On July 16th, Pope Francis issued the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes, On the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the Reform of 1970. Many bishops it would seem have wisely granted themselves what the document does not; a vacatio legis or period before the law takes effect. Whatever the reasons for this document, should it be applied with all its rigour, its fullest impact will be felt by the lay faithful who attend the Usus Antiquior; even if only because their number is greater than those who celebrate this liturgy. The promulgation of this document as a fait accompli has resulted in both consternation and disappointment. This may be a moment in history, and there have been others, when as St. John Henry Newman observed, the voice of tradition may express itself in the communis fidelium sensus – the shared sense of the faithful. The fact that so many faithful lay people are attached to the Traditional liturgy is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored or dismissed.
For this reason, the best response to this document on the part of the laity may very well be provided for in the Church’s Code of Canon Law, specifically in Canon 212:
- 1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.
- 2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.
- 3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.
The Holy Father has often spoken of the importance of parrhesia as a way of speaking with straightforward simplicity, filial trust, joyous assurance, humble boldness, the certainty of being loved (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2778). We pray for our Holy Father daily both at Holy Mass and in our own private prayers and in the face of what appears incomprehensible, given the youthfulness, vibrancy and fervour of communities that celebrate the Traditional liturgy, this is definitely a time for the Christian faithful to make their spiritual needs and desires know to the chief shepherd of the Church.
I have written to the Holy Father and I briefly shared with him how the celebration of Holy Mass in the Usus Antiquior which I began at the request of the faithful has deepened my understanding of the sacrificial nature of priestly life. The spirit of sacrifice that pervades the Traditional liturgy is perhaps its most attractive attribute spiritually speaking, because it speaks to the essence of Christian life. This may in part explain the appeal of the Traditional liturgy to so many young people and young families who recognise that only the spirit of sacrifice can make our lives meaningful and purposeful. The hedonism of so much that is characteristic of modern culture is exhausting; and the tranquility of order that the Traditional liturgy communicates fulfills the deepest yearnings of the soul that yearns for the living waters that flow from the Sacred Heart of our Saviour. A physical letter written with straightforward simplicity will surely be favourably received by the Holy Father; for what father would not welcome a letter written by a son or daughter with the certainty of being loved?
I have composed a template that may be of help to those who wish to make their spiritual desires and needs known to the Holy Father:
His Holiness, Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City
I am writing this letter to express my dismay and consternation of soul at the promulgation of the Motu Proprio Traditionis custodes which restricts the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the Missale Romanum (editio typica, 1962) in use prior to the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missae in 1970.
Since the promulgation of the Motu Proprio of Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, I have been privileged to attend the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on a regular basis/ somewhat regular basis at …. Parish in….. I would like Your Holiness to know that I have derived immense spiritual benefits from the celebration of this Mass and the instruction I have received during it. My participation has been conscious, active and fruitful. As a result, my commitment to our faith has deepened. Our community has grown in fervour and charity and I have come to know, to understand and to love our faith more deeply. My commitment to Christian life spiritually and in active charity has intensified because of the spiritual nourishment I have received.
I am asking Your Holiness to consider the spiritual needs of your children. We are sons and daughters of the Church who desire the greater glory of God, the salvation of our own soul and the salvation of all people. The charity of Christ Our Saviour which excludes no one, has urged me to write this letter; and it is my hope that Your Holiness will rescind your Motu Proprio bearing in mind what your venerable predecessor Pope Benedict XVI observed in the letter accompanying Summorum pontificum: what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.
I have the honour to profess myself with the most profound respect, a faithful son/daughter of Holy Mother Church and Your Holiness’ humble servant,
(For a pdf version of the sample letter, please see: Letter to Pope Francis in Response to Traditionis Custodes