Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fr. William: Champion of the New Liturgical Movement

Fr. William Fitzgerald is a priest after my own heart. In the rhetoric surrounding the debate between the Novus Ordo Missae vs. the Missal of Pius V (termed by Fr. William the "Classical Roman Rite," causing Nicole to think of harpies!) we too often get caught up in the minutiae, the details surrounding each form of the mass, and more importantly, our own personal attachment to one or another of the forms. Not so Fr. William. In his talk last night entitled "The Mass: How Extraordinary?!" Father gave us a clear and simple objective: think as the Holy Father does about the liturgy. He pointed out that the extreme of a narrow focus is those Catholics who demand, "what they want, when they want," with regard to the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice. He contended that we should be comfortable with Mass in either form, ordinary or extraordinary. At the same time, he pointed out that the Church's vision for the ordinary form is much different from what we often see in parishes today. Moreover, he explained that the Holy Father specifically used the word "extraordinary" with regard to the older form to indicate that the celebration of this form will be the exception and not the rule. Fr. William's fascinating, dense reflections gained credence from his personal history, one of strong attachment to the liturgy and of extensive education in matters liturgical. His wide knowledge showed itself in his compact history of the Mass in the Western Church. While recognizing the excellence of the Tridentine Mass, he sees Pope Benedict XVI's plan as ultimately one of reform, not of trying to situate the Church of today in a past time. By taking such a "middle road," as well as by using a matter-of-fact tone free for the most part from personal criticisms of either side, he showed us a great example of how to think with the Church and love our liturgical tradition.


Joe said...

Interesting...a few thoughts for possible discussion:

When dealing with the two liturgies within the Roman Rite, does the spirit of the Church demand that we see them both as equals? Not in essence, but in the accidents. In other words, while the sacrament is the same, can we admit a certain difference in the "sacramental" side of the rite?

I ask this because I spoke recently to a priest who was passing through Christendom and we spoke of this particular matter. His own opinion was that the two rites are certainly valid and certainly licit, but that the Tridentine Mass was "more accidentally efficacious." He explained that both forms of the Mass, as valid sacramental rites of the Church, had the same essential efficacity (is that a word?), but a the rite itself as a flowering and exposition of the sacramental reality could be either superior or inferior.

Could you also elaborate on what father said in reference to: "He contended that we should be comfortable with Mass in either form, ordinary or extraordinary." I would be interested to hear more about that. I know there are numerous works, some of which have approbation of Cardinal Ratzinger, that while acknowledging the essential validity, liceity, and sanctity, do not seem at all "comfortable" with the reformed Liturgy (Gamber and Reid come to mind).

healthily sanguine said...

You should talk to Father William about it! :-) Actually, I believe the talk he gave will be available at the library, if you ask Mrs. Krebs; unfortunately, it won't include his hilarious asides and the q&a at the end.

I would imagine Fr. would say that you can certainly admit a difference in the "trappings," so to speak, of the mass. He did touch on that a bit, disdaining the views of those who said that as long as the essence of the mass, the consecration, was still there, it does not matter what you do with the rest. I think he's a stickler for correct liturgical forms, in keeping with tradition. However, if you talked to him he might also make the point that the ordinary form is meant to be celebrated with as much beauty, reverence, and attention as the old mass--in fact, in continuity with the most pristine way of celebrating the mass of the ages (he was very harsh on those who, even before the Novus Ordo came out, abused the mass by excessive haste, improper cleaning of altar linens, etc.). He did not allow that the New Mass lent itself to abuses by its nature, but assigned more to nurture than to nature, so to speak, in the development of liturgy in the late 60s and early 70s.

Finally, perhaps a closer rendering of what Fr. said with regard to both forms was something like "I would hope everyone would be able to appreciate both forms of the mass." He said this in answer to a question about whether it was right for students to attend Sunday mass at St. John's 12:30 rather than at the 10:00 Christendom. I got the feeling--and mind you, this was only my impression--that the questioner, an officious, know-it-all freshman girl (much like I myself was), was trying to get Fr. to say that all those raddie traddies should just suck it up and go to mass at Christendom with everyone else. He did not say that. Instead, he returned to his earlier statements about how the motu proprio allowed for those who had attachment to the Classical Roman Mass to go and said that the decision of which mass to go to was a personal one that no one should judge. Then, he gave the comment which I imperfectly transcribed above. So maybe I interpolated a bit, but for anything more you will have to ask him yourself! :-)

healthily sanguine said...

Oh, also in the Q&A, he seemed to speculate that the reformed liturgy will look more like the Classical Roman Rite (hehe, I personally think "Tridentine" is fine, but whatever) than the Novus Ordo. I think a lot of his talk was very politic, because he was trying to talk to both sides of the matter, both to challenge "Novus Ordo Catholics" to expand their viewpoint through knowledge of the extraordinary form and to challenge those with an attachment to the extraordinary form not to see it as an absolute.

Joe said...

Thanks for the clarifying note!

I would be interested to speak with him at greater length about these things. I wish I could have made it last night. I decided not too after feeling totally dead after the 7PM Mass at St. John's.

I was speaking a bit less of "trappings" and more of "expression." It is a bit hard to nail down the difference specifically. However, I think that the priest I spoke with was referring to a Novus Ordo Mass celebrated properly and with all the reverence due to any form of the Mass. I believe that his criticism tended less towards abuses and more towards the rupture from past expression in the Missal.

I know there is a good deal of disagreement on the matter of the blame for liturgical abuse, and I certainly respect those who maintain that the fault does not lie with the missal itself. But, it does seem to me to be an oversimplification to claim it is merely a matter of nurture. If I recall rightly, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke at Fontgambault of the specific dangers and abuses that the missal has contributed to through its permissive encouragement of creativity. There were certainly abuses in the past, no doubt about it. The Church has never experienced a mythical golden age. But there seems to have been a radical shift not only in quantity, but also in quality of abuses.

I dunno...just some musings. I wish I could have made it last night. I'm gonna head over the library soon and grovel before Mrs. Krebs for a recording. If that doesn't work, just more reason to get cracking on my plans to construct a DeLorean time machine! ;)

Joe said... many names floating around. I feel sorry for those who aren't familiar with the topic. Must get so confusing wondering what the difference is between the Tridentine Mass, the old Mass, the Gregorian Rite, the Classical Roman Rite, the Usus Antiquior, and the Traditional Latin Mass!

healthily sanguine said...

Yes, those are the hard questions right there for sure. I'm no liturgist, so I can't pretend to have insight into them. Fr. William did say, speaking particularly about the 2002 edition of the Missal, that JPII had added 70 paragraphs to the GIRM (I vaguely remembering being excited about that when it came out) which served the purpose of giving it a stronger theological basis and allowing less wiggle room. He also said that one of the benefits of the Novus Ordo was the updated lectionary with the increased accessibility of the Word of God. I would love to ask him about those two points in private, as well as the issues you bring up. It would be great if we could have him over to our place sometime for tea or something... BTW, I think the talk will become available in a text format, not audio. Unless someone was recording that I didn't notice.

Joe said...

If you succeed with your invitation, I'm there...regardless of the price charged for admission!