NICOLE HALL finds surprising enthusiasm among France's young people for traditional forms of liturgy
IT ALL BEGAN with Pope John Paul's Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei of 1988 allowing "the experiment of Tradition" This responded to the long request of traditionalists such as Dom Gerard Calvet OSB "that along with current experiments the experiment of Tradition be also permitted". In 1988 canonical status was granted to those traditional religious houses that requested it.
The one traditional Benedictine monastery has now become five, the now-overflowing seminaries have priestly institutes in various other European countries the United States and Africa. Not only do these traditional communities appear to inspire young people to religious life but also to a devout secular one.
In 1994 Paris, under the Active patronage of two cardinals, The International Centre for Liturgical Studies was created by a group of young people, who a few years ago as university students Were drawn to the traditional Lati Mass.Thei contemptuous peers accused them of nostalgia. They found thei attachment hard to defend objectively.
So they got real, they got organised, and now CIEL an
acronym whic means "Heaven" in French is we and truly on the Cardinal rnap.
Incense, plainchant, polyphony, or just pure blessed silence, which it is, its the classical liturgy of the Church and they want it.
The young have a way of persuading clergy and bishops far more effectively than their parents or grandparents ever could. Over a third of the membership is under the age of 30, with some recent recruits of such poignant youth they must surely be still at school.
They approached liturgical experts attached to various European universities amassing an impressive number of doctorates in matters theological, historical and canonical, and last October launched their first public three-day conference entitled The First International Colloqium of the Roman Catholic Liturgy.
CIEL chose a very offbeat place, Notre Dame du Laus, the site of 17th-century Marian apparitions, an unspoilt shrine set high in the snow capped Alps. Remote but beautiful with a fine basilica for the appropriately "celestial" liturgy which permeated the whole colloquium.
Cardinal Stickler, the Institute of Christ the King in Florence, the Fraternity of St Peter, the Fraternity of St Vincent de Ferrer, two Abbeys and various other smaller orders together with an equal proportion of lay people converged on this idyllic spot. Participants came from France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain, Svvitzerland,England, Ireland and Canada.
The aim of this 1 colloquitun was in CIEL's words "to demonstrate the living character of the traditional liturgy and the dynamism of the ecclesiastics and faithful attached to it".
Cardinal Oddi, who was too unwell to travel, wrote urging a return to the very sources of liturgy so that the truth could be rediscovered firstly for priests and then for the faithful. He described liturgy as the very life of the priest, which life was passed on to the faithful, the life of the Church and of Christ.
Cardinal Stickler, present throughout the conference, quoted from Mediator Dei and the Second Vatican Council regarding the importance of liturgy and its relation to faith. He said that authentic liturgy fosters authentic Faith and false liturgy leads to loss of Faith
"HS We pray so do we believe".
He hoped the colloquium would be a first step to restoring dignity and form to the Church's public worship during this period of increasing loss of Faith in the Western Church and areas under her influence.
Ten detailed dissertations were given over three days, five in French and five in German with translations. Much light was shed on the present problems of the Church and it was fascinating to hear characteristics of the Church we were all taught in childhood demonstrated to be so.
The most important aspect that emerged was the the Church in her liturgy is essentially "turned towards the Lord" a concept of many physical and abstract dimensions. From this it was discovered that the dynamic, the driving force, of the Catholic Church is not a bureaucratic pastoral activ
ity or easy familiarity but instead the desire of the faithful to be in the most perfect sense "turned towards the Lord", hence the Colloquium conclusion: Daily reverent celebration of Mass with respect for its profound mystery must be at the heart of the life of the Church.
WHETHER IN THE historical basilica or the ultramodern lecture hall, the atmosphere throughout was both academic and holy. This was probably due to the holiness of the shrine and to the very subjects being profoundly researched eucharistic mystery the person in persona Christi the action of Christ in the Mass.
The liturgy varied each day; the blessed mutter of Low Mass offered by Cardinal Stickler; Solemn High Mass from the monks of Le Barroux, haunting plainchant that seemed to rise from the very sod and gather us all heavenwards; the Episcopal Mass of Closure, sacred theatre with both Bishop and Cardinal wearing their capa magna colouring the length of the aisle with purple and scarlet respectively, while the basilica rang with singing from the famous children's choir of Nimes. On the site of the apparitions, here was the great liturgy of the Catholic Church of living memory being reclaimed by her children too young to remember.
The spirited committee leaves us little time to dwell on past glories as invitations are now out in most countries for CIEL 2, October 9 to 11, open to all. The theme is "Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist" with a talk in English on eucharistic veneration during the English Reformation, and rounding off with a talk given by the Bishop of Gap on eucharistic devotion in the teachings of Pope John Paul H.
The second colloquium will also be at the sanctuary of Notre Dame du Laus in the diocese of Gap. Is it significant that part of the ancient message of Our Lady to the seer was that the shrine would fade from the world's view for very many years but that its importance would be re-established when the end-times draw near?