New and (Maybe not) Improved


Pope Benedict's liturgies to change, says papal master of ceremonies. This story appeared in Zenit this past week:

Liturgies celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI are undergoing changes, said the papal master of liturgical ceremonies.

Catholic News Service reports that Archbishop Piero Marini, who also served as master of ceremonies for Pope John Paul II, said that with Pope Benedict "I have to be a little more attentive because he is an expert in liturgy."

"But it gives me satisfaction because he always recognises the work that has been done, and we talk about it together," said the 64-year-old Italian, who has worked at the Vatican since 1965.

In a 20 March interview with the Milan-based online news site, Affari Italiani, the archbishop said he and the pope "are re-elaborating the papal ceremonies."

"I send him my notes and he returns them with his signature as a sign of approval, or else he suggests, completes or corrects," he said.

The archbishop did not provide details about what changes people may see in the papal liturgies or when they would be unveiled.

Archbishop Marini said each pope is different in his approach to the liturgy, particularly the large international celebrations he is called to lead.

"With John Paul II, I was a bit freer; we had an implicit agreement because he was a man of prayer and not of liturgy," the archbishop said.

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Archbishop Marini said he understood why Pope John Paul gave permission for bishops to authorise the celebration of the pre-Vatican II Mass in some churches for "older faithful" who were attached to the old rite.

"But to go beyond this is to go beyond the church," he said. "If the liturgy is the sign of the unity of the church, you cannot create groups of faithful who pray in a certain way on this day at this hour, then an hour later another group prays in another way.

"First of all we must understand that the liturgy is a sign of unity," he said. "It is not a matter of liberalising the missal or anything else. It is only a question of accepting the church today, just that."

According to the story, there are few details except that there will be a “re-elaboration” of these liturgies.

My first reaction was that this would be a good thing; I equated “change” with improvement and assumed that would imply “improvement.” It likely will, but not necessarily. The reason for my doubt is that, what is done well at the Vatican may not be done well in my local parish.

Some background is in order. I am a convert, having come into the Church in 1995. Although I grew up in a neighborhood with a lot of Catholic friends, and even had a Catholic relative or two, I never knew the Latin Mass as a Catholic. The Mass I have come to know, and to some extent appreciate, is the post-Vatican II version. For all its faults, it was far better than the mess that the Presbyterian worship service had become by 1995.

After Benedict’s election, the pastor at our parish, following what seemed to be the direction that Benedict would take, Father began to introduce Latin Mass parts to the Mass. This was done by setting aside one Mass per month at which we would have a small choir, stationed in the loft at the back of the church, doing chant and the Latin portions for this Mass. I loved the idea then found it discomforting.

The problem arose when the choir, probably correctly, decided to do the chant acapella. The acoustics in the building are not the greatest and the choir itself is good, but also not great, and my musical abilities as far as singing are, at best, limited. In fact, some would say they are non-existent. I can surely make a joyful noise, but little else, and I need to be able to hear the music clearly to follow along. So, between the unfamiliar language and my inability to follow the chant, the experience has been little more than a distraction, and, at first, upsetting. I guess by Presbyterian background is too strong, but I like to be able to fully participate at worship, not just sit and be a passive observer. It was only at this month’s Mass that I decided to give up and not try to follow along, that I was able to catch a glimpse of the beauty of the Latin in the Mass and the potential for it to provide a way to worshipfully “assist” as Mass. I realized that I was putting too much effort into trying to participate rather than pray and that was the source of the distraction.

So, I have to confess to a certain reticence concerning the Latin Mass, and trepidation concerning “change” in the liturgy. I think if I were a recent convert I might not have the problem, but I’m not, I’ve been doing the post-Vatican II Mass for over ten years and I’ve gotten used to it. I hate to say it, but I think changing back to Latin might be as disruptive for me as the change from Latin to English was for Catholics back in the sixties.

You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it ain’t easy.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on March 26, 2006 9:28 AM.

Christian Convert Set Free was the previous entry in this blog.

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