Brick by Brick in Australia

From my email:


Dear friends

This is a photo of Bishop Richard Umbers, 46, auxiliary bishop of Sydney (the youngest bishop in Australia and the first born in the 1970’s) from the Opus Dei prelature, celebrating a pontifical extraordinary form of the Roman Rite Mass recently, in the Brisbane suburb of Arcadia.

He celebrated the old liturgy quite regularly as a priest as well, and it is rather unusual for Opus Dei clergy to do this. Umbers has been a bishop for less than twelve months.

Perhaps it is evidence that among a younger generation of Catholics, the Tridentine Mass is becoming far more popular. For a friend of mine, a priest, it evoked images of Marty McFly with the time travelling DeLorean, in the movie Back to the Future.

With talk of a much touted reconciliation with the Society of St Pius X, it may indeed a sign that in the future, older liturgical forms will become more common place in church life.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. acardnal says:

    Great! I’d really like to see more priests of Opus Dei celebrate the TLM/EF Mass publicly.

  2. thomistking says:

    It is odd that celebration of the vetus ordo is unusual among members of Opus Dei,considering that St. Josemaria Escriva never said the Novus ordo.

  3. G. Thomas Fitzpatrick says:

    Didn’t the prelate of Opus Dei, almost as soon as Summorum Pontificate came out, essentially prohibit all priests affiliated with The Work, from saying the Extraordinary Form, saying it wasn’t part of their Chrism? I think the same thing was done by the head of the Oblates Of the Virgin Mary.

    Obviously, from the point of view of someone who attends the traditional Mass and a friend to all the orders and societies who say it, if Opus Dei became more open to the traditional Mass, it would win a powerful and natural ally to the cause of tradition.

  4. Boniface says:

    Opus Dei does excellent work and is deeply faithful. When the missal changes of the late 60s occurred, St Josemaria was obedient. However, seeing how much he missed the he older missal, his eventual successor Bishop Portillo obtained from Paul VI as an unsolicited “gift” for St Josemaria an indult to use the old book (Bl. Paul VI was evidently pretty generous with these – and St Padre Pio, who died before the Novus Ordo came out but after the two interim missals, had one on account of his eyesight and the fact he had memorized the older form).
    Opus Dei seems to strive to be as obedient to the Church and papacy as possible in a “mainstream orthodox” way. I think they were/are concerned about having two forms of the mass within their communities. Also, it’s clear they have always wanted to avoid even the slightest hint of anything smacking of rad trad-ism, as unfair as any such actions would be. Now that we are almost 10 years into SP, perhaps they may rethink their position in the near future. Their decision up to now, though, as it seems clear to me, is to opt for doing what the popes do as a humble sacrifice of obedience and unity, and again, avoiding anything that could be *seen* as criticism of V2 or Bl. Paul VI (even though, were anyone to interpret their using the ’62 books as such criticism, it would of course be a misreading of OD’s intentions).

    Some in the online world have tried to exploit St Josemaria’s accepting of his indult as an act of rebellion against the Novus Ordo, but it ain’t so.

  5. Boniface says:

    Just found this online, by the way:

    “Mr. John Sonnen shared the following story on his blog. Our readers know we shun gossip, but this story is told by a living person who “names names.”
    FEW YEARS AGO I had the honor to sit down with the great Rev. Dr. Giuseppe Soria, personal physician of St. Josemaría Escrivá. Don Giuseppe was his close and personal friend, and was even in the room the moment the saint breathed his last. In fact, he is the one who reached out and closed St. Josemaría’s eyes the moment after he died. Don Giuseppe was ordained in Madrid and lived in Rome in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

    I asked Don Giuseppe why St. Josemaría had not celebrated the Novus Ordo Missae. His response was frank and to the point.

    St. Josemaría was always first and foremost obedient, but he could not read the faded print in the new edition of the Roman Missal (see this photo). He had cataracts and found it difficult and painful to read the poor quality typeset. Also, the saint had experienced certain mystical moments associated with particular words, sentences, and structural parts of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Such moments had been a part of his spiritual life since boyhood and through his priesthood. In having to celebrate the Mass of Paul VI, the saint would have been cut off from this.

    Finally, it was the saint’s secretary, Don Alvaro del Portillo, who at the behest of the saint telephoned Msgr. Annibale Bugnini to ask permission to continue celebrating the Classical Rite. Monsignor Bugnini was quick in his response: “You don’t need permission from me. Just continue to celebrate the Mass of St. Pius V.”

  6. Chris Rawlings says:

    As far as I know seminarians are instructed in the celebration of both forms of the Roman rite at Opus Dei’s seminary in Rome. [I want to believe that, but I haven’t found a strong openness to the Extraordinary Form among them. I hope I am wrong and that things have changed!]

    Moreover, when our baby was born earlier this year we asked a priest of the Work to do an EF Baptism (totally in Latin, too, which is not a requirement for Baptism in the Extraordinary Form). He was more than accomodating, even printing out booklets for people to follow along.

  7. RichR says:

    In sure this bishop’s priests will feel more comfortable about honoring requests from their faithful to have EF Masses knowing their bishop has their backs.

  8. majuscule says:

    Bishop Umbers was appointed by Pope Francis!

    Also, is it possible the Mass was in a suburb of Sydney rather than Brisbane? It’s a different diocese.

  9. ASPM Sem says:

    He’s also quite active on social media as well.

  10. JabbaPapa says:

    Some surprising news from the UK, even though it’s Church of England :

    One in six young people are practising Christians, new figures show, as research suggests thousands convert after visiting church buildings.

    The figures, show that more than one in five (21 per cent) people between the ages of 11 and 18 describe themselves as active followers of Jesus, and 13 per cent say they are practising Christians who attend church.

    The study, commissioned by Christian youth organisation Hope Revolution Partnership and carried out by ComRes, suggested that levels of Christianity were much higher among young people than previously thought.

    Research carried out by church statistician Dr Peter Brierley in 2006 suggested church attendance among teenagers was less than half of this, with 6 per cent of 11-14 year-olds and 5 per cent of 15-18 year-olds attending church.

    There’s been a quiet underlying renewal of Faith among youth in Europe ongoing since the 1990s, though it did come somewhat to a halt during the abuse scandals. It would seem that it may be resuming its course.

  11. MikeR says:

    The Mass was in Arcadia a suburb of SYDNEY.

  12. Norah says:

    St Mary’s Star of the Sea in West Melbourne Australia is a parish which was entrusted to Opus Dei in 2001. Confession is regularly available and Masses are 110% orthodox.

    “Keep struggling, so that the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar really becomes the centre and the root of your interior life, and so your whole day will turn into an act of worship — an extension of the Mass you have attended and a preparation for the next. This will then overflow in aspirations, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and the offering up of your professional work and your family life.”

    St Josemaría Escrivá
    The Forge, 6

  13. Pingback: SVNDAY CATHOLICA EDITION | Big Pulpit

  14. Fr. Reader says:

    @G. Thomas Fitzpatrick
    Regarding Opus Dei, what you wrote is false.

  15. Fr. Reader says:

    Also, regarding the text: “auxiliary bishop of Sydney (the youngest bishop in Australia and the first born in the 1970’s) from the Opus Dei prelature”. As far as I know, a bishop of Sydney (or any other place) cannot be incardinated in a prelature, just as a bishop cannot be incardinated in another diocese.

  16. Congratulations to all of you who were able to attend a traditional Roman Rite Mass on this awesome Feast Day of Corpus Christi. I wish I had made the five hour round trip drive to Miami from my home in the Keys and could count myself among you. Instead, I count myself among the vast majority of Catholics throughout the world who were deprived the opportunity to give our Blessed Triune God the full honor and glory He deserves when we gather to worship Him. What a tremendous loss for Him and for us! How sad it is that so many of us, including priests, aren’t even aware of what we lack in our giving and receiving during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  17. Ocampa says:

    Fr. Z, can you update us on the status of that one priest from Australia, Greg Reynolds?

    [Former-Father Greg Reynolds is still excommunicated!]

  18. Matt R says:

    Opus Dei is conservative, which is why it really doesn’t deal well with the traditional Mass. I mean that in religious and political terms.

    The bishop said the first Mass in his new chapel at the presbytery where he resides according to the traditional rite. He says the new Mass far more often, and he says that it is for pastoral reasons and for enriching his priesthood and his celebration of the Pauline liturgy. So his choice speaks volumes.

  19. Mike says:

    Bishops can and have been taken from the ranks of Opus Dei priests. Archbishop Gomez from LA is an example. They are I believe still incardinated in the prelature, which is not territorial in scope.

  20. Mike says:

    But personal, hence personal prelature.

  21. Fr. Reader says:

    No, he is not. It is not possible. How can a bishop of a diocese be incardinated in another place? Like the bishop of Manchester be incardinated in the dioceses of Paris?

  22. Sliwka says:

    It isn’t a verified account but His Grace apparently runs a great Twitter profile:

  23. JabbaPapa says:

    Fr. Reader :

    How can a bishop of a diocese be incardinated in another place?

    Unless I’m mistaken, only when he is an auxiliary Bishop, incardinated elsewhere than in his titular See.

  24. Mike says:

    A prelature is not territorial. Gomez is an ordinary and incardinated in Opus Dei.

    [Bishops are not incardinated any longer in their diocese or religious institute of origin. They belong to the diocese, regular or titular, to which they are mandated by the Apostolic See. If I were, God forbid, made a bishop, I would cease to be incardinated in my diocese and, thence forth, belong in an almost spousal relationship with my new diocese. This is why a bishop who retires or is moved from being ordinary of a diocese into a curial position remains Bishop Emeritus of [Black Duck]. (This is also why, in the ancient Church, bishops didn’t move around like “unfaithful husbands”.) Religious may remain in the bosom of the religious family to which they belonged, and rightly so, but technically they left it. I am not sure if they can be reintegrated except in an informal way.]

  25. Andrew says:

    I was the goose who send this email to my beloved friend Fr Z, to see if he would be interested in this! But as Mike has pointed out, I did mention the city of Brisbane erroneously. It was in Sydney. My apologies. Fr Z is at liberty to change Brisbane to Sydney, in published email.

  26. Matt R says:

    But religious bishops are a little different from secular priests, including members of societies of apostolic life. Historically, their dress was their habits with pontificals, i.e. the pectoral cross and zucchetto, and each family had a variant of the cappa magna made of wool. In the 1983 Code, they are exempted from their vows but are encouraged to follow them as they see fit.

  27. Andrew says:

    In the email, I was trying to say a little bit about Bishop Umbers’ background. He was a priest of the Opus Dei prelature, and his last assignment with them was as a chaplain at Warrane College, a live in place Opus Dei have for students at the University of Sydney. He was also a lecturer at Notre Dame University, who have a campus in Sydney, as well.

    He is now an auxiliary bishop in Sydney, which means he is not an ordinary, so does not wield any particular authority. Just on call to do confirmations and the like.

    The other thing is that once the Pope makes you a bishop, the group you came from, like a religious order, has no authority over you any more. So Umbers is not bound by obedience to the Opus Dei prelate, in Rome. It is just an interesting appointment, because this is the first time in Australia (and quite interestingly he comes from New Zealand) we have had the appointment of a bishop from the prelature. As others have noted here, this has taken place in a few other countries, as well.

    What is also interesting here is that while he says the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (but not exclusively), which as has also been pointed out here is not usual for an Opus Dei priest, this has not been an obstacle to his promotion. He has a very balanced liturgical approach, in my opinion. He is happy to say the old Mass if people ask him, but he always hastens to add, this is not any statement, or part of any agenda. The Church allows the old liturgy, so there is the option of partaking of it. Simple. Traditionalists often have a knack for making things complicated, and also burning their bridges with those in authority.

    Bishop Umbers is very active on social media, with both a facebook and twitter account. I would say he is the bishop in Australia, who makes the biggest use of social media, which probably is a reflection of his younger years. Check it out sometimes, he has good things to say. I don’t live in Sydney, but so many of us are happy to know he is a shepherd of the flock in our country.

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