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I am very sorry that Father Peter Daly of Catholic News Service has such a dim view of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, sometimes called the
pre-Vatican II Mass (although the Novus Ordo actually was not promulgated until 1970, years after the close of the Second Vatican Council).
Father Daly states that those who attend the extraordinary form are “just spectators,” seemingly because the responses are fewer and because there are no lay lectors or eucharistic ministers.
Likewise, he imputes ill motives to those who wish to attend the extraordinary form of the liturgy—with absolutely no proof—by stating that they “want no commitment and no communication.”
Many who speak ill of the extraordinary form display their narrow-mindedness in such a way as to narrowly define the “fully conscious and active participation” called for by “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” the Second Vatican Council document on the liturgy.
As Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1998 ad limina address to the bishops of the United States:
“[A]ctive participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty.”
Thus, Pope John Paul II recognized that silence in itself is a form of “fully conscious and active participation” inasmuch as it allows us to focus on God.
Indeed, the extraordinary form has much more opportunity for such “active passivity” than does the Novus Ordo.
Father Daly also claims that “almost nobody is pressing” for the extraordinary form. On its face, this statement is laughable. If there was truly a dearth of those requesting the extraordinary form, then Pope John Paul II would not have issued the motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei” in 1988 which permitted the extraordinary form to be said with permission from the local bishop, and—almost certainly—Pope Benedict XVI would not have issued his motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” in July.
Most tellingly, the numbers themselves prove Father Daly to be in error. As layman Karl Keating noted back in 2005, about 120 of America’s 176 dioceses (nearly 70 percent) made the extraordinary form available.
Finally, I would invite Father Daly to the extraordinary form that is celebrated here in Indianapolis at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church each Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
While I am a very infrequent attendant at the extraordinary form of the liturgy, I noticed that while half of the people in the pews were indeed senior citizens, the other half were young couples, oftentimes with children in tow.
(Carlos F. Lam is a member of St. Matthew Parish in Indianapolis.) †