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Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Dr Philippa Martyr: Liturgical fallout of the 70s

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Often-cacaphonous, often-inappropriate and often-repelling liturgical music symbolises a lot of what we got wrong about liturgy after Vatican II, writes Philippa Martyr. PHOTO:

This week I’m back to the Novus Ordo, because I had an interesting online chat with a US friend. She said that when the Novus Ordo was introduced, traditionally minded people should have stayed and tried to prevent or reform liturgical abuses.

She made some good points. Compromise would have been good for everyone. She belongs to a cross-pollinated parish today and finds it enriching.

My experience has been very different from hers. I became a liturgical nomad with my family before I was even confirmed. For me, Confirmation was an exit sacrament. I exited the parish where I was baptised, made my first Confession, made my first Holy Communion, and attended the parochial school.

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In the early 1980s my parents protested the growing liturgical and doctrinal problems at parish level. Long story short: the parish priest told us, quite rudely, to leave the parish. Complaints about similar doctrinal problems in my Catholic high school’s religion classes got the same response: Take your child out of the school if you don’t like it.

Do you think this has changed now? A couple of months ago I went to Saturday evening Mass at my old parish – the one we were asked to leave in the 1980s. My parents and I only started going back to that parish a few years ago. We’d been made so unwelcome that it stung for decades. But I have been going there long enough now to be familiar to most of the old-timers.

I got there early, and the church was dark and blissfully quiet – until that week’s guest music ministry got started. They were rehearsing at an ear-splitting volume, with full throttle cha-cha keyboard, drum machine, and syncopated hymnody.

It was execrable, and I was exhausted. So I did something I’ve never done before. I got up and walked over and pleaded with them not to play like that at Mass tonight, because the style of music was so inappropriate to the Mass.

The oldest member of the music ministry told me that was just my opinion – which it was. (It’s also Sacrosanctum Concilium’s opinion, but I suspect he wasn’t familiar with this document.) But the youngest member of the music ministry told me to go to Mass somewhere else.

I stayed for Mass, and I put up with the music. Being tired and crabby, I also gave the parish priest a flea in his ear, which neither of us enjoyed. I haven’t seen that music ministry since, thank goodness.

I could have done that better. But I suspect that most people who tried to reform liturgical abuses at parish level – and being more polite than me – got the same result. Thousands of us and our children have voted with our feet. We have either left the Church or gravitated towards the nearest traditional-minded parish and priest.

Maybe this was wrong. But there’s excellent Biblical precedents for shaking the dust from your feet when you realise you can’t do any more in a particular place.

Next week: What you can do, if you decide to stay!



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