This morning I attended a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia. (The community here in Norcia celebrates Mass in both forms.) It is the first Mass of this kind that I have ever attended. (I actually participated slightly. As a priest in choir, I returned the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle in another chapel.) The Mass was beautifully celebrated. I am too new at the Extraordinary Form to give much of an opinion yet. I celebrated my first low Mass about a week before leaving Nashville. As a celebrant at a small or private Mass, I certainly appreciate it very much. I also think that I begin to understand what the Council Fathers had in mind for a reform. I think that we got much more than that, for good or ill -- who is to say? Having grown up in the extreme end of Anglo-Catholicism, I think that I can imagine a reform that would have made much use of the vernacular and allowed for greater participation of the laity and yet retained more of the ceremonial and order. But that is not what occurred. Will experiences like mine lead to a rethinking of what was lost as well as gained in the reform as it actually happened? I think that this could be very helpful, but it will take time. I am excited to learn more about the Extraordinary Form.
There is a great difference even from last year in the spread of the Extraordinary Form. This week I was at the Casa Santa Maria, the residence for American priests studying in Rome. The EF is regularly celebrated by a number of the priests there. It seems that it is becoming a part of the landscape. That is a big change.
Some of the seminarians with us attended the Mass this morning with a spirit of interest and curiosity. I think that they were impressed by what they saw. I think that Pope Benedict is giving the liturgy a new start at organic development.