Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Haines

3/21/2013 (2 years 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 (2 years 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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

Apostle of California, Father Junipero Serra, to be canonized by Pope during U.S. visit Watch

Image of Professor Guzman Carriquiry, Secretary in charge of the Vice-Presidency of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America recently expressed his displeasure at the news of the California Senate's wish to replace the statue of Brother Junipero with that of a NASA astronaut.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is scheduled to personally preside over the canonization ceremony of Father Junipero Serra in Washington, D.C. on September 23 during his U.S. visit. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ceremony will take place in the open space in front of the ... continue reading


'Faith must not be turned into power,' Pope Francis warns Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis, at mass in St. Martha's House, recalled that many people follow Jesus simply out of self-interest. This "spirit, which lies behind or beneath a varnish of Christianity leads people to live like pagans," he warned. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) ... continue reading


Oops! The Bible did not say that: 7 famous viral quotes people think came from the Bible Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Social media and the Internet has made it easier to share anything anywhere. Most of the time we spend in cyberspace, we see come across wonderful statements --- about life, love and other concerns. It assures us that we are not alone, we are going to beat every ... continue reading


The Experience of the Resurrected Christ: A Divine Dream Worth Dying For

Image of

By Deacon Frederick Bartels

The dream of God is a dream of unending, divine love. His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, sacrificed his human life for this Dream: the redemption of humankind and the gift of eternal life and perfect happiness. Heaven is the divine dream that is not but a dream, it ... continue reading


Pope Francis 'considering' visit to Cuba Watch

Image of A nun waves a Vatican flag while attending Mass with St John Paul II in Havana in 1998.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is said to be considering a trip to Cuba this coming September. The papal visit would tie into his visit to the United States. The gesture could lead to improving relations both between Cuba and the U.S. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Vatican ... continue reading


Could Yoda be a Biblical character? Medieval manuscript features a painted figure resembling the Star Wars hero Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a 14th century book, a green-skinned character was painted, resembling Yoda. Just like the Star Wars icon, the painted character in the old religious documents is donning a white cloak and has spiky, long fingers and the pointed ears sticking out. Although there is ... continue reading


Pope Francis pokes holes in 'gender theory,' saying male, female roles are separate Watch

Image of The Bible, Pope Francis says, shows how

By CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis has warned against gender theories which seek to eradicate differences between man and woman, saying they perpetuate the very problems they are trying to solve. (CNA/EWTN News) - "Experience teaches us: to know each other well and grow in harmony, ... continue reading


6 types of men Christian women should dismiss for marriage Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Women, and men, should be wary of whom they shall live with for the rest of their lives. Marriage is not a temporary commitment, it lasts for a lifetime no matter how you will put it --- two people still shared the same vows to cherish one another through a sacred ... continue reading


Pope Francis to host major conference on climate change Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis will host a major summit on April 28 entitled "Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development." MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The conference will feature famous American economist, ... continue reading


Can Catholics Practice Yoga and Transcendental Meditation?

Image of

By Deacon Ian VanHeusen

Among many Christians who are honestly seeking to deepen their prayer life, there is a genuine concern about erroneous forms of prayer. People should be careful to accept practices which diverge from the faith they have received, whether through the family or in a ... 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, Acts 7:51--8:1
51 'You stubborn people, with uncircumcised hearts ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 31:3-4, 6, 7, 8, 17, 21
3 You are my rock, my rampart; true to your name, ... Read More

Gospel, John 6:30-35
30 So they said, 'What sign will you yourself do, the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 21st, 2015 Image

St. Anselm
April 21: St. Anselm Archbishop of Canterbury and Confessor APRIL 21,A.D. ... 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