As some of our readers may or may not know, the Bragan rite was one of the few Western rites still in use at the time of the liturgical reform after the II Vatican Council and which was not revised/reformed. Some may wonder what happened to the rite during those years, and even after, and why it was never reformed. Having had access to a copy of the report on the reform of the Bragan rite during those turbulent years that followed the Council and in which the liturgical reform took place, we wish to give our readers a glimpse of the fate of the Bragan rite and why it has all but disappeared save for sporadic celebrations.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC], has this to say about local rites
4. Lastly, in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way. The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times.
All throughout the report when reference is made to SC, especially as pertains to its application in relation to the Bragan rite, it seems that the common assumption is that revision of the rite was obligatory – perhaps this is due to historic and social factors. In spite of the rite having been revised only 50 years before it appears that it was deemed necessary to revise it yet again. It seems, however, that the reasons which led to the 1920’s edition – recovering what was truly Bragan and eliminating imposed Roman insertions – was not the impetus of the desired reform following II Vatican Council.
The introduction of the report, addressing the issue of reform, has the following excerpt of the Pastoral Note on the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy (1965) by the Diocesan Ordinary:
[…] The liturgical reform is more a spirit than an altering of ceremonies. Therefore it shall advance slowly, especially since the task at hand is not to be completed in one generation. It belongs to us to initiate the movement which will one day have a perfect body by natural development.
This is a preventive measure of an extremely practical value, so that we may not come to regret having gone too hastily. In the case of liturgical innovations, he who goes slowest goes best. […]
He goes on to mention that the rite was to be renewed, but not before the Roman rite, which seems to imply an understanding either of the Bragan being subservient to the Roman or that the reform of the Roman would serve as a template for the Bragan. Whatever elements were common to both Bragan and Roman were to be subject to the new liturgical norms, though not necessarily immediately or starting from March 7th.
In a letter to the clergy on December 17th 1967 the diocesan ordinary mentions that:
[…] by the suppression of some ceremonies, as a result of that adaptation and the approximation of the Bragan to the Roman in others, at least in the Holy Mass, little remains that distinguishes the two rites. […]
If the reform of the Roman Missal currently under way is completed soon, as is expected, and is approved, one can say that of the old missal there will hardly be anything left.
And with the posterior adaptation of the Bragan in light of the Roman, what will remain of it of particular that will justify its existence?
It appears that at this time there was already some experimentation underway, which later on in the report we learn was authorized by the ordinary. By the comments it would seem that the reform of the Bragan rite was not going the way intended.
On the 25th of November 1969 “ the Cathedral Chapter, in its majority, is of the opinion that it’s [the Bragan rite] survival should be sought”.
What did this reform look like? Our guess would be a hybrid between the Bragan rite and the Pauline missal. This is based on the introduction mentioning that the revised right would use of the new roman ordo what was common to both, and that whatever was particular to the Bragan rite would be added. For this a committee was to be set up to study the Bragan rite, to define its particularities. The committee came up with the following list presented on November 25th:
- Preparation of the chalice
- Blessing of the water
- Ave Maria
- In nomine Patri… Sancti Spiritus adsit…
Liturgy of the Word: as in the Roman rite
Liturgy of the Eucharist
- Offertory: Acceptabilis sit… (host): Offertory: Offerimus tibi Domine… (chalice)
- Double genuflexion
- Use of the pall
- Second elevation of the host
Rite of Pax
- Domine Iesu Christe…
Preparation for Communion:
- Domine Sancte, Pater…
- Blessing: In unitate Sancti Spiritus…
Only one cannon did not accept the changes, who is on record having stated that
It seems to me that one should not mix the particularities of the Bragan rite with the good tapestry of the post-Conciliar Ordo. Either the Bragan Ordo continues, intact and free, or one accepts the “opus perfectum” of the new universal Latin Ordo.
The clergy and important laity of the archdiocese were inquired about the Bragan rite and its reform. What follows is, though small, a reflective sample of the general attitude towards the archdiocese’s rite:
- The diocesan Committee for the application of the constitution of Sacrosanctum Concilium is of the opinion that the Missal of Paul VI should have priority in the archdiocese; that the new “ordo” is so well done that to introduce “strange elements – even if of venerable tradition – would detract from its lustre.”As such, the preservation of the Bragan elements should be confined to the Primatial See.
- The Holy See should be asked for rite to be used only in the cathedral; it is easier to manage roman liturgical books
- The differences between it and Roman are minimal, not worth asking Holy See to maintain; or else, only in the cathedral
- Due to Mass being televised the use of the Bragan rite would through into confusion “less evolved people”; that due to emigration the faithful of the archdiocese feel disoriented when participating at Mass in other places where the Bragan rite is not used.
- One should have “the courage to break with venerable and ancestral traditions. It is of greater value the participation of the people, this modern people, so used to clear expressions, intelligible and translatable into their profane way of speaking.”
- “People complain about the rite”
- “Some of the rubrics are ridiculous”
- “the preparation of the chalice at the beginning is dislocated”
- it should be confined to the cathedral, but not for celebrations which the laity might attend as they are not “prepared to participate actively”.
- One priest had this to say:
It should be noted that abolishing the rite is to go against a venerable tradition and against the diocese’s religious and cultural patrimony. And this destructive attitude may perhaps be heavily censured in a near future when, having past this fever for reforms (and, in several cases, destructions), when we will have to rethink and reapropriate many traditional things now called into question and even repudiated.
Besides that, being that the Holy See’s mind is to guarantee unity in essentials and to accept in the rest diversity in expressions of worship, authorizing the introduction of traditional and folkloric elements even in the Holy Mass [the example of an ordination at an African cathedral is given], it would not suit us to reject liturgical formulas and rites with centuries of tradition and which have been approved by the Holy See.
The modifications introduced in the new roman Ordo Missae are so profound and far-reaching that, one might say, with them there has begun a new rite and not merely a form of the extant.
- Adapting the novus ordo should be done because it is “simpler, more attractive, more sober, quicker and dynamic, and, consequently, more adapted to our times”
- “To be equal in the Church of God, one and uniform, is the great glory of us Catholic priests, and we do not wish another [liturgy other than the new Roman Mass]. […] Our faithful and priests travel the country and the world, participating actively in catholic worship, which must be the same to be good.”
From this brief sample we can see that the majority of both clergy and laity were in favor of abandoning the Bragan rite altogether. Time and time again it is suggested that the rite be confined to the cathedral, referring to it as a “relic” that should be housed there and only shown on specific days (some actually referring to it as a museum piece). That the archdiocese should have its own rite is a source of shame, say some priests, that it is a relic of a backwards medieval period which should be done away with. Most of the laity inquired do not understand the rite’s historical context, but are all too quick to say that it does not meet modern man’s pastoral needs. The pastoral reason is cited over and over as another reason to abolish the rite. Another reason invoked are economic reasons linked to the procuring of the liturgical books, that it is cheaper to procure the new Roman books than the Bragan. The mobility and uniformity as a sign unity arguments recur several times. One priest goes so far as to invoke historical precedent for adopting the Pauline missal, referring to the fact that the archdiocese was one of the first in the Iberian Peninsula to adopt the Roman Rite.
What was the CDW’s say on the proposed revision? Their final word was that the Bragan rite was to be preserved in its entirety, as it was before the revisions:
Excluded are any and all mixing of the Bragan rite with the Roman, so that the Bragan may preserve integrally its native form, according to the venerable secular tradition.
- At Mass celebrated without the laity the priest using the Bragan rite may use the readings taken from the Lectionary promulgated by authority of Paul VI;
- At Mass celebrated with the laity, the Rev. Archbishop will provide opportune norms so as to facilitate the necessary measures for the laity’s active and conscious participation;
- The readings and prayer of the faithful are to be said in the vernacular. The readings are to be taken from the above cited lectionary
The CDW also gave the Bragan clergy the option of using either the Bragan or Roman books.
Why was the revised Bragan rite never accepted? Was it because the CDW saw that it was dying out given the data given them? Perhaps that answer is lost to history. The fact of the matter is that the Bragan rite has practically died out. Apart from the sporadic celebration by some “obscure” priest every once in a while, it is no longer celebrated regularly. Occasionally there will be a celebration in Braga, but it is a hybrid, Novus Ordo inspired rite, perhaps the very same rite which the CDW declined.
What was the purpose of this post? We believe that the fate of the Bragan rite is relevant to the discussions currently going on in the liturgical world concerning the vetus ordo of the Roman missal (or Extraordinary Form as it is now refered to). We hope that this brief exposition might provoke further inquiries into the Bragan rite and its rehabilitation.