From New Liturgical Movement
By Dr Peter Kwasniewski
As we approach the melancholy 50th anniversary of the going-into-effect of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum with the first mandatory celebration of the Novus Ordo Missae on the first Sunday of Advent, November 30, 1969, it is worthwhile to recall how frequently this vexed and vexing pope felt the need to address the “naysayers” of his day who were complaining about the stream of ever-increasing changes to the Roman liturgy implemented throughout the 1960s. Some readers will already be familiar with the astonishing general audiences of March 1965 and November 1969 (on which I have offered a detailed commentary: “A Half-Century of Novelty: Revisiting Paul VI’s Apologia for the New Mass”), but few, perhaps, will be aware of other public addresses in which he continued his tirade against the reform’s non-enthusiasts.
Pope Paul had a curious way of speaking, as if a rapturous majority of laity and clergy were rushing to embrace the new form of the Mass with zeal for active participation, like happy citizens of a Communist Workers’ Paradise. Evidence both published and anecdotal, together with an ever-more precipitous decline in church attendance throughout the 1960s and 1970s, suggest that no more than a tiny minority felt the “good vibrations” of the Bugnini Boys.  Paul VI’s contempt, therefore, was directed not only at the majority of his coreligionists (which would have been unsaintly enough); it was, in reality, directed against centuries of traditional Catholic practice that, in spite of whatever faults it may have had, kept large numbers attached to the Church and to their Faith, with a piety and seriousness that could rarely be found, and never surpassed, outside of Catholicism. The advice of Louis Bouyer in 1956 had gone unheeded: “We must not try to provide an artificial congregation to take part in an antiquarian liturgy, but rather to prepare the actual congregations of the Church today to take part in the truly traditional liturgy rightly understood.” 
In this article, I would like to offer some quotations from Paul VI, courtesy of that enormous doorstopper called Documents on the Liturgy 1963–1979 — a book that would enjoy a more accurate acronym if its title were Documents Undermining Liturgical Life 1963–1979 — that reveal the full amplitude, or better, narrowness, of the pontiff’s mind as to the meaning of participatio actuosa and the flagitious behavior of those who stubbornly resisted the march of progress.
“The liturgical reform opens up to us a way to reeducate our people in their religion, to purify and revitalize their forms of worship and devotion, to restore dignity, beauty, simplicity, and good taste to our religious ceremonies. Without such inward and outward renewal there can be little hope for any widespread survival of religious living in today’s changed conditions. … [P]romote sacred song, the religious, congregational singing of the people. Remember, if the faithful sing they do not leave the Church; if they do not leave the Church, they keep the faith and live as Christians.”
General Audience, 13 January 1965 (DOL 24)
“Through your [sc., laity’s] own endeavor to put the Constitution on the Liturgy into exact and vital effect you show yourselves to have that understanding of the times which Christ recommended to his first disciples (see Mt 16:4) and which the Church today is in the process of awakening and recognizing in adult Catholics. . . . You show that you understand the new way of religion which the current liturgical reform intends to restore . . . The Church’s solicitude now broadens; today it is changing certain aspects of ritual discipline that are now inadequate and is seekingly boldly but thoughtful to plumb their ecclesial meaning, the demands of community, and the supernatural value of ecclesial worship. To understand this religious program and to enjoy its hoped-for results we must all change our settled way of thinking regarding sacred ceremonies and religious practices as calling for no more than a passive, distracted assistance. We must be fully cognizant of the fact that with the Council a new spiritual pedagogy has been born. That is what is new about the Council and we must not hang back from making ourselves first the pupils and then the masters in this school of prayer now at its inception. It may well happen that the reforms will affect practices both dear to us and still worthy of respect; that the reforms will demand efforts that, at the outset, are a strain. But we must be devout and trusting: the religious and spiritual vista that the Constitution opens up before us is stupendous in its doctrinal profundity and authenticity, in the cogency of its Christian logic, in the purity and richness of its cultural and aesthetic elements, in its response to the character and needs of modern man.”
Address to Pastors and Lenten Preachers, 1 March 1965 (DOL 25)
“Here are some of the issues: to change so many attitudes that in a number of respects are themselves worthy of honor and dearly held; to upset devout and good people by presenting new ways of prayer that they are not going to understand right away; to win over to a personal involvement in communal prayer the many people used to praying — or not praying — in church as they please; to intensify training in prayer and worship in every congregation, that is, to introduce the faithful to new viewpoints, gestures, practices, formularies, and attitudes, amounting to an active part in religion than many are unused to. In a word, the issue is engaging the people of God in the priestly liturgical life. Again, we say that it is a difficult and delicate matter, but adding that it is necessary, obligatory, providential, and renewing. We hope that it will also be satisfying.”
General Audience, 17 March 1965 (DOL 27)
“What do people think about the reform of the liturgy? . . . First, there are those that give evidence of a degree of confusion and therefore of uneasiness. Until now people were comfortable; they could pray the way they wished; all were quite familiar with the way the Mass proceeded. Now on all sides there are new things, changes, surprises: it has even gone so far as to do away with ringing the Sanctus bell. Then there are all those prayers that no one can any longer find; standing to receive Communion; the end of the Mass cut off abruptly after the blessing. Everyone makes the responses; there is much moving about; the prayers and the readings are spoken out loud. In short, there is no more peace, things are understood less than before, and so on. We shall not criticize these views because then we would have to show how they reveal a poor understanding of the meaning of religious ceremonial and allow us to glimpse not a true devotion and a true appreciation of the meaning and worth of the Mass, but rather a certain spiritual laziness which is not prepared to make some personal effort of understanding and participation directed to a better understanding and fulfillment of this, the most sacred of religious acts, in which we are invited, or rather obliged, to participate.”
(You couldn’t make this stuff up!)
Homily at Parish in Rome, 27 March 1966 (DOL 33)
“The Council has taken the fundamental position that the faithful have to understand what the priest is saying  and to share in the liturgy; to be not just passive spectators at Mass but souls alive . . . Look at the altar, placed now for dialogue with the assembly; consider the remarkable sacrifice of Latin, the priceless repository of the Church’s treasure. The repository has been opened up, as the people’s own spoken language now becomes part of their prayer. Lips that have often been still, sealed as it were, now at last begin to move, as the whole assembly can speak its part in the colloquy . . . No longer do we have the sad phenomenon of people being conversant and vocal about every human subject yet silent and apathetic in the house of God. How sublime it is to hear during Mass the communal recitation of the Our Father! In this way the Sunday Mass is not just an obligation but a pleasure, not just fulfilled as a duty, but claimed as a right.”
|Quite possibly the most fantastical and least realistic Pope in history
General Audience at Castelgandolfo, 13 August 1969 (DOL 45)
“Through an intense and prolonged religious movement, the liturgy, crowned, and, as it were, canonized by Vatican II, has gained a new importance, dignity, accessibility, and participation in the consciousness and the spiritual life of the people of God and, we predict, this will continue even more in the future.”
Note how, three years after his complaints in 1966, Paul VI is still harping on the theme of resistance to reform, and the vices it indicates:
General Audience at Castelgandolfo, 20 August 1969 (DOL 46)
“A second category, whose ranks have swelled with troubled people after the conciliar reform of the liturgy, includes the suspicious, the criticizers, the malcontents. Disturbed in their devotional practices, these spirits grudgingly resign themselves to the new ways, but make no attempt to understand the reasons for them. They find the new expressions of divine worship unpleasing. They take refuge in their moaning, which takes away their ancient flavor from texts of the past and blocks any taste for what the Church, in this second spring of the liturgy, offers to spirits that are open to the meaning and language of the new rites sanctioned by the wisdom and authority of the postconciliar reform. A not very difficult effort at acceptance and understanding would bring the experience of dignity, simplicity, and newfound antiquity in the new liturgies and would also bring to the sanctuary of each person’s self the consolation and life-giving force of community celebrations. The interior life would yield a greater fullness.”
General Audience, November 26, 1969 (DOL 211)
“A new rite of the Mass: a change in a venerable tradition that has gone on for centuries. This is something that affects our hereditary religious patrimony, which seemed to enjoy the privilege of being untouchable and settled. It seemed to bring the prayer of our forefathers and our saints to our lips and to give us the comfort of feeling faithful to our spiritual past, which we kept alive to pass it on to the generations ahead.
“It is at such a moment as this that we get a better understanding of the value of historical tradition and the communion of the saints. This change will affect the ceremonies of the Mass. We shall become aware, perhaps with some feeling of annoyance, that the ceremonies at the altar are no longer being carried out with the same words and gestures to which we were accustomed — perhaps so much accustomed that we no longer took any notice of them. This change also touches the faithful. It is intended to interest each one of those present, to draw them out of their customary personal devotions or their usual torpor.
“We must prepare for this many-sided inconvenience. It is the kind of upset caused by every novelty that breaks in on our habits. We shall notice that pious persons are disturbed most, because they have their own respectable way of hearing Mass, and they will feel shaken out of their usual thoughts and obliged to follow those of others. Even priests may feel some annoyance in this respect. So what is to be done on this special and historical occasion? First of all, we must prepare ourselves. This novelty is no small thing. We should not let ourselves be surprised by the nature, or even the nuisance, of its exterior forms. …
“It is Christ’s will, it is the breath of the Holy Spirit which calls the Church to make this change. A prophetic moment is occurring in the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church. This moment is shaking the Church, arousing it, obliging it to renew the mysterious art of its prayer.
“It is here that the greatest newness is going to be noticed, the newness of language. No longer Latin, but the spoken language will be the principal language of the Mass. The introduction of the vernacular will certainly be a great sacrifice for those who know the beauty, the power and the expressive sacrality of Latin. We are parting with the speech of the Christian centuries; we are becoming like profane intruders in the literary preserve of sacred utterance. We will lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant. We have reason indeed for regret, reason almost for bewilderment. What can we put in the place of that language of the angels? We are giving up something of priceless worth. But why? What is more precious than these loftiest of our Church’s values?
“The answer will seem banal, prosaic. Yet it is a good answer, because it is human, because it is apostolic. Understanding of prayer is worth more than the silken garments in which it is royally dressed. Participation by the people is worth more — particularly participation by modern people, so fond of plain language which is easily understood and converted into everyday speech.”
General Audience, 3 November 1971 (DOL 53)
“The Church praying (Ecclesia orans) has received at the Council its most splendid idealization. We must not forget that regarding the stirring reality of liturgical reform. Great weight, even regarding the spiritual conditions of today’s world, is due to that reform because of its originating, pastoral intent to reawaken prayer among the people of God. This is to be a pure and shared prayer, that is, interior and personal, yet at the same time public and communal. Its meaning is not simply a matter of ritual, pertaining to the sacristy or an arcane and merely liturgical erudition. Prayer is to be a religious affirmation, full of faith and life: an apostolic school for all seekers of the life-giving truth; a spiritual challenge thrown down before an atheistic, pagan, and secularized world.”
* * *From our vantage fifty years later, as we watch the liturgical reform either imploding on itself or being slowly undone by an ever-stronger traditionalist movement, we can benefit from the hindsight of knowing what not to do to one’s precious inheritance, and energetically commit ourselves to doing the opposite. For the great irony is that it is not, and was never, the “new” liturgy that serves as “an apostolic school for all seekers of the life-giving truth; a spiritual challenge thrown down before an atheistic, pagan, and secularized world.” Instead, more and more, we see how aptly this description suits the classical Roman rite, risen as a phoenix from its ashes.
|The choice before us: a Roman Missal from 1948, or . . .
 The Beach Boys’ hit “Good Vibrations” appeared in 1966, the year in between the provisional 1965 missal and the Missa Normativa of 1967.
 Life and Liturgy (1956), pp. 14-15, cited by Alcuin Reid in the Introduction to Beauduin’s Liturgy, the Life of the Church.
 This claim is, of course, a bald lie on Paul VI’s part, since the Council took no such position, and in fact took a different one. It was a lie he repeated on dozens of occasions.