Saturday, September 08, 2007

After the Motu Proprio: What to do now

Few Catholics are likely to understand the momentous significance of Pope Benedict's recent motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum (July 7, 2007). Why would a post-Vatican II Pope, it is asked, wish to grant wider freedom to the celebration of the hoary old, pre-Vatican II Mass, with its positively ancient rubrics, alien vestments, rigid formality, tedious silences, and unintelligible Latin? Few Catholics are sufficiently versed in liturgical history, or the events surrounding Vatican II and the formation of the current Novus Ordo and its disastrous "implimentation" to understand what is at stake. Most are so habituated in the post-Vatican II Mass that they would find nearly incomprehensible the claim that it is so far removed from the reform mandated by the Vatican II document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, that it would be unrecognized by most of the Fathers of the Council. Hence, the proclamation of the motu proprio, as important asst it is, cannot be properly understood as an achieved resting point, but only as an important milestone near the beginning of a long journey towards liturgical rehabilitation.

What should be done now? First, if you are among that marginal group of Catholics who understand the significance of the motu proprio and are grateful for it, write to thank our Holy Father for it. As the newsletter of the Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei suggests, send him a spiritual bouquet. Have a Mass offered for him. Pray for him and for all priests. The address is: "His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Palace 00120, Vatican City State, Europe" (postage 90 cents 1st ounce). You can also email benedictxvi[at] (even if he doesn't read this email personally, somebody does; and periodic summaries are doubtless reported to him).

Second, if you live in a diocese or area with no Traditional Latin Mass, request one. Your first letter should be to your pastor, not your bishop. The usual advice applies: be polite; brief (no more than a short paragraph); request the "extraordinary form of the Mass" or the "Mass of Blessed John XXIII"; request the Mass for both Sundays and weekdays; state that you are requesting the Mass in accordance with the Pope's recent motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, articles 1, 5, and 7; and if you know of a priest willing and able to offer the Mass, mention that in your letter. If no reply is forthcoming after a month, repeat process. If you still hear nothing after another month, write your bishop. Keep copies of your letter(s). The Coalition Ecclesia Dei suggests that it is helpful to have one person in the parish with copies of everyone's letters.

Third, support apostolates promoting understanding of the Mass of Blessed Pope John XXIII, which to many priests as well as laity is a virtual novelty. A new website, Sancta Missa, launched on August 5, 2007, by the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius in Chicago, offers a tutorial on the Latin Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum, with commentary, video and still photos. Features include: 1) an online tutorial for priests; 2) the rubrics of the 1962 Missale Romanum (the Altar Missal), in English and Latin; 3) the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in Latin and English; and 4) the complete 1962 Missale Romanum for download in PDF format. Over the next few weeks and months there will be added to the site: 1) Fortescue's Ceremonies of the Roman Rite; 2) Learning to Serve at the Altar; 3) Liturgical Books and Resources, and 4) Sacred Music of the Liturgy.

Fourth -- and, in my opinion, most important -- support apostolates involved in promoting understanding of the significance of the Traditional Latin Mass. This involves more than an understanding of the Traditional Latin Mass itself. The broad cultural and historical context of the current crisis in the Church must be understood, and apostolates promoting resources facilitating such understanding must be supported. The magazine, Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture, Keep the Faith (with its extensive audio library of resources), Una Voce, and Coalition Ecclesia Dei for example, are worthy apostolates of this kind. Each of these has mounted initiatives for the re-education of the Catholic public worthy of your support. Coalition for the support of Ecclesia Dei, for instance, is reprinting one of the more notable commentaries on the motu proprio -- a two-part interview with Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., editor of the Catholic monthly for priests, Homiletic & Pastoral Review (with a wide lay audience as well) -- an interview also picked up by The Wanderer. The Coalition is reprinting Fr. Baker's interview together with English translation of Summorum Pontificum and the Pope's letter introducing the motu proprio to the bishops of the world. It goes without saying that the numerous studies of the liturgical crisis engendered over the last several decades, such as those mentioned in my Academy Store under "Liturgy & Liturgical Tradition," should continue to be actively studied and promoted.

The task is before us. Let us arise and be on our way. Ora et labore.

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