Articles by Revd Fr Christopher Smith

Build Your Faith

On the Recovery of Liturgical Symbolism and Avoiding the Pitfalls of Legalism and Dilettantism

One of the great virtues of many of the younger clergy is that they do seriously want to recover much of the symbolism of the sacred liturgy that has been lost.  After a long winter of iconoclasm, we are seeing once again vestments, vesture, music and art which had fallen into disuse.  Of course, it is one thing to hand on a tradition; quite another to have that tradition interrupted and then try to recover it again.  It is in the latter case that we find ourselves with some difficulty.  Often we learn how to do things by some version of oral tradition: someone we respect tells us that things should be done in a certain manner, and we try to imitate it as such.  But there is a lot of truth in the aphorism: trust but verify.  It was this deference to unverified oral tradition that allegedly led Alfred Hope Patton to insist on the use of absurdly tall birettas at Walsingham, when he was unaware that what he thought was an accurate depiction in art of them was actually a parody. 

The great Roman liturgist Leon Gromier lamented that in his time prelates were discarding things willy-nilly because they did not know why they were instituted in the first place.  In our own time, we should be careful to restore things until we know how they were used in the first place.  I became sensitive to this reality as a young seminarian when I listened to the curmudgeony old canons of the major basilicas in Rome.  They knew all of the minutiae of pre-Vatican II ceremonial and had rejected it as they adopted the reforms.  So when they saw younger clergy doing things in the name of tradition that were not actually done at all, they arguably rightly dismissed them as ignorant and more concerned with externals than the true spirit of the liturgy.

On the one hand, it is true that, where there are no rubrics, but merely ceremonial indications, concern for liturgical decorum can disintegrate into pedantic willfulness.  How many faithful people have been disedified by the nasty ritualistic Syllabus of Errors imparted by haughty young men with more nerve than sense on terrified altar servers and pewsitters!  One can see why Pope Francis very sensibly calls out pharisaical behavior that masks the real point of the liturgy.

On the other hand, though, if we are to recover liturgical symbolism in all its fullness, we should be careful to investigate as much as we can before we attempt to do so.  Otherwise, we can risk devolving into a liturgical dilettantism which invents idiosyncracies as “local custom.”  While local variations across the Catholic orb have always and will continue to exist, I think it important that serious people insist that observing forms which can be appealed to some authority is closer to the communal spirit of the liturgy than just assuming that my own personal oral tradition is how things ought to be done.  It is also important to achieve a welcoming and hospitable environment in churches and sacristies as clergy have more possibilities for travel.  The last thing a visiting cleric wants to do is to go to a church for Mass and get involved in acrimonious debate over minutiae.  But respect for the authorities, and knowledge of them, could be helpful in this regard.

Let me give a few examples: I see constantly in pictures and in person the phenomenon of clerics who love the biretta, (dignum et justum est) but who wear it indoors in procession while in choir.  I have seen this in Anglican churches, churches of the Anglican Ordinariate Use, the Extraordinary Form and Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  Fortescue and Baldeschi call for the biretta to be carried, not worn, in processions indoors by clergy in choir and worn, not carried, by the ministri parati.  Ritual Notesand Anglican Services, the comparable Anglican authorities, carry the same instruction.  Pearcy Deamer’s Parson’s Handbook laments that anyone would employ “foreign headgear” during the divine service at all.  When I have discreetly tried to point this out when being asked about the proper thing to do, I have been assured that I was wrong, that the in house style of name the person or the parish or the seminary or whatever is the only right thing to do.  While none of the books have any authority as such, they do have the weight of tradition.  Should they not be prized over local custom that is in the mind of the beholder? 

Once I was very excited to hear that a group of young levites prevailed for the veil to be restored to the tabernacle of their church.  And then I saw that they had lovingly made a black tabernacle veil.  Would Jesus be offended by being swathed in mourning by men who were anxious to please Him?  Surely not.  But again, should we not also bow to the weight of the accepted authorities in this matter?

Not everyone is familiar with the ins and outs of Nainfa’s Costume of Prelates.  Whether some like it or not, lace is certainly prized by many. But I wonder about the use of the rochet by clergy who have no right to it.  You see priests administering sacraments in a rochet, when before they would have donned a surplice over the rochet to do so, if they had the right to use it at all.  There is a disturbing tendency to say, “Well, the Church is so ugly, let me use anything that is pretty to solemnize the divine services.”  Certainly a noble sentiment, but is obedience to the respected authorities for whom these things were living tradition not better, and more spiritually fruitful, than the sacrifice of praise even in beauty?

Deference to these things marks out the difference between the amateur and the professional.  It also hopefully keeps a sense of order, perspective and charity.  I was once asked my opinion about a particular liturgy which was very lovingly executed by some very well-meaning people.  When I pointed out that I did not understand why certain things were done the way they were (namely, differently than any of the Roman or Anglican authorities who were invoked by those executing the liturgy), I was accused of being mean-spirited and disrespectful, and a promising friendship was compromised on liturgical niceties.  We have carried a very modern spirit of individualism, so easily offended, into the worship space in such a way as to not want to be corrected by anyone.  Is this not even more inimical to the spirit of true common worship than bad taste?

Music is not exempt from these pitfalls either.  The liturgically sound priest and musician combination is rare to find.  So often what happens is a pastiche of “I want it done this way” that has to constantly reinvent itself with every new celebrant or organist.  How often rows have ensued about how the Gradual is to be performed, or the placement of the choir, or the vesture of the cantor!

The struggle to recover as much as we can of our Catholic liturgical tradition is certainly worth the growing pains.  We must avoid the extremes of legalism and dilettantism.  We must always carry forward our work in communion with others, with charity reigning before all else.  But we should also develop a proper deference for, and assiduous study, not only of the texts of liturgical prayers, rubrics and music, but also the ceremonial books which suggest how they might all come together in a beautiful way.  Humility is the most attractive virtue in the celebration of the sacrifice of redemption, and gives a deeper luster to the beauty with which we execute it.         


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Why Divine Worship: The Missal is so Important

Divine Worship: The Missal celebrated in Calgary

All over the English speaking world, priests are receiving copies of Divine Worship: The Missal, produced in a handsome volume by CTS in England.  The most recent edition of the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, Antiphon, is dedicated entirely to the new Missal, and offers very useful commentary for those who want to know why the text is what it is.  It is very much worth a read.

But why is this event so important?

1. Divine Worship: The Missal is the first original missal to come out of the Catholic Church in the Latin Rite since the introduction of the Missale Romanum of Paul VI.  It has been 45 years since a liturgical project of this magnitude has been seen in the West, even though there have been significant revisions in some of the Eastern rite books during that time.

2. The Catholic Church has much experience with the integration of liturgical rites and the spirituality of Eastern communities that have been reintegrated into the obedience of the Apostolic See.  The liturgy of the Personal Ordinariates is the first time the Church has seen the integration of liturgical rites and the spirituality of an ecclesial community that rose as a result of the Protestant Reformation.  It is a significant milestone for ecumenism, and the process by which the juridical structure and the liturgy of groups of Anglicans seeking union with the Holy See can be a template for other reconciliations within the Body of Christ.

3. As a result of continual use within the tradition of the Anglican missals and wider Anglican liturgical tradition in Anglican use, Divine Worship: The Missal, the ordinariate use of the Roman Mass, recovers certain elements of pre-Tridentine liturgy, as well as of the liturgy outside of the use of the Roman Curia.  It demonstrates the possibility of recovery of liturgical notions from before the centralization of Pius V’s Quo primum, restoring within the Western Church a greater plurality of uses than has been had since 1570. 

4. The liturgical reform after Vatican II took place in the days of heady optimism and ferment of the 1960s.  This liturgical project takes place with some distance from that reform.  Those who have been involved in the process know all too well the positive and negative effects of the mid-century liturgical reform, and it seems that they have been taken into consideration here.

5. The new Missal is a powerful exercise in the hermeneutic of continuity.   Although the primary purpose is to preserve the Anglican patrimony, it does integrate elements of the modern Roman Rite.  It is incorrect to say that this new liturgy is a throwback to something previous.  But it also recovers elements from the pre-reformed Western ritual tradition in a harmonious way.  It integrates things that will be familiar to Catholics who worship according to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but also insofar as those things are complemented by pre-Tridentine aspects as well as those which made their way into Anglican sources like the English Missal tradition.  The new book finds itself drawing from the previous tradition in ways which are not contradictory to the general outline and principles of the modern Roman Rite. 

6. Divine Worship: The Missal is clearly the fruit of Pope Benedict XVI’s liturgical, ecclesiological and ecumenical vision to preserve the Anglican patrimony.  In this respect, prescinding from the obvious integration of classically Anglican texts into the Ordinary of the Mass, it could provide a template for a Reform of the Roman Rite in continuity with the tradition which goes beyond aesthetics and ceremonial details all the way to officially approved liturgical texts.

I think for these six reasons alone, the publication and implementation of Divine Worship: The Missal should be interesting to all liturgically minded folk, and should be positively celebrated by those of us who have made the Benedictine liturgical vision the cornerstone of our pastoral practice and ecclesial spirituality.

At the same time though, I do have some considerations about what else needs to be done, and what the potential pitfalls might be with this new Missal.

1. There will be a massive need for liturgical formation of the faithful and clergy, not only of the Personal Ordinariates, but within the Roman Rite as well, of the reasoning behind the choices made which resulted in the book as it is.  The careful process of discernment that resulted in the book has been admirable.  That process has to now be accessible to those who will worship according to it.  It is devoutly to be wished that a critical edition of the Missal outlining the sources for each prayer, rubric and document be made available to scholars and congregants alike.  There will be a great need for a beautifully produced hand missal that can provide a profound, accessible and succinct catechesis to accompany the introduction of the Rite.

2. There is not a highly developed ceremonial accompanying the book, reflecting perhaps a similar lack in the modern Roman Rite.  Will a version of The Parson’s Handbook, Ritual Notes, or Anglican Services follow the publication of the Missal?  Even if it is in no way prescriptive, access to such a document would help to unify the sometimes bewilderingly diverse practices across Ordinariate communities and create a more unified sense of style that will in turn help form a cohesive identity.  The ceremonial presupposes rubrics in a traditional direction, whilst also admitting, for pastoral reasons within a given community, the possibility of celebration in a manner more closely conformed to the present iteration of General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

3. It is clear that Divine Worship: The Missal is the liturgy proper to the Ordinariates.  One must ask the question whether the continued use of the modern Roman Rite in the communities of the Personal Ordinariates makes sense, since there is no need for a separate community to celebrate the Roman Mass with non-textual elements of the Anglican patrimony, which can be done anyway.  On the other hand, if priests of the Roman Rite can celebrate the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite for those who request it, will this new Missal be restricted to the communities of the Ordinariate, and if so, why?  Could it not profitably find a home even in other places in the Catholic Church, thus giving the Anglican patrimony a home in the heart of the Church and not exclusively in small communities circumscribed by the Anglican tradition?

4. Could greater access to the Anglican Ordinariate use even outside the communities established for that reason not be a boon for mutual enrichment?  Should the modern Roman Rite be forced into a position where another form of the Rite cannot influence it at all? 

I say this because I see ample opportunity for growth outside of the confines of the Personal Ordinariate, although it is clear that the new liturgy is proper to it.  To make a parallel, the communities answerable to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei have the right to exclusive use of the 1962 Missal.  But, as we know, the Extraordinary Form is alive and well outside those communities, who have not suffered because of its availability elsewhere, and the two forms of the Roman Mass can coexist peacefully even in the same parish.  I even have been told that there are parishes which have the three formsof the Roman Rite.  Why should there not be more, where there is a desire on the part of the faithful or for the spiritual good of the priest celebrant to have it?

The Church has made a careful and beautiful discernment of what parts of the Anglican patrimony can be united without being absorbed into the Catholic Church and in her Roman liturgical tradition.  Can we safely assume that the Spirit who worked to bring this marvel about could also work wonders unthought of if this patrimony is unleashed in the heart of the Church?   

To learn more check out these links:

The FAQ Sheet from the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter
A video of Archbishop DiNoia and commentary     

An interview with Mgr Jeffrey Steenson about the new Missal
Website of the Principal Church of the Ordinariate in the United States 
Pictures from around the UK Ordinariate 
Fr James Bradley’s excellent resume of Anglican Patrimony and the Missal
Check out the photos of the new liturgy at St John’s Calgary
The good people at the Ordinariate community in Greenville, SC, my neck of the woods

Build Your Faith

Let’s Revisit "Praise and Worship Music is Praise But Not Worship"

Most articles in the blogosphere have a very short shelf life, which is why I am quite surprised that an article I posted on Chant Café on 2 June 2011 keeps reappearing on blogs and in my social media newsfeeds every so often.  Why Praise and Worship Music is Praise and Not Worship seems to keep being resurrected, which I can only surmise because the discussion it continues to elicit is still quite relevant, and the questions it raises have not been answered to everyone’s satisfaction.  What’s more, following the comments on social media on the article has been very interesting, and I think telling about where we are now with regards to the situation of praise and worship music in liturgy.  Perhaps a revisit is in order.

The article has three main components. In the first part, I share my own experience with a particular use of praise and worship, the Lifeteen Mass, which was twenty years ago now, and how it caused me to reflect at the time and now on its appropriateness for the sacred liturgy. What I have found most interesting is that the most negative reactions I have come across to the article tend to parse this first section and then ignore the other two. My response to this is the following: My experience is obviously not going to be the experience of everyone; some will resonate with that experience and others will not. That’s why it is a personal reflection. I am delighted to read that there are those who have not had anything like the experience that I had with Lifeteen. I am also dismayed to read that, twenty years later, some people are having exactly the same experience I have had. I am told that the organization Lifeteen itself has repudiated many of the abusive liturgical practices which made my exposure to it so distressing, and that the guidance of Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix has been exemplary in this regard. I rejoice that this is the case. Surely it is in some way testimony to how Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s rich theology of the liturgy is finding its way into the Church’s life. I am also aware that there are a significant number of priests, seminarians and committed young lay faithful who credit Lifeteen and similar initiatives as powerful in their formation as Catholics.  All of that is to the good.  And none of that invalidates my experience, any more than it invalidates the experience of those whose history with these initiatives is entirely different than my own.
Yet, this is exactly the neuralgic point with taking experience as a locus for deciding how the Church should pray the sacred liturgy.  One of the main points of the article is that we have effectively reversed what we are supposed to be doing in the liturgy: if praise is something we offer to God, then however we may seek to praise Him with a sincere heart is certainly an oblation pleasing to God. But worship is not something we offer to God, when it comes to the Mass.  The Mass is the self-offering of Jesus to the Father in the Holy Spirit. Our participation in the Mass is not constructing this event under a ritual form which we find meaningful; it is a liturgical and sacramental surrendering of ourselves to the action of the sacrifice. The Mass is something Christ does in us, in that sense.
The most virulent criticisms of the article center around the pronoun “I”. I do not like what the article says because I do not feel it to be consonant with my feelings, and so I reject the idea that praise and worship is inconsistent with the theocentric, and not anthropcentric, objective of the liturgy. The injection of the subjective as the principal criterion by which many have come to evaluate their appreciation of the liturgy has led precisely to the idea that, because I like it, it must be right. A predilection for Gregorian chant, Latin, or the treasury of sacred music is then demoted from its status of connaturality with the Roman liturgy, which is supported by Sacrosanctum conciliumand Musicam sacram, to a mere option in exercising one’s preference.
The second part of the article records eleven observations about the inappropriateness of praise and worship music for the sacred liturgy.  I would like to list them here:
  1. P&W music assumes that praise is worship.
  2. P&W music assumes that worship is principally something we do.
  3. P&W music assumes as its first principle relevance.
  4. P&W music assumes as its second principle the active participation of a certain age group.
  5. P&W music self-consciously divides the Church into age and taste groups.
  6. P&W music subverts Biblical and liturgical texts during the Mass.
  7. P&W music assumes that there can be a core of orthodox Catholic teaching independent of the Church’s liturgical law and tradition.
  8. P&W music consciously manipulates the emotions so as to produce a catharsis seen as necessary for spiritual conversion.
  9. P&W music confuses transcendence with feeling.
  10. P&W music denies the force of liturgical and musical law in the Church in favour of arbitrary and individualist interpretations of worship.
  11. P&W music prizes immediacy of comprehension and artistic ease over the many-layered meaning of the liturgy and artistic excellence.

As soon as we enshrine the principle of subjectivity in the realm of liturgical music, it is hard to see how we can avoid a situation in which our worship is balkanized along taste fault lines.  The very fact that the discussion over the article remains acrimonious is because we have not moved past that principle, and in fact, as long as we are stuck there, we won’t. It is important to note that nowhere in the article do I state that the music which has grown up in the Praise & Worship milieu has no place in the life of the Church.  But that is different than saying it should be in the Mass.
If we take Mass to be something that we do to “attract” people to God, then it makes sense to craft an experience which corresponds to what they feel they need in order to commune with God.  But, if we truly understand that the Mass is not that, then another set of concerns comes to the fore.
The assumption that praise and worship music is appropriate at Mass because the people who make the music are sincere and the lyrics are about sacred things does not make it sacred music appropriate for the liturgy. The mind of the Church in this matter is very clear, in her documents.  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Sacrosanctum concilium and Musicam sacram all point to a different set of concerns about the choice of music at Mass.
Namely, the sacred liturgy is something which we are given, not something we create. If we are to sing the Holy Mass, rather than sing at Holy Mass, we must sing the actual texts of the Mass: in the first instance, the Ordinary of the Mass; and in the second instance, the Propers of the Mass. The concern over the texts given to us is matched by a clear predilection for certain things in the music at Mass: Latin, Gregorian chant, and music free of vulgar or popular associations are all mentioned specifically in the documents. The issue is not the date of composition of the music, it is its dignity for the sacred liturgy.  While it may indeed be the case that there are places where there are great numbers of people who “like” praise and worship music at Mass, it is not as self-evident that the documents of the Church, which express the mind of the Church on the sacred liturgy, in any way support the subversion of the liturgy by the criteria of relevance, numbers, or comfort.
The witness of many seminarians and young priests bears this point fruitfully. I have come across numerous budding levites who were formed in the praise and worship mentality, many of whom because there was nothing else their parishes was offering them. Many of them remain grateful for what they received, because it was something that connected them to their faith.  And many of them also, either upon entering the seminary or at some point before or after, actually started to read the documents of the Church which spell out the expectations of the Church on sacred liturgy and music, as well as sound liturgical theology.  Many of them retain an affection for the music of their Catholic adolescence, but their perspective has been broadened and formed by something much deeper. They understand that the people in the pews they have just traded in for the sanctuary are often far from that full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy as the Church envisions it in her documents. And they also want to bring those same people to it. The big question for them, and for many of us in pastoral ministry is, how do we bridge the gap?
So let us keep in mind the eleven things I mentioned in the third part of the article:
  1. The Church’s musical and liturgical tradition is an integral part of worship, and not a fancy addition.
  2. While Praise is a high form of individual and small group prayer, it is not Worship as the Church understands the corporate public prayer of the Liturgy.
  3. Worship is not principally something that we do: it is the self-offering of Jesus Christ to the Father in the Holy Spirit, the fruits of which are received in Holy Communion. Worship is Sacrifice and Sacrament, not Praise.  
  4. Relevance is irrelevant to a liturgy which seeks to bring man outside of space and time to the Eternal.
  5. Participation in the liturgy is principally interior, by the union of the soul with the Christ who celebrates the liturgy. Any externalizations of that interior participation are meaningless unless that interior participation is there.
  6. The Church’s treasury of sacred music is not the province of one social-economic, age, cultural, or even religious group. It is the common patrimony of humanity and history.
  7. The Church must sing the Mass, i.e., the biblical and liturgical texts contained in the Missal and Gradual, and not sing at Mass man-made songs, if it is to be the corporate Worship of the Church and not just Praise designed by a select group of people.
  8. Orthodox Catholic teaching on faith and morals must always be accompanied by respect for the Church’s liturgical and musical teaching and laws.
  9. The deliberate intention to manipulate human emotions to produce a religious effect is abusive, insincere, and disrespectful of God’s power to bring about conversion in the hearts of man.
  10. While music does affect the emotions, sacred music must always be careful to prefer the transcendent holiness of God over the immanent emotional needs of man.
  11. The Church’s treasury of sacred music inspires and requires the highest attention to artistic excellence. It is also an unfathomable gift to the Church, and must be presented to the faithful so that they may enjoy that rich gift. 

When I wrote this article in 2011, I was a doctoral student without the care of souls. I could afford a more theoretical and speculative look into this question, and did so against the background of my own experience.  At this writing, I am pastor of a church which in many ways is like any other parish in the country: filled with people searching for God, and for love, wanting to bring others searching for the same thing into the House of God. Every time I ascend the altar for the Sacrifice of Redemption surrounded by my amazing flock, I know that it is nothing that we do which will bring that about. It is all a grace, it all is the work of God. If we celebrate the sacred mysteries as the Church gives them to us, in the beauty of holiness, then God will use that, and not our creativity, to work out His purpose in the world. And it is precisely there that the most creative work happens.

Build Your Faith

Mutual Enrichment and the Coexistence of Varying Models of Liturgy in the Church

Peter Kwasniewski has a fascinating article at the New Liturgical Movement  called The Ironic Outcome of the Benedictine-Jesuit Controversy.  In it, he refers to a series of articles by Dom Mark Kirby of Silverstream Priory in Ireland.  I think that these articles are very much worthy of reflection, and that they may provide both a key to interpreting some of the liturgical battles of today, as well as provide a necessary tonic or corrective to some of the more extreme reactions in those battles.

The central thesis is this: A “Benedictine” liturgical model, inspired by monastic life and the classical liturgical movement, views the liturgy as the source and summit of Christian life.  A “Jesuit” liturgical model, in contrast, presents the liturgy as “one among many tools of personal spiritual growth, with private meditation having a certain pride of place.”  Today, after the Liturgical Reform, we have seen a meeting of the two models which underscores the capital importance of the liturgy, but a liturgy which is intensely personal and subjective in its actual execution. 

The merit of this thesis is that it looks at the history of spirituality and its relationship to the liturgy and provides a useful intuition.  Ancient and medieval spirituality was very much centered on the communal celebration of a liturgy which, although it was not entirely without organic development, was perceived as something “received.”  Its communal aspect became apparent in the tradition of the choral office and conventual Mass, cathedral liturgies and canonical ceremonial.  The piety of the laity was often centered in some way around, or inspired by the liturgy.  The devotio moderna in the late medieval period, as it focused increasingly on the humanity of Christ, and less the Kyrios of glory, took a turn to the more intimate, private and devotional.  Spirituality in this vein became less anchored to the liturgy and more intensely individualistic.  The monastic and mendicant model remained to a large degree liturgical, while the newer model become more devotional.

By the time the Society of Jesus and the new clerical associations of the Catholic Reformation came around, this later model of spirituality had already coexisted with the former for some time.  There were certainly points of contact, but new religious orders like the Jesuits dispensed with choral office and communal liturgical experience.  They did so in part because of the demands of the apostolate of the time, and in response to new models of evangelization and mission.  It is certainly understandable why it would be easier to transplant Low Mass and a rich devotional and processional life to the Americas as mission territory rather than attempting to transfer the entire liturgical culture of Sarum!

Interestingly enough, the history of religious orders in the Tridentine period indicate that, for monastics and mendicants, the new orders and for the laity, the devotional Catholicism of the modern school triumphed over the liturgical ethos of antiquity and the medieval period.  Even the most famous monastic congregations lived through a period of liturgical decadence in which their interior life was often rarely indistinguishable from the Jesuits who worked in the same towns. 

The ravages of the Enlightenment, after all of the unrest of the Wars of Religion, produced a spiritual hunger that yearned for community and antiquity, but in a very individualistic and modern fashion.  The refounding of Benedictine monastic life by Prosper Gueranger and friends in 19th century France could not have happened at any other time.  While an attempt to recreate a glorious Christendom of old that had been lost, the recreation itself was an exercise in Romanticism, and it is debatable as to exactly how much Solesmes really had in common with abbeys of ages past.  But, the Solesmes project (and similar ventures like Lacordaire’s refounding of the Dominicans) responded to a need.  It was extraordinarily successful, and it succeeded in re-establishing the sacred liturgy in its own right as source and summit of Christian life, and indeed, as the hope for the renewal of society.  That was the vision that moved people as diverse as LeMaistre and Pugin, from politics to parapets.

The nascent liturgical movement was undoubtedly influenced by a Romantic vision of the early Church, and was in its own way motivated by the very modern preoccupation for relevance: how can the Church, through her public witness of prayer and spiritual life, renew men’s lives and our whole world? 

As is well known, however, the Liturgical Movement came to a crossroads.  Do those of us formed in the liturgy go about the laborious task of educating others to reach the level of the liturgy, or do we simplify the liturgy to make it more accessible to the people?  This bifurcation produced a divergence between what was going on in monastic centers like Beuron and Solesmes and what was happening in parishes and youth groups under leaders such as Pius Parsch and Romano Guardini.  All the while, though, a not insignificant part of the Church was still living according to a liturgical and spiritual culture that could be described as Ignatian, in which the liturgy was one means among many for union with God.

Kwasniewski points out that, on paper, the Benedictine liturgical vision prevailed, during the time period from St Pius X to Mediator Dei.  There is a second period, though, from the 1948 encyclical to the 1970 Missal, where several currents of thought came together. 

What are those currents of thought?  1. The centrality of the liturgy praised by the classical monastic sources of the liturgical movement, 2. the pastoral orientation of a second moment of that movement which sought out the change of exterior forms of the liturgy for supposed greater accessibility by the laity, 3. as well as an Ignatian predilection for the individual, devotional and subjective.

That first current of thought seems to be the motivating principle behind most of the liturgical Magisterium of the Church in the 20thcentury and today, whether we are talking about Tra le sollecitudini, Mediator Dei, Sacrosanctum concilium, or Redemptionis sacramentum.  But that lives in tension, and some might say, opposition, to the way the second current of thought prevailed in the production of the Novus Ordo Missaeand how the third current of thought conditioned the reception of the reformed liturgy.

Ascertaining what current of thought prevails can help us understand why people react the way they do about matters liturgical.  Those who argue for the retention of the classical Roman tradition, whether they be SSPX adherents or the people who have been inspired by Sacrosanctum con cilium and the liturgical theology of Ratzinger and Gamber, all have the first school as their fundamental principle.  The second school is behind movements as various as Reform of the Reform to the original set of ideas behind the foundation of the Society for Catholic Liturgy in the United States.  The third school is behind some of the calls for greater experimentation and inculturation, such as the work of Keith Pecklers and Piero Marini.

The great influence of three very different schools of thought on the liturgy have led Kwasniesi to posit:

The legacy of the post-conciliar reform is a Benedictine insistence on the primacy of liturgy, fused with a Jesuitized re-conception of liturgy as collective private devotion. It is as if new Jesuit wine has been poured into old Benedictine wineskins, causing them to rupture. The moment of triumph was the moment of disaster, as the very notion of a rite—a formal ritualized act of common worship based on a common orthodox tradition—gave way to a pluralistic, relaxed, malleable, and privatized praxis of variations on a more or less Catholic theme. In short, the Consilium’s exploitation of Sacrosanctum Concilium left us with a volatile mixture that makes genuine reform today much more difficult.      

This is a bold claim, and one which I think needs to be examined more closely.  It removes the discussion of the liturgical reform away from hackneyed labels of liberal vs. conservative, and also removes it from the thorny question of hermeneutics of continuity vs. rupture vis-à-vis Vatican II.  This claim instead relocates the debate within the history of Christian spirituality, and within a broader historical context.

Now, that having been said, to the extent that one of the aforementioned three schools rises to prominence, it is clear that reaction ensues.  But the reactions have tended to be expressed in terms of fear: fear that the uniqueness of the historical liturgical tradition of the Church will be lost, fear that Vatican II and the liturgical reform is in danger of being undone by reactionaries plotting to usher a kingdom of pharisaical rubricist status quo ante, fear that all of these liturgical battles are losing sight of what is truly important and central to our Christian faith.

Those reactions may partly explain certain phenomena we have seen in the contemporary Church.  What provokes bloggers to pour out sheer vitriol whenever they see a picture of a prelate in a cappa magna?  To the extent that an observer is immersed in the third school as opposed to the first and second, they react accordingly.  What provokes someone to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite but refuse on principle to attend a celebration of the Ordinary Form?  To the extent that she is plunged into the first school as opposed to the second and third, she makes choices as to where to go to Mass.

Yet these reactions, these growing phenomena, are not limited to comboxes and where individuals choose to attend Mass.  They are being translated into absolutes, and are dictating policy and teaching. 

Under the reign of Pope Benedict XVI, and to a lesser degree, St John Paul II, Rome expressed a clear predilection of teaching based on the intuition of the first school that the liturgy was the source and summit of Christian life and is something received by the Church.  That teaching did not entirely exclude aspects of the other two schools.  The fact that Summorum pontificum was not an express repudiation of the liturgical reform is evidence of influence of the second school, of a pastoral orientation to the liturgy which recognizes the possibility of change.  The fact that even the liturgical experimentation of groups such as the Neocatechumenal Way were not entirely quashed is evidence of the influence of the third school.  The “Benedictine” model of liturgy, re-elaborated in our time by Benedict XVI, was a call to the essential insight of Vatican II that the liturgy is the source and summit of Christian life.  That this model was not imposed by legislative fiat was a recognition that this vision has not reached every cell of the Church’s life, and that the liturgical battles had to come to and end before this model could be peacefully received.  It was a sign of hope that the renewal of the Church promised by Vatican II, the new Pentecost, would be a fruit of the Spirit, and not merely the fruit of another papal document.

Now, though, we are living in a different time.  Pope Francis clearly manifests a certain predilection, as a good Jesuit, for the third school of thought, one which is influenced by the devotio moderna, the Ignatian tradition, and his experience as a pastor in Argentina.  Liturgy does not seem to be central to his thought, but neither it is it entirely absent from it either.  His constant calls for a purification from pharisaical tendencies or the desire to reduce the liturgy (and morality) to just another set of rules can serve as a necessary corrective to a temptation to formalism that the first school of thought risks.   

There can be more points of contact between the thought of the last two Popes than may seem evident at first glance, when we examine them from the relative influence of the three strains of thought.  At the same time, though, reactions driven by fear are also impelling decisions to be made which reflect a desire to exclude one or other of the schools of thought.

After a brief period of freedom in which the Extraordinary Form was allowed to flourish as a normal part of the life of the Church, there are signs of regression.  Rectories and seminaries are often abuzz with fears that priests and seminarians who have tried to make the Benedictine vision the model for their lives and their parishes will be ostracized or prohibited from doing so.  There are those who have already forbidden priests and seminarians from learning or celebrating the Extraordinary Form, or according to principles of liturgical theology which inculcate Reform of the Reform ideas.

It is hard to see how this will contribute to a more fruitful experience of ecclesiastical or priestly communion in the life of the Church.  Will the third school of thought impose its will all over the life of the Church, practically or expressly prohibiting discussion and practice of the liturgy according to the mind of the first two schools, and especially the first one?

It is yet another fear, and reactions are ensuing from that fear, but it is there.

Benedict XVI had hope that the celebration of the two forms of the Roman Rite would lead to mutual enrichment, and a corresponding renewal in the life of the Church.  Much ink has been spilled on promoting or proscribing one form or another of the rite.  I am beginning to wonder whether we need to examine, not which form is better or worse, but what lines of thought are driving the way we think about and execute the sacred liturgy, and whether, if they are allowed peacefully to coexist along side each other, that a true synthesis may emerge, one not forced by the work of human hands, but by the action of the Holy Spirit.         

Build Your Faith

Saints John XXIII and John Paul II: A Roman Seminarian Recounts

3 September 2000, the day that John XXIII (and Pius IX) were beatified, was also the day that I entered the seminary.  That might not seem of much significance to my reader, but it was to me.  Il papa buono was the last Pope alumnus in a long line of saints, popes and prelates to be ordained from the Pontifical Roman Major Seminary, the house of formation where my Bishop sent me.  As an American in an overwhelmingly Italian house, I was caught up into the euphoria that marked the event.  As Providence would have it, I was finishing up my time in the seminary just as John Paul II “returned to the house of the Father” as it was said, and Josef Ratzinger became his successor as Benedict XVI.  My seminary career began with a papal beatification and ended with a papal funeral, election and inauguration, and my time there would be significantly marked by all three men.

Before I went off to the seminary, I had read just about everything I could get my hands on, written by anybody who had never had an unpublished thought, on Vatican II.  The John XXIII that I carried into the seminary with me was a split one: the enfant terrible who sang a new Church into being and became the icon of progressive Catholics in saecula saeculorum; and the eminence grise who betrayed the true tradition of the Church and ushered the Trojan Horse into the City of God.  You can imagine how perplexed I was when I carried these two ideologized portraits of the Bergamasch pontiff into the seminary, and there encountered a very different John XXIII.

My first days in the seminary were a profound introduction to how the Roman clergy saw their Papa Giovanni.  Even though he was not a native Roman, when he went to the papal seminary, he underwent a thorough Romanization.  He might not have been un romano di Roma, but he certainly became a Roman di core.

As we left the beatification for the summer villa of Roccantica, where I used the same shower that legend said John XIII had used as a seminarian (and to my horror, it wasn’t all that different than it would have been 100 years before), I started to read his Journal of a Soul.  As I read it, and through the years that I talked with so many cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laypeople who knew him, I came across a very different man that what I had read about in those conservative vs. liberal English books about him and the conciliar period.

The first thing that struck me was that John XXIII had a deep devotion to the patroness of the seminary, Our Lady under the title of the Madonna della Fiducia, Our Lady of Confidence.  The original image of Our Lady, which had painted by a Poor Clare nun and made its way into the seminary in the 17th century, was in a small chapel, where seminarians consecrate themselves to her, to be her priests in the world.  We alumni take holy cards and immaginette of her wherever we go, and the first thing we do in going back to visit alma mater is to visit her image and sing the seminary hymn composed by the man later known as Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, O Maria, quant’é felice, chi ti sceglie a tua regina!  John XXIII had this image on his bedside, at his desk, and it always accompanied him.

So why is this image so important?  In it, the Child Jesus with a chubby little finger points to Mary: if He can have confidence in her, so can we.  And so the pious aspiration that all of us alumni say repeatedly throughout the day and at the end of the Divine Office, made sense: Mater mea, fiducia mea.  The lessons of the Fiducia are simple, but guided John XXIII as he guided the Church: remain faithful priests to the Eucharistic King, Our Lady and the Holy Father, and have confidence that all will be well.

For some people, John XXIII was a naïve optimist who did not know what he was doing opening the windows of the Church to the world.  But for the Romans formed so close to the heart of the Church, and to the throne of the Fisherman, the idea was that all of us, from Pope to lowliest curate, had to be good solid priests and love our people, and Our Lady would make sure that all would be well. 

The Romanità that John XXIII showed extended to everything.  He remained first and foremost a priest, even despite his career as a diplomat.  He cared about people, real people, and wanted to bring them to Our Lord.  For him, that meant that he was just as willing to dialogue with the enemies of the Church as Don Camillo was with Peppone, all the while sure that Our Lady would win the conversion of their hearts.  There was no need to hurl denunciations at people, because he had confidence that just being a good Christian and a good priest, and the intercession of Confidence, could win hearts over to Truth.

That Romanità also formed the young Angelo Roncalli in his attitude towards the sacred litiurgy and popular piety.  I have yet to come across any indications that he was a liturgical revolutionary.  He could not have helped but be schooled as a seminarian in the Roman basilica tradition à façon de Carlo Respighi.  He loved the ceremonies and the prayers of the Church, and for him, all of the pomp and circumstance of the papal liturgy was not dead vestiges of an imperial past, but the continuation of a glorious Roman tradition.  Roma felix had no need of puritanical iconoclasm to shed the papal liturgy of its “imperial trappings” because by John XXIII, they had already been transformed interiorly into pomp and splendor of the King of Kings.  Even the changes that happened under his reign, such as the new Good Friday prayer for the Jews and the 1960 breviary, were motivated less from new ideas about liturgics than his desire to be nice to people and not burden them.  And he still lengthened the cappa magna back from the attenuated length that the author of Mediator Deihad cut it, a factoid that the propagandists of “John XXIII: Liturgical Revolutionary” are at sixes and sevens to explain.

All of this Johannine spirit was part of the received tradition of priestly formation in my seminary, and the powerful example of John Paul II, who was such an example of courage, faithfulness and Marian devotion, made it all very contemporary.  Every year John Paull II came for the celebrations of the Fiducia.  Evey year he stayed to hear the seminary and the diocesan choir under the direction of Msgr Marco Frisina sing a newly composed oratorio.  We all gathered in the sala del trono and one by one each year, were introduced to the Holy Father.  We served his Masses frequently, and I admit I was always rendered speechless in his presence, as holiness radiated from him.  We watched as John Paul II battled illness, and declined, giving an incomparable witness to the Gospel of Life. 

I know that there are those who question the prudence of canonizing these two popes so close after their death, and there are indeed those who are convinced this is all about canonizing Vatican II (or a certain hermeneutic of Vatican II) more than anything else.  But these two Popes had a strong influence on me personally.  Their witness gave me a love for the Roman Church and a burning desire for evangelization and mission.  In their way, they prepared me also for being a priest under the reigns of Benedict XVI and Francis.  Although by temperament and interest I am much closer to the Bavarian Pope than any of the rest of them, and I am always proud to be considered a priest of the Benedict XVI generation, I also welcome Francis’ desire to bring the Faith to those in the margins.  Now, how I may do so, it might be clothed in the glorious raiment of Romanità, with the piety of John, the courage of John Paul and the precision and sensitivity of Benedict, or at least I would hope for it to be.  But either way, the Church rejoices that John XXIII and John Paul II are models of virtue and sanctity.  And in a world in which there is such a lack of goodness and faithfulness, I for one rejoice that, in my life, I have had such models in these men.  May I, and all of my brother priests today, have a portion of their spirit.  Mater mea, fiducia mea! 

Build Your Faith

Is the Reform of the Reform Dead?

Peter Kwasniewski over at NLM has given a good synopsis of a flurry of articles in recent weeks which have predicted the end of the “Reform of the Reform.”  Voices have been raised in the past year since Pope Benedict’s abdication prophesying the end of the Benedictine liturgical vision because of what seems to them to be an antipathy to such ideas on the part of Pope Francis.  Others, though, who have been widely known for their ROTR advocacy, are now themselves saying that such a reform is useless.  Why all of a sudden are these articles provoking thoughtful discussions, and what are the possibilities for the future?

Re-evaluating the Original Reform

Up until fairly recently, the bulk of the advocates of the ROTR have taken the books of the Liturgical Reform and the documents of the Roman Curia and national episcopal conferences, not to mention Sacrosanctum concilium, at face value.  Many of the original ROTR ideas have as their departure point these texts.  There are many reasons for this.  Some have argued that, because these documents have been produced by legitimate authority, it is essentially useless to work against them.  To do so would be evidence of disloyalty at the best and schismatic dissent at worst.  Others have argued, more pragmatically, that, because the vast majority of Catholics now worship according to the modern Roman liturgy, any liturgical discussion has to begin from and work within that framework.  Also, the often invoked and also often caricatured spirit of resistance of the traditionalist Catholic world led many of the ROTR crowd to deliberately avoid any discussion of the Pian Missal as such, to avoid getting bogged down in what they saw as essentially quixotic and eccentric concerns.

            But as ROTR thinkers delve deeply into the actual texts of the liturgical reform, as well as the now readily available historical accounts of the reform (Bugnini, P. Marini and Card. Antonelli being the most widely read of these), a more complex picture of the reform has come to the fore.  As more and more people begin to deal with the actual process by which the reform was conceived and implemented, and the principles that guided all of those decisions, more and more questions have come up as to whether process and principles were up to the task of producing the reform actually envisioned by SC 4 and 25: “that the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition” and “as soon as possible.” 

            This has led to a very simple question: was the so-called Missal of 1965 not the legitimate incarnation of the revision of the Roman Rite as conceived by the Bishops who voted on SC, which begs the question of why the Missa Normativa, which became the Missal of Paul VI, was necessary in the first place, especially when its own architects and proponents, at the time, made clear that it was really a new rite.

            The rather difficult to sustain position of some the early voices associated with the ROTR, that the two expressions of the Missal were really not all that much different from each other, and that the divergences were really more cosmetic than anything else, may have prompted some of the early ROTR thought to not delve deeply into the actual history of the reform.  But as that history becomes clearer and more accessible, that position has been more and more abandoned as untenable.

            All of this has brought some ROTR thinkers to go beyond the extant texts of the reform to how the reform was brought about, and that has unsettled many of them from an earlier position of relative ease with the reformed books.

The Futility of the Letter vs. Spirit Dichotomy

Many of the ROTR advocates loudly argued that we must return to the letter of the Council documents and of every jot and tittle written down by the legitimate authorities which produced the documents surrounding the reform.  The idea was that the “spirit of Vatican II” was at best a chimera, which had derailed authentic reform.  To anchor the spirit back to the letter of the liturgical books and documents, they assured us, would usher in the age of liturgical renewal that the Council Fathers really wanted.  A monumental work of catechesis and education has been done by many leaders of the ROTR, particularly in parishes where clergy and laypeople formed in the school of thought worked.  How many parishes have gone about the difficult work to read the documents, and fashion their liturgical and catechetical lives according to those texts?  Obviously not all of them, but increasingly more of them.

            But there are three problems with this.  First of all, the sheer amount of verbiage surrounding all of the reforms is so immense, that it is difficult to even locate all of it, much less analyze it and present it to the faithful in such a way for it to take root and be fruitful at the level of parishes and seminary formation.  Furthermore, the more that one delves into these things, the more that one notices the contradictions that come up between documents, and then the person interpreting them is left with the herculean task of trying to evaluate which words have priority, and who establishes the priority.  This alone has produced a dizzying array of differing opinions within the ROTR world as to what the sacred liturgy should really look, feel and sound like.

            Second, the reality of our ecclesiastical life is that what many of our parishioners experience in their parishes as the fruit of Vatican II is nothing like anything proposed by the ROTR advocates.  As soon as a priest in a parish begins to implement these notions, no small amount of struggle invariably ensues.  Parishes are divided, and the consumer mentality has taken over, with parishioners decamping to parishes where they feel comfortable.  While veritable oases of ROTR liturgy have been created because of this, it has at the same time contributed to a further balkanization of Catholics along lines which critics of the ROTR are quick to deem ideological.

            Third, there are many Catholics, intent on describing themselves as orthodox and faithful, whose idea of the Roman Primacy and the authority of the Church over the sacred liturgy does not reflect the theology of the Church in any century.  This exaggerated ultramontanism, whose roots most certainly cannot be found in the Magisterium of John Paul II, Benedict XVI or Francis, or Vatican II, has poured out no small amount of invective against those who uphold the actual texts of the reform when they come into conflict with abuses of authority.  This pietistic and simplistic notion of obedience has frustrated the advance of many ROTR and traditionalist ideas among ordinary Catholics, by painting them with the hue of rebellion.  It also provides for an untenable situation in which priests and people are expected to thoughtlessly obey what has actually been conceived of in terms of revolt against the authority of the Church!  Unscrupulous detractors against the ROTR have capitalized on this phenomenon to effectively quash the implementation of ROTR ideas in parishes, religious communities and seminaries.

            In short, the dichotomy between letter vs. spirit has sent many ROTR thinkers to assess the spirit behind the letter of the reform as well!

Aesthetic Accidentalism vs. Substantial Liturgical Theology

There is not always agreement among ROTR advocates as to what should be part of the reform.  Inspiring themselves from the letter of the texts, many have argued for certain practices, like the restoration of Latin, ad orientem celebration and Gregorian chant.  While all of this is certainly laudable, the question becomes controverted whether these things are accidental or substantial, to both the liturgy in and of itself, and to the reform.  Often practices have been encouraged because of their aesthetic value, which, while important, then highlights the cognitive disconnect between their presence in the liturgy and the spirit behind the reform itself (one thinks of the use of orchestral Masses at the Novus Ordo, for example).  When they are presented as aesthetic additions to the Mass, they are then caught up in questions of taste, or inculturation.  And in turn they provide the pretext for adoption or rejection, based, not on their intrinsic value or propriety for worship, but their cultural context. 

            It appears that there are many ROTR thinkers who want to go beyond the aesthetic to a more rigorous application of the insights of liturgical theology to the actual practice of the liturgy.  But many are finding that, when they do so, it brings them up against the need to evaluate the way the liturgical reform was carried out.  It eventually has to be asked, why spend the time investing in the aesthetic and the accidental, when certain options enshrined in the rite itself, and not just appropriated by whimsy, can be employed in such a way as to work against both aesthetic sense and theological appropriateness.

The Fruits of Summorum Pontificum

When ROTR ideas started to gain more visibility in the 1990s, the Tridentine Mass was, in most places, a marginalized underground niche often associated with certain curious characters whose love for the Church was questioned.  Summorum pontificum brought the Mass out of its ghetto and inserted it into the mainstream of the Church’s life.  Pope Benedict’s assertion that “what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot all of a sudden be entirely forbidden to even considered harmful” has contributed greatly to a certain normalization of the Extraordinary Form in the life of the Church.  Celebrations of the EF have become much more prevalent than they were in the 1990s.  The exposure of more people to it has also given people the contrast to the Ordinary Form which has raised many questions.  As more and more priests celebrate the two forms of the Roman Rite on a regular basis, and more and more Catholics experience the two forms at close range, they want to know why the differences exist.    

            As Msgr Peter Elliott has also just pointed out on NLM (, there could also be more room for expansion of the vernacular within the EF.  If some kind of permission was granted for greater use of the vernacular within the EF, then I am somewhat certain that it would gain even more appeal and usage.

Is Vatican II Really Dead?

Numerous people who invested their lives and careers in the liturgical reform and Vatican II have passed on to their reward.  Many of those left have a dreaded sense that ROTR types and traditionalists are deliberately trying to undo everything they have worked for, and they have seen that campaign as being partially successful.  They see the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as essentially, or partly, betrayals of the original vision of Vatican II and John XXIII.  In the meantime, we have been assured over and over again by many in the hierarchy that we are living in a new springtime and that the reforms of Vatican II and the Roman Rite have been enthusiastically embraced by the faithful.

            The actual demographics of Catholic practice in the West, which are now easily accessible to all who look for it, have led many to see such assertions as either wistful or deceitful.  Many concerned Catholics are coming up with variant explanations as to why the decline of religious practice is the case.  The secularist model sees this as a sign of Vatican II doing its work: that the sacred and the profane have merged.  The progressivist model sees only a return to the “spirit of Vatican II” and the ROTR only a return to its letter as the way forward.

            In the meantime, new generations of Catholic thinkers are coming up who were born after Vatican II.  For some of these clergy and lay leaders, certain ideas of Vatican II are such a part of their lives that they hardly question it (one thinks of the sacramental nature of the Church as described in Lumen gentium).  But the world described by Gaudium et spes is not the world that these younger people are experiencing.  They are acutely aware that Vatican II does not have the answer to the problems that they see as affronting the life of the Church.  While not necessarily arguing for the overturn of the last ecumenical council, it also does not hold the same kind of power of them, and they are ready for a Church that has gone beyond Vatican II and the Liturgical Reform to something which actually speaks to them where they are now.  And some of them do not feel that continued arguing over the proper implementation of Vatican II and the original ROTR ideas are up to the task.

            This may in part explain a phenomenon observable in some younger people today which may seem, at first glance, unsettling.  These youth respond energetically to Pope Francis’ engagement with the world, simplicity, humility and desire to evangelize, and at the same time to Pope Emeritus Benedict’s liturgical theology, practice, and critique of the modern world.

What Now?

            I think that it is important that we realize that the world is no longer the same world described by Vatican II.  That does not mean that the last council does not have something to contribute to the life of the Church today, but that the Church must take into account the world she is sent to evangelize.  That will mean that there has to be more honesty about the state of Catholic practice and more humility as to how the Church must go about her mission in the world.

            As ROTR advocates delve deeply into the actual celebration of the Extraordinary Form and undertake a clear historical analysis of the liturgical reform, that will raise more and more questions about, not whether the reform was implemented properly from a legal perspective, but from a theological and pastoral perspective.  No longer departing from the assumed position of the reformed texts and surrounding documents, ROTR types can begin to assess where the liturgical reform authentically incarnated, and where it has betrayed, the true spirit of the liturgy.  Without making the liturgical theology of Benedict XVI a new unquestionable standard, it has given us lots of insights with which to disanchor the ROTR from slavery to the reformed liturgical books and give it freedom to consider how the liturgy might look like when purged of the rationalist and modernist elements which were part of, although not, entirely constitutive of, that reform.

            Up until now, there has also been a reticence to more liturgical experimentation, given the questionable results of such initiatives in the past fifty years.  Summorum pontificum indicated a desire for mutual enrichment between the two forms of the Roman rite without mixing them.  Yet Pope Francis has indicated little patience with a preoccupation with “little rules.”  Could this be the moment to propose to the Church the following?

            First, the spontaneous adoption at the local level of certain practices that have been advocated by the ROTR for a while, alongside the Extraordinary Form, accompanied by the production of rich catechetical materials for the faithful.

            Second, an official proposal of which of these should be adopted officially by national bishops’ conferences and the Congregation for Divine Worship, and the rationale behind them.

            Third, more comparative liturgical history and theology which analyzes very closely every text and document of the Reform alongside the pre-reform books, along the lines of Lauren Pristas’ methodology adopted in her book The Collects of the Roman Missals

            Fourth, a concerted effort of thinkers to come up with a plan for an Ordo Missae, Corpus Collectarum, Lectionary and Kalendar which, using the 1570 Missal as a base, integrates into it those features of 1965 and 1970 by way of options for keeping all of the traditional elements, but also providing for a judicious use of what is good from the reformed books.  The new Anglican Use Missal is certainly something to look at as this is considered.  This proposal could be given to the Holy See to be used ad experimentum on a very limited basis, in collaboration with the pertinent Vatican dicasteries and local conferences.

The ROTR is Dead, Long Live the ROTR

All of the flurry of articles on the death of the ROTR indicates that there is a sense that some of the original ideas surrounding it are being abandoned.  But it might also be proper to say that, as the ROTR lives with the EF alongside the OF, and deepens its understanding of the reform, that vision is undergoing, not a death, but a transformation.  It is not one which means simply a return to the status quo ante Vatican II.  But it is, at its maximal capacity, an opening to a deeper understanding of what the liturgy is all about, and that in turn will have its effect on how that mystery is celebrated.  It now no longer has be antagonistic to, or apposite, the tradition, but can be part of that tradition by drinking even more deeply at its sources.      


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