Friday, July 13, 2007

My Moto Musings

We're getting close to the one week anniversary of the release of Summorum Pontificum (I'm getting tired of both saying and typing "Motu Proprio", so I've imposed a personal moratorium on it). If you're reading my blog, chances are real good that you read other Catholic blogs, and so you know that lots of people smarter than I have translated, dissected, interpreted, and explained the document. In other words, I don't need to do that. Blogs are about personal opinions, so I'll just tell you what I think about it.

Let me start here: It is what it is. The Holy Father has definitively declared that "In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or religious, can use the Roman Missal published by Pope Blessed 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." (Article 2)

But that's where it ends when it comes to what a priest may do on his own. He cannot, for example, choose on his own to use the "extraordinary usage" (a.k.a. the '62 Missal, but we might as well get used to the new proper terminology) if he is assigned to celebrate the 8am Mass at his parish. If he is assigned to celebrate one of the three Masses on a Sunday at his parish, a priest cannot, on his own, choose to celebrate the extraordinary usage (again, the '62 Missal) rather than the ordinary usage (the '70 Missal). All these fears that clergy are having underground meetings, planning to "ambush" poor, unsuspecting laity are ridiculous.

To me, the most interesting feature of this Mot... (you thought I was going to type it, didn't you?) ...of Summorum Pontificum is that the "trigger" for most anything to happen with regards to the extraordinary usage (one last time = Mass celebrated with the '62 Missal) rests more in the hands of the laity than the clergy. What do I mean?
  • The laity, if they ask to be admitted, may attend a priest's private celebration of the extraordinary usage (SP, art. 4).
Now, what's a "Mass celebrated without the people"? (Note: This is going to be up for heavy and diverse interpretation) I'd define it as a Mass outside of the parish's daily scheduled Mass(es). For example: my parish has one daily scheduled Mass. On days when my pastor is scheduled to celebrate that Mass, then I celebrate a "Mass without the people", usually in my room, but occasionally over in the church.

  • A stable group of the laity within a parish may, on their initiative, ask their pastor to celebrate Mass for them according to the extraordinary usage (art. 5, par. 1).

  • Laity, if they so choose, may ask that special ceremonies (eg - wedding Masses, funeral Masses, etc.) be celebrated using the extraordinary usage (art. 5, par. 3).

So what about the clergy? Paragraph 4 of article 5 lays it out: "Priests using the Missal of Blessed John XXIII must be qualified to do so..." In other words they must know what they're doing. That makes sense. Personally, I do not know how to celebrate the extraordinary usage. That means I would have to learn, just like I had to learn how to say Mass according to the ordinary usage when I was in the seminary. Even those ordained to the priesthood before the 1970 probably have not celebrated Mass using the '62 Missal in decades, and so they may be feeling "rusty" and not yet prepared to celebrate it. I'm sure in the next few weeks books and tapes and DVDs and workshops are going to appear in order to help those priests and deacons who want to know how to properly fulfill their respective roles at a Mass using the '62 Missal. But this idea of clergy learning another rite isn't so odd; many Latin-rite priests around the United States have, for years, learned to celebrate the Byzantine Divine Liturgy for stable groups of eastern-rite Catholics, and received the necessary permissions from Rome, their local bishop, and the local Byzantine Bishop. The bottom line: if we're going to care for the "welfare of these faithful [Catholics]", as paragraph 1 of article 5 recommends, then we've got some work cut out for us.

As I said, "It is what it is." Do I want to learn it? Yes, but not for the reason you might think. It is not, despite what some in and out of Holy Orders may believe, because I am a cassock-wearing, biretta tipping, amice tying, lace dripping, Vatican II denying, Missa de Angelis in my shower singing cleric who is convinced that God only speaks Latin (although He understands Greek and Hebrew) and this usage puts me even higher on the pedestal I'm already upon. So why will I learn it? First, because the Holy Father says that there are Catholics out there who draw their spiritual strength from it and someday if I am pastor of a parish I might get approached by these people. Thanks to my Boy Scout training, I've learned to "Be prepared". Second, the historian in me realizes that (with a few alterations) this was essentially the Mass of the universal Church for 400 years, or one-fifth of her existence on Earth. Think about it: every year thousands of tourists flock to Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, the Jamestown settlement, etc., to see how our ancestors lived and worked. Seeing what they did in the past helps us appreciate what we have today, and I think the same lesson can be learned from (to use what is now an un-PC term) the "Tridentine Mass". Third, I'm no fool, this Mass was the spiritual food of Saints! If we'll watch TV and buy clothes or jewelry or a diet plan because some secular celebrity endorses it, why would I not be at least a little curious about the Mass celebrated by Padre Pio, John Vianney, Alphosus Ligouri, John Neumann, Phillip Neri, Maximillian Kolbe, etc. If you're a lay person, aren't you at least mildly interested in the Mass which spiritually nourished saints like Therese, Elizabeth Seton, Aloysius Gonzaga, Edith Stein, Katherine Drexel, etc.? How many people bought "Ab-Rollers" and "Nordic Tracks" and "TrimSpa", thinking, "If it worked for them, it can work for me!"? Finally, I think (I hope, really) that exposure to the extraordinary usage will help the celebration of the ordinary usage. At times we forget Mass is about the worship of God and not about entertaining ourselves. My guess is that some will attend a Mass using the '62 Missal and decide it's not for them, and maybe they'll have a new appreciation of the Mass they've been going to and criticizing for years (of course, others may attend it and ask, "Where have you been all my life?"). If they learn to appreciate the ordinary usage of the Roman Rite by experiencing the extraordinary usage of the Roman Rite, is that such a bad thing? But in the meantime, those who have been attending Mass using the '62 Missal will feel less like outcasts within their own family, and that's probably a good thing.

To sum up: The "main office" said I should consider it. It piques my interest. It has a proven track record. It may help me in the future. It is what it is.


Rita said...

Thank you Father,

This is a very clear piece of writing and it expresses my sentiments too. I was born in 1969 and probably count as a youngish fogey too.

canon1753 said...

My reasons are pretty similar too. The extraordinary usage can help us all appreciate the great gift of the Mass, even if one only goes to the ordinary usage mass due to the fact that the priest has chosen to learn the 1962 Missal.

As a priest I want to feed my people the best that I can and by learning and drinking from the great fountain of Roman and Eastern Catholic Tradition, I should be able to do that. Or in fewer words" lex orandi lex credendi

Dad29 said...

There are many who claim that the Trid Rite is merely a codification of a Rite which stretches back to Gregory the Great, albeit with some "organic" additions.

...and they are not the Ultra-Trads who make that claim.