Friday, September 14, 2012

Fifth Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum

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On the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross (14 September 2007), Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio  took legal effect. The need for this motu proprio has shown some important facts:

  • The flow of requests that kept going to the Vatican from Catholics indicates that the implementation of the liturgical reforms has not been an unmitigated or universal success. Especially in countries where the vernacular translations have been clumsy or even inaccurate, and at least Malta was spared this, dissatisfaction increased by the year. 
  • Moments and junctures in the rubrics that allow for more spontaneity by the celebrant have often been abused. Malta has had, and still has, its fair share here unfortunately. Such abuse harms the Church, because alterations in the Novus Ordo Missae usually were meant to draw attention to the presiding priest and thus away from the Lord. And some priests alas have fallen into this trap and created their own mini-personality cults.
  • Many Novus Ordo Masses ended up with little solemnity but multiple sources of irritation. How many times have we all seen parents 'sedating' children with snacks; priests preaching sermons that have more in common with Hari Krishna than Catholicism; amateur guitarists / drummers playing so-called music that resembles the best of the Eurovision Song Contest; and youngsters slumping back after communion, hands in pockets, or busy sending SMS?
The Extraordinary Form of the Mass may never become a majority movement even among conservative Roman Catholics, but it’s a sign that a significant number of people - even in Malta - are hungry for a greater reverence in public worship. This may have a positive influence on liturgy more broadly. It has even been suggested by a senior Vatican official that we might end up with a hybrid rite, combining the strengths of the Tridentine Mass and the post-Vatican II Novus Ordo Mass.

One common misconception about the Tridentine Mass, and even some of its supporters have this idea, is that the laity are merely spectators of an action performed by a priest. An interesting essay about the participatory nature of the Tridentine Mass suggests otherwise. In the coming days, an article will be prepared about the so-called 'Dialogue Mass'. This article intends to strengthen the argument that laity at a Tridentine Mass participate in an active manner also.

The massive comeback of the Tridentine Mass should be seen in a wider context. One must remember that there has never been a 'universal' Catholic liturgy. To my mind come the Eastern Rite Churches in communion with the Roman Church. At one time, there were many Western liturgies: the Braga, Ambrosian, Lyonnaise, Celtic, Gallican, Mozarabic, etc. Until after Vatican II, most of the major religious Orders had their own distinctive Masses; however, most of them switched to the Novus Ordo. Though even here there are some orders who have rediscovered their rite or are opting for the Tridentine one. The Benedictines still have their own Mass, but the differences are not obvious to the casual observer and some monasteries do not use it. The Carthusian Order still retains its distinctive Mass.



Benedict XVI is not an advocate for reducing the number of liturgies. Quite the contrary, he is promoting legitimate liturgical diversity, by facilitating the legitimate aspirations of Catholics attached to the Tridentine Rite. As the late Cardinal Martini, himself not a supporter of the Tridentine Mass (this will be the subject of a future article) said, Benedict XVI's motu proprio could signal an:


"openness to reaching out to everyone, which gives hope for a future of dialogue among all who seek God with a sincere heart."
Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto. Dominus conservet eum et vivificet eum et beatum faciat eum in terra et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.