Two Missals: One Beautiful Treasure of Love

Author: Bishop Samuel J. Aquila

Two Missals: One Beautiful Treasure of Love

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Bishop of Fargo

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In the last few weeks two important documents were presented to the universal Church by the Holy See. The first document, Summorum Pontificum, was released on July 7 by Pope Benedict XVI as an apostolic letter in the form of a motu proprio. It relaxes the restrictions on the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments using the forms that were present before the Second Vatican Council. The second document, “Responses to Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church”, was issued July 10 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). It reaffirms that theCatholic Church is the one, true church, even if elements of truth can be found in separated churches and communities. 

Pope Benedict noted in his letter to the bishops of the world concerning the liturgical use of preconciliar forms of the liturgy, that: “News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion.” This is true of the reports presented in local secular newspapers.

Evident in the coverage both in articles and on the editorial pages throughout America was the fact that many unfounded statements were made by people not of the Catholic faith, or who had not read the documents in their entirety, or who do not have a working knowledge of what the Catholic Church teaches both in the Documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

The CDF document on “questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine of the Church” is consistent with what the Church has always taught, and it clarifies this teaching. I encourage you to read the text and the guest editorial, found on pages 2 and 18, respectively, in this issue of New Earth.

In regard to the apostolic letter on the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments prior to Vatican II, an Associated Press news report labeled it as a “victory” for some Catholics that “came over the objections” of other Catholics. On the contrary, the faithful who read the document will see that, rather than positioning one version of the Roman Missal against another, the Holy Father declares that “They are, in fact, two usages of the one Roman Rite.” The document explains that there are two forms for celebrating the Holy Mass:  the ordinary form of the Mass, currently celebrated in our parishes according to the Roman Missal of Paul VI from 1970, and the extraordinary form of the Mass celebrated according to the Roman Missal from 1962, commonly known as the Tridentine Mass. 

Our Holy Father makes clear in his apostolic letter that the Latin liturgy has had a variety of forms over the centuries. He observes that the Roman Missal itself had seven official editions between the Council of Trent and the 1962 edition. Hence there has been and continues to be a development of the celebration of the Eucharist as found in the Roman Missal of today. The Missal of Paul VI in its Latin form is a response to the reform of the liturgical rites specifically called for by the Second Vatican Council. 

Pope Benedict fully acknowledges the validity of both the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical reforms. He does, however, in the letter to bishops regarding Summorum Pontificum, point out that abuses were experienced in the implementation of the changes to the liturgy. He states: “in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.” 

Regarding the new Missal, now in use in our parishes, the pope continues, “…the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.” The renewed attention to celebrating either form of the Mass with greater reverence will lead us to a deeper love for our Eucharistic Lord.

One way in which our current missal will be improved in the coming years is with updated translations from the official Latin texts. Sadly, our current English translation is not as theologically rich or linguistically beautiful as comparable translations in other languages such as French, Spanish, Italian or German. These updated English translations will enhance our reverence for the great mystery we celebrate in the Sacrifice of the Mass.

The directives of the document indicate that for the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated publicly in parish Churches on a Sunday there must be “a stable group of the faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition,” and that only one celebration may be held. The priests who celebrate the 1962 Missal must be qualified to do so. In his letter to bishops Pope Benedict reminds us and the faithful that, “The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often. Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful.”

Our Holy Father’s decree set forth by the apostolic letter is to be observed beginning Sept. 14, 2007. As your bishop, I will provide the priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Fargo with a plan as to how the articles of the apostolic letter will be put into place in our diocese. Watch for information on our diocesan Web site and in the September issue of New Earth.

The Holy Father’s desire and my own is that all of us develop a deeper love and reverence for the great treasure we receive from Christ himself in every Mass. As the one sacrifice of Christ is made present on the altar, we offer our lives to the Father with, in, and through Christ, giving adoration to the Father. We then are nourished with the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ when we receive the Eucharist. And whether it is in the “ordinary” or “extraordinary” celebration of the one Roman Rite, we receive the same Christ through the Eucharist which “augments our union with Christ”, “separates us from sin,” “makes the Church,” “strengthens our charity,” “commits us to the poor” and brings about “the unity of Christians” (CCC 1391-1401)!

May our Eucharistic Lord continue to bless your summer and fill you with his peace!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Bishop of Fargo

As printed in New Earth, newspaper for the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota.
Used with permission.