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Considering the Motu Proprio  
Robert Tuzik  

As the date nears for the observance of the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, some may wonder what the effect this Apostolic Letter will have on their parish. Will the Mass from the 1962 Missal approved by Blessed John XXIII replace the Mass that we pray-the Mass from Pope Paul VI? Still others ask whether the Mass from the 1962 Missal must be celebrated in their parish.

Since it has been over 40 years since some priests last celebrated the Mass from the form prior to the Second Vatican Council, who will update our priests on the rubrics to be followed for those liturgies? Moreover, what training is needed for the congregation, the servers, and the musicians?

Some concerns address the attitudes that people have toward those who would like to participate in the celebration of the Mass from the 1962 Missal (a liturgy many refer to as the Tridentine Mass). Other concerns address the fear that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council are being questioned. As more concerns are raised, the challenges ahead weigh on ministers.

Parish staff should rest assured that the Apostolic Letter will not place an undue burden on them. All of the faithful may want to consider the opportunities for reconciliation and greater unity within the Roman Catholic Church that are being provided.

By issuing the Motu Proprio, Pope Benedict XVI is reaching out to three groups. He is attempting to heal a schism with members of the Saint Pius X Society, to return to the fold Catholics who felt alienated by changes in the Mass after the Second Vatican Council, and embrace the needs of those young people who have found the celebration of the Mass of the 1962 Missal inspirational.

Provisions in the Motu Proprio
As of September 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Motu Proprio allows priests who desire to celebrate a private Mass without a congregation to use the 1962 Missal approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII. Qualified priests also may celebrate a Mass from that Missal with a congregation. Such public celebrations require that the priest celebrant have sufficient knowledge of the Mass, that is, an understanding of the rubrics or directives on how to celebrate the Mass and at least the ability to pronounce the Latin words correctly.

As a result of these qualifications, not every priest will be able to celebrate the Mass from the 1962 Missal. Some Catholics may have the impression that the local parish priest must accede to requests to celebrate the Mass. This is not what our Holy Father intends. Rather, only priests with sufficient training may celebrate the Mass. However, if a qualified priest desires to celebrate the Mass from the 1962 Missal a group can petition their pastor for use of the church.

A provision in the Motu Proprio states the need for a stable community of worshippers of this form of the Mass. In other words, the Motu Proprio is not meant to sanction a one-time experience of the Mass for the sake of curiosity or even education. Numerous videos of Masses celebrated with the Missal of 1962 can meet this need. Rather, Pope Benedict wants all Catholics to see the 1962 Missal as a legitimate part of our prayer tradition, which needs to be recognized as an extraordinary celebration provided for those who want to celebrate that form as a regular, ongoing experience.

The ordinary expression of the Church's rule of prayer is the Mass from the Missal that Pope Paul VI promulgated in 1970. Pope Benedict does not expect the celebration of that Mass to be replaced by the Mass of the 1962 Missal, except in extraordinary circumstances.

In the letter to the bishops that accompanied the Motu Proprio, Pope Benedict XVI states, "In this regard, it must first be said that the Missal published by Paul VI and then republished in two subsequent editions by John Paul II, obviously is and continues to be the normal form-the 'forma ordinaria'-of the Eucharistic liturgy. The last version of the 'Missale Romanum' prior to the Council, which was published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will now be able to be used as a 'Forma extraordinaria' of the liturgical celebration."

Pope Benedict has placed limits on the frequency of celebrations of the Mass of the 1962 Missal. He allows only one Mass from that Missal to be celebrated in a parish. Not every parish will have a Mass in the extraordinary form.

Keep in mind the pastoral nature of this Motu Proprio. The Pope is making an effort to end a schism on the part of the St. Pius X Society, return alienated Catholics to a regular practice of their faith, and embrace the young who have found praying the Mass of the 1962 Missal inspiring. This is a pastoral goal that is obviously commendable.

At the same time, it would be wrong to think that Pope Benedict is backing away from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which calls for full, active, and conscious participation. Participants at the extraordinary form of the Mass need to follow the Mass prayerfully, participating in the responses and chants to the extent that it is possible.

Pope Benedict also reminds that priests must follow the directives of their bishop in the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Mass. In his letter, the Pope states, "I very much wish to stress that these new norms do not in any way lessen your 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."

It is necessary for priests who wish to celebrate the Mass from the 1962 Missal with a congregation to attend a training session reviewing the theology and rubrics found in the Missal. Even priests whose seminary training prepared them to celebrate that Mass will need a refresher course.

Pope Benedict envisions a dialogue between bishops and priests on the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Mass. In many dioceses, deaneries will address the following:

  • The number of requests for Masses from the 1962 Missal.
  • The number of parishioners interested in celebrating the extraordinary form of the Mass regularly.
  • The number of priests able and willing to celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass in the deanery.
  • At which parish in the deanery the extraordinary form of the Mass will be celebrated.

Some deaneries will not receive requests for the Mass from the 1962 Missal. In other deaneries, the extraordinary form of the Mass will be added to a parish and that Mass will need to be publicized.

Parishes where the extraordinary form of the Mass will be celebrated will need to train servers and musicians. Worship aids should be provided to assist participation. Finally, catechesis must be done in parishes that will introduce the extraordinary form of the Mass into their schedules. It will also be desirable if all parishes, even those not celebrating the extraordinary form of the Mass, do some catechesis on why it has been reintroduced.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Liturgy has published, the Motu Proprio, the letter from the Pope to the bishops, and questions and answers on the Motu Proprio in its June newsletter. The newsletter is available at http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/bclnewsletterjune07.pdf.

Rev. Robert Tuzik, PhD,
is special assistant to Cardinal Francis George, OMI, in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
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