Notes from Across the Atlantic
Peter Mitchell FAITH Magazine January – February 2011
INCREASING REVERENCE IN THE ORDINARY FORM OF MASS
Father Peter Mitchell contextualises the impact of the new translation of the Missal from his vantage point at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Nebraska, where he teaches Latin and Theology His father was born and raised in Hertfordshire.
The arrival of the new year means that here in the States we now have less than one year to go until November 27, 2011, the date chosen by our Bishops' Conference for the implementation of the new English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. While there have inevitably been a handful of naysayers attempting to derail this needed reform, the impression of this John-Paul-ll generation priest in a small rural diocese is that the majority of faithful Catholics are interested and eager to learn about the upcoming changes to the texts of the Mass, as well as the theological reasons underlying them.
Although there is unfortunately still no shortage of liturgical abuses to be found in not a few dioceses across the USA, the good news is that such abuses are becoming ever more confined to left-over pockets of resistance.
From this writer's vantage point there would seem to be two interesting phenomena concerning the increasing momentum towards the new translation. The younger a priest is the more likely he is to be unapologetically enthusiastic about this development. And to the extent that liturgical abuse persists in a given diocese, there will also be in that place a far greater interest in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite as a refuge from liturgical abuse. On the other hand, dioceses that have been protected by wise episcopal guidance from liturgical aberrations in the celebration of the Novus Ordo are generally blessed with both clergy and
laity who truly love the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. They are excited to see its celebration made even more dignified and reverent by the beauty and splendor of the new translation of the Missal.
The "new" trend in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is unmistakably towards what is becoming more clearly one of the hallmarks of Pope Benedict's pontificate: the authentic implementation of the liturgical reform according to the mind of the Second Vatican Council.
At the Newman Centre on campus at the University of Nebraska we are blessed to have a chanted Latin Mass (Ordinary Form) celebrated once a month. The Mass features a splendid choir chanting the Propers and Ordinary of the Mass as well as various motets in a chapel with outstanding acoustics. The readings are proclaimed in English and the Liturgy is celebrated ad orientem. This Mass was begun five years ago at the initiative of a young priest returning from studies in Rome, who noted with no small amount of irony that it seems the only Mass one cannot find anywhere is the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite as it is envisioned by the current Missale Romanum. It has drawn the interest of a growing number of students and young families and is another sign of thefruitfulness of the ongoing reform of the Conciliar liturgical reform here in the States. The laity who attend this Mass seem to be drawn to the opportunity both to sing and to hear the language of the Church proclaimed clearly and simply. The beautiful rhythm of the chant alternating between priest-celebrant and people as the Mass is prayed, including the occasional chanting of the Roman Canon, is one of the most appealing aspects of the sung Novus Ordo, an embodiment of the "noble simplicity" which is one of the foundational principles of Sacrosanctum Concilium.
One great light in the midst of the many questions leading up to the
implementation of the new translation is The Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. Founded by Francis Cardinal George in the year 2000, the Institute is fast becoming a widely respected resource for bishops and dioceses across the United States in the important work of liturgical formation. The Institute is currently in the process of presenting its workshop, "Mystical Body, Mystical Voice," to the clergy and laity of dozens of dioceses across the country, in anticipation of the arrival of the new translation of the Missal next Advent. The workshop employs a dynamic presentation of the texts of the ritual books themselves as the basis for a rich theological understanding of the way in which the Word becomes flesh in and through thecelebration of the Sacred Liturgy. The Institute's underlying philosophy is rooted in the patristic and sacramental ideals of the liturgical movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, fidelity to the principles of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and the understanding that the principles of the 2001 Instruction Liturgiam authenticam have given the Church an essential key to the ongoing implementation of the Conciliar liturgical reform.
At our most recent diocesan clergy conference, this workshop was very well received. By the end of the day it was quite clear that the majority of the priests in attendance were excited about the opportunity the new translation affords for a more broad-ranging liturgical catechesis at the parish level. Although the presenters indicated that they had received a less-than-enthusiastic reception in some of the places where they had spoken recently, the many positive comments I heard from my brother priests following the workshop are another encouraging sign about where liturgical practice is going in the United States at the beginning of the 2010s.
All that being said, there still remains the admittedly challenging prospect of actually instructing the faithful in the pews to change their established habits of prayer next November 27. "And with your spirit" will replace the nearly reflexive "And also with you." How will American Catholics adjust to professing in the Credo that the Lord Jesus "was incarnate of the Virgin Mary" rather than the less theologically precise "was born of the Virgin Mary" that we have been praying for the last forty years? Can Americans handle such lofty English? I for one am confident that we will warm to it and gradually come to appreciate it with gratitude. As our presenter at the workshop on the new translation told us with a smile, "The Brits have been saying this for decades, so I'm sure we can figureit out!"