Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tradition Must Trickle Down from the Top

The struggle to redeem and re-institute and the extraordinary form of the Mass continues. And it is a struggle! I have three points to make in this post.

First: I’ve seen this story in a couple of places now: training in the extraordinary form of the Mass has been denied – forbidden, even – at a seminary in England. Unbelievable!

Fr. Z has a post about this, in which he cites Damian Thompson at the Telegraph, who I think was the first one to report the story.

At any rate, Fr. Z makes the point that, since the Holy Father has made it clear that there are two forms of the Roman Rite, seminarians should be trained in both; otherwise, their training is incomplete. Fr. Z quotes Universae Ecclesiae, the Instruction about Summorum Pontificum:

21. Ordinaries are asked to offer their clergy the possibility of acquiring adequate preparation for celebrations in the forma extraordinaria. This applies also to Seminaries, where future priests should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

Well, there’s that “pastoral needs” clause again…the bane of our liturgical existence, I think, because “pastoral need” is usually invoked as a means of denying the EF Mass rather than providing it. At any rate, if seminarians are actually requesting training in the EF Mass, that would seem to indicate a “pastoral need”, would it not?

Fr. Z also notes:

...but NOT praying in Latin might be!
The 1983 Code of Canon Law says that all seminarians must be very well trained in Latin. I am not making this up. The CIC can. 249 requires… it doesn’t suggest… it requires that all seminarians be very well-versed in Latin and also any other language useful for their ministry: “lingua latina bene calleant”… Let us also review Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 and Optatam totius 13!

Yes, in this Year of Faith, we are encouraged to study the Vatican II documents, right? Optatam totius is one of those, with the English title of “Decree on Priestly Training”. The paragraph mentioned by Fr. Z states that

…[Seminarians] are to acquire a knowledge of Latin which will enable them to understand and make use of the sources of so many sciences and of the documents of the Church. The study of the liturgical language proper to each rite should be considered necessary; a suitable knowledge of the languages of the Bible and of Tradition should be greatly encouraged.

Seminarians are supposed to know Latin so well that they can read and study the Latin version of the documents of the Church! Who’d’a thunk?!

And Sacrosanctum Concillium 36 says: “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” That’s pretty straightforward, but it seems to have been largely ignored; how many of the faithful are still operating under the mistaken assumption that Vaddican Too eliminated Latin from the liturgy? How often have you been told that the utterance of a simple “Agnus Dei” is to be considered a “step backwards”?

There are even bishops who say such things!

Second: Consider something said by Richard at Linen On the Hedgerow: “The Latin Mass: Bishops Should Provide It Even If There Is No Demand”. That’s the title of his post, and he quotes Fr. Simon Henry:

On the video DVD produced by the FSSP/EWTN to instruct about the older form of Mass the Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos said that parishes and priests should make available the Extraordinary Form so that “everyone may have access to this treasure of the ancient liturgy of the Church.” He also stressed that, “even if it is not specifically asked for, or requested” it should be provided. Interestingly, he added that the Pope wants this Mass to become normal in parishes, so that “young communities can also become familiar with this rite.”

Just the other day, a friend and I were trying to figure out how we could learn who in our diocese – especially the parishes closest to us – is interested in the EF Mass. If we could galvanize them and present a united front, perhaps we could effect a return of our EF Mass.

Unfortunately, the outlook is bleak. The trouble with trying to ascertain interest in the Diocese of Baker is that the Faithful are so ignorant of the usus antiquior that they wouldn’t even know if they might be interested. In my opinion, this is a direct result of the poor liturgical formation before the Council. The Holy Father, in his cover letter to the bishops in regard to Summorum Pontificum, said

“...a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood. This was especially the case in countries where the liturgical movement had provided many people with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier Form of the liturgical celebration.”

The inverse is also true: in countries where many people had not received a notable liturgical formation, few remained strongly attached to the older form. 

In our diocese, short of a miracle, the Faithful will always be scattered and separated and unaware of each other – even in the Ordinary Form; it’s that way now and has been for a long, long time. Short of a top-down, pastoral initiative on the part of the bishop and his clergy, there seems to be little hope of any serious improvements on the liturgical field in either form.

This is the Year of Faith…our bishops are supposed to be leading us toward a resurgence of faith. And what is the “source and summit” of our faith? The Eucharist, of course – and if we study, as we have been encouraged to do, the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we will find those words in Lumen Gentium 11, and CCC 1324.

So…if our bishops want to increase the faith of the faithful, they’d better get to work reforming the liturgy. Not only that, but if there are two forms of the Roman Rite –which the Holy Father has made clear there are – then the faithful should be introduced to the rite they’ve been denied all these decades.

Withholding the EF Mass because people aren’t asking for it is like this: suppose you are the sole heir designated in your wealthy great-uncle’s will. In addition to healthy bank accounts, he has a great treasure of antiques in his basement; a few people know that, but they think the antiques are nothing more than thrift store trinkets, and they can’t imagine you would want to see them. So when your great-uncle dies, they disclose to you his bank accounts, the real estate he owns, etc., but they neglect to tell you about the antiques in the basement. Finally, though, you discover them, and are amazed at their beauty and the richness of the heritage they bespeak. You confront your relatives who have hidden the treasure from you, asking them why they didn’t disclose it at once.

Would their response of “You never asked” be appropriate?! I don’t think so.

Catholics have a right to know their heritage, whether they are aware of that heritage or not. Our faith is flagging badly.

Why not bring out the old treasures and see what the faithful really think of them?

Third: check out this interesting article called “The  Liturgical Cliff” by  David G. Bonagura, Jr. He points out that:

For over forty years, the vast majority of Catholic parishes have tilted the celebration of the Mass in a manner that was thought to stimulate God's Really Awesome People. The Church, according to cultural trends, needed to be a more welcoming and friendly place. So we placed greeters at the doors, and, just in case we were not welcomed enough the first time, we are then invited by the lector to greet our fellow pew-mates before Mass begins. The music melody and attendant instruments are also intended to appeal to us, not God, so that the celebration may feel meaningful for us, the worshippers. Whether God, the object of worship, will be satisfied by our selections is not even given a thought.

In light of this pervasive “people-centered” view of the Mass, priests are afraid not to give the people what they’ve come to expect, says Mr. Bonagura. He adds (my emphasis):

In this situation, reorienting the Mass back towards God presents a liturgical cliff — a negative backlash from a large portion of the faithful who feel disengaged by a liturgy not wholly focused on them. And the liturgical cliff is made steeper and more sobering because these Catholics bear no blame for their people-centered Mass preference.

As for restoring the sacred in the Mass, Bonagura notes that:
The new English translation of the Mass was a first stroke, and a masterful one, in this direction. It restored sacred language without altering the people-centered ethos to which we have grown accustomed — avoiding the liturgical cliff.

The next step is to return this people-centered ethos to a God-centered one. It begins with a whole series of homilies and lessons with a simple theme: Mass is not about us, it is about God.

It seems that, more and more, people are seeing that the bishops need to be the ones to take the steps necessary for liturgical reform – they are, after all, the chief liturgists of their dioceses!

Bishops, are you listening?


  1. Like with so many other things in the "modern" Church the failure to teach Latin in seminary and the failure to prepare Seminarians to offer the Holy Sacrifice in Latin is outright disobedience. Disobedience for which there is no earthly consequence. And unless, and until, there are consequences for disobedience not much will change.

  2. The Holy Spirit can smack 'em upside the head!

  3. One cannot understand or appreciate the liturgy of today without understanding or appreciating its origins. It may be the Mass has been updated, or changed, time and time again over the centuries, but it yet remained a unifying liturgy for all who were and are Catholic.

  4. As long as rectors and priests in charge of seminaries and on boards of seminaries hate the TLM, this will not change. Mundelein, Conception and others, which serve at least 15 dioceses total, do not offer training and Latin is not required.

    The liberals are still in charge and not all of them are old. To think that age and death will make a change is pie in the sky wishful thinking.

    As long as the bishops and abbots who are in charge of seminaries insist on a Latin-free zone, there will be no change.

    The European diocesan seminaries at least offer Latin and Greek, and Latin Mass priests on the staffs. Americans created this situation by not speaking up earlier, as this anti-TLM mentality is entrenched.

  5. Tragic is it not !
    The Most Beautiful HolY Mass this side of Heaven is being denied and not made available to those who HUNGER for this Divine Holy Mass that is all about GOD and not us !!!!!!!!!!!
    Wake up Bishops ....remember dear of the great Saints spoke the following words , " The corriders of Hell are paved with the Skulls of Bishops.
    God Have Mercy on them and on us!

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