Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Has the introduction of the vernacular led to a flourishing of spiritual life, as Pope Paul VI hoped?

I've read some interesting pieces recently connected to marking the fiftieth anniversary of Pope Paul VI celebrating the first Mass in the vernacular.  Of course, it quickly became much more than introducing a little vernacular language into the liturgy.  The whole feel and texture of the Mass has changed since the reforms. As many authors have pointed out, reforms to an extent that were not anticipated by the Council Fathers and many individualistic and ad hoc adaptations that are seen in everyday practice but can nowhere be found in ecclesial instructions and rubrics.

What I've also noticed is how some commentators - from laity to cardinals (and indeed popes) - envisage that to move forward from where we are now means that we cannot simply turn back the clock but rather we can recapture the full Catholicity of our Tradition in Faith and liturgy by making concrete the expression of those riches in everyday liturgy.  It is suggested that this was Pope Benedict's great aim in making clear the celebration of the Mass in its traditional form is completely legitimate and indeed, desirable.  That the two forms of the Roman Rite should not be seen as being in competition with one another, let alone used as weapons to bash the "opposing" side with.

The integration of the Extraordinary Form in parishes, communities and cathedrals is supposed to be the exemplar of reintegrating the riches of our Tradition into the life of every Catholic.  In my own parish, as in others, celebrating the two forms side by side means that those long attached to the traditional form can find a true home, not isolated from the rest of the Church, not ostracised from parish functions, not alienated from their fellow Catholics.  It also means that those who have never experienced a liturgy obviously so connected with our Tradition can find new depths and understanding in their faith. Thus in a parish such as St Catherine's here, some who exclusively once attended only the "old" Mass will come to the "new" on occasion and quite large numbers of those who had only experienced the "new" will attend the "old".

Of course, some of the resistance to integrating the traditional Mass into the lived experience of the Church today is that the old and the new do not remain separate. Celebrating the Traditional form of the Mass usually means that priests, and then people, celebrate the New form of the Mass in a way that is much more in touch with its historical roots, more faithful to the rubrics and without ad hoc individualistic oddities.  I think it is this influence that worries those who seem to have a hatred to the things our forefathers and mothers held sacred.

Alcuin Reid, writing on the New Liturgical Movement site writes very perceptively calling for what we must presume the Council Fathers and the true promoters of the Liturgical Movement before them were really getting at. Not a quick fix (by, for example, putting everything into the vernacular) but a real effort to deepen faith:
The Christian East has never forgotten, the Sacred Liturgy is not in the first place a comprehension exercise. It is the ritual worship of Almighty God employing multivalent symbols which thus become privileged sacramentals—sacred language included. Certainly, penetrating the meaning of the rites and prayers is fundamental, but this is facilitated by the work of liturgical formation (or more effectively, by liturgical habituation over a lifetime)—no short cuts, such as the quick rendering of the liturgy in the vernacular, are viable here. Even the liturgical proclamation of the texts of Sacred Scripture is not simply a didactic exercise, although certainly, the vernacular can be of immense help with participation, as indeed in some other parts of the liturgy (such as the prayers of the faithful). The Second Vatican Council knew this. But the wholesale removal of Latin from the liturgy and liturgical celebrations completely in the vernacular are contrary to what the Second Vatican Council desired and approved.
Not eighteen months after promulgating Sacrosanctum Concilium, Paul VI regarded this day as marking “the beginning of a flourishing spiritual life.” It would appear in retrospect that he was, by and large, wrong. Neither the introduction of the vernacular or the ritual reforms that this date saw (or their successors) has led to a “flourishing” ecclesial life in the decades since. (My highlights.) There are many causes for the decline we have suffered, and there are generations of Catholics who love and hold the vernacular liturgy dear, but it remains a fact that the modern liturgy has not filled our churches. Indeed, apart from the committed and well-formed laity (who are few), there are numerous mute, extraneous spectators in our churches today who are just as disengaged from the vernacular liturgy as their forebears were from the liturgy when it was in Latin.
The issue is not fundamentally one of language—which is why, perhaps, the celebration of 50 years since the first Italian Mass in history is a little disingenuous. Rather, the issue is the nature of Catholic liturgy, and of the formation in it which is necessary to enable widespread fruitful participation in and connection with the action of Christ in the liturgy.
Fifty years ago, instead of prompting and processing requests for more and more vernacular, and pushing the pope for their extension, the Consilium might have spent its time and energy more profitably had it turned its attention to the a priori condition for fruitful participation in the Sacred Liturgy, namely liturgical formation. Today we may do well to turn ourselves to the same work—while not forgetting the enormous question of the effect not only of the vernacularization of the liturgy, but also of its radical ritual de- and re-construction at the Consilium’s hands.
The opening words of Blessed Paul VI’s homily at [the Roman parish in] Ognissanti declared: “Today’s new way of prayer, of celebrating the Holy Mass, is extraordinary.” Indeed it was. Perhaps, though, it is now time to look to recover the manner of Catholic liturgical prayer and life that is truly ordinary in respect of our tradition and that is in accordance with the wishes of the Council. 
Young people on the Chatres Pilgrimage

Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, in an interview carried on the Eponymous Flower says:
Yes, that is the meaning of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. Benedict XV. has put a lot of energy and hope in it. Unfortunately, it's not quite succeeded since  both the one and the other is "held fast" to their rites and are mutually exclusive. In the Church everyone should be able to celebrate after their own sensibility. This is one of the conditions for the reconciliation. You must lead the people to the beauty of the liturgy to its holiness. The Eucharist is not a "meal with friends", but a sacred mystery. If it is  celebrated with fervour and beauty, we arrive at a reconciliation that is self-evident. 
The congregation at the opening of the Shrine of Ss Peter & Paul in New Brighton.

Dr Joseph Shaw of the Latin Mass Society, recently made gave a reminder of Evelyn Waugh's words that:
Evelyn Waugh’s concerns about Vatican II and the liturgical reform are recorded in his diaries and letters, and in a famous Spectator article at the onset of the Council...  He wrote in the Spectator article:
‘Participation’ in the Mass does not mean hearing our own voices. It means God hearing our voices. Only He knows who is ‘participating’ at Mass. I believe, to compare small things with great, that I ‘participate’ in a work of art when I study it and love it silently. No need to shout. …If the Germans want to be noisy, let them. But why should they disturb our devotions?’
 Ordinary parish life in Leyland

Jared Silvey writing in Crisis Magazine makes some good points as well - not least the desireability of the integration of the old and new calendars:
During the past few decades there has been a sharp rise in the number of Catholics attracted to what Pope Benedict XVI called the “Extraordinary Form” of the Roman rite. This phenomenon has manifested itself in the foundation of traditional orders, the vocation boom that these orders are experiencing, the establishment of new parishes and oratories where the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated, and the increase in the number of people attending these masses. If we are really attentive to the Second Vatican Council’s call to heed the “signs of the times,” then we can only say that this phenomenon signals the fact that the “Mass of the Ages” still has much to offer to the people of our own age.


Catholic Mission said...

SSPX 'spokesman' : Theology of Vatican Council II is in agreement with the strict interpretation of extra ecclesiam nulla salus

Sitsio said...

An excellent post Father, thank you so much for it!

I find it so difficult to comprehend why this is not simply understood by more people. Clearly lots of the generation who saw the reforms as something which would build the Church are now in seats of power. You would assume, however, that after what? Fifty years?? Even those who had invested a great deal of intellectual capital in the success of Bugnini's liturgical reforms would have the integrity to recognise that they did not have the desired effect (actually, perhaps this only works if you have the best interests of the Church & the people of God at heart?).

The liberalisation of the Church and the capitulation to moral relativism has been a devastating failure, meanwhile, it is the orthodox orders and dioceses where we continue to see growth. Is it not time to recognise this fact and start a renewal of Catholic orthodoxy which will see us fulfil our mission to transform the world in Christ Jesus? Why do so many seem determined to stop Catholics who want to be Catholic being Catholic? As Brian Moore put it: the only modern heresy is yesterday’s orthodoxy.

Jacobi said...

"Has the introduction of the vernacular led to a flourishing of spiritual life, as Pope Paul VI hoped?"

Answer - no!

I would not even say , "the opposite". If anything it is worse. Just a withering on the vine, a fading away, an embarrassing mess, if I take various parishes I have experience of into consideration.

The answer Father, lies with you priests, the few but possibly growing number who so understand the idea of the Catholic liturgy of St Pius V in Continuity.

The quicker you all continue the Catholic Mass the sooner the Church will recover. Otherwise it will not!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Well, as our beloved 'we can't go back', I suspect he meant Summorum Pontificum.
We certainly can't go back to the 1970s/80s

Fr Ray Blake said...

Beloved Pope I meant to write

Ben Trovato said...

It is, of course, clear that Sacrosanctum Concilium saw liturgical formation as essential - and the introduction of a modest amount of the vernacular almost as a small side issue compared to that.

Bugnini and the Consilium had other ideas of course: ideas that were present before the Council, and they used the Council's documents to justify implementing them. The rush to the vernacular, to concelebrations etc, were all suddenly the priority, whereas the Council Fathers' admonition that nothing should be changed unless the good of the Church surely and certainly demanded it, was ignored.