A “bristled” Bugnini: unexpected notes from yellowed pages.

We have already welcomed the laudable project to make accessible online the entire collection of Notitiae, the review of the Congregation for Divine Worship (1). It may be useful to recall the prehistory of this prestigious and authoritative periodical.

In the very first period of activity of the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, it was all to be organized, from the locals to staff, from the method of work to the legal configuration.

Right from the start that the Commission was characterized by different backgrounds of members and experts: the frequent plenary meetings were an opportunity to clear up the point of the various problems and issues; in addition to the reports, the talks and the oral meetings, the Secretariat had taken the use of draft sets of notes and notices, the directions and the progress of the work, as well as on new assignment and tasks. Those internal connecting sheets were, exactly, entitled “Notitiae” .

Of course, they are not on the same level of historical and scientific interest the “Schemata” have: the last, in fact, testify to more closely the work of reform in specific areas of the various study groups; but skimming through these old yellowed pages may hold significant surprises .

Not only critics of liturgical reform but, frequently, also advisers and experts of ecclesiastical affairs attribute, with the slight shallowness of those who repeat  granted interpretations, every liability to Msgr. Annibale Bugnini, the Secretary of the Consilium. Although in fact it was not he who operate directly and specifically in the actual revision of the liturgical books , he was accused of having allowed experts , liturgists and not, to put hand, impunity and disrespectfully, to the destruction of the building of the Catholic worship.

In a short note of one of the dossiers which are the antecedents of Notitiae, Bugnini proves himself very different from how somebody, in his imagination, wants to sketch the Consilium Secretary. To him, therefore, the turn to speak:

«Quo vadis, Liturgy?
Not rarely, about new initiatives in liturgy, disconcerting things are heard, disconcerting things are read in magazines, diaries, disconcerting things are seen in the photographs, disconcerting things are said in the conference, in declarations and talks.
Not infrequently, I sincerely admit, “the hairs of my body bristled” (Job 4:15).
Quo vadis, Liturgy? Or rather, where do you bring liturgy, you liturgists and pastoralists?
With courage, without conformity, we must resist the temptation of “experiments.” Without a doubt this is a temptation “from evil”; it is not an “inspiration” from on High.
The path of renewal is safe, bright, wide, vast, it is indicated by the Church, by the chief Shepherd; any other path is a false path.
And it is appropriate that the Directors of magazines may support the renewal effort, no one may yield to the temptation to do or say newness, so as to woo readers with empty delight: so the readers are deceived, and  not built up.
All, then especially the Consilium members and staff, may experience right now their responsibility».

This was our translation of the following latin original:

Quo vadis, Liturgia?
Non raro, circa inceptus in re liturgica, mira audiuntur; mira leguntur in foliis periodicis, in diariis; mira videntur in photographiis; mira dicuntur in conferentiis, in declarationibus, in colloquiis.
Non raro, candide fateor, “inhorruerunt pili carnis meae” (Iob 4,15).
Quo vadis, Liturgia? Vel potius, quo fertis Liturgiam, liturgistae vel pastoralistae?
Fortiter, absque ullo conformismo, resistendum est tentationi “experimentorum”. Est certissime tentatio “ex maligno”; non est “inspiratio” ex Alto.
Via renovationis, secura, luminosa, lata, spatiosa, indicatur ab Ecclesia, a summo Pastore; quaevis alia via est falsa via.
Periodicurum Moderatores sustineant oportet conatum renovationis, nulli cedant tentationi novum faciendi vel dicendi, ut lectores inani voluptate emulceant: lectores decipiuntur, non aedificantur.
Omnes, praecipue autem Consilii Sodales, sentiant hoc momento propriam “responsabilitatem”.
A. Bugnini

Notitiae n. 2, die 15 februarii 1965, III. Varia, 13: Cambrai Diocesan Archives (France), Fund Jenny, Series 3A2 – 5.1

(1) Cf. here.



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