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This past Sunday, White Sunday to be exact (Feast of the Holy Family in Pauline/Bugnini rite), I ventured outside my „micro-aggression” free, liturgical ”safe space” and attended a Novus Ordo “celebration” in a small chapel approximately 20 miles outside of Warsaw (Poland).
The chapel was selected at random during last year’s Christmas visit. I happened to stumble upon it by making a wrong turn, and the church structure itself caught my eye. The church seats no more than 50 and appears to be attended exclusively by the locals. I subsequently attended a mass during last year’s visit, also between Christmas and New Years Eve. So naturally, I was interested to see what this year’s “celebration” of the “Eucharistic meal” would look like one year on. My specific interest was to see if there had been any noticeable changes post the Polish bishops heroic rear guard action in support of Catholic orthodoxy during the Stealth Sex Synod™ of 2015 and if so, in what direction they were progressing.
So back to the little chapel outside Warsaw. From what I observed, this year’s “celebrant” could accurately be described as one of those “butterfly priests” with fast track aspirations to “airport bishop-dom”. The priest the previous year was much more low-key. The meeting/greeting chatter and the homily was mostly about him, not about Him. The altar servers (must have been about 10 of them this year, as opposed to 2 last year) did not wear cassocks, some of their jacket hoods sticking out of the back of their suplices. They stood around in a semi-circle without much of anything to do, aside from completing the circle. The reverence of the “celebration” was reasonable, compatible with that of the previous year. But this can be said for most of the N.O. masses in Poland, outside of the children masses.
And now for the positive observations. This year, the “mass” was a sung mass, with choir. Last year they had a bleating nun doing karaoke with a boom box (I kid you not), hidden in the choir loft. I sat in the choir loft last year. The choir this year however did not use the choir loft, but rather stood in front of the side altar. I had the impression that they were transitioning from a guitar/keyboard boy/girl folk ensemble to a proper choir. Yet for the director, the transition appeared to not be as smooth. She appeared to have a hard time letting go of her keyboard, which stood off on the side. Before each piece, she went over and struck a key only to make her way back to the front of the choir. Must have been a psychological comfort thing.
As for the music, they did sing the Kyriale… for the most part. Kyrie (Greek), Sanctus and Agnus Dei (Latin) although I could not identify the setting. During the Gloria, the choir sung a circular refrain composed of three words: “Gloria Tibi Domine”, while the priest and congregation simultaneously recited the Gloria proper in Polish.
The homily was interesting. Since it was the Feast of the Holy Family, the priest tied in the plight of the Holy Family with the waves of Middle Eastern immigrants/invaders that have reached the shores of the Old Continent this year. He made a rather accurate distinction between those who come with the intent of conquest as opposed to those families who legitimately flee their war-torn countries in search of safety. He made an analogy to the Holy Family, in that they too fled to a foreign country in search of safety, while emphasizing that this is the proper distinction that needs to be made when assessing the present situation. All in all, a very interesting, common sense homily and one with which Francis would no doubt strongly take issue.
Back to the mass, the Faithful actively recited the “Jewish table” offeratory prayer and stood while the Sanctus was sung. The consecration was under EP II. No more than two minutes on the ground kneeling. And then off to communion. After communion, the final blessing was also done standing.
At the end of the “celebration” the priest did the parish announcements. He mentioned that the chapel was in the process of forming a children’s choir and a schola. He invited interested parties to come to the meetings.
I later found out that this priest offers a TLM once a month, but that the TLM does not appear on any of the official UnaCum.pl (Una Voce) or WikiMass websites. I had a chance to exchange a few pleasantries with one of the priests after mass. Found out that TLM is not advertised locally. If someone inquires, then that person is informed as to the time and place.
All in all, a positive experience to the one from the previous year, which in itself was not bad. For a N.O. “celebration”, that is. On an aside, I usually attend the SSPX chapel in Warsaw when I am in town, so one gets used to first rate liturgy. This year, the SSPX’s Warsaw chapel added a female schola which sounded very nice. But I digress…
But back to the local church, it would appear that a process of “graduality” is in motion. From what I gathered, the problem is not so much with the laity, but rather with the clergy. On the one hand, the local ordinaries represent the JPII cult for the most part. Any divergence from “the spirit of VII” would be seen as “disloyalty to the memory of JPII”.
A more basic problem of a forging ahead to the TLM is that most of the clergy do not speak Latin. Starting to offer the TLM en mass could make them look pretentious on the one hand, while allowing the internal enemies of the Polish church, i.e. the ex-communists and their clerical agents, to play the Roman/anti-patriotic card. What needs to be kept in mind is that the Polish church never went through a “de-communisation” of their ranks, so many latent agents are still among the clergy.
A second issue is internal discent within the church itself. The present leadership of the Polish Episcopate Conference just finished uniting two waring internal fractions, the one that went astray was led by JPII’s assistant card. Dziwisz. We highlighted this situation in our post titled How The Mighty Have Fallen (see here). This unification of the internal discent allowed for the unification of the Catholic vote, and the resulting election of the present President, Andrzej Duda and the election five months later of the first non hostile majority government (Law and Justice) to the Catholic Church since 1939, with two short exceptions lasting 11 months and 2 years respectively.
Concluding, one can say that the situation for the Restoration in Poland is improving. It is a long way from that which we see in some of the US dioceses, i.e. Madison WI for instance. Yet the undercurrent is there and for the discerning visitor can be detected.
So brick by brick, on the Eastern front, progress is being made.
On an aside, for those who are on Facebook, you can venture over to the page of the Archdiocese of Praga (district of Warsaw). The archbishop is one of the favorites of this blog, Archbishop Henryk Hoser (see here). The Latin Mass Society equivalent has started to become quite active. The title of their FB page is “Msza Rzymska w formie starożytnej w Diecezji Warszawsko-Praskiej”, and they have just added a new TLM in southh east Warsaw. The Warsaw archidiocese, just across the river, is presently running Gregorian chant workshops. Their FB page is titled “Archidiecezja Warszawska”. So we are seeing progress here likewise.
Post scriptum. The video at the top of this page is from one of this years Rorate masses at a little chapel in Bialystok Poland.