The Liturgical Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

 

As a young Catholic (well, I am 64 but only came into full communion with the Church in October 2004), Pope Benedict XVI was the first pope I truly followed and got to know. John Paul II reigned when I entered the Church, and my family and I got to see him in his last days in Rome in December 2004/January 2005, but it was Joseph Ratzinger whom I would follow closely as I grew as a Catholic. I’ve read his encyclicals, a handful of his books, and a great deal of his homilies. But his lasting legacy for me will be his love of the liturgy and the momentous step he took in 2007 with his issuance of Summorum Pontificam, his Apostolic Letter liberalizing the use of the Traditional Latin Mass. As he stated in a book-length interview with Peter Seewald: “Something that was previously the most sacred thing in the Church to people should not suddenly be completely forbidden.”

Latin Mass communities are growing in the US despite the efforts of Benedict XVI’s successor, Pope Francis, to destroy the Latin Mass. Pope Francis issued his own Apostolic Letter, Traditiones Custodes, which basically attempts to undo all the good that Benedict XVI accomplished with the liturgy.

In a wonderful article at Adoremus, Fr. Uwe Lang writes on the liturgical legacy of Pope Benedict XVI:

I am convinced that his epochal labors to restore the sacred liturgy to the heart of the Church, with intellectual courage, spiritual depth, and at great personal cost, have only begun to bear fruit and will prove his lasting legacy to Christianity.

I agree with this 100%. Despite the efforts of Pope Francis to throw Benedict XVI under the bus, the work of B16 will bear fruit because he had things ordered right: God first:

“Beginning with the liturgy tells us: ‘God first.’ When the focus on God is not decisive, everything else loses its orientation. The saying from the Rule of St. Benedict ‘Nothing is to be preferred to the liturgy’ (43,3) applies specifically to monasticism, but as a way of ordering priorities it is true also for the life of the Church and of every individual, for each in his own way.”

Pope Benedict then recalled a theme he has widely explored in his writing and preaching—the fullness of meaning of “orthodoxy”: “It may be useful here to recall that in the word ‘orthodoxy,’ the second half, ‘-doxa,’ does not mean ‘idea,’ but, rather, ‘glory’ (Herrlichkeit): it is not a matter of the right ‘idea’ about God; rather, it is a matter of the right way of glorifying him, of responding to him. For that is the fundamental question of the man who begins to understand himself correctly: How must I encounter God? Thus learning the right way of worshipping—orthodoxy—is the gift par excellence that is given to us by the faith.”

If you are at all interested in the liturgy of the Church and Pope Benedict XVI, I highly recommend Fr. Lang’s article (best enjoyed with a cocktail). It is full of the richness of Joseph Ratzinger. May he rest in peace and may his legacy bear great fruit.

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There are 11 comments.

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  1. W Bob Member
    W Bob
    @WBob

    From the new rules it looks like the Latin Mass is grandfathered in for a while but at some point won’t be celebrated anywhere. Is that right?

    • #1
  2. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    W Bob (View Comment):

    From the new rules it looks like the Latin Mass is grandfathered in for a while but at some point won’t be celebrated anywhere. Is that right?

    That appears to be the plan of Pope Francis. Let’s hope the next pope reverses the actions of Francis.

    • #2
  3. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Some of you (@saintaugustine) may also enjoy this:

    https://www.crisismagazine.com/opinion/the-intertwined-minds-of-pope-benedict-xvi-and-st-augustine

    • #3
  4. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Beautiful commentary from Phil Lawler:

    https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/reluctant-pontiff-end-ratzingerbenedict-era/

    For decades he offered his enormous talents in service to the Church he loved—not in the way he would have chosen, but in a way that was chosen for him. After nearly eight years of wielding power that he never wanted, he chose to retire, leaving all earthly problems in God’s hands. And now, free from earthly troubles, he himself is in God’s hands, to contemplate the Beauty and Truth that he has loved for so long. May he rest in peace.

    • #4
  5. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Pope Francis sees Traditional Catholics as an irritant. At one time Catholic church architecture was designed to place the altar so that the priest was facing Jerusalem during the Mass. The priest had his back turned to the parishioners as he conducted the Mass facing Jerusalem, as were the parishioners whose faces looked towards Jerusalem.

    The Tridentine Rite of the Mass was established during the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The Dominican Rite Mass dates back to the mid-Thirteenth Century. It is still offered in Dominican parishes to this day. 

    • #5
  6. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    W Bob (View Comment):

    From the new rules it looks like the Latin Mass is grandfathered in for a while but at some point won’t be celebrated anywhere. Is that right?

    That appears to be the plan of Pope Francis. Let’s hope the next pope reverses the actions of Francis.

    Probably on a timeline similar to Roe v. Wade. 

    • #6
  7. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    Some of you (@ saintaugustine) may also enjoy this:

    https://www.crisismagazine.com/opinion/the-intertwined-minds-of-pope-benedict-xvi-and-st-augustine

    Can’t read much, but I expect I like it.  Nice intro paragraph:

    A.N. Whitehead famously said that all Western philosophy is “footnotes to Plato.” In the same way, as Benedict says, the history of Western psychological understanding and insight comes directly from Augustine.

    • #7
  8. W Bob Member
    W Bob
    @WBob

    I’ve been thinking about this question, and I guess the real issue is how, from the perspective of church leaders, you make sure that the liturgy is always available in the vernacular, and that no one, especially children, is deprived of the right to hear it in words they understand. It’s easy to say, What’s the harm in letting people go to Latin mass if they want? I just think the devil’s in the details. 

    Is it clear that the opposition to the Latin mass is motivated just by animus against traditional Catholicism? Or are they worried that allowing it would make it logistically difficult to ensure that the vernacular version was always readily available?  

    • #8
  9. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    W Bob (View Comment):
    I’ve been thinking about this question, and I guess the real issue is how, from the perspective of church leaders, you make sure that the liturgy is always available in the vernacular, and that no one, especially children, is deprived of the right to hear it in words they understand. It’s easy to say, What’s the harm in letting people go to Latin mass if they want? I just think the devil’s in the details. 

    Well, my snarky answer is that the devil hates Latin and that is reason enough to use it. Children are very adept at learning languages. The propers of the mass; the Kyrie (chanted in Greek), and the Gloria, Credo, Pater Noster, and Agnus Dei (chanted in Latin) are all easy to learn (heck, Im 64 and my wife is 63 and we have learned the prayers of the Rosary in Latin over this past year). Yes, the priest chants the Lesson and Gospel in Latin but he also reads them in the vernacular before his homily, which will also be in the vernacular. And if the Church follows this way, one can go anywhere in the world and serve mass and feel at home.

    W Bob (View Comment):
    Is it clear that the opposition to the Latin mass is motivated just by animus against traditional Catholicism? Or are they worried that allowing it would make it logistically difficult to ensure that the vernacular version was always readily available?

    I think the big fight here is over Vatican II. Francis Bergoglio hates the Traditional movement in the Church. He thinks we are rigid neo-Pelagians who “do not accept” Vatican II. Many, if not most Church councils were called to deal with doctrinal issues or heresy. V2 was a “pastoral” council. Pastoral actions are not timeless but Francis and his crowd want to use V2 as the starting point for all that the Church is today – I get into the weeds on this in the post I linked to.

    In a link in the OP one can read that the first document issued from Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, called for Latin to be preserved in the Latin rite and that Gregorian Chant should have pride of place. Well, this just doesn’t happen at the majority of the masses celebrated in the US.

    Missals are available in almost all languages and there are Latin-vernacular missals available as well.

    Francis Bergoglio’s calling card has been ¡Hagan lío!: make a mess. And he is very good at it – especially with this Liturgy/V2 war. He hates Tradition and he hates Traditionalists. This is where we are.

    • #9
  10. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Good interview. Good information on B16, the TLM, and where things might go.

    • #10
  11. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    At one time Catholic church architecture was designed to place the altar so that the priest was facing Jerusalem during the Mass.

    Facing Jerusalem, or facing east?  For churches in Europe it doesn’t matter since Jerusalem is to the east, but my understanding was that a church in say Japan or India would still orient (note the word) the altar facing east toward the rising sun rather than west towards Jerusalem.

    • #11
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