~from San Francisco Gate, an interview with Fr. Michael Wiener who has been celebrating the traditional rite since 1999. He is a priest of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest and is a convert into the Catholic Church.
For a long time you needed to get permission from a bishop before you could perform the Tridentine Mass. Why?
I believe there was a desire to unify the church's practice to the greatest possible extent by introducing the changed liturgy [new Mass] to the greatest number of faithful. But there have always been large numbers of people who have continued to celebrate [the traditional way].
Do you think the pope's announcement came as a surprise to many people?
No, I don't think so. The pope's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had published two documents that urge wider practice of the Tridentine Mass. Pope Benedict's announcement was in line with this, it was a natural progression for the pope to end the requirement to get a bishop's permission before celebrating the Mass. It's a very happy progression for the faithful who are attached to the traditional rite.
Do you prefer celebrating the Tridentine Mass?
I do! I'm very much in love with this "Mass of all Ages" because it links us to the history of man, so to say. For many, many centuries, this Mass was celebrated and sanctified people, and it has brought about many saints.
All this has developed slowly and organically over the centuries, and is therefore a joy to celebrate. In German we'd describe it as "Gesamtkunstwerk," which means a piece of art that expresses an idea in a very complete way. In the Latin Mass, the priest, who is representing Jesus Christ, is enacting the mysteries of our salvation. The rite itself is full with history and many significant gestures and prayers. It's not only the language the Mass is said in, it's also what the priest does at the altar. Every gesture has meaning.
What are some of the gestures?
The kissing of the altar, making the signs of the cross many times, bowing your head, putting your hands on the altar or folding them on your breast. There are many, many gestures that in their sequence and in their completeness express the beauty of our religion. These gestures express the reverence, the worship, the respect and the awe of the priest in the moment of celebration. And I think the whole composition is very beautiful.
Pope Benedict said he was authorizing parish priests to celebrate the old Tridentine rite if a "stable group of faithful" requests it. Why does one need a stable group?
Celebrating this Mass requires a great deal of organization. It takes a major effort even to make the celebration possible. To ask a parish priest to do that is excessive if nobody is really interested within the parish. I think for this reason, and for maintaining harmony within the parishes, it's very important that the Mass be conducted in an orderly way.
There's been some concern in posts on Catholic blogs that offering old and new Masses may polarize parishes into two camps. Does that worry you?
Not really. I'm in the happy position to be in a parish which has both rites -- St. Margaret Mary in Oakland has the new Mass, the so-called Reformed Mass of Paul VI, and the traditional Mass. And it's worked out well.
Do you think some priests are intimidated or worried about performing this complex ceremony? Or are most priests trained to do it even though it hasn't been performed widely for 40 years?
I can imagine some priests hesitate to practice this Mass, although many are trained to do it in traditional religious communities. I have had several requests, in the Bay Area, from priests who would like to learn to celebrate the Mass.
Many of the news reports since the Pope's statement have focused on the fact that the Tridentine Mass includes a prayer asking for the conversion of the Jews. How do you feel about that issue, and the way it's been represented in the media?
I don't think there is much to say. That prayer is part of the Good Friday liturgy. And the church doesn't ask for the light of faith only for the Jewish people, there are also other people mentioned. So I don't see any problem with that. I don't think it's bad to ask God for his grace and for help and for assistance.
The prayer mentions other groups?
There is a whole list of people for whom we ask God's help and God's light. First of all, we ask for God's help for the church, for all the priesthood; then for political leaders around the world there is another prayer. We pray for atheists, pagans, heretics and schismatics and all people who are not Christian. So there are all kinds of intentions, because this is the moment when we ask our Lord Jesus Christ to make his blessings available. Because Good Friday is the day when our salvation was effective. We were redeemed by the sacrifice on the cross. So it makes sense to do this on this day.