Saturday, July 08, 2017

Tradition is for the Young (Part 8): Dom Alcuin on Summorum Pontificum’s 10th Anniversary

The Catholic Herald published yesterday a great essay by Dom Alcuin Reid, with the very well-chosen second headline “On the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, we can safely say the doomsayers are wrong.” Do click over there and read the whole thing. I would like to emphasize one of his most salient points, namely, that the liberalization of permission to say the traditional Mass was not merely a pastoral provision for those who lived before the reform. Such a pastoral provision was certainly not only necessary, and long overdue, but the signal success of the motu proprio was how it has helped pass the tradition down to the young as well.

“For Pope Benedict, Summorum Pontificum was ‘a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church’—of taking away obstacles to that communion and unity which Our Lord so desires amongst all the baptised. It is a fact that the liturgical reform following the Council was abrupt and controversial and disenfranchised many Catholics, some of whom simply stopped coming to Mass. Those small pockets of priests and laity who continued with the older rites were ostracised. When, rather than dying out, they attracted young people, they were proscribed. The divisions were real and became entrenched. In line with efforts made by St John Paul II, in 2007 the Holy Father sought to do what he could to heal these divisions, insisting that: ‘What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.’

So too he noted a seemingly curious phenomenon: ‘Immediately after the Second Vatican Council,’ he observed, ‘it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.’

This is an oft-missed element of Summorum Pontificum. Pope Benedict’s authoritative establishment in Church law that all of the faithful have the legal right to the older liturgical ceremonies, including the sacraments, and that parish priests and not bishops had both the duty to provide these and the authority otherwise to decide when their celebration is appropriate, is not motivated by nostalgia. Rather, it is a response to the new and somewhat unexpected reality of the Church at the beginning of the twenty-first century where young people who never knew the older liturgy (or even the battles fought over it) find that at celebrations of it—often much more so than in some other liturgical celebrations they have experienced—they are able fully, consciously and actively to participate in the Sacred Liturgy, the ‘primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit,’ precisely as the Second Vatican Council desired. Accordingly, Pope Benedict wrote: ‘It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.’

... This encounter of our post-conciliar generations with the pre-conciliar liturgy is in fact realising, at least in part, the stated aim of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: to impart an ever-increasing vigour to the Christian life through a profound and engaged participation in the liturgy...”

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