Homilette for Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Matthew 18:1-5;10;24)

Pope Benedict recently extended the possibilities of using the so-called Tridentine mass. Many Catholics still remember it as the form of the Eucharist in their youth. Of course, the language of the Tridentine mass is Latin which the priest speaks largely with his back to the congregation. In the old days, the people in the pews never responded to the celebrant’s periodic addresses to them. Rather, they just followed the prayers with a missal or said private prayers while the sacramental action was taking place inside the communion rail.

Some of us may ask why the pope would return to this old form of the mass. One reason is found in the gospel today. As Jesus exhorts his disciples to seek out the one in a hundred sheep who goes astray, so the pope is asking priests to accommodate the relatively small number of Catholics who prefer the old rite. He wants to keep religious-minded people within the Church fold by all legitimate means available.

Perhaps some observations on the Tridentine liturgy are in order. First, there has not been a rush to go back to the old form. Most masses are still celebrated in the now familiar way. Therefore, there is no need to fear that the pope intends to impose an antiquated rite on anyone. Second, some pastors, already overburdened with work, might find that adding a Tridentine mass burdensome. Thus, those who want to worship according to the Tridentine rite may have to find a parish where it is offered. In most American cities this should not prove too inconvenient. And third, all Catholics might experiment with the older rite. Perhaps now that they are familiar with all the parts of the Eucharist, the faithful can appreciate the phonetic beauty of Latin and the aesthetics of all the congregation facing in the direction of the rising sun while praying to God.