The Introduction to A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Carmel Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes | by Dom Alcuid Reid
The first edition of this small book appeared in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, in the wake of the 1996 "Oxford Declaration on Liturgy", which asserted that "the preconciliar liturgical movement as well as the manifest intentions of Sacrosanctum Concilium have in large part been frustrated by powerful contrary forces, which could be described as bureaucratic, philistine and secularist. The effect has been to deprive the Catholic people of much of their liturgical heritage." 
This was somewhat of a bold assertion. It was, however, based on a reality that, if not widely acknowledged at the time, was certainly known: not all went well with the postconciliar liturgical reform.
The discovery that occasioned this book—four previously unpublished letters from the English writer Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) to John Cardinal Heenan (1905-1975), archbishop of Liverpool from 1957 until his promotion to Westminster in 1963, in the papers of the latter—was a small-enough find. Yet they, and the other letters and documents herein assembled around them (to which in this third edition another seven are added), paint a vivid picture of two men, faithful and obedient to the Church, whose better judgement—and for at least one of them, his very faith—was severely put to the test by the liturgical changes imposed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, and even those that came before. 
Evelyn Waugh was no reactionary fool. His concern about rowdiness in church  shows that he readily recognised the all-too-common misinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council's call for participatio actuosa (actual participation):  an emphasis on external action without sufficient regard for that unobservable, essentially contemplative, participation of the mind and heart that must have priority.
Similarly, he was well aware that the Latin tongue, or any sacred language for that matter, is no barrier to actual participation in the liturgy. He rightly reacted against the wave of vernacularisation breaking over the liturgy to an extent nowhere called for by the Council. And he appreciated that to change ritual is to risk altering the faith, particularly that of simple folk.
At the time of the Council, clergy and laity were proud of their loyalty and obedience to ecclesiastical authority. Being faithful to Christ and to His Church meant, above all, doing what one was told by authority. Although they may at times have "had doubts about the orders", they "never had a doubt about obeying them".  Certainly this was true for Cardinal Heenan; as he wrote in 1969: "If the Holy Father has decided to reform the Iiturgy, we must accept." 
Indeed, there was an uncritical assumption abroad that the liturgical changes were not only authoritatively to be obeyed but were divinely inspired (the corollary being that to resist them was to oppose God's will). As Heenan wrote to one correspondent: "If the Pope and the bishops of the whole world have agreed on these changes the Holy Spirit must be guiding His Church";  and to another: "When the voice of the whole Church speaks, we have to stifle our personal preferences and accept the fact that the Holy Ghost is guiding the Church." This letter concludes: "Reserve judgement for a few years and you will see why God has led the Church to a new liturgy." 
Heenan's correspondence reveals the tightrope walked by this pastor as he sought to be faithful to the measures Rome required him to implement, as well as to the sentiments and needs of his people—and indeed to his own. His papers indicate that he struggled to balance differing views on the liturgy for years. They contain an abundance of replies to people worried about the changes. An early example:
Nobody could be more attached to the Latin Mass than myself. But when the Holy See gives directions we have to obey them. You must not think that the vernacular is a whim of the bishops or that the English hierarchy has been left much option in this matter. 
A later one:
You have my sympathy. I know exactly how you feel. It is a pity that the Mass had to be altered but it seems that all the liturgists are agreed that the ceremonies must be simplified and made more like the primitive Mass. 
Later still Cardinal Heenan obtained a singular concession from Pope Paul VI for the continued celebration of an older form of the Mass for those who wanted it. Whilst he was an obedient agent of change, Heenan could not abandon those who, like himself, felt the burden of those changes deeply.
The permissions received to use previously published and archival material are gratefully acknowledged, including those granted by the Archive of the Archbishop of Westminster, the Department of Manuscripts of the British Library, Miss Claudia Fitzherbert, the Peters Fraser & Dunlop Group Ltd., Mr. and Mrs. Auberon Waugh, and Weidenfeld & Nicholson. Also gratefully acknowledged is the assistance of Daniel Coughlan and Dom Alban Nunn, O.S.B., in the compilation of this third edition; the archival research used here, though, is entirely my own. I am profoundly grateful to Joseph Pearce for his kind foreword, and to the Countess of Oxford for her gracious afterword.
As the "revival of the liturgical movement and the initiation of a new cycle of reflection and reform"  continues—now with added impetus in the light of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI—the "bitter trial" that tested the faith of Evelyn Waugh and so many of his generation, as well as the almost-impossible situation in which Cardinal Heenan and many other clergy found themselves, must not be forgotten. Whilst Waugh was, sadly, all too correct when he wrote in his last letter on the subject, "I shall not live to see it [the beauty of the liturgy] restored", we owe it to the sacrifices made by his generation, as we owe it to our own and indeed to those to come, to see to it that their sufferings, and their insights presented herein, were not in vain.
15th August 2011
 Quoted in Stratford Caldecott, ed., Beyond the Prosaic: Renewing the Liturgical Movement (T&T Clark, 1998), p. 163.
 In a letter dated 9 December 1963, Heenan wrote: "If I were given a personal preference, I would not want any change in the ceremonies as I much preferred the old Holy Week ceremonies to those we have at present" (Archive of the Archbishop of Westminster [AAW], HE). The liturgical reforms enacted between 1948 and 1962—of which the 1955 Holy Week reform, which Waugh found so repugnant, is the best known—require further study and evaluation today.
 See, for example, Waugh's letter to Lady Daphne Acton, 15 March 1963, p. 44.
 Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 14. The phrase is translated here as "actual participation", less misleadingly than the usual English rendering of "active participation". Cf. further:Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 1986), pp. 68ff.
 Archbishop T. F Little, homily at the funeral Mass for Father Francis Aloysius Doolan, Saint Mary's Church, East Malvern, Victoria, Australia, 16 April 1986.
 Letter dated 8 March 1969, AAW, HE.
 Letter dated 1 December 1965, AAW, HE.
 Letter dated 18 December 1963, AAW, HE.
 Letter dated 17 December 1964, AAW, HE.
 Letter dated 29 April 1967, AAW, HE.
 "The Oxford Declaration on Liturgy", quoted in Caldecott, Beyond the Prosaic, p. 164.
A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Carmel Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes
Expanded Editon, Edited by Dom Alcuin Reid
Foreword by Joseph Pearce | Afterword by Clare Asquith, Countess of Oxford
• Also available in Electronic Book Format
English author Evelyn Waugh, most famous for his novel Brideshead Revisited, became a Roman Catholic in 1930. For the last decade of his life, however, Waugh experienced the changes being made to the Church's liturgy to be nothing short of "a bitter trial". In John Cardinal Heenan, Waugh found a sympathetic pastor and somewhat of a kindred spirit.
This volume brings together the personal correspondence between Waugh and Heenan during the 1960s, a trying period for many faithful Catholics. It begins with a 1962 article Waugh wrote for the Spectator followed by a response from then Archbishop Heenan, who at the time was a participant at the Second Vatican Council. These and the other writings included in this book paint a vivid picture of two prominent and loyal English Catholics who lamented the loss of Latin and the rupture of tradition that resulted from Vatican II.
In the light of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, many Catholics are looking again at the post-conciliar liturgical changes. To this "reform of the reform" of the liturgy now underway in the Roman Catholic Church, both Heenan and Waugh have much to contribute.
Alcuin Reid is a cleric of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France, and a liturgical scholar and author. His principal work, The Organic Development of the Liturgy carries a preface by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
Joseph Pearce is a popular literary biographer whose works include The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, Tolkien: Man and Myth, and The Quest for Shakespeare.
Clare Asquith, Countess of Oxford is the author of Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare.