Whenever I discuss the pros and cons of the traditional Mass versus the Novus Ordo with someone, the one “obvious” positive that comes up often is the vaunted three year calendar with its increased quantity of scripture. I usually focus on the advantages of an annual seasonal calendar, and the superior quantity of scripture in the propers of the traditional Mass.
Can someone please explain to me, therefore, why the Archdiocese of St. Louis sponsors and celebrates its annual Mass in commemoration of non-Catholic, Baptist preacher and political activist Martin Luther King, Jr.?
At the risk of being smeared, someone has to say something about this. It doesn’t matter that King accomplished much good in his life. Does he deserve our respect? Yes. Does he deserve credit? Yes. Does he deserve remembrance from a grateful nation? Yes.
But all this does not change the fact that he lived and died a non-Catholic, and as such should not be “raised to the altar” in a local liturgy. Perhaps we should take a vote on the next such Mass. Ronald Reagan, anyone? How about other leaders from other religions, like Gandhi? When will a Mass for the great Obama follow?
I remember, on a trip to London, visiting the (“borrowed” by Henry VIII) Westminster Abbey and blinking hard to make sure that I actually saw a bas-relief of Martin Luther King, Jr. beaming down amongst the assembled saints over the portico. I remember thinking that I was glad that at least we didn’t have such nonsense in the Catholic Church. I spoke too soon.
Forgive me, but I can’t help but think that a Mass in honor of St. Anthony the Abbot might have been more fitting. That man of prayer, by offering his life for the faith, accomplished more than any political activist, however revered.
The Mass is not the private property of anyone, neither of the celebrant, nor the community, as John Paul II reminded us in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #52. Well-meaning social activism cheapens the celebration of the Mass. Enough.