Sunday 4 September 2011

"Vatican II envisaged that the Mass would ordinarily be celebrated in Latin" says Bishop Mc Mahon

Bishop Malcolm McMahon offering Mass at Holy Cross Priory

The Dominican Holy Cross Priory in Leicester produced a "Missal" for the people's use so that they can follow the Mass (in the Ordinary Form) in Latin which they have on a Sunday as the main Mass three times a month. (you can look at the "Missale" here.) There is an excellent Introduction by the Very Rev. Leon Pereira, O.P. Also of interest is the Foreword by the Bishop of Nottingham, in whose Diocese Holy Cross Priory is situated. It caught my eye because it is says very similar things to my own catechesis on the use of Latin in the liturgy in the parish and quotes heavily from our Holy Father Pope Benedict. It caught my eye because I often hear that I've misunderstood the documents or the Holy Father or that what I say in this context is wrong / not relevant to this country /this diocese / this pastoral area (which, by the way, is a deanery in the rest of the country but re-branded - for some reason that escapes me - as "pastoral areas" here in Liverpool Archdiocese).

I reproduce the Foreword below. How good it is to find a Bishop wholeheartedly in union with Pope Benedict and the mind of the Church in these areas.

Bishop of Nottingham

When I was a boy most people went to Mass with a missal in their hands, or devotional
books like The Treasury of the Sacred Heart, which helped them to follow the Mass and to participate in it. There was a general trend in those days, going back to Pope St Pius X (d. 1914), urging the faithful to ‘participate actively’ in the Mass. In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council (or Vatican II) took up and continued the same theme.

Back then, of course, Mass was in Latin. People used their missals to understand more deeply the prayers of the Mass, and they also knew how to sing in Latin. At the very least Latin is as important for our culture and worship as Hebrew is for the Jewish people. Since Vatican II, Mass in the vernacular language (English in our case) has become widespread, but it began as, and remains, a concession. Vatican II envisaged that the Mass would ordinarily be celebrated in Latin, and it stressed the need for the faithful to be able to say or sing together in Latin the parts of the Mass which pertain to them, and it commended the use of Gregorian chant, saying that it should be given pride of place in liturgical functions.

More recently, in the autumn of 2005, bishops from around the world gathered in Rome for an Extraordinary Synod to mark the end of the Year of the Eucharist. The bishops put a series of suggestions to Pope Benedict, one of which proposed that Mass at international gatherings should be in Latin, and ‘that the possibility of educating the faithful in this way [should] not be overlooked.’ The pope responded with his exhortation Sacramentum caritatis in 2007 in which he endorsed this particular proposition in its entirety. Many of our parishes are fortunate to be able to welcome Catholics from all over the globe and from a wide range of language groups, making Mass often a truly international gathering which manifests the catholicity of our Church. Many of our parishioners are fortunate enough to be able to travel abroad, going to Mass at international gatherings. On these occasions the catholic, i.e. universal, nature of the Church becomes especially apparent, and it is most appropriate to celebrate this by the use of Latin, the official and universal language in the Western Church, and to sing our timeless heritage of Gregorian chant.

It is a mistake to assume that the Mass should be translated into simple English, because the Mass never is and never can be fully understood. Even a translation should give us a glimpse of the unsearchable beauty of God. The Mass is a mystery whose depths we can never plumb, whose treasures we can never exhaust, all the while drawing more riches and grace for us. Pope Benedict reminds us that it is God’s gift and God’s work, or it is nothing at all. To emphasize the central position of Christ in the Mass, the Pope asks us to ‘turn towards the Lord’, Conversi ad Dominum – the ancient call to prayer in the early Church:
‘The idea that the priest and people should stare at one another during prayer was born only in modern Christianity, and is completely alien to the ancient Church. The priest and people most certainly do not pray one to the other, but to the one Lord. Therefore, they stare in the same direction during prayer: either towards the east as a cosmic symbol of the Lord who comes, or, where this is not possible, towards the image of Christ in the apse, towards a crucifix, or simply towards the heavens, as our Lord Himself did in his priestly prayer the night before His Passion (cf. John 17.1). In the meantime the proposal made by me... is fortunately becoming more and more common: rather than proceeding with further transformations, simply to place the crucifix at the centre of the altar, which both priest and the faithful can face and be led in this way towards the Lord, whom everyone addresses in prayer together.’
The image of our crucified Lord on the altar does not obstruct the priest from the sight of the faithful, for they are not to look to the celebrant at that point in the Mass. The priest is not more important than the Lord; we are to turn our gaze towards the Lord. These are norms which should become widespread if we are to worship more in keeping with the mind of the Church, and expressed by Vatican II. Pope Benedict adds,
‘The Eucharistic celebration is enhanced when priests and liturgical leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts and norms. Perhaps we take it for granted that our ecclesial communities already know and appreciate these resources, but this is not always the case. These texts contain riches which have preserved and expressed the faith and experience of the People of God over its two thousand year history.’ (Sacramentum caritatis, 40)

For the faithful to participate actively at Mass, as has been mandated by successive popes as well as the Second Vatican Council, they must be familiar with the texts and chants. It is for this end that this book has been produced, and I warmly commend it.

Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon, O.P.

Bishop of Nottingham
Memorial of St Scholastica, 2010

The High Altar at Holy Cross Priory in Leicester


Genty said...

My goodness. That's a surprise - I mean coming from an English bishop - and a quite formidable argument.
On a practical and personal level, I longed for Latin yesterday when a priest from South America tried gamely, and incomprehensibly, to celebrate Mass in the English vernacular.
How much easier it would have been for him to celebrate in Latin.

David O'Neill said...

Why the surprise that Bishop Malcolm should make such statements? He is, in my opinion, probably the most orthodox of all the English & Welsh bishops. He has taken some 'stick' in Catholic Order but, having known Bishop Malcolm quite well for some time, it seems that his 1 or 2 errors have blinded many to his numerous excellent points. Let us remember that no human is perfect and be thankful that Bishop Malcolm is true to his beliefs. To him "Ad Multos Annos"!

David O'Neill said...

Sorry that should have read "Christian Order" Mea culpa

Sadie Vacantist said...

Given the persecution of any seminarian who evinces the slightest interest in the TLM (see previous blog) I sense that this story is clutching at straws. The traditionalist movement is in trouble and I remain pessimistic about any SSPX "deal" later this month.