Cdl. Sarah Defends Young Latin Mass Attendees

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  September 18, 2017   

"They are neither nostalgic nor embittered nor encumbered by the ecclesiastical battles"

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ROME ( - The Vatican's head liturgist is defending young devotees of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), saying their piety should be fostered and not hindered.

Speaking in Rome on the tenth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, Cdl. Robert Sarah, on Thursday cited the former pope in defense of young Catholics, who are inspired by the TLM. Mentioning Benedict's letter to bishops that accompanied his motu proprio, Cdl. Sarah relates, "Young persons too have discovered this liturgical form," he wrote. They have "felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them. This is increasingly true around the world."

The prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship admitted that older Catholics don't always understand such Catholics. "It is a phenomenon, which some of my own generation find very hard to understand," said Cdl. Sarah. "Yet I know and can personally testify to the sincerity and devotion of these young men and women, priests and laity. I rejoice in the numerous and good vocations to the priesthood and the religious life that arise from communities who celebrate the usus antiquior."

Addressing the international gathering of cardinals, priests, religious and laity at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum), Cdl. Sarah invited everyone to understand these individuals and communities who've benefited greatly from the TLM or usus antiquior as he calls the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. The cardinal implored:

Open our hearts and minds to the Faith of these young brothers and sisters of ours, and to the good that they do. They are neither nostalgic nor embittered nor encumbered by the ecclesiastical battles of recent decades; they are full of the joy of living the life of Christ amidst the challenges of the modern world.

At this conference, the Fifth Roman Colloquium on Summorum Pontificum, the cardinal hit on many points in his one-hour address, "Silence and the Primacy of God in the Sacred Liturgy," such as advocating for ad orientem worship, introducing more silence into the liturgy, plus focusing more on God at Mass and less on man. Defending young liturgically minded Catholics was just one of those points.

On this score, Cdl. Sarah invoked the Gamalielian principle from Acts 5:38–39 in which the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel warned the Jewish leaders not to fight against the early Jewish converts to Christianity. Likening the young TLM attendees to the early Christians persecuted by the Jewish elders, the cardinal repeated Gamaliel's sober warning, "[L]et them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail, but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!"

Let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail, but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.

The cardinal assured TLM devotees that the Latin Mass was not going away, saying in fact that it should be "seen as a normal part of the life of the Church of the twenty-first century." On this point, Cdl. Sarah again turned to Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificum, repeating the pope's words, "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful."

The popular prelate also urged TLM supporters to emphasize their Catholic faith over and above their traditional orientation. "Sometimes, you even call yourselves 'traditional Catholics' or hyphenate yourselves in a similar way," said the cardinal. "Please do this no longer. You do not belong in a box on the shelf or in a museum of curiosities. You are not traditionalists. You are Catholics of the Roman rite."

Cardinal Sarah wants such pious Catholics to be models of Catholic identity for the entire Church asking them not "retreat into a ghetto in which defensiveness and introspection reign and stifle the Christian witness." The cardinal urged them to not separate from others but instead be witnesses to their fellow Catholics. "If ten years after coming into force Summorum Pontificum means anything, it means this," said Cdl. Sarah. "If you have not yet left behind the shackles of the 'traditionalist ghetto,' please do so today."

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