Catholic Daily Message for the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne (26 July 2016)
I have received a surprising amount of communication recently about the Holy Father’s recent motu proprio concerning the use of the Tridentine Mass in Latin. People ask me what I think of it; that’s not an easy question to answer, because of my unusual situation in history. I have been attending daily as well as Sunday Mass since I was in high school, and thus until my entrance in our Dominican novitiate in 1956, I experienced the Tridentine Mass in Latin every day for years. It was all I knew, and I loved it.
But we Dominicans, from the time of our Dominican Pope Saint Pius V in 1570 until 1972, had our own “rite” as it was then called for celebrating Mass. It was much simpler than the Tridentine Mass, much more like the Mass that we are using now, and, in my opinion, much better precisely because of its simplicity. Thus, from the day of my ordination in 1963 until the changes of 1972, I celebrated Mass daily and on Sundays in our Dominican rite. I had never actually celebrated the Tridentine Mass until I got back to New Orleans in 1996 and was asked to celebrate the Tridentine Mass at Saint Patrick Parish in downtown New Orleans when the priests there were away. That parish has one Tridentine Mass each Sunday. Only then did I realize how much more complicated it is than our present Mass, and I found myself often confused by the rubrics. I, personally, would not want to go back to that, and I am quite sure that we won’t do so to any great degree. Pope Benedict has made this concession for the benefit of those who keep asking for the Tridentine Mass, and have even left the Church and gone into schism in order to have it. But they constitute a very small percentage of the Catholics of the world, and their numbers will be diminishing in the future, I suspect.
However, I also see a value in the use of Latin. During my nine years at Holy Rosary Parish in Houston, where there is one Mass in our new form but in Latin each Sunday, I was very happy to celebrate that way, and hope that it is retained there. People from all over the Houston area come to that parish because they like the new form in Latin, especially when a good choir does the Latin chants.
However, we must bear in mind that our priests who have been ordained during the past thirty years or so know practically no Latin and would not want to have to learn it. And furthermore, many priests who must celebrate more than one Mass a day will probably resist the use of the Tridentine Mass, since it has a totally different set of readings from our new form, and therefore they would probably have to prepare two homilies for a given day. That is not as easy as it might appear.
Time will tell. I would hope that in the future, the Tridentine Mass will be given an honorable burial, but the new form will be celebrated in Latin in some places and at some times, and that the Church will go from the inferior music that we’ve been hearing at Mass for the past 30 years to some of the great church music of the past which is perfectly suitable for congregational use today. There are beautiful hymns by Catholics like Palestrina, Vitoria, and Mozart, and Protestants like J.S. Bach, Haydn, and Handel. It’s time for us to grow up from the sophomoric rejection of the past that took place right after Vatican II to a judicious use of the beauty of the past to which we have every right. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago