Monday, December 28, 2015

Reason 7 Why the New Mass beats our the Old Rite

Fiat Lux: CardinalBurke chooses
to remain in the dark.   

I admit that one of my serious flaws is that I am a bit ADHD.  I never focus.  I am all over the lot with the things I do and the interests I have.  And it gets reflected in this blog as the various series I start take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to finish.  That Anglican history thing has been running for God-alone-knows-how-long now—and we are just at the Oxford Movement.  Of course part of that is that it does take a lot more research than other topics on which I write.  And I can easily get lost in the detail—but again that is a sign of my attention issues.  And the series on why the revised rites of Vatican II are superior to the pre-conciliar rites—a response to the ever-supercilious Professor Peter Kwasniewski of Wyoming Catholic College, that Notre Dame of the western prairies who wrote a remarkably shallow posting arguing the contrary position on Rorate Caeli.  I really need to focus on over the next couple of weeks tie up this series. 
I watched Pope Francis celebrated the Mass During the Night (once known as Midnight Mass) at Saint Peter’s Basilica this last Thursday evening.  (I watched it on television, of course, though I have often been at the Christmas Mass in person, even having a seat in the capella papale due to the generosity of a friend of mine who is a senior prelate in that world the other side of the Roman looking glass but who, “to preserve my (his) sanity wouldn’t be caught dead at one of those curial drag shows.”)   And I went to Christmas morning Mass at my parish.  I can’t believe that anyone would prefer the usus antiquior over the contemporary rite.  Both the papal Mass on television and our parish Mass were spectacular.  They were reverent.  The music was exquisite.  They were intelligible—both in regard to vernacular language (well, ok, the pope said the prayers of the Mass in Latin—which is a vernacular to me so I sometimes don’t notice—but the readings were in the language(s) of the assembly as were the prayers of the faithful.  Oh, yes, that is another difference in the rites—the novus ordo has the prayers of the Church.)  The music in our parish—led by a cantor but also helped out by a six-voice schola cantorum included both the old (traditional Christmas carols in both Latin and English) and the new (including a lovely piece by John Rutter called “Mary’s Lullaby.”)  What the parish Mass created was a sense of bonding among the worshippers that led people not to rush home but to stay around the church and chat over cocoa and Christmas cookies for over an hour.  It was the sort of environment that makes one want to come to Church. 
Well, enough about that.  Let’s get to reason number 7 in our list. 
The Liturgy introduces us to the life of discipleship as we follow the saints through the Church year. 
In the pre-conciliar rites there were plenty of Saints’ days.  In fact we had more saints than days, leading to pile-ups of collects at the beginning of each Mass as prior to the 1962 Missal revision, each collect had to be said in a sort of string of prayers at the beginning of each Mass.  There could be as many as seven collects said on an ordinary day.  I don’t want to say that there is any such thing as too many saints but frankly before Vatican II there were too many saints commemorated in the Liturgy.  Even Lent and Advent were overrun with saints confusing the focus of the liturgy and diverting from the temporal cycle.  The revised calendar trimmed back the number of saints commemorated in the Liturgy, leaving some saints of dubious provenance without a feast day.
Beginning back as far as the pontificate of Pius XII, so beloved of the traditionalists, there were attempts to scale back the Roman Calendar of Saints.  There was also from the time of Pius forward an increase of canonizations of more contemporary saints who were not just names or the subjects of somewhat outlandish hagiography but who could serve as real models for people in today’s world.  More and more saints were named from among the laity (though still not a proportionate number to the laity in the Church.)  The recently canonized Zelie and Louis Martin, a married couple (and parents of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux), are one example of recent saints.  Pier Giorgio Frassati, Gianna Molla, are other examples.  Among the religious you have Saint Marianne Cope, an American (though German-born) Franciscan Sister who worked alongside Father Damien at Molokai.  Pino Puglisi was an Italian priest murdered in 1993 for his opposition to the Mafia.  Jerzy Popieluszko was a Polish priest murdered by the Marxist government of that country for leading the Solidarity resistance.  Katherine Drexel was a wealthy American heiress who devoted her life and her fortune to educating Native American and African-American children. 
There are some interesting people in the “saint pipeline,” my favorite being Dorothy Day, an American social reformer and political radical whom Pope Francis mentioned in his address to Congress.  I am sure that is a boost to her cause.  Dorothy Day is a particularly important model because she had resorted to an abortion in her pre-Catholic youth.   Another person whose cause has not yet been formally introduced but who is being looked at is Monika Helwig, a German-born British citizen who was a leading American theologian.  Helwig had been a religious sister but with the encouragement of her superiors left religious life to pursue a theological education.  (The Constitutions of her religious congregation limited the work of the Sisters to Missionary and Medical work that precluded a theological education).  Helwig continued to live her vows as a lay woman and adopted three children and raised them as a single mother.  She was known not only for her theological prowess (she was chair of the Theology Department at Georgetown University) but for her charitable work and for her involvement in her parish.  As she died quite recently (2005), it is early for a formal process but her papers have all been carefully archived in anticipation and testimonies to her character have been collected. 
The calendar revisions which accompanied the 1970 reform of the Roman Rite retained the classic saints: the Apostles and other New Testament figures, the early Martyrs mentioned in the Roman canon, Martin, Patrick, Benedict as well as outstanding examples of faith or charity such as Thomas More, Vincent de Paul, the Curé of Ars and others.  It also made room for significant new saints such as the Korean Andrew Kim and companions, the Vietnamese Andrew Dung-Lac and companions, the Ugandan Charles Lwanga and companions, Edith Stein, Mary MacKillop and others.  The revised rite and calendar give us plenty of saints, including somewhat contemporary ones, from whose lives to draw the lessons of Christian faithfulness.  At the same time the calendar is structured to keep the focus of Advent and Lent on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.  Even such historically important figures as Patrick, Peter Damian, or Saint George get optional memorials, permitting but not requiring their feast to be celebrated. 
Thus there are plenty of saints including contemporaries but not so many that we lose sight of the story of Redemption that unfolds in the Temporal Cycle.  
By the way, one reader recently asked for the dates of the previous entries in this cycle.  The Professor in me is inclined to day: do your own damn research.  It isn't that hard with the label list on the right hand side of this page.  But I just happen to have the dates at hand, so here goes:
10 23 15
10 10 15
8   31  15
7   28  15
7   23  15
7   20  15
7   17  15
7   14  15

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