latin Americans who now ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
11 "For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 23:1-2, 2-3, 5, 6
1 [Psalm Of David] Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 25:31-46
31 'When the Son of man comes in his glory, escorted ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
20 In fact, however, Christ has been raised from the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 23rd, 2014 Image

Bl. Miguel Pro
November 23: Born on January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Agustin ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter