Do as I say, not as I do…

Jorge Bergoglio and the “Art” of Celebrating the Novus Ordo Liturgy

Then-“Cardinal” Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 25, 2008
(Photo by Emiliano Lasalvia/LatinContent via Getty Images)

On June 29, 2022, the Jesuit apostate Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”) issued a so-called Apostolic Letter, entitled Desiderio Desideravi. The title is taken from the holy Words of our Lord Jesus Christ at the beginning of the Last Supper: “With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer” (Lk 22:15).

The subject matter with which this letter concerns itself is that of the Sacred Liturgy, or, in Vatican II speak: “on the liturgical formation of the People of God”. Of course if there is one person in the Vatican who shouldn’t be instructing anyone on matters of liturgy, it would be Jorge Bergoglio. But then that’s par for the course. Francis notes that he wrote this document in order “to offer some prompts or cues for reflections that can aid in the contemplation of the beauty and truth of Christian celebration” (Desiderio Desideravi, n. 1).

As was to be expected, Francis’ letter contains many lofty words and ideas about liturgical worship. These, however, stand in stark contrast to the reality that is the Novus Ordo Missae (“New Order of Mass” of “St.” Paul VI) as it is actually celebrated throughout the world, or at least in most Western nations.

Nevertheless, in Desiderio Desideravi Francis assures his hapless followers that he seeks to “invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration. I want the beauty of the Christian celebration and its necessary consequences for the life of the Church not to be spoiled by a superficial and foreshortened understanding of its value or, worse yet, by its being exploited in service of some ideological vision, no matter what the hue” (n. 16). How noble of him!

But there’s more:

The continual rediscovery of the beauty of the Liturgy is not the search for a ritual aesthetic which is content by only a careful exterior observance of a rite or is satisfied by a scrupulous observance of the rubrics. Obviously, what I am saying here does not wish in any way to approve the opposite attitude, which confuses simplicity with a careless banality, or what is essential with an ignorant superficiality, or the concreteness of ritual action with an exasperating practical functionalism. (n. 22)

Let’s remember that: Bergoglio doesn’t want “careless banality”!

In fact, in the very next paragraph he insists on the careful keeping of the rubrics:

Let us be clear here: every aspect of the celebration must be carefully tended to (space, time, gestures, words, objects, vestments, song, music…) and every rubric must be observed. Such attention would be enough to prevent robbing from the assembly what is owed to it; namely, the paschal mystery celebrated according to the ritual that the Church sets down. But even if the quality and the proper action of the celebration were guaranteed, that would not be enough to make our participation full. (n. 23)

Throughout the text of the “Apostolic” letter, Francis presents his vision of the ars celebrandi (“art of celebrating”) as the virtuous center between a “rubrical mechanism” on the one hand and “creativity without rules” on the other:

The ars celebrandi cannot be reduced to only a rubrical mechanism, much less should it be thought of as imaginative — sometimes wild — creativity without rules. The rite is in itself a norm, and the norm is never an end in itself, but it is always at the service of a higher reality that it means to protect. (n. 48)

He elaborates right away:

As in any art, the ars celebrandi requires different kinds of knowledge. First of all, it requires an understanding of the dynamism that unfolds through the Liturgy. The action of the celebration is the place in which, by means of memorial, the Paschal Mystery is made present so that the baptized, through their participation, can experience it in their own lives. Without this understanding, the celebration easily falls into a preoccupation with the exterior (more or less refined) or into a concern only for rubrics (more or less rigid).

Then, it is necessary to know how the Holy Spirit acts in every celebration. The art of celebrating must be in harmony with the action of the Spirit. Only in this way will it be free from the subjectivisms that are the fruit of individual tastes dominating. Only in this way will it be free from the invasion of cultural elements that are taken on without discernment and that have nothing to do with a correct understanding of inculturation.

Finally, it is necessary to understand the dynamics of symbolic language, its particular nature, its efficacy. (n. 49)

From these brief indications it should be clear that the art of celebration is not something that can be improvised. Like every art, it requires consistent application. For an artisan, technique is enough. But for an artist, in addition to technical knowledge, there has also to be inspiration, which is a positive form of possession. The true artist does not possess an art but rather is possessed by it. One does not learn the art of celebrating by frequenting a course in public speaking or in persuasive techniques of communication. (I am not judging intentions, just observing effects.) Every tool can be useful, but it must be at the service of the nature of the Liturgy and the action of the Holy Spirit. A diligent dedication to the celebration is required, allowing the celebration itself to convey to us its art. … (n. 50)

A little bit later, he even goes so far as to point out that it is “the Holy Spirit who animates the entire action of the celebration” (n. 52).

With regard to “presiding” over the liturgy — in the Vatican II religion, the priest is a presider over the Eucharistic meal, something Protestants have no difficulty accepting — Francis lists the following “inadequate” approaches: “rigid austerity or an exasperating creativity, a spiritualizing mysticism or a practical functionalism, a rushed briskness or an overemphasized slowness, a sloppy carelessness or an excessive finickiness, a superabundant friendliness or priestly impassibility” (n. 54).

With such high standards, let’s have a quick look at how Jorge Bergoglio himself has been engaged in the “art of celebrating” the Novus Ordo liturgy; especially before 2013, back in Buenos Aires — “when nobody was looking”, so to speak.

The following video clips are excerpts from the annual diocesan “Children’s Masses” in 2010, 2011, and 2012, just before he was elected successor to Benedict XVI. Brace yourselves:

In contrast to the above, let’s see what the same man writes in Desiderio Desideravi, namely:

For this service to be well done — indeed, with art! — it is of fundamental importance that the priest have a keen awareness of being, through God’s mercy, a particular presence of the risen Lord. The ordained minister is himself one of the types of presence of the Lord which render the Christian assembly unique, different from any other assembly. (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7) This fact gives “sacramental” weight (in the broad sense) to all the gestures and words of the one presiding. The assembly has the right to be able to feel in those gestures and words the desire that the Lord has, today as at the Last Supper, to eat the Passover with us. So, the risen Lord is in the leading role, and not our own immaturities, assuming roles and behaviours which are simply not appropriate. The priest himself should be overpowered by this desire for communion that the Lord has toward each person. It is as if he were placed in the middle between Jesus’ burning heart of love and the heart of each of the faithful, which is the object of the Lord’s love. To preside at Eucharist is to be plunged into the furnace of God’s love. When we are given to understand this reality, or even just to intuit something of it, we certainly would no longer need a Directory that would impose the proper behaviour. If we have need of that, then it is because of the hardness of our hearts. The highest norm, and therefore the most demanding, is the reality itself of the Eucharistic celebration, which selects words, gestures, feelings that will make us understand whether or not our use of these are at the level of the reality they serve. It is obvious that this cannot be improvised. It is an art. It requires application on the part of the priest, an assiduous tending to the fire of the love of the Lord that he came to ignite on the earth. (Lk 12:49)

(Desiderio Desideravi, n. 57; underlining added; italics given.)

It’s a pity Francis didn’t explain whether having a couple dance the Tango at the end of “Mass” belongs to the “art of celebrating” or to “our own immaturities”:

Interestingly enough, in Desiderio Desideravi Francis also addresses the practice of kneeling:

Every gesture and every word contains a precise action that is always new because it meets with an always new moment in our own lives. I will explain what I mean with a simple example. We kneel to ask pardon, to bend our pride, to hand over to God our tears, to beg his intervention, to thank Him for a gift received. It is always the same gesture which in essence declares our own being small in the presence of God. Nevertheless, done in different moments of our lives, it moulds our inner depths and then thereafter shows itself externally in our relation with God and with our brothers and sisters. Also kneeling should be done with art, that is to say, with a full awareness of its symbolic sense and the need that we have of this gesture to express our way of being in the presence of the Lord. And if all this is true for this simple gesture, how much more will it be for the celebration of the Word? Ah, what art are we summoned to learn for the proclamation of the Word, for the hearing of it, for letting it inspire our prayer, for making it become our very life? All of this is worthy of utmost attention — not formal or merely exterior, but living and interior — so that every gesture and every word of the celebration, expressed with “art,” forms the Christian personality of each individual and of the community. (n. 53)

These words, too, can be filed under the “do as I say, not as I do” section of your Francis files.

It is true, of course, that at this point Francis has genuine knee problems such that he can barely walk anymore. However, as is evident in the “Children’s Mass” videos above, even back then he would not genuflect, and we know that, until very recently, Francis was quite capable of kneeling when he thought it something actually worth doing — that is, for political reasons:

Speaking of being in the presence of God, here is a video of how “Cardinal” Bergoglio distributed “Holy Communion” in Buenos Aires at an outdoor liturgy on May 25, 2008:

(distribution of “Communion” begins at 8:00 min mark)

This jibes perfectly with the “Communion chaos” in Manila, Philippines, over which Bergoglio presided as “Pope Francis” in January of 2015.

The way Bergoglio engages in the “art of celebrating” as “Pope” can also be gleaned from the following video of the weekday “Mass” of Apr. 4, 2020, broadcast from the chapel in Francis’ residence, the Casa Santa Marta:

Although there is nothing out of the ordinary in this liturgical episode, one will look in vain for the “beauty of the Christian celebration” Francis harps on in his Desiderio letter. The “art of celebrating” doesn’t exactly shine through in Francis’ lackluster performance, either. The only thing Bergoglio seems somewhat excited about is the homily — where he gets to do all the talking.

Keep in mind that he is the man who writes: “Wonder is an essential part of the liturgical act because it is the way that those who know they are engaged in the particularity of symbolic gestures look at things. It is the marvelling of those who experience the power of symbol, which does not consist in referring to some abstract concept but rather in containing and expressing in its very concreteness what it signifies” (Desiderio Desideravi, n. 26).

Let’s be honest here: The only kind of “wonder” Francis generates is that of people wondering when his liturgy is over.

Then there was also the infamous Bergoglian “Mass” on the Italian island of Lampedusa, held on July 8, 2013, which gave a clear indication of what Francis thinks about the sacred and the profane. In what could be subtitled “When Liberation Theology meets Liturgy”, Francis’ setup was as follows:

  • the altar was built over a small boat.
  • Francis’ pastoral staff was made of wood recycled from a shipwrecked boat.
  • the lectern was made of old wood with a ship’s wheel mounted on the front;
  • the chalice was carved from wood of a shipwrecked boat (though lined with silver).

How this looked can be seen in the following video and photo carrousel:

Embed from Getty Images

So now that we know that Francis doesn’t want a “careless banality”, which is precisely what the Novus Ordo liturgy is filled with, especially in the United States, we must ask: What is he doing about it?

No, no, we don’t mean: What is he saying about it?, but rather, What is he doing about it? Words are words; it is actions that make all the difference. Francis knows that very well, for he is certainly doing plenty to ensure that the Traditional Latin Mass will not have a future. It’s just when it comes to the liturgical absurdity that is the Novus Ordo “Mass” as it is actually offered that no action is ever taken.

Now why might that be?

Image source: Getty Images (Emiliano Lasalvia)
License: rights-managed

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