7.11.2007

Healing Old Wounds

In recent weeks there has been some active Catholic chatter regarding the Pope's "Summorum Pontificum." Many believe that the pope is getting rid of the Mass in the vernacular which has been offered for the last four decades. Such is not farther from the truth. The letter states that while the new Roman Missal, introduced in 1970, remains the ordinary way of Catholic worship, the 1962 missal should be considered "the extraordinary expression of the same law of prayer."

What, then does this mean? Frankly, very little to the average Person In the Pew (PIP). Since the promulgation of the 1962 version, there has not been a great outcry to bring the Latin Mass back. Yes, there has been the occasional dissident group calling for the reinstatement of the Roman liturgy, but not significant numbers. Why won't this new letter return the liturgy to the former state? There are several reasons:
First, most people who want the Latin Mass returned do it out nostalgia. They romanticize that past without an ideal appreciation for the present and future. Time and time again, I have heard Catholics longing for the "old Mass". When pressed to answer the question "Why?", they do not really know. Because of the Latin, they say. But did they understand it? No. I suppose there was a mystery that they miss.


Second, if we revert how would this include those under the age of 45 and those brought into the Catholic Church via RCIA? This may be hard to comprehend, but coming out of the Latin into the vernacular is definitely easier that the other way around.

Third, priests for the most part in active ministry were not trained in the Latin Mass. Those who had such experience are retired or will retire in the next couple of years. While seminaries require Latin in the college level, they do little on the graduate level. As a second career vocation, I had no Latin at all in the seminary. Most vocations today are second career as well, which means that most active priests today do not know the ancient language.

In short, the reason for Pope Benedict XVI's letter is to reach out to those who have alienated themselves from the Roman Church -- an olive branch that perhaps will be accepted (or not).