Since last summer, I have started and stopped writing a blog a few times on this inflammatory subject matter. Unfortunately, it has become a divisive issue to the Body of Christ, the Church, and is diverting focus and energy from carrying out the mission of Jesus, proclaiming the Kingdom of God. The debate over Latin Mass continues to raise its ugly head and last Sunday’s Star Tribune had an article concerning the events unfolding at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in West St Paul. If you are a regular reader of my blogs you can most likely guess what my views are on Latin Mass and pastors deciding to implement elements of it in a parish's liturgical celebration without consultation.
Last summer on July 16, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter entitled "Traditionis Custodes". This caused a great deal of commentary and banter. As you can see, it is fairly short and concise which seems to be typical of Pope Francis. I was struck that this letter was created through wide consultation with the Bishops of the world in 2020 based on their experience with Pope Benedict's Apostolic Letter “Summorum Pontificum” which defined conditions for the use of the Missale Romanum of 1962. In reading the letter, it seems to be a concern of Pope Francis and the World’s Bishops that the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, especially having liturgy celebrated in the language of the people, was being infringed on. As typical of the Catholic Church, the Bishop of each diocese is responsible for approving the use of the Missale Romanum, and Pope Francis was asking them to reign in things a bit and make sure priests get their approval before using it in a parish. The concern was that Missale Romanum elements were being done indiscriminately and causing parish communities great harm, as has been seen in parishes here in our Archdiocese. Archbishop Hebda asked for a study of the use of Missale Romanum in our Archdiocese and that priests must get his written approval before using it.
Interestingly, last May Pope Francis appointed English Archbishop, Arthur Roche, as the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Since his appointment, Archbishop Roche has been an outspoken supporter of the Church moving forward with the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Last October he stated “We can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.” in talking about the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. He concluded his remarks by saying “We are not creating or reforming the liturgy; that has already been done by the church’s highest authority, an ecumenical council. Our responsibility is to implement that reform in faithfulness to what we have received and not to be promoting things which are not of the mind of the church even if loudly expressed.” These types of comments by Archbishop Roche and Pope Francis give me hope that we will continue down the beautiful road laid out by Vatican II.
My only experience of participating in a Mass that followed the Missale Romanum of 1962 was at St Agnes parish in St Paul when the Our Lady of Fatima Statue was there many years ago. Personally, I cannot say it was a spiritually moving experience to listen to Mass in Latin and have the Priest’s back to the congregation. In my position behind the high school students, I could see them looking disconnected, as was I, to what was going on at the altar. On another Sunday, I happened to be at St Louis’ parish in St Paul and the creed was recited in Latin. Again I felt disconnected and left wondering why the creed would be recited in Latin when Vatican II emphasized the celebration of Mass in the language of the people.
I do not discount the for some, the celebration of Mass in a pre-Vatican II way is meaningful and maybe a bit nostalgic. The only advantage of Mass in Latin would be a single worldwide language, but since very few people are fluent in Latin it would be back to missals so people could follow along in their language. Many who support Latin Mass claim it is the pure and authentic way of worship. I would argue that the goal of Vatican II was to shed much of the excess baggage the Church had taken on over hundreds of years and try to recover the early church’s energy and practices which would have included worship in local languages and reception of the Eucharist in a meal like setting. To think that celebrating in Latin with the priest facing away from the people of God gives one special and privileged worship would be to repeat a heresy of the early Church, Gnosticism. The Gnostics were a group that claimed to have special knowledge and regarded themselves as the pure Christians. Substitute Catholics for Christians in that last sentence and you will have a feel for what I have felt in reading many posts in support of Missale Romanum.
I do have to wonder about the first Mass, the Last Supper, how formal was it? Did Jesus have his back to the disciples? My impression is no and that it was a fairly relaxed Passover meal in which Jesus took some liberties in creating a new way of remembrance of his saving power and grace.
It is a shame that the forced introduction of elements of Missale Romanum is being put into practice in communities where it makes no sense and has become a vehicle for tearing apart strong parish communities to appease the personal preference of one or a few.
Peace, Love, and Blessings