US Catholic Faith in Real Life

From cappa magna to football liturgy

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Having judged the Tridentine Mass celebrated back in April by Oklahoma Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma, complete with cappa magna, as "frippery," it's probably only just that I point out a liturgical abuse from the other side of the spectrum: the "orange Mass" celebrated by Dutch priest Paul Vlaar on the day of The Netherlands attempt at the World Cup. (The Dutch team wore orange and is nicknamed "oranje.") The liturgy, which is said to have included the presider serving as goalkeeper as a parishioner kicked a ball down the aisle, got Vlaar suspended, according to the BBC.

What do these two events have in common? To my mind they both make the liturgy a form of entertainment. In the first, the liturgy in its 16th-century form becomes an ecclesial opera, complete with music that only a trained choir can sing, prayed in a language few understand, and creating a giant chasm between the clerical and lay faithful through both extreme difference in vesture and minimal participation on the part of the laity. The orange Mass, on the other hand, puts the liturgy at the service of culture, almost as an advertisement for a soccer match, and a nationalistic one at that. Both become opportunties to "consume"--depending on your taste--rather than take one's full an active part in the prayer of the church.

I should say that I don't think it is impossible for the laity to fully pariticipate in the so-called extraordinary form; I do however think that the extraordinary form embodies an theology of church that no longer reflects Catholic self-understanding. As for the orange Mass, let us hope there's no rematch.