Yesterday evening, I was able to attend a celebration of the Mass in Latin. Unlike the Latin Masses which I’ve attended here in South Korea, this was a Latin Mass using the form of the Roman Rite in use before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and its liturgical reforms which had more or less achieved their definitive form by 1970, albeit with minor tweakings in 1974 by Pope Paul VI and in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. The Mass celebrated last evening followed the 1962 Missale Romanum of Blessed John XXIII.
A group of young Catholics had grown interested in the form of the Mass before the Vatican II reforms. Unfortunately, they’ve not met with much success in getting anyone to celebrate it for them. This time, they were able to get a priest from another diocese who had learned how to celebrate according to the 1962 Missale Romanum while in the United States. They had previously succeeded in getting a German priest, stationed in China, to celebrate Mass for them.
For those interested, I am placing a photo of yesterday’s Mass.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI took the dramatic step of widely permitting the usage of the Latin Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum. Many of the Papal liturgies in Rome use the 2000 Missale Romanum of Pope John Paul II. The Pope has not yet celebrated using the 1962 Missale Romanum publicly, though many of the Cardinals in Rome have done so in some of the papal basilicas including St. Peter’s itself. The pre-Vatican II liturgy has a great sense of solemnity and beauty to it. It is the hope of Pope Benedict that both the older and newer forms might exist alongside each other and that both might be mutually enriched.
The Catholic Church has a wide number of different liturgies. Catholics in Milan, for instance, use a different form of the Mass than elsewhere. The Archdiocese of Toledo, Spain has a form of the Mass which, while differing from the Roman Rite in many ways, goes back many centuries. While most parishes will, of course, still use the post-Conciliar form of the Mass, the pre-Conciliar form is still an option. In permitting this, the Pope is confirming the authentic diversity of rites which has long been a part of Catholic tradition. When St. Pius V condified the Roman liturgy in the sixteenth century, he permitted the continuing observance of liturgical rites at least two hundred years older than the Roman Rite. Thus, Catholics in Milan continued to use their distinctive liturgy, as did those in Toledo, in northern Portugal, and among some of the different religious orders.
While these rites may differ in some details from the post-Conciliar form of the Roman Rite, the essence of Catholic worship is still remains.