A small group of us visited the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretive Center in Duffield, VA on July 19th, 2021. It was very interesting and informative discovering how pioneers made their way through this part of the country. We had lunch at a local diner, called ChuBees" and stopped for a tour of the Natural Tunnel State Park before returning to Kingsport.
The most important ministry of our church, the ministry that effects the most people is the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. All that we are as St. Dominic Church and all that we do flows from the grace of the Eucharistic celebration. As pastor, it is my duty to work to ensure that our parish’s celebration of the Eucharist is authentic, reverent and fully in line with what the Church teaches. This work is not done alone and I am grateful to all who work with me in ensuring the beauty of our liturgies (Fr. Emmanuel, the deacons, the Liturgy Committee, choir members, altar servers, liturgical ministers, ushers, the list goes on). It is through the effort and devotion of so many people that we have authentic, reverent and beautiful liturgies here at St. Dominic Church.
Recently, Pope Francis made news through his motu propio, “Traditionis Custodes” that restricts but does not eliminate the celebration the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the pre-Vatican II liturgy). Bishop Stika is studying this document (as are all bishops) in order to determine how best to implement it in our particular diocese. My take on the document is that Pope Francis, in his authority as the successor to Peter, is demonstrating a pastor’s care for the whole church. The document acknowledges the beauty and historical richness of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass – a beauty that all of the differing liturgical rites of the Church have, including the Ordinary Form of the Mass. The document states that there is a place within the Church for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass under the authority of the local bishop. But the document raises caution that there are some persons/groups within the Church who are making use of the platform of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to question not the pope but the Second Vatican Council itself. It is one thing to not care for or to criticize a particular pope in his style. Honestly, it seems to me that most popes don’t really pay much heed to this criticism as they are more focused on following Christ in their unique role. Francis has his critics but so did Pope Emeritus Benedict and St. John Paul II. The danger comes when an Ecumenical Council (which is the highest teaching authority of the Church) is questioned. Doubting the authenticity of a Council (i.e. Vatican II) is doubting the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. This, I believe, is Pope Francis’ underlying concern expressed through the motu propio. As pastor to the universal church, he is calling all to unity and upholding the authenticity of the Second Vatican Council and therefore giving due reverence to the Holy Spirit.
We do not celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass here at St. Dominic Church, so why this letter? The motu propio and the reaction to it in some quarters, calls us all to reflect on the importance of the Eucharistic liturgy. The Sunday celebration is the heart of who we are and even as it might develop over time under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and have different manifestations expressed through the different liturgical rites of the Church, it remains the heart – the source and summit of our faith. We celebrate the Mass that follows from the Second Vatican Council (aka the “Ordinary Form” or the “liturgical books promulgated by St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II”) and it is beautiful. It is an authentic and reverent celebration that touches hearts and makes Christ accessible to the worshipper and it is the work of the entire people of God.
Here is a beautiful quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding the liturgy and its importance - both in its communal spirit and for each individual:
“It is the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its Head, that celebrates. ‘Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the Church which is ‘the sacrament of unity,’ namely, the holy people united and organized under the authority of the bishops. Therefore, liturgical services pertain to the whole Body of the Church. They manifest it, and have effects upon it. But they touch individual members of the Church in different ways, depending on their orders, their role in the liturgical services, and their actual participation in them.’ For this reason, ‘rites which are meant to be celebrated in common, with the faithful present and actively participating, should as far as possible be celebrated in that way rather than by an individual and quasi-privately’” (CCC 1140).
I do believe that we have beautiful, authentic and reverent Eucharistic celebrations here at St. Dominic Church that reflect the communal and unifying nature of liturgy. I am so grateful to everyone who gives of their time and talent to help our liturgies be true and meaningful encounters with Christ – the risen One who is present in our midst.
The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is truly the heart of who we are and of all that we do!