I was equally impressed by the Traditional Rite’s common orientation in prayer. That is, the traditional rite does not make the priest the center of the action — though to be fair there are many priests who do not seek this center stage. Instead, his place is almost akin to that of the head of a procession in a village feast.
Finally, there was plenty of silence, especially in the central part of the Mass where we are called really to pray with the celebrant. I was also delighted to find that my private prayer was no longer seemingly an affront to others – something to be “talked to death.“ The Holy One was the focus of this Mass, not the person of the priest, nor the performances of amateur liturgists.
Here, I felt spiritually secure and at home. Over time, I came to love the liturgy more and more, despite the fact that traditional Masses at that time were hard to find for me, and indeed for anyone in Germany. For me, this liturgy touches my interior life, something I can hardly put into words. Perhaps it is the experience of what we call “grace.“
Over the years, I often wondered why Catholics were not permitted to attend both liturgies. The de facto ban on the traditional rite irritated me, the more so because pretty much everything else in what one could term liturgical “peculiarity“ was allowed and indeed encouraged.
For example, I’m somewhat chagrined to report that the seminary of the diocese of Trier – an important Catholic community since the time of the Romans – organized what was billed as a “techno worship“ to celebrate the Millenium Year 2000. The concluding “hymn“ of this “Mass“ was a German Idol hit for that year entitled ”No Angels,” performed in the presence of the Bishop and diocesan clergy. (You will forgive me if I use an American phrase here: “You can’t make this stuff up.“)
Liturgically speaking, in Germany everything seemed possible. The single exception to this rule was any request to allow the traditional liturgy. This was treated as if it were indecent and, indeed, reprehensible.
I learned this after I graduated from my medical studies, and established my family in Trier in 1993. This was when I first approached the now-deceased Bishop of Trier with a request to permit an “Indultmesse” here. A need was not seen by the bishop.
Thank God for the good priests and even municipalities in Trier that we found that offered a respectful form of the liturgy of Paul VI “ordinary” Mass. Our family found such a community, and there our three daughters were baptized. For these many years, our family has lived with both forms of the Roman rite – the ordinary and the extraordinary form. For many years we had to drive many miles to do this.
When the new Bishop (now Cardinal Marx) of Trier was installed in 2002, I began asking him for permission to celebrate the Holy Mass in the traditional rite in our diocese. During our subsequent correspondence, I collected about 300 signatures to support my request. After over two years of painstaking correspondence with the Diocese’s Consultancy Department, permission was finally granted at the end of 2004 for a single Indultmesse to be celebrated on Sundays and holidays in Trier. Permission was conditional, however, on the observation of many restrictions regarding place, time, inter alia, etc.
This was eleven years after my first request to the bishop of Trier.
In spite of the limitations established, I’m happy to report that the response to the Old Mass has been such that the diocese has agreed to provide a separate priest for pastoral care in the extraordinary rite in the Trier jurisdiction. Of course, we greatly rejoiced over the long-prayed-for Motu Proprio from the Holy Father regarding the traditional liturgy. In the Diocese of Trier, we hope and expect for a future of “normality“ in the usus antiquior of the one Roman rite.
The centuries-old beloved traditional Roman rite is finally back as a special form of the Roman rite. Recognized again after more than 35 years of de facto abolition, the Mass has regained its
full citizenship in the Church. For this, I say, ‘Deo Gratias!”