When the Holy Father issued the Motu Proprio, I was incredibly overjoyed! I knew that this would not bring the Latin Mass to my parish in a day, but I was much more hopeful that the beautiful Mass of all times would be more available to me and to many young people who have never assisted at one. When was the Motu Proprio issued? 2007? Well, in general one can say that it’s been a success.
There have been many visible effects which can be witnessed. For one, there have been a number of successful training conferences hosted in various regions of the world for priests and seminarians interested in learning about the usus antiquior. The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales hosted such a conference at Merton College, Oxford, in the summers of 2007 and 2008 and is hosting another this summer. The Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius sent their priests as far away as Eastern Europe to offer similar training and recently held a spring training session in Chicago. They have even coordinated sessions for the laity. On top of this, the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter and the Institute of Christ the King have also organised similar training sessions with great success. More continue to be planned and interest continues to be expressed. While the numbers of priests who have attended these conferences so far is not going to be in the thousands so much as the hundreds, the fact is that it is yet hundreds who have begun to walk the road toward the celebration of the ancient Roman liturgy. Aside from training, there has also been a noticeable increase of Masses now being offered in the extraordinary form worldwide
Some of the most encouraging of these developments are those now being offered at Catholic university campuses where they were not previously offered. Numbers are less the issue here than is the fact of the spread of this liturgy to areas in an academic environment where youth will be able to more readily partake of it, learn from it and be inspired by it. As far as parishes are concerned, it is difficult to gauge what the precise response has so far been, but certainly gains have been made on this front and in the U.S. (it’ll take a little longer in Europe) it is quite common to hear of parish priests now offering the usus antiquior in addition to the regular slate of Masses in the modern form. While this is not the significant majority of priests and parishes of course – again, that wouldn’t be realistic to expect at this point – the gains are nonetheless noteworthy.
However, there sadly has been no change in my area.
The Holy Father has established that in the central sector of the Diocese of Rome, in the 1st District, and in a fitting place of worship, namely, the Church of Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini should be erected a personal parish, in order to guarantee proper pastoral care for the entire community of Traditional faithful (the tenth full personal parish and the first in Europe for the Fraternity of St. Peter, I believe) but it’s a couple of hours drive for me. The Latin Mass is not only something they offer, it is their Rite on a daily basis. All they do, all their sacraments, societies and activities are based on their being a TLM community. It is a parish without boundaries for this reason. How I wish I could be a part of that! But it is not possible. It is too far away.
When I assist at the TLM at the Rome parish, I know for sure that it is my true Rite. It was taken away from me in my youth, but it never left me! I am not against Novus Ordo. And it could be beautifully done. Sadly, however, there is not unity on this. When you go to a TLM, people want to be there and love the Mass and fully participate in it and know exactly what they are doing at each phase and why. All are on the same wavelength. When you go to a Novus Ordo Mass, some people appreciate the partial use of Latin in some churches. Others resent it. Some feel offended at seeing women do what the priest is supposed to do and others cry out for more women inclusion. Some priests want to celebrate the Novus Ordo Mass the way it should be. Others shape certain things to their own liking. Some talk, some listen, some sing. Personally, I cannot stand the ridiculous ‘songs’ many insist on screeching out Sunday after Sunday during the NOM.
There are no plans to have the TLM at my parish nor any plans to have a TLM community in my own diocese. Perhaps they will when I am dead. I believe with all my heart that we would all be better off for it.
The Motu Proprio is bringing many benefits to the Church. For those priests who have not dared offer Mass according to the ancient usage, the Motu Proprio will give them the ability to exercise their priesthood in a way never before permitted. They will be able to discover in this rite what it means to be a priest. And this is a great grace for them. As they are formed by the traditional liturgy, many will find it increasingly difficult to return to the hodge podge of the reformed Mass. They will want to be sacrificing priests, mediators between God and man, and not just a ‘presider’ of some kind of social banquet. Likewise, the laity will discover or rediscover what it means to pray, what it means to stand or kneel before the living God, something they will virtually never see in the self-adoring liturgies in many parishes. They will, if they follow a Missal, learn what grace is, what sin is, what the conversion of souls means, what self-denial is, and that the heretics and schismatics really do exist and need to be prayed for so that they may return to the one and only Fold of Christ.
The Pope believes that the Motu Proprio will help the new rite to re-stabilize. But it is more likely that exposure to the Church’s true liturgy will open the eyes of priests and laity enough that they will forsake the novelties all together. What priest will want to go back to the cult of Man when he discovers what it is to worship God? What layman or laywoman, if they are serious about the Faith, will want to go back to the parish priests’ personal liturgies or children’s Masses, or family Masses? Who will prefer to stand in line for communion, like at McDonald’s, for their spiritual food when they can kneel at the altar rail to receive their Lord and God Jesus Christ in humility and adoration?