Today was a wonderful day at my church. I got to sit and listen to a choral mass for once instead of singing it, which is really nice to do once in a while, to just enjoy the mass, although i love to sing for it too. It was a very festive day at Mater Ecclesiae and a PACKED church, because our guest of honor was Fr. Benedict Groeschel! He is good friends with Fr. Pasley, our priest, and finally made it down to visit Father's parish. He gave a riveting and engaging sermon that dealt with a number of topics, including the importance of the extraordinary form of the mass (as well as telling us even that was celebrated poorly before the council, that the priest's didn't speak lating, they spoke "jibberish" because they said it so fast, lol), and so the liturgical movement today in either form is characterized by it's importance on reverence, awe and beauty. He also talked much about the importance of a correct understanding of Christ, especially in our time when Christ's divinity is continually minimized or challenged by the "historical Jesus" brought about by rationalism/modernism. He was very adament about encouraging us to read Pope Benedict's new book, "Jesus of Nazareth" esp. the first 25 pages (which we should read with a pencil in hand) because it is so crucial to the understanding of Christ as he really is in our day when even priests minimize Christ's divinity in some way. So i really think i'm going to get the book now. Fr. Groeschel truly sees our "Papa" as a genius and wise beyond his years (150 he said) He said much else, but it's hard to remember it all!
Since i'm on the topic of my church, there's a couple things i'd like to put out there for priests' knowledge. Once of the things that may seem hard to change in typical parishes when starting to implement the reform of the reform is the issue of girl altar servers. But i believe removing girls from that role is crucial to encouraging priestly vocations in boys by having them alone serve at the altar and from relationships with the priest. A few parishes where i have seen an effective transition away from altar girls is to form a type of society for them. a couple examples - 1) at Mater Ecclesiae, we have the Blessed Imelda lambertini Society, which is "A Society of prayer and Eucharistic Adoration for young girls and women who have received the sacrament of First Holy Communion" The girls love it, because on feast days, they are part of the procession and where white dresses and shoes, with blue sashes and white veils. They have a banner to carry in front as well, and yearly Fr. Pasley inducts new members into the society. Also, a couple of the girls have the honor of doing the may crowning of our lady.
2) our lady of lourdes in Overbrook PA also started a separate society for girls as well called the Bernadettes, which is "Girl's Society, established for development and promotion of Christian and human formation for young ladies; dedicated to the imitation of St. Bernadette Subirous; to praying for an end to abortion and the outreach to help change the hearts of those women contemplating procuring an abortion. Present for various liturgies as an honor guard in processions and at the altar." this parish is especially a good example of the liturgical movement, as it now celebrates both forms of the mass as of Sept. 16th, including the Novus Ordo in Latin which i went to last week, and it is run by the mercedarian friars who have really renewed the parish life check them out - www.ourladylourdes.org
3) lastly, there's a parish in Connecticut with a young priest by the name of Fr. Greg Markey which has done a fantastic job in 2 years of bringing about the reform of the reform through much education of church teaching on liturgy. There is A LOT of valuable things on his church's website. They also have a group for girls called "handmaids of the altar" and a great FAQ tab about a lot of the changes made to their liturgy. One thing i like though is that upon making the switch to only allowing boys to now serve, they allowed those girls who had already been serving continue to serve as long as they liked, but no new girls would be accepted. i thought that was a very good way of transitioning. The parish website is - www.stmarynorwalk.net
another thing in connection with my church i want to discuss is training for the extraordinary form of the mass. I know our Vermont bishop seemed quite clear about planning to train priests in this form, but i know how difficult that may end up being since the priests are already so busy. it may be difficult to send them away for a weekend for training. However, i believe training in this form of the mass so it becomes available to Vermont Catholics will be crucial in interesting boys in the priesthood again. Vermont lacks vocations! I think the extraordinary form will be fundamental in bringing about more vocations, so training for current priests in this form needs to happen. If priests are able to sneak away for a weekend, i would recommend going to one hosted by the canons regular of St. john Cantius in Chicago, and i believe they still have room in their next training weekend which is Oct. 17-19! you can go here for more information- http://www.musicasacra.com/celebrant ( i don't know how to creat links!). The training has two tracks, learning to chant the mass in the ordinary OR extraordinary form. I highly suggest checking out their parish website, they have done some amazing things since 1990. (for example, growing from 70 families to 1,000 families) www.cantius.org.
ALSO, these priests have also started a website with online tutorials for priests AND altar servers to learn the extraordinary form, which i think will be really helpful for priests who are extremely busy. Go to www.sanctamissa.org. they are continuing to develop the website, and there's also a bookstore there.
Another awesome thing i have heard is that the priest at my parish in NJ is planning with another priest to eventually have priests be able to come to Mater Ecclesiae to learn the extraordinary form! Fr. Pasley is honestly the best celebrant for mass i have ever seen. I'll keep you updated on that development.
I hope some of this can be helpful to priests i know, and can be spread to other priests by means of this. For solely learning the extraordinary form, there are also workshops being given by the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, so look them up!
I've come across a really good article in my Fall issue of Sacred Music, published by the CMAA, that i would love to post once they have it online, because i think it might be good as a starting point for educating a parish before making liturgical changes. the article is "Beauty and the Roman Liturgy" by Fr. Martin Fox, and once it's available on their website, i'll link to it.
I should save something to post for another time, so i will bid adieu. But for those who read this i would like to say, that if you are a supporter of the reform of the reform, take Fr. Groeschel's advice and support the spread of the extraordinary form of the mass as well. it is needed to put the church back in touch with her liturgical heritage and will aid most fruitfully a reform of the reform of the ordinary mass. so encourage and support your priest in any way possible to bring reverence, sacredness, and beauty back to the liturgy. Inquire about the extraordinary form. And pray for all of us who are or are preparing to serve the liturgy of the Catholic Church in any way.