A few days ago we wrote about the wonderful and remarkable response of a Virginia pastor to the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. His response was open, supportive, and educational. Now I present another response from a pastor in the Midwest that is equally remarkable, if for the exact opposite reason.

A reader sent me a copy of the correspondence that he had with his pastor resulting from his inquiry about the 1962 missal at his parish. This reader asked that he and his pastor remain anonymous to prevent any embarrassment for the pastor. The reader told me “he’s not a bad guy, to be honest. i think he’s just tired & wants to retire.”

I present the letter here with names and places removed to protect anonymity, but the letter and its contents are genuine and otherwise unaltered. (my emphasis)

Thank you for your Email of July27, and especially your interest in our liturgy. I see little or no chance of the Mass being celebrated at (the parish) according to the 1962 Roman Missal. That Mass is presented in Summorum Pontificum not as the ordinary way of celebrating the Eucharist but as the exception and extraordinary way of celebrating the Eucharist. The Mass celebrated in this way is celebrated at several Churches in our Archdiocese. Archbishop XXXXX has pointed to these Churches as the place where the Latin Mass will be celebrated in our Archdiocese, and not in the ordinary parish churches.

One of the central themes of the Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council is that the Faithful should be led to a full, conscious, and active participation in the Eucharist:
Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” is their right and duty by reason of their baptism
In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else;(Par.14)

Having been ordained in 1962 I celebrated the Eucharist according to the 1962 Missal for several years before the changes of the Second Vatican Council were implemented. So I remember very vividly mumbling, in a language that I did not understand , with my back to the people, who were reading a translation of the Mass in their missals, or praying their rosary in English. Certainly, anything but an active participation in the Eucharist. I also remember the great joy that I experienced when I was able to celebrate the Eucharist in English and hear the people in the pews responding to the prayers with real understanding. I don’t ever want to go back to the pre-Vatican II celebration of the Eucharist.

Much of the Eucharist is prayer, and prayer is so important for our Spiritual life, but prayer is communicating with God and I don’t think one can communicate well in a language that is not understood. I think that is what the Fathers of Vatican II had in mind when they published the Constitution on the Liturgy.

I want to thank you again for your interest, and hope that this short response explains my position.

Where to start? So, this pastor’s response is esentially, “I do not care that the pope stated that ‘the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962.’ I don’t like it and I am not going to do it.

His response is so riddled with errors, I am more sad than outraged. How many priests and pastors out there, ‘feel’ the same way? I say ‘feel’ rather than ‘think’ because this was not a thought out response, I seems to me that it was all emotion. How is it the a pastor can hold in such disdain the first mass he ever offered? How is it that a pastor can so misunderstand what active participation truly means? How is it that a pastor can completely disregard the Pope’s command that pastors should do what they can to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the faithful. Sad.

I know that for every pastor such as the one in Mclean, Va, there will likely be two or three that ‘feel’ the way that this pastor does. This type of response just serves to remind us that the motu proprio is not a cure all, but rather the first round of a much needed, but long and painful, course of therapy.