Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Plain speaking Popes

Pope Francis may be presented by the media as a pope who speaks his mind but this is no new thing. Corpus Christi Watershed draw attention to Pope Paul VI's Sacrificium Laudis, sent to religious groups obliged to the choral recitation of the divine office on 15th August 1966, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He insists that Latin is to be maintained most especially in the light of the (then) recent prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council - and tells Religious Communities to obey what he tells them.  He says that he is "saddened and disturbed" by requests for latin to be abandoned in preference for the vernacular and even hints at dark forces at work behind such innovations, "One may well wonder what the origin is of this new way of thinking and this sudden dislike for the past; one may well wonder why these things have been fostered."  

The prescriptions of the Second Vatican still remain in force in this area and still are ingored in so many parts of the Church:   "It is not an excessive love of old ways that prompts them... they derive, rather concern for divine worship."

He states that abandoning the beauty, spiritual power and civilising influence of Latin Gregorian Chant  "would certainly bring a sickness and sadness upon the whole Church of God."

He wasn't wrong!

Here is the bulk of the letter - it's great stuff:

From letters which some of you have sent, and from many other sources, We learn that discordant practices have been introduced into the sacred liturgy by your communities or provinces (We speak of those only that belong to the Latin Rite.) For while some are very faithful to the Latin language, others wish to use the vernacular within the choral office. Others, in various places, wish to exchange that chant which is called Gregorian for newly-minted melodies. Indeed, some even insist that Latin should be wholly suppressed.
We must acknowledge that We have been somewhat disturbed and saddened by these requests. One may well wonder what the origin is of this new way of thinking and this sudden dislike for the past; one may well wonder why these things have been fostered.
Yet those things that We have mentioned are occurring even though the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council has after due deliberation declared its mind in solemn fashion (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 101, 1), and after the publication of clear norms in subsequent Instructions. In the first Instruction (ad exsecutionem Constitutionis de sacra Liturgia recte ordinandam), published on 26 September 1964, it was decreed as follows:
In celebrating the divine office in choir, clerics are bound to preserve the Latin language (n. 85).
In the second Instruction (de lingua in celebrandis Officio divino et Missa “conventuali” aut “communitatis” apud Religiosos adhibenda), published on 23 November 1965, that law was reinforced, and at the same time due consideration was shown for the spiritual advantage of the faithful and for the special conditions which prevail in missionary territories. Therefore, for as long as no other lawful provision is made, these laws are in force and require the obedience in which religious must excel, as dear sons of holy Church.
What is in question here is not only the retention within the choral office of the Latin language, though it is of course right that this should be eagerly guarded and should certainly not be lightly esteemed. For this language is, within the Latin Church, an abundant well-spring of Christian civilization and a very rich treasure-trove of devotion. But it is also the seemliness, the beauty and the native strength of these prayers and canticles which is at stake: the choral office itself, “the lovely voice of the Church in song” (Cf. St Augustine’s Confessions, Bk 9, 6). Your founders and teachers, the holy ones who are as it were so many lights within your religious families, have transmitted this to you. The traditions of the elders, your glory throughout long ages, must not be belittled. Indeed, your manner of celebrating the choral office has been one of the chief reasons why these families of yours have lasted so long, and happily increased. It is thus most surprising that under the influence of a sudden agitation, some now think that it should be given up.
In present conditions, what words or melodies could replace the forms of Catholic devotion which you have used until now? You should reflect and carefully consider whether things would not be worse, should this fine inheritance be discarded. It is to be feared that the choral office would turn into a mere bland recitation, suffering from poverty and begetting weariness, as you yourselves would perhaps be the first to experience. One can also wonder whether men would come in such numbers to your churches in quest of the sacred prayer, if its ancient and native tongue, joined to a chant full of grave beauty, resounded no more within your walls. We therefore ask all those to whom it pertains, to ponder what they wish to give up, and not to let that spring run dry from which, until the present, they have themselves drunk deep.
Of course, the Latin language presents some difficulties, and perhaps not inconsiderable ones, for the new recruits to your holy ranks. But such difficulties, as you know, should not be reckoned insuperable. This is especially true for you, who can more easily give yourselves to study, being more set apart from the business and bother of the world. Moreover, those prayers, with their antiquity, their excellence, their noble majesty, will continue to draw to you young men and women, called to the inheritance of our Lord. On the other hand, that choir from which is removed this language of wondrous spiritual power, transcending the boundaries of the nations, and from which is removed this melody proceeding from the inmost sanctuary of the soul, where faith dwells and charity burns – We speak of Gregorian chant – such a choir will be like to a snuffed candle, which gives light no more, no more attracts the eyes and minds of men.
In any case, beloved Sons, the requests mentioned above concern such grave matters that We are unable to grant them, or to derogate now from the norms of the Council and of the Instructions noted above. Therefore we earnestly beseech you that you would consider this complex question under all its aspects. From the good will which we have toward you, and from the good opinion which we have of you, We are unwilling to allow that which could make your situation worse, and which could well bring you no slight loss, and which would certainly bring a sickness and sadness upon the whole Church of God. Allow Us to protect your interests, even against your own will. It is the same Church which has introduced the vernacular into the sacred liturgy for pastoral reasons, that is, for the sake of people who do not know Latin, which gives you the mandate of preserving the age-old solemnity, beauty and dignity of the choral office, in regard both to language, and to the chant.
Obey, then, these prescriptions sincerely and calmly. It is not an excessive love of old ways that prompts them. They derive, rather, from Our fatherly love for you, and from Our concern for divine worship.


Anonymous said...

Father, while I agree with the peace that the old lithurgy brings, I must address some issues that I think are important, and it took a Latin American Pope to bring them to public view.
I am Latin American too. We as nations are around 500 years old, so we had not lived the age of monasticism, nor the Reformation in its full impact.
For me, as a youngster, what brought me close to the Church was really being educated with nuns and priests (and luckly for me, both Orders were focused in the missionary work and young people eductation). The Church there offered traditional masses but also a mass that they called "The Youngsters Mass", where electrical guitars and dancing were allowed. Thanks to the Youngsters Mass, I am now today able to understand the beauty of gregorian chants. Because now I know the Lithurgy.
And this was during Pope Paul VI papacy.
And thanks to the brave missionaries, I know what the poor, the sick and the uneducated pass through - we worked a lot helping them build their lives. Does it work all the time? Of course not. But the purpose is to live the life Christ taught us ... or isn't it?
When I moved to Europe I got scandalized with the number of internal divisions that our Church has, It is really sad.
That's why it is important to everyone to watch the last Mass that Pope Francis did in Rio. Firstly, it was massive. Secondly, there was everything there - from electric guitars, singing priests, Latin prayers and dedications in many languages. Something could not be mosre inclusive nor more explicit of the richness of the spiritual tradition of the Catholic church.
And lastly, there was the most important scene I ever seen in my life: a young man carrying a sign saying: "Pope Francis, I am evangelical, but I love you. Thou art Peter". The boy was attending the mass.
For me, that was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in the Church EVER. It included everybody IN LOVE.
I love going to cathedrals in Europe but the last time I have been to a Benedictine monastery I felt like crying. There were only 8 monks, very old...their voices were so tired that I could not hear the singing. And there were less than 10 people in the church attending the service.
I would like to have an all-inclusive mass here too. If we had that, maybe we could also have 3 million people there.
God bless you, father.

Anonymous said...

The most beautiful thing that I ever saw and continue to see in the church is the consecrated host - the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ held aloft by the priest in the person of Christ. Which ever form of Mass, be it TLM or one with electric guitars and singing priests - this is the common thing that binds us together as the body of Christ - Popes come and they go, some are more renowned than others, but the Eucharist will never change!

RJ said...

Pope Paul VI's letter is something of an eye opener.