Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Getting a Sense of the Lay of the Liturgical Land : The Last Years of the Modernized Tridentine Missal

In recent years interest in the so-called Missal of 1965 has surfaced in fits and starts. Most recently, two events spurred renewed, albeit rather minor, interest in re-examining this relatively forgotten piece of contemporary liturgical history.  The two events in question are the publication of a new English translation of the Missal of Paul VI and the election of Pope Francis and the accompanying sea change in Roman liturgics. Standing as the final edition of the modernized Tridentine Missal, it seems reasonable to devote some time and consideration to a liturgy whose full importance has perhaps not been well understood in Roman circles.

As mentioned, two events have contributed to some occasional re-examination of this otherwise ignored Missal. The first re-emergence came from more liberal quarters when it became apparent that there was no turning back from the revised English translation of the Missal of Paul VI. This post from the Pray Tell blog is a good example. The logic behind appealing the Missal of 1965 was simple: the Missal of 1965 was in all essentials in continuity with the Missal of 1962. One could not, therefore, claim discontinuity or rupture with much credibility. Therefore, one could compare the English translation of a "more conservative" liturgy from a "more conservative" time with the new translation of the Novus Ordo, the goal being to demonstrate the flawed theory of translation behind the new edition. Stilted English did not need to be a hallmark of more a more accurate and more orthodox vernacular liturgy. In some places, the later modernized Tridentine Missal, which spanned the years from 1965 - 1968, was actually lauded as having a clear translation that fell into line with the rules of acceptable English. In other places, a cautious approval was given, with predictable preference for the banned 1998 draft translation. The discussion, as is often the case with these Missals, died down.

It was revived again, this time in more conservative and occasionally Traditionalist quarters, after the election of Pope Francis. With early indications that the perceived liturgical agenda of Benedict XVI would come to grinding halt, both devotees of Benedict's liturgical theory (as they understood it) and of the restoration of the Tridentine Mass took some time for soul searching with aim of discovering a) how Benedict's liturgical vision failed to catch on  and b) how to keep this vision of liturgy relevant in the midst of a papacy that seemed, at best, apathetic towards it. The so-called interim Missal made its return for a brief run as a topic of liturgical discussion. The viewpoints ranged from touting this era of the Roman liturgy as the one most in line with the intention of the Council, to viewing it as an inefficient compromise that would threaten the integrity of the so-called Tridentine Missal.

Liberals and Conservatives have seen the later modernizations of the Tridentine Missal as a theoretical corrective to what they have seen as ideological excesses. Traditionalists, meanwhile, see it as something suspect, or, more accurately, something that could compromise the Traditionalist position. Those who are interested in retrieving liturgies of the West's past haven't seemed too interested in commenting on it.

The occasional meme that the Missal of 1965 is what Vatican II intended stretches credibility; Sacrosanctum Concilium gave rather open principles for reform, not specific directives. The task for proscribing directives and interpreting the principles was delegated to Bugnini's concilium. As such, the Council is nearly irrelevant. What is more important is that the modernized Tridentine Missal underwent additional development after 1962. Inter Oecumenici (1964) further streamlined the modernized Tridentine Missal (by the suppression of prayers), opened up additional avenues for the vernacular and congregational singing/chanting, and established a formal rite of communion for the laity. Tres Abhinc Annos (1967) made additional simplifications and permitted total or near total celebration of the old Missal in the vernacular and the use of the nascent Weekday Lectionary. Finally, in 1968 the use of three additional 'Eucharistic Prayers" would be permitted.

This is where the Tridentine Missal, in its final modernized form, stood at the end of the "Tridentine era" and the dawn of Novus Ordo. Inter Oecumenici and Tres Abhinc Annos both spoke of a general reform of the Order of the Mass to follow. What that meant and how it was interpreted in 1964 and again in 1967 is up for debate. Did the phrase "general reform of the order of the Mass" adequately convey the complete reconstruction of the Roman liturgy's euchological corpus was around the corner? Perhaps it did, but perhaps not. Historically, however, the modernized Roman liturgy that has become the banner of Traditionalists reaches the last stage in its development in 1967 or 1968. This indicates just how artificial the insistence upon the exclusive use of the Missale Romanum of 1962 by Traditionalist groups really is.

By the very introductory matter supplied by John XXIII, the Missale Romanum of 1962 was itself intended to be a transitional edition. The Council would address questions of the general liturgical renewal. Until such time, the changes introduced by John XXIII were a stop -gap measure intended to introduce changes thought to be of an immediate necessity. The Council would tackle the problem of more substantial liturgical reform. The reforms presented in 1965 and 1967 are, then, further revisions on the trajectory of the reforms of 1962.

The reformed Missal of 1962's status has always been predicated on the targeted initiative of Rome to keep the schism brought by the SSPX from growing any larger. This was made plain by Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum and its accompanying explanatory letter. There is a very real sense in which it can and should be argued that any discussion on the "traditional" Roman liturgy ought to be centered on the Roman Missal as it stood in either 1965 or 1967, as these were the last editions of the Missal prior to the Roman Mass being thoroughly revised via a comprehensive liturgical reform.

It is perhaps a tad absurd to talk of the later modernized Tridentine Missal as fulfilling the requirements of the Second Vatican Council on account of the very broad language used in Sacrosanctum Concilum. This said, this final editions of the Tridentine era were produced under the principles of reform enunciated by the document. These missals demonstrate that the old Roman liturgy could indeed be adaptable to the standards of modern liturgics upheld by the Council. Today, when the perspective on the Council is coming into increasingly critical focus, would seem to be an opportune time to revisit the Roman Missal as it was revised in light of the Council's constitution of the liturgy, and subsequent documents.

Additionally, the Roman Missal of 1965 ought to provide some well needed perspective on the Missal of 1962. The Missal of 1962 has been the focus of all the post-Conciliar liturgical debate. It has become, rightly or wrongly, the banner of Traditionalists. Yet, it was a product of the modernization of the Roman Rite. We can, with some perspective, stop tying the Roman liturgy as it stood in 1962 as the embodiment of idealization of Tradition, or, worse still, attach to it expectations and assumptions with which it has little relevance. Rather, the Missal and Breviary in force before the Council could be seen in the light of their own context and merits and celebrated on their own terms.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A few notes...

A few housekeeping notes before I try to get back on track with the lay of the land.

Fr. Chadwick has rightly offered some criticism with my rather loose use of Gnosticism in detailing Traditionalist ecclesiology. I will not try to defend my use of the term, as I think his criticism just plainly makes sense. This said, there is an aspect of Traditionalist ecclesiology that alienates the broader ecclesia. At the moment, I am still not entirely sure how to describe it. Fr. Chadwick, however, has, in my estimation, considerably more knowledge of both Traditional Catholicism and Traditionalism than I; he has  serious experience, whereas mine is, I would argue, limited to what one should commonly expect in American culture.

It is important to note that what I have written in this series and will (hopefully) write going forward is not meant to convey my personal judgments on things, let alone imply any sort of moral positioning. I have, as I think anyone who takes such things seriously gone back-and-forth internally and verbally. At a certain point, one reaches equilibrium. One comes to accept what one can and cannot change and learns to work with both. There were things I overtly resisted twelve years ago that, in retrospect, really weren't worth protesting. Institutions go about their way and have their identity. To reference a song, you can spend your time "shouting at the world you'll never change," but "it's what's inside you've got to rearrange." (Score one for the Irish) One can apply that principle to almost any institutional reality. A colleague of mine has a very promising project in Belgium which utilizes Spiritual direction as a module of psychotherapy. I asked him to account for his notable success. He replied, "Kenosis, monastic community, and the hierarchy is totally irrelevant to me." One reaches a point of equilibrium, or perhaps detachment is a better term. One accepts what is and what can be changed, realizing that often the only things that you really have any influence over are the thing most related to yourself.

As such, what I am writing in this series of posts is more an attempt to construct a working narrative that notes the important sign posts on the road ahead. It is an attempt to describe the situation as it is, without gravitating towards any extremity.

In so far as this is an attempt to construct a narrative, it  should be noted that no designation or descriptive is necessarily absolute. Especially on this topic, there are always persons, tendencies, and ideas that defy boundaries and make their presence felt in seemingly contradictory places.

Like any writer, I have my bias and will eventually reveal it. For full disclosure, my biases will always lean in the direction of biblical criticism, pre-Reformation Latin Christianity, and the urgencies of our contemporary context.

Fr. Chadwick also mentioned the reforms of Holy Week and the impact of papal infallibility on the Roman liturgy. With regards to the reforms of Holy Week, many others, with more detailed knowledge than myself, have written about this watershed moment in the modernization of the Roman liturgy much better than I could possibly manage. For my part, I have contributed one small entry into the discussion and, for now, I will leave it at that. As pertains the influence of papal infallibility, I believe I have mentioned that, however, briefly elsewhere and, frankly, it is another area in which I think someone else could to a better job than I. I will only say this, when the Mass and Office of the Conception were changed to fit the definition of dogma, the principle of lex orandi, lex credenti was compromised and a new perception, a very modern perception, of the purpose of the liturgy emerged...in my estimation, I could be very wrong.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gathering a Sense of the Lay of the Liturgical Land : Traditionalism

Arguably, the Missale Romanum of 1962 serves as the most common introduction to the traditional liturgy. Although, by the time it was introduced, the Roman liturgy had already undergone decades of modernization. Traditionalist, by and large, accept the earlier decades of liturgical modernization as their own. Their praxis is frequently colored by local cultural customs of the early-to-mid twentieth century, such that one's country/culture of origin heavily influence what era one considers to be "traditional." They are, possibly to their own astonishment, the third stream in modern liturgy.

To understand the place Traditionalists occupy in modern liturgy, we have to sketch the process of modernization that formed their liturgy. It begins with possibly the most acclaimed pope in Traditionalist circles. Pius X's reform of the Roman Breviary put in motion the gears of modernization.

To begin with, Pius X's decision was based upon two dominant influences. First, there was the basic fact that the rubrics of the old Breviary made weekly recitation of all 150 psalms impossible, or, in all events, excessively rare. Second, I would argue, there was Pius X's perspective as the only pope in recent history to have actually been a pastor. The dramatic recasting of the Roman psalter not only did away with the common occurrence of priests only reciting a portion of the psalter each week, it arguably made the obligation to fulfill the office somewhat easier than it had been, via the reduction of the length of many hours. Yet, one cannot ignore that the dual motivations of reciting 150 psalms in a week and shortening the length of the office suppressed one of the most ancient psalter schemas in Christianity. The psalms were redistributed, sometimes even broken up, entirely new antiphons were composed in places, and ancient customs, such as the laudate psalms, were abolished. These changes led to complimentary changes to the Missale Romanum. Pius X's reform was so drastic that, in the North Eastern United States, many diocesesian clerics applied for an indult for fulfilling the office by reciting the Dominican Breviary - a useful way of preserving an older Western form of the office until the Dominicans revised their breviary to be in better harmony with the breviary of Pius X.

Subsequent changes to the Roman Breviary by Pius XII and John XXIII continued along the same trajectory, largely with the aim of abbreviating the length of the office and removing customs until there was a more basic form of the Roman Breviary. In fact, Pius XII, John XXIII, and the architects of the Liturgia Horarum saw themselves in the same continuum as Pius X's reform. One and all envisioned bringing to completion the reform begun under Pius X.

The modernization of the Roman liturgy continued in the Missale Romanum. Pius XII's reforms of Holy Week were conducted with the explicit intention of restoring the services to their hypothesized original form and function. The subsequent suppression of octaves, commemorations, feast days, liturgical classes and simplification of rubrics all congealed in the Missale Romanum of 1962, by which point the "Tridentine" liturgy was effectively a bridge to the more modernized Missale Romanum of 1970, in so far as certain major watermarks of the revised Roman Missal were by then present.

The position the Missale Romanum of 1962 has as the first exposure to pre-modern liturgy is largely due to incident and accident. It retains enough of the pre-modern liturgy to bridge the gap between modernized and non-modernized liturgy. In its simplifications and streamlined design, it anticipates the shaving off of ceremonial that accompanied the Novus Ordo. In its euchological content and calendar of saints, it functions as a living witness to an older tradition. Largely, though, it occupies its place because it was the Missal Lefebvre settled on for his society and, as a result, became the rallying point for all parties reacting against the imposition of Paul VI's Missal.

Rightly or wrongly, the Missale Romanum of 1962 has defined the Roman liturgy in terms of "pre-modernization." It is one of the two goal posts that set the match and define the boundaries of play. This causes a few quandaries.

In so far as their law of prayer is the liturgical books as the were in 1962, Traditionalists accept the principle of modernization. The dispute regards the degree to which modernization is acceptable. Tied into this question, there is an issue of ecclesiology. Traditionalist ecclesiology implicitly denies absolute infallibility to the Roman Pontiff. Even among those groups that have found communion with Rome, there is still a nagging issue over whether or not the public and definitive exercise of Petrine authority was correct in the case of the imposition of the new Missal, if not the convocation of the Second Vatican Council itself. Among those groups not in full communion with Rome, the denial is more explicit; plainly, the pope's authority is not absolute and there are things to which the pope can be held accountable.

To the degree that Traditionalist cause a crisis of ecclesiastical authority, and to the degree that the Missale Romanum of 1962 has come to be identified with pre-modern liturgy, the old liturgies of the Latin Church, Roman or otherwise, have been vested with something of a taboo quality. Anything that is not totally modern is suspect and discarded.

The crisis of ecclesiastical authority precedes a full ecclesiological crisis. Traditionalism often requires a subtle Gnosticism in that it functions off of the conviction that a large body of believers "have gotten it all wrong" and only they really understand the nature of things. It must be said, it takes some serious guts to tow a line like that. The better part of the Roman Church is subsequently determined to be, in some manner, deficient. This aspect of Traditionalism that seems most implausible due to the sheer numbers it would dismiss as irrelevant.

In the discussion of pre-modern liturgy, Traditionalism, fairly or un fairly, sets the goal post. However, the phenomenon is so loaded that, so long as it exists, it makes it nearly impossible to legitimately discuss the retrieval of liturgy once lost. Conversely, Traditionalism, whether it wants to or not, forces a re-examination of papal infallibility and supreme juridical authority. It does so by proposing there is a tangible limit to the authority of the pontiff. What this will mean in the long run, if anything, depends largely upon how Traditionalism determines its future course.

Next stop, Limbo.

Gathering a Sense of the Lay of the Liturgical Land : Traditional Catholicism

Increasingly, I am of the opinion that there is a distinct difference between Traditional Catholicism and Traditionalism. Traditional Catholicism concerns itself with reviving defunct practices and liturgies spanning the history of the Western/Latin Christian tradition. Traditionalism, by comparison, seeks to preserve the practices and liturgy of the earlier part of Catholicism's modernization, reconstituting early attempts at modernization as the perennial religion.

This needs to be fleshed out. Lets start with the first of the two, Traditional Catholicism.

Traditional Catholicism has the benefit of historical perspective. Its vision spans a wide swath of Latin Christian history. There is a deep appreciation for the many pre-Tridentine local variants, and typically a considerable knowledge of Western Christian praxis and liturgy before the cycle of Reformation-Counter Reformation. If there is a weakness to it, it is that it is largely academic. Most of the positioning occurs in academic publications, flexing considerable scholarly muscle. It is rarely if ever applied in a real setting, mostly due to the overwhelming indifference of the major denominations. This is despite the fine analysis of many of its proponents.

Laszlo Dobszay was a good example of this. Coming at it from a purely Roman Catholic perspective, Dobszay targeted Pius X's considerable reform of the Roman breviary, often positing that the pre-Pian breviary ought to be given a renewed examination. He reflected an emerging trend in liturgical scholarship, at least the scholarship concerned with daily prayer, that Pius X had effectively suppressed one of the oldest psalter schemas in continuous use. The problem that Dobszay and other scholars have is that their work seems to have little chance of making a practical impact. The Roman Church, for instance, has no intention of revisiting the Roman Breviary as it existed before Pius X. Consequently, Traditional Catholicism is often a private venture (among Roman Catholics) or belongs to smaller religious communities (in the Anglican Church) or monasteries away from the public eye.

Speaking from a scholars background, Traditional Catholicism has a lot to love. In so far as it makes the case to restore long since forgotten liturgies of various local flavors of the Latin tradition, it exemplifies the very best idea of liturgical plurality. But it is this fact that makes it so unappealing to the larger currents in the Latin West. Recovering the obscurities of Latin Christianity has failed to influence the larger liturgical stream; it is an eccentric's task or the lonely research of a scholar. It simply does not press any weight upon the broader Church or the liturgical imagination. Set side-by-side with mainline Catholicism or the Traditionalists, this group cannot help but to be the odd one out. Its work produces intelligent conversation, but the implicit ecclesiology leaves many religious observers slightly uncomfortable.

The liturgical theory behind Traditional Catholicism requires a substantial amount of decentralized authority, the local parish being entrusted with the care and maintenance of its liturgy. Such trust requires the adherence to a common matrix of faith that is equally understood and accepted in the larger confederation of the religion. Conservative leaning persons would be uncomfortable with the prospect of the most tasteless liberal excess running wild. Liberals, on the other hand, would fret at the possibility of pre-modern liturgical forms displacing contemporary theories and patterns of worship.

There is also the simple fact that this position may well be too academic to be viable. Betwixt the rediscovery of ancient forms, there is often a fair amount of reconstruction going on. Fine at the academic level, but hardly a sure basis upon which to rest religious observance.

Yet, the whole discussion is, up to this point, so highly hypothetical so as to be essentially irrelevant. Those who would rediscover the liturgy as it was prior to the Reformation and Counter Reformation are the smallest of minorities. In variably, many of them, for convenience sake, fall in line with the early modern liturgies of the Roman or Anglican pedigree, the acceptable parameters for Traditionalist Catholics or Anglicans.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The tides of time

It is often with disbelief that an older generation has to wrestle with a younger generation reclaiming what it had cast away. Plainly, the majority of the Roman hierarchy does not readily comprehend why the old liturgy fascinates anyone with no living memory of its regular celebration. Indeed, even the bishop of Rome doesn't quite get it.

There are a myriad of reasons why this is the case, most of which do not have any discernable connection.

Part of it is undoubtedly a matter of perspective. Time has allowed, say, my generation, the perspective to review the religious praxis of prior generations with some appreciation.

Yet there is certainly an element of rebellion about it. To embrace Catholicism as it existed before the Council is also to reject the Catholicism of the generation still holding influence. Indeed, it is to reject a whole worldview and its corresponding values.

Oddly enough, it is also to seek a degree of stability. The old liturgy doesn't like surprises and it doesn't allow much room for post-modern creativity. It is what it is and that is what you get.

There are many other reasons. Although I am not entirely sure what makes the old liturgy and its accompanying spirituality appealing, other than the fact that it conveys a perception of reality diametrically opposed to that of contemporary Western culture.

Religion, Christianity in particular, should never be too complacent with the culture. Pre-Vatican II Catholicism, despite the missteps that may be found in its more contemporary applications, provides one with a religion with a purpose. By comparison, post-Vatican II Catholicism can often be filled by most any NGO.

The hubris of an aging hierarchy is exemplified in its unwillingness to seriously ask what the old liturgy and a forgotten spirituality offer that the attempts at modernization seem to have forgotten. I personally don't know what it is, nor can I explain my own preference for it. I would, however, implore the future head of the CDW to ask this question.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Sense of Being

I have known many people who have sought, lost, or confirmed their religious vocation. I have seen two very fine men, better men than I, go on to the priesthood.

I've also seen men and women that genuinely seemed to have a vocation either not pursue it or be ultimately discouraged from pursuing.

And I've also seen those who probably should not pursue religious life do everything in their damnedest to make sure they get to live their fantasy and find their reprieve. In all cases, these are all people of my generation.

Somewhere in southern New England there is a man who was drawn to rather unstable religious communities largely due to the internal war he was waging with his orientation. He eventually became involved with such a toxic community that he was, whether justly or not, tainted with their reputation in his local diocese. His hopes were so focused on being a priest he joined the Old Catholic Church to receive ordination.

There is a woman elsewhere who has bounced from Dominicans, to Cistercians, and now to the Benedictines. Her story has actually been featured in some PR material, leaving out the tangled web and serious problems with stability. She was prone to an almost fanatic mysticism that often suspended logic and reason in favor of the pseudo mysticism that flowered in wake of Vatican II, most especially during John Paul II's papacy.

There is a man recently ordained to the priesthood for a major New England dioceses. The first time we met, it was during a marriage preparation retreat. I bumped into him a few weeks later - he had flowers for his bride-to-be. I last saw him at a local monastery shop. When I approached him, he said we must have met during a priesthood discernment weekend. He vehemently denied having been engaged to be married until my wife came up and recognized him too. Whatever happened, he wears the scars and tenaciously clings to his new identity as a priest.

We all have our stories. We have all been shaped by things we largely have no control over. I have known two very good men who truly had a vocation and pursued it. Many more, however, have been caught in mire. Some watched their vocations fade away. Some clung to vocations they may not have had for reasons only they know.

Is this the failure of processes designed to assist with discernment? Is this declining state of religious order? Or is the desperation to find some sense of being at all cost? Only God really knows.

Kenyan revision of the Liturgy of the Hours

Recently, a very thorough review on the Kenyan Liturgy of the Hours was published online. It is another one in a continuum of positive press this edition of the post-Vatican II breviary, previous ones being here, here, here, and here.

Frankly, I will likely not be purchasing a copy - it is just out of budget for me. Although, it appears that everyone who has purchased a copy has been essentially satisfied.

Things to note:

- The revised Grail psalms by Conception Abbey are an improvement over the old Grail version. This said, if you have background with the Hebrew or Greek text, or familiarity with the Latin, you will always have some minor criticisms. For a contemporary English translation, however, it gets the job done well enough.

- With the exception of newly added feasts, the collects appear to be that of the old ICEL version. Make of this what you will. From a Latinist's perspective, the new translation is a mixed bag; it conveys more of the original Latin, however, I am of the opinion it could have been done a little more smoothly. If this is something that "grinds your gears," you may want to stay away. I suspect, however, most people will focus their efforts on trying to assimilate the revised Grail psalter, in which case the collects will be of less concern.

- The corpus of Latin hymns in the Liturgia Horarum are largely missing from this edition, much like its American counter-part.

Allegedly, the new American edition of the Liturgy of the Hours will include a translation of the full corpus of Latin hymns. A big plus if this effort seriously gets of the ground and the books are published. The five year timeline projected in 2012 is, I think, too optimistic and it is possible the project will be derailed if there is a change of perspective in the USCCB. In which case, the Kenyan edition is the only reliable way to have an English edition of the editio altera of the Liturgia Horarum, including new feasts. And lets face it, the Latin edition is immorally overpriced, pious arguments about the invaluable treasury of prayer aside.

All things considered, if you can afford the purchase (which I can't, but you may be able to), it seems this is the most reasonable option. You can find more information, including contact instructions, here.

Experience as the arbiter of truth

I've written briefly on this topic before, and I will touch upon it here again with still more brevity.

Experience is the arbiter of truth. No matter how rational the argument, well reasoned the proposition, or objective the facts, experience has the final say, however subtle it may be.  For anyone to pretend otherwise, to make any claim to absolute knowledge that definitively encapsulates every circumstance and situation, borders on megalomania, neurosis at worst if one is of a religious persuasion.

So it is that Anthony Ruff, a liturgical scholar of some depth, a Benedictine of some serious imprudence and impudence, writes so condescendingly,

"After such a beautiful and dignified reformed liturgy, why would anyone hanker after the unreformed preconciliar one?? This celebration was so coherent, so rooted in tradition and yet so carefully renewed and improved."
Experience is the arbiter of truth, Tony. You experienced and I would presume regularly experience a liturgy that confirms the wisdom of the liturgical reform to you. Perhaps also in your life this liturgy has been thoroughly internalized. The melody and rhythm of the sacred are aptly heard in its cadences.

For others, this is not so. Moreover, not only is it not so, the encounter with God has another wellspring entirely.

Sometime ago in a previous post I counter the asinine editorializing of a writer over at the NCR who took to lambasting the Tridentine liturgy and those attached to it. I proposed a question then that I think is equally apt to pose to Tony of Collegeville, have you genuinely experienced the liturgy you so openly deride? I don't mean occasionally checking in on a Tridentine Mass. I mean immersing yourself in that liturgy, Mass and Office, for at least a year? Make that your rule of canonical prayer. Dare I say it, engage with members of the community with whom you will likely have more education and, at the very least, understand their hopes, fears, aspirations, sadness, and joys, even if the piety is repugnant. On this point, I write with some considerable experience.

I have lived both forms of the Roman liturgy as my rule of prayer; I gravitated naturally to the Tridentine liturgy and forced myself to adopt the liturgy promulgated by Paul VI. I am aware of the faults and foibles of both, as well as the numerous points at which there are glimpses of so much potential. As time has gone on, I've become convinced that a via media should have been pursued; perhaps it is time priests start dusting off the Roman Missal as it stood in 1965.

Tony, if you're going to continue to deride in a most arrogant manner the old liturgy, either out of megalomania or neurosis, then have the decency to admit you might need a good therapist or a line of meds. Otherwise, get off your duff Ruff and experience it in the manner I suggested above, then come back and reflect upon it.

Is that too much to ask? I suppose it is.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fr. Dominic Rodighiero, C.S, Nella tua misericordia, Signore, dona lo la pace

I recently learned that Fr. Dominic Rodighiero, C.S., pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in Everett, Massachusetts passed away last summer. He died of complications from prostate cancer in his native Italy.

This sad event came to light when trying to make arrangements to reconnect with him. Fr. Dominic had been my pastor as we had lived in the area some years back and frequently attended the Italian Mass.

Fr. Dominic was happy to have "two theologians", as he referred to my wife and I, in his parish. He was especially happy to learn of my background in Italian and Latin. He proudly showed me his Italian breviary in the course of one of our conversations and suggested we should pray some parts of the office in Italian if I had time.

We eventually moved away from the area. During that time, there were occasional plans to swing by the parish and meet up with Fr. Dominic, however, the mode and obligations of daily life often proved irreconcilable to such designs.

Fr. Dominic was one of those rare priest and after you have met him and heard his story, you understand why Vatican II, its documents, reforms, and the liturgy promulgated in its name have such staunch defenders, especially in the Italian church. Dominic's orthodoxy never waivered in or out of the pulpit. He never toyed with the Missal of Paul VI, sticking to the text, and never paid heed to the half-baked attempts at displacing the reformed liturgy of the hours with fashionable post-modern Western imitations. He never lost the flame of missionary zeal and could comfortably, and credibly, speak of doctrine, theological and social.

One conversation with him summarized the perspective of many educated Italian clergy regarding Catholicism. Holding up the breviary (the Italian edition) he said, "I see all these people who come into church, light a candles and rub the feet of a statue and that is their religion. That might be there religion, but it is not my religion. (Waiving the breviary) This, this is where you can find my religion, not at the feet of statues."

Fr. Dominic was one of those exemplars of Vatican II priests who make you realize if the Roman Church could have had a generation composed largely of men of their caliber, its recent history, or our at least our recent experience of it, could have been different.

The man was a fine pastor and is truly missed, especially by those of us who, in retrospect, kept missing the opportunity to say goodbye.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Anthony Ruff celebrates Mass in Latin

Good for him. Although, it is somewhat bizarre that Latin should border on being taboo in the Pauline liturgy, provisions in canon law being what they are.

The vernacular may be here to stay, but nothing but good can come from having celebrations according to the Pauline Missal in Latin.

The account brings me back to my undergrad days. it seems a life time away, but I remember those pushes we would make with priests we knew had the command of Latin to celebrate in the language of the Roman Church. More often then not, it required a good deal of pleading and arm twisting. It was an exciting time, spanning the promulgation and eventual publication of the third typical edition of the Pauline Missal. Those were years under JP II's pontificate in which anything seemed possible, and there was an expectation, call it naivety, that John Paul II's stamp on the Missale Romanum would herald greater things to come.

After several subsequent graduate degrees and the decision to segue out of academia, I still look back at that time fondly. There was an excitement then; even in the midst of the at times horrid college liturgy that typifies Jesuit campuses, there was something about being in an environment that was overflowing with theology, symbolic imagery, and sometimes obscure Latin editions, something so full of life and wonder. I hope those students and Fr. Ruff had their own share of that same excitement.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A topic so old, it's new again

The topic of the Bea psalter is going to remain a perennial point of contention....at least among those who like to discuss such Latin, textual studies and translation issues. Fr. Hunwicke has given it a go in his unique way.

From the perspective of someone with a background in Latin, Greek, and especially Hebrew, the Bea psalter, objectively speaking, deserves high compliments. It is an intelligent Latin that aptly handles the Hebrew text. 

Of course, the level of Latinity and utilizing the Hebrew text as the basis of the translation is a contentious issue. The common critique is that the Pian Psalter (more ecclesiastical sounding, don't you think?) necessarily discarded with ancient Latin phraseology, similar to Urban VIII's revision of the hymns in the breviary, and created no small amount of dissonance between the antiphons of the Roman breviary and the psalter. True enough, but where ancient antiphons or the Vulgate psalter were, linguistically speaking, bordering on awkward, if not absurd, it hardly seems Pius XII's psalter should be reprimanded for providing textual clarity where there was none.

The above objection actually leads into the second objection: it was audacious and entirely anti-Traditional to base the translation off of the Hebrew psalter. Even in Roman circles, you will find protectionist impulse around the Septuagint as you do in Orthodox circles. There is a belief among certain Traditionalists or overly pious Catholics that somehow, somehow, the Hebrew text compromises doctrine and dogma. Again, it shares all of the absurdity that the Orthodox typically demonstrate around the topic. The Septuagint, it is true, deserves a better reputation among Old Testament scholars and scholars of pre-Christian Judaism. No one can seriously dispute that the original text is Hebrew and Masoretic text of psalter has been substantially confirmed by Qumran. It just makes sense to utilize the Hebrew text as the basis of a translation. And, frankly, I think the Hebrew adds a bit of a punch to the Latin.

Hunwicke's new injection into the debate is citing the "scholarship" of Christine Morhman. I've gone off about her work before, but it needs repeating, apart from certain Catholic circles that refuse to engage any of the major classics and Latin scholars, preferring instead some sort of intellectual ghetto, there is no one, not a one, who finds any supporting documentation for Morhman's theories. Rather, then the topic has come up, the notable flaws of Morhman's methodology are clearly outlined. Morhman had a theory of wide-ranging impact if true. Unfortunately, she chose a very narrow selection of texts to prove this theory; indeed, it seems she chose texts that could support her theory without wrestling with the numerous texts that disprove it. In other words, there is no credible evidence of a special Christian Latinity; rather, the Latinity of any Christian text, including liturgical texts, merely reflects the abilities of its author. Linguistically, there was little to defend the Vulgate psalter.

The promulgation of the Bea psalter was no small matter in its day. Truth be told, it did cause a fair amount of controversy, especially among older priests. Sacrosanctum Concilium even seemed to mildly rebuke it. Nevertheless, the Bea psalter has been substantially vindicated; the psalter in the Nova Vulgata did not so much dismiss the Bea psalter as it revised it. If one frequents the Latin typical editions of the new books, one cannot help but notice that the Bea psalter's presence is readily detectable.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tell me, how does the "new liturgical movement" hold a candle to the original liturgical movement?

This just seems like a waste of creative energy. That people flock to such shallow proposals is perhaps the reason I became so disgusted with the liturgical fetishism that erupted during Ratzinger's pontificate. Really lost the plot here, guys.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Are you experienced?

Experience is, for all practical purposes, the ultimate source of authority or truth. The more cerebral types among us like it or not, experience will always be the standard to which any proposition, no matter how cogently argued, will be measured. Again, practically speaking.

There are times when it becomes readily apparent how crucial experience is. Experience may lead us one way, and someone else another way; doubtless, its deep impact upon our conscious and unconscious thought governs our perception and assimilation of the world around us, perhaps more than we would often like to admit.

The above holds true in matters of liturgy, prayer and spirituality as much as it does in any other aspect of life.

There is a certain author of the perennialist school with whom I often find much sympathy. In a rather well respected work of his on prayer he discusses canonical prayer and spirituality at some length. After extolling the virtues of canonical prayer, its ability to transpose us into the mind of God through hallowed tradition, he turns to the subjects of contemplative prayer and prayer of the heart (broadly speaking). It is at this point that the author comes to grips with his own experience, one which convinced him of the perennial truths of Catholicism, but also led him to abandon his Catholicism under the pretext that Catholicism had forfeited sound metaphysics and mysticism in favor of a materialist nominalism.

How could I not sympathize with this man?! Someone who, more elegantly than I, could express my experience. Of course, this author died some time in the late 90's. He watched the changes brought to Catholicism and its liturgy. Truth be told, the astounding popularity of his perennialism may well have contributed to those changes in so far as it seems to have exercised a profound influence on certain types of theologians. This author no longer recognized the Catholicism he cherished, although, to be sure, he already gone on to develop his own praxis. The nature of the attachment he had with Catholicism to so sternly criticize the changes made in wake of Vatican II was never really explained by the author. By the time the Council began he had already moved on to "his own thing." The author did not have any real experience of Catholicism during or after Vatican II, a bit of irony from a modern mystic, in the most noble sense of the phrase, who so often taught on the experiential aspect of metaphysical knowledge. Yet, if one has experienced the wrong end of the post-Vatican II stick, it is relatively easy to bypass this critique and quickly sympathize with the author.

If this author, who shall remain anonymous, had experience of Catholicism after Vatican II, if he had tended to the adoption of the post-conciliar canonical prayer as much as he did the pre-conciliar liturgy of his youth, before he went on to do his own thing, would he had written anything different? Would he have been able to turn his prowess to canonical prayer of the Roman Church as it emerged in the later decades of the twentieth century and found some deep metaphysical truth? It's hard to say, really, but it is always something to keep in mind.

As much as we can rightfully speak of the decline of Latin Christianity, and note how new religions or spiritualities seem to be filling in the vacuum, we must also acknowledge there are those whose experience of Catholicism after Vatican II, most especially in its liturgy is in stark contrast with decline. We should not go so far as to drop our critical senses and affirm a "new Pentecost," at every turn. That would delusional. We must acknowledge, however, that there are experiences that have invested the new liturgy with a certain authority.

Without setting ourselves up for disappointment, one must consider that for Africa and Asia, the reformed Roman liturgy is the liturgy; in its Mass and Office, it is the liturgy that coincides with the expansion of Catholicism in those parts of the world. One must also consider those who attend the new liturgy with the same fervent devotion that is often associated with memories of old liturgy. For such people, there has not been a rupture to speak of. Then there are those monastic houses that celebrate the Roman liturgy with dutiful monastic observance. One such abbey is a drive away from me in Spencer, Massachusetts. I have written about their liturgy before; these guys are proof that the new missal is fully capable of conveying the depth of the Tradition if the community responsible for celebrating the liturgy so wishes it. Furthermore, this can be done without restoring any elements of the old missal.

Experience has a way of establishing authority, truth, and authenticity. When it comes to the reform of the Roman liturgy, any criticism needs to be mindful of this. Any criticism of the liturgy promulgated by Paul VI eventually must reckon with the fact that, regardless of the historical and cultural arguments against a reform on such a massive scale, there are those whose experience of the new liturgy is not fraught with decline and deformation. It would be presumptuous, as I am often reminded, to simply discount or dismiss these experiences as either ill-informed or under educated. Doing so poses an inherent risk of quasi-Gnosticism.

I have studied the revised liturgy in its typical editions. I have slogged through the numerous, and at times obscure, scholarly literature documenting the project of the liturgical reform itself, and I am, even if begrudgingly so, well aware of those communities which did not seem to suffer liturgical decadence in the wake of the reform. Whatever my criticisms of the reform, where the liturgy promulgated by Paul VI is coupled with the determination that it will be an authentic expression of the Latin tradition, it becomes as much. In this respect, these experiences, in my estimation, provide the new liturgy with some level of authenticity, difficult though they may be to come by.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Holy Trinity, Boston, MA - Consummatum Est

For Holy Trinity in South Boston, it is done, according to the Boston Catholic Insider.

It is nice to see this story finally getting some additional legs on the web, although it is sadly after the tipping point.

I have written about the almost obscene manner in which this parish was closed by the Archdiocese of Boston on this blog before. As such, there is no need to rehash the details of its closure and subsequent fall out. I will only say, in that regard, that its closure was not the result of dwindling financials but rather the utterly incompetent leadership of the incredibly imploding Archdiocese of Boston, with responsibility being placed in the lap of the man at the very top - the same man who the current bishop of Rome thought good to place on his council of "elite" cardinals to help him govern the Roman Church. Good job - may the Church of Rome soon come to mirror the church in Boston.

I am, as you can undoubtedly tell, still passionate about the closing of a parish that I had been able to effectively call my own and that played such a crucial role in my formation....and whose closure taught me that there was no genuinely place for me in the Roman Church, at least in my immediate locality.

It seems appropriate to spell out how important this now defunct parish was for me. Many, many years ago, I was living in the Pacific Northwest. This was one of the most fruitful times of my life. It was during this time that I began to seriously engage the religion I had been born and baptized into. This was begun, naturally, for me at least, in the religion section of a used bookstore. I voraciously devoured everything I could get my hands on, especially these seemingly strange things called missals. They had such titles as "The New Marian Missal" and the "Maryknoll Missal." It took a bit, but I soon enough deduced their purpose and the meaning of their contents - not too shabby for someone whose family never made a habit of darkening the door of church, save for a wedding or a funeral.

After roughly six months of study, I finally decided I was ready to attend Mass. I still remember the profound sense of disorientation as I tried to wade my way through what can best be described as a train wreck involving aged folk groups and failed pop-psychologists. The question that kept repeating itself: "what happened? what happened to this thing of poetic beauty? what the hell is this abomination?" It was apparent I had more study to do. So I did. And the justifications for those changes are still absent.

In any event, when I returned to Boston, months of inquiry led me to Holy Trinity - the parish still hadn't developed a significant online presence and, frankly, the community didn't seem to do much to promote itself. The old liturgical books I was so fond of finally had a "real" use; it was possible to experience their contents and provide a real context to a liturgy I had previously been forced to imagine into existence.

Three things made an impression at Holy Trinity.

1) For reasons that remain unclear to me, it seems the parish never really promoted itself in way most parishes do. That there was a Tridentine liturgy in the Archdiocese of Boston came to me via word-of-mouth from a priest at St. Paul's in Cambridge. The parish itself didn't seem to be out there trying to get people to come on board.

2) Contrary to pronouncements of those who seem to think interest in the Tridentine liturgy is a passing moment among liturgical hipsters or overly affluent conservative whites who despise the poor, the majority of attendees at the Tridentine liturgy were poor-working class. Yes, there were wealthy people there as well, but one would have to be the most unyielding of ideologues to not noticed who made up the bulk of the attendees at a given Latin Mass. To say otherwise is to be in absolute denial. This Mass, chanted in a dead language, facilitated the prayers of the poor and working class. The very people overly affluent contemporary liturgists, with too much time and money on their hands, claim they serve with their banal product. One can't help but think of Cardinal Heenan's warning to the Concilium upon viewing the proposed revision of the Roman Mass.

3) The preaching was of a quality totally distinct from the normative model in the Boston diocese. Almost always delivered by priests old enough to know the Tridentine rite, the sermons were clearly marked by an unambiguous sense of the supernatural. This sense of the supernatural was the complement to masterful erudition and a distinct lack of ultra-Montanism. These men didn't waste their sermons citing pontiff after pontiff. Rather, they had a patristic and medieval library at their fingertips and the only time a pope was mentioned was if he could be classified as a titan in either respective era.

I eventually realized these priests were not the norm. The norm for the Boston diocese was a man of largely secular mindset, perhaps having some good grounding in literature and art, but fairly nominalist in the worldview he could muster in his sermons. They were so because they reflected the makeup of the Archdiocese of Boston, a church that is better defined by a general humanism than anything else. The priests at Holy Trinity were a different breed, in large part because they came from a much different Catholicism, a Catholicism that, in large part, was left behind. As a result, I learned that it wasn't only comprehensive change in the liturgy I had to reckon with, it was a spiritual edifice that had been razed until nothing was left but the footprint of its foundation.

Holy Trinity afforded the opportunity to experience a variety of Catholicism that has increasingly disappeared in favor of its post-modern variety. It was, all told, a brief glimpse into the "Catholic moment", that time when it seemed the Roman Church was going from strength to strength and nothing could stop it...except, as it turns out, its own hierarchy. There was very much a sense of living among the last vestiges of a time bygone. One could only wonder what could have been if these priests and the Catholicism they reflect had the opportunity to produce a suitable heir.

On some level, the news that Holy Trinity officially went up for sale offers some closure to anyone wounded by the unjust actions of this diocese. There is a finality to it; there is no going back and no way to pine over innumerable what if scenarios of retrieving the irretrievable. It is done. For everyone who feels some sense of loss over this closure, I hope it brings some sobering understanding of the estimation this hierarchy holds you in and the realization that there is no room to protest the unjust actions of  hierarchy that only senses self-criticism when something turns into a PR nightmare.

But, to quote the Gallagher brothers, "don't look back in anger."