Saturday, September 2, 2023


When Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum, there was true and palpable excitement, almost like liberation from an oppressive ideology or foreign power that had invaded and overtaken the Church since Vatican II as it concerns the liturgy. 

Immediately, after SP was issued, there was joy, video memes of exhilaration about the Traditional Latin Mass and its other liturgical celebrations released from the dungeon of a Vatican basement to breathe new life into the Church’s liturgical culture. It was a true experience of moving on, going forward and letting go of looking backwards at all the liturgical chaos of the post-Vatican II upheaval. 

That all came to an end with TC. We returned to the liturgical wars of the past 50 years. We returned to the oppressive spirit of those days where every novelty was embraced and any hint of tradition associated with the pre-Vatican II Church was condemned. 

But shortly after TC,  Pope Francis issued his own liturgical document Desiderio Desideravi. The portion I post below shows the “I” spirit that the pope then condemns as gnostic, meaning the use of what “I” want rather than “we”. But count the number of times Pope Francis uses the word “I” as he communicates what he wants. This is a study in psychology to say the least!

Here’s a portion of that document. Press the title for the full Apostolic Letter. Have you experienced in your own parish any hint of the application of this document to everyday liturgical life with the excitement and joy that SP had generated? 







Desiderio desideravi
hoc Pascha manducare vobiscum,
antequam patiar 
(Lk 22:15)


1. My dearest brothers and sisters,

with this letter I desire to reach you all – after having written already only to the bishops after the publication of the Motu Proprio Traditionis custodes – and I write to share with you some reflections on the liturgy, a dimension fundamental for the life of the Church. The theme is vast and always deserves an attentive consideration in every one of its aspects. Even so, with this letter I do not intend to treat the question in an exhaustive way. I simply desire to offer some prompts or cues for reflections that can aid in the contemplation of the beauty and truth of Christian celebration.

The Liturgy: antidote for the poison of spiritual worldliness

17. On different occasions I have warned against a dangerous temptation for the life of the Church, which I called “spiritual worldliness.” I spoke about this at length in the exhortation Evangelii gaudium (nn. 93-97), pinpointing Gnosticism and neo-Pelagianism as two versions connected between themselves that feed this spiritual worldliness.

The first shrinks Christian faith into a subjectivism that “ultimately keeps one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings.” (EG 94) The second cancels out the role of grace and “leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyses and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.” (EG 94)

These distorted forms of Christianity can have disastrous consequences for the life of the Church.

18. From what I have recalled above it is clear that the Liturgy is, by its very nature, the most effective antidote against these poisons. Obviously, I am speaking of the Liturgy in its theological sense and certainly not, as Pius XII already affirmed, Liturgy as decorative ceremonies or a mere sum total of laws and precepts that govern the cult. [6]

19. If Gnosticism intoxicates us with the poison of subjectivism, the liturgical celebration frees us from the prison of a self-referencing nourished by one’s own reasoning and one’s own feeling. The action of the celebration does not belong to the individual but to the Christ-Church, to the totality of the faithful united in Christ. The liturgy does not say “I” but “we,” and any limitation on the breadth of this “we” is always demonic. The Liturgy does not leave us alone to search out an individual supposed knowledge of the mystery of God. Rather, it takes us by the hand, together, as an assembly, to lead us deep within the mystery that the Word and the sacramental signs reveal to us. And it does this, consistent with all action of God, following the way of the Incarnation, that is, by means of the symbolic language of the body, which extends to things in space and time.

20. If neo-Pelagianism intoxicates us with the presumption of a salvation earned through our own efforts, the liturgical celebration purifies us, proclaiming the gratuity of the gift of salvation received in faith. Participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice is not our own achievement, as if because of it we could boast before God or before our brothers and sisters. The beginning of every celebration reminds me who I am, asking me to confess my sin and inviting me to implore the Blessed Mary ever virgin, the angels and saints and all my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God. Certainly, we are not worthy to enter his house; we need a word of his to be saved. (cf. Ma 8:8) We have no other boast but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (cf. Gal 6:14) The Liturgy has nothing to do with an ascetical moralism. It is the gift of the Paschal Mysteryof the Lord which, received with docility, makes our life new. The cenacle is not entered except through the power of attraction of his desire to eat the Passover with us: Desiderio desideravi hoc Pascha manducare vobiscum, antequam patiar (Lk 22:15).

Rediscovering daily the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration

21. But we must be careful: for the antidote of the Liturgy to be effective, we are required every day to rediscover the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration. I refer once again to the theological sense, as n. 7 of Sacrosanctum Concilium so beautifully describes it: the Liturgy is the priesthood of Christ, revealed to us and given in his Paschal Mystery, rendered present and active by means of signs addressed to the senses (water, oil, bread, wine, gestures, words), so that the Spirit, plunging us into the paschal mystery, might transform every dimension of our life, conforming us more and more to Christ.

22. The continual rediscovery of the beauty of the Liturgy is not the search for a ritual aesthetic which is content by only a careful exterior observance of a rite or is satisfied by a scrupulous observance of the rubrics. Obviously, what I am saying here does not wish in any way to approve the opposite attitude, which confuses simplicity with a careless banality, or what is essential with an ignorant superficiality, or the concreteness of ritual action with an exasperating practical functionalism.

23. Let us be clear here: every aspect of the celebration must be carefully tended to (space, time, gestures, words, objects, vestments, song, music…) and every rubric must be observed. Such attention would be enough to prevent robbing from the assembly what is owed to it; namely, the paschal mystery celebrated according to the ritual that the Church sets down. But even if the quality and the proper action of the celebration were guaranteed, that would not be enough to make our participation full.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

A quick document word count shows 88 uses if "I" and 89 uses of "we" in Desiderio Desideravi.

Yes, I find your post a study in psychology...

rcg said...

So the Mass must be an undefined something as long as it isn’t like what we had before.

I am sorry to be so dense, but what was wrong with the old Mass such that it must be suppressed?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the liturgical wars of the past 50 years continued to rage following Summorum Pontificum/Letter to the Bishops. As leading traditionalists have insisted, SP had excited, to an extent, many leading trads who, nevertheless, warned fellow trads that SP was flawed.

Leading trads insisted that SP was unsustainable as SP had been packed with lies designed to create the impossible. That is, liturgical peace between the "True Mass," and "imposter" Mass of Pope Saint Paul VI.

For example, as Peter Kwasniewski had noted, and promoted by Rorate Caeli:

"I think it is fair to say right from the start that Summorum Pontificum was useful to our movement in the way that an enormous booster rocket is useful for launching a spaceship into orbit: it has a lot of raw power, but it can only do so much, and when it’s empty, it falls away."

"Summorum Pontificum is destined to be one of the great papal interventions in all of history, but it is no more than damage control; it is not a pillar, much less a foundation, of a permanent structure."

"And those who lean on it too much will find themselves crushed by its incoherences."

"My goal in this presentation will be to walk through Summorum Pontificum and identify its principal flaws, the elements in it that act as weights pulling us down, so that we can resolutely go beyond it to retrieve the fullness of the Tridentine heritage that constitutes the authentic Roman rite."

Summorum Pontificum had been hijacked, misrepresented, then, opposed to everything Pope Benedict XVI had intended, weaponized against the Council, Holy Mass of Pope Saint Paul VI, Vatican II Era Popes...even against the liturgical reforms of Popes Venerable Pius XII, as well as Saint Pius X.

The Latin Church's liturgical war did not abate unfortunately following SP's enactment.


Mark Thomas

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Mark, what parishes have you experienced where there is great excitement implementing DD????? Are there any parishes that have had their pastor, pastoral ministers and committees study the document in order to follow it? If you have experienced this desired papal renewal, what have you seen as positive or changed results.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, FRMJK, that you counted or had someone or something count all those “i’s” and “we’s” is a great study in psychology and Freud would have a field day, talk about excitement for him.

ByzRus said...

I thank my lucky stars that I am in the East where WE don't keep ruminating over the same thing over and over again. When WE gather for communal liturgy, WE are united in a faith that continues to excite, challenge and nourish us while WE adhere faithfully and unquestioningly to its rubrics. Mostly, WE feel that regarding OUR liturgy, nothing is broken.

ByzRus said...


Are you asserting that SP was a good foundational rock, intervention, that should then have been modified and built upon as what was working, what wasn't and what was needed to ensure success was identified?

It seems that analysis never occurred as intended. Rather, SP became disease itself, not the cure as ongoing medical attention and revised treatment, by all appearances, were never pursued. If patient care was approached the way SP wasn't cared for, or amended based upon identified shortcomings or opportunities for improvement, the patient would long since be dead.

ByzRus said...

PF, elected as he was to be, among other things, the liturgy's CEO and CCO, is imposing his own viewpoint to the exclusion of tradition.

Faithful adherence to rubrics isn't worship of the liturgy itself to the detriment of one's relationship with Christ. It's doing what was prescribed such that ruminating over the ceremony becomes secondary to one's relationship with Christ. In the East, we have a very stylized liturgy with demanding rubrics. As a result, we aren't worshiping the liturgy itself. On the contrary, we are freed to focus on the psalms, poetically expressed within the liturgy, the readings, providing homiletics that are Christ centered/scripture based, exploring our prayer life, any and all. I don't obsess over ceremony and neither does anyone that I know. It has its place. We do it and do it very well. When appropriate, we focus on the things that I mentioned unencumbered by liturgical wars, balkanization, most of that which this blog focuses upon. Only those like TJM, any any other who remember the pre-VII days will know, appreciate and likely yearn to experience the liberation that I described. I hope someday it is rediscovered.

And, yes, when Benedict XVI promulgated SP there was excitement that I had never experienced before in the Roman Church. Beautiful things in beautiful places, for a brief while, seemed to be the order of the day. Many people were amazed, excited and yearned to be part of every second of it. It was amazing while it lasted. It became clear to me during that time why the Church had so many saints and martyrs. For many, hope was reawakened.

The NO is just......there. I think our Lord, God and Savior himself with be impatient with its oftentimes banal and tedious execution. The TLM gave us something to look UP TO, be inspired and awestruck by, enchantment reaching the heavens that were reaching back! Who wouldn't want to be part of that?

Anonymous said...

ByzRus said..."I thank my lucky stars that I am in the East where WE don't keep ruminating over the same thing over and over again. Mostly, WE feel that regarding OUR liturgy, nothing is broken."

You are fortunate in that regard.

Unfortunately, for the Latin Church, at the time of Vatican II, even decades prior to 1962 A.D., the liturgical movement had determined that Latin Church liturgy had long been "broken" and in need of dire repair.

In 1948 A.D., Pope Venerable Pius XII had empowered Monsignor Bugnini to initiate the radical reform of the Roman Liturgy. At the dawn of Vatican II, Joseph Ratzinger, for example, had insisted upon the following dreadful rendering of the state of Latin Church liturgy:

"In the late Middle Ages, awareness of the real essence of Christian worship increasingly vanished." He had blamed the following upon the Council of Trent:

Trent handed liturgical authority to the “purely bureaucratic” Congregation of Rites. Said Congregation lacked "historical perspective..viewed the liturgy solely in terms of ceremonial rubrics."

In turn, "Court etiquette for sacred matters" had rendered Latin Church liturgy into "a rigid, fixed, and firmly encrusted system." Latin Church laity "were united with the priest only by being in the same church with him, according to Joseph Ratzinger.

In bleak terms, Joseph Ratzinger had declared that the Congregation of Rites had initiated "the total impoverishment of the liturgy."

Again, that is why at the dawn of Vatican II, Joseph Ratzinger had insisted upon the radical liturgical reform that Pope Venerable Pius XII had initiated during the 1940s.


Mark Thomas

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Of course Mark, you forget to decry the clericalism of elite liturgists, a truly insignificant number of clergy who ripped the rug out from under the feet of 99.9% of all Catholics who never questioned how the Mass was celebrated with more than 99% of Catholics faithfully attend Mass every Sunday prior to Vatican II. Also you neglect to acknowledge how much ratzinger repented of concerning his drunken enthusiasm at first. He was humble enough to do that. More vernacular was all that was needed.with some minor cleaning up of certain accretion. The pontifical Masdes the most in need, not your typical low or sung parish Mass.

Anonymous said...

Father McDonald said..."Also you neglect to acknowledge how much ratzinger repented of concerning his drunken enthusiasm at first."

Father McDonald, I appreciate your reply.

If I have understood the above (if not, please correct me on that), then I must say that Pope Benedict XVI did not "repent." He made that clear during interviews with Peter Seewald.


Father McDonald, I wish please to note the following that I have many times made clear on your great blog: I have tremendous respect for Pope Benedict XVI's holy, gallant attempt to secure liturgical peace within the Latin Church.

1. Far too many bishops were not on board with SP. They were enraged at Pope Benedict when he promulgated SP. In various ways, they had contributed to SP's failure.

2. Far too many traditionalists had rejected SP/Pope Benedict XVI's liturgical peace plan.

Said folks had rejected the notion that the TLM, as well as Holy Mass of Pope Saint Paul VI, could coexist in peace. The trads in question portrayed the TLM as the "True Mass" that, in turn, was incompatible with "NewChurch/modernist Rome," which the Council, and reformed Mass, represented supposedly.

More than a few trads had seized upon, as well as weaponized, two points that Pope Benedict XVI had offered.

-- "As for the use of the 1962 Missal...I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted."

-- "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful."

More than a few trads had utilized those two points to misrepresent well as to weaponize SP against the Council, reformed Mass, and Papal authority.

Other than those two points, far too many trads had claimed that the remainder of Pope Benedict XVI's liturgical peace plan was doomed to failure as the plan had been packed with supposed "lies" — "lies" designed to accomplish that which many trads had rejected as impossible. That is, the peaceful coexistence of the "True Mass," as well as Holy Mass of Pope Saint Paul VI.

Trads had seized upon the two above points to "prove" that a Pope does not have the authority to regulate the Roman Liturgy contrary to the approval of trads. That is, trads determine the degree of authority that the Vicar of Christ may exercise in regard to the Roman Liturgy.

Between trads who had misrepresented/weaponized Pope Benedict XVI's liturgical peace plan, as well as many bishops who had thwarted SP's implementation, SP had been trampled at every turn.

SP's failure, despite trad claims that the motu proprio was muddled and flawed beyond belief, is not Pope Benedict XVI's fault.


Mark Thomas

Drew said...

I entered the Church with the reformed Mass and I still attend the reformed Mass, albeit in the so called unicorn form a la the reformed Mass as celebrated at St. John Cantius in Chicago. Yet I have always appreciated the traditional Latin Mass and so much of my conduct at Mass is influenced by it. Still, I do attend the traditional Latin Mass from time to time and my hope is the reformed Mass resembles it more and more as tradition friendly priests emerge.

Yet, I can’t tolerate the progressive liturgists anymore or Pope Francis’s disdain toward the traditional Latin Mass and so called ‘backwardists.’ It’s all pretty stupid. Give me back.

TJM said...

Traditiones Custodes is ultra vires and evil and no amount of rantings by our resident papalator will change that. Thank God most bishops are ignoring the “boss” in Rome who is corrupt and mean spirited.

I see our resident Democrat operative masquerading as a Catholic priest has chimed in with a “huge” observation.