The wild and mysterious ways of God cause a lifetime of wonder.
Had you told me ten years ago that I would be serving a Tridentine Mass on the campus of Franciscan University of Steubenville the day before the Pope who “reopened” the Missal of 1962 stepped down from the papacy, I would have given you a very strange look indeed. First for suggesting that I, a life-long traditionalist, would be that involved with Franciscan University of Steubenville; and second, for suggesting that the Tridentine Mass would be so readily available and acceptable that it would be offered at Franciscan.
But that is what will happen. For the past three and half years I have been the head master of ceremonies and chief trainer of servers for the Extraordinary Form Mass on campus. During that time I have assisted one of the younger friars to learn the “Old Mass.”
I will never forget Father’s face the first time he sat in choir at a Missa Cantata on campus back in 2009. When we returned to the sacristy after the recessional I thanked him for coming, but his face displayed a combination of wonder, joy, and astonishment. He said, “No, thank you.”
And thus it began. He took lessons from a local diocesan priest, augmented eventually by myself serving for him at a private Mass once weekly, stopping him occasionally with a quiet, “Father, don’t forget…” and him thanking me, correcting the error, and the Mass continuing on.
The corrections lessened over time, to the point now where I almost don’t have to pay extra special attention any longer and can more fully enter into the prayer of this ancient liturgy.
As a matter of the regular semester campus Mass schedule, Father offers one public Extraordinary Form Mass per week on campus: a Low Mass on Saturday most weekends, but a Missa Cantata one Sunday per month.
Tomorrow morning will be another private Low Mass, just Father and me, praying this truly, deeply beautiful liturgy for the salvation of the whole world, in the presence of all the saints and angels, and “in the site of His divine majesty.” I will offer my prayer for the intentions of Pope Benedict XVI, and in thanksgiving for his papacy.
This is only possible because of the great wisdom of Benedict. His motu proprio Summorum Pontificum—which is not a “universal indult,” but includes the recognition that the the Missal of Blessed John XXIII was never suppressed nor abrogated, thus no “indult” was ever needed or appropriate—opened up a real dialogue at the grassroots level (okay, sometimes it’s still askance looks or shouting matches, but that will take time and charitable hearts to overcome) and truly enabled the new to reconnect with that which had served so well for so long. It reestablished the tradition of the organic development of liturgy, allowing the good to stay and the dross of the bad burn away, that dominated for millennia but was greatly hindered in 1969 and the liturgical pogroms of the 1970s.
Because of Summorum Pontificum I will be able to drive onto the campus of one of the most liturgically eclectic and historically charismatic Catholic institutions in the country and take part in the great handing on what I have been given by those who taught to me that which they had been given.
Thank you, Holy Father, from the bottom of my heart, and may God richly bless your retirement.