The Spiritually Mediocre and the Wisdom of the Church

Evelyn Waugh
Evelyn Waugh

Studying the old Mass reminded me of something that the novelist Evelyn Waugh wrote around 1970. When the Mass was changed, he wrote some letters to the Cardinal Archbishop of London lamenting the novelities.

Waugh objected to the intense insistence on “building community spirit” in the 1970’s Church. He did not like the idea that you had to “participate actively” at the Holy Mass–showing up on time, singing along, shaking hands, etc. His point was: We are not all up to this. We are not all up to sitting in the front of the church. Some of us tend to slip in the back after the singing has already started, and we are not about to fuss with a hymnbook and “join in.” This is our Church, too. There has to be room in the Church of God for the people who sit in the back. The Church shows Her greatest wisdom by knowing how to deal with spiritual mediocrity.

The saints are obviously the ideal. We would all like to be holier; we all can be holier; may it please God that we will all be holier before too long. But in the meantime, the old-time Catholic religion knows how to deal with us. The Church is patient and kind enough never to give up on anyone. She is always there. She gently urges–without shouting and without making impossible demands. She whispers: Go to Confession, show up for Mass, start over.

4 thoughts on “The Spiritually Mediocre and the Wisdom of the Church

  1. Hi there, if EW died in 1966 how come he could write something in 1970?


    (I was looking for something on him and came to your post…)

  2. Thank you for pointing this out. Maybe someone more knowledgeable than me can clarify the details of the circumstances of Mr. Waugh’s communications with Cardinal Heenan about the Novus Ordo Mass.

  3. i do recall him having issues with the “modernization of the catholic church” which drove him nuts. also, right before his death in 1966 since he died at age 63 and was born in 1903, he did get the treat of going to a mass done in latin which was rare to find even then. but he did hate the new things being done in the catholic church. if he had his way, it would have remained unchanged since the 1200’s. waugh just didn’t like change which was convenient if you had a priveleged upbringing like him and married a wealthy titled woman like he did so you were set for life with the spouse’s substantial inheritance. then, no, change isn’t good. hehe.

  4. I thought Waugh died in 1966? not that it matters – he obviously voiced his opinions regarding change at some point, as most old folk do.

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