Saturday, April 16, 2016



Pope Francis continuing the liturgical legacy of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

When Pope Benedict XVI resigned as the Bishop of Rome and Pope Francis was elected, there was a great deal of anxiety that Pope Francis would backtrack on the liturgical renewal initiated by Pope Benedict.

However, in the three years of Pope Francis’ papacy, we have seen no change to the Mass at the Vatican apart from some minor tweaks. Pope Francis is a man of simplicity and prefers vestments that are simple, unadorned but tasteful. He is unable to chant and he does not distribute Holy Communion to the laity except in rare exceptions such as First Communions of adults or children. Pope Francis like Pope Benedict knows that the Mass isn’t a cerebral head trip, but rather a mystical affair of the body, soul and mind. Thus “bells and smells” are not seen as a derogatory comment about their use, but rather as an implementation of that which touches all our senses in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Like all popes, Pope Francis sees the connection between the Liturgy and life, that the Catholic Faith must be accompanied by good works in the workaday world especially toward the poor and marginalized. Pope Francis’ adjustment to the rubrics of Holy Thursday’s optional Foot Washing ceremony shows this concern in a powerful way.

Pope Francis has not discouraged the use of the 1962 Roman Missal also known as the Extraordinary Form that Pope Benedict generously allowed to the laity. In fact, Pope Francis continues finding ways to reintegrate into the Church the Fraternity of Saint Pope Pius X who uses exclusively the 1962 Roman Missal and other liturgies. Although the SSPX have some canonical censures, Pope Francis has given permission to any Catholic to go to an SSPX priest for the Sacrament of Confession during the year of Mercy.

Like Pope Benedict, Pope Francis celebrates the Mass facing the people in an “ad orientem” sort of way. In other words His Holiness does not pray when facing the congregation as though he is speaking to them nor does he turn prayer into a proclamation. It is prayer to God at its deepest ecclesial/liturgical level. Nor does Pope Francis ad lib in any way during the Mass especially at the Introductory Rite or Concluding Rite where it is so common, especially for bishops.

To assist in this “ad orientem sort of way” liturgical attitude or orientation, Pope Francis has maintained the central crucifix on the altar and often looks at it in his prayers. This arrangement has come to be known as the “Benedictine” altar arrangement since Pope Benedict restored it but in reality it is the pre-Vatican II altar arrangement.

As well, Pope Francis is not averse to praying the Mass in a truly “ad orientem” since he has done so in the Sistine Chapel and other chapels where the altar is attached to the wall behind it. Often those who denigrate this liturgical orientation complain that the priest has his back to the congregation. However, the truth is that the priest is joining the congregation in facing the same direction, the liturgical east, as a symbol of the belief that the Lord will return for the Last Judgment from the direction of Jerusalem and of the rising sun, from the east.

As well at Vatican Masses, Latin is maintained for the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei as well as for the Propers of the Mass which are the official Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons. In fact, papal Masses at the Vatican model for parishes how to chant the official Introit after a suitable hymn is sung to accompany the procession to the altar. Usually the chanting of the Introit occurs once the pope kisses the altar and incenses it. The recovery of chanting the official Propers is quite important for authentic liturgical renewal.

Many liturgists were quite heartened when Pope Francis named Robert Cardinal Sarah as the new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Commenting on his appointment Cardinal Sarah related the following: “When the Holy Father, Pope Francis, asked me to accept the ministry of Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, I asked: ‘Your Holiness, how do you want me to exercise this ministry? What do you want me to do as Prefect of this Congregation?’ The Holy Father's reply was clear. ‘I want you to continue to implement the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council,’ he said, ‘and I want you to continue the good work in the liturgy begun by Pope Benedict XVI.'”

One sign that Pope Francis is in agreement with Pope Benedict to reform the current revised Roman Missal is seen in the new Ordinariate’s Missal (former Anglicans/Episcopalians) called, “Divine Worship, the Missal” which was approved by Pope Francis. This is truly the first Roman Missal developed in the new post-Vatican II millennium. It is very much a revised missal of Vatican II but also incorporates some of the liturgical patrimony of the Anglican heritage. But more importantly it recovers many aspects of the 1962 Roman Missal. There is the explicit option for the use of the “Prayers at the Foot of the Altar” as well as the older form of the Rite of Sprinkling Holy Water and a reorientation of the introductory priestly Greeting in its traditional place prior to the praying of the Opening Collect.

The traditional Gradual/tract and sequences are explicitly printed in the missal itself as an option replacing the Responsorial Psalm. And the Dies Irae in Masses for the Dead is restored to its proper place in the Funeral Mass prior to the Gospel.

The older form of the Offertory Prayer is the first option along with the revised one which is placed second. The rubrics for the Eucharistic Prayers recover elements of the rubrics of the 1962 Roman Canon.

It explicitly allows for the Mass the option for it to be celebrated “ad orientem” and for Holy Communion to be received kneeling at the altar railing. It recovers from the 1962 Roman Missal Ember and Rogation days as well as the Octave of Pentecost and the Season of Septuagesima.

All of these are wonderful additions in continuity with our 1962 Roman Missal that could soon come to the normal revised Roman Missal that most Catholics use throughout the world. Time will tell if Pope Francis will allow the reform of the current Ordinary Form Mass according to Ordinariate’s “Divine Worship, the Missal”.


gob said...


gob said...

If you'd like to try for a little more excitement in your Saturday newspaper, check out the piece in the NYT about the priests who ran Georgetown University having to sell their 272 slaves to bail the school out the financial problems it was facing. Some of the good Padres worried that the southern plantation owners where the slaves were going might not allow them to keep up their Catholic religion. Some were given rosaries as they shipped out....

Mallen said...

Father, any chance your fine article could be published up north here in The Georgia Bulletin? Most folks are probably not aware of the liturgical continuity between the Pope Emeritus and Pope Francis. Except for the vestments and His Holiness not chanting, there is not much difference at the Vatican Masses. And the Sistine Choir just gets better and better! They chant the Propers beautifully. It's anything but a throwback to the 70's and 80's liturgies, probably because of Msgr. G Marini who Pope Francis has kept as MC.


TJM said...

Pope Francis does give an important lesson by example to priests: you can be warm and engaging outside of Mass but then be serious and solemn when celebrating the sacred mysteries. Many priests need to re-examine their sometimes buffonish antics at Mass.

LSP said...

Wasn't liturgical reform all about making the Mass "popular" and "of the people"? Weird, isn't it, that fewer and fewer people seem to be drawn in by its awesomeness and I forget the exact stats -- but didn't the Catholic Church gain members in the US every year in the decades after WWII until liturgical reform?

Anonymous said...

LSP - No, liturgical was not "all about making the Mass "popular" and "of the people".

"The key concepts of this liturgical reform program are inculturation and renewal. Inculturation means allowing existing human culture to inform the liturgy, as in fact happened when the ancient Greek and Roman rites were developed. Over time, to protect against abuses, and out of respect for ancient tradition, liturgical rites came to have an increasingly fixed form, to the point of being nearly inalterable. Meanwhile, the rest of human culture changed at an increasingly rapid rate, so that it was practically impossible for most modern Catholics to have the same appreciation of their liturgical heritage as their medieval predecessors. Art and music similarly tended to stagnate into relatively fixed baroque styles. The whole feel of Catholic liturgy was backward-looking on a cultural level, when in fact the purpose of liturgy is to point to the presence of Christ now in this age."


"One of the main principles of ressourcement theology was the recognition that religious practices must be considered in their concrete historical manifestation, not just as abstract philosophical or juridical ideals. In a purely Scholastic metaphysical analysis, the only thing essential to the Mass are the material gifts and words of Institution."


"Before the Council, there was an effective disconnect between the liturgy as practiced by the priest and as experienced by the laity in attendance. The latter were engaged in private devotions that were directed toward the Mass yet not properly part of the Mass. Only relatively recently were there bilingual missals that permitted the laity to follow in the vernacular, though even then the priest was generally inaudible, making the laity more like passive witnesses than participants. As members of the Body of Christ, the laity ought to be participating in Christ’s priestly action, which is why the missals urged the faithful to “pray the Mass.” This is not to deny an important distinction in roles between the priestly celebrant (who acts in persona Christi and effects the Sacrament) and the lay members of Christ’s Body. Yet to deny any participation whatsoever to the laity in the Church’s supreme liturgical act would be to sever Christ’s Body from Himself, if such a thing were possible. For the Church to sanctify man, it must be incarnate, and engage man through determinate external forms in order to touch souls within. Liturgical participation need not always mean speaking aloud or performing gestures; what is essential is interior disposition. Yet the externals of the liturgy help direct this interior disposition, so that the laity and the priest are truly “on the same page,” not just in the missal."

John Nolan said...

Actually, the above quotations, with their arrogant and erroneous assumptions, so typical of progressive liturgical thought in the twentieth century and thankfully no longer held by most present-day liturgical scholars, go a long way to explain why the liturgical 'reform' has been such a disaster.

Would the anonymous poster be good enough to say from whom the quotations originate? As a general rule quotations should be attributed.

George said...

John Nolan
I found the source of the quotes.

Commentary on Sacrosanctum Concilium
by Daniel J. Castellano

Here is a link if you care to read it.

Sacrosanctum Concilium

Daniel J. Castellano has a degree in Mathematics from MIT and an MA in history from Boston University

John Nolan said...

Thanks, George. I can't boast a degree in maths but do have one more in history than he does. This does not make me a liturgist, but Nicola Bux, Thomas Crean, Alcuin Reid, Michael Lang, Laurence Hemming, Aidan Nichols and Joseph Ratzinger most certainly are, as was the late Louis Bouyer, and they would demolish Castellano's spurious arguments in short order.

Is the egregious Castellano one of Fr MJK's liturgical gurus? Just asking.

Anonymous said...

But, none of these assertions has anything to do with the erroneous caricature offered by LSP regarding the purposes of liturgical reform, now do they?

John Nolan said...

'But, none of these assertions has anything to do with the erroneous caricature offered by LSP regarding the purposes of liturgical reform, now do they?'

In which case, why quote them at such length? And if one looks behind the jargon of 'inculturation', 'renewal' and 'ressourcement theology' one finds LSP's so-called caricature to be not all that wide of the mark.

Anonymous said...

The comments I posted show that LSP's assertions were caricatures of the facts.

The assertions that were made about Mr Castellan's credentials had nothing to do with LSP's error.

John Nolan said...

The comments you posted show nothing of the sort. They merely regurgitate an erroneous and now largely discredited view of liturgy which was fashionable half a century ago. It certainly influenced SC (which was essentially the Bugnini schema) and pervades the Novus Ordo regarding the latter's textual content and its usual manner of performance.

It wasn't confined to the Catholic Church - the Anglicans also embraced the Zeitgeist with similar and deplorable consequences for their liturgy. At least they didn't try to suppress the Prayer Book in the way that the Catholic hierarchy attempted (unsuccessfully as it turned out) to outlaw the classic Roman Rite.