This questionnaire, sent as it was by the editorial staff of a periodical regarded as the semi-official voice of Roman liturgical circles, was the first alarm signal that something was stirring. In those days it was unheard of for anyone to challenge even a rubric or to use the word “reform.” The questionnaire was therefore a bold move. In this case the proverb was proved true: “Fortune favors the brave.” (p. 11)Although this motto is not repeated again in the almost 1,000-page book, nevertheless the spirit of the motto, if one may call it so, hovers everywhere. Bugnini presents himself countless times as the intrepid visionary who dares to take action whenever and wherever he can to push forward the “renewal” of the liturgy. The moment there is an opening, he takes it.
Today we look back sorrowfully (at times, wrathfully) over the utter devastation caused by Bugnini and his companions, but we cannot dispute their mastery of the psychology of attack, alliance, subterfuge, feint, calculated compromise, redoubled attack. They were men who seized their opportunities and did not sit on their hands wondering when other people would do the job for them, or worse, waste their time on endless bickering and hairsplitting. Like our political liberals, they could lay aside small differences for the sake of gaining major objectives.
In his splendid commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict (featured in last week's article), Canon Simon quotes the same saying, but sees in it a larger spiritual lesson—one that all of us who are striving to recover and promote all things traditional, particularly the widespread celebration of the usus antiquior, would do well to heed and put into practice:
Probably a miracle will not be necessary to relieve our trouble. For, as we may repeat, the incapacity of men often arises from sloth or pusillanimity. They too often forget the simple truth that if a thing is to get done we must do it. And when we have spent long hours in contemplating, in a spirit of false and foolish self-pity, the real or pretended difficulties of our duty, we have not changed the reality of things one whit: our duty is always our duty, and the will of God abides: we have only succeeded in weakening ourselves. “Fortune favors the brave”: in this case fortune is the grace of God. (p. 475)It is ever so. One must do all that one can to accomplish the good. The battle is never over, one can never rest on one’s laurels. In recent years the tables have begun to turn, the tide is shifting, even in spite of more recent setbacks. Now is the acceptable time for the true liturgical renewal that failed after Vatican II—a renewal that begins with the age-old tradition of the Church as contained in the Missale Romanum, Rituale Romanum, and Divine Office that predate the Council, and ends with the full, solemn, conscientious and devout celebration of these same rites, enriched with noble sacred art and music, and made fruitful by a deep formation of clergy and laity in the spirit of the liturgy.
Let us, then, do our part in this great work of liturgical renewal, which is to say, liturgical restoration and optimal celebration. Let us not grow weary, in spite of all obstacles, setbacks, and delays, or succumb to a kind of fatalistic resignation or quietism. Let us not indulge in foolish self-pity as we contemplate the real or imaginary difficulties of our duty. Duty will always be difficult, and the world within the Church will always be opposed to true reform. Rather, taking hold of every opportunity divine Providence gives us, using all our energy and every talent we have, let us take the steps and make the moves that will advance our side towards victory. Time is short, the stakes are high, and fortune favors the brave.
* * *Some resources that can help us:
Extraordinary Form Workshops with the FSSP
Extraordinary Form Workshops with St. John Cantius
Sancta Missa Resources
Fr. Z’s 5 Rules of Engagement and Tips for Writing to Bishops
Una Voce America's Suggestions and Sample Letters
How to Establish the Traditional Latin Mass at Your Parish
Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei
If readers out there would like to recommend other resources, please do so in the comments!