Usus antiquior in Poland: a local story

Piotr Bednarski sent me this encouraging story from Poland, of the ordinary faithful trying to build "brick by brick" an awareness and appreciation of the usus antiquior. For those of us who have the blessing of the usus antiquior regularly for some time now, it is a reminder of the patient work needed to bring about the re-sacralisation of the Liturgy especially through the enrichment that the old Mass can bring.

Missa Cantata celebrated in the Extraordinary Form of Roman Rite (EF) with Master of Ceremonies, Incense, and blessing for a wedding anniversary: how to make parishioners familiar with the EF when the pastor does not envision the possibility of the EF, at least in the short term

Even in a parish where only the Novus Ordo (NO) is celebrated, and some churchgoers are vocal against Latin and the traditional Mass (perhaps due to lack of understanding the EF and church documents), still there is a window of opportunity to offer an experience of the “ancient Mass”. That was the case when a couple celebrating their 15th anniversary, in the spirit of patient dialogue with the pastor, succeeded in getting the green light to have the EF for the family and any parishioners willing to come.

Lay people took full responsibility for ”marketing the EF” by putting up posters, arranging a priest and altar servers properly trained in the EF, a chant singer to do the propers, and finally for getting all the necessary liturgical vestments and requisites, including even candlesticks. And it happened, for the first time in the  history of this 30-year old parish, on October 15, 2011, on the feast of St. Teresa of Avilla (the great master of the spiritual life of XVI century and the doctor of the Church). The venue of the event was the parish of Mater Ecclesiae in Otrebusy near Warsaw, Poland where people were able to participate in a Missa Cantata celebrated by Fr. Zbigniew Chromy, a priest from the Diocese of Świdnica in south-west Poland.

Fr. Zbigniew is a doctor in theology, with professional interest in teaching of Joseph Ratzinger, and he is a faculty member at the Diocesan Seminary in Swidnica, affiliated at the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Wroclaw, Poland. He kindly agreed to make a quick 24-hour trip Swidnica to Otrebusy (200 miles) to say the Mass.

At the Mass, attended by the faithful of the parish and guests, together about 50 people, the atmosphere of prayer, participation, and dignity of liturgy was overwhelming. There were three priests invited for the anniversary, none of whom celebrate the EF, who sat in choir: Fr. Marcin Korzeniowski – a local assistant priest, Fr. Tadeusz Alexandrowicz a former pastor of the parish, now in charge of a large Warsaw parish, and Fr. Zbigniew Badowski, a canon lawyer from one of Warsaw's strongly NO parishes.

The proper chants of the Mass (in the original tones of Gregorian chant) were performed by Agnieszka Mycka, a musicologist and conductor of Gregorian schola (at the church of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lublin, Poland). The propers for the feast of St. Theresa, especially the beautiful “Dilexisti iustitiam, et odisti iniquitatem”, filled the modern church, inspiring the faithful to prayerful meditation. The altar servers (master of ceremonies, acolytes, thurifer) harmonised well with the celebrating priest in a service marked by concentration and piety.

The Mass participants, even though most of them were new to the EF, followed the Mass, responded actively to the priest, and managed the Ordinary in Latin. This was facilitated by Missals provided specially for this occasion with texts in Polish and Latin. In a short introduction before the Mass, Fr. Zbigniew set the proper tone and lowered uncertainty about Latin and new elements not encountered in NO, such as the longer period of silence during Canon. Fr. Zbigniew also emphasized the opportunity of experiencing the richness of gestures, postures, and silence of the EF, and recalled the principle of receiving Holy Communion in a kneeling posture.

During his homily, referring to the feast of St. Theresa, Fr. Zbigniew pointed to two pillars of the spiritual life: Mass and prayer. He stressed that the free gift of the real presence of Christ during the sacrifice of the Mass is the infinite source of strengthening Christians in everyday life, in marriage, in the family. At the end of Mass, the antiphon sung in honour of Our Lady - Salve Regina - brought a joyful Marian accent to the Saturday, a day devoted to Our Lady.

 Finally, after the Mass Fr. Zbigniew, in accordance with the ancient rite, offered an uplifting prayer and blessed the married couple celebrating their anniversary, followed by sprinkling with Holy Water. (right) The solemn retiring procession closed the ceremony.

 The final photo at the entrance of the Church shows the participants at Mass - except for the altars serves who needed to prepare the church for the NO Mass.

Let us hope and pray that even if the Mass was a extraordinary event in the parish, sooner than later EF becomes also part of the Sunday schedule.

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