Liturgy and Laity: Dom Alcuin Reid Reviews a History of Una Voce

Liturgy and Laity: Dom Alcuin Reid Reviews a History of Una Voce

[As the author of this review of the review of the book strongly suggests, read all of Dom Alcuin’s review, which has more details (especially the historical context of some of Una Voce’s activities) from the book, thus avoiding the impression that the book does not report events and personalities other than Una Voce that influenced the post-Vatican II traditional liturgical movement! – AQ Tom]

First Things has just published Dom Alcuin Reid’s very interesting review of a history of Una Voce by Leo Darroch, who was president of that organization from 2011-13. (Una Voce: The History of the Foederatio Universalis Una Voce) Here we give a few excerpts; I encourage you to read the whole of the original. The title of the review reflects one of the many ironies with which the post-Conciliar liturgical reform was fraught from start to finish, namely, that the greatest opposition to it came largely from the lay people for whose benefit it was purportedly being done.

“Una Voce’s history, faithfully compiled by Leo ­Darroch in the present volume, is indeed the history of lay men and women coming of age in the life of the Church. It is not too much to say that following the Second Vatican Council, Una Voce formed a lay movement that, in spite of at times not insignificant opposition, came to be of singular importance. For at a time when the required obedience had anesthetized the greater part of the clergy … it was the laity who enjoyed the freedom necessary to organize themselves to ­promote the goods that were ­seemingly being squandered by the Church herself.

… The history of Una Voce is the history of devout, intelligent, and indeed obedient Catholic men and women (at times, to be sure, severely frustrated and almost driven to distraction) seeking for decades to convince ecclesiastical authorities at every level, including the highest, that the Church had made a fundamental error not in reforming or developing her public worship—that she had done throughout history—but in excluding substantial and important elements of her liturgical tradition (including Latin) in so doing. They argued that the almost complete prohibition of the older forms of worship was pastorally harmful, culturally deleterious, and gravely unjust to the worthy aims of the fathers of the Second Vatican Council.”

In mid-March of 1964, when the Consilium ad exsequendam was not yet two months old, Dom Gregory Murray of Downside Abbey in England wrote in the Tablet, “The plea that the laity as a body do not want liturgical change, whether in rite or in language, is, I submit, quite beside the point. … (it is) not a question of what people want; it is a question of what is good for them.” The great Michael Davies, who of course figures very prominently in Darroch’s book, rightly observed in “Liturgical Time Bombs in Vatican II”, that this contempt for the laity was no different from that of the Soviet Communist Party for the people; as the Party “ ‘interpreted the will of the people,’ so the (liturgical) ‘experts’ interpret the wishes of the laity.” Dom Reid gives an excellent example of the the very Soviet behavior characteristic of those sad and difficult years from no less a person than the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worhsip.

“It is by no means an easy task to inform a naked emperor that he is wearing no clothes, as the early Una Voce leaders learned only too quickly. Darroch’s history is replete with polite but firm reminders from ecclesiastics that the old ways have been replaced by newer and better ones and that everyone needs to make the best of them. A 1970 petition to Pope Paul VI requesting the preservation of the older rite of Mass received this reply from Cardinal Benno Gut, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship: ‘You know that the decree . . . ­issued with the ­publication of the new Ordo provided for a certain period of transition. . . . But after this period of transition all the faithful should get used to the new form.’ His Eminence conceded that the difficulties ex­perienced by many of the faithful with the new order were ‘due to (very genuine) psychological inhibitions.’ He concluded: ‘Your letter, written in such a ­distinguished tone, gives us the ­assurance that you will find the ­correct attitude.’ ”

In this age of the Church’s life, as in every other, there are many reasons to take encouragement, and many for discouragement. For those are for whatever reason inclined to the latter, it will certainly be useful to read this remarkable prophecy made by the first President of Una Voce, Dr Eric de Saventhem, in 1970.

“…from the outset Una Voce was blessed with the leadership of the German-born convert from Protestantism Eric de Saventhem—a providential unifier, spokesman, and coordinator of the movement. While for many years he too had received polite but firm replies entreating him and his associates to adopt the “­correct attitude,” his vision was ­nothing less than prophetic. As early as June 1970, speaking as the guest of honor at the annual meeting of Una Voce USA at the Liederkranz Club in Manhattan, de Saventhem would assert:

A renaissance will come: asceticism and adoration as the mainspring of direct total dedication to Christ will return. Confraternities of priests, vowed to celibacy and to an intense life of prayer and meditation will be formed. Religious will regroup themselves into houses of strict observance. A new form of Liturgical Movement will come into being, led by young priests and attracting mainly young people, in protest against the flat, prosaic, philistine or delirious liturgies which will soon overgrow and finally smother even the recently revised rites.

He continued:

It is vitally important that these new priests and religious, these new young people with ardent hearts, should find—if only in a corner of the rambling mansion of the Church—the treasure of a truly Sacred Liturgy still glowing softly in the night. And it is our task, since we have been given the grace to appreciate the value of this heritage, to preserve it from spoliation, from becoming buried out of sight, despised and therefore lost forever. It is our duty to keep it alive: by our own loving attachment, by our support for the priests who make it shine in our churches, by our apostolate at all levels of persuasion.”

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