In his Letter from Rome Robert Mickens of RU-486 (aka The Bitter Pill aka The Tablet) offers these observations about the older form of Mass and Pope Benedict’s "emancipation proclamation" Summorum Pontificum. Shall we have a look in the usual way?
Monday marks two years since Pope Benedict’s moto proprio, “Summorum Pontificum”, came into effect and allowed general use of the Tridentine Mass. The papal document changed our liturgical terminology, redefining the old and new rites respectively as the “extraordinary and ordinary forms of the one Roman Rite”. Until recently I had seen only portions of the extraordinary form. [Lemme get this straight. After all these years of sniping at the older form of Mass and the people involved with it, Mickens finally got around – good reporter that he is – to going to one. It has been available in Rome for years, long before the 2007 document Summorum Pontificum. But he has now gotten around to it.]
But last Sunday I decided to go to the vicariate of Rome’s designated parish for the “extraordinary form” of the Mass. [and all the sacraments.] Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini (Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims) is run by the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), the first group of former Lefebvrists to return to communion with Rome. They pride themselves on saying the old Mass with great care and reverence. [Which is, in this day and age, something to be proud of. He could have walked into nearly any other church in the centro for a very different celebration of Mass.] In fact, last Sunday’s rite featured a magnificent schola, unobtrusively situated in the choir loft at the back of the lugubrious baroque church. [Nota bene: That’s what choir lofts are for. But, "lugubrious" SS. Trinità?] The music was gorgeous and spiritually moving, at least for meditation. But the rest of the liturgy was not. The church was half full, [It’s a big church.] mostly with regulars who had their own missals – or rosaries. Without the black book it was impossible fully to participate. [Hardly. If you are entirely of your own Rite, it is perhaps more challenging, but it is not impossible. You are going to have to go in with a little good will, first of all, and determination to try to participate. It would also help to have a fuller understanding of what "active participation" means.] The sacred ministers (priest, deacon, sub-deacon and several altar servers) did everything. [Wrong. The people in the pews were also doing something, something very important.] There was lots of criss-crossing in the sanctuary, bowing, a constant moving of books and the removal and replacement of hats. More than prayerful, I found it distracting and even dizzying. ["dizzying"? He must be very delicate.] Except for the Gospel, the readings and prayers were done ad orientem and inaudibly. The paternoster was chanted by the priest alone. We faithful chimed in only on the last line – “sed libera nos a malo”. [A final stab.]