Saturday, December 3, 2011

Back in the Fold

In Ukraine I find myself far from that part of the world, and from the parish and the excitement of the first experiences with the new English translation of the Roman Missal. I have to content myself long-distance with comments in the blogosphere and candid reactions from friends at home and elsewhere in the English speaking world. Among the tidbits which have come my way, I was a bit taken off guard by a comment from an Italian priest friend who said very simply that the new English reminds him of the Italian Missal in the sense that both demand attention and application if a priest is going to pray them properly for the people. My spontaneous thought was: Looks like we're back in the fold with the greater Church around the world. Despite glitches, it is obviously a smaller but significant blessing that this old Simeon has lived long enough to see. Deo gratias!

My prayers continue for all who strive in the area of sacred music. Long term and not discounting initial hurdles and objections to abandoning much of a parish's repertoire of songs in an attempt to set forth the genuine tradition of the Western Church (read: Latin Church), I am convinced that in the area of music, sacred music, the English-speaking world is called to provide the leadership in the work of recovering plain chant and more, both in Latin and in the vernacular. I'm exposed to music in a lot of different languages and most of it involves translations of the English speaking world's hymnody or popular church music. The Western Church's vernacular music repertoire in the average community everywhere in the world is really quite limited. If you taught people or even a scola just a couple basic chant melodies and turned them loose on the propers for Mass, you'd end up with exponentially more variety (if that's what you want) than comes forth from those few hymns everybody knows and that just with verses 1 and 2, which are as far as we go. As I say, all involved in church music and pastors who have responsibility for encouraging restoration and development according to the mind of the Church are definitely in my daily prayers.

On the issue of worship ad Orientem, I'd ask your continued prayers for my carpenter who has begun preparing the new altar for my chapel. I can't wait. The other day I finally met with the priest who designed the chapel and we have agreed on the modifications which need to be made. I may have strong-armed him a bit, but the sisters were there to console him after our meeting and to assure him that the additions and changes were really going to make Father's work even more beautiful. Don't ask me to go into liturgical art consulting!

In this regard, the experience of these months of celebrating across the altar have confirmed my belief that we are dealing with a fad and not any kind of liturgical development. Both ways of preparing the gifts and praying the Eucharistic Prayer are possible in the Church today, but the great tradition and, I am thoroughly and profoundly convinced, the better way is ad Orientem

Not from my own experience (which I explained back in Island Envoy), but from listening and observing, I can see however that the change to ad Orientem where that is possible without a huge financial outlay is really a terribly high hurdle to clear. What was done overnight and in haste two generations ago (moving in a table or quickly fabricating something of TV or movie set quality) looms terribly large and immovable for most priests today when it comes to reversing a trend. What can I say? The Extraordinary Form of the liturgy today teaches eloquently and should have its impact on the Ordinary Form. Beyond the Missal and decorous music, a key component is studying and accurately celebrating the Mass according to the rubrics but doing so if and whenever possible ad Orientem

No doubt the difference from 2 generations back in time is that Father back then could act capriciously and few dared call him to account. I can only hope and pray that for our day and time genuine leadership among priests and bishops in this regard will find the way.


  1. RE: Your Italian friend, I felt the same way about the structure of the prayers. I don't know if I'll ever get as mindlessly smooth on it as I did with my five years of the previous translation. I find that many of the devotional or pious thoughts I would previously include in my internal participation are now unneeded as the prayer itself is pious and devote.

    THe slower pace required to say this prayer well so that others may listen well is a great blessing that, I am hoping, will continue to unfold. While I have never prayed the Mass in Latin (gotta get that Missal Romano ordered) I have to imagine this is similar to that.

  2. Your Excellency, I attend Mass at two different locations.

    At the one, the choice of music did not get worse contemporaneously with the advent of the new translation because it was not realistically possible to make it worse.

    At the other, it has not gotten worse because, so far as I can tell, the new national mini-"hymnal", copies of which are to be found in the pews, has yet to be used. (May it be so forever, at least as far as the "hymnody" is concerned.)

    In Canada, each diocese has basically had to pick from three horrible Mass settings that every parish in the diocese must use exclusively until next Advent. If only the settings got all of the words right...

    But the translation itself is wonderful [EP II actually sounds like a prayer now(!) to my ears], and even in the course of a week I've heard priests improving dramatically in the reading of the 'new' prayers and remembering not to use the old memorized parts of the Ordinary. Lay complaints about the "stiltedness" of the new translation should go down remarkably with a little bit of time. Right now, my chief concern is those people who are complaining about the diminished use of "inclusive language".

    The new translation is a tremendous blessing for us faithful.

  3. Sounds very promising! All things being equal, I'll probably have a very pleasant "culture shock" next summer, when next I celebrate in an English language setting:)

  4. Father Andrew, my experience was the same as yours. I really think this "new mass" is a blessing to the English speaking world. Being a native French speaker, I never had many of the qualms expressed by some clergy as some (rather many) expressions in the new missal are very similar to French and Italian versions. However, interestingly enough a priest from my home diocese in Canada told me that the French Missal will be (or is undergoing) a transformation. I think we are finally getting it and re-capturing the sacred. My experience is that usually preists of your generation and mine (I'm at the other end), let us say from the late 80s to today, are generally happy with the new translation and are looking forward to a renewed sense of the Liturgy. The old guard is slowly fading away. Keep up the good work in Sioux Falls. I see that Sioux Falls has produced a great Nuncio and a wonderful priest... Anything special in your diet down there ??? Blessings for a great advent and Christmas season. Pax Domini from a simple Canadian lost in the missions for the past 20 years.

  5. Your Excellency:

    Just found your blog by way of Rorate Caeli-- thank you so very much for your public and forthright stance on things. If you make it over to Vienna, it would truly be a pleasure for you to visit the Institute here.

    Many prayers for you this new year!

  6. Dear Chris, All the best to you and the family for 2012!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.