The recent motu proprio promulgated by Benedict XVI regarding a restoration of the Tridentine liturgy of 1962 provides all Catholic communities a great opportunity to experience the Church’s liturgical as well as artistic and architectural heritage in the 21st century. Since the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, some Catholic Churches removed the “high altar” that was the central praxis of a Catholic Church’s design. Frequently, the altar was replaced with a freestanding altar that adhered to the liturgical trend of Eucharist as both a meal and communal gathering. The permission to once again celebrate the Mass of Pius V, now aka Blessed John XXIII presents a great opportunity to witness the true function of the old “high altar” as not just a repository of the Blessed Sacrament, but as the site of the reenactment of the Sacrifice of Calvary, as the liturgy was intended.

 

 It is not often that the Church allows coexistence of various forms of the same liturgical rite. Quite honestly, this permission might really be the first of the type that permits the restoration of a former form of liturgical expression. The caveat here however is the motu proprio’s emphatic stress on the fact that the liturgy of 1962 was actually never abolished, so this restoration is merely a reassertion of what has always been the Church’s tradition since the Council of Trent. Regardless of the theological semantics used to revive the Tridentine Rite, it is still a refreshing restoration of this viable sacramental form. 

For years, many faithful Catholics attended Mass with anticipatory expectation that some day the Tridentine Liturgy would be restored. It was almost as if a Catholic diaspora existed within the Novus Ordo of Paul VI, and those Catholics awaited the restoration of the former rite. Well, the Restoration Period in Catholicism is here. Catholics may attend and worship in the rite that they reportedly held so close and dear for decades since it’s hiatus. The question is this, will the return of Latin and the Tridentine Liturgy prompt more Catholics to attend Mass and frequent the Sacraments? Or will this nostalgic visitation of a different place and a different time, with a different breed of Catholics simply prove to be a longing for the proverbial Catholic Camelot in 2007.

 

 

First of all as a Catholic Church, the institution has done a really terrible job of religious education for the post-Vatican II generations. The United States especially has had its share of theological relativism, social awareness and theologically and politically correct schools of inclusion. If one were to gather together a group of Catholics in the 18-40 years old age group and question them about the doctrinal beliefs of the Catholic Church, I don’t think you would receive a theologically cohesive and Catholic response. Social and cultural developments over the past 40 years have made doctrinally-centric Catholics sort of an anomaly with an unfortunate label of “Traditionalist Catholic” or even worse, “A daughter of Trent!”

 

 

Before anyone seriously starts running around our Catholic Churches in lace albs with Roman vestments, someone needs to take a moment to really consider what a great opportunity of education and evangelization we have as a result of this motu proprio. This is a great opportunity to establish qualitative norms for the celebration of the Sacraments that uniquely identify our Sacraments as Catholic. What I mean by this, is that as a Church, we need to stop qualifying our liturgical actions as, pre-Vatican II, and post-Vatican II, American Catholic, European Catholic, African-American Catholic versus Nigerian-African Catholic and so on. Our liturgical Catholic identity is just what the word “Catholic” means, universal! Regardless of how, when, where and the ethnic composition of the assembled faithful we are all Catholic and worship accordingly. Perhaps it is time as a Church that we finally toss out the ethno-centric liturgical themes and restore our celebration of the Catholic Mass, regardless of the assembly present. This universal link to sacramental consistency and unity is perhaps the aspect of pre-Vatican II worship that is lacking in our Catholic Churches.

 

 

For those of us that have experienced the Catholic Church over the past 40 years or so, I am quite hopeful that this permission to celebrate the Tridentine liturgy will provide a qualitative renaissance to our sacramental and liturgical celebrations. Quite frankly, most of the Catholics that I know are tired of Catholic liturgies, with Protestant hymns, directors of song, gathering songs, extraordinary ministers, altar girls, ethnically diverse Jesus on the Cross, politically correct pronouns and incorrect translations of the original Latin texts. Credo does not imply credimus, and pro multis does not translate for all…in the same manner God is Pater Noster, Our Father and not God our gender neutral Father/Mother as if the Deity were a hermaphrodiac mutation of sexual identity. What the average in the pew Catholic wants is a good old religious experience when the go to Church, not a theologically veiled Live Aid performance!

 

 I am thankful that the motu proprio to restore the Tridentine Mass has been released. It is not because I am a Traditionalist, or a DOT, or any other politically correct or politically incorrect label designation. I am thankful because I am a faithful Catholic, and look forward to the restoration of good liturgy, good architecture and good art in our Catholic community. We are at a great starting point to reexamine and reevaluate all of the good, bad and indifferent actions we have experienced since, aggiornamento and the disastrous results. Perhaps now as a living Catholic community of faith we can make some important choices to identify our Catholicism in a very, very modern world since Gaudium et Spes, and our multiple experimentations with the Sacred Mysteries. 

 

Be Sociable, Share!