Sunday, September 21, 2014

REFLECTIONS ON POPE FRANCIS' MASS IN ALBANIA ON SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2014

The Mass itself (the papal parts) are in Latin! Homily at the end of this post:

What is the difference in the Mass above celebrated by Pope Francis and any papal Mass that Pope Benedict celebrated? What is the same?

Let's start with the differences:

1. There are two different people, different personalities and different liturgical priorities but all within the umbrella of the liturgy in the Ordinary Form.

2. His preaching style is more animated than Pope Benedict and Pope Francis often departs from the written text to improvise. Most good preachers do.

3. Pope Francis can't chant. This is a disappointment to those who believe the chanted Mass is the norm. I've always stated that if a priest or bishop can't carry a tune and sounds awful chanting, that he should not chant! The spoken parts of the Mass in the Ordinary Form is perfectly acceptable while other parts are chanted by others.

4. Pope Francis' taste in vestments is sober and simple. Pope Benedict used a wider array of styles but had an affinity for lace, Roman chasubles and ornate designs. Pope Benedict had a flare for style, which is not forbidden in the Catholic Church, we aren't Puritans in this regard and Pope Benedict liked the long tradition of the various liturgical styles especially the more regal. Pope Francis has an aversion to European liturgical styles borrowed from the long history of the "court" or "monarchy" in Europe. I think Americans would have the same sensibilities as we tend to mock the court and monarchy too.

5. Pope Benedict had a more integrated vision for how Latin should be preserved in the Liturgy of the Ordinary Form. Pope Francis' approach has no such unity. This is somewhat disappointing but Pope Francis has certainly celebrated all-Latin Ordinary Form Papal Liturgies and used Latin in Korea--but there isn't a clear logic emerging from his way of using Latin compared to Pope Benedict. I am pleased to note though that at the Papal Mass in Albania, Pope Francis used Latin instead of Italian.

6. Pope Francis normally does not distribute Holy Communion to the laity. If I am not mistaken the pope prior to Vatican II did not distribute Holy Communion to anyone not even the deacons and in fact Holy Communion was ministered to him at least in the most solemn expression of the EF Papal Mass. 

What is the same?

1. The altar arrangement more in line with the traditional arrangement for it in the Extraordinary Form is here to stay for papal liturgies at least under Pope Francis. The only modification in Rome is that the candlesticks are more "angled" and the crucifix is not so large as to hide the pope and his liturgical actions during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The "episcopal candle" is to the side rather than the middle now. However, if one notes the altar arrangement in the video above, this arrangement was quite common during Pope Benedict's travels too. I prefer this look of the altar when facing the congregation rather than the overly large candlesticks and crucifix sometimes used in Rome. For ad orientem Masses, the bigger, the taller the better. These aren't  in the way when the Mass is ad orientem.

2. Both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict say the black and do the red. They are both sober in their manner of celebrating and neither is flamboyant with huge, exaggerated bodily gestures especially with arm gestures and voice inflections. Neither improvises in the least during the Introductory Rites with long introductions to the Penitential Act that are like homilies or banal post- official greetings, like Good morning, how are you and the like!  This is what both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict say when introducing the Penitential Act either in Latin or the vernacular: "Brethren, let us acknowledge our sins so as to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries." This is what is prescribed in the Roman Missal, it is concise, to the point and far from exaggerated or a homily.
 
Please find below the full text of the Pope’s homily for the Mass:
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Holy Mass in Mother Teresa Square
 (Tirana, 21 September 2014)

Today’s Gospel tells us that, as well as the Twelve Apostles, Jesus calls another seventy-two disciples and that he sends them to the villages and cities to announce the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 10:1-9, 17-20).  He comes to bring the love of God to the world and he wishes to share it by means of communion and fraternity.  To this end he immediately forms a community of disciples, a missionary community, and he trains them how to “go out” on mission.  The method is both clear and simple: the disciples visit homes and their preaching begins with a greeting which is charged with meaning: “Peace be to this house!”.  It is not only a greeting, but also a gift: the gift of peace.  Being here with you today, dear brothers and sisters of Albania, in this Square dedicated to a humble and great daughter of this land, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I wish to repeat to you this greeting: May peace be in your homes! May peace reign in your hearts! Peace in your country!    

In the mission of the seventy-two disciples we see a reflection of the Christian community’s missionary experience in every age: the risen and living Lord sends not only the Twelve, but the entire Church; he sends each of the baptized to announce the Gospel to all peoples.  Through the ages, the message of peace brought by Jesus’ messengers has not always been accepted; at times, the doors have been closed to them.  In the recent past, the doors of your country were also closed, locked by the chains of prohibitions and prescriptions of a system which denied God and impeded religious freedom.  Those who were afraid of the truth did everything they could to banish God from the hearts of men and women and to exclude Christ and the Church from the history of your country, even though it was one of the first to receive the light of the Gospel.  In the second reading, in fact, we heard a reference being made to Illyria, which in Paul’s time included the territory of modern-day Albania.

Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, and laity paid for their fidelity with their lives.  Demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith are not lacking.  How many Christians did not succumb when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken!  I stand spiritually at that wall of the cemetery of Scutari, a symbolic place of the martyrdom of Catholics before the firing squads, and with profound emotion I place the flower of my prayer and of my grateful and undying remembrance.  The Lord was close to you, dear brothers and sisters, to sustain you; he led you and consoled you and in the end he has raised you up on eagle’s wings as he did for the ancient people of Israel (cf. First Reading).  The eagle, depicted on your nation’s flag, calls to mind hope, and the need to always place your trust in God, who does not lead us astray and who is ever at our side, especially in moments of difficulty.

Today, the doors of Albania have been reopened and a season of new missionary vitality is growing for all of the members of the people of God: each baptized person has his or her role to fulfil in the Church and in society.  Each one must experience the call to dedicate themselves generously to the announcing of the Gospel and to the witness of charity; called to strengthen the bonds of solidarity so as to create more just and fraternal living conditions for all.  Today, I have come to encourage you to cultivate hope among yourselves and within your hearts; to involve the young generations; to nourish yourselves assiduously on the Word of God, opening your hearts to Christ: his Gospel will show you the way!  May your faith be joyful and bright; may you demonstrate that the encounter with Christ gives meaning to human existence, meaning to every man and woman.

In the spirit of communion among bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laity, I encourage you to bring vitality to your pastoral activities and to continuously seek new ways of making the Church present in society: do not be afraid to respond generously to Christ who invites you to follow him!  In a priestly or religious vocation you will find the richness and the joy of offering yourselves to the service of God and your brothers and sisters.  How many men and women await the light of the Gospel and the grace of the Sacraments!


To the Church which is alive in this land of Albania, I say “thank you” for the example of fidelity to the Gospel!  So many of your sons and daughters have suffered for Christ, even to the point of sacrificing their lives.  May their witness sustain your steps today and tomorrow as you journey along the way of love, of freedom, of justice and of peace.  Amen.

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