30 June 2023

'An Open Letter to Confused Catholics', by Msgr Marcel Lefebvre - 3. What They are Doing to the Mass?

I have before me some photos published in Catholic newspapers representing the Mass as it is now often said. Looking at the first photo I find it difficult to understand at what moment of the Holy Sacrifice it has been taken. Behind an ordinary wooden table, which does not appear very clean and which has no cloth covering it, two persons wearing suits and ties elevate or present, one a chalice, the other a ciborium.  The text informs me they are priests, one of them the federal chaplain of Catholic Action. On the same side of the table, close to the first celebrant are two girls wearing trousers, and near the second celebrant two boys in sweaters. A guitar is placed against a stool.

In another photo the scene is the corner of a room which might be the main room of a youth club.  The priest is standing, wearing a Taizé-like alb, before a milking-stool which serves as an altar; there is a large earthenware bowl and a small mug of the same sort, together with two lighted candle-ends. Five young people are sitting cross-legged on the floor, one of them strumming a guitar.

The third photo shows an event which occurred a few years ago, the cruise of some ecologists who were seeking to prevent the French atomic experiments on the Isle of Mururoa.  Amongst them was a priest who celebrated Mass on the deck of the sailing ship, in the company of two other men.  All three were wearing shorts, one is even stripped to the waist.  The priest is raising the Host, no doubt for the elevation. He is neither standing nor kneeling, but sitting or rather slumped against the boat’s superstructure.

One common feature emerges from these scandalous pictures; the Eucharist is reduced to an everyday act, in commonplace surroundings, with commonplace utensils, attitudes and clothing. Now the so-called Catholic magazines which are sold on church bookstalls do not show these photos in order to criticize such ways, but on the contrary, to recommend them. La Vie even considers that that is  not enough. Using in its habitual manner extracts from readers' letters to express its own thoughts without having them attributed to itself, it says, “The liturgical reform must go further... the unnecessary repetitions, the same form of  words ever repeated, all this regulation holds back creativeness.” What ought the Mass to be? The following gives a hint: “Our problems are manifold, our difficulties increasing and the Church still seems to be remote from them. Often we come out of Mass tired.  There is a sort of gap between our daily life, our present worries, and the sort of life suggested to us on Sundays.”

Certainly people come away tired from a Mass which strives to bring itself down to the level of mankind instead of raising them up to God, and which, because it is wrongly conceived does not permit them to rise above their “problems.” The encouragement given to go even further demonstrates a deliberate intention to destroy what is sacred.  The Catholic is there dispossessed of something which he needs and longs for, because he is drawn to honor and revere all which relate to God. How much more is this the case with the elements of the Sacrifice which are to become His Body and His Blood! Why make hosts that are grey or brown by leaving in part of the bran? Are they trying to make us forget that phrase omitted from the new Offertory: hanc immaculatam hostiam, this immaculate and spotless Host?

That, however, is merely a minor innovation. We frequently hear of the consecration of ordinary bread, leavened with yeast, instead of the pure wheat flour prescribed, the exclusive use of which has again been reiterated in the papal Instruction Inaestimabile Donum. All bounds have now been passed, there has even been an American bishop who recommends little cakes containing milk, eggs, baking-powder, honey and margarine. The desacralization extends to the persons vowed to the service of God, with the disappearance of the ecclesiastical habit for priests and religious, the use of Christian names, familiarity and a secularized way of living, all in the name of a new principle and not, as they have tried to make us believe, for practical needs. In proof of which I mention those nuns who leave their enclosure to live in rented flats in town, thereby doubling their expenses--abandoning the veil and incurring the cost of regular sessions at the hair dressers.

The loss of what is sacred leads also to sacrilege.  A newspaper in the west of France informs us that the national contest for band-girls was held in 1980 in the Vendée region of France.  A Mass took place during which the band-girls danced and some of them then distributed Communion. Moreover, the ceremony was finished off with a rondelay in which the celebrant took part wearing priests' vestments.  It is not my intention here to establish a catalogue of the abuses that are to be met with, but to give a few examples showing why Catholics today have so much at which to be perplexed and even scandalized. I am revealing nothing secret, the television has taken upon itself to spread in people's homes, during their Sunday morning programs, the inadmissible off-handedness that the bishops publicly display with regard to the Body of Christ: witness that Mass televised November 22, 1981, where the ciborium was replaced by baskets which the congregation passed from one to another to be finally placed on the floor with what remained of the Sacred Species!

In Poitiers on Holy Thursday the same year, a big spectacular celebration consisted of the indiscriminate consecration of loaves and jugs of wine upon the tables from which everyone came and helped himself.

Concerts of secular music held in churches are now generalized.  Places of worship are even made available for rock music events, with all the excesses that these habitually involve. Some churches and cathedrals have been given over to debauchery, drugs and filth of all kinds, and it is not the local clergy who have then performed ceremonies of expiation but groups of the faithful rightly disgusted by these scandals. How can the bishops and priests who have encouraged these things not fear to bring down divine punishment upon themselves and their people? It is already apparent in the fruitlessness of their work. It is all wasted because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, desecrated as it is, no longer confers grace and no longer transmits it. The contempt for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the most flagrant sign by which the new mentality, no longer Catholic, expresses itself. Even without going as far as the rowdy excesses I have just mentioned, this is noticeable every day. The Council of  Trent explained without any possible doubt that Our Lord is present in the smallest particles of the consecrated bread.  What are we to think then of Communion in the hand? When a Communion plate is used, even if the Communions are few in number, there are always particles remaining. In consequence, the particles now remain in the communicant's hands.  The faith of many is shaken by this, especially that of children.

The new way can only have one explanation: if people come to Mass to break the bread of friendship, of the community meal, of the common faith, then it is quite natural that no excessive precautions should be taken. If the Eucharist is a symbol expressing simply the memory of a past event and the spiritual presence of Our Lord, it is quite logical not to worry about a few crumbs which may fall on the floor. But if it is a matter of the presence of God Himself, our Creator, as the faith of the Church would have it, how can we understand that such practices be allowed and even encouraged, in spite of documents fresh from Rome? The idea which they are endeavoring to insinuate in this way is a Protestant one against which Catholics not yet contaminated are rebelling.  To impose it more effectively, the faithful are obliged to communicate standing.

Is it fitting that when we go to receive Christ before whom, says St. Paul, every knee shall bow, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, we should do so without the least sign of respect or allegiance? Many priests no longer genuflect before the Holy Eucharist; the new rite of Mass encourages this. I can see only two possible reasons: either an immense pride which makes us treat God as if we were His equals, or else the certitude that He is not really present in the Eucharist.

Am I just getting up a case against the so-called Conciliar Church? No, I am not inventing anything. Listen to the way the Dean of the Faculty of Theology of Strasbourg expresses himself:

We also speak of the presence of a speaker or of an actor,  meaning thereby a quality different from a simply geographical “being there.” After all, someone can be present by a symbolic act which he does not accomplish physically but which other people accomplish by creative fidelity to his fundamental intention. For example, the Festival of  Bayreuth realizes without doubt a presence of Richard  Wagner which is greatly superior in intensity to that which may be manifested by occasional recitals or concerts devoted to his music. It is within this last perspective, it seems to me, that we should place the eucharistic presence of Christ.

 To compare the Mass with the Bayreuth Festival! No, we certainly do not agree--either regarding the words or the music!

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