During a just-completed overseas trip, I called in at an American parish I had visited previously in 1988. Given the concerns expressed at the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist (see report on page 9), the situation in this parish illustrates what might have been, had the authentic liturgical reforms of Vatican II been more widely implemented.
The parish of St Agnes in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis (Minnesota) has closely followed the Vatican II reforms, thanks to the leadership since 1969 of its now retired parish priest, Monsignor Richard Schuler.
Msgr Schuler is a distinguished American liturgist and was a longtime editor of Sacred Music. His call for moderation following Vatican II was overwhelmed by those insisting on radical changes according to "the spirit" of the Council. The fall-out is all around us today, prompting the criticisms expressed at the Synod of Bishops.
On the other hand, Msgr Schuler ensured that during the decades of turmoil his parish would remain an oasis of fidelity and reverence.
A by-product of this has been the continuing stream of priestly vocations from St Agnes, with this year eleven young men from the parish among the 72 in training at the archdiocesan seminary.
On my earlier visit, I attended the 10 o'clock High Mass (Novus Ordo) celebrated in Latin, with ample use of the Church's treasury of sacred music, including Gregorian Chant and a Mass setting by Schubert. This has continued since then, with weekly High Masses using the works of such composers as Mozart, Haydn and Gounod for much of the year outside Lent and Advent.
On the latest visit - along with about 60 others - I attended a weekday Mass celebrated in English by a youngish priest who followed the rubrics faithfully and reverently. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest faced the tabernacle while Communion was received kneeling at altar rails.
The same occurred later at a school Mass, with the children kneeling for Communion, well-trained altar boys assisting and including some Latin hymns sung to the accompaniment of a magnificent pipe organ.
One hopes that following the present Synod of Bishops, and doubtless with the encouragement of Pope Benedict XVI, the example provided by St Agnes and other faithful parishes will become more commonplace.
- Michael Gilchrist: Editor (email - firstname.lastname@example.org)