I have found out via one of my sources that the Pope has not just strictly been vacationing at Castle Gondolfo and that he has in fact been working with a group of people on a new program. There has long been a speculation of a reform of a reform of the liturgy, but that the Holy Father is not going to take drastic steps. Many of us have been waiting for the final document from the Synod on the Eucharist which is expected to be released later this year. In the meantime Pope Benedict XVI has decided to concentrate on the basics.
Many have complained about liturgical abuses and outright disobedience. Francis Cardinal Arinze said "The do-it-yourself Mass is ended. Go in peace," but we have not seen too many concrete actions in this direction. What we didn’t know is that the Holy See has started looking at this problem from a direction most of us have not considered. We have assigned all types of reasons for liturgical abuses that in many cases were not the most charitable explanation possible. We have assumed ill will in cases where none existed. The breakthrough came about through via some testing that provided surprising results. A group of 500 priests were tested with a sample page from the sacramentary and asked to read aloud the text and to perform the rubrics. The results showed that a large group of priests got most of the text right, yet failed to perform the rubrics satisfactory. These results lead to further testing. The astonishing result was that a large group of priests had a form of color blindness that was not known in medical circles.
This is an example of what priests who did the rubrics satisfactory sees.
This is an example of what the other priests see.
Rubric blindness, or rubric vision deficiency, in humans is the inability to perceive rubrics. It is some times of genetic nature, but may also occur because of eye, nerve, or brain damage, or due to exposure to certain liturgist and heterodox theologians. What normally happens is that this condition is not caught in seminary before they are ordained. The priest knows he is suppose to do something at these points but does not want to embarrass himself by saying he can’t see them. They go on like people who are functionally illiterate and cope with the world around them. Unfortunately when they look around at other Masses to see what other priests are doing at these points in the liturgy they find no standards.
As a result this is what they come to see in the sacramentary. A type of optical illusion confirms for them what they suspect must be there. The human brain often tries to fill in information when it perceives missing data and this is the basis for many optical illusions. There is an old saying about people seeing red when they are angry, but now we know there are also a class of people who don’t see red when reading from liturgical documents.
The study classed these people as illiturgerate and that many liturgical abuses were from those who were acting as functional illiturgerates. Illiturgacy is not something that we just have to live with and is something that should not stigmatize priests. The researches found that those suffering with rubric vision deficiency could indeed overcome this liturgical disability and go on to not only see rubrics (many for the first time) but to follow them.
The Pope is just about to release a new program that will specifically address these problems and as a world exclusive I can give you the details.
Hooked on Rubrics works by using a series of flash cards with varying red colors on them. Repeated drill and variation of color shades enables the priest to start to discern colors that previously appeared transparent to them. When this first step is satisfactory completed the next step is to drill an association with reading the rubrics and then performing them without illicit variations.
Previous liturgy teaching methods were part of the problems instead of relying on age-old methods to teach the liturgy they relied on untested teaching theories that failed in practice. The whole liturgy instructional philosophy that is currently prevalent emphasizes seeing the whole liturgy instead on concentrating on all the different parts that make it up. Some priests who were once able to see rubrics were trained not to see them, Hooked on Rubrics reverses this process. Hooked on Rubrics instead concentrates on getting the little things right, thus ensuring the big things are also done correctly. He who is faithful in little is faithful in much.
An added benefit to the Hooked on Rubrics method is that they have actually been able to see other colors better and how they coordinate with other colors. Many after going through this program went back to their parishes and had many stoles thrown away that had horrible color combinations that they were previously unaware of and were now embarrassed of having owned.
Hooked on Rubrics for priests is just the start of some of the new programs coming out. There will also be versions for the laity. While most of the laity don’t suffer from rubric vision deficiency they do suffer from "simon says" syndrome where constantly most of the gestures and postures they perform are done in imitation of the priest instead of doing the ones specially meant for them. Many of the laity are quite surprised to learn that there is a part of the Nicene’s Creed where they bow or that the strike their breast during the Confeitor.
A version of Hooked on Rubrics was also developed for liturgists. Unfortunately so far all attempts at getting them to see or follow rubrics has been to no avail. Two liturgists in the tests who started to discern rubrics ended up going insane and subsequently had to be locked up. Seeing rubrics for the first time made them doubt everything they believed and stood for and it was just too much for them. There might be some underlying psychological reason for this. For some reason all liturgist given a ink blot test saw liturgical dancers in every pattern. They also had the tendency to move about the furniture in the psychologist’s office for no discernable reason.
Other programs soon to be developed:
- Hooked on Homiletics – Flash cards from the Church Fathers serves as an introduction.
- Hooked on Vatican II – This program experiments with the mostly untried method of actually reading the documents of Vatican II.
- Hooked on Orthodoxy
- Hooked on Magisterium
- Hooked on Jesus – A course for all of us.
I thinks these are sound parish pedagogical practices and hopefully they will soon be seen in a parish near you!