09 May 2019, The Tablet

The Roman Missal – unfinished business

The Roman Missal – unfinished business

Pope Paul VI is carried in procession on the sedia gestatoria, a ceremonial throne
CNS/Catholic Press Photo, Giancarlo Giuliani


It is 50 years since Pope Paul VI introduced his revised Roman Missal, incorporating both the spiritual and practical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The rowing back on its use by traditionalists reflects nothing less than a rejection of much of the modernising message of Vatican II

I recently received a photo of two newly ordained Jesuits wearing stiff Roman (commonly called “fiddleback”) chasubles. I’m not entirely sure of the context and can’t judge their motives, but their vesture does seem symptomatic of a reaction to the reformed Mass that would have been extremely rare if not virtually unheard of 20 years ago. Just last autumn in the United States a new chapel was dedicated for a Jesuit High School that (except for a somewhat camouflaged free-standing altar) could easily pass for a pre-Vatican II church, altar rail and all.

A few weeks ago we observed the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the revised Roman Missal by Pope Paul VI on Holy Thursday 1969. That missal, like the numerous liturgical revisions of the sacraments and liturgical prayer that preceded and followed it, was the fruit of a great amount of scholarly research, as well as pastoral reflection and experimentation in the decades that had led up to the Second Vatican Council and in the years immediately after it.

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