Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Our Lady of Guadalupe and Dialogue Between the Two Forms of the Latin Rite

We're nearly a month removed from the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but at the time I was busily preparing young minds for their final examination over Catholic Social Teachings. Besides the obvious fact that the celebration has exploded on these shores as the Church in the U.S. becomes more and more Hispanic, there was a more subtle thing that took place that I think deserves some commentary.

This year, Our Lady of Guadalupe fell on a Sunday. As the largest devotional day of the year for the Catholic Church in America, this presented the Bishops of our country with quite the conundrum. When the Mass was revised by Pope Paul VI following the directives and initiatives of the Second Vatican Council, one of the many changes that was implemented was the doing away with multiple commemorations at Mass. In the Extraordinary Form (the Latin Mass) it is possible to remember more than one saint or celebration on any given day. The way the Extraordinary Form (the EF from here on) handles this is by simply having more than one opening prayer and more than one closing prayer. For example, if there is a Sunday Mass that falls on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the priest would offer up a prayer at the beginning of the Mass composed for the Sunday, everyone would respond "AMEN" and then the priest would say a second time "Let us pray" followed by the opening prayer for Our Lady of Fatima, and people would again respond "AMEN".

This is important and relevant because this practice was done away with, and the highest ranking celebration on a day is the only one that can be used. Therefore in the Mass after the Council, a priest must always, on a Sunday, use the prayers and readings for that Sunday ONLY (unless, of course, GIGANTIC celebrations fall on a Sunday such as Easter, Jan. 1, etc., which happens next year FYI). The Bishops of our country had to send out reminders to their priests for Guadalupe weekend that they were not allowed to use any of the prayers, prefaces, or readings for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The reform of Paul VI with regard to the number of prayers had a practical purpose - cleaning up the number of prayers (I believe it is possible to have up to 5 opening and closing prayers on a day in the EF). Certainly simplifying the number of opening and closing prayers down to one seems appealing and is more functional. HOWEVER, in cases where the people are clamoring for a way to honor a patroness or some other person with great devotion (as was and will continue to be the case with Our Lady of Guadalupe) the Church is NOT ABLE to make any part of the Mass devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe (other than perhaps a nod in the petitions). So a reform that seemed to make sense and seemed to be very sensible is now exposed as having flaws over time.

I find it ironic here that the "old, stale, conservative, and curmudgeonly Mass" as it is often viewed, was able to be pastoral and to still honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, while the Mass in the Ordinary Form was unable, because of the reform mentioned above, to meet the needs of our Hispanic brothers and sisters who have such a strong devotional life. The only option the Bishops were left with was transferring Guadalupe to Saturday or Monday, but most Hispanics balked at that.

I bring this all up in order to talk about a larger issue - the "reform of the reform" that Pope Benedict has occasionally talked about. It is well documented that most of the reforms that priests have carried out around the world in the liturgy were never envisioned by the Council or Pope Paul VI. Pope Benedict has also brought up, though, the idea that even some of the reforms that the Council and Pope Paul VI implemented should now be open for discussion and possible reform. For making this comment he has been blasted by Catholic progressives (who, ironically, seem to lose their penchant for reform and change when reforming the reform is mentioned). The issue that I think the Holy Father wants us to think about, though, is this - what can we do to A) first and foremost actually implement what the Council ACTUALLY SAID but also B) what things, now that we've lived with them for approaching 50 years, can be tweaked now that we've got a body of experience built up after living with the changes for so long.

We'll see what Rome has to say on this topic in the future, but I think this is an important issue to look at and discuss.