Mediator Dei 159-161

Easter joy:

159. At the Paschal season, which commemorates the triumph of Christ, our souls are filled with deep interior joy: we, accordingly, should also consider that we must rise, in union with the Redeemer, from our cold and slothful life to one of greater fervor and holiness by giving ourselves completely and generously to God, and by forgetting this wretched world in order to aspire only to the things of heaven: “If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above . . . mind the things that are above.”[Col.3:1-2]

Pentecost, and the ordinary time that follows it:

160. Finally, during the time of Pentecost, the Church by her precept and practice urges us to be more docile to the action of the Holy Spirit who wishes us to be on fire with divine love so that we may daily strive to advance more in virtue and thus become holy as Christ our Lord and His Father are holy.

An interesting confluence of “docile” and “on fire,” wouldn’t you say?

MD 160 illustrates the classic failure of pre-conciliar Catholicism: it’s lack of evangelical drive. Pentecost is all about conversion, fire, and making new disciples. It’s about fulfilling the Lord’s command on the hill outside Jerusalem, to make disciples (not only believers) throughout the world.

The pre-conciliar liturgy was not seen in evangelical light, but as an aspect of the devotional life:

161. Thus, the liturgical year should be considered as a splendid hymn of praise offered to the heavenly Father by the Christian family through Jesus, their perpetual Mediator. Nevertheless, it requires a diligent and well ordered study on our part to be able to know and praise our Redeemer ever more and more. It requires a serious effort and constant practice to imitate His mysteries, to enter willingly upon His path of sorrow and thus finally share His glory and eternal happiness.

And devotion is certainly not bad or wrong. But we can do more. No question about it. Check Mediator Dei on the Vatican web site here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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11 Responses to Mediator Dei 159-161

  1. Liam says:

    “MD 160 illustrates the classic failure of pre-conciliar Catholicism: it’s lack of evangelical drive.”

    (cough) Pre-conciliar Catholicism did not lack evangelical drive. Really. Think about it. That’s a whoppingly lazy self-serving (in terms of argumentation) statement that just gobbles up any truth that is lurking behind it. A much more subtle point could be made, however. But much depends on how you understand “evangelical drive”, and how much of it might still have been going on before the Council. (I would say that the classic failure of pre-conciliar Catholic *liturgics* was an undue emphasis on the juridical and cultic dimensions of liturgy. And MD, for all of its limitations, was a key part of shifting away from that.)

  2. Todd says:

    I would understand it in terms of a self-satisfied situation in the 20th century: A Latin America mired in corruption and still “mission” territory despite being colonized by two of Europe’s Catholic powers, an internal focus on eradicating any whiff of dissent that eviscerated the intellectual life of seminaries, continuing to fight the Reformation long after other world conflicts became much more harmful.

    If anything, I’d say I held back on criticism.

  3. Liam says:

    So you are speaking of a much more narrow scope of time? “Preconciliar” in the liturgical context (which MD is) covers at least since Trent…. My objection is that it’s not inherent in the preconciliar (meaning, post-Tridentine) Catholic church that it lacked evangelical drive; far from it.

    And I would say that the vector regarding dissent was variable in the decades before Vatican II. Yes, you had the hammer of Modernism in the form of Pius X, but he did kickstart the sacramental and liturgical revolution, and his hammering was ended by Benedict XV (I remember some traditionalists who were worried on this score when Ratzinger took the name of Benedict, and some later felt justified by their worry), Pius XI sometimes hammered in unexpected directions, and Pius XII was a mix and then addled by the problems of a long decline (when curial politics take over). No smooth arc. Europe, of course, had a lot going on between 1914 and Vatican 2, and decolonization itself was just ramping up at the time of the Council.

  4. FrMichael says:

    “MD 160 illustrates the classic failure of pre-conciliar Catholicism: it’s lack of evangelical drive. ”

    Hmm, Liam beat me to it. I don’t know how one would compare the extensive missionary efforts of the post-Trent centuries with the contemporary efforts and make that judgment. St. Francis Xavier, St. Damien of Molokai, St. Peter Canisius, the Augustinians of the Philippines, the missionaries of Vietnam and Africa, phone home!

    • Todd says:

      Individuals evangelized and did so effectively. The institutional church was sometimes more of an obstacle to missionaries. China, the Jesuits–probably the biggest blunder on the part of Rome in terms of the future impact of fear and fussiness.

      There certainly wasn’t an all-out effort to involve the laity in evangelization, aside from soliciting donations. That, I suspect, will be the hallmark of 21st century Catholicism: an increase in lay missionary efforts, and instilling an evangelical mindset among laity in their neighborhoods.

      Even the saint-to-be Fulton Sheen was the target of jealousy and backbiting among other bishops. One of the most effective “new media” personalities of the past century. You’d think other bishops would be inspired to do the same. They acted as if evangelization was someone else’s job.

      Sorry; my assessment stands. D-minus for Rome. B-plus for the missionary orders. Evangelization was always everybody’s job. Not for specialists.

      • Liam says:

        You’re overselling your point, and selectively ignoring evidence against your shoehorn. For example, there is the development of the Ursulines after Trent, probably as consequential f not even more so than the development of the Society of Jesus. There was considerable indigestion within the institutional Church, to be sure, but that development paved the way for the explosion in numbers of laywomen being something other than married or cloistered. Then you have the vast increase in third-ordered laity, and beyond that apostolates like the Society of St Vincent de Paul (which has no clerical or even religious-order supervision) in the early Industrial Age, taking evangelisation through service radically inward and outward.

        Your perspective fits better as a much more time-and-place bound observation about the postwar USA. But not as a general indictment of Tridentine Catholicism up until the council.

      • Todd says:

        My comment about Pope Pius XII as a representative post-Reformation “theology” has a context: this document and the post-1815 papacy as an imperial exaggeration/overreaction to outside threats.

        MD does not reflect the evangelical spirituality and apostolate of the many missionary orders you mentioned, and that you know I’m very much aware of. But I think MD does reflect a deep institutional suspicion (if not a jealousy) of those efforts. The 17th century Jesuits all over Asia. Women outside of cloisters, even to this very day. It was Maryknoll, the Society of Jesus, and others who organized a third-world missionary presence. Not Peter. Not the Twelve.

        I’m not selling a point to anyone. I’m stating my frustration with and low regard of the institutional church as an obstacle, sometimes, to the mission of the Gospel. Portraying Pentecost as an opportunity for an interiority: that’s not a bad thing. But it’s not the main thing.

        There is no *way* any liturgy document can be published today and be taken seriously without a view to evangelization. It may be unfair to expect this from MD in 1947. But it is germane to the notion that pre-conciliar liturgy documents can be swallowed whole today without allowing for the intervening developments of the past decades.

        I’m not backing down from my point.

      • Liam says:


        Then you in fact are not talking about “preconciliar Catholicism” lacking evangelical drive. This helpful explanation is a MUCH better point than the lazy throwaway shoehorn.

      • Liam says:

        The reason I am going the distance on this one is that I hate when traditionalists use their lazy shoehorns in a similar way against postconciliar Catholicism. It’s wrong regardless of the direction in which it’s done.

  5. Liam says:

    One local sidebar. There are reasons Cardinal Sean has a relationship with Pope Francis. It doesn’t only have to do with his less than typical arc through the episcopate courtesy of the missionary charism of the Capuchins. The archdiocese of Boston devoted particular missionary attention to Latin American under Cardinal Cushing (straddling the preconciliar and conciliar era), which in turn built upon a more mixed history of frequent trade relations between Boston and Latin America. Boston prelates maintained that cultivated ground, and Cardinal Sean (famously (unlike, say, the Jovial One in NYC) fluent in Spanish, but also Portuguese and Lusophone creole variants, et cet. – remember, SE New England is the center of gravity for Lusophone-Americans) built further on that.

  6. Lautensack says:

    I would be interested to know what you think of the evangelical drive of communities dedicated to the Pre-Conciliar liturgy today.

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