One encounters chest-thumping folks from time to time who seem to think the proof of being orthodox is how rapidly you shove things down the throats of your parishioners. "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" is how one person -- admittedly (but not wholly) facetious -- put it on another blog recently.
Change is coming: we will have a new translation of the Missal in the near future (I've given up saying just when, but it is coming); the Holy Father has decreed that pro multis in the Eucharistic Prayer be translated as "for many" rather than "for all," and there are persistent rumors of a freeing of the Rite of the Mass as Pius V promulgated it.
In addition, many expect Pope Benedict, together with Cardinal Arinze, to tighten up on some things, in the interest of assuring that the Mass really is celebrated as the Second Vatican Council intended, in an organic relationship to what preceded.
There is a rising trend in sacred music to recover much that needlessly and inappropriately disappeared in the wake of the Council: chant, particularly Gregorian chant, and polyphony, and the pope has clearly signaled his interest in advancing this. Lastly, there are substantial questions about whether the current rite of the Mass properly carries out the intention of the Council. An example would be whether having the priest face the people, as opposed to the priest and people face God together, is really best.
So: there's a lot of ferment in matters of liturgy -- and yet, a great number of God's people are tired of it all. They've seen a lot of tinkering and monkeying around with liturgy, a lot of changes mandated from the bishops or Rome, and they would like to pray.
Well, there are a number of keyboard combatants out there who say that if a priest doesn't immediately start offering Mass, all in Latin, ad orientem, without extraordinary ministers, with only male servers, etc., etc., he "lacks courage" and seeks a "lowest common denominator" liturgy.
I will leave it to your imagination as to why they have so much time to lecture pastors via the Internet, as well as why their own pastors don't listen to them.
In the meantime, regular readers of this blog (I think you're crazy, but thanks for visiting!), or anyone who pays close attention to parish life, or simply asks the pastor, would note the wide variety of needs he attends to.
And, of course, in all this a shepherd is supposed to keep the flock together. The two parishes here recently went from eight Masses a weekend to six, out of necessity. In the wake of that adjustment, total Sunday-Mass attendance dropped almost 10% for both parishes! Some of that is from deaths and families moving away for better jobs; but some is simply due to a change in Mass times.
So . . . that's the context in which this particular pastor wrestles with how best to carry out the mandate of the Church regarding the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. With all that, here's my column this week in both bulletins:
Food for the Flock
Occasionally we use a Latin prayer
or hymn at Mass, and some parishioners
have asked about that. Some want more,
some wonder why use any at all. I suspect
most parishioners don’t get excited
The short answer is, we are, after all,
Roman Catholics—this is part of our faith
and tradition. Some think Vatican II
“got rid of” Latin. Rather, Vatican II added
the option of using English; but still
called for continuing to use Latin.
Here’s what Vatican II actually said:
“Particular law remaining in force,
the use of the Latin language is to be
preserved in the Latin rites”
(Sacrosanctum Concilium 36).
The Council said that where the
“mother tongue” (i.e., English for us)
is used, “nevertheless steps should be
taken so that the faithful may also
be able to say or to sing together in Latin
those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass
which pertain to them” (Ibid., 54).
So using Latin at Mass is being faithful
to Vatican II—omitting it completely
is actually contrary to what the
Council said. For this reason, Pope Paul VI,
Pope John Paul II, and our current
holy father have all urged maintaining
our Latin heritage.
My intention was to continue using
some Latin hymns and prayer texts
from time to time—nothing drastic.
When we introduce something new,
we will try to explain it and show
where to find it in the hymnal (it’s there!).
Maybe we didn’t do that as well
as we could, I’m sorry.
I hope we can all be broad-minded
and open to our own tradition. As it is,
the only comments I’ve gotten (not many)
are questions, or positive.
Several parishioners have asked,
can we have a whole Mass in Latin?
The answer is yes, I could do that;
no permission necessary. (Of course,
I mean the current rite of the Mass,
not the old rite.) Even then, the readings
and homily would still be in English.
But what to do? I believe a legitimate
request should be accommodated, if possible.
I can’t see refusing these requests
entirely. My thought was periodically
a weekday Mass—maybe once a month—
in Latin. Let me know what you think.