The Reform of the Reformed Mass

The Catholic Mass has always been in a process of reform as needed to meet the needs of a changed society and as our understanding of the Faith developed; however that reform has always been an organic reform, a slow deliberate process that always preserved the key understandings and fundamental meaning of the Roman Rite.

However the reform of the Mass that happened in 1970 deviated from this process to some degree and went far beyond what the Vatican Council had asked for in its document on the reform of the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium).

Under the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI there were 2 important developments: The issuance of a more accurate translation of the Mass, and a recognition that the older form of the Mass (according to the 1962 Missal) had never been abrogated and a mechanism for its wider use.

It was clear that to the reformers of Vatican II that some changes to the Mass were necessary. Unfortunately what we got was not an organic reform but a whole new Mass that removed or downplayed key elements of the sacred Mysteries such as the Mass being a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and the role of the priest as being in the place of Christ (alter Christus). We see this primarily in the new Eucharistic prayers (II, II, and IV) and the revised offertory

There were other changes that came about not directly driven by the reformed  liturgy itself but by ideas about how thew Mass should change that had been held by more progressive elements in the Church who were now emboldened by the freedom to change things that came out of Vatican II.  This included complete replacement of Latin by the vernacular language, turning the priest around to face the people and subsequent moving of the tabernacle aside,  replacement of the altar with a communion table as used in many Protestant services, communion received standing and in the hand and removal of altar rails. and elimination of the chanted Mass propers specified in the liturgy which were replaced by hymns of varying quality, music that had endured for centuries replaced often by hastily written modern compositions.

When one reads Sacrosanctum Concilium we see statements such as the need for the continuation of the Latin Language, use of Gregorian Chant, and so on, with the ability of the congregation to sing the various propers. It is evident that the reform as it was actually implemented did not follow any of these prescriptions.

As a result we see a weakening in belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a lack of reverence at many Masses and more of a Protestant mentality where the Mass is seen as more of a worship service rather than the Holy Sacrifice or sacred Mysteries. The Mass is one of the primary ways that Catholics develop and strengthen their faith, so it is not surprising that we have a generation of Catholics whose faith has been weakened. It is also clear that the young are not attracted to the Mass in spite of these changes that supposedly were going to make it more appealing to them.

What I foresee happening is as a more traditional population of priests and laypeople take over in the Church, which I think will happen as a result of many trends – increasing persecution driving away lukewarm Catholics, the wide use of contraception resulting in a larger proportion in the Catholic population of traditional Catholics who tend to be open to life and have large families, the aging off of the progressive leaders from the 60’s and 70’s – then there will be an opportunity for true reform that builds on the Roman Rite as it was passed down to us and actually achieves what the Vatican II reformers had in mind.


About lewistoncatholic

A new resident of the City of Lewiston Maine. My family moved here from Massachusetts. A lifelong Catholic that fell away from the Church in my teens and came back in 1999 after a journey through various Protestant faith traditions.
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