From a reader comes this apposite passage.
Long-time reader here. Your recent posts (“rants”) about priests
learning Latin and their Rite recalled to mind a passage I believe you will heartily enjoy from an excellent older biography of St. Robert Bellarmine by (Jesuit) Fr. James Brodrick, entitled “Robert Bellarmine Saint and Scholar.” Fr. Brodrick writes of St. Bellarmine’s views on the liturgical fads of his day and on priests learning their Rite. I do believe you have echoed many of his themes with your blog. It seems the Saint’s fellow Jesuits were making mischief even then. The last two paragraphs are too good to pass up.
“His scrupulous care for seemliness and exactitude in all the
functions of the Church was evident not only at Capua but throughout his life. Many years later in Rome, he discovered that his brother Jesuits there were not carrying out the prescriptions of the Ceremoniale as accurately as he would have liked. They were addicted to Missae Cantatae in place of High Masses proper with three ministers. Finding that the gentle hints which he gave to the fathers concerned bore no fruit, he addressed the following letter to the General of the Society of Jesus at the time, Mutius Vitelleschi:
Rome, May 28, 1617
As the Corpus Christi procession is to take place soon, and as, according to the report, it will be larger and more solemn than ever this year, it seemed to me an opportune moment to set down in writing the reasons why deacons and subdeacons, vested in dalmatics, should officiate at the solemn Masses and take part in the processions.
1. This is what is prescribed, without any exception being allowed, by the Ceremonial of Pope Clement VIII and the Ritual of Pope Paul V. That being so, I do not see what right our Society has to adopt a contrary practice, in the view of all Rome. [Plus ça change…]
2. The rite is observed in the churches of the entire Catholic world, in cathedral, collegiate, parish, and conventual churches, no matter to what religious order they may belong. How, then, is our Society to be permitted to act differently, especially since we use the Roman Missal, Breviary, and Ritual, and since we profess to follow in everything the directions of the Holy Apostolic See?
3. It does not look well to see the priest at Masses on solemn occasions taking the deacon’s place in singing the Gospel and the Ite Missa est. This is done, outside our Society, only by country priests, who are not in a position to do otherwise.
4. Important prelates often speak about this novelty and fad of our Society, and I never know what to say in reply.
5. The Society has no constitution nor rule directing us to dispense with deacons and subdeacons. It is nothing more than a local custom. I myself, when in Flanders, have sung Mass with deacon and sub-deacon, and I have acted as sub-deacon when the provincial was celebrant.
[NB] To all these reasons it might be answered that the Society is an active order engaged in external work of a more important kind, and consequently its members have not the time to learn all the ceremonies of High Mass. There are two ways of meeting such a plea. First, the ceremonies are neither so numerous nor so difficult that they could not be learned in half an hour. This I know by experience, as I have sung many pontifical Masses myself in the Pope’s chapel, and also in Capua. The fathers and brothers might learn the ceremonies during a single recreation, if they were coached by someone who knew them well. This might even be a more useful way of spending the time than discussing the gossip of Rome.
In the second place, if it be found too difficult to learn such a
number of ceremonies, why not give up singing Masses and be content with saying Low ones? There is nothing incompatible between a solemn procession and a Low Mass, as may be seen from the example of the Pope on the feast of Corpus Christi. In truth, it is much better not to celebrate solemn Masses at all than to celebrate them unrubrically.”
Quantum potes tantum aude!
That was excellent. Of course Jesuits are infamous when it comes to things liturgical. While there are exceptions to the rule, there is a reason why we designate someone who is bumfuzzled in some matter as being “As lost as a Jesuit in Holy Week.”
Fr. Z kudos to the reader and to St. Robert Bellarmine!