The wars continue—I like both, though prefer the Old—but one soldier monk has had enough, as this very heartfelt post from Vultus Christi Blog reports.
With Serenity and Humility
A few people have asked me if my personal assessment of “the reform of the reform” means that, somehow, I have decided to shun the vast majority of Catholics who continue to worship using the rites and texts in the current reformed liturgical books. Nothing could be further from my mind and heart. I am well aware that in dioceses and parishes all over the globe an immediate reviviscence of the older liturgical forms is not realistic. It will, I think, happen slowly but inexorably, as new generations discover, here and there, thriving centres of traditional Catholic worship in which, as Joseph Ratzinger once said, “beauty is at home”, and in which the mysteries of the faith are transmitted with integrity, with serenity, and with profound humility. Such centres will, I believe, over time, exercise an attractive, not a coercive, force over parishes and other religious communities, drawing them freely to re–engage with the Church’s traditional liturgical rites.
The Privilege of Liminality
I write, of course, as a monk and not as a parish priest. Monasteries take root, flower, and bear fruit in a liminal territory that begins where the secular city ends and that stretches into the uncharted vastness of the desert. The immerited privilege of this sacred liminality allows monks the space and the freedom to reclaim, preserve, and transmit elements of the liturgical tradition that may, for the time being, remain remote and inaccessible to ranks upon ranks of generous priests engaged in the care of souls.
A Weary Veteran Lately Come Home
After having devoted nearly forty years to a worthy “reform of the reform”; after having taught and defended the Novus Ordo Missae to the best of my ability; after having composed — to a certain acclaim, even from a dean of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Liturgy — an entire monastic antiphonal in modal plainchant for the French liturgical texts; after having composed hundreds of plainchant settings for the Proper of the Mass in the vernacular; after having fought mightily for the restoration of the Proper Chants of the Mass; after having argued to the point of exhaustion for an intelligent obedience to the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani; after having poured myself out in lectures and in preaching to priests, seminarians, and religious, I am obliged to conclude that I could have better spent my time and my energy humbly carrying out the traditional liturgy such as I discovered it — and such as I so loved it — in the joy of my youth. I say this not with bitterness but with the seasoned resignation of a weary veteran lately come home from an honourable defeat in the liturgical Thirty Years War.
Good Neighbours All the Same
I respect those priests and layfolk who continue to believe in “the reform of the reform”. I honour their devotion and perseverance but, from where I stand and at this point in my life, I think their energy misplaced. Life is short. I can no longer advise others to devote the most productive years of their life to patching up a building that was, manifestly, put up with haste during a boom in frenzied construction; it has shifting foundations, poor insulation, defective fixtures, and a leaky roof. Right next door, there is another old house, comely, solidly built, and in good repair. It may need a minor adjustment here or there, but it is a house in which one feels at home and in which it is good to live, and it is there that I choose to live out my days. If others choose to live in the “fix–up” next door, I can only wish them well, confident that we can live as good neighbours all the same, with frequent chats over the fence in the back garden, exchanging insights, and perhaps even learning something from one another.
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