Una Voce Des Moines

Promoting the Traditional Latin Mass in Central Iowa

Category: Homily & Reflection Page 2 of 3

Ember Days: The Four Seasons Fast

The ember days – Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday – were prescribed for the Church by Pope Gregory VII as days of prayer and fasting for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy.  (See  “The Catholic Encyclopedia“)

Ember Days occur four times a year, corresponding to the four seasons.  The winter Ember Days occur on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the Feast of St. Lucy on December 13.  The Spring Ember Days follow Ash Wednesday.  The Fall Ember Days follow the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross on September 14.  The Summer Ember Days follow Pentecost.

These dates are given in the following Latin mnemonic:

          Dant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia
          Ut sit in angariâ quarta sequens feria

Or in an old English rhyme

“Fasting days and Emberings be
Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie.”

Jacobus de Voragine tells us that we fast on Ember Days in part to atone for faults that correspond to the character of the seasons:

“Spring is warm and humid, summer hot and dry, autumn cool and dry, winter cold and wet.  Therefore we fast in the spring to control the harmful fluid of voluptuousness in us; in summer, to allay the noxious heat of avarice; in autumn, to temper the aridity of pride; in winter, to overcome the coldness of malice and lack of faith.”  Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend.  

The Code of Canon Law of 1983 no longer requires the observance of the Ember Days fast, and the reform of the Roman Calendar in 1969 left them to the discretion of local ordinaries.  Nevertheless, personal observance of Ember Days in Catholic homes, especially in an agricultural state like Iowa, helps to connect us with the rich liturgical tradition of the Church.

A Priest Recounting His First TLM

A Priest Recounting His First TLM
by Andy Milam

Some years ago, I read an article in a Catholic publication by a priest who describes himself as “liberal.”  He had finally responded to the request of some of his parishioners to celebrate the Extraordinary Form.

One reason that certain commentators have put forward for the Moto Proprio on the Extraordinary Form is the Pope Emeritus’ desire (reinforced by Pope Francis) to renew the priesthood, presumably part of that is to increase vocations, and to deepen the spirituality of priests, and therefore the Church.  Father went on to say:

“Having decided to offer the Extraordinary Form, I began the arduous project of recovering—and reinforcing—my Latin grammar and vocabulary so that I could celebrate the Mass in a prayerful and intelligible way. As I studied the Latin texts and intricate rituals I had never noticed as a boy, I discovered that the old rite’s priestly spirituality and theology were exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Whereas I had looked for the “high priest/king of the parish” spirituality, I found instead a spirituality of “unworthy instrument for the sake of the people.”

The old Missal’s rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite’s ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn’t that a valid image of the church, the people of God?

The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me.”

Isn’t that how we should be approaching Holy Mass, whatever form we are assisting at, whether it be the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form?  We should not look to the priest to entertain us or to captivate us.  We should not look to the priest to preside over us.

We should look to the priest to do what he is called to do and that is to call God down from heaven.  We should be entering into silent prayer.  We should be uniting our hearts and minds and souls to the miracle of the altar!  What Father does or does not do in the sanctuary is of little consequence, as long as he does two things:

  1. Says the words of consecration properly and
  2. Follows the rubrics as prescribed.

We can be assured then that Father Celebrant is doing the will of God and ministering to us as he is ordained to do.

Vatican Council II speaks to us about the importance of silence.  The Popes since Vatican Council II have reiterated the importance of knowing what our role should be and how to best commune with God, the Father.  We need to open our hearts and minds and souls to that action.  We need not feel that we must *do* something at Holy Mass (some extraordinary ministry)….but rather we must *be* at Holy Mass to worship.

Once Father understood what it was that he was called to do, he wasn’t afraid of or discouraged by the Extraordinary Form any longer, but rather, he was opened to a whole new world of ministering which he had refused to participate in, previously.  We, as faithful Catholics, need to understand that a Mass which existed for more than 400 years as the only normative vehicle for the confection of the Eucharist can do no one harm or lessen their Catholicity.

And isn’t becoming a better Catholic, more in tuned with our Catholicity, what we’re really after?

Andy Milam is the Coordinator of Public Relations, Marketing, Fundraising and Tourism at the ‎Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Liturgical Coordinator for Una Voce Des Moines.

7 Reasons for the Use of Latin in Mass

7 Reasons for the Use of Latin in Mass
by Andy Milam

Much of what is written below comes directly from The Catechism Explained: An Exhaustive Explanation of the Catholic Religion by Rev. Francis Spirago.

7 Reasons for the Use of Latin in the Mass

  1. The Latin language is venerable on account of its origin and its antiquity; indeed, it dates back to the earliest centuries of the Church and to the very masses offered in the obscurity of the Catacombs.
  2. There is an element of mystery about Latin. It is a [static] language, not spoken by the faithful. The use of Latin conveys to the mind of the people that something is going on upon the altar which is beyond their comprehension; that a mystery is being enacted.
  3. Latin is a liturgical language for Catholics. It is a striking fact that both Jews and pagans made use, in their worship of the Deity, of a language with which the multitude were not conversant. The Jews in fact made use of Hebrew, the language of the patriarchs; we did not see Our Lord or the apostles censuring this practice.
  4. The use of Latin in the Mass is a means of maintaining unity in the Catholic Church, for the use of one and the same language in Latin Rite churches all over the world is a connecting link to Rome, as well as between nations separated by their cultures and native tongues.
  5. Latin is a safeguard against error because of its immutability. The near exclusive use of the vernacular inevitably leads to heresies and errors creeping into the Church. Likewise, the use of Latin helps to define and defend orthodoxy. As noted by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at Sacra Liturgia (2013):

“The liturgical use of Latin in the Church…gives rise to a series of expressions which are unique and which constitute the very faith of the Church.  The vocabulary of the Credo is quite clearly filled with expressions in Latin which are untranslatable.  The role of the lex orandi in determining the lex credendi of the Church is very much valid in the case of its use of Latin in the liturgy.  For doctrine often evolves in the faith experience of prayer…”

  1. It is unnecessary for the faithful to hear, or understand, every ceremonial of the Mass. History has clearly shown, and experience teaches, that the fact of the prayers being in Latin does not at all hamper or interfere with the devotion of the faithful, or lead them to absent themselves from Holy Mass. As Saint Augustine instructed:

“If there are some present who do not understand what is being said or sung, they know at least that all is said and sung to the glory of God, and that is sufficient for them to join in it devoutly.”

  1. The primary reason why the whole of the Mass was historically offered in Latin is because it is a sacrifice, not an instruction for the people. The celebration of Mass consists more in action than in words. This final reason cannot be overstated. A Protestant gathering which commemorates the Lord’s Supper is simply a service of prayers and instruction. For this reason the vernacular is a necessity. The Catholic Mass, however, is a holy sacrifice offered to God the Father by an ordained priest, in persona Christi. The action of the Mass, and the mystery of it, is reinforced by the use of Latin.

In his 1962 apostolic constitution Veterum Sapientia, Pope St. John XXIII observed that:

“The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.”

May more priests and bishops in the coming years recognize that the use of Latin should not simply be limited to Masses offered in the Extraordinary Form. Indeed, both forms of the Roman Rite have every reason to be celebrated in a language that is “noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.”

Andy Milam is the Coordinator of Public Relations, Marketing, Fundraising and Tourism at the ‎Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Liturgical Coordinator for Una Voce Des Moines.

Fr. Cassian celebrates Mass for St. John the Baptist

American-born Benedictine monk, Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., prior emeritus of the Monks of Norcia, was in town the weekend of June 23/24 to celebrate Sunday Mass at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church.  Here are some photos, and his beautiful homily for the occasion.

Homily from Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B.
St. Anthony Catholic Church
Des Moines, Iowa

Sunday, June 24, 2018
Feast of St. John the Baptist

All those who heard about the divinely-inspired birth of St. John the Baptist, and how Zechariah’s tongue was loosed in the naming of the child, marveled at these things.  “All those who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying ‘what then will this child be?’” (Lk 1:66)

First of all, he will be the Baptist, the baptizer of Christ.  This is not a baptism for the remission of sins, clearly, but the occasion for a great epiphany, the manifestation of Christ in glory.  The revealing of his true identity as beloved Son of the Father, the inauguration of his public ministry.  When John baptized Jesus, contact with the body of Christ sanctified the waters of the Jordan, and gave to the waters of baptism the spiritual power to wash away all sin – original and actual – and bring about a most wonderful re-birth.  In fact, we were sanctified by these waters to such an extent that

[t]aken up by Christ – and taken on Christ – we are not the same after the laver of baptism as we were before; instead the body of the one reborn becomes the flesh of the crucified (St. Leo, Sermon 63,6).

John baptizes, and the body of Christ is washed, both Head and members.

What then will this child be?  He will be a prophet, the prophet of the Most High.  Who is “the Most High”, but God the Father?  Yet, John is a prophet of the Messiah.  And who is the Messiah, but God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And can John be a prophet of God the Father and God the Son?  Well, our Lord explains in Gospel:  The Father and I are one.  John is a prophet of the Most Holy Trinity because in the baptism of Christ, the Holy Spirit descends upon him in bodily form as a dove, and the paternal voice came from heaven:  “Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22).

If John is a prophet of the Most High, we the baptized are worshipers of the Most High.  The Roman Canon prays for “omnibus cultoribus”:  for all right-believing worshipers of the catholic and apostolic faith.  Our first duty as baptized Catholics, our greatest privilege, our highest calling – is to be worshipers of God, adorers of the Most High.  And in doing so, we prostrate ourselves before the Divine Majesty, imitating the angels and the saints.

John is a prophet of the Most High; we must be right-believing worshipers of the Most High God.

Then, what they will this child be?  He will be the forerunner, for he will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.  John is the one who runs before; Jesus Christ is the giant who comes forth from the bridal chamber of the Virgin’s womb, and rejoices to run his course (Ps 18).  What is the course?  What is this race?  It is the path leading to the cross, which the baptized must run as well.  St. Paul says, on the verge of being martyred:

I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord will award to me on that Day (2 Tim 4:7-8).

John is the forerunner, Christ is the giant who runs his course; we must be formed as athletes of Christ, well-trained to run the glorious race.

And then what will this child be?  He will be the friend of the Bridegroom.  Christ is the Bridegroom, the Bride is the Church.  John explains:

He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice, therefore this joy of mine is now full (Jn 3:29).

We who have been baptized are “children of the wedding feast”.  In one of the parables, Christ says: “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?”  The Greek for “wedding guests” is “children of the wedding feast”.  Children of the bridegroom and the bride, for we are born of the virginal womb of the church, the baptismal font.

The bridegroom is Son of God by nature; the children of the bridegroom are sons by adoption – Filii in Filio – sons in the Son.

As we grow in the faith, we become not only children, but friends, for Christ said: “I have called you friends”.  John is the friend of the bridegroom, Christ is the bridegroom; and we are children of the wedding feast.

So, what will this child be then?  He is the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is the voice, but Christ is the Word.  We, the baptized, are the Ear that listens to the Word.  St. Benedict begins the Rule by saying “Listen, my son, to the precepts of the Master, and incline the ear of your heart” (Prologue 1).  What does the voice say to the ear of our heart, except “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

Here is a summary of the entire Christian life.  Our life project, you might say.  Love of God must increase; love of self must decrease.  Humility must increase; pride must decrease.  The new man must be born and grown; the old man must fade away and die.

Even the natural elements preach the same Gospel message to us.  For from the summer solstice, from the Birth of St. John the Baptist, the days begin to decrease.  From the winter solstice, the Nativity of our Lord, the days begin to increase.

What does this voice say?  He must increase; I must decrease.  What does the word say?  What does he say to the ear of our heart…to the most intimate core of who we are?  He says: “Listen now, and lay it up in your hearts.  You, too, are my beloved Son.”

New Mid-Year’s Resolutions

New Mid-Year’s Resolutions
by Andy Milam

Most Catholics in the world would love to grow in their relationship with Our Lord. People have a genuine desire to grow in holiness, even if they are not able to articulate their desires for it. On New Year’s Day many people re-evaluate their lives. They examine how their lives were and make resolutions about how the next year can be the best year! Weight loss and eating right will top people’s lists. But why not make some spiritual resolutions as well? Examine how your spiritual life has been and make some sort of resolution starting today.  It’s never too late, even if we’re starting in July!

All too often, when we make resolutions we make too many. Instead of thinking of 5-10 resolutions, why not focus on just one or two? Also, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Once we begin to fail at our goals, we become discouraged and ultimately give up! If you are interested in igniting your spiritual life, here are a few simple suggestions for some resolutions to a new life during the second half of the year:

Patron Saint for the [New] Year

It is a tradition for people to choose a patron saint for the New Year.  It’s better late than never to pick one for the remainder of this year.  Some people do this by putting several names in a hat and drawing one, but maybe you would like to develop a devotion to a particular saint. St. Faustina wrote of this practice:

“There is a custom among us of drawing by lot, on New Year’s Day, special Patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning, during meditation, there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special Patron for this year also, as in the past. But, hiding this desire from my Beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that. When we came to refectory for breakfast, we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one, but I didn’t read the name immediately as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my soul: ‘I am your patron. Read.’ I looked at once at the inscription and read, ‘Patron for the Year 1935 – the Most Blessed Eucharist.’ My heart leapt with joy, and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament, where I poured out my heart. But Jesus sweetly admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the rule.”

If there is a saint that you have been fond of, why not learn more about them this year? Ask for their intercession daily. Want a random saint? The internet is full of stories about the lives of obscure saints! You are bound to find one! Want to know who a patron saint is of something? Google it. Saints are our friends in heaven who pray for us. For me, I’ve dedicated the year to St. Josemaria Escriva and the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

Read the Scriptures

There are many books out there that promote reading the whole bible in a year. Those readings are really long for each day—averaging 20 minutes. Maybe you don’t have time for that much reading. Why not dust off your bible, and begin reading the Gospels? You could start with Matthew, but don’t become discouraged with the genealogy of Jesus! I promise you it gets better!

Choose one of the four gospels and read small excerpts each day. The RSV-CE has headings of stories (called pericopes). Read a small snippet, 5-10 verses a day. You will learn more about Our Lord, and you will come into contact with the living Word of God.

Pray a Decade of the Rosary or the Angelus

Many people want to have a stronger devotion to Mary. Maybe 20 minutes of praying the rosary is a lot of time. (You could pray in your car with a rosary cd or rosary app). Some people find five decades to be a lot! Why not pray a decade a day? In five days’ time you will have completed one set of mysteries. Then begin again. There is power in the Hail Mary prayer — each time we ask Mary to pray for us “now and at the hour of death”. I don’t know about you, but I need the Madonna’s prayers right now, and especially at death.

If the rosary doesn’t appeal to you, there are many other Marian devotions. The Angelus is quite simple and can be prayed once a day or three times (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Find the Marian devotion that suits you and go with it.

Do Spiritual Reading

There are treasuries of spiritual books out there and reading a small portion for five minutes a day can be of great benefit. St. Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul is a favorite for many! Maybe you are attracted to the Divine Mercy devotion, and would like to read the Diary of Faustina. The saints have written many books that will surely lift you up. Spiritual masters note that when we do not do spiritual reading, our spiritual lives begin to lag. Pick up a book today!

Listen to Catholic CDs or Radio

Lighthouse Catholic Media produces many CDs about the Catholic life. Many parishes (including St. Anthony’s!) make these CDs available in their vestibules for a small donation. Consider listening to a CD each month. Lighthouse Catholic Media makes this easy by offering a small monthly subscription service. Listening to these CDs will bring you to a greater understanding of your Catholic faith.

In addition to CDs, most cities throughout the US have Catholic Radio, be it Iowa Catholic Radio, Relevant Radio, Radio Maria or EWTN Radio. Take a listen and you will see how adding a Catholic culture to your life will make a positive difference.

Pray Before and After Meals

As a young person, you might have prayed simple, catchy prayers before meals. Each of us should be grateful when we sit down for a meal because there are many in the world who go hungry each day. If you don’t regularly express gratitude to God for the food you have received, consider starting. When we give thanks before and after meals we cultivate an attitude of gratitude which will pervade beyond the food we eat into every aspect of our lives.

Do a Nightly Examination of Conscience

Before we go to Confession, it is recommended that we examine our consciences. Many pamphlets exist that help us to do this. One spiritual practice employed by some is a nightly examination of conscience. In addition to calling to mind one’s failings of the day, a person also recalls the blessings of the day — how God was at work in their life.  Consider pausing each night before bed, and reflecting on the movements of your day. Be thankful. Be contrite. Ask God for help in whatever tomorrow will bring.

In addition to our physical health conscious goals, we must also be conscious of our spiritual life when making our annual resolutions. There are many other suggestions — like going to a daily Mass once a week, frequenting Confession once a month, etc.

The remainder of this year can be a time to grow in holiness. It begins with a simple goal and not biting off more than you can chew. Together, let us all strive to love the Lord more each day this year by putting Him at the center of our life.


Andy Milam is the Coordinator of Public Relations, Marketing, Fundraising and Tourism at the ‎Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Liturgical Coordinator for Una Voce Des Moines.

Hebdomades Octo

by Dr. Kevin Kilcawley, PsyD

Last year, my family accepted a challenge: attend the Tridentine Mass for eight consecutive weeks. The challenge came from a podcast from Fr. Chad Ripperger, who proposes that when it comes to liturgy, an invitation can be more efficacious than an argument:  instead of telling we should show. Fr. Ripperger advises that we invite a person to attend the Tridentine Mass for eight consecutive weeks, then have him or her return to the Novus Ordo to reflect on the differences.

Why eight weeks?

Our sensibilities and dispositions change as we develop new habits and routines; three to eight weeks is a good measure of how long it may take to build a new habit.  One may ask: why it’s important to change our sensibilities? I believe what often turns people away from the Tridentine Mass has nothing to do with a lack of intellectual formation, and everything to do with the formation of senses. Or rather, how one is inclined towards sensible objects:  what attracts or repels us.

Prior to the challenge, my family and I had attended the Tridentine Mass on a handful of occasions, but never consistently. Honestly, each time I went, I felt lost and confused, not knowing what to do or say next. My senses had difficulty apprehending: the prolonged periods of silence, the whispered prayers by the priest at the foot of the altar, the sounds of chanting coming from the schola, attending to an unknown language; the list could go on. I would then return to the Novus Ordo and my senses would welcome the familiarity.

My Experience

During the eight week challenge, there was no returning. For about two weeks, the same experience surfaced: not knowing how to participate, not knowing what part of the Mass the priest was saying, and not knowing how to respond.

The turning point in helping me recognize a fundamental aspect to the eight week challenge was the idea of passive participation.  We have to be receptive in order to allow our sensibilities to be changed. During the first two weeks, I was imposing the familiar onto the new, the Novus Ordo onto the Tridentine Mass. In other words, I was too focused on what to do; being overly concerned with a more active participation.

By adopting a passive mindset, it allowed my senses to also become passive, as they naturally should be.  Our senses receive reality, they don’t impose on it. As each week progressed, parts of the Mass became familiar. More importantly, my experience attending Mass in general changed; my participation was to *rest* in the Mass, instead of acting in the Mass. As a result, there was a natural adoption of learning the responses and identifying and recognizing the parts of the liturgy; just as a child naturally develops a language just by being receptive.

And now?

Fr. Ripperger asks, once completing the challenge, to reflect upon the Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo and notice the differences. The dispositions I developed during the challenge instilled in me an attraction towards sacred silence and mystery.

What once caused confusion and feeling lost, instead was now bringing me deeper into the Mass. Now that the challenge is over, my senses do not find the Novus Ordo as ‘familiar’ as they once did.



Dr. Kevin Kilcawley is a clinical psychologist and founder of Integrative Psychology Services. He seeks to improve the practice of modern psychology with a holistic and Thomistic understanding of the human person, where mental health means more than just the absence of symptoms – it is a life engaged in what is true, good and beautiful.

Suggestions for Those New to the Latin Mass

The following guest post was written by Father Eric Andersen, pastor of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon. St. Stephen’s is a parish which offers both forms of the Roman Rite.

Many Catholics do not know their liturgical heritage. Experiencing a Solemn Traditional Latin Mass for the first time can seem so unfamiliar. At first, one might feel disoriented. What is going on? How do I participate?

If you are new to the Latin Mass, my recommendation to you is not to worry about how to participate. Put down the booklet all together. Watch and listen in the silence and let your prayer arise. Have no expectations. Let yourself be surprised. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide. Treat this time like a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Realize that during this Holy Hour, something magnificent is happening: Jesus Christ, the High Priest, is offering the Holy Sacrifice.

As you observe in silence, get the big picture first. You know more than you think. You already know the basic structure of the Mass: Procession, Incensing of altar, Kyrie, Gloria, Opening Prayer, readings, Sermon, Credo, Offertory, more incense, Preface, Sanctus, Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I in silence), Pater Noster (Our Father), Agnus Dei, Communion, Ablutions (purifying the vessels), Closing Prayer, Blessing, Recession.

There are some other moments you might not be so familiar with, such as the Sprinkling Rite, the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the Last Gospel (The Prologue of St. John). Observe them. Take it all in and get the big picture. Don’t worry about what to say or do. Just follow the directives to sit, stand, or kneel as they are given. If you know the chants and responses, sing along. Otherwise, don’t worry about it at this point.

After one or two Masses participating in this way, then pick up and read through the missalette before the Mass starts. Look at the basic structure of the Mass so you know ahead of time what your road map will be. Once you know where you are going, an appropriate way to participate is to pray the Mass like the Divine Office, silently praying the words in English, while the priest prays them quietly in Latin.

If I could not hear anything, I would still know exactly where the priest was in the Mass by watching it. Whereas, if I were to attend the modern Roman Rite of the Mass, without hearing anything, I would need a translator using sign language, or pointing to the right place in the booklet, to tell me what was happening at any moment in the Mass. Why is that?

The reason is that the modern Roman Rite relies upon the spoken word. On the other hand, the Traditional Roman Rite communicates on various non-linguistic levels, relying heavily on ceremony to communicate what is happening. The spoken words are veiled behind a sacred language, and also veiled in silence because the Canon is prayed in a whisper. Fr. James W. Jackson, FSSP writes:

“The chants of the Sanctus are followed by profound silence, the first time in the Mass for silence of this depth––silence from the priest and silence from the faithful. This calls to mind not only the high priest of old going into the Holy of Holies alone, but also that the carrying of the Cross has come to an end, and Christ is now nailed to it.…The silence of the whole congregation––even if there are priests in attendance or if a bishop is attending––humbles us, as it is symbolic of the fact that none of the apostles or disciples raised their voices in defense of Christ at any time during His Passion” (Nothing Superfluous, p. 200).

Go see for yourself, and let the Traditional Latin Mass surprise you.

Originally published at LiturgyGuy.com

A Monastic Reflection on our Spiritual Battle During Lent

(Image taken from here.)

Since the time of Adam and Eve, there exists a spiritual battle between the faithful and the powers of darkness; it’s a battle that will continue until the end of the world.  In this battle, there are two armies:  on the one hand, Satan and his demons; on the other, St. Michael and the Christians.

You might ask:  why St. Michael, and not Christ himself, given that St. Benedict speaks of the monastic life as military service under the banner of Christ, the true King?  The reason is simple and employs the principle of aequitas.  Satan is an angel, Michael is an angel, and so, the battlefield is the same.  Christ, on the other hand, is true God and true man, and has already fought the good fight:  mors et vita duello conflixere mirando:  death and life contended in a spectacular battle, recites the Easter Sequence (cf. Victimae  Paschali laudes).  So, the Lord leaves the battlefield to us, helping us with his grace.  In today’s Gospel, Christ offers us important insights so that we might conquer this spiritual battle.

Two Armies

The fights between the two armies (the demons and us) need education and training.  For new demons, so to speak, who lack experience, there is a special course of four lessons:

  1. The first lesson describes the psychology of a temptation. The Dark One instructs:  “Remember that there are three stages for an effective temptation:  first, the suggestion itself; it’s easy to insinuate the temptation in the mind of those who are weak. Then, secondly, the victim, when he considers the suggestion, enjoys the pleasure:  here one can work quite efficiently.  If you’re able to deceive the victim to this point, the third moment will immediately follow:  the consent of the will.  Learn well what I’ve told you!”
  2. The second lesson is more specialized; it’s not for beginners, but rather for demons who have acquired some more experience. Again, the Dark One says: “Attentively observe people’s behavior.  Unfortunately, we cannot read their hearts, we can’t see their minds, but we can watch their gestures, their words, and every last sign which indicates to us their weak spot.  Then, attack!”
  3. The attack takes place with a bow and arrow. Therefore, the third lesson is an exercise on how to handle the bow so as to precisely hit the bull’s eye.
  4. Finally, after all of this training, if the demons have been good students, they will receive the fourth lesson, eight special arrows which correspond to the eight vices: gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, dejection, listlessness (acedia), vainglory, and pride.  The art of temptation is to observe well the behavior of the victim to find his weak point, introducing an appealing temptation, then choosing the right arrow, and fire!

On the other hand, the Christian’s “internship” or “training” is a bit more demanding.  Even here, though, there are four principle movements:

  1. The first moment is Baptism, when one enrolls in the army of Christ, the true King. The rite calls for the renunciation of Satan, and the new Christian gets anointed as a preparation for the battle.  Moreover, for a more serious training, we need the Lenten instruments of prayer, fasting, and good works.
  2. The second step requires some time. One must learn to recognize the enemy, carefully observing his behavior.  And more than just the demons, we ourselves are our own chief enemy, and so we must have a good awareness of ourselves, to understand our weak points, where the enemy will surely mount an attack.
  3. After that, the third stage of training is when we receive the armor of God in order to resist the wiles of the devil: the shield of faith, with which one can extinguish all of the flaming arrows of the evil one, the helmet of salvation, and above all, the sword of the Spirit, that is, the word of God (cf. Eph 6:11-17).  A good understanding of the word of God is essential for the fourth stage of Christian formation.
  4. As the enemy attacks us with one of the eight arrows, we need to be able to not only block the arrows, but also we need to turn them around on him.

Now, we’ve arrived at the crux of our reflection.  In today’s Gospel, what was the strategy of our Lord in resisting the temptations of the devil?  Let’s imitate his example!  He took the arrows fired at him from the devil, and, with a passage from Scripture, Christ threw them back towards his adversary.

  • Let’s consider the arrow of gluttony:  after 40 days of fasting, Jesus was hungry.  From his treasure of biblical passages, the Lord blocked the temptation from the devil:  Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4).
  • Then, the arrow of vainglory:  If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down! (Mt 4:6).  And the Lord chose from his quiver the right word:  You shall not tempt the Lord your God! (Mt 4:7).
  • Finally, the diabolic arrow of pride:  Satan quite pompously says: all these [the kingdoms of the world] I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me! (Mt 4:8-9).  And the Lord, using his proven strategy, responds:  Begone, Satan!  You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve (Mt 4:10).

And so, the devil, having been defeated, leaves our Lord, and then the angels came and ministered to him.

The Art of the Spiritual Battle

In the spiritual battle, we can imitate our Lord:  we can use passages from Holy Scripture as our shield against the arrows of the enemy, and even use the arrows to fire back at the demons who attack us.

  • Against the spirit (or logismos) of gluttony, as we have already heard in today’s Gospel: man shall not live by bread alone (Mt 4:4).
  • Against the spirit of lust: We must, therefore, guard thus against evil desires, because death hath his station near the entrance of pleasure (RB 7:24).
  • Against the logismos of avarice: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Lk 12:34).
  • Against the spirit of anger: do not let the sun go down on your anger (Eph 4:26).
  • Against the logismos of dejection: why are you cast down, o my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God (Ps 42:5)
  • Against the spirit of listlessness (or acedia): for you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised (Heb 10:36).
  • Against the logismos of vainglory: But I am a worm, and no man; scorned by men, and despised by the people (Ps 22:6).
  • And finally, against the spirit of pride: Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner (cf. Lk 18:13).

The arrows which I’ve just demonstrated are simply examples.  There is a whole patristic literary tradition on this topic (see Evagrius of Ponticus, Talking Back:  Antirrhetikos), and meditating on Holy Scripture, each one of us can find verses more adapted for our own personal battle.

If we force ourselves to take seriously the demands of the spiritual battle, then we might conclude that we aren’t well-prepared because we don’t know Holy Scripture very well.  But, if we aren’t prepared, the enemy will win.  Therefore, Lent is a period of grace, given to us by the Church, in which we can begin, or take up again more seriously, this spiritual training.

(English translation of an Italian homily from a Benedictine monk.)

Vocations, Liturgy, and ad orientem

Thanks to His Excellency, Bishop Conley for some wonderful thoughts on vocations, liturgy (including the Extraordinary Form), and the importance of ad orientem (facing liturgical east).  Here’s a recent interview he gave to Catholic World Report:

The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska has become well-known in recent years for its high number of priestly vocations relative to its small size; it also has a reputation as a bastion of orthodoxy and liturgical excellence in the Latin Rite. Bishop James Conley, the bishop of Lincoln since 2012, was among the attendants of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ (FOCUS) SLS 18 conference in Chicago earlier this month. His Excellency graciously made time to answer a few questions about the reasons his diocese is thriving.

Nicholas LaBanca, for CWR: I’d like to center our conversation today on how young people in the Church have begun to discover the riches of their liturgical patrimony in the Latin Rite. We can’t fail to observe that your diocese has consistently produced many vocations to the priesthood; the Diocese of Lincoln saw 17 men ordained to the priesthood in a two-year period, outpacing much larger archdioceses like Los Angeles, for instance. What would you say has contributed to this relative boom of priestly vocations in your diocese?

Bishop James Conley: Well there’s a lot of reasons for that, I believe. Grace, lots of grace, obviously. But I’d say one of the several things that we can directly attribute this to is the episcopal leadership. We’ve had basically 40-plus years of good bishops. Two of my most immediate predecessors come to mind: Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, who was bishop of Lincoln for 20 years, and Bishop Glennon Flavin, who was bishop for about 22 years [beginning in] 1967. So in those turbulent post-conciliar years since the end of the Second Vatican Council, we had our diocese led by bishops who really were very clear in their teaching and were very faithful to the Magisterium and what the Church’s patrimony was as far as doctrine goes. And [also] the liturgy. You know the revolution after the Second Vatican Council took many shapes and forms. You had the sexual revolution but you also had the liturgical revolution, you had the doctrinal revolution, everything was up for grabs.

In Lincoln, they steered a steady course and so there was never any liturgical aberrations. The priests were told very clearly that they would follow and would celebrate the Mass the way the Church wants it celebrated, and there were no exceptions to that. As far as teaching goes, the schools and the priests taught very sound doctrine. And the result is two things. One, our vocations stayed steady. So even though I’ve had the privilege of ordaining I think about 25 men in the last five years since I’ve been to Lincoln, we still have the highest number of seminarians per Catholic in the country. We have 96,000 Catholics and we have currently 39 seminarians. We’re a small diocese. But the result of that leadership—and I have inherited that so I don’t attribute that to myself at all, I just don’t want to mess it up. I want to keep it going. But I really have been the beneficiary of the great leadership of those two bishops. The result has been those vocations. Success breeds success. We have 146 active priests in the Diocese of Lincoln and the average age is 41. That’s more than 20 years younger than I am. So I’m the old guy in the diocese.

And when you have all these young priests who are in the parishes, and in the schools, and in the university, then young people see an example of religious life. And we have religious sisters. Bishop Flavin started a community of school sisters who teach in our schools, School Sisters of Christ the King. I just elevated them to the level of a diocesan rite, and they continue to teach. Four of them are principals in our grade schools and they teach in our grade schools. We have 37 religious sisters in full habit teaching in our schools and we have 48 priests that are either administrators or teaching in our schools. So Catholic education has been a very important part of the success of the Diocese of Lincoln. So to summarize: liturgy and worship, where people feel that when they come to Mass, they are in contact with the Transcendent. This is where I think Sacred Liturgy is so important.

You talked about our patrimony. We have this rich liturgical tradition and you go back throughout the history of the Church. What is the Sacred Liturgy supposed to do? Sacred Liturgy is supposed to put us in contact with the transcendent God. We’re supposed to have an experience of the holy. That’s what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is. That’s why the Lord said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And the beauty of that experience, the beauty of the music, the beauty of the worship and the reverence and the piety—it takes people out of the everyday, mundane world that we live in. A lot of suffering and hardship. And they have this contact for a while with the holy. And that’s key. People have to be nourished. Our souls desire contact with the holy. If we’re deprived of that, we wither away, and so we need that.

People, when they discover it, need more of it. So one of the initiatives I’m trying to promote is Eucharistic Adoration, in as many of our parishes as we can. Because when we come before our Lord and His Eucharistic face—the Sacrament of Divine Friendship as it’s sometimes called—our Lord’s heart speaks to our hearts. And we need those moments. There are very few places left today where we can be relatively certain that we’re not going be interrupted. And a Eucharistic Adoration chapel—as long as you turn your phone off—is one of the last places, one of the last oases of silence. People need that. Here at SLS 18…and also youth retreats and Engaged Encounter and all the different apostolates of the Church—and in applications for seminaries—people say that where they really heard the Lord speak to their hearts was in the quiet moments of Eucharistic Adoration. People in parishes whose marriages are falling apart—they go before the Lord, and they’re just in shambles—they let the Lord speak to them and heal them. This is where it all happens. That’s why Eucharistic Adoration is so important.

CWR: I’m happy that you had brought up the subject transcendence in the liturgy. You’ve been celebrating the Ordinary Form of the Mass ad orientem each Advent for several years now, and several other priests have done the same in your diocese, and around the country as well. This past summer, I was able to sit down with a Byzantine Rite priest, Father Thomas Loya of the Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy in Parma. We had talked about ad orientem worship and the life of the Church. In the course of our conversation, he had noted that turning the altars back around is of the upmost importance, and that doing so was “holding the key to everything in the Latin Rite Church.”  Do you believe that in worshiping ad orientem, laypeople and priests alike are more apt to feel that they are being lifted up to partake in the Heavenly Liturgy?

Bishop Conley: I do agree with that, and I’ve experienced that in my own priesthood. Way back in the 1990s I was chaplain at Wichita State University. And I, during Advent one year, began celebrating ad orientem, facing east, with the Advent theme of looking to the east and the star and everything. I just continued to do it…I did catechesis and I explained to everyone why this tradition has been so prevalent in the Church, just up until recent times, and how we are all worshiping together. We’re all facing the Lord together and the priest is leading us to the New Jerusalem, to Heaven. We stand in solidarity with one another, offering worship to God. It’s not the priest facing the people and speaking to them, it’s all of us facing God. So I’ve always been a big fan of ad orientem. When I came to Lincoln, I introduced it at the cathedral for Advent and I encouraged priests. I said, “If you believe that this would help you and your people, by all means do this as long as you give the catechesis and explain it to the people.” So like you said, we have a number of pastors who have done that. I do it now every time I celebrate Mass at the cathedral, at the Newman Center, at our seminary, and at our retreat house. And I don’t force it. And there are some times you can’t do it because architecturally it’s hard. But it’s catching on more and more. And I think the people really do respond to that. I think as a priest, we think it’s going to be really shocking to people, and it’s not. People are just like, “Fine, Father.” The funny thing is, you end up facing the people during a normal Mass longer than you don’t face them. Because you begin the Mass, and you do the Introductory Rite, and the readings, and the homily, and then you go to the altar. I timed it once. It’s basically three-fifths of the time you’re facing the people, two-fifths of the time you’re facing the altar.

CWR: Pretty much just for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Bishop Conley: That’s it. And when you’re giving Communion, you’re facing the people. But I would agree that it’s very helpful for the priest because it’s less distracting for the priest. He’s focused on really the most important thing that he’s doing—the most important thing that he ever does—and that is offering the Holy Sacrifice. And when you’re focused on the action of the Mass and that’s all you see—over the Host and the Precious Blood—then you’re more tuned in, than I think when you’re facing the whole congregation of people. Not that you can’t be focused in that way. You can. But it’s harder. You have to concentrate more.

CWR: Now you mentioned that for priests, and for laypeople, returning to certain traditions has been both helpful and warmly received. But let’s talk specifically about young people—do you believe that they are more open to the liturgical patrimony of the Latin Rite than older generations? Have you seen an uptick in the amount of young people embracing these Latin traditions in the past five or 10 years?

Bishop Conley: Well, one example, just a couple weeks ago during Advent, one of our priests celebrated a Rorate caeli Mass. A Saturday morning Mass at 6:00 am, in the dark, just candlelit, in the Extraordinary Form. It was a Solemn High Mass and they had the choir. Four hundred and fifty college students showed up for that.

It was amazing. I thought, fine, go ahead, you’re not going to get college students up at six o’clock in the morning. But the word went out on Facebook and Twitter, and they all showed up. They said it was amazing because they had this beautiful choir singing sacred polyphony and chant. They loved it. They had a great experience of the transcendent and the holy.

CWR: What advice would you give to young people who are really trying to uncover and share their legitimate traditions and patrimony, in indifferent or possibly even hostile environments?

Bishop Conley: I would say to be patient, and to pray, and to not give up. I think that sometimes it’s hard, especially for priests, to be open to some of the great liturgical traditions that, maybe in their minds, the Church has put aside. But I can tell you this [about] the younger generation of priests, those priests that have been ordained in the last 10 years, let’s say: it’s my generation that is not open; the younger generation is open. And that means that younger bishops are open. Because so go priests, so go bishops. There’s going to be a whole new generation of bishops that are going to be serving the Church as shepherds in the next 10 years who are also much more open to this great liturgical patrimony, and who have not sort of been through the liturgical wars like those in my generation have. So, I think, just be patient, be kind, be charitable, but be persistent.

The original article was found here.

Happy Anniversary, Summorum Pontificum!

In honor of Friday’s 10th Anniversary of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, we publish here the text from a speech delivered by Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a message sent to the Colloquium “The Source of the Future” (“Quelle der Zukunft”) in March 2017 in Herzogenrath, near Aachen, Germany.


Introductory Message

First of all I wish to thank from the bottom of my heart the organizers of the Colloquium entitled “The Source of the Future” on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI, in Herzogenrath, for allowing me to offer an introduction to your reflections on this subject, which is so important for the life of the Church and, more particularly, for the future of the Liturgy; I do so with great joy. I would like to greet very cordially all the participants in this Colloquium, particularly the members of the following associations whose names are mentioned on the invitation that you so kindly sent me, and I hope that I do not forget any: Una Voce Germany; The Catholic Circle of the Priests and Laity of the Archdioceses of Hamburg and Cologne; The Cardinal Newman Association; the Network of the priests of Saint Gertrude Parish in Herzogenrath. As I wrote to the Rev. Father Guido Rodheudt, pastor of Saint Gertrude Parish in Herzogenrath, I am very sorry that I had to forgo participating in your Colloquium because of obligations that came up unexpectedly and were added to a schedule that was already very busy. Nevertheless, be assured that I will be among you through prayer: it will accompany you every day, and of course you will all be present at the offertory of the daily Holy Mass that I will celebrate during the four days of your Colloquium, from March 29 to April 1. I will therefore start off your proceedings to the best of my ability with a brief reflection on the way that the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum should be applied in unity and peace.

As you know, what was called “the liturgical movement” in the early twentieth century was the intention of Pope Saint Pius X, expressed in another Motu proprio entitled Tra le sollicitudini (1903), to restore the liturgy so as to make its treasures more accessible, so that it might also become again the source of authentically Christian life. Hence the definition of the liturgy as “summit and source of the life and mission of the Church” found in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican Council II (see n. 10). And it can never be repeated often enough that the Liturgy, as summit and source of the Church, has its foundation in Christ Himself. In fact, Our Lord Jesus Christ is the sole and definitive High Priest of the New and Eternal Covenant, since He offered Himself in sacrifice, and “by a single offering He has perfected for all time those whom He sanctifies” (cf. Heb 10:14). Thus as the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares, “It is this mystery of Christ that the Church proclaims and celebrates in her liturgy so that the faithful may live from it and bear witness to it in the world” (n. 1068). This “liturgical movement”, one of the finest fruits of which was the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, is the context in which we ought to consider the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum dated July 7, 2007; we are happy to celebrate this year with great joy and thanksgiving the tenth anniversary of its promulgation.

We can say therefore that the “liturgical movement” initiated by Pope Saint Pius X was never interrupted, and that it still continues in our days following the new impetus given to it by Pope Benedict XVI. On this subject we might mention the particular care and personal attention that he showed in celebrating the Sacred Liturgy as Pope, and then the frequent references in his speeches to its centrality in the life of the Church, and finally his two Magisterial documents Sacramentum Caritatis and Summorum Pontificum. In other words, what is called liturgical aggiornamento1 was in a way completed by the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI. What was it about? The Pope emeritus made the distinction between two forms of the same Roman rite: a so-called “ordinary” form, referring to the liturgical texts of the Roman Missal as revised following the guidelines of Vatican Council II, and a form designated “extraordinary” that corresponds to the liturgy that was in use before the liturgical aggiornamento. Thus, presently, in the Roman or Latin rite, two missals are in force: that of Blessed Pope Paul VI, the third edition of which is dated 2002, and that of Saint Pius V, the last edition of which, promulgated by Saint John XXIII, goes back to 1962.

In his Letter to the Bishops that accompanied the Motu proprio, Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained that the purpose for his decision to have the two missals coexist was not only to satisfy the wishes of certain groups of the faithful who are attached to the liturgical forms prior to the Second Vatican Council, but also to allow for the mutual enrichment of the two forms of the same Roman rite, in other words, not only their peaceful coexistence but also the possibility of perfecting them by emphasizing the best features that characterize them. He wrote in particular that “the two Forms of the usage of the Roman rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal….  The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.” These then are the terms in which the Pope emeritus expressed his desire to re-launch the “liturgical movement”. In parishes where it has been possible to implement the Motu proprio, pastors testify to the greater fervor both in the faithful and in the priests, as Father Rodheudt himself can bear witness. They have also noted a repercussion and a positive spiritual development in the way of experiencing Eucharistic liturgies according to the Ordinary Form, particularly the rediscovery of postures expressing adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: kneeling, genuflection, etc., and also greater recollection characterized by the sacred silence that should mark the important moments of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, so as to allow the priests and the faithful to interiorize the mystery of faith that is being celebrated.

It is true also that liturgical and spiritual formation must be encouraged and promoted. Similarly, it will be necessary to promote a thoroughly revised pedagogy in order to get beyond an excessively formal “rubricism” in explaining the rites of the Tridentine Missal to those who are not yet familiar with it, or who are only partly acquainted with it…and sometimes not impartially. To do that, it is urgently necessary to finalize a bilingual Latin-vernacular missal to allow for full, conscious, intimate and more fruitful participation of the lay faithful in Eucharistic celebrations.

It is also very important to emphasize the continuity between the two missals by appropriate liturgical catecheses…. Many priests testify that this is a stimulating task, because they are conscious of working for the liturgical renewal, of contributing their own efforts to the “liturgical movement” that we were just talking about, in other words, in reality, to this mystical and spiritual renewal that is therefore missionary in character, which was intended by the Second Vatican Council, to which Pope Francis is vigorously calling us. The liturgy must therefore always be reformed so as to be more faithful to its mystical essence. But most of the time, this “reform” that replaced the genuine “restoration” intended by the Second Vatican Council was carried out in a superficial spirit and on the basis of only one criterion: to suppress at all costs a heritage that must be perceived as totally negative and outmoded so as to excavate a gulf between the time before and the time after the Council. Now it is enough to pick up the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy again and to read it honestly, without betraying its meaning, to see that the true purpose of the Second Vatican Council was not to start a reform that could become the occasion for a break with Tradition, but quite the contrary, to rediscover and to confirm Tradition in its deepest meaning. In fact, what is called “the reform of the reform”, which perhaps ought to be called more precisely “the mutual enrichment of the rites”, to use an expression from the Magisterium of Benedict XVI, is a primarily spiritual necessity. And it quite obviously concerns the two forms of the Roman rite. The particular care that should be brought to the liturgy, the urgency of holding it in high esteem and working for its beauty, its sacral character and keeping the right balance between fidelity to Tradition and legitimate development, and therefore rejecting absolutely and radically any hermeneutic of discontinuity or rupture: these essential elements are the heart of all authentic Christian liturgy. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tirelessly repeated that the crisis that has shaken the Church for fifty years, chiefly since Vatican Council II, is connected with the crisis of the liturgy, and therefore to the lack of respect, the desacralization and the leveling of the essential elements of divine worship. “I am convinced,” he writes, “that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy.”2

Certainly, the Second Vatican Council wished to promote greater active participation by the people of God and to bring about progress day by day in the Christian life of the faithful (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 1). Certainly, some fine initiatives were taken along these lines. However we cannot close our eyes to the disaster, the devastation and the schism that the modern promoters of a living liturgy caused by remodeling the Church’s liturgy according to their ideas. They forgot that the liturgical act is not just a PRAYER, but also and above all a MYSTERY in which something is accomplished for us that we cannot fully understand but that we must accept and receive in faith, love, obedience and adoring silence. And this is the real meaning of active participation of the faithful. It is not about exclusively external activity, the distribution of roles or of functions in the liturgy, but rather about an intensely active receptivity: this reception is, in Christ and with Christ, the humble offering of oneself in silent prayer and a thoroughly contemplative attitude. The serious crisis of faith, not only at the level of the Christian faithful but also and especially among many priests and bishops, has made us incapable of understanding the Eucharistic liturgy as a sacrifice, as identical to the act performed once and for all by Jesus Christ, making present the Sacrifice of the Cross in a non-bloody manner, throughout the Church, through different ages, places, peoples and nations. There is often a sacrilegious tendency to reduce the Holy Mass to a simple convivial meal, the celebration of a profane feast, the community’s celebration of itself, or even worse, a terrible diversion from the anguish of a life that no longer has meaning or from the fear of meeting God face to face, because His glance unveils and obliges us to look truly and unflinchingly at the ugliness of our interior life. But the Holy Mass is not a diversion. It is the living sacrifice of Christ who died on the cross to free us from sin and death, for the purpose of revealing the love and the glory of God the Father. Many Catholics do not know that the final purpose of every liturgical celebration is the glory and adoration of God, the salvation and sanctification of human beings, since in the liturgy “God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7). Most of the faithful—including priests and bishops—do not know this teaching of the Council. Just as they do not know that the true worshippers of God are not those who reform the liturgy according to their own ideas and creativity, to make it something pleasing to the world, but rather those who reform the world in depth with the Gospel so as to allow it access to a liturgy that is the reflection of the liturgy that is celebrated from all eternity in the heavenly Jerusalem. As Benedict XVI often emphasized, at the root of the liturgy is adoration, and therefore God. Hence it is necessary to recognize that the serious, profound crisis that has affected the liturgy and the Church itself since the Council is due to the fact that its CENTER is no longer God and the adoration of Him, but rather men and their alleged ability to “do” something to keep themselves busy during the Eucharistic celebrations. Even today, a significant number of Church leaders underestimate the serious crisis that the Church is going through: relativism in doctrinal, moral and disciplinary teaching, grave abuses, the desacralization and trivialization of the Sacred Liturgy, a merely social and horizontal view of the Church’s mission.

Many believe and declare loud and long that Vatican Council II brought about a true springtime in the Church. Nevertheless, a growing number of Church leaders see this “springtime” as a rejection, a renunciation of her centuries-old heritage, or even as a radical questioning of her past and Tradition. Political Europe is rebuked for abandoning or denying its Christian roots. But the first to have abandoned her Christian roots and past is indisputably the post-conciliar Catholic Church. Some episcopal conferences even refuse to translate faithfully the original Latin text of the Roman Missal. Some claim that each local Church can translate the Roman Missal, not according to the sacred heritage of the Church, following the methods and principles indicated by Liturgiam authenticam, but according to the fantasies, ideologies and cultural expressions which, they say, can be understood and accepted by the people. But the people desire to be initiated into the sacred language of God. The Gospel and revelation themselves are “reinterpreted”, “contextualized” and adapted to decadent Western culture. In 1968, the Bishop of Metz, in France, wrote in his diocesan newsletter a horrible, outrageous thing that seemed like the desire for and expression of a complete break with the Church’s past. According to that bishop, today we must rethink the very concept of the salvation brought by Jesus Christ, because the apostolic Church and the Christian communities in the early centuries of Christianity had understood nothing of the Gospel. Only in our era has the plan of salvation brought by Jesus been understood. Here is the audacious, surprising statement by the Bishop of Metz:

The transformation of the world (change of civilization) teaches and demands a change in the very concept of the salvation brought by Jesus Christ; this transformation reveals to us that the Church’s thinking about God’s plan was, before the present change, insufficiently evangelical…. No era has been as capable as ours of understanding the evangelical ideal of fraternal life.3

With a vision like that, it is not surprising that devastation, destruction and wars have followed and persisted these days at the liturgical, doctrinal and moral level, because they claim that no era has been capable of understanding the “evangelical ideal” as well as ours. Many refuse to face up to the Church’s work of self-destruction through the deliberate demolition of her doctrinal, liturgical, moral and pastoral foundations. While more and more voices of high-ranking prelates stubbornly affirm obvious doctrinal, moral and liturgical errors that have been condemned a hundred times and work to demolish the little faith remaining in the people of God, while the bark of the Church furrows the stormy sea of this decadent world and the waves crash down on the ship, so that it is already filling with water, a growing number of Church leaders and faithful shout: “Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise!” [“Everything is just fine, Milady,” the refrain of a popular comic song from the 1930’s, in which the employees of a noblewoman report to her a series of catastrophes]. But the reality is quite different: in fact, as Cardinal Ratzinger said:

What the Popes and the Council Fathers were expecting was a new Catholic unity, and instead one has encountered a dissension which—to use the words of Paul VI—seems to have passed over from self-criticism to self-destruction. There had been the expectation of a new enthusiasm, and instead too often it has ended in boredom and discouragement. There had been the expectation of a step forward, and instead one found oneself facing a progressive process of decadence that to a large measure has been unfolding under the sign of a summons to a presumed “spirit of the Council” and by so doing has actually and increasingly discredited it.4

“No one can seriously deny the critical manifestations” and liturgy wars that Vatican Council II led to.5Today they have gone on to fragment and demolish the sacred Missale Romanum by abandoning it to experiments in cultural diversity and compilers of liturgical texts. Here I am happy to congratulate the tremendous, marvelous work accomplished, through Vox Clara, by the English-language Episcopal Conferences, by the Spanish- and Korean-language Episcopal Conferences, etc., which have faithfully translated the Missale Romanum in perfect conformity with the guidelines and principles of Liturgiam authenticam, and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has granted them the recognitio [approval].

Following the publication of my book God or Nothing, people have asked me about the “liturgy wars” which for decades have too often divided Catholics. I stated that that is an aberration, because the liturgy is the field par excellence in which Catholics ought to experience unity in the truth, in faith and in love, and consequently that it is inconceivable to celebrate the liturgy while having in one’s heart feelings of fratricidal struggle and rancor. Besides, did Jesus not speak very demanding words about the need to go and be reconciled with one’s brother before presenting his own sacrifice at the altar? (See Mt 5:23-24.)

The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with “the paschal sacraments,” to be “one in holiness”6; it prays that “they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith”; the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 10)

In this “face-to-face encounter” with God, which the liturgy is, our heart must be pure of all enmity, which presupposes that everyone must be respected with his own sensibility. This means concretely that, although it must be reaffirmed that Vatican Council II never asked to make tabula rasa of the past and therefore to abandon the Missal said to be of Saint Pius V, which produced so many saints, not to mention three such admirable priests as Saint John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, Saint Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) and Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, at the same time it is essential to promote the liturgical renewal intended by that same Council, and therefore the liturgical books were updated following the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, in particular the Missal said to be of Blessed Pope Paul VI. And I added that what is important above all, whether one is celebrating in the Ordinary or the Extraordinary Form, is to bring to the faithful something that they have a right to: the beauty of the liturgy, its sacrality, silence, recollection, the mystical dimension and adoration. The liturgy should put us face to face with God in a personal relationship of intense intimacy. It should plunge us into the inner life of the Most Holy Trinity. Speaking of the usus antiquior (the older form of the Mass) in his Letter that accompanies Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI said that

Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.

This is an unavoidable reality, a true sign of our times. When young people are absent from the holy Liturgy, we must ask ourselves: Why? We must make sure that the celebrations according to the usus recentior (the newer form of the Mass) facilitate this encounter too, that they lead people on the path of the via pulchritudinis (the way of beauty) that leads through her sacred rites to the living Christ and to the work within His Church today. Indeed, the Eucharist is not a sort of “dinner among friends”, a convivial meal of the community, but rather a sacred Mystery, the great Mystery of our faith, the celebration of the Redemption accomplished by Our Lord Jesus Christ, the commemoration of the death of Jesus on the cross to free us from our sins. It is therefore appropriate to celebrate Holy Mass with the beauty and fervor of the saintly Curé of Ars, of Padre Pio or Saint Josemaría, and this is the sine qua non condition for arriving at a liturgical reconciliation “by the high road”, if I may put it that way.7 I vehemently refuse therefore to waste our time pitting one liturgy against another, or the Missal of Saint Pius V against that of Blessed Paul VI. Rather, it is a question of entering into the great silence of the liturgy, by allowing ourselves to be enriched by all the liturgical forms, whether they are Latin or Eastern. Indeed, without this mystical dimension of silence and without a contemplative spirit, the liturgy will remain an occasion for hateful divisions, ideological confrontations and the public humiliation of the weak by those who claim to hold some authority, instead of being the place of our unity and communion in the Lord. Thus, instead of being an occasion for confronting and hating each other, the liturgy should bring us all together to unity in the faith and to the true knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… and, by living in the truth of love, we will grow into Christ so as to be raised up in all things to Him who is the Head (cf. Eph 4:13-15).8

As you know, the great German liturgist Msgr. Klaus Gamber (1919-1989) used the word Heimat to designate this common home or “little homeland” of Catholics gathered around the altar of the Holy Sacrifice. The sense of the sacred that imbues and irrigates the rites of the Church is the inseparable correlative of the liturgy. Now in recent decades, many, many of the faithful have been ill treated or profoundly troubled by celebrations marked with a superficial, devastating subjectivism, to the point where they did not recognize their Heimat, their common home, whereas the youngest among them had never known it! How many have tiptoed away, particularly the least significant and the poorest among them! They have become in a way “liturgically stateless persons”. The “liturgical movement”, with which the two forms (of the Latin rite) are associated, aims therefore to restore to them their Heimat and thus to bring them back into their common home, for we know very well that, in his works on sacramental theology, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, well before the publication of Summorum Pontificum, had pointed out that the crisis in the Church and therefore the crisis of the weakening of the faith comes in large measure from the way in which we treat the liturgy, according to the old adage: lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of faith is the law of prayer). In the preface that he wrote for the French edition of the magisterial volume by Msgr. Gamber, La réforme de la liturgie romaine [English edition: The Reform of the Roman Liturgy], the future Pope Benedict XVI said this, and I quote:

A young priest told me recently, “What we need today is a new liturgical movement.” This was an expression of a concern which nowadays only willfully superficial minds could ignore. What mattered to this priest was not winning new, daring liberties: what liberty has not been arrogantly taken already? He thought that we needed a new start coming from within the liturgy, just as the liturgical movement had intended when it was at the height of its true nature, when it was not a matter of fabricating texts or inventing actions and forms, but of rediscovering the living center, of penetrating into the tissue, strictly speaking, of the liturgy, so that the celebration thereof might proceed from its very substance. The liturgical reform, in its concrete implementation, has strayed ever farther from this origin. The result was not a revival but devastation. On the one hand, we have a liturgy that has degenerated into a show, in which one attempts to make religion interesting with the help of fashionable innovations and catchy moral platitudes, with short-lived successes within the guild of liturgical craftsmen, and an even more pronounced attitude of retreat from them on the part of those who seek in the liturgy not a spiritual “emcee”, but rather an encounter with the living God before Whom all “making” becomes meaningless, since that encounter alone is capable of giving us access to the true riches of being. On the other hand, there is the conservation of the ritual forms whose grandeur is always moving, but which, taken to the extreme, manifests a stubborn isolation and finally leaves nothing but sadness. Surely, between these two poles there are still all the priests and their parishioners who celebrate the new liturgy with respect and solemnity; but they are called into question by the contradiction between the two extremes, and the lack of internal unity in the Church finally makes their fidelity appear, wrongly in many cases, to be merely a personal brand of neo-conservatism. Because that is the situation, a new spiritual impulse is necessary if the liturgy is to be once more for us a communitarian activity of the Church and to be delivered from arbitrariness. One cannot “fabricate” a liturgical movement of that sort—any more than one can “fabricate” a living thing—but one can contribute to its development by striving to assimilate anew the spirit of the liturgy, and by defending publicly what one has received in this way.

I think that this long citation, which is so accurate and clear, should be of interest to you, at the beginning of this Colloquium, and also should help to start off your reflections on “the source of the future” (“die Quelle der Zukunft”) of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. Indeed, allow me to communicate to you a conviction that I have held deeply for a long time: the Roman liturgy, reconciled in its two forms, which is itself the “fruit of a development”, as the great German liturgist Joseph Jungmann (1889-1975) put it, can initiate the decisive process of the “liturgical movement” that so many priests and faithful have awaited for so long. Where to begin? I take the liberty of proposing to you the three following paths, which I sum up in the three letters SAF: silence-adoration-formation in English and French, and in German: SAA, Stille-Anbetung-Ausbildung. First of all, sacred silence, without which we cannot encounter God. In my book The Power of Silence, [La Force du silence] I write: “In silence, a human being gains his nobility and his grandeur only if he is on his knees in order to hear and adore God” (n. 66). Next, adoration; in this regard I cite my spiritual experience in the same book, The Power of Silence:

For my part, I know that all the great moments of my day are found in the incomparable hours that I spend on my knees in darkness before the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I am so to speak swallowed up in God and surrounded on all sides by His presence. I would like to belong now to God alone and to plunge into the purity of His Love. And yet, I can tell how poor I am, how far from loving the Lord as He loved me to the point of giving Himself up for me. (n. 54)

Finally, liturgical formation based on a proclamation of the faith or catechesis that refers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which protects us from possible more-or-less learned ravings of some theologians who long for “novelties”. This is what I said in this connection in what is now commonly called, with some humor, the “London Discourse” of July 5, 2016, given during the Third International Conference of Sacra Liturgia:

The liturgical formation that is primary and essential is…one of immersion in the liturgy, in the deep mystery of God our loving Father. It is a question of living the liturgy in all its richness, so that having drunk deeply from its fount we always have a thirst for its delights, its order and beauty, its silence and contemplation, its exultation and adoration, its ability to connect us intimately with He who is at work in and through the Church’s sacred rites.9

In this global context, therefore, and in a spirit of faith and profound communion with Christ’s obedience on the cross, I humbly ask you to apply Summorum Pontificum very carefully; not as a negative, backward measure that looks toward the past, or as something that builds walls and creates a ghetto, but as an important and real contribution to the present and future liturgical life of the Church, and also to the liturgical movement of our era, from which more and more people, and particularly young people, are drawing so many things that are true, good and beautiful.

I would like to conclude this introduction with the luminous words of Benedict XVI at the end of the homily that he gave in 2008, on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul: “When the world in all its parts has become a liturgy of God, when, in its reality, it has become adoration, then it will have reached its goal and will be safe and sound.”

I thank you for your kind attention. And may God bless you and fill your lives with His silent Presence!

Robert Cardinal Sarah
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

(Translation from the French original by Michael J. Miller.)


1 “Aggiornamento” is an Italian term that means literally: “updating”. We celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican Council II Sacrosanctum Concilium in 2013, since it was promulgated on December 4, 1963.

2 Joseph Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs: 1927-1977, translated by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 148.

3 Cited by Jean Madiran, L’hérésie du XX siècle (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines [NEL], 1968), 166.

4 Joseph Ratzinger and Vittorio Messori, The Ratzinger Report: An exclusive interview on the state of the Church, translated by Salvator Attanasio and Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), 29-30.

5 Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, translated by Sister Mary Frances McCarthy, S.N.D. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 370.

6 Cf. Postcommunion for the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.

7 Cf. Interview with the Catholic website Aleteia, March 4, 2015.

8 Cf. Interview with La Nef, October 2016, question 9.

9 Cardinal Robert Sarah: Third International Conference of the Sacra Liturgia Association, London. Speech given on July 5, 2016. See the Sacra Liturgia website: “Towards an Authentic Implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium”, July 11, 2016.http://www.sacraliturgia.org/2016/07/robert-cardinal-sarah-towards-authentic.html

(Text taken from Catholic World Report.)

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