|You have no idea how much nastier I would be|
if I was not a Catholic (Evelyn Waugh)
In 1996, Alcuin Reid (a man whose name is familiar, but of whom I know very little) published a collection of letters between these two men - in which they discuss their anxieties concerning the proposed new Mass - in a book called A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes. Reid has now republished this collection, adding letters written by Waugh to others, including the editors of the Times, the Catholic Herald and the Tablet. The new book also contains extra letters by Cardinal Heenan, as well as an excellent pastoral letter issued by him during those strange Conciliar days - why don't today's bishops write pastoral letters in the engaging and entertaining way that was once so familiar to them?
Glimpses of this expanded version of A Bitter Trial, can be found on Google Books, whilst those wishing to purchase a copy may do so here (UK £) or here (US $). The earlier version is currently out of print, though seems to be selling as a rare book (for up to £124) on Amazon.
For now, though, and as a means of whetting your appetite, here are some excerpts from the updated book...
In his introduction to the extended version of A Bitter Trial, Joseph Pearce begins by recalling how Sir Alec Guinness lamented the passing away of the "older courtesies" that our Catholic liturgy had preserved for centuries. Yet, being a man of God, Sir Alec also knew that it was only a matter of time before the Mass of Ages would once more be restored to its proper dignity and place within the Church's worship. Here is how Pearce puts it: -
"Much water has flown under the Tiber's bridges," wrote Alec Guinness in his autobiography, "carrying away splendour and mystery from Rome, since the Pontificate of Pius XII." Writing in the mid-eighties, Guinness lamented the "banality and vulgarity of the translations which have ousted the sonorous Latin and little Greek" from the liturgy and regretted that "[h]andshaking and embarrassed smiles or smirks have replaced the older courtesies." Although dismayed by the nature of the liturgical changes, Guinness was sure that the Church would recover from such nonsense, "so long as the God who is worshipped is the God of all ages, past and to come, and not the Idol of Modernity, so venerated by some of our bishops, priests and mini-skirted nuns."This blog post is not a review of the book, as I have only read some snippets from A Bitter Trial. But just from reading those previewed pages contained on Google Books, I have already determined to order the book! Here, then, are extracts from a couple of letters that show something of the genius of both Waugh and Heenan, which therefore makes A Bitter Trial (either in its older or in its more updated version) a must read for fans of either or both these outstanding men. These snippets also prove that defenders of tradition also tend to be humorous people of great insight!
In a letter to the Editor of the Catholic Herald dated 7 August 1964, in which he addressed the fact that some German Council Fathers thought that "dialogue Masses" equalled "active participation", Evelyn Waugh had this to say (emphases and comments in red are mine): -
We pray in silence, "Participation" in the Mass does not mean hearing our own voices. It means God hearing our voices. Only He knows who is "participating" at Mass. I believe, to compare small things with great, that I "participate" in a work of art when I study it and love it silently. [Excellent argument]. No need to shout. Anyone who has taken part in a play knows that he can rant on the stage with his mind elsewhere. If the Germans [who were the most vocal in wanting to create the noisy Mass we now seem to have - one wonders whether the then liberal Fr Ratzinger was amongst them?] want to be noisy, let them. But why should they disturb our devotions?
"Diversity" is deemed by the progressives as one of their aims against the stifling Romanita. May they allow it to English Catholics. [What a brilliant argument. Sadly, though, it seems that diversity remains a one way street - that carries "progressives" to their intended goal, but one that is also used to curb the desires of those who wish to preserve tradition and our Catholic heritage].
I am now old but I was young when I was received into the Church. I was not at all attracted by the splendour of her great ceremonies - which the Protestants could well counterfeit. Of the extraneous attractions of the Church which most drew me was the spectacle of the priest and his server at low Mass, stumping up to the altar without a glance to discover how many or how few he had in his congregation; a craftsman and his apprentice; a man with a job which he alone was qualified to do. [Beautiful]. That is the Mass I have grown to know and love. By all means let the rowdy have their "dialogues", but let us who value silence not be completely forgotten.
|If we were to offer the ... ceremony [Novus Ordo] |
we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel we would
soon be left with a congregation mostly of
women and children. (Cardinal Heenan)
[My Dear Mr Waugh] ... People may call you reactionary but nobody can call you a fool. I think that the leaders of the new thought (if that is not too strong a word) are not so much the young pops as the Catholic "intellectuals". This is what they call themselves and believe themselves to be. Everyone with two A levels is now an intellectual. [What would poor Cardinal Heenan make of today's world, were anyone who can write his or her name is automatically praised as some kind of prodigy?!].
These are the people who complain about the cleavage between the hierarchy and the educated laity; and who largely create it. [A very good description of today's Tabletista]. They regard us as mitred peasants and look for guidance from the continental clergy...
The hierarchy is in a different position. We have not yet lost the respect of ordinary Catholics but the constant nagging of the intellectuals and their tireless (tiresome?) letters to the Press and articles in the Catholic papers may eventually disturb the ordinary faithful. [Very prophetic words - sadly, the 'nagging of the intellectuals' did 'eventually disturb the faithful']. Most of us would be content to delay the changes but the moos of the Council compels s to act. Otherwise the attack from our own people would become ever more bitter: inimici hominis domestici scies.
But do not despair. The changes are not so great as they are made to appear. [OK, it seems that the future Cardinal's prophetic skills seem to have eluded him here!]. Although a date has been set for introducing the new liturgy I shall be surprised if all of the bishops will want all Masses every day to be in the new rite. [Notice that Heenan refers to the Conciliar changes as 'the new rite'. Also, one wonders whether he was surprised when it became clear that most bishops were willing to ditch the old rite so quickly?]. We shall try to keep the needs of all in mind - Pops, Trads, Rockers, With-its, and Without-its. [If only our current batch of bishops were willing to write with this much humour and seriousness - instead of the all too bland expressions of bureaucracy that we are now fed (up) with].As a fan of both Evelyn Waugh and Cardinal John Heenan, I am already relishing the prospect of reading this private correspondence between them. As one who is also becoming more an more enamoured by Catholic tradition, and who is convinced that the Church needs to rediscover her ancient heritage before she can ever hope to re-evangelise Europe and other parts of the West, I know that the thoughts expressed in the letters written by these two men will be inspirational. They will also be invaluable in helping me to understand why the Church went off the rails during and after Vatican II.
I assume that both Evelyn Waugh and Cardinal Heenan, as well as Alec Guinness, would all be rejoicing were they alive today to see the Church being put back on the right track under Pope Benedict XVI. As I pray for the souls of these three men during the next few weeks, I will be sure to offer a Te Deum on their behalf in thanksgiving for Catholic tradition's emerging and on-going resurrection!
[Images: 1 Evelyn Waugh; source: Admiral Cod blog. 2 Cardinal Heenan; source: Solomon, I have surpassed thee blog]