From the Pastor: Tenth Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum
Ten years ago, July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated an Apostolic Letter, “Summorum Pontificum”, which, among other related things, expressly allowed all Latin Rite priests in good standing to celebrate, both privately and publicly, the Traditional Latin Mass using the 1962 Missal. Even before the letter came out it was opposed, as we see at the beginning of the letter accompanying Summorum which the Pope addressed to the bishops of the world. “The document was most directly opposed on account of two fears, which I would like to address somewhat more closely in this letter. In the first place, there is fear that the document detracts from the authority of the Second Vatican Council, one of whose essential decisions--the liturgical reform--is being called into question. This fear is unfounded... In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio (Summorum Pontificum), that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities. This fear also strikes me as unfounded...”
In the place of the ellipses (...) in the above quote, Pope Benedict gave his explanations as to why the fears of those already opposing the document (or, more precisely, opposing the Mass which, though undergoing occasional modifications through the centuries, had been in use worldwide for nearly 1500 years prior to 1970) were either unfounded or should be easily addressed by the bishops. Unfortunately, it was, by and large, the bishops themselves who were the instigators and perpetrators of such unmerited fearmongering, and, therefore, rather than working to alleviate them, they worked all the more to make them worse. But a funny thing happened even in the face of extreme opposition (with very few exceptions) from the bishops. The priests who were asked to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, like me, and the lay people who were invited to attend it, like many of you, loved the Mass anyway! I am not writing about those who already had an affinity to the TLM, who knew it from their youth or from somewhere in their past, and who always wished it would be more widely available. No, I am pointing out that people, both priests and laity, who had absolutely no prior knowledge of the TLM, who had no memories, fond or otherwise, of the TLM, those who previously never understood why anyone would want to “go back to the dark ages” or to the “bad old days” when the priest “turned his back to the people” and “nobody understood anything” and the “little old ladies clutched their beads” to escape the boredom of the Latin Mass (as the past fifty years of terrible catechesis has drilled into the social psyche), when finally learning the TLM and experiencing the TLM embraced it as they never embraced the Novus Ordo Mass ever before.
Think about this just a bit. Neither I nor any parish priests my age or younger, had any knowledge of the Traditional Latin Mass. All of us grew up with the Novus Ordo Mass as the only, and, hence,“normal” Mass. All of us embraced the NO Mass because we realized that it was the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the only sacrifice truly worthy to offer to the Father in order to bring us salvation. We embraced the NO Mass because through it the miracle of Transubstantiation took place and our Lord and God was made present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, upon the altar and given to us for our spiritual nourishment. Each of us was called by God to become a priest according to the Order of Melchizedek, with Apostolic Succession going all the way back to Jesus Himself ordaining His Apostles. We most certainly did not despise the Novus Ordo Mass, were not lukewarm to the Novus Ordo Mass, nor were we just OK with the Novus Ordo Mass. We LOVED the Novus Ordo Mass. And yet, without any exceptions of which I am aware, the priests of whom I write, when called upon to learn and to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, LOVED IT EVEN MORE! We all felt “ripped off” by not having had the ability to grow up with this beautiful Mass. It made us realize just how trivial and childish (not: childlike) and, perhaps, even sacrilegious, so many abuses to the Mass (which we had thought of as “innovative” and “welcoming” and “exhilarating”), including those we witnessed growing up, those taught and modeled in seminary, and those we ourselves had done, really were. We saw the glory of the prayers and the focus on the true Sacrifice of the Son to the Father which the TLM brings out and the NO left out. We cried in repentance and sorrow for what had been lost and what is still considered by the majority (of bishops, priests, and laity) to be somehow “evil” or, at best, “to be tolerated”. Yet now we who know the TLM rejoice and give thanks to God, for, through Summorum Pontificum, what once was lost has now been found.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka