05 July 2007

Summorum Pontificum

Now that the motu proprio has been issued to allow the wider use of the 1962 Missal, some have asked if we will use the permission in this parish. Unless the archbishop specifically requests that we do, there are no plans to have this rite of the Mass here at the parish.

However, I should add that I am happy that the Holy Father has responded to the desire of so many of the Faithful in this positive way. We’d be the last place to squelch legitimate diversity. The principle of “unity in diversity” forms part of the foundation of the generous decision of Pope John Paul II to allow for the Pastoral Provision and our own liturgical use.

For a time we did offer the Mass according to the 1962 Missal. It was requested by our (now) Archbishop Emeritus Patrick F. Flores as his response to a petition from a group of Catholics who said they desired the celebration of the Tridentine Rite on a regular basis in the archdiocese. I agreed to provide this rite of the Mass on a weekly basis and on days of obligation. Our parish was an obvious place to offer this. The sanctuary was already arranged for an eastward-facing celebration. Our parish musicians were more than capable of providing the proper music. There was an exisiting dedication to celebrating all aspects of the Church’s liturgy with care and in accordance with the rubrics.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a happy experience for us. We made every effort to incorporate this into our Mass schedule so it would be seen as an integral part of the parish, but those who had requested the rite wished for it to be very much separate. While we provided bulletins for the Mass, including parish announcements, the Tridentine “organizers” made it a point to throw ours away and provide their own. There were attempts to engage other celebrants for the Mass without even mentioning it to me as the pastor of the parish. There were complaints to me if I used any Sacred Hosts from the tabernacle, and people would refuse Holy Communion if I did, because the Hosts “might be from the English Mass.” In following the rubrics of the Mass, I would receive complaints from some because “that’s not the way I remember it being done.” All I could do was assure them that the rubrics were being followed to the letter. The result was that fewer of those who had requested it continued to attend, and the congregation became more and more comprised of those who didn’t necessarily have an attachment to the tradition Latin Mass, but attended because the time happened to be convenient for them.

I know these things aren’t the fault of the 1962 Missal. The problems arose because of people’s attitudes and expectations. However, it’s not a situation I want to repeat unless I am told I must – but in saying that, be assured I would be immediately obedient if the archbishop told me that he wished for the motu proprio to be implemented here.

When we ceased using the 1962 Missal for our weekly Latin Mass, we began using the Missal of Paul VI for this Mass. The celebration continued to be carried out in a traditional way, eastward-facing with incense, excellent organ music and a men’s schola providing proper chants. When we made the change to the Pauline Missal for the Latin Mass, the attendance began to grow and it was seen simply as one more parish Mass. Of our four Sunday Masses, three are celebrated in English according to the liturgy of the Anglican Use, and one is celebrated in Latin. This seems to work for us very well. Our people are fully capable of participating in either rite of the Mass, and this diversity is accepted as a normal part of parish life.

I hope our experience might be cautionary for those parishes which will be implementing the provisions of the motu proprio. There will be a temptation for some people to erect an “us and them” attitude. There may be a creeping sense of exclusivity (“We attend the real Mass.”). There may be the danger that some will see their life in the parish as consisting only of taking part in the traditional Latin Mass with little or no need to be integrated into the totality of the parish.

On the other hand, perhaps our experience was unique and no other parishes will have these difficulties. Our Holy Father has granted this out of his pastoral love for the Church. We need to work and pray that it will produce the intended good fruits.

Update: here is a follow-up post about this.