Editorial: Radicati nella fede, May 2014
Newsletter of the Catholic community of
Domodossola and Vocogno, Diocese of Novara, Italy
There is nothing which is merely outside ourselves that can guarantee the renewal of the Church or the rebirth of Christian life.
When we talk of the crisis of the faith in modern times, when we desire the re- flowering of Christian life for our people, we must be very much aware that it is not possible to put our faith in any guaranteed automatism of something that happens outside of ourselves: the rebirth will always begin with our being born again through the grace of God. Yes, it is in personal conversion that we must hope for the re-flowering of the Church.
The idea of spreading Christianity to the sound of reforms started precisely from an error in perspective. We believe that this was the error of the conciliar years. We shall try to explain.
Was there need for a renewal in the Christian life in the ‘50s and ‘60s? Certainly there was. Was there need for greater truth in priestly life, in convents, in lay associations, in Catholic schools, in families? We have no difficulty in admitting it: a certain formalism was placing the life of faith in danger…there was need for authentic freshness.
However, it was a grave mistake to imagine that authentic freshness in the Christian life was to be found in an entire series of reforms, which radically changed, if not distorted, the face of the Church. A renewal did not come out of these, nor a springtime but a long autumn which has [now] brought wintertime to the faith, a winter which has killed the life of grace in our countries and lands of historic Christianity.
We started changing everything, modernizing the Mass and with it, all the other aspects of Catholic life, thinking that this would stop the flight from the churches, with the result, which is there for everyone to see, that the churches ended up being emptied; the people who stayed and attend them, are certainly not more authentically Catholic than the people of the past.
A striking example is precisely the reform of the Mass: they changed it to render it less difficult and less heavy for people. Did a renewal come about? No, it didn’t: instead, an impoverishment [came about] and an ambiguous emptying of content: it is as if the “skeletal” new rite of the Mass no longer educated, creating space for all our little and big heresies.
The way to go was another: that of working fervently every day in the education of souls to live the Mass and [helping] them to understand its inestimable worth and immeasurable beauty. Intelligent, fervent priests were needed, able in prayer, study and sacrifice; deeply motivated souls were needed. Instead we confided in the deceptive way of an external reform which facilitated the rites for priests and the faithful…under the illusion that by fixing exterior things, souls would convert. And everything collapsed into a dreadful impoverishment: the Mass was banalised to run after the faithful who had lost their fervor, and reduced almost to a rite worthy of a merely natural religion.
Instead what the Church needed was holiness, and holiness is born from personal conversion.
The rite does not have to be changed, our heart instead does. The rite must be the stable rock upon which we lay our entire life. It is for this reason that we returned to Tradition, it is for this reason that we preserve the “Mass of Ages”. The rite must preserve the true faith and true Catholic prayer. It must place us in the correct position before God; it is only thus that grace will be able to work our conversion.
Saints, passionate for the work of God, are the ones who renew the Church and Christian life and not human games of continuous changes.
The one who wants continuous change is simply a bored man; and with bored men in search of exterior novelties, even religious, a Church of holiness is not built.
The true liturgical movement, meaning the one of Gueranger and Pius X, was done to favour authenticity in prayer by priests and faithful. It was done for souls to be immersed in the Holy Liturgy, truly praying with the Church so that this would give birth to a more authentic, intelligent Christian life. Instead in the liturgical movement there was an operation of betrayal, carried out by those who thought that facilitating was the equivalent of aiding prayer: it was not to be, as anyone with eyes can see the disaster… Christians rarely know how to pray nowadays.
There is nothing external that can substitute our conversion to sincere personal devotion, to an authentic love for Christ. Our conversion, however, worked through grace, will spring from the prayer of the Church which Tradition has given us and which is the prayer of Christ Himself.
So it is necessary also for us that:
1) there is a return to correct liturgy according to tradition, so that the treasure which is “prayed revelation” is not lost;
2) that priests and the faithful motivated intelligently, become authentic missionaries and teachers of prayer according to the heart of the Church. If the second point did not apply to us then we would fall into the same tragic error of the Council reformers who believed that it was enough to go back to something exterior (perhaps even the Old Mass) for life to be revived.
May Our Lady assist us in being faithful to our task.
[Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana. Image by Gonzague Bridault, Mass on the 800th anniversary of the birth of St Louis, Apr. 25, 2014, Saint-Eugène, Paris.]