Wednesday 17 November 2010


A strange thing is going on in the Church at the moment. Former liturgical enemies seem to be reconciling, lions lie down with lambs, all that sort of thing.

Going back a mere handful of years—well within the lifetime of this blog, at least in its earlier incarnation—the lines of battle were well drawn between those faithful Catholics who thought we should adhere faithfully to the liturgical books of Paul VI, and 'those attached to the former books', as Pope John Paul put it.

Now, of course, it is not a case of 'former books', for Pope Benedict has made both forms of the Roman Rite perfectly current, hoping, it is said, to recreate the Roman Rite anew without legislation or coercion. It will take time, but it is beginning to work.

To begin with, there is the more solemn style of celebration that he has introduced. We saw some excellent examples during the Papal visit to the UK. Some grumbled at the less traditional aspects of the Masses at Bellahouston and Birmingham, but really they should be comparing the whole thing to the Masses during the visit of Pope John Paul. The atmosphere was entirely different, and the change happened on that occasion when Pope Benedict, only a few weeks elected, attended the prayer vigil at the Cologne Youth Day that Pope John Paul had planned to attend. When the crowd began to chant 'Be-ne-det-to!', as it had done for JPII, the Holy Father simply put his finger to his lips and pointed skywards. It was a glorious moment; instant transformation resulted, and the consequence was one of the most prayerful occasions every seen on such a large scale. Subsequent Papal celebrations have had the same note of prayerfulness. I had long given up attending such things, or even watching them on the TV, because I was so distressed by the disruptive atmosphere. But everything has changed. In particular, I remember the great prayer vigil in St Peter's square at the close of the year for priests: there was hardly a sound in that vast crowd: I knew things were now going to be different. And so, during the Holy Father's visit to the UK, we saw the same thing. Yes, there were liturgical undesirabilities, but the tenor of the whole thing was prayerful and spiritually nourishing.

A few days ago, I met a brother priest at the seminary whom I had not seen for some time. He is, shall we say, not unknown in Catholic media circles. No, it isn't Mgr Loftus. In passing he happened to mention to me that he was starting to celebrate the traditional Mass from time to time. I was taken aback, because although I am aware that this priest is on the more orthodox side of things, I had never associated him in any way with traddydom. He saw my surprise, and said quietly 'yes, well, it's the future, isn't it?'

He's not the only one. In one southern English diocese, about twenty per cent of the priests now celebrate the traditional Mass at least from time to time. Most of these are in their forties or younger. They haven't stopped celebrating the Ordinary form as the norm, but, one might say that the Missa Normativa is no longer the Missa Formativa in their life or the life of their parish. I mean that behind their celebration of the Mass of Paul VI lies a positive experience of the Mass of Pius V (at least in its John XXIII form). The people who attend Mass now are mostly the sort of people who found the prayerful celebrations of the Papal Visit nourishing, and are (mostly) glad to experience the same in their parishes. Some call it the 'gravitational pull' of the traditional rites.

This has partly to do with the fact that in reality our parish liturgy has hardly changed since about 1975. A few extras, such as girl servers, but nothing much. What was exciting then, the introduction of a 'celebratory' style of liturgy, has become the norm, and like all party games that have been played over and over again, unless one is the centre of attention, the game palls. And still we see some priests beginning almost every celebration with a reminder to the grey heads in front of him of how awful things used to be and how much better they are now, like some ageing apparatchik of the Kremlin in the Russia of Brezhnev. We are even singing the same awful music. Very little has changed.

Except everything has changed. Like a long musical piece that has got itself stuck into a canon going on and on, now a new musical theme has entered. It harmonizes perfectly well with what is already being played, but suddenly the audience lift up their heads and regain their interest. This is not dissonance, but actually is not just interesting in itself, but makes better and more interesting sense of what is there already, to everybody's surprise, including the surprise of those who thought that really the best thing to do was to stop the music altogether and play the previous piece exclusively.

Here I would refer you to what inspired this very long post; Paix Liturgique from time to time send me emails with their latest article. Today's is arresting: Fr Claude Barthe, a long-term campaigner for the traditional rites, has lent his support to the movement for reform of the reform. Read it here (it's in English). Here's a taster:
The reform of the reform project cannot be implemented without the spinal column of the most widespread possible celebration according to the traditional Mass, which in turn cannot hope to be reintroduced on a large scale in ordinary parishes without the recreation of a vital milieu through the reform of the reform.
The lion shall lie down with the lamb indeed.

Now before you write in and tell me that you have not the slightest intention of modifying your position, that either the Mass of Paul VI or that of Pius V are the devil's work, I am not suggesting that there are not plenty of people out there who have not moved an inch in their position. Simply that there are a lot who have, and right now they are having their effect.


Martin said...

Father, I think you are spot on. The two rites can enrich one another and the old will act as a spur and a benchmark for the gradual improvement of the new.

There are additional benefits too. The presence of the old, even if is once a month on a Friday morning, is a visible sign that the two rites express the same faith. I have also found in rediscovering the old that I can put up with the new more easily because of a renewed appreciation of what is at the heart of both rites.

pelerin said...

Good to read this Father. I had not realised that the English version of Paix Liturgique was different to the French version. I had presumed wrongly as it seems that it was a translation from the French.

My email from the Paix liturgique today was quite depressing. It gave a letter from someone in Limoges who says that those who attend the TLM are being treated as second class Catholics. Although the TLM is celebrated every Sunday there it is not publicised. In fact the Parish Priest refuses to publicise it. The writer says that if you telephone the Parish council you get a reply that this Mass does not exist there and are asked where you got the information from.

It mentions that even after the Motu Proprio there are still many Bishops and Priests in France who do not wish to follow the leadership of Pope Benedict in this respect.

Dominic Mary said...

My preference is, I think, for the old rite : and yet I recognize from my Anglican days that it is also perfectly possible to celebrate Mass decently, reverently, and lovingly using the Novus Ordo if you want to . . . my one-time Parish on at least one occasion received a visit from a large group of Seminarists from the Venerabile who had come to see how it could be done in accordance with the rubrics, and yet also without jettisoning tradition.

Maybe we all have things to learn, even now . . .

Pablo the Mexican said...

The Tridentine Mass is Christ crucified.

The Novus Ordo is Christ killed.

When a Church has the modern Presider of the Assembly, consecrated Hosts are in the hands of the assembly, just as those who killed Christ placed hands upon his sacred person.

Giacomo Cardinal Biffi:

On June 29, 1972, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, speaking off the cuff, he went to the point of saying that he had "the sensation that through some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, trouble, disquiet, dissatisfaction, confrontation. The Church is not trusted . . . It was believed that after the Council there would be a day of sunshine for the history of the Church. What has come instead is a day of clouds, of darkness, of seeking, of uncertainty . . . We believe that something preternatural (the devil) has come into the world to disturb, to suffocate the fruits of the Ecumenical Council and to prevent the Church from bursting into a hymn of joy for having regained full awareness of itself."

Satan’s changing of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass cannot be co-mingled with Christ crucified.

I visited the George Washington Masonic Museum in Washington, D.C. and saw an image of Christ crucified, except there was no blood from the wounds or His side. They simply killed Him.

This is what the Novus Ordo does. It simply kills Christ. And it dilutes the sacraments, catechisms, and ritual. “I baptize you in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.”

The Holy Father has issued a statement proclaiming these Novus Ordo baptisms are no baptisms at all, and people do not need to get re-baptized, they need to be baptized, period.

The Tridentine Mass has the proper Sacraments, catechisms, and leadership necessary to Sheppard souls. The Holy Father has not condemned one single sacrament given in the Traditional movement. Nor the catechisms taught therein.

The Novus Ordo opens the gates and lets the sheep scatter.

I have always imagined modernist to be the type of people that would have no problem inviting transvestite Uncle Bob to Sunday dinner with his boyfriend.

Now that Traditional Catholic blogs have exposed the Catholic hierarchy pandering to Lesbian, Homosexual, transvestite, transsexual, on and on, groups, I guess my opinion was the right one. There are zero Lesbian, homosexual, and so on groups in the Traditional Church. How many does the SSPX, for example, have?

Novus Ordos have unmitigated gall in their assumption it is alright to have the assembly in the morning, and the True Mass in the afternoon.

Why do they think we would want to come to the communion rail and trample the body of Christ that has fallen from their filthy, unconsecrated hands?

I entrust this whole matter in the hands of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, “Mother of the Priest par excellence, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and through Him, of all priests in whom she forms her Son”.


Pastor in Monte said...

I hesitated before allowing the above comment. But in the end I thought that it is a good example of the sort of intemperate language that is becoming rarer now.

Stephen Davis said...

Interesting post. It resonates with something I've been thinking a lot about recently.

Born in 1981 my experience of Mass was in the new form and I now live in a parish with daily Mass in both forms (no prizes for guessing where that is!)

My experience is that both are Catholic. Obvious I know, but coming to the older form it wasn't the huge experiential leap that I had expected (and many had told me - in fact warned me away from!) That obviously also says something about my prior experience of the new form.

As a result I'm a Catholic who is very glad to have the opportunity to hear Mass in both forms- not something I thought I'd ever say!

But I do have a question about where the situation is going.

Do we want to continue to be 'stuck' in 1962 and 1972? Sure the liturgy of the new form is becoming more reverent in lots of place (However I do suspect for the vast majority it is not), but I don't see how we can ultimately have two forms. Two forms and two calendars just seems un-Catholic. Of course there are different rites in the Church and they have their place but two forms of the same rite just doesn't sit right.

How can we be united as a rite of the Church if we are praying different things?

I feel that we might have to accept compromise from both sides, maybe a return to Ad Orientem for the newer form and readings in the vernacular in the older form. With small steps could we get to a point where the rite is again one form?

I understand this will be a process, and one that will take time, but I pray that the Latin rite of our Church will be one again.

GOR said...

Well put Father! Thanks to our Holy Father I do believe there will be ‘cross-fertilization’ between EF and OF. While I grew up with the rubrical rigor of the EF and found the laissez faire attitude of many priests with the OF troubling, it struck me that many of them never knew the old ways. With the flexibility and choices in the OF it was a short step for many to conclude that if I have choices here, then I can devise my own choices there. A sort of [mis]application of the Canon Law rule for interpretations: favorabilia amplianda, odiosa restringenda

Thus while the liberties some took with the Mass were initially scandalous, I came to understand, though not approve, where they came from and how this came about. Once latitude has been given, it is difficult to return to more strictures – the horse already being out of the barn. I do believe, however, that the tide is turning and even priests of a certain age are beginning to recognize what was lost and what needs to be recovered.

Cruise the Groove. said...

"A strange thing is going on in the Church at the moment. Former liturgical enemies seem to be reconciling, lions lie down with lambs, all that sort of thing."

Dear Father
This is wonderful news for the FSSPX!
It seems that your piece is true indeed.
Apparently the Holy Father is permitting the FSSPX to ordain priests licitly now, and I am sure the acknowledgement of valid faculties is not far behind!

Cruise the Groove said...

" is a good example of the sort of intemperate language that is becoming rarer now."

Dear Father
Pablo might have couched his ideas in intemperate phrases, but I do believe he makes several very good points, and I pray that the voicing of these good points do not become rare these days.

Father, I believe the intemperate sounding words, as unfortunate as they are, do actually come from people who are hurt and are in a lot of pain.
I am not making excuses for polemical and cruel words, but I do understand that many of us see next to no change in the way that the Sacrifice of Mass and Liturgy is offered in our diocese.
Many of us have kindly petitioned our pastors and bishops for a reverent Traditional Latin Mass offered regularly in a somewhat safe and convienant time and area, or any at all, and have not recieved any response.
Many of us have even kindly requested a reverent and solemn Novus Ordo, Latin or vernacular and our words have indeed fallen on apparently deaf ears.
So we try and we pray and we offer up, and sometimes people get hurt and feel angry and frustrated and say intemperate things, and I am sorry Father,
These are some of the reasons why many of the faithful do turn to the FSSPX to fulfill their Sunday and Holy Day obligations, since they are becoming spiritually starved and cannot find beauty and good orthopraxis in the Mass anywhere else.
I am sure things are getting better for many throughout the world in this regard, but also for many others, things are actually geting worse.
Father, please be kind to people like Pablo and try to be a little more understanding of his and peple in similar situations.
God bless.

Bryan said...


You write:

" is said, to recreate the Roman Rite anew without legislation or coercion. It will take time, but it is beginning to work."

I have not seen anyone write that the Holy Father wishes to "recreate the Roman Rite". Did you mean to say this? and if so, could you elaborate on this idea with sources.

Some would say the freezing of the 1962 Missale Romanum saved it. Others, of course, regard the 1962 as a betrayal of the Traditional Roman Rite but who knows.



PS: I would like to add that I grew up with the NO and cannot recall in my home parish in Wembley until about 1990 so or (when I left home) any liturgical abuses, theatricality or other nonsense at Mass. Sadly both the PP and the Curate of those days are now dead so please remember them in your prayers Fr Peter Latham and Fr Kevin Greene. bpd

B flat said...

This post is very encouragining. Thank you.
It is very good that you posted Pablo's comment. I agree entirely with Cruise the Groove's understanding of this as being born of pain and suffering.

The most heartening change, if your observation is correct regarding the shift in climate, is that pastoral care of all Catholics, and not just the ones for whom the NO liturgy is sufficient, will be restored. This is necessary for the good of souls of pastors and Faithful alike. The fact that many have left the church in the last fifty years is evident, and nothing much was done about the cause until the present pontificate.

Hestor said...

Can anyone please point out to me how the Missal of Paul VI can "enrich" the Missal of St. Pius V?

Anonymous said...

This might sound odd, but I have sometimes wondered if the immutability of mind associated with the reforms of Paul VI is a survival from the pre-Vatican II period of the Church's history. Immutability and changelessness were part of the Church's mental furniture in those days. Then came the bang of Vatican II and change all round.

It seems to me that those formed before the Council simply exchanged one form of immutability for another. The future was seen in terms of permanence. It has often been suggested that the blind obedience that secured the over-night liturgical reforms of that period was the last time obedience was exercised in this way. Having made such an immense contribution to fidelity to the Holy See one can understand why the survivors and their immediate successors are stuck in a groove.

But, alas, the days of blind obedience are long gone and I don't think the majority of priests universally are now mentally capable of accepting it. The creation of bishops' conferences have done much to erode it. But praise God for the 20% who are gradually enabling change.

Pastor in Monte said...

Anon: Yes, I'm sure you're right; I have long thought so myself.