Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Popes and Latin

This is an article written a couple of months prior to the promulgation of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, but still relevant. Unfortunately, as far as I know, no Tridentine Masses have taken place in the Diocese of Gozo.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Popes and Latin

by Mgr Anton Gauci, Victoria, Gozo.

It was right and appropriate for 'A Christian Outlook' to remind us of the injunction contained in Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy "Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite" (The Sunday Times, March 25). I am also happy to note that, in The Times Mr Alfred Sladden pointed out that "Pope Benedict himself has urged the universal Church to revamp the use of Latin" (April 2). It is several years that Popes have been hammering on the revival of the Latin language in the Catholic Church. And they want Church schools to take the matter seriously. They know that, for 2,000 years, Latin has been the chief means of expression for the Western Church. And they are aware that the major part, if not the totality, of the Church's traditional teaching has been through this language.

Preserved for our use and benefit in the works the Fathers of the Church and Saints have bequeathed us. Addressing members of the Latinitas foundation in 2005, Benedict XVI insisted that the study of Latin be encouraged and spread. The Pope noted that "Catholics cannot put aside the custom of using Latin as the official language of the Church", adding that "the great treasures of the Latin language cannot be lost". Nor did he fail to remind us of John XIII's Constitution Veterum Sapientia confirming the role of Latin "as the international language of the Catholic Church and the city state of the Vatican".

I would not be so pessimist as to lament that, in our country, these eye-openings of the two Popes have been "cries in the desert". But neither will I refrain from noting that, these last 30 years, Latin has been given a deadly blow in our schools, not excluding those under the responsibility of the Church.

Apart from the fact that traditional courses of Theology and Philosophy are no longer led in Latin, the language itself is no longer taught in either the Church's secondary schools or those of the State.

And, in post-secondary courses here with us, a mere lesson a week is given for two years - which is not even enough for a rudimentary knowledge of the language, let alone the prose and poetry of the classics: of these not a mention is made. I believe it is no exaggeration to note that today's priests know Latin no better than religious Sisters knew the language when they chanted the Psalms in Latin in choirs.

I fail to understand how students proceeding abroad to read for degrees in such subjects as Theology and Canon Law can carry out appropriate research when they know not Latin.

Obviously the blame lies not at the feet of these students, but on the shoulders of those who dealt the deadly blow to Latin in Church schools. There it used to be studied for nine years with a lesson a day. Moreover, lessons in the courses of Theology and Philosophy were delivered in Latin.

It is not only since 2005 that the Holy See has been insisting, even if with no success, on the study of Latin. Way back on November 27, 1978, and November 26, 1979, John Paul II pointed out this necessity in speeches to Certamen Vaticanum. And, in 1981 and 1986, to the foundation Latinitas. Here in Malta, I remember the late Mgr Joseph Lupi insisting on the same need in May 1997. In an article entitled "Reviving Latin", Bernard Vassallo on December 3, 1995 and in "Latinitatis studium, quo vadis Malitae?" Dr Horace Vella on May 25, 1997, did the same thing.

On October 30, 1993, news spread that the "European Community is now trying Latin". And, on April 14 of that same year, Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, then Minister of Education, had "vowed" to reawaken the study of classics in Malta: Dr Mifsud Bonnici was then speaking in a symposium at the University of Malta, and he deplored the decline of Latin and said that the study of Latin had to be "extended to various schools".

It was on this occasion that we had a remark very much to the point, when Professor Anthony Bonanno noted that "very few schools have reintroduced the teaching of Latin on a regular basis". In the symposium, I remember it had been made clear that it was the Catholic Church that had spread Latin throughout Western Europe. Dr Mifsud Bonnici had said that "the decline of Latin in Malta and abroad is a tragedy".

We do not lack people who goad us for the study of Latin. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and various others. But, so far, I am afraid efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Again, I do not blame teachers. The malady goes much beyond that. It comes from above, from upper quarters, those at the helm, whether it be in the Church or in State schools.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A homily which is so relevant to the situation in Malta

Extracts from a homily by Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Apostolic Nuncio, Trinidad and Tobago.

Why, even three years after the issuance of Summorum Pontificum (just to name one example), are well-meaning lay folk still treated with such great disdain by no less than bishops, bishops in communion (of heart, soul, mind and strength?) with the Successor of St. Peter when they ask for Mass in Latin? Is this anything other than blind hypocrisy (the plank!)? You tolerate no small amount of bad taste, bad music and caprice, while begrudging some few a port in the storm of liturgical abuse which seems not to want to subside? Can we be after His own Heart and not just claim to be members of Christ’s Body while still acting so at odds with the example set by the Holy One of God, meek and humble of heart? Such prelates are at counter or cross purposes to the sense in which the Church wants to go; they are ignoring what the Spirit is saying to the Churches and doing so with a backhand to some who are branded common and contemptible, but certainly not in the eyes of Christ... Let me say it more clearly! My issue is with the contempt shown for an outstretched hand, contempt such as would not be shown toward someone asking for some other benefit.

When the Holy Father speaks of his will to see these two forms of the Roman Rite (ordinary and extraordinary) enrich each other, when he and others express eagerness for a recovery of the sense of the sacred in our churches and in how we worship, I am convinced that he has indicated the true nature of the rupture which has indeed occurred and needs to be mended or healed.

You would think that those in communion with the Pope would seek to understand him and embrace his point of view. There is too much room for caprice and hence the need to reform contemporary Catholic worship. This is evidenced time and again, by way of one example, in the sense of helplessness many priests experience when confronted by musical groups moving into church with inappropriate repertoires, not to mention the dance and puppet troupes which should have been banished long ago. If a bishop does not want to discipline at least he can respect and foster those seeking good order.

St. Charles Borromeo advised his priests to fight distractions and foster devotion the same way that you keep a stove lit with only a flicker of flame inside, and that is, by keeping that stove closed up tight until you get the fire going strong. I think that has to be the aim of the reform of the reformed liturgy. That was the genius over centuries of the old Latin Low Mass, tamper-proof and self-contained throughout the vicissitudes of time. The pendulum swing to the other extreme, which has swept away everything that was popular devotion and religious expression, while at the same time opening up that stove to nearly anything and everything, has had little more effect than to have diminished the liturgy’s capacity for providing heat and light.

Contemporary worship is too often held hostage by caprice (tasteful or tasteless is not the point), by creativity, if you will, but still something not foreseen by legitimate authority.

Among the things which contribute to the crisis of faith among our youth, among those things which contribute to their dismissal of the Sunday obligation to assist at Mass (see the statistics for Mass attendance by young Catholics!) is the absence in what they experience in their parishes and Catholic school settings of an approach to Divine Worship marked by the healthy fear and trembling which time and again brought His disciples to their knees before the Son of Man. Just the other day in an airport waiting lounge I caught a conversation, in the row of seats back to back with me, between two elderly Catholic couples who were miffed at Father for having admonished them to go to confession for having failed to fulfill their Sunday obligation on the day after Christmas! The grounds for their dismissal of Father’s well-meant admonition were that such rules are man-made anyway. This is to my mind a logical conclusion to be drawn from a Sunday service as free-flowing and de-sacralized as they probably experience, as anything on cable TV or to be found in a passing revival tent meeting.

“The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom.”

Apart from this intolerance, I’ve been confronted again and again recently with the reality of how oblivious many priests, religious and laity are to the de-sacralized character of their liturgizing. Jeff Tucker at “The Chant Café” is swarming about all he sees as progress toward the reform of the reform. I wish I could see what he sees. The promotion of the extraordinary form is an encouragement to reforming vernacular liturgy. The hunger of many of the laity for a reformed vernacular liturgy marked by noble simplicity has been and continues to be fostered by encounters with the extraordinary form. My guess is that a more positive attitude by more bishops toward the extraordinary form would go a long way to moving some of the priests toward an examination of conscience concerning their approach to celebration.

Why do some successors to the Apostles seem so unaware of the injustice of the double standard they apply in reacting negatively to requests for Mass in the extraordinary form? If they are unwilling to restore decorum to vernacular worship “cold turkey” for lack of courage or whatever, then the least they could do is recognize and support those among them who seek better.

Tridentine Mass (Sung) All 5 Sundays in Lent

A Sung Tridentine Mass will take place on each Sunday of Lent at
Ta' l-Ibraġ Parish Church dedicated to Mary Immaculate, Mother of the Church. First Mass begins at 16:00 on 13th March. More information about this parish can be found at:

Update on the motu proprio appeal (1)

In less than 3 days, 5800 have signed this appeal and numbers keep growing.

If you haven't signed yet, do so now!!

Let us show our support to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

Pro Tridentina (Malta) endorses this petition.

Godwin Xuereb

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Appeal for the Preservation of the Integrity of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum

I urge you to sign this petition:

Many of you have seen reports on the internet about the expected clarification document for the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. There has been much speculation that the clarification may weaken parts of the motu proprio instead of strengthening the document, which is what we wish for. It has to be stated clearly that the rumours that are appearing on different websites may not be based on fact but, as the clarification document is expected before Easter, it gives us the opportunity to express our desires to our Holy Father that the clarifications strengthen the objectives of the motu proprio.

This petition also gives everyone the opportunity to support the motu proprio in a public way and it is hoped that many thousands of names will be recorded.

Godwin Xuereb

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Un motu proprio per il culto divino

di Andrea Tornielli

Sarà pubblicato nelle prossime settimane un documento di Benedetto XVI che riorganizza le competenze della Congregazione del culto divino affidandole il compito di promuovere una liturgia più fedele alle intenzioni originarie del Concilio Vaticano II, con meno spazi per i cambiamenti arbitrari e per il recupero di una dimensione di maggiore sacralità.

Il documento, che avrà la forma di un motu proprio, è frutto di una lunga gestazione – lo hanno rivisto dal Pontificio consiglio per l’interpretazione dei testi legislativi e gli uffici della Segreteria di Stato – ed è motivato principalmente dal trasferimento della competenza sulle cause matrimoniali alla Rota Romana. Si tratta delle cause cosiddette del «rato ma non consumato», cioè riguardanti il matrimonio avvenuto in chiesa ma non compiutosi per la mancata unione carnale dei due sposi. Sono circa cinquecento casi all’anno, e interessano soprattutto alcuni Paesi asiatici dove ancora esistono i matrimoni combinati con ragazzine in età molto giovane, ma anche i Paesi occidentali per quei casi di impotenza psicologica a compiere l’atto coniugale.

Perdendo questa sezione, che passerà alla Rota, la Congregazione del culto divino di fatto non si occuperà più dei sacramenti e manterrà soltanto la competenza in materia liturgica. Secondo alcune autorevoli indiscrezioni un passaggio del motu proprio di Benedetto XVI potrebbe citare esplicitamente quel «nuovo movimento liturgico» del quale ha parlato in tempi recenti il cardinale Antonio Cañizares Llovera, intervenendo durante il concistoro dello scorso novembre.

Al Giornale, in un’intervista pubblicata alla vigilia dell’ultimo Natale, Cañizares aveva detto: «La riforma liturgica è stata realizzata con molta fretta. C’erano ottime intenzioni e il desiderio di applicare il Vaticano II. Ma c’è stata precipitazione… Il rinnovamento liturgico è stato visto come una ricerca di laboratorio, frutto dell’immaginazione e della creatività, la parola magica di allora».

Il cardinale, che non si era sbilanciato nel parlare di «riforma della riforma», aveva aggiunto: «Quello che vedo assolutamente necessario e urgente, secondo ciò che desidera il Papa, è dar vita a un nuovo, chiaro e vigoroso movimento liturgico in tutta la Chiesa», per porre fine a «deformazioni arbitrarie» e al processo di «secolarizzazione che purtroppo colpisce pure all’interno della Chiesa».

È noto come Ratzinger abbia voluto introdurre nelle liturgie papali gesti significativi ed esemplari: la croce al centro dell’altare, la comunione in ginocchio, il canto gregoriano, lo spazio per il silenzio. Si sa quanto tenga alla bellezza nell’arte sacra e quando consideri importante promuovere l’adorazione eucaristica. La Congregazione del culto divino – che qualcuno vorrebbe anche ribattezzare della sacra liturgia o della divina liturgia – si dovrà quindi occupare di questo nuovo movimento liturgico, anche con l’inaugurazione di una nuova sezione del dicastero dedicata all’arte e alla musica sacra.

Tridentine Mass at Ta’ l-Ibraġ today

Tridentine Mass today at 16:00 at the Parish Church of Ta’ l-Ibraġ.

It is being organised by parishioners not by Pro Tridentina (Malta) to commemorate the feast of St. Paul's Shipwreck in Malta.

Sincere thanks goes to the parish priest Rev. Tony Agius who is the first - and only - parish priest so far in Malta to put into practice the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.