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Liturgical Note

I went to a traditional Latin Mass last Sunday. Three observations:
(1) I prefer the Novus Ordo (assuming no gross abuses thereof).
(2) Of the roughly 50 people who were there, by far the majority were no older than 40-ish.
(3) Traditiones Custodes was a mistake.
I've done my share of griping about the liturgy over the years. But really I'm content with my suburban parish and its Novus Ordo Mass. The one I normally attend has a "folk," actually pop, band, and though it's not my choice of music they do it well. 
More importantly, I very much agree with the basic principle of having Mass in the vernacular. It is in a sense a very different and even revolutionary approach to the liturgy. I could not hear 80% of the Latin spoken by the priest during the Latin Mass, and gave up trying to follow along in the Mass book. And it seems to me that until relatively recently that inaccessibility was not considered a problem. The ritual of the Mass was something that the clergy did; for the laity, the point was to be there, and to pray. I've noticed in books written even up until 1960 or so little indications that for the laity to pray the rosary or engage in some other form of private prayer during Mass was normal. 
This is a vastly different approach from the congregational participation which we now have and assume to be correct. And I prefer the latter. I'm not making any doctrinal assertion here. I'll assume for the sake of discussion that there are reasonable justifications for both approaches. But I think the Council was right to allow this change. The Mass book used by the congregation at the Latin Mass, which includes side-by-side Latin and English, strikes me as a not very successful attempt to bridge the two approaches. Unless you've studied Latin at least a little, it's difficult and distracting to follow. I suppose it was a stopgap, not entirely satisfactory from either point of view, and not especially conducive to worship.
I wish the language of our English Mass was more elegant. I really wish that we had, in general, better music at Sunday Masses. But it's okay. The Catholic faith that's preached at my parish is orthodox. The two priests, one middle-aged and seemingly hardly aware that the Latin Mass ever existed or why, one young and the celebrant at the Latin Mass I attended, are solid and committed. There's nothing bizarre, nothing that would constitute abuse, in the way Mass is celebrated. I am, as I say, content with it.
One thing I've often wondered about is whether the scripture readings in the traditional Latin Mass were in Latin. That, I have to say, I would definitely consider an undesirable practice. At the Mass I attended they were in English. Doing a quick search for the answer to that historical question, I came across this from Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J.:

After the Pauline reforms of the liturgy, it was presumed that the "Tridentine" or Latin Mass would fade away. Bishops were given the authority to suppress it in their dioceses, but some people clung to the old liturgy to the point of schism.

Benedict took away the bishops’ authority and mandated that any priest could celebrate the Tridentine Mass whenever he pleased.

It is time to return to bishops the authority over the Tridentine liturgy in their dioceses. The church needs to be clear that it wants the unreformed liturgy to disappear and will only allow it out of pastoral kindness to older people who do not understand the need for change. Children and young people should not be allowed to attend such Masses.

Well, there (and elsewhere in the same piece, which you can read here) is the voice of compulsory progress ca. 1975. It was written in April of this year. I wonder if he knew Traditiones was coming. It's a good instance of what I'm referring to when I say I've always been puzzled by the desire, the apparent need, of so many clergy, theologians, and such to stamp out the Latin Mass. If you read the rest of the piece you get a sense of how it fits into the overall progressive Catholic program. The title is really enough, if you're familiar with these controversies: 

Vatican II made changes to the liturgy. It’s time to think about making more.

p.s. I really, really doubt that Ratzinger/Benedict "insisted that liturgical texts be translated word for word from the Latin." 



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Better music would certainly be nice, at my parish here. I didn't even think the music was that good at the Cathedral in Mobile when I would occasionally attend Mass downtown; to my ear it always sounded a little "off". I'm always blown away when I visit another parish during travels and they have real good music. Oh well, our prayers are just as important as those who pray with nice tunes. I grew up in a Presbyterian church that had a phenomenal choir and amazing music, lots of Bach was played. It was certainly my favorite thing about church services as a child.

My only experience of any sort of Latin Mass holdovers was when Fr. Jacques S.J. was still alive and the old St. Joseph still open in downtown Mobile. He did two things that were different: people lined up kneeling along a railing at front to receive communion, and there was no sign of the peace after the Lord's Prayer. He was a Jesuit rabble rouser LOL!

I was around before 1960, and it's definitely the case that most folks at Mass didn't follow along with the liturgy. Many were praying the rosary, and maybe some, like me, had their missal open but were reading about the lives of martyrs in the back pages. :)

I think it was the last Ronald Knox book I read that admonished the reader not to feel superior to the old lady praying the rosary. I guess someone reading a Knox book would be more likely to be following the liturgy. I'm sure you were edified by reading about the martyrs. :-)

Stu, you may have missed the golden age of music at the cathedral. I don't remember the years exactly, maybe roughly the '90s, but at one time they had a choir director with extremely good taste and high standards and support from the archbishop and the cathedral rector. It was sublime at times. After he left it went down some and now I think is not that different from any other parish except with a pipe organ.

What you describe Fr. Jacques doing was standard in the traditional Latin Mass. Still is. Also in the Ordinariate if it's practical (the kneeling I mean). Personally I think kneeling for communion is a good thing. I suspect it will come back at some time in the future, when 20th century progressivism has faded away.

For the record I have a few Catholic friends who, uncomfortable with both the N.O. Mass and the "Latin Mass community" (although not the Mass itself), have gone Byzantine Catholic. The Eastern Liturgy, with its constant back-and-forth between the priest and the choir/faithful, generally in the vernacular, does not lend itself to doing something else during the services. Of course for longtime Roman Catholics a move to Eastern Catholicism will take some adjustment.

The Eastern Catholic rites are a popular option for the liturgically sensitive Catholic. :-) Where it's available. So is the Ordinariate. One couple who were part of our Ordinariate group and had to move to a place where there isn't one are now enthusiastic TLMers.

I really, really doubt that Ratzinger/Benedict "insisted that liturgical texts be translated word for word from the Latin."

Of course he didn't. This is a misunderstanding of what the word "literal" means.

Also, our parish still kneels at the communion rail.

You're generous in calling it a misunderstanding. I took it as a polemical strawman.

I assume since you say "still" that this communion rail survived the post-VII remodeling of churches? I don't think many did. Interestingly, maybe amusingly, my childhood Methodist church had one, and we used it.

Re that "polemical strawman" -- I found a surprisingly generous piece Fr. Reese wrote at the time of Benedict's resignation. What most caught my attention is the second paragraph, which I think should be appended to anything he writes about Ratzinger/Benedict:

"Whenever a reporter asks me about Benedict, I first acknowledge that I have some history with him. One of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's last actions as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was to tell the Jesuit superior general that I needed to be replaced as editor of America magazine, so I cannot claim to be an indifferent observer. Perhaps this is another reason I did not meet my deadline. This was a painful period in my life, so I warn reporters (and readers) that my own experience can bias my views."


Very good of him to admit that. Journalists should do that kind of thing more often.

Marianne, a couple of days ago I picked up a book about Vatican II and in the introduction the writer described as a child "listening to the priest mumble an endless Mass, our knees and backs on fire as we knelt on thin plastic-backed kneelers."

For all my sympathy with the TLMers, I have to admit that that's a harsh but not inaccurate description of my experience last Sunday. My knees are in pretty good shape for someone my age, and I can kneel on stone for some minutes without undue discomfort. But I had a hard time with this, even though there were padded kneelers. After a while I was constantly shifting my knees around to relieve the discomfort. I don't know how long it was but it was the majority of the Mass, at least half of that uninterrupted.

And it didn't help that I could not clearly hear most of what the priest said. Granted, I was in the back (late as usual), but it's not that big a church.

Even as a kid I would often do the half-sit, half-kneel thing -- sitting on the edge of the pew with knees on the edge of the kneeler. But not when a nun was in sight. :)

Low Mass is pretty rough. Sometimes I just have to sit for a while. Fortunately, most of the TLMs I got to are High Masses. More beautiful, and easier on the knees.

As for not hearing what the priest said, my pastor likes to tell the story of LBJ asking Bill Moyers to say grace at some function and then telling him to speak up, to which Moyers responded "I wasn't talking to you, Mr. President." :)

I have to say, I think the prayers of the old Mass are much more beautiful and express the truth of the Mass more clearly than the new Mass, but having been raised in the NO (even though I've been going to the TLM for over 30 years - not exclusively) I find it strange that the prayers are said quietly.

"wasn't talking to you." Heh. I get the reasons why it doesn't matter that one can't hear or can't understand the priest. But it really is a whole different way of looking at the liturgy.

I've been told that the Ordinariate Mass is basically the TLM in formal English. The priest at my parish this evening was the same young priest who did the TLM last weekend. He used the really long eucharistic prayer (I can't remember which one it is) and I was struck by how nearly identical it is to the main Ordinariate one. Just not as well-written. :-)

Marianne, I've been known to do the edge-of-the-pew thing, too, if I have to kneel for too long, and always think of a friend who grew up pre-VII and said more or less the same thing about fear of being caught at it.

"the half-sit, half-kneel thing"

The famous three-point landing.


The first time I attended a Latin Mass, about 30 years ago, it was a low weekday mass said by a priest whose rapid-fire homilies I was already familiar with. I bet it lasted less than 15 minutes. I remember thinking, "Oh, so this is why they had to reform the liturgy!"

Re Rob G's comment on the 5th at 5:56 a.m.: I thought the Eastern rites were all still celebrated in their original languages. So unless the RCs know Ukrainian/Greek/Arabic, the liturgy will not be "in the vernacular" for them.

I wondered about that, too. I've been to a grand total of 1 Eastern Catholic liturgies--I think it was Byzantine--and some part of it was in...I'm not sure, not English.

I definitely think reforming the liturgy was a good idea. As I'm sure you know there are a lot of good reasons to believe that the typical practice is not really what the architects of reform wanted--a lot of them at least. There's that famous quote in one of the documents about Latin having pride of place. And chant. Oops.

I mean...I'm sure you know this, but part of the reason there has been so much conflict about it is the suspicion that some of the reformers really had a much broader and more radical agenda. Most definitely many of its partisans did and do. It's not like they keep it a secret.

As for the music at Mass, we Catholics have an incredible patrimony of the most beautiful Mass settings by top notch composers that you may have sat through in a concert. When it is heard in the context of the Mass, as it was meant to be, it is absolutely glorious! I'm learning bit by bit of these treasures through my attendance at the Latin Mass> The old Mass is what they were written for. There is Monteverdi, Palestrina, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Victoria, Hayden, Schubert... it's incredible.
There is also chant, and a wealth of hymns written by the likes of Thomas Aquinas! In latin. As it was the language of the Church for more than 16 centuries.
As for the latin, it was never supposed to be eliminated, but somehow was. One thing I appreciate about the Latin Mass is that when travelling it is always the same, and always accessible. What I miss out on is the homily always given in the vernacular. I have to add that Novus Ordo has no such consistency. You never know what you will from parish to parish, even from priest to priest.
The Propers, changing parts, are said or sometimes sung at the altar in Latin. Later when the priest comes to the pulpit, before the homily he reads the Epistle and the Gospel in English. Usually.
Traditiones Custodies is devasting. I can say that with feeling as a Latin Mass goer and it would be immediately understood. Unfortunately it is devastating to the Catholic Church as well. What is happening to our Church is horrific.

"What Catholics once were, we are. If we are wrong, then Catholics through the ages have been wrong.
We are what you once were. We believe what you once believed.
We worship as you once worshipped. If we are wrong now, you were wrong then. If you were right then, we are right now". -Robert DePiante

Can't speak for other areas but around here most Eastern Catholic churches use mostly English with some occasional Church Slavonic added. The exception would be a parish made up of either older parishioners, who still know the original languages, or of immigrants. These churches, if they are of Slavic background, would most likely use a combination of Church Slavonic and whatever the vernacular happened to be.

Just like in Orthodoxy, you sometimes have to look around a bit for a parish that does all or mostly English, but generally speaking they're not hard to find (depending on the area of course).

"look around a bit for a parish"--in most parts of the country that's probably not an option. I think there are two Orthodox parishes in my area and zero Eastern Catholic. There's a Maronite church in Birmingham, four hours away.

There should be one in Mobile. There were a significant number of Lebanese immigrants a hundred-plus years ago, but the Latin rite bishop and clergy squashed their rite. I've heard there was some bad feeling, understandably.

Christine, I think your quote from Robert DePiante is not far from what Benedict said in allowing for widespread celebration of the old rite. Personally I think the "broader and more radical agenda" of some of the reformers was/is at the root of the desire to stamp out the old rite, and not allow Latin in the new.

I read an article the other day by someone apparently attempting to put a good face on TC suggesting that what Francis is really up to is making the new rite more reverent etc., more traditional: by forbidding the old one he will open the door to re-traditional-izing the new. Wishful thinking, I suspect. Neither TC nor the rather mean letter accompanying it suggest any such thing to me.

‘Traditionis Custodes’: Rome Diocese Bans Traditional Latin Mass for Easter Triduum

But permitted at other times. Weird.

I suppose the rationale would be that then of all times we need to be unified by participating in the same liturgy. But I would think it might be received more as the infliction of maximum pain.

I'm confused. Didn't Benedict's Summorum Pontificum also rule out doing the Latin Mass during the Easter Triduum?

"Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without a congregation, any Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use either the Roman Missal published in 1962 by Blessed Pope John XXIII or the Roman Missal promulgated in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, and may do so on any day, with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such a celebration with either Missal, the priest needs no permission from the Apostolic See or from his own Ordinary."


Odd. I wonder why that exception is there. I suppose it leaves open that a priest could use the TLM during the Triduum with permission of his bishop. Also that article is about celebrations without a congregation, though Article 4 says the faithful may request to attend.

I don't see Easter specifically mentioned elsewhere. Article 5.2 says, or seems to say, that the old liturgy can be used on Sundays and feast days. So...?...I suppose this is much clearer to the clerical mind.

It still kind of boggles my mind that Francis would just revoke a rather serious decision by his immediate predecessor.

I've been to a TLM Easter Vigil

Illicit, maybe?

Doubt it. FSSP parish. Very prominent in the Archdiocese.

Sorry. Institute of Christ the King, not FSSP.

Here's a good piece about both the vicar of Rome's move and the whole question. It doesn't however mention the point Marianne raises about Easter and Summorum Pontificum.


This I think is compelling:

"If the new rite is in conformity with tradition, how is the old rite not in conformity with the new? Either the old rite was not in conformity with the authentic tradition that the new rite accurately reflects, or the new rite reflects a new tradition and belief."

That last phrase gets at what I think is the real and strongest reason for the determination to completely eliminate the old rite. For progressives, the new one really is a revolution, not a reform. That's why the struggle has been so bitter.

I think the point about the Triduum is that Masses without a congregation can't be celebrated - in either form - without permission.

I wondered if that might be the point. That Article 2 seems ambiguous to me. That's what I meant about it maybe being clearer to the clerical mind. Maybe it's well known to them that you don't do Mass without a congregation during the Triduum.

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