Fr. James Schall, SJ, on the Motu Proprio

In these electron charged pages I have been glossing and fisking all sorts of statements and articles about Summorum Pontificum.  I keep intending to get back into other things, but so many people are sending interesting items, I simply must keep going.  

Today I approach with great respect an article by Fr. James V. Schall, SJ. 

My emphases and comments.

 

On Saying the Tridentine Mass | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | August 16, 2007

"It has been the constant concern of the Supreme Pontiffs, and up to the present time, to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy worship to the Divine majesty ‘to the praise and glory of His name,’ and ‘to the benefit of all His Holy Church.’" — Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum, July 7, 2007.

I.

Lo, those many years ago, Schall was ordained to the priesthood the year after John XXIII made the last revision of the Latin Missale Romanum before Vatican Council II. At the time, the pope raised waves because he dared to change the Canon to the extent of adding the name of St. Joseph [For some people, any change is too much change.] to its list of those present at every Mass. Some do not even accept changes from the Pius Xth edition of the Missal. However, looking over the whole scope of the Church, including Byzantine rites, there have always been differing ways of celebrating Mass, usually including a different language and external forms. Still, in principle, it can be said that all the essential parts of the Mass–word, sacrifice, and communion–were clearly present in all the varied rites in so far as they were orthodox.

However, with the advent of the Novus Ordo in 1969, and its apparent, in practice at least, suppression of the older missal, I, along with most priests on the Roman rite, have said this Mass in the vernacular. However, in my own private Masses, I often use the Latin Novus Ordo form found in the back of the present Roman Missal. Much of the English translation of the Novus Ordo has been rather vapid, and the Latin not as elegant as that of the Tridentine Mass.  [I agree without reservation that the English is wretched.  I am not sure the Latin is always less elegant.  My columns have over the years shown that some of the newer prayers for the usus recentior have both substance and style.  Still, his point is worthy of attention.]

If at least three popes have reaffirmed the validity of this Novus Ordo Mass, [An interesting point.  Apparently, they thought themselves compelled to do so.] however much it might be improved, we must assume it is within the long and orthodox tradition of the Church’s worship. There are those who insist that Pius X was the last "valid" pope because of issues concerning the form of Mass. In effect, these views make subsequent popes heretical, so that, on this assumption, it is difficult to see any continuity in the actual Church.[Sedevacantists.] Benedict intended to address these concerns by frankly affirming that the Old Mass had never been abrogated. The Novus Ordo, however, is not a new rite, but another version of the Roman Latin rite. The bottom line is that the same Mass is always celebrated no matter what language or variety of movement so long as it is in the direct line of ancient tradition and the authority of the Church.

On September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Benedict’s Motu Proprio takes effect. Any priest can then, if he wishes or is requested, celebrate Mass in Latin according to the latest Tridentine Latin form. This permission is not to be seen as somehow taking away something from those who still prefer the vernacular, as no doubt many will prefer. While there are not a few who look upon this decree as "conservative," or "back-going," I fail to see why giving me the permission to say Mass in another language is somehow a "narrowing" of my freedom. If I say you can say Mass in any language but French, that does not expand but it narrows my liberty. The pope is not saying that anyone "must" say or attend a Tridentine Mass, bur rather that if someone wants to say or attend Mass in that form, well and good. If I can go to Mass any Sunday in Spanish, as I can, why cannot I go in Latin, which is the remote source of Spanish?  [Bingo.]

As it is, on any given Sunday or weekday, any priest, as far as I can tell, can say Mass in French, German, or Spanish if he wants to. I used to say Mass in Italian in my Roman days. In the earlier American church during periods of immigration, Mass was said in German, Polish, Spanish, or Italian. Parishes were organized to make this possible. Such churches have largely disappeared, only to be replaced by today’s situation in which Masses are now said routinely in a veritable Tower of Babel number of languages. Many think they have a "right" to hear Mass in their own tongue. [Excellent.] Some even excuse themselves from going to Mass if they are in a place where they do not know the language of the local Mass, something that is rather frequent in our tourist-oriented world.

Let’s look at the issue this way. On any Sunday, in any large diocese in the United States (or Europe), any Catholic can validly go to Mass and fulfill his Sunday obligations in English, Chinese, Cantonese, Lithuanian, Polish, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Korean, Vietnamese, Caldean, Japanese, Croatian, Czech, Russian, Ukrainian, or I do not know what all. I have heard it said that in Los Angeles and other large cities, hundreds and hundreds of languages are spoken. You cannot go to the seminary in many dioceses unless you learn Spanish. My nephew was recently on a work detail in Puerto Rico. He went to Sunday Mass in Spanish, even though he does not know Spanish. As far as I know, one is not "excused" from Sunday Mass simply because he does not know the language of the Mass. Most people can figure out what is going on if the same Mass is being said before them in a language they do not know.  [Father apparently thinks, as I do, that people are smart.]

Indeed, paradoxically, this situation is an argument for the Latin Mass, not against it. Had the Church retained the discipline of the Latin Mass, we might have avoided this enormous multiplication of languages and the acrimonious controversies over valid translations. [You said it!] We wonder if all the translations in all the languages are accurate, faithful to the original Latin text. The Holy See must have to approve hundreds of different language canons, in all of which a modern language constantly changes.

Though the Holy Father does not mention this issue, it seems clear that the self-separation into different language groups has in effect broken down community, not opened it up. If you have a parish in which the 9:00 a.m. Mass is in Spanish, the 10:30 a.m. in English, and the 12:30 p.m. in Lithuanian, you really have not one community but three using the same church. If it is quite clear today that one has to "hunt" for a Mass in one’s own language, it is a sign of division even though valid. Not even English is a common language of worship in this country. If we all used Latin with a tradition of seeing it related to our own language, we would in many ways have a more unified Church. Even today, a hymn like the Salve Regina, sung in Latin, is often one with which every one in all language groups is familiar.  [What’s wrong with people of different tongues and cultures being side by side in church holding books with translations in their own language?]

II.

If I go to Mass in the Tridentine form, I am not going to a different Mass from that of the Novus Ordo, no matter in what language I hear the latter Mass. [In substance, no.] I have always thought that the Vatican should publish an official Missal that everyone, no matter what language he speaks, is expected to own and which will not change, except perhaps for the addition of new saints. On one side would be the Latin and the other the vernacular, whatever it is that one speaks. Over a lifetime, if the Mass were in Latin, everyone would be used to the same service, and would be able to follow and know what it means in his own language. We would then have more common music and all know certain Latin prayers and chants. That strikes me as more genuinely universal than anything we now have.  [I have advocated this myself.]

We are rather close to breaking down into merely national churches without this injection of a more obvious unifying form of liturgical unity. One cannot argue, in principle, that a vernacular language cannot be used. It certainly has good arguments for it. But any living language turns out to be very much more unstable than we might suspect. One only has to recall the controversies about the feminization of the language to see the ambiguous effect this movement had on our reading and hearing of the liturgy.

Indeed, the whole structure of the English language was changed so that older customs, like using "Him" for God, were eliminated by not a few and "Brethren" had to be changed to "Brothers and Sisters," if not "Sisters and Brothers." Amusingly, the older tradition always did use "Ladies and Gentlemen," not "Gentlemen and Ladies," and that latter, I suspect, had origins in Christian theology. The number of words that we cannot use in our normal language, let alone in the liturgy, grows daily. This rapid change is the basis of the argument to use a stable or "dead" language, be it Latin of Slavonic or Greek. The "Thou and Thee" of the Godhead reminds us that English itself has an older more stable form. The language itself becomes a basis of its own culture, a culture common to Christians who had a common worship and doctrine that depended on their knowing how they were distinct.

III.

In this short document, the Holy Father was mainly concerned with continuity. [YES YES YES!] The reaffirmation of the Tridentine Mass in its last revision under John XXIII is an indirect way of saying that this earlier form did not somehow become "heretical" or contain anything "wrong." There is nothing wrong with preferring a Novus Ordo vernacular Mass. But that is no reason to say that the older Mass is somehow suspect. The pope even went out of his way to admonish those who do regularly choose to celebrate the older rite not to do so as if there were anything wrong with the Novus Ordo. One might say that the Tridentine form had too few readings, while the Novus Ordo has far too many ever to remember.  [Very good.]

The replacement of the sermon for the homily on scripture has yet to prove its superiority. The faithful are in dire need of systematic teaching on doctrine. The neglect of doctrine has left generations bereft of familiarity with orthodox teaching in the Church, this all in the name of Scripture. It is not that one cannot find "doctrine" in Scripture–that is its origin–but the discipline of clear teaching is not merely or fully satisfied by scriptural commentary or reading. Catholicism includes the direct addressing of reason.

IV.

One of the things that comes up with the two ways to celebrate the same rite is the "mood" of each. Clearly, they have different "feels." The Tridentine Mass was surrounded by silence. The Blessed Sacrament was a focus within the actual church. The primary relation was between the person and the Godhead through the celebration of the one Mass, the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Christ. Kneeling was a sign of reverence. The central feature was awe, transcendence. Everyone, especially the priest, was focused not on the community but to the East, to the source of faith, symbolized by the Sun, light, the Word, the Father. The priest’s back was not "against" the people behind him. All–priest and people–were facing the same direction, to God; all were going in the same direction, none concentrating on themselves.

The understanding of community in the Tridentine Mass was that every person was actively worshipping God. He was content that his neighbor was doing the same. He was not "ignoring" the others present. All were directed to the same Godhead and realized they were. That is what formed their "community." There was time enough for fellowship later. The two are not opposed, but they are not exactly the same.

The Novus Ordo Mass focused on the priest, now called a presider or celebrant.
He faced a community facing him around what usually looked like a table, not an altar. The "meal" aspect increased; the sacrifice aspect decreased. There was a familiarity. Silence was not emphasized. People shook hands, hugged, smiled, and whispered. The guitar replaced the organ. The priest was tempted to add various greetings and comments. Some even changed the wording of important parts of the Mass as if it were under their authority to do so. It is not that the Novus Ordo had to be filled with dubious exceptions. It could be done as the Church asked, and is in many places.

Cardinal Ratzinger said in The Spirit of the Liturgy that the priest was tempted to be an actor. It was easy to look upon the central altar as a stage. In several Masses I attended recently, people clapped at the music or even at the presentation of programs. What happened at the out of place "kiss of peace" often had to be seen to be believed. One had the impression of a "performance." The earlier tradition never clapped at the music. The reaction was awe. The musician himself was part of the worship. All were focused on the Godhead. Their music or part was not done for themselves. Moving music on or near the altar away from a choir loft contributed to this performance feeling.

The personality of the priest, Cardinal Ratzinger said in the same book, should decrease. It is not "his" Mass; he is a servant there to do what the Lord guides through the Church. The Mass transcended the personality of the priest. We should not have to choose what parish or Mass we go to on the basis of a calculation of the personality or talents of the priest, however fine they might be. The liberals go to liberal parishes; the conservatives to conservative ones. That is just another version of the language problem of separating people rather than uniting them.

We used to often hear Catholics or other people coming into the Church saying that there was something powerful about going to a Mass that is celebrated basically the same way now that it was two, four, nine hundred years ago. It was not only that we went to the same Mass as the Chinese or the Germans or the Spanish, but that we went to the same Mass as our ancestors. We have a statue of John Carroll, the first American Catholic bishop-ordinary, in front of our main building here at Georgetown. There is something powerful, in thinking of the Tridentine Mass, to realize that he and I say the exact same Mass that itself transcends time. The same is true if we think of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, who lived before the Tridentine formula, which was based on earlier Roman-influenced liturgies.

In conclusion, I think that the words cited from Benedict in the beginning from Summorum Pontificum strike best at what I want to say here. The concern of the Supreme Pontiffs is that the Church of Christ offers "a worthy worship to the Divine Majesty." It is offered first "to the praise and glory of His name" and secondly "to the benefit of the all His Holy Church." When he promulgated this motu proprio, this is what the Holy Father had in mind. He intended precisely to "benefit" the Church, but one can only do this if we "glorify" God as God Himself has directed us. The worship of the Father in Christ through the Spirit is not a human concoction, though appropriate to the Incarnation it has human aspects in architecture, words, music, personality, material gifts, bread and wine prior to consecration.

I would recommend two readings in connection with this issue of connecting the present and ancient tradition of the same Mass, the same liturgy. The first is the last section of Catherine Pickstock’s book After Writing [This is not an easy book, but it is interesting.  It comes out of the "neo-Augustinian" and "radical orthodoxy" circle of John Milbank.] on the nature of the classic Roman liturgy; the second is the chapter "On Praying the Canon of the Mass," in Robert Sokolowski’s Christian Faith & Human Understanding. No two readings that I know give a better sense of what is at stake in the question of the one Mass.

The Holy Father is concerned with something that is his duty, namely that all say and understand the same Mass, whatever be its language, or particular variation:

    Each particular Church must concur with the universal Church, not only as regards the doctrine of the faith and the sacramental signs, but also as regards the usages universally accepted by uninterrupted apostolic tradition, whish must be observed not only to avoid errors but also to transmit the integrity of the faith, because the Church’s law of prayer corresponds to her law of faith.

The latter passage Benedict cites from the "General Introduction to the Roman Missal" (2002).

What is said here, if I understand it properly, is simply that the doctrine and the expression of worship manifest, visibly and interiorly, the same form of worship of the Trinitarian God. This form is to be present in all nations and times in obedience to the mandate of Christ to "do this in memory of me." This is the form of worship that mankind could not itself formulate, but only receive. The papacy has as one of its principal tasks the integrity of this worship. This is what the pope’s decree was about.

 

This is a fine article.  I especially appreciate the final point Schall makes, using Benedict, about the continuity necessary in the one Mass.

Some of you will benefit from the books he mentions.  I recommend for everyone Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the LiturgyIf you are not pretty well read, Pickstock’s After Writing will leave you in the dust.  Sokolowski’s essays in Christian Faith & Human Understanding are still tough, but more accesible.

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30 Responses to Fr. James Schall, SJ, on the Motu Proprio

  1. danphunter1 says:

    Father,
    Also recommended is “Iota Unum”, by Romano Amerio.
    About changes in the twentieth century in the Catholic Church.
    God bless you.

  2. fr.franklyn mcafee says:

    The director ofthe now defunct international organization founded by the American bishops to promote the scientific study of NFP,once told me of his experience of hosting an international gathering of NFP leaders:theologians,scientists,pychiatrists etc. He pointed out to me how distressing it was not to be able to speak to many of these people because of the language barrier.They had to give their papers in their own language while those hearing a translation of it in English.Meals were taken together but they lacked that fraternity common among those who are of common purpose because of language.He said it was frustrating.Then at the end of the day,in the late afternoon they would gatherfor Mass which was said in Latin.They all participated and sang in Latin . The man said he could not describe the great feeling that came over them all as they were for awhile united in the most importanr action they could do.They were overcome with a strong sense of community. When he was still a Polish bishop,Pope John PaulII on the eve of VII warned them about the use of the venacular.He thought the vernacular should be introduced into the readings but he cautioned them about goung any further lest the liturgy suffer a nationalization.

  3. FloridaJohn says:

    Great article! “If you have a parish in which the 9:00 a.m. Mass is in Spanish, the 10:30 a.m. in English, and the 12:30 p.m. in Lithuanian, you really have not one community but three using the same church.” This was the way it was in a parish I worked at in New York. The Lithuanians (lovely people) had there own Mass, groups and meetings and spoke their native language. The regular English or Spanish speaking parishioners were really separated so we had basically three communities in one parish. I believe if there was one Mass celebrated in Latin, it would have drawn us together, at least for worship.

  4. Other Paul says:

    “Though the Holy Father does not mention this issue, it seems clear that the self-separation into different language groups has in effect broken down community, not opened it up.”

    I hadn’t thought of this aspect. The use of the Latin language is (and was) indeed a unifying force then.

  5. Joe says:

    I’m glad you saw this piece, Fr. Z. I thought it was great when I read it a few
    days ago. Incidentally, I’m a recent Georgetown graduate who took six political
    philosophy classes with Fr. Schall.

  6. Andy says:

    “There are those who insist that Pius X was the last “valid” pope because of issues concerning the form of Mass.”

    Actually, Pius XII is the last Pope according to the sedevecantist crowd.

    “n the earlier American church during periods of immigration, Mass was said in German, Polish, Spanish, or Italian. Parishes were organized to make this possible.”

    No. The MAss was said in LAtin. The sermon was preached in these various languages.

  7. TJM says:

    A very fine article by Father Schall, full of
    scholarship and common sense. I always thought it a
    great irony that as the world had grown smaller
    (and continues to do so), that the Catholic Church
    in its implementation of Sacrasanctum Concilium
    elected to “balkanize” the Faithful through various
    Masses targeted at specific lingual groups. Tom

  8. Rob in Maine says:

    Did I post the other day my derision of the Jebbies? Yay Jesuites!

    “…that the Vatican should publish an official Missal that everyone…On one side would be the Latin and the other the vernacular”

    Well, I already have my Grand-mere’s 1959 missal; it’s in Frnech & Latin. The Vatican shoudl publish ONE Missal (doesn’t it aready?) and let St Joseph’s do the rest.

  9. Royce says:

    “Actually, Pius XII is the last Pope according to the sedevecantist crowd.”

    Not always, for some wackos the 1955 Holy Week reforms illustrate that Pius XII was really a modernist. What a shame that I know that …

  10. pjsandstrom says:

    For an Anglican who presumably upholds the 39 Articles, Catherine Pickstock’s
    idealization of the Pre and Post Reformation Roman Liturgy rings very strangely.
    She seems to hold that ‘transubstantion’ is the key of all liturgical worship.
    I do not disagree, but for an Anglican, that is a very awkward position
    theologically, since it is expressly denied in the 39 Articles. That is only one
    of the many ‘loose ends’ in her argument.

  11. pjsandstrom says:

    For an Anglican who presumably upholds the 39 Articles, Catherine Pickstock’s
    idealization of the Pre and Post Reformation Roman Liturgy rings very strangely.
    She seems to hold that ‘transubstantion’ is the key of all liturgical worship.
    I do not disagree, but for an Anglican, that is a very awkward position
    theologically, since it is expressly denied in the 39 Articles. That is only one
    of the many ‘loose ends’ in her argument.

  12. G says:

    PJSandstrom, just as there are far too many non-Catholics who call themselves Catholics, (CINOs,) mankind is also blessed with Catholics who do not even yet know themselves to be Catholics.
    Many, many thoughtful, holy members of the Anglican communion are such.

    (Save the Liturgy, save the World)

  13. I have always thought that the Vatican should publish an official Missal that everyone, no matter what language he speaks, is expected to own and which will not change, except perhaps for the addition of new saints. On one side would be the Latin and the other the vernacular, whatever it is that one speaks. Over a lifetime, if the Mass were in Latin, everyone would be used to the same service, and would be able to follow and know what it means in his own language. We would then have more common music and all know certain Latin prayers and chants. That strikes me as more genuinely universal than anything we now have.

    Uh, that’s precisely the way things USED to be. Apparently it takes forty years or so for everyone to realize the applicability in this instance of the aphorism “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? If unity is to be the goal, one would think that a new Missale Romanum, one much more closely related to the 1962 and prior editions, would be an excellent start, with Latin encouraged (ahem, REQUIRED) for all but the readings and homily. That sounds pretty familiar. It’s just fine if people recognize that the experiment of the last 40 years has been an outright failure, that the Catholic Church has had its New Coke experience with the new liturgy, however well-intentioned it was, and get back to its tradition.

  14. danphunter1 says:

    Kevin,
    Amen to that!
    God bless you.

  15. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Fr. Z, could you expound upon this quote and your comment:

    One might say that the Tridentine form had too few readings, while the Novus Ordo has far too many ever to remember. [Very good.]

    What is meant by the term “readings”? The readings from Scripture? Or the various “paths” the liturgy can take? By the latter, I mean the choice of penitential rite, the opening prayer (or its alternate), the responsorial psalm, the multitude of Eucharistic prayers, etc.

    Thanks.

  16. G says:

    Could you, Fr. Z, or someone else, speak to this:

    “The replacement of the sermon for the homily on scripture has yet to prove its superiority. The faithful are in dire need of systematic teaching on doctrine. The neglect of doctrine has left generations bereft of familiarity with orthodox teaching in the Church, this all in the name of Scripture.”

    Not being called to preach, I never looked in to it all that carefully, but I had understood that all that changed with VCII was a matter of increased emphasis on preaching, and a requirement that the sermon/homily not be neglected.

    Were there actually different requirements in the rubrics as to the subject of the preaching at Mass?
    It is still not required, despite the mistaken impression of many, that the theme be taken from the days scripture readings; IIRC, any text from the Mass, including from the Ordinary is appropriate, I thought, and one could easily preach doctrine for a year of Sundays, using the Roman Canon, for instance, as a starting point.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  17. David M.O'Rourke says:

    To P.J. Sandstrom: Keep in mind that the 39 Articles were written before the Council of Trent whose definition of Trnsubstantiation apparently removed some rough spots in the earlier definition. I wish I had more details. Of course the 39 Articles have their own rough spots. I believe it’s article 28 which rejects the “sacrifices of Masses” but which Catholic would not reject the sacrifiCES (note the plural) of Masses. As an Anglican I must say that I have never heard a better definition of what happens to the elements in the Mass than Transubstantiation.

  18. Jeff Pinyan says:

    G, on the topic of homilies, here’s what I can find in the 60 or so Vatican documents I have on my computer…

    Pope Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), 50: Let priests therefore […] assiduously distribute the heavenly treasures of the divine word by sermons, homilies and exhortations; let them confirm the Christian doctrine by sentences from the Sacred Books and illustrate it by outstanding examples from sacred history and in particular from the Gospel of Christ Our Lord; and – avoiding with the greatest care those purely arbitrary and far-fetched adaptations, which are not a use, but rather an abuse of the divine word – let them set forth all this with such eloquence, lucidity and clearness that the faithful may not only be moved and inflamed to reform their lives, but may also conceive in their hearts the greatest veneration for the Sacred Scripture.

    Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei (1947), 101: [T]he object [of] readings, homilies and other sermons given by priests, as also the whole cycle of mysteries which are proposed for our commemoration in the course of the year [is] “enhancing the majesty of this great Sacrifice, and raising the minds of the faithful by means of these visible signs of religion and piety, to the contemplation of the sublime truths contained in this sacrifice.” (Cf. Council of Trent, Sess. 22, c. 5.)

    Pope Paul VI, Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963), 24: [I]t is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily […]

    ibid, 52: By means of the homily the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text, during the course of the liturgical year; the homily, therefore, is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself; in fact, at those Masses which are celebrated with the assistance of the people on Sundays and feasts of obligation, it should not be omitted except for a serious reason.

    Sacred Congregation of Rites, Inter Oecumenici (1964), 54: A homily on the sacred text means an explanation, pertinent to the mystery celebrated and the special needs of the listeners, of some point in either the readings from sacred Scripture or in another text from the Ordinary or Proper of the day’s Mass.

    Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum (1965), 24: Sacred theology rests on the written word of God, together with sacred tradition, as its primary and perpetual foundation. By scrutinizing in the light of faith all truth stored up in the mystery of Christ, theology is most powerfully strengthened and constantly rejuvenated by that word. […] By the same word of Scripture the ministry of the word also, that is, pastoral preaching, catechetics and all Christian instruction, in which the liturgical homily must hold the foremost place, is nourished in a healthy way and flourishes in a holy way.

    Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Liturgicae Instaurationes (1970), 2a: The homily has as its purpose to explain to the faithful the word of God just proclaimed and to adapt it to the mentality of the times.

    Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Eucharistiae Participationem (1973), 15: In addition to the admonitions, the homily must be kept in mind. It is “part of the liturgy itself,” (Sacronsanctum Concilium, 52) and explains the Word of God proclaimed in the liturgical assembly for the faithful there present, in a manner suited to their capacity and way of life, and relative to the circumstances of the celebration.

    Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae (1980), 10: The reading of Scripture cannot be replaced by the reading of other texts, however much they may be endowed with undoubted religious and moral values. On the other hand such texts can be used very profitably in the homily. Indeed the homily is supremely suitable for the use of such texts, provided that their content corresponds to the required conditions, since it is one of the tasks that belong to the nature of the homily to show the points of convergence between revealed divine wisdom and noble human thought seeking the truth by various paths.

    Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship, Inaestimabile Donum (1980), 3: The purpose of the homily is to explain to the faithful the Word of God proclaimed in the readings, and to apply its message to the present. (Liturgicae Instaurationes, no. 2, a)

    Pope John Paul II, Vicesimus Quintus Annus (1988), 7: Christ is present in his word as proclaimed in the assembly and which, commented upon in the homily, is to be listened to in faith and assimilated in prayer.

    Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (1993), 134: In the Catholic Eucharistic Liturgy, the homily which forms part of the liturgy itself is reserved to the priest or deacon, since it is the presentation of the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian living in accordance with Catholic teaching and tradition.

    Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004), 67: Particular care is to be taken so that the homily is firmly based upon the mysteries of salvation, expounding the mysteries of the Faith and the norms of Christian life from the biblical readings and liturgical texts throughout the course of the liturgical year and providing commentary on the texts of the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass, or of some other rite of the Church (cf. GIRM, 65). […] In the homily to be given, care is to be taken so that the light of Christ may shine upon life’s events. Even so, this is to be done so as not to obscure the true and unadulterated word of God: for instance, treating only of politics or profane subjects, or drawing upon notions derived from contemporary pseudo-religious currents as a source.

    Pope John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine (2004), 13: The Council Fathers also urged the celebrant to treat the homily as part of the liturgy, aimed at explaining the word of God and drawing out its meaning for the Christian life (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 52).

    Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis (2007), 46: Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved. The homily is “part of the liturgical action” (GIRM, 29; cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7, 33, 52), and is meant to foster a deeper understanding of the word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful. Hence ordained ministers must “prepare the homily carefully, based on an adequate knowledge of Sacred Scripture” (Cf. Propositio 19). Generic and abstract homilies should be avoided. In particular, I ask these ministers to preach in such a way that the homily closely relates the proclamation of the word of God to the sacramental celebration (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 52) and the life of the community, so that the word of God truly becomes the Church’s vital nourishment and support. (Dei Verbum, 21) The catechetical and paraenetic aim of the homily should not be forgotten. During the course of the liturgical year it is appropriate to offer the faithful, prudently and on the basis of the three-year lectionary, “thematic” homilies treating the great themes of the Christian faith, on the basis of what has been authoritatively proposed by the Magisterium in the four “pillars” of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the recent Compendium, namely: the profession of faith, the celebration of the Christian mystery, life in Christ and Christian prayer. (To this end the Synod has called for the preparation of pastoral aids based on the three-year lectionary, to help connect the proclamation of the readings with the doctrine of the faith; cf. Propositio 19)

    Synod of Bishops, Historia Salutis (2007), 21: Concretely speaking, maximum care should be given to the Liturgy of the Word celebrated during not only the Eucharist but also the other sacraments. This will be […] reflected in homilies, where the Word resounds in a clear and encouraging manner and the events of life and history can be interpreted in the light of faith.

  19. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Father:

    Could it, in your opinion, be reasonably argued that the best homily for our day would be a full strength sermon? The words apparently mean to describe distinct kinds of magisterial addresses. If a homily more specifically addresses the needs of the people, what could be more evident in today’s climate than that the most pressing need is for the faithful to know and be able to understand their faith?

  20. The personality of the priest, Cardinal Ratzinger said in the same book,
    should decrease. It is not “his” Mass; he is a servant there to do what the Lord
    guides through the Church. The Mass transcended the personality of the
    priest.

    YES. The best-said Masses are those where the priest gets out of God’s way.

  21. Publius says:

    Father, I have not seen on this blog this document on Summorum Pontificum from the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy: http://www.catholicchurchnh.org/docs/doc783.pdf. The Q&A is quite interesting. Did I miss the post?

  22. Seumas says:

    I fail to see why giving me the permission to say Mass in another language is somehow a “narrowing” of my freedom.

    But he wasn’t given permission to say Mass in another language. He already had that permission. This is not about the Mass is Latin, it is about Mass according to the 1962 missal.

  23. CPKS says:

    Good point, Seumas; and yet in some dioceses, including my own, a Latin Missa Normativa is, in practical terms, as far away (and as seemingly “abrogated”) as the usus antiquior. In such dioceses, it is about Latin. The corrosive doctrine of “active participation” banishes not just Latin, but good music. The fundamental issue seems to be whether the liturgy should sink to the level of the people, or whether the people should rise to that of the liturgy; and I think this is where the real battle lines are drawn, with partisans on each side regarding their opponents with something like dismay.

  24. Marcus says:

    Society of Jesus, indeed! Well-presented points & counter points.

    After parish council this very night, I was talking with a colleague about how having a Spanish-language Mass has left our Hispanics parishioners in their own separate enclave. I think the world of my priest, but he won’t even talk about a Latin NO Mass (aren’t they Latin Americans?), either to integrate the parish better or to ease his Mass schedule.

    His response to the use of Missals is that people should be listening and paying attention during Mass, not reading with their heads buried in books (it is funny at the NO Mass to hear everyone flip the missalette pages at the same time).

    My friend said a lot of the older members have quit attending, are about to, or have gone somewhere else due to various concerns, and thought a reverent Latin NO Mass would really help to settle these folks down. Isn’t it sad that we have to specify “reverent” when talking about Mass? Or Latin?

    I’m teaching the 6th graders the standard responses, prayers, and ordinaries in Latin. Sorta priming the pump. I’m sure I’ll get a talking to one day….

    Peace to all and Viva il Papa!

  25. Brian Crane says:

    The argument for Latin Masses uniting otherwise diverse parishes (e.g. a parish comprised of Hispanic, Anglo, Haitian, and Brazilian communities) sounds good, but one is still left with the issue of how to handle the homily or sermon. What language to preach it in? Preach it in the most prevalent language then provide a brief synopsis in other languages (as the Holy Father does at his public audiences)? As to this possible solution, the minority groups clearly are short-changed, and it only clutters and possibly prolongs the liturgy to have translations being provided in succession from the pulpit.

    The homily or sermon is an important part of the Mass, and while I like the “Latin as a unifying factor” argument, I have yet to find a satisfying answer how to deal with this one issue that hand missals in printed various languages cannot address.

  26. JPG says:

    Latin is the language that will most readily address the multicultural issue, however this I can guarantee you will not occur to 95+% of the priests in the US. They would in fact resist such an idea.
    The other larger problem is the dreadful catechesis of the last 40 years. The unchanging articles of the Faith have not been reinforced on any realizable scale in that time. A reform based on the older form of the Roman Rite would be a great starting point in trying to rectify that issue. However with the caveat that the Liturgy is not primarily a time of teaching but of worship.
    JPG

  27. Teresa B. says:

    Thanks for posting this.
    It is a wonderful article.
    Glad to see this coming from a Jesuit.
    I look forward to my first Tridentine Mass – whenever/wherever that may be.
    Pax Christi,
    Teresa B.

  28. Tony says:

    Many think they have a “right” to hear Mass in their own tongue. [Excellent.]

    We used to have a Maronite Mass celebrated once a month at our parish. I sought it out one time mostly for curiousity purposes. I was sitting in the pew before Mass when a young girl approached me and said: “Excuse me. You might want this missalette”. I thanked her and took a look at it. The one I had taken was written entirely in Arabic script. The one she gave me had “facing pages” of English.

    Some might think they are lost with the Latin, at least the language shares an alphabet with one most of us are familiar with. The Arabic script was entirely incomprehensible to me.

    But from the moment the Mass started, I knew I was in a Catholic Mass. The entire Mass was chanted Arabic (except the readings which were in English, and the homily which were in both Arabic and English). The consecration was in Aramaic which might have been the exact words in the exact language the Jesus spoke at the Last Supper. (I met with the priest after and learned that the form of Aramaic they use is less formal. Like using “you” and “your” instead of “thee” and “thou”.)

    There were many candles, copious incensing of the altar, lectionary, Blessed Sacrament. The responses were printed in the missallette with descriptions of the gestures of the priest, altar servers (acolytes) and deacon, so I was able to follow along quite well. After the gesture, I’d read the prayer in English which preceeded it. I was a step behind, but I understood the whole Mass.

    Communion was administered standing, intincted by the priest and placed on the tongue of the communicant. And I knew that I was indeed partaking of the Body of Christ.

    It was quite easy for me because I had a desire to attend this Mass, and it was a very moving experience for me. The people were mostly of Lebonese nationality, and the community was very welcoming to me, and obvious “stranger”. I indeed felt as a member of the worshipping Body of Christ with them.

    I guess I gravitate strongly toward Eastern rite Masses, and I discovered that there are quite a few which are in communion with Rome (the Maronite being the oldest). But now I’ll have the opportunity to attend a transendental expression of my own Latin rite Church. :)

  29. TerryC says:

    Everytime I think the Society Of Jesus is beyond saving some theologically solid jesuit goes and opens his mouth and inspires me to hope for the order again.
    Very good piece. How could such a vast range of orthodoxy exists in a single order. I find it almost beyond comprhension that Fr. Philip Chircop and Fr.James V. Schall are members of the same order.

  30. Bo says:

    Great article. I love Schall’s stuff. The only thing I would suggest different is to replace Pickstock’s reading with something from Matthew Levering if you wanted to read the importance of sacrifice and transubstantion for the Mass and theology in general. “Community and Sacrifice” is brilliant. As far as Catherine Pickstock, Radical Orthodoxy, and the very strange ring of everything they do, i just don’t think they are worth the trouble. Half the time, I think they are being terse for the sake of being terse, and the other half, they make strange if not bad reads of the subjects at hand. “After writing” is not as bad as some of their other work, but one only has to read Pickstock and Milbank’s “Truth in Aquinas” to see just wrong they can get a subject. Milbank’s interpretation of de Lubac is simply horrible. Its the “neo-” prefix that scares me…as if you could be more orthodox than orthodoxy…