Friday, April 18, 2008

Fr. Neuhaus on the National's Park Mass

Fr. John Neuhaus remarks on the liturgical music performances during the Washington National Mass:

In the response to our EWTN coverage, we received hundreds of complaints about the over-the-top stretch to be multicultural, along with some complaints by those were offended by our mentioning it. It’s hard to win on this score. And I have to remind myself that even mild criticisms of the way the Holy Father’s visit is being handled are taken amiss by people for whom even the chance to see the pope from a distance is one of the great moments of their lives. When over the years one has been present at papal events beyond numbering, one inevitably develops a measure of critical distance in which even mildly critical comments can clash with the intense piety of many of the Catholic faithful. Anything short of all-Wow!-all-the-time is taken as a sign of insufficient enthusiasm. Raymond Arroyo and I have multiple opportunities to remind one another of this dynamic. . . .

Of course nothing can diminish, never mind negate, the astonishment of the Real Presence of Christ in the Mass, but it must be admitted that the mish-mash of music and liturgical practices putatively representing the “other” of multiculturalism did vigorously compete with the central reality. I offered an observation or two on this in the course of our EWTN coverage, provoking the response that the people in the stadium were obviously enjoying themselves and we mustn’t try to impose our elitist musical and liturgical criteria. Ouch. The point I was making is that Benedict has written very specifically over the years about the distortion of the dynamics of worship when attention is focused on “our wonderful selves” rather than on the glory of God. He has also stressed the importance of renewing commitment to and continuity in the tradition of sacred music, including Gregorian chant, a tradition almost entirely absent from the stadium Mass. So the point of the commentary on that Mass is that it is remarkable that, on matters about which Benedict has been so emphatic, his views were so egregiously ignored or defied.

Admittedly, in his frequent writings on matters liturgical, Benedict has often offered a caveat on the difficulty of doing it right on occasions with huge crowds such as is the case here and will be Sunday at Yankee Stadium, so I expect he is resigned to things getting out of hand and his pastoral disposition is to go along with the more or less inevitable. It is also the case that some of those in Nationals Park said they did not notice the music and other multicultural indulgences that were so prominent in what was televised. Which is probably just as well.

Of course Fr. Neuhaus also addressed Benedict's homily in his post, along with subsequent visitation to CUA and the interfaith service at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. (Read More).