Saturday, November 12, 2005


Liturgical Reform

Tony Hendra, Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul (New York: Random House, 2004), p. 248:
Latin was gone entirely, replaced by dull, oppressive, anchorman English, slavishly translated from its sonorous source to be as plain and "direct" as possible. It didn't seem to have occurred to the well-meaning vandals who'd thrown out baby, bath, and bathwater that all ritual is a reaching out to the unknowable and can be accomplished only by the noncognitive: evocation, allusion, metaphor, incantation -- the tools of the poet.

Mass was now said in the language of the region where it was celebrated. Like politics, all Masses were now local -- and had about as much dignity. Before "reform," the individual quirks of the priest -- whether he was a saint or a thug or merely a potato like old Father Bleary -- were submerged beneath the timeless rhythms of a universal script. Now priests had huge discretion in deciding the details of the "modern" Mass, and all those egos were on parade.

At one church I made the mistake of trying, the priest gave a rambling hour-long sermon whose main function, he seemed to feel, was to keep the faithful rolling in the aisles. Several of the utterly irrelevant observations he worked in were lines stolen verbatim from a Letterman monologue earlier in the week. The music was from one of the new Catholic hymnals, which had replaced the august millennial music of the Church with tuneless drivel penned during the seventies and eighties by clerical nonentities whose musical gods were John Denver and Andrew Lloyd Weber. These were accompanied by a sprightly cacophony of guitar, fiddle, and saxophone.
Despite being a New York Times bestseller, Hendra's book is worth reading. I noticed a Latin misprint on p. 154, in a parody of Psalm 129 (130):
De profundis L.A., clamavo ad te Domine.
There is no Latin verb form clamavo. It should be clamavi. "Out of the depths of Los Angeles I cried unto Thee, O Lord."

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