July 20, 2007
A Shepherd’s Message
By Archbishop Daniel N. DiNardo
On July 7 the Holy Father issued an Apostolic Letter accompanied by a personal letter concerning the use of what has become known as the Tridentine Mass or the Tridentine Missal. The Pope does not use that terminology; rather, he emphasizes the unity of the Roman Rite. In doing so he seeks to clarify the continuity in the Roman Rite, particularly with the publication of the Roman Missal by Pope Paul VI in 1970. He writes that both Missals are expressions of the one “law of Prayer” (lex orandi) in the Church. The Missal of Paul VI in 1970 is to be regarded as the ordinary form of the law of praying while that of the Missal of Pope Paul V in 1570, whose last edition was in 1962 under Blessed Pope John XXIII, is to be considered the extraordinary form of that same law of praying. It is a two fold use of one and the same rite.
In doing this the Holy Father has permitted a more generous use of the older Missal particularly for those who have been and remain attached with love and affection to that previous liturgical form. In his personal letter accompanying his “Motu Proprio” the Pope mentions that John Paul II had already granted use of the older form of the Rite in 1988 but had not given any detailed prescriptions or precise canonical norms on its use. Pope Benedict is supplying such norms by his new decree and also supplies norms to avoid divisions within parish communities. The Pope also hopes that the use of the older form will allow the new Missal, still the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, to be celebrated with great reverence in greater harmony with the liturgical directives contained in the new Missal.
The Holy Father also explains that his positive motivation for doing this was to come to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. He wants to offer a way to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity within the Church so that divisions do not harden on these liturgical matters. “In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too…..It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”
The Pope’s decree contains 12 articles on the use of the 1962 Missal. They are given in this issue of The Texas Catholic Herald on page five. As the local Shepherd of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, I certainly want to see the law and spirit of the Pope’s decree upheld. We already have a weekly celebration of the older Rite at Annunciation Parish in downtown Houston. It must be admitted, as the Holy Father himself writes, that there are not many who have the formation in Latin to understand the older forms. That would also include many of our priests. Further, a large number of our priests have never celebrated the older rite. Finally, the multiple celebrations of the Eucharist on Sunday in our parishes already due to our growing population and the number of Masses on weekends that our pastors and priests are already celebrating creates a series of “logistical” issues for many, if not most, of our parishes. We will have to see how requests for the older rite from a “stable” group of the faithful will work out in practice. I am also not opposed to the possibility of the erection of a personal parish for celebrations of the older form of the Roman Rite.
Mass is already celebrated in 14 or more languages each weekend in our archdiocese. In addition, there are 5 different Eastern Rites in our archdiocesan territory: the Ruthenian Byzantine, Ukrainian Byzantine, Maronite, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara, plus a chapel of the Melkite Byzantine Rite as well as occasional celebrations of the Ethiopian Rite by one of our priests for some members of that Eastern Rite community. Finally there is a parish of what is called “Anglican Rite Usage,” for those Catholics who have come to us from the Anglican communion. We have incredible variety. This is why the unity of faith, the “handing on of what we have received,” as St. Paul states it, is so crucial and so much a part of what I see as my own responsibility in this magnificent local Church of Galveston-Houston. The unity of our Catholic Profession of Faith and our communion with the Holy Father is all the more crucial given such rich diversity in this part of God’s Kingdom in southeast Texas. May the ancient “law of believing” (lex credendi) and “law of praying” (lex orandi) be both so saturated by charity, witness and outreach, especially to the poor and the stranger, that we will be a most credible sign of the Catholic Church.