- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Fleet Pope Francis

How was this Easter Vigil in the Vatican unlike past Easter Vigils? [1]:

One of the most dramatic moments of the Easter Vigil service that usually follows — when the pope would share the light of his candle with others until the entire basilica twinkled — was shortened this year as were some of the Old Testament readings.

The Vatican has said these provisions were in keeping with Francis’ aim to not have his Masses go on too long. The Easter Vigil service under Benedict XVI frequently would typically run nearly three hours. The new pope has made clear he prefers his Masses short and to the point: he was even caught checking his watch during his March 19 installation ceremony.

It’s a new day in Rome, that’s for sure.

39 Comments (Open | Close)

39 Comments To "Fleet Pope Francis"

#1 Comment By SteveM On March 30, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

Now if Francis could only just eject the Off-Off-Off Broadway theatrics from the Sunday Mass, he’d be my kind of Pope for sure…

P.S. Happy Easter…

#2 Comment By Blindfella On March 30, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

“After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the Pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an Ecumenical Council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the Pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The Pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith…”

Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI)
The Spirit of the Liturgy

I miss him…

#3 Comment By Carol On March 30, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

Why is this better or worse? It’s just different. I personally like the long Easter Vigil. It seems as if every writer is picking out something that Pope Francis does and praises it to the heavens in order to smite Benedict. Not nice and not very Christian.

[Note from Rod: What a nutty thing to say. This was a neutral observation. For the record, I prefer the Benedict style, but that’s not the point of this post. — RD]

#4 Comment By Tmatt On March 30, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

Nice Passover lede, Rod.

#5 Comment By Ivan K On March 30, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

Is it a mark of humility to make one’s personal preferences the standard in the liturgy? So much for the “reform of the reform.” The Novus Ordo is a lost cause.

#6 Comment By aegis On March 30, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

“Is it a mark of humility to make one’s personal preferences the standard in the liturgy? So much for the “reform of the reform.” The Novus Ordo is a lost cause.”

. . . say the traddies whose longing for smells and bells brings them to (or past) the verge of schism.

I’ll give you, that is an uncharitable reading of your comment, but I am having a hard time thinking of any other.

#7 Comment By Charlieford On March 31, 2013 @ 12:05 am

That’s awesome. The other sunday, I found myself texting during the service (to a doctor who had to leave, “Wise choice . . .”).

I was a little appalled at myself at first–I’d done it without thinking. I was like,”Ive met the enemey, and it is me!”

But then I figured, hey, dude’s provoking me.

Francis can relate, apparently.

#8 Comment By Charles Cosimano On March 31, 2013 @ 12:19 am

If they still had the Inquisition the traditionalists would be doing well to take out fire insurance right now.

#9 Comment By Bugg On March 31, 2013 @ 12:21 am

Steve has a point. The typical Mass goes on way too long with pointless and usually bad music to go with meandering homilies. We may not admitting this but the concentration of most adults is maxed out by 22.5 minutes of a “Seinfeld” rerun. Give me a concise 1 or 2 bullet point homily and the Eucharist and that’s enough. The rest of it is really filler, no matter how well-intentioned. We have too many pastors who revel in long liturgies and rote montone homilies and music directors who think they are the focus.

#10 Comment By Kirt Higdon On March 31, 2013 @ 12:44 am

I think there is something to be said for keeping the service under three hours. Pope Francis apparently is simply doing what my parish and I suspect a lot of others have done for years. We only did four of the seven preliminary readings and the service still went for 2 and 3/4 hours. The church was packed and with extra heat from the candles, was much hotter than usual. One of the Eucharistic ministers fainted and had to be taken out by paramedics in the middle of the Mass. I love and regularly attend the Holy Week services, including Easter Vigil, but they do leave me feeling pretty exhausted by the end.

#11 Comment By Carol On March 31, 2013 @ 2:52 am

[Note from Rod: What a nutty thing to say. This was a neutral observation. For the record, I prefer the Benedict style, but that’s not the point of this post. — RD]

Sorry, Rod. Your post didn’t sound neutral to me – my mistake. Still, writers are praising Francis in a way that seems to slam Benedict. The NYT did a food story comparing the meals of Francis and Benedict and of course Francis’ meals prove him to be a man of the people, a humble man, while Benedict came off as much more extravagant.

#12 Comment By The Sicilian Woman On March 31, 2013 @ 3:08 am

The leader of your faith indicating that Mass is a bother is a horrendous example to the flock, especially when it’s the Easter Vigil Mass. But I guess given so many of the other things, symbolic and liturgical, that he’s brushed aside in only the first two weeks of his papscy, those of us faithful shouldn’t be surprised. His “humility” shtick is wearing a bit thin, too; Ivan K is correct re: putting his personal preferences as the standard for, well, just about everything so far.

#13 Comment By The Sicilian Woman On March 31, 2013 @ 3:22 am

For the record, I am not a “rad-trad,” but I do lean towards the traditional liturgy, which has been a lost treasure for those of us poorly catechized since Vatican II. Good, strong, faithful liturgy means something and complements the doctrine. The things I used to laugh at in the faith, I didn’t understand (thanks to crappy catechesis). I get it now, and it’s made a difference in my faith. I wish our Holy Father understood how important liturgy is. Discipline, too.

#14 Comment By pb On March 31, 2013 @ 5:15 am

“I’ll give you, that is an uncharitable reading of your comment, but I am having a hard time thinking of any other.”

How about a legitimate criticism of a mistaken notion of papal authority?

#15 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On March 31, 2013 @ 7:45 am

The Easter Vigil service under Benedict XVI frequently would typically run nearly three hours.

Wow, I thought the 90 minute services at my church growing up dragged on and on.

#16 Comment By PDGM On March 31, 2013 @ 10:09 am

There’s plenty of room for personal taste and personal style. This is true in both Catholic and Orthodox liturgies, where a certain degree of perfectly “licit” tailoring goes on all the time. In the Orthodox church, there’s also ethnic variations, with the Russians generally given to greater repetition than, say, the Greeks; yet no one worries about one liturgy being longer or better than shorter one.

Why worry about it one way or the other? If we all spent the time praying for the good of the church or the churches that we spent parsing Francis’ actions, might that make for a better use of our time?

Blessed Easter, those for whom it is Easter; and really, I wish that the church universal could just settle on a date and get everyone on it so that we could all be united on this one day. ( I have strong personal reasons for this, since I’ve got Orthodox, Catholic, and Greek Catholic all in one family, along with Jewish, and it gets complicated calendar wise).

#17 Comment By JohnG On March 31, 2013 @ 10:26 am


“When the Church does not emerge from itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and therefore becomes sick,” he reportedly added. “The evils that, over time, occur in ecclesiastical institutions have their root in self-referentiality, a kind of theological narcissism.”

Evangelism was a huge priority for Pope Benedict, one that was often overlooked, and Pope Francis seems at least as committed to it as Benedict was. Pope Francis has, however, also given some indications that he may think that Church squabbles over form have caused the substance that form should represent to become overshadowed in a way which Pope Benedict did not.

“Theological narcissism” can refer to a lot of things, among which may or may not include Liberation Theology, the SSPX and the possible conflation of pomp and circumstance with the Power and the Glory.

So far we have only a few words and a few actions. They may represent nothing more than the way that Pope Francis is a different man than Pope Benedict was, as Benedict was a different man than Pope John Paul II was, etc.

#18 Comment By charles martel On March 31, 2013 @ 10:55 am

Rod, how about the Holy Thursday, washing of the feet.
This may prove to be a big blunder. Pope Francis may have set the stage for the continuing undoing of the church. I hope he recognizes what he is doing and not just expressing his emotions. I really, really liked him at first and now I am beginning to worry deeply and wondering why was he chosen.

#19 Comment By SAF On March 31, 2013 @ 10:59 am

PDGM, I empathize with Sicilian Woman’s comment but must, finally, agree with yours. Especially about a united celebration of Easter for the East and West.
He is risen!

#20 Comment By Carol On March 31, 2013 @ 11:33 am

The Easter Vigil at my church last night lasted 3 1/2 hours. Much of the time was taken up by those who were converting to Catholicism and by those Catholics who had never made their Confirmation and were making it now for the first time. I always find that part very moving. Yes, it was long and crowded but no one seemed to mind and no one left early. The Easter Vigil is not for everyone. But Jesus died on the cross for our sins. 3 1/2 hours in church doesn’t seem so bad in comparison.

#21 Comment By Nancy On March 31, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

Rod, did you watch any of the Vigil? Francis’ manner was almost dour. He barely acknowledged those he baptized. As he processed out, he hardly looked up, gave only perfunctory blessings.

His voice is quite weak. He requires assistance going down steps. He looked beyond solemn – unhappy.

It was a very bizarre Easter Vigil..

And here’s what people don’t get about Catholic liturgy. There are options, yes. But there are certain liturgies that are *supposed* to have every element. They’re supposed to be the full, whole shebang. Cathedral liturgies. And while this is not the bishop of Rome’s cathedral (S. John Lateran is), it’s the Pope’s major church and is supposed to have full, model liturgies that the Church provides and provides for.

The pope’s personal preference is not supposed to matter. Not talking about vestment choices. I’m talking about the structure of the service. Ratzinger was right. It’s not the POpe’s to play with. He’s at the service of God through the liturgy, to serve the people of God who have the RIGHT to the Church’s liturgy as it’s in the books – and at St. Peter’s – that means, in general, the whole blasted thing.

Combine this dismissive attitude along with his truly dour attitude during the Mass (watch the video of the baptisms – it’s strange and off putting) – makes me worried.

#22 Comment By Bugg On March 31, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

As someone who used to go to Mass often, problem has become many pastors and priests fall back on the liturgy rather than going out in the world. I sam this firsthand during my time in a “prep seminary”. Of course the Eucharist is important, but often it’s easier to fall back on majesty and pomp than good works. Further 76-year old men probably have no business doing the 3.5 hour spectacle 4 and 5 times a week. And the last 2 pontiffs have been ill-served by the insistence of others in every visting city going through those motions.John Pauk II spoke in his books about bleakness, emptiness and God’s silence. Wonder how much of that was caused by almost daily empty ritual. Recall Christ had little use for the rituals of the Pharisees as it didn’t inform their lives nor how they treated others. Ritual without works is ultimately void. There are a lot of Catholics who think going to Mass every Sunday is their only obligation. Perhaps Francis is trying to makes these points. If so, good for him.

#23 Comment By Carol On March 31, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

“His voice is quite weak. He requires assistance going down steps. He looked beyond solemn – unhappy.”

Well, if the story I read is to be believed, Pope Francis’ sister said he did not want to become Pope.

#24 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On March 31, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

But Jesus died on the cross for our sins. 3 1/2 hours in church doesn’t seem so bad in comparison.

Well he only had to do that once versus annually.

#25 Comment By Turmarion On March 31, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

His voice is quite weak.

He only has one lung.

He requires assistance going down steps.

He’s a 76-year-old man.

He looked beyond solemn – unhappy.

Perhaps he was feeling ill or in pain?

Bugg: Of course the Eucharist is important, but often it’s easier to fall back on majesty and pomp than good works.

Excellent point. I’ve had nine different priests as pastor in various parishes since I entered the Church in 1990, and known several others fairly well (they substituted frequently, e.g., or I visited their parishes a lot). Our current pastor is one of the two or three best liturgists out of the aforementioned troop. However, his sermons are boring, rambling, or screeds about how Satan is trying to destroy families (I’m not kidding). The priest we had before him was pretty much minimalist liturgically speaking, but despite his Tamil accent was an excellent preacher who could call out the parish on its deficiencies without being hectoring or browbeating, who could articulate spiritual goals to strive for, and whose sermons were always relevant to the text and to whatever the parish was experiencing.

Additionally, the current priest lacks any organizational skill, allows himself to be pushed around by various factions, and has let the parish go deeply into the red. The previous pastor ran a super-tight ship, financially speaking, was ultra-organized, and while he always listened to everyone, when he made decisions he never dithered nor ever allowed himself to be bullied by cliques.

So whom is it better to have–a great liturgist with all the aforementioned defects, or a so-so liturgist with all the aforementioned virtues?

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 31, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

Why can’t you all be Protestant about this?

Trads should have a Trad service, Kumbayaists should have the guitar service, High Church Anglicans should do what moves them, etc.

Whenever two or more are gathered in his name, there he is amongst us…

The rest is mere detail.

#27 Comment By Shelley On April 1, 2013 @ 12:55 am

Didn’t St John Chrysostom shorten the Divine Liturgy from Basil and Jame’s extra long versions? One has to ask why?

#28 Comment By Woody Jones On April 1, 2013 @ 9:08 am

Too early to tell, of course, but the possibility exists that there will come a time when it will be clear that while I have not left the Church, the “Church” has left me. My Anglican friends have already experienced this.

#29 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 1, 2013 @ 9:35 am

Hi Turmarion!

I meant to ask, what do you think of Pope Francis? I don’t know too much about him, but I think I like him so far.

#30 Comment By Steph On April 1, 2013 @ 11:04 am

The Easter Vigil at my church last night lasted 3 1/2 hours.

Ours was between 2 1/2 and 3. We had a few fewer people being baptized and confirmed than in the last few years, but the timing was about the same. We had all the readings, and personally I love having the full version and the full candle-lighting and all that (I’m not clear what was cut short there from Rod’s post). That’s my preference for the Vigil, definitely. (I am usually helping with it, so I suppose that it always seems to move quickly to me and feel a lot shorter than it is is not necessarily generalizable.)

What I find it odd that people on both liturgical sides seem to want to make every choice made by the Pope into some kind of crisis and sign that the Church is on the road to ruin, etc. I found it absurd (and intensely irritating) when some leftwing feminist theologian Sarah Posner interviewed was going on and on about how Pope Francis’ first mass as Pope signalled dire things because people had to kneel and receive the Eucharist in their mouth rather than their hand, and now apparently using the shorter form of the readings creates the same reaction in some others. It all seems to me like overreaction (as does the reaction to the Novo Ordus by traditionalists, to me).

#31 Comment By Turmarion On April 1, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

Hector, I’ve always had an affinity for the Jesuits, so that’s good. Also, I like what I’ve seen so far. The emphasis on humility and the idea of directing our attention to the poor and the hints at criticizing global capitalism are all big pluses, in my book.

#32 Comment By Paul Emmons On April 1, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

>The leader of your faith indicating that Mass is a bother is a horrendous example to the flock, especially when it’s the Easter Vigil Mass.

Nobody I’ve corresponded with has higher hopes for the liturgy in Francis’s pontificate than if any other Jesuit had been elected. They’re a disaster in that regard, although I don’t understand the history or logic in how it happened. But I hope that it won’t matter much. People do what they want regardless of what the Pope says. Even if he actually wants dumbed-down sloppiness, he will be just as powerless to require it in the face of increasing interest in “decently and in order” (as we Anglicans say) as his predecessors were who tried to maintain some standards when the rage was guitar-strumming informality.

I still like him overall, but agree with you that the Easter Vigil service should not be deprived of any of the symbolic ceremony that makes it so unique– and, I’d even think, appealing to children. If it is considered too long, some of the many readings should be shortened or eliminated first. The Easter Vigil is not an obligatory service to attend. If you like to go, then presumably you want it as it is, in full, and will justly feel deprived if it is abbreviated.

I bet that even those who wished to make an invidious comparison with Benedict are unaware that he was baptized during an Easter Vigil very soon after his birth, because the local pastor was determined to have the traditional baptism on that occasion and the Ratzinger baby was the only one available.

#33 Comment By Paul Emmons On April 1, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

I’m curious as to whether the Vatican Exsultet restored the time-honored reference to the bees (as producers of the Paschal candle wax)? That would be a great crunchy-con gesture, especially now that the viability of honeybees is more and more threatened by a disease whose etiology is still mysterious. The best evidence points to a new kind of pesticide which permeates crops in an unprecedented way. We’d better solve this problem before we starve. Our dependence on these little creatures needs to be better appreciated.

Yeah, bringing back the full Exsultet lengthens the service a little: what a dilemma for trendies, eh?

#34 Comment By Frank OConnor On April 2, 2013 @ 11:43 am

How quickly the Traditionalists, who have spent years demanding liberals adhere to B16, are to turn on the new Pope for curtailing a few of the traditions (most about smells and bells). I rejoice in the new Pope’s simplicity and re-direction of our attention to the preferential treatment of the poor. Perhaps Christ has sent this Pope to us as a chastisement for our self-righteousness and materialism, and as an advisory to those so concerned about forms and rituals, that the essence of faith is love for the poor and renunciation of violence. I respected Bernard XVI and loved John Paul II, and am hopeful that Francis will lead us in the paths of simplicity and love. And whether he lenghtens or shortens Easter services is so trivial. I do confess that I inspired to see him dressed in simple white without all the frills. May he lead us back to Christ the beggar, the outcast, the man of sorrow, who took our sins on his back.

#35 Comment By Elizabeth On April 2, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

Heaven forbid, we wouldn’t want to worship and adore our Creator for TOO long, now would we? Of course it matters not that Easter Vigils all around the world typically are in the 2-3 hour range. Not so at the Vatican anymore? Good Lord, lunacy and more lunacy ahead.

#36 Comment By Kathy from Kansas On April 2, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

There are any number of good reasons why someone might check their watch. Until we are privy to his specific reason for doing so, I think it wise to refrain from judgment.

#37 Comment By Tito Edwards On April 2, 2013 @ 6:07 pm


What’s with referring to our Pope Emeritus Benedict as “Bernard XVI”?

Your entire arguments falls on deaf ears with that mocking tone to him.

#38 Comment By Judith On April 4, 2013 @ 8:23 am

Oh my, three whole hours spent in the worship of a Savior who died to redeem us. I’ll bet those suffering souls who find that unbearable would think absolutely nothing of those same three hours spent playing computer or video games or attending a sporting event.

#39 Comment By Burt Weissman On April 5, 2013 @ 12:38 am

I was amused by one of the readers who commented about one of the “eucharistic ministers” fainting during the service. Well, for starters, that person shouldn’t have even been performing this task; it belongs strictly in the domain of the priest, whether the lone celebrant or one his assistants. Perhaps there’s justice in this after all; that individual committed a sacrilege. Secondly, I don’t know what the fuss about a 3-hour Mass is all about anyway; these whiners should try hanging on a cross for three hours. Thirdly, while this carping and cry-babying may be indicative of a certain sickness in the “Church”, it’s not Christ’s Holy Catholic Church that’s sick (it can’t be; the Church is His immaculate spouse), it’s its members; evidently the vast majority of them, judging by what’s going on these days.

Just a little healthy perspective on the situation.