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Corpus Christi Procession Brings Busy Manhattan Streets to a Standstill: Sacra Liturgia 2015 Conference, New York City, Day Four (Thursday, June 4)

June 5, 2015 breaking No Comments
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By James Monti —

The fourth and final day of the Sacra Liturgia 2015 conference in New York City brought five more distinguished speakers to the podium and concluded with an awe-inspiring Extraordinary Form Corpus Christi Mass and outdoor procession that traversed eastern Manhattan. New York Police Department officers halted traffic on three avenues to make way for “the King of Glory”, heralded by clouds of incense and enshrined in a magnificent golden sunburst monstrance carried by His Excellency Bishop Joseph Perry, an auxiliary bishop of Chicago, underneath a canopy borne by four Knights of Malta. People on street corners and standing at the doorways of shops and apartments watched speechless, some taking pictures, as the procession passed, with a long line of dozens of priests and seminarians in their cassocks and surplices followed by well over a hundred of the faithful, carrying lit candles as daylight faded over the city on this beautiful evening. In answer to one spectator who inquired as to what was going on, an NYPD officer explained, “This is a Catholic ceremony. They were having a conference.” Along the way of the procession, which set out from Saint Catherine of Siena Church, the participants sang Pange lingua gloriosi, Adoro te, and Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, pausing for a “station” at Saint John Neponucen Church. The destination church was that of Saint Vincent Ferrer, a spectacular gothic edifice where the concluding benediction was imparted before an altar bedecked with over thirty candles.
The exquisite liturgical order and precision of the Mass and procession were wrought by hours of preparation and planning on the part of Sacra Liturgia founder Dom Alcuin Reid, a consummate master of ceremonies as well as one of the world’s pre-eminent liturgical scholars. During the magnificent pontifical Mass celebrated by His Excellency Bishop Perry, New York auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara delivered a stirring homily in which he cited the Eucharistic devotion of Saints John Neumann and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Recounting how the latter was converted to the Catholic faith when as a young widow she heard the sound of an approaching Corpus Christi procession and upon reaching the window saw the monstrance. His Excellency observed that there could very well be another prospective Elizabeth Ann Seton outside who might be similarly transformed by the procession that was about to take place.

Earlier in the day, Dom Alcuin Reid delivered his presentation for the conference, a talk on the reforms to the Holy Week liturgy initiated by Venerable Pope Pius XII in the 1950s. Dom Reid’s research into the matter revealed that some objections to the changes had been raised by American bishops, most notably Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York. The latter particularly objected to the confinement of the Palm Sunday blessing of palms to only one Mass and the movement of the Holy Thursday Mass from a morning hour to Thursday evening, which he believed would hamper the faithful’s spiritual practices on this day. Dom Alcuin stressed that some of the changes were clearly advantageous, citing in this regard the transfer of the Easter Vigil from Holy Saturday morning to Holy Saturday night. But he also believed that there needs to be a comprehensive study, an entire book, devoted to assessing each of the changes made to determine whether these had proved to be positive or negative. However, he also stressed that the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy is not well served by an attitude of liturgical intransigence that condemns a priori any changes beyond a certain date and refuses to recognize that there can indeed be sound changes for the better that conform to the model of organic development, for the traditional Latin Mass is itself the fruit of centuries of prior organic development. He added that it is reprehensible for any priest to introduce liturgical practices from any earlier redaction of the “usus antiquior” (the traditional Latin liturgy) that constitute a direct violation of the rubrics of the liturgical books authorized for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form (the 1962 Missale Romanun, etc.).
Dom Phillip Anderson, OSB, Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery of Our Lady of Clear Creek in Oklahoma, devoted his address to the role of monastic communities in fostering the new liturgical movement. Describing the monastery as a “workshop”, he cited the long Benedictine tradition of monks devoting their lives primarily to the celebration of the sacred liturgy, the “Opus Dei”, “the Work of God,” for “The monk is vowed to the liturgy.” He told of how a Benedictine monk, like the watchman of whom Ezechiel speaks (Ez 33:7), rises long before dawn to take his place on the simple chapel bench that is his pew. It is both his “workplace” and his cross for upon it he will fulfill his vocation by praying the Divine Office. He offers liturgical praise to God not only on behalf of all mankind but even on behalf of the rest of creation. At daybreak the monk will take part in the supreme liturgical action, the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Quoting Our Lord’s words that Christian worship is to be “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23), he emphasized that the celebration of the liturgy, if it is to authentic, must be both sincere (“in spirit”) and faithful to the rubrics (“in truth”).
In discussing his monastery’s practice of celebrating the entire liturgy in the Extraordinary Form, Dom Phillip cited an overlooked declaration of Blessed Pope Paul VI in his 1966 apostolic letter Sacrificium Laudis imploring monastic communities to continue praying the Divine Office in Latin rather than the vernacular, a request recently reiterated by a Vatican official. Dom Phillip noted that the Benedictine custom of “liturgical hospitality”, permitting visitors to see their life of prayer, can serve as a means for his and other Benedictine communities to propagate the liturgical renewal, particularly when those involved in liturgical formation come to spend time with these communities.

 

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On this painful Palm Sunday I pray that we can all cling to the joy that the Lord Jesus is keeping His Promise, He is still with us. It is excruciating not to receive Him in Communion but He awaits us “in the room next to us” May Spiritual Communion place us in His Real Presence

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