Page 5, 15th October 1954

15th October 1954
Page 5
Page 5, 15th October 1954 — Conversation with Cardinal

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Conversation with Cardinal


From a Special Correspondent

AT seven o'clock a few fine mornings ago I attended a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Lercaro, Archbishop of Bologna, in the small, plain chapel of the Villa Revedin, the Cardinal's summer residence south of the city on the summit of a steep, wooded hill.

The Cardinal said Mass facing the congregation—a few old ladies and a nun on one side of the chapel and a dozen young men in working clothes on the other.

The young men were some of the poor and homeless to whom the Cardinal has given the hospitality of his archiepiscopal palace and villa — princely survivals of a less populous Bologna.

The young men made the responses of the Mass in unison, and one of them read. in Italian, the Epistle and Gospel of the day.

The Cardinal told me later that quite often. by prior arrangement, one or other of those present at Mass will, at the commemorations of the living and the dead, name those for whom he wants prayers.

The congregation was sufficiently small and homogeneous. the Cardinal thought, for such intervention to be feasible,

Not individuals

The i homogeneity of the participants n this Mass—the pious ladies. the Cardinal, the nun, the young workmen—lay solely in the fact that they were at Mass as a family and not as individuals.

After Mass the Cardinal came to a small ante-chamber, full of green upholstered chairst where I waited, fingering an exercise book containing some questions about the Liturgy that I had previously sent him.

For Cardinal Lercaro, who is known in the daily Press for his radical attention to social reform and for the audacious methods by which he steals the Communists' thunder in the capital of Red Italy, is primarily an authority on the Liturgy and an exponent of its relation to the life of the community.

He has published a "Little. Dictionary of the Liturgy," and at the International Conference on Liturgical Study at Lugano a year ago he urged that parts of the Mass should be celebrated in the ordinary language of the people — a voice in the wilderness for Italy. where even the Rosary and the prayers after Mass are said in Latin.

Coffee was served and the Cardinal began to answer my first question—a most unsearching one about whether he thought a fuller lay participation in the Liturgy of the Mass was a necessary preliminary to social reform.

Each isolated

His Eminence is a very young 62 and his seaman's blue eyes—he is the son of a Genoese bo'sun—could, one feels, look very disconcertingly through verbiage. However, he was kind enough not to reply with a simple "Yes."

Instead he said : "Sometimes when I am in a church I am reminded of the lonely and impersonal atmosphere of a restaurant. The restaurant is full of people all intent on one thing, but each one isolated with his thoughts and his newspaper.

"Contrast this scene with that of a family meal at home, where all the participants have their part in helping to provide or prepare the meal and serve it, where all are aware of their relationship to each other and no one is a stranger.

"There you have the difference in atmosphere between the church where Mass is 'attended' by individual worshippers and the church where Mass is 'participated in' as a corporal act of worship uniting priest and people as members of Christ's Mystical Brady.

"The Mass is the constant and visible reminder that we are brothers in Christ. and of course without this realisation there can he no true development of social reform."

1 he next question : "Would you not agree that the general character of Catholic worship at present is too self regarding — concerned exclusively with saving one's own soul and detached from the communion of the Mystical Body, and still more from the sufferings. peoples. events of the world-at-large?"

The Cardinal translated "selfregarding" by the equivalent to personalist, and, with this qualification, he did agree emphatically.

"The participation of the people in the recurring mysteries and praises of the Liturgy is a primary and indispensable condition of Christian life.

"The emphasis on personal at the expense of corporate achievement has infected the worship of Catholics

so that many regard private prayer as necessarily more meritorious—

somehow more pious—than public prayer, and till in the time of Mass with prayers on their own account, or. if they follow Irons their missals, do so as if performing each one an individual, isolated act of personal devotion.

"The unit of Christian society is the family. It is as a family that we should participate in Mass, a family with Our Lord as Head.

Facing people

"'Orate Fratres; the priest asks but often he speaks to a crowd of strangers of whom each one is ab sorbed in his own petition and act of piety, following his Mass rather than the Mass, and probably sincerely convinced that he has done well if he has succeeded in shutting out all thought of those who worship with him."

Except in small churches of rotunda shape it is not practical to have the altar placed at the centre, the Cardinal thought.

"We must never forget that the Church is for all. Hence churches should in general be large."

Because it favours the hierarchical pattern of the Liturgy and provides the clearest view of the altar for the greatest number of worshippers, the Cardinal likes a cruciform church with the altar at the transcpt.

He favours the practice of Mass being celebrated by the priest facing the people—this happens every Sunday in the Basilica of Santo Stefano at Bologna, founded by St. Petronius to the fifth century—and celebrates Mass this way himself in his chapel and frequently on public occasions.

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