A major gathering to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum — Benedict XVI’s decree which regularized celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass used before the Second Vatican Council — will take place in Rome next week.
Organized annually by the Italian National Committee of Summorum Pontificum, this year’s special anniversary “pilgrimage of the Populus Summorum Pontificum” will be attended by a roll call of respected Church figures who include Cardinals Carlo Caffarra, Robert Sarah, Raymond Burke, Gerhard Müller, and the prefect of the Pontifical Household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.
The focal point of the Sept. 14-17 pilgrimage will be a procession of pilgrims through the streets of Rome in the morning of Sept. 16, culminating in a solemn Pontifical Mass at 11 a.m. at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter's Basilica, celebrated by Cardinal Caffarra, the archbishop emeritus of Bologna (update: a replacement for the cardinal is currently being sought after news of his unexpected death today).
The four-day event will also include a conference on Sept. 14 at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on the theme "The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Benedict XVI: A Renewed Youth for the Church.” Speakers will include Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the German author and intellectual, Martin Mosebach.
“Our goal is to illustrate how much the ‘treasures of the past’ can, and must be, a font of renewal for the whole Church in times of crisis,” explained Guillaume Ferluc, the event’s organizer.
Once Sacred, Always Sacred
On July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI decreed that the traditional liturgy of the Roman rite was to be officially available to all the Church’s faithful alongside the new liturgy of Blessed Pope Paul VI.
Pope St. John Paul II had allowed the traditional Latin Mass to be celebrated with limitations, but with his motu proprio (papal edict) Summorum Pontificum, Benedict removed the remaining restrictions. He stressed the old rite had never been abrogated but was henceforth to be known as the “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite, and the new Mass introduced by Paul VI would be known as the “ordinary form.”
Benedict XVI rationalized in an accompanying letter to bishops that if the older liturgy was sacred in the past, then it is also sacred today without any rupture. “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 wrote. “It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."
From then on, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite was to made available even where it had not been specifically requested, and Benedict was especially aware of how much young people have been attracted to it. They have found it “particularly suited to them,” he said, adding to the need for “a clearer juridical regulation” that had not been foreseen when John Paul II made first steps to liberalizing the old rite in 1988.
Since 2007, the general consensus is that Summorum Pontificum has enriched the Church’s liturgical life, and fears it would foster division have proven unfounded — as Benedict XVI had predicted in his accompanying letter.
The “core idea” of Summorum Pontificum, explained Ferluc, was to “give back the usus antiquior, as Pope Benedict also called it, to the universal Church,” ensuring that at the “parish level” it can be celebrated “peacefully and in a true spirit of communion.”
Ferluc, who is director of the international edition of the French liturgical journal Paix Liturgique, said the faithful could now experience such an “enrichment” and “no longer” would it be limited to “a kind of ghetto or reserved just for ‘the happy few.’”
Offering Strength in Current Crisis
Particularly noteworthy has been how much young people, particularly young males, have been attracted to it, and how it continues to draw them in significant numbers. For Ferluc, this is because they are not generally attracted to the “do-it-yourself, liberal spirit” inherited from “the selfish materialistic revolution” of 1968.
Instead, he said, they “strive for verticality, sacredness, reverence, hierarchy, and also for silence, as Cardinal Sarah has perfectly pointed out in his book [The Power of Silence].”
“Living in a dramatically noisy society, were everything is virtual and passing, [young people] understand that true encounters happen only in intimacy,” he said. “And that is what the extraordinary form of the Mass offers, especially in its Low Mass form: an occasion to meet God, in the person of His Holy Son, opening one’s soul to the mystery of Divine Love and Mercy.”
Related to what attracts young people to the ancient sacred liturgy is the peace people say they find in the extraordinary form, Ferluc added. “It gives them a strong support for their faith,” he said, and pointed to Benedict’s words that what earlier generations held as sacred, “remains sacred and great for us too."
Referring to great warriors of spiritual combat such as St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Benedict of Norcia, and Dom Lorenzo Scupoli, Ferluc said they teach us in “times of spiritual crisis” to follow Christ’s injunction to the Apostles on the eve of his Crucifixion “to stay awake and pray.”
“This is what we find in the extraordinary form: a staff and a lamp that keep guiding us towards the Lord, even in the darkest hours of secularism, materialism and selfishness.”