opened on October 11, 1962. Until then, the Church had seemed
suitably self-assured and reasonably exclusive.
that day on, “calling things into question” was the rule. I cannot
give a precise date, but in my deanery liturgical usage of
vernacular happened well before 1964. Though I could prevent it in
parish Masses, I could not in private Masses. Experimentation
became commonplace. I was told
that a priest used to offer daily Mass in the dining room of his
priory, during breakfast, with consecrated toast—the whole
I turned up
at his priory without delay and told him what I had heard.
wrong with that?” he asked. “I am simply trying to make
Mass more realistic and living.”
wrong? Everything! You will be so kind as to say Mass with the
proper hosts and wine, according to the 1962 rubrics that have
just been published, and at the altar of your church.”
certainly will if you insist.”
are in agreement. I would not like to offend you for all the world
because you are a good guy, but you are on the wrong side.”
clarify that I liked this priest. Unfortunately he ended up in an
asylum after trying to murder a most progressivist bishop. He was
the best of all men but with a somewhat fragile mind.
In one of
the biggest houses of the parish there was a Mass concelebrated by
a very famous Catholic priest, two Anglicans, and two Protestants.
Everything was admirably organized except for the forgotten hosts.
Someone had to go and fetch them in Bury. This is how I happened
to know about it.
was Cardinal Bea’s trip to England to “take the temperature” of
the reaction of English Catholics confronted with ecumenism. He
was meant to meet two delegates of each diocese. I immediately
wrote to my bishop that, being a convert and a former Secretary of
the Conferences on Higher Studies, I considered myself a possible
delegate. He very courteously answered that the committee in
charge of welcoming Cardinal Bea had decided not to meet any
convert, since they infallibly would find themselves ill-disposed
toward their former confession. What a wonderful argument! Only
those who did not know anything on this issue could be truly
vernacular languages were allowed in the whole liturgy, life
became really unpleasant. Every priest in my deanship, the
chaplain of a Dominican convent excluded, yet my own vicar
included, adopted the vernacular. I remained the only secular
priest celebrating in Latin. Of the two hundred and seventy
secular priests of the diocese, only four continued to say the Old
Mass. Our petition to ask the bishop to permit the Old Mass
gathered ninety signatures, but his refusal deprived them of the
courage to say it.
parish the result was miserable. The curate and his vicar would
not say the same Mass anymore. I thought of retiring without
decided not to: the 1964 Mass had not fiddled with the Canon,
which, theoretically, still ought to be said silently and in
Latin. It was still possible to celebrate the model-64 Mass with a
certain devotion. Yet I wrote to the bishop to submit my
resignation from the day on which the Canon would be altered. He
replied through an utterly nice letter stating: “Nobody is
thinking of reforming the Canon” and “the bishops are
precisely here in order to prevent it from being touched.” The
poor dear bishop! He had not the slightest clue of what was going
to happen. As for me, I knew it. I had received information from
my friends of the Conferences on Higher Studies and some others
through interesting conversations at Moissac, at the seminary of
the Mission of France. I also had the opportunity to go to the
Canisium at Innsbruck where I was able to talk openly with Karl
Rahner and Jungmann. All of this was very instructive.
There was a
question, however, to which I could hardly find a satisfying
answer. Every priest had daily said the Old Mass with the
required carefulness and with apparent devotion. How could 98% of
them willingly accept to change it, whereas neither Pope nor
Council had requested it? They had thrown themselves on this
simple permission like the pigs of Gadara into sea. By the way, I
had been a dean for several years and I knew the priests of my
deanery well. Only two of them were stupid enough to think they
were better and to rejoice at being able to express themselves.
The others were privately opposed to the changes. Only one, the
already mentioned Dominican, remained faithful to the Old Mass.
What made them accept the changes? Obedience, apathy, fear of
reprisals, the desire for a quiet life? Yet this was the fact of
the matter: they could not possibly have loved the Old Mass. It
was nothing more than a rite which one could change as simply as
one changes clothes. But if they did not like Mass, certainly they
were incapable of adoration. They most likely considered Mass as
just something they had to do, and not something that God made.
faith governs prayer, prayer governs faith. I had no doubt
concerning the faith of my brother priests except for maybe one.
So I had to look at the side of prayer. There I found that
we priests were really deficient. We all were far too busy saying
the Mass, saying the breviary, or doing something else to spend a
moment in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. We encouraged the
laity in a form of prayer that we hardly practiced ourselves. I
could see then how, at the Beda [Pontifical] College in Rome, my
ascetic formation had been extensive. They had taught me how to
perfect myself, but they had not taught me to pray—that is, how to
adore God. The little I knew of this subject I owed to my reading
of mystics like St. Gertrude or St. Teresa of Avila, or writers on
spirituality such as Augustin Baker, Surin, and Grou.
It is clear
that, directed to self-improvement, ascetism requires intelligent
human acts, with the help of actual grace.
the other hand, as it is the adoration of God, is the fruit of
habitual or sanctifying grace; it is the return to the Father of
the love of the Holy Ghost through a human person. On the human
point of view, it is a willing act tending to empty ourselves of
self, to generate recollection, and to favor assent in order to
As soon as
one perceives the difference between ascetism and prayer, I think
one can understand the revolution in the Church.
Priests—notably the most efficacious priests, that is, the
bishops—were fed up with a liturgy in which they had nothing to
do. They therefore wanted an escetic Mass in place of an adoring
Mass—action in place of contemplation. They got it.
Available from Dominique Martin Morin, a French publishing house.
All quotes here are from the 2005 edition of Prêtre rejeté
which is 320 pages long.