The White Lily Blog

Dear Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos

Cardinal Prefect, Congregation For the Clergy
Piazza Della Città
Leonina I, 00193
Rome, Italy

Dear Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos,

I just read what you wrote about how some traditionalists were still not satisfied after the Summorum Pontificum, and were writing letters and posting their complaints on the internet to have more traditional masses available. You seemed disturbed. I would like to tell you why I am tempted to complain in public, too.

I am a person who likes to go to daily mass. I need to go to daily mass. My adult children have so many challenges in their work and relationships, and I still have, as their mother, all the cares for their spiritual and material welfare. I have troubles of my own, too. So daily mass is a necessity, not a luxury, like exercise and vitamins pills.

But I cannot go to a decent daily mass. Because there are no reverent and obedient daily masses here.

Yesterday, for example, at a church about six blocks from me, there were numerous bad things. Besides having a Eucharistic minister instead of a priest for the ten or so people, besides having no place to kneel to receive Our Lord except the flat marble floor, or kneel not at all, which makes me feel sick, besides these things (that are bad enough), after mass, when I want to make a little thanksgiving to Christ still physically present in my body, every single other person present began a private conversation right there in church, just as soon as Father left the sanctuary.

Some stood talking, some sat together, one actually hopped over a pew to sit companionably with the person behind.  The church was happily abuzz with socialization that should have taken place in the vestibule–if we believe in the real presence of Christ. As it always did, prior to the Council. Now it is as if–“the show” is over.

It is not a small thing to me. Oh, I can give myself all the talkings-to in the world,  how I should be more patient with my fellow Catholics, how I should even join them, what’s the harm, a little friendship, we’re only human, etc. It would be an act of charity, and so forth.

But my Catholic training is too strong. Christ is present here. That is all. These women like myself, older, lonely, women whom I would ordinarily like very much, and help, and suffer their–our–little idiosyncrasies with a laugh; or younger women on their way to work, stopping at mass just as I once did, and upon whom I would ordinarily heap my blessings and praise and love: these women young and old appear to be–witches! In that harsh light, with their backs to Him, stealing from Him. Denying Him. Simply witches, greedily lapping up the grace still flowing in the space, from the altar, from the cross. Talk to me now! Taking what is His, the way a cheap blogger will paste a tasty quote from a really good writer on their mastheads.

A second possibility for morning mass is six blocks in the other direction. I wentthere  last week. It is a magnificent church with the most beautiful, big, carved walnut or mahogany crucifix. They also had a mere handful of faithful present. Father must like to sing, because he ‘sings,’ (if you can call the half hummed, half mumbled, unaccompanied and off-key jumble actual singing) every sung part of the new mass. He tries to get us to sing, but we don’t. It’s too early. We want what we used to have, a plain, simple low mass like we used to have, that, or either a real high mass with a choir that practices.

When Father must interrupt his singing/directing to attend to the other business in the mass, the parts only he can do like the consecration, he still hums along into the fully-amplfied clip-on mic. There’s a hidden message here; this is the disturbing part. The message is, God will take anything. No practice needed, whatever comes out is pleasing to God.

There is no such thing as bad, so you just make yourself happy, yes? It screams that we’re only pretending there’s a God.

And what about the physical torture of actually listening to it? Cardinal, I confess that I sneakily put my hands up over my ears. I think most people react with more restraint, by simply–not showing up. The empty pews. The empty, empty pews. It’s a big church.

At this mass, also, Father invites us to chime in with our own petitions after he reads the official ones. Most are homey–please pray for Aunt Betty, she’s sick with the gout again. Some are political, some even contradict the teaching of our Faith. “Support the success of all those working for democracy in the Church, Hear us, O Lord,” that was one last Tuesday when I went. A person is placed in the position of appearing to support them, and what is one to do? Shout out, ‘Leave me out of praying for your party’s candidates or your ambiguous causes’?

No, one does not shout. One often fails to show up at the next mass, though. That’s what I do.

Father also likes to substitute an old Irish blessing for the one in the rubrics (he’s such a cool ethnic guy) and he leaves the sanctuary and joins us laity for the Peace sign (he’s such a friendly guy), and the sacred vessels are cut glass rather than precious metals, because ‘this is here, this is not Rome’ (as Father told me when I protested this violation of the rubrics). And of course there is no place to kneel to receive Our Lord, and this congregation also likes to chat as soon as mass has ended, except that in this church the lady lector likes to stand right at the edge of the sanctuary, in the middle, and invite people into the conversation. They stand so that all have their backs to God in the tabernacle, and they talk away, gesturing, laughing out loud. She motioned to me to join them, and I don’t know what she made of my horrified look, and it made me feel so bad, so uncharitable, because in any other circumstance, I’d be happy to socialize. Invite me to coffee, or walk me to the corner. Just wait til we get outside!

Father has long gone, of course. Father would never, ever take five minutes and pray after mass-or before, either. He doesn’t join in the conversation, in this particular church, but neither does he come out brandishing a cat o’ nine tails, which is what I kneel there and pray for. When I should have been praying for my children. For my brother’s health. But who can concentrate on prayer in all the post-mass sanctuary socializing?

The dissonance is too large: who is right, do we come to church to pray to God, or to socialize? Is the place for prayer at home, is that the message, and not here in front of the Blessed Sacrament?

The non-verbal message, of course, is, He is not here. That makes sense, that explains it. And this realization almost makes me cry, and then makes me mad, and I have to kneel there and pray hard against the temptation not to shoot these non-believers.

I’m only kidding about that, trying to show you how much it hurts. Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos– it hurts! That’s why I’m writing you. And posting it on the internet, too.

Because it seems you think the reform of the reform is done; that there are no more abuses and that we all have a perfectly obedient, perfectly reverent daily mass right down the street in our home town. Isn’t that the official position?  We got Redemptionis Sacramentum and the bishops nodded and smiled, and now everything is tidy, and the only reason to ‘release’ the traditional mass is to appease those darn Lefevristas from SSPX and those other cranky traditionalists?

No, Cardinal! Not to be able to kneel to receive Our Lord is an abuse. A eucharistic minister distributing communion to ten people is an abuse. All the politics in the petitions or whatever they call it is an abuse. Talking in church after mass is an abuse. All the tortured acapella singing without any practice is an abuse.

It’s not fixed yet!

Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, sir, I just want to go to daily mass according to Redemptionis Sacramentum, except with a couple of things you forgot and I’d like you to add them, some cleaning up of the ambiguities, especially around Eucharistic ministers (calling on them to resign their commissions evidently wasn’t enough), providing a place to kneel to receive Our Lord, and also including one new directive about not chatting inside a Catholic church!  Oh, and also something excruciatingly specific about sing-along music in the new mass. Like, lose it! Have a choir and an organ and practice, or have quiet mass.  

Rules enforced by–the mafia! Don’t you have any unused mafia lying around? Or a couple reformed Jesuits?  Somebody with some cojones?

But if you can’t certify (by on-site inspection, such as those endured by hospitals and schools) that masses without abuses are available in my neighborhood, then please give me the traditional mass! Every day!

Thank you,

Jan Baker, The White Lily Blog

11 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Although I don’t agree with what you wrote, I find strength in the fact that you have the vehicle to communicate it. Too bad no one in Rome will pay the least bit of attention to it. If Rome really cared about the church they would go back to Christ and get rid of the man-made “rules” that continue to kill the church I loved so much as a child.

Comment by Mike Schaefer

Are you familiar with Damian Thompson’s blog, Holy Smoke. Good article:

Comment by Laurence England

I suppose you mean me to learn that my ‘letter’ does not fit the helpful category! (Maybe that part with the gun? Or the cussing?) Except you were wonderfully understated and kind.

But I tell you, Castrillon Hoyos just sets me off. He’s so damn smug. And everything I wrote in the letter is a too accurate experience of almost anyone in the world trying to go to daily mass. A friend and I once sat about making a list of places in the world that had daily traditional mass, and it’s pitifully small. But I simply love daily mass, especially early in the morning. I crave it. My day with it is productive and happy, and without it is lonely. I can’t help but cry out. His statement about traditionalists was so thoughtless of those who just want this one thing, maybe the only thing the Church owes us. So I guess I’m over the top, though. I know it. Do you think I should kill the post? (But I did actually mail the letter. I don’t know what his translators made of it. I hope they rendered the gun comment accurately!)

But I do read Holy Smoke. It’s quite good and urbane and all.

Thank you again for the kindness of your comment. Dios le pague, may God repay you.

Comment by thewhitelilyblog

How about forming a parish liturgical committee or a liturgy study group to study the parish’s liturgy compared to what it should really be about? This way, parish liturgy can be improved on bit by bit? Mass will be more meaningful at the very least for those in the committee, and hopefully that will gradually spread out to the rest of the parish as members learn more and more about what Mass should be like?

Comment by Catholic Writer

1. It is true – people often speak of the church as if Christ is not present. Case in point- somethingI hear often: “If Christ were to come down and see what we are doing, would he like it?” My reply: “but Christ is present with us now – he sees everything we are doing”

2. Bringing back the old mass – it is a patch – I don’t think it is a realistic long-term solution. Even though I consider myself fairly orthodox and faithful catholic, the old mass has very little appeal to me. I want to see novus ordo Latin masses, as it was designed to be. I find Maronite and Melkite Catholic liturgies more helpful than the old Latin mass.

3. Mass is the public prayer of the church – if you can also do your devotions after it, fine, but it should not be the de facto time for devotions. If the time after mass builds community, then let it be.

Comment by ScholarChanter

Dear Scholar Chanter,

Thank you so very much for your comment. I would really love to know more about why you find the Maronite and Melkite liturgies more helpful than the old Latin mass. I grew up with the old mass, and of course I love it. But it seems to me that you contradict yourself a little in saying that Christ is truly present in that sacred space, in your first point, and then in your point number 3, that it would be okay to ignore him to ‘build community.’ I just can’t understand that, especially when every church I referred to has spacious, warmed and cooled as needed, vestibules and in most cases also fully equipped basements with kitchens, coffee machines, and everything needed to build community. Why does it have to be in His Holy Face? This is the part that hurts me. Come back and explain how you can put those two ideas together without it hurting!

Comment by thewhitelilyblog

Dear Janet,

Your yearning for sacred silence after the mass in order to pay homage to Christ reminds me of the beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.” Thank you for sharing your reverence for the Holy Mass with your readers. Tomorrow I will offer up my (our) Mass and communion for you and your children.

Comment by Emily Gallery

Dear Sister Emily, Thank you for your kind words, and for your prayers. If I could move you to visit a local daily mass, see what’s happening, and then write a letter or make a phone call. I wrote this piece, it’s been maybe two years, and things are the same. And no daily mass for me. There is a new pastor at the parish to my north, a Filipino, and a fellow pro-life person mentioned to me that everyone was saying he wanted people to be quiet in church. I went to mass the following Monday, and I was really impressed. He was at prayer, on his knees, out in the church, with us! And a young girl came in (in short shorts), went to mass, and plucked his sleeve after mass, and he went and heard her confession, which almost made me cry with gratitude (I’m telling you, Emily, it’s rare now–even in Mexico!) There was some loud talking in the sacristy but it quieted down quickly, and it’s possible he said something to them. But the young woman who acted as the ‘mc’ (I don’t know what they’re called–I guess the cantor) still insisted on calling goodbye to friends, from the sanctuary all the way to the doors in the back of church–in other words, she yelled ‘Bye Ruthie’ and “Bye, Jeremy–Call me!’ all the way across church. She also mc-ed as if we were all in kindergarten, especially her breathey Amen’s. Think of Dolly Parton drunk and that about captures it. And there was no place to kneel to receive. But there was a real, vested acolyte–might have been a visiting seminarian.

Well, I have traditional mass tomorrow, thank heaven. But I’m going to set it for myself to go talk to the new pastor this week and ask him about kneeling. He can’t do anything about the mc, I guess, except change forms of the mass.

Thanks, Emily!

Comment by thewhitelilyblog

Dear Janet,

Thank you for sharing with your readers your colorful experiences at the local parish! I was especially gratified to learn that the new pastor (to your north)urges his flock to sacred silence, which is the only way we can REALLY hear God speaking to us, isn’t it? My favorite thing about him, though, was the fact that he was out there in church, praying with all of you, on his knees. If he continues to pray on his knees, in the midst of the people, then I truly believe that God will shower him and his parish with special graces. I think that the girl who tugged on his sleeve and asked him to hear her confession must have been impressed by his humility, even though that word might not be in her working vocabulary. I keep praying for you, Janet, but this week I’ll specifically pray that your talk with the new pastor goes great and that the kneeling issue is well received.

I was intrigued with your words: “If I could move you to visit a local daily mass, see what’s happening,” etc. because I only go to daily mass in the convent chapel, Sunday included, because I sing in the choir with some other sisters. A number of lay men and lay women attend our Sunday masses because the beauty of our chapel and its enormous dimensions are breath-taking, along with our magnficent stained glass windows that depict the most gorgeous Gospel scenes…Our chapel should be called a cathedral, or at least a church, but it is just connected to our Mother House and not to a diocese, and so its humble title will always remain “chapel.”

So the idea of breaking out and going to a local daily mass is one that rarely takes hold of me, but I know that there’s a local parish on my way to the university so some morning I’m going to drop in and go to mass with some “real” people at the grass roots level, just to see what it’s like!!

I often think that parish priests have it the hardest…Vulnerable to the whims of their bishops, bombarded with the needs of their sheep, in danger of being transferred at the drop of a hat with little say-so in their own lives. I believe that women religious have it made in the shade compared to parish priests….Who am I kidding? Compared to anybody.

Thank you for writing back! How good you are to a lonely nun who yearns for intelligent and compassionate human relationships! (Don’t get me wrong! I live with some wonderful sisters, truly I do, but I think we’re scared to talk about real issues and we’re scared to get to know each other beyond a superficial level.

By the way, this experience of writing on a blog web page is very novel to me, but I’m getting the hang of it by degrees! The other night I wrote my heart out on this blog, page after page, paragraph after paragraph, my heart and mind on fire with new life and new ideas and sheer bliss. Then I scrolled down too far, or else I hit the wrong button, but I DO know that the server crashed at some point, and I lost that extremely long document I had typed up for over an hour!

I actually hollered out loud and stared in horror at the computer screen: “NO, no! Please come back! Please don’t be gone!” But I lost every word, and I almost started crying but I stopped myself in time. In fact, I then started laughing at my ridiculous self. I could imagine God looking down at me, hands on hips, and demanding: “And just what did you have to say that was so totally mesmerizing??” So the laugh was on me! I got the hint and went down on my knees and said my prayers and called it a day, which was high time, as it was after midnight!

It will probably crash again tonight and if so, I will have a good laugh at myself, but no matter what, I will keep praying for you and I thank you for writing back. You are a great Catholic and your love for Jesus and His sheep comes through loud and clear with every word you write!

With prayers from
Sister Emily Gallery
at the Mother House

Comment by Emily Gallery

Dear Janet,

Ha! It’s me again! Please ignore the last two paragraphs in the section above. What a dope I am! I really MUST learn to proofread before I hit the “Say It” button! Please forgive me for being careless on your blog site! I feel as though I just spilled water on your freshly waxed dining room table.

Comment by Emily Gallery

No, look, Emily, I edited them out–those paragraphs. Or mopped them up, to continue your certainly conventual metaphor.

Listen, as we say around these parts, I feel ya on losing work. It would be prudent to suggest that you compose in Word and then paste it in. You can have Word open in a half window and the post you are replying to in another half window, ready to supply details as necessary to your reply.

Let me sweeten this suggestion: if you have it on Word (and it doesn’t freeze-it’s awfully buggy in my 2007 Word, so I just bought it from Dragon) or if you could beg borrow or steal Dragon Naturally Speaking, play around with voice recognition software. Don’t you think writing is like transcribing singing, in a way (it doesn’t surprise me that you sing in a choir–me, too–all my life, singing makes me happy for no reason whatsoever)? And don’t you think you access your voice–no accident it’s called that–writing out loud? You can do that with voice recognition software. I would like to work with students using it. You have to put the punctuation marks in out loud. Good for them to get into that habit.

This ploy of mine might work until you discover that the software works with most applications, including comment boxes where the work will still get lost just as easily (although come to think of it, a portion, maybe at least a hundred words, is available under ‘play back’) But don’t suffer it one more time– compose everything in Word, voice recognition software, or not. I have lost so many things. But look! It is only so many well-arranged words. Your love for Him is not there, and he does not love you because you’re Jane Austen, either. (I think he loves you because somebody said, ‘go visit a liturgy somewhere so you can understand something I wrote a little better’ and you’re totally thrilled to think of doing it.)


Comment by thewhitelilyblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s