15 September 2021, The Tablet

We are always the people of God


The Catholic parish of the Most Holy Trinity in Ledbury, Herefordshire, has become a battleground over different styles of liturgy. As described by Austen Ivereigh in The Tablet two weeks ago, the priest there has attracted a following by his use of the Tridentine Rite as the main form of worship on a Sunday. In the process he has alienated a large slice of his own congregation.

Why does it matter? The Church has used a tapestry of sacred metaphors to describe itself and what it does. From time to time the predominant metaphor changes. This happened at the Second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965 but in a sense is still not over. The idea of the Church as the People of God, a pilgrim church on a journey, moved closer to the centre of the stage; the model of the Church represented by the idea of it as the Body of Christ moved out of the limelight. This adjustment, in a sense a re-balancing exercise, was made visible by changes in the liturgy towards a more inclusive and participatory style of worship. It is easy to see how the rejection of this liturgical reform came to manifest a more profound rejection of Vatican II itself, demonstrated by an unyielding attachment to the pre-conciliar form of worship. Tridentine devotees “hear” Mass; they do not talk of “participating” in it.

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