Saturday 10 November 2012

Lex orandi lex credendi: Pontifical High Mass at Basilico di San Pietro in Vaticano

Originally posted 3/11/2012, thoroughly updated and photographs captioned 10/11/2012

Here are some pictures of today's pilgrimage in thanksgiving for Summorum pontificum organised by the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce. There have been Masses and traditional devotions organised in the run-up to today, but the Pontifical High Mass (Mass of the Immaculate Heart Of Mary) at the Altar of Saint Peter's Chair celebrated by Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, is the high point of the Pilgrimage. The Holy Father granted a Plenary Indulgance (under the usual conditions) to the faithful who attended the Mass. 

Following Adoration, the procession of Priests and Pilgrims leaves San Salvatore in Lauro

The Mass was, as expected, beautiful, reverent, and inspired great hope for the future of the traditional liturgy. There were hundreds of pilgrims: I calculated from a quick chair-count from the dome afterwards that, including those standing, there were probably almost a thousand people in the congregation. It was the usual healthy demographic mix that is so common at extraordinary form Masses everywhere: lots of young people - teens, twenties, thirties - in addition to young families and older people. It was - as EF Masses tend to be - racially mixed and with a visible number of disabled people as well. I mention this because the great irony of EF Mass congregations being perfectly "politially correct" in terms of demographic distribution when compared to the average parish, never fails to amuse me. Is anything more inclusive than the Universal Mass in the Universal Church in a universally understood language? I digress...

It feels as though Rome he been taken over by young traddie priests: the Borgo Pio is teeming with them, there were scores (I lost count) on the Sanctuary - it's wonderful and it's the future.  As my husband pointed out, there were very few priests there older than him: the vast majority were in their 20s, 30's and early 40's (poor DH is in his mid 40s).  We have run into several friendly and familiar faces:  the famous  Fr Z, Monseigneur Wasch of the incomparable ICKSP, and Fr Andrew Southwell from St Bedes, Clapham Park but currently clearly enjoying his sabbatical in the Eternal City.

Today started out with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at San Salvatore in Lauro followed by a procession through Rome to St Peter's Bascilica for the Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form celebrated by His Eminence, Antonio, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Winding through Rome's narrow streets, four abreast, while singing the Litany of the Saints was, frankly, amazing. We certainly amazed some restaurant patrons who seemed completely freaked out by the presence of a slowly moving procession of singing pilgrims; and that was before the scores of Biretta'd, cassock and cotta'd clergy at the end of the procession passed them by! The traffic was stopped for the procession at major intersections, and the whole of via della conciliazione was closed to allow the pilgrims to process towards St Peter's. I was profoundly grateful that the first memory my children will have of entering St Peter's Basilica will be with a procession of praying, singing pilgrims walking directly up the centre of Piazza San Pietro and through the central doors of the Basilica to the Cathedra Petri and Bernini's amazing creation
 "...designed to display the chair on which, according to ancient tradition, St. Peter sat and taught Roman Christians. Pope Alexander VII had the ivory-covered chair put into the gigantic bronze cathedra, with the statues of the Doctors of the Church, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine of the Roman Church and St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom of the Greek Church. The religious significance is extremely clear. The Doctors of the Church were always consistent with Peter's teachings as they expounded theological doctrine.
The gospel does not change because the Holy Spirit, portrayed as a dove flies along the span of the centuries, assisting and accompanying its church. The chair or cathedra of Peter symbolizes the perpetual continuity of the doctrine and its promise of infallibility. It triumphed over all heresies throughout the centuries." 
[from, emphasis mine)

 It's been a long but spiritually nourishing day. I'm profoundly grateful to the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for Summorum Pontificum as participation in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass has brought many graces to our family - and it was evident today that we weren't the only ones. I spoke to pilgrims who'd come from Brazil to thank the Holy Father and show their fidelity to him. There I was thinking that we'd done well to get four young children to Rome from SE England; I was humbled by what I heard today: young and fit, our journey has been s doddle in comparison to so many who came from around the world.

I prayed for my readers, for other Catholic bloggers, for our priests, our seminarians, for friends and for family, Most of all I prayed for the Holy Father, that his generous liturgical vision continues
 to bear fruit.

The procession crosses the Tiber towards Castel Sant'Angelo

The Roman traffic was stopped to allow the procession to proceed in dignity. It was a long procession, and some of those drivers will have been waiting for quite a while. Despite this there appeared to be good humour all around from bystanders, although some bewilderment on the faces of touists as the procession wove through the narrow streets near San Salvatore.

Coming home to Rome: the via della conciliazione was closed to traffic to allow the procession to pass. We gathered many pilgrims along the route: people were waiting for us to pass, others appeared to decide to join spontaneously. By my estimate there were at least twice the number of pilgrims arriving at Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano than left San Salvatore in Lauro. We were about ten rows (of four abreast) when the procession left - by the time we arrived we were about thirty rows back!

Walking straight up to the centre door of Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano

I was very happy that this was the way my Children entered St Peter's Basilica for the first time: through the front central door, praying and singing.

Pilgrims waiting for Mass to begin. The seating area in front of the Altar of the Chair of St Peter holds just under 500 people, and there were around 100 extra chairs to the right (I took photos of the seating area from the dome later on to confirm numbers of seats). All were filled and there were some people standing at the back. We estimated that there were almost a thousand people at the Mass.

We lost count of how many priests were on the Sanctuary, but we noticed the Benedictines, FSSP and the ICKSP.

His Eminence, Antonio, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera,Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Incensing the Altar

The last Gospel

Last Gospel

It was a long day for smaller pilgrims. He was full of beans and in full voice the next day though!

Utterly inspired. Totus tuus.

Not a clown or puppet in sight, and they're completely transf

Visit to the friendly Swiss Guards (or, properly, Pontificia Cohors Helvetica)


  1. Wow. What a blessing. And yes, Summorum Pontificum was a wonderful gift from the Holy Father!

  2. Thank you for the prayers and the excellent photos!