Cincinnati’s Father Martin Fox, parochial vicar of St. Rose of Lima Church and archdiocesan director of priestly formation, has written a thoughtful reflection on the abdication of Pope Benedict, what it means for priests and people, and how we might react to it. Here’s a meaty nugget from the post’s midsection:

But it was Benedict who, once we sobered up, began presenting some good sense about how to understand the Council and how to go forward. And the great stroke of his, which will cement his legacy, was his decision to free the celebration of the older form of the Mass and the sacraments.

Most people miss how significant this will be, because the change it will bring isn’t being felt right away. But let me illustrate how much this has changed things.

I entered the seminary in 1997 and was ordained ten years ago in 2003. During that time, any seminarian who expressed anything more than mild curiosity about the older form of the Mass, and the liturgical and sacramental tradition that prevailed before the Council, came under immediate suspicion. The idea of actually wanting to learn the older forms, let alone celebrate them, was radioactive.

Now priests are free to learn the older forms and use them–and they are. Seminaries are beginning to teach the older form of the Mass; and even if they don’t, there are growing opportunities to learn these things outside the seminary. Unless a future pope suppresses this–which is possible, but I doubt it–this will grow and grow.

It’s no secret why Pope Benedict did this. He gave us two reasons. First, he wanted to make clear that what was good and holy before the Council remained good and holy: a commonsense truth that even so became obscured for awhile. Second, he talked about having the older form and the newer form of the liturgy and sacraments to influence each other.