The Pontiff liberated the traditional Mass a year ago next week.with the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum. Noted liturgical blogger Shawn Tribe describes how the Motu Proprio has already begun to transform the Church
Ayear ago an event occurred in the life of the Church whose influence was significant enough that it might be said to have demarcated a new era: the post-Summorum Pontificum era. Of course, in proclaiming "eras" one must be careful of hyperbole, but it is arguable that the papal Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, which clarified the place of the usus antiquior (or the 1962 Missale Romanian) in the life of the Church, created a situation which is bound to have far-reaching effects on the liturgical landscape of the Church. Of course, to speak of farreaching effects is not to say that these effects will all be immediate, or will not happen by degrees over time. After all, the shifts in understanding and approach to the Catholic liturgy, on both the academic and practical level. are not going to change overnight. It will take time, and measuring the impact of the Motu Proprio is not simply the project of a few months, but rather one of years. Still, it is possible even a year out to take stock of what the early fruits of the Motu Proprio have been.
For the most part, typical parish life yet remains typical parish life. and this was to be expected. Any sense that the papal Mom Proprio would be a magic fix that would introduce overnight a massive introduction of traditional liturgy could only be unrealistic — though how many really expected this is questionable — a minority, no doubt. That said, there have been many visible effects which can be witnessed. For one, there have been a number of successful training conferences hosted in various regions of the world for priests and seminarians interested in learning about the usus antiquior. The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales hosted such a conference at Merton College, Oxford, in the summer of 2007 and is hosting another in the same location this summer. The Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius, based in Chicago, Illinois, have sent one of their priests as far away as Eastern Europe to offer similar training, and recently held a spring training session in Chicago. They have even coordinated sessions for the laity. Beyond this, the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter and the Institute of Christ the King have also organised similar training sessions with great success. More continue to be planned and interest continues to be expressed. While the numbers of priests who have attended these conferences so far is not going to be in the thousands so much as the hundreds, the fact is that it is yet hundreds who have begun to walk the road toward the celebration of the ancient Roman liturgy.
Aside from training, there has also been a noticeable increase of Masses now being offered according to the 1962 Missal. Some of the most encouraging of these developments are those now being offered at Catholic university campuses where they were not previously offered. In the United States this includes Georgetown University, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Seton Hall. Ave Maria University and others. Numbers are less the issue here than is the fact of the spread of this liturgy to areas in an academic environment where youth will be able to more readily partake of it, learn from it and be inspired by it. As far as parishes are concerned, it is difficult to gauge what the precise response has so far been. but certainly gains have been made on this front and it is quite common to hear of parish priests now offering the usus antiquior in addition to the regular slate of Masses in the modem form. While this is not the significant majority of priests and parishes of course — again. that wouldn't be realistic to expect at this point — the gains are nonetheless noteworthy. Where there was once perhaps a single celebration of the ancient Roman liturgy in a city — often at best — there is now a much greater likelihood of at least a few more being offered with some measure of frequency. (A good example of this would be the Archdiocese of Detroit in the United States which. at present count, now has at least nine parishes which now offer the usus antiquior. Prior to the Motu Proprio there were only one or two.) It must also be noted that progress is not only being reported in European context, but we also see evidence of growth in countries like Chile, the Philippines and Hong Kong, to name a few. When one considers this situation of availability as compared to even one year ago, the gains are proportionally quite impressive. All this as well — it is to be remembered — in the very earliest infancy of the post-Motu Proprio era. We can only expect to see further increases in this regard — and I would propose that these increases will likely be significant.
New personal parishes and the like are also being established. In Canada's largest, most populous diocese, Toronto, it was recently confirmed that the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) had been invited into that archdiocese and work was underway to find a suitable situation for them. This is in addition to the Toronto Oratory which already offers Mass in the usus antiquior on Sundays and weekdays. Likewise, an FSSP apostolate was recently established in Quebec City under Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Primate of Canada. while another parish was offered to the FSSP in Vancouver, British Columbia. Most significant, however, were the advancements that occurred within the Diocese of Rome itself. Whereas the community attached to the usus antiquior in that city formerly had use of a very small chapel that was located at the end of an alley, that same community has now been established as a personal parish for the ancient liturgy and has been given use of a large historical church that sits upon a well-travelled Roman piazza — a church which contains important works of sacred art. This development, perhaps more than any. bespeaks the effects of the Motu Proprio — and we must be clear that what happens within Rome does have an effect and influence upon what happens without; it very much sets a model and template that can help other dioceses feel more confident in doing likewise. With these changes and for these reasons, the Roman personal parish is perhaps now the single most important apostolate for the usus antiquior.
Another barometer for the times is the fact that at least a few seminaries have already begun to adapt to the new liturgical situation within the Church. One seminary in the United States now offers the usus antiquior on a regular weekly basis for its seminarians, another monthly, while others have at least seen it celebrated in their seminary chapels — something previously unheard of. In terms of formation. while most are still adjusting to the new realities and considering how they should approach them (which is perhaps not unreasonable. even if there is surely some proverbial dragging of feet in a number of cases as well) a few have got on board quite quickly with the fact that their seminarians need to be given liturgical training and formation in the 1962 Missale Romanian. Recent statements by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos during his visit to London last month further emphasised this very point and perhaps suggests the prospect of some sort of eventual Vatican requirement to this effect for seminaries — though that remains to be seen.
Afmal visible effect is the fact that a popular Catholic media company, the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), has begun airing occasional Masses in the ancient liturgy from their beautiful Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Alabama. This has included two Solemn Masses offered by priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter and a Missa Cantata by another priest. Further, they have also recently aired a Solemn Pontifical Mass of Ordination for priests of the Fraternity of St Peter, celebrated by Cardinal Castrill6n Hoyos in the Cathedral of Lincoln, Nebraska. In addition to these liturgies, they have also aired programmes on the matter of Summorum Ponttficum and have been very active in using their resources to record important pontifical liturgies, including that of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos in Westminster Cathedral in June, and earlier, the Pontifical Mass of Cardinal George Pell in Australia. EWTN has also jointly produced a training video for the usus antiquior with the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter that looks to be extremely important and effectual. If one takes into consideration that prior to the Mom Proprio, few if any such Masses were aired, and only some occasional documentaries on some of the priestly orders attached to the Una antiquior, this can be understood as being a direct effect of the Motu Proprio. The potential influence of this should not be underestimated either. EWTN reaches approximately 146 million homes in 127 countries at last count. That is a great deal of exposure in very short order. If EWTN continues on this path and eventually begins to air the usus antiquior with even greater frequency, the effects could be even more significant. Their actions have already done quite a bit to help take the 1962 Missale Romanian into the mainstream.
This perhaps presents us with a natural transition into those effects of the Motu Proprio which might not be as visible yet, but which are nonetheless worth considering and examining. In my capacity as editor of The New Liturgical Movement I can attest to the fact that there is a great deal of interest behind the scenes that, as of yet, is not visible, but which is preparing to blossom. Psychologically. the effects of the Mom Proprio have been significant. While there are yet indeed stalwart ideologues who are steadfast in their opposition to the ancient liturgy, or others who yet cling to the notion that the "extraordinary form" intends to imply that this form of the Roman liturgy is to be a marginal note in the life of the Church, there has been a noticeable shift in general openness toward the ancient Roman liturgy. Cardinal Castrill6n Hoyos would certainly not share the former opinion when, in his recent June address to the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, he declared that the Holy Father wishes that this form of the liturgy might find a place anywhere and everywhere in the life and parishes of the Roman Church. Whereas the ancient liturgy previously had a strong stigma attached to it, the legal clarifications surrounding its status, as well as the evident value that the Supreme Pontiff was attaching to it. created a more positive and open climate. In one sense, it worked tueliminate the fear that attachment to the ancient Roman liturgy was somehow tantamount to a rejection of Magisterial authority. It further clarifiee that the Church saw this form of the liturgy as having a place, not as a special exemption to the law or as a pastoral compromise — though some have still tried to interpret the Motu Proprio in the light of the latter, an interpretation that, with more and more statements coming from Rome, is being consistently shown to be narrow and untenable — but rather because of its own inherent value as part of the received tradition and for its value for the Church and the faithful generally. Summorwn Pontificum made clear that the ancient Roman liturgy has a place at the very heart and centre of the life of the Church and spoke to the importance of approaching these matters in the light of continuity rather than rupture. Whether through eager and active acceptance or simply a resigned passivity, in many places and for many people, attachment and promotion of the ancient Roman liturgical rites has become much easier — though evidently there is yet much work to be done.
Further, we have spoken of those priests who have already begun to celebrate the usus antiquior in their parishes, or the personal parishes that have been established, but it is also important to remember that this is but the tip of the iceberg. Previously we spoke of the many priests who have attended training courses, but not all of these priests (in all likelihood not even a majority of them) have yet started to offer the ancient liturgy publicly. Training is just that, and it implies a certain gradual process by which a priest sets out on the road of learning to celebrate Mass according to the Missal of 1962, but he is unlikely to simply take a training course and begin immediately to offer this liturgy in a significant way, if at all. Nor does this account for the many other priests and seminarians who have expressed a great interest and desire in attending these courses but who have not yet been able to do so. Nor does it speak to those priests or seminarians who have chosen other means by which to learn about this liturgical treasure of the Church whether through smaller, more localised training sessions, one-on-one training, or selfstudy by means of training DVDs (which are now quite a few in number). From what I can tell, this group actually makes up the unseen majority of those interested in offering the usus antiquior. In terms, of the increase of Masses actually being offered according to the 1962 Missal since the release of the Mom Proprio, it seems that what we have really witnessed were primarily those who were already substantially prepared to offer this liturgy and who simply needed greater freedom to do so at their own discretion. What we haven't seen so much of, however, is the substantial "baby boom" of priests and seminarians who, in the new postSummorum Pontificum era, have now begun the process of study, training and practice. but whose desire to celebrate this liturgy has not yet come to fruition. Nor have we seen ordained the many seminarians who likewise have an interest in celebrating this form, but who, for evident reasons, are not yet able to do so. One cannot help but note the even further-afield effects that are likely to come from this. As that SUMMOTUM Pontificum "baby boom" comes into effect in the next decade or so, the result of seeing more priests begin to offer this form of the liturgy is likely to set in play a kind of domino effect. More Masses in more places in the usus antiquior means greater exposure. That in turn will natu rally lead to greater interest and even further normalcy and regularisation of this liturgy in the life of the Church, which will not only potentially affect other priests and laity, but also seminarians and potential seminarians.
The future bodes well even if it is a future that is not without some challenges and growing pains.
There are still trials and much work to be done. On the one hand, there is some outright opposition to the Motu Proprio and the ancient liturgy which should hardly come as any surprise given the climate and posturing of the past 40 years. For some, this is a major psychological battle, particularly if they went through those turbulent times themselves. In other cases, some now seem far more inclined to enable the presence of the usus antiquior in their diocese a welcome thing but perhaps more so under the terms of the former indult than Swnmorzun Pontificum which could be for more or for less benevolent reasons. Evidently, while one can welcome the addition of Masses in the 1962 Missal in these cases, this presents a need to firmly but charitably work to educate and promote both the clergy and laity's liturgical rights, with the proper understanding of the bishop's role in this regard, and with regard to the liturgy generally. The bishop does indeed have a role, but it is not the role that it was under the terms of the indult; it is rather a role of obedience to the law and tradition of the Church. That said. decades of thinking of the 1962 Missale Romanum as either an exception to the law, or an aberration, is not easily undone overnight, and so it is, again, perhaps no surprise that such conservative patterns of thinking can yet remain. It seems likely that only time and greater familiarity will heal some wounds.
An aspect that has not been touched upon, but which should be mentioned, is that all of this in turn should eventually have a positive effect on the modem form of the Roman liturgy as well by virtue of re-introducing many to the received liturgical tradition which certainly seems to be an aspect the Pope also had in mind. A number of priests who have been focused upon "the reform of the reformto date have now additionally taken to learning to celebrate the 1962 Missal, presumably for its own sake on the one hand, but also for the reason that it provides them with a further or quicker means by which to celebrate a more traditional form of the Roman liturgy in their parish and priestly life in ways that may yet be still difficult as regards the modern liturgy. Whatever their reasons, this helps to connect them, the reform of the reform itself, and potentially members of their parish, to the tradition, which can only help act as a leaven for initiating and driving the reform of the reform at all levels. Perhaps one of the bestknown recent examples of this was that of Fr Joseph Fessio SJ, one of the founders of the Adoremus Society and one of the most prominent reform of the reform voices in the English-speaking world today, who has begun to offer the ancient liturgy publicly and regularly. Other examples abound as well. All of this bodes well for both forms of the Roman liturgy. particularly when one considers what we have not yet seen but likely will see in the coming years.
The Motu Proprio, Sununorum Pontificum, set off a kind of "quiet revolution" within the Church. Revolution is perhaps too strong a word and one which carries negative connotations typically, but the word is apt insofar as we are referring to a significant shift and change as regards the status quo. It is a shift that will occur on various fronts, by degrees. and over time.
The ingredients are already present and slowly but surely momentum is building, something we have already seen in this first year. Whether one's focus is upon the ancient liturgy or a reform of the reform, there is much to be thankful for in this past year. and much reason for anticipation and hope for what the future will bring even despite the opposition and challenges that yet exist. But all that said, for those who wish to see these things effected now is not a time to rest on one's laurels for much work remains to be done. Those interested in fostering and nurturing the effects of the Motu Proprio must take upon themselves an evangelical and apologetic spirit, seeking to promote the riches of the liturgical tradition of the Church with joy, prudence, charity, excellence and vision. In many regards the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, has given us the tools to begin to implement what he agreed as a cardinal was so necessary: a new liturgical movement. Indeed, it seems no exaggeration to suggest that we are seeing the substantial beginnings of just that.
Shawn Tribe lives in Canada. He has written on the topic of liturgy for various publications and is the founder and editor of The New Liturgical Movement (www.th.enewliturgicalmovement. blogspot.com), a blog focused upon liturgical news, history, theology and the liturgical arts