Wednesday, 28 August 2013

What sort of Catholic are you?

After my last post it was drawn to my attention that a new phrase to describe the lapsed has entered the politically correct lexicon of our PC aware Church.  The materials for Home Mission Sunday now refer to "Non-Church going Catholics".  

It seems that those who composed the materials are not completely sure that this phrase will be understood by the average person in the pew as it is sometimes used in conjunction (in brackets) with the explanation "lapsed".   I'm uneasy with it as it seems another little nudge to making lapsation acceptable.  (Ironic, considering the context.)

Let us call a spade a spade.  A Catholic who is non-churchgoing is a sinner (I cast no stones in that direction, as I would not like the number that could be thrown back at me!)  Calling the sinner to repent has the pre-requisite that the sin is named, recognised and owned before it can be repented, confessed and forgiven.  

The phrase "non-Churchgoing Catholic" seems to make the lapsed just another variety of Catholic. There are liberal Catholics, Traditional Catholics, cradle Catholics, Charismatic Catholics and ... non-Churchgoing Catholics.  To be non-Churchgoing is a fundamental denial of one's Faith.  Whatever a person's relationship to the Church is, every catholic should be Church-going. They may not be able to or feel able to go to Communion but they should be at Church - that is to say at Mass.  In fact, attending Mass while not receiving communion (for the variety of reasons there can be for that) seems to me to be a truly humble act.  It speaks of someone recognising their sin and taking it seriously.  The non-Churchgoing are often those who feel quite free to walk up to the communion rail and receive at first Communions, Confirmations, weddings and funerals even though it was the last such event that they crossed the threshold.  Often this is not their fault.  They learnt at school that though they never went to Mass from one month to the next with their families on a Sunday, they must all come up to receive Communion at the end of year school Mass (on the grounds that it's not their fault parents didn't take them to Mass and no-one must feel left out).  But if they are not taught the lesson at school the ignorance persists and the lesson they learn from their practical experience is that it's fine to receive Holy Communion whenever you are at Mass, even if you haven't given the Faith a thought for months or years.

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't use gentle persuasion and pastoral care when calling home the lost.  I am suggesting that we should be teaching that to be lost is a threat to the life of the immortal soul and a tragedy.  An American friend of mine calls lapsed Catholics "failed Catholics" (he should know, he was "failed" for may years).  That might appear a tad judgemental as description but perhaps brings my thoughts to the fact that we're all failed Catholics in one way or another.

I think in a general way we need some more emphasis on a brand of Catholic that is much more prevalent in the Church, a category that is the ultimately politically correct one, as it excludes no-one. What category is that?

Sinning Catholics!

Here are some other materials praying for the return of sinners.

Almighty Father, 
You desire not the death of the sinner, but that he may be converted and live.

Pour out upon us Your mercy and hear the prayers of Your servants. 
Soften the hearts of Your children who have strayed from the true path which You established for their salvation. 
They are now forgetful of their duties as Catholics,
and pursue the pleasures of the world. 
Grant that they may quickly return to the practice of every Christian virtue,
so that their lives may shine with the integrity of faith,
the fervour of piety, and the ardour of charity. 
Restore them all to Your sacraments and the life of Your grace,
through the merits of the most precious blood of Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.


Monday, 26 August 2013

The Lapsed

Michael Voris has another typically plain-spoken comment on the state of the Church in this episode of the Vortex above.  His context is the American one but what he says applies just as much over here in the UK.  "The percentage of Catholics who consider themselves STRONG Catholics is at an all time low .. the lowest figure EVER in the nearly 40 years" (of this particular survey). Among the 27% of Catholics "who count themselves as STRONG Catholics only HALF say they attend Mass at least once a week." (53% of the already small 27%) Half of the Catholics who say “I’m a strong Catholic” don’t go to Mass."

I would say, as does the teaching of the Church, that you can't be a "strong Catholic" and not go to Mass each Sunday. It seems that what a "Catholic" is no longer bears much relation to what the Church says it is but is made up by each individual.  

Mr Voris goes on to point out that this is true of teachers in Catholic schools - "authentic Catholic education hasn’t happened in Catholic schools for decades."

In parish catechesis -"Religious instruction in parishes doesn’t exist except by highly opinionated Catholics who have very little knowledge about the Church’s authentic teachings and feel quite free to insert their personal views in place of those teachings."

And among clergy - "Many of the clergy themselves .. MANY of them .. either don’t know the faith or don’t care about it."

Mr Voris conclusion about what's going on is this:
"What IS happening is a never-ending drumbeat of promoting social justice issues .. and as is very obvious by now .. this promotion is being done at the expense of spiritual concerns."
I have said before that the Church in the western world seems to focus only on social justice aspects of the Faith because they are acceptable to the secular world.  It ignores and sidelines the spiritual challenge of the Gospel because it's unpalatable to the world.  Somehow, we've arrived at a point where we long to be acceptable to the world and feel unable to do anything that might be criticised by the liberal secular society around us.  But caring for the poor without caring for the soul is a Faith with the Redemption torn out of it.  C. S. Lewis put this triumph for the devil into clear, easy to understand format in "The Screwtape Letters" where the senior devil Screwtape tells his junior Wormwood that the very best way to undermine the Faith is not to destroy it but to make it empty, not to call forth martyrs but to allow everyone to slide into mediocrity.  “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts, ...Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.” 

St Monica - pray for us.

In other words, keep some of the outward trappings but lose the heart.  Sadly, being lapsed has become respectable.  This Sunday's Gospel (in the OF) recalls the narrow door to Heaven.  This week also sees the feast of St Monica - patron of those whose children have fallen away from the Faith.  We dedicated a little shrine to her here in the parish to remind people to pray for their families and the many, many thousands who have lapsed.  It should never become something we stop caring about. Sadly, our schools and parishes are replete with those who still self-identify as Catholics but are lost to any practice of the Faith.  The old adage of St Cyprian (another North African, like Monica) concerning the lapsed is still true. You cannot have God for your Father if you do not have the Church as your Mother.
The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. (Treatise on the Unity of the Church 6)


Blessed Monica, mother of St. Augustine, 
we give thanks to our Father in heaven 
Who looked with mercy upon your tears over your wayward son. 
His conversion and heroic sanctification were the fruit of your prayers. 
Dear St. Monica, 
we now ask you to pray with us 
for all those sons and daughters that have wandered away from God, 
and to add your prayers to those of all mothers who are worried over their children. 
Pray also for us that, following your example, we may,
 in the company of our children, 
one day enjoy the eternal vision of our Father in heaven. 

See HERE for more

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

From local government - save us O Lord.

His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, and  Archbishop of Bombay, visiting the Santhigiri Ashram in 2012.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias told The Catholic Register on a visit to Toronto earlier this month some of his thoughts about the reforming commission he is part of.  Cardinal Gracias is one of eight cardinals chosen to advise Pope Francis on reforming the Vatican administration. The commission will meet with Francis the first three days of October, but the cardinals have already been talking to each other informally and are planning to meet as a group before their deliberations with the Pope. Each of the eight have met individually with Pope Francis to discuss the commission’s mandate, and Pope Francis has urged the commission to reread Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Evangelii nuntiandi and reflect on the new evangelization.

The interview contains mostly the expected sort of general comments but also a suggestion that bishop's conferences might take a greater role:

More consultation, more understanding of the different situations faced by the Church in different parts of the world, may also mean greater responsibility for national conferences of bishops. 
“They (bishops’ conferences) should take greater responsibility,” said the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. “But it’s both ways. If we are going to take more responsibility... we’ve got to be more responsible, more accountable, more conscious. Right now it’s very comfortable because we know that everything has got to be double checked. So we’re not that serious. If you know that you have more responsibility then you know that more responsibility comes with that, more consciousness, more care, more involvement in problems. That’s simple. That’s good for the Church.”
"more responsible, more accountable, more conscious"

My question would be, "More accountable to whom?"  "More responsible to whom?"  "More conscious of what?"  It has been generally considered that while the bishops conferences have been decentralising from Rome, they have become responsible for the sort of "local" or national centralisation that stifles individual dioceses and individual bishop's initiatives, creating a bland politically correct national church, often keen to climb into bed with politicians and those in power. A centralisation that robs the local church of any colour and initiative - perhaps particularly affecting the ability of the Church to evangelise.  A national church where you have to be in with the in crowd to get anywhere.  In Scotland, the latest appointment of a relative outsider to the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh is instructive.  As is the uproar over the appointment of a couple of some slightly more orthodox bishops here in the UK recently.  Surely, it cannot be that there is no room among a bishop's conference for a little diversity?  Catholic subsidiarity means doing things at the lowest local level - the diocese and the parish, not the nation.

If the bishop's conferences are to be further de-centralised from Rome then to whom are they to be accountable?  Are we to have democratic elections among the Catholic populace to elect them?  The truth is they would become accountable to no-one but themselves.  Strange at a time when virtually all other institutions in the world are moving away from self accountability.  The whole point of an "internal inquiry" is usually precisely to NOT find anyone accountable!

Surely, this "Anglican Province" model would only lead us down the same road as the Anglican Communion - where in fact, the various provinces are hardly in communion with one another at all. Can the good Cardinal not see the failure of such a model?  Let us hope that he is not representative of the wider views of the others on the commission in this area, at least.

The evidence of devolving local government her in the United Kingdom might also be instructive, with the possibility of breaking up the country through the devolved local governments wanting more and more for themselves.

The Holy Father has apparently asked the commission members to reflect on the New Evangelisation.  They might note that all the growing orders and thriving Societies are Traditional in one sense or another.  Also, to re-read Evangelii nuntiandi. Here are some quotes from it they could bear in mind.

3. In order to give a valid answer to the demands of the Council which call for our attention, it is absolutely necessary for us to take into account a heritage of faith that the Church has the duty of preserving in its untouchable purity, and of presenting it to the people of our time, in a way that is as understandable and persuasive as possible.

 5. [Evangelisation] does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people's salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. 

9. As the kernel and centre of His Good News, Christ proclaims salvation, this great gift of God which is liberation from everything that oppresses man but which is above all liberation from sin and the Evil One, in the joy of knowing God and being known by Him, of seeing Him, and of being given over to Him.

14. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.

 16. There is thus a profound link between Christ, the Church and evangelization. During the period of the Church that we are living in, it is she who has the task of evangelizing. This mandate is not accomplished without her, and still less against her.

It is certainly fitting to recall this fact at a moment like the present one when it happens that not without sorrow we can hear people - whom we wish to believe are well-intentioned but who are certainly misguided in their attitude - continually claiming to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church. The absurdity of this dichotomy is clearly evident in this phrase of the Gospel: "Anyone who rejects you rejects me." And how can one wish to love Christ without loving the Church, if the finest witness to Christ is that of St. Paul: "Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her"?

32. We must not ignore the fact that many, even generous Christians who are sensitive to the dramatic questions involved in the problem of liberation, in their wish to commit the Church to the liberation effort are frequently tempted to reduce her mission to the dimensions of a simply temporal project. They would reduce her aims to a man-centred goal; the salvation of which she is the messenger would be reduced to material well-being. Her activity, forgetful of all spiritual and religious preoccupation, would become initiatives of the political or social order. But if this were so, the Church would lose her fundamental meaning. Her message of liberation would no longer have any originality and would easily be open to monopolization and manipulation by ideological systems and political parties. She would have no more authority to proclaim freedom as in the name of God. This is why we have wished to emphasize, in the same address at the opening of the Synod, "the need to restate clearly the specifically religious finality of evangelization. This latter would lose its reason for existence if it were to diverge from the religious axis that guides it: the kingdom of God, before anything else, in its fully theological meaning...."

62. Let us be very careful not to conceive of the universal Church as the sum, or, if one can say so, the more or less anomalous federation of essentially different individual Churches.

64. The more an individual Church is attached to the universal Church by solid bonds of communion, in charity and loyalty, in receptiveness to the Magisterium of Peter, in the unity of the lex orandi which is also the lex credendi, in the desire for unity with all the other Churches which make up the whole- the more such a Church will be capable of translating the treasure of faith into the legitimate variety of expressions of the profession of faith, of prayer and worship, of Christian life and conduct and of the spiritual influence on the people among which it dwells. The more will it also be truly evangelizing, that is to say, capable of drawing upon the universal patrimony in order to enable its own people to profit from it, and capable too of communicating to the universal Church the experience and the life of this people, for the benefit of all.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Beauty of the Mass

I don't often get the opportunity to sit in choir in my own church but for the Missa Cantata on the Assumption I did.  It was a lovely Mass anyway - a decent number of people in church (for a Holyday); the chant, of course; good servers and a glass of wine and some food for everyone afterwards to celebrate a lovely Feast.  Sitting in choro also gave me the opportunity to pray quietly and appreciate, from my side vantage point, how lovely the High Altar now looks as a suitable setting for the Divine Mysteries, drawing the eye onwards and upwards and taking the soul with it.

I noticed as well that there was a very good mix of people from the parish and visitors, although many of our "visitors" are here so often that they are de facto parishioners. As the Assumption is one of the few remaining Holydays of Obligation left to us we had an OF Mass in the morning and this EF in the  evening. However, many of the parishioners who attended were probably people who would never have gone out of their way to attend the EF but now do so regularly and quite happily. Some now prefer it and others are happy to come along to either - they come to THE Mass (the form, so long as well offered, shouldn't be a presenting issue).  Whatever form of the Roman Rite it is, hopefully it is always celebrated with dignity and conducted in an atmosphere of prayer. Fortunately, and as it should be if we keep to the rubrics, there are far fewer differences between the two forms than might have been experienced in the past.  Ad Orientem, Latin, decent vestments and sound teaching are surely the basis of both forms - OF and EF.

Since Sumorum Pontificum has freed up the ancient Form of the Mass so that it can be said in any church at any time, this is surely the future.  The ancient form of the Mass should not be hidden away just for special interest groups but released from captivity into the wilds of parish life.  Thank goodness that the actual offering of the ancient Mass was kept alive by individuals and groups such as the LMS during the years when it almost disappeared.  It is great (as again this week) that the LMS Rep for Liverpool often comes along to St Catherine's. I think it's important that the LMS makes it its business to support the Extraordinary Form in a parish setting where it can become a ordinary part of parish life. In this case, that the Extraordinary should become ordinary is a good thing.  Perhaps it is this outcome that those who opposed Sumorum Pontificum were (rightly) worried about - that people would experience the ancient Mass and like it. 

The parish setting means that the riches and beauty of the ancient Mass are brought into the lives of many more people, bringing a new aspect to their faith lives and that those who perhaps for years have travelled to seek the EF can find a home where they can attend other social and parish events without fear of prejudice and once more belong to a parish community.

The corollary of offering the ancient form of the Mass integrated into a regular parish timetable is that it has a knock-on effect on the celebration of the Ordinary Form. It enriches and gives interest to both priest and parishioners and can enliven and move the liturgy on from the stale old "liturgy groups" asking "what hymns shall we have" and what "theme" shall we have for Mass this week?  However, it still takes a a bit of courage to make the step.  I get the impression that many more priests would like to do so but are still concerned about reactions in the parish and, more to the point, reactions in the diocese should anyone complain.  (Although there would be nothing to "complain" about because, as it is as legitimate to offer the EF as the OF.)  Starting on a weekday is reasonably easy, using feasts as the next stepping stone is also easy, but a Sunday celebration is the thing.  So it's really up to people who have already discovered the benefits of the ancient form off Mass to request it of their priests and for priests to respond generously and positively.  It's also up to priests to introduce it to their people as well.

To go back to where I started this post, what a difference it can make to the priest's experience of celebrating the Mass.  So come on Fathers, I know you bought those EF Missals - let's get them off the study shelf and onto the altar!

Preparations in the sacristy beforehand

Arriving at the sanctuary

Prayers at the foot of the altar

Up we go.

Some of that sound preaching!

 The Offertory

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Are you serious?

The coronation of King Richard III  in Westminster Abbey in 1483 by Cardinal Thomas Bourchier - a Catholic.

It seems that the remains of King Richard III are to be interred in Leicester Cathedral after all - with the Rites of the Anglican Communion.  The local Catholic bishop, Malcolm McMahon is, in accordance with ecumenical practice, "happy to take part in any form of ceremony which takes place to mark his final burial.”

No representations seem to have been forthcoming from any Catholic Bishop or the Bishop's Conference.  What a pity.  It seems plain to me that a Catholic should be given Catholic rites.  Would I want my Catholic grandparents remains to be re-interred with the rites of a denomination foreign to them?  I don't think so.  Should my remains ever have to be moved after burial, I would hope my original wishes and faith would be respected.  King Richard is not to be so fortunate.

That no official Catholic interest in giving Catholic Rites for Catholic King have been forthcoming is perhaps indicative of a wider malaise within the Church - certainly here in the West.  My suspicion is that it is just not thought to be important.  This is the same attitude as is displayed in varying ways to all the Sacraments in our day. A sign that we don't take religion seriously any more - not even in the church.  A complete loss of confidence.  If we don't take it seriously, ignoring our own teachings, how can we expect anyone outside the Church to take us seriously?  No wonder evangelization is nigh on impossible. 

To use the Sacraments as examples:

Baptism is delayed until the family happens to get around to it or the school asks for a certificate to get the child into a Catholic School.  No importance is attached to the removal of Original Sin, no importance is attached to giving the child a relationship with the Church and the community of salvation. No importance is given to the promises made to bring the child up in the practice of the Faith - the words are said but not taken seriously as promises.
How to take seriously the most important event in your life.

No one goes to Confession any more.  No one takes seriously the need for forgiveness, presumably because people do not believe they are sinning, or if they are, it really doesn't matter - either for their reception at Holy Communion or for entrance into Heaven.
Sinners seem to have been banned from the Church.

First Communion is sadly, a joke for the most part.  There has been heavy stress since Vatican II on this as part of the process of initiation - one of the Sacraments of Initiation.  However, we all know that the vast majority of those receiving it have not been initiated into the Faith, are not going to be brought on in it and are highly unlikely to be at Mass the following Sunday.  We keep on giving it to the children of families that show no signs of carrying out the promises they made at Baptism.  We do not take it seriously. Perhaps because if we did, there would be so few children making First Communion that we really would have to do something about the crisis - like admitting there is one  - but as no one appears to know how to tackle it, best to continue with head buried firmly in sand.  The obligation to attend Sunday Mass is simply ignored - even by those who do, for the most part, come regularly to Mass. It is not thought important to put Mass before entertainment, recreation or a lie-in on a Sunday morning. A general selfishness of what suits me rather than any relation to the meaning of the sacrament.
I see absolutely no problems!

Confirmation is supposed to be the completion of the Sacraments of Initiation.  In other words, the initiation process is completed.  Yet I hear it described as a means for those lapsed from the Church to "re-connect". The Sacrament is used as an evangelising tool instead of grace offered to those completing the initiation process. (Not that it works as an evangelising tool, for I've tried doing that myself in the past.)
In the Traditional Form of Confirmation the Bishop slapped your face. Could do with bringing that back!

Weddings.  Oh my!  Apart from the fact that there are so few of them, most Catholics don't appear to see them as at all necessary.  A party for when you can afford all the fripperies is all that a wedding is. Not necessary to express or support commitment.  Not necessary for the raising of children. The vast majority of Catholics, even those coming to be married, have completely taken on the attitude of the secular world. Any Catholic understanding of Marriage is completely alien to them.  Most couples coming along (never seen before) have no idea that they should not even be coming to Holy communion should they start attending Mass.  
The Church - a suitable backdrop for "my perfect day."

And so we return to King Richard and the final Rites.  Although it's provided by many dedicated hospital chaplains there are very few Catholics for whom receiving the Last Rites is high on their agenda.  In older parish death registers there is a place for noting if they were given but no one worries about that any more, let alone praying for the deceased at a Requiem Mass.  Surely, as they were baptised (aged 4 to get into the school)
went to Confession (once) 
received First Communion (the last time they were in church before their wedding)
were allowed to be married in church
and had a lovely 'celebration of life' Mass for their funeral
surely, they will go straight to Heaven (where they are not dead but have only slipped into the room next door).
Anything you want - and heaven too.

Am I painting a rather bleak picture - yes.  I fear it is for the most part a true one.  Over the centuries when a Religious Order lost its way, a great leader, a saint, rises up to call it back to its original charism.  Some great leaders, saints, are what we need today to call us back to our original charism.  Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will send us such - and soon - to call us back to the Faith.  In the meantime it's up to each individual to start from themselves - bishop, priest or lay person.  It's not lost, it's all there written down in the Scriptures, the Catechism, the Documents of the Councils, the words of the Sacraments.  All we have to do is start doing and believing what they say.  Along with many others, I believe that the primary place where people experience the Faith - the source and summit (to quote a recent Council) - is one of the most important places to be called back to faithfulness, to start taking seriously again.  The Mass must look like the Mass of Ages and not like a children's playgroup if we are to begin taking it seriously again - along with the rest of the Faith.

Down we go.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Is the Old Mass boring for children?

I am having a busy week of training for the altar servers - a sort of training / retreat morning each day. For some unfathomable reason, parents seemed really quite keen to leave their children at church for a few mornings during the summer holidays!  

The training is for those who mostly serve the Ordinary Form of Mass but on Tuesdays we celebrate the Extraordinary Form, so they came on to serve and were marshalled through the Mass, doing most of the serving under instruction at the time. I must say, they were very attentive and watched avidly.  Their opinion afterwards among the typical 12 year old... "The time went very quickly."

So it seems that silence, unfamiliar ritual and the Latin language are not the cause of boredom for children at Mass after all.

I never doubted it!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Plain speaking Popes

Pope Francis may be presented by the media as a pope who speaks his mind but this is no new thing. Corpus Christi Watershed draw attention to Pope Paul VI's Sacrificium Laudis, sent to religious groups obliged to the choral recitation of the divine office on 15th August 1966, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He insists that Latin is to be maintained most especially in the light of the (then) recent prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council - and tells Religious Communities to obey what he tells them.  He says that he is "saddened and disturbed" by requests for latin to be abandoned in preference for the vernacular and even hints at dark forces at work behind such innovations, "One may well wonder what the origin is of this new way of thinking and this sudden dislike for the past; one may well wonder why these things have been fostered."  

The prescriptions of the Second Vatican still remain in force in this area and still are ingored in so many parts of the Church:   "It is not an excessive love of old ways that prompts them... they derive, rather concern for divine worship."

He states that abandoning the beauty, spiritual power and civilising influence of Latin Gregorian Chant  "would certainly bring a sickness and sadness upon the whole Church of God."

He wasn't wrong!

Here is the bulk of the letter - it's great stuff:

From letters which some of you have sent, and from many other sources, We learn that discordant practices have been introduced into the sacred liturgy by your communities or provinces (We speak of those only that belong to the Latin Rite.) For while some are very faithful to the Latin language, others wish to use the vernacular within the choral office. Others, in various places, wish to exchange that chant which is called Gregorian for newly-minted melodies. Indeed, some even insist that Latin should be wholly suppressed.
We must acknowledge that We have been somewhat disturbed and saddened by these requests. One may well wonder what the origin is of this new way of thinking and this sudden dislike for the past; one may well wonder why these things have been fostered.
Yet those things that We have mentioned are occurring even though the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council has after due deliberation declared its mind in solemn fashion (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 101, 1), and after the publication of clear norms in subsequent Instructions. In the first Instruction (ad exsecutionem Constitutionis de sacra Liturgia recte ordinandam), published on 26 September 1964, it was decreed as follows:
In celebrating the divine office in choir, clerics are bound to preserve the Latin language (n. 85).
In the second Instruction (de lingua in celebrandis Officio divino et Missa “conventuali” aut “communitatis” apud Religiosos adhibenda), published on 23 November 1965, that law was reinforced, and at the same time due consideration was shown for the spiritual advantage of the faithful and for the special conditions which prevail in missionary territories. Therefore, for as long as no other lawful provision is made, these laws are in force and require the obedience in which religious must excel, as dear sons of holy Church.
What is in question here is not only the retention within the choral office of the Latin language, though it is of course right that this should be eagerly guarded and should certainly not be lightly esteemed. For this language is, within the Latin Church, an abundant well-spring of Christian civilization and a very rich treasure-trove of devotion. But it is also the seemliness, the beauty and the native strength of these prayers and canticles which is at stake: the choral office itself, “the lovely voice of the Church in song” (Cf. St Augustine’s Confessions, Bk 9, 6). Your founders and teachers, the holy ones who are as it were so many lights within your religious families, have transmitted this to you. The traditions of the elders, your glory throughout long ages, must not be belittled. Indeed, your manner of celebrating the choral office has been one of the chief reasons why these families of yours have lasted so long, and happily increased. It is thus most surprising that under the influence of a sudden agitation, some now think that it should be given up.
In present conditions, what words or melodies could replace the forms of Catholic devotion which you have used until now? You should reflect and carefully consider whether things would not be worse, should this fine inheritance be discarded. It is to be feared that the choral office would turn into a mere bland recitation, suffering from poverty and begetting weariness, as you yourselves would perhaps be the first to experience. One can also wonder whether men would come in such numbers to your churches in quest of the sacred prayer, if its ancient and native tongue, joined to a chant full of grave beauty, resounded no more within your walls. We therefore ask all those to whom it pertains, to ponder what they wish to give up, and not to let that spring run dry from which, until the present, they have themselves drunk deep.
Of course, the Latin language presents some difficulties, and perhaps not inconsiderable ones, for the new recruits to your holy ranks. But such difficulties, as you know, should not be reckoned insuperable. This is especially true for you, who can more easily give yourselves to study, being more set apart from the business and bother of the world. Moreover, those prayers, with their antiquity, their excellence, their noble majesty, will continue to draw to you young men and women, called to the inheritance of our Lord. On the other hand, that choir from which is removed this language of wondrous spiritual power, transcending the boundaries of the nations, and from which is removed this melody proceeding from the inmost sanctuary of the soul, where faith dwells and charity burns – We speak of Gregorian chant – such a choir will be like to a snuffed candle, which gives light no more, no more attracts the eyes and minds of men.
In any case, beloved Sons, the requests mentioned above concern such grave matters that We are unable to grant them, or to derogate now from the norms of the Council and of the Instructions noted above. Therefore we earnestly beseech you that you would consider this complex question under all its aspects. From the good will which we have toward you, and from the good opinion which we have of you, We are unwilling to allow that which could make your situation worse, and which could well bring you no slight loss, and which would certainly bring a sickness and sadness upon the whole Church of God. Allow Us to protect your interests, even against your own will. It is the same Church which has introduced the vernacular into the sacred liturgy for pastoral reasons, that is, for the sake of people who do not know Latin, which gives you the mandate of preserving the age-old solemnity, beauty and dignity of the choral office, in regard both to language, and to the chant.
Obey, then, these prescriptions sincerely and calmly. It is not an excessive love of old ways that prompts them. They derive, rather, from Our fatherly love for you, and from Our concern for divine worship.