Liturgical bridge

March 29, 2008


Signs Point Toward Pope’s Celebration of Pre-Vatican II Mass

by Hugh McNichol | | March 28, 2008

The permission to celebrate the Mass of Blessed John XXIII without any restrictions is a celebrated reality in the Catholic Church. Since Benedict XVI announced the unfettered permission for the restored celebration of this liturgy as the Extraordinary form for the celebration of the Eucharist there has been no celebration of this form by the Holy Father at Saint Peters in Vatican City.

There are always media reports about how well this permission has been received by Catholics throughout the world. Many consider this movement as one that restores a sense of Catholic identity and unity throughout the world. Well, with that being said: Holy Father celebrate this rite at the Papal Altar in Saint Peters. There can be no better illustration of the continuity of the sacred liturgy than to have the Bishop of Rome celebrate the Mass of Blessed John XXIII within the center of Catholic worship and government.

Celebration of the Extraordinary form of the Holy Eucharist by the Holy Father would clearly indicate his approval for celebrating the liturgy. It would also be a clear message to anyone group that offers opposition to the proper implementation of the axiom, “Lex orandi, lex credendi!”

Papal permission for the Extraordinary seems to be rooted in an attempt by Benedict XVI to provide a liturgical bridge for the entire Church that unites us in a consistent liturgical tradition that developed from the Second Vatican Council. Since the close of the council, there have obviously been components of the liturgical movement that have not always gone very well, nor have they been implemented smoothly. Benedict’s celebration of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII over the tomb of the Apostle Peter would go a long way to indicate a new age of Catholic healing and liturgical consistency.

With all of the thoughts recently devoted to the Papal visit to the United States, things like the secular and the religious press often overlook the celebration of different liturgical rites. By virtue of his office, the Bishop of Rome always reserves the option to himself to celebrate the liturgy in whatever rite he chooses. Papal prerogative to celebrate the Mass of Blessed John XXIII is of course within the legitimate options for the Pope’s liturgies.

Careful observance of papal events and statements over the past few months, provides a number of clues that the Holy See might indeed be leading up to such an observance of the pre-Vatican II liturgy. Over the past year, we have seen the return of Roman style vestments, the usage of the winter and Easter mozzetta, the revival of the ancient pallium, and rochets coming out of liturgical closets all over the world. It seems only logical that Benedict through his new liturgist is staging the return of some sort of papal celebration of the pre-Vatican II rite.

One clear indication of the papal inclination towards the traditional liturgy is the reemergence of the usage of Cardinal-Deacons at papal Masses. In addition to the Deacons of the Word and the Deacons of the Eucharist, Benedict has multiple times recently drafted Cardinal-Deacons to flank him at liturgical celebrations. This is a welcome restoration of papal pomp and ceremony. When one starts to understand the historical nature of various papal ceremonies, the ancient heritage of Catholicism is appreciated by the observation of how we indeed offer solemn prayer.

There is also speculation that the Holy Father has initiated new sets of vestments for papal ceremonies that will include the Roman form of chasubles, dalmatics and tunics. While there should be no expectation that the Papal tiara will come out of retirement, such revival of historical signs and symbols of our Catholic liturgical history are long overdue and very welcome.

One aspect of the Benedictine Renaissance that is critical to understand about the Holy Father is that he is not intent on sending the Church into a retrograde motion towards liturgical antiquity. He is just making the most effective use of all of the ceremonial options available to the world’s Catholic faithful people. Advocates are quick to note that these options towards the usage of Latin and the pre-Vatican II form were never abrogated. Benedict XVI is showing the world that Catholic prayer and ritual indeed has relevance to all Catholic peoples…because it is a legitimate part of our Catholic heritage.

It is most appropriate Benedict XVI make a real gesture of continuity and celebrates the Mass of Blessed John XXIII publicly for the benefit of all Catholics to appreciate and prayerfully worship in the ritual form of our Fathers.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author that writes freelance works on topics that involve Catholicism. He writes a daily column,


3 Responses to “Liturgical bridge”

  1. Thank you for publishing my thoughts n the restored permission of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII.
    I hope everyone will continue to read this blog and my new column which starts Monday at CNA.
    “Nothing Left Unsaid!”

  2. John Collorafi said

    I never heard of Hugh McNichol until this column, but I’d certainly consider reading him if he continues promoting the traditional Mass.

  3. lenber said

    Instead pissing and moaning it is our duty as christians and catholics to learn and practice the sacred Traditional Liturgy the core of the Church.
    Salvation it is Not a gimmy, we shall work for it.

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