On Sunday I picked up the latest issue of The Angelus – the flagship publication of the Society of St. Pius X — which happens to be dedicated to canonizations. (Since re-designing the format of the magazine in 2012, each issue is usually built around a particular theme with some recurrent columns incorporated as well.) On the back-page of the issue, in a column entitled “The Final Word,” Fr. Jurgen Wegner had this to say about the Society’s use of the 1962 Missal and calendar:
And yet, because of the reigning spirit of aggiornamento, because of the radical changes made in the process of canonizations, qualitative as well as quantitative, Archbishop Lefebvre gave as a rule to rely on the Liturgical Ordo of 1962 and not to integrate any novel elements, however innocuous these would seem. His was a prudent decision which gave a steady compass (the last pre-conciliar year), and a dike against improper encroachments. This is why, in our churches, schools and priories, you will not see your priests celebrate the Mass of St. Padre Pio. The problem with accepting the public veneration of a genuine saint like Padre Pio is that it would give the blanket placet to a highly suspicious process of canonization; it would also make awkward the rejection of another newly “saint” whose resume is doubtful. “Nihil innovetur” — do not innovative — is the motto of every captain in foggy weather!
Interesting. I wonder, though, how long this position is tenable, particularly in light of the fact that had the Novus Ordo Missae never been promulgated, then surely the Roman Calendar would have been updated by now. If — God willing — Holy Mother Church comes to canonization popes Pius IX and Pius XII, would the Society refuse to venerate them liturgically? While Fr. Wegner is broadly correct in stating that the SSPX holds fast to the calendar of 1962, the Society is not beyond incorporating what some might call “innovations” or, at least, “deviations” from the liturgical norms established at that time. For instance, it is well known that most, if not all, Society priests celebrate Mass with the third Confiteor even though, strictly speaking, this is not part of the Missal of 1962. (In fact, it is not included in the hand Missal published by Angelus Press, nor in any of the Society’s various Mass booklets.) The SSPX, like other traditional groups, justify its use on the basis of “custom,” but it is still, arguably, a deviation. Moreover, the Breviarium Romanum published by the Society (and the one I tend to use these days) includes offices for St. Pius X and St. Therese of Lisieux which, again, are not strictly speaking the approved 1962 offices. While I hold no quarrel with their inclusion in the Society’s breviary, it seems that there is some allowance for “wiggle room” with respect to liturgical celebrations. The Society is also not beyond celebrating feasts which were dropped off of the 1962 calendar, such as the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair on January 18 (it is even included in their hand Missal).
I mention this not because I am challenging the SSPX’s decision to hold fast to the 1962 Missal and calendar, but because there will surely come a time when there will be a ground-up demand from among the faithful attached to the traditional Mass to have new feasts incorporated into the calendar or, at the very least, be provided an allowance to do this. Whether official or not, this may already be happening, as evidenced by the fact the Baronius Press 1962 Missal contains propers for the Feast of St. John Neumann even though he was not canonized by the Church until 1977. (It’s possible the propers were drawn up at his beatification in 1963, though that is still after the 1962 “deadline.”)
All things in due course, I suppose. Because any major shake-up to the 1962 calendar would likely cause more harm than good, I am more favorable toward the idea of “allowing” new feasts to be celebrated locally rather than issuing a firm mandate which may, as often happens, result in the unexpected booting of another Saint off the universal calendar. For Saints which have no set propers from the 1960s or earlier, there will inevitably be questions surrounding their composition; will their content still have the same flow and feel as the extant propers for numerous Saints found on the 1962 calendar? (Of course, anyone with even a minor talent for Latin will tell you that some prayers, composed in much earlier ages, are far superior to additions made as recently as a century ago.) Then there is also the question — seldom asked, but not quite forgotten — concerning which Saints and feasts (and octaves), imprudently dropped in 1962, should or should not be resurrected. There is precedent for that. In 1568 St. Pius V suppressed the November 21st Feast of the Presentation of Mary (East — Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple); it was, mercifully, restored by Pope Sixtus V in 1585 and elevated in stature by Pope Clement VIII in 1597. I dare say the Orthodox, along with the Eastern Catholics, might never have forgiven the Romans for tossing that great and holy day off of the calendar, and they’d be correct in their conviction.