Bringing Back Tradition to the Liturgy

We all remember Mgr. Guido Marini when the Holy Father visited us earlier in the year, attending to his every need, and ensuring all protocols were observed.

I came across this article that recently appeared in the Washington Post and think it gives us an  interesting insight into care that is taken when His Holiness is celebrating our faith.

There is a lesson to be learnt in relation to the attention to detail in our own parishes  (only where attention is lacking, I hasten to add) – think you not? It is widely thought that Mgr. Marini was a significant voice in ensuring the liturgy was suitably observed during the Papal visit, and are we not encouraged in sacred scripture to ‘worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’?

I have to say, and this is a personal view – that Mgr. Marini is my kind of Priest!

Pope’s master of liturgy helps Benedict restore traditions

By Jason Horowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 24, 2010; 8:36 PM

IN ROME On a rainy Christmas Eve, Pope Benedict XVI followed a procession of Swiss guards, bishops and priests down the central nave of St. Peter’s Basilica to celebrate midnight Mass before dignitaries and a global television audience.

And Monsignor Guido Marini, as always, followed the pope.

A tall, reed-thin cleric with a receding hairline and wire-framed glasses, Marini, 45, perched behind the pope’s left shoulder, bowed with him at the altar and adjusted the pontiff’s lush robes. As Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, he shadows the pope’s every move and makes sure that every candle, Gregorian chant and gilded vestment is exactly as he, the pope and God intended it to be.

“The criterion is that it is beautiful,” Marini said.

But beauty, especially when it comes to the rituals of Roman Catholic liturgy, is a topic of great debate between conservative and liberal Catholics, who share differing views on everything from the music and language of the Mass to where a priest should stand and how he should give Communion.

Some of the key trappings of the Mass – the vestments and vernacular, the “smells and bells” – have taken on a more ancient air since Benedict succeeded John Paul II, and since Marini succeeded Piero Marini.

Piero, 68, is a gruff Vatican veteran, a progressive who advocates a more modern ritual that reflects the great church reforms of the 1960s. The younger and more punctilious Guido, who is not related to Piero, has argued for more traditional liturgical symbols and gestures – like the pope’s preference that the faithful kneel to accept Communion – that some church liberals interpret as the harbinger of a counter-reformation.

‘Battle of the Marinis’

The coincidence of their shared last names has resulted in YouTube links like “Battle of the Marinis.” (“These things on the YouTube are fun but not important,” said Marini the Second.) But within Vatican and wider liturgical circles, the Marini schism is actually a profound one about the direction of the church.

The liturgical changes enacted under Guido Marini are “a great microcosm for broader shifts in the church,” said John Allen, a veteran Vatican watcher with the National Catholic Reporter.

Since the Marini II era began in October 2007, the papal Masses clearly have a stronger traditional element. Guido Marini, who has degrees in canon and civil law and a doctorate in the psychology of communication, caused considerable consternation among some progressive Catholics in January when he talked to English-speaking priests about a “reform of the reform.”

In an interview Thursday, he argued that the changes should not be seen as a liturgical backlash to modernity but as a “harmonious development” in a “continuum” that takes full advantage of the church’s rich history and is not subject to what he has called “sporadic modifications.” Liturgical progressives, like Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., are concerned that Marini considers the reforms of the 1960s ecumenical council known as Vatican II as being among those sporadic modifications.

At most papal Masses, a large crucifix flanked by tall candles is now displayed on the altar, even though many progressives say the ornaments block the view of the priest and the bread and wine. They argue that this obstructs the accessibility urged by liturgical reforms associated with the Second Vatican Council.

Marini responds by saying that the crucifix reminds the faithful of who is really front and center in the Mass. He also says that the pope cannot sit in front of the altar when it bears the crucifix because “the pope can’t give his back” to sacraments on the altar.

For Marini, Gregorian chants must be the music of the church because they best interpret the liturgy. And in September, ahead of the pope’s visit to Britain, Marini told the Scottish paper the Herald that the pope would celebrate all the Prefaces and Canons of his Masses in Latin.

Piero Marini, who stepped down in 2007 after serving as the master of celebrations for 20 years, has championed the Vatican II reforms, including the simplification of rites that he believes facilitates active participation.

In the name of “inculturation,” or integrating church rites with local customs, the silver-haired Marini in 1998 accepted the request of local bishops to allow a troupe of scantily clad Pacific islanders in St. Peter’s Basilica to honor the pope with a dance during the opening liturgy of the Synod for Oceania. During John Paul II’s visit to Mexico City in 2002, Marini likewise granted a local bishop’s wish to let an indigenous Mexican shaman exorcise the pope during a Mass there.

He said the changes that have been made since he left are obvious. “You don’t have to ask me,” said Marini, who has expressed wariness about the rollback of liturgical reforms. “Everyone can see it for themselves.”

A ‘more sober’ style

His successor said that the two clerics had a good relationship and that it was only natural that things change under a new regime.

“It’s true that there were celebrations that gave more space to different expressions, but that was one style and now there is a different style, one that is more sober and more attentive to the essential things,” said Guido Marini, who, like his predecessor, hails from northern Italy but who, like the pope, expresses admiration for the old Latin Mass. He added that Benedict considered the Mass a heavenly space that shouldn’t be modified with “things that don’t belong.”

Marini has said there are no plans to force the changes on parishes around the world, but he hopes that they slowly spread and seep in.

Under Benedict, the faithful at papal Masses take Communion on their knees and receive the wafer on the tongue. Guido Marini said the change “recalls the importance of the moment” and keeps the act from becoming “banal.” A recent picture of Queen Sofia in Spain receiving Communion from the pope in her hand – and while standing and not wearing a veil – brought rebukes from conservative Catholics. (“Reform of the reform apparently put on hold,” read the Catholic blog Rorate Caeli.)

Perhaps the most apparent and luxurious sign of the new era is the pope’s vestments. Benedict has worn an ancient form of the pallium, or cloak, preferred by first-millennium pontiffs. He also brought back the ermine-trimmed red satin mozzetta, a short cape. And the pope clearly does not obey the article of American political faith to never don an unconventional cap. He has sported a red saturno, a sort of papal cowboy hat, and an ermine-trimmed camauro, a crimson cap that resembles a Santa hat and is worn on nonliturgical occasions.

According to one senior Vatican official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Marini sent him a page-long list of vestments he had to wear during a special ordination in St. Peter’s. “I didn’t recognize half of the things on it,” the official said. “Then I had trouble getting it all on.”

“The pope likes new things and antique things,” explained Marini, who compared the pope’s attire to someone in a family who likes modern fashions like, say, Gucci shades but also “the treasures of the family.”

At a Dec. 16 evening Mass, the pope opted for a paisley patterned crimson and gold chasuble, while Marini, his fingers tented in front of him, wore a white cotta with breezy lace sleeves over a purple cassock. As the frail pope sat in his throne, Marini adjusted Benedict’s robes and at the appropriate moments removed the gold miter in order to place a white skullcap atop the pontiff’s white hair. He adjusted the pages of prayer books that altar boys propped up before the pope. After the chorus sang about the divine promise made to David, Marini helped the pope up to read a prayer. At the end of the Mass, the pope followed the candles and large crucifix back up the nave. Marini, as always, trailed immediately behind.

“It’s hard work,” Marini said. “But it’s beautiful.”


About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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9 Responses to Bringing Back Tradition to the Liturgy

  1. golden chersonnese says:

    Very nicely written, Gertrude, wouldn’t you say?


  2. Gertrude says:

    I would indeed Golden! However, attention is drawn to the differences within the Church regarding Latin/Novus Ordo, and there are strong views held by both sides. Whilst I am an unashamed traditionalist, I have always considered the Sacrifice of the Mass to sacred, too holy to provoke some of the very strong views held by some. I am sure that in time, as traditional Mass becomes more widely available, those who have not had the opportunity to participate, will realise how they have been ‘robbed’ of our heritage.

    Fr. Cumanus (who used to blog here) once said that it was a generational thing – silver haired parishioners harping back to the ‘good old days’ or lapsed Catholics wanting to return to the Church of their youth. I am old enough to remember pre-conciliar times, and have lived through the ‘experiment’ of Novus Ordo. I have attended N.O. Masses, there was a time when it was almost impossible not to – but nothing compares with the sense of sacredness that accompanies the more traditional form. The tide is turning … small steps but at least now there are more orthodox young priests taking steps to reclaim their heritage.


  3. golden chersonnese says:

    And there we have the situation that faces the Church now, Gertrude, as no doubt you well know.

    The many people (including clerics and religious) in their fifties and above who went along with the liberal changes and theology are miffed that the present Pope appears to be undermining their dedication and enthusiasm for ‘relevance’ and social activist theology. Others, like us, feel more that personal perfection, not social activism, is the core of our ancient Catholic Gospel and religion (which of course does not exclude social involvement, and never did).

    Pope Benedict clearly does not want to alienate absolutely the ageing liberals and their dying religious congregations and dioceses. Rather is he providing, gently but hopefully, for what is natural religious sentiment and practice (such as the sacredness of the liturgy, which is a human necessity), while at the same time calling for the participation of Catholics in political and social life.

    Liberal religious congregations and bishops appear to have a death wish, which is to say they hope they will be the last of their breed, in order that in the future there will be a purely (well almost) ‘lay church’, that will be ‘prophetic’. That they are in fact dying off seems to reassure them of their future. However, our youth pay them little attention.

    Pope Benedict all the while is clear in his desire for the leadership of the faithful by holy clerics that have been given good formation and who will anchor lay Catholics in the traditions of the Church, but without excessive inappropriate fixation on the archaic.

    Don’t know how you feel about the above, but interesting times we are living in, Gertrude, and we would value the views of others, I’m sure as we goo into the next decade.


  4. Gertrude says:

    I think you have very clearly elucidated the dilemma that faces the Church. I recall Ed West of The Daily Telegraph running an article earlier in the year when he questioned the need for so many (if any) Extraordinary Ministers in parishes whose congregtion numbers where far from excessive for the Priest celebrating Holy Mass. I also recall Benedict Carter saying that when the Holy Father visited Fatima Extraordinary Ministers were used to distribute the Blessed Sacrament when there were literally a couple of hundred priests present within the Basilica precincts.In that case I do not know if lessons were learned, but that was not the case in the Holy Father’s visit to the UK. where Extraordinary Ministers were not used (Thanks be to God).

    You are also right about Priestly formation – which has been sadly lacking in the past (and I believe led to much of the abuse that took place). We should pray for our young Priests and those entrusted with their formation daily for on them the future of our Faith lies, and the future of many Catholics who presently are not coming to Church.

    As you say – interesting times.


  5. golden chersonnese says:

    Hello, Gertrude, and sorry for the mistakes in my post before. I’m sure they weren’t there when I made them. 🙂

    I suppose even many here who read these blogs are quite happy with the novus ordo, so long as Father Toby doesn’t wear a clown’s outfit.

    Solemn liturgies will probably be quite limited for the foreseeable future while most of the priests we have are over 50 and advancing even further, God love them.

    The seminaries, as you say, are the places that could make a change and this is under way in many parts. And numbers seem to be picking up there too while most religious orders are dwindling. Let’s see if we’re right.


  6. The Raven says:

    In my part of the world it’s NO or a a twenty mile drive to get to the nearest regular EF Mass. That said, the best attended Mass here is the Latin NO Mass, which draws in a lot of young people: the “yoof” Mass (complete with guitars, etc) attracts only the elderly and those children too young to go to Mass without granny.

    What I do notice when I do get to an EF Mass is that the congregation does tend to be younger and, equally interesting, the gender balance is more equal. It seems that young men are more willing to attend EF Masses.


  7. shane says:

    The Novus Ordo does seem to repel men. EMHC’s are almost always majority female. EF Masses I attend are mostly composed of young people (0-30) and the old (65+) with not that many in between.


  8. joyfulpapist says:

    In the last 40 years (33 of them as a Catholic) I’ve been to all kinds of Masses using the Paul VI Order of Mass – ranging from very devout to bordering on the invalid and most certainly illicit.

    Thinking back, I’d say you’re onto something. The less devout the Mass, the more likely that the congregation will be gender-imbalanced – and also age-imbalanced, with a strong presence of women in their forties, fifties, and sixties.

    The first time we assisted at Mass in my current parish, we noticed the devoutness of the priest, the number of young families and adolescents in the congregation, and the number of men in their forties, fifties, and sixties – either there leading their families, or on their own.

    Not far away from here, there is a parish priest who has wandered off after his own modernist theology, and his devoted fans are all – or almost all – middle-aged women.


  9. toadspittle says:

    “I suppose even many here who read these blogs are quite happy with the novus ordo, so long as Father Toby doesn’t wear a clown’s outfit.”

    Sad to see blatant clownism here. From Golden, as well. Bozo will love and forgive, regardless.

    Toad, who has lived, more or less, through all of this (mostly unheeding, to be sure) has nothing, really, to add.

    Except, that he remembers attending Mass in Spain in the sixties and reflecting that he was all in favour of Mass in the vernacular, as long as it was in a foreign language.

    It does all seem to be a bit of a cyclone in a camauro, though, to him.


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