Shawn Tribe: “I am Ultimately a Restorationist.”


The following reflection was recently shared by Mr. Shawn Tribe, Founder and former Editor of the must-read website New Liturgical Movement. Weighing into the current debate over liturgical reform versus restoration in the Roman Rite, Mr. Tribe is always insightful while never resorting to polemics. His is a much needed voice in this discussion. The following is presented with his permission.

The recent essay by Martin Mosebach in First Things reminds me of how I was often asked whether I am, at heart, a liturgical “restorationist” or “reformist” (i.e. reform of the reform). Of course, for over 8 years on NLM, I promoted both movements because I see no conflict between them.

But to answer the question, I have no qualms about stating that I am ultimately a restorationist. There are a few reasons for this.

For one, what we are talking about here is an immemorial liturgical rite (rites actually since I would include in my thoughts the other Western rites/uses as well) that shaped Western civilization, and another which is essentially a modern fabrication by committee. To ask me which is liturgically superior then is a bit like asking whether one ought prefer high culture to pop culture, literary classics to pulp fiction.

Aside from the inherent strength and value of the ancient liturgical traditions, my position here is also driven by the fact that, by contrast, the modern liturgical books are fraught with problems. These problems are not simply manifest in the externals of the liturgy as often celebrated, nor simply in how that liturgy was produced (which itself is no small thing), but are inherent to the substance of the missal itself. One need only think of how the collects were redacted, the calendar modified, the over-abundance of options that destabilize the rite, etc.

This might all seem strange coming from someone who also promoted (and promotes) the reform of the reform, but whether it is strange depends upon how you perceive the reform of the reform I think.

For me, the reform of the reform is a phase leading toward the re-establishment of the ancient liturgical tradition — rather than being an end unto itself. I believe this phase is necessary both as a short term stop gap and also as a gradualistic means of leading people back toward the ancient liturgical forms — working hand in hand with the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, in this same regard.

Of course, I should qualify here that when I say I am a “restorationist” this shouldn’t be confused with being an immobilist. The goal, as I see it, is to restore the ancient liturgical forms and allow the natural course of organic liturgical development to resume, not rather to freeze liturgical time so to speak.

In that regard a restoration of the ancient liturgical rites and uses could include, in my estimation at least, the introduction of some moderate measure of (hieratic) vernacular for example — e.g. the readings or propers. For that matter, it could also re-evaluate certain mid-20th century reforms under Pius XII.

Likewise, this recovery should seek to avoid past mistakes that did not serve the ancient rites well, encouraging good ars celebrandi, the promotion of the Divine Office in the parish and domestic setting, and the recovery of the higher liturgical forms (the Missa Cantata and Missa Solemnis).

All of this might seem unattainable and ivory tower thinking to some I suppose, but I think it important to set such goals. But for those who imagine this is just a dream which cannot possibly come to pass, I’d remind you that the liturgical rupturists and innovators likely felt similarly about their own goals and initiatives — and yet look at what happened.

Think big and work accordingly.

(Follow Shawn Tribe on Facebook for more of his liturgical insights).

Posted on April 1, 2017, in liturgy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. The great problem I see in reforming the rite created after the Vatican Council would be the very structure of a rite built on options. Now granted in the new translation of the Missal there are somewhat less options but I don’t think lessening the number gets to the problem. After nearly 50 years of a rite replete with options, many priests and bishops make up their own options. Strangely many priests who do that also almost always use the second Eucharistic Prayer! But then that’s with the idea to get the Mass moving and over because we already spent so much time with the Liturgy of the Word. Is there really a “liturgy” in the truest sense if it’s just options and spontaneity? Has the Catholic Mass been diminished by an over emphasis on the Liturgy of the Word and a rushed through Liturgy of the Eucharist. And I will not begin on “communion in the hand” and the devastation of eucharistic faith. This all represents problems so deep, created by the Novus Ordo, that I think I’m tending to be more and more a restorationist like Shawn. That said, we live in the real Church and by obedience I, and many like me, are in ministries where we must celebrate the NO but it becomes more and more difficult. I pray to do it worthily and according to the mind of the Church.

  2. Our Lady of Knock, I believe, had a bit to say about the Mass in her “silent” apparition. If it’s still in the reader, where I put it, maybe you could give a second opinion? No pressure. It must be extremely confusing and disheartening for priest like this priest. God bless them all.

  3. Priests can begin by restricting themselves to Eucharistic Prayer 1.

  4. I dropped the Novus Ordo Mass in 1996 when St. James Cathedral in Seattle WA declared that girls could be altar boys and thus was promoting transgenderism. At that point, I finally realized that the endless accommodation to the Demonic forces in the Catholic Church (i.e. our false bishops and their love affair with the deconstructionist tactics of atheistic communism) would never end until the Catholic Church was totally unrecognizable.

    Now, I only attend the Tridentine Mass where ever or however I can get it.

  5. Hello Shawn,

    It’s good to see you and your work are thriving.

    A few years back, when I was in France, we did some mails and you kindly allowed me to use some of your pieces for the CIEL Newsletter.

    I would dearly like to contact John Paul Sonnen about his recent column on the Reverend Don Vallauri, recently RIP. I don’t have John Paul Sonnen’s mail address, but wondered if you would be kind enough to ask his permission to contact him ?

    It would be a great kindness. Should you not rememer me, I’ll be glad to pass more details to you, just ask. I don’t “do” social media at all.

    With my best wishes in these dark and challenging times,

    In Domino,

    Ernie Todd

  6. It’s not meant for publication.

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