UST recently, I struck upon The Catholic News Archive, a valuable and fully searchable online collection of newspapers from various cities and periods. While looking for a particular article in an early issue of the National Catholic Reporter, I stumbled upon something else that caught my eye. The headline that usurped my attention was this: “Here’s How the Mass Will Change.” Curious, I decided to read the brief piece, and I’m glad I did. It offers a fascinating glimpse into a moment when the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council were just beginning to take shape.
To put the article in context, it’s important to know that this was a front-page news story (below the fold) in the very first issue of the Reporter ever published. It appeared in vol. 1, no. 1 on 28 October 1964. The article originated with the news service of the bishops’ conference, so it may also have been published in other outlets.
The purpose of the short article is to describe what the Mass might look like after implementation of the reforms mandated by Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC). At the time the article ran, the Sacred Congregation of Rites had just published Inter Oecumenici (26 September 1964), the first of five instructions on the right application of SC. The other four instructions include:
Tres abhinc annos (4 May 1967)
Liturgicae instaurationes (5 September 1970)
Vicesimus quintus annus (4 December 1988)
Liturgiam authenticam (28 March 2001)
At the time of the article’s publication, the work of the “Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia” was still in its infancy.
The article is available from The Catholic News Archives, and a digital “clipping” of the article is pictured below. Click the thumbnail to expand the image.
Many aspects of what the article describes are interesting. It reflects twentieth-century liturgical reform at a very specific moment in time. Following are some unsystematic observations, following the order of the article:
1. “Four or five hymns” of congregational singing were envisioned at a Sunday low Mass. This is the continuation of an impoverished view of liturgical music, which the Liturgical Movement sought eagerly to remedy.
2. The manner of reciting the Gloria is particularly interesting. According to the article, it would begin as a dialogue between priest and people, then shift to a corporate recitation.
3. The description of the homily is noteworthy because it does not exclusively focus on the biblical readings. It admits, rather, the possibility of focusing on the ordinary or proper of the Mass.
4. The article mentions the Prayer of the Faithful, but it still envisions that this would be an official text (i.e., not something composed freely).
5. I am very intrigued that the editors of the brand new National Catholic Reporter presumed a readership that would have enough familiarity with the Mass and its parts in order to understand the content of this article. Could any Catholic publication presume so much today?
The gap between what was first envisioned and what ultimately was promulgated is wide. Taking a close look at the liturgical reform in media res is worthwhile and instructive.