Last Friday, Pope Francis issued a new motu proprio restricting the use of the Tridentine Latin Mass, which undid the good of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum. Now, bishops must approve the use of this form of the Mass, new traditional parishes that celebrate the Extraordinary Form cannot be formed, and if the bishop does approve of the use of this form, it can only be done at a certain time and supposedly cannot be done in a parish church (which begs the question, where is it supposed to be celebrated??)
This unfortunate decision is a huge step back in the life of the Church because it attacks Her very tradition and history. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass has been in the Church for centuries and it was only in the 1960s that the Novus Ordo rite was introduced. The traditional rite, with its ad orientem “to the east” posture, chanting, and use of Latin, the official language of the Church, provides a reverence and sense of prayerfulness that simply can’t be matched by Masses in the Novus Ordo rite, no matter how much well-meaning, more traditionally minded priests may try.
This attack on the traditions of the Church and the faithful who enjoy these traditions reminds me of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. That attack on the Son of God and Savior of the world is sadly being re-enacted with this motu proprio. The attack on the traditions of the Church is an attack on Christ because the Church belongs to Him, She is His Bride. And just like in any other marriage, the Bride and Bridegroom are one. And remember Jesus’s first words from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Yes, they knew that they were doing away with a prophet, a good man that had performed many miracles and was indeed unlike any other prophet who had come before Him. But as far as the full scope of what they were doing and Who Jesus really was, they were blind. And we see that happening here. Pope Francis and other bishops who want to do away with the TLM (traditional Latin Mass) are acting out of their emotions toward it, just as the Pharisees did in regard to Jesus. But they may not fully realize the implications and consequences that this will have on the life of the Church and the flock that they are supposed to be safeguarding.
How are we to respond? Besides being proactive and fighting back (and yes, we should fight back because we are not standing up for ourselves but for Christ and His Church), we must maintain a loving spirit and good will toward the pope and other bishops who choose to unfortunately end the practice of the TLM in their diocese, no matter how difficult this may be. We are called to do this because it is what Christ did as He was being mocked, tortured, and crucified. His first reaction was to be understanding and ask His Father for forgiveness for them! And as members of His Church, His Bride, we are called to do the same. We must continue to pray that they will come to understand fully what they are doing, that their hearts will be converted by the grace of God, and that Summorum Pontificum will be reinstated.
And even if we don’t see it in our lifetime, we must remember that the victory for the life and traditions of the Church is always inevitable because in the end, Christ has the victory. And just as He overcame death and rose again, this period of time in the Church will be overcome.
St. Mary Magdalene, whose feast we celebrate today, ora pro nobis!