After 40 Years

Tomorrow morning, for the first time in 40 years, a solemn High Mass according to the old rite will be celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica. The celebrant: American Archbishop Raymond Burke

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome

Passages referring to the long wandering of Israel in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt:

“Your children will be shepherds here [in the Sinai desert] for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness…” —Numbers 14:33

“For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.” —Joshua 5:6

“If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, yea, return unto Me; and if thou wilt put away thy detestable things out of My sight, and wilt not waver; And wilt swear: ‘As the LORD liveth’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness; then shall the nations bless themselves by Him, and in Him shall they glory. —Jeremiah 4:1-2

An afternoon phone call

I was on my way this evening toward Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, walking, when my Italian friend and colleague, the Catholic writer Alberto Carosa called me on my cell phone.

There was a bit of traffic on the street along the Tiber, and I couldn’t hear him clearly.

“Bob!” he said. “…Tomorrow… (garbled words)… St. Peter’s… (garbled words).”

That was all I could hear.

“What?’ I said.

A car whooshed past me and I ducked down a stairway to get away from the main street.

“Alberto, I couldn’t hear you. Non potevo sentirti…”

Alberto slowed down and spoke louder.

“Tomorrow morning at 10 am there will be a solemn High Mass according to the old rite celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica,” he said. “It will be the first time that a solemn High Mass in the old rite has been celebrated in the Basilica in 40 years, since 1969…”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Sure, sure,” he said. “It was announced this morning at the Summorum Pontificum conference I have been attending…”

“No,” I said, “I mean, are you sure it is the first solemn High Mass according to the old rite to be celebrated in the Basilica since 1969?”

“I’m sure,” he said. “At least, so we were informed this morning. We were told that the last High Mass according to the old rite in the Basilica was in 1969…”

“Wow,” I said. “Hmm, that seems something special. If what you tell me is true, I think it’s historic. Like the end of the 40 years of wandering in the desert of the Jewish people after the Exodus from their captivity in Egypt…”

Alberto laughed.

“You know,” he said, “I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you are right: the wandering in the desert was 40 years, and it is exactly 40 years that we have not had the old Mass in the Basilica…”

“Who is celebrating the Mass?” I asked.

“Archbishop Raymond Burke,” he said.

“And what time will it be, and where exactly? Will it be at the main altar?”

“No, it will be at 10 am, in the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament, where the Eucharist is always present for adoration. But you should come early, as lots of people will be coming. If you’re not there by 9:45, you may not get in.”

“I’ll be there at 9:30,” I said. “And Alberto, could you send me an email right now explaining a bit of the background to this Mass, so I can post it tonight?”

“I can’t send it now, as I’m not by my computer, but I’ll send you something later this evening,” he said.

Implementing Summorum Pontificum

When I returned home, I found an email from Alberto waiting for me. Here it is:

“Normally conferences and symposiums are relevant for the message their organisers intend to convey to the public through the speeches and lectures of their speakers, but in the case of the 2nd Conference on the Motu prorio Summorum Pontificum (16-18 October 2009), entitled The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum by Benedict XVI: A Great Gift for the Whole Church, the reality was a bit different.

“The three-day event, which was held in the religious institute Bonus Pastor in via Aurelia not far from the Vatican walls, was significant not only for what its speakers said, mostly focused on the sacredness and beauty of the pre-Vatican II liturgy, but especially for the announcement that the proceedings will be capped by a solemn pontifical Mass in the old Latin rite in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“The announcement was made by Dominican Father Vincenzo Nuara from the Dominican Sicilian province of Acireale-Catania, during his introduction of the conference proceedings the second day, Saturday morning, October 17th, 2009.

“Father Nuara is the founder and spiritual leader of the group organizing the conference, Giovani e Tradizione (Youth and Tradition), an association of young people based in Acireale in Sicily.

“The symposium saw the participation of many hundreds of clergy, nuns and faithful interested in the traditional liturgy, including senior representatives of traditionalist religious and lay organisations, such as the Fraternity of St Peter, the Institute Christ the King Sovereign Priest, the Fede&Cultura publishing company, Centro Culturale Lepanto, and many others.

“Among the speakers were Monsignor Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Karaganda in Kazakhstan; Monsignor Valentino Miserachs, the chief of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music; Abbot Michael John Zielinski, deputy president of the Pontifical Commission for the Church’s Heritage and Sacred Archaeology; Monsignor Professor Brunero Gherardini, dean emeritus of the faculty of Theology at the Lateran University; and Father Stefano Manelli, founder and superior of the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

“The pontifical High Mass will be celebrated by His Excellency Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, at 10:00 am in the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, for the first time after 40 years. In fact, the last celebration of such a solemn pontifical Mass in the Basilica took place in 1969.

“After the Mass, the faithful who have participated in the conference and attended the Mass will move to St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s Angelus prayer. It is hoped that they will be graced by the Pope’s encouragement for their staunch support of the papal motu proprio allowing the old rite to be more widely celebrated.”

What will the Pope say?

So now the question is: What will the Pope say at his Angelus when he appears at his window at noon tomorrow in St. Peter’s Square?

Will he say anything about the Mass Archbishop Burke will have just finished celebrating in the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament in St. Peter’s — the first solemn High Mass in the old rite to be celebrated in the Basilica since 1969, exactly 40 years ago?

I plan to be there tomorrow to see what he says, and to get back to you with another email during the afternoon.

A letter about Grace Kelly

I received the following letter in response to yesterday’s newsflash about the late Princess Grace of Monaco:

Dr. Moynihan,

I have been told this story about the time when Sir Alec Guiness was making the film The
Swan in which Grace Kelly played a Princess, to Sir Alec’s crown prince. At the time, Sir Alec was contemplating becoming a Catholic. Grace would not “hang with the gang,” as it were, during breaks in the filming. Sir Alec decided one day to follow her. She was in her dressing room, on her knees, saying her Rosary.

I would say she was your lady of substance.

[email protected]


I also received a second email about the Princess Grace newsflash:

Her father was a bricklayer, and a very successful one. When you look at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, you see marble stone, inside and out, but do you know that the main structure is brick, covered by the marble you see? And yes, the brickwork was by Mr. Kelly. Moreover, he donated all the bricks, and the bricklayers salaries, for this shrine…

Ted Bronson
Arlington, Virginia

So the father of Princess Grace was one of the key people who helped build the largest church dedicated to Our Lady in the United States.

Until tomorrow…

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