Benedict’s Palm Sunday reference to the pre-Conciliar liturgy

Today the Holy Father in his sermon for Palm Sunday, which is also this year’s World Youth Day celebration, made a reference to the pre-Conciliar liturgy for this same Sunday. 

Expanding on Ps. 23, he spoke to the young people jamming St. Peter’s Square about how at the time of the procession for Palm Sunday the priest would stand before the closed door of the church and knock strongly upon it with the processional Cross.  The door would open and they would enter.  This is, for Benedict, an image of how Christ, with the wood of the Cross, with the force of His love opened the door between God and the world. 

Benedict used this to teach how we must open the doors of our hearts to Christ.  Even if the words of Scripture or the message of the Church leave you indifferent, at least open yourselves to Christ.  Look at Christ who suffered for you and suffers with you.

To recap, the Pope used as a starting point something from the older form of Mass to enrich the understanding of thousands of young people.

H.E. Tarcisio Card. Bertone told Le Figaro that one of the reasons Benedict is derestricting the older form of Mass is so that the great patrimony of our Church’s liturgy not be lost. 

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  1. Jon says:


    “…the priest would stand before the closed door of the church and knock strongly upon it with the processional Cross. The door would open and they would enter. This is, for Benedict, an image of how Christ, with the wood of the Cross, with the force of His love opened the door between God and the world.”

    Fascinating coincidence. Because there will be no homily this morning, last week my FSSP priest explained what will happen during the procession at this morning’s Mass in precisely the same way.

  2. Cerimoniere says:

    Not merely a reference to the “pre-Conciliar liturgy,” but to the pre-1955 liturgy. Better and better!

    Father, since I have finally got around to registering and making my first comment, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the excellent, not to say extremely entertaining, service that you provide for us all.

  3. Cerimoniere: You are very welcome. Nice catch with the pre-55 thing, btw.

    With the derestriction (and may it be soon), we will have use of the 1962… not the pre-55 … edition of the Missale Romanum. So we won’t be seeing or hearing door banging on Palm Sunday, alas.

    To anyone out there, a trivia question: Do you happen to remember another door banging moment in the life of the Church?

  4. This is not the first time the Holy Father spoke approvingly of the pre-conciliar liturgy.
    Here is a quote on the pre-conciliar rite for Baptisme, from his meeting with the clergy of the diocese of Albano, 31 August 2006:
    “I am not sufficiently familiar with the Italian Rite. In the classic Rite, inherited from the ancient Church, Baptism begins with the question: “What do you ask of God’s Church?”. Today, at least in the German Rite, the response is simply “Baptism”. This does not adequately explain what it is that should be desired. In the ancient Rite the answer was “faith”: that is, a relationship with God, acquaintanceship with God. And, “Why do you ask for faith”, the Rite continues. “Because we wish for eternal life”: we also want a safe life in future crises, a life that has meaning, that justifies being human. In any case, it seems to me that this dialogue should take place with the parents prior to Baptism. This is only to say that the gift of the Sacrament is not merely a “thing”, it is not merely “reifying” it, as the French say; it is missionary work.”

  5. SMCatharine says:

    Well, what comes to mind is the banging on the Jubilee Doors in 1999. Who could forget that image!Here at the monastery we all stood around the TV (we don’t watch it unless it is some big event) waiting for the Holy Father to open the Jubilee so that we could go to our own choir doors and begin the Jubilee with 1st Vespers!

    Another banging is what some monastic communities have: that of the novices knocking on the door and singing, “Open to me the gates of holiness, etc.” before her solemn entrance into the community.

    I was told about your site by a friend when I was moaning about the awful translations of the collects and how as a community we have hear those blasted translations up to 7 times a day. I mentioned how I have all sorts of corrections penciled in my breviary and that it’s only more of a distraction because it reminds me of how we are stuck having to use the bad translations!

    Thank you for your balanced views and commentary! As the monastery liturgy directress I’m supposed to keep informed on what is happening liturgically and convey it to the community and I must say, it’s exciting!

  6. Augustinus says:

    Having also just registered (UK based), I too would like to thank you, Father, for this great apostolate. I check your site before all others, as I have a feeling we’re likely to get the first news of the published MP here: you seem to have your finger very much on the pulse.

    I guess that since this will be published ‘Motu Proprio’, there may well be no advance warning – and the Holy Father could take us all by surprise in his chosen timing.

    Thanks, too, for highlighting the false translations of SC – and for whatever work you did behind the scenes to get the change made to para. 62. Let’s hope the other incorrectly translated paragraphs get changed soon.

  7. Diana says:

    Does anyone know where I can find the prayer which was directed at those who critize priests? HELP!

  8. According to my old St. Andrew’s and St. Joseph’s Daily Missals, it was the subdeacon who knocked on the door with the cross. Will that order be restored with the deristriction? (I was one of the last ones to be ordained in this archdiocese.)

  9. Door banging: I believe this is done when the bishop enters to consecrate a church? Or does my memory fail?

  10. Fr. La Fontaine: I cannot imagine that the old subdiaconate will be revived. However, as I am sure you know, the role of the subdeacon could be well assumed by the properly instituted acolyte. Deacons and priests could even fulfill that function. If I am not mistaken, the seminarians of the “traditionalist” institutes (e.g., Institute of Christ the King, etc.) undergo the minor orders ceremonies, with the understanding of course that the clerical state begins with diaconate. All my best to you for your Holy Week preparations.

  11. Te_Deum says:

    Fr. Z said, “To recap, the Pope used as a starting point something from the older form of Mass to enrich the understanding of thousands of young people.”

    This is what I’ve been counting on. Pope John Paul II gave rise to the JPII generation, which, in greater numbers all the time, are rejecting the namby-pamby of the hippy theologians who tried to water everything down to make Catholicism into a religion of convenience.

    Looking down the road some 15 years from now, we will see the fruits of Pope Benedict’s labor in this regard. This time, it will be the liturgy itself – both the attraction to the Tridentine and improvements in the Novus Ordo.

    I’ll say it again – this is absolutely awe-inspiring to watch history being made with Pope Benedict.

  12. Theodoricus says:

    Today, at St-Agnes Amsterdam, the older form of mass was indeed just as the pope said. The banging on the churchdoor etc..
    This pope reminds me of Pius XII…

  13. Te_Deum says:

    Fr. Z: Speaking of sub-deacons….Would it be possible to begin a series on the Old Mass for Dummies? (me being one of them)

    I was born in 1962 and I’m sorry to say, I have no recollections from my time in the womb of the pre-conciliar Mass.

    Forgive my ignorance, but when I hear talk of sub-deacons and the like, I have no clue. I’m rather fascinated by many things I hear about, and I know I’ll get to learn through experience various things, but a series could be pretty popular, I believe. Start with “people and roles”, followed by explanations from beginning to end of happenings in the Old Mass.

    Just wanted you to consider it.

  14. Somerset '76 says:

    … the role of the subdeacon could be well assumed by the properly instituted acolyte. Deacons and priests could even fulfill that function. If I am not mistaken, the seminarians of the “traditionalist” institutes (e.g., Institute of Christ the King, etc.) undergo the minor orders ceremonies, with the understanding of course that the clerical state begins with diaconate.

    I will point out for interest’s sake that the SSPX follows the old rules in this respect: that the clerical state begins with the Tonsure, that a cleric in Minor Orders can fulfill some but not all of the subdeacon’s roles in the liturgy as a substitute, and that one is gravely bound to celibacy and the Divine Office from the moment of one’s subdiaconate ordination.

  15. Woody Jones says:

    Why was this liturgy in Italian?

  16. rudi says:

    “The clerical state begins at diaconate”
    In the past the clerical state began at tonsure and preceded minor orders, so the non-ordained could also be clerics, in a sense this meant that women could also be ranked among the clergy.
    I love the idea that the Old Rite gave more status to women than the new, time for restoration.

  17. rudi says:

    as nuns I mean

  18. Jon says:


    “So we won’t be seeing or hearing door banging on Palm Sunday, alas.”

    Back from Mass, and our priest did indeed bang on the closed door with the veiled processional Cross. Wish I’d taken a picture – it was splendid.

  19. Alex says:

    IT’S COMING!!!!!

    The Motu Proprio that is. The news keeps getting better and better. Rorate-Caeli and this blog are the first sites I check everyday. God Bles youFa Father Z!

  20. Henry Edwards says:


    Back from Mass, and our priest did indeed bang on the closed door with the veiled processional Cross. Wish I’d taken a picture – it was splendid.

    Splendid, indeed. I’ll bet you heard that second confiteor, too (just before Holy Communion). Right? If so, also spendid. Both seemed just right at the last Palm Sunday TLM I attended. (Alas, not today.) And I didn’t notice a single person who seemed uptight about 1955 vs. 1962.

  21. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    I do not understand the comment about the priest not banging the door in the ’62 liturgy. The priest did it this morning at the traditional Mass I attended (SSPX). Did anyone attend the traditional Mass today where they did not do it? Is this one of the rubrics that remains an option, like the second confiteor in the “62 missal? Finally, does anyone have any idea why this was dropped? Whenever I hear about a change in Holy Week from ’55, I get the suspicion that the people in ’55 were motivated by many of the same principles as the people in ’70. I wish there was an Institute of Christ the King chapel near me.

  22. PB says:

    I just got back from Palm Sunday Mass at our local indult, and we did use the “restored” Holy Week promulgated by Pope Pius XII and contained in the 1955/1962 missal. So we had a much shorter set of prayers during the blessing, and fewer ceremonies during the procession itself (no knocking on the door with the processional cross, unfortunately; but it was still nice).
    Does anyone know if the Ecclesia Dei Commission has ever given official approval to use the pre-1955 Holy Week ceremonies? I’m just curious because I know that many traditional Latin Mass groups use them, including those operating under the indult. I certainly don’t object to the pre-1955 Holy Week rites, but I just wonder if it was ever explicitly decided in Rome that they could be used under the indult. (I should add that I don’t have any objections to Pius XII’s revisions. They are much less extensive than what happened ten years later.)

  23. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    The Institute of Christ the King has permission to use the pre-1955 revision of Holy Week, although they have the Easter Vigil at night instead of in the morning. As a matter of fact I think they use the pre-’55 rubrics for all their liturgies, for example whenever they wear violet vestments they do not close with Ite, Missa Est, but rather with Benedicamus Domino.

  24. Jon says:


    “I’ll bet you heard that second Confiteor, too (just before Holy Communion). Right?”

    Right you are!

  25. Cerimoniere says:

    Thank you for your welcome, Father.

    The traditional clerical institutes created since “Ecclesia Dei” have the use of the old Pontifical, so their clerics receive the tonsure, the four minor orders and the subdiaconate. Evidently, under the new Code, they do not become bound to the obligations of major orders such as celibacy and the Office until their diaconate. However, it seems hard to argue that they are not clerics in any sense at all until then. They receive tonsure and the lower orders by indult from the Holy See, and presumably something is actually conferred in those ceremonies.

    The Ecclesia Dei Commission has never granted permission for the use of any liturgical rites from prior to 1962, although they are certainly done in some indult churches. Some places incorporate elements of the earlier rites (such as knocking on the church door today) into ceremonies which are mainly based on 1962. I believe the SSPX does this also.

    In fact, the Commission only has the authority which it is granted, which refer only to the 1962 books. Its published faculties do not include any powers to to grant variations from the liturgical books in force in 1962, though it has purported to do so on a number of occasions (including the permission for an acolyte instituted in the new rite to act as subdeacon). These variations do not include the confiteor before Communion, incidentally, which was entirely suppressed in 1960, though widely used throughout the indult world.

  26. B. says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf,

    If I am not mistaken, the seminarians of the “traditionalist” institutes (e.g., Institute of Christ the King, etc.) undergo the minor orders ceremonies, with the understanding of course that the clerical state begins with diaconate.
    As far as I am aware, and all their official publications say so, for the FSSP, the ICRSP and other “full” Indult societies, the clerical state still begins with the Tonsure. Pope Paul VI just (unfortunately) supressed the minor orders, but he couldn’t change the theology that goes with them.

    On a sidenote, in Germany it’s not allowed for non-clericals to wear clerical garb (it’s even a criminal offense punishable with up to one year in prison). Diocesan seminarians begin wearing clearical garb only with the diaconate, but FSSP seminarians with the Tonsure. The only ones falling out of this are the Legionaries of Christ, but theoretically that is problematic.

  27. Fr. B Pedersen says:


    At St. Augustine Church in South Saint Paul, Minnesota we concluded the Palm Sunday Liturgy and Mass. It took approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes. Had we really have been fortunate I would have had the funds to purchase for Fr. Z a flight ticket to assist us as an honored guest, but alas I don’t control the purse. Let me tell you that there is nothing quite like Fr. Z singing the part of Christ. Had we a more advanced Schola Cantorum it would have taken another 30 minutes given the long tracts. If we were really “traditional” we would start at one of my parishes in South Saint Paul and process to the larger one that it eleven blocks though and would take 40 minutes to walk a liturgical procession. Is there even enough chant in the Gradual? In Rome it would be far easier since Churches are so close to one another. That would be a dream fit for a phlegmatic, which I am. We had a procession that went outside and around the Church (the rain held off). I did suggest that prior to the liturgy, that any mothers with young Children could certainly feel free to leave for a short while and come back into the church especially during the singing of the Passion. (This is what our coptic and ethiopic sisters do with their little ones.) We used the 1962 (Post ’55 revision). We had an instituted acolyte serve as SubDeacon w/o maniple, Deacon, and Celebrant with an addition transistional Deacon and another Priest to help sing the Passion. I was Deacon and doubled as the Chronista for the Passion. I must admit that we sang the pre-55 reform passion with the haunting Gospel tone at the end, but all else was the Pius XII reform. My lame excuse was that was the music I had notated. Since I was the one who sang it I am at fault for including it. As I study the rites of Holy Week itself, I find in the ’55 revision seeds of the Novus Ordo reform which if one is time conscious should be welcomed, and if not, then you always have the Institute of Christ the King. I find most distressing the alteration of the final Palm Blessing, and by that I mean the Oration followed by a preface like prayer of blessing. This is an ancient liturgical paradigm in the Roman Rite found in any significant blessing, ordination, or consecration. It was annoying to have to change vestments. Violet would have been far more practical for both parts of the liturgy. I understand why the celebrant would actually preread the passion. The Tract sung in true Gregorian fashion certainly would allow for the quiet reading of it on the Gospel side. Matthew’s Passion, by my reckoning, easily takes 35 minutes to sing. I should note that at St. Augustine we are all diocesan clergy. The only change I made between this year and last was the distribution of the Palms. All the servers, of which we invited all our servers to vest and assist with the procession received the palms in the traditional manner at the predella-they did likewise for communion. Last year I also distributed the palms to the congregation at the Communion rail. I thought that the most traditional option would be the desired one, but some did not care for the length it took, others had never heard of the oscula. I must note that I am just completing my 30th year in a few months, and my knowledge of the old rite it limited to reading ceremonials and rubrics, and also what I learned of the tradition from the new rite, which at my Home Parish was quite extensive, but certainly not exhaustive. There is always more to the old liturgy to learn. Alas we did not knock on the door, thought I would like to have a second sub-deacon vested as Cross bearer for next year. We will have the entire Triduum as well-in solemn manner. It will be an exhausting week especially after Tenebrae at St. Agnes. Some one must pass out the “Tenebrae Factae Sunt” holy cards in memory of our favorite blogger. All the best to anyone in any rite striving to worship God with beauty and humility.

  28. Fr. B Pedersen says:

    It should be noted that minor clerics and sub-deacons do exist in the current law of the Church, though not in current law of the Latin Rite Churches, but minor orders and minor clerics still exist, but you have to look to the east.

    –Fr. Pedersen

    P.S. Why not restore them? Even in the Novus Ordo there was once upon a time an official sub-deacon.

  29. Hugh says:

    We use the ’62 Missal, but incorporate the door striking ceremony. St Aloysius, Caulfield, Melbourne Australia. (FSSP community)

  30. Fr. B Pedersen says:

    Does ICKSP fold chasuble’s too?

  31. ThomasMore1535 says:

    Fr. Pedersen,

    ICKSP certainly do use folded chasuble’s, at least here in St. Louis.

    I once asked the priest in charge of their oratory here in St. Louis about them doing the pre-’62 stuff, and he told me that they do have permission to do it. They’re very, very loyal to the Holy See, and wouldn’t be doing any of this stuff unless they had authorization to do so.

  32. ThomasMore1535 says:

    It is important to realize, as someone pointed out above, that minor orders and the subdiaconate are NOT
    inherently incompatible with the Novus Ordo. They weren’t suppressed until 1972. By then, the Novus Ordo had been in full effect for two whole years. There is no reason to suppose that they couldn’t be revived in the current form of the liturgy.

  33. Andrew says:

    Woody Jones:

    “Why was this liturgy in Italian?”

    That’s a good question that no one seems to be concerned about. At least not here. Let’s rather talk about what piece of fabric some clerics might wear on certain occasions and above all ‘what doors they’d be tapping’.

  34. Alcuin of York says:

    Fr. Z,

    As far as door-knocking goes, doesn’t the bishop knock on the cathedral door on his way in to take possession of it?

  35. Deborah says:

    Why was this liturgy in Italian?

    Woody Jones,

    Actually, there was both Italian and Latin. The Creed and Sanctus were definately in Latin – most likely the entire sung ordinary was also in Latin however I missed it so I can’t say absolutely.

  36. Demerzel says:


    The Credo and Pater Noster was in Latin, one of the Communion Chants was the Anima Christi in Latin. However, I cant remember if the Sanctus and Agnus Dei was in Latin as well.

  37. Richard Friend says:

    Fr. Z,

    “With the derestriction (and may it be soon), we will have use of the 1962… not the pre-55 … edition of the Missale Romanum. So we won’t be seeing or hearing door banging on Palm Sunday, alas.”

    I attended the Palm Sunday Mass at St. Michael’s Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers here in Orange County, California, and despite the fact that the Norbertines celebrate Mass according to the Pauline missal, we had, as happens every year, the “door banging” event just like in the preconciliar liturgy where the priest (in our case, the mitred abbot of the abbey) bangs on the closed door of the church. The Norbertines here are exceptional in their devout and very reverent celebration of the Mass, and at the abbey their 11:00 Sunday Mass is a Novus Ordo Latin “High Mass” with gregorian chant, incense and all. If the Norbertines can do the “door banging” using the Novus Ordo missal, I see no reason why it can’t be replicated elsewhere, unless this “door banging” ceremony was specifically suppressed in the Pauline rite.

  38. BA says:

    Father Z: Martin Luther knocked 95 theses onto the door at the Cathedral in Wittenburg and ushered in another revolution in the life of the Church.

    Andrew: You’ll be happy to know, he posted them in Latin.

  39. billsykes says:

    Rev. 3:20:

    Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

  40. EJ says:

    Almost the entire ordinary of the Mass was in Italian – including the Eucharistic Prayer and all of the celebrant’s and congregation’s responses. It is a real shame – the excuse coming from the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, I presume, is that since yesterday was also when World Youth Day is observed universally at the diocesan level – that it might therefore be more appropriate to use the vernacular – even at the Vatican, and not Latin. What does not make sense, given the recent statement in Sacramentum Caritatis that the use of Latin is “fitting” in international gatherings – is that if one took a good look and the number of foreign passports held by members of yesterday’s congregation – one would realize that not everyone was Italian – by far not everyone (that’s why the prayer of the faithful was in the usual six to ten languages!). When the Pope presides at the Corpus Christi Mass from St. John Lateran – the entire thing (even most of the ordinary chants) is in Italian.

  41. woodyjones says:

    EJ and Andrew:

    Thanks for picking up on this language question. The reference to SC was exactly what I had in mind. Why have an exhortation and then not start doing things in conformity with it? I suppose, in fairness, there are all sorts of legitimate answers, including that the liturgy may have been planned far in advance, and so the language was not thought to be an issue, and after all, “everyone knows” that the young don’t know Latin so it would have to be in the vernacualrl So as to “connect” you know.

    All these large Masses, but especially the ones aimed at youth, tend to be somewhat disedifying to older folks like, anyway, especially the TV shots of youths looking bored, or talking with their friends during the homily, not to mention the large number of close-ups of nice looking young ladies (well, that latter might not be disedifying, but you get the idea–it almost seems as if the local sports TV crew is covering).

    I apologize for any spelling errors here, but can’t seem to get the far right hand of screen to show up.

    Anyway, the best to everyone for a blessed Triduum and Easter.

  42. woodyjones says:

    “vernacular” of course.

  43. Justin says:

    I saw the re-broadcast of the Pope’s Mass on EWTN. Since I speak Italian, I was very up-set with the “inclusive” English translations of the Italian texts. “Tutti gli uomini,” being traslated, “all persons” instead of the correct form, “all men!”

  44. TJM says:

    Father Z: I was very dissapointed in the Mass celebrated by
    Benedict XVI on Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square. It’s
    almost as if he did not author Sacramentum Caritatis. I
    was shocked that he said the Canon in Italian given the
    “aequum est” language regarding Latin in the Exhortation.
    If the Pope won’t use Latin at such a public Mass, why
    would an American bishop or priest stick his neck out.
    This gives the Mahony’s of the world more ammunition for
    ignoring the Exhortation. Also, other than the Chant, the
    music was banal. I heard far better at St. John Cantius
    in Chicago on Palm Sunday,where the Novus Ordo in Latin,
    ad orientem, was celebrated with far greater dignity and
    splendor the Pope’s Palm Sunday Mass. I am growing more
    and more concerned about Benedict’s strength of purpose,
    aren’t you? Tom

  45. ed says:

    I agree with TJM that none of the wonderful words coming from Rome on litugy will have an impact until we start seeing some reflection of it in Papal liturgies. For the record, the bits I saw of the Mass yesterday – for JPII – were largely in Latin, including the EP.

    And…what will we see in Brazil?

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