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Some years ago (2009) I published on this blog a recollection of my youth in those critical years of the changeover from the “old Mass” to the “new” Mass. And, while I recall some puzzlement in those years about the changes and how they violated my training, I do not recall big protests from adults to the changes.

And while many people today who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass speak of the changes forced on us after the Council, I do not recall big protests, or objections as the changes came in swiftly in those years from about 1965 -1975. Granted, I was a pre-teen kid. But I do not recall protestors outside with signs, any even any vocal objections, that reached me at the time.

It is my recollection that the objections to the new Mass came largely about ten years later (mid to late 70s). By that time radical priests and nuns had abandoned all show and were either leaving in droves or were staying and causing all sorts of trouble with dissent and rebellion.

At any rate, I am interested in your experiences if you are a bit older, say 55+ and recall the changeover. My thesis is that the true reaction did not happen on “Sunday 1″ when the altar was changed to face the people etc. Rather the negative reactions came later. For those were times when “Father says…” was enough to quell most concerns or protests. Only later when, for many “Father” had left with “Sister” to get married or, if he stayed he was misbehaving and commanded little respect, only then did the protests from some mount.

Anyway, tell me your experiences. It is also helpful if you can point to anything written at the time (65-75) that documents concerns.

What follows are my own recollections and a cool (strange) video from the era.

I received my First Holy Communion in 1968 on my knees at the altar rail in our parish church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in a suburb North of Chicago called Glenview. I received from a very elderly pastor, Fr. Dussman, whose hands shook from Parkinson’s. It was an awesome and fearsome event. I was more nervous since Father’s hands shook and receiving communion from him could be a challenge, especially for the first time.

I remember well how seriously we took Church in those days. We had special Church clothes (always a coat and tie), special Sunday shoes and approaching the altar rail was something quite wonderful but very formal: hands folded before the chest, fingers straight, right thumb crossed over left. Kneeling and waiting for the priest and altar boy to pass by was a time of anticipation, a kind of distracted prayer, alert and ready, don’t make the priest wait! Suddenly a altar boy slid a Paten under your chin. Head back, tongue out (not too far!) just over the lower lip! The priest spoke in an ancient language (Latin). Only years later did I learn exactly what he said. I am sure the Sisters taught me but I couldn’t remember(I was only 7 going on 8): Corpus Domini Nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam (May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ guard your soul unto life eternal). And suddenly there he was, Jesus in Holy Communion. Pretty awesome, very special, beyond my comprehension but no doubt this was holy, this was serious and sacred.

But little did I know I was at the end of an era. Within a year strange things began to occur that I did not understand, things that did not comport with my training. I remember my mother telling me that we were going to a special youth mass. I had heard of a school mass, but not a youth Mass. We got there early and I noticed something that confused me. “Mom!” I whispered, (you always whispered in Church in those days), “What are those drums doing there? Right in front of the Mary Altar, behind the rail too, were electric guitars, a drum set and chairs. Then out came these guys I had never seen before, a couple of them were wearing jeans too (a major no-no in the old days).

After Church my mother asked me if I liked it. I said no and she was surprised. “But Mom, I don’t know those songs and they were so loud.” I was confused. The sisters said we should dress well, be very quiet in Church so others could pray and only talk or sing when it was time to do that. It all seemed “a violation of my training.”

But little did we know (I would argue) that it was the end of an era. Something was taking the place of what came to be call the “old Mass.” But none of us call it that then. And if some one were to mention in those days the Missal of 1962, blank stares would have resulted. These were all later terms and distinctions. We certainly talke about Mass in the vernacular etc. But it was Mass. And yet little by little the familiar gave way to the new. The transition was at times startling, at times exciting. But I don’t remember a lot of protests at first. That came later when for some “a bridge too far” had been reached. Anyway I am interested in your remembrances and experiences from that time if you’re old enough to remember.

I do not write this post to “bash” the liturgical changes. Just to document an experience. I have become quite accustomed to the “new” Mass. I am also privileged to say the Traditional Latin Mass. I guess I am blessed to enjoy the best of both worlds. I am proud of the of how the new Mass is celebrated in my parish. We have a wonderful gospel choir which also does classical very well. There is great joy at every Mass. I am also so happy to be able to celebrate ancient Latin Mass that reminds me of the joy of my youth (qui laetificat juventutem meam). I merely document here, I leave the judgements to you my faithful readers.

The following video depicts a Mass in the year 1969. It is from an Elvis movie entitled “Change of Habit.” What an amazing little video for me! It’s just as I remember it as the changes set it. Notice the still strong presence of traditions: people all dressed up for Church, nuns in traditional habits, the priest at the high altar facing east. But notice too the guitars and “informality” of the musicians. The music is up front not back in the choir loft. And many struggle to understand the new lay of the land. It was 1969. It was the end of an era. But I wonder if we knew that?

94 Responses

  1. Pam B says:

    Msgr. Pope,
    Many thanks for your inquiry about this subject–it seems that many, perhaps most, of the parish priests and higher-ups do not want to hear from those of us who remain deeply saddened by the aftermath of Vatican II. I am 68 years old, received my First Communion in 1950 and was most certainly raised in the Catholic faith. My father was in the Army Air Corps/Air Force, so I didn’t grow up in any given parish or diocese. My mother was not a Catholic, but, as was required in those days, had taken instruction (and, to the day she died, loved dearly the priest who gave it) and promised to raise her children Catholic, a promise which rankled as she felt her word should be sufficient, but which she kept in spirit and in fact. My father is of Irish extraction, and in those days the Irish, like so many others, would never have thought of protesting any “edict” from the Church hierarchy. My mother used to opine that if the Pope said that all cows are purple, that would settle the matter for my dad, and she was right. I remember the Latin Mass well, and regret to say that I didn’t value it as much as I should have until it was too late, but still I wouldn’t have protested because of my upbringing and because I wouldn’t have known to whom to protest. I am at a loss to understand the objections to the Latin–I remember that every missal had Latin on one side and English on the other–if you could read, you knew what was being said. My mother said that the Church did things backwards re the language–that when most people didn’t travel much, the Church clung to the Latin, but (coincidentally) as people had more disposable income and traveled more, the Church went to the vernacular. As a military child, I lived and traveled in many foreign countries, and wherever we were on a Sunday or Holy Day, we went to Mass and knew exactly what was going on. That “universal” aspect of the Church fell victim to Vatican II’s decrees. I also remember that we always got to church on time or early, we prayed before Mass, we were silent and respectful of others’ prayer time, our attention was directed towards the altar and the celebration of the Mass.
    I was in college when Vatican II struck, a Jesuit institution, and it seemed like things just crumbled. Various priests, heretofore known and addressed as “Father —-“, asked to be called by their first names, many departed, some without proper dispensation, many married, rather precipitously, or so it seemed. I hung on rather precariously, but finally, after an Easter Mass in 1976 where Mass was preceded by a slide show, the priest was bearded and encouraged the children in the congregation to come down front and sit and when the ghastly “sign of peace” signalled total chaos, I gave up. I was away from the church for 38 years, have been on the road to return gradually and finally returned, I regret to say reluctantly, officially last Easter. I absolutely loathe the Mass as it is celebrated in my parish, but there is nothing even remotely resembling a Latin Mass anywhere in the general. I am appalled at the attire, the informal chatting before and sometimes during Mass, at the applause (this is a performance??!!), the chaos surrounding the Sign of Peace, and the unspeakably ghastly music. The parish seems to be terrified of silence–there is hardly a moment of silence from the instant the bell is sounded for the procession in, until the priest and considerable entourage have departed the scene. Where at one time the “cast” was minimal–priest, two altar boys/men and ushers as needed, it now seems that Cecil B. DeMille is in charge, with his well-known Cast of Thousands. It is very disheartening and dismaying. If there are those for whom the vernacular is more meaningful, I have no objection to their opinions and their opportunities for hearing Mass thus, but I miss the reverence and the cadence attendant upon the Latin Mass. I also think there could be a bit more understanding on the part of those who champion the current form for those of us who miss the Latin Mass. I recall a most unfortunate encounter with the former pastor of my current parish, himself Irish born and still speaking with an Irish lilt, who, when I happened to encounter him one day, responded to my query about any church in the vicinity where there might be a Latin Mass, responded with “Oh, so you’re one of THOSE, are you?” Needless to say, this response was not particularly conducive to my return, and that encounter was several years ago. As I say, I am back, reluctantly, and hoping and praying for the opportunity for a Latin Mass again.

  2. Jose Dario Perrz says:

    I was born in 1968. My priest in my parish always talked about how priest in his time always said mass with his back to the congregation. what he never eexplained was why it was done this way. I learned as I got older that he was worshipping together with his parish. My curiosity has led me to find a church who celebrate in latin. I go to both forms now but it curious how I have to argue with my three daughters to wear a dress for the novus ordo but they are ok in wearing a veil and dress with the latin mass with no problems.

  3. Dennis Neylon says:

    I mentioned my wife converting earlier and my desire to get her to a Latin mass. I took instruction with her, and reading some of the comments on religious education during the years of change, I am reminded of what our instructor ( a marvelously well educated and entertaining man) said about the recent history of Catholic religious education (sponsors were encouraged to attend with the catacumens). He said if you took religion class or CCD in the 60s, you got the Baltimore catechism. It was blue with a church on the cover. In the 70s, it was more colorful, but probably had a church or cross on the cover. By the 80s, there were colorful birds or butterflies on the cover. By the 90s, there was no hint what the book was about. In the last 10 years or so, he said, there are churches and crosses on the cover again. He finished by saying, maybe, before he dies, they will bring back the Baltimore catechism. It sure would have been easier to teach my wife about Catholicism from the Baltimore catechism. The book we used was very good, but it sure helped that I bought a copy of Catholicism for Dummies, had just finished a course on the Catechism myself and had the Internet to explain and clarify. We may not need a full-fledged return to Latin Mass, but maybe we could bring back some of the majesty of the traditional Mass and the beauty of pre-Vatican II sanctuaries. The return of Holy Name & Altar and Rosary societies would not be a bad thing either.

  4. Anna Hugi says:

    I was born in Poland in ’59, so I’m not over 55 yet. However, I do remember the changing of the altar and liturgy. I was still a child and I also was confused by the changes. As a child I did not understand why, but as a child I was not allowed to ask.

    Why the laity did not protest then? I was thinking a lot about it. In the face of today’s open rebellion, I am looking back and I am coming to the conclusion that Catholics, laity in particular, were more obedient to what Church said, was “not allowed” to question the actions.

    Could be that a reason?

  5. Craig says:

    Sick. Sad. Understandable why people obeyed, but THANK GOD for 1) the Traditionalists and 2) Novus Ordo attendees who still had large families and practiced Catholicism.

  6. E G Lewis says:

    I’m 68 years old and went to Catholic schools all the way through high school. I left the Church in the 60’s and spent the better part of 40 years in the Episcopal Church. Looking back, I see now that I never really left as much as I became an Anglo-Catholic. I still said my rosaries, kept the holy days and so on. Eventually, The Episcopal Church went over the cliff and we came back. As Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
    However what I found on my return breaks my heart. I second many of the comments of Pam. The saddest thing is that I can honestly say that despite their liberal nonsense, the Episcopal Church we left celebrated the Lord’s Supper with more reverence than I now see at weekly Mass. People took communion at the rail, hands folded and kneeling. Tears come to my eyes when I watch people nonchalantly walking away, munching on the host like it was a McDonald’s fry. Those who destroyed Catholicism will have much to answer for. Meanwhile, we live in a small, rural community with no access to the TLM.

  7. Ellie M says:

    I am 73 years old, received my First Communion in 1947, studied Latin for 6 years & taught it. I had 16 years of Catholic education and attended “zillions” of Latin Masses . I completely understood the old liturgy and can still recite much of it in Latin. However, I was delighted by the new vernacular liturgy, the removal of the altar rail, the priest facing the altar, congregational participation, etc. It became even better in the subsequent years. I find this new translation cumbersome,snobbish and stuffy, and downright unpleasant. The 1998 translation approved by all the English-speaking bishops world-wide should have been adopted.

  8. Dr J.A.C. MacLeod says:

    Well, people did respond to the changes: they stopped attending Mass, first as confused trickle, and then as despair set in, in angry floods. I remember thousands of people in waves walking down the streets of South Melbourne (Australia) in the fifties for the various masses for the Assumption. This was of course on a weekday usually. Admittedly, South Melbourne was a very Irish area in those days, and Catholics’ attachment to their two churches was intense. Quantum mutata!

  9. Don Hodgson says:

    I was in college when the ””renewal” began. I was told that the local language was to allow missionaries to present the Gospel to African and Asian people. I understood that. Later I learned that Latin was essentially omitted from the Liturgy. A young priest was anxious to see all the old priest die off so real change could come to the Church. Our elderly pastor tried to comply with the rulings, but he was humiliated in front of his congregation.

    I didn’t recognize the Church. Respect and charity didn’t exist. I looked at other religions and decided this was still my Church too. After looking at the alternatives I decided that this is my Church too so I became more active in the Church. A lot of the stupid stuff is still around but I can at least recognize the Church.

  10. Richard Mayers says:

    Hello Monsignor,
    Very thought provoking column. I was born in 1955, raised in a very observant Catholic family, attended Catholic grade schools and high school. As an altar boy- circa 1964, I remember well the training that I received in the traditional Latin Mass and to this day, can recite the Sucipiat…. The Mass, as I knew it, was wiped away in a few short years and I always felt a longing for just how things were in the Church at that time. Like most Catholics, I adapted and I like to think that as I get older, I can appreciate the spirit of Vatican II- to allow the congregation to understand the Liturgy more fully. I was one who played electric guitar at Mass when it was celebrated in the high school gym.

    Still, despite these adaptations, a longing exists for the way things were. In my gut, I can’t help but think that the Church made a wrong turn, and that Pope Benedict realized that too. I am not sure that Pope Francis does- I guess his priorities are elsewhere (maybe that’s what’s needed now, we have to trust in the Holy Spirit). The richness of the Mass, however, the Liturgical traditions that bound us to the earliest days of the Church, the language that united all Roman Catholics- is gone for the most part. My wish is that we at least had the option of going to a Tridentine Mass- there is no such thing anymore were I live. The Church dumbed down, relaxing too much of its traditions, to be hip and to attract people that never stayed and practiced their faith anyway.

  11. Emilio III says:

    I was born in Cuba in 1948 and came with my mother and younger siblings to the US in 1960. My father was able to join us a couple of years later. For the first few years, During Mass was the one time that I felt at home, so I deeply resented the changes. But at first I saw this as a personal dislike, and though I complained about it to my (Jesuit) teachers, my objections did not go very deeply.

    This became a bigger problem in college, since we studied the documents of Vatican II and it was difficult to see how the changes being implemented could be justified by Sacrosanctum Concilium. This was in college in the late 60’s (still with Jesuits) and the arguments were more heated than (then) usual in an academic setting. The result was pretty ugly: less than half of my classmates (and I suspect of my professors) remained in the Church. I myself left for a couple of years. The liturgists were clearly lying to us. (Who was it who defined a liturgist as “an affliction sent by God so that those who did not live in times of open persecution would still have the privilege of suffering for the Faith”?)

    I only came back because there is nowhere else to go, is there? But sometimes I still agree with Belloc about the Church being “an institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.”

  12. Christopher Cummings says:

    My thoughts in brackets [ ]

    Some years ago (2009) I published on this blog a recollection of my youth in those critical years of the changeover from the “old Mass” to the “new” Mass. And, while I recall some puzzlement in those years about the changes and how they violated my training, I do not recall big protests from adults to the changes.

    And while many people today who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass speak of the changes forced on us after the Council, I do not recall big protests, or objections as the changes came in swiftly in those years from about 1965 -1975. [During and at the end of “The Council” we were promised magnificent and earth-shaking changes. Don’t forget, the euphoria that the Council Fathers experienced was shared by many clergy and religious, and was spread to the lay faithful, all about the wonderful Renewal that was coming. What followed “The Council” was a steady but drawn-out drip-drip-drip of incremental alterations. Yes, there were some immediate and stark transformations – like the table altar and versus populum. But most of the changes were done bit by bit. And most of the Mass was still said in Latin and according to your old missal. A lector and a commentator appeared in the corners of the sanctuary. The proper prayers and the Gloria and Creed started to be said in the vernacular. The prayers at the foot of the Altar disappeared. People came to “Communion Stations” and received standing up. All gradual, but relentless. One or two things at a time. It was like the frog in the pot of water, except the frog knew he was being heated up. But there was nowhere else to go. And Catholics were used to obeying.] Granted, I was a pre-teen kid. But I do not recall protestors outside with signs, [active protest in the U.S. Church was unheard of prior to the Humanae Vitae Revolt. I, and some people I knew, persisted in quietly saying responses in Latin that had been converted to the vernacular. It was Father Curran who taught us how to revolt (or how to be revolting, or something) ] any even any vocal objections, that reached me at the time. [Many people swallowed their misgivings, because priests and bishops they respected were telling them this was good. And more importantly, that it was commanded.]

    It is my recollection that the objections to the new Mass came largely about ten years later (mid to late 70s). [The New Mass as we know it did not officially come to be until the end of 1970. And generally, the people living through the ‘60s largely failed to realize the magnitude of the violent forces let loose during that time, until they had some time and distance to reflect.] By that time radical priests and nuns had abandoned all show and were either leaving in droves or were staying and causing all sorts of trouble with dissent and rebellion.

    [Keep in mind that from the 1950s almost all of the way through the 1960s, like a lilting background tune, the false promise that the Church was going to loosen its moral strictures – premarital sex, contraception, divorce and remarriage, etc. -- kept teasing the Faithful. Because of some deliberate hype, people expected The Council to do some of that loosening with the birth control question, and were disappointed when it was removed by Pope John XXIII and placed in the hands of the lay/clerical committee. But hope flared up when the committee voted to recommend loosening the standards. Humanae Vitae hit like a stingingly cold shower, but the organized revolt against it (and the “conscience loophole”) reinvigorated the hope that eventually, the Church would become flesh-friendly. This sub-plot is inextricably entwined with the laity’s reaction to the changes in the Liturgy. The promise of physical gratification was a big factor in the way the Second Ecumenical Council of Vatican City was received. That cannot be over-emphasized. The Sixties was a libidinous decade, when society “let it all hang out.” Many Catholics heard that siren song and yearned to follow. Some of them expected that one of the fruits of Vatican II would be permission to do so.]
    _____________________________________________________________
    What follows are some of my experiences:

    I received First Holy Communion (you never used “communion” without “holy”) on December 13, 1959 at the 8:15 AM Mass at Our Lady of the Annunciation in Albuquerque. Father Coggiola-Mower, a solemn and imposing older priest, was the celebrant. My mother got me up, well before dawn to have breakfast, as she didn’t think a seven-year-old should risk fainting for lack of food on such a day. I wore a brand new navy-blue suit and the white clip-on bow tie that came with the kit we were all supposed to buy. I wore my grandfather’s jet cufflinks that my mother always brought out for special occasions. The boys were on the Gospel side and the girls were on the Epistle side of the church. We processed up in two columns, split at the gate, and populated our respective communion rails. I was the second boy in the procession because Sister Mary Barbara had preferred the way Joseph held his folded hands. I was very happy finally to be able to receive the Lord myself after watching others do so for so long. After Mass we were invited to take our rosaries out of the little pocket in the prayer book cover and hold them out to be blessed. Then we were inducted into the Brown Scapular (also included in our kits that we bought).

    The next year, I was finally allowed to join the altar boys, if only as an additional body on the altar, going where told and trying to act dignified (we were told we represented the innumerable angels who attended every Mass). With the little card that guided us in pronouncing and learning our Latin responses, I began at last to crack the inscrutable code-talk that the priest used. Until that time, I had been convinced that if I just listened hard enough, I would understand what Father was saying. Now I knew it was a whole different language, like the French my parents would speak when they wanted to be secretive around us.

    In 1962, we moved to Charleston, and on my first day in 5th grade at Nativity Elementary School, I saw an unobtrusive letter-sized poster on the wall that urged us to “Pray for the Success of Vatican Council II.” I had no idea what that was, but I said a prayer.

    Next year, we moved and our parish church was St. Mary of the Annunciation, called the “Mother Church of the Carolina Lowcountry.” My mother urged me to go into the sacristy and ask Father Molony if I could serve. He was very kind, patient and encouraging, and during the couple of years we lived there, I found some early moments of heaven in that church. On the days when I knew I was going to be “key man” or another important post, I had butterflies in my stomach. I remember one morning high Mass when the force of the organ was making the soles of my shoes vibrate as I knelt. I loved the Latin and dreamed of being able to study and speak it (didn’t priests learn to speak Latin?) On at least three occasions, I was stopped by a parishioner and complimented for saying the responses “so clearly.” One of my older colleagues told of attending a Mass and saying the responses audibly from his pew, and a lady asked him (in awe) “Are you a priest?” One day I told Father Molony I thought I might have a vocation. He was pleased, but didn’t push one that young. At that time, St. Mary’s had a pastor and a pastor emeritus, and there were four Sunday Masses (including one at 6:10 P.M. that my mother favored, having my youngest brother in diapers to attend to). Today they have one Sunday Mass and the church is really only a satellite of the Cathedral parish. My grandfather’s funeral flag covered the catafalque for the memorial Mass for John F. Kennedy. When the diktat came to turn the altars around, the father of one of my fellow altar boys constructed a wooden table that looked very much like it was more of the white marble of the original altar and steps. In 1965 we moved back to Albuquerque, and the changes started to affect us more and more. We knelt around a table instead of facing the altar, tabernacle and crucifix. We lost our “Ad Deum qui laetificat. . .” and much else that was hard won and part of us. But we soldiered on and learned the new moves and words.

    I remember one weekday morning in the late 1960s at Our Lady of Fatima, when some of us servers had been asked to hang around because a priest was expected who had special permission to say the “Old Mass” because of his age or other exceptional conditions. We were very excited (and worried we wouldn’t remember our moves right), but alas, he never showed up. In high school, I made the rude acquaintance of the “guitar Mass.” Father X (now in hiding) believed that that was the way to make the Mass relevant to the students, and the school glee club became the voices and instruments of our school Masses with all the old classics – “Sons of God” “Allelu” “Here We Are” and so on. It was a most unedifying experience.

    As word spread that eventually all of the Latin was going away, I started listening to the priest’s prayers with a new intensity and trying to memorize some of them. And eventually what was predicted happened. When I went to college, part of the intake process was auditions for the church choirs, and I was asked to join the Catholic cadet choir. So on Sunday mornings I was in the choir loft. I was too busy to notice the implementation of the Novus Ordo (as Pope Paul called it) on the first Sunday of Advent that year. One weekday morning I attended a daily Mass, and was asked to serve, as none of the regulars had shown up. I was shocked at how different (and reduced) the server’s role was. I hadn’t really noticed from the choir loft. This was the full “New Mass” and I really missed the old one. But everyone you asked told you the old Mass was strictly forbidden.

    The reaction to the 1970 Pauline Missal took time to gather itself. A petition of English folk managed to persuade Pope Paul to grant a partial indult for them. But otherwise the old Mass was treated as a dead letter. Most people in the pews had become resigned to the experiments and variations introduced during the second half of the 1960s, and a new set of changes was just more of the same. It took until the mid ’70s for the Vatican to notice that there was a reaction and Archbishop Lefebvre’s Society was duly critiqued, called on the carpet and written off as a disrespectful nuisance. The pretense continued that the Tridentine Mass had been and continued to be forbidden — abrogated or obrogated or whatever you like. Not until 1984 would a ray of sunkight penetrate the fog and the Latin Mass Indult began the slow rehabilitation of the Mass that made so many saints over centuries. I didn’t have a part in making that happen, other than saving a book or two from destruction. But I have benefited from the return of the Extraordinary Form and I thank God frequently for letting me live to see the day.

  13. David Naas says:

    Not having been raised Catholic, I used to go with my Catholic Grandma to Mass in the ’50’s and early ’60’s. I don’t remember much but a man up front mumbling something I didn’t understand, and old, black-clad ladies clacking their beads during the Mass.
    Muuuuch later, in the very early ’90’s, I felt a strange need to connect with my ancestral religion, took instruction, was received into the Church, and after being confirmed, was appalled at what had happened.
    So far as WHAT happened, if you say, ‘Boomers’, you’ve said it all. (My generation has a LOT to answer for.)
    Mass in the vernacular — no problem, since Latin was once the vernacular. Turning the altar about, meh, maybe not. Turning the Church into a vast experiment in social engineering, yuck!
    Being neither ‘trendy’ not ‘traddy’, I have no special vested interest. But — it does seem that pre-V2, the Church knew what it stood for. That triumphalist certainty can never be recovered. However, it *would8 be nice if priests and bishops and nuns would try to at least be Christian before they get all ‘relevant’, or ‘defenders’, or whatever.
    In this regard, may I say a good word for Pope Francis? As a radical Christian, he seems to be trying as hard as he can to remind us all that it really is not about our various agenda, it really is all about Jesus the Christ, and what we are doing about our relationship with Him.
    In that perspective, the Latin Mass is, while yet worthwhile and wonderfully glorious, less important than whether one is a non-hyphenated Catholic. (No ‘liberals’, no ‘conservatives’, no ‘trendies’, no ‘traddies’, just Christians.)
    Or, so it seems to me.

  14. Louise says:

    We got caught up in the changes within the church in another way. We left the church in 1977 when the local priest wouldn’t baptize our baby daughter because we were not going to church every sunday; we were honest and admitted we weren’t faithful. At the time, we thought, if the priest won’t baptize our children, what is the point of church, and we left, for 33 years. It was a sad and fateful decision and the biggest mistake of our lives. As it turned out we grew into parenthood slowly, and now know we would have raised our children to be Catholic just as we learned slowly to be good parents in many other ways. If we could have just made to right decision to stay with the church. It has taken all these years to accept and own up to our mistakes. Our chlldren are now lost to the Catholic faith, and it is our fault, and we have endless sorrow. We have returned to the Catholic Church and we are now critisized by our children for our religion. So much endless sorrow and loss.

    • Recusant says:

      Today is the Feast of St. Monica. Her life story and her prayers may be of great help to you both. It is not too late for grace!

  15. Gene Ballesty says:

    I love the mass as all Catholics do. I am a happy 65 year old and occasionally attend the Tridentine mass. I was studying in a Redemptorist minor seminary, away from home in 1962 thru 1964 when the changes gradually came into the liturgy. After leaving the seminary, I was a commentator for two years before joining the US Navy.
    My wife and step children do not like the Tridentine mass and I completely understand. Many of those who did not experience the pre-council sacrifice can appreciate it as an artistic performance, especially a solemn high Mass of the Angels with the glorious music, incense, and bell-ringing. But the vernacular is better for understanding and worship

  16. Laura R. says:

    Thanks for asking Msgr. Pope.
    I am only a 49 year old wife and mother(That was actually pleasant to type!), but until nine years old, I was raised in the very devout, Polish Detroit parish of St. Josephat’s at that time in 1970-71. The entire Latin Rite was the only type of Mass that was celebrated. I have heard that in some places, maybe even in the back pews of St. Josephat’s, people would go on with their own private devotions during Mass. From my perspective with Grandma Sophie, 1/3 of the way to the front, I did not witness these things. In fact, while I have no doubt that God can draw exactly the lessons He Will from these changes, I am grateful to have come to understand my role as one of the Common Priesthood in the Catholic Church. Without words, the fact that we all, due to our blessings received, faced the Eastern Alter taught volumes about the nature and duties of the laity. Since then of all the Masses in which I have been privileged to participate, whether in a small, open air chapel in Honduras, St. Peter’s in Vatican City, The Hermitage in Assisi, a mountainside Mass here in America, or even in my home parish, I find my own early instruction on my role as a member of the Common Priesthood perpetually instructing me, no matter my orientation to the Celebrant. There are some very beautiful vernacular, novus ordo Missae, and these may be made much more beautiful if we all recognize our places as part of the priesthood and so comport ourselves in order to give praise and thanksgiving to Our Blessed Lord! Yet, with the entirety of the Ordained and Common Priests facing the East alter, it is hard to think of a more beautiful, bold, unifying act of a group of people to willfully make.
    In Christ-

  17. esiul says:

    I was born in ’37, so I am older than you. The changes occurred here around ’68 and after. For me it was not a gradual change because I had my first child in 1968 and by the time I got back on my feet the old was gone.
    I was totally unprepared and resented it. I still do not love it and when I have the opportunity to sneak a TLM I am so happy. It is pure joy to me.

    Judging from all the replies above we are the generation that suffered. But through all this you have the lady by the name of “Hope” who through all the turmoil managed to have a son become a priest.

    Or “Deb” who said “if you expect nothing of people, you get nothing.” This is our secular society, glad she found her way back.

    Thank you for this post Msgr. I think you did all of us a great service.

  18. Pedro says:

    I was born in 1978 and I’ve never had an opportunity to experience the LTM (I pray I get an opportunity). I am saddened by what I see today when attending Mass. Everyone seems so distracted and you rarely see reverence. Agnus Dei gets thrown into the middle of contemporary music and it just doesn’t seem to fit. Instead of drums and electric guitars, I wish Mass sounded more like Guillaume De Machaut.

  19. Bill Jones says:

    I am 74 yrs old. I attended Catholic school for 12 years. And my teachers were Nuns for all 12 years. When the changes came I was so happy. Until that time I had not much use for mass. I didn’t understand it and it meant nothing to me. When English was introduced I was so very happy I was able to understand what the mass was all about. The missals we used were in two languages Latin and on the other side of the page was English. I sis not feel part od the mass. Now I do and I love going to mass every week.

    • Richard M says:

      “I didn’t understand it and it meant nothing to me.”

      The shift into the vernacular, however, was really the *least* substantive change in the Mass. Far, far more was changed than that, and it was done with too little examination or consultation.

  20. Don Hodgson says:

    My apology if I sounded bitter but that was not my intent. I attempted to keep it to a few words but keep it accurate and it didn’t turn out well. Mea Culpa.

    Even prior to learning Latin, I never found the Latin Mass a problem since there was the side by side translation. I was in the seminary at the time of Vatican II and I couldn’t imagine the Mass and the Holy Office not being in Latin. Word I heard was it was for the missions. This was not a problem to me since I could see the problem Latin might present to a non-European culture.

    I ultimately left the seminary (not because of the changes but because of further discernment) and obtained my degree and began working for the Diocese as a social worker. I was not brought kicking and screaming into the modern Church. I looked for the best in both the Latin ritual and the Post Vatican II. I still find both liturgical forms of the Mass beautiful if done well.

    The point is that the transition was poorly done. There was a lot of confusion. We were given the nuts and bolts of the new liturgy but the Theology was lacking. As a result the ‘change advocates’ filled in the blanks and it was hard to determine what was what. I and I think a lot of people who were used to accepting whatever “Father said’ were very confused. Some priests were saying things that did not seem consistent with what I believed.
    Some were down right uncharitable. I didn’t recognize the Catholic Church. I compared it to the other churches and realized I was still Catholic deep down.

    Once I made the decision, I have remained solidly Catholic ever since I am now 75 have an ever deeper Faith.

  21. John says:

    I attended Mass at my Swiss town on Sunday and the priest said (in French) that as there was no choir today, we would sing the mass in Latin. I was amazed that everyone around me (young and old) new the Latin words (I’m a recent convert, so it was all Greek – sorry, Latin,- to me). People seem to yearn for the traditions and want to kick out the new reforms as soon as possible.

  22. Ted K says:

    I was in my very early teens when the changes started. I recall it was only some of the older grownups who always talked a lot that were all for the changes. I do not recall any of my young friends being for the changes. I certainly did not like the changes. In fact I recall being mocked for liking the Latin by some of these grumps. I liked the beauty of the old Mass, the careful priestly gestures, the ornaments on the altar, the vestments, and of course the music, that wonderful chant that made be happy to listen to, and hum in a very low voice with the choir. I could feel I was in a special holy place close to God, an atmosphere that gave me joy in those days.

    I recall that those days were definitely not a time for protesting about the changes and I, like so many of the faithful, accepted the Church’s wisdom in all these changes. Nevertheless, I hated the new Mass so much that I stopped going to church for many years not finding much there for me anymore, I could certainly pray better at home. It was many years later that I discovered an Anglo-Catholic church and that eventually lead me back to Rome thanks to the Internet, a gift from God

    I have thought about this over the years and am convinced that the changes were the result of the WWII mentality. I suspect after the war people wanted a great change from that terrible war, a change to the modern, seeing hope in the glories and wonders of the new science that would create a new wonderful society; there was a great optimism for the modern future. I think this from the attitude of the grown ups at the time, my teachers at a Catholic High School, with their constant reminder that this is a world of new values, a changed modern world, everyone had to change and be modern. They were constantly yoking us young students to attend youth Masses which we hated. I believe it is that WWII generation that set up the climate for the baby-boomers with their rejection of traditional values. I am referring to those born before 1945, such as the Beatles, for even a very young child of 2 would have been greatly influenced by the terrors of war he was exposed to and react to them later in adult life.

  23. Catharine says:

    Father, I am 58 and I remember quite well when the several changes to the Mass came. They were definitely NOT well received in my small town in northeast Illinois. They were essentially rammed down everyone’s throat; the priests were horribly embarrassed and in short I would say that the whole thing was quite destructive of faith. Many people left the church then and there, never to return. The big objection was that the mass had been explained to the older people as something which could never be changed, that it was the official “Mass” of all time, and suddenly it was changing every 3 years or so.
    The rest of the stuff that went with it (mass facing the people; mass on a table and not an altar), etc., was likewise forced down everyone’s throats.
    It was extremely destructive to my faith–I left the church in 1972 and did not return for a good 20 years. I strongly prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, but am happy to attend the New Mass in English; I especially like the varied scripture readings. However, in my mind, there is no comparison–the TLM is worshipping the Living God in spirit and truth; there is nothing really very holy about the New Mass at all.

  24. Pam N. says:

    Msgr., you have made my day! I am 66 and made my First Communion at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview from Father Dussman too! But in 1955 he wasn’t elderly! An imposing figure if there ever was one and “Father says…” definitely decided anything! Thank you for making me smile. And yes I completely agree that people mostly accepted the changes as obedient Catholics until time went by and many of the negative implementations were recognized. I believe it was more the how rather than the what of the changes that caused the great disappointment. Thank you for your writings. I look forward to them! Who knew you were an ol’ OLPH graduate:-)!

  25. Rod says:

    I was born in the late 60’s so I wasn’t raised in the traditional church, however I recall from my mother and family members that the changes came in slow and were initially accepted, but as things took a radical and contradictory turn, this is when people started to complain.
    All one has to do is go to any TLM chapel or SSPX chapel and talk to the older people there after mass. They will tell you their stories on how they went to talk to the priest after mass to ask questions or because they were confused and they were given erroneous, simplistic or condenscending answers and so they made up their mind to find a TLM or leave the Church.
    My mother finally stopped going when sexual scandals with priests started to come to light in our parish in the early 80’s. The parish Brother came to our house to ask why we don’t go to Mass and my mother gave him an ear full. He didn’t know what to say.
    Eventually I found a conservative parish and my family started to return, I eventually went exclusively TLM and avoid the Novus Ordo whenever humanly possible, which means I would rather stay at home and say my rosary than be forced to attend the Novus Ordo. I have no respect for that rite, for the priests that say it nor the Church they have destroyed.
    I am sure that historians will refer to the changes after Vatican II as a great spiritual trauma imposed on the Western world from within that has devastated our civilization, exposing it to the scorge of liberalism and its eventual destruction.
    More mischief has been caused by tampering with ancient rituals than by guns and cannons.

  26. Eugenius says:

    That era is not OVER. Thanks to Blessed PJPII and Benedict XVI, that era is coming back.
    I left the NO two years ago and finally feel like I’am in Church again.
    The Latin Rite Church I go to is full and it is nice to be able to pray without the noise of the NO Churches I was going to. The Priest’s in the NO Churches are trying to get people to dress better and be respectful of Jesus
    in the Tabernacle and other people Praying but they ignore them.

  27. ceciliasoprano says:

    I was born in 1947 and in 1960 when I was thirteen years old my parents sent me, a protestant, to Catholic school. There I fell in love with the Tridentine Mass and longed to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion but because I wasn’t Catholic I could not. Every morning I would walk six blocks to attend the 7AM Mass before school.
    I had every intention of becoming Catholic but my parents wanted me to wait until I was twenty-one. Then the changes started. I don’t have any memories of being terribly upset until the Sunday I went to Mass and there were paper missals in the pews and most of the Mass was in English. Meanwhile the Church seemed to be not so sure that she was the true church anymore. I decided that if the Church no longer believed in herself then neither did I. I married a nominally Catholic man in a Catholic ceremony but did not convert and then stayed away for the next thirteen or fourteen years. In the 1980’s I became a Catholic because deep in my heart I knew that the true church was buried under there somewhere. They were very difficult years though with irreverent liturgies and very erroneous teaching coming from the priests. I almost ended up losing the faith again and leaving the Church for the agnosticism that was gradually creeping into my soul.
    We moved in the mid 1990’s and I decided to go to Mass at a parish in our new home town and give the Church one more chance. Fortunately it was a say the black and do the red type of parish with pretty straight forward catechesis so I stayed. My faith gradually became stronger and I read everything I could get my hands on about our wonderful faith. Even so I always missed and longed for the Tridentine Mass I had fallen in love with as a young girl.
    I heard that there was a Tridentine Mass every week at Old St. Mary’s in Washington, DC. I had family living there so in 2004 I visited and went to the High Mass that was held in the evening once a month and you were the celebrant, Msgr. Words cannot express what that Mass meant to me and after that I made many visits to DC so I could attend Mass at Old St. Mary’s.
    Now I am living far away on the west coast. Our Lord has been good to me as there is a parish about twenty minutes away with a weekly Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo masses are also very reverent with Communion at the rail and on the tongue. The priests are firm about proper dress for Mass and the homilies and catechesis are solidly Catholic.
    I am so grateful to our beloved JPII and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for making this possible and for the Norbertine priests for providing an oasis in the desert of southern California. There are still many serious problems in the Church that must be dealt with but now there is hope in my heart for a restoration of the Church and the liturgy.

  28. Thomas Gallagher says:

    I’m encouraged to read so many moderate responses to this blog, though Traditionalist hostility to the Novus Ordo rears its ugly head even here.

    I was born in 1942, an altar boy under the old regime, and I recall very clearly what happened in the USA as the reforms of Vatican II were introduced. The older generation of faithful Catholics–people born before 1920–were dismayed by the sudden introduction of the Novus Ordo, with its informality and its shockingly different appearance. I think that if the Canon of the Mass had been retained in Latin, if priests had taken the trouble to remain reverent on the altar, if the purpose and reason for liturgical changes had been clearly explained to the older generation, then they would have been far more comfortable with the changes. They went to their graves in the 1970s and 80s and 90s, clinging to their love of the old Church, because they had been taught to pray, pay and obey.

    But the next generation, people who like me had grown up in the 1950s and 60s, often embraced what they saw as a wholesale change in the life of the Church–a revolutionary change, and to them a welcome one. It was not simply a new liturgy they were embracing, but a revolution in theology and in moral life. My generation–the kids who grew up in the 1950s and 60s and got the full blast of the new liturgy–were exhilarated by all the changes in the Church. Mass in English! Just like the Protestants! How modern! How ecumenical! Informality at Mass–the priest as our buddy!

    And there were other change too, beyond the liturgical ones. A Christocentric theology: oh, boy, no more praying to legendary saints like Saint Christopher, who never even existed! No Satan! References to him in the New Testament were just reflections of Old Testament superstition. No talk of Hell in sermons! We’re all going to Heaven–or most of us, anyway! Sin is “whatever separates us from God” and is no longer to be defined as objectively evil in each case. The Church has no right–indeed no power–to send anybody to Hell, and so let’s just practice birth control, and (by the 1980s and 90s) let’s have sex outside of marriage. Priests are just guys like us–why can’t they be married? And why can’t women be priests? On and on it went.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with a Christocentric theology, and my impression is that not even the worst Traditionalists would now abandon it and go back to the old devotional practices of the pre-Vatican II era. The rest of the popular, liberal understanding of the “new” Church has produced a backlash, as it might have been expected to do.

    Why can we not mount a reasonable defense of the Novus Ordo? It’s Christocentric. It offers a wonderfully more complete and more varied set of scriptural readings. It is in the vernacular, so that it can be understood. (Some people seem to want not to understand–i. e. to be mystified by alien and otherworldly language–and for them the Latin Canon of the Mass ought to have been retained in the Novus Ordo.) The Novus Ordo contains varied prefatory prayers, some of them in absolutely beautiful English.

    What’s bad about the Novus Ordo is the whole body of practices with which it has been surrounded in most parishes in the USA. (Go to Italy or the UK and you’ll hear it celebrated much more reverently.) The Novus Ordo could inspire reverence too–if priests celebrated it reverently, if the choir sang traditional chant as an aid to prayer and not as a distraction, if the members of the congregation came to Mass decently dressed, remaining silent when appropriate and praying reverently, receiving Holy Communion with reverence and only after having gone to Confession recently. These things, and not the Novus Ordo itself, are the problems in our parishes today.

    Once again we face the question of which hermaneutic of interpretation to use with reference to Vatican II. The Council Fathers called for liturgies in the vernacular languages, and they decreed the writing of a Novus Ordo for the Mass itself. But nothing in the teaching of the Council allowed the wholesale abandonment of chant or incense or other sacramentals, nothing authorized applause and loud conversation during Mass, nothing allowed people to eat food immediately before going to Mass or avoid Confession for years at a stretch, nothing encouraged people to come to Mass in flip-flops and immodest blouses. Nothing. If the bishops are concerned to restore the dignity of the Mass while keeping the Novus Ordo, then they need to see to it that all priests–in this country at any rate–pray reverently during the liturgy, stick to the liturgical prayers exactly as they are written in the Missal, instruct choirs and choir directors to perform reverent music, stop having informal conversations with the congregation during the liturgy, ban immodest dress at Mass (to include having the ushers ask immodestly dressed people to go home and change clothes), and refuse to give Holy Communion to persons who fail to approach the altar with silent reverence, having confessed their sins recently. Who’s at fault for the decline of reverence in our parishes? The authors of the Novus Ordo? No. The bishops in countries where–like the USA–Mass has become a travesty? Yes.

    The American bishops have done some wonderful things in my lifetime. They have defended life from conception to natural death, they have condemned war and worked for social justice, they have been outspoken critics of American consumerism and materialism. They have also done some awful things–the failure to discipline fractious priests, the abject failure to deal quickly and compassionately and openly and honestly with the victims of priest-pedophilia, and the failure to insure the reverent celebration of the Mass. These are serious sins.

    The Tridentine Mass can be beautiful, but also boring. And there are other gorgeous liturgies. Why don’t Traddies ever express their love for, say, the Eastern Rite Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom? It is an overwhelmingly beautiful liturgy. Traditionalists would love it, but ironically in English, since so few of us know any Greek or Church Slavonic or Aramaic. Life is full of ironies, not least among reactionary Christians.

  29. Kurt says:

    I will say that my memory is that the immediate changes from the Council, particularly the Mass in the vernacular and the reformed Lectionary were widely and favorably accepted. Having said that, my own parish was well prepared for it. It had been an early practioner of the Dialogue Mass. We practiced frequent communion. We had a free standing altar. The priest wore gothic vestments. Weused Missals rather than prayer books and were encouraged to “Pray the Mass.” The pastors preached more to the liturgical season than the saint of the day. We had active engagement of the lay faithful with the Christian Family Movement and the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists.

    What gets forgotten (though Pope Benedict once alluded to this) is that the liturgical “liberals” embraced a sense of diversity in liturgical styles that was very open to retaining former practices in places that favored it. It was the conservatives (who would be a different school of thought from the Traditionalists) that sought too rapidly to recreate the uniformity of the former rites in the new rites.

  30. Catharine says:

    A few more memories of how the changeover came abot–there were some very strange things that happened, and quite frankly they were so unpleasant, and so destructive of my faith, that I have had real hesitation in even bring them up now, over 40 years later.
    On the South Side of Chicago, our parish church (Sacred Heart at 70th & May) was like many others-about 1 Catholic church per square mile, or more. Every Sunday there were 5-6 masses which were standing room only. In many parishes in Church, the entire church basement had a second mass for the spillover crowd, also standing room only.
    We moved out to McHenry in the early 1960’s. There was a different order of nuns at our new parish church, St. Patrick’s (one parish for the Irish and one parish for the Germans). This order was the Registered Sisters of Mercy.
    When the changes started in 1965, it was the parents who really supported them. I recall that prior to the 1970 missal, there was a rather straightforward English translation of the TLM for a few years. However, in the fall of 1967, things began to go wacky. I specifically recall that our 8th grade nun and the associate pastor made the rounds of every class in the building, and started talking about how the church was changing. They specifically began to denigrate the Mass, the Sacraments, and the Saints–we had been taught to respect the saints. They began to tell us that most of the saints were not holy at all; that they were mentally ill; that they did things like lick up vomit or diarrhea which if they did today would get them committed to mental institutions, etc. We were so thunderstruck that most of us did not know at all how to react. The only way I knew how to react to this kind of talk was to mentally compare it to a drawing we had in a reader in the earlier grades, where a young Polish child is in tears as his Communist teacher forces him to repeat over and over, “there is no God.”
    People began to pull their children out of the Catholic school and to re-enroll them at the public school, but it was only a handful.
    After the 1970 missal came out, church attendance really took a dive. The general reaction to all of the new garbage that came out after Vatican Ii was, “we were taught that there were basic principles of the faith that were absolutely not negotiable–now you’re telling me they’re totally plastic, can be changed all the time? In other words, April Fools on all of you stupid laypeople!! The changes were so poorly handled that they were quite destructive of the faith of many people.
    Mass attendance, and the collection basket, dropped so dramatically that our parish got into something that I believe many people my age and older recall–sermons which were all about, “more money, more money.” People listened politely, but the faith was never taught any more. I recall that at one Sunday mass some man (no one ever identified him) stood up in the mddle of the church, in the middle of the sermon, and started screaming at the priest (unthinnkable before V-II). He basically shouted about, “all you ever talk about is money–why don’t you teach the Bible and talk about Jesus like the Protestants do? They don’t have problems with their money?!” and stormed out. The priest reportedly turned beet red and stopped his sermon. People did not applaud the man, but everybody agreed strongly with him.
    Most of our parents’ generation were hook-line-and-sinker in favor of modernizing the church. They thought that Teilhard de Chardin was the genius of the century. My father had been a seminarian before dropping out prior to final vows, and since he was a well-education professional as well, he took over CCD. He was considered to have instituted a very excellent program which sincerely tried to teach the faith while adapting the methods to modern public school students. Unfortunately, he contracted lung cancer and died in 1977.
    After he died, a female with a Ph.D. in some theological area took over CCD. Instead of the basics, the children were taught things like comparative religion from the earliest years.
    My older sister married fairly young, and when her oldest daughter was in 3rd grade, the inculcation into Jewish religion was so strong, and the Catholic teaching was so negligible, that she came home one day and asked, “Mom, are we Jewish?” (and she really meant it seriously). My sister was one of the ones whose faith was badly shaken by all the changes. She pulled her children out of CCD, enrolled them in the Methodist church Sunday school, and became a Methodist. To this day, she and everybody in her family are totally anti-“Catholic, to the point that I would not hesitate to call them bigots. They are still incensed about the “April’s Fool” treatment of basic Catholic principles.
    Out of 7 children in our family, for many years all 7 were out of the church. I reverted in 1992, after about 20 years out; one of my younger sisters (married to a non-Catholic) is raising her two sons Catholic, and that’s it. It is not possible to discuss the faith with them. I pray and offer suffrages for them continually, but I believe that most of the fallen-away Catholics are going to die in that condition, barring an absolute miracle.

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