Bishop James V. Johnston assists Father Jeffery Fasching during
the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Agnes Cathedral in Springfield Missouri.
Sunday, May 9th 2010
the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Agnes Cathedral in Springfield Missouri.
Sunday, May 9th 2010
THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The following is an exclusive interview of Father Jeffery Fasching by The Catholic Knight (TCK). It is a followup to his article entitled Young Priest Discovers Renewal In Old Rite. Father Jeff Fasching serves as pastor for the Latin Mass Community at St. Agnes Cathedral in Springfield Missouri.
TCK: Father Fasching, first I want to thank you for your service to the Church and for granting this interview. It is a pleasure and an honor to share this time with you.
Fasching: You're very welcome for the interview. It is my pleasure to have the opportunity to address some questions regarding the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I am truly humbled that you have taken an interest in the ministry God has bestowed upon me.
TCK: In your article you indicated a general renewal in your approach to the liturgy and the eucharist by learning the traditional Latin mass, also known as the "Tridentine," Extraordinary Form and Usus Antiquior (or "ancient use") mass. Would you like to elaborate on this?
Fasching: I indicated in my previous article that I have experienced somewhat of a "spiritual renewal" in my approach to the Liturgy and the Eucharist through becoming familiar with the Traditional Latin Mass. Up until less than a year ago, all I had known for the thirteen years I have been ordained was the Novus Ordo mass. When a brother priest and some mutual friends introduced me to Summorum Pontificum in the fall of 2009, an excitement came over me I had not felt in quite some time. Part of this excitement was due to my first-hand experience of many priests taking unnecessary liberties with the liturgy. For example, I was once asked in an RCIA class by a priest to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass while simultaneously pausing to explain the various parts of the Mass to the class! This is common practice for many priests. I don't believe it is necessary here for me to explain why this is inappropriate. The point is that Summorum Pontificum made it clear to me that our Holy Father's desire is to restore a sense of the sacred to the Liturgy that has been sadly lost over the past few decades: "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too...It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."
I was also thrilled because it occurred to me that so many saintly priests throughout the ages offered the Holy Sacrifice with the Traditional Latin Mass using exactly the same gestures and words that I would soon come to know myself. As soon as I began to learn the Traditional Latin Mass, I immediately experienced a growing bond toward my favorite saint, John Marie Vianney. Not only was our Holy Father encouraging priests to learn the Traditional Latin Mass, but he was also proclaiming John Vianney patron of all priests! God chose to manifest the dignity and essence of the priesthood of Jesus Christ in this humble priest. Saint John Marie Vianney exemplifies what every priest, whether diocesan or religious, should strive and aspire to be. Since I so often fall short of this ideal, I thought at least I could do one thing exactly the same way my favorite saint used to!
I knew that other modern-day saints, such as Padre Pio and JoseMaria Escriva said the ancient Mass as well. There was obviously a reason for this. Despite what some see as a disfigured image of the priesthood today, the priesthood of Jesus Christ remains timeless and magnificent in its essence. In this age the priesthood is in dire need of reform and renewal. Summorum Pontificum is a large part of the answer to this renewal because it helps to restore unity to our Lex orandi (Law of prayer.)
Learning the Traditional Latin Mass has also enriched my personal prayer life. For example, each day for me begins with at least one hour of Eucharistic adoration (praying before the Blessed Sacrament exposed.) When I anticipate offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form as I pray before our Lord, I experience an almost indescribable bond with the Tradition of Holy Mother the Church. I believe this bond comes from realizing that I will confect the Eucharist following the exact same rubrics that so many other saints much holier than myself have done before me. I feel an unmistakable unity with the Church Triumphant through the Liturgy and the Eucharist.
TCK: Some readers of TCK blog have requested clarification on your views of the Novus Ordo (new order) or Ordinary Form mass. They wish to know if you view the Ordinary Form, when properly celebrated, as somehow deficient or incapable of transmitting the same graces as the Extraordinary Form. How would you answer this?
Fasching: I appreciate the concern of many of your readers regarding the notion that the Novus Ordo Mass is in some way deficient when it comes to transmitting graces when compared to the Traditional Latin Mass. I don't believe this at all! We are speaking of two forms of the very same rite. Let's review the Church's teaching on this subject that dates way back to the fourth century.
When a sacrament is celebrated according to the norms of the Church and in faith, the Church believes that it confers the grace it signifies. While a human being is the minister of the sacrament, Christ Himself is the one who is at work: Christ baptizes, Christ confirms, Christ absolves, Christ changes the bread and wine into His Body and Blood, etc. Acting in His sacraments, Christ communicates the grace-that sharing in the divine life and love of God-offered through each sacrament. (Catechism no. 1127-28.)
Therefore, the Church has taught that the sacraments act ex opere operato that is "by the very fact of the action’s being performed." The efficacy of the sacrament does not depend upon the human minister- whether a bishop, priest, deacon or layperson. Nevertheless, priests must strive always to be worthy ministers of the sacraments they celebrate, acting in a state of grace and reflecting the Christ in whose person they act.
The faithful need to pray for their priests that they will have the grace to lead holy lives and persevere in their sacred vocation. We must not forget the thousands upon thousands of priests and religious who have devoted their lives to the Lord and the Church, but never have received media attention for their good work.
In many places, the image of the Catholic priesthood is in disarray. Many priests are discouraged by the failings of a few of their brother priests. Some are even afraid or ashamed to wear the clerical collar out of fear of what people will think or say. We live in the midst of troubled times. Our Holy Father is being persecuted and so are many of us. However, the Church will be purged and purified. As a result, we will have a stronger, holier Church in the end. Graces will flow from both forms of the same rite, but priests who put on the mind of our Holy Father and strive to lead holy lives will more quickly help the Church reach her destiny.
TCK: I know this may seem like a silly question, but as a "Traditional priest" do you accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as they were written?
Fasching: As a Traditional priest, I absolutely accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as they are written. I would like to take this opportunity to focus on one particular statement resulting from the Second Vatican Council:
"And so I (Pope John Paul, II) desire that all of you should, with me, find in Mary the Mother of the priesthood which we have received from Christ...among the people of God which look to Mary with immense love and hope, you must look to her with exceptional love and hope. Indeed it is your task to proclaim Christ, her Son. And who can better communicate to you the truth about Him than His Mother? It is your task to nourish men's hearts with Christ. And who can make you more aware of what you are doing than she who nourished Him? Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary. There is a wonderful dimension to our ministerial priesthood: it places us near the Mother of Christ." (Vol. 2, p. 360)
Mary is the Mother and the Queen of Priests. It has been God's divine plan to will to become incarnate and to become a priest with and only with the previous consent and cooperation of His Blessed Mother. I, in turn, would not have become her child and a priest of God unless she willed it and chose to adopt me as her son. I am so happy and grateful to belong to the Blessed Virgin Mary by her personal choice and by an immutable and eternal decree of our Heavenly Father. Christ loves His Mother more than all other creatures together. I believe He wishes me, His other self, to love her even as He has loved her. This I strive to do.
Although Christ is God, He willed while on earth to receive everything through His Blessed Mother. He made known all His needs to her and addressed to her all His requests. I try to do the same. God is infinitely good and powerful and Christ is ready to give me everything as His priest, but He will not do so without receiving a sign from His Immaculate Mother.
Mary is the distributor and the Mediatrix of all graces. Since Christ willed to be entirely dependent upon His Mother as a tiny infant, I believe in order to please Christ I must also have that same humble and loving subjection. I try not to undertake anything without her or her council and I strive to always ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to enlighten me.
Since Christ also willed to have her consent not only to receive human life, but also to lay it down on the Cross, I also try to pay her the homage of my entire priestly life, all my activity, my joys, and my suffering. The Blessed Virgin Mary gave Christ His human existence and offered Him to God as a holocaust at the foot of the Cross. She is invisibly present at every Mass I offer and she continues with me, her priestly son, to offer Christ as a Victim to God.
TCK: In your article you highlighted the connection between holy mass and Eucharistic adoration. In the Western Church today, it would seem there is not only a mental disconnect on this, but a casual approach toward the Eucharist in general. By this I mean communion in the hand while standing for example. The Holy Father has sought to restore the traditional custom of receiving the Eucharist while kneeling and on the tongue. This of course is standard practice in the traditional Latin mass, and has now become the standard practice in all papal liturgies as well. Do you believe this practice should be promoted in the modern vernacular mass too, and could you elaborate on this?
Fasching: I do believe that the practice of receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue should be promoted and practiced at all times because it better highlights the truth of the real presence in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful, and lends itself more easily to the sense of sacredness and mystery. The above are some of the ideas that have been lost over recent decades, particularly in the Novus Ordo Mass.
As a former athlete who played football and basketball in college and an avid runner, I am well aware of the strength needed in one’s knees to perform certain tasks. Knees are symbolic of both strength and humility. What we do with our knees gives evidence of what we believe in our hearts. When we genuflect before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we express what matters most in our lives. In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that Saint Peter "knelt down and prayed" (9:40), and that Saint Paul "knelt down and prayed with them all" (20:36). One of my favorite scripture passages that gives the strongest theological foundation for kneeling is found in Saint Paul's Letter to the Philippians, 2:6-11, where Saint Paul writes: "…at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".
I believe that the most respectful manner of receiving the Eucharist is kneeling and on the tongue. When we enter a Eucharistic adoration chapel we kneel down to pray. Why would we not want to kneel when actually receiving the very flesh and blood of our Lord? We must recover the respect and reverence that the Eucharist deserves by our external actions because I believe our inward souls are at stake.
TCK: It seems there is a great deal of misunderstanding in the Church between contemporary and traditional Catholics. That misunderstanding sometimes leads to unnecessary hostility between them. Perhaps this comes from a misplaced fear of the unknown, or perhaps the false notion that all Traditional Catholics seek to "take the Church back in time." What do you think might eliminate some of this unnecessary hostility and misunderstanding?
Fasching: There does seem to be a prevailing notion that Traditional Catholics want to "take the Church back in time." This is based on a common lack of understanding of the mind of our Holy Father. Pope Benedict has reminded us that the Ordinary Form of the Mass and the Extraordinary Form are two forms of the same rite and are co-equal:
"The usus antiquior is not a museum piece but a living expression of Catholic worship...what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred for us too...It is a treasure that belongs to the whole Catholic Church and which should be widely available to all of Christ's faithful...It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer and to give them their proper place."
Some common misunderstandings with respect to Vatican II include the following:
The priest facing the people was not introduced by Vatican II. It became the unwritten practice in the Novus Ordo mass without any directives from Vatican II or by the Missal of 1969. Cardinal Ratzinger said in The Spirit of the Liturgy that the priest in facing the congregation is tempted “to be an actor.” The Mass is not a performance, therefore applause is inappropriate. The Mass is a sacrifice and must transcend the personality of the priest.
The official language of the Novus Ordo is Latin and the Mass may be celebrated either in Latin or in English. The practice of receiving Communion in the hand was not called for by Vatican II. This sprang up as an abuse and was subsequently accepted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1977 by a slim majority. This indult can be withdrawn at any time.
The Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict making the Traditional Mass more available should be viewed as “reform of the reform,” a renewal of the Church began by liturgical renewal. The vast majority of the thousands of bishops at the Council neither wished for, nor mandated, a radical reform of the liturgy. It was never the intention to abandon the use of Latin or to require the celebrant to face the people. Nothing had been said about standing to receive Communion in the hand, or the use of altar girls. No mention had been made about the use of multiple Canons. In the Roman rite there had always been one Eucharistic prayer. The many changes in the liturgy were for the most part made after Vatican II. Interpretation of the Council’s intent was motivated by what became known as “the Spirit of Vatican II.”
The most grievous change following Vatican II was the loss of reverence. As a result, consciousness of the Real Presence has diminished. The Traditional Latin Mass helps restore this loss of reverence and sense of the real presence due to its contemplative nature. It is surrounded by silence. There is clear emphasis on the Mass as the same sacrifice Christ offered on Calvary, although in a bloodless manner. Every gesture by the priest, the signs of the cross, the genuflections, are strictly controlled by the rubrics. There is nothing spontaneous. In fact our Holy Father has said that the greatness of the liturgy depends on its lack of spontaneity. The Mass is designed to be an elaborate ritual of “time outside of time.”
The Holy Father has emphasized that through the Motu Proprio he wishes to enrich the liturgy of the whole of the Church and not merely to protect the right of those who prefer the ancient form. Pope Benedict’s point in making the Traditional Latin Mass more widely available is neither nostalgic nor “taking us back.” Rather, by encouraging the more widespread celebration of this classic form of Roman rite, he intends to create a kind of liturgical magnet, drawing ‘the reform of the reform’ in the direction of greater solemnity and reverence in the Catholic Church’s worship.”
TCK: Once again I would like to thank you for the privilege of speaking with you, and for granting us this interview. May God bless you in the work you are doing for the Diocese of Springfield - Cape Girardeau.
Fasching: Thank you Catholic Knight for granting me this interview and for all you do in the battle against relativism in the Church. I hope to speak with you in the near future.