Today is the tenth anniversary of Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum, which restored the capability for all priests throughout the world to celebrate the pre-Vatican II Mass, commonly called the Tridentine Mass.
In Pope Benedict’s permission, the celebration of the ritual form prior to the Second Vatican Council was given a new title, the Mass of Pope St. John XXIII. Additionally, the specifications included that the local ordinaries of dioceses throughout the world no longer had to ask for an apostolic indult for the celebration of the previously and rarely celebrated form. Priests no longer required permission from their local bishop to celebrate the rite.
Pope Benedict’s moto proprio was indeed intended to introduce the former rite of the Roman Church into popular usage not to diminish the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and the promulgation of the Novus Ordo of Blessed Paul VI. He intended the mutual existence of both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Sacred Liturgy of the Eucharist to complement each other and to celebrate the Catholic faith’s antiquity and modernity within one Church. Pope Benedict intended the restoration as a unitive action, not one that creates division. However, since the restoration of the Extraordinary Form there have been both advocates and detractors of his moto proprio. Some maintain it is an intent to return to the past, while others consider it a reductionist trend intended to minimize the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council, while others celebrate and applaud the proclamation.
Clearly, there is enough room in the Catholic Church to celebrate our liturgical diversity and to embrace both rites within the Roman Church. There are twenty-four distinctive rites within the Catholic Church, including the Roman Rite. Each of these rites celebrates their Eucharistic liturgies in different yet unique manners historically peculiar to the development of their individual rites. The Roman (Latin) Church has room to celebrate an Ordinary form of the Eucharist and an Extraordinary Form of the Eucharist and both should be welcomed in each parish.
Perhaps part of the problems in accepting the Extraordinary Form of the Eucharist is because there have been no instructional or pastoral directives to educate Catholics throughout the world on the celebration of the ancient rituals that encompass the Extraordinary Form. In the same manner that the Mass of Blessed Paul VI, the Novus Ordo was introduced in 1972, without proper catechesis and pastoral education, we are once again asked to accept and celebrate a liturgical form without educational resources.
Liturgy is a celebration of the most sacred mysteries of our Catholic faith. Most importantly, the Most Holy Eucharist is a celebration of the redemptive action of Christ’s life, death & resurrection to redeem the entire world from the sins of Adam & Eve. As Catholics, we deserve more than a cursory explanation in our local dioceses and parishes to the rituals and forms that are contained in the Extraordinary Form. We should demand from our bishops and pastors a tutorial that helps Catholics that have never experienced the Mass of Pope St. John XXIII a reason to appreciate and indeed celebrate the historical magnificence of this sacred liturgy, which was defined by the Council of Trent.
We could perhaps start with an explanation of the historical nature of the Extraordinary Form and then progress from there. The celebration of the Mass of Pope Saint John XXIII is not a liturgical relic, it is part of the living expression of the way the Church celebrates the most sacred rites of our faith. Recalling, the adage, Lex orandi, lex credendi, (The Church prays as the Church believes!) we need to be true to this most ancient axiomatic practice of Catholic belief. The pre-Vatican II liturgy is not a theatrical event which is intended to entertain and dust off an old ritual from the ecclesiastical closet of Mother Church, it is the Church at active prayer.
We need to embrace the rituals of the Extraordinary form not because it represents an antiquated celebration of the Eucharist, but because it is a complimentary celebration of the post-Vatican II Eucharistic celebration that is intended to express our faith in a different but inclusive manner through the Extraordinary form.
Watching various televised celebrations of the Extraordinary Form today illustrates clearly of the need to develop educational resources for both clergy and laity alike in the proper usage of Latin in both spoken and chanted form. Additionally, the roles of the ministers of the celebration should be properly exercised. Priest or bishops as celebrants is correct. Priests in the roles of deacons and subdeacons is incorrect. Deacons should be used in their proper liturgical roles and the acolyte, as the modern representation of the subdeacon should be properly educated to exercise their liturgical ministry as per the directives of the Second Vatican Council.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s restoration of the often-called (in properly,) Tridentine Mass we celebrate our Catholic faith through the celebration of the Eucharist in the Extraordinary Form. Let us fully embrace the form as a vibrant expression of our celebration of faith and not consider it as a unique opportunity to observe antiquated rituals and liturgical garbs. We as Catholics demand that the Celebration of the Eucharist in the Extraordinary Form be celebrated with the highest possible decorum, with proper education towards the Latin texts, and an understanding of what signs and symbols of the rite properly represent. If we do not dispose ourselves to a true understanding of the revised celebration of the formerly normative Rite, then we fail in understanding that it is indeed the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist and not just an opportunity to witness an antiquated form of celebration.
Pope Benedict XVI gave the Church a great gift in Summorum Pontificem and we should embrace the opportunity it presents us, namely to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass in the manner our ancestors did for centuries since the Council of Trent. In conclusion, Benedict’s gift was extraordinary and indeed priceless. We should always remember:


Lex orandi, Lex credendi! The Church prays, as the Church believes!


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