The way we pray has a reciprocal relationship with what we believe. Change our prayers and our belief will, over time, shift and vice versa. This dynamic is at the core of the phrase from Prosper of Aquitaine, “ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi”… which gives us the catch phrase “Lex orandi lex credendi“… the law of what is to be prayed is the law of what is to be believed”.
After the Second Vatican Council an artificially pasted up form of Mass was thrust upon the Latin Church. Couple that with liturgical experimentation and abuse unchecked by ecclesiastical authorities. Overlay that with, in most places, a systematic elimination of the Latin from the worship of the Latin Church and the imposition of dreadful translations of prayers already edited for content by the ideology driven liturgical experts of the Consilium. That results also in a slamming and chaining of the doors of the Church’s vats treasury of sacred music and the hurried rush to fill the void with unworthy vernacular ditties unlike anything ever heard in churches for centuries. Because “we are our rites, the cumulative results have not been pretty. We have witnessed a devastating atomization of Catholic identity that still ravages like a virus today. This is born out by numbers of priests and religious who dropped out, the plummeting number of new vocations, the numbers of school, hospitals, parishes, seminaries, convents, monasteries, retreat houses, orphanages that have closed.
Decades of praying prayers whose content was shifted to ignore whole swathes of belief and certain doctrines – and decades of really bad translations – have at last produced an only vaguely Catholic people with an increasing percentage who don’t know or believe what the Church teaches about faith or morals. A minority of people who – after these decades – now believe what the Church teaches about the Eucharist. And now the demographic sink hole that will inevitably open underneath the Church in these USA may be accelerated by the societal changes stemming from the present Coronavirus challenge and the choice our Church’s leaders have made.
Let’s return for a moment to the issue of the editing of content of our prayers after Vatican II.
For the Novus Ordo, older prayers were in fact systematically edited for their content. Certain concepts were intentionally stripped out, so that nary a mention of themes like propitiation, sin, guilt, judgment and sacrifice remain. The emphasis was shifted to happy thoughts about the life to come, future heavenly bliss and only rare traces of eschatological judgment.
Only 17% of the orations from the traditional Missale Romanum survived unscathed in the Novus Ordo edition. There were, in the older Missale, 1182 orations. For the Novus Ordo, 760 of those prayers were expunged. Of the remaining 422 (36%), half were edited. And there were orations that were revived from ancient sacramentaries or cobbled up from bits and pieces of older prayers. They, too, were edited for content.
What you find removed from the old or missing from the new are teachings that any well-trained boy or girl would once have learned from their basic catechism.
Remember: We are our rites. If we pray a certain way, we come to believe the content of what we pray. If we believe in certain things, our prayers reflect those beliefs. This is a constant interplay.
A few days ago, the Congregation for the Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree with a Votive Mass formula “In tempore universalis contagii… In time of pandemic”. It can be used fairly often, according to the rubrics. It was released in Latin and other major languages.
First, one notes that, while there was such a Mass in the older, traditional Missal, there wasn’t such a Mass in the Novus Ordo, which is why they had to put one together. Holy Church has been through plagues before, horrible plagues. So, in the Missale Romanum there was a Mass for such a challenge. But in the happy thoughts of the modern age, there were in the Novus Ordo only vague Masses formularies “For Various Needs and Occasions”.
Next, what do the prayers of this new Novus Ordo Votive Mass really say?
Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, in omni perículo singuláre præsídium, qui fílios tuos in tribulatióne fide supplicántes exáudis, nobis propitiáre benígnus, et præsta, qu?sumus, defúnctis réquiem ætérnam, solámen plorántibus, salútem infírmis, moriéntibus pacem, operántibus pro fratrum sanitáte robur, spíritum sapiéntiæ illis qui nos in potestáte moderántur, et ánimum ad omnes benévole accedéndi ut cuncti nomen sanctum tuum glorificáre valeámus. Per Dóminum.
Almighty and eternal God, our refuge in every danger, to whom we turn in our distress; in faith we pray look with compassion on the afflicted, grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners, healing to the sick, peace to the dying, strength to healthcare workers, wisdom to our leaders and the courage to reach out to all in love, so that together we may give glory to your holy name. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God [sic], for ever and ever.
The first thing we notice is the length. The Roman Rite, flowing from the Roman mind, was ever succinct. The wordier the prayer, the more likely that it was written closer to our own day.
As for the content, all these petitions are fine. There’s nothing wrong with them. We all want these things. It’s a good prayer. We want compassion, comfort, solace, health, peace, strength, wisdom, don’t we?
Let’s now look at the prayer from the older, traditional Missale Romanum from the Votive Mass “Tempore Mortalitatis… In time of (widespread death)/pestilence”.
Deus, qui non mortem, sed paenitentiam desideras peccatorum: populum tuum ad te revertentem propitius respice; ut, dum tibi devotione exsitit, iracundiae tuae flagella ab eo clementer amoveas.
Interesting words here are exsto, which can be simply “to be”, but also means, “be conspicuous, stand out (ex-sto).” Also, a flagellum is a striking word in Latin. It can mean “threshing flail” or a “riding-whip”, both good images for this prayer, but it’s first impact is that of a “scourge” something worse than a scutica, or a “lash”, like a bull-whip. When the Lord was beaten, it was a flagellatio, with a scourge, used to excoriare, rip off the skin or flay.
O God, who desire not the death of sinners but rather penance: look propitiously on Your people returning to You, with the result that, so long as they are conspicuous to You in devotion, You might withdraw the whips of Your wrath.
A rather different tone.
“Deus, qui non mortem, sed paenitentiam desideras peccatorum…” This echoes one of the prayers for the blessing of ashes at the beginning of Lent.
I have had permission of the bishop to use even on III Class Ferias of Lent the VI Class Votive Tempore Mortalitatis for some time, and so I have been reading these prayers with frequency.
Whereas the Collect from the newer Novus Ordo Votive Mass presents an image of God as a kindly grandpa or a thoughtful boyfriend, who has kind words and gestures when we are in a jam, the traditional prayer makes a connection between the horrors we are experiencing, and the necessary to beg for relief from God who must be appeased (propitius) by our sustained and genuine return to Him in devotion.
In the newer prayer we turn to God “in faith”. That’s fine. However, even when charity and hope are lost, faith is always the last thing to go. Many people who don’t have or live in charity, or who are on the verge of hopelessness, still believe. Even the Devil believes.
In the older prayer, we see a turning around of a people. They are turning because they drifted away. And they have to demonstrate to God that they are worthy of relief. In other words, they have to appease and do so for a while (dum). This isn’t undertaken lightly. It is a sincere turning back… conversion. This is a prayer about conversion of the people, not just faith and comfort. Conversion is necessary when you have done something wrong.
Look. I could go on. In the newer “Prayer over the gifts” we pray for relief from today’s peril. In the older Secret, we beg to be released from sin and, therefore, delivered from destruction. In the newer Post Communion, we pray for the “medicine of eternal life” and “heavenly healing”. In the older Postcommunion we pray to be delivered “ab iracunidae tuae terroribus… from the terrors of Your rage” and for mercy.
Get it? Cuddle me Jesus v. God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
All human suffering is a result of sin. At the root it stems from the Original Sin of our First Parents. But our actual sins also bring suffering and disharmony which open a gulf between us and God.
God foresees and permits that terrible things happen to us for the sake of correcting us and testing us and strengthening us.
What we need to draw out of this coronavirus challenge – and I think that this is just the dressed rehearsal for something far worse – is true conversion coupled with sincere acts of penance.
What has been the message of the major apparitions of the Lord and of His Mother? Repent! Do penance! Make reparation! Again and again they repeat…
Repent! Do penance! Make reparation!
It is hard right now for you to “GO TO CONFESSION!”
Learn that classic Act of Contrition and then say it often, reaching each time down more deeply into your mind and heart. Practice makes perfect, and we want our contrition to be perfect. Take on some penance. Perform some penitential acts and some acts of mercy towards others with the explicit intention of making reparation for your sins and the offenses of others, especially against the Hearts of Jesus and of Mary.
If we can learn to do these things again… or better!… then we will have drawn good fruit from the bitter experience of this pandemic.