A Pentecost Monday lesson: “And Paul VI wept.”

Years ago I told this Pentecost Monday tale and it has made the rounds.  It has made the rounds everywhere, but I am the origin of the anecdote, which I published years ago in the pages of The Wanderer and also on the now defunct Catholic Online Forum in its Compuserve days.  (Remember Compuserve? I’ve been at this since 1992.) Lots of people have picked it up.

It bears repetition.

This stands as a lesson for what happens when we lose sight of continuity.

Take this for what it may be worth.

Some years ago … gosh, it was decades now… I was told this story by a retired Papal Ceremoniere (Master of Ceremonies) who, according to him, was present at the event about to be recounted.

You probably know that in the traditional Roman liturgical calendar the mighty feast of Pentecost had its own Octave.  Pentecost was/is a grand affair indeed, liturgically speaking.  It has a proper Communicantes and Hanc igitur, an Octave, a Sequence, etc. In some places in the world such as Germany and Austria Pentecost Monday, Whit Monday as the English call it, was a reason to have a civil holiday, as well as a religious observance.

The Novus Ordo went into force with Advent in 1969.

The Monday after Pentecost in 1970, His Holiness Pope Paul VI went to the chapel for Holy Mass. Instead of the red vestments, for the Octave everyone knows follows Pentecost, there were laid out for him vestments of green.

Paul queried the MC assigned for that day, “What on earth are these for?  This is the Octave of Pentecost!  Where are the red vestments?”

Santità,” quoth the MC, “this is now Tempus ‘per annum’.  It is green, now. The Octave of Pentecost was abolished.”

“Green? That cannot be!”, said the Pope, “Who did that?”

“Holiness, you did.”

And Paul VI wept.

….

For more on that era check these PODCAzTs (perhaps some of the best I ever made):

093 09-11-16 40 years ago… Paul VI on the eve of the Novus Ordo
094 09-11-20 40 years ago… Paul VI on the eve of the Novus Ordo (Part II)
095 09-11-24 40 years ago… Paul VI on the eve of the Novus Ordo (Part III)

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31 Responses to A Pentecost Monday lesson: “And Paul VI wept.”

  1. James Joseph says:

    Being a continental historian and suspicious of the word ‘social’, I peaked into 19th-c. New England for the ideas floating around then concerning ‘Christian Sociology’.

    My discovery is that the Christian Sociology movement was then and is still utterly anti-Tradition.

    The Blackstone Valley of the 19th-c. is essentially the seed plot of Irish and Italian and Portuguese national Catholic Faith for the United States, with the early foundation by non-Catholics for their workers of churches, row housing, and company stores.

    I found this little 1844 Rhode Island book a quick read this morning while listing to the podcast. “The Elements of Social Disorder: A Plea for the Working Classes”

    There may well be earlier texts but I am not sure if they have the same weight as the manifesto at hand. With it’s call for nationalism and socialism of all kinds, the 1840′s was a huge decade of upheaval for it followed in the footsteps of the 1790′s. The French Revolution as we all know was largely the reason for the pastoral council during the 1960′s. We can honestly argue that the very reason for the horrific wars of the 1870′s again in the 20th-c. are the result of liberalism encountering secularism.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=q2VHAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22christian%20sociology

  2. visigrad says:

    May Our Lord hear us as we weep still and send The Holy Spirit to renew The Mass through the growth of the Extraordinary Form.

  3. Gaz says:

    Yes. I’ve been thinking about Paul’s tears today.

  4. Dr. Lee Fratantuono says:

    Pentecost 1970 was 17 May. The MC could have put out red the next day for S. John I, pope and martyr, or conceivably white for S. Felix of Cantalice, the two options in the Novus Ordo calendar for Rome.

  5. robtbrown says:

    The reaction by Paul VI reminds me that Charles Barkley said he was misquoted . . . in his autobiography.

    I guess it’s safe to say that Paul VI will not be beatified for his management skills.

  6. jacobi says:

    I have suggested elsewhere that we have been badly served by our Popes from St John XXIII to, it would now increasingly seem, the present.

    There were obviously forces at work in the Church during Paul’s rule which he neither understood nor was able to control. I’m not surprised he broke down and wept.

    He was indecisive, easily manipulated, but like all such personalities, could occasionally put his foot down as he did (and rightly so) with Humanae Vitae. He simply did not grasp what Bugnini et al, were up to, nor that their main line of attack was via the liturgy.

  7. Well for whatever reason Pope Paul VI reportedly wept, the destruction of the calendar and Catholic practices is a tragedy and a betrayal.

  8. TravelerWithChrist says:

    It is raining here today as I read this. Perhaps the tears cleansed his soul as the rain cleans the air.
    Thank God the Traditional Mass is making a comeback, and there is one nearby. I pray daily this continues, that the Traditional Mass becomes the norm.

  9. kimberley jean says:

    Paul VI, sure did a lot of weeping.

  10. Mario Bird says:

    The Pope Paul VI anecdote reminds me of the Roman Emperor Claudius in Suetonius’ Twelve Caesars:

    “Among other things men have marvelled at his absent-mindedness and blindness, or to use the Greek terms, his ???????? and ???????. When he had put Messalina to death, he asked shortly after taking his place at the table why the empress did not come. He caused many of those whom he had condemned to death to be summoned the very next day to consult with him or game with him, and sent a messenger to upbraid them for sleepy-heads when they delayed to appear.”

    Veni, Sancte Spiritu!

  11. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Many folks describe Vatican II as “a new Pentecost”. Perhaps that was a motive for the de-emphasis of the observance of the original Pentecost on the part of the innovators. The fact that they apparently hid that innovation from the Holy Father until it was too late for him to block it does not reflect well on them.

    NB – I ain’t in the “new Pentecost” camp, just making an observation.

  12. FrJsignal says:

    This morning as I was vesting for Mass I double-checked the Ordo to make sure it was, indeed, “green” today. I knew Ordinary Time had arrived but it just didn’t seem fitting the day after Pentecost. It seemed rather anticlimactic. Without an awareness that there used to be an octave, I sensed there perhaps should have been one.

  13. Imrahil says:

    “Having left the details of the liturgy reform in general to my competent advisors, I confess that the detail about the abolishment of the Octave of Pentecost escaped Our attention. Despite the decision not lacking some ground in systematic liturgic theology, still the habituation and wish of God’s faithful people and of Ourself, namely, to celebrate the feast Pentecost of the forthcoming of the Holy Spirit, surpassed only by Easter in its rank on the Christian calender, with its proper octave, We therefore declare and decide that, from the year following the publication of this decree onwards, the Octave of Pentecost shall again be celebrated with the propers as in use in the Missal of of St. Pius V as edited by Our beloved predecessor John XXIII. We grant indult, until further notice, to use makeshift additions to the missals currently in use; these masses are, on the other hand, to be celebrated even if new missals have not yet been purchased. We request such episcopal conferences as have hitherto been granted indult to celebrate the liturgy in the vernacular to translate the masses of the Octave of Pentecost and present the translations to the Apostolic See for approval, which will be granted in due course; otherwise they are to celebrate in Latin. Given on the etc. etc., in defiance to any decree to the contrary even worthy of special mentioning, etc. etc., Paul VI., servant of the servants of God.”

    Dreaming is allowed after all.

    For the naive ones among us such as myself, the Pope has (somewhat) absolute power and he has it for use. Popes can make mistakes. If they have spotted themselves making a mistake, they can unmake them.

    I do assume that Paul VI thought that what the French call “la raison de l’Église” forbade the Pope, in the situation, to make himself ridiculous. Well. Good point. In addition, the episcopate was stirring with respect to Humanae vitae, and the Pope surely felt that even as a person, he needed to be a respected one.

    I merely add that there’s a reason we Germans call humility “servcourage”. It takes courage and a lot of self-confidence and office-confidence to humble oneself as having made a mistake, simply reversing it, and exposing oneself to laughter… By a coincidence, there is rather little “I have made a mistake” to be heard from business leaders… But such courses have worked in the past, and, at any rate to me, have a great sympathetic appeal even if they didn’t.

    In fact, that, once the thing was through, the Pope did not reverse the change, may, for all I know, have been the more prudent decision. But I, meaning the alias, was once counseled “I do not counsel prudence”, and that worked out well.

    [Explanatory note: I am not accusing Pope Paul VI of lack of humility. Both deciding to a) drop the Octave and b) not to reintroduce it after finding that that was a mistake were decisions a Pope could well make.
    I strictly focused on what Chesterton once approximately called the colorfulness of white, i. e., virtue as a thing in its own right with only marginal, in the literal sense, connection to "absence of sinfulness". As only sins are things people can be reproached of, it is clear that I am not reproaching the Venerable Pope... in fact, it was probably more prudent to keep the changed form once it was effected... only, well, "it might have been".]

    That said, we Germans are joyfully celebrating (forgive me if you’ve heard this joke already from me),

    Monday of the 10th week of Ordinary Time,
    optional memorial of St. Ephrem the Syrian,
    - note: for Mass, it is compulsory to all priests to celebrate a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit -
    Holy Day of Obligation,
    public holiday.

  14. ajf1984 says:

    I don’t have it with me at the moment, but my copy of the Daily Roman Missal (Third Edition), published by MTF, has a notation at the end of the readings and Ordo for Pentecost Sunday that, in those places where it is customary for the faithful to attend Mass on the Monday and Tuesday following Pentecost Sunday, the Mass of Pentecost Sunday may itself be celebrated again on those days, or in its place a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, as Imrahil mentions is the obligatory ‘option’ in Deutschland. I don’t know if the mention of celebrating the Pentecost Sunday Mass the on Monday and Tuesday following was included in the last version of the English missal or not…

  15. Geoffrey says:

    The third typical edition of the Missale Romanum says:

    “Ubi feria II vel etiam III post Pentecosten sunt dies quibus fideles debent vel solent Missam frequentare, resumi potest Missa dominicæ Pentecostes, vel dici potest Missa de Spiritu Sancto… [Where the Monday or Tuesday after Pentecost are days on which the faithful are obliged or accustomed to attend Mass, the Mass of Pentecost Sunday may be repeated, or a Mass of the Holy Spirit... may be said]“.

    I wonder if one of the reasons the octave was removed was to place emphasis on the great novena in preparation for Pentecost. In both the Missal and in the Liturgy of the Hours, after the Ascension, there are numerous texts, hymns, prayers, antiphons, etc., calling for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I doubt even the reformers anticipated the advent of “Ascension Sunday”, which shortens the novena liturgically.

  16. jacobi says:

    Father,

    Have now listened to your podcasts. Excellent!!

    I hope they are now heard in seminaries and they should be expanded into a book, particularly that part dealing with the Concilium.

    Still strongly suspect that when Benedict said “what earlier genererations held sacred ” etc in Sumorum Pontificum, he had Quo Primum very much in mind!

  17. MarkG says:

    I never understood why they changed the calendar with the new Mass.
    It seems like rewriting the Mass, allowing the interiors of Churches to be remodeled into Protestant plane style, and allowing improper chalices and ciboria and low quality vestments would have been enough.

  18. rusynbyz says:

    Join the Byzantine Rite and you can wear green without guilt.

  19. BLB Oregon says:

    kimberley jean said: “Paul VI sure did a lot of weeping.”
    Perhaps it was a matter of acting in haste and repenting at leisure? Over some things, the tears are still falling.

  20. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Seems to me that Paul VI had a very high degree of trust in others, particularly in well-educated churchmen. Hence the free hand given to the consilium and the tragic period immediately before Humane Vitae.

    Puts me in mind of the wag who observed that we often act as if our Lord paused and turned to an entirely different section of the audience between speaking the phrases “Be as wise as serpents” and “Be as innocent as doves”.

  21. Sonshine135 says:

    Father- it was my first time hearing these podcasts. Thank you for them. I feel much more enlightened about the move into the newer form of the Mass. I would like to say that they brought me peace along with understanding, but now I am questioning more than ever why everyone is in such a rush to Canonize Paul VI. Hey everyone, Let’s get with the times. Let’s dump the Mass of the Ages and replace it with this. We know it will be hard, but it will be better. You’ll see. God wants us to dump it!
    I really think a lot of people’s pride got in the way of sound Catholic Doctrine. The resulting mess is on Paul VI shoulders along with those that came after him. One thing is for sure. Many of us weep with Paul VI.

  22. robtbrown says:

    Jacobi,

    A few points:

    1. Given the disaster that JPII inherited, I do not agree that we were badly served by him. I also think that Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum and Coetibus Anglicanorum will have long lasting consequences.

    2. Paul VI was a puzzle. He seemed like an American football coach who is concerned with having a fancy offense and defense but ignores that his team doesn’t play hard and cannot block and tackle.

    3. When I was in Rome, I read an interview with two Cardinals (neither Italian), one the putative Grand Elector of JPII. Both acknowledged that Sacrosanctum Concilium was not very good because they underestimated its difficult and importance. OK, fine, but the tone of their comments was as if they had painted the bathroom the wrong shade of blue. There seemed to be no awareness that they had been active participants in policies that had ruined many lives.

  23. Pingback: Weeping | Mundabor's Blog

  24. “Join the Byzantine Rite and you can wear green without guilt.”

    Or attend the traditional Mass and not worry about not wearing green at all!

    Everyone knows Paul VI was a sad case, that he was lonely, that he was easily manipulated, that he was indecisive, etc., etc. But that does not take away the fact that he provided his signature or permission for all these things to take place. Bringing Bugnini back after John XXIII had gotten rid of him and reprimanding people who stood for tradition/Tradition in public (Lefebvre, Tito Casini, etc), does not really go along with the sadness is said to have expressed at so many of the changes.

  25. jacobi says:

    @Robtbrown,

    Forgive me. Badly served was probably a bit strong. Maybe “not well served” would have been better.

    Trouble is, the Church is now in such an unmitigated mess. Benedict XVI called it a crisis. Others, Warner, Mosebach, and Voris, I think, a catastrophe, Davies , a disaster, and so on. I believe the time has come for blunt speaking.

    Briefly, I would say St John XXIII was naive, Paul VI , we have dealt with, John Paul II, was initially distracted with East Europe, grasped belatedly that there were deep problems within, but never got down to dealing with them adequately. Benedict understood what was wrong but took inadequate action and didn’t follow through and then, failing a bit , and who isn’t?, chucked it. And Francis, frankly I am surprised at the degree of disquiet expressed by so many respected commentators within the Church. This is a totally new phenomenon.

    Sadly as per the ancient Chinese curse, we live in interesting times and I suspect they are going to get a lot more so!

  26. xavier217 says:

    Guess he had to sign the bill to find out what was in it.

  27. jonh303 says:

    On a more red note, anyone got a caption for this?? http://www.catholiconnection.com/2014/06/caption-contest-anyone.html

  28. St. Epaphras says:

    Thank you, Father Z, for these podcasts. They’re now on the iPod. There is so much to learn. You’re a help.

  29. JimGB says:

    My problem with Paul VI’s reaction is two-fold: if he really did not understand that the Octave of Pentecost had been abolished, then it shows he was giving his approval for significant changes in the liturgy without understanding what he was approving; secondly, if he was so upset with the change, whey did he not use the remaining 9+years of his pontificate to remedy it? Either way, it reflects very poorly on him, and calls into question the apparently headlong rush to beatify him.

  30. Siculum says:

    I can’t wait for Humanae Vitae to be canonized.

    Let us merely glance at the past for a brief time, then study Sacrosanctum Concilium and Summorum Pontificum, and prayerfully press ever onward, brick by brick.

  31. Titus says:

    “2. Paul VI was a puzzle. He seemed like an American football coach who is concerned with having a fancy offense and defense but ignores that his team doesn’t play hard and cannot block and tackle.”

    I’ve said some harsh things about Paul VI before, but calling him Charlie Weis is really a bit too much, I think.

    I was hoping for some response to the St. John I objection to the accuracy of the story: might it have been Pentecost Tuesday?