Rorate Caeli

Pope to Students and Faculty of Sant’Anselmo, May 7, 2022: “Every reform creates resistance… All of these things scandalized closed-minded people”

Today, the pope addressed the teachers and students of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute Sant’Anselmo (Italian original here), the think-tank of Traditionis Custodes and like-minded initiatives. He compares those who lamented Pius XII’s massacre of Holy Week to the Pharisees who rent their garments, and accuses lovers of the “sacred and great” Catholic tradition of weaponizing it against Church unity.

His attacks on tradition are, as always, superficial, hypocritical, and judgmental, and his undying optimism for a failed reform bears all the marks of boilerplate stereotypes, ignoring all realities on the ground. It’s really rather pathetic: he has no experience at all of the joy and energy of the traditional movement, and seemingly no awareness of how deathly dull is the Novus Ordo in most parishes—aging, shrinking, few children, few or no vocations... representing the “active participation” of a few percent of a once-Catholic population, driven away from the “Church of Vatican II” by its sheer banality, irreverence, irrelevance, and lack of anything meaningful to say to anyone hungry for encounter with the mystery of God. That’s what’s “senza vita, senza gioia.”

Meanwhile, my crowded FSSP parish this morning rejoiced in the Lord with a solemn High Votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at which many first Communions took place, as our parish continues to grow: people who love the Lord and each other and are relieved to have found truly Catholic worship that nourishes and inspires us in our pilgrimage to heaven, a foretaste of which we experience on earth.

The end of this papacy cannot come soon enough.


Consistory Hall
Saturday, 7 May 2022

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!

Thank you, Father Abbot Primate, for your introduction. The Italian has improved! All right. I greet the Father Rector, the Father Dean, the Professors, and all of you, dear students and former students of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

I am happy to receive you on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of its foundation. It came about as a response to the growing need of the People of God to live and participate more intensely in the liturgical life of the Church; a need which found enlightening verification in the Second Vatican Council with the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium. By now, your institution’s dedication to the study of the liturgy is well recognized. Experts trained in your classrooms promote the liturgical life of many dioceses, in very different cultural contexts.

Three dimensions emerge clearly from the Council’s drive for the renewal of liturgical life. The first is active and fruitful participation in the liturgy; the second is ecclesial communion enlivened by the celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments of the Church; and the third is the impetus to the evangelizing mission from the liturgical life that involves all the baptized. The Pontifical Liturgical Institute is at the service of this threefold need.

First of all, the formation to live and promote active participation in liturgical life. The in-depth and scientific study of the liturgy should encourage you to foster, as the Council wished, this fundamental dimension of Christian life. The key here is to educate people to enter into the spirit of the liturgy. And to know how to do this, it is necessary to be imbued with this spirit. At Sant’Anselmo, I would like to say, this should happen: to be imbued with the spirit of the liturgy, to feel its mystery, with an ever new amazement.

Liturgy is not possessed [by us], no, it is not a profession: liturgy is learned, liturgy is celebrated. To arrive at this attitude of celebrating the liturgy. And one participates actively only to the extent that one enters into this spirit of celebration. It is not a matter of rites, it is the mystery of Christ, who once and for all revealed and fulfilled the sacred, the sacrifice and the priesthood. Worship in spirit and in truth. All this, in your Institute, must be meditated upon, assimilated, I would say “breathed in”. In the school of the Scriptures, of the Fathers, of Tradition, of the Saints. Only in this way can participation be translated into a greater sense of the Church, one that makes us live evangelically in every time and in every circumstance. And even this attitude of celebrating suffers temptations. On this point I would like to emphasize the danger, the temptation of liturgical formalism: to go after forms, formalities rather than reality, as we see today in those movements that try to go backwards and deny the Second Vatican Council. Then the celebration is recitation, it is something without life, without joy.

Your dedication to liturgical study, on the part of both professors and students, also makes you grow in ecclesial communion. For the liturgical life opens us to each other, to those closest and furthest from the Church, in our common belonging to Christ. Giving glory to God in the liturgy finds its counterpart in love of neighbor, in the commitment to live as brothers and sisters in daily situations, in the community in which I find myself, with its merits and its limitations. This is the path to true sanctification. Therefore, the formation of the People of God is a fundamental task for living a fully ecclesial liturgical life.

And the third aspect. Every liturgical celebration always ends with mission. What we live and celebrate leads us to go out to meet others, to meet the world around us, to meet the joys and needs of so many who perhaps live without knowing the gift of God. Genuine liturgical life, especially the Eucharist, always impels us to charity, which is above all openness and attention to others. This attitude always begins and is grounded in prayer, especially liturgical prayer. And this dimension also opens us to dialogue, to encounter, to the ecumenical spirit, to welcome.

I have dwelt briefly on these three fundamental dimensions. I stress again that liturgical life, and the study of it, must lead to greater ecclesial unity, not division. When the liturgical life is a bit of a banner of division, there is the odor of the devil in there, the deceiver. It is not possible to worship God and at the same time make the liturgy a battleground for issues that are not essential, indeed, for outdated issues and to take sides, starting with the liturgy, with ideologies that divide the Church. The Gospel and the Tradition of the Church call us to be firmly united on the essentials, and to share legitimate differences in the harmony of the Spirit. That is why the Council wished to prepare abundantly the table of the Word of God and the Eucharist, to make possible the presence of God in the midst of his People. Thus the Church, through liturgical prayer, prolongs the work of Christ in the midst of the men and women of every age, and also in the midst of creation, dispensing the grace of his sacramental presence. Liturgy must be studied while remaining faithful to this mystery of the Church.

It is true that every reform creates resistance. I remember, I was a boy, when Pius XII began with the first liturgical reform, the first: you can drink water before communion, fasting for an hour... “But this is against the sanctity of the Eucharist!”, they tore their clothes. Then, the Vespers Mass: “But, how come, the Mass is in the morning!” Then, the reform of the Easter Triduum: “But how, on Saturday the Lord must rise, now they postpone it to Sunday, to Saturday evening, on Sunday they don’t ring the bells... And where do the twelve prophecies go?” All of these things scandalized closed-minded people. It happens even today. Indeed, these closed mindsets use liturgical patterns to defend their own point of view. Using the liturgy: this is the drama we are experiencing in ecclesial groups that are distancing themselves from the Church, questioning the Council, the authority of the bishops, in order to preserve tradition. And the liturgy is used for this.

The challenges of our world and the present moment are very strong. The Church needs today, as always, to live by the liturgy. The Council Fathers achieved a great work to ensure that this would be so. We must continue this task of being formed to the liturgy in order to be formed by the liturgy. The Blessed Virgin Mary together with the Apostles prayed, broke the Bread and lived charity with all. Through their intercession, may the liturgy of the Church make present today and always this model of Christian life.

I thank you for the service you render to the Church and I encourage you to continue it in the joy of the Spirit. I bless you from my heart. And I ask you to please pray for me. Thank you.

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At New Liturgical Movement, Gregory DiPippo wrote a response (indirectly) to this address, all of which is worth reading. I quote just two paragraphs:

There is probably no area of the Church’s life today that is unaffected by ideologies . . . but there is certainly none in which this is more the case than in the field of the liturgy. Many people insist on looking at the post-Conciliar reform only through certain ideological lenses. Through these lenses, it is declared to be the product and fulfillment of the original Liturgical Movement inspired by men like Dom Guéranger and Fr Romano Guardini, whose ideals it betrayed, whose principles it largely rejected, and whose goals it did not fulfill. It is declared to be the product and fulfillment of the will of Vatican II as expressed in Sacrosanctum Concilium, whose ideals it also betrayed, whose principles it also largely rejected, and whose goals it also did not fulfill. Concerns that the scholarly premises of the reform were erroneous at best, and its methods fraudulent, are ignored or dismissed. It is declared to be a spectacular pastoral success, as churches and religious houses and schools empty and close, and membership in the Church collapses precipitously. And because it is in the very nature of an ideology to blind those who believe in it to its failures, those who point out its failures are either insulted or silenced, but never answered.

. . . [T]here will come a day when the ideological conviction that the post-Conciliar reforms have been a spectacular success no longer holds the unreasonable fascination that it does on so many minds, especially among those who lived through them, and remain unduly attached to the naïve optimism of their youth. Then the insults and forced resignations and suppressions will come to an end, and there will begin the difficult process of honestly assessing what went wrong, and why it went wrong, and determining what needs to be done to put it right.

Read the rest there.