liturgical finery – how much is too much?

Hello friends! As I thought, the summer days are flying by and blog posts are not being written. But, I found this piece on the NCR site and thought is was too good not to share. The YouTube video features Cardinal Raymond L. Burke speaking passionately about the beauty and sense of transcendence found in the Tridentine mass and its accompanying liturgical garb.

I am a big believer that our Catholic Church is large enough to accommodate a host of liturgical traditions. Diversity is a gift that offers options. We are enriched and nourished in different ways. So, choice is good.

But if I have a choice, this is not one I would make. I’ve always been a believer in elegant simplicity. Less is more. Over the top, excessive finery just looks tacky. It is a pathetic shout to the world that seems to scream, ‘look what I can afford!’

In my opinion, these lads in their heavy lace and gold-laden frocks do not look God-y….just gawdy!

Check it out….The Call of Beauty

12 thoughts on “liturgical finery – how much is too much?

  1. My first response to this posting was to just dismiss the excesses in liturgical garb as silly; some of these “get-ups” are just ridiculous looking. However, there is something deeper happening here. The current literature in the Male Spirituality refers to this as “puer eternalis” (the eternal boy) and it is a psychological structure. “Puer eternalis spirituality” is not authentic male spirituality, it is “boys’ club spirituality”. It is concerned with who has the biggest hat, whose cape is longer, in addition to who receives the bow, and who is it that must bow before the other.

    If you look at the picture above anyone could pick out who has the power and who does not. Like the military, one can tell their rank by just looking at the regalia. This is not authentic male spirituality; it is boys’ club posturing. This, along with the fact that they have held us at arms’ length, has caused the men in the pews not to identify with the men on the altar.

    Signs of this type of energy are epidemic in clerical culture. Some other characteristics of the “puer” are: ordinary jobs and tasks are beyond them, they are always waiting for real life to happen to them. They believe they are so special that they are not like anyone else. They are more sensitive, more special, feel rejected, and not understood; they are addicted to seeing themselves as not being like anyone else. They are very lonely, desperate and lacking in compassion.

    While some liturgical garb is silly, and looks absolutely ridiculous, the ‘boys club’ archetype that it represents is disturbing.

  2. This is REALLY interesting, Ray! We were at mass on Sunday where a visiting seminarian has been serving at the altar during his summer months. This grave looking, young man is decked out in the old school black cassock and lacy surplice and kneels to receive communion. I know I shouldn’t judge, and our church is big enough for all….but it saddens me to see this kind of message coming from our future priests.

  3. In France – I noted in this past month that on the street that Roman Catholic priests sadly have almost no identity (vs. Vatican approved branding which seems the present hope for all orders and religious) at all – except to wear a cross (like the laity) – as they too are part of political correctness. Also during non service times – there is not a priest of any age in sight in cathedrals and parishes that might be open to the public and tourists – many who now regard them only as museums or part of the tour group stops. Visible Catholics are new immigrants in prayer and a few elderly volunteers in gift shops. So the full regalia is only for a small percentage of time for the cardinals, bishops and priests when there is something official that they have preside at. The only time I came across it was on the “large screens” for the public at Notre Dame – as we stood within barriers on the plaza in the blazing hot sun – to watch the ordination of new priests. However – I am in favour of a clerical dress code for all denominations with the tradtion for all male clergy (and women clergy for non Roman Catholic denominations) – depending on the service – and if the male clergy in this century wish to brave wearing lace – so be it.

  4. Hi Sue,
    Loved hearing about your experiences in France! What a contrast…from excess to none. There must be a happy medium somewhere.

    I keep telling myself that our church is large enough and diverse enough to welcome all cultures and traditions. But, I can’t deny my personal preferences…and they lean toward the more simple and tasteful. 😉

  5. Sue: Here in the states male clergy, rarely if ever, wear clerical attire not because they do not want to, but because of insults hurled at them in restaurants and other public places regarding the widely reported clergy child abuse scandals and their cover up.
    The full regalia is used mostly by those who celebrate the “extraordinary form”, or the Tridentine Mass in Latin.The focus of that liturgy is on the priest with the congregation silently watching him, it very much has a theatrical flair. Although this is an “extraordinary form” of worship, there is tremendous energy among some bishops to move the liturgy back to what it was in the pre Vatican II era.
    Another sign that we are moving in that direction is that we now are required to use a “new” translation of the altar book where the words are now closer to those in the original Latin missal. The trouble is the new translation from Latin often makes little sense in English. So we have prayers that no one can really pray, were the words themselves are more important their meaning.
    So, I am fine with those who want to celebrate the “extraordinary form”, (although I personally find them a bit odd) and also with the guys who want to wear lace; but many of us feel we are being dragged back into a worship style that does not fit us.

  6. “If the self doesn’t find some way to connect radically with Being, it will live in anxiety and insecurity. The false self is inherently insecure. It’s intrinsically fragile, grasping for significance. That’s precisely because it is insignificant! So it grabs at things like badges and uniforms and titles and hats and flags to give itself importance and power. They don’t realize that the Bible would definitely call that idolatry. What were you before you were an American? Will you be an American in heaven? Most of us don’t know how to answer those questions without a spiritual journey and an inner prayer life.”
    Richard Rohr, OFM

  7. Superb article in the August 1st edition of the Prairie Messenger. Thanks for your gift of words in articulating what we all need to hear and for pointing out the extravagances associated with some of the pre-Vatican II longings of those who prefer heavy lace and gold-laden frocks which are proudly adorned within “the four walls” of a church where the altar faces away from the people. I did see the video “The Call of Beauty” and it does indeed reveal a kind of materialistic beauty, but I see nothing of the beauty that would remind me of the humility and humbleness of Jesus at the Last Supper. I long for the original Church that Jesus envisioned where the chalices were made of clay and the graces offered were more valuable than gold. Ironically, this sounds kind of conservative (i.e. to become what we once were). It’s time to do away with the glitz and sparkle of chalices and robes, and return to our roots of humility and service where those who call themselves shepherds were out among the poor and vulnerable instead of sheltered from the world by the walls of their palaces. The sisters you speak of in your article have never identified themselves with such luxuries. Instead, they have worked and lived among those who make up the world’s most marginalized populations. Rather than desiring fancy robes and jewels, they have sought handouts of bread to sustain the hungry and coins to buy shelter for the homeless. They have been out among the people to serve instead of sitting in high places of judgement. They truly fit your definition of what it means to be a “roamin” Catholic as opposed to a Roman Catholic. Both are important, but it is because they have gone out and roamed beyond the walls of the Church that they have brought so much dignity to themselves and the people of God. As they gather for their annual meeting in St. Louis on Aug. 7-10, let’s pray for their continued strength in building a Church of compassion and service, one that Jesus would recognize as his own.

    1. Thank you for reading the PM article, Delmar, and for your kind words. And thank YOU for expressing so well the need to return to the ‘roots of humility and service’. A big AMEN!!!

  8. To me, all of the detail in fancy churches/cathedrals/basillicas looks like a migraine-in-motion to me. Like you, Isabella, I prefer elegant simplicity. I love wood, and I love statues.
    In some ways, I think that the Catholic Church is too caught up in the details. I am looking for some sort of RELATIONSHIP. I want to see God the Father, I want to see God the Son, and I want the presence of the Holy Spirit to be obvious. I am not interested in being pushed away — I want to be drawn in. In the Catholic Church, we have the Eucharist, which is the Source and Summit. But we also have so much barrenness, and this should not be. I think we need more focus on the Eucharist, on the Rosary, on Divine Mercy, on the Sacred Heart & Immaculate Heart… I think we need more focus on being Christ to each other — on relationships — on truly seeing each other and listening to each other and being there for each other. For me, I find that too much of the details just way things down.

  9. A ‘migraine-in-motion’. Hmmm….what a great image! I agree that we need to focus more on the relational side of our faith. What worries me the most about this pull back to the old ways of celebrating the liturgy is its emphasis on the division between the priestly caste at the altar and us great unwashed minions in the pews. Sigh…

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