Thursday, 31 March 2011

A Fascinating Reminder of Proposed Pre-Vatican 11 Liturgical Renewal

Fr Reyold Hillenbrand cebrating Mass facing the people in 1957 (note the tabernacle on the altar)
I discovered this by accident (well, by moving around the blogs). I found it fascinating. Here are some thoughts on the renewal of the Liturgy by American priest Fr. Reynold Hillenbrand, and here is a web site devoted to him. It is easy for people to get confused now about the Liturgy. The Pope's "Summorum Pontificum" and the greater freedom for priests to celebrate the 1962 Latin Rite, along with the forthcoming new Roman Missal with its more careful English translation may cause some people to wonder which Mass they should attend. In the near future we may also have a kind of "Anglican use" liturgy which may add to the possible confusion. One thing we surely do not want is any more arguments between Catholics or an increased polarization. There is also the question of the "Ad Orientem" argument (which I accept, incidentally). Looking at the above photograph I cannot believe that Mass "facing the people" is any kind of improvement. Granted the different conditions and the lack of freedom in 1957, I still believe that "facing the people" is a mistake. However, as Fr. Hillenbrand argues, it only makes sense for the Liturgy of the Word to be celebrated facing those who are supposed to hear it. This leads to a suggestion that the best way forward is to return to the practice of praying the Eucharistic Prayer Ad Orientem whilst facing the people for the Introductory Rite and the Liturgy of the Word. This is not a compromise but, it seems to me, common sense. There is much to commend Fr. Hillenbrand's insights (although not all of them!), nor should we simply rubbish the word done by the late Fr. Clifford Howell s.j. and others. We can agree (some of us) that the post-Vatican 11 "reform" went awry, but it seems to me that we need to be careful not to become either closed in on the 1962 Latin Rite or any other way of celebrating the Mass for that matter. With the coming of the New Missal and the continuing discussion about how we should celebrate the Mass it seems to me we should be a little more relaxed and open to each other rather than taking up what can sometimes become rather aggressive positions.


  1. In my opinion, the most important element that should be maintained no matter what liturgy is reverence and awe before the presence of God. The Eucharist is the centre of worship and the tabernacle should be placed in a visible and central position.The Eucharist should also be received in both species, on the tongue and kneeling. This is the reverence that our loving God deserves.