I appreciated the article by Paul Vallely. Perhaps there were statements a professional might quibble with; perhaps it was worth noting that the strengths were largely there in 1998, whereas the weaknesses have been wished upon us. But it seemed to me a balanced reaction to the strengths and weaknesses of the new text as a sensible UK Catholic might see them.
It echoes a number of quite pained reactions I have been hearing from balanced, committed UK Catholics–certainly not regular whingers–over the past weeks. The point obviously has no statistical significance–only those who have negative reactions are likely to seek me out. But the tone is striking.
I put Paul Vallely’s piece on my Facebook page (which I often use to spread things worth reading, including pages from PrayTell). A young Tridentinist friend (yes I do have them–it goes with the territory if you hang around a university chaplaincy) teased me with one of his comments, and led me to write–slightly intemperately and incautiously– as follows:
Every time I preside at Mass now, here in the USA where the imposition has still not occurred, I find myself grieving. Soon the Mass will be taken away from us; this may be the last time I use a text that basically works and that I have come to love. If I can bear going to Mass at all once the plague is inescapable, it will be as a penance and a duty– not as a source of strength. Why disaffected ex-Anglicans and Tridentinists can have their own liturgical disciplines, and why we Conciliar Catholics cannot, is simply beyond me.
The Catholic Truth Society of England–the same body that has a monopoly on the UK production of the new missal, and is charging a lot more than its US counterparts–produced a pamphlet introducing the English text in 1964 called The Mass is Yours. That title was wonderfully expressive of the gift that was given then and is being removed now.
Within half an hour I had an e-mail from a friend, from which I quote a paragraph:
I wish I could cheer you up, but I can’t. A sense of penance and duty is just how it feels to me, who am now stricken by the plague in question. It leaves me feeling desolate — angry and distracted. I don’t really want to be there at all. I went to mass yesterday … but minutes in, I wanted to run away again. My fear is that those reactions will not soften with time. Will it ever be possible not to wince at things like ‘we pray that … we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life’? And so on, and so on …
The last straw is that some priests apparently believe that the best thing is to smile, and pretend it’s all lovely really. It says on the packet that the contents are more accurate and promote greater devotion, so that must be so, or at least, that’s what the people of God have to be told. Why not, at the very least, come out and say ‘There’s so much that strikes me as dreadful, both as to the new version in itself and as to the way in which we’ve come by it. That granted, let’s try, hard as it is, to focus on the fact that our Lord will still be present despite it all, as he’s been present despite so much else that’s awful down the centuries.’ That’s what I’d say if I was a priest. Such honesty does help, and that’s why I’m specially grateful to you and others who don’t try to sell us stones for bread.
If this reaction is typical, we have a major pastoral disaster on our hands–the more so because there is no real outlet for it to be expressed fully. If it is not, we still have a lot of very unhappy people. How do Pray Tell readers think we should respond to this sort of distress?