by Alice von Hildebrand
The date of July 7th, 2007 will be remembered with gratitude by all those who treasure the Traditional Mass. Not only is it likely that the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum will bring back into the fold many who have been rightly distressed and grieved by the shocking abuses which have taken place in the Sacred Liturgy since Vatican II ..., but also because it contains treasures of spirituality which have been buried.
When in January 1980, I had the priviledge of having a private audience with John Paul II, I drew this fact to his attention, and mentioned that, shortly before his death, my husband said to me, "I believe that to prohibit a holy traidition is morally illegitimate." John Paul was silent for a moment and then said, "Your husband is definitely one of the very great ethical thinkers of the twentieth century." Later, the Holy Father granted an indult to priests wishing to celebrate in the "old" rite, but permission had to be obtained from the local bishop. In spite of the pope's explicit request that bishops be "generous" in granting this request, many of them were deaf to his plea. Nevertheless, the sacred Tridentine Mass refused to die.
Cardinal Ratzinger, whose magnificent book on the liturgy, testifies to his profound understanding of its importance for man's religious life, clearly indicated that he regretted some of the changes that had taken place since 1969, many of which could not claim to be requested by Vatican II.
As head of the Congregation of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger became aware that the de facto prohibition of the "Tridentine" Mass had nefarious effects. When I was once again granted the incredible privilege of having a private audience with another pope, Benedict XVI, I repeated to him what I had said to John Paul II twenty seven years earlier. He told me that the Motu Proprio would be released in May 2007. (Apparently problems of translation delayed somewhat this ardently awaited proclamation.)
His Holiness was clearly aware that the legitimate wishes of innumerable faithful had been totally disregarded. He also knew that the congregations faithful to the "old" rite were flourishing, whereas many religious orders and seminaries had great difficulties recruiting young men for the priesthood.
Let us mention one parish whose story deserves to be told ...
[For the rest of the story, see "Grazie, Benedetto XVI" (Scripture and Catholic Tradition, February 23, 2008).]
[Alice von Hildebrand, wife of famed philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, is an internationally known philosopher and author of numerous books, most recently The Privilege of Being a Woman. The present article, "Grazie, Benedetto XVI," was originally published in Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition (Advent/Christmas 2007), pp. 32-34, and is reprinted in its entirety at Scripture and Catholic Tradition by permission of Latin Mass Magazine, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060.]