Monday, 20 October 2008

Feast of St John Cantius

Today is the feast of St John Cantius, a fifteenth century Polish professor, and patron saint of the Canons Regular of the same name, a society devoted to offering both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the liturgy. Accordingly, I thought it might be appropriate to talk about bi-ritualism.

And yes, I know that technically the OF and the EF are not different rituals, but I do regard the Pope's pronouncement on this as a legal device designed to achieve a particular end, viz the right of all priests to say the TLM, rather than a reflection of objective reality.

Attitudes to bi-ritualism

Hardline traddies tend to be pretty opposed to bi-ritualism - some people won't even attend masses said by priests who say the Ordinary Form (novus ordo). I don't personally think that is a position that can be justified - after all, as Catholics we are in union with a Pope who normally says the OF.....

And of course, many people simply don't have access to a Traditional Latin Mass on a regular basis - so need to attend a NO in order to satisfy their obligations, and/or if they want to attend any mass at all.

That situation includes a few religious orders - the traditional Carmel in the US, I gather has a novus ordo mass once a week, I assume from necessity, and there are other similar cases.

Nonetheless, the question does arise - if you had the choice to say or hear only the TLM, why would you want to be bi-ritual? I for one have a strong preference for the TLM, and find it hard to understand the rationale for a bi-ritual Society or Order and I suspect I'm not alone.

Bi-ritual for pastoral and practical reasons?

One obvious reason for attending both forms from the perspective of the laity at least is purely practical. Given that TLMs are only available in a few places, unless you are lucky enough to live very close to the Church, driving times and costs (particularly in these days of extraordinary petrol prices!), mass times, and such like factors may make a NO mass the only practical option, at least some of the time during the week. In my own TLM community, it is a big day if there are half a dozen at daily mass - but discrete questioning (and the occasional sighting when I venture out into the wider world myself) suggests that a very high proportion of the congregation are nonetheless daily mass attenders...

From the point of view of a priest who has discovered the TLM after ordination, there is a purely pragmatic issue: few (if any) parishes will tolerate all of their masses suddenly going TLM. Rather, a slow process of building up a constituency, a process that will take years, has to occur. And even if every single parish priest suddenly saw the light and started this process, the reality is that a certain generation, aged around 50 + are just so brainwashed in their enmity to the TLM that they probably have to die out before there is any prospect that the NO could disappear altogether.

Nonetheless, bi-ritualism in parishes can help reintroduce and reinforce some traditional doctrines, and by influencing the way the novus ordo mass is said, help smooth the way for the return of tradition. So I guess that a vocation to help advance that process may be in part what joining the Canons Regular of St John Cantius is about.

Reform of the reform or return to tradition?

One of the interesting debates is of course whether the point of bi-ritualism is reform of the reform, or whether the long-term aim really is a return to the TLM. The first of course, can be seen as a means to the second, provided of course that those intent on 'reforming' the Extraordinary Form don't get carried away, confining any reforms to some sensible updating of the calendar and addition of a few prefaces for example!

So it is interesting that the Canons of St John Cantius have actually been doing a lot of really excellent work promoting the TLM.

They have run workshops for the laity on the TLM, an idea that seems worth considering in terms of building up TLM communities in Australia! They have also put together a really outstanding set of resources for priests, servers, choirs and TLM attendees at their Sancta Missa website.

Their stated mission is to 'help Catholics rediscover a profound sense of the sacred through solemn liturgies, devotions, sacred art and sacred music, as well as instruction in Church heritage, catechesis and Catholic culture in the context of parish ministry'. Sounds pretty good to me.

Any room for bi-ritualism in Australia?

One of the problems for groups of traditionalists around Australia is building up a big enough congregation to support a full-time TLM chaplain. I'm not sure how many Wangaratta are getting at their new monthly Mass, for example, but I'm guessing it is still not quite enough. So maybe an option we should be considering is lobbying not just the traditional priestly societies, but the couple of bi-ritual societies of which St John Cantius is the biggest I think - or even encouraging some locals to start a new one for Australia - as a means to viability in smaller centres? Just a thought...

PS Just in case anyone is considering whether they might have a vocation to one of the bi-ritual monasteries or priestly societies, the main ones I know of are:

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