Juventutem Interview: Fr Glen Tattersall
Q. What is ‘Juventutem' and what role did it have at WYD 2008?
Fr Tattersall: ‘Juventutem’ is an international movement of those Catholic youth who are attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It was formed in 2004, and made its debut, if you like, at World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005. The traditional liturgy provides the foundation for the spiritual formation of the youth of Juventutem. The general cultural formation of young people is also intimately linked to this liturgy.
Juventutem chapters in different countries have their own ongoing and autonomous activities, but they come together to form an international chapter for World Youth Day. This happened for the second time at World Youth Day 2008 in Australia.
WYD provides an opportunity for the members of Juventutem to express their fidelity to the Holy Father, and for new friendships and connections to be forged among young Catholics of different nations who are united in their commitment to the traditional liturgy. The Juventutem WYD chapter is also an occasion to introduce other young Catholics to their liturgical heritage – for many are still unaware of this liturgy, or lacking in their experience of it. Even more broadly, we believe that this liturgy has an evangelical role: and so its presence at WYD and other Ecclesial events is a call to conversion which can and does touch hearts.
Juventutem Australia (JA) was of course the host body at WYD 2008. We welcomed Juventutem pilgrims from Kenya, Hong Kong and Macau, Singapore, the Philippines, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United States and France. JA was privileged to have as its patrons the Most Rev Basil Meeking, Bishop Emeritus of Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Hon. William Cox, recently retired Governor of the State of Tasmania. A week of preparation was held in Melbourne as part of ‘Days in the Diocese’ (DID). Particular emphasis was given to Chant workshops under the superb direction of our guest from the US, Scott Turkington. These workshops continued in Sydney during the second week. Bishop Meeking opened DID for us with Pontifical Mass, and Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne celebrated Mass at the Throne for Juventutem. Pilgrims were welcomed into the life of the traditional Mass community of Melbourne for this week, centred at St Aloysius’ Caulfield. In Sydney, we were allocated a splendid and central Church in an historic precinct: St Augustine’s Balmain. The kindness of the Parish priest and community of St Augustine’s during this entire week was exceptional. His Eminence, George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, graciously agreed to celebrate Solemn Pontifical Vespers at the Throne, to preach, and give Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament: a magnificent and prayerful occasion. His Eminence returned to the Cathedral direcly after this to receive the Holy Father; and the Cardinal assured us he would convey personally to Pope Benedict our loyalty, our prayers, and our gratitude for the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum. That evening Cardinal George of Chicago led Juventutem pilgrims through the Rosary, prayed for Pope Benedict’s intentions.
As was the case with other Chapters, in Sydney we had three days of catechesis, ending each morning with Pontifical Mass: we were blessed to have for these three days Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett (Lismore, NSW), Bishop Peter Elliott (Auxiliary, Melbourne) and of course Bishop Meeking. Pilgrims were grateful to each of these both for the depth of their teaching, and their beautiful celebration of the liturgy. On the final day, before departing for Randwick and the Vigil with the Pope, we were privileged to hear a talk from Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong on the state of the Church in China. Juventutem pilgrims were of course present at all the Papal functions: the Pope’s official arrival in Sydney, the Stations of the Cross, the Eucharistic Vigil and the final Mass at Randwick. Everyone who was present at WYD 2008 recognised it as a time of extraordinary grace: to quote the Holy Father, it is an experience of the Church as She truly is, full of evangelical zeal. And we might add, an experience of the Divine origin of the Papacy….The evident humility of Pope Benedict only adds to his magisterial authority. For those of us in Juventutem, like so many others, we can only stammer: “It was good for us to be there.”
Q. And yet there has been significant criticism in various “traditionalist” quarters of WYD itself, and - from some – of Juventutem’s involvement in it. What do you say to the critics?
Fr Tattersall: Together with the other members of Juventutem Australia, I have been committed to WYD 2008 since experiencing the grace of WYD 2005 in Cologne. There were critical voices then, too. At that time, I simply went because I was answering a request from Fr Armand de Malleray, Ecclesiastical assistant to the International Federation Juventutem, for priests to assist. Fr de Malleray was also Secretary General of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, and at that time I was a priest of the FSSP (since then I have joined the Archdiocese of Melbourne, meanwhile continuing my pastoral work in the Extraordinary Form). The experience of Cologne was in itself enough to persuade me that WYD is a grace for the Church, and that the traditional movement needs to be a part of it. However, subsequent events provided even more compelling reasons, in my opinion. WYD 2008 was the first World Youth Day held since the promulgation of the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum. And in the accompanying letter to the Bishops let us recall that Pope Benedict had this to say: “…it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.” Didn’t this simply create an obligation on the part of such youth to demonstrate before the whole Church the truth of these words of the Holy Father, and to express their fidelity and gratitude to him for this recognition? Juventutem and WYD 2008 was perhaps the premier opportunity to do this. I am astonished that anyone considering himself to be a faithful Catholic could think otherwise!
The support and involvement of Cardinal Pell, Archbishop Hart, and so many other distinguished prelates, demonstrated clearly that Juventutem and what it represents was regarded as a valued and vital part of the Church. It is then a great shame when those who claim to be promoting our liturgical tradition find a reason not be part of its renaissance. It would be futile to argue with them. But I would pose of them a question: what contribution are you making to the life and unity of the Church?
Q. Where to from here?
Fr Tattersall: No doubt there will be a Juventutem presence at Madrid in 2011 - but I am glad Juventutem Australia will not have to organise it! I think the thing that most encouraged and moved us in Juventutem Australia was the presence of Juventutem pilgrims from Africa and Asia. We must realise that the traditional liturgy is not – nor is it meant to be – only a European and North American phenomenon. It is truly something that has universal appeal and value, and in my view this liturgy has a great future ahead of it in Africa and Asia. Those of us associated with Juventutem Australia feel a prompting by the Holy Spirit to assist our brethren, especially in China and Kenya, to recover, or discover, this liturgy, and to be formed in it. So in practical terms I think there might be a few missionary endeavours by Juventutem Australia members and associates in the years ahead. Please pray for the success of these.
Interview courtesy of Mr Michael Sternbeck, and Rorate Caeli.