Benedict XVI: A supremely liturgical Pope

One of the lasting legacies of Benedict XVI’s pontificate will be the mark he has left on the Liturgy as it is celebrated today. In short, he has re-focused our attention on how we, as Catholics, celebrate our faith in the light of tradition.

From his highly discussed 2007 Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontififcum, to his approval of the equally debated New English Language translation of the Roman Missal; from his elimination of all rites and gestures that are not specifically sacramental in nature from Papal liturgies to his recent changes to rites for the beginning of a pontificate, the “Ordo Rituum pro Ministerii Petrini Initio Romae Episcopi”, Benedict XVI has brought the Universal Churches’ focus back to prayer and the Eucharist, the source and summit of what makes us Church. In a way Benedict XVI has been a supremely liturgical Pope.

“I think we will be unpacking the significance of his impact on the liturgy for many years to come”, says Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, executive director of the Secretariat for the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

Mgr. Wadsworth, who was deeply involved in the New English Language translation of the Roman Missal, dropped by Vatican Radio to speak about the liturgical mark Benedict XVI has left on the English speaking Church. 

“When the Holy Father spoke to his own clergy, the priest of the diocese of Rome for the last time, he said two very significant things about the Liturgy: Firstly he said that the Second Vatican Council was very right to treat of the Liturgy first, because it thereby showed that God has primacy. And in the Liturgy the most important consideration is adoration. He linked this to the fact that he has desired that in the celebration of our Mass there should be a Crucifix on the altar. So that the priest looks at the Cross and remembers that it’s the sacrifice of Calvary that’s being represented in the celebration of the Mass and that the people should look at the Cross rather than at the priest”.

“The Motu Propiro really is a very important moment in which the Holy Father puts two forms of the Roman Rite which potentially have been at loggerheads which each other since the Second Vatican Council in a creative dynamic relationship with each other. The Holy Father really is reminding us that the light of tradition should fall on all of our liturgical experience”.

“In relation to the New English Translation of the Missal…it was the Holy Father who judged on the whole question of pro multisfor many, chalice rather than cup, those are his particular judgements and his prerogative as the Pope. He showed a great interest in the process as it was unfolding …over ten years in the making”.


About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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11 Responses to Benedict XVI: A supremely liturgical Pope

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    One of my most prized possessions is a first edition of This is The Mass, celebrated by Bishop (as he was in 1958) The Venerable Fulton Sheen, described by Henri Daniel-Rops, and photographed by Yousuf Karsh. Although attending a Novus Ordo parish where the Mass is solemn and dignified, one of my biggest regrets, as a convert, is never to have experienced the Tridentine when it was celebrated as a matter of course rather than as a curiosity from a bygone age.


  2. kathleen says:

    The Novus Ordo Mass, when celebrated with reverence and dignity, is still the authentic representation of the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary, but where it is distorted and messed around with, one can sometimes wonder whether it is in fact a valid Mass! In my parish too, it’s done pretty well, so we are lucky. 😉

    I can seldom go to the Tridentine Mass, but last Sunday I was able to attend one. It is a truly holy and beautiful liturgical celebration, and even the homily was exceptional – truly Catholic and meaningful. My only regret is that I cannot go more often.


  3. Michael says:

    I, too, have wondered what it would be like to assist at the older form when there was no Novus Ordo. I remember hearing from some older person that the traditional Mass said today has a “staged” feel, and I wonder how true that is.


  4. teresa says:

    Michael, as a woman I have no experience! 😉 But I happen to know several young men who assist at the Tridentine Mass, one of them is an adult convert from Protestantism, the other two are cradle Catholics.

    As far as I can observe there is a learning process: all of them took great pain in learning liturgical knowledge and practised a lot. And obviously it was also great fun to them. They even edit and print a liturgical calendar for the Vetus Ordo and buy liturgical garments at ebay!

    They practise singing together and they run a website. As far as I can judge it is also a good chance for these bright young people to form a community.

    Whether it is staged? Perhaps it is just a question of habit. New comers to the Old Mass might find it “staged” and unnatural but if you keep going there every week it becomes a kind of “daily bread” and natural.


  5. Michael says:

    Actually, “assist at” doesn’t mean “serve altar at”. Assisting at Mass is something everyone does, by uniting their prayers and personal sacrifices to the prayers of the priest and the sacrifice he is performing. 🙂


  6. teresa says:

    Well, I don’t use the phrase “assist at” in the same way you use it.
    I would rather say “attend Mass”, in that case.


  7. Gertrude says:

    Interesting points made above. As someone who grew up and beyond with what is now called the Extraordinary Form I would point out – we knew no other. Formation as a Roman Catholic then was a matter for families or school, The prayers of the Church were taught from an early age and most children belonged to one of the many Catholic groups eg: Legion of Mary. In the event of attending a non-Catholic school (which some of my friends did), then the priest would go in, at least once a week, and make sure the Catholic children were properly catechised. The catechism of the Church was much simpler and learnt by rote before making first holy communion, and all children knew exactly what a Sacrament was! Much of the catechesis of children was carried out by sisters from one of the local convents.

    Holy Mass was usual, (at least in my parish) low Mass at 8am and 9am and High Mass at 11am – which was the Mass most families went to. There was never any question of ‘staging’, just a Priest celebrating, a Deacon and a Sub-deacon. Apart from Ferial days we celebrated far more Saints than we do today, with a different Collect for each one. The great feasts of the Church were celebrated with great reverence, and Confession was expected (and done) once a week.

    I will agree that it was a very different Church (in organisation) then, and vocations where plentiful. Most families knew someone who had gone either into the Priesthood or to pursue a Religious Vocation. It might be argued with the benefit of hindsight that perhaps in the plentiful vocations formation might have been less than ideal, but there are still around many good and holy priests from that time.

    For those dear readers who think I might be strolling down memory lane – I make no apology, for until our Catholicism is evident from the lives we lead, the evangelisation beloved by Benedict will not bear fruit. There is no right way or wrong way to attend Mass in any particular form – it is the meeting in the Eucharist with Our Blessed Lord that is the most important, and any Mass, validly celebrated enables us to be part of this precious sacramental mystery.


  8. Michael says:

    I would assume they were taught with the Baltimore Catechism? Because if so, I can testify: that sticks with you!


  9. Gertrude says:

    In the UK Michael – it was The Penny Catechism, though I am not old enough to remember when it was only 1d – I think it was about 3d in my day! But yes, it is exceedingly similar to the Baltimore Catechism ;-).


  10. Michael says:

    Oh, oops. Forgot the Baltimore Catechism was American.


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