NE OF THE MOST engaging talks we heard during this conference came from one of the co-organizers of the event, Rev. Richard Cipolla, now pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk, CT. Under the title “Liturgy as the Source of Priestly Identity,” Fr. Cipolla’s words were of interest to clergy & laity alike.
He remarked at one point about the poverty of the term “presider,” which ignores the essential character of priestly life. The priest, after all, is more than just a random person appointed to lead the assembly; he is the one charged with the duty of offering the sacrifice. In Fr. Cipolla’s words, “To refer to the priest as ‘presider’ surely does damage to his priestly identity.”
After making this point, Fr. Cipolla raised the topic of ad orientem worship, which he considers the natural consequence of reclaiming the sacrificial character of the priest. When the Holy Sacrifice is offered versus populum, this posture forces the priest to engage congregants as if “across the table,” instead of joining in the sacrifice as one of them (and as their leader). Fr. Cipolla encouraged us to reject “the positivism that says what has happened over the last fifty years is necessarily good and true and just.” I hope & expect that the experiment of versus populum Masses will be retired in the years ahead.
There was one more significant point made in this lecture, and it concerned papal infallibility. A convert from Anglicanism, himself, Fr. Cipolla is a well learned devotee of John Henry Cardinal Newman. Cardinal Newman feared the result of defining papal infallibility, not because he disbelieved it, but because of the resulting ultramontanism it might engender.
One could easily argue that the last century-and-a-half of Church history has been significantly influenced by various strains of ultramontanism. In the view of Fr. Cipolla, this is “one of the biggest challenges facing the Church in the 21st Century.”
LET ME CLOSE with a quick word about the beautiful conference liturgies. These celebrations were all held in the parish church of Saint Catherine of Siena in the Upper East Side, staffed by Dominicans.
On our first evening here, we joined in prayer at Solemn Vespers in the presence of a greater prelate, according to the Extraordinary Form. Vespers were sung by the Schola Dominicana of the parish, itself. His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke processed in cappa magna and sat upon a faldstool erected in the sanctuary.
Late on Tuesday afternoon, we assisted at a Solemn Votive Mass of the Holy Angels, celebrated in the Extraordinary Form by Father Sean Connolly, a newly-ordained priest of the Archdiocese of New York. During this Mass, the inimitable David Hughes served as organist, and his student schola sang the Gregorian propers & a playful polyphonic Mass (Missa Ego flos campi, Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla).
Wednesday concluded with the celebration of a Pontifical Mass in Latin in the Novus ordo. This Mass was offered by Archbishop Cordileone and a limited group of concelebrants. Music was provided by the professional Schola Cantorum of the Church of St. Agnes (where Bishop Fulton Sheen often preached). Led by organist & choirmaster James D. Wetzel, the choir sang Josef Rheinberger’s Mass in E Flat Major.
The final day of the conference fortuitously fell on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, so a solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form was celebrated by Most Reverend Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. Musicians included a mix of those who were involved in the earlier liturgies. The conference concluded with a Eucharistic procession through the streets, including stops at St. John Nepomucene Church and St. Vincent Ferrer Church.
HIS WILL CONCLUDE my reporting on Sacra Liturgia USA 2015. There are also many other things that could be said about these wonderful days, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think Views from the Choir Loft could contain the posts that would be written. I am grateful to all the organizers & speakers who have made this conference so instructive, so timely, and so well worth attending. It is my hope that the Sacra Liturgia movement will grow, beginning in July 2016 in London. May the good work begun in these days bear fruit in many souls!