A GUEST POST from a reader…
I have been meaning to write this for a little while but the holiday gives me a time to reflect on several observations over the past weeks and several years. This in light of priestly ordinations of late as well as the realization that this coming Friday July 7th is the tenth anniversary of the release of Summorum Pontificum.
As you know I live close to a major metropolitan diocese where times have been challenging and tradition has been suppressed and those attached to it oppressed for many decades. However, times and conditions are changing, and for the better.
While the number of vocations, a perennial measure of the health of the Church, are not quite what we’d call booming, there is a healthy pipeline of seminarians coming in and working through their studies, and the quality of the men finishing seminary preparation is not only impressive but remarkable in many ways.
Having attended 1st Holy Masses of the newly ordained regularly for the past decade, there are some noticeable changes occurring. The newly ordained are taking more serious the rubrics for liturgical dress; I’ve seen them saying the vesting prayers in recent years and using the amice and cincture more and more. Seminarians too come well prepared in pressed, crisp cassock and surplice and in large numbers to support their elder brothers.
Ordinands are also choosing more traditional, sometimes gothic, sometimes Roman vestments. What would have been unthinkable eight to ten years ago, and in some places five years ago when the more traditional priests were pushing the limits and being berated, is being done widely now, without expectation of prior negative consequences.
Once in the parish, many new priests are greeting their new parishioners in the same cassock and surplice they have become accustomed to wearing during seminary years, which, while bringing comments and surprise is mostly welcomed. I have seen a number of new associates who are distributing Holy Communion at masses they are not celebrating and none of them come in simple alb and stole, not one. Ten years ago, this would have been unheard of, now it is commonplace.
Another noticeable trait that has been introduced slowly, which includes at altars in the seminaries, is the central facing cross and candle set. Some of the newly ordained, and a few who have recently become pastors, even after only 5-7 years spent as pastoral associates, have made this change to their parishes main altar of sacrifice. In effect, the boundaries of a more traditional practice are being pressed wherever possible.
I have also been impressed by the newly ordained and their attachment to the ancient rite. It is crystal clear that they both know and have come to learn about it, and several I have spoken too have learned to love it and make it part of their priestly sense of self. I had a young priest friend send me a message last week, for instance, that he had offered his private TLM for me and my family, for which I was so very thankful. Some newly ordained offered their first and second Holy Masses in the Extraordinary Form – where and how this happens still unfortunately is done guardedly. I was present at one this year, and if I didn’t know the young priest had just been ordained, I would have thought he’d been saying the mass for some years.
One of the heartening and beautifully fraternal aspects of these early masses, both in the OF and EF, is the presence of other recently ordained who come to support their brother, especially in the EF where they come and attend in choir or server as deacon and sub-deacon.
Perhaps most significant, there are a number of other moves that the newly ordained are making which betray a deep spiritual affection for their office and the souls of their charges. These young priests are taking very seriously their role as shepherd of souls. Most of the newly ordained do not preach at their own first masses where I am, however, they uniformly do later take a moment to thank those who helped them on their path; and time after time, I have been increasingly hearing messages imploring folks to go to confession, attend weekly mass, pray the rosary and attend Eucharistic devotions especially Adoration and Holy Hours. Many have also provided the great spiritual gift to those in attendance of procuring the necessary permissions from the Apostolic Penitentiary to allow for a Plenary Indulgence, under the normal conditions, for attending their own first Holy Mass.
All of the early masses I have attended include an opportunity afterwards to receive a first blessing from the priests, and half or better I have heard give the blessing in Latin. In talking about this with a some priests who have been ordained for a few years, they all say that the guys in seminary know where the resources are, how to get them, and learn what they are required to know. I was surprised to know that of the priests ordained coming out of a major seminary, a full 60% or better are expected to be saying the older form of the mass, predominantly in private for now, and in expectation for the days when it is even more accepted.
In summary, I am seeing very good progress over the past 10 years. I am filled with much hope in these times and expectations of great holiness from our new priests.