Two weeks ago, the pope made news
I am sure you heard about.
He decided the form of the Mass—
from before Vatican II—
can continue to be celebrated widely and freely.
He also said you have the right to ask a priest
for this older form of the Mass; and—I quote the pope—
“let the pastor willingly accede to their requests…”
Now, the pope himself says that the older,
extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is not going
to replace the ordinary form we are used to.
But so you know, I will do as the holy father says:
If people request it,
we may use the classic Mass for a special occasion,
a wedding or a funeral, maybe even a weekday.
A lot of folks wonder why Pope Benedict did this.
Here’s what he said: this “is a matter of coming to
an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.”
And nowhere is this clearer than at Mass.
The classic Mass, which nourished the Church
for most of her history, somehow became radioactive.
Then the idea of an all-new Mass sprang up:
That the Mass is a free-for-all:
you can play Broadway tunes and add made-up rituals—
and a lot of folks don’t see what’s wrong with that.
The Sacred Liturgy is not something we create;
something we do for ourselves, or even for God.
No, the liturgy is something Jesus Christ does—
through the Church—for us!
How did we get so far off track?
The pope identifies the problem in how Vatican II
is viewed as a moment of “rupture”:
out with the old, in with all-new.
This has gone so far that people commonly speak
not of one Catholic Church—
but two: pre- and post-Council.
The pope took this step to heal this rupture.
He hopes that, in time, “the two Forms of the usage
of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching.”
This “mutual enrichment” is where we’ll feel the impact.
The pope said: “What earlier generations held as sacred,
remains sacred and great for us too,
and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden
or even considered harmful.”
The pope goes on to say,
“It behooves all of us to preserve the riches
which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer,
and to give them their proper place.”
Where are those riches? They were taken away;
and yes, I have tried to bring some of it back.
Under the leadership of John Wright, our choir—
which is growing—has been learning some of it.
I’ve taken small steps to re-introduce
some Latin and chant at Mass.
Most of you haven’t said a word, other than to sing it.
And you sing it well—better than you may realize.
I have heard servers at the altar singing Sanctus,
where I never heard them singing other prayers.
Some of you have been very positive.
It may surprise some to learn that,
More than older folks, are those of you, like me,
who are too young to remember.
But you want to experience your Church’s treasures.
But there are some who do more than object—
they have claimed it is a “crisis.”
The thing about Latin, and chant, and so forth,
is not that they are “essential”—they clearly are not.
But they are so much a part of our Tradition, I wonder:
isn’t it a bit dysfunctional to reject it so angrily?
The stained-glass windows—are in no way essential.
In some ways they are impractical—they let in less light,
and they are very expensive to maintain.
Would you prefer that we removed them?
Gregorian chant goes back about 1,400 years,
and has its roots in the chants of the Temple—
which our Lord and the Apostles themselves prayed!
And yet it’s been ripped out, almost completely.
In any case, it isn’t my pet theory that Latin
should be maintained in the liturgy.
That’s what Vatican II said.
That’s what Pope Paul VI,
who implemented the Council, said.
And that’s what Pope Benedict said.
Now, it happens I agree with our holy father.
But there are some, perhaps here—and some pastors—who think he’s wrong.
Ultimately, who knows for sure? I’m not that wise.
But let me ask you: what do you want your pastor to do?
Do you really want a pastor who says,
“well, the pope has his opinion, and I have mine!”
Do you really want a pastor who says,
“I’d like to follow the Council, but I won’t,
because it will make some people unhappy.”
I really don’t believe that is what you want.
To those who disagree, I ask:
I’m not certain I’m right, I freely admit.
How certain can you be that the pope is wrong?
Pope Benedict is our teacher, our shepherd on earth.
Instead of fighting and complaining, as some will do,
Maybe we should open ourselves up to be taught by him.
He isn’t inventing anything new;
he’s only asking us to learn from what he have.
This is why we aren’t supposed to be too “creative”
with the liturgy.
We believe the Holy Spirit governs the Church.
But people are hard to work with—it takes time.
Centuries—even thousands of years.
Tradition is the accumulated effect of the Holy Spirit teaching us,
sorted through all our human frailties.
With great humility, we embrace our Tradition,
rather than casting it aside because it’s “old,”
or, “we don’t understand it.”
As your pastor, I ask that people cooperate
when all I am trying to do is follow the pope’s lead.
This doesn’t mean anything dramatic or different;
Just continue what we’ve been doing already:
Continue re-learning prayers in Latin, one at a time.
English won’t go away, relax;
But Latin should not be something alien to Catholics.
Vatican II said Gregorian chant
should have “pride of place.”
So we should use it, and over time, we’ll learn to.
Contemporary music isn’t going to disappear;
but we will strike a much better balance.
Now, some say, “you’re going back.” That’s true!
I might point out that Mass, by its nature,
Includes a lot of “going back”—to the Bible, to the Cross!
I said a moment ago we should not fight,
but learn from our holy father.
For those who want to learn more,
starting this Monday, July 23, I’m beginning
a series of six talks on what Pope Benedict
is teaching us about the Mass.
If you want to delve deeper into this topic,
please come to these talks—at St. Mary,
in the meeting room, starting at 7 pm, this Monday.
Something is happening in the life of the Church.
We can choose to be negative—or open to the Spirit.
Sarah could have said, “a baby? Oh no!”
Paul could have focused on his sufferings;
Mary and Martha could have fought;
and they’d have missed what was happening!
What’s happening is we are continuing to carry out
the reform Vatican II called for. It takes time.
And, yes, it is work. But as Vatican II pointed out,
the work of the Church belongs to all the baptized.