Pope Francis released on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul an apostolic letter on the liturgy. The letter, Desiderio desideravi, addresses the “liturgical formation of the People of God” and is addressed to all Catholics.
The apostolic letter’s title is taken from a passage in St. Luke’s Gospel describing the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. In Luke 22:15, Jesus tells his disciples: “I have earnestly desired (desiderio desideravi) to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
Pope Francis says that his observations are not “exhaustive” and he simply wants “to offer some prompts or cues for reflections that can aid in the contemplation of the beauty and truth of Christian celebration.”
“With this letter I simply want to invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration,” he writes.
He then suggests that the liturgy is an “antidote” to “distorted forms of Christianity,” including Gnosticism and neo-Pelagianism, two dangers he described at length in his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.
The pope appeals for a rediscovery of “the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration,” noting that this does not mean “the search for a ritual aesthetic which is content by only a careful exterior observance of a rite or is satisfied by a scrupulous observance of the rubrics.”
He urges Catholics to cultivate a sense of “astonishment at the paschal mystery.”
The pope says that Vatican II’s objective was to help Catholics to “live completely the liturgical action.” He says that this requires liturgical formation because many modern people have “lost the capacity to engage with symbolic action, which is an essential trait of the liturgical act.”
He adds that this was why he issued Traditionis custodes, his 2021 apostolic letter placing tight restrictions on “the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970.”
The pope then outlines his vision of “a serious and dynamic liturgical formation,” drawing on the work of Romano Guardini (1885–1968), the Italian-born German theologian who wrote the influential book “The Spirit of the Liturgy.”
Pope Francis underlines that the Eucharistic celebration should be at the heart of seminary life. He says that “in addition to a program of studies, [seminaries] must also offer the possibility of experiencing a celebration that is not only exemplary from a ritual point of view but also authentic and alive.”
He explains that the liturgy is not primarily about knowledge, but “about praise, about rendering thanks for the Passover of the Son whose power reaches our lives.” He then considers ways in which Catholics can be “initiated into symbolic language.”
The pope offers an extended reflection on the ars celebrandi, or art of celebrating the liturgy. He cautions against both “rubrical mechanism” and “imaginative - sometimes wild - creativity.” He stresses the importance of knowledge, preparation, and silence.
He notes that laypeople too can contribute to refining the ars celebrandi through their own words and gestures during Mass.
In conclusion, Pope Francis invites Catholics to rediscover the richness of Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
“For this reason we cannot go back to that ritual form which the Council fathers, cum Petro et sub Petro [with Peter and under Peter], felt the need to reform, approving, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and following their conscience as pastors, the principles from which was born the reform,” he writes.
“The holy pontiffs St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II, approving the reformed liturgical books ex decreto Sacrosancti Ecumenici Concilii Vaticani II [by decree of Vatican II], have guaranteed the fidelity of the reform of the Council. For this reason, I wrote Traditionis custodes, so that the Church may lift up, in the variety of so many languages, one and the same prayer capable of expressing her unity.”
He underlines his determination “that this unity be re-established in the whole Church of the Roman Rite.”
After an exhortation to “abandon our polemics” and “safeguard our communion,” the letter ends with a quotation from the pope’s namesake St. Francis of Assisi.
Click the link for the full copy of the apostolic letter: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/2022...