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How Not to Say Mass

Over the past semester, I have done a lot of reading for my classes, more than in previous semesters. I decided, it being my last semester I would be more diligent. Go out with a bang.

How Not to Say Mass by Fr. Denis Smolarski, SJ was a recommended reading book for our mass practicum class. I found the title intriguing and the length short so I dove in on a journey through the liturgical mind of Jesuit mathematician.

Fr. Smolarski wrote the book as a response to the abuses of the liturgy after Vatican II. Indeed, he had a very noble aim. His goal was simple: let’s not get overly creative and stick to what’s there, in the Missal and in the GIRM and (here’s the kicker) in the minds of liturgists.

I don’t usually post ecclesio-political opinions on here, but I began to be worried. He seemed to quote only a few sources, none of whom I had heard in my albeit meager study of theology. His aim was very helpful. Stick to the principles and you’ll be okay. Indeed, that is great advice, unless you are sticking to weak or biased principles. Now, I must say on the whole his principles are sound. He directs the priest to follow what is in the Missal, the old WDTPRS saying, “Say the black and do the red.” Not only that but that the black should be said in such a way as to convey well the meanings of the words and the actions should be done in such a way to be in accord with the solemnity of the celebration of the sacred liturgy.

He honestly rails on priests who have done things I wish to not even think about. He is not supporting or condoning celebrating the liturgy in the ever ethereal ‘spirit of Vatican II.’ He is a fan of Vatican II. He shares with the reader his great delight at the reforms of Vatican II. However, he veers away from reason into bias at this point.

He operates under a hermeneutic of rupture, as Pope Benedict calls it. He attaches himself so much to the missal of Paul VI that he denies the validity or power of any of the previous forms of the Roman liturgy. He treats them as passe and incongruous with the Twenty-first Century. This is both illogical and poor theology. Before I continue with reasons why, I will grant him a small concession: Summorum Pontificum, which made it abundantly clear than the extraordinary form can and should inform the ordinary form and vice versa, was written after the publish date of 2002.

It is illogical and untheological because to show rupture from the previous iterations of the Roman liturgical form is to put into question their validity. He, in no uncertain terms, calls the Ordinary Form the highest yet of the evolution of the Roman liturgy, which isn’t even in accord with Vatican II.

It does have some good things to say, but it is in need of revision. Read at your own theological risk.

About Fr. Kyle

I am a priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. I was born and raised right outside New Orleans. I attended Catholic school my entire educational career. By the time I graduated high school, I had two paths to choose: rockstar or priesthood. I pursued both for awhile but eventually came to the understanding God's will was priesthood and my will was rockstardom. After making that decision, to allow God's will to be mine, I needed a new way to channel my creativity. I began writing as I finished up my formation for priesthood. I still play music, but priestly ministry comes first. My bride: St. Rita of Cascia Parish in Harahan, LA.

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