Wednesday, September 19, 2007

History of the Dominican Liturgy, 1946-1969. Part III: Post-Conciliar Accomodations

[The following concludes Fr. Thompson's piece studying the changes to the Dominican liturgy from the period of 1946 through 1969. Fr. Thompson invites readers in this last section to comment not only upon the section itself, but also upon the entire series.]

Part III: Post-Conciliar Accommodations, 1965-1969

by Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P.

While the Missal of 1965 was still in press, the Order of Preachers was holding a General Chapter in Bogota, Columbia.[82] This chapter was the first that had to find ways of responding to the challenge of the Council and to institute Aaggiornamento@ of the religious life that it called for. While earlier general chapters generally focused on issues of formation and religious life, this one turned attention to engagement with the world and the Order's apostolic mission. Some of its legislation on liturgy repeated earlier prescriptions: there was to be musical instruction in novitiates and houses of study (already required at the Chapter of 1955), while decisions on the celebration of minor Dominican blesseds was to be at the discretion of the provinces. While it never said so, in so many words, the thrust of its legislation was to de-emphasize monastic observance and accommodate Dominican training and life to pastoral concerns. The burdens of the Office and monastic practices were to be reduced. The chapter gave the master general authority to abolish Prime, which he did soon after.[83] Petitions were sent to the Congregation of Rites requesting that friars "in missions" might say only one of the three remaining little hours. In public liturgy, Lauds and Vespers were to be emphasized, as these were the prayers at which the laity were most likely to be present. Concelebration at the community Mass would be the norm, thereby relieving priests of the need to say a private Mass as well as attend that of the whole community. Another petition to the Congregation asked that individual houses be given the right to adopt the Roman Office in the vernacular, should they wish to do so. Finally, the Liturgical Commission, now under the presidency of Fr. Vincent de Couesnongle, was to draw up plans to reform liturgy so that it "match the actual experience of worship and spirituality." This is an interesting comment and implies a theological reversal. Historically Dominicans considered the liturgical itself to inform and shape the Dominican style of worship and spirituality, rather than considering liturgy being something distinct that had to be conformed to spirituality. This change, hardly noticed at the time, was revolutionary.

During the next two years, the Order and the provinces struggled to enact reforms in discipline, life, and worship. The traditional lay brothers' habit was abolished so that all friars, priest or lay, would dress the same.[84] New prefaces were provided for the Mass following Roman models.[85] A supplement to the Breviary was published, including rubrical changes and new saints.[86] But perhaps the most revolutionary changes in this period involved the general introduction of the vernacular and the Romanization of the Dominican chant. In the wake of the council, the Congregation of Rites was barraged with questions and petitions from religious orders with choral obligation asking if they could institute a wholly vernacular Office and drop the use of Gregorian chant. Citing the conciliar decree preserving the use of Latin and chant in just such cases, the Congregation generally said no, but hedged this prohibition with so many exceptions that it ceased to apply in most cases. Clerics with choral obligation, like the Dominicans, could adopt vernacular in missionary lands, in churches engaged in pastoral ministry, and when lay people were present. The presence of people at conventual Masses (also supposed to be in Latin) justified readings in vernacular and for all parts of the Mass where this was already the case in Masses of the Roman Rite.[87]

These exceptions effectively answered the request of the Chapter of Bogota requesting use of the Roman Office in vernacular, and Master General Fernandez himself broadened permission for dropping Latin Office in a letter to the provinces of September 25, 1966. He spoke of the many complaints he had received about the continued use of Latin at prayer, especially from young friars ("praesertim apud juvenes") and the chaotic introduction of unauthorized vernacular texts. Arguing that community prayer "should be intelligible" (and so confessing the failure of Pope John XXIII's encyclical Veterum Sapientia), he regularized the situation by allowing conversion to vernacular Office at each house's discretion, in accord with the Congregation's current discipline. Perhaps recognizing that the Congregation's exceptions covered just about every case except private recitation of Office in non-pastoral houses, he went on to remind the friars that, for a clerical order, recitation of the Latin Office remained normative. He cited the papal letter to the general superiors of clerical religious orders of 15 August 1966 to that effect as his evidence. He hoped that friars would show respect for this papal command.[88]

But the dam had broken. Houses rapidly began to adopt the vernacular for Office. They either simply dropped the Dominican Office and began to use new vernacular Roman books.[89] Or, as was the case in the English speaking world, they began to use the vernacular versions of the Dominican Office that had begun to appear as congregations of sisters received permission for vernacular liturgy.[90] The liturgical situation remained confused and chaotic on the local level, and the Congregation of Rites issued a "monitum" on 14 December 1965 ordering religious to use only approved liturgical texts and make no changes without permission.[91] A period of experimentation began for the Office as translations were tried and dropped, music was composed or adapted, and different formats for prayer arranged.[92] For example, in the provinces of France a lectionary of Patristic reading for use at Office was complied and published, but only in time for the adoption of the Roman Liturgy in 1969.[93]

As the wars over vernacularization of the Office raged, the Order's Liturgical Commission moved to "reform" the chant. The result was the new Regulae Cantus, promulgated in February, 1965.[94] With it came, finally, the publication of a Holy Week music book for use in choir to replace the long outdated materials from before the Council.[95] This new system of chant was to go into effect at the start of the 1965-1966 academic year, itself a sign that houses of study (except in mission lands) were among the few places where the vernacular was not already used (at least in theory). The new rules adopted the Solesmes method of singing (a nineteenth-century invention, never used by the Dominicans, whose chant followed a living oral tradition going back to the days of Humbert of Romans). These changes involved a whole new way of executing the psalm tones, the most important chants of the Office, which were now to be sung using the Benedictine method. In practice, adapting a tone to the words of each psalm had to become an unconscious habit for a religious to sing them properly. Abolition of the historic execution of the psalms, at a stroke, effectively reduced all friars to the level of novices who would have to learn how to sing the Office all over again. The master general recognized that this change would meet resistance. He wrote: "It might happen that not all friars will like this new method and system of singing, which is now a matter of public law and not a local option." He expected immediate obedience. Those frustrated or unhappy should console themselves with the dictum of Humbert of Romans that friars should celebrate the Office and Mass the same way everywhere. That Humbert's dictum would also forbid vernacularization (which had the effect of excluding friars who did not know the local language) seems to have been lost on Master General Fernandez.[96] This change in the chant certainly made the move to vernacular then underway far more attractive. Those attached to the ancient chant of the Order were now forbidden to sing it anyway.

As the Divine Office entered the vernacular virtually everywhere, and the Roman often took the place of the Dominican Breviary, the Dominican Mass underwent its last adaptions. These were meant to conform it as much as possible to the way the Roman Liturgy was performed in the parish churches. The first step in this direction came with a reply to a dubium presented to the Congregation of Rites asking if those using the Dominican Rite Mass might adopt and use the vernacular Roman lectionaries then becoming available in most places and whether the ad hoc new sets of weekday readings being produced under the direction of the bishops might be used.[97] The answer was yes: and that the Dominicans should follow the directives of the local bishops in doing this. As Dominicans could already use the Roman Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, this allowed the use of the whole Roman Foremass within the Dominican Rite. It also put the local bishop in a position of supervision over Dominican worship, something never before the case.

The next step was to conform the execution of the rest of the Dominican Mass ordo to the current practice in the Roman, which had just undergone further simplification under the terms of the Sacred Congregation of Rites' decree Tres abhinc Annos (29 December 1966). This was probably the single most extensive revision of the Roman Rite until the new Missal of Paul VI in 1970.[98] One senses that the changes were as much an attempt to get control over wild local experimentation as to reform the liturgy itself. With the document came a "dichiarazione" in Italian correcting a multitude of innovations and abuses introduced at the local level: These included celebrating Mass during meals in lay people's homes while seated at the table, celebrations where the priest wore lay clothes instead of vestments, replacing the texts of the Mass with privately composed or spontaneous prayers, and the introduction of secular songs in place of the traditional chants and hymns. The letter lamented that such practices "tend to desacralize the liturgy fatally."[99] The master general referred these documents to the Liturgical Commission of the Order, which replied that whatever provisions of it could be applied to the Dominican Mass should be. Acting on this advice, the master general petitioned the Congregation for permission to adopt the changes of Tres abhinc Annos. He soon received permission to do so and communicated that decision to the provinces.[100]

The effect of these changes was to introduce the rubrics that would become those of the Pauline Missal of 1970. The host would remain on the paten and priests would no longer keep their fingers together after touching it, all Signs of the Cross in the Canon, which is now aloud, are dropped save one, genuflecting is restricted to once at each elevation, and the altar is no longer kissed except at the beginning and end of Mass. The Roman Practice of holding the hands extended over the gifts at the words "Quam oblationem," something not done in the Dominican Rite, is now imposed. The fraction now follows the embolism and no Signs of the Cross are made over the chalice with the particle at the Pax. The prayer "Placeat," formally said quietly before the blessing, is dropped, although a priest may say it from memory on the way back to the sacristy from the altar. It is interesting that the Last Gospel appears to be already gone, although such a directive was never issued for the Rite. Friars who lived at the time say that it was dropped on local initiative when this became the practice in the Roman Rite. At this time also, portable altars were installed, allowing Mass facing the people, something again on which there was never any direct Dominican legislation. At the House of Studies of the Western Province U.S.A., for example, friars read in the San Francisco diocesan paper that altars were being turned around. That evening, in preparation for morning Mass, the house liturgist and some assistants moved the side altar of St. Rose of Lima from a side chapel into the middle of the presbytery. From that day forward, it became the altar of sacrifice, and remains so today.[101]

In the case of the Solemn Mass this turning of the altar and the Canon recited aloud brought the dropping of the complex movements of the major ministers, which no longer seemed to make sense in a Mass celebrated ad populum.[102] Master General Fernandez finally got permission to use the vernacular for all parts of the Mass and Office in 1967. He communicated the news to the provinces in a letter of 5 June 1967.[103] In it, he reminded the friars that this permission did not abrogate previous law as to the use of Latin in choir by clerics nor did it change Vatican II's directive to preserve and to privilege Gregorian Chant. This letter would be the last piece of legislation affecting the Dominican Rite and its celebration.

The changes in the liturgical life of the friars in the period after the close of the Vatican Council were codified in the book of constitutions prepared during the General Chapter of the Order that met at River Forest near Chicago from August to September 1968. This was the first systematic revision of the Order's constitutions since that of 1954. The legislation emphasized the communitarian aspect of worship and the centrality of the Mass (which as to be concelebrated). It tended to place the Divine Office, expect perhaps Lauds and Vespers in a very secondary position. Emphasizing the communal qualilty of the Office, the new constitutions required all friars to attend Mass and all the Offices, thus abrogating the old "lector's privilege" which dispensed academics from much of the office on account of study. The assumption that the Office would be in vernacular underlay another new rule, also communitarian in flavor, that providing that the cooperator brothers (the new term for lay brothers) would sing along with the clerics. The spirit of these documents probably reflected quite accurately the liturgical life of friars in parochial and pastoral work outside of the houses of study. In a sense the most tradition bound part of these new laws was the long section on suffrages for the dead (over a third of the total), which reflected the importance of such prayers in classical Dominican piety.[104] There was nothing in these Constitutions to suggest that the Order ever possessed a liturgical rite of its own.

Acting on the recommendation of the Liturgical Commission of the Order under the presidency of Fr. Alfonso d'Amato of the Lombard Province, the chapter commissioned the Master General, Fr. Aniceto Fernandez, to request permission from what was now called the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship to allow the Order to adopt the Roman Rite. He was also asked to create a new commission to examine the old liturgical and musical books of the Order to see what elements might be suitable for use with the new liturgy.[105] Fr. Fernandez convened a extraordinary session of his Council on 3 April 1969. At it, Fr. Ansgar Dirks, as representative of the Liturgical Commission, gave a report explaining what changes the adoption of the new Roman Rite then in preparation would entail, and the council voted to accept the commission's recommendation to adopt that Rite as that of the Order.[106]

The Master forwarded a petition to that effect to the Congregation. On 2 June 1969, permission was formally granted, to come into effect on 18 November 1969. Fr. Fernandez communicated this news by letter to the provincials of the Order. For the Roman Masses celebrated in Gregorian chant, the chants of the old Dominican Gradual might still be used, "until some other accommodation can be found," The new Roman Missal then in preparation might replace the old one when it came into effect on 30 November 1969, and its celebration in vernacular might begin as soon as bishops' conferences approved vernacular translations. Until those developments the older Roman Mass, as currently reformed, was to be celebrated, whether in Latin or the vernacular. Fr. Fernandez did, however, especially emphasize that, according to the terms of the rescript, permission to use the old Dominican liturgy might be given by provincials to priests of their provinces and by the Master to priests of the whole Order.[107] But, for the Order as a whole, the Liturgy of Humbert was now a thing of the past.


[82] Acta Capituli Generalis Diffinitorum Sacri Ordinis FF. Praedicatorum, Bogotae (15-23 Iulii 1965) (Rome: Curia Generalitia, 1965).

[83] Master General's letter (Prot. N. 7/65): ASOFP, 37 (1965-1966): 301.

[84] Letter of the Master: ASOFP, 37 (1965-1966): 306. This change had been enacted by the General Chapter of Bogota, n. 198.

[85] Allowed by permission of SRC Prefect Cardinal Arcadio Larrana: ASOFP, 37 (1965-1966): 425.

[86] Supplementum Breviarii Ordinis Praedicatorum (Rome, 1966).

[87] SCR "Instructio de Lingua in Celebrandis Officio Divino et Missa Conventuali aut Communitatis apud Religiosos Adhibenda." ASOFP, 37 (1965-1966): 421-24.

[88] "Litterae de Re Liturgica" (25 Sept. 1966), ASOFP, 37 (1965-1966): 662-64.

[89] As was eventually in France, where permission to use the Roman Breviary in French was granted. See "Concession de l'usage de l'edition française du nouveau Bréviaire romain dans les provinces dominicaines de langue française," Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship decree (Prot. N. 979/69), Notitiae, 5 (1969): 364.

[90] The English Office according to the Dominican Rite was prepared and published by Dominican Sisters in Ireland: Breviary According to the Rite of the Order of Preachers (Dublin: St. Saviours, 1967).

[91] (Prot. N. 5821/64) ASOFP, 37 (1965-1966): 425.

[92] Petitions to the Master General to get retroactive permission for the experimentation already underway, but the Congregation, deferred from giving permission (or forbidding it) on the grounds that they were about to request input from all major superiors about the effectiveness of the experiments that they had already introduced: SCR "Communicatio P. Magistro Ordinis" (Prot. n. 549/69--24 Feb. 1969), ASOFP, 39 (1969-1970): 130.

[93] Lectionaire patristique dominicain, 3 vols. (Prouille-Fanjeaux: n.p., 1969-1970).

[94] Tonorum Communium iuxta Ritum Ordinis Praedicatorum Regulae (Rome: S. Sabina, 1965).

[95] Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae iuxta Ritum Ordinis Praedicatorum (Rome: S. Sabina, 1965); it went into force on 2 Feb. 1965.

[96] "De Opusculo 'Toni Communes,'" ASOFP, 37 (1965-1966): 227-28. "Fieri potest ut nonnulli Fratribus modus ac ratio cantandi secundum regulas nunc publici iuris factus non ex omni parte placeat."

[97] "Consilium ad Exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia," ASOFP, 37 (1965-1966): 427.

[98] This document was included in ASOFP, 38 (1967-1968): 216-22.

[99] "Tendono fatalmente a dissacrare la liturgia."

[100] SCR "Novae Variationes ad Executionem Constitutionis de Sacra Liturgia (prot. N. O.57-967--7 Jun. 1967); A. Fernandez, "Litterae ad Priores Provinciales de Re Liturgica" (7 June 1967), ASOFP, 38 (1967-1968): 247-51.

[101] Those interested in local experimentation on liturgy within the order after 1969 might begin by consulting Cidominfor-IDI, the Dominican Order's newletter which began publishing reports on local experimentation in that year.

[102] Oral communication of that liturgist, Fr. Samuel Parsons, O.P., on 11 August 2007. The high altar was never removed and remains to this day.

[103] "Litterae ad Provinciales de Lingua Vernacula Adhibenda in Celebratione Divini Officii et in Missa Conventuali" ((prot. n. 16259-67 -11 June 1967), ASOFP, 38 (1967-1968): p. 315.

[104] Liber Constitutionum et Ordinationum Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum (Rome: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1969), issued on 1 November 1968, esp. nn. 56-75 "De Sacra Liturgia et Oratione," pp. 41-46. Fr. Alfonse d'Amato explained the spirit of this legislation in the section "De S. Liturgia et Oratione" of the "Presentatio Textuum Novarum Constitutionum ab Unoquoque Diversarum Commissionum Praeside," ASOFP 39 (1969): 36-38. I have followed this exposition my comments on the new constutions.

[105] Acta Capituli Generalis Provincialium Ordinis FF. Praedicatorum, River Forest (30 Aug.-24 Oct. 1968) (Rome: Curia Generalitia, 1968), "De Liturgia," nn. 56-62. In 1973 a liturgical commission of the Order considered those elements of the Dominican rite should be preserved within the context of the New Roman Rite. It concluded that "it could in no way be asserted that the Order had lost its own rights regarding the Missal and Breviary" and other liturgical books. On this project, see Dominique Dye, "Le Rit Dominicain à la suite de la réforme liturgique de Vatican II," ASOFP, 43 (1977): 193-275, and Vincenzo Romano "The Rite of Profession of the Order of Preachers," (accessed 8/9/2007).This project would result in the Proprium Missarum Ordinis Praedicatorum, 2 vols. (Rome: S. Sabina, 1977) and the Proprium Ordinis Praedicatorum [for the Liturgy of the Hours] (Rome: S. Sabina, 1977).

[106] Ansgar Dirks, "Relatio Consilio Generali Extraordinario Oblata de Novo Ordine Missae," ASOFP, 39 (1969-1970): 572. In it he assured the assembled friars that "experti omnes, reprehensionbius minoris momenti neglectis, novam dispositionem laudant" and cites as evidence articles from La Maison-Dieu and La rivista liturgica, and he reminds the friars that not to follow the changes (e.g. omitting the prayer for peace after Embolism) is to neglect the pastoral welfare of the people.

[107] Ibid., pp. 289-90: "Etiam tamen notandum quod iuxta Rescriptum S. Congregationis "Pro Culto Divino" diei 2 junii 1969, de quo supra diximus, Sancta Sedes nobis concessit quod prior provinicalis pro suis subditis concedere valeat licentiam celebrandi Missae Sacrificium iuxta ritum dominicanum hucusque vigentem."

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