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Musical Musings: Liturgy

On Summorum pontificum

Apostolic Letter (Motu proprio) on the Use of Pre-conciliar Liturgical Forms
– Benedict XVI

analysis by Gary D. Penkala

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI On Saturday, July 7, 2007, the Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI, released on his own initiative (or motu proprio), entitled Summorum pontificum, was published in Rome at 12:00 noon. It is to take effect on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, 2007.

The document, after having been previewed a week earlier by a select group of cardinals and bishops, was released with an accompanying letter to the bishops of the world. The pope, in a pastoral and catechetical tone, explains the history of the Mass of the Roman Rite, from Pope Saint Pius V to the present day. He stresses the great concept of continuity, vital to the development of any liturgical forms, and how the perception of discontinuity or "rupture" is so very foreign to both Vatican II and the future development of the rite.

According to Pope Benedict, there is only one Rite, with two Uses: the ordinary use will be the form found in the Missal of Paul VI (1969), with its current revisions as found in the Roman Missal of 2001 issued by Servant of God John Paul II. This has hitherto been informally called the "Novus Ordo" Mass. The extraordinary use will be the form found in the Missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962), the seventh typical edition of the Missal promulgated by Pope Saint Pius V in 1570. This has been called the "Tridentine" Mass. Both uses are legitimate, and may co-exist in each parish, if so desired by the parishioners.

Various versions of the full documents are available online:

What does Summorum pontificum mean for bishops?

The pope alluded to concerns that many bishops may have had about "losing control of the liturgy" in their dioceses. He writes:

Dear Brothers, I very much wish to stress that these new norms do not in any way lessen your own authority and responsibility, either for the liturgy or for the pastoral care of your faithful. Each Bishop, in fact, is the moderator of the liturgy in his own Diocese. Nothing is taken away, then, from the authority of the Bishop, whose role remains that of being watchful that all is done in peace and serenity. Should some problem arise which the parish priest cannot resolve, the local Ordinary will always be able to intervene, in full harmony, however, with all that has been laid down by the new norms of the Motu Proprio.

The bishop's role, which to many may be novel, is to approach the liturgy, as one commentator put it, "as a caretaker and custodian, not as a master and innovator."

What does Summorum pontificum mean for priests?

Diplomacy, tact and ... training. Each pastor will now be dealing with a small to large group of traditional-minded Catholics, some of which are very holy, sincere and dedicated to the rational use of the pre-conciliar liturgy. Others are less rational. It seems that the pastor will need to hear them all and make a prudent judgment, not necessarily whether to, but how to implement the new Motu proprio within his parish, assuming that the requests are valid and made by a "stable" group. It is interesting to note that the right to have the extraordinary form of the Mass celebrated lies with the faithful, as long as there is a valid, competent priest available.

Here lies the biggest concern for some priests: training. Very few priests who were ordained prior to 1965 have since celebrated the Mass of Blessed John XXIII. Hence the vast majority of priests, were they to consider using the extraordinary form of Mass, would need considerable training. Fortunately, there are seminars already set-up [ in Chicago and on the Tulsa Diocese website ], with many more likely to come.

What does Summorum pontificum mean for traditionalists?

The older usage of the Mass need no longer be seen as an "abberation," but as a legitimate use; no longer subject to "indult permission," but freely available. What was often informally called the Tridentine Rite is now to be fully associated with the Novus Ordo as simply the Mass of the Roman Rite, with an ordinary (1969) and an extraordinary (1962) use.

This is a mixed blessing to many ultra-traditionalists, who, while appreciating the legitimazation of their Tridentine liturgy, may bemoan the collateral need to recognize and accept the Novus Ordo as equally valid and legitimate.

What does Summorum pontificum mean for progressives?

Pope Benedict XVI has been, since even before his election to the See of Peter, a staunch supporter of well-done liturgy, celebrated "by the book," with appropriate music: meaning Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony. This new Motu proprio takes his position many steps further in the direction of traditional, holy and solemn liturgy, celebrated to worship the Almighty and to offer him the sacrifice of his Son, who sacramentally is received as our food for the heavenward journey. A Latin-texted liturgy, with priest and people aligned ad orientem, with altar boys and well-defined, reverent gestures, with bells and incense and glorious music of the masters is hardly a milieu for "Gather Us In" or "Sing to the Mountains" played on guitar, piano and trap set! Ultra-progressives, who can see only innovative, community-centered liturgy, with feel-good music, are scared ... and rightly so.

This may be the subject of a reference in the accompanying letter:

Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.

What does Summorum pontificum mean for musicians?

The Pope playing his beloved Mozart Many parishes may now be adding an Extraordinary Use Mass to the weekday Mass schedule, and even more significantly, to the Sunday schedule. This may mean that the parish musicians are called upon to provide music for this liturgy. New resources may need to be explored [Liber usualis, Graduale Romanum (1962), etc]. Musicians should become familiar with the format and texts of the Extraordinary Use Mass. Here's a good link: Order of the Mass.

Realize that "popularist" will not suffice [Thanks be to God! And isn't this what the Church has been saying all long?]. "Gentle Woman" just won't make it for the Assumption Day Mass; even "Hail, Holy Queen" may be suspect. Musicians must understand the Propers, and find appropriate resources that use them. There is an enormous amount of work and training to be done ... and parish musicians need to be prayerfully and mentally prepared for this holy mission!

What does Summorum pontificum mean for CNP?

There are many other sites [ Summorum Pontificum, New Liturgical Movement, Musica Sacra: CMAA Website ] that treat in more detail the Extraordinary Use Missal. CanticaNOVA Publications will make as many adaptations as possible (e.g. our Liturgical Planning pages) to be useful to those who celebrate either the Ordinary Use, the Extraordinary Use, or both. These changes, some of which are far-reaching, will need to be implemented over many months, perhaps years. While all our Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony is equally useful with both Missals, we want to remind our faithful clients and readers that it is our primary goal to support completely the liturgical practices of the Church, as defined by proper authorities (popes, councils, Vatican congregations, bishops, priests). Our motto, "Traditional music ... for the Contemporary Church" has expanded with the publication of Pope Benedict's Summorum pontificum. The Contemporary Church, within the one Roman Rite, has two distinct and valid uses, the Ordinary and the Extraordinary. May our Traditional Music serve both well!

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