Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Implementing the Motu Proprio

First, I want to begin with a note of thankfulness. We had our first Traditional Mass at St. Jerome Emiliani and Susanna Parish in Albang last June 29, 2008. The processional praise song I haven’t heard for 40 years, “Holy God We Praise Thy Name,” was a fitting reminder that the liturgy did not revolve around me and my feelings. Indeed, I owe God praise and worship which the song perfectly said for me.

I think Summorum Pontificum is a phenomenal step forward. It is true we may not have received a perfect document from the Holy Father but the long-awaited motu proprio gives every priest the right to celebrate the Mass using the 1962 Missal without the consent of a Bishop. It also instructs pastors to “willingly accept” requests from the faithful for access to the older liturgical form. The new canonical norms established by Pope Benedict took effect last September 14, 2007.

Addressing the Bishops of France on a pastoral visit recently, the Pope said:

“Liturgical worship is the supreme expression of priestly and episcopal life, and also of catechetical teaching. Your mission of sanctification of the faithful people, dear Brothers, is indispensable for the growth of the Church. I was prompted to detail, in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the conditions for the accomplishment of this mission, in that which relates to the possibility of using both the missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962) and that of Pope Paul VI (1970)…”

This is our Pope addressing the progressive Bishops of France to “tolerate” the existence of the Traditional Latin Mass as part of the Church’s mission of sanctification of the faithful. Why can’t they obey the Pope as they did before with Pope Paul VI’s Novus Ordo?

For one thing, the absence of the Traditional Mass the last forty years has created a generation or two of priests that are no longer familiar with Latin and cannot celebrate the Traditional Mass. And we’ve got an entire infrastructure in the Catholic Church that is accustomed to doing things a certain way, regardless of the necessary changes that are needed in the Church as seen by the Pope.

Even where celebration of the Traditional Mass is permitted, it is at times done so grudgingly, at inconvenient times and places, accompanied by unreasonable demands, and with very little if any means of financial or other support, either at the parochial or the diocesan level. For instance, I know of a parish priest who is very good and conscientious in all respects, except maybe for one. He tells me that a regularly scheduled Traditional Mass will simply not happen on his watch, and that his parishioners who want it are free to attend it somewhere. Typical of other pastors, he is not inclined to replace a Novus Ordo Mass with a Traditional Mass.

Not surprisingly, after one year of Summorum Pontificum, there are only a handful of (regularly scheduled) Traditional Mass in the National Capital Region of the Philippines. Three, to be exact: One in Quezon City and another in Valenzuela, all celebrating at the inconvenient time of 1:30pm and 8:00pm respectively. The only public Traditional Mass being celebrated at a decent time of 9:30am every Sunday is at St. Jerome Emiliani at Alabang, Muntinlupa City.

Because there are only a few priests who can celebrate the Traditional Mass, I feel blessed that the Italian Priest of St. Jerome Emiliani and Susanna Parish, Fr. Grato Germanetto, CRS, is very supportive of the Traditional Mass. I have been active in promoting the Mass in St. Jerome Parish and our focus right now is the training of diocesan priests to celebrate the Traditional Mass. I know it is a short-term solution but until the Traditional Mass is taught in seminaries, it is necessary if we are to continue our weekly scheduled Mass.

It is not only a matter of training priests to do the Traditional Mass properly, but that of boys or men to assist the priest as altar servers. The reformed Roman Missal does not require a designated clerk for assistance; the classical Roman Missal does. The requirements for priestly vesture are also more elaborate in the classical form: cassocks, surplices, copes, chasubles, etcetera.

Since our parishioners prefer a High Mass every Sunday, we are fortunate to have a schola schooled in Gregorian chant and a cantor to lead the chants of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, et cetera), as well as sing the propers for the Mass (Introit, Gradual, et cetera). We were able to solicit donors for a English-Latin Missalette for our parishioners. Every Sunday, we provide them with the propers of the Mass.

Realizing that the Traditional Mass is more visual than verbal, we needed to decorate the bare altar with altar clothes, candlesticks, crucifix, patens, etc. but it’s worth the effort and expense. Our altar is resplendent. Everytime I look at it I remember St. Francis who believed in poverty but he never spared the gold for the altar.

Getting past all these concerns, we have to contend with a makeover of the altar, home to the New Rite of the Mass these past forty years, around which we have to maneuver since the situation calls for co-existence between the two forms. We don’t have the luxury of a half-hour break between the previous Mass and ours. This means getting half a dozen boys to quickly re-arrange the sanctuary appointments and kneelers, only to put them all back afterwards in a timely manner.

All these involve an enormous amount of financial and human resources which the local parish cannot provide. By the grace of God, a few generous benefactors have stepped forward to extend a helping hand. We are very grateful for their help and we pray that God rewards them a hundred fold.

As a layman, I have a problem with the claim that the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Mass are part of the same rite, two expressions of the same lex credendi. How can a “banal, on the spot product” be the ordinary expression of the Roman rite? The lex orandi of the two Masses is not the same. It seems to me that we have two different versions of what we believe and how we pray. This was my sense when Fr. Grato began the Holy Sacrifice with “I shall go unto the altar of God, the God who brings joy to my youth” instead of “Good mornin’!”

Isn’t it ironic that the creators of Novus Ordo Missae admitted that what was being produced by the Consilium was substantially different than what came before?

Fr. Joseph Gelineau, S.J., Vatican II peritus and member of the Consilium, creator of the Novus Ordo wrote: … Let those who like myself have known and sung a Latin-Gregorian High Mass remember it if they can. Let them compare it with the Mass we now have. Not only the words, the melodies, and some of the gestures are different. To tell the truth, it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed... (Demain la liturgie, Paris 1976, pp.9-10).

Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, Undersecretary of Consilium, creator of the Novus Ordo also wrote: The liturgical reform is a major conquest of the Catholic Church and has its ecumenical dimensions since the other Churches and Christian denominations see in it not only something to be admired, but equally a sign of further progress to come. (Notitaie, no. 92, April 1974, p. 126).

Strange language from a Catholic Bishop.

Nevertheless, I would like to end this with a note of thankfulness for the Motu Propio and particularly to Fr. Germanetto Grato, CRS, and the participating priests, Fr. Gio Omale, Msgr. Cesar Salomon and Msgr. Guiuan for generously opening their hearts to Traditional Mass. We gratefully acknowledge the help of Fr. Abe Arganiosa, whose providential long distance telephone call to a fellow Somoscan provided the timely occasion to vouch for the legitimacy of our request for a Traditional Mass. Somebody up there is on our side! Thank you, Fr. Abe.

No comments: