At times I feel as though I'm on the Enquiries Desk of an online Catholic Library, finding questions out there and answering them. As somebody who reveres the office of Librarian, who would be prepared to argue that it sits at the top of the list of secular vocations, my regret is that I don't know as much as I should, and that the muniments here are often not enough to answer everything satisfactorily.
The other thing that happens is that instead of simply looking up the answer to a particular question I end up thinking about it and then brooding when I realise that something is lurking in the woodshed. Regular readers will probably be glad that I'm not going to bang on about the 1980 National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool this time, but want to address another issue: the fact that Pope John's convocation of a Council was very necessary; that the Church was in need of reform; and that even if what the Church got was hijacked, and the resultant actions were not what was needed, it doesn't affect the fact that, however healthy things seemed to be, there were fundamental problems in the Church which needed to be addressed.
All this started with a simple question about the Saints who were "demoted": Hugh of Avalon asked whether prayers to the saints whose feasts had been suppressed in 1969 because the evidence of their historical existence was deemed to be too weak was licit or not. The search for an answer (which is that their feasts have simply been suppressed in the new Calendar, but haven’t in the 1962 Calendar which governs the EF of the Liturgy), which led me to the Motu Proprio establishing the new calendar, went via Bugnini's description of how his committee had approached the revision of the calendar. (NB what Pope Paul saved us from, by the way.)
“The Proper of seasons shall be given the precedence due to it. By celebrating . . . [the] passage [of the martyrs and other saints] from earth to heaven the Church proclaims the paschal mystery of Christ achieved in the saints. Lest the feasts of the saints take precedence over the feasts commemorating the very mysteries of salvation, many of them should be left to be cerebrated by a particular Church or nation or religious family; those only should be extended to the universal Church that commemorate saints of truly universal significance. With these criteria as the basis, the study group began its work and produced seventeen schemas.
The first meeting on the revision of the calendar took place on January 23, 1965, at the offices of the Consilium. All the consultors were present and set themselves to studying the schema “de tempore”, which P. ]ounel had prepared. After lively discussion it was agreed to send the consultors and other periti a new schema in the form of a questionnaire that would ask for new suggestions (February 12, 1965). On March 16, 1965, the first schema on the proper of saints was sent to the consultors of study groups 1 and 17. The two schemas were examined on April 1 and 12. On April 25, at the first general meeting, Father Dirks gave the first report to the consilium. After open discussion the Fathers approved the following points as guidelines for the work:
1) The liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent.
2) January 1 has three objects: the Name of Jesus, the commemoration of Our Lady, and the beginning of the civil year.
(The liturgy of January 1 was always a composite liturgy, that is, various rites had been combined on that day: the Motherhood of Mary, the octave of Christmas, the Circumcision, the Name of Jesus, New Year’s Day, day of peace. The liturgical expression of all these commemorations could not but be composite and unparalleled in the liturgical year. All the themes of the day found benevolent supporters in the Consilium. It was agreed that the Gallican theme of the Circumcision should be completely eliminated. The Name of Jesus is recalled in the gospel for the octave of Christmas; it was thought that the prayer of the faithful should be used for recalling New Year's Day, although some of the Fathers would have liked to see it mentioned in the texts of the Mass. The view prevailed that January l should be once again the feast of the Motherhood of Mary, which goes back to the origins of the Roman liturgy and links Rome with the East, where on December 25 Our Lady is "congratulated". ln the texts of the Mass, too, the Marian feast is given primacy, although other themes are mentioned.)
3) The season known as Septuagesima loses its penitential character (the three Sundays become Sundays in Ordinary Time, but by and large the present texts will continue in use).
(There was disagreement on the suppression of the Septuagesima season. Some saw these weeks as a step toward Easter. On one occasion Pope Paul VI compared the complex made up of Septuagesima, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Triduum to the bells calling people to Sunday Mass. The ringing of them an hour, a half-hour, fifteen, and five minutes before the time of Mass has a psychological effect and prepares the faithful materially and spiritually for the celebration of the liturgy, Then, however, the view prevailed that there should be a simplification: it was not possible to restore Lent to its full importance without sacrificing Septuagesima, which is an extension of Lent.)
4) The season of Lent begins on the First Sunday of Lent. The imposition of ashes can be done, depending on the judgment of the Episcopal conferences, from Ash Wednesday to the Monday after the first Sunday.
(A strictly penitential rite on Sunday would be a contradiction. Having the imposition of ashes on the preceding Wednesday was one way of adhering to tradition, but it had the drawback of keeping the association with Mardi Gras. The Pope would subsequently have the decisive word on the matter.)
5) The Sacred Triduum begins at evening Mass on Holy Thursdays.
(Some would have liked to see the Sacred Triduum identified strictly with Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, to the exclusion of the Last Supper. Others pointed out that the Supper could not be separated from the Passion. The Supper is the paschal mystery, "a covenant in my blood; a new law" (Martimort, Wagner, Vagaggini, Pascher, Guano).)
6) The octave of Pentecost is suppressed.
(Here again there was disagreement. The suppression was accepted with the expectation that the formularies of the octave would be used during the nine days of preparation for Pentecost. On this point again there were changes of mind, but the decision of the Fathers finally prevailed.
7) The feast of the Ascension can be transferred to the following Sunday if the episcopal conferences so decide.
8) The feast of the Trinity remains as and where it was.
(The proposal was accepted after heated discussion. Suppression would be an impoverishment (Vagaggini, Wagner). It is a summary of the work of salvation (Hiinggi). Various suggestions were made for transferring the feast to another day or combining it with another feast, for example, the Baptism of Jesus (Pascher, Martimort).
9) The principles proposed for the revision of the feasts of the saints are approved "as a norm for further work."
At first, I thought that his arguments - the need to free up space in the calendar, the need to focus more on Our Lord, and the mysteries of salvation, rather than on simply commemorating the saints, etc - were simply more of the same Bugnini whom I am not slow to criticise, but I suddenly realised that as far as messing about with the calendar was concerned, Bugnini was simply following in the footsteps of Popes Pius XII, Pius X, Clement VIII and Pius V in messing about with the calendar.
I was also curious to see how the first outing of the Novus Ordo – the demonstration to the Synod of Bishops in October 1967 of the Consilium’s Normative Mass: in Italian, with what became Eucharistic Prayer III – related to the Calendar. In practice, it ignored it completely: the Mass, which took place on a Monday, was that of the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
In the way that you follow things through, Bugnini’s barbed comments about Cardinal Heenan:
“On October 26, cardinal heenan of Westminster, took the podium and accused the commission of technicism, intellectualism, and a lack of pastoral sense. Cardinal Lecaro immediately replied that forty-seven Fathers, almost all of them pastors of dioceses, and eighteen parish priests belonged to the Consilium”
led me back to what Cardinal Heenan actually said:
“Like all the bishops I offer my sincere thanks to the Consilium. Its members have worked well and have done their best. I cannot help wondering, however, if the Consilium as at present constituted can meet the needs of our times. For the liturgy is not primarily an academic or cultural question. It is above all a pastoral matter, for it concerns the spiritual lives of our faithful. I do not know the names of the members of the Consilium or, even more important, the names of their consultors. But after studying the so called Normative Mass it was clear to me that few of them can have been parish priests. I cannot think that anyone with pastoral experience would have regarded the sung Mass as being of first importance.
At home it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel [a demonstration of the Normative Mass] we would soon be left with a congregation mostly of women and children. Our people love the Mass, but it is Low Mass without psalm-singing and other musical embellishments to which they are chiefly attached. I humbly suggest that the Consilium look at its members and advisers to make sure that the number of those who live in seminaries and religious communities does not exceed the numbers of those with pastoral experience among the people in ordinary parishes.
Here are a few points which solely for the sake of time - since only five minutes are allowed for comments - must be put so shortly as to sound brusque.
1. The rule of prayer is the rule of faith. If there is to be more emphasis in the Mass on Bible readings than on Eucharistic prayer, the faith of both clergy and people will be weakened.
2. There is more need than ever today to stress the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. No change in the Mass should be made which might seem to throw doubt on this doctrine.
3. Many bishops in this Synod have spoken of the need of coming to the rescue of the faithful grown restless and disturbed on account of too frequent changes in the Mass. I must therefore ask what attitude the Consilium wlll take to these warnings from the pastors of the Church? I confess in all seriousness that I am uneasy lest the liturgists say "These bishops know nothing about liturgy." It would be tragic if after the bishops have gone home no notice were to be taken of their opinions.
4. In my diocese of Westminster - and in several English dioceses - the rule is that at least one Mass each Sunday must be celebrated in Latin. It would be a great help if the Consilium were to tell the whole Church how the Latin tongue can be preserved. If the Church is to remain truly the CatholicChurch it is essential to keep a universal tongue.”
I noticed something I haven’t before:
“Our people love the Mass, but it is Low Mass without psalm-singing and other musical embellishments to which they are chiefly attached.”
But this means that “our people” have been allowed to go wrong, or at least to be led up a cul-de-sac. “Low Mass without psalm-singing and other musical embellishments” is tolerable in the Roman Rite, but is never ideal. For the Catholics of England and Wales to have been able to form such a strong – exclusive? – attachment to Low Mass is indicative of a defective understanding in those responsible for lay formation of what the Mass was and what it was for.
Similarly, the periodic messing about with the calendar is indicative of an attempt to corral the sacred into something manageable, and capable of being ordered.
These are deep waters, and I am doing little other than sticking a toe into them, but it is worth remembering that while D Prosper Guéranger and the Liturgical Movement identified the problems caused by the way the practice of the Liturgy had developed since Trent, the twentieth century response was to polarise around two unsatisfactory alternatives: a much tinkered-with 1962 Missal, and a Novus Ordo which was nothing less than a reinvention of the Liturgy by people who considered themselves experts.
It has been interesting to see that some of the Una Voce Position Papers have chipped away – respectfully and appropriately – at the idea that 1962 represents some sort of high point in the liturgical development of the Roman Rite. It will be some time before these arguments get an airing outside of the narrow circles of those who care passionately about them: not under this Pope, at least. But they are important discussions.