Monday, October 25, 2010

The Case for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (1)



Monday, 23rd July 2007


On the road to Salvation


Fr Brendan Mark Gatt, Mosta.


The new Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum, has indeed made it easier to use the 1962 Missal. However, as Pope Benedict notes, it should also highlight the innate beauty and greatness of the "modern" Roman Missal, since it is "a twofold use of one and the same rite", rather than a case of two rites.


Consequently, readers like Angelo Micallef (Mass In Latin, July 10) need not worry about the re-introduction of the 1962 Missal. It is not as though from September 14 onwards all Masses will be celebrated in Latin. No priest or group of faithful can impose the Latin Missal upon a congregation. One reason is practical: as Mr Micallef points out, few people nowadays (and precious few priests, I would add) understand Latin.


The Pope demands that those seeking Latin celebrations possess enough formation in liturgy and Latin to participate fruitfully. Otherwise we risk playing with the Mass.


Another reason is juridical: although the older Missal was never abrogated, it has now been clarified that its status is "extraordinary", whereas the 1970 Missal remains the ordinary one.

Mr Micallef refers to a Pope whom we honour and hail as a saint, probably Blessed John XXIII. Yet, the claim that he "worked tirelessly to reduce the importance of Latin" is a bit of a caricature and has nothing to do with his greatness. Pope John (who did much to bring the Church in step with the times) is only indirectly responsible for the liturgical reform: he died soon after the inauguration of Vatican Council II. Ironically, we owe the very Missal being facilitated by Summorum Pontificum to him, since it was published in 1962 under his authority.


Rather, it was Pope Paul VI (unfairly labelled by some nostalgics as "weapon of Mass destruction") who sought to make the liturgy more accessible to a people sadly no longer conversant with Latin. A tragic side effect to this renewal was the whole gamut of abuse which crept in under its cover: from general apathy, to priests who thoughtlessly modify liturgical texts (thus disrespecting both liturgy and faithful); from hosts with chocolate chips or raisins added to them (to liven them up, presumably), to Masses interrupted halfway through for a barbecue (ostensibly to emphasise the meal aspect). And, finally, the pièce de résistance: a Halloween Mass in costume, featuring an extraordinary minister distributing Communion, dressed as a devil! No wonder some disgruntled Catholics feel that the liturgy has been debased.


The Church's history is painfully littered with relatively small misunderstandings that became long-lasting divisions. Hence, our seeking for reconciliation must extend on many fronts. The "lifting of the veil" applies above all to us. It demands humility and generosity, both internally (extending the olive branch to all dissenters, be they Lefebvrites or liberals) and externally (a will to share our spiritual riches). The much-maligned prayer for the Jews must be viewed in this light: a tribute to the Chosen People, and a prayer that those who first received the promise of salvation may understand that it has indeed been fulfilled. I find that uplifting, not insulting.




Godwin Xuereb, Pro Tridentina (Malta) President's comment: a not so recent contribution, first published in the Times of Malta, but still valid as far as the situation in Malta is concerned. It shows what an uphill struggle people who are in favour of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite face in Malta.