Review: Bringing Back the Saints

While I plan to devote several posts to aspects of Michael Petrowycz’s 2005 thesis, Bringing Back the Saints: The Contribution of the Roman Edition of the Ruthenian Liturgical Books to the Commemoration of Slavic Saints in the Ukrainian Catholic Church (available online for free from the University of Ottawa here), I did want to call attention to this important and fascinating work which serves a dual function as both a history of the (Slavic) Greek-Catholic reclamation of its authentic patrimony and a challenge to the Latin-dominated model of sainthood in the universal Church. As some are no doubt aware, recent decades have seen Greek Catholics of all stripes chipping away centuries-old layers of inorganic Latinizations and Roman-centric impositions in an effort to fulfill one of the central promises of the historic unia, namely the right to be both fully Eastern and fully Catholic. Part of that reclamation process has been to discard petty Western-based fears that drawing eastward in liturgy, spirituality, and theology meant a slide toward schism, though there is some distance to go. What Petrowycz’s thesis shows is that the origins of this project began well before the Second Vatican Council, when the Eastern Slavic churches, in concert with Roman authorities, sought to restore their traditions in full, including recognizing the heroic saints of the ancient Kyivan Church who, for largely political reasons, had been ejected from Greek-Catholic calendars beginning in the early 18th C.

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Some Thoughts on the Recent Tridentine Mass Dustup

Traditional Catholics have been weeping and gnashing their teeth since the appearance of Msgr. Charles Pope’s National Catholic Register blog post, “An Urgent Warning About the Future of the Traditional Latin Mass.” I confess I don’t know why. Though Pope relies largely on anecdotal evidence and some odd comparisons to the tragic decline of Catholic schools, his main point about the need for traditionalists to engage in more evangelization is sound. Joseph Shaw, the former head of the Latin Mass Society, disagrees. Writing over at Rorate Caeli, Shaw takes umbrage with Pope’s analysis, pointing out that the numbers don’t lie: the number of traditional Masses around the world is growing; traditional Catholic communities foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life; and traditional Catholics can’t be blamed for the fact their non-traditional brethren of the past two generations or so have been grossly under-catechized and are thus not in a position to truly experience – or have “fruitful participation” in – the Tridentine Mass. I don’t disagree necessarily with Shaw’s first two observations; the last comes a bit too close to cheap blame-shifting for my tastes. I always thought one of the central “points” of the traditional Catholic movement was to correct the catechetical problems introduced by bishops and priests over the past 50 years and that promoting the Tridentine Mass came hand-in-hand with delivering orthodoxy Catholicism. Why does Shaw seem to be disavowing this element of the traditionalist apostolate?

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Remarks on Galadza on Byzantine Liturgy

Fr. Peter Galadza, whose thoughts on Byzantine liturgy I have discussed before, delivered an interesting talk at last year’s Sheptytsky Institute conference, The Vatican II Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, entitled “Full, Conscious, and Active Participation: The Influence of Vatican II’s Liturgy Constitution on an Eastern Catholic Worship Aid.” The “worship aid” in question is The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology of Worship which has become the normative liturgical text for English-speaking Ukrainian Greek Catholics. Throughout the presentation, Galadza draws attention to the anthology’s attempt to promote greater lay participation in the services through congregational singing while also highlighting the book’s focus on proper spiritual preparation for the Divine Liturgy (prayer, repentance, and fasting). He also notes places where the book presents abbreviated forms of lengthy Byzantine services such as the Vesperal liturgies for Nativity and Holy Saturday in an attempt to entice more parishes of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) to begin serving them. Despite expressing general satisfaction with The Divine Liturgy, Galadza offers some sobering remarks about the considerable distance the UGCC still has to go (at least in North America) before it truly recaptures its authentic liturgical heritage.

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The Feast of Christ the King?

Something strange must be happening in the world if so many of my (non-traditionalist) Catholic friends are heralding the Novus Ordo Feast of Christ the King and citing Pope Pius XI’s Quas Primas, as if the two are somehow compatible. For those following the traditional Roman liturgical cycle, the Feast of Christ the King arrived nearly a month ago and in the form Pius XI intended. This is made strikingly apparent at Mass, where the Collect for the feast has been intentionally mutilated.

  • Original: Let us pray, dearly beloved, for the holy Church of God: that our God and Lord may be pleased to give it peace, keep its unity and preserve it throughout the world: subjecting to it principalities and powers, and may He grant us, while we live in peace and tranquility, grace to glorify God the Father almighty.
  • Novus Ordo: Almighty ever-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.

Of course there is nothing wrong with the new Collect per se; but it redirects the liturgical day away from a celebration of Christ’s social reign toward a heavenly expectation which will only be fulfilled at the end of time. One has to wonder how much of today’s feast would Pius XI even recognize.

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Public Prayer II

In several recent posts (e.g., here) I have discussed the absence (or, rather, loss) of the Divine Office, that is, the public prayer of the Church, among Latin Catholics. By comparison, the Eastern Orthodox (and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Catholics) have done a much better job offering services like Matins, Vespers, and the small hours to the faithful. It remains my contention that public prayer outside of Mass will not return to the Latin Church until the clergy takes up the cause. Lay demand for these services is, at best, minimal, mostly due to ignorance or a (false) belief that it is not “their place” to address the matter. This does not mean that the lay faithful have to be shut out of praying liturgically even if they cannot participate in a formal parish setting. Although the vernacular Liturgy of the Hours has been around for decades, traditionally minded Catholics—or those who are simply not thrilled by the U.S. Catholic Church’s official translations—have mostly steered clear of it. Thankfully, a number of liturgical resources, in both Latin and English, have started to become available so as to allow the faithful—and their families—to pray with the Church even if, for now, it must be done in the privacy of the home.

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Public Prayer

An acquaintance asked the other day how much of the Divine Office (Chasoslov or Horologion in the East) Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic priests are required to recite each day. My response: None…I think. Although a shell of its former self, the breviary—now commonly referred to as the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH)—remains the cornerstone of a Latin priest’s prayer life. Failure to recite the office in full each day is a mortal sin, though it seems that some priests aren’t terribly concerned about that. For the Orthodox, the liturgical hours have always been, and remain, a true public work. Although some monastics, clergy, and pious laypersons recite some of the small hours privately as part of their individual prayer rules, the cornerstone offices, such as Matins and Vespers, are almost impossible to recite outside of a proper ecclesial setting. Attempts to make these offices “manageable” for individuals have been made, but not very successfully. Both the old Jordanville Chasoslov, along with the edition published by the Ruthenian Catholics in the 1940s, contain daily votive services that can be “plugged in” to Matins, the small hours, and Vespers each day. The fact that none of these services save one have been translated into English their irrelevancy, at least among Anglophone Orthodox and Greek Catholics.

None of this is to say that Eastern clergy have a “weak” or “lax” prayer life compared to their Latin brethren. The LOTH is not exactly a taxing rule. What the Byzantine Rite has not lost, and the Roman Rite surely needs, is the central importance of public prayer to the life of the Church. For most Catholics, that prayer is the Mass and only the Mass. If there is ever anything “more” it is typically a para-liturgical devotion such as the Rosary or a novena. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but for most of Church history reciting the Divine Office in choir was as natural as serving Mass. Today, unfortunately, that is simply not possible for most parishes to carry out all of the time, but why can’t more Latin churches strive to serve hours like Vespers and Compline at least some of the time? The easy answer is, “Because there’s no demand for it.” But the chances are there will never be a demand unless the clergy, in concert with dedicated members of the laity, create one.

The Traditional Roman Liturgy Question and Eastern Liturgics

By now most Latin Catholics with an interest in liturgical matters know the complaint: The so-called 1962 books (Missale Romanum, Breviarium Romanum, etc.) which are approved for official Church use are inferior to those in use up until around 1954. The litany of changes instituted by Popes Pius XII and John XIII were imprudent, sloppy, and, in the case of Holy Week, revolutionary. However, as I have argued many times before, the average Catholic in the pew would hardly know the difference. The primary difference between a Sunday Tridentine Mass served according to the 1962 Missal and one served according to a 1954 (or earlier) Missal is the absence of commemorations. The third Confiteor was technically eliminated too, though many traditional groups, including the Society of St. Pius X, the Institute of Christ the King, and the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius continue to recite it. A noticeable number of diocesan clergy appear to as well. Where the 1955-62 liturgical changes are most noticeable is in the breviary, though due to the accidents of ecclesiastical history, the Divine Office is almost exclusively confined to the clergy. Public recitation has all but disappeared.

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Schmemann on Papal Visits to America

Matthew Schmitz, over at First Things, has a thoughtful piece up concerning the limits of papal celebrity. It indirectly reminded me of this October 3, 1979 entry from Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s journals, which is one of my favorites.

The Pope of Rome [John Paul II] is in New York. We watched him on television in Yankee Stadium. A mixed impression. On one hand, an unquestionably good man and full of light. Wonderful smile. Very genuine — a man of God. But, on the other hand, there are some “buts”! First of all, the Mass itself. The first impression is how liturgically impoverished the Catholic Church has become. In 1965, I watched the service performed by Pope Paul VI in the same Yankee Stadium. Despite everything, it was the presence, the appearance on earth of the eternal, the “super earthly.” Whereas yesterday I had the feeling that the main thing was the “message.”

This message is, again and again, “peace and justice,” “human family,” “social work,” etc. An opportunity was given, a fantastic chance to tell millions and millions of people about God, to reveal to them that more than anything else they need God! But here, on the contrary, the whole goal, it seemed, consisted in proving that the Church also can speak the jargon of the United Nations. All the symbols point the same way: the reading of the Scriptures by some lay people with bright ties, etc. And a horrible translation: I never suspected that a translation could be a heresy: Grace — “abiding love”!

Crowds — their joy and excitement. Quite genuine, but at the same time, it is clear that there is an element of mass psychosis. “Peoples’ Pope . . .” What does this really mean? I don’t know. I am not sure. Does one have to serve Mass in Yankee Stadium? But if it’s possible and needed, shouldn’t the Mass be, so to say, “super-earthly,” separated from the secular world, in order to show in the world — the Kingdom of God?