Rorate Caeli

An Eastern Catholic Priest on the Recent Vatican Document

The following message was sent to me by an Eastern Catholic priest. I post it here with his permission.

I grew up in the Latin Church, although, like many faithful within it, my ancestral heritage was Eastern Catholic.

In my teenage years, I discovered the “indult” Mass as an oasis in the midst of a liturgical desert. I began attending it away from my home parish and eventually taught myself how to serve. For this I was sternly rebuked by my local pastor. Even though I was the only teenager in the parish still practicing the Faith regularly, I was apparently taking the Church backwards with obsolete ways that could only empty the pews.

I rediscovered my ancestral Eastern heritage at college, and having discerned a vocation to the priesthood, I entered seminary and was ordained an Eastern Catholic priest. Sometime later, I received faculties to celebrate also according to the Roman Rite. In honor of my ancestors, I wanted my first  Mass to be celebrated according to the usus antiquor.

This first celebration was to take place, privately, at a historic church. I arrived only to be turned away by the secretary because I apparently needed permission to celebrate the old Mass at least three days in advance, directly from the rector, as well as episcopal attestation of fluency in Latin (or something to that effect). As a result, my first Roman Mass took place while on vacation in a living room. There was “no room for me at the inn.” Eventually, I was able to celebrate publicly at a Latin parish.

The following is my experience. My own apostolic liturgical heritage is certainly very beautiful. At the same time, I found that there was no better way for me to rediscover the Eucharist as a priest than to learn how to celebrate it according to another apostolic rite. In celebrating both the Eastern and traditional Latin liturgies, I not only discovered profound riches within the Latin liturgical tradition, but also similarities in emphasis and ethos, as well as interesting textual parallels, with my own ancient Eastern tradition. The height of that discovery for me was when I received the privilege of celebrating the pre-1955 Holy Week.

It is with these experiences in mind that I am writing with abject horror at what is currently taking place with the ancient liturgical rites of the Church of Rome, supposedly in the name of pastoral “accompaniment,” “mercy,” “synodality” and “unity.” If my own liturgical tradition were to be so volcanically outlawed, and if I were to be left feeling that I am a second-class citizen in my own Church, I am certain that my reaction would be the same as that of so many Latin Catholics throughout the world today.

Many of them are looking to the Eastern Catholic Churches as standards of liturgical and theological orthodoxy. Sadly, Eastern Catholicism has its fair share of advocates for liturgical "reform" along the lines of that deformation which has already taken place in the Latin Church (in fact, some Eastern Catholic Churches have already enacted parallel reforms). At the same time, in obedience to the call of the Second Vatican Council, many others in the East have been undergoing a restoration of authentic liturgical traditions which had been unfortunately lost over time. For almost sixty years, we Eastern Catholics have been told to be "faithful to our authentic traditions and to restore whatever has been lost over time."

In my opinion, it is time for us to return the favor. It is time for us to remind and encourage the Latin Church to be faithful to its authentic tradition, and to restore whatever has been lost to it over the course of recent decades! While some Eastern Catholics do not like the traditional Roman Rites, others have experienced it as a treasure complementary to their own tradition, and are not threatened by its fraternal apostolicity.

Therefore, I would like you, the “old believers” of the Latin Church, to know of my support, as well as the support of many other Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox. Heeding the call of the Holy Father to reach out to our marginalized brothers and sisters on the peripheries, please know that, if you should find no room at the “inn” of your ancestors, we love you, we pray for you, and we welcome you.

“Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted…. Blessed are you who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for yours is the kingdom of heaven…. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven….”