Dom Pateau: “The old Missal remained a point of reference for Benedict XVI”

How will the monks of Fontgombault join in the funeral of the pope emeritus?

At the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s call to God, the death knell was sounded. Then the monks sang, as for one of their own, the response Subsidy “Come to his aid, saints of God; hasten to meet him, angels of the Lord. Accept his soul, offer it to the gaze of the Most High…” From the day of his death, our convent prayer was offered for the deceased pope as a humble help. Finally, each priest will celebrate two Masses for him, and we will conventionally sing the Office of the Dead and a Mass in his memory.

How was Pope Benedict a “Benedictine Pope” by name, orientation and deep references?

Like St. Benedict, this Pope was “blessed by God”, rich in gifts of intelligence, memory and sensitivity, which he was able to place very early on at the service of the Church as a humble servant. At the Bernardine college, he recalled that the life of the monks, the first inhabitants of this place, was centered on the quest for God in his word, in a constant dialogue with him, in the living and lived liturgy. Isn’t that what he lived and especially during his last years at the monastery Mater Ecclesiae in silence and prayer?

Also attributed to the Benedictine order is the motto pax – Peace. Pope Ratzinger was a man of peace, of that peace which comes from God and which demands the truth.

Benedict XVI was called back to God during the octave of the Nativity. How not to see in it a sign of Providence towards this soul of a child so simple, so clear. His friend Cardinal Meisner liked to describe him thus: “intelligent as ten professors and pious as a first communicant. In this, too, Pope Benedict was truly an example for the Benedictines.

What do you retain from Cardinal Ratzinger’s remarked intervention at Fontgombault Abbey in 2001 on the liturgy?

First of all, the holding of the liturgical days of Fontgombault was possible because a cardinal, bishops, priests and religious, lay people of various tendencies, agreed to meet to discuss. Also, Cardinal Ratzinger could address the Father Abbot of Fontgombault, Dom Antoine Forgeot, at the end of the day: “I want to express my very deep thanks to you, dear Father Abbot, for the spirit of this monastery which has inspired the peace of the Church, the peace of Our Lord, and therefore allows us to seek together that Catholic ecumenism in which there can be reconciliation within the Church, in those differences which are deep and painful. »

The Cardinal made a point of emphasizing that there were no liturgical reasons against a plurality of forms in the Roman rite, but only canonical and pastoral problems, and this in the case of parishes. The freedom, which he supported, to use the old missal made it possible to avoid the opposition between two models of churches, one outdated pre-conciliar, the other conciliar. Moreover, the old missal remained for him a point of reference, a treasure of the Church to be preserved.

Often Pope Francis invites us to dream. So I find myself dreaming that other liturgical days could take place. With whom ? I do not know. With men of good will who want to work far from ideologies, at the service of the liturgy and of the Church.

How to implement this desire for “reconciliation within the Church” in liturgical matters, especially when the wounds are still alive today?

You talk about “wounds”. The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum relieved the wounds of the faithful attached to the ancient liturgy. Many were satisfied with a newfound tranquility, putting aside a little too quickly Pope Benedict’s desire to pave the way for a mutual influence of the two Missals. In this sense, Pope Francis’ reminder that two churches do not have to grow side by side is not surprising. The Motu Proprio Traditionis custodes and its sometimes too rapid and literal application, without taking sufficient account of concrete situations, have revived wounds. Priests felt unfairly accused, despised. Bishops were taken to task, wounded in turn. The one who is injured focuses on his suffering, and puts into perspective the fact that others can also be injured. What to do ? Understanding the hurt of the other is a first step. Then will come that of reconciliation… To be reconciled is to agree to sit down together to hold council in order to build the future. When the abbey chose to return to the vetus ordo in 1988, the Holy See invited us to do everything possible to reconcile the two missals. Today, it seems utopian to me to pretend to settle the situation without going through an intermediate stage, which would consist in allowing an influence between the old and the new ordo, and the same for the rituals of the sacraments. Local bishops can do a lot. But only a Roman initiative could open this way, and invite everyone to a peaceful reflection in the light of the returns of the liturgical practices granted. Over time, the liturgy purifies itself. What deserves to be preserved remains, the rest disappears.

Finally, it is worth recalling, following Father Congar (1), that the role of the liturgy is not primarily to teach, but to unite with God, to place in the presence of God. It is this presence that many of the faithful seek and find in the vetus ordo. The focal point of the liturgy is the Lord, and not just the priest-people dialogue.

Is his intuition of a “reform of the reform” now obsolete or should it be understood differently?

We must agree on this formula. If we want to use it, we must give it the precise meaning that Cardinal Ratzinger gave it. For him, reforming the reform was not synonymous with returning to the pre-Council liturgy, which would go against the almost unanimous will of the Fathers of Vatican II, but rather with rediscovering the spirit of the Fathers. From a historical point of view, it seems obvious to me that a certain ideology was superimposed on their will. Theological adviser to Cardinal Frings, then official theologian of the Council, Joseph Ratzinger was well placed to judge the influences at work during the development of the liturgical reform. “No Father would have thought of seeing in this text [la constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium] a “revolution” putting an “end to the Middle Ages”. This was seen as an extension of the reforms introduced by Pius X and activated by Pius XII… It was to… go beyond the tendencies of Baroque liturgy and piety in the 19th century.e century, and to favor a humble and sober refocusing on the true mystery of the presence of Christ in his Church… That some (or many?) liturgists consulted envisaged going further from the outset, a number of publications lead one to suppose. Such aspirations would certainly not have obtained the approval of the Fathers (2). »

The liturgical reform desired by Vatican II has therefore not yet achieved its objective. It is up to our generations to bring it to its point of balance so that it is truly, in the words of the Council, an “organic development” of what preceded it. From the pastoral point of view, it is not possible in the medium term to allow two liturgies to develop side by side. How can we also ignore the growing number of young people who regularly attend masses celebrated according to the vetus ordo with an authentic spiritual quest? They cannot be treated with disdain, much less with derision. On the other hand, it is unthinkable to underestimate the phenomenon of spiritual desertification of the countryside. All the living forces of the Church, whatever they may be, must work for evangelization.

I still think that a reform of the reform is indispensable, firstly because both the Church and the liturgy are living realities, and secondly because no one can take the risk of letting the current situation deteriorate further. Words and acts of reconciliation are needed, on one side as on the other.

How to read the spiritual and theological heritage of Benedict XVI beyond a “progressive/conservative” political reading grid?

Cardinal Ratzinger, like later Benedict XVI, was a free man. Its motto, Cooperators of Truth, was a watchword. It would be a mistake to hear the word of Benedict XVI as the words of an ideologue who would seek to place his own ideas. Benedict always wanted to serve, and one must therefore receive his inheritance with simplicity, like the words of a “good Father” who wants to enlighten his children, by putting his incomparable experience and extensive knowledge within their reach.

What does Benedict XVI teach us about a correct vision of Tradition?

Following Dom Guéranger and the Liturgical Movement, Benedict XVI envisions a living Tradition. Faithful to the will of the Council Fathers, he never failed to emphasize the necessity and the qualities of liturgical reform. At the same time, he did not hesitate to affirm in 1998: “I am convinced that the crisis of the Church that we are experiencing today is largely based on the disintegration of the liturgy (3). Also, as a cooperator of the truth, he knew how to underline the limits of this reform. In him the liturgical cause had a humble and faithful servant. Today she gains a powerful intercessor. May he be blessed for his work in the Vineyard of the Lord, and may he enter today into the joy of his Master.

(1) Yves Congar, Tradition and traditions, theological essay, Paris, Arthème-Fayard, 1963, p. 118-119.

(2) Joseph Ratzinger, My life. Memories, 1927-1977, Paris, Fayard, 1998, p. 104-105.

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Dom Pateau: “The old Missal remained a point of reference for Benedict XVI”

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