Monday, July 09, 2007

the Law of Prayer

I am neither as smart nor as quick as others in the blog-o-sphere, many of whom are reacting quite swiftly to the recent publication of Benedict XVI's motu proprio allowing wider use of the Extraordinary Rite of the Roman Mass FKA the Tridentine or "Old" Mass.

I'm not quite sure I know what to say. However, I have wondered why liturgy is so darned important, and even more why it is charged with sooooo much emotion on all sides.

I think the answer can be expressed in four words (Latin) or seven (English): lex orandi, lex credendi or the law of prayer is the law of belief. Most Christians, Eastern, Western or other flavors, will never crack a book of theology, some will never even study the Bible on their own. Most (if they are fortunate) will never have to wade through volumes of systematic or historical theology.

Reading theology is sometimes (even for those of us with a 35 year history of it) a little like memorizing the periodic table of elements. You have to do it, but it really doesn't change the elements to call salt NaCl or gold Au. Salt is still salt on the table and gold will ever be gold, glittering in my girl's ear or on her hand.

However, every Christian, without exception, will at some point worship God. If repeated enough times in one's life this worship becomes part of the warp and woof of one's existence. I grew up a Missouri Synod Lutheran, and have pages 5 and 15 stenciled onto my soul right next to that bit of catechism-ic doggerel.... "this is most certainly true." Only true Missouri-sinners will understand these references. But, what the hey? It shows how obtuse and idiosyncratic our theological constructs and our worship can be.

Back on track.... worship doesn't just in-form our theology, worship forms it. So, any time one makes an alteration (major or minor) in "how we do things around here" that alteration has consquences for how we relate to God. The more liturgical a church is, the more that this is true.

Hence the high emotion around this past weekend's announcement.

And now for my own preliminary observations about the motu proprio.

I was pleased with how even-handed it all was.... it was not really backtracking to before Vatican II but simply stating the organic unity which exists along the developmental line from the Tridentine era rite to our own vernacular Paul VI rite. Each rite has its strengths, but the insistent drumbeat of this particular decree is that both- hear this all camps- BOTH- are expressions of the one Mass of antiquity which goes on being offered each day by good and holy priests around this beleaguered world of ours.

Second, the option of whether or not to have the earlier Mass form now moves from the chancery and the rectory out to the pew. If people ask for it, the Church has a duty to provide it. Good idea.

I live in a diocese with many hundred thousands of Catholic (and not so Catholic) souls. Yet, there is only one small parish which has a weekly Tridentine Mass. I go occasionally, and this Mass is not packed with people on a regular basis... at least not during the times I have been there. But I personally respect the decision being made to offer this Mass more widely. I think we owe it to the traditionalists. But we also owe it to ourselves as Church.

Here's why (last observation). I believe (and have admitted as much here) that there is an appalling lack of reverence and respect and mystery in many of our celebrations of the liturgy. If the Tridentine Mass is as good as its proponents say, then over time I believe we will see a migratory effect. Maybe not much at first, but perhaps eventually this form of Mass will find a limited but powerful place in our Church again. Think Apple versus PC... 10% market share but rocking the world.

A second (and I believe even more far reaching) effect will be to strengthen and deepen the celebration of New Order Masses. Call me a romantic, but I believe that the mere presence of the Tridentine Mass will help highlight the things I love about a well-said Mass- reverence, quiet, focus, mystery, respect for tradition. That's what I hear many of my younger (less than 40 year old) counterparts asking for. No disrespect intended... but I just don't hear younger folk crying out for more guitars, social justice seminars or communal penance services.

So, look for more in this space about this change as information becomes available. Meanwhile, I am going off to Sparta WI again tomorrow to celebrate the Feast of our Holy Father St. Benedict with my brothers at Our Lady of Spring Bank Abbey.

They do a really great new order Mass in Latin and most of the day's offices, with the exception of Vigils are in our Mother's tongue also. I say that because it is true.... I was born a human and baptized a Lutheran but became a Roman Catholic Christian by choice. So, how could I pass up an opportunity to worship in a language and mode which has blessed many hundreds of generations before me?


Anonymous said...

I suggest you check out for a very good Q&A about the Motu Proprio (as well as commentary on the texts of the Motu Proprio and the accompanying letter). I am reposting it below:

Motu Proprio Q&A on Possible Points of Confusion

It's quite important to get out good information early on in the game so that people don't misunderstand the Motu Proprio. Toward that end, I offer the following unofficial Q&A of possible points of confusion, in the hopes that people won't misunderstand the document. If there are any inaccuracies in this, I welcome people to point them out. However, it seems like most of this is just common sense and basic Catholic teaching.

Q 1. May priests celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 Missal immediately or do they need to wait for September 14?

Priests may immediately offer the Mass in private according to the Missal of Pope John XXIII. The Holy Father in his letter to bishops (a clarification from the lawgiver of the motives and ends of the Motu Proprio) said, "As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted." Article 1, Summorum Pontificum) This would mean that a bishop would have no legal way of stopping the priest from privately offering the Mass according to the Rite of Pope John XXIII even now, before the implementation date of September 14. Since the Mass has never been prohibited, the bishop may only prevent a priest from offering it privately if he has reason in accordance with Canon Law for prohibiting him from celebrating Mass at all in the diocese. When a new law is made or a change of law takes effect, there is a need of a period of promulgation to allow time for the law to be known by all who must obey it. However, since in the case of private Masses there is no change in the law (since the traditional Mass has always been allowed), there is no time of promulgation needed. Therefore, even before the date of September 14, any priest is legally entitled to offer the Traditional Latin Mass, at least in private. It would also be a great act of good will and paternal charity for bishops to agree to permit public Masses in the Traditional Rite as requested by the faithful even before the September 14 date of implementation.

Q. 2 Why does the Holy Father prohibit the Traditional Mass during the Easter Triduum?

The Holy Father does no such thing. In Article 2 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the Holy Father specifically states that he is speaking of, "Masses celebrated without the people..." This means that he is speaking in this article of the law only of private Masses. About this he says, "each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary."

So clearly the Holy Father is only saying that private Masses, where there is no "stable group of the faithful" are not permitted during the Easter Triduum. Perhaps this has to do with the busy schedule of priests during that time and the many pastoral demands upon him. It would be impractical for him to offer many private Masses during this time. However, public Masses, which are taken up later in the Motu Proprio, would not be at all affected by this prohibition. Where there is such a stable group of the faithful, Masses would become part of the regular schedule of the parish or church/chapel, and so they would be allowed, and during that most holy time of the year undoubtedly would be encouraged by the Holy See.

Q. 3 May individual religious communities celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass without permission of their superiors major?

Yes, religious communities could have irregularly scheduled Traditional Latin Masses even without the permission of their superiors major. In article 3 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the Holy Father states, "Communities of Institutes of consecrated life and of Societies of apostolic life, of either pontifical or diocesan right, wishing to celebrate Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962, for conventual or "community" celebration in their oratories, may do so. If an individual community or an entire Institute or Society wishes to undertake such celebrations often, habitually or permanently, the decision must be taken by the Superiors Major, in accordance with the law and following their own specific decrees and statues."

So a religious house could offer the Traditional Latin Mass on special occasions even without the permission of their superior major. They would only need this permission if they wished to celebrate this extraordinary form of the Roman Rite very often, probably, for example, if there was a desire for daily or weekly Masses. Clearly superiors are encouraged to offer generous access to the Traditional Latin Mass in the pastoral spirit of the Holy Father.

Q. 4 May a bishop prohibit people from attending the private Masses of priests offering the Traditional Latin Mass?

Absolutely not. As the Holy Father states in article 4 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, "Celebrations of Mass as mentioned above in art. 2 may - observing all the norms of law - also be attended by faithful who, of their own free will, ask to be admitted."

Q. 5 Can a parish or other place request more than just private Masses?

Yes, if there is a "stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlire liturgical tradition," which would mean that there is a sufficient number in the parish who are committed to the ancient Mass and desire it on a regular basis, then the Holy Father states, "the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962 . . ." There might be some reasons where this could be denied on a short term basis, such as a lack of a priest to say the Mass regularly in the Traditional form. However, the letter makes clear the Holy Father's wish that the faithful who desire the Traditional Latin Mass be granted access to it. So the priest by all means should grant the request of the faithful unless there is some real reason that he absolutely cannot. If there is some temporary reason why this cannot be granted, article 7 of the Motu Proprio provides that, "If a group of lay faithful, as mentioned in art. 5, has not obtained satisfaction to their requests from the pastor, they should inform the diocesan bishop. The bishop is strongly requested to satisfy their wishes. If he cannot arrange for such celebration to take place, the matter should be referred to the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei.' " So Rome has pledged assistance through the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to making sure that assistance is offered to the faithful in this situation. Cases of this sort ought to be extremely rare as it is certainly expected that all parishes prepare for the implementation of this letter during the period of the promulgation before September 14. Free and low cost training for priests who wish to learn the Traditional Latin Mass is available through such groups as the Fraternity of Saint Peter and Una Voce International, as well as being offered by the Society of Saint Pius X (what a good gesture of good will if priests from dioceses began to learn the Traditional Mass from priests of the Society, thereby building useful and charitable relationships with them and hastening their eventual reunion with Holy Mother Church).

Q. 6 In cases where there is to be a publicly scheduled Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite, is the bishop's permission required?

No. This is not at all implied in the letter. The letter specifically leaves this up to the pastor or rector of the Church, who is to be guided by the Bishop. As the Holy Father states in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum Article 5, "In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church." So the Bishop, as always, must guarantee the unity of the faithful. The pastor is the one who grants the permission, but he does so under the watchful eye of the bishop, who makes sure that all is done in charity and respect for the Faith of the Church. This guidance, however, does not imply that the pastor needs permission of the Bishop. As the Holy Father stated, the Missal of Pope John XXIII was not abrogated, nor could it be abrogated. He has also stated that the excuse that the Traditional Mass is divisive is unfounded; In the Motu Proprio, he stated very clearly, "In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities. This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. " So this cannot be a reason for delaying permission for the Traditional Roman Rite in parishes.

Q. 7 Is permission needed from the bishop for the other sacraments?

No, although all is done under his guidance, as he is the visible guarantor of the unity of the Church in his diocese. The Holy Father states in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, "For faithful and priests who request it, the pastor should also allow celebrations in this extraordinary form for special circumstances such as marriages, funerals or occasional celebrations, e.g. pilgrimages." In article 9, the Motu Proprio also states, "The pastor, having attentively examined all aspects, may also grant permission to use the earlier ritual for the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick, if the good of souls would seem to require it. Ordinaries are given the right to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation using the earlier Roman Pontifical, if the good of souls would seem to require it." So the pastor is to grant these just the same as he grants the Traditional Latin Mass, and the same appeal of the faithful to the Bishop and to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei would be available if they are denied these sacraments temporarily for some reason.

Q. 8 Does the Motu Proprio allow for daily Masses in the Traditional Roman Rite?

Yes it does. Also in Article 5, the Holy Father states, "Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII may take place on working days . . ."

Q. 9 May the readings in the Traditional Latin Mass be given in the vernacular?

The most frequent way of doing the readings at the Traditional Latin Mass is for the priest to read the readings according to the ancient form in Latin at the altar. Then he would read them in the vernacular immediately before his sermon. If, however, they are only read in the vernacular (which is not the standard way of doing so), the old lectionary would have to be used, containing the readings as approved by the Holy See at the time of the 1962 Missal. It would NOT be appropriate to use the readings from the NAB which are approved for use in the Novus Ordo Missae.

Q. 10 Is there any resource that Bishops can use to help satisfy requests for the "extraordinary form" in his diocese?

Yes. He has the ability according to section 8 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum to, "refer the problem to the Commission 'Ecclesia Dei' to obtain counsel and assistance." Of course, the best thing bishops could do to implement this is to return to more traditional teaching methods in seminaries, especially in the areas of liturgy and the Latin language.

Q. 11 May Bishops use the Traditional Rites of Ordination and Consecration, either of bishops or of a Church?

Although these are not specifically mentioned in the Motu Proprio since they do not pertain immediately to the faithful and their desire for the Traditional Latin Mass, they are nevertheless part of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, part of the precious liturgical treasure of the Church. They may therefore be used at the discretion of the bishop.

Q. 12 What if particular parishes wish only the celebration of the Traditional Roman Rite?

This is allowed for under the Motu Proprio. There is no reason why, according to the Motu Proprio, that a parish could not primarily wish the use of the Traditional Latin Mass. As the Holy Father states in Article 10 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, "The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with can. 518 for celebrations following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain, while observing all the norms of law." Priests could even be devoted entirely to the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Traditional Latin Mass, while recognizing, as the Holy Father states in his letter to the bishops, "in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books." This specifically states that priests may not, "as a matter of principle" exclude celebration according to the new books. That does not mean that there won't be priests who as a matter of practice celebrate only the extraordinary rite, according to the desires of the faithful as guided by the bishops.

Q. 13 What does the Holy Father hope to accomplish with this Motu Proprio?

The Holy Father speaks of the pain that took place after the liturgical reform of Pope Paul VI. The Holy Father says in his letter to the bishops, "Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church." In order to heal these wounds, the Holy Father says, ". . . the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching . . . The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage." So the Holy Father clearly wishes the Traditional Roman liturgy to influence the Novus Ordo Mass so that true liturgical development may take place in conformity with ancient tradition. This may eventually lead to a new Missal, a combination of the two, which would eventually become a standard alongside the traditional "Tridentine" rite and which would be an integration and combination of the modern rite (with its admitted defects in style and content) and the traditional one, so rich as it is in spirituality and explicit theological formulations. This is also why the Holy Father wishes to see such aspects included in the Traditional Roman Rite as new saints from the modern calendar, so that the ancient rite becomes once again a living rite, a vibrant part of the Church's everyday life. In this way, eventually we may hope that the Novus Ordo abuses may be corrected by authentic organic development, fulfilling the Second Vatican Council's calls for revision of the liturgical books in conformity with Tradition.

Q. 14 Can specifically Novus Ordo practices, such as Communion in the hand or altar girls, be done at Traditional Latin Masses?

No they cannot. Those novelties are permitted only by Papal indult, which could be removed at any time, and they only apply to the Novus Ordo Mass. They have never been permitted at the Traditional Latin Mass, even in places where the Traditional Latin Mass was offered in predominantly Novus Ordo parishes by diocesan indult.

Q. 15 Does the Holy Father expect an immediate reconciliation with the SSPX as a result of this Motu Proprio?

The Holy Father almost certainly does not expect this. As he says in his letter to the bishops, "We all know that, in the movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre, fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level." So the Holy Father is well aware that the Mass is not the only point of contention with the Society of Saint Pius X and that negotiations will be ongoing. Faithful should not try and preempt the Holy Father's work by being overly critical of the SSPX at this crucial time of goodwill. The SSPX has responded very positively to the Motu Proprio and sees it as an important step forward in negotiations with Rome. The best thing that we may do now is to act in charity and allow the Holy Father and the Society time to work out the remaining differences.

Phil B. said...

Thanks. You are right... most of this just makes sense, but these issues probably needs to be clarified for all of us, traditionalists or not.