When Pope Benedict issued Summorum Pontificum on 7/7/07, I welcomed it and awaited Bishop Kevin Boland’s direction on how to proceed with the liberal allowance of the UA.
When it came, I followed his guidelines scrupulously. I surveyed St. Joseph Church parishioners in Macon to see how many would be interested in its celebration. I had 300 positive responses out of a parish of 1,200 families at the time. Then I had an educational night where I tried to explain the differences in the UA and the UR, not only in the order of things but what was eliminated and why.
I tried to explain that in the late 50’s there was a move in most dioceses including Savannah to enable people to verbally participate in the Low Mass and I showed them my St. Joseph Missal which I still have that helped to facilitate that. But I spoke of a different kind of spirituality between the two forms and that the UA Mass is more contemplative than the UR Mass, more like Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
We weren’t allowed to celebrate the UA Mass until 9/14/07, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. It was a Friday night. In Macon, the weather was horrible and there were Tornado watches and warnings all day long and a terrible thunderstorm at the 7pm time for the Mass.
There were over 400 people there!
Not all of these people would come to our monthly 2 pm UA Mass or our weekly Tuesday 5 pm UA Low Mass, but they were not opposed to it and there was no division in our parish. I used the UA Mass for special Holy Days, like our patronal feast of St. Joseph or Immaculate Conception. We would have more in attendance with these special Masses and our annual All Souls Day Requiem Mass was always well attended.
Finally in my last year at St. Joseph, after we had restored the old altar railing to its new position, I made our 12:10 PM UR Mass ad orientem only for the Liturgy of the Eucharist and used the altar railing for the distribution of Holy Communion where the communicants could either kneel or stand to receive on the tongue or on the palm of their hand. We had five weekend Mass, one Saturday evening, three Sunday morning and one Sunday evening. Thus I only did this at the 12:10 PM Mass.
In addition to that the UA Mass was celebrated once a month at this 12:10 PM Mass, the First Sunday of the month. We made sure there were English translations of the changing parts of the Mass. I think most in attendance thought there were no real differences other than the Latin.
This was not divisive.
In our diocese, we had the UA Mass in Savannah since Pope John Paul’s permission in the late 80’s. Our Cathedral has had it for almost 20 years each Sunday.
As far as our diocese is concerned, Pope Francis is dead wrong. That’s sad for him and papal authority and a Church in free fall in Europe and most parts of the world and not because of the UA Mass.
While I feel betrayed as well as those who regularly attend this Mass at our Cathedral do, I have always seen this Mass as a gift from God through the Church and a special permission to celebrate it. But I love the new Mass too, although I had hoped and worked for its improvement in the dignity of its celebration and a recovery of the reverence it lost which the older Mass has.
That Pope Francis did not issue a paragraph or two on the recovery of the sacred ethos of the UA Mass in the UR Mass is a tragedy. But maybe he is writing a Motu Proprio on that and asking UR Catholics not to be divisive in promoting heterodox teachings like women’s ordination as well as gender fluid candidates, married, not married or whatever and other gender ideologies as it concerns the Mass and other sacraments. I am waiting.