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November 7, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The vernacularization and “options” allowed for in the modern Roman Rite enable a priest and “worshiping community” to “make the liturgy their own.” This was often touted as a great strength of the reform: its elasticity and adaptability to local communities.

This approach suffers, however, from a basic problem: the liturgy is never theirs or yours or mine to begin with; it belongs to Christ as His gift and to the Church as her inheritance. This is why the Church has always insisted that no priest has the right to deviate from the rubrics set down in the liturgical books and that every priest is obliged by his sacred office to conform his conduct to the principles and guidelines established by the Church for her public worship.

Nevertheless, as we know, far too many liberties are taken in the offering of Holy Mass. The moment the Second Vatican Council proposed what sounded like changing everything — whether it meant to tweak everything a little bit or to revamp it from the ground up (interpretations of the Council vary a great deal, indeed as much as, and in the same way as, one parish or liturgy varies from another!) — a momentum of uncontrollable “tinkeritis” has been generated that works against the conservation of many endangered species in the Catholic ecosystem, such as tradition, reverence, humility, sobriety, adoration, and contemplation.

Consequently, the prevalence of clerically driven liturgy produces a situation in which quite a few people attend a certain parish or liturgy because of what might be called a “cult of the personality” of the celebrant. They like “how he does things”; they like his storytelling or humor, his flair, his spontaneity, his singing voice, or what have you. Yet if the Mass is supposed to be the representation of the Sacrifice of Calvary by which we are ushered mystically into the celestial Paradise, the personality of a given priest, although it may have much to do with the quality of the sermon, should have almost nothing to do with the way the Mass as such is celebrated. If we took our venerable tradition of worship more seriously and put our egos off to the side, where they belong, liturgies everywhere would be solemn, dignified, beautiful, and prayerful. All the faithful would give to God the worship He deserves; all would derive from the Mass the benefits it is intended to bestow.

Many good Catholics feel understandable pain about unwarranted liberties, improvisations, distractions, bad music (amplified, no less, in imitation of every secular venue, drowning out interior quiet, reflection, or prayer), extended announcements and intercessions, and other pretenses of authenticity and solicitude. At a certain point, they are sorely tempted to stop attending a liturgy where things are done unworthily and to seek instead to find a true spiritual home. Perhaps, contrary to what Pope Francis thinks about the Lord’s Prayer, this is one of those “temptations” into which the Lord does lead us, and to which He wishes us to succumb.

To put it less cheekily: If you are constantly distracted from the worship of almighty God in the four great acts of adoration, contrition, supplication, and thanksgiving because of antics in the sanctuary, violations of rubrics, heretical homilies, hand-holding or bear-hugging neighbors, the posse of “extraordinary” ministers, or ivories jazzily tickled and strings raucously strummed, then you are not only permitted to seek, but you have an obligation to seek a different parish or liturgy, as long as you or others of similar concerns have tried, to some reasonable extent, to ameliorate the problems. To abandon a sinking ship is not cowardice or heartlessness but legitimate self-love and a desire to please His Heart. For God is the one who must be obeyed and pleased first and foremost.

Sacred liturgy should reflect and befit the Sacred Heart from which it flows in sacramental signs and to which it returns in hallowed prayers, chanted praise, clouds of incense, gestures of awe. If you go away from a disaster in search of a true home, you are not guilty of pursuing a more subtle form of the cult of personality; you are not “parish shopping” or “parish hopping.” Rather, you are rightfully searching for the sacred and for the face of Christ. He is your beloved, your High Priest, the only one who deserves a cult of (divine) personality.

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Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer, is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California (B.A. Liberal Arts) and The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy). He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria and the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, then helped establish Wyoming Catholic College in 2006. There he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history and directed the choirs until leaving in 2018 to devote himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

Today he contributes regularly to many websites and publications, including New Liturgical Movement, OnePeterFive, LifeSiteNews, Rorate Caeli, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News, and has published thirteen books, including four on traditional Catholicism: Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (Angelico, 2014, also available in Czech, Polish, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Belarusian), Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico, 2017), Tradition and Sanity (Angelico, 2018), and Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico, 2020). His work has been translated into at least eighteen languages.

Kwasniewski is a scholar of The Aquinas Institute in Green Bay, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over a thousand articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.

For news, information, article links, sacred music, and the home of Os Justi Press, visit his personal website, www.peterkwasniewski.com.

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