Bishop of Fargo on the Motu Proprio

The Bishop of Fargo, ND, His Excellency Most Reverend Samuel Aquila, has published a letter on the Motu Proprio

My emphases and comments

Bishop’s Column

Two missals: One beautiful treasure of love  [I am instantly ready to love this letter.]

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In the past few weeks, two important documents were presented to the universal church by the Holy See.

The first document, “Summorum Pontificum,” was released July 7 by Pope Benedict XVI as an apostolic letter in the form of a motu proprio. It relaxes the restrictions on the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments using the forms that were present before the Second Vatican Council.

The second document, “Responses to Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church,” was issued July 10 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It reaffirms that the Catholic Church is the one, true church, even if elements of truth can be found in separated churches and communities. 

Pope Benedict noted in his letter to the bishops of the world concerning the liturgical use of preconciliar forms of the liturgy, that: “News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion.” This is true of the reports presented in local secular newspapers.  [The bishop takes note of poor reporting.  Excellent.]

Evident in the coverage both in articles and on the editorial pages throughout America was the fact that many unfounded statements were made by people not of the Catholic faith, or who had not read the documents in their entirety, or who do not have a working knowledge of what the Catholic Church teaches, both in the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The CDF document on “questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine of the church” is consistent with what the church has always taught, and it clarifies this teaching. I encourage you to read the text  [I like this.  The bishop thinks people are smart and can read for themselves.] and the guest editorial, on pages 2 and 19, respectively, in this issue of New Earth.

In regard to the apostolic letter on the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments prior to Vatican II, an Associated Press news report labeled it as a “victory” for some Catholics that “came over the objections” of other Catholics.

On the contrary, the faithful who read the document will see that, rather than positioning one version of the Roman Missal against another, [Right!  People don’t have to be losers.  Everyone can win.] the Holy Father declares, “They are, in fact, two usages of the one Roman Rite.” The document explains that there are two forms for celebrating the Holy Mass: the ordinary form of the Mass, currently celebrated in our parishes, according to the Roman Missal of Paul VI from 1970, and the extraordinary form of the Mass celebrated according to the Roman Missal from 1962, commonly known as the Tridentine Mass.

Our Holy Father makes clear in his apostolic letter that the Latin liturgy has had a variety of forms over the centuries. He observes that the Roman Missal itself had seven official editions between the Council of Trent and the 1962 edition. Hence, there has been and continues to be a development of the celebration of the Eucharist as found in the Roman Missal of today. The missal of Paul VI, in its Latin form, is a response to the reform of the liturgical rites specifically called for by the Second Vatican Council.

Pope Benedict fully acknowledges the validity of both the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical reforms. He does, however, in the letter to bishops regarding “Summorum Pontificum,” point out that abuses were experienced in the implementation of the changes to the liturgy. He states: “in many places, celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.”

Regarding the new missal, now in use in our parishes, the pope continues, “. . . the missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this missal.”

The renewed attention to celebrating either form of the Mass with greater reverence will lead us to a deeper love for our Eucharistic Lord.  [Excellent!]

One way in which our current missal will be improved in the coming years is with updated translations from the official Latin texts. Sadly, our current English translation is not as theologically rich or linguistically beautiful as comparable translations [That’s for sure!  It is nice to read clear words from a bishop about this.] in other languages such as French, Spanish, Italian or German. These updated English translations will enhance our reverence for the great mystery we celebrate in the Sacrifice of the Mass.

The directives of the document indicate that for the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated publicly in parish churches on a Sunday there must be “a stable group [there is that problematic translation] of the faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition,” and that only one celebration may be held.

The priests who celebrate the 1962 missal must be qualified to do so. In his letter to bishops, Pope Benedict reminds us and the faithful that, “The use of the old missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of those is found very often. Already, from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new missal will certainly remain the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful.”

Our Holy Father’s decree set forth by the apostolic letter is to be observed beginning Sept. 14, 2007. As your bishop, I will provide the priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Fargo with a plan as to how the articles of the apostolic letter will be put into place in our diocese. Watch for information on our diocesan Web site and in the September issue of New Earth.

The Holy Father’s desire, and my own,
[solidarity!] is that all of us develop a deeper love and reverence for the great treasure we receive from Christ, himself, in every Mass.

As the one sacrifice of Christ is made present on the altar, we offer our lives to the Father with, in and through Christ, giving adoration to the Father. We then are nourished with the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ when we receive the Eucharist. And whether it is in the “ordinary” or “extraordinary” celebration of the one Roman Rite, we receive the same Christ through the Eucharist, which “augments our union with Christ,” “separates us from sin,” “makes the church,” “strengthens our charity,” “commits us to the poor” and brings about “the unity of Christians” (CCC 1391-1401)!

May our Eucharistic Lord continue to bless your summer and fill you with his peace!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila 

Very nice letter! 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Yes, very nice. This might be a good time to remind readers of WDTPRS that there is a international database of priests and laity who want to promote the extraordinary use according to the motu proprio:

    Anyone can sign up and even those not signed up can use it to find others interested from their area.

  2. ray from mn says:

    I think I’m going to move to Fargo (unless our new Coadjutor Archbishop can match this).

  3. Concerning the use of the term “stable group,” and the inaccuracy of translation; until a more precise definition can be ascertained, it would suffice to take the entire letter into context. In this case, surely the best of intentions can be assumed, namely that those who earnestly request the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum would be of sufficient number and sincerity, to ensure that its sustained use would be a prudent use of priestly resources.

    (Wow, that entire paragraph was only two sentences. I’ve gotta get some rest.)

  4. Dr. Ed says:

    Thanks a lot FR.Z.

  5. Dr. Peter H. Wright says:

    Many thanks to Fr. Z for posting the letter from the Bishop of Fargo.
    A very nice letter from a very nice man and a good bishop.
    May God bless him.

  6. Denis Crnkovic says:

    This is indeed very nice. Perhaps Bishop Aquila’s letter will have a more regional influence and we here in the Winona diocese will see some genuine catechesis on the liturgy. And perhaps Fargo will then become renowned as that place where the bishop and his flock are liturgically savvy and not just as the place in that quirky Coen brothers’ movie…

  7. Animadversor says:

    Don’t rest now, Mr. Alexander. With just the tiniest changes, you can turn those two sentences into one.

  8. Marcus says:

    We are indeed blessed to have Bp. Aquila as our shepard in Fargo!
    The newly assigned priests and Rector at St. Mary’s Cathedral will be
    be attending the FSSP TLM course in August. All of them are wonderful,
    holy priests and very supportive of Summorum Pontificum.

  9. Therese Warmus says:

    Thank you, Father Z., for reproducing Bishop Aquila’s letter in the blog. While there is much cause for rejoicing I’ll admit that as a Catholic in the Fargo diocese, I was holding my breath waiting for his response. (Why, I can’t say–like the beloved James Sullivan before him, Samuel Aquila is a faithful son of Rome.) Still, I suppose it’ll finally hit me when I attend my first Tridentine Mass here in Grand Forks that this miracle really has happened, and that we are finally free.

  10. Can we get Bishop Aquila cloned and send the first 3 copies of him to Southern California…specifically, the dioceses of L.A., San Bernardino, and Orange? LOL

  11. Dogfoodlover says:

    A real bishop.

    Speaking of L.A., the title of one of Cardinal Mahony’s writings comes to mine: “I Will Appoint Over You Shepherds After My Own Heart.”

    I’m sure this bishop doesn’t incorporate dancing babes into his Masses.

  12. John Roberts says:

    “The directives of the document indicate that for the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated publicly in parish churches on a Sunday there must be a stable group…” Did you guys miss this ? He said “on a Sunday” no possibility of a daily Mass ?

  13. Brian Anderson says:

    Fr. Z

    The tone of this letter from the Bishop of Fargo reminds me so much of the Bishop Bruskewitz’s forward to the Baronius hand missal.

    “…It is my hope that this finely produced hand missal will also serve to introduce those unfamiliar with the traditional Roman Rite to its particular beauty. May it likewise contribute to the understanding that the older rites need not be disdained in order to appreciate the new, nor must the new rites be disparged in order to the love the old. In the Diocese of Lincoln, both the traditional and the new Roman Rites are available to the faithful and are celebrated with dignity. Those who participate in one or both of these forms of the Roman Rite do so in a spirit of mutual appreciation and peace. It is my humble prayer that this publication will promote tha same spirit of mutual respect among Catholics everywhere, regardless of the form of the Roman Rite they use to give honor and glory to God.”

    Clearly there are some bishops who do “Get It.”

  14. Tom S. says:

    This is beautiful…. Thanks for posting, Father Z. Would that all of our Bishops should respond so positively. Mine hasn’t responded at all.

  15. Fr. D says:

    Tom S.,

    Nor mine.

  16. Tim Ferguson says:

    He will be most welcome in Detroit when he comes as archbishop *crossing fingers*

  17. TJM says:

    How pastoral, how faithful, how wonderful. Bishop
    Aquila’s letter should be a model for other bishops.


  18. Animadversor:


  19. Gloria says:

    Absolutely Beautiful!! One of the best letters I have read so far. Clear reasoning and precise.

  20. TM says:

    …that was one of the best responses seen so far.

  21. rk says:

    To John Roberts:

    Bishop Aquila has not said anything substantial about its implementation, other than he is quite open to it and will encourage his priests.

    More information about that will be forthcoming in the September issue of our Diocesan newspaper.

  22. dcs says:

    John Roberts asks:
    Did you guys miss this ? He said “on a Sunday” no possibility of a daily Mass ?

    I don’t think that His Excellency listing what he believes the requirements to be for Sunday celebration necessarily rules out the celebration of daily Mass according to the extraordinary use. His position may simply be that, because daily Mass tends to be celebrated with a smaller congregation, that the requirements for public TLMs on weekdays are less strict.

  23. Marcus says:

    At the cathedral parish current plans are to have the TLM at 2:00 on Sundays.
    The starting date is still a little up in the air – altar servers need to be trained,
    a schola formed, etc. My quess is late September at the earliest.

  24. Bede says:

    A very nice letter indeed.

    How many of the bishops have weighed in one way or the other? I know in Seattle, we’re still awaiting some word.

  25. Thomas O'Brien says:

    I am concerned that there seems to be much confusion about the prayers regarding the Jews on Good Friday. Many commentators insist that the holy Father restored them in the Mass of John XXIII. My own reading intitally was that the Triduum remains in the rite of the Novus Ordo, and therefore the prayers for the “perfidious Jews” are still not appropriate. Any thoughts or clarifications?

  26. JohnK says:

    The fact that a man so obviously spiritual and in tune with improving the Mass is a bishop in the comparatively small and distant diocese of Fargo says more about the American church than anything else.

  27. michigancatholic says:

    John Roberts,

    In fact, the big deal is being able to attend the extraordinary form every Sunday. Under Ecclesia Dei, the tridentines that were offered were usually on weekdays in weird time slots, ie Tuesday at 4:30PM etc. If one was lucky enough to have a tridentine on Sunday it was usually only held a) once a month, and b) moved around to prevent the formation of a “stable group.” The interesting thing was that this only formed a mobile network of people who developed an idea of what was going on in the Church–an informational grapevine–the exact opposite of what it was supposed to do. And the pattern only accelerated when the Internet made it possible to quickly follow the tridentine as it hopped across town.

    Incidentally, the same thing was done to rosary groups and other devotional groups, ie. Friday morning at 9:30–a time when most working people can’t show up. That’s still pretty low profile, at least around here.

  28. TKS says:

    I’m not surprised. This diocese has a Eucharistic Congress each two years that I fly cross country to attend. The Bishop shows amazing humility and obedience which I think is the difference.

  29. CPKS says:

    I am struck by a great divide, which does not seem so much theological as anthropological. Those whose thought seems to agree most closely with our Holy Father seem to encourage us (i.e. the people in the pews) to read the official documents and inform ourselves, while on the other hand those who are apparently less sympathetic write (or delegate to sometimes ill-informed people the task of writing) realtively condescending missives that assume that all this is completely over our heads.

    Do others agree that, in strictly practical terms, this is not an issue about doctrine or liturgiology, but about whether the flock should be fed meat or milk?

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