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Ambushing the Faithful: Going Back to the Old Way (Sort Of) in the Roman Catholic Mass

Being unprepared for major change isn’t new in Roman Catholicism, and it’s about to happen again:

Since changes were approved by the Vatican in December, U.S. bishops have been preparing priests and lay Catholics for the first use of the revised missal on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent. But despite an aggressive effort by bishops to educate the nation’s 68 million Catholics, including training for priests and an extensive web campaign, new survey results released this week say that three in four Catholics are unaware of the upcoming changes.

As part of a broader survey not yet released, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, which studies Catholic trends and demographics, asked more than 1,000 U.S. Catholics if they knew about changes to the Roman Missal. Overall, 77 percent said no. Among Catholics who attend Mass weekly, 43 percent said no.

The sea change that Vatican II detonated in Roman Catholicism was just that–a sea change.  At the centre of that sea change was the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae in 1970, the first major transformation of the Mass since the Council of Trent.  I actually converted to Roman Catholicism two years later, so the NOM was all I ever experienced, but based on what those who would talk about this and the other changes that took place, it was pretty traumatic.

The current Pontiff has as a long term objective the reversion of the church to a “pre-Vatican II” state, short of abolishing the vernacular Mass.  The problem with many of the changes being instituted is the same one that Evangelicals struggle with vis à vis the King James Bible: most people don’t have the formal education to understand the Latinate terminology that’s being re-introduced into the English Mass.  The idea is to restore some theological precision to the sacred mysteries, but they would do better by beefing up their religious education system rather than trying to make a seminary course out of each recital of the Creed (and you can make a seminary course out of either creed, Apostles’ or Nicene.)  It will be one more step separating Catholics from a real understanding of their faith, and at this point in history this is the last thing that Roman Catholicism needs.

Important note: for you superannuated hippies who are depressed at the thought of your old folk Masses going by the wayside, there’s hope.  Thanks to music blogging, many post-Vatican II classic Masses (the music at least) have been preserved and are being disseminated at sites such as this one, the Ancient Star-Song and Heavenly Grooves.   So download them to your mp3 player (or burn them onto a CD,) make sure no one from the parish is listening, and be prepared to become teary-eyed.  If the artist is still selling the work, you can support the artist by buying their music.  And if your priest is as much a superannuated hippie as you are, he can revel in the old times too.


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