Monday, July 20, 2009
Msgr. Terence Hogan
On July 7, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI published the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum by which the Holy Father allows for and promotes a wider usage of the liturgical books that were in use by the Roman Catholic Church in 1962. Pope Benedict XVI seeks in this Apostolic Letter to reconcile “in the heart of the Church” those individuals who have demonstrated an attachment to the liturgical forms that were in place before the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council. He begins by defining two forms of the rule of prayer of the Latin Church: an ordinary form contained in the Roman Missal of Pope Paul VI, and an extraordinary form, as contained in the Roman Missal of Pope Saint Pius V. Both make up the Liturgy of the Roman Rite.
Any priest of the Latin Church may, without permission from the Holy See or his bishop, celebrate the extraordinary form in a Mass without the people at any time except during the Easter Triduum. It is noted that he may be joined by the faithful, since the extraordinary rite is primarily a private Mass. In parishes where a group of faithful are attached to the extraordinary form of the Mass, they may approach the pastor to request the celebration of the extraordinary rite, without permissions from the Holy See or the bishop. If a priest cannot demonstrate a minimum rubrical or linguistic ability in Latin, he is not to celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass.
Pope Benedict XVI is very clear in his apostolic letter that the current Roman Missal (Missale Romanum) is the ordinary form of the Eucharistic Liturgy and the extraordinary form is found in the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII. He points out that there is “no contradiction between the missals” and that the history of liturgical books is characterized by “growth and progress, but not rupture.” In both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Missal, full, conscious, and active participation of the faithful is to be desired above all else. This begins with interior participation in the sacrifice of Christ. The ordinary form customarily accomplishes this participation through listening and responding to the prayers of the Mass in the vernacular and by taking part in forms of exterior communal action. The extraordinary form accomplishes this interior participation largely by listening to the prayers in Latin and following the words and actions of the priests and joining our hearts to “what is said by him in the Name of Christ and [what] Christ says [to] him.”
From all of the above we see that the Church continues to treasure the riches of its past, especially with regard to the sacred liturgy. The spirit of earlier liturgical forms, which permeated the spirit and culture of many who still remember these forms, continues in the celebration of both rites. Thus, it was through pastoral concern that Pope Benedict XVI was motivated to more easily allow for the celebration of more ancient liturgical rites and prayers by issuing Summorum Pontificium.
Msgr. Terence Hogan
Director, Office of Worship and Spiritual Life