Saturday, August 5, 2017

Irish Piety

Inspired by a nasty comment at Mr. Rotondi's blog, I am compelled to explain why so we liturgomaniacs convulse and shiver at mention of the Irish legacy on the liturgy.

I am ethnically Irish. My name is entirely Irish. My father was born in an Irish neighborhood in Connecticut. And I like whiskey. I have little against the Irish.

The aversion to mentions of the Irish derive more from their influence on the American and British practice of the Roman liturgy than any aversion to orange hair and Guinness (although I oppose beer in all its forms). I once helped a local MC rehearse a seminarian on the subdiaconate at solemn Mass. Standing in for the deacon, I intended to turn the page in the Missal, stand at the priest's right, and kneel at the Qui pridie; the "subdeacon" knelt when I did. The MC said, "Nope. It's at the Hanc igitur in this country that the ministers kneel." Confused, I asked why. He smiled and replied, "Irish piety."

Whether out of external acts of devotion or the commonality of low Mass during the persecution of the priesthood in Ireland, the Irish exported the normalization of a low Mass wherein everyone kneels for the entirety of the service, save for the proper and final Gospel readings. This is precisely the liturgy that came to England and America with the diaspora of Irish outside the Emerald Isle. This writer, for one, has not seen an Irish church in America with a proper quire where solemn Mass was ever the norm. In an ironic contrast, Maynooth seminary had choral Mattins until 1967 (cf. Rubricarius) and solemn Masses were regularly available in the cities until around the same time. The Church in Ireland was less a problem than the influence of the Irish on the Church outside Ireland.

There also existed the Irish penchant for clericalism. Despite the influx of Poles, Slavs, Italians, Hungarians, and Germans into America from the 19th century until World War II, one seemingly had to be Irish to be an archbishop in the United States. Priests in Ireland and in Irish-American communities became un-official figure heads in communities, almost honorary mayors. A priest would often present trophies at sports games, give introductions or speeches at events, and his judgments, on account of his higher state of life, were presumed to be wiser than most even if the topic at hand had no relevance to the faith. In this world of social respectability, mothers would be overjoyed when their sons decided to attend seminary, regardless of whether they had a genuine vocation or not.

By contrast, French and Italian communities (and English up to the time of Adrian Fortescue) called their priests by variations of the title Mister; I think the axiom that "No Italian has ever been impressed by a pope" reflects a well grounded view of the humanity of clergy. One can scarce imagine the sex abuse crisis going as far as it did in Ireland if "No Irishman was ever impressed by a bishop." Much like the Watergate scandal in 1972, the cover-up proved more damaging than the actual crime and deep feelings of betrayal coincided with new wealth under the Eurocentric regime. Mass attendance plummeted from 90% to 30% within two decades. What the liturgical reform could not do, clericalism accomplished. Is it any coincidence that the American archdioceses hardest hit by the sex abuse crisis (moving bad priests for years, pay offs, cover-ups) were under the Irish clerical mafia for years?—Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston? Of course the situation was more complicated than I make it out to be, but while Irish clericalism did not cause the scandal, it was a necessary condition for it to continue.

A local parish of the Orthodox Church of America planted its years ago but up until now has struggled to find funds to build a proper church and graduate from their double-wide. Their main trouble is turnover: people pass through the doors looking for the most authentic and intensive practice of Byzantine Christianity, and they find it, but after five years of all-night vigils, akathists, and 19th century Russian clothing, they burn out. Irish piety is much the same. Too much exertion for too long takes a toll and eventually everyone becomes tired of it.

15 comments:

  1. No kidding!! This explains why nearly every church offering the '62 liturgy I've attended had the laity in High Mass kneeling quite often as well. I did so, too, not knowing any better. But now that I do, I see it's quite inappropriate, especially at the Sanctus and after the Consecration; it would be quite better to get up right after the Consecration of the Wine. I know this is now a small matter, but small matters grow into big ones if not checked in time.

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    1. Standing up after the consecration of the wine? What a filthy prottie novus-ordoite you are. Prepare for the wrath of Tradistanis because you're basically denying the Real Presence by not being prostrate the from the last "m" of the "Hoc est enim Corpus meum" until 15 minutes after Mass!

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    2. LOL. But seriously, the ministers and servers at High and Solemn High Mass also stand after the Consecration, at least they should be according to the rubrics. And the choir would be too. Too bad Tradistanis don't understand the incoherent actions they do.

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    3. Exactly :)
      Consider that the Traditional Roman Rite makes the priest commit sacrilege when he turns around because he turns his back on the Blessed Sacrament. Dominican Rite, on the other hand, far superior because it has a rubric that directs the priest to step to the side do that he doesn't have his back turned on the Tabernacle. :P

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  2. "My name is entirely Irish.".
    Padraig Ó Ceallaigh?

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  3. "Where would you people in England have been without the Irish ?" he roughly asked.
    "Oh probably converted to Catholicism." she replied,in a very nice voice.

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  4. Today people must not quarrel. Or they will keep it up all year long and get the chance to make up only at the next feast of Transfiguration.

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  5. Another Irish man commented on John R's blog about the "good news" of his neighbor in Ireland that the priest "could get us out in a half-hour," concerning Sunday Mass in the new rite!! To do that, one must go very fast, use Eucharistic Prayer II, and no sermons, at least! Things sadly haven't changed but got much worse in Ireland.

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    1. "one must go very fast"
      The thought of Sonic catholic fan fiction came to my mind... Please, God! Don't let something like that exist... :'(

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  6. Having served subdeacon myself over the last 18 months and having observed the subdeacon's role for last quarter century, I have never and I have not seen any others kneel at the Hanc Igitur, but always in tandem with the deacon at the Qui Pridie.

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    1. I will check but one might get this impression from Fortescue and O’Connell.

      At any rate, I would have told the MC to ignore that custom.

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  7. Agreed.

    FWIW, the deacon and subdeacon along with inferior ministers kneel at the Qui pridie, but the choir kneels at the Hanc igitur, according to the ICRSS ceremonies for Sunday and festal Masses. The choir kneels after “Hosanna in excelsis” for ferial Masses (Ash Wednesday and Ember Days are usually the only sung/solemn Masses) and at the Requiem Mass.

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  8. I must say I rather doubt solemn Masses were very much evidence in the decades before the SVC or the decade after it. It has to be remembered that Maynooth attracted a large number of French, and other continental, clergy fleeing the Revolution. They brought with them a working knowledge of collegiate churches and their offices which to them had been part of daily life. The standards at Maynooth were very high and liturgical for a time but to what extent that was reflected away from the college is another question. Dr. O'Loan's book has twenty or so pages devoted to the subject of choir reverences, the most comprehensive explanation I have seen. However, as the nineteenth century progressed the liturgical standards dropped (as elsewhere). Remember that at its founding Maynooth received grants from the British Government and also received generous personal donations from HM King George III and from HM Queen Victoria. The idea was to contain and de-radicalise revolutionary ideas from France spreading to the UK.

    In some parts of Ireland, Cork City being a good example, the practice is for people in the congregation to kneel at the NO from the beginning to after the collect and then from the Orate fratres until the blessing.

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  9. As a Black Irishman from Philadelphia, whose ancestors were from Molly Maquire country, I can attest to the particular and most unfortunate practices described herein while growing up in the 60s and 70s. You can not underestimate the author's statement, "Whether out of external acts of devotion or the commonality of low Mass during the persecution of the priesthood in Ireland". The experience of the "Hedge Mass" was and is signifigant and was not given over in the Land of the Free, as it should have been.

    The Irish still tend to rush through the rosary and Mass. Drives me CRAZY. "No need to rush lads. We are not in the Hedge anymore!" When I was last in Ireland at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, I attended the noon "Local's Mass". We knelt for most of the Mass and the speed of the Liturgy was a bit slower. There is some hope! At local parishes it was a mixed lot. While the rosary was often said before Mass it was a race to get it over.

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