HH: Now would you briefly tell our audience what the highlights of the past three years have been for Benedict XVI? What have been his major statements, and the major developments in the Vatican during his tenure?More
JF: Okay, well brief in the Hugh Hewitt terminology probably would be about 25 minutes, right?
HH: Yup, you take your time. Take your time.
JF: Hugh, I’m telling people now to go back and reread his address which he gave the morning after he was elected. He was elected in the evening of the 19th. The morning of the 20th, after Mass, he gave a 22 minute address in Latin, outlining what he planned to do as pope. And it was typical Joseph Ratzinger. I mean, it was carefully worded, it was very well organized. He laid out his plan, and he’s been following that, step by step. Let me summarize it for you. I mean, the very first thing he said was Jesus is first. I must be faithful to Jesus, my master. Typical Ratzinger, typical Christian, or maybe not too typical, but we Christians should be.
HH: Yeah, we wish it were typical.
JF: Yeah. And then he said, and I’m asking for the prayer and support of my fellow cardinals, and my fellow bishops. He clearly wants to work not as some autonomous dictator or monarch. He wants to work collegially with a college of bishops, with the other pastors. And then he said, and we bring with us into the new millennium the Gospel, so again, down to the foundation, the Gospel, as reread authoritatively by the Second Vatican Council. And then, and I think in a blockbuster statement, he says, and I commit myself and my full force to implement the Second Vatican Council in faithful continuity with the Church’s 2,000 year tradition. Now he’s always got a twinkle in his eye. There’s implication there that the Council hasn’t been implemented yet, or at least not entirely.
JF: So in December of the same year, December 22nd, he talked with the cardinals in Rome, and he said look, there’s been two ways of interpreting the Council. One, an interpretation of rupture and discontinuity, one, renewal and continuity. He rejects that first interpretation. So he is someone who wants to, within the Catholic Church, heal the breach, the rupture that took place, phenomenologically, between the pre and post-conciliar periods. Then, the key thing, Hugh, is that this is just, you know, method, basically. He talks about, with the bishops, he talks about using the Council. But what’s he going to focus on? He said the center of my pontificate will be the center of the life of the Church, which is the whole Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Mass. From that, everything else will flow. From that, we will have our love for each other, our charitable works, our union with other Christians and our desire for unity, our dialogue with the rest of the world and other religions. It all flows from that center, which is the Mass. So that’s what he said he’d do, and he’s done it.
HH: How has he gone about making the Mass the center again, or keeping it anchored as the center? What changes has he brought to light, or emphasis has he put forward?
JF: Well, first, in August of the year he was elected in 2005, he went to the World Youth Day, in which the theme was the Eucharist. Of course, that was planned before he was pope, but he was part of the planning. And he gave two major speeches, one on the Mass itself as the worship of God and our nourishment, and two, on adoration of blessed sacrament as our way of honoring the Lord’s real presence among us. In October, they had the worldwide synod of bishops, the theme was the Eucharist. And after that, he issued his post-synodal exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, the sacrament of charity. It was a masterpiece. I’m telling you, it was a glorious masterpiece on what the Mass means in its relationship to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the other sacraments. But then, I think, Hugh, the most significant thing he’s done in his papacy was on 7/7/07, July 7th, 2007. He issued his Motu Proprio, which means by his own initiative, in which he basically made the accessibility to the old Mass much easier, and made it really a right for all the faithful and any priest who want to celebrate it. But it wasn’t just because he wants to go back to the pre-conciliar past. He wants to establish that as a standard for continuity with tradition, so that the new Mass will become more like the old Mass. And at the same time, the old Mass will become more like the new Mass.
HH: Now Father Fessio, let’s stop for a moment…
HH: …and assume that we’ve got some people out there who are just basically illiterate in Catholic idiom and ideas. And so when…you dropped two big things on them, but they both start with the Mass.
HH: When you say how the Mass is at the center of how we understand Father, Son and Holy Ghost, what do you mean by that, for the benefit of someone who’s scratching their head and saying what are these guys talking about.
JF: Okay, well, you know, we all as Christians believe that Jesus is the son of the Father, who’s taken flesh to offer Himself for our sins and redeem us from our sins. We as Catholics believe that He also instituted a Church, and at the heart of that Church was His desire to be with us in a personal way, both through sacred Scripture, by which He truly speaks to us, and by giving us His body and His blood to eat as our food and drink. And so whereas non-Catholic Christians will emphasize more the Word, and sometimes are a good challenge to Catholics to remember that God’s Word is living, and a two-edged sword that we have to be close to it at all times. But we also believe He’s present to us in another way, through the sacrament of the Eucharist, in which we confess His real presence.
HH: So what happened at the Vatican II Council to the Mass that he is now, in his Motu Proprio, attempting to reconcile?
JF: Oh, boy, that’s hard to give a short answer, but I’ll do my best at it, okay?
JF: The Catholic worship in the Eucharist has grown over the centuries. And it’s grown gradually and organically. There’s been changes of a minor nature, but basically, the way we celebrated Mass was the same from around the 5th Century until the 20th Century. At the Vatican Council, there were some legitimate attempts to renew and revivify the Mass. But because of the circumstances of the Council, because of the world we live in, because of the press and the media, it became seen as a call to new creativity and a rupture from the past. So it was, the language was changed into English, although the Council did not require that. The altar was, I mean, the priest now faced the people instead of facing with the people toward the risen Lord. The Gregorian Chant was almost entirely forgotten. The traditional prayer we call the canon, or the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass now became optional, and there were several other forms, that we got rid of altar rails, we got rid of statues. Basically, it was a way of making the Mass more a community celebration rather than a worship of the living God. So that, he has tried to restore what’s been lost.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Fr. Fessio on Benedict
~Here's an excerpt from an interview with Fr. Fessio on Hugh Hewitt's radio show: