Rorate Caeli

Will the real Pope Pius V please come forward?

It was Professor Lauren Pristas, a careful scholar of the orations of the Mass (especially collects, secrets, postcommunions), who first drew my attention and that of many others to the enormous differences in the lex orandi between the old and new missals—a difference that bears very obviously on the lex credendi of the Church.

On rare occasions, the new prayers are more expansive and specific, but far more commonly, they heavy-handedly reduce the richness of the traditional prayers. This they do in a variety of ways: softening or omitting the intercessory power of the saints; editing out references to miracles; removing “difficult” language about mortification, fasting, judgment, punishment, hell, and the enemies of the Church; and generally seeking to avoid as much as possible that which would be objectionable to modern, pluralistic, democratic people.

Examples come up all the time. I attended an Ordinary Form Mass on April 30th, which is the revised date for the memorial of St. Pius V (his actual dies natalis is May 1st), and decided to compare its prayers with those of the old feast of St. Pius V on May 5th. (The calendar, it must be admitted, gets messy at the end of April and the beginning of May, due to a traffic jam of traditional feasts: St. Peter Martyr, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Joseph, St. Athanasius, the Finding of the Holy Cross and/or the Apostles Philip and James, St. Monica, and St. Pius V...)

Traditional Collect (MR 1962)

O God, who for the overthrow of the enemies of Thy Church and for the restoration of divine worship didst vouchsafe to choose blessed Pius as supreme Pontiff: grant that we may be defended by his patronage and so cleave to Thy service, that overcoming all the wiles of our enemies, we may rejoice in perpetual peace. Through our Lord…

Modern Collect (MR 1969/2002)

O God, who in your providence raised up Pope Saint Pius the Fifth in your Church that the faith might be safeguarded and more fitting worship be offered to you, grant, through his intercession, that we may participate in your mysteries with lively faith and fruitful charity. Through our Lord…

It's interesting to see here how the original clear reference to Pius V's involvement in defending the Church against the Protestant Revolt and against militant Islam is muted, and how active participation becomes the new point of the petition, rather than the overcoming of enemies to enjoy the fruits of peace. I suppose the reformers thought that in this Age of Aquarius and representative democracy, we have no more enemies. We're all brothers! Open the floodgates of immigration to build a Civilization of Diverse Equality and Equal Diversity, courtesy of the European Union and the United Nations.

Returning now to reality: Could anyone imagine a prayer better suited for today's Moslem-saturated, devilishly deceived Europe than the traditional Collect? 

Traditional Postcommunion (MR 1962)

Appeased by this Sacrifice, O Lord, in which Thou hast nourished Thy Church on heavenly food, do Thou so guide her that She may be steered with a firm hand and, while enjoying more liberty, may persist in wholeness of faith. Through our Lord…

Modern Postcommunion (MR 1969/2002)

May the Sacrament we have received, O Lord our God, stir up in us that fire of charity with which blessed Pius burned ardently as he gave himself unceasingly for your Church. Through Christ our Lord.

In keeping with the dogmatic teaching of the Council of Trent, which Pius V so well implemented, the traditional postcommunion tightly connects the propitiatory sacrifice of the Mass with the heavenly food of the Most Holy Eucharist, and presents us with the image of a ship well steered through the billowing waves, yet never suffering shipwreck by abandoning the integrity of Catholic doctrine. The modern replacement shifts the focus to Pius V's personal charity and expresses a beautiful but generic sentiment, which could have been used for countless other saints.

So, we do not see here any error, but we do see a loss of the distinctive "edge," the "saltiness" that the old prayers of Pius V have. One small reason among tens of thousands to cherish and retain the usus antiquior as our liturgical birthright. May it spread over the Catholic world by the intercession of Our Lady of Victory, St. Pius V, and all the saints who lived according to the spirit of tradition.