My intention to get back into the writing groove sadly wasn't fulfilled after the last column, but a lot has happened since then. A pope has resigned for the first time since the Middle Ages (the last being Gregory XII to end the Western Schism), and a new bishop of Rome has set the tone for his regime.
Now, I'm not the sort of guy to get worked into a frenzy about Vatican politics. The affairs of Rome don't have much impact on my daily life, and though the rituals of the conclave have medieval roots, it strikes me as odd for a medievalist to have too much invested in the outcome when in the Middle Ages, the average peasant likely wouldn't have known even the Pope's name, much less the process in which he was chosen. At any rate, it baffles me that I have secular friends and acquaintances who followed the news about the recent conclave much more closely than I did, and that the mainstream media has dedicated so much of their time and resources to cover it when they have no stake in the outcome of the election whatsoever. (It is, after all, not likely that any of those journalists would convert to the Catholic faith or, if they are already Catholic, be motivated to attend church more frequently, regardless of who is made pope.)
But still, when I first heard the news about Benedict XVI's resignation, I felt an uneasiness, even a spiritual malaise that I hadn't experienced in recent memory. Benedict XVI, "God's rottweiler" as some called him, sat on the chair of Peter when I was baptized into the Church. As a new, young Catholic in 2005, I knew that the Church had suffered and lost its sense of how to express Christian faith through the 20th century, but Benedict was going to put us back on track, and he appointed me as his lieutenant to set the gears toward the Church's restoration on the ground level.
On the new year of 2013, I felt that yet another year had passed, and I hadn't actually achieved much of anything in the restoration of Christendom, much less my personal life or even any growth as a Christian. I thought I had descended into the ranks of the plebeian masses, scratching out a living for myself and spending the rest of my time on video games and other idle pursuits. It all came to crash with the resignation of Benedict: the Holy Father himself had thrown in the towel. The Vicar of Christ, weary of scandal upon scandal, had given up the good fight and left the rest of us to the dogs while he spends the rest of his days comfortably contemplating eternity within the walls of a monastery. Perhaps he was blackmailed by the cardinals into resigning; perhaps he was implicated in a great scandal himself. Whatever the case, it took me a while before I could accept Benedict's resignation for what it was. I put my fears to rest and let the conclave run its course. Friends speculated, gossiped, and made bets, but other than a few remarks about my desire for Cardinal Ranjith of Sri Lanka to be made pope, I shrugged my shoulders and stopped caring. They say that "the man who enters a conclave as pope leaves as a cardinal." By extension, I reasoned that the more I wanted a cardinal to become pope, the less likely God was going to make him one.
I was disturbed that the cardinals ended the conclave in only two days by giving the throne to a man I hadn't even heard of, but whom I soon learned was (supposedly) a runner-up against Benedict in the 2005 conclave. Had no other cardinal put up a fight? Was this outcome orchestrated all along? He greeted the crowds of Saint Peter's Square without wearing the mozetta, only wearing the iconic red papal stole for the blessing, and praying in Italian rather than the universal Latin of the western rite. Today, I read reports that Pope Francis celebrated his first Mass in the Sistine Chapel upon a makeshift altar facing the people and refused to sing. "Aha," I thought to myself, "he's shitting upon everything Benedict worked to accomplish". Other Internet rumors abound that Francis has, in the past, called the Anglican Ordinariates "unnecessary" and that the Church needs Anglicans "as Anglicans".
Of course, considering that Francis has only one lung and that the article above is hearsay, I could justly be called hysterical here. I have heard one genuinely good rumor about Francis: that he banned Cardinal Law (infamously embroiled the Boston sex abuse scandals of 2002) from entering the basilica of Saint Mary Major, despite it being his own appointed church. If true, then it shows our new Pope may truly not be afraid of putting the house of God in order. This, even more than restoring the liturgy (although that is indeed a major aspect of the former), is what I hope for in a pope. I hope that the new Pope won't be afraid to axe those prelates who protected pedophile priests, and send the offenders themselves to the wolves. Justice may have been slow in the medieval era, but when it struck, it did so with fire and steel. The medievals were not afraid to castrate and force-feed a rapist his own testicles, even if he were a priest. Today's churchmen are far too squeamish to do what's necessary, but perhaps a new day is on the horizon.
(*edited 8:30pm* No sooner did I post this article than I saw another article that claims, to the contrary of what was said above, that Francis cordially greeted Cardinal Law. I suppose we won't have a complete picture of what really happened until later, but if that is the case, then Francis has already compromised with the pedophile enablers from the onset.)
At any rate, I believe the best conclusion that I, as a medievalist, can make about Pope Francis at this stage is that he has the gospel of Jesus at heart (and, thankfully, that's the most important thing), but he couldn't give a fig about the liturgy, the Church's cultural heritage from the Middle Ages, or really, anything else you might read about on this blog. If you're reading these words, you can probably say he's not one of us. People like us, who actually value the so-called "pomp and circumstance" of the papal office, don't even register as blips on his radar. Francis may be genuinely trying to make the Catholic Church appear more relevant to the rest of the world by such gestures of humility as taking the bus, going back to his hotel to personally pay his bill, or telling his cardinals not to wear lace. How could he possibly understand a mindset that would interpret those actions as actually declaring the customs of our forefathers in faith to be irrelevant, and thus making His Holiness himself less relevant to us? Could he even comprehend the truth of Chesterton's quote about the "democracy of the dead", or would he dismiss it as the eccentricity of a long-dead gringo? And certainly, where the reform of the liturgy is concerned, we can see how fragile that whole concept was. Such expressions like Father Z's "brick by brick" will turn sour in the mouth if we see the new Pope jovially tearing down Benedict's house "brick by brick" in turn. Already on the New Liturgical Movement, we can see expressions like "I am concerned about the hermeneutic of continuity being obliterated". If we even have to worry about a new pope obliterating that oft-repeated hermeneutic (whatever that means), was it ever really there to begin with?
You may be asking now: what about your title? What is the Campion Hymnal, and what did Benedict do for us? I haven't gotten to that yet because I wasn't able to answer that question until I fully digested what a Franciscan papacy might mean for the Church. Now I can definitively say that Benedict XVI's papacy did affect my life personally, that he did give something to the Church.
Allow me to introduce you to a very fine item I saw in the pews of my local Latin Mass community in San Antonio. It's called the Saint Edmund Campion Missal & Hymnal, produced by the fine folks at Corpus Christi Watershed (an organization in Corpus Christi, Texas dedicated to promoting Gregorian chant and other forms of quality sacred music to ordinary churches near you). This book is the only good hymnal ever made, and I'll tell you why.
It's because English congregational hymns only take up about a sixth of the book's entire content, if that. The rest is dedicated to giving the ordinary Joe Catholic in the pew the means to understand the traditional Latin Mass, with complete translations for all of the Scripture readings, collects, and proper chants for all the Sundays and major holy days of the entire year, as well as other occasions like the Requiem Mass, weddings, and so on. It also empowers the ordinary Catholic with notes for all eighteen of the common Gregorian chant settings of the Mass. No expense has been spared to make the traditional Roman liturgy accessible to the humble layman. The crowning piece of this book is the richly colored and illustrated translation and explanatory notes of the Ordinary of the Mass with vivid photographs of clergy from the FSSP celebrating solemn Mass. I took some photographs below.
|The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar|
|The prayer of the celebrant as he washes his hands|
|Te igitur: the beginning of the Canon|
As you can see, a full set of these hymnals in every pew would render the practice of running printouts with translations for each individual Mass obsolete. Hand Missals would be completely optional. And for the random non-Latin Mass attending Catholic who walked into the church by accident and curiously flipped through the pages, he'd see these photographs which reinforce the sheer antiquity of the rite.
|In case you thought we were making this stuff up...|
|Translations for Trinity Sunday|
The hymnals are even surprisingly affordable. Individual purchases run at $23, but buying in bulk will reduce them to as low as $15 each. They really ought to be mandatory purchases for every Latin Mass community in the English-speaking world, without exception.
Who could have made such a treasure possible? It couldn't have been done without the actions of Pope Benedict XVI. Sure, he's probably never even heard of this particular Latin Mass community, or perhaps even of Corpus Christi Watershed, but in retrospect, we can say that without the creation of Summorum Pontificum, a hymnal like this probably would have never gotten off the ground. It was Summorum Pontificum that spurred the Archbishop of San Antonio to give this Latin Mass community a new home. It encouraged hundreds, if not thousands, of priests to give the old Mass a chance. New congregations were born, and over time, it built up the interest and the market to allow something like the Saint Edmund Campion Hymnal to exist. Without the guiding hand of Benedict XVI through SP, as well as his efforts to reform the liturgy and revive plainchant in Rome (and thus giving it worldwide exposure through televised broadcasts of papal liturgies), this hymnal would simply not exist. It's even possible that our Gregorian chant schola in San Antonio would not exist, either, and the Latin Mass would have remained a fringe interest for a tiny group of disaffected ultra-Catholics. And, needless to say, Benedict did his best to restore the Church's tradition brick by brick. A vestment here, a piece of furniture from Pius IX's day there. He created cardinals who celebrate the old Mass, like Ranjith and Burke. He never compromised on the essential teachings of the faith. A love for Christ is evident in his writings and homilies.
The media caricatured Benedict as a Nazi, an old man completely out of touch with his own flock, an egghead locked within an ivory tower, a homophobe, and an enabler of pedophiles. They will almost certainly do the same to Francis once the novelties of his Argentinian background and gestures of humility wear off. Time will tell where Francis steers the Church, but now it should be clear just what Benedict did for us. Let's thank him and pray for him, and hope that Pope Francis also sees value in what Benedict worked to accomplish so he can continue his predecessor's work, in the words of Saint Pius X, "to restore all things in Christ".