Washington Times on the Motu Proprio

The Washington Times has an article on the Motu Proprio.

My emphases and comments.

Old rite wins new Mass appeal

July 30, 2007

By Julia Duin – The Tridentine Mass, the Latin-only rite both loved and hated by many Catholics for its medieval qualities, [Boy, that’s sure a reason to hate something.] is roaring back into use after a July 7 papal decree loosened the rules on celebrating it.

Two traditional priestly societies dedicated to the rite report that priests from all over the country are signing up in droves for weeklong classes to learn the rituals and language of the Mass, [Sure.  They’ll learn Latin in a week.] named after the 16th-century Council of Trent.

Monsignor Michael Schmitz, vicar-general of the Florence, Italy-based Institute of Christ the King, said he has received hundreds of calls from interested clergy.

"This is a nationwide phenomenon," he said. "Many more parish priests and younger priests are interested in learning to celebrate the Latin Mass.

"Whenever the Latin rite is celebrated, you get many young people," he added. "They are looking for something that speaks to the soul, and the beauty of the liturgy is awe-inspiring. The heartfelt presence of God really affects them."

The Elmhurst, Pa.-based Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter trained 50 priests on performing the rite this summer at its Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary in Denton, Neb.

Its September session is already full and its Elmhurst bookstore got a "big upsurge" in demand for priestly training materials within two days of the announcement, said the Rev. Carl Gismondi, a Fraternity priest studying theology at the Dominican House in the District.

"It is a detailed liturgy, so there’s a lot of books and videos needed to teach a priest how to say this Mass," he said. "There’s something about it that’s very attractive to people. It’s more than nostalgia because a lot of young people are interested in it."

Until Pope Benedict XVI’s declaration, called a "motu proprio," the Tridentine Mass could be celebrated only with the approval of the local bishop. One-third of U.S. dioceses had no Tridentine Masses, and most of the others had only one or two per week. Benedict noted in his document, though, that the post-Vatican II Novus Ordo, or Mass of Paul VI, will remain the church’s usual celebration.

The Society of St. Pius X offers a "free Mass kit" along with a 120-minute instructional video for priests on its sspx.org site.

Neal Kotlarek, manager of the Catholic bookstore near the Archdiocese of Detroit headquarters, is ordering reproductions by the case. "Usually, I just carry a few copies," he said.

Maureen Williamson, a manager at the Fort Collins, Colo.-based Roman Catholic Books, said 200 copies of its $155 deluxe edition priest’s altar missal sold within two weeks of the papal announcement. [!] She typically sells 20 to 35 a month.

"We’re projecting we are going to sell more than 700 by the end of the year," she said. "Now that this Mass is able to be said by anyone at any time, priests and parishes have been ordering it." [How many diocesan statements have we seen suggest that the MP will not have much of an impact?  That’s as many as 700 new copies of the Missale Romanum.  How many priests have an old copies tucked away on a bookshelf?]

Priests from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Alexandria and St. John’s in McLean are sending priests to Denton, Neb., in September. The Rev. Franklyn M. McAfee, pastor of St. John’s, was trained in Denton four years ago and plans to implement the Tridentine rite in early October. It will replace his parish’s noon Latin celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass.  [In a way, that is too bad.]

"The people here really want it," the priest said. "All sorts of prominent people have asked me for it. They’re not opposed to the Novus Ordo Mass, but they prefer the 1962 Missal," referring to the rules that Pope John XXIII drew up for the centuries-old Mass.

"It’s more reverent, more transcendent," Father McAfee [!] said.

In the older rite, worshippers must kneel to receive Communion on their tongues; the priest always leads the parishioners in facing east, rather than facing them; and the rite is always in Latin. There are other differences in terms of liturgy, priestly vestments and the manner in which laity take part in the service. Women communicants of the Tridentine mass customarily cover their heads, although it is not mandated.

"Logistically, I think the challenge for the next two months for priests who want to say the Mass is to get the missal, vestments and plan for working with a modern sanctuary," Father McAfee said. "Altar boys need to be trained, and men need to learn Gregorian chant. There’s a ton of work for parishes with a priest who wants a Mass."

"The solemn high Mass is a production," he added. "It’s very choreographed. Someone called it the greatest ballet in the world. It’s all very scripted."

Ann Thunder, one of his parishioners, likened altar-boy training to football diagrams.

"If you word it in terms of a sports analogy, it works," she said, "such as server A passes a cruet to server B." 

Washington Times on the Motu Proprio
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21 Responses to Washington Times on the Motu Proprio

  1. mike says:

    Fr Z,

    “It will replace his parish’s noon Latin celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass. [In a way, that is too bad.]”

    In a way yes – but given the choice it’s the right move.


  2. belloc says:

    “In a way…”

    Would they were all replaced. How is that bad?

  3. Tominellay says:

    I happened to meet Fr. McAfee some twenty years ago when I held a job
    with a company that manufactured really fine vestments; it was a case
    of having right products at a wrong time…Fr. McAfee impressed
    me then, as he does now!

  4. Different says:

    Usually you really rip any author who describes the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite Mass as “the Latin Mass”, but in this article, Msgr. Schmitz seems to get a free pass for doing exactly this.


    It’s bad (in a way) because it would be better to give parishioners access to the ordinary form in Latin, as well as the extraordinary form. They are both good and noble liturgies of the Latin rite, and it is good for people to know that the ordinary form is not just to be said in the vernacular.

  5. Tom S. says:

    200 copies in two weeks! 700, by the end of the year?!?!
    And this from just one supplier. It makes me wonder how many total have been purchased from all sources in the past few weeks, or will be by the end of the year.
    Not to mention wondering how many old copies got “dusted off” in the same period.

    But… but… EVERYONE knows that NOBODY is interested in the “Latin Mass”!

    I wonder if “Baghdad Bob” is working as a consultant to some dioceses?

  6. Jonathan Bennett says:

    Ann Thunder, one of his parishioners, likened altar-boy training to football diagrams.
    Ha! Exactly my thoughts when I got my server training booklet. Even the diagrams of the sanctuary remind me of a playbook for football.


  7. Henry Edwards says:

    They are both good and noble liturgies of the Latin rite, and it is good for people to know that the ordinary form is not just to be said in the vernacular.

    Perhaps one could distinguish between them by use of definite and indefinite articles:

    “I attended a Novus Ordo Mass celebrated ad orientem, in Latin by a priest wearing Roman vestments. This was a Latin Mass.”

    “I attended a Tridentine Mass celebrated ad orientem, in Latin by a priest wearing Roman vestments. This was the Latin Mass.”

  8. berenike says:

    “Men need to learn Gregorian chant”.

    Cos the women all know it already?

    If the singers are not in the sanctuary, is there some reason why they have to be male?

    In one academic chapel I used to “do” the music for we had the gradual sung by women. From the choir loft. Was this wicked?

  9. belloc says:


    I see your point about the ordinary form not being confined to the vernacular. However I doubt we have to worry about the members of Father McAfee’s well-catechized parish becoming confused on that score. Rather, I think it a could good thing that the Novus Ordo be eclipsed by the TLM (peacefully, of course)at every possible opportunity.

    To paraphrase Mr. Churchill, “Nothing is [better] than that every trace of [Bugnini’s] footsteps, every stain of his corrupt and corroded finger, shall be wiped, and if necessary blasted, from the surface of the earth.”

  10. Henry Edwards says:

    In one academic chapel I used to “do” the music for we had the gradual sung by women. From the choir loft. Was this wicked?

    Surely not. Have you heard someone suggest that women be seen but not heard at Mass? (I’d think — as I believe Pius XII suggested — that anyone might well sing the gradual who can do so well, though not all can properly do so within the sanctuary.)

  11. Boko Fittleworth says:

    “Have you heard someone suggest that women be seen but not heard at Mass?”

    Ummm, St. Paul?

  12. Maureen says:

    If you can find any evidence that “preaching” or “prophesying” in church equals “singing psalms and spiritual songs”, I’m sure the boys on Mt. Athos will be happy to hear it. And so will Haugen and Haas. ;)

  13. Henry Edwards says:

    Boko: And then there’s Samuel Johnson’s pithy insight about women preachers, which I suspect is more what St. Paul had in mind. Although, frankly, I don’t recall whether or not women had the temerity to sing in St. Paul’s presence (albeit with properly covered heads, of course).

  14. Marysann says:

    I am very excited about the prospect of assisting at the Solemn High Mass at Father McAfee’s parish when we return to the States in the fall. I just have one comment. I think that it would be a mistake for the average parish to attempt the Solemn High Mass every Sunday. They most likely will not have the resourses that Father McAfee has. Father McAfee has a professional choir. I had the privilege to sing the choir at Father McAfee’s last parish, and it was the finest church choir that I had ever sung in. Even we, with singers from the military choruses and the Washington Opera, had to work pretty hard to learn the chants for each Sunday. I think that the average parish should only attempt the High Masses for special feasts, and use the Low Mass for the other Sundays. The entire parish can thing the easy Jubilate Deo chants and hymns, and the choir will have time to prepare for the big feasts. Let’s not bite off more than we can chew, and set ourselves up for failure.

  15. Jon says:


    Just in case Boko isn’t up on his Boswell:

    “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

  16. Henry Edwards says:

    Marysann: I think that the average parish should only attempt the High Masses for special feasts, and use the Low Mass for the other Sundays.

    I date back to the days when lots of Sunday Masses were low Masses, and I share none of the reservations about the low Mass that are sometimes expressed here. Indeed, I believe the quiet and intensely spiritual low Mass embodies a very special and particular ethos of the Roman rite that’s shared fully by no other form or rite of Christian liturgy that I know about. Last month I went from the “four hours in heaven” solemn Pontifical Mass of ordination in St. Louis to five not quite simultaneous silent low Masses the next morning with 5 priests at 5 different altars where I adored Our Lord at three separate consecration-elevations within less than 10 minutes. Each experience was an incomparable spiritual high for me.

    However, my experience with real world indult situations convinces me that the low Mass as the sole Sunday Tridentine Mass simply does not meet the expectations of post Vatican II Catholics in a local community such as mine (or the typical parish) where many or most congregants float freely back and forth between the newer and older forms of Mass.

    But you certainly have to start where you are. When our community began our indult Mass, we had no choir at all, and our congregation consisted largely of younger folks with no memory of the older form. So our first few Masses were dialogue low Masses, with just a cappella processional and recessional hymns, and no other singing by anybody.

    But we moved on pretty rapidly, and well within a year our every (biweekly) Mass was a high Mass with (much of) the congregation singing the Missa de Angeles ordinary along with the choir, the choir alone singing the propers (introit, gradual, etc.) and the usual Latin classics for offertory and communion music. Our choir members — dedicated but hardly the professionals implied by “singers from the military choruses and the Washington Opera” — are too dispersed to come together for practice except in the hour before Mass, but still don’t sound (to me) like they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. So why not do it right (and well)?

  17. Marysann says:

    Henry, I am happy to hear about the experience of your parish, and I hope that others will be have the same experience. I hate to give away my age, but I sang in the choir in our parish before Vatican II, and we had one High Mass on Sundays, the rest being Low Masses. We girls sang at the Low Mass, and the men at the High Mass. I too enjoy the quiet of the Low Mass, but you are probably correct that people who did not grow up with this Mass have higher expectations than we might. The old parish choir was lost in many places after the council, and I hope for everyone’s benefit that it now will make a come back. Also, I remember reading an article in a professional church music journal quite a few years ago bemoaning the fact that there were hardly any organ majors in our university music programs and conservatories anymore. If the jobs come back then students will return to the serious study of the organ. I foresee the return of beautiful music to our churches!

  18. techno_aesthete says:

    Marysann: As far as the choir is concerned, there is no significant difference between a Solemn High Mass (Missa Solemnis) and a Sung Mass (Missa Cantata). The main differences are in the sanctuary among the altar servers. Having been part of an amateur choir at an indult Mass for more than five years where our Sunday Masses are almost always Sung Masses, I couldn’t disagree with you more. We have gone for months without an organist where we sung mostly chant and a few motets in parts. We have also had some excellent organists/choir directors with whom we have sung polyphonic Masses. Our schola regularly sings the Gregorian chant Mass propers. A professional choir is not necessary to produce beautiful music. Have faith!

  19. JaneC says:

    I attended a Missa Cantata on Sunday that featured a really tiny schola–one man who sang all the propers by himself, and three women who joined him for the ordinaries. At the recessional they sang the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy.” There was no organist, and although organ music might have added something, I did not miss it. The music for that Mass could hardly have been more perfect.

    Really, a schola can be started by one person who sings the chants well and is willing to do so every week, a cooperative priest, and anyone else who later wishes to join that one competent singer.

    Now if only I could find a cooperative priest…

  20. dcs says:

    Marysann writes:
    I think that it would be a mistake for the average parish to attempt the Solemn High Mass every Sunday. . . . I think that the average parish should only attempt the High Masses for special feasts, and use the Low Mass for the other Sundays.

    While it might be difficult for the average parish to have a Solemn High Mass every Sunday (because priests and lesser clerics are in short supply), there is no reason that the average parish cannot have at least a Missa cantata on most Sundays.

  21. Marysann says:

    Hey guys, I see that I am really being hammer on this “professional choir” business! Please don’t think that I hold that it is necessary to have a choir of university and conservatory trained singers only! Besides being impossible, it would be rediculous! Our choir could have been compared to the choir at the Brompton Oratory in London, not to an average church choir. We sang a different Mozart, Haydn, Palestrina etc. Mass every week, and a chant Mass with the people once a month, plus eight-part anthems, difficult contemporary pieces etc. (The people in this parish could sing too. I remember attending morning Mass one August 11, and the congregation sang the Missa cum jublio with no cantor, no organ, just a cappella with Father at the altar. This was just the ordinary daily Mass crowd!) A professional choir is expected to uphold the highest standards of musicianship, and if a singer can’t cut it, they can be fired. For many singers it is just a job, and not a ministry. A professional choir provides the parish with this high standard week after week, but it is very expensive. I must admit that there is often resentment against a professional choir in a parish, and this was not the first one that I have sung in. Some people think that the service is turned into a concert, and others just don’t think that singers should be paid. That is another issue. The whole reason that we have choirs, professional, amateur or a combination of the two, is to give greater glory to God than we could with spoken word alone. I think that we are going to see a resurgence of parish choirs, and a professional choir in the area can give encouragement to them, just as hearing a professional choir in a concert hall encourages our community chorus singers. All for the greater glory of God! Alleluia!