Thursday, June 28, 2007

July 7

I have written before about the motu proprio, expressing my opinions, both positive and negative.

It now appears that a specific date for the release of the motu proprio has been assigned, and that a week from this Saturday we will have the document, know all its particulars, and look forward to its implementation.

Many people have written extensively about this; I would go here for the most thorough and analytical information.

Some people think that this motu proprio is an unprecedented reversal of an earlier Church decision. Granted, a decision about liturgy doesn't fall under the "faith and morals" realm, and therefore is neither infallible nor irreversible; the same authority that allowed the Church to change the Mass in the first place is now more than allowed to rethink those changes, and take whatever actions it deems appropriate. If the Church were to forbid the Novus Ordo Mass altogether at some point in the future there would be nothing in that decision to shake the faith of the most fervent admirer of Marty Haugen music and felt-banner architecture; anyone who would allow his faith to be shaken by a broader permission for the TLM might want to spend some time in prayerful contemplation about the depth of his faith.

A similar situation took place in the year 1456. The issue wasn't liturgy; the issue was whether or not representatives of the Church had acted rightly or wrongly in convicting Joan of Arc of treason, and sentencing her to death. An exhaustive retrial was held; major places where Joan had lived or gone into battle were visited, and as many eyewitnesses to her life and deeds as could be found were carefully interviewed about her actions, her mode of life, and her visions. All of this took place twenty-five years after her death, at the request of her mother and other family members.

I imagine that some among her family and friends were somewhat bitter. Twenty-five years! What a long time to wait, and for what? If only the Church had scrutinized things a little more closely at the second trial, instead of allowing angry partisans to undo the results of the first trial of 1429, the one where a panel of clergymen had found that Joan was a good Christian and pure in motive. But now, after twenty-five long years, the Church was going to re-examine all the evidence against Joan, long since executed, dying in ignominy? Even when they began to suspect that the trial was going to be a triumph for them I wonder if they weren't still a little angry, and very sad.

On the other hand were the private thoughts of some, perhaps, who had decided against Joan, or who had approved of the decision against her. How agonizing all of this must have seemed! If they had been wrong, then they had put an innocent woman to death, caught up in the madness of war and the exaltation of their own personal feelings about the Maid. Some of them may even have been tempted to think that they hadn't been, couldn't have been wrong; and if the Church declared them wrong now, well then, it must be the Church that is wrong, this time.

But on behalf of the Church, the inquisitor of the Faith, Jean Brehal, carefully examined all of the evidence, and he couldn't help but see Joan's holiness shining through all of the testimony.

The Church is like that; she may be wrong, occasionally, on prudential matters, but if some imprudent decision is brought to her attention she tends to move slowly, carefully, exhaustively in the direction of what is good and true, drawn to what is of God as surely as a moth is drawn to a flame. The decision to reform the liturgy was not, I believe, wrong, but the sudden and complete suppression of the older Mass may very well have been a misguided choice; and the patience with those who played with the New Mass as if it were a garish toy seems foolish to us now, just as the people of 1456 could see with twenty-five years' hindsight just how wrong the decision to condemn and execute Joan of Arc had been.

And so there will be great and understandable joy among those who truly love the TLM on the day the motu proprio is issued; their patience rewarded, their faith affirmed. Even those of us for whom this isn't an earthshaking event will find cause to rejoice; anything which furthers and enriches the Kingdom of God on earth is worth celebrating.

I'm sure that the vast majority of the people of Joan's day felt the same way, when the nullification trial reached its momentous verdict: that Joan was not a heretic, that she was innocent of all the charges, that no taint of infamy should remain attached to her at all.

I'm sure they rejoiced when that verdict was announced on that day in 1456:

July 7.


Tracie said...

I hope the release of the MP will usher in much needed reform of the NO mass. I used to attend a TLM, and while I loved it dearly I know that many (including myself) were not necessarily running *to* the TLM so much as we were running *away from* the abuses and irreverence in our NO parishes. I certainly know that in my own case, I would have much preferred to attend the mass 10 minutes from my home, with the other Catholics in my community, than driving 45 minutes one way.

4andcounting said...

Interesting post. I'm glad that those who feel more connected to the Latin Mass will (hopefully) have more access to it and find their faith rejuvenated by it.

Anonymous said...

Tracie, I agree. The NO has just allowed so much abuse and irreverence. The question can be raised and argued ad infinitum whether the NO itself allows it to happen or not. There is definitely more openness to customization in it. There is not that same openness in the traditional Latin Mass. And there is reform coming, it seems, in the translations for the NO. The fact is, something needs done because we can't have all these horrible things going on in our liturgy which is our worship to God. I think that is why many are drawn to it. Many will not tolerate the abuses and messes they see in their local NO. Our bishops often do nothing about it. So what can you do? The traditional Latin Mass simply does not have those same problems. The prayers do tend to be more reverent and beautiful. There is a vast wealth in it, as our Pope has said. The Church cannot and must not lose that.