3 April 1969 – Missale Romanum

UPDATE: Some people were surprised and unhappy that I should "fisk" a document like the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum.  My intention was not to mock Paul VI.  If nothing else, Paul VI’s Humanae vitae merits an epitaph of gold.  I don’t think we have to say the same for his reformation of the Missale.  What I did here was underscore the naiveté of the time, fully acknowledging our vantage of hindsight.  Not everything done by a Council or a Pope has been either successful or worthy of praise.  If we are going to move forward intelligently we need a clear perspective of where we have been.  Also, I had to reconstruct this post from a cached page after I discovered part of the entry had been inadvertently deleted.

Today is the 38th Anniverary of the Promulgation of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution (the highest form of Church document) entitled Missale Romanum.  This was the instrument by which Paul VI established the Novus Ordo Missae.

Let’s review this important document which has so affected our lives. My emphasis and comments.


Missale Romanum

Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI issued on April 3, 1969.

PAUL, BISHOP Servant of the Servants of God For an Everlasting Memorial

The Missale Romanum was promulgated in 1570 by our predecessor St. Pius V, in execution of the decree of the Council of Trent. It has been recognized by all as one of the many admirable results that the Council achieved for the benefit of the entire Church of Christ. For four centuries it provided Latin-rite priests with norms for the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice; moreover messengers of the Gospel brought this Missal to almost the entire world. Innumerable holy men and women nurtured their spiritual life on its readings from Scripture and on its prayer texts. In large part these prayer texts owed their arrangement to St. Gregory the Great.

A deep interest in fostering the liturgy has become widespread and strong among the Christian people [The "Liturgical Movement" of the 20th century] and our predecessor Pius XII has viewed this both as a sign of God’s caring will regarding today’s people and as a saving movement of the Holy Spirit through his Church. Since the beginning of this liturgical renewal, it has also become clear that the formularies of the Roman Missal had to be revised and enriched. A beginning was made by Pius XII in the restoration of the Easter Vigil and Holy Week services;[The reform of 1955, which many of the traditional stripe don’t like.] he thus took the first step toward adapting the Roman Missal to the contemporary mentality.  [qui proinde primum quasi gradum posuit ad Missale Romanum novis huius temporis animi sensitius accommodandum.]

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, laid down the basis for the general revision of the Roman Missal: [1] "Both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things they signify"; therefore, [2] "the Order of Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly brought out, and devout, active participation [pia et actuosa fidelium participatio] by the faithful more easily achieved." The Council also decreed that [

4] "the treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that a richer share in God’s word may be provided for the faithful"; and finally that [4] "a new rite for concelebration is to be drawn up and incorporated into the Roman Pontifical and Roman Missal."  [Hmmm… what about the part of Sacrosanctum Concilium that said that no changes be made except for the true benefit of the faithful?]

No one should think, however, that this revision of the Roman Missal has come out of nowhere. [Heck no… we can show you the desks where it was pasted together!] The progress in liturgical studies during the last four centuries has certainly prepared the way. Just after the Council of Trent, the study "of ancient manuscripts in the Vatican library and elsewhere," as St. Pius V attests in the Apostolic Constitution Quo primum, helped greatly in the correction of the Roman Missal. Since then, however, other ancient sources have been discovered and published and liturgical formularies of the Eastern Church have been studied. Accordingly many have had the desire for these doctrinal and spiritual riches not to be stored away in the dark, but to be put into use for the enlightenment of the mind of Christians and for the nurture of their spirit.

Now, however, our purpose is to set out at least in broad terms, the new plan of the Roman Missal. We therefore point out, first, that a General Instruction, for use as a preface to the book, gives the new regulations for the celebration of eucharistic sacrifice. These regulations cover the rites to be carried out and the functions of each minister or participant as well as the furnishings and the places needed for divine worship [… in such a way as we will not really be sure how it is to be done… exactly.].

It must be acknowledged that the chief innovation in the reform concerns the eucharistic prayer. Although the Roman Rite over the centuries allowed for a multiplicity of different texts in the first part of the prayer (the preface), the second part, called the Canon actionis, took on a fixed form during the period of the fourth and fifth centuries. The Eastern liturgies, on the other hand, allowed a degree of variety into the anaphoras themselves. On this point, first of all, the eucharistic prayer has been enriched with a great number of prefaces – drawn from the early tradition of the Roman Church or recently composed – in order that the different facets of the mystery of salvation will stand out more clearly and that there will be more and richer themes of thanksgiving. But besides this, we have decided to add three new canons to the eucharistic prayer. Both for pastoral reasons, however, and for the facilitation of concelebration, we have ordered that the words of the Lord be identical in each form of the canon. Thus in each eucharistic prayer we wish those words to be as follows: over the bread: Accipite et manducate ex hoc omnes: Hoc est enim Corpus meum, quod pro vobis tradetur; over the chalice: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: Hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti, qui pro vobis et pro multis [Yah… they sure got that right in translations, didn’t they? It only took over 30 years to correct the error there.] effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem. The words Mysterium fidei have been removed from the context of Christ’s own words and are spoken by the priest as an introduction to the faithful’s acclamation.

In the Order of Mass the rites have been "simplified, [and made more ambiguous so as to leave them open to illicit improvisation] due care being taken to preserve their substance." [Hmmm… ] "Elements that, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated or were added with but little advantage" [Like the Last Gospel?  The Offertory Prayers?  Stuff like that?] have been eliminated, especially in the rites for the presentation of the bread and wine, the breaking of the bread, and communion.

Also, "other elements that have suffered injury through accident of history" are restored "to the tradition of the Fathers," for example, the homily,[That’s right. Because no one ever preached between 1570 and 1969 after all.] the general intercessions or prayer of the faithful,[And what a gift they have been for improvisation artists!] and the penitential rite or act of reconciliation with God and the community at the beginning of the Mass, which thus, as is right, regains its proper importance [but eliminated the names of Michael the Archangel – who drove Satan before his face, John the Baptist – the greatest man ever born of woman, Sts. Peter and Paul… well tooooo Roman…].

According to the decree of the Second Vatican Council, that "a more representative portion of the holy Scriptures be read to the people over the course of a prescribed number of years," [thus running the risk of turning the Mass into a didactic moment and making sure that the faithful remember perhaps less of it than they knew before] the Sunday readings are arranged in a cycle of three years [thus for the most part detaching the readings from the antiphons of the Mass]. In addition, on Sundays and all the major feasts the epistle and gospel are preceded by an Old Testament reading [Normally beyond the ability of the priest to preach about] or, at Easter, by readings from Acts. This is meant to provide a fuller exposition of the continuing process of the mystery of salvation, as shown in the words of divine revelation  [because from 1570 to 1969 we haven’t had any of that]. These broadly selected biblical readings, which set before the faithful on Sundays and holydays the most important part of sacred Scripture, are complemented by other parts of the Bible read on other days.

All this has been planned to arouse among the faithful a greater hunger for the word of God. [Just ask, Your Holiness, the faithful leaving Church on a Sunday what the second reading was.] Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this hunger will seem, so to speak, to impel the people of the New Covenant toward the perfect unity of the Church. [let’s see… would that be a change to our Rite to promote ecumenism perhaps?]  We are fully confident that under this arrangement both priest and faithful will prepare their minds and hearts more devoutly for the Lord’s Supper and that, meditating on the Scriptures, they will be nourished more each day by the words of the Lord [as our packed churches demonstrate even today…]. In accord with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, all will thus regard sacred Scripture as the abiding source of spiritual life, the foundation for Christian instruction, and the core of all theological study [just after the New York Times].

This reform of the Roman Missal, in addition to the three changes already mentioned (the eucharistic prayer, the Order of Mass, and the readings), has also corrected and considerably modified other of its components: the Proper of Seasons, the Proper of Saints, the Common of Saints, ritual Masses, and votive Masses. In all of these changes, particular care has been taken with the prayers.  [THAT’s for sure!] Their number has been increased, so that the new forms might better correspond to new needs, and the text of older prayers has been restored on the basis of the ancient sources. As a result, each weekday of the principal liturgical seasons, Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, now has its own, distinct prayer.

The text of the Graduale Romanum has not been changed as far as the music is concerned. [But give us time.]  In the interest of their being more readily understood, however, the responsorial psalm (which St. Augustine and St. Leo the Great often mention) as well as the entrance and communion antiphons have been revised for use in Masses that are not sung.  [And without question everyone will still be singing Masses in Latin with Gregorian chant!!]


After what we have presented concerning the new Roman Missal, we wish in conclusion to insist on one point in particular and to make it have its effect. [Ad extremum, ex iis quae hactenus de novo Missali Romano exposuimus quiddam nunc cogere et efficere placet.] When he promulgated the editio princeps of the Roman Missal, our predecessor St. Pius V offered it to the people of Christ as the instrument of liturgical unity and the expression of a pure and reverent worship in the Church. Even though, in virtue of the decree of the Second Vatican Council, we have accepted into the new Roman Missal lawful variations and adaptations, our own expectation in no way differs from that of our predecessor.  [EXCEPT….EXCEPT… That whereas Pius V said that rites older than 200 years would be preserved in places where they were used though no priest, even in those places, could ever be prevented from using the new Missale Romanum, from 1969 onward priests would be effectively forbidden to use the form far older than 200 years used precisely through the whole world in the same way.]  It is that the faithful will receive the new Missal as a help toward witnessing and strengthening their unity with one another; that through the new Missal one and the same prayer in a great diversity of languages will ascend, more fragrant than any incense, to our heavenly Father, through our High Priest, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.  [And that you will barely be able tor recognize, in some places, from parish to parish, that they even belong to the same Church, much less are using the same book.]

The effective date for what we have prescribed in this Constitution shall be the First Sunday of Advent of this year, 30 November.a We decree that these laws and prescriptions be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by our predecessors and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and amendment.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on Holy Thursday, 3 April 1969, the sixth year of our pontificate.


What was Paul VI trying to do?  The press conference (in L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 8 May 1969, p. 8) at the release of the Constitution put greater light on his project.  My emphasis and comments.


Father Lecuyer

By the Apostolic Constitution "Missale Romanum", dated Holy Thursday, April 3, 1969, the Holy Father has approved and commanded to be promulgated the new Missal revised on the basis of the directives of the Second Vatican Council.

Now, by a Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, dated April 6, 1969, there appears the volume which contains the Ordo Missae and the general norms, brought together into one document entitled "Institution Generalis Missalis Romani". The Ordo Missae and the general norms come into force on the first Sunday of next Advent, November 30, 1969.


The Ordo Missae in its new form marks the goal of the reform of the Mass, after the intermediary stages reached with the Instructions of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of September 26, 1964, and of May 4, 1967.

The points, that have been altered are the following:

1. Introductory rites. The prayers at the foot of the altar are suppressed in their present form, and the celebration opens with the singing of the Introit, while the celebrant goes to the altar and then goes to the seat. Then, at the seat, the celebrant makes the sign of the cross together with the people, and greets the assembly. Certain formulae of greeting derived from St. Paul’s Letters can be used (for instance, "The love of God the Father, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you"), or the traditional "The Lord be with you". In every case the people reply: "And with your spirit" (or "And. also with you"). Then comes the penitential act, which can take different forms, and before which the priest may speak some words to the faithful as an introduction to the celebration beginning. The rite then continues with the Kyrie and the Gloria.

2. Offertory rites. This part of the celebration, left completely untouched in the preceding reforms, is now rearranged to correspond better to its true meaning. [Oh Yah? Let’s chat about those offertory prayers used now and see if they "correspond better to the true meaning" of the offertory.] The formulae accompanying the placing of the bread and wine on the altar have been changed, so as not to anticipate the true offering of the sacrifice, which will be done in the Canon. Use has been made of expressions of blessing traditional in the Bible, stressing the creative action of God and man’s participation in the offering of the elements that will serve for the sacrifice: "Your are blessed, Lord, God of the universe. From your generosity we have received the bread which we present to you. It is the fruit of the earth and of man’s labour. And from it will come to us the bread of life". A similar formula, with the necessary changes, accompanies the placing of the chalice on the altar. The formula for pouring water in the wine has been shortened, and that of the washing of hands changed[Changes which were really helpful to the Christian people!]

3. The rite of the "Fractio" and of the "Pax". The elements that constitute this part have been arranged in a clearer fashion.  [Because, as we all know, people are pretty dumb and can’t possibly sort those out.] The Our Father, which begins the communion rites, is followed by the embolism ("Deliver us…") in a shortened form [Hmmm… is there another phrase for that… let me think…. ] and without the names of the saints. This concludes with the memorial of the return of the Lord and the acclamation of the people: "…we may be ever free from sin and safe from all disquiet,  [HEY!!  What happened to "anxiety"?!]  awaiting the blessed hope and the coming of our saviour Jesus Christ. Yours is the kingdom, yours the power for ever".  [Just like the Protestants do!]

The rite of the kiss of peace has been arranged thus: first the priest asks of God the gift of peace for the Church and the world with the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you …." Then he addresses this wish to the faithful "May the peace of the Lord be always with you" and the invitation "Give one another the kiss of peace". The faithful may exchange a greeting of peace by a suitable gesture [often involving undignified chaos to distract us from the Blessed Sacrament on the altar and our own impending Communion (without recent confession of sins)] to be determined by the Bishops Conferences.

Then comes the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread for the Communion, accompanied by the singing of the acclamation "Lamb of God". The Communion rites remain unchanged.  [Except for that whole confession part… oh yah… and the eventual Communion in the hand thing… and … um…. we’ll talk about distribution of Communion by those whose hands are not consecrated later.]

4. There are other minor changes throughout the Ordo. [OMG LOOK OUT FOR THE LIGHTNING BOLT!] Of these we note two touching the Roman Canon. In it too the words of the Lord in the narration of the Last Supper have been made uniform with the reading adopted in the new eucharistic prayers: "This is my body which will be given up for you" for the consecration of the bread, and ‘This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting convenant. It will be shed for you and for all men [ROLF This is precious. Whoever translated this into English… well… whaddya gonna say?] so that sins may be forgiven". The first formula has received the addition of the phrase "which will be given up for you", and the second has had removed the words "the mystery of faith", [Keep repeating … "MINOR CHANGESMINOR CHANGES… you are getting sleeeeeepyyyyy… MINOR CHANGES… ] which are said by the celebrant as an introduction to the acclamation of the people: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again".

Besides, the conclusions "Through Christ our Lord" recurring in the Canon are put between brackets and may be omitted. The same procedure is used for the names of the saints: in the Communicantes only the names of the Blessed Virgin, of St. Joseph and of the Apostles Peter, Paul and Andrew remain obligatory; [Keep repeating … "MINOR CHANGESMINOR CHANGES… ] in the Nobis quoque the names of the saints mentioned in the Bible are obligatory, namely John the Baptist, Stephen Matthew and Barnabas. In this way the venerable Roman Canon acquires greater unity and ease of recitation, on the lines of the new eucharistic prayers.  [Which was reeeeally for the benefit of the people of God…we know. But.. wait just a minute here! What is this "greater unity and ease of recitation, on the lines of the new eucharistic prayers business? Let’s dumb down … yah, that was the phrase I was looking for… the Roman Canon because the other prayers are simpler. Now I get it.]


The Institutio Generalis of the Missal, summarizes the Missal’s present introductory documents: The General Rubrics, the "Ritus Servandus in Celebratione Missae", the "De Defectibus in Celebratione Missae Occurrentibus" [Try not to laugh here.]. Its style is of course pastoral rather than juridical and rubrical, [PASTORAL GOOOOOOD, JURIDICAL BAAAAAAD] so as to guide the celebrant not only in the exact performance of the rite, [You have got to be joking. He’s kidding, right?] but also in understanding its spirit and significance.  [People understand Mass so much better now.]

The document contains eight chapters. The first is an introduction of doctrinal character. The second reviews the various elements of the celebration, giving the doctrinal and rubrical presentation of each. The third illustrates the roles of each of those participating in the celebration: priest, people and ministers. The fourth sets forth the various forms of celebration: Mass with the people, private Mass, concelebrated Mass; and contains also the norms for communion under both species. The fifth offers an ample set of directives on the arrangement of the church as the place of the celebration. The sixth reviews what is needed for the sacred action: the sacred furniture, vessels and vestments [pottery, polyester, etc.]. The seventh gives guidance in choosing the formulary of the Mass and of its various parts: readings, prayers and chants, offering also a whole series of possible adaptations and a number of different forms [just to keep the faithful guessing… because that is reaallly for their benefit].   The eighth summarizes in two pages the [Keep repeating … "MINOR CHANGESMINOR CHANGES… you are getting sleeeeeepyyyyy… MINOR CHANGES… ] on votive Masses and Masses for the dead.

As we have been assured time and time again, the post-Conciliar liturgical reforms have brought great fruits.

It also produced great nuts, I think.

I am sure it is true in some places there there have been abundant fruits from the post-Conciliar liturgical reform.  I can attest personally to the fact that where everything was obeyed and then implemented in the most Roman fashion possible, with a mind to the will not just of the GIRM but also of the Council Fathers (who in no way intended to provoke what we actually got), there have been some remarkable fruits. 

Still, I must challenge any unreserved claim that, across the board, the post-Conciliar reform has born great fruits in the Church. 

So great is my trust in the power of the Church’s rites, however, that I am confident a stronger liturgical hermeneutic of continuity will in fact begin to multiply those anticipated fruits in a way more abundant that we have hitherto experienced.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. ray from mn says:

    Thanks, Father.

    That’s the first time I have seen a rundown on exactly what was changed. I was “absent” between 1960-1981.

    I am hopeful that some of what has been lost will be regained.

  2. Brian says:


    Clearly, this Apostolic Constitution, right
    or wrong, had some effect. Come to think of it, wasn’t Veterum Sapientia also an Apostolic Constitution? We’re still waiting for it to come into effect.

  3. tim says:

    Father, I say this with respect. I attended the novus ordo for 37 years before escaping to the traditional Mass. But, though valid, the new Mass is in all other respects a complete disaster, and even as promulgated is a thing I would never attend again, if there is any possible alternative in the Latin or Eastern Catholic rites.

    This anniversary is a black one.

  4. Hammerbrecher says:

    It just sounds so much like it started out saying: “Its ok, we will only make a few small changes for the good of the people and their participation” and within mins the chainsaw came out and cut apart the liturgy..

  5. TJM says:

    Dear Father Z: Paul VI was probably, without doubt, the
    most naive Pope of my lifetime (which began for me under
    Pius XII’s pontificate). I think he really believed that
    priests would faithfully follow the texts and rubrics and
    that Latin and Chant would be preserved. Theoretically it
    was (and is) possible to celebrate the Novus Ordo in such a way as to
    minimize the differences between the two Rites. Unfortunately,
    this almost never occurs. All in all, Paul VI’s Missal needs
    either a substantial rework or priests need to be suspended
    a divinis for violating the texts and rubrics if this
    is to ever work. Tom

  6. danphunter1 says:

    Father,Indeed,what was His Holiness Pope Paul VI thinking?

  7. rudi says:

    I haven’t read it for years.
    Now it seems so very 1960’s. The idea of the new being better, the past inferior. I can’t help thinking it is from the same stall as the 1968 student rebellions, the Cultural Revolution, the Cambodian Year Zero, the rise of feminism, of the gay agenda, etc. etc. oh, and secularism as well.

  8. Craigmaddie says:

    A priest friend of mine recently lent me a copy of the essay that he wrote in seminary explaining how the Novus Ordo was an improvement over the traditional Roman rite. I can see value in two of his points: the moving of the Asperges to the penitential rite which makes a kind of liturgical sense to me (but which I have never seen done) and the offertory procession.

    However, every other prayer that was removed from the traditional rite seemed to be justified because it was a “medieval accretion”. It seems that the liturgical reformers of the post-War period shared the same prejudices against those t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e 1200 years before the Reformation that the Reformers themselves did.

    At the risk of hyperbole, there are comparisons to be made with revolutions such as the Great Leap Forward where a small group of reformers has imposed its idea of what was beneficial on the “people” regardless of what the people actually wanted. People often talk of the pre-Vatican II Church as being terribly “clerical”; in many ways the last 40 years seem to have been incredibly clerical with the ordinary devotions and piety of the Catholic faithful treated with a kind of snobbish disdain and the liturgy, which should be the possession of all, treated as a canvas by the talented (or – ahem! – not so talented) few.

    In a way, I think that the liturgical reformers semi-conciously ripped out what they saw as “medieval accretions” precisely because these prayers were organic developments that were accepted by the sensus fidelium and didn’t have the mark of deliberate reform.

    As a Glaswegian it’s not surprising to me that in the 1960’s at the same time as the souless, concrete towerblocks were being built all over the city by self-regarding architects who described their own designs as “bold” and “innovative” the liturgical reformers were doing something not-all-too-dissimilar with the Mass. Sir Basil Spence and Cardinal Bugnini were very much men of the same stamp.

    Those same tower blocks are now being taken down, one-by-one…

  9. Alcuin of York says:


    Actually, your priest friend is incorrect about the Offertory procession, as this was done in some places even before the advent of the Novus Ordo.

    Interesting….Everything that those in the authentic Liturgical Movement (Parsch, etc.) wanted (such as the Offertory procession) could have been accomplished without destroying the liturgical rites of the Church, and yet the ideas of the Liturgical Movement were hijacked by the modernists in order to “justify” a new rite.

  10. Brian Day says:

    Father Z,

    Excellent rant. I hope you will reward yourself with a very good bottle of wine, or perhaps some port and a good cigar.

  11. John Polhamus says:

    Father: With copious respect, and believe me I love your commentary, you live in Rome where, perhaps, some of the reccomendations actually achieved a Roman interpretation. In San Diego California, a Diocese now bankrupt from clerical abuse claims, this was never and nowhere the case. The mass here is not Roman and not Catholic. It is a protestant communion service. Until the lay schola Chorus Breviarii actually procured a new edition of the Missale Romanm and a Lectionarium through the good offices of the new auxiliary Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, the Novus Ordo mass here had never been done in Latin with Gregorian Chant, much less with an Ad Orientem celebrant. It is still the case, after five years, that the only time it happens here is when we do it. This is the case throughout the United States, Mexico, the whole Western Hemisphere, that I know of. This is not a fruit, after forty years it is nothing more than a tuber, IMHO. I too have absolute and ultimate faith in the rites of the Roman Church, but not these, and in deriving my living from them as an organist in a very liturgically wild parish, I am constrained, in following the directives of my pastor, to only contribute to their paucity and litugical bankruptcy.

    So many of the things you say are true. How well do the faithful know the parts of the mass after forty years of vernacular liturgy? At a recent funeral mass, the woman family member who planned the liturgy herslef with the help of a very charismatic priest, listed the final commendation in her own program, as the “Prayer of Condemnation.” I had to correct her three times over three phone calls in three days before she finally agreed to change the spelling. Apparrantly the priest didn’t catch that one, nor did he catch the listing of the “Pall Bears” at the beginning, a mistake that actually made it into the printed program.

    On Palm Sunday the female lector reading the passion, in front of a crew of five altar girls, read the account of the encounter with Simon the Cyrenian saying that as Jesus left the walls of the city “…they encountered a certain simian…?…Syrian…?…who was coming in from the country.” The former image of Jesus ascending Golgotha with the Cross on one shoulder and a chimp by the hand, or in the company of a terrorist, perfectly illustrates the theology created by the “reform” which the present laity carry around in their heads. What an improvement. Simon the Simian.

    And then there was the dropping of the Creed on Palm Sunday, at the “Children’s Mass,” which is attended by adults at a four to one ratio (alot of three parent families out there going to mass together, I guess!). He didn’t have time for the Creed, but he had time to meet, greet and kiss every altar girl. How fatherly. Father really gave away his game there a few weeks ago when he lauded the “Childrens Mass…which is mainly for children…and those who want to be children…with hand clapping and jazzy music…” I’m sorry, but as Paul said, “When I was a child I worshiped as a child, but now that I am become a man it is time to put away childish things.” Being childlike and childish are two different things. We are called to the latter; In Christrianity, remaining a child is NOT an option, and it is time for Rome to insist that the laity grow up in their faith again, to manifest that spiritual adulthood, or to admit that they are not living the Catholic religion.

    New social challanges, new situations. Mankind is only as old as the oldest person in it, and there is absolutely nothing new under the sun in the way of Sin. It’s ALL been done before, and the challange is always the same, a fact the liturgy has known how to address for nineteen hundred accretive and devalopmental years. Far from Rome, things could not get worse. So, as I write this on this Tuesday of Holy Week, forty years from the reform of 1967, I am reminded of the words from the invitatory psalm: “Forty Years I endured that generation. I said to myself, they are a people who’s hearts go astray, and they do not know my ways. I said in my anger, they shall not enter into my rest.” No, none of us have managed much of that for the past forty years.

    Pray for the safety of the Holy Father; Pray for the Motu Proprio; Pray for the unity of the Catholic Church.

    This Holy Week we all thank you Fr. Z, for all you have done and are doing.
    In Domino,
    John Polhamus,
    San Diego, CA

  12. John Polhamus says:

    Sorry, in my haste I reversed my words, it should have been “Being childish and childlike are two different things. We are called to the latter” and therefore to give up the former. Me culpa.

  13. Karen Russell says:

    Excellent review and commentary. I was coming into the Church just as the changes were taking place, and for a long time I did not know enough to realize what we were losing. But I’ve stayed anyway, Deo gratias.

    Reading through, I was struck by this sentence:
    “Since the beginning of this liturgical renewal, it has also become clear that the formularies of the Roman Missal had to be revised and enriched.”

    Impoverished is much closer to my own experience.

    Although for a few months some years ago,I was priviledged to be able to attend a Latin Novis Ordo with full “traditional” rituals (birettas, incense, ad orientem, etc.)and Gregorian Chant–it was like water in a desert.

  14. James says:

    Father, you make a comment about the doxology after the Pater Noster and Embolism (“Quia tuum est regnum…”) being just like the Protestants. It’s also just like the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom! It’s a very poor argument in light of this fact. I think it would be better to argue against it on the grounds of its insertion not being necessary for the benefit of the faithful.

  15. bedwere says:

    In the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom it is the priest alone who says the Embolism after the Our Father, not the congregation.

  16. Dave Deavel says:

    Great post! The next time you come to St. Paul, I’d love to buy you dinner.

  17. Dave: I really ought to be there right now, but things didn’t turn out that way.

  18. James: You make a good point. However, I suspect that that non-Roman addition wasn’t added to the ROMAN Missal because of interest (at the time) in the Eastern lung of the Church.

  19. Fr. Christopher says:

    Sad that a priest would insert sarcasm and mokery within an apostolic constitution. Intellectual debate and criticism is one thing, but…

  20. Fr. Christopher: Okay… I’ll bite. If you want to write your own positive and nurturing version and send it to me by e-mail, I will look it over and post it if it is up to scratch.


  21. rkeller says:

    I have wondered why so many of the prayers lost their traditional richness as well. They became much more anthropocentric and some of them barely even mention God. I fail to see where changes like that would come from a true “revision” of the Missal to include some things.

    The overall attitude of many today “we want diversity, unless it means anything that happened before 1960 or even sounds traditional” is disheartening. I hope that some day so much of the fruit which was borne out of centuries of prayer and holy saints will be found again in the modern world.

  22. Didn’t Bugnini state in his book about while they were “inventing” the “Novus Ordo” that they were timing Masses in the papal apartments with stopwatches?

    I often feel the “fruits” of the new missal have been that we have seen how bad it can get, so that we are now working to learn the liturgy better so we can fix it. It has certainly been a wakeup call.

    I honestly feel that the problem before Vatican II was that the faithful (priests and bishops included) did not really understand much about the liturgy. They just did things the way they had to. I really think the goal of the liturgical reform movements before the Council was to help the faithful to understand the liturgy better. But rather than educating the faithful and elevating their minds to the nobility of the Mass and its ritual, the Mass was dumbed down and lowered to the level of the ignorance of the general faithful. (Note: I speak of the externals and ritual. The fact that the Mass is the Holy Sacrifice of Christ be it Tridentine, Novus Ordo, or whatever valid rite, is intrinsic and assumed in my writing).

    I would go as far as saying, let’s just start over. Go back to the Tridentine, and organically reform that. Yes, I realize that is rather unrealistic, but I just have to say it.

    I was born after this decree, so I was raised in the “Novus Ordo” and attend it daily. Thankfully my pastor takes the liturgy seriously and says the Novus Ordo reverently.
    Still, the more I study the “old” and “new” rite, the more I am convinced the liturgical reforms of Vatican II were not carried out properly.

  23. Roman: I honestly feel that the problem before Vatican II was that the faithful (priests and bishops included) did not really understand much about the liturgy. They just did things the way they had to.

    On the other hand, I think people understood very well what Mass is about, if they did not understand the history, texts, etc.

    Perhaps the greatest fruit of the post-Conciliar reform was really to hammer home to enough people what there really was. I have gotten in trouble with various trads, individually and in groups, by my suggestion that the reason why they have more beautiful Masses with the older liturgy now is precisely because we lost them and then learned, the hard way, many things about true participation in the meantime. Furthermore, since younger clergy without the ’60’s and ’70’s baggage to haul around, are interested in the older Mass they never knew and have learned from it how the celebrate the New Mass better.

    At this stage, a derestriction of the older Mass would accelerate this in many ways.

  24. Roman Sacristan I agree with you.As for the doxology after the Lord’s Prayer,I believe it is is in the Didache as well.A very good commentary and contrary to what was written here I thought you pulled it off without any vitriol.It takes talent to give a commentary which is biting and humorous yet respectful.The only other person I know of who pulled it off was Ronald Knox in his humerous analysis of the Mass-THe Mass In Slow Motion. Where in the Constitution was the prohibition on the old mass?

  25. Fr. Christopher says:

    Father Z –

    No need to bite. As a whole, I do not disagree with your observations. My concern was with the tone with which they were made (or at least how it rang in my ear). As my previous post was not intended to contribute to discussion, a private e-mail would have been a better means of communication. My apologies for clicking “submit” before thinking. As an aside, the mp will be released in May.

    Buona Settimana Santa e Buona Pasqua!

  26. Fr. Christopher: As an aside, the mp will be released in May.

    We shall see. When it comes it comes. In the meantime, we can all do with some good preparation for Easter by means of the great time of Holy Week we are in!

    All the best!


  27. Time to turn off comments for the evening.

  28. B. says:

    I don’t know if this General Audience of Paul VI regarding the New Mass has been referred to before on this blog, but I think it’s important here.
    Pope Paul VI knew what he was doing. He wasn’t naive.
    He didn’t just change the mass, but also the priestly ordination and episcopal consecration rites. That had nothing to do with “pastoral” because most faithful never attend one anyway. He supressed the minor orders, there’s absolutely nothing pastoral in that. He personally removed conservative professors from the pontifical universities. He put into effect the law that requires a bishop to retire at age 75 so he could replace the old conservative ones with the ones in line with his thinking. He required pastors to retire, so the old ones could be replaced quicker. He was the first pope in something like 500 years to directly influence the selection of his successor by banning the Cardinals over 80 (I.e. those appointed by Pius XI and XII. I’d guess without this measure we possibly wouldn’t have had to wait another 25 years for the freeing of the old mass).

    I’m sorry, but all this taken together, I can’t believe he was naive. He wanted the revolution and he got the revolution.

  29. rudi says:

    As an aside, the mp will be released in May.


  30. Jon says:

    I think Father Christopher is referring to a rumor that began on the blog of Michael Dubruiel, the husband of Amy Welborn.

    Michael apparently has a friend, a female professor I’ve seen described elsewhere as “a well known laywoman,” who had an audience last month with the Holy Father. She had the temerity (courage?) to put the question of “when” directly to him. Benedict answered, “in May.”


    The name of the individual isn’t attached, so I’d take it for what it’s worth. Just continue to pray. Pray hard.

  31. Jon says:

    Apropos to Father’s comments, here’s an interesting post by frequent WDTPRS participant Kenjiro Shoda I found over at NLM:

    Jean Guitton, a friend of Paul VI, spoke with him shortly before his death in 1978. They sat in the Vatican gardens, under a gazebo sitting in wicker chairs and sipping cool drinks (if you can believe Paul VI relaxing like this!). In his notes, Guitton states that upon being asked about the liturgy of Vatican II, Paul VI responded that he had absolutely no idea that such a disaster would have followed the introduction of the revised Mass, and deeply regretted it. He told Guitton that he had been in agony over the state of the Mass, and wished that He had had the courage to correct the destruction…but didn’t.

    He was very prophetic, stating that he knew his time was very short, and therefore it was up to his successor (ultimately John Paul II), to correct the abuses and the destruction of the Mass. Paul VI voiced his regret for the whole liturgical debacle, which is more than I thought he would ever do.

    Very few know of this conversation. It’s been largely supressed. Jean Guitton was very famous in his day, but this particular event is hardly remembered. I found it on the web,on You Tube in a French language interview Guitton gave to a Paris radio station after Paul VI’s death (early 1980’s).

    I read before, that Paul VI had remarked to a cardinal, days before his unexpected death, that he regretted the Novus Ordo, and indeed the Council and what came from it, saying that he was “like a train conductor put in charge of a train going on a course I would not have chosen to follow..”

    I used to despise Paul VI, because I thought him throughly knowledgeable and responsible for the disaster of the Mass, religious life, the end of the Papal Court, ritual etc. Only now am I learning that underlings (Bugnini, Marini, and others such as Cardinal Willebrands, Lecaro, Suenens, and others forced a radical liberal agenda on the Pope.) Being weak and indecisive, in many things he followed wherever the wind blew.
    Paul VI was a tormented, unhappy Pope. I feel sorry for him.

    Hopefully Benedict XVI will not repeat this sad story with his decisions (or lack of them)
    Kenjiro Shoda | 04.03.07 | #

  32. Dennis says:

    The promulgation of the new missal had little impact on my parish, as we were doing just about everything that way anyway: standing for Holy Communion, the priest facing the people, Mass entirely in English, et cetera.

    I didn’t understand the comment about the prayers at the foot of the altar being suppressed. Were they not suppressed prior to the new Mass? My parish priests did not say the prayers at the foot of the altar in the late 60’s.

  33. Brian says:

    If my memory serves me correctly, by 1969/70, the vernacular versus populum
    Mass had become default. This new status quo simply facilitated a seemless
    transition into the Novus Ordo, with barely a ripple. This was certainly the case
    in my area of Canada. I just took for granted that this was the way it was

  34. Alcuin of York says:


    If my memory serves me, the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar were merely optional in the 1965 Missal; this probably explains your situation.


    There were two papal audiences at the end of November 1969. Their juxtaposition is almost comical. In the first, the pope explains why it was necessary to change the Mass, and in the next, he explains that the Mass isn’t really changing, it’s staying the same.

  35. Cerimoniere says:

    The prayers at the foot of the altar were suppressed in two stages. The psalm was suppressed by 1965 (making all the year one long Passiontide Requiem!) but was still unchanged in the 1962 missal. The rest of the prayers made it to the introduction of the Novus Ordo.

    It is true that by the late 1960s, liturgical anarchy had become widely established. The 1962 typical edition of the Missal must have had the shortest life of any typical edition of any Roman liturgical book ever. The piecemeal “reforms” began very quickly, and there were revised Orders of Mass in 1965 and 1967, prior to the Novus Ordo itself in 1969.

    The whole Mass could be in the vernacular (perhaps with the exception of the Canon) by 1967. I am familiar with one (Jesuit) church where the sanctuary had been re-ordered by 1965 – so the forward-facing altar was reconsecrated with the old rite!

    What all of this demonstrates, of course, is that the Novus Ordo itself was simply the latest stage in an ongoing and long-planned assault on the Roman Rite, which was progressively unveiled on a largely-unsuspecting Catholic world, that initially believed with each stage that the agony was over.

  36. Andrew says:

    A highly relevant comments can be found on the internet having to do with this entire matter: it is the “Angelus” of Pope Paul VI dated March 7, 1965 (you can look it up on the Vatican website under Paul VI – Angelus – 1965 – March 7):

    Here is an excerpt:

    È un sacrificio che la Chiesa ha compiuto della propria lingua, il latino; lingua sacra, grave, bella, estremamente espressiva ed elegante. Ha sacrificato tradizioni di secoli e soprattutto sacrifica l’unità di linguaggio nei vari popoli, in omaggio a questa maggiore universalità, per arrivare a tutti.

    (This is a sacrifice the Church has completed of its own language, the Latin: a sacred language, serious, beautiful, extremely expressive and elegant. Traditions of centuries have been sacrificed and above all the linguistic unity of the various nations … etc. my Italian is not very good).

    The background for this talk is the just completed celebration of an all vernacular Mass at the “Universis Caelitibus” church. I think the Pope meant well and it is not a bad thing to make certain things accessible to everyone: as long as excellence is not forbidden, as long as we do not seek by default the lowest common denominator in everything. This is why, in my humble opinion, a Motu Proprio that puts an end to the prohibition of the ancient liturgy is so very necessary.

  37. Where Sacrosanctum Concilium specified what was to be preserved, its authors were communicating in code what was really to be targeted.

  38. Andrew says:

    I should have given the name of the church above as “Omnium Sanctorum in via Appia Nova” or in Italian as “ognissanti” (if I’m not mistaken).

  39. The Pope promulgated it so it is legal!
    The Pope has no authority to legislate against the Church and the Faith.

    Of course, the NOM’s virtually identical prototype was written — composed,
    made up
    — by Father Luther and installed in the Book of Common Prayer in 1549. It was called the Lord’s Supper. (Destroy the Mass and the Church comes tumbling down.) Let the penny drop. The NOM is not even a rite of Mass: Just as a square is not an invalid circle, the NOM is not even INvalid. It is a propaganda substitute which the V2 God haters call a mass.

  40. PMcGrath says:

    I realize I’m jumping in a bit late here, but …

    I agree with the bulk of Father Z’s remarks here, but … I had always thought that SC’s call for more Scripture in the liturgy was one of its best points. I mean, the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the rest of the Hebrew Bible are our heritage too. Apart from the Psalms, the pre-’62 liturgy gave the Old Testament short shrift. If Moses and Elijah could stand with the Lord at the Transfiguration, they could certainly stand with him at the ambo.

    Just a thought.

  41. Andrew says:

    Michael McDonnell:

    Lots of nutty things can be said on both sides and it doesn’t help the cause to make broad statements based on shaky premises. Pope Paul VI was a holy man, a very learned man, who dealt with many difficult issues the best he knew how. The fix is not on one person’s shoulders: and neither will one Motu Proprio resolve everything. Popes do not dictate cultures: they live within a given culture and function within its framework. A Pope could easily legislate that in order to be a catholic one must be fluent in Latin and Greek and undergo five years of strict training in liturgical decorum. And the Church could be reduced to 150 individuals who would qualify. Would that be desirable? Of course it is not illegitimate to give folks some vernacular – within reasonable limits. To get to where everyone would like to be will take a lot of work and a lot of good will on the part of many individuals and groups: the Motu Proprio, hopefully, (when and if it will come) will be just one of many steps in the right direction.

  42. Matthew Kennel says:

    Yes, I agree with PMcGrath that the expansion of the scripture readings was a good change to the mass. Personally, I don’t really mind the extra canons or the changes to the Roman canon either. However, the elimination of the opening prayers and of the last Gospel/prayer to St. Michael and many of the other changes do irk me a bit. Nonetheless, even a shodily celebrated Mass can still spark conversions. I remember one of the first masses I went to as an adult (back when I was Protestant). It was a midnight mass on Christmas Eve 2002, and I was captivated by what went on. The vestments, the beautiful prayers! It all felt so official, so right. It was as if I had never been in a real church before (which, of course, was almost true, since I had been in a Catholic church about 3-4 times before that). I knew, in that moment, even though I didn’t admit it to myself for a year and a half, that the man in front of me was a REAL priest. So, in a way, each of the 5 – 10 masses that I went to before I decided to convert to Catholicism were real moments of grace for me. So, remember, in the midst of your criticism of things which really do need to change, that there are things about the new mass that are beautiful and right. Just keep repeating to yourself, “reform of the reform…reform of the reform”

  43. swmichigancatholic says:

    Dennis, my sister recalls about the same. But she became Catholic in 1975 or so and had no real experience with the Pre-Vatican II Church. (I am talking before 1962-3 or so.) This is even though she remembers it as very different from now.

    It used to be a WHOLE LOT different. Much apparently had happened before your first memory there….

  44. Cerimoniere says:

    Mr. McDonnell, I’m not sure where to start addressing your points. You are clearly right that the new rite has disturbing parallels with Protestant forms of worship. However, to say that is “not even invalid” is seriously wrong: it is not invalid at all. It possesses all the necessary conditions for sacramental validity, and its promulgation by the Roman Pontiff is indeed a guarantee of this.

    It is not a guarantee that the reform is in accordance with God’s Will, however, nor that it is pastorally beneficial to the faithful, beyond its simple validity. One of the late Michael Davies’ finer turns of phrase was that the Novus Ordo is “not so much a Rite, as a series of options.” There is no doubt that part of the reason for this was malice against the faith on the part of some involved in its drafting, as you suggest. However, that does not mean that it is actually invalid!

  45. swmichigancatholic says:

    I came into the church in 1985, by which time the Church was pretty strange indeed, but yes, I also saw beauty at times and knew I was finally home.

    However, because I had attended Catholic school for one year about the time of V2, and knew a bit about the Tridentine and so on, I knew something earth-shaking had happened, yes. And the reactions of the Catholics around me left no question that a great wound had been inflicted and was still very sore. It didn’t take me long to realize the situation, at least superficially, and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.

    Regarding the scripture used in Mass:
    I have many protestant ministers in my family. So I have some scripture in my head and the translations that come into my mind are lovely old poetic ones. Catholic translations tend to be somewhat atrocious, most particularly the NAB. Add to that the paraphrased quality of the readings in Mass–proclaimable and all that (and not even up to the NAB in quality)–and they sound awful to my ear. Just jarring. I can’t help it. The text is not all there, it’s sloppy referentially and sometimes the gender is all messed up so that it says something foreign to the context.

    I’ve been told by many Catholics, “Oh, we hear all the scripture in Mass in 3 years time.” That’s not even approximately true. Only parts that suited the remodelers of the mass are present. Much is simply not there to this day.

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