Changing the course

After the Second Vatican Council in 1965, there were many changes in the Catholic Church, foremost of which is the adoption of the Novus ordo or the new liturgy. It did away with the Latin Mass or Ad orientem and adopted rituals using English or the native language. In the Ad orientem (facing the east) the priest faces the apse or wall behind the altar, with the people looking in the same direction at the Blessed Sacrament at the tabernacle behind the altar. In the Novus ordo or populum orientation, the priest faces the congregation.

While the liturgy of the Mass has changed in its orientation and language, the essentials remain except that in the new liturgy the people take active part in responding to the priest and they see what the priest is doing. In the older liturgy, only the altar boy or sacristan responds in behalf of the people; now the entire congregation is urged to answer.

Many miss the Latin Mass because it was more solemn, more meaningful and had connectivity to the ancient rites of the early Church. Today the priest has his own innovation and style that dilutes as it were the solemnity of the Holy Sacrifice. His manners sometimes confuse the people or depreciate the seriousness of the sacred celebration. There are priests, for instance, who love that the people clap their hands as if he just delivered a speech and not a homily. Some think that people love a stand-up comedian to get their attention than a good preacher.

Every priest is a personality but, as Archbishop Georg Gänswein, personal secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Prefect of the Papal Household told the four new priests at the Stift Heiligenkreuz monastery in Austria last month, the duty of the priest (is) to remain loyal to the “truth of the Gospels” and rebuked those within the Church who wish to “invent a new Church.”

He advised the new priests not to teach their “own good ideas, but, rather, that which God has given to us.” It is not about “our own cherished ideas, but about salvation and the strength that stems from the Sacraments.” Thus, a priest does not need to have a “striking personality,” and will not “make the headlines, just like the lighthouse.”

The archbishop was referring to his anecdote about a ship captain that saw a light and thinking that the light came from another ship, sent a message tellingit to change course. The answer said that it is a lighthouse and the keeper said he cannot change course. But the captain insisted the lighthouse move away.

The lighthouse keeper, Gänswein said “would only make headlines if he would leave his post in order to do something else” because there would be a disaster.

He added, “When priests and bishops do not anymore have the courage to proclaim the Gospels with strength and in its entirety, but to merely present one’s own words of wisdom, then there comes disaster, and then there are headlines.

“Priests deal with the matter of keeping the course and changing the course. They are influencing the course of the lives of men, they steer (and), they change. Their position is similar to the lighthouse keeper.”

He pointed out that “unlike some of the powerful ships in the sea, the lighthouse itself has no warships. So, too are the priests whose strength does not come from external means of power. They lead people and guide them, by simply proclaiming the Truth that has become Incarnate in Jesus Christ.

“A priest is not strong out of his own power; he only has strength inasmuch as he gives witness to the truth. People should change their ways because they have come in contact with the truth of the Gospels, just as a ship has to change course when coming in contact with a lighthouse. Since God entrusted that truth to His Church, the Church may not proclaim anything else but that truth, be it in season or out of season.” 

“While a priest might hear voices similar to the captain of the warship ordering the lighthouse to change course, he has to give a simple answer that of the beauty and truth of the Faith, to advise people to go the right path to eternal salvation.”

The priests, not the Church, must change course.