In homily at Pleasant Hill parish, deacon uses slideshow to illustrate “pre-Vatican II failings of the church”

(The following are excerpts from a homily given March 11 at Christ the King Catholic Church in Pleasant Hill by Deacon John Ashmore. The parish is in the Oakland diocese. Deacon Ashmore used a slide show to illustrate some of his points. The deacon was reflecting on the Gospel passage in which Jesus chases the money changers out of the temple.)

…I think over the period of a couple thousand years, the church developed some institutional “money changers.” The “rites,” that’s R-I-T-E-S, became failings in some ways. Just to be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with the old rites, Latin or the Tridentine Mass. They were beautiful and mystical, but sometimes they were so mystical that they cut us off from the immanent reality of Jesus with us and in us. If you’re near my age, you might recognize this little book. It’s the Missal that my Mom & Dad bought for me as a Confirmation gift. This gift was a symbol that I was no longer a child. I was now, at the age of ten, responsible to take my missal to every mass I attended, and follow the reading and prayers as they were said by the priest. There was just one minor problem, and it began like this: “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.” (That means, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. I will go in to the Altar of God. To God, the joy of my youth.”) 

The mass was celebrated entirely in a language that none of us understood. The priest stood with his back to us saying words that, even if we could hear them, which we seldom could, we didn’t understand. Missals had Latin and English translations, so those who had them tried their best to keep up, eyes darting back and forth between the Latin and the English. This language confusion caused some people to just give up. People often spent their time at mass in personal devotions like the rosary.

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II, I think it’s important to remember what things looked like before the council reforms. As the people of God we have always been called to worship well. But, as Father Dibble reminded us last week, the council was called to “open the windows,” to bring some fresh air into every aspect of the church, including worship. If you are as little as five or ten years younger than I, you probably have few memories of the pre-Vatican II church. So I want to take a few minutes to walk down memory land and share with you what it looked like back then.

(Slide 1) This is what the inside of a typical Catholic Church looked like in 1960. There was beautiful art work, painted ceilings, and many statues. If you look at either side of this picture, you’ll notice the “side altars.” Very often, while one mass was being offered at the main altar, separate masses would be offered at one or both of the side altars. The idea that any mass was more about the celebrant than the people might be viewed as one of the pre-Vatican II failings of the church.

(Slide 2) As we look at a closer shot, we see a wooden structure that separates the body of the church from the sanctuary. That’s the communion rail, and it served two functions. It was where one received communion, but it was also a physical barrier between the altar and the people. Could that be a money changer? I’ll come back to that in a minute.

(Slide 3) Look at this altar, with its ornate carvings. You could always tell if the mass was really “important” by two things: how many candles were lit on the altar and how many acolytes served at mass. The more important the feast was, the greater were the numbers of both. Look at all of the steps the priest had to climb to approach the tabernacle. Do you think these trappings might be thought of as institutional failings or “money changers”?

(Slide 4) Here’s another communion rail in front of the altar. This is where everyone had to kneel to receive the Blessed Sacrament. The Communion Cloth, this white cloth, was draped over the communion rail by the altar servers, and then communicants had to kneel with their hands under the cloth in case the priest dropped the host and the altar server didn’t catch it with the paten that was held under the chin of each Communicant. Only the priest and bishop had thumbs and forefingers consecrated so they could touch the host. To me the idea that only consecrated fingers could touch the Blessed Sacrament was a bit silly. Why is any finger more sacred than any other?

(Slide 5) This is a rather innocent looking picture, but there is one thing that is worth noting: we didn’t have altar servers, just altar boys! That’s a pretty obvious failing in the institutional church, and we thankfully now include both girls and boys in altar service.

(Slide 6) And then, after we realized that we had so many money changers in our own lives, we had to go to the confessional. It was dark. It was scary and it seemed to be focused on us doing the correct penance rather than on understanding our failings.

(Slide 7) This last slide shows a joyous day, the day that these young people were confirmed. Don’t they look joyful? I think “terrified” is a better adjective. And look how the boys and girls are segregated.

Fifty years since the beginning of Vatican II, I think the reforms instituted have made our church into a much better place. The people of God are the worshiping community, not a community separated from the clergy. While we praise and worship our mystical God, we are more in touch with the immanent God who sits with us in our own skin. There is still much work to be done. There are still too many ignored and silenced voices. But let us rejoice during this anniversary in the strides that we have made, and ask our good and gracious God to be with us as we strive to chase the money changers out of the temple and become the people and church that he wants us to be.

To read Deacon Ashmore’s full homily, Click Here.


Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 12:10 AM By charlio
“If you’re near my age” (57), you might still be able to crawl up into the choir loft, at one of California’s Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter parishes (FSSP). You’ll be amazed. In “normal” parishes, young people of any age, whether teenagers, primary school or toddlers, are actually rather scarce; or to invert it, most of the heads are gray. In an FSSP parish, the pews are filled with the next generation of the New Evangelization, in all young age ranges. The enlightened practice of altar girls isn’t visible; instead there are solemn quasi-military processions of dedicated young men altar servers. Many of these are the priests of tomorrow – who will be serving the new world of Christ’s faithful long after the Deacon John Ashmores have relavenced themselves into extinction.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 12:52 AM By Clinton 
Now in fairness, Deacon Ashmore should show a slideshow of the ‘fresh air’ that Vatican II supposedly brought in: Slide 1: Wreckovations of Catholic parishes, ie removal of statues,removing the high altar and introducing the Cranmer table, etc. Slide 2: The priest from saying the Mass facing God to facing the people, just one of many novelties of the Novus Ordo Mass. Slide 3: Men and women religious disgarding their cassocks and habits, as well as sound Catholic teaching. Slide 4: Closing of Catholic parishes and schools. Slide 5: Communion in hand. Slide 6: Pro homosexual “Dignity Masses”. Slide 7: The Religious Education Congress. Slide 8: “Liturgical Dancing” Slide 9: Guitars and tambourines for folk and rock and roll ‘masses’. Slide 10: Altar girls (and we wonder why there is a shortage of priests? Many altar boys became priests) Slide 11: the horde of EMOCs at every mass. Slide 12: The apostasy of Catholic colleges and universities (Notre Dame honors Barack Obama) Slide 13: Interfaith prayer services (what happened to the Catholic faith being the only true faith?) I could go on and on, but most readers of Cal Catholic know how the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II has been a significant cause of the apostasy of the Catholic faith around the world.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 2:53 AM By Gabriel 
Whatever the failings of my archdiocese may be, thank God this ‘deacon” is not one of them!

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 3:25 AM By Paul
This is horrible! It is nothing short of propaganda and insidious propaganda at that. Deacon Ashmore should be ashamed of his self.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 4:10 AM By Joe R.
Just the opposite. For the past fifty years we have had nothing but Watered Down teachings. It sounds to me that this man needs to stay away from the pulpit.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 5:28 AM By Prof.Helen
My grade school taught us Latin. When my parents took us to French speaking Quebec we all could understand the SAME Mass in the universal language of Latin. It was a global unifier. Now if I visit Uzbecistan and the Mass is in Uzbec I don’t even have a Sunday Missal to read,

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 5:54 AM By Angelo
WOW! Sounds like this guy just crept out of the 70’s. After the first session of the Council, Bl. John XXlll called his closest Cardinal collaborators together in order to find a way to end the Council gracefully, as he seen trouble ahead. By what I read here he was right! St. Padre Pio begged a certain Cardinal to end the Council quickly. St Padre Pio was very concerned about the direction many of the Council Fathers were trying to mislead the Church. Rev. Mr. Ashmore is a perfect example of why Bl. John Paul ll and Pope Benedict XVl called for the reform of the reforms. Looks like many are still living the nightmare of the 60’s and 70’s. When will they wake up?

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 5:59 AM By Sixupman
Clearly, the full to bursting churches and expanding parish numbers, prior to Vatican II, was possessed of congregations full of people of sub-normal intelligence. Clearly the said people saw the priest as, subsequent to Ordination, a person apart and “Alter Christus” when confecting The Sacrament. What idiots we all were! Now if they were all idiots following a deluded clergy, it must follow, by current interpretation, that they were not following The Truth, but a delusion of Truth. However, how do we know that the current possessors of The Faith are not similarly deluded? !500/1960 odd years of delusion, followed by a further period of delusion? One Holy and Apostolic (Catholic) Church no more, now Bishops’ Conferences pursue the idea of ‘National Churches’, not only that but an equivalence laity twixt clergy and the notion of Consecrated Hands thrown-out with much else of the foundations upon which Mother Church has been built. In a recent parish where I resided, Clifton Diocese, UK, both parish priest and permanent deacons criticised the papacy and denied elements the Magisterium. How they described Holy Communion indicated that they were not Catholic, that big word, Transubstantiation, meaningless to them. May God have Mercy and Protect Our Souls in these desperate times.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 6:02 AM By Ted
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. This one is just wrong in so many ways it’s a waste of time to mention any of them. This kind of thinking is why a priest spoke out against the Permanent Diaconate at a (FSSP) Mass where I was present, and now I understand his view. There is a place for both versions of the Roman Rite. This deacon evidently hasn’t followed Pope Benedict’s views very closely. Divide and Conquer. Lucifer is quite aware of that phrase. Is this deacon ?

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 6:02 AM By Natalie
Why did Jesus chase the money changers and animals out of the Temple? Because they were INSIDE the temple. By being inside the Temple, driven by greed to make animal sales, they were defiling the Sacred Space; The Father’s House. What does the Deacon want us to do? He wants us to remove all the architectural elements that indicate our parishes are the Father’s House; are Sacred Spaces. Wants us to get rid entirely of the Temple of the Sacrifice, the Holy of Holies. In reality the architectural design of our parishes along with the mystical develolment of our liturgy were all organically developed in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to be helps in entering the Sacred Union. Dedicated to the Honor and Glory of God; to convey His majesty. It isn’t a little genie god that lives inside us, dwells in our Tabernacles, comes from Heaven at the command of Priests to enter our bodies now physically as well as Spiritually. I guess the Deason forgot the Second Person of the Trinity lives in him too. What’s the big deal if we’re all just equal to God as the Deacon implies. As the Deacon desires to indicate by his Sharing Table and flat sanctuary without any definition of the inner Temple. The Deacons God seems to be a little genie that lives in him. The True God is beyond our imagination in magnitude, love and sacrifice. What do we owe Him for coming to dwell within us? A vacuous temple of sharing bread ? Or a physical representation of the fullness of Faith, Love and Gratitude as we understand it at our highest? Yes, we owe Him. Jesus makes that clear in the Gospel referenced. Before the spirit of V2 defiled our sacred spaces they were in continuity with the Temple of Jerusalem and in unity with the eastern rites of the Catholic Church. The Deacon should read Ugly As Sin. There are 24 Catholic Rites in full union and equal in majesty. Only Romans have a destructed Temple.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 6:02 AM By JMJ
Is the Deacon just being sarcastic or what? There is nothing good to be thankful for with Altar ‘boys’ that are girls, as it has been shown that where there are only boys are serving, the vocation rate to the Priesthood is high, but, where girls are, it is just the opposite. I can’t remember the railing cloths being used every Sunday, but, I can remember trying to find the right place in the missals and to my dismay, I was lost again (it is still going on nowadays). The Bishops taking down the Communion rails was and still is a disaster, as the Altar is on Sacred ground and we, the laymen, just don’t belong there, including women lecturers, etc. and the Priest are separated from us because they are Jesus personified. Yes, we now are a worshipping community, but, we are not worthy to be on the same level as the Priest; otherwise, the Sacrament of Holy Orders would just be a sham. The Bishops have a lot to do to get back the Spirit of Vatican II, as they are the ones that helped the evil one to mess things up. Praise God in all things!! +JMJ+

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 6:13 AM By St. Christopher
It is almost beyond belief that this man is a deacon, meaning he is “ordained” at least in the post-Vatican II parlance. His words express what so many Catholic “clergy” believe — that the “old Church” ended at Vatican II, and a new church began with the awful changes permitted by Paul VI. “Deacon” Ashmore, and probably most clergy within the Oakland Diocese, completely failed to listen to what Benedict said about the TLM, and its sacred importance to the Church. His little polemic about the evils of almost 2000 years of Catholic liturgy is stunning. Listening to this ignorance is stunning and gives understanding as to why the Church is losing members and devotion. Soon, so much of the Church’s institutional glory will be over, the “fruits” of Vatican II. Tradition is the only grow left in the Church. It is good to read, notwithstanding the likes of the good deacon, that most seminarians far prefer the traditional mass than the NO. Enough of this, and the eventuality of the passing of the Vatican II crowd, and things will return to normal. Notwithstanding this, Deacon Ashmore should be relieved of his duties immediately as preaching against the hermeneutics of continuity, which is the very basis of Benedict’s explanation of Vatican II and the present two-mass system of the Church (ultimately doomed to fail).

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 6:25 AM By Sawyer
Permanent deacons are a mixed bag. Some men are outstanding servants of God. Others… well, let’s just say that I question their vocation. The man who gave this homily falls into the latter category. It sounds like his understanding of ecclesiology and sacraments and liturgy are woefully deficient.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 6:47 AM By Dan
I can’t wait for him to specify the “ignored and silenced voices.” As for money changers, he has consfused that metaphor beyond comprehension.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 6:57 AM By Life Lady
My, goodness! Somebody sounds totally resentful of the old church, and will do their best to discredit it, after it has withstood 2000 years of people just like that. This is a Deacon? And how did that happen? Oh, yes, because he is in the “new” church, right? Just from what I have read, and I did not bother to read all of his homily enough is enoung, I can see that he has no business being a deacon in the Catholic Church. From that last paragraph, it appears to me that he would espouse the idea of women priests, and believe that those who would be priests would fulfill some void in the church. The biggest void I can see is this man, and his dangerous ideas taking root. No amount of his calling things “money changers” (the altar rail, for goodness sake!) will make them so, and he totally lost me on the point of what truly constitutes a “money changer”. From what I can see, it is likely that Jesus would have driven HIM out as a “money changer” since those elements that he is making a point as negative are some of those things that made for the mystery, and the sweetness of the Mass. Kneeling to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist seems like a reasonable idea to me, since putting the Sacred Host into a hand that could be dirty, and what not, is repugnant to me. The consecration of the fingers and thumbs of a priest are the difference there, and I doubt Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist for His apostles at the Last Supper so that just anyone could manhandle his Precious Body and Blood. Lord, deliver us from the post-vatican II ill-formed and ill-informed catholics out there, especially from deacons like this one. Amen.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 6:57 AM By FHKJ
I’ve been a practicing Catholic for nearly 70 years. Deacon Ashmore’s characterization of the Pre-Vatican II Church is accurate. The “good ole days” (i. e. Pre-Concilar) were really not all that good!

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 6:59 AM By Canisius
FHKJ,, and Vatican 2 made everything so much better didn’t it… like this Deacon

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:00 AM By jp
“Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:23 AM By Jo Ann Reyes
Deacon Ashmore, you didn’t understand the mass then and you don’t understand the mass now. You don’t understand that the Holy Mass is not a circus. It was celebrated in latin which is the official language of the church. Getting caught up in the rebelion of the 60’s and 70’s was jus an excuse to complain about something that was beatuiful and is still beautiful. Maybe if you prepared yourself before you went to Holy Mass you might have understud more. Asfar as the steps go. If a priest could not climb those steps, than maybe he should not be serving Mass until he felt better. After all we would not want him to fall. Women are not going to be priests. Girls were not permited to be alter servers because they were not going to be priests. Boys were allowed because it was preparation to give the boys a taste of what it would be like to be a priest. The ornate carving and everything else you saw in the church was for God not you. Confessional were not dark and scary. If you can remember back in that time period, that is the way the furniture in our own homes. Priests distributes communion because it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. EM’s were never ment to have total rein over the santuary or Hand out the Body and Blood of our Lord like working in a fast food joint. Sir, where is the reverance for God. Recieving communion was given to this country because we as a country were being rebellious to the vatican. We were the exception not the rule. We are all loved by God and we are all included in his plan. The plan for women and men is different, because women and men are different. May God forgive you Deacon Ashmore for spreading your own opinion instead of the truth. May God touch your heart so that you can see the truth of what he calls all of us to do while we are here on this earth. Latin Mass as well as the New Mass is just as beautiful when you prepare yourself for each Mass. And realy a slide show for a homily.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:24 AM By Brian S
Angelo’s got it right – this guy is a regular Rip Van Ashmore. However, I’m sure that most folks who saw that slide show saw the photos in a more positive light than he did. For example ‘Ooh, look at those cool carvings – how ornate they are!’, was much more likely than sneers at decadent boughasie kitsch.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:28 AM By Alicia G. Mendiola
I was born in 1953. During that time, going to Church was a serious way. We dress up decently and dressing up for the Sacrifice of the Mass, our dress was called ‘Sunday Dress’. We were wearing veil and we had Missal and Rosary with us.Even the Priests then wore Sotanas or the Collar. They never wore civilian clothes. Now, because of too much liberty, tolerance to convenience and the mentality formed to be “In”, more often balance is lost between solemnity and loudness. To cut the story short, there is really a necessity to evaluate the Vatican II. We Laity will always be in union with our Holy Father who acts too in union with his Bishops. I hope the Clergy will also be in union with the Bishops.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:30 AM By jp
I urge all of you to check out their school and parish websites. From their parish website/pastor: “Join us this week, either Thursday evening at 7:30 pm, or Saturday afternoon at 3:30 pm for our Lenten, preEaster Communal Penance Service — always an inspiring, refreshing “feel good” celebration of the sacrament” … or see the “Petition” in support of Sister Margaret Mary McBride against Bishop Olmstead … or the homily extolling the virtues of taxation.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:35 AM By JLS
I guess those in the “new church” will be going to the “new heaven”, and not the “old” one where the saints are.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:37 AM By Bud 
Yes, now the Church has another line of experts! Just what we needed. Being an older Catholic I can’t say that I even want them to perform any of the sacramentals for me. Deacons in this day and age of “high administrative” duties should be just that. A helpmate to enable the priest especially now, to devote his time to religious matters and his flock! Along with them came the “trite” liturgy leaders and inventors and draping all kinds of dumb banners around the Church!!!! Anything to detract from a sacred rite and convert it to a social gathering! Time to continue cleaning house!!!!!!!!

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:42 AM By JLS
This character, Ashmore, demonstrates the brilliance of Vatican II, which is to provide a warm fuzzy way for the worldly to make their exit from the pews of faith. Pope Benedict XVI: there will be a “smaller but holier Church”. The real Church does not conscript souls like the army conscripts soldiers … it’s all volunteer, and with the real paycheck being at the very end.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:08 AM By Catholic Joe
I’ve never read something so dilusional. It ignores statistical facts of the US Church prior to Vatican II and the enormous collapse of the Church after ‘the spirit of Vatican II’ got implemented.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:18 AM By RB2
I like slide 1 :The idea that any mass was more about the celebrant than the people might be viewed as one of the pre-Vatican II failings of the church. ————————————— Backwards! Now the priest has less oversight. He can now ride a parade float during the entrance procession, get away with changing the words of the liturgy, crack jokes/one liners during foibles and page misturns, and do homilies all week long about liberal politics disguised as social justice or promote dissent and dissenters within the church as heroes since no Bishop will condemn or correct the liberals who wont’ leave the church.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:29 AM By LoneThinker
Another example of those who take the deacon’s homily apart, seem to have forgotten the down-side of the good old days. That is a normal human reaction, we edit out the bad from the past and the good from the present and keep on complaining. The Church is always in reform mode, because YOU and I are in it and “we ain’t got it together yet”

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:41 AM By OneoftheSheep
Yes, I am your age. Yes, I was born in 1954 and remember how I had time to prepare myself to receive the Sacred Body of Christ as I knelt along the communion rail. I remember a promise to us that we would always have a choice to kneel on a kneeler placed in center aisle or receive standing up. That promise was soon broken. I remember the reverence. I remember a time when everyone did not parade up to receive communion. I remember Saturday confession lines. I remember some churches making confession available before mass. I remember statues so beautiful and crucifixes so touching that I could kneel before them and feel contrition as I gazed upon Christ’s wounds. I remember beautiful hymns that we all could sing. Hymns such as “Soul of My Savior” that spoke to the beauty of our communion with Christ. Yes, the sacred hands of our priests were venerated and kissed. They were consecrated in Holy Orders. This deacon does not disturb me. I have peace in my heart. This deacon is disturbed and needs to go on a long retreat, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration and Thanksgiving. This deacon needs the love of the Blessed Virgin which can transform him from a judgmental know it all into a true and humble servant of the servants of Christ.

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:44 AM By ModestoDick
Kudos to you, FHKJ. I am 75 and was an altar ‘boy’ during the ‘good old days’. The good old days were indeed not that good. I have been to several of the the Tridentine Masses. The good news was that I still membered most of my Latin. The bad news was that I did not feel included in the service when the priest turned his back on the congregation and said the mass. Did Christ sit through the Last Supper with his back turned to his Apostles? We are all called to be Apostles and are now participants in the Mass and in the mission of the Church.Thank goodness for Vatican II. There seems to be an issue with the term “Altar Boys”. It seems to be that many do not want girls in that role or women in any role in the Sanctuary either as altar servers or lectures. Get over it or run to the Monastery and lock yourselves in. We have been mislead the the historical beauty of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. Who prepared and served that Last Supper? Men only? How about the wives, sisters, moms, and daughters of the Twelve Apostles plus neighbors and friends. The Apostles married!!! What heresy!