Saturday, September 20, 2008

One Parish's Progress in Implementing the Reform of the Reform

Parish priests are often found wondering what sort of steps they might make in their parishes in the context of a new liturgical movement. This will vary depending upon the particular circumstances, but one parish in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, has given us an inspiring example of putting the reform of the reform into action.

There are really four points to focus upon in what Our Lady of Perpetual Help has accomplished, and very much in the spirit of Pope Benedict XVI, it involves both the older and new forms of the Roman liturgy. A former pastor began the liturgical restorations in the 1990's and it continues on by the current parish priest, Fr. Clyde Timberlake Meares.

The first, completed in the 1990's, is the restoration of the former high altar and reredos that sadly, like so many North American parishes, had been removed following the Second Vatican Council. Fortunately, rather than being destroyed, the altar was merely stored in the basement. The altar and reredos were pulled out of the dusty basement of the church and restored to its historical place within the sanctuary of the church.

The second, is the restoration of historical vestments from the pre-conciliar era that were displayed behind glass as pieces of parish history. Thankfully, these too were restored to proper liturgical use.

It strikes me that there is something allegorical in these restorations, very much related to the mind of the Pope as expressed in his motu proprio. Namely that these elements of our tradition are not to be pushed aside as though they are museum pieces and no longer relevant, but that these things have a place within liturgical worship today and very much ought to be a part of the lived liturgical experience, for there ought to be no rupture in this regard. Their reclamation at this parish to divine use in the liturgy is a great inspiration and source of joy.

Further, not only were these elements of sacred art restored to this parish, but also a third and very important step that has been taken is the restoration of the usus antiquior to parish life on a weekly basis. (On a related note, this past week the parish also celebrated, for the first time in 4 decades, a Requiem Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum.)

Finally, a fourth endeavour, which is still ongoing, is the project of restoring traditional forms of sacred music including Gregorian chant to the modern Roman liturgy. To accomplish this a new music director, Penny Silvers (known from the blog Argent by the Tiber), was hired with the specific intent of helping to implement the reform of the reform at the parish. Amongst other things, she has formed a schola and has begun to introduce chant into both the Ordinary and the Propers of the Mass.

Overall, there has been an encouraging and positive response from the faithful at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. The efforts of this parish can hopefully serve as a source of inspiration to others in actively pursuing the necessary work of re-enchanting parish liturgical life.

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