Arsenic in the Water: The Contemporary Mass



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – “I went to a Catholic school.. They were run by these nuns, and they were some of the scariest people ever. They were so mean, and there was always that fear of God… God seemed like a scary, vengeful God, who would punish us for anything” says Dawn Smith, Director of Religious Education at the Basilica of St. Paul. “Then Vatican II happened. A nun in a shorter skirt came with a guitar and started playing guitar and singing songs! She was so nice! There was more emphasis on God’s love, and God just seemed friendlier.”

Many older people tell the same story. They were in school and then Vatican II came to save them from the oppression and liberated them to be free. Archbishops would yell at altar boys, priests were kings, and Catholics were always afraid. Was this always the case, or was this just people’s perspectives? Why did they love Vatican II so much? It seems like it should be obvious. People were being oppressed by the faith.

Maybe, however, it was because these people were children, and anything fun would be better than being solemn. So was there an actual problem that needed rectification? Or was it just a perception that became a “truth” over time?


The Novus Ordo Mass

“Before Vatican II, the Basilica of St. Paul had an altar rail, priests would say mass on the side altars, and the mass was in Latin, a language that no one understands” says Msgr. Timothy Daly, Pastor/Rector of the Basilica of St. Paul and the Catholic Dean of East Volusia. “Vatican II changed everything, and the church was changed to reflect the new theology. The old stone altar was taken down to create a holy water font. The altar rail was taken away. It symbolized the church keeping Jesus away from the people before Vatican II, and the new layout showed the symbolism of Christ being among the people.” However, the Basilica’s layout wasn’t the only thing that changed. The liturgy also changed as well. Mass was changed to be more inviting and to foster more participation.

“The language was changed to the vernacular so that everyone could understand, rather it being in Latin, which no one could understand,” Msgr. Tim continued. Didn’t people have Latin English Missals?

In the United States and some other diocesan conferences, the rite of communion was modified to standing and in the hands, rather than kneeling on the tongue. This was to show that we weren’t unworthy to receive. “When people said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to receive you’, people would take that literally and wouldn’t go to communion. This was to encourage more people to come to communion.”

While this all sounds like great rationale, what did it do to the faith of Catholics in general. If Vatican II was successful, then wouldn’t there be more participation at mass? Wouldn’t there be more devout Catholics? On the contrary, there seems to be the exact opposite. Everyone is loose with their doctrines, people receive communion out of habit, treating the Body of Christ like it is a piece of bread.


Mass today is vastly different than mass back in 1950. People seem more lively and happy on the surface. Everyone is responding and seem to be excited. But take a closer look at people. Teenagers will be seen texting on their phones. People are sitting passively. Their expressions are blank. They appear to only want to be entertained.

Walk into a traditional Latin mass. There the scene is completely different. The church is practically silent. But people aren’t passively sitting there. They are praying. It’s obvious. They are following along in their missals, but the looks on their faces tell everything. Some have looks of sorrow. Some have looks of joy. They are praying the mass.

What happened? What was the disconnect? Vatican II seemed to make people happier. It seemed like a welcome and well warranted change! However, the way the sacraments are treated, show exactly what the issue is. Everyone is forced to say the responses. This is “participation” in the Novus Ordo liturgy. Everyone thinks that they are participating by playing along. Participation in the traditional mass was focusing your heart, mind, and soul on God in the mass. What about communion? In the Novus Ordo, communion seems like a routine act. Although the people are still receiving Jesus, the significance is lost on them. The method of receiving communion makes it all too easy to become complacent. In the traditional mass, communion is the most humbling and reverent act of the mass. There is a heavy focus on the act of receiving.

The priest takes care to guard every particle against profanation, the same cannot be said about the Novus Ordo. The time taken to receive in the Novus Ordo is 1 second. the time it takes to receive communion in the traditional liturgy is anywhere from five to ten seconds. Mass was considered to be the highest form of prayer and worship. Now it is a place to meet the community every Sunday to “break bread”. Mass is seen as a communal meal now, rather than a sacrifice.

Does this really affect the faith of people? Could a change in reverence toward God be correlated to the decline in faith? When people lose reverence for God in the mass, what other reverence can remain? Mass is where God physically becomes present. If the reverence is taken away, the significance of God’s law is lost. People feel free to do whatever they want because God will forgive them. The laws of God aren’t important. Reverence towards God Himself doesn’t matter anymore. If reverence towards God Himself is no longer important, then why would the laws of God even matter anymore?

Even in the most conservative of Novus Ordo parishes this is apparent. The destructive elements remain present, yet hidden. The change from Latin to the vernacular had implications. So much was lost in translation. All of these elements degrade the faith in a very hidden manner. This is not an opinion. This is a fact. Over time, the sacred nature of mass wanes and becomes a Protestant service with the Eucharist. The Mass changes the person who attends it. It will either transform someone into a more God-fearing pious Catholic or it will turn them into a cafeteria Catholic who feels that the laws of God are mere guidelines.

The Novus Ordo Mass truly is deadly. It breeds complacency and emphasis on the individual person with the community. It becomes a celebration of man, and not one of God. Mass is the highest form of worship. If the highest act of worship becomes diminished, adherence to doctrine diminishes. If the acts of worship and the adherence to doctrine diminishes, so will happen to the Catholic faith, which is the sum of action and belief.

A very extreme example of the side effects of a looser liturgy


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