Two Forms of the Rite of the Mass

In writing to you, this week, I want to address the recent publication of new liturgical norms pertaining to the celebration of two forms of the Rite of the Mass, the form used by all until 1970 and the new form introduced by Pope Paul VI. The new norms, given by Pope Benedict XVI on this past July 7, have been the subject of much discussion in the media. For your better understanding of the new norms, I want to offer you my reflections on the norms and their implementation in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.

The sanctification of our lives through participation in the Liturgy, especially the Sacrifice of the Mass, is expressed concretely in the manner by which we fulfill the daily responsibilities of our vocation in life. The more we grow in reverence for the sacredness of the Liturgy, the more we also grow in care to live a holy life in all things.

Two Forms of the One Rite of the Mass

By his Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI has provided for the easier use of the form of the Rite of the Mass until 1970, which was published by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962, in addition to the use of the Rite of Mass, which was published by Pope Paul VI in 1970 and with which we are all quite familiar. The first form is sometimes popularly called the Tridentine Rite of the Mass, referring to the fact that, in its essentials, it remained the same from the time of the reforms introduced by the Council of Trent (Tridentine is the adjective for Trent). Changes were introduced into the Rite over the centuries, including the changes made in the1962 edition of the Roman Missal, but the greater part of the Rite remained unchanged.

The second form is called the Novus Ordo or New Order of the Mass. It also retains the essential elements found in the Tridentine Rite but introduces a somewhat radical simplification of the Rite. It is, however, one and the same Rite of the Mass.

With the norms promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI, the Novus Ordo remains the ORDINARY FORM in which the Rite of the Mass is to be celebrated. The Order of the Mass in force before the changes introduced by the Novus Ordo is now the EXTRAORDINARY FORM which may be celebrated by any priest, without special permission, under the conditions set forth by the Holy Father. In establishing the extraordinary form of the Rite of the Mass, our Holy Father reminds us that, in fact, the use of the Roman Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII "was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted" ("Letter of Pope Benedict XVI "Accompanying the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, 7 July 2007, ¶6).

As he observes, there was a greater attachment to the former rite than perhaps was anticipated, especially among the faithful "with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier form of the liturgical celebration" (Ibid.). An interest in and attachment to the former Rite of the Mass also developed among the faithful in circumstances in which the reforms of the Novus Ordo were not implemented with fidelity but were falsely seen to permit or even require a creative interpretation on the part of the priest. Such circumstances, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, "led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear" (Ibid.). Our Holy Father reflects upon his own experience of the confusion and hurt which sometimes accompanied the implementation of the Novus Ordo.

Not infrequently, I meet young people who are attracted to the former Order of the Mass, even though they had no experience of it when they were growing up. What attracts them is the beauty and reverence, which the earlier form very much fosters. Such beauty and reverence should also be evident in the celebration of the Novus Ordo. Because the ordinary form is greatly simplified, the priest and those who assist him must be attentive to the divine action taking place and not give way to an informality and familiarity which is offensive to the nature of the Sacred Liturgy.

Through Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI makes the former Order of the Mass more available to the faithful who are attached to it. At the same time, he maintains the Novus Ordo as the ordinary form of the celebration of the Mass. It is the expressed hope of our Holy Father that the use of the extraordinary form will support the faithful celebration of the Mass according to the Novus Ordo.

Implementation of the New Norms in the Archdiocese

Some of the faithful of the Archdiocese have expressed the fears that the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the Mass will be taken away and that the use of the extraordinary form of the Mass will be imposed upon them, while they, in fact, are attached to the ordinary form. Both fears are unfounded. The celebration of the extraordinary form in parishes must be requested by a group of the faithful and is to be scheduled in such a way as to permit the other faithful the use of the ordinary form. Priests, when they celebrate the Mass without a congregation, that is, when they are on vacation or away from a parochial assignment, may choose either form. Members of the faithful can, of course, assist at the Mass, no matter in which form it is celebrated.

At present, the Archdiocese of Saint Louis has a most effective apostolate on behalf of the faithful who are attached to the extraordinary form of the Rite of the Mass, that is the Roman Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII. Saint Francis de Sales Oratory is the center of the apostolate and serves well the faithful who desire the celebration of the Mass and of the other Sacraments according to the rites which were in force in 1962. The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem also provide Sunday and holyday Masses at the Chapel of the Passionist Nuns in Ellisville. In addition, the Canons Regular, as befits their form of religious life, celebrate daily and publicly the Liturgy of the Hours in the chapel of their Priory in Chesterfield.

If additional requests of the regular celebration of the extraordinary form of the Rite of the Mass are received, I will work with the parish priests in responding appropriately and generously to the requests.

Also, courses of liturgical formation, pertaining to the Roman Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII, will be provided for priests who desire it. The seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary will be provided the liturgical formation necessary to celebrate the Mass according to the extraordinary form. Their studies of Latin will also give attention to the texts of the extraordinary form.

Gratitude for the Richness of the Forms of the Sacred Liturgy

In concluding my brief reflections on Summorum Pontificum, I express, in the name of us all, deepest gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for providing so richly and well for the worthy and beautiful celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Holy Mass. With Pope Benedict XVI, I am certain that the richer possibilities for the celebration of the Mass and the other Sacraments will lead us all to a deeper appreciation of the immeasurable love of God for us and to a deeper response of love, on our part.

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