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A Lover of the Traditional Latin Mass Reflects on the Virtues of the Newer Vernacular Mass

September 12, 2010

As a priest I have been privileged to walk in the “wide Church.” That is to say, I have been able for all 21 years of my priesthood to say the Traditional Latin Mass while at the same time celebrating the newer, Ordinary Form of the Mass in some very dynamic parishes.

I have always loved both forms of the Roman liturgy and this sometimes gets me in trouble since there are dynamics within the Church where, at times, people on both sides want me to choose sides. I have no problem that people have their preferences, but as a priest I think I am required to serve a very diverse Church. I thank God too for the gift to be able to do this and to really love the current diversity. I realize too that diversity has its limits and, thus, I stick to the rubrics in both forms of the Mass: “Say the black, do the red!”

I have discussed in the past why I like the Traditional Mass and the video at the bottom of this post is a PBS interview where I speak of my love for it. I would like to take a moment however and also say what I like about the newer Ordinary Form of the Mass and also my acceptance of the fact that the old Mass did have need for some attention.

1. Rediscovering the value of subordinate roles and ministries in the Mass – There was a tendency in the Traditional Latin Mass for the action of subordinate ministers such as the deacon, subdeacon, choirs and cantors, to be non-effectual. In other words, what they did, didn’t really count. The schola (or choir) might sing the introit, the Kyrie and Gloria, but what they did still had to be recited by the priest quietly as well. In effect, their singing didn’t really count. It might sound pretty and all but it was really only what the priest recited that mattered. The last version of the Traditional Mass in 1962 had begun to remedy this. Thus the priest was no longer required to read the Scripture readings quietly if the Deacon and Subdeacon were chanting them. It was OK for him to listen to what they were chanting. But the schola’s chant still had to be re-read by the priest to “count.” The newer, Ordinary Form of the Mass has restored the subordinate ministries to their own proper function. Hence, if the readings are read by a lector or deacon the priest does not have to re-read them. If the choir sings the communion verse or song, this suffices and it is not required that the priest re-read it. I like this about the new Mass.

2.  I love the cycle of readings in the newer Mass. It is rich in its sampling of Scripture. The three year rotating cycle means that most of the New Testament is read every three years along with a rich sampling of the Old Testament. The Traditional Latin mass usually offered only a brief reading from the New Testament epistles and a Gospel pericope. It is very limited compared to the richness of the current Lectionary which includes, on Sundays, an Old Testament passge, a psalm, a New Testament epistle and a Gospel passage. Further the sequential reading from one of the four Gospels along with a matching Old Testament reading is helpful. The readings from the Traditional Latin Mass tended to skip around and its logic was not always clear.  As a preacher and lover of Scripture I have been richly fed by the new lectionary. I could wish for a slightly better translation than the current NAB we use here in the States but in the end I feel very well schooled by the newer liturgy when it comes to Scripture.

3. Restoration of the General Intercessions – There is a strange moment in the Old Mass when, after the homily and creed the priest turns and says to the people (Dominus vobiscum  (The Lord be with you) and they reply et cum spiritu tuo (and with your spirit). He then says, Oremus (Let us pray). But there is no prayer. He simply turns back to the altar and the people are once again seated. Many centuries before there had been bidding prayers here similar to our current “Prayers of the Faithful” or “General Intercessions.” They had been composed by Pope Gelasius but were later suppressed by Pope Gregory since they prolonged the Mass. But somehow the call to prayer (that odd little “oremus“) stayed there all those centuries.

There was need to attend to this. Either restore the prayers or drop the call to prayer. The current, Ordinary Form of the Mass has restored these prayers or general intercessions. I think this is a valuable aspect of the Ordinary Form of the Mass if it is done correctly. We ought to to pray for others as is so beautifully done in the Eastern Rites of the Church. It seems suitable that, after hearing and reflecting on God’s Word, we be drawn to pray for ourselves and the world.

However there is a tendency in some parishes to misunderstand the nature of these prayers. They are general intercessions, not particular ones. The prayers ought to be of a general nature not for every one’s sick cousin, aunt, or brother, mentioned by name with a full medical report included in the prayer. Rather we pray for the sick in general, for the poor, for Church leaders, Government leaders, for abundance of the fruits of the earth, for peace and so forth. Specific political and idiosyncratic prayers are wholly to be avoided.

If these norms are observed, the general intercessions (or prayer of the faithful) is a beautiful and ancient practice restored in the ordinary and newer form of the mass and it also links us more to the practice of the Eastern Rites.

4. The general rediscovery of the existence and role of congregation is a good part of the newer Ordinary Form of the Mass. In the Traditional Latin Mass, especially in its recited form the congregation had little to do but watch the Mass. The priest interacted only with the servers who made the responses on behalf of the people. Even when the priest turned to say something to the congregation he was instructed to look down.

If members of the congregation did wish to interact and make Latin responses this was made more difficult by the fact that the Mass was largely whispered by the priest. In the 1950s attempts were made to remedy this by encouraging the people to learn their responses in the Mass and use missals to follow the Mass carefully. Permissions were given for the priests to say the Mass in a louder voice and microphones were even added to some altars. But the lengthier Latin responses were still difficult for many ordinary Catholics to make and keep up with.

Today, in the newer liturgy the role of the congregation is respected and they are expected to play an active role in the Mass and make responses proper to them. It is true that there has been some obsession with this by overzealous liturgists. At times some of them demand that the people do everything and that there is never a place for a choir to sing a more advanced setting of something. But in general, the integral involvement of the congregation in the newer and ordinary form of the Mass is something I value highly.

5. The Vernacular is also a positive development. I love the Latin Language but I also know that it is a great advantage to have many parts of the Mass in the local language. This has assisted in greater participationof the faithful in the Mass to an immense degree.  It is difficult to expect the congregation to take a routinely active role if the Liturgy is almost wholly said in a language they do not know. Simple Latin responses are one thing, but try to get the whole congregation to say the confiteor (I Confess) well together. It can be done in some self-selected congregation where there is interest in Latin, but in more general settings it would be difficult.

That said, it is a true loss that most of the faithful have become completely separated from any experience of the Mass in Latin. This is something not envisaged by the Council which permitted a wider use of the vernacular but also commended the use of Latin and foresaw it’s continued common use in the liturgy.

A further point here is to lament how poor our vernacular translations have been for years and how good it is that a more accurate translation is on the way. Praise God.

6. Flexibility and the wider possibility for inculturation is also something I appreciate about the newer Ordinary Form of the Mass. Careful balance is needed here and rubrics need to be followed but the greater allowance for wider forms of music and cultural expression has allowed the Liturgy to flourish in different settings. I have a vibrant African American Catholic Parish wherein gospel music and extended preaching along with a charismatic enthusiasm give real life to the Mass in an authentic manner.

It is true that not every experience of inculturation with the new Mass has been as successful. This is especially true in more suburban American settings where culture is more secular and ephemeral and too many worldly forms find their way into the Mass. But where is a sacred tradition to draw on, it is nice to have some flexibility to incorporate this.

There is no doubt that the newer Ordinary Form of the Mass has some serious issues. It emerged in a time of great cultural tumult and emerged as if out of a whirlwind. We are still waiting for the dust to settle in many respects. But there are good and wonderful things as well. Pope Benedict is helping a great deal to reconnect us to tradition and to see both forms of the Liturgy as beneficial to each other.

It is fine to have a preference but I am blest to love both forms and serve vibrant and passionate communities using both forms. Both communities love the Lord and are serious about the liturgy and deeply connected to it. What a blessing to look out each Sunday and see, not boredom, but engaged and passionate people, alive and aware that the Lord is ministering to them in the sacred liturgy. What a blessing, a double blessing!

Here is an interview I did about the Traditional Latin Mass and my love for it.

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Comments (84)

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  1. Ryan Ellis says:

    It’s all well and good to do a side-by-side rubrics analysis, and you make some good points. In particular the new lectionary during the week is a home run. I don’t think you’re going to find any agreement from any traditional Catholics on inculturation, though.

    However, this is all rather irrelevant to your typical traditional Catholic. 95 percent of ordinary forms are completely-unacceptable to attend if you value “say the black, do the red” and oppose priest-centric, feminized, suburban blah liturgy. What’s technically supposed to happen in the GIRM isn’t worth a cup of coffee.

    I say this, incidentally, as a regular ordinary form attendee (at one of the very few good parishes). I go to about 10-15 extraordinary forms a year, though my parish has recently added a weeknight TLM.

    • Daniel says:

      I can’t understand how “feminized” can be a term of denigration. It seems awfully insensitive to the reality that half of the people who are in the worshiping community (frequently more than half) are women, and it seems to completely ignore the Catholic belief in a God who is neither male nor female (see Genesis 1) but who embraces the fulness of the gifts of masculinity and femininity.

      • Ryan Ellis says:

        @Daniel, your position is contrary to Church teaching. Jesus taught us to call God “Father,” for one thing.

        In too many parishes, the liberal women from the 1970s run the show. That’s why young men don’t go to Mass. We need masculine, strong, 1950s liturgies. I’m glad I don’t go to some liberal parish.

        Women have an important role in the Church, but liturgy is not one of them. Get them off the altar and into the kitchen.

      • djar says:

        From my experience, I have known “feminists” (women who identify themselves as feminists) to replace the words in the liturgy to be “gender-neutral”. Instead of saying “him” or “his” or “father” they say “God”. I think this is out of misunderstanding of the English Language and Christ’s teachings simultaneously.

        And, in the parish I grew up in, they made my priest make the lector do a totally different reading than the “wives be good to your husbands” one. because they thought it was sexist.

        I think that vocations to the priesthood are also threatened in my parish by these same people pushing for many more girls serving the altar, when there are enough boys that could be doing it.

        The Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist (simply Eucharistic Ministers in my parish because there’s nothing extraordinary about it – they have them for every Mass, even when there is a priest sitting in the pews) are typically of this same “feminist” group, and if their position were to be eliminated, then they’d be up in arms because they’d see it as purely sexist rather than an action of pure respect for the Eucharist.

        Worse are their delusions about the female priesthood.

        The problem is that these individuals are using “feminism” as an excuse for heresy.

    • Well Ryan, you’re a bit extreme in your replies. I understand your frustration with the usual fare. I think by “feminized” you mean that the Liturgy has overemphazied feminine qualities in both music and preaching and other aspects of the Mass. Men do sometimes speak to me of their discomfort with the appeals to emotion, the highly tactile quality of mass (eg holding hands) and the emphasis of things like forgiveness (good in itself) to the need for strong Christian action. However, your response to Daniel I think is uncalled for. Even if you argue that women should not be in the sanctuary your remark about the kitchen is simply in bad taste. Daniel is not incorrect in saying that God is beyond human sexual distinctions. It is true he has revealed himself in masculine images and we are obliged to use them but God is not male, is not female. God is God.

      • Rellis says:

        The “kitchen” part of the response was merely to needle @Daniel.

        As for the rest, you have summarized my actual feelings on feminized liturgy very well. Men aren’t comfortable giving each other hugs and talking about our feelings at Mass.

      • Daniel says:

        I find it a difficult argument to make that certain tactile elements of liturgy are improper because some men “sometimes speak …of their discomfort”, especially in the context of comments which seem to argue against a softer, “too comfortable” sense of liturgy. If comfort is an issue, could women also make a legitimate argument about what makes them uncomfortable about liturgy? Further, the John Wayne image of masculinity is not universal–many cultures not only approve of but encourage things like hand-holding and kissing/hugging as a greeting among men.When REllis says “Men aren’t comfortable giving each other hugs and talking about our feelings at Mass” I ask again, which men? American men? All men?
        It seems like a dangerous proposition to hijack a celebration of God’s universal salvific will for all and reserve it for one gender, or even more, for one particular cultural perspective of one gender. It kind of takes away from the concept of “Catholic”.

  2. Jim says:

    I wonder if the result might be a “hybrid” Mass appearing in more places. For example, saying some of the prayers
    of the Ordinary Form in Latin. Or sometimes having an Ordinary Form of the Mass where the priest and congregation
    all face to the east. When I received my First Communion, my parish had the Ordinary From, but we still had the
    communion rail (I always liked kneeling for Eucharist).

    Hopefully there might be some kind of fruitful exchange between the two forms of the Mass. I think putting the
    tabernacle back in the center of the Church would have a real unifying effect between the two forms.

    • In one sense the 1965 Missal was exactly that. The people’s parts we permitted and printed in English, as were the readings. But the Canon and other priest parts were still in Latin. Some have argued that the 1965 Missal was the true missal of VC II whereas the current one was a work of the concilium which met after the Vatican Council closed.

    • KathyD says:

      Jim – you have hit the nail on the head! That would be divine!

      I am a ’68 model and Latin was LONG gone by the time I can recall attending Mass BUT I did remember “something” special that I just couldn’t find as an adult. Until I came by a Monastery that had all the special bits I recalled as a child. I cried for 3 days at that Monastery as I couldn’t believe such beauty still existed.

      Let us all pray for such a thing to one day be a reality.

      Although I consider myself a Traditionalist I am a bit like the good Msgr and see beauty in both (as long as the Mass is Holy and Reverent as I recall as a small child..).

  3. Peg says:

    Thank you for once again sharing your thoughts with us in a simple, straightforward manner. I graduated from high school in 1959 and experienced both forms of the Mass as well. Now I am looking forward to what is to come.

  4. Dr. Eric says:

    Jim,

    Your vision of a “hybrid” Mass is actually the form that the Novus Ordo is supposed to take. Latin was never outlawed by Vatican II, the ad orientem posture was never forbidden, communion rails were never Verboten, etc… Basically, the allowance for the readings to be read in the vernacular was all that Vat II considered.

    I have no problem with the vernacular, but if so, we should return to the Extraordinary Form translated and scrap the Ordinary Form. There is a vast difference in the language and focus of the two Forms of the same Rite.

    • Yes, my copy of the 1965 Missal bears out what you are saying. What you are saying in the second paragraph is unlikely but I have heard this plan. In effect, let’s pull the 1965 Missal off the shelf.

  5. Brad says:

    Thank you Msgr. Pope for this insightful piece and the reminder that the good old days can sometimes stand some improvement. On one point, the “rich sampling of scripture” in the Ordinary form, I have a different perspective. The three-year cycle does manage to plod through the Gospels but that is about all that it accomplishes. The gospel often bears little relation to the feast being celebrated, and the internal coherence of the readings isn’t there. I have been wondering since 1966 what the second reading has to do with anything. The responsorial psalm seems to be the same every week. And then there are the readings that were banished for reasons of political correctness, such as Passion Sunday.

    The traditional Mass readings carefully paired the epistle and gospel readings to demonstrate the Old Testament prefiguring the New. It also included the deuterocanonical books that explained important church teaching. Today, the Book of Wisdom is rarely heard. And I must admit to a boyhood fondness for the story of Susannah and the Elders which is long gone.

    I think the traditional Mass had the richer sampling of readings.

    • You’re right the second reading stands apart as a seperate “lectio continua”
      Not sure I understand your second paragraph though. The Old Missal had very little OT at least on Sundays. Further, the New Lectionary does contain readings from Wisdom, Sirach et al. The Sotry of Susannah is also in the new lectionary.

  6. Matthew says:

    Msgr. Pope:
    I found point number one to be ironic. Paul VI would abolish the subdiaconate, not exactly rediscovering its value IMHO. The deacon and the servers are given less to do and what they do is of less import. It seems number one should be rephrased to say that it elevated the importance of the choir or of the people bu that is number four.

  7. Doc. Lorenz says:

    I feel very stongly that HH Pope St. Pius V, never stated that the Tridentine Mass could only be said in Latin, but yes Latin was the language of the learned and clergy at that time.

    Further if the Tridentine Mass is translated, word for word and rubric for rubric, into the vernacular, it would be very uplifting to the Paritioners.

  8. Philippus says:

    Interesting article Father. What I have found about myself from the years of exposure to the two forms of the Mass is that although I started off loving both forms, I ended up getting really closer to one form than the other. It was just what felt more natural to me because dealing with two different calendars was problematic for me as was also following different types of traditional versus updated ways of doing things i.e. practices during lent and Easter or celebrating the octave of the feast of Pentecost. I just got lost in what my expectations were.

    I do think in the future this issue will need to be addressed for people to take us seriously. I mean, right now, we are known as the people with 2 calendars (my Eastern friends call us) And, although we go to length explaining that we are not two different rites, visually and audibly it looks and sounds as though we are.

    Does anybody know if other rites have 2 different ways of celebrating their liturgy?

  9. Jay Everett says:

    A very nice article and hard to find fault with however there is more. Since the change from latin to the venacular form I have noticed that none of the younger (under 45) people bother with the missal which in some churches is there in front of them. The sale of missals to individuals is way down and RCIA is being taught without teaching what the missal is. In other churches you would be hard put to even find a missal or people who even know how to use it as an aid.

  10. Charlie says:

    Our worship of HIM is so subjective! I love the silence & awe the people show upon entering the church. And the quiet prayers & adoration we offer HIM during Mass. I love HIS house, & all it contains. I’ve found this beauty at both Masses. My only complaint of the NO Mass is that the last supper is emphasized, as though this Mass is ONLY a meal, as though we had a table, and not an alter.

    • I understand. I think we’re getting the balance right again but an altar facing the people is never going to be as elaborate as one against the wall that can be built up. I am personally a fan of the eastward orientation but think its going to be a long while before that happens in a widespread way.

  11. Ken says:

    The problem with liking a little bit of liberalism is the classic slippery slope. When the clerical roles are replaced by the laity — even a little bit — we should not be surprised when no one wants to be clergy anymore. When the schola is replaced by the congregation — even a little bit — we should not be surprised when no one want to join the choir anymore. When the altar servers are replaced by responders in the pews — even a little bit — we should not be surprised when boys choose other options and girls move in. After all, it is a lot of work to go to seminary or to attend choir rehearsals or to memorize prayers at altar boy practice. Just wing it — it’s allowed!

    The beauty of the traditional Latin Mass is that everything is ordered. There is a reason to even the madness. This is probably why nearly all of the saints would recognize the traditional Latin Mass, while the last 45 years (the time of the 1965 and 1969 liturgies) have been nothing but utter chaos in the Church and in the world. The Holy Ghost at work? Given the significant return to tradition lately — led by Pope Benedict XVI — I’d say so.

    • So you think I’m slip-sliding away! 🙂
      I do find your all or nothing thinking a world in which I do not live. Even your use of “no one” is kind strange since vocations aren’t terrible. Many parishes do have good choirs, a good # of altar servers etc.

      I suspect your second paragraph is true that the saints of old would be surprised at the new mass.

      • Ken says:

        I think an all-or-nothing position is the way to solve problems, even if one does not believe “all” is immediately attainable. But if we want to end abortion, then we ought to speak and act against 100% of abortions, not just certain abortions with exceptions to the rule. If we want to end sodomy, then we ought to speak and act against 100% of homosexual activity, not just certain homosexual activity with exceptions to the rule. We can be realistic to know doing so isn’t going to solve the problems overnight, but allowing liberalism and modernism to creep into our public positions only results in slip-sliding away.

        The Mass is just as important — if not more — than the above sins that cry to heaven for vengeance. After all, Pope Benedict XVI has stated: “The Church stands and falls with the liturgy.” Therefore if the Church is to fall because of a banal liturgy no matter who tries to dress it up a bit, shouldn’t we be passionate about restoring the Mass of the saints?

        If not, then why has a vocal minority been so influential in restoring the traditional Latin Mass, particularly in the last four years? Not once a month. But every Sunday. Every holy day. And eventually every day in every parish, as the pope desires: http://archive.catholicherald.co.uk/articles/a0000305.shtml

  12. Lizzy S Falnikar says:

    Dear Father,

    Thanks so much for this. Yes, you are right when you say that although many would think that the young would’t relate to this, it isn’t so. I am a case in point. I hail from the first Latin diocese in India, and my Mom and Dad grew up saying the Latin Mass, Luckily, Mom handed this tradition to us and though am just about 40, I still love the solemnity. Mom still sings the various parts of the mass for us. I would still love the traditional Latin Mass because certain parts like the burning of the incense etc does have a sublime effect on our senses. It does give you the feeling of being in heaven as you quote from the Book of Revelation. A ‘Tantum Ergo sacramentum…’ still makes me cry as opposed to the translated English version.

    • Yes the presence of so many young folks has surprised the self-appointed relevant ones who figured it was they alone who knew how to reach the young. It remains true however that most young people do not attend the TLM but the #s that do are impressive and important to notice.

  13. Sarsfield says:

    “This is the Mass that most of the saints knew.” Exactly. It always amazes me how those who are adamantly opposed to the Extraordinary Form never seem to consider the implications of this fact. I really appreciate your balance, Father. I was born in 1955, loved serving the Old Mass as a boy, and never understood the vigor with which it was suppressed. I long to see it become part of normal parish life again. At the same time, I tend to agree that some aspects of the New Mass have been beneficial. In the immortal words of Rodney King, “Possumusne omnes congruere? (Or something like that).

  14. TeaPot562 says:

    @Brad:
    I don’t know if it is a weekday or Sunday Mass, but the story of Susannah and the Elders (from Daniel) is read on the same day as Jesus’s handling the case of the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11). This is in the new OF. In the Sunday readings, Mark’s gospel is paired with John in that year’s lectionary readings.
    In our parish, the presiders sometimes go with the Greek Kyrie Eleison at weekday masses, and sometimes with the Latin Agnus Dei. I have to read the Nicene Creed on Sunday, even in English. I have been unable to commit it to memory – my mind seems to slip back and forth between the two creeds. Similarly the Confiteor at the new penitential rite is now in my memory, but having memorized the old one as an altarboy in the 1940s, I sometimes slip to the older wording if I don’t concentrate.
    Consider this a firm vote for the readings and vernacular form (but NOT free choice of paraphrased wording by the Presider!) in the new OF.
    I also think that the “greeting of peace” belongs before the confiteor (“If you are on your way to offer a gift at the altar, and recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, …”)
    People use it to shake hands with everyone around them; these are not necessarily those with whom they have issues. I really don’t like where it is in the new OF, as it breaks the flow of the liturgy.
    TeaPot562

  15. TeaPot562 says:

    P.S. The choice by the Presider of Kyrie vs. Lord have Mercy in English, and Agnus Dei vs. Lamb of God are independent choices. My post above makes it look as if the presider is choosing between them (which is rdiculous, of course.) Sorry for any misreading of my intentions.
    TeaPot562

  16. gilad says:

    Since you keep refering to the eastern church and it’s practice, why don’t you also make an observation on there liturgy pro/con about there liturgy! Only to be fair!

  17. Bender says:

    I wrote something much more blunt, but have cut it out.

    Instead, I will simply voice my dismay at how, ONCE AGAIN, a post on liturgy is taken by some as an invitation to trash the Mass or to otherwise use this as an occasion to criticize.

    I really do wish you folks would stop. For all our sakes.

    • Ken says:

      Perhaps, Bender, blogs on liturgical minutia are not for you. There are plenty of apologetic and/or non-controversial Catholic sites out there for those who don’t want to witness frank, educated discussion. Some of us, though, enjoy getting into the Mass weeds and trying to influence the debate. And it is indeed a debate — even the pope has written on that.

      • Dismas says:

        Ken,

        By and large I agree with your previous comments regarding liberalism and the the slippery slope. I don’t, however, agree or understand your comments addressed to Bender. I think Bender’s concern is valid and should be given careful reflection by anyone entering this debate.

      • Yes, I agree. “Say what you mean and mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.” I understand the anger of traditional catholics who for years were told their concerns were invalid and that they’d have no recourse. However snide and superior remarks backfire and give tradition a bad name. It’s OK to have a preference but the Church is wide in her allowance of things one might not prefer. In the end, the diversity helps us reach varying groups and individuals.

  18. Charlie says:

    WELL SAID, BENDER!!!
    I hereby retract my above sniveling, and vow to remember I’m responsible only for my small part of assisting at Mass, and no one else.

  19. Virginia Cranfill says:

    Msgr. Pope,
    I was blessed to attend one of your Masses in Jacksonville, FL while you were there baptizing your niece. I’m sure that you have vibrant & passionate communities because of the gifts God has blessed you with. They are lucky to have you as their priest. St. Joseph’s in Jacksonville wanted to keep you 🙂 Thank you for the points you have made here. They are very helpful.

  20. Ruth Ann says:

    Msgr. Pope, the Tridentine Mass is the one in which I was raised. During my adult life I have worshiped with the Novus Ordo. I have liked the latter for all the same reasons you gave, but especially numbers 2 and 4. I have participated through the decades as a lector, and through that role have come to a deeper, broader understanding of Scripture over the years.

    I definitely like having a part to play as a member of the assembly. I like to sing and I like responding aloud when required by the GIRM.

    I have nothing against the old Tridentine Mass. It served me well in my childhood and youth. I was in the choir and learned, not only the short responses, but also the words of the Gloria and Credo by heart. When I attend Mass at a local Carmelite Nuns monastery they occasionally sing parts of the Novus Ordo in Latin, and I can join right in from memory.

    For those who are nostalgic for the Tridentine Mass and seem to think of it as superior to the Novus Ordo because of their perception of its solemnity or for other reasons, I will say that in my childhood it was not uncommon for a priest to do a slovenly job. We kiddos could tell when the priest was mumbling, skipping words, and just whipping through the Mass to get it over with. We knew!

  21. Alan says:

    I feel the 3 year cycle of readings is horrible. For one, it costs churches more money every year for new printings. Secondly, it doesnt allow people to remember what was read if it only repeats every 3rd year. Memory is the cornerstone of tradition. The new NAB and lectionary are part of the problem as well. Why would anyone want to memorize the texts of the NAB when they will no doubt keep changing, and keep being revised every 5 to 10 years. Much like the 3 year cycle for readings, it does not allow for memory. It used to be in days gone by, youngsters would memorize the beautifully poetic verses of the bible verbatim. Where there is a memory of things celebrated/read/sung there is an anticipation, a longing that is a hallmark of why people attach themselves to tradition…”I remember reading that last year, and I look forward to doing it again next week.” “I remember singing that last year, and I look forward to singing it again next week.” The three years cycle is a boondoggle that created unnecessary expenses for the parrish, and chips away at tradition.

  22. Plain Catholic says:

    Our beautiful Church has at least 31 different liturgical rites for saying the Mass which are in Communion with Rome. This says to me that Holy Mother Church truly seeks to draw all to Christ and recognizes the value of diversity in meeting the needs of her children. God has blessed us indeed.

  23. Antoinette says:

    I grew up with the Latin Mass, but have come to love the Paul IV mass. I recently attended a Latin Mass and felt as if it was between the altar boys and the priest. There was no singing by the congregation only a soloist in the choir loft. The present Mass can have all the beauty of the Latin Mass when congregation, choir and Priest incorporate some aspect of the Latin Mass. For example, during lent our priest and congregation do not say Lord Have Mercy, etc., but Kyrie Eleison. The hymns are not always by Haas, et al, but by Mozart, Bach and other composers utilized in the Latin Mass by the choir. I was once a choir member at St. Louis de Montfort, Sound Beach, and the music director enriched us with keeping traditional songs in the mix every Sunday.

  24. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    On a more serious note, I notice in the video that most of the attendants of the Latin rite are caucasion which tends to reflect a white european cultural influence. That this all changed around the time of desegregation and all the social and cultural liberations of the sixties would lead one to consider political incorrectness as being one possible disdain for the old solemn forms, being that you say you have a large Afican American congregation. I don’t really have a problem one way or the other. You make very good valid arguements for both forms. Every picture tells a story, doesn’t it. So much for inculturation. Maybe it’s just a PBS liberal biased slant when editing the video. Tantum Ergo sacramentum, corporis mysterium.

    • Well, the video was just one mass. At yesterday’s solemn Mass I had a Black Deacon and a Filipino subdeacon. The Cross bearer was black too. If all that stuff matters. Frankly I had even noticed in the video and I had to scrtach my head to remember who was what race at last nights mass. Anyway, I think we’ve got inclusivity.

  25. K Raval says:

    msgr. Pope- with the exception of the ‘inculturation’ (I’m suspect) – I think you present really good points and a nice balance because sometimes this liturgy stuff can become too polarized. You always do an excellent job at the 5pm at st marys and I enjoy the homilies.

    As Pope Benedict said, the two forms can mutually enrich each other. this article underlines that point.

    thank you.

  26. eskvar says:

    I’m glad to see this post. I was born in 1985, well after the implementation of the mass in the vernacular. One thing I dislike about a lot of the Latin traditionalist types I’ve seen posting online is their tendency to come across as saying that the Latin Mass is so much inherently better, there’s nothing good about English, and that all the churches/Catholic University Centers I’ve attended, and all the priests not speaking Latin I’ve heard in my 25 years of being Catholic have been giving me some false, insufficient thing. It’s nice to see someone willing to say “hey, the Latin Mass can be amazing, but so can the English one.” If traditionalists truly want more people to become interested in Latin, projecting a sense of smug superiority that they have the “real” Mass isn’t going to help their cause much.
    To be completely honest, the times I’ve heard my parents mention their memories of pre-Vatican II masses, which to them consisted of watching the back of the priest mumbling some incomprehensible prayers, I’m not sure I would have been Catholic if things hadn’t changed.

    • Yes, I understand your final point well and I also made your first point above. Smug superiority is a bad tendency among some and gives tradition a bad name. THere is also the problem from the other side that thinks the TLM should exist.

      I am glad you have found a liturgy that suits you well.

    • Jason says:

      Ah, but just as you may feel slighted because of those who look upon your “English” Mass as something inferior to the Latin Mass, I could just as easily feel the same way when you talk about my “incomprehensible prayers”. You obviously are biased towards the Mass that you prefer, just as they are biased towards theirs.

      I’ve attended both. I grew up with the Novus Ordo, and I attend Latin Mass today. I won’t go back. Do I think the Latin Mass is superior? Of course I do.

  27. Bob Kovacs says:

    When the priest celebrates the Newer Mass Ad-Orientum , female altar servers are gone, as well as communion in the hand and EMHC are not present, then I may see virtues in the Newer Mass. I forgot one thing. Dump the NAB translation as well.

  28. esiul says:

    Msgr. Pope, if I ever get to Washington again, I will attend one of your TLM Masses. Your post was excellent, you can really incorporate the pros and cons. That’s why I love watching the daily Mass on EWTN. There you have the best of the two worlds. (I also attend daily Mass in my parish). Sometimes I get carried away and catch myself responding in Latin. Like the other day when I blurted out “Hosannah in excelsis.” Good thing only my husband caught on. Thanks again, and things will get better in time.

  29. Monica says:

    really nice summary ~ #s 2 and 4 are what keeps me at my local parish.

  30. Rod says:

    Thank you again for a well presented piece on the Liturgy, Msgr. Pope. One thing that really disturbs me is the tendency in many newer churches not to have the Cross central or the focal point of the church structurally. The church I presently attend has a magnificent risen Christ but the cross is small and not even central to the altar. Isn’t this supposed to be the focus of our worship? The fact that Christ died for my sins on the cross? Thanks

    • Jason says:

      I attended my niece’s confirmation a year ago in one of our local Catholic Churches. It took me some time to locate the cross, and when I did, it was very small and placed over to the side. I also recently saw some pictures from a friend of mine who had their baby baptised. Instead of a cross, there was a giant cloth sun behind the altar. I’m still puzzled about that one.

  31. Dante says:

    I believe in the Eastern Church (Byzantine Catholics) there are two liturgies. The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is used on more solemn feastdays while the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is the “ordinary” form, but I am not 100% sure I am remembering all the facts. I learned this 25 years ago while in theological formation. I think that could be a nice solution for us in the Western Church…though we do have a long history of exrta forms within our Roman Church: Ambrosian Rite comes immediately to mind. In this way we do not add to the confusion and “everyone doing his own thing” by leaving it up to the priest as to which form to use or which language. Might not be a bad idea to have a more formal traditional liturgy for the great feasts and a simpler vernacular form for “ordinary” use.

    I am not a fan or devotee of the TLM (nor of Latin itself apart from the Mass) but I have always wondered WHY Latin isn’t used as the basic liturgical language at international shrines or even in one’s diocesean cathedral. We have LOTs of language groups and so this results in a liturgy of mish-mash lingo with some groups feeling left out because their language wasn’t used. I actually went to a Mass once, a professsion Mass of the Missionaries of Charity Sisters and the presider-bishop had each of us pray the Lord’s Prayer in our own language. Mama Mia! (Um thats my language LOL)…I thought I thrown back in time to the Tower of Babel!

    I cannot wait for the new translation next year. The 1962 Liturgy needed reform and the Holy Spirit directed this through the deliberations of the Council Fathers so it seems rather foolish to keep using that text. Maybe the forthcoming liturgy will be the way that enables us to worship God in spirit and truth as one people of one Rite.

  32. Jonathan says:

    I agree with Dante. I really love both forms of the Mass, but the use of two essentially the Rites for one Expression of truth is a mystery. The ’62 missal may have needed updating, now what? Is there no way of fusing the best of both worlds? (Miley comes to mind haha) i.e the accessibility of the Novus ordo with the sublime beauty and ancient connection of the Extraordinary form prayers and gestures.

    I hope Pope Benny in his lifetime is able to sort this out and perhaps bring the East and West even closer. Its allot to ask I know, but as a young catholic I have the excuse of being naive. Yay me!

    So in summery I’m all for “mutual enrichment, but somewhere along the line would it be possible to mutually enrich them to a point where they are much the same thing?

  33. Mary says:

    He then says, Oremus (Let us pray). But there is no prayer.

    The entire Mass is a prayer, so to have said “Oremus (let us pray)” if fully understood,
    would have been okay. People are too used to being entertained, and having every
    moment filled with noise. Prayer is not always ‘noise’, but reverance.

  34. Dave Ceasar Dela Cruz says:

    Dave from the Philippines here, Father. What a great article! So liturgical and so neutral.

  35. Cephas says:

    I really appreciate Fr. Pope’s candid and intelligent comments: Unlike some other priests who choose to denigrate the “Old Mass” without even having experienced it, he knows of what he speaks. Thank you for that.

    I grew up with the revised Mass; experienced the “old” (even studying briefly at the Fraternity of St. Peter’s seminary in Pennsylvania); and, decided that,while I love the Tridentine’s ritual and symbolism, its clarity of doctrine and spirituality, it just wasn’t for me. I could see why people around Vatican II wanted a change.

    But, Fr. Pope’s comments bother me. There’s a lot that could be said, but these will have to suffice:

    Several of his points have been knocking around since the new liturgy came out: more scripture; the general intercessions; the role of the congregation; the vernacular. (Surprising, isn’t it, how the beauty of celebrating the “Ordinary Form” Mass is almost NEVER mentioned? Even its defenders know that’s a lost argument.)

    A rich sampling from the Old Testament? Actually, the revised Lectionary includes readings from only 14% of the Jewish scriptures. Let me repeat that: 14%. That comes straight from the newsletter of the USCCB’s Committee on Liturgy: http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/bclnewsletterjune07.pdf (pg. 27).

    The role of the congregation: I agree with Fr.Pope’s characterization of how suffocating the congregational atmosphere at Tridentine Massescan be: People just sit or kneel, while refusing to give the responses. The schola sings — period.

    But, Fr. Pope doesn’t look anywhere NEAR old enough to talk with any authority about what “ordinary” folks in the pews could and could not do and understand during the Latin liturgy. My mother grew up with the pre-Vatican II Mass; and, she goes to the “Ordinary Form” every Sunday. One way to tick her off is to claim that, when she was a child and young woman following along in her handmissal, she couldn’t follow the Latin liturgy. It was too hard for her. As she would tell Fr. Pope, it was only AFTER Vatican II that priests started telling laity that they really hadn’t understood what was going on. I think this is simply Fr.Pope’s “historical imagination” at work here with no foundation.

    By the way, priests were directed to cast their eyes downwards as a sign of humility and an attempt to subsume the priest’s ego. The mass was not “his.” Wise.

    Also, by the way: The rubrics in the pre-Vatican II missal were quite clear about when the priest should whisper inaudibly, when he should speak so those near him could hear, and when he should speak audibly to the congregation. I don’t know where Fr. Pope is getting this idea of the priest almost always whispering.

    Finally, I see the picture of Fr. Pope above: Why is he facing the people? Why only two candles and not six? (Also, why isn’t the Sacramentary lying flat on the altar — and, not on a pillow or stand as per the rubrics?)

    In other words, why is he celebrating any differently in these matters than when he celebrates the Tridentine Mass?

    That, for me, is the question the bedevils the whole liturgical reform.

  36. peter hansen says:

    Dear Msg. Pope: I believe that the resumption of the old mass on a wider scale will lead to an outpouring of grace that will transform the Church dramatically over the next ten years. God loves his Holy Church, and will never abandon her although he tests her faith. I think the next ten years will be wonderful, and I look forward to them with joy. We have so much work to do to restore the Church to her proper place as the conscience and guardian of the people. As more and more Catholics experience the liturgy of their ancestors and the great saints, how can this not increase the fervor and understanding of their prayers? I believe that the days of suppressing rites are if not over, at least drawing to a close. We are at the cusp of developing a new “sensus fidei” that will cary us into the next era. Enjoy!
    God bless you and thank you for your service,
    Peter

  37. Cautious Catholic says:

    It may be good to note that cultural expressions frequently do not align with Church teaching. Various Catholic Institutions have been duped into selling goods that are merely politically correct. There is a Catholic convent nearby which offers classes in drum making. The stated goal is to have a “relationship with your drum.” Mixing pagan ideas and Christianity will never work. We need to bring all cultures into the fold instead of feeding into their false ideas. My own Italian heritage has many cultural customs that do not align with the Catholic Church. Am I offended? Certainly not. I must learn my Faith, first and foremost, so that I may make decisions based on an informed conscience.

    The sermon on the mount was not culture-specific. Christ’s teaching transcends not only time, but all cultures.

    At one time you could travel all over the world and attend the Tridentine Mass with your own missal and recognize it as your Catholic Church. The Latin language united Catholics world-wide. The vernacular Mass actually created more divisions throughout the Church.

  38. Fernanda Medeiros says:

    I love the Traditional Latin Mass! I was raised with It. I still remember.I was a young girl. I hope it would come back. One time I went to a Latin Mass but I fell bad been there, because to theis day I think this little chapel is not under tha diocesen Bishop, so the whole time I was just worried if it was wrong to be there. But I love it. Then at least was more respect in church. Today right after Mass it is horrible. It is like you are in a flee market. everyone speakind loud like JEus is not even there. Well in a since He is not there because they have put Him in a corner. I hope Pope Benedict XVI will bring back the Tradional Latin Mass

    • Baron Kahle says:

      Continue to follow your love and faith in our Lord as you are. Your heart and conscience will help guide you. The Traditional Mass inspires a sense of reverence and response to what is sacred in those who are believers. The behavior of the people you speak of is a manifestation of something that needs no further explanation.

  39. Baron Kahle says:

    Msgr Pope

    I believe you are a little extreme with your reply. If there are any doubts about “what is” the best source of clarity and truth are the words of Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus repeatedly referred to the First Person of the Holy Trinity as “Father” or My Father or The Father. Because I truly believe in Jesus Christ and hold sacred His words I shall not contradict Him or imply Him to be a liar.

  40. Arnie says:

    Well, Msgr Pope…I grossly disagree on one point: In the Latin Mass folks don’t just sit and watch without a role to play. My role of recalling my sins, seeking forgiveness, recalling my thanksgivings and sufferings and spiritually offering them to Christ who is truly their for me during the scourging, his travel to Calvary and on the cross waiting for me to unite myself to Him. This is a very mystical and spiritually fulfilling.

    If you just sit their watching the Mass, then you didn’t sacrifice. Then, you really shouldn’t go to Communion to complete the sacrifice and receive your spiritual bread.

    During the ordinary form, all the audible prayer by the priest and the priest facing me it’s very distracting and difficult to actively participate. It doesn’t create a solemn celebratory environment. Also, folks are not spiritually participating–they’re just waiting for the next queue to raise their hands or respond.