Decree on use of traditional Latin Mass strengthens liturgies, say local priests

by Jennifer Brinker, Review Staff Writer

Local communities with ties to the traditional Latin Mass recently expressed their joy over Pope Benedict XVI’s recent apostolic letter that eased restrictions on the celebration of that Mass.

Above all, the pontiff’s letter, “Summorum Pontificum,” issued July 7, expressed a desire to strengthen the continuity of the Catholic liturgy, from the past to the present, according to two priests who celebrate the traditional Latin Mass in the archdiocese.

The long-awaited papal letter was issued “motu proprio,” which means “of his own accord.”

“This measure is meant to bring about a healing,” said Father Daniel Augustine Oppenheimer, prior of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, based at the Priory of the Annunciation in Chesterfield. “It is not in any measure somehow a triumph of the traditionalists over those who are not interested in the old order.”

Father Karl Lenhardt, rector of St. Francis de Sales Oratory in South St. Louis, who also celebrates Mass using the 1962 missal as a member of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, said the pope’s letter “gives the Church the occasion to think of what we are doing with the liturgy. It’s not something we celebrate ourselves, but what Christ gives to his whole Church.”

The letter essentially gives priests the ability to freely celebrate the Latin Mass using the 1962 missal.

Previously, priests needed to request permission from their bishop to celebrate the older form. It also instructs priests to honor requests from the faithful for access to the traditional Latin Mass. However, the letter does not favor one form of the Mass over the other. The norms will take effect Sept. 14.

In a letter to priests last week, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke said the letter will not trigger any noticeable changes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He is expected to write about the pope’s letter in his column in next week’s Review.

Archbishop Burke has been a clear supporter of celebrating the Mass using the older form. He was one of two U.S. bishops at an international meeting of bishops with the pope in Rome last month on the greater use of the traditional Latin Mass. The archbishop also was instrumental in bringing to the archdiocese the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in 2004.

Archbishop Burke wrote that the letter recognizes that the Missale Romanum of 1962 and the Novus Ordo of the Mass from 1970 “represent a twofold use of one and the same rite.” The letter defines the older missal as the “extraordinary form” of the celebration of Mass; the Novus Ordo represents the “ordinary form.”

“The discipline set forth by ‘Summorum Pontificum’ is aimed at the more worthy celebration of both forms of the same Rite of the Mass,” wrote the archbishop. “I share, with the Holy Father, the conviction that the worthy celebration according to both uses will be enriching for all.”

The archbishop noted that liturgical formation will be available to all priests of the archdiocese who want to celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 missal.

Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, which already requires the study of the Latin language, will provide seminarians with the liturgical formation required to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass.

“I think it’s a remarkable development in liturgical law,” said Father Oppenheimer. “It sets up a clear equality between the two missals that are discussed.” The priest added that it is important for clergy who celebrate the older Mass to teach the faithful about the letter in a way that expresses humility.

“It is also necessary that these priests uphold the liturgical principle of an integrated participation in the liturgical action, such as singing the responses and the people’s parts of Mass,” he continued. “This is in the very soul of the Church’s authentic liturgical tradition, and in no way constitutes an innovation introduced in the new Mass.

“I believe it imperative that priests who embrace the old rite do so with an educated liturgical understanding and impart it to the faithful.”

Father Oppenheimer, who received guidance from the Pope Benedict and Archbishop Burke in founding his community, said the Holy Father has made it clear that the old form should not be reduced to “a manner of a state park, where a special preserve of animals is to be found. He said that would not serve the Church in any way, shape or form.”

“The pope is deeply aware of the fact that a fascination for the old liturgy is very high among seminarians and young priests,” he continued. “This guarantees that it will have a very widespread reintroduction into the life of the Church.”

Father Lenhardt said he agreed with the pope, who said that the norms laid out in “Summorum Pontificum” should serve as as a continuing “interior reconciliation in the Church.”

“Many among the faithful have experienced in a painful way … that changes in the liturgy after the council have may from time to time not have been applied in a way that it was easy for the faithful to accept them,” he said.

That led to a division in the Church, for example, with the foundation of the Society of St. Pius X, he said.

Founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970, the society was created because of opposition to the changes in Catholic teaching and practice after the Second Vatican Council.

“We can truly say this is a process,” he said. “The effect of this kind of reconciliation can even go further.”

“The fact that these misunderstandings have a certain persistence in the Church, even now, shows that the Holy Father wishes a reconciliation,” said Father Lenhardt. “It means a deeper understanding of liturgy for the Church.”
Some good stuff here. I will add some comments later, after my daughter’s birthday party, for which I am late!