What was the Golden Year of the Liturgy?

I recently had an interesting discussion with a traditional Catholic who questioned me about a Traditional Latin Mass Wedding I did. He seemed concerned that the couple was permitted to be married at the foot of the altar. In other words they were inside the altar rail, along with their best man and maid of honor.

He said that such a thing was not allowed, and that the presbyterium (sanctuary) was only for the clergy and servers.

I explained that it was a long practice of the Church, at least in America, that a bride and groom who were both Catholic would be married inside the rail, at the foot of the altar, and that they would kneel inside the rail for the duration of the nuptial Mass. (See photo of my parent’s 1959 wedding at upper right).

He did not seem impressed with my explanation an countered that the “problems” had begun in the 1950s and even as early as the 1940s. He further explained that the liturgical movement was already exerting influence and introducing “aberrations” into the liturgy. He thus reiterated that I had done something wrong.

Sadly our conversation ended and I didn’t get the chance to ask him the question I really wanted to ask: “What was the golden year of liturgy? When was everything, according to him, done “right?” When was the year when there were no aberrations?” When were the rubrics “pure” and when was the liturgy free of what he considers improper allowances, such as a couple being married inside the rail? Apparently the 1950s were not that time for him. Then what was?

I have been saying the Traditional Latin Mass for all 23 years of my priesthood, long before most priests were widely permitted to say it. I had permission of the Archdiocese from day one to assist with traditional Catholics in this manner, under the tutelage of the Pastor of St. Mary’s in Washington DC. In “those days” there weren’t a lot of resources and many of the rubrical books that have since come back into print were hard to find. Thus I learned a lot from Fr. Aldo Petrini and some of the other “old guys.”

Under their instruction I learned not only the rubrics, but also the customs of the “old days” wherein certain permissions existed, by way of indult or custom, to do some aspects of the Sacraments in English. Among the customs of the time was that, though the faithful were generally not allowed in the Sanctuary, weddings, confirmations, and even First Communions were conducted at times within the rails:

  1. Click HERE to see a mid 1950s photo of a Cardinal Archbishop confirming on the steps of the High altar.
  2. Click HERE to see a 1952 photo of First Communion at the altar steps.
  3. Click HERE to see another photo of a wedding in 1927 with the couple inside.

Were these “abuses?” I am not enough of a rubricist to know. I just know and (obviously) have evidence that they were done.

As for weddings there was the custom of doing mixed marriages only in the rectory. But somewhere in the 1950s permission was granted to move these to the Church, but outside the rail and without Mass.

Click HERE to see a photo of a 1960 Wedding conducted outside the rail since of the couple was not Catholic.

At any rate my question remains. What was the golden age of the Mass? What year did the “troubles” begin as traditional Catholics see it? Was it 1963, 1955, 1945? Perhaps even earlier?

Please understand, I ask these questions not without sympathy for the traditional view. It is clear that in the late 1960s a floodgate opened where liturgical change occurred in a way that was in no way organic and there was a great rupture of continuity. And, although I am quite comfortable with the Ordinary Form of the Mass, I also love the Extraordinary Form, and am sympathetic to the concerns of the traditional Latin Mass community.

That said, at times I wince when a kind of particularism sets up within sectors of the Traditional Mass community. And it is odd, when I, a priest who has celebrated the Latin Mass for 23 years, am dressed down by someone who is denouncing something that was clearly done long before the liturgical changes from the Council.

It is too easy for us to savage one another over such things. A layman was telling me recently how he got the evil eye from some pew mates when he made the responses to the priest along with the servers. Those sorts of changes had also come along in the 1940s when clergy started to encourage the faithful to be more involved in the Mass. But once again, it would seem changes of that sort were “too late” to be authentic for some. Hence, though we use the Missal of 1962, it would seem that 1962 is not the year for some.

It was common 25 years ago for Traditional Catholics to call the old Mass the “Immemorial Latin Mass.” And the phrase was used to suggest that the Mass had been unchanged for centuries. Of course any serious study of the Mass reveals that it had undergone not insignificant changes all along and there there were not a few local customs, especially around the reception of the Sacraments. Though, to be fair, the changes were organic, not the rupture with tradition we experienced in the late 1960s.

But again, I wonder, what was the “Golden Year” when traditional Catholics agree all was as it should be. I ask this question sincerely, not rhetorically. But I DO ask it with some sadness for there can often be what I consider an unkindness that can be exhibited by some who wish to restrict things, where freedom is allowed, even within the old norms.

I fear at times that we, who love tradition, fail to manifest the joy and glad hearts that should bespeak those who know the Lord and love the beauty of the Extraordinary Form. We should seem more as people in love with God and the beauty of God, than as technocrats arguing each point. There is a place for precision, but there is an even greater need for joy and mutual love.

How would you answer my question?

Here is a video that, while filmed in 1982, depicts a Mass from the 1940s and shows the bridal party within the sanctuary. Again illustrating the common and widespread practice.

67 Replies to “What was the Golden Year of the Liturgy?”

  1. When I made my First Communion in 1968, the Mass was that of the ’65 Missal. However, we received kneeling on the predella and that had been the traditional practice since at least the 1920s as photos attest.

    The Mass as many young people think it was celebrated was not in fact celebrated as they would have us believe. It was also the custom in the parish In which I was born (third generation) to speak the responses along with the servers from well into the late 40s. Yes, the dialogue Mass had been introduced in places that early.

    There was ONE High Mass and eleven Low Masses with English hymns from 6:00 am until 11:15 am in church, gym and lower church. My grandmother, who would now be well over 100, also remembered the use of Protestant hymns such as Nearer My God to Thee and Abide With Me, the former having been sung at one of the Masses at a Plenary Council of Baltimore in the 19th century.

    Rubrics have their legitimate place, but rubricism doesn’t have any place in a living faith rooted in a life in Christ.

    1. Is it possible to be obedient without paying attention to the rubrics? If by rubricism you mean “merely the rubrics without looking above the book” then of course you’re right that it has no place in a living faith, &c. But a living faith rooted in a life in Christ is impossible without careful, even slavish obedience to what the Church says we should do and has the authority to request.

      Msgr. Pope: Catholics should not be agitating for a return to what things were like but a turn toward to how things should be.

      1. Does that include marriage inside the rail or not? IOW your point seems more expansive (should I say ubiquitous?) in tone than my original article in which certain Catholics who love tradition (me and certain married couples) were being bashed for what is in fact allowed and was in fact practiced but was not “pure enough” for a certain young man who thought the practice was an example of decline even though it was practiced long before the Council (perhaps 75 – 100 years before the Council). Is that right?

        1. It’s difficult to blame a young man — N.B.: “young” — for associating what was turned out to be a venerable custom/abuse with the bad fiddling around of the 1960s and 1970s. Liturgical fiddling around contrary to the rubrics has ruined the name of any and all liturgical innovation. It has even ruined, by association, anything which even looks different.

          Two important points traditional Catholics need be reminded of:

          1. To be faithfully Catholic is not to be against new things; it is to be against bad things, false things.
          2. We wouldn’t be liturgically sensitive if we weren’t liturgically sore.

          1. 3. Try to be more gracious
            4. Try not to be some one who gives tradition a bad name and sets the cause of tradition back with the “attitude” stuff.

  2. How is it that the Lord wishes so much intimacy that we receive Him personally into our souls at Holy Communion – Yet, to certain ultra-Traditionalists, it is a gross violation to be inside the altar rail? Jesus Christ healed the leper, right? He touched the leper? He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. I think that we need to check our passions and remember that God loves us so much that He makes Himself as “Father” and “Bridegroom” to us. My goodness, would a Father or a Bridegroom stand at a distance from His child or beloved – AFTER inviting us to intimacy?

    I am still trying to understand some ultra-Traditionalists. With a few, I see more insecurity and selfishness than I see love and a thirst for the salvation of souls. Priesthood should not be about “me” and how the altar rails give me privilege inside the altar rail. I mean, how does a priest in persona Christi capitas wash a man’s feet if he refuses to cross the threshold of the altar rail or allow others to “trespass” inside the altar rails?

    We don’t worship the liturgy and the spatial geometry; we worship God and we love God and each other.

    1. But were the priest to forbid me to enter the sanctuary, I would comply out of love and respect for God.

    2. How wonderful the graces you have that you can look within the hearts of men.

  3. An excellent post. Now that the EF is settled, the question of pre-EF judgments have become very popular online. Here’s a few thoughts:

    1. Venerable Pope Pius XII warned against “antiquarianism” (including in matters liturgical) in “Mediator Dei” in 1947.

    2. Nonetheless, this still admits for the possibility of judging whether liturgical changes were wise or not in retrospect.

    3. The 1961 changes to the Mass and Office were the endpoint of a series of liturgical changes that started after the Second World War. They were, in many ways, a precursor to the modest reforms called for in “Sacrosanctum Concilium” during VC2. It’s fair and legitimate to judge now how these pre-V2 changes did in meeting their goals. On the whole, my opinion is that they were bad. Here is a VERY brief treatment:

    a. the calendar changes. Most of the old octaves (over a dozen) were suppressed, as were many vigils. As a layman who uses these octaves in his personal breviary prayer life, I can attest that this is a deep impoverishment. We may not need a dozen, but three (the number in the EF) is too small. At the very least, add Epiphany, Ascension, Corpus Christi, and Assumption to the EF octaves of Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost.

    b. the Mass changes. Minimal. Commemorations cut down (OK), pre-communion Confiteor suppressed (not OK, having seen it done very well in FSSP masses). Joseph in the canon fine by me. One big objection is the Holy Week changes of the early 1950s. While I have no objection to the timing shifts (Tenebrae is less important than Maundy Thursday in the evening), I do object to the wrecking of Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Saturday. Rubricarius has much on this for those interested. This alone is worth questioning whether 1961 is a worthy missal AT ALL compared to pre-1955 versions.

    c. Office. The 1961 Breviary is a total impoverishment, especially on Sundays. The three nocturn Sundays are cut to one nocturn, stripping from the office many of the patristic readings. The loss of first vespers for most feasts was a mixed blessing. Overall, the 1961 office is a butchered product. It did need to get shorter for parish priests, but destroying their spiritual reading was not the way to do it.

    4. So it’s clear that 1961 is not an ideal, and many traditional Catholics will tell you so. The next logical point is 1954, the year before most of the pre-VC2 changes went into effect. That, however, was largely the product of the calendar and office reforms of Pope St. Pius X, as amended by Popes Benedict XV and Pius XI. He did some damage to the traditional psalter, but he did do a lot of good. Traddies hate it when I point out that he was the second biggest liturgical reformer of the 20th century, behind only Paul VI.

    5. Others would point to Trent, but that was a cleaning up of the Roman/Gelasian missal which had evolved since Pope St. Gregory the Great. And the neo-traddie embrace of local but authentic liturgy is undermined by the 200-year rule from “Quo primam.”

    6. Prior to that, the “real” Mass was in Greek. Then in Aramaic. Then in house churches on Saturday night. This is where antiquarianism comes in.

    So, what is the answer? I would say that the 1961 Mass (including the Confiteor at communion, as the FSSP thinks they have an indult to do) isn’t a bad place to look. The 1954 Office is where I would place the last “good” year there. But it certainly is not the EF. That’s merely the last year before the bad old days started.

    1. Ryan,

      Where can I learn more of these things of which you write here? True history is important for a whole host of reasons.

      Msgr. Pope, thank you for another excellent post!

      1. Patrick:

        1. I would read “Mediator Dei” online to get a sense of the antiquarian arguments of Pius XII.

        2. For the differences between the EF and the pre-1955 forms of the Mass, consult the St. Lawrence Press blog. In particular, they do an in-depth study of Holy Week.

        3.For the Office, go to the Divinum Officium website and toggle between the various versions of an office for a particular day. You will see how the Office was gradually made shorter and shorter from 1911 to 1955 to 1961. The big one was 1961.

        1. Ryan,

          Thank you for your swift and sure reply. I will study these sources at length in the coming days.
          Is there anywhere else that I may find your opinions regarding changes to the Mass and Office pre-1961, 1954 and earlier?

    2. I don’t understand the pre-Communion Confiteor. It seems redundant, since the servers (and we all, silently) have already said the Confiteor at the beginning of Mass. And we remain mindful of our weakness…we say the Domine non sum dignus just prior to Communion. Seems to me repeating it could make open us up to speculations of whether we’re obsessed with our own sinfulness. Note: I am not saying that, I am just saying some might take it that way.

      Also, if the pre-Communion Confiteor is not in the 1962 Missal, no priest or community should be adding it of his own will, no matter how venerable he thinks it is…just as no priests is allowed to add to or remove anything from the Mass. That would be a violation of obedience and even of Canon Law, would it not? So how is it that anyone today is adding that in? I mean no disrespect…maybe they have some permission I don’t know about or there’s some option I don’t know about… just asking.

      1. The final Confiteor is/was said (or sung in pontifical High Masses) because the communion of the faithful is not part of the missal. So the origins of distributing communion at the rail within Mass simply took the ritual for the communion of the faithful, which includes the Confiteor, and inserted it into Mass.

  4. Monsignor,

    As I read your very good post I could not keep from thinking of that place in scripture at the time of our lord’s death, the veil of the temple was torn top to bottom, and I have always been taught that this was a sign that the holy of holies was then opened to all the faithful. As a lay theologian I can find no other explanation of this which leads me to ask why we would not let two members of the faithful into the sanctuary to say their vows to each other and to the church? Christ opened the temple so we all have access to God so it seems to me keeping the faithful “outside the rail” contradicts what our lord accomplished for us. Or am I missing something!

  5. What was the golden age of the Mass?

    2012. And 2011. And every year between about A.D. 30 and 2011.

    In short, EVERY Mass in every year is golden because Our Lord Jesus Christ is present. IT DOES NOT GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT. EVER.

    And before anyone responds with, “yes, I know what you mean, but . . .”, just stop. There is no “but. . . .”

    God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, all the faithful in the Church Triumphant, all the faithful in the Church Suffering, and all the faithful in the Church Militant are present at every Mass, including the snarkily and derisively and offensively labeled “NO Mass” (how would the rad-trads like it if folks were to start referring to the “Ex. Mass” just to show that we can all make a play on words?) There being only One Mass, every Mass is Holy, no matter how unholy its celebrant(s) and participants; at every Mass the faithful are made One in communion with the Lord. You cannot get better than that, and to say that you can get better than being One with God is to be sorely mistaken and thoroughly misunderstanding of the One Holy Mass.

      1. Excellent Bender,

        And to continue with your thought: every sanctuary as you describe it thus becomes the threshold between heaven and earth, the Doorway to Eternity, Who is Christ Jesus.

        The priest, acting ‘in persona Christi capitis’ participates – in a sense – in the hypostatic union when he gives himself to Our Lord at the moment he says “hoc est enim Corpus Meum” and “hic est enim Calix Sanguinis Meis”.

        Christ truly present, the Doorway and Threshold between heaven, earth, time and eternity.

    1. This is a very foolish thing to say. Not because it isn’t true but because it misses the point and ignores the definition of terms. What is wrong with a clown Mass, after all, under this proposed understanding?

      Oh. So there is a difference between the intrinsic and extrinsic elements of the Mass! You would do well to apply St. Ignatius’ advice:

      To assure better cooperation between the one who is giving the Exercises and the exercitant, and more beneficial results for both, it is necessary to suppose that every good Christian is more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false. If an orthodox construction cannot be put on a proposition, the one who made it should be asked how he understands it. If he is in error, he should be corrected with all kindness. If this does not suffice, all appropriate means should be used to bring him to a correct interpretation, and so to defend the proposition from error.

      Most who speak about the superiority of the Latin Mass to the Novus Ordo are not speaking of the intrinsic merits, which is Christ on the Cross. Why do you begin denouncing folks for a heretical opinion when there’s no evidence that they mean it?

  6. Good article ! Our Tradition is a living one and doesn’t come out of a book published on any particular date. Reverence,mystery and awe are the soul of tradition which links us with the past.When these are not present then neither is Tradition.

  7. I wish that my parish had Latin Mass. I wish I could go to Latin Mass every day. But I also am not going to make the huge sacrifice of taking my family all the way to St Mary’s on Sundays to subject my wife—who works very hard during Mass, rarely getting a moment of peace to pray (at least I get to go to Mass by myself fairly often)—to the uncharitable criticism of a (understandably) defensive and hunted group of people.

    Yes, they’re looking to pick a fight, but Catholics who love the TLM have literally been persecuted. Just because death or loss of livelihood does not ensue does not mean it’s not persecution.

    As I heard from a neighbor at a cookout recently, he and his family go to St John’s in VA instead of St Mary’s, because, as he said, he loved the Latin Mass but was tired of hearing the scandal-mongering and did you hear what the Bishop of Rochester did last week?

    1. It seems that those who prefer the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite to the extreme degree that Msgr. Pope has described above are the ones doing the persecuting. The nuns who taught me, and who had taken their vows long before the Second Vatican Council began (and, perhaps, the first), made it abundantly clear that a layman never attacks or assaults a priest. Dressing down Msgr. Pope for the way in which he conducted a marriage ceremony seems to be part of a wider habit of those who prefer the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite to persecute all those with whom they disagree, their zeal in these matters notwithstanding their ignorance of the Rite. As bullies do, claiming to be persecuted is a way to deflect criticism away from themselves and their un-Christian behavior.

      As I discussed here (http://unearnedluck.blogspot.com/2012/04/sowing-discord-where-none-should-exist.html), we need to drop all of this petty bickering, read the signs of the times and become a united People of God under the leadership and guidance of our Holy Father, bishops, priests and deacons. Real persecution is not fun. Ask our brothers in Eastern Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. Enjoy, appreciate and revel in whichever form of the Latin Rite you prefer, because it may not be very long before we lose it altogether.

      1. Mr. Woods,

        Are you able to attend a Mass in English? With what difficulty?

        Are you able to attend a Mass in Latin? Have Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae been implemented in your parish?

        Does your parish *already* have more than one Mass per day?

        Now I ask you, who is being persecuted, those who prefer Mass in English, or those who prefer Mass in Latin?

        1. Gee…I feel sorry for all the souls who attended mass in the thousand years BEFORE the institution of the Latin Liturgy. I bet they had no idea that they couldn’t properly renew their participation in the New and Eternal Covenant.

          Those poor souls may still be in Purgatory for their error !!

          1. I couldn’t have made this stuff up.^

            The last time I commented on this blog—or even read it for that matter—was about a year ago. It’ll probably be about that long before I come back. There’s nothing here but temptation and narrow-mindedness.

      2. Speaking of “sowing discord where none should exist”, what are you doing by picking out half of my comment, which is balanced with sympathy *and* criticism of the TLM proponent, selecting only the portion you disagree with, and magnifying it out of proportion?

        Speaking of being “united…under the leadership and guidance of our Holy Father”, don’t you think that Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae ought to be implemented, too? Each of those documents is a motu proprio, which is a document issued by the Pope, on his own initiative, personally signed by him, to exhort the faithful.

        Sorry for responding twice but I thought there were two different sets of questions which could fruitfully be asked here.



  8. Don,

    I think the theological aspect of what you are saying is true. We lay-faithful have access to God, direct access in the Sacraments, most especially that of the Eucharist. But this does not mean that after the veil was torn the faithful would have assumed that they could parade around the Holy of Holies. It would have been unthinkable. The point is, God is now visible and accessible, but we still need priests to minister the sacraments. Jesus Himself tells Mary Magdalene in John’s Gospel, after the Resurrection, to not touch Him for He had not yet ascended. So there is precedent for a separation this side of heaven. Plus, the imagery of the altar rail is just so beautiful. It makes it clear that heaven and earth meet in the Mass, and it is at the rail itself that they literally do so in Holy Communion.

  9. I think the answer might be found somewhere within the action of the foucault pendulum. However much I realize the importance of and the need for respect of liturgy and rubrics, just like I hope I will always be spared unnecessary scruples regarding confession, I also hope I will be spared from any form of unnecessary liturgical O.C.D as well.


  10. A well-known and widely respected Orthodox bishop of blessed memory once said, “There has NEVER been a time when the liturgy was ‘pure’, in the sense of being celebrated exactly in one century as it had been in the previous century.”

    I’m sure this applies to ALL the liturgies of the Pre-Reformation Churches.

    One thing that irritates me is hearing devotees of the Extraordinary form call it “the Mass of all time/ages”, or even worse, the “true Mass.”

    What are the Eastern Liturgies (much older than anything in the West)? Chopped liver? Besides, there was a time when the Latin liturgy did NOT exist.

    And are they saying that when Pope Benedict offers Mass according to the Pauline rite, he is NOT celebrating a “true mass”?

    EVERY Eucharistic sacrifice celebrated according to the liturgical norms of authorized rites of the Church IS the true Mass–and the Mass of All Time.

    1. Jack,
      I think that you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. The Mass, from its earliest forms rooted in the Jewish Sacred Service, has never been a “fixed” celebration. The basic structure is largely there but valid regional and sectarian variances have abounded for nearly 2,000 years. The Tridentine Mass was an attempt to unify the Latin Rite and to curb what were viewed as “abuses” in some regions. Its evolution was an interesting set of compromises and not without its politics.

      What escapes most of us is the fact that the Church has, and has nearly always had, a myriad of valid rites at our fingertips. Those wonderful expressions of our faith give us great insight into the faith and theology of Saints; Basil, John Chrysostom, James, Ambrose, and many, many others. Most Catholics are astonished when they learn that the region of Milan celebrates the Ambrosian Rite and not the Roman. The Mozarabic Rite is alive and well in Spain.

      Rubrics have always varied from see to see and have many exceptions to accommodate various religious communities. To insist on a “rubrical snapshot” as the only allowable form simply smacks of a constructed “legalism” that is counter to our history, Traditions, and certainly the attitude of Our Lord. Unification, to a certain point, keeps us from going too far afield but worshiping the rubrics rather than simply following them is, in itself, an abuse.

  11. My mother grew up in Ireland in the 40s and 50s. Recently, we went to a TLM together and she knew the whole thing, inside and out, after all those years. Afterwords, after asking her, I was surprised to hear she still prefers the current Mass. She’s not an intellectual type…she just calmly said that it is good that people can understand the words now.

    I usually don’t contribute to these types of discussions, but I guess my point is that we can’t really know how everyone felt back in the past versus when these changes to the Mass occurred. I think we make assumptions about the good old days. I know I was surprised at her reaction, but I found it reassuring as well.

  12. My small contribution to this discussion is that, although I have no photos of it, I received my first holy communion within the sanctuary, inside, not outside the railing. I was aware that this was a special privilege.

  13. Msgr Pope,

    I well remember “those days” in the early years after the publication of Ecclesia Dei. As you say, Fr. Petrini was a tremedous resourse and a great example to those of us fortunate enough to be around Old St. Mary’s during his pastorate. Thank you for calling him to mind, may he rest in peace.

  14. I detest the idea of golden age/dark age imagery that too many traditionalists use, precisely because it is such a modernist phenomenon to posit such a division! However, that does not mean we lack tools to evaluate Theologically whether different historical instances of the Mass are better or worse. Additionally, it is not always the case that the older was better, but neither is progress always improvement.

    With that said, the easy observation I like to make about how the Mass is said now relates to holiness. To be Holy is to be set apart. I am afraid that little within the actions of the Mass as it currently exists sets it apart from many Protestant services. This is not fair to Our Lord. In our Masses alone does Christ actually come to us in the Transsubstantiated Host. Protestants admit that this does not occur in their services. So why make our Worship look like those who do not believe Christ truly comes in the Mass?

    There is no mistake that something different, something set apart is occuring in the Masses before 1962. Other debates can be had as to this or that aspect of the Mass and whether it is prudent or not. However, you would never mistake a pre-’62 Mass for a Protestant service without the Sacramental Christ, even if it was said completely in the Venacular. This seems to me to be a mark of the Holiness of the ’62 Mass, that it cannot be confused alongside services that admit to less than the Sacramental presence of God. So while I do not think there is a golden age, something is clearly wrong when our services do not distrub Protestants. I say this as a convert–it took to long to be troubled by the claims of Catholics, I had to read too much to be troubled by the proposition that God is truly “God with Us” in the Mass. It should be obvious upon first sitting that something is drastically different, and the Masses before ’62 got that right.

    1. \So while I do not think there is a golden age, something is clearly wrong when our services do not distrub Protestants.\

      Do you mean to say that Catholic services SHOULD disturb Protestants?

      And how about when Protestants imitate Catholic practices, including genuflecting, chanting, and incense? Is that acceptable?

    2. I don’t know in which faith tradition you grew up, but Lutheran and Episcopalian/Anglican liturgical structures are fairly close to that of the Catholic Mass. In fact when I first started attending Mass with my now-husband I had no trouble following the text of the liturgy (the music being another matter).

  15. My wife and I were married in the Extraordinary Form (the first in our diocese in 40 years). During the ceremony, we were beyond the altar rail (within the sanctuary) as you described in the wedding above. As an altar server, I wanted to know the rubrics to make sure everything was done properly. My priest (as well as good friend) showed me every rubric for the actual marriage part of the rite and there is nothing stating that we were not allowed within the sanctuary for the rite or for the remainder of Mass. It sounds to me as though the above traditionalist has his own rubrics.

    1. Without knowing the person Monsignor had the discussion with, the person has a point.

      Here is Father Fortescue on the position for the order of marriage: “The priest stands with his back to the altar at the entrance of the sanctuary or choir.” (page 407 of http://www.global.org/Pub/PDF/CRRD_05_Occasional_Functions.pdf)

      Now, it can be said that Father Fortescue was a product of England, and other regulations and/or customs existed in other countries. The problem, though, is the Roman Ritual is silent on where to stand:

      So, it really is a matter of custom and tradition. Personally I chose inside the rail (with a cope for the priest witnessing the marriage) after researching American weddings. Two priests who are experts in rubrics said outside the rail and no cope. Many others said inside the rail with a cope, pointing to a longstanding American custom. I came to the conclusion it can actually go either way! (RARELY the case concerning the traditional Latin sacraments.) Bottom line is that since the Ritual is silent, I would argue either way can indeed be employed.

      The nice thing about forums like this is that others can learn from the discussion, complete with resources to read. Hopefully that will be the case here.

      1. Yes, I had read Fortesque as well, though, to be fair in his appendix for the American norms he speaks of the priest standing on the altar step with couple before him and makes no mention of the sanctuary gates or of the couple kneeling outside the sanctuary as he does in his main Chapter (XXX) on Marriage (presumably for England).

        I have always loved the Latin Quote from Augustine at the beginning of Fortesque: Quod minimum, minimum est. Sed in minimo fidelem esse, Magnum est.

  16. At the same time, the petty bickering goes both ways. There seems to be an awful lot of petty bickering above from those who do not exclusively attend/offer the traditional Latin Mass, complaining about the actions of those who do. Perhaps a little bit of walking in their shoes first? And maybe exclusively attending/offering the traditional Latin Mass for a few months or years before casting all sorts of judgments on those who do? (This is not directed at one person, but as a general observation.)

    A lack of charity is not limited to traditionalists. If so, every novus ordo parish in the world would be perfect. There is certainly no complaining about this or that from the left or center-left at the novus ordo, right?

    On the second half of the 20th century, it was a Mass disaster — including in the 1950s and 1960s. Can we all agree on that, even those of us born after Vatican II? The music was horrible. The sermons were (reportedly) dull and uninspiring. The vestments were polyester. The Low Mass with four sappy hymns replaced the Gregorian chant High Mass. Anything post-World War II should not be held as an example of quality, as those were the years of revolution — both liturgically and politically in the Church.

    So, I’d say go before the War, and ideally way before it, as far as a “golden year” for Mass. Mid-1500s perhaps?

    In the meantime, I don’t pay much attention to all of the bickering and Internet suggestions on how to tinker with the traditional Latin Mass to make it more like the novus ordo based on 20th century novelties. Get a traditional Latin Mass in every parish (as Pope Benedict XVI desires, per Cardinal Hoyos) every Sunday morning and holy day for starters, and then we can talk about what works and what does not, and who says this and who says that. The rest is just a distraction for now.

    1. OK. So, would I take by your comments about the mid 1500s (A period I like too) that you would agree with many in the Church that the period of the baroque descended into musical excess and (perhaps less so) architectural excesses? I have always like the orchestral masses (of reasonable length) but do understand the critique of some who think them to operatic and performance based.

      By the way, your take on the comments is on target in the sense that I did not wish for this thread to be merely about the venom of a few (most traditional Catholics are not hyper-critics) but more to the point of the difficulty in setting a reference point. My interlocutor, a man in his late thirties not from DC, raises a point of question for me as to what the ideal we seek is to be. I largely agree with you that, as Fr. Petrini often said, things were rather poorly done in the years just prior to the Council. But if that be the case, am I wrong to draw from that experience in the setting (say) of a nuptial Mass that featured people other than clerics in the sanctuary? In other words where to we fix our gaze in matters like these if not our more recent experiences and customs. It remains an interesting question to me and an actual one, not a merely rhetorical one.

      1. Personally, I love orchestral Masses. But I have also come to discover that any (musical) Mass setting that ignores the celebrant’s intonation of the Gloria and Credo is probably not what popes from Pius V through Pius X had in mind for liturgical music. (There are some mostly 18th century orchestral settings, though, that do work — with lots of time and talent.)

        So I shall keep listening to Bach’s “Mass in B Minor”, in my opinion the greatest musical work in the history of the world, but there is no way it should be used liturgically. Even shorter Mozart and Beethoven Masses are full of solo and female singing, which is why they were historically prohibited (until, officially, 1958).

        I will say, in general, I admire the zeal of liturgical traditionalists — while hoping there could be more grace, humor and charm in making the arguments. And with, of course, citations. But the aim is true. After all, it is our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote (as Cardinal Ratzinger):

        “What we previously knew only in theory has become for us a practical experience: the Church stands and falls with the Liturgy.”

    2. “Get a traditional Latin Mass in every parish (as Pope Benedict XVI desires, per Cardinal Hoyos) every Sunday morning and holy day for starters, and then we can talk about what works and what does not, and who says this and who says that. The rest is just a distraction for now.”

      This needs to be said every time the new/old Mass conversation starts. And this, pace Bender, is where the conversation should “just stop”. Platitudes that apply to both forms of the Mass should not be used to beat up one of them.

  17. Just a point of clarification.

    “English Mass” and “Latin Mass” are not really accurate terms. The Novus Ordo’s official form is in Latin, and no priest has ever needed any special perission to say it in Latin. The Tridentine Mass has been said in other languages: Greek in Southern Italy, Slavic (Glagolitic) in Eastern Europe, and permission was even given after Trent for it to be translated into Chinese (although it neverr actually occured).

    We are used to hearing the Novus Ordo in the Vernacular, but that is not essential to the form. Nor is Mass facing the people for that matter, as the rubrics assume the priest will be offering ad orientem.

  18. Some traditionalists – and I do mean just some – seem more focused on the ritualistic aspects of the liturgies than the actual purpose or meaning. We are to worship God. The precise order or stylization of a mass or other worship event/ceremony can change over time for dozens of reasons. Militant nostalgia about or adherence to ritual can mean that God is forgotten. I agree absolutely that we should have norms, and be able to justify those norms – but realize that they are a means to an end, and not an end in themselves.

    1. How do we know this? Was Father Adrian Fortescue (generally considered the granddaddy of rubrical explanation) not focused on “the actual purpose or meaning” when he wrote chapters and chapters of books that still serve as guides to the traditional Latin Mass? Did he forget God when focusing on rubrics in such great detail?

      I don’t buy the claim that just because some traditional Catholics are very focused on “ritualistic aspects of the liturgies” that they are not worshiping God. Should a master of ceremonies or schola attend Mass again on a Sunday because they were focused on the “ritualistic aspects of the liturgies” they were serving/singing?

      If the traditionalist was strict on rubrics and publicly loose in his moral life, or if he was always nasty to talk with (no evidence of charity), then there is something. But a militant dedication to promoting the holy sacrifice of the Mass according to the books should not be presumed to exist exclusive of a healthy and faithful prayer life — no matter how militant the rubric lover (future priest?) may be. Mass is the ultimate way to worship God. The more people who help fill the pews for Solemn High Masses, the better.

    2. In speaking to Catholics who prefer the Mass of Trent, nostalgia never once enters as a reason for why they prefer it. It is only later, when they begin to wonder why it no longer widely exists — and what it must have been like — that looking to the past even enters the question.

      But these are twenty- and thirty-somethings, with small children, and they really can’t know any better from personal experience. All these parents of young families knew when they grew up Catholic was sand in the holy water font.

  19. Here is an argument in favor of the Mass being offered ad orientem: when the priest says the words of consecration he is in the person of Jesus, however, he still has the accidents that make the priest the priest, in same way that the accidents of the bread and the wine remain. He does though, have the shape of Jesus, as a man. When the priest isn’t facing the people the mystery of being in the person of Jesus is more evident. I am not sure this is a sound argument, but just my thoughts and am happy for any corrections on those thoughts.

  20. Just a small observation regarding the couple being inside the altar rail: completely appropriate! It’s a SACRAMENT! And in that particular Sacrament, they are the ministers of the Sacrament as they are making their vows to each other. Don’t we all want marriages to be made in Heaven? 😉

    Also saw a couple comments about the altar rail (sorry, can’t recall who said it) being a negative thing. It has been my understanding that the altar rail, like many things, symbolizes a great deal. One of the explanations I found on it pointed out that the rail is (or should be) constructed with the same material as the altar, and so when the faithful receive Our Lord at the rail, it is considered to be an extension of the Altar of Sacrifice. Therefore we, too, receive “from the wood of the tree (cross)”.

    (For those who may not get the reference a small explanation: just as we fell by eating of the fruit of the tree, so we are saved by eating from the wood of the cross). Butchered that paraphrase a bit but…there it is. 🙂

    Very interesting article! 🙂

  21. The golden age of liturgy began for me in 2000, when I first attended Christ The King parish in Ann Arbor. I had never attended a charismatic mass before, and I suddenly realized that all the people around me, whether I understood their prayers or not, were praying from the same heart and Body I was. I never regretted joining that parish, which has 24/7 adoration, huge families (“five kids is a starter family”), and more vocations per registered family than any other parish. We don’t have Latin mass (yet), but many languages, including Latin, are heard at every mass. It’s wonderful!

  22. I learned from my priest (FSSP) that Matrimony is conducted inside the rail because it liturgically signifies how Adam and Eve were joined together in paradise. At the exchange of vows, grace flows from the groom to the bride and from the bride to the groom. The procreative organs are hallowed and commissioned to “be fruitful and multiply.” Hence, it happens inside the rail.

    Seems like great theology to me…

    Taylor Marshall

  23. We were married in 1963 in Good Shepherd Church in Orlando, FL. There was no discussion of inside or outstide the rail. We were married on the inside with all our attendants standing alongside (at least three of which were non-Catholic). Neither my ex-semanarian father nor any other older guests expessed any dismay. I never gave it any thought ever since until I saw this thread.

  24. My opinion is that the perfect Missal for right now is the 1962 Missal. Perhaps in another generation or two when the Church is in a more stable state, we can look at previous missals and see if improvements could be made in that direction. I don’t see any innovations in the post-1962 missals worth keeping other than the addition of newly canonized saints.

    As for the generally unhappy disposition of traditionalists, I think that attitude would go away very quickly if the sacraments in the traditional form were available on a daily basis in a convenient location in each diocese (and multiple locations in larger dioceses). And perhaps there is an excessive zeal among traditionalists about following the rubrics but that is far preferable than the liturgical chaos that reigns in many Novus Ordo parishes to such a degree that many Masses are illicit.

    Thank you Msgr. for your support of the 1962 Missal.

  25. What a great entry, Taylor Marshall. Gave me goosebumps, especially since the inside of the Church and all its ordered beauty is to remind us of the Garden of Eden.

    I don’t profess to know the mind of God, but I imagine He has a nice, fatherly smile over all of this, pleased that we are all (at least) trying so depserately to please Him in our obedience and observation of the liturgy. Thankfull.y we are really all just His children, as we bicker over (even in our minds) and/or charitably discuss what is golden.

  26. Get the Canon and Consecration right. Dont omit signs of the Cross, the words “blessed” over the bread and wine. Yeh, yeh, I know its not in the Bible–but it is held by Sacred Tradition as to be the authentic words of Jesus from the first days–and sacred tradition is Catholic teaching and not ecumenical!

  27. I come to this webpage, late in the day. I have skimmed these comments and wish to add 2 of my own:
    1) I love traditional Catholics whose fading memories become the official Ceremoniale. With regard to nuptials, if a Catholic couple were married without a Mass, they knelt at prie-dieus for the prayers. They stood to exchange vows and then beat it up the aisle to get to the reception and those envelopes. ALL Catholic couples were “married” in the Sanctuary, no matter the degree of the liturgy. Mixed marriages were performed outside the altar rail.
    2) One poster above stated the Confiteor was chanted before the Communion of the faithful at pontifical High Masses (sic). This comment suggests this was done only at that degree of liturgy. No, it was done at all Solemn High Masses in the USA.

  28. This post indirectly shows the great loss that occurred with imposing the liturgical changes of 1965 and especially 1969. Not onlyu the Traditional Liturgy was pushed aside, but also legitimate particular customs. These customs were a wonderful witness to the flexibility and organic life of the Traditional Liturgy. By imposing the 1969 Missal, calendar, and subsequent rites, so many customs were discarded. Even a number of uses were dropped (ex. Dominican, etc.). Perhaps this is one of the sources of the illicit “creativity” of the Novus Ordo. It is also a problem with the restoration of the 1962 Missal, because the mindset is to impose it like was done with the 1969 Missal. For example, some Traditionalists in the US want the 2nd Sunday Post Pentecost Mass instead of Corpus Christi on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday even though Corpus Christi has been celebrated on Sunday in the US since the 1880’s. And some young priests wear the cassock (I am not against it, but I question it’s prudence) all the time, when this was not the custom in the United States.

    There is much to lament in the changes because much was lost, even in local traditions. Hopefully, were are far enough away that these conversations will prove fruitful.

  29. Bruce Tereski, how far back do you want to go? It gets ridiculous. I mean on the one hand we have those in the Church who want people to be baptised in the river because Our Lord was baptised in the Jordan. That is undeniable but that doesn’t make what they want correct any more than it makes correct lamenting the liturgical changes of 1965 and 1969. The Church has the authority to change the liturgy and what we should indeed be lamenting is abuses not insignificant things that some ultra traditionalists get hung up about. I am grateful to be able to get to a traditional Latin Mass. In my country when I was young in the 1950s the priests wore a soutane (cassock) as I am sure they did do in America.

Comments are closed.