We have two new appointments that look good for the future of the Church in the UK. One in Birmingham and one in Liverpool. Some bloggers are holding out great hope that these appointments may indicate a change in the future for our celebration of the Mass away from what we now have and what many would rather have.
Our diocese received a new bishop after almost two years of waiting. Bishop Alan Hopes is a wonderful man. A prayerful man with much wisdom and insight. He is a member of the Latin Mass Society and he is also on the ICEL committee and has just recently returned from one of its meetings in Washington, DC. But his own Mass of Installation last July 16th was a prime example of what we have in the Church today. For want of a better expression I have come to refer to these types of Masses as the smorgasbord mass or the pick-n-mix mass. Typically, these masses have a little bit of everything to try to please everyone. We have these masses every single Sunday and they drive me nuts. What we have is this: an Entrance Chant in English by one of the now ever more abundant composers of English Chant. The words are the correct propers (which is something good) but the music changes every Sunday so it is next to impossible to help the lay congregation participate fully. Then we sing the Ordinary – sometimes in English, sometimes in Latin. Responsorial Psalm and Gospel Acclamation are sung and, again, are another English Chant. Then we have an Offertory hymn – something modern like ‘Turn to Me’ or maybe something by Luke Bell or maybe something more traditional, but nonetheless it is a hymn. At communion we sing another English Chant or a hymn, depending on the choice of the person doing the selecting and for the recessional it is always some great blasting hymn like Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer. Its a hodge podge aimed at pleasing everyone in the pews and it lacks, in my humble opinion, any sense of unity. It is just stuff stuck in to fill in the gaps.
I don’t know how much Bishop Alan was involved in the selection of music for his installation mass but it was very much the smorgasbord mass. My point in all this is that with the other responsibilities the bishops have in the diocese the celebration of the liturgy doesn’t seem to be very high on their agenda whatever their own viewpoints are on the matter. They become bogged down in the endless travel around the diocese for this and that function. They struggle with too few priests, many of them aged and or infirm, with younger priests who suffer from mental health issues or other health issues. And then there is always a case or two of clerical abuse or suspected abuse before the courts. Rather than being a number one priority from which all other evangelization takes place in the diocese, the celebration of the liturgy is way down at the bottom of their concerns.
I wish the two men well in their new ministries. I always hope things will improve but I must confess that I am growing more and more discouraged. And I do love and respect our Holy Father, Pope Francis, but his lack of any guidance and his tone in certain pronouncements has seemed to indicate to some priests that we are back in the good ol’ days of the 1970s and 80s where just about anything goes with regard to the liturgy and if they want to change the words, …. well, who am I to judge?