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Don’t “Rebuild” Your Parish. Restore It.


Last week I wrote about the newly founded “Amazing Parish” movement which, according to their website,  “seeks to provide resources to pastors and parish leaders so they can create a thriving parish life.” The group recently held its first ever conference in Denver, featuring a cadre of Catholic speakers and workshops focused on such topics as parish leadership teams, formation programs and evangelization. According to the Denver Catholic Register, the founders of Amazing Parish believe that theirs is a “Holy Spirit-inspired movement that began on the day Pope Francis was selected pontiff in March 2013.”

As I noted in my last post, what is troubling about this movement and its conference is the decision to highlight the book Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter and author Father Michael White’s “weekend experience” approach to the Sunday liturgy. Father White is the long time pastor of Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland. If you have yet to watch the video explaining the weekend experience you will be stunned by the total absence of Catholic identity in the approach presented.

Put simply, those behind this effort are promoting a business consultant/evangelical megachurch strategy for rebuilding Catholic parishes. As more and more megachurches seek to grow and make money in an ever more crowded religious market place, “success” is measured by continuous growth in attendance and contributions. This is the modern, consumer driven, focus upon “intentional church growth.” And this is the “Rebuilt” vision that many are foisting upon the Catholic faithful.

Most disturbing, however, are the growing number of parishes and even dioceses that are buying into the “Rebuilt” model.  Even though the book only came out last year, it has been immediately and unquestioningly accepted by much of the Catholic establishment as the method to fix declining Church attendance.

Dioceses as geographically diverse as Worcester (Massachusetts), Atlanta (Georgia), and Joliet (Illinois) have held day-long workshops for pastors and parishes solely to focus on the implementation of this megachurch mentality. Over 200 representatives from 26 different parishes of the Diocese of Atlanta attended a Rebuilt workshop back in February. From their diocesan paper:

To compete against other Sunday activities, Nativity had to develop its second strategy—prioritizing the weekend experience. They focused on the liturgy—the music, the message and the ministers.

“People are coming to church for an experience,” Corcoran said. “If they have a boring and bad experience on Sunday, why would we expect them to come to anything else we offer? That’s where we have to give our very best efforts.”

Corcoran and Father White started with the music, which Corcoran called “the water on which the experience sails.”

At Nativity, they learned that what was needed was not a music program but music that was worship and musicians who were worship leaders…

Of course, this perspective of liturgical music disregards a major component of the twentieth century liturgical reform, namely the renewed focus on Gregorian chant within the Mass. The century began with Pope St. Pius X reminding the Church:

“On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.” (Tra le Sollecitudini, 1903)

This belief was once again reaffirmed by Holy Mother Church in the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:

“The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” (SC 116)

This megachurch vision for Catholicism is unapologetic in its near exclusive turn toward evangelical Protestantism as the solution for declining attendance at Mass:

“Without apology, and eventually without embarrassment, we became students of successful, growing churches. Most all that we have studied are evangelical Protestants, who have more or less cornered the market when it comes to intentional church growth across the American religious landscape. Seventy-five percent of Catholics who left the Catholic Church to become Protestant have chosen evangelical churches, so it looked like a good place to start…” (Rebuilt, p. 30)

Sadly, the authors never seem to make the connection between the desacralization of the Mass and the ensuing mass exodus from the Church. The identity of Catholicism has been lost and the proponents of Rebuilt don’t even recognize it. There is no acknowledgement made that the Mass has gone from something sacred and beautiful, to often times something profane and banal. A beautiful liturgy handed down for centuries has become a laboratory for the innovators who force their creativity into the Mass. The humility required of us as we approach God when entering into the Mass is foreign to those who only see themselves as the solution, failing to realize that they are actually the problem.

We know from Gallup polling that 65% of Catholics were weekly Mass attendees in 1965. By 2013 the number had dropped to just over 20% attending weekly. Shouldn’t we be asking what has driven so many Catholics away from the Mass? Or put another way, why do so many Catholics view the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass — the highest prayer of the Church and that moment each week when we encounter Our Lord at Holy Communion — as irrelevant to their lives and unnecessary for their very salvation? That question cannot be answered by studying evangelical megachurches who reject the Holy Mass as a true sacrifice and fail to acknowledge the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.

I will reiterate what I said last time: if we as Catholics want to rebuild “amazing parishes,” we need to begin with the liturgy instead of simply turning to business models and evangelical play-books for direction. Contrast this with the role the Rebuilt team sees the liturgy playing in revitalizing a parish:

“The Church is formed and grows through the Eucharist, and mature Catholics understand what they are giving and what they are given in the Eucharist…But let’s be honest. Many of the people coming to church these days do not understand the Eucharist and are simply not engaged in it. And all the cultural Catholics in our community, who aren’t even showing up, have simply walked away from the Eucharist entirely. They have tuned the Church out, and no matter how beautifully or faithfully we celebrate the Eucharist…it’s not getting them back.” (Rebuilt, p. 92)

I take issue with these conclusions. The truth is that the authors of Rebuilt do not know whether or not beautiful and reverent liturgy will bring people back to Church because so few Catholics have ever truly experienced this in their parishes.

To be clear: I am not dismissing the idea of a book or program which seeks to improve parish structure, supporting ministries or outreach programs. There may indeed be great success in reaching fallen-away Catholics with some of these efforts. However, when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass becomes the place for innovation and experimentation as a means of accomplishing this, then we must sound the alarm. Following decades of desacralized liturgies, to now look to Protestant megachurches as the solution is to fail to grasp just how much of this ecclesial wound is self-inflicted.

There is no better response to the confusion expressed in these current movements than the assessment made by the former prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith. In reference to the impoverished and banal liturgies that have been the “weekend experience” for far too many Catholics, the Cardinal observed:

“The Orthodox churches and churches of the east still carry on their liturgy in that mystical fashion: there is chanting, there is use of different languages which are not spoken languages, then there is more incense…an aura of otherness happens and after the reforms of the Council, sometimes not because of the reformers but because individual persons decided to take matters into their hands and did things rather superfluously, the Church had gradually lost that mystical element, the element of the hidden. And that’s why our people are finding our liturgy…our prayer life…boring.”

Father White and those who endorse Rebuilt have decided, however, to ignore our liturgical patrimony, the restoration of which was a major focus of Benedict’s papacy, and instead to focus on megachurches such as Willow Creek, North Point and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. Two thousand years of organically developed liturgy given to us by Holy Mother Church has been declared old school, only to be replaced with marketing strategies gleaned from evangelical churches that aren’t even as old as Star Wars. And like sheep, hundreds of parishes in dioceses such as Atlanta, Worcester, and Joliet are more than happy to follow.

Thankfully, there is a better way. One that draws upon our tradition and embraces a liturgy two thousand years in the making. However, the solution requires a level of humility that is as uncommon as it is virtuous.

To begin with, instead of this book:


Pastors and parish councils need to read this book:


When it comes to Catholic worship, we need more pastors who are willing to “learn at the feet” of Ratzinger, and not Rick Warren. If your parish council starts handing out copies of Rebuilt and begins talking about stadium seating, coffee bars and praise bands to reach the lost, quickly hit them with some holy water and then give them a copy of The Spirit of the Liturgy. Ignatius Press has finally released it in paperback and it sells for about the same price as Rebuilt. Become an advocate for an authentic understanding of the liturgy within your parish.

Lastly, share the video below with anyone who feels that we have to find “modern” solutions to the problems we ourselves created. As Father Damien Cook of St. Peter Catholic Church in Omaha says in the video:

“I think sometimes we live as contemporary human beings and think we know more than our ancestors did…”

Restoring the sacred, restoring truth and beauty to our parishes, restoring authenticity to Catholic worship all serve to return the faithful. This video is a blueprint for authentically rebuilding a Catholic parish. Liturgically, this is the antithesis of the Rebuilt strategy for megachurching the Mass. Again, from Fr. Cook:

“The mass with all its glory, with all its tradition whether it be incense, or chant or the way we give communion or any of those things, they were all good and engendered and fostered vocations and saints…so they’re not bad, why throw them out when clearly they have been something beautiful and helpful in the Church these last few centuries…”

Indeed, why throw them out? This is the question that every bishop, priest and parish council who pushes megachurch protestantism on the faithful will need to answer.

33 thoughts on “Don’t “Rebuild” Your Parish. Restore It.”

  1. Yes, restore is the right word!
    The video is a wonderful primer on how to run a parish in the traditional manner, where the priests are truly shepherds, truly in charge yet truly serving the people. It works and it works amazingly well. This is the pattern of Jesus Christ.
    As long as parishes attempt to replace the pattern that works with Protestant-tinged programs, they will not prosper the Catholic faith. What they will do, and have been doing, is to make Catholics into Protestants. And that is why they are losing the faithful. Once one becomes Protestant in thinking, one will become Protestant in action, and that means loss of belief in the sacraments, church hopping and so on.
    It’s so simple, really.

  2. “The Orthodox churches and churches of the east still carry on their liturgy in that mystical fashion”

    Just going to play Devil’s Advocate here, but if this was the reason people are leaving the Church, they would be converting to the Orthodox Catholic church, right? But that’s not the case, they’re converting to Protestant churches, in overwhelming numbers, and if you look at the Pew Forum study on why (here: ) it is because people disagree with the Catholic Church’s teaching, not because of the liturgy. They need to be more engaged with the church, in order to understand why the church teaches something that they disagree with, and for that, they need to be in the pews.

    I don’t want the church to become more Protestant, I converted OUT of that to the Catholic Church that I love, but people are leaving the church to become Protestants, not to become conservative Orthodox.

    • First, most Protestant churches (I’m a former Protestant myself) do contemporary music much better than Catholic parishes who attempt it (not that I think we should be doing it in the first place). Protestant churches have a superficial draw because they often will have a catchy “worship band” which is usually much better than the mediocre songs Catholics sing at most parishes.

      Second, most people will not normally come across an Orthodox parish, much less attend a service there. There’s just not that many compared to the myriad Protestant churches all competing for parishioners.

      Third, the study you cite notes: “Among former Catholics who are now Protestant, 71% say they left Catholicism because their spiritual needs were not being met, making this the most commonly cited reason for leaving the Catholic Church among this group.” This is not surprising, and is precisely why the desacralization of the liturgy, along with our art, architecture, and parish life, has had such a devastating effect. If you pull away the means Catholics had formerly used to grow closer to God–a transcendent and beautiful liturgy, music, art, and architecture, along with a devotional life, and substitute horizontal banality, it’s no wonder people will look elsewhere. And many Protestant churches at least have, on a superficial level, a devotional life. They have worship music, prayer, bible study, etc.

      Of course I would agree we need to be teaching the reasons for the Catholic faith, especially from the pulpit, but the weekly liturgy shouldn’t be something Catholics merely have to endure (I’m not saying you believe this, of course) out of obligation and then perhaps look elsewhere for their spiritual/devotional life.

    • 1. Brennan is right: People can’t be attracted to Eastern Rite liturgy if they’ve never been exposed to it. The Orthodox and Catholic Eastern Rites simply don’t have the same kind of footprint or visibility as evangelicals in the U.S. – not even close.

      Likewise, most Catholics have not been exposed to traditional liturgy of any kind, Catholic included.

      2. Surveys of ex-Catholic evangelicals do indeed reveal doctrinal disagreements, but it’s less clear how often these drove the defections rather than evolved as a result of them. People convert for all kinds of reasons – principally, perhaps because they feel welcome and part of a community (this is the part that Rebuilt folks have some limited insights about), or because they simply don’t feel spiritually fed where they are. Too often Catholic parishes have been seemingly afraid of offering deep spiritual content. They envied the social acceptance of mainline Protestant churches and ended up recreating themselves in their image, with similarly dismal results.

      • Good points, both of you. As I said in my OP, I’m taking a bit of a Devil’s Advocate position — I love the liturgy in the Catholic Church, it’s one of the big reasons I converted, and for me, the less Protestant it feels, the better.

        However, two points:

        1) As to the #1 reason Catholics leave being “Spiritual needs not being met”, and that is connected to the liturgy, maybe, but the full study (here: ) shows that that’s also the #2 reason for Protestants who switch denominations, so I’m not sure that there is a connection there. #1 was the vanilla “Found a different religion I liked more”, which was the #2 reason for Catholics.

        2) Part of the reason that the Orthodox Catholic Church is hard to find is that they are shedding members en masse, as well.

        “The OCA in the continental US has been declining between 6 and 9% for nearly 20 years.” (Here: )

        So, the short answer is that people leave for all sorts of reasons, and while the liturgy may well be one of them for so, it’s clearly not the only answer.

        • Since the primary (and for most, the only) contact Catholics have with the Church is the liturgy when Catholics cite as a reason for leaving the Church as “their spiritual needs were not being met” I’d say this has everything to do with the liturgy.

          Having a banal, horizontal liturgy as exists in probably 90% of the parishes today simply makes it easier to start looking elsewhere or to just “drift away” as the study also mentioned.

          • Then why would they go to something that is even worse?

            I left the Protestant church because I didn’t want praise music, bland sermons, people who view church as a social club and all of that. You’re saying that people are leaving the Catholic Church because the Mass isn’t traditional enough, and yet they’re going to a religion that is even further from it. That doesn’t make any sense.

          • As Athelstane pointed out, and I would agree, most Catholics haven’t experienced anything close to “traditional worship.” What they have experienced for about 50 years now is what Cardinal Ratzinger once called a “banal-on-the-spot product”. So they aren’t necessarily specifically looking for something more “traditional” (since they haven’t experienced it), they just want something more engaging, or better.

            And the Protestants, for the most part, do contemporary worship better than Catholics who have given up our traditional worship for the false idea that if we try to make our liturgy more like a contemporary Protestant service we will attract Protestants.

            Catholic in the Ozarks, who is also a former Protestant himself, has written a good post on this:


          • Good article, thanks for sharing it. His story is similar to mine, though I wasn’t a fundamentalist, I’d have categorized myself as a Deist before I joined the Methodist Church in 2003.

            However, what he’s saying is anecdotal, as much as I agree with it.

            What would be helpful would be some actual statistics. I don’t know where to find them, but I’m sure that they are available:

            1) Are conversion rates from Protestantism to Catholicism lower today than they were prior to Vatican 2? If so, that would bolster the point.

            2) Do Catholic churches that practice the Latin Mass consistently have a higher number of Protestants in their RCIA programs? If they do, that would bolster the point.

            Those would be helpful statistics to have.

            Neither of which, though, answers my original question, which is, if the Orthodox Catholic church is held up as a great example of a faith that doesn’t have “circus Masses”, why is the fact that they are also in decline not noted?

          • Dale, you are missing the point. You can’t see the forest for the trees. No one is stating Catholics are flocking to the east. Cardinal Ranjith noted that Catholicism lost its mystery (and we could add beauty) when the mass was aggressively desacralized in the post conciliar years. If you want entertainment, including bands and big screens (which appeals to our base nature), mega churches win hands down. If you present man with truth, beauty and goodness…and mystery and awe, then our souls are engaged. As Catholic parishes have recovered this traditional understanding of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the faithful are exposed to it…usually for the first time, they are anything but bored.

            Great questions! This is incredibly important.

          • Kenneth J. Wolfe a while back a slim volume about the statistical changes that occurred in the Church after Vatican II. He summarizes them here:


            Judging by the statistics it does seem as if there was a greater rate of adult conversions to the Council prior to Vatican II (I don’t think the statistics get broken down into how many were Protestants).

            I don’t personally have statistics regarding the number of Protestants in RCIA programs, whether in traditional parishes or not, and I’m not sure they are broken down that way, either.

            I do know that Religious Orders, such as the FSSP, which utilize the traditional Latin Mass, have a problem in that they can’t accommodate all the applicants they have to their Order.

          • And the Protestants, for the most part, do contemporary worship better than Catholics

            Indeed: that’s a game we’ll never win.

            Likewise, in turn, evangelicals will never be able to do popular music as well as the secular pop music market can.

          • I would say that the liturgy is both cause and effect of the spiritual malnourishment on offer, however little lay people readily grasp that. To look at this negatively: when your liturgy is reduced to chatty informality, offering more therapy than sprituality, along with music that’s more distraction from the object of worship than an aid to it, it’s a sign that very little is likely spiritually healthy there, either. Departing pewsitters may not be able to articulate all of that, but they *do* know when they’re not being spiritually fed.

            The old maxim really does have truth to it: lex orandi, lex credendi. The manner of your worship *will* shape what you believe. And the reverse is true as well.

            The obvious reposte is to ask why the normativity of the TLM up until the early 60’s did not avert the whirlwind of dissent, defections and banality that ensued in that decade. It’s certainly true that the ars celebrandi of the old Roman Rite in those final years was often indifferent (well below what usually obtains with the TLM today), and many in the Church were aware of and concerned about this. We must concede that no rite is a sure bulwark against error or spiritual malaise. But some modes of worship are more vulnerable than others, and the deconstruction of most of our worship in the Roman Rite in the mid-20th century (arguably beginning even before the Council) greatly accelerated that disintegration.

        • As to why the Orthodox are shrinking: It’s worthwhile to point out the OCA’s struggles, and to ask why that is happening. You might well say that maybe the liturgy is not driving folks away, but it’s plainly not keeping them there, either, let alone drawing new people in by the frigate load.

          As Brennan and I said, however, I think the lack of converts can be largely explained by the obscurity of the Orthodox; they just are small in number, and off the cultural radar.

          And too often as well, they’re so ethnically oriented that even those who actually find them can be put off by the insularity that characterizes some (not all, but some) Orthodox and even Eastern Catholic communities. And this in turn may explain the defections of those there to begin with: To the extent that they *are* very ethnic in a secular, affluent culture, much of what sustained them may be a “cultural” Orthodoxy analogous to the “cultural Catholicism” of many ethnic Catholics of yesteryear, a cultural faith that eroded with each passing generation after immigration. In this culture, you are going to have to work extra hard at making the faith in your community a genuine, vibrant living faith.

    • Thanks for reading the article Dale and for commenting. I think we need to take this question back to basics and simply ask, why would anyone walk away from the Eucharist? Is it apostasy or ignorance? I would argue it’s the latter in most cases. But the point is that they are leaving the Church, not for something else or even because of doctrinal issue. They simply see no value to continuing. The mistake in your premise is that most folks who state they are former Catholics but now are Protestant might have made their sacraments, but often their families were culturally Catholic at best.

      Also, an irreverent and desacralized liturgy that is highly anthropocentric completely undermines belief in the Eucharist. And if the Mass isn’t about God, with a full appreciation and understanding of the Eucharist..if it’s only a memorial meal with bad music and bad vestments…then what’s the point? So they leave.

      Then, later, when they come back…they find better music, pastors with better sermons and campuses with better cafés…in evangelical communities. They never rejected authentic Catholicism and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They were never exposed to it. They walked away from a shadow of Catholicism.

      If we lost these folks due to a lack of authenticity, why are we seeking to win them back with the same inauthenticity?

      The video included in the post shows how a traditional liturgy, a reverent Mass, Eucharistic processions and sacred music worked for St. Peter’s in Omaha. However, no dioceses are rushing to Fr. Damien Cook for this blueprint. Mans prideful nature leads him to want to be the one to “solve the problem.”

      As Fr. Cook says in the clip, “The mass with all its glory, with all its tradition whether it be incense, or chant or the way we give communion or any of those things, they were all good and engendered and fostered vocations and saints…so they’re not bad, why throw them out when clearly they have been something beautiful and helpful in the Church these last few centuries…”

      There are many who want to believe that the Church hit the reset button in 1965. For them, restoring a parish instead of rebuilding it is anathema.

      • Hello Brian,

        There are many who want to believe that the Church hit the reset button in 1965. For them, restoring a parish instead of rebuilding it is anathema.

        More than that, I think there is a deep-seated fear among many clergy and lay leaders of adopting a worship and devotional life that is too radically countercultural. The really don’t have faith that the Church’s traditional liturgies can keep ’em in the pews.

        The reality is that the praise and worship style of the Church of the Nativity fits rather comfortably in the spectrum of mainstream American culture, even if the doctrine it nominally conveys is less so.

  3. “Sadly, the authors never seem to make the connection between the desacralization of the Mass and the ensuing mass exodus from the Church.”

    And if one does make this connection, you are usually hit with the “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” accusation as if merely citing that logical fallacy immediately disproves that the drop in Mass attendance could possibly have had anything to do with the changes to the Mass itself made after Vatican II.

    • Progressives are not completely off base in suggesting that some of the Church’s moral teachings caused some departures – obviously, many *did* disagree with Humanae Vitae, and were disappointed when it reaffirmed the traditional teaching (which many of them had not really had well explained to them). Had, say, Cardinal Siri been elected in 1958 or 1963 and kept a firm line across the board, I think we must acknowledge that we would have lost some people. The western world went mad in those years, and the Church couldn’t be insulated completely from that madness.

      But the unwillingness of liberals to confront the possibility that the stunning pace and nature of changes to Catholic worship may have disoriented plenty of people right out of the Church must also be confronted. The shift to the vernacular undoubtedly *was* quite popular in most places, even as it went far beyond what the Council called for; but the shift in language of the Mass was arguably the *least* important thing that changed about the Mass and other sacraments.

      • And all the changes to the liturgy, which, from what I understand, were occurring even prior to 1969, probably fed the idea that the Church’s teachings would change as well, thereby exacerbating the disappointment some Catholics felt when Humanae Vitae was issued.

        • And all the changes to the liturgy, which, from what I understand, were occurring even prior to 1969, probably fed the idea that the Church’s teachings would change as well.


          And it didn’t help either that many clergy were persuading their flocks that Rome was going to be reversing its teaching on contraception. They simply assumed that Paul VI would do it.

      • Fr. Z even had a story where the pastor said on the last day of the 1967 alterations to the 1962 Missal, “This is the last day with this Mass. Prepare yourselves for tomorrow,” (or something similar) and everyone left the next day in tears because it was so radically different on an exterior level.

  4. Rebuild/Restore. Whatever. It’s a matter of semantics and I, for one, do not like the tone of your articles. it’s like YOU and YOU alone know what is good liturgy. Raised in a Protestant minister’s home and grateful to be a Catholic, what really disgusts me is people like many commenters this and the previous article you referred to, who diss everyone else’s Catholicism except your own ‘version;’ especially when those people are really trying to do something good (as in the ‘amazing parish’ people.) Really?? Do you think that arriving at heaven God is going to be so grateful to you for your efforts? I sincerely think not. You are sowing so many seeds of disunity and division, it’s really revolting. What if the Holy Spirit IS leading them and YOU are on the wrong side of the Holy Spirit?

    And really? God hasn’t inspired ANY music since Gregory the Great? NEVER?? NO music is ‘holy’ except chant? Give me a break, that’s just ludicrous.

    • I’ll let Brian respond to comments directed at him, but as the publisher of this website I feel the need to at least say this:

      Our entire mission is focused on rediscovering the fact that Holy Mother Church *does* have objective standards, and that we can come to know them. She has recommended modes of worship and music and reverence and there really isn’t a panoply of options suited to personal taste available without moving away from the central aspect of the life of the Church’s prayer through worship: the sacrifice of Calvary.

      Worshipping God at Mass is efficacious *for* us, but it is never, and should never be, *about* us. We should strive to have liturgy that is pleasing to God because it is offered *to* God, and through pleasing Him find ourselves united with Him. His tastes are not subjective, they are paradigmatic, and we should attune ourselves to them. What He prefers, we should prefer. If we do not, I strongly suggest that we need to work harder to unite our desires to His.

      Something I love about the Catholic faith is that it is prescriptive; it does not simply allow us to all follow our own discordant paths, but rather tells us how we should pray, how we should work, and how we should live. It recognizes that there is a hierarchy of goods — including the realm of aesthetics — and that within that hierarchy we should choose the highest, the best, the first fruits and give them to God.

      What Brian argues (and I agree with) is that the “Rebuild” mentality inverts the anthropology of worship. It places the focus on our subjective experience of entering the church building and the community of believers, rather than our collective efforts to immerse ourselves in something transcendent, and properly oriented toward heaven.

      Bishop Athanasius Schneider recently gave a speech in which he pinpointed the crux of this issue. He said:

      “The real crisis of the Church is anthropocentrism, forgetting the Christocentrism. Indeed, this is the deepest evil, when man or the clergy are putting themselves in the centre when they are celebrating liturgy and when they are changing the revealed truth of God, e.g. concerning the Sixth Commandment and human sexuality.

      ‘The crisis reveals itself also in the manner in which the Eucharistic Lord is treated. The Eucharist is at the heart of the Church. When the heart is weak, the whole body is weak. So when the practice around the Eucharist is weak, then the heart and the life of the Church is weak. And when people have no more supernatural vision of God in the Eucharist then they will start the worship of man, and then also doctrine will change to the desire of man.

      ‘This crisis is when we place ourselves, including the priests, at the centre and when God is put in the corner and this is happening also materially. The Blessed Sacrament is sometimes in a cupboard away from the centre and the chair of the priest is in the centre. We have already been in this situation for 40 or 50 years and there is the real danger that God and his Commandments and laws will be put on the side and the human natural desiring in the centre. There is causal connection between the Eucharistic and the doctrinal crisis.

      ‘Our first duty as human beings is to adore God, not us, but Him. Unfortunately, the liturgical practice of the last 40 years has been very anthropocentric.”

      Catholicism is very, very different than Protestantism. We are not a “to each their own” religion, but rather an “each together, toward God” religion. Unfortunately, many converts to Catholicism in recent years have been presented with a false vision of what the Church truly is. And when the time comes for the Church to be restored to her former glory, I hope they will stay, rather than finding in her a stumbling block.

    • And really? God hasn’t inspired ANY music since Gregory the Great?

      Well, tell it to the Second Vatican Council:

      “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore. . . it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 1#16)

      And Pope Paul VI:

      “Above all, the study and practice of Gregorian chant is to be promoted, because, with its special characteristics, it is a basis of great importance for the development of sacred music.” (Musicam Sacram #52)

      And, if one wants to go back further, St. Pius X’s Tra le Sollecitudini, which was explicitly cited by Vatican II on this point:

      “These qualities are to be found, in the highest degree, in Gregorian Chant, which is, consequently the Chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries in her liturgical codices, which she directly proposes to the faithful as her own, which she prescribes exclusively for some parts of the liturgy, and which the most recent studies have so happily restored to their integrity and purity.” (#3)

      Thus, it is disappointing to see Church of the Nativity and its related Rebuilt advocates seemingly unaware of these pronouncements. It may well, however, be simple ignorance.

    • Thank you Steven. Coming from you, that is a great compliment. I appreciate the work that you, McNamara and Stroik…and others, are doing to reestablish those elements and connections in our church designs. I will definitely reach out to you if I hear of any restoration projects.

  5. I have some significant reservations about the Rebuilt model, but to be fair to Father White and company, they have included Gregorian Chant as a major part of their liturgical repertoire. From Rebuilt itself, “Gregorian Chant, the music proper to the Roman Liturgy, powerfully anchors our weekend experience in our tradition, and we use it for the acclamations for the Eucharistic Prayer and sometimes as an introit and counterpoint to the opening or Communion music.” Let’s be honesty, when you add even an occasional introit or communion antiphon, you put yourself in like, maybe 15% of the parishes in the whole country. Now there are fair questions about setting that side-by-side with basically Protestant praise and worship music. The liturgy did feel kind of schizophrenic, but I don’t think, “They’re not Catholic enough because they don’t chant” really holds.

    There may be fairer questions on this score concerning the whole model, however. For my money, the value of Rebuilt is in the critique. White and Corcoran do seem to fairly assess not only what was going on in Timonium, but a dynamic which probably affects most parishes, at least in the States. Parishoners do often treat the Church and her ministers in the manner of demanding consumers, and this does have a real and serious effect on Church life. The problem is, for my money, all they’ve done is come up with another alternative product, and one which seems hopelessly time-bound and trendy to boot.

    Which is where Brian’s critique comes back in. When the liturgy is viewed as a machine with cogs and bits that can be swapped in an out, then it makes perfect sense to swap the proper introit out for “Awesome God” and proceed to sing the Gloria from the Missa de Angelis. But experientially this is like aesthetico-liturgical schizophrenia. I wonder if it’s the inconsistency that people respond to more than anything else.

    • I think Joseph Shaw’s articles (you have to read the articles from the bottom of the page up) also demonstrate the issue with trying to “mix and match” aspects from different types of liturgical approaches.

      Here’s a quote (but all the articles are quite good):

      “But I want to introduce another idea. While I am in favour of Latin, worship ad orientem and pretty well everything the RotR [Reform of the Reform] promotes, it is clear to me that the difficulty of imposing them on the Novus Ordo is not just a matter of parochial habits. The problem with the texts and ceremonies, in terms of bringing them closer to the Traditional Mass, is not just a matter of how many changes you would need to make. The problem is that the Novus Ordohas its own ethos, rationale and spirituality. It encapsulates its own distinct understanding of what liturgical participation is. It is to promote this kind of participation that its various texts and ceremonies have been done as they are. If you put it in Latin, ad orientem, and especially if you start having things not currently allowed, like the silent Canon, then you undermine the kind of participation for which the Novus Ordo was designed.

      This means that there is a danger, in promoting something which amounts to a compromise between the two Missals, of falling between two stools.”

    • but to be fair to Father White and company, they have included Gregorian Chant as a major part of their liturgical repertoire.

      They’ve created Spotify repetoire playlists for their recent “message series”. It’s all CCM, not chant as a “major part” and certainly not as “pride of place.”

  6. Just because something has been done well by a protestant church, doesn’t mean that it is unCatholic for us do it. This is the sort of mentality that kept most Catholics shamefully ignorant of the scriptures for so many years (because reading the bible was a “protestant thing”). We need to have some humility and realize that Christians from other denominations can have good, holy ideas and practices, and Rebuilt has lots of practical ideas about how to evangelize 21st century postmodern culture. Practical ideas do not make our church less sacred. Adopting good ideas invented by non-catholics does not make us unCatholic. Why shouldn’t we have people helping with parking and going to small group prayer meetings? As part of the New Evangelization, we are all in mission territory. We need to find creative (and of course faithful) ways to engage the culture. It’s exactly what the church did in the 4th century when it adopted so much of the Roman cult into its worship (processions, incense, genuflecting, vestments, etc.) It’s inculturation and it’s what the Church has always done (adopting greco/roman philosophy for example), we adopt the best of what various cultures have to offer. Of course we don’t want to abandon all that came before but we also don’t need to cling to tradition (small t), mistaking it for Tradition (big T). Remember that the apostles never sang Gregorian chant (it wasn’t invented for another half-millennia) Also, when I read Rebuilt, I don’t remember them saying anything against Gregorian Chant, incense, or the like. In fact, I would think that a blending of old school smells & bells with some modern styles of worship would enhance both. To do so is very Vatican II: both ressourcement (returning to the source of the ancient church) and aggiornamiento (a little fresh air). The scriptures often speak of “singing a new song.” Our God is ever ancient and ever new. Our God is both transcendent and immanent. So a healthy liturgical life includes liturgical moments of mystery and otherness as well as fellowship and closeness. At the parish where I am a music minister, we chant the kyrie (in greek) and sing modern “praise” songs. I loved the last line of this article that the liturgy is “2000 years in the making.” EXACTLY! The liturgy is not static. Liturgy means “the work of the people” and as people change, the liturgy must change with it. There is no liturgy par excellence.

    • The problem with the V2 stuff is that there was a discernible break in the liturgy. It was not the organic growth that mostly characterized the liturgy up to then. In gardening terms, it was a very bad graft. There was a quick cut and insertion, and the graft has weakened the Church as a whole.
      Before I converted, I attended a mega-church in Riverside, CA. Super praise band and all the rest. The parish in which I converted has a “Sonshine” praise and worship band. They do the praise songs so incredibly badly that I have trouble finding words to describe it. For years they have been attempting to get the parishioners to lift up their hands and clap, and so on. Doesn’t work. There is a distinct dissonance in the surroundings (a beautiful traditional church), and even the New Order (Novus Ordo) liturgy does not lend itself to that type of music.
      I like that music, but not within the Mass. Tastes change, people do not. The thing is, the Church went with the dictates of the “itching ears” crowd. They have been reaping the whirlwind ever since, while trying to tell us it is a spring breeze we’re feeling.

  7. I am a convert of 42 years. I remember telling God that it would take me 7 years to become a member of the Church (I had to become Catholic because only the Church stood against artificial contraception.) But the first time I went to a Mass, I met Catholic charismatics, who explained the Church in terms I could understand (I kept saying, “But that’s what the Bible says!”), and I went to daily Mass in the language I could understand. I became a Catholic in 7 weeks (this was before RCIA).

    Personally, I like to participate. However, I have seen poorly ‘produced’ Novus Ordo Masses, which I could barely endure. But I have also been to what I considered very boring Traditional Latin Masses, where I prayed for patience. Of the two, I prefer the Mass where I can speak the prayers out loud. But I digress. My point is, compare a well-done Novus Ordo Mass with a well-done Traditional Mass to get a correct comparison. If one compares poorly rendered one thing with well-done something else, one will always find the second thing to be better. Right?

    Myself, I am glad that we have two ‘flavors’ of Masses, while all are One in the One Lord, the One Bread, the One Sacrifice. Before Trent, there were many styles of Mass. These were quashed in the interests of unity and discipline, if I understand correctly, because there were abuses. Before Vatican II, there were Latin Masses that were hurried through, unintelligible, attended by people saying rosaries. These were abuses. They have been corrected, for the most part. Can’t we correct the Novus Ordo without turning it into something else?


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