In his homily for the 13 men His Holiness ordained, based on the homily recommended in the Pontifical, Pope Francis spoke about the vocation to the sacramental priesthood. Those who are ordained, he said, “are configured to Christ the high and eternal priest, are consecrated as true priests of the New Testament” so that they become “preachers of the Gospel, and shepherds of the People of God, and will preside over the liturgical actions, especially in the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Lord.”
He called on the newly ordained to “be aware that you were chosen from among men and established in their favour to attend to the things of God;” to “exercise the priestly work of Christ with joy and sincere charity;” to be intent “on pleasing God, and not yourselves.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily saying, “Have always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to seek and to save those that were lost.”
Some reflections on this papal liturgy:
1. The Holy Father has established is own take on the traditional pre-Vatican II altar arrangement that I think works better than what Pope Benedict returned. There are still the six candles and central crucifix, but the candles are now more angled, the crucifix is not as imposing as previously and the episcopal candle is now to the side, which is keeping with tradition.
2. The choir and congregation sing an Italian processional hymn with what I call classical Italian sentimentality in style and cadence. Then when the Holy Father approaches the foot of the altar, the Choir chants in Latin the official Introit. In my mind, this is the best of both worlds, preserving the congregational singing of metrical hymns that have become quite common in the post-Vatican II era but without sacrificing the chanting of the propers by the choir or schola alone and in Latin, in this case the Introit. It doesn't have to be either/or but both/and. While it might be startling from the style point of view, one could use even a "Folk or Contemporary" hymn, not to mention some of the wonderful and orthodox hymns borrowed in an ecumenical way from Anglicanism, Methodism or Lutheranism as the processional but keeping the Introit also as in papal Mass this morning.
3. Pope Francis on some occasions that are more international, will celebrate these papal Masses all in Latin but he frequently celebrates Masses of this type completely in Italian. However, at every papal Mass since Pope Francis' becoming pope, the parts of the Mass that are sung, such as the Propers, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei are always chanted in Latin at the Vatican. I think this is the best model for the worldwide Church and I would not be in the least shocked that this style of Mass becomes the norm for all parishes of the world or at least I would pray that it would. Of course it needs to be legislated from the pope himself. I'm not sure Pope Francis will do this, but I believe one of his successors down the road will. It would bring much liturgical unity to the local parishes of the world, especially those parishes that are multi-lingual. For example in our diocese which has many Spanish/English congregations, no matter what Mass you attended, either one that is predominantly Spanish or English, at least the parts of the Mass sung, spoken or chanted by the congregation would be in a common language of Latin.
4. There is a novelty that Pope Francis has brought to ordination Masses either of bishops or priests and I presume deacons. After he incenses the altar, His Holiness descends the altar and incenses individually those who are to be ordained. I've never seen this before and believe it to be a novelty that Pope Francis has created.
5. Pope Francis wears very lovely vestments at this Mass and has not skewed wearing a variety of vestments, except he does seem to have an aversion to the Roman Chasuble, which is odd, since he is the Bishop of Rome. As I've said before, I am not a fan of the Roman Chasuble and never have been, preferring the Gothic look, but when in Rome, do what the Romans do and did, at least sometimes like Pope Benedict who wore a variety of styles.
6. It is clear to me that Pope Francis chose not to distribute Holy Communion to the laity from day one of his pontificate not only to avoid "photo-ops" for those receiving from him and showing partiality to those who are chosen for this privilege, but also because he did not want to continue Pope Benedict's restoration of kneeling for Holy Communion. This was done gradually. At first kneelers were placed in front of the papal altar for people to receive from deacons, but then this station was removed altogether. For the longest time Pope Francis continued to give Holy Communion to the deacons of the Mass as they knelt to receive from Him, but this has ceased also. The deacons now stand. However, the Holy Father continues to give Holy Communion under both kinds to these deacons by way of intinction.
7. Pope Francis at the end of the Ordination Mass, after the Prayer after Holy Communion has no hesitation of bringing in a Marian piety to the Mass. Evidently it is also Mother's Day in Italy. So he asks everyone present to honor not only our mothers on earth but our Mother in Heaven, Mary Most Holy by reciting the Hail Mary together.
8. Oddly enough, as much as I like Pope Francis' sobriety in terms of how he celebrates the Mass, his ad orientem style, although facing the congregation, I do miss the exuberance that is very Italian for papal Masses in that there was always applause as the pope entered and departed St. Peter's Basilica and popes encouraged it by engaging those who do so with arm gestures and blessings. This was common even in the pre-Vatican II papal liturgies.
All in all, this papal Mass is easy for parishes around the world to duplicate. It truly is a role model for the parochial level of the Church!