A four-day pilgrimage of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and faithful from around the world to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Summorum pontificum wrapped up on Sunday after a series of well-attended events to celebrate Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio that liberalized Mass in the old Rite.

Pope Francis sent his “heartfelt best wishes” and gave his apostolic blessing to the participants of the Sept. 14-17 pilgrimage, organized by the Cœtus Internationalis Summorum Pontificum.

In a message sent via Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Holy Father said he hoped the pilgrims’ visit of the tombs of the apostles “may give rise to a sincere attachment to Christ worshipped in the beauty of the liturgy, and that it may foster a renewed impetus to the profession of Catholic faith and to the witness of fraternal charity.”

The events, which attracted global attention and were attended by an estimated 2,000 pilgrims of all ages and every social class and ethnicity, included a Procession through Rome, a Solemn High Mass at the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva celebrated by Msgr. Gilles Wach, founder and prior general of the Institute of Christ the King, and Solemn Vespers celebrated by Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

The pilgrimage kicked off with a one-day conference at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas at which speakers gave an overview of the importance of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (otherwise known as the old Rite according to the 1962 Missal, in use before the Second Vatican Council) and the fruits of Summorum pontificum.

Since the motu proprio was issued in 2007, its effects have been “encouraging” and the growth of the usus antiquor “extremely positive,” said Archbishop Guido Pozzo, president of the Pontifical Commission, Ecclesia Dei.

Summorum pontificum “rehabilitated the ancient Rite for the universal Church,” he told the Register, “giving the Church the possibility to re-appropriate the treasures, the patrimony, that are commensurate with the ancient liturgy.”

In his talk that opened the Sept. 14 conference, the Italian prelate gave a “synthetic overview” of the old Rite since 2007, and shared the latest figures that show roughly a doubling of the number Masses in the Extraordinary Form celebrated in Western countries.

In the U.S., he said 480 old Rite Masses are currently celebrated on Sundays, up from 230 in 2007. In France, ten years ago there were 104 Sunday Masses; now there are 221, or 430 if one includes those celebrated by the Society of St. Pius X. In Germany, 54 Masses in the Extraordinary Form are celebrated on Sunday, up from 35 in 2007, while in the UK, the number has risen from 18 to 40 over the past ten years.

But Archbishop Pozzo added that it “doesn’t mean all the problems are solved” and obstacles have appeared along the way. He said a “lack of priests” and “ideological and pastoral prejudices” against celebration of the old Rite remain. 

The pilgrimage organizers themselves said they often feel ignored by their pastors and, despite their devotion to the See of Peter, found that the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's basilica had not been prepared for the ad Orientem celebration and the comunion rail was not closed. 

Some bishops, he said, claim single groups who favor Mass in the Extraordinary Form are “not truly part of the pastoral action of the local church” and “risk being isolated.” He said it is not due to the use of the Extraordinary Form but “other reasons which the local church must tackle.” It is “up to the bishops to develop true consistency,” he said, “according to the universal law of the Church.”

He stressed that Summorum pontificum was not aimed at achieving uniformity, but rather to ensure the coexistence of the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Roman Rite “in full respect of their specificity.”

The archbishop also said it was important to “underline the mental and spiritual attitude of the faithful,” that it is not about being “nostalgic of a past world but to anchor the soul in the true treasure that is at the heart of the traditional liturgy.” Heritage, he said, “is perennial, it is always current” and quoted Benedict XVI’s words issued at the time of the motu proprio: 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.”

He noted that the high attendance of young people and young families at Masses in the Extraordinary Form show it is “not about nostalgia for the past” and that young priests who celebrate it are “most open and available.”

The old Rite can “greatly enrich” the Novus Ordo Mass celebrated in most churches today as it represents a “certain continuity and faith” and a “link to tradition in terms of theological and liturgical progress.” This was “the true aim of Paul VI, who wanted to create continuity with tradition,” he continued. “Why should there be an eclipse of the old Rite?”

Archbishop Pozzo also said the Extraordinary Form is an “antidote” to “arbitrary creativity that detracts from the mystery and minimizes the sacrifice of the Eucharist.” But at the same time, he said the old Rite “mustn’t be considered as a threat to unity but a gift that edifies the Body of Christ,” nor must it be “rooted in the past but rather accessible to present and future generations.” He even wouldn’t exclude the possibility at some point of having both forms converge into one form of the Roman Rite.

There is a “mutual fecundity” of the two forms, he said, adding there is no “contra-position,” nor is there anything in Summorum pontificum that is opposed to the Second Vatican Council. To say the motu proprio is opposed to it,is “totally false,” he said, as is the image of the old Rite being part of a pre-Council world compared to the post-Council one. Subverting tradition by priests deciding individually what to do in the liturgy is what widens the gap between the pre and post Council liturgies, destroying the “bond of living history of the faith,” he said.  

Quoting Benedict XVI, he said the Church “stands and falls with the liturgy” which is the “core of any form of renewal in the Church.” Celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form, he said, means to “look with hope to the future of the Church.”

 

“Irreversible” liturgical restoration 

At Solemn Vespers in St. Mark's basilica, Sept. 15, celebrated by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the Pontifical Household, Father Claude Barthe, chaplain of the Coetus Internationalis Summorum Pontificum, also heralded the fruits of Summorum pontificum which he described as “remarkable.” 

As well as noting the doubling of Masses in the old Rite, he said it is an “astonishing source of vocations; it is the support of many families; it makes consecrated communities flourish; the number of priests who celebrate it continues to grow.”

“So today,” he continued, “it can be said that the liturgical restoration in the Church, impelled by Summorum Pontificum, is irreversible.”

 

Noble simplicity of repetition

In his talk, the German author, intellectual and expert on the Traditional Latin Mass Martin Mosebach explained the importance and meaning of repetition in the old Rite, stressing that this aspect is “highly intentional” and has a “noble simplicity” about it.

“Simplicity demands repetition—in poetry as in prayer,” he said, adding that “we are still amazed that the highly educated Council Fathers were not aware of this aesthetic law, which is also a spiritual law.” The abolition of seemingly “unnecessary repetition” has produced “features that do not make sense,” he said.  

Mosebach explained how the Kyrie “stands for its endless repetition,” and its “three-times-three” is a kind of “monument” to this “endlessness that symbolizes the eternal unicity [the fact of being or consisting of one, or of being united as a whole].”

But an aversion to “unnecessary repetition that was written into” the Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy “is ultimately nothing less than a turning-away from the liturgy’s eschatological aspect,” Mosebach said.    

He then underlined the importance of “necessary repetition” — that of the “entire Rite itself” which Summorum pontificum made possible again.

“We are to let ourselves be carried by the Mass in its ceaseless repetitions, to let our desire for independent thought and feeling come to rest and repose in it, to discover—in the routine—the happiness of being-at-home,” he said. “The most important thing the repeated Rite manifests to those who engage in it, is that it is stronger than they are; they gain by surrendering to it, and on the other hand they are sapping nothing of its power if perchance they are not up to such a surrender. After all, who can say he is always conscious of being at the Rite’s lofty level?”

In closing, he said the facilitation of a “holy routine” made possible by Summorum pontificum “has produced real possibilities” and borne fruit. Modern intellectuals, he asserted, do not understand that a “spiritual act does not exhaust itself in a single insight, but in its incarnate form: In this meaningful form it constantly strives for repetition.”

Pope Benedict “was aware of this,” he said, and it “only remains for Catholics throughout the world to take up his legislation and act upon it.”

A longer version of Martin Mosebach’s talk can be read here, at First Things.

Cardinals Sarah and Müller on Summorum Pontificum

In a lengthy address, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments made a number of key points, some of which are highlighted below:

  • Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s words, that the “liturgy is not about us, but about God” and that “forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age” are “utterly true” and have become “more and more poignant with each passing year.”
  • “If the Church of our day is less zealous and efficacious in bringing people to Christ, one cause may be our own failure to participate in the Sacred Liturgy truly and efficaciously, which is perhaps itself due to a lack of proper liturgical formation.”
  • “Anthropocentric liturgies [are] unacceptable because they reduce something which is of its very essence supernatural to the level of merely the natural, contrary to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.”
  • “God must come first in every element of our liturgical celebration. It is for love of Him and so as to worship Him all the more fully that we set aside and consecrate people, places and things specifically for His service in the Sacred Liturgy.”
  • The importance of the priest facing east, is not restricted to the usus antiquior but is “perfectly appropriate and, I would insist, is pastorally advantageous in celebrations of the usus recentior [novus ordo].”
  • “The ‘little things’ in a marriage express and protect the greater realities. So too in the liturgy… Our small acts of love for God in carefully attending to the liturgy’s demands are very important.”
  • “Noise in fact kills the liturgy, kills prayer, tears us and exiles us far away from God… Silence reveals the inner source which begets the word that becomes prayer, praise and silent adoration.”
  • “Unauthorized liturgical practices strike discordant notes in the symphony of the Church’s rites and produce a noise which disturbs souls. This is not creativity, nor is it truly pastoral. No: a fidelity grounded in humility, awe and silence of heart, mind and soul are what is required from each of us in respect of the Church’s rites. Let not the sin of liturgical pride take root in our souls!”
  • “To pray the breviary with my own mobile phone or tablet or another electronic device [is] not worthy: it desacralizes prayer. These apparatuses are not instruments consecrated and reserved to God, but we use them for God and also for profane things! Electronic devices must be turned off, or better still they can be left behind at home when we come to worship God.”  
  • “Silence and calm is so important in our churches before, during and after liturgical celebrations. What hope have we of an interior focus on God if what we experience in our churches is yet more distraction and noise?”
  • On young adherents of the old Rite: “They are neither nostalgic nor embittered nor encumbered by the ecclesiastical battles of recent decades; they are full of the joy of living the life of Christ amidst the challenges of the modern world.”
  • “There should be no competition between the more recent rites and the older ones of the one Roman rite: both should be a natural element of the life of the Church in our times. Christ calls us to unity, not division!”
  • “You are not traditionalists: you are Catholics of the Roman rite as am I and as is the Holy Father. ..You are not second-class or somehow peculiar members of the Catholic Church because of your life of worship and your spiritual practices, which were those of innumerable saints… If you have not yet left behind the shackles of the ‘traditionalist ghetto,’ please do so today. Almighty God calls you to do this.”

See the full text of Cardinal Sarah’s address on the New Liturgical Movement’s site here.

In his talk on “dogma and liturgy”, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, expressed gratitude to Benedict XVI for the motu proprio before going on to explain how the liturgy is an “objective expression” of the Church’s life where there is union with Christ, in an experience of community of believers.

The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the liturgy cannot be simply modified according to the fads of theologians, and that the “ancient liturgy will continue to rejuvenate the Church.”

 

The Dominican connection

All the events were well attended: the conference hall and the churches were packed with pilgrims, and the Dominicans were out in force. Dominican Father Vincenzo Nuara, an official of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, was one of the chief organizers; the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas hosted the congress; and a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form was celebrated in the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Many Dominican friars and sisters also took part in the events.

The Dominican roots to the old Rite go far back, to Pope St Pius V, a Dominican, who promulgated it. While the friars have an even older Rite which is 300 years older than the Missal of St. Pius V.  

“If we consider the Dominican charism more closely, however, we come to see how wonderfully reasonable it is for Friars Preachers to promote the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Mass,” said Dominican Father Ezra Sullivan, who stressed that St. Dominic founded his Order with the mission of spreading and defending the Catholic faith.

“Our times help us to see that the faith is not a subject only for the classroom, pulpit, publishing house, or new media,” said Father Sullivan, a native of California now teaching moral theology at the Angelicum. He added that Traditional liturgies are “treasure houses that preserve Catholic truth; they are the seed beds in which the ancient faith springs forth ever new and vigorous. And the faith lived out in the holy liturgy stimulates Catholic culture as its natural aim and fulfilment.”

“Thus, as we Dominicans live our charism more faithfully,” he continued, “we are coming to appreciate and foster traditional liturgies as one of the chief ways to unite souls more closely with Jesus Christ, the Truth Incarnate, who is both priest and victim.” 

Photos: Edward Pentin