I DISAGREE WITH THE LATE DOM GERARD ON A NUMBER OF POINTS. FOR INSTANCE, HE HAS A RATHER SIMPLISTIC VIEW OF THE EAST-WEST SCHISM. LOOKING BACK NOSTALGICALLY TO THE TIME BEFORE THE COUNCIL, CONSERVATIVES SEE WITH ROSE-COLOURED SPECTACLES . EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE MANY ABUSES IN THE INTERPRETATION OF THE "NEW MASS", ABUSE IS NOT AS COMMON AS FAITHFUL CELEBRATION; AND I THINK THAT THERE IS MUCH MORE REAL LITURGY CELEBRATED NOW THAN BEFORE, EVEN AMONG THE "CONSERVATIVES" WHO, IN THEIR DESIRE TO SHOW US THE MERITS OF THE OLD RITE, CELEBRATE IT WITH FAR MORE DIGNITY AND REVERENCE THAN WAS COMMON THEN. I TOTALLY DISAGREE THAT THE SACRIFICIAL NATURE OF THE EUCHARIST AND THE REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST ARE LESS CLEAR IN THE NEW RITE THAN IN THE OLD. EUCHARISTIC PRAYER III, FOR INSTANCE, USES SACRIFICIAL LANGUAGE ALL THE TIME. ALSO, I DISAGREE THAT THE MISSAL OF PIUS VTH WAS PERFECT: IT WAS CALLING OUT FOR REFORM, BEING INDIVIDUALISTIC AND SUFFERING THE EFFECTS OF SCHOLASTICISM BADLY APPLIED. FINALLY, MOST PIETY BEFORE THE CHANGES HAD VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH THE LITURGY AS SUCH, AND MOST PEOPLE HAD LITTLE CONTACT WITH ITS TREASURES. HAVING SAID THAT, IT IS ALSO THE TRADITIONAL LITURGY OF THE CATHOLIC WEST, SOURCE OF GREAT HOLINESS, SOMETHING OF INDESCRIBABLE BEAUTY AND INSPIRATION TO MONKS AND ARTISTS ALIKE.. THAT IT SHOULD BE CELEBRATED BY LIVING COMMUNITIES SO THAT, ACCORDING TO GOD'S PROVIDENCE, IT WILL MAKE ITS CONTRIBUTION TO THE PROCESS OF LIVING LITURGICAL TRADITION CAN ONLY BE A GOOD THING. THE IMPORTANT THING IS THAT WE SHOULD "SEEK GOD", AND IF, IN THAT SEARCH, LE BARROUX FINDS THE OLD LITURGY BETTER FOR THEM, THEN GOD BLESS THEM. "ALL THINGS LEAD TO GOOD FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD." - DAVID O.S.B.
I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT THE "NEW" LITURGY, WELL DONE, WITH FULL NOTICE TAKEN OF THE "HERMENEUTIC OF CONTINUITY", IS AS GOOD IN EVERY WAY AS ANY MASS CELEBRATED BEFORE THE COUNCIL; BUT I AGREE WITH ARCHIMANDRITE ROBERT TAFT THAT WE NEED TO RE-DISCOVER AND USE THE BEST OF WESTERN CHRISTIAN TRADITION. MONASTERIES LIKE LE BARROUX CAN HELP US TO DO THIS BY PRESENTING US WITH A LIVING WITNESS. WE NEED ALSO TO INTEGRATE THE RICHES OF ANGLICAN HYMNODY INTO THE LITURGY, MUCH OF WHICH IS TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN: THIS WILL BE THE TAQSK OF THE ORDINARIATES. ALSO WE MUST MAKE FULL USE OF THE LUTHRAN MUSICAL TRADITION: THE ALLELUIA CHORUS, FOR INSTANCE, IS SECOND TO NONE IN GIVING EXPRESSION TO CHRISTIAN JOY. FINALLY, AND CONNECTED WITH THE LAST, IS MAKING FULL USE OF WESTERN CLASSICAL MUSIC TRADITION, AS THEY DO IN AUSTRIA AND BAVARIA.
"Reform the Reform"
Dom Gerard ,OSB Speaks
winter 1995 (from Italian to French to English)
The monks of St Madeleine's Abbey (of Le Barroux in France) parted company with Archbishop Lefebvre over his decision to consecrate bishops without the approval of the Holy See. 30 Giorni correspondent Stephano Paci interviews its Abbot and founder, Dom Gerard Calvet.
How did your full reconciliation with the Holy See,recognition with Rome come about?
DOM GERARD CALVET: In 1984, (still in canonical ‘Limbo’ and without recognition by Local Bishop) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger telephoned me saying that he wanted to meet me. I immediately rushed to Rome and Card. Ratzinger received me. He was very respectful and listened to all I had to say. We immediately felt an affinity, both intellectual and spiritual. My esteem for him has grown with the years with every discourse of his that I read, especially his very moving intervention at the Communion and Liberation movement's Meeting in Rimini in Italy in 1990. I was greatly impressed by the depth and clarity of its analysis of the Church today.
To go back to my meeting with him that day in 1984, I told Cardinal Ratzinger that our canonical situation at Le Barroux was not good, that we had not been welcomed at all by the Benedictine order. At the time, Archbishop Lefebvre was ordaining our priests. Ratzinger advised me to speak with the ‘Congregation for Religious’. But the Congregation demanded that we stop celebrating Holy Mass by the old Traditional rite - the St Pius V Rite - in order to be fully integrated within the Church. and receive their help. So negotiations broke down.
Then one day, June 19, 1988, Cardinal Augustin Mayer called me telling me he wished to see me at the Vatican. He also begged me not to follow the path of Msgr Lefebvre. The Cardinal, who had also been a Benedictine abbot, came to le Barroux here, with an aide, Msgr Perl, and told us at a deeply emotional meeting ,that the Pope (John-Paul II) was ready to grant us whatever we asked for our monastic life - we could celebrate all liturgy, Mass, by the old rites. We were so happy at that news. It is hard to describe the joy we felt at
being recognized, belonging once more fully to the Catholic Church. Our Mother had embraced us again and all we could do was chant the Magnificat ...
What Cardinal Mayer was offering you was the Protocol of Agreement which Archbishop Lefebvre also accepted on May 5, 1988 but which he rejected the very next day. Why did you accept when he refused?
DOM GERARD: I asked him that. I was actually amazed at his refusal because Rome was agreeing to all our (traditionalists) requests after years of painful confrontations. But after all the false accusations and misunderstandings Msgr Lefebvre was really exhausted. He was wearied and exasperated. So he reacted by rejecting the offer. When I asked why he had signed the accord in the first place he said: "That's what they all wanted. But then when I was by myself ,alone,I realized that we couldn't trust it". I think his age was also a factor. And he was always a suspicious man by nature. Moreover in those years, I witnessed that in the Lefebvrist fortress at Econe (Seminary) the ‘Sensus Ecclesiae’ was becoming progressively impoverished. They were starting to identify themselves with The Church: "Beware the Roman serpent!!", Msgr Lefebvre once wrote to me after I had told him that Cardinal Mayer was coming to Le Barroux to visit.
The day he announced that he would be going ahead with Episcopal consecrations against the Pope's express will, Archbishop Lefebvre confessed to me in an interview that he was convinced a solution to all this would be found "within four or five years at the most". That was nearly six years ago ...
DOM GERARD: Sadly I am pessimistic. If before his death Archbishop Lefebvre had said: "When I've gone, I would like the question with Rome to be resolved", then there would have been some hope. But he did not say this and the Lefebvrist phenomenon is growing. They have more and more priests and faithful and the gap with Rome is widening all the time. Of course, the Lord can do anything he pleases and a miracle could happen. But, in purely human terms, I can see no possibility of reconciliation with Rome.
Were you ever tempted to follow Archbishop Lefebvre?
DOM GERARD: Never. I have never even considered breaking away from the Church. When we were canonically out of place, in a void, I would say to my monks: "You must suffer because of this situation. If you don't you have lost your sense of Church".
Some of the younger monks here might have been tempted and I guess were. But I wasn't. I have never been scandalised by sin and failing in the Church. The Church is without sin , even if it is made of sinners. The Church is not out to fool anyone. Although its sociological apparatus has deteriorated, it is holy and immaculate. When there was misunderstanding and great suspicion in our regard, we were always,always writing to the Holy Father and to various cardinals to keep up our contact with them and to remind them that there were some faithful sons here who were suffering…. No, we have always sustained that it would be unthinkable to break away from The Church.
I was surprised to hear the prayer of consecration to Our Lady that you recite in the abbey: "Let it be, Sweet Virgin Mary, that the spirit of this century, the assaults of schism and heresy ,crash against our (Abbey) walls without ever penetrating them and reaching us". When was that written?
DOM GERARD: In 1986 two years before Msgr Lefebvre's decision. Our community, gathered together at the foot of the statue of the Blessed Virgin, recited this prayer for the first time on August 22, 1986 consecrating the abbey to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And with her love, she has protected us. I wrote this prayer because even then I had a feeling that Msgr Lefebvre was planning something extreme. The error lies in thinking that the faith and sacraments alone are the criteria for belonging to the Catholic Church, forgetting about the bond with hierarchy. Look what happened in 1054 when the Church of Constantinople finally broke away from Rome. The Eastern Churches have remained totally faithful to the faith and Sacraments but they are no longer Catholic. By breaking the bond of dependence on St. Peter, they became schismatic. And although the Lefebvrists sincerely protest that they never caused a schism at all, they are schismatic in practice.
YOU CALL YOURSELVES "TRADITIONALIST CATHOLICS". WHAT DOES TRADION MEAN FOR YOU?
DOM GERARD: This is the way God chose for transmitting the message to us of the Event by which we are saved. According to the word's Latin root, tradere, it means the transmission of the essential fact of divine revelation from person to person and from generation to generation. To grasp the full meaning of this solid chain, linking the whole history of the Church, there is nothing more moving than the memoirs St.Irenaeus wrote to Florin:
"I could still show you the place where the blessed Polycarp sat when he preached the Word of God; I can see him going in and coming out, I can still see the way he walked, the way he looked, the way he lived and I can still hear his discourses to the people. All of this is engraved on my heart. I imagine I can still hear him tell us how he would talk with John and the others who had seen the Lord. He would repeat their words to us and all that he had learned about Jesus Christ, about his miracles and doctrine".
This was the respect and fervour with which the disciples accepted the deposit of Apostolic Tradition and transmitted it to us. This deposit is both unchangeable and progressive, as St Vincent of Lerins Abbey explains to us in his fifth century Commonitorium.
"Deposit", he wrote, "means something entrusted to you, not found by you but received, not imagined by you but a doctrine revealed, not the fruit of your spirit. It is a truth that has found its way to you, not come from you, a truth of which you are not the author but the guardian, not the initiator but the disciple, not the guide but he who follows. Guard this deposit without changing it and without corrupting it for it is the treasure of the Catholic Faith. Guard what they have entrusted to you and transmit it. You have received gold so give gold and nothing less. Do not give me lead. I do not want what appears to be gold but the real thing". And St Vincent adds: "Always teach what you have learned but teach it in such a way as to give a doctrine that is not new the air of newness".
Sooner or later Catholics will have to reach an agreement because some tend to stress the unchangeable nature of dogma and some, are attracted by the progressive vitality of its development. But they are two sides of the same coin. Scripture contains the revelation in its entirety but down the centuries the perfectly objective and unchangeable truth revealed has allowed itself to be discovered progressively. If there are any changes, they depend on the point of view and certainly not on the object of vision. We need to be unceasing in our search for ways to revitalize our approach to unchangeable things. For, tradition is not being immobile. It is living faithfulness.
Liturgy was perhaps your main bone of contention with Rome. Why are you so attached to the Mass of "St Pius V"? Does this mean that you do not believe the "modern" Mass - known as Paul VI's - to be valid?
DOM GERARD: No, it is valid. Obviously Holy Church would not have given us an heretical Mass. But this Rite is inadequate in expressing the Real Presence manifest on the holy altar, the sacrifice of Christ, the Divine Majesty. We , as monks,are attached to the Mass that St Pius V formulated because, as the act of promulgation says, "we know that this Mass is the perfect expression of the faith of the Church".
But remember too, that the Mass one witnesses celebrated today in most places is not the one Pope Paul VI wanted and the one Conciliar Fathers approved. The problems of the Church in these past few decades have not been caused by the Council. The problems are the result of a bad, perhaps intentionally so, interpretation of its texts which are still misunderstood today. The Mass the II Vatican Council produced is the 1965 one ,which safeguarded the crux of traditional liturgy. With the use of the Vulgate and by means of a few other modifications the Mass was given a more modern tone but all its effectiveness was restored.
However, in 1969 a completely new Mass was produced. The principal person behind this sudden sweeping initiative that prevailed over the wishes of Conciliar Fathers was Msgr Bugnini who himself described this Mass explicitly as "a new creation". He also said it was "evolutionary" to the extent that it could easily change with the times and the countries where it would be celebrated. Cardinal Ottaviani, who was prefect of the Holy Office at the time and therefore the institutional watchdog of the Faith of the Church made a solemn declaration, saying that "this new Rite is remarkably far removed in detail and as a whole from the sacrificial theology as it had been drafted at the 22nd session of the Council of Trent".etc… But no-one heeded him in those turbulent years.
Today the time has finally come to reform that negative reform, as Cardinal Ratzinger and the Primate of France, Cardinal Decourtray, have requested. In our time here, over 115 priests have come to us to learn and relearn how to say the traditional Mass so far.. Now eight monasteries in France have adopted the ancient rite as we have done. The Pope should lift the restrictions on the traditional Mass and, I hope, declare that whoever wishes may celebrate it without obtaining the special permission now required. This is something I have written for.
What are those problems of the Church you mentioned?
DOM GERARD: Today there is a crisis of authority. The Church is adapting to the prevailing culture as if its doctrine were the findings of a survey: what the majority thinks, what the Church ought to teach. Pope John Paul II's most recent encyclical Veritatis Splendor, though, highlighted the abomination of this attitude. The Church transcends all opinions, even if they are the majority. But unfortunately the men of the Church are incredibly conditioned by the press/media. There is another problem. It is that the Church is prey to a sentimentalist crisis. Faith is an act of the intellect guided by will, the First Vatican Council reminded us. Faith is not just sentimentalism or even nostalgia, for the mind too has something to say about the fact revealed. But today many Christians are living the faith as if it were an emotion. Yet martyrs did not let themselves be killed for an emotion, but for a reality they had proven, and which their intellect had recognised.
Even as the third millennium approaches, you are living the lives of early monks, a strict observance. What sense is there in the monastic life today?
DOM GERARD: Monks unconsciously built Europe. Their adventure is primarily, if not exclusively, an interior thing. We are moved by thirst: thirst for the Absolute, thirst for another world, thirst of truth and beauty. Liturgy feeds this thirst by making us turn our eyes to things eternal and by it the monk becomes a man tending with all his being towards things that do not pass away. Monasteries, old and new, are primarily hands raised in silence to heaven. Then after that they might also be academies of science and cradles of civilisation. But first they are the obstinate, irreducible reminder that there is another world, of which this world is just the image, the annunciation and the herald. This is the task we monks are called to. Today, as 2,000 years ago.
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