Friday, June 29, 2007

Motu-philia (and -phobia)

The Vatican news service announced that the long expected, long anticipated (and by some, long dreaded) Motu Proprio by the Holy Father on the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal was released to a select crowd of bishops from around the world (Sean Cardinal O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis represented the United States). Following the meeting led by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, Pope Benedict popped in to greet the attendees and the news release took particular care to point out that he conversed with them for about an hour (as if he was on his way to get a San Benedetto Thé Freddo al Limone from the vending machine, saw the light on in the Sala Clementina, and stuck his head in). Riiiiight, happens all the time.

Some are ecstatic, seeing the release of this Motu Proprio as the "magic cure" for banal liturgies, irreverence on the part of both clergy and laity, and the smorgasbord of dissent within the Church, all of which it most certainly will not cure in one swoop. But on the other side of the fence, some are despondent, feeling just as adamant that the MP's release will signal the abandonment of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as some sort of "failed experiment", and that is just as ridiculous.

What will this Motu Proprio do? Well, let's start first with what the MP will not do:
  • It will not mean that Masses on Saturday night or Sunday will now be celebrated according to the Tridentine Rite. Parishes that plan to have Tridentine Rite Masses will most likely schedule these Masses at totally separate times than the normal Mass schedule.
  • It does not mean every parish will have a Mass according to the Tridentine Rite right away. Most clergy today do not know how to properly celebrate Mass according to the '62 Missal (myself included). Speaking for myself, I'm wouldn't want to celebrate it until I could do it with a certain degree of confidence. That's going to take time, so be patient. You can, however, feel free to ask your parish clergy if their planning to learn the Tridentine rite. I imagine there will be workshops and tutorials for clergy organized by some dioceses as well as other sources.
  • It will not mean that the other Sacraments like Baptism, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, et al, will substantially change. We're only talking about the Sacrament of the Eucharist here.
  • It will not "make" people more reverent at Mass, causing them to stop talking about their breakfast plans in front of the Tabernacle, ignorant of the fact that they're yards away from their Lord and Savior (and He's probably less concerned about what they're eating as much as the fact that they're giving Him the cold shoulder), or to abandon the idea of dressing for Mass as if they're going to the beach. If your kids complain that they're bored at a Novus Ordo Mass, chances are reallllllllly good they'll be even more bored at a Tridentine Mass. Better attack the root of that weed in other ways.
  • It does not mean your parish priest will suddenly become more reverent at Mass (for those who think their clergy treat Mass like "open mike night" to do their shtick). Sloppy liturgy did not only come around after 1970; there were sloppy Tridentine Rite Masses, too! But also, better be prepared for some sabotage from clergy who'll want to give you a bad experience of the Tridentine Rite. Learn to distinguish between what you don't like about the Rite itself and what you don't like about Father's celebration of the Rite.

Now, what do I think the Motu Proprio will do?

  • Well, right off the bat, it got Catholics to use the words "Motu Proprio" in everyday conversation, so we now sound smarter.
  • Exposure to the Rite may also carry with it exposure to Gregorian chant and polyphany. This may breathe new life into classic liturgical music (ie - music written before 1970).
  • It will give Catholics born any time after 1969 the opportunity to see first-hand what the worship of the Church was like from 1570 until just before they were born.
  • It will require the purchase of some things that the Priest uses at a Tridentine Mass, so consider stepping up and offering to donate the altar cards or Missal for your parish.
  • The Society of St. Pius X (I know, schismatics, but here I'm not talking about their ecclesiology as much as their liturgy) has a "learn how to say the traditional Mass" kit, which includes a video and other stuff on how a Priest celebrates Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal. Sign up your priest(s) for it here. In addition, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (not schismatics, in union with Rome) has started an online store at which you can get all kinds of Tridentine stuff.
  • It will help people to appreciate the use of the vernacular. Attention spans being what they are, most Mass-goers will get tired of bouncing between following along in a Missal and looking up at the Priest. For all the talk and hype about this MP's release, I think that there'll be a few people who "try it out", but eventually choose to attend mass according to the ordinary Rite of the Church.

I believe the Church is not a stagnant thing, but the living Body of Christ on earth. For whatever reason you choose to adhere to, the Holy Spirit has guided the Pope to make the decision to allow more more frequent celebration of this Rite. Before I make a judgment on it, I'm going to have to spend time seeing it in action. My hunch is that the hype will be more than what actually results from it (does anyone remember the "Y2K" preparations?).

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