Dumb article on old Mass in Boston Ledger

As the finger drumming continues in anticipation of the derestriction of the so-called "Tridentine" rite via a Motu Proprio, and when it finally arrives, we will see many more articles like the following. 

They will be characterized by that deadly combo of ignorance and arrogance.  (My emphases  and comments.)

Catholic Mass: For parishioners of 1880s, Mass was ‘a spectacle’

The Patriot Ledger

For Catholics of times past, Mass was a different experience – and one that today’s parishioners probably wouldn’t find very satisfying, according to Boston College history professor James O’Toole of Milton. [Right, because a Mass, errr… liturgy, not characterized by music worthy of Gilligan’s Island and a grinning presider probably would be too challenging, not satisfying at all.  You would have to work at it, instead of zone out.]

‘‘It was very quick – about a half hour – [except High Masses] and of course it was all in Latin,’’ said O’Toole, who’s the author of books on the American Catholic Church.  ‘‘The priest would have faced the altar, away from the congregation, and his preaching would have been very short, in a low voice.’’  [This is where the journalist of the article stumbles badly. he just accepts the old chestnuts offered by O’Toole as true.  For example, we have the old canard of "priest facing away" from the congregation.  The truth is that when Mass is celebrated ad orientem the priest and congregation are facing the same direction.  It is inaccurate to say the priest is turned away from the people.  And, short preaching?  The author reveals his ignorance.  Most pre-conciliar collections of sermons and sermon notes indicate that sermons were rather long, by today’s standards.  Furthermore, in the days before microphones were wide-spread, the preaching would have been anything but in a low voice.  The author seems to think that loud is better.  You get the impression that the "expert" is imposing his own boyhood memories on the entire pre-conciliar Church everywhere.]

Back in the 1880s and ’90s, when parishes like Holy Family in Rockland were still new, ‘‘Mass was a spectacle that people watched, rather than something they participated in, as they do now,’’ he said. [Again, a canard.  These people think that if people aren’t clapping or carrying things, they are not participating.  However, the true meaning of "active participation" is found in interiorly active receptivity, the loving act of uniting the mind, heart and will to what you see and hear in the sacred rite in which Christ is the true Actor.  And, when you consider the goofy and unbridled liturgical hijinx in many parishes, where over-amplified poorly performed music intimidates people into mute zombies and self-interested creativity alters the rubrics on a week to week basis, which version of Mass do we want to call a "spectacle"?]

Unlike today, Masses were celebrated on the hour through most of the day, ‘‘so they had to be quick,’’ O’Toole said.  [That’s because a) there were more people going to Mass so more Masses were needed, b) there were more priests available to say Masses, c) it takes longer to spoon-feed junior in his high-chair than it does for an adult to eat big people food.  Often Masses are artificially lengthened today because people are being forced to listen to all the verses of every awful ditty and Mass has been turned into a didactic moment (partly as a result of having three readings on Sundays instead of two) rather than an encounter with the mysterious.]

The now-familiar streams of believers going to the altar to receive Communion would have been absent as well. Until the reforms of the Second Vatican Council of 1965, the church’s teachings emphasized the unworthiness of sinful souls, and the need for confession as a preparation for Communion.  [Things are so much better now.  Everyone goes to Communion, rather like filing forward to get a, parking ticket validated.  Thank heaven no one believes anymore that we can sin, that confession is necessary or the L that Communion is actually reception of the Blody, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Almighty God our Lord Jesus Christ  our , who will come again as Judge.  Communion is a matter of group sel-validation, I guess.  Notice his term "believers".   "Believers" go to Communion.  It is not our belief that makes up prepared to receive Communion well, so that we receive is graces rather than profane It by sinful reception.  His language seems nearly… well… Lutheran, to me.]  ‘‘If you were going to do it, you had better be (spiritually) prepared,’’ [But you don’t have to be now?  St. Paul might have a comment on that.]  O’Toole said. Consequently, few believers went to the altar rail. Even the most pious parishioners usually received Communion no more than once a month.  [The author might be ignorant of the fact that St. Pope Pius X in the beginning of the 20th century was promoting frequent Communion – in the state of grace, of course.]

‘‘It was a spiritual division of labor,’’ he said. ‘‘Ordinary Catholics said their prayers and prayed the rosary, [Orrrrrrrrr…. carefully followed Mass as they participated fully, consciously and actively.] and the priest did what he did.’’  [And that is bad?   Of course O’Toole’s comment probably comes more from perspective that everyone is a priest now, in the sense that blurs the distinction of the priesthood from baptism shared by all and the priesthood conferred through Holy Orders.  Since everyone is a "minister" now, the division of roles should be blurred as well.]

We will be seeing more and more articles like this, filled with old chestnuts and factual inaccuracies.  You must get used to sniffing them out quickly and have good responses for your future conversations. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. MacBeth says:

    Thanks for this, Father. This is my aunt’s local paper, and I’m sure your comments will be a jump-start to many good conversations between us.

  2. Ben Fischer says:

    Why do you say “so-called ‘Tridentine’ rite”. I thought it WAS called the Tridentine rite. What should it be called?

  3. Geri says:

    “The author seems to think that loud is better.”

    In common with many liturgists today…

    If it isn’t loud, it isn’t devout, right? The decibel level of the songs or the responses is an indicator of the people’s joy and fervour, isn’t it?

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  4. Ben: The adjective “Tridentine” a commonly used and rapid label, but not entirely accurate. The Church gives permission for Mass to be celebrated also according to the last edition of the Missale Romanum before the Council began, the 1962 typical edition. To called that Mass “Tridentine” gives the impression that it was identical to the Mass texts in the first edition promulgated by St. Pope Pius V. It is really not a big deal, perhaps, to called the older form of Mass “Tridentine”. But it isn’t entirely accurate either.

  5. Fr Gregoire Fluet says:

    I know James O’Toole, he was, as I remember, the archivist for the Archdiocese. He actually wrote a book entitled Militant and Triumphant. He is quite bright and articulate. He also brings to all his work his own prejudices and seems to see everything from a late 20th century perspective. Frankly, I am a bit a disappointed in him, because I know from my own studies that was he describing is simply not true. Example: a parish retreat was held in a mill town parish in eastern Connecticut in the early 1880s. The Mass was held at 4:30 AM so that people could attend, get a bit of breakfast and be in the mills by the regular time ( 7 AM, I think, and of course stay till 7 PM) The church was packed to capacity, litteraly over a thousand attended and participated in the retreat. That means those people got up at 3 AM to go to something that, accroding to Dr O’Toole, meant nothing to them.. Could you pull that off today? Jim will not talk about that. He will not talk about the sacrifice those people made to build those church so that the Mass that he disparages could be celebrated with reverence. He will not talk of the countless priests (and religious sisters,) who lived and sacrificed with their people in a heroic fashion O, Father Martial was reported that nearly all went to Holy Communion by the end of the retreat….and as to the lenght of homilies, my 91 year old mom remembers the hour homilies quite well, and I can attest that Bp England offered a 3 hour homily to Congress in the 1820s.

  6. BethAlice says:

    But Father, tell us how you really feel! Heh, heh!

    “It was very quick – about a half hour”
    Granted, I was not even born before Vatican II, but I have been to many Latin Masses. I have never been to a Latin Mass that has been a half hour, even a low Mass. However, I have been to several Novus Ordo Masses that were a half hour in length (or shorter).

    As for the “streams of believers going to the altar to receive Communion”, you already made the point of those who receive unworthily. But, how many are actually going up to receive communion? How many are going up for blessings? There is an excellant point made
    (in the comments) on whether or not blessings should be made in the communion line.

  7. Fr Gregoire Fluet says:

    forgive the misspellings…as a student of history (at least my degree is in that field) I get angry when I read such stupidity.

  8. John says:

    A priest at my high school used to say the N.O. Mass at lunch time in 15 minutes tops.

  9. thetimman says:

    This story is the caricature, par excellence, of imbecilic hatchet jobs on the traditional Mass.

  10. BethAlice: whether or not blessings should be made in the communion line.

    In short, no, they shouldn’t be, IMO.

  11. Fr. Fluet: And the writer didn’t bother to get the other perspective.

  12. RBrown says:

    Over thirty years ago I attended a mass that was said in 11 minutes, from the sign of the cross to the final blessing. The priest, a military chaplain, came into the Church in his sweat clothes with his little dog trailing behind him. The dog remained in the sacristy.

    Actually, with short readings, no homily or intercessory prayers, using the instant consecration of the second canon, and only a few communicants, it’s not that tough getting under 15 minutes.

  13. mark says:

    For contrast check out this odd post from Fr. Dwight Longenecker. I find it odd because it seems to me to be stupendously uninformed, and I thought Fr. Dwight knew more than his questions indicate he does, especially being at St. Mary’s in Greeneville.

  14. Devereaux Cannon says:

    Professor O’Toole writes as if he is not personally familiar with the Mass prior to Vatican II. At the advanced age of 52, I remember it well. It was the Mass of my youth, the Mass at which I learned my first Latin, the Mass for which I served as an altar boy. That Mass was not the Mass O’Toole describes.

    This past Pentecost, I attended my first “Tridentine” Mass since the Novus Ordo’s English translation became available (1973?). Again, it was nothing like the Mass O’Toole describes. My wife, who had never been to the old Mass, had no trouble following in her Missal. My 10-year-old daughter did have some trouble, but only because it was a new experience for her.

  15. RBrown says:

    I think the strategy with someone like O’Toole is to let him list everything he thinks was wrong with the Church in 1950. Then when he is done, you just ask him to compare those terrible times to:

    1) The priests sexual scandals and millions of dollars being paid in judgment.

    2) Priests (and at least one bishop) dying of AIDS.

    3) No vocations. As a prof at BC, he knows the Jesuits are on the way out in the US.

    4) Catholic high schools with tuition too high for the lower middle class, this because of no vocations in the orders of sisters.

    5) The state with the highest percentage of Catholics (RI) also having the highest percentage of people who are pro abortion.

    6) Poor attendance at mass.

  16. rk says:

    I like reading the comments (in red) that you add to some of these.

    I always point to my 1940 missal which describes the sort of active participation that people were encouraged to do in the pre-Vatican II times. (It provides a beautiful picture of being engaged and “active” even though you might not say a lot exteriorly. I have learned more about active participation from reading it once than I have learned from my years of attending the Novus Ordo Mass.)

  17. Ian says:

    His article wasn’t THAT bad. He didn’t mention that the 1962 Missal was anti-Semitic.

  18. Royce says:

    I prefer the term, “Classical Roman Rite.” It’s much older than Trent, of course.

    There have been some good articles, such as the one I read in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which referred to the priest facing with the people. This made me so happy I sent an email to the reporter who wrote the story.

    Fr. Dwight Longenecker, as someone observed above, does seem to express some attitudes that are a little odd to those of us who love the old rite, but they’re hardly unusual. I’ve acutally discussed some of the issues he mentions with his good friend George Weigel (wow, how many 20 year olds can say that?) who came to my college a few months ago. Weigel has started to come around on altar direction and other issues, and Fr. Longenecker might as well.

    Fr. Z, do you get to pick these verification words? Mine is ‘vox clara’ right now, which would be the funnies coincidence in the world if you don’t pick them.

    Ian, are you suggesting that the 1962 missal is anti-semetic? People obviously do argue this, but I don’t think they do so very effectively. It would be a real shame if that issue really has slowed the publication of the Motu Proprio as much as some people claim it has.

  19. Royce: Fr. Z, do you get to pick these verification words?

    This is my blog, you know.

  20. Royce says:

    Sorry, I mispoke about Weigel, who is friends with Fr. Longenecker’s boss, Fr. Jay Scott Newman, whose personal situation is very similar to Fr. Longenecker’s.

  21. Royce says:


    I’ve seen worse with regards to the dog. At a small parish in WV there is a priest whose dog follows him around for almost the whole Mass. Fortunately, he stays on his chair during the Canon.

    I do think the contrast between the old rite before and after the reforms demonstrated in these comments and the above article adequately shows why nostalgia for the “Old Days,” which oddly enough is especially pernicious amongst my generation (I’m 20), is rather false.

  22. Mike says:

    Nice going Royce. The point is that our generation feels starved for the traditions of the saints. It is not nostalgia as you point out. It is a legitimate desire for true Catholicism.

  23. Mike says:

    Nice going Royce. The point is that our generation feels starved for the traditions of the saints. It is not nostalgia as you point out. It is a legitimate desire for true Catholicism.

  24. Jon says:

    Fr. Z,

    I just surfed my way here for the first time yesterday. You have wonderful analysis of current events and good podcasting too! Thank you (God Bless you) for being such a faithful witness to the FULLNESS of TRUTH!!!

    Here’s my question: Is there any document, such as the GIRM or some other post VII doc, that states the Novus Ordo Mass be celebrated with the priest “facing the congregation”? Is that a requirement? Or could a priest celebrate the Novus Ordo facing away, aka toward God? Also if you say the Novus Ordo in latin, does it have to be entirely in latin or can you put english in parts of it as well…?

  25. Sharon says:

    Weekday Masses used to be about half an hour because there was no sermon or Creed. No Sunday Mass would have been under an hour. People used their Missals with the Latin on one side and the English translation on the other to follow the Mass. People went to Communion if they hadn’t broken their fast and if they were in the state of grace.

    The repetition of “priests gabbled the Mass”, People just said the rosary just aren’t true for the majority of priests and people before Vatican II. If these untruths are permitted to remain unchallenged they will become accepted as true. Before they die out, people around before Vatican II have to speak out about how the Mass was celebrated and how the people worshipped.

  26. Jon: Any or all of the Mass may be in Latin. There is nothing in any document requiring a priest to say Mass “facing the people”. Thanks for the kind words!

  27. swmichigancatholic says:

    Sharon is correct. I remember Mass before Vatican II. I went to Catholic school just about the time V2 started and none of it had come to this rural area yet. And although I was not Catholic at the time, I was aware of what I was seeing and I remember.

    Many people used the missals with Latin on one side and English on the other. Very few said rosaries during mass, however many did in church before and after mass (unlike now). We would follow along with mass and we knew exactly what was happening. The “smells and bells” were also reminders of what we knew was happening. We were attuned to the mass and the music was quite good. We sang a lot and it was in Latin. Responses were strong and we all knew them by heart–in Latin. There were lots of families and lots of kids. Everyone knew everyone and the church was often completely full. There was “community” in the true sense.

    I remember hearing Gregorian chant because as a child I sang some of it. I also sang the Requiem at many funerals–a gorgeous piece of music. I was in the choir at school and at church. We practiced every single school day at lunch hour and sang on Sunday in the choir loft. We sang classical music in all 4 parts. We worked at it. Good musical training, like penmanship, was a part of being in a catholic school in those days. [The classical music they sell at Barnes & Noble used to be ours. It’s still incomprehensible to me how that could have happened.]

    The fastest mass I ever heard was a novus ordo 18 minutes long many years later. Now that’s “gabbling the mass.” I never heard a Latin Mass lasting less than 40 minutes–even the school mass. We took the time needed because it was recognized to be the most important part of the day. It was the daily mass of the sisters and we shared it with them. Everything else depended on it and everyone knew it. Even I, the non-Catholic kid, knew it. In fact, I came back in adulthood and became Catholic because of the things I remembered from that year of Catholic school, including those masses–a year of grace.

  28. Danh says:

    I was born in 1961. I remember some Latin Masses. I never saw the Rosary being prayed during Mass, it was always said BEFORE Mass.

    I was not old enough to read Latin or English, but had no trouble following along in the Missal every Sunday. I simply looked at the pictures in the margins of the priest’s actions and the symbols for the bells ringing to keep my place. I also knew that the words in bold type were the people’s responses.

    I remember feeling quite proud that I could “read” the book just like all the other big people were doing.

  29. Scott J. Sievers says:

    It seems to me that this Mr. O’Toole has an agenda. And like others in our society today (professors, media,”intellectuals”)
    many make up or distort “facts” to buttress their view of things, and push their agenda. (The great Dr. Thomas Sowell discusses this at length in his book, Vision of the Anointed)
    Is there anyone around who went to Mass in the 1880’s to refute Mr. O’Toole’s version of history which may or may not be accurate? of course not. Just like Jefferson fathered children with his slave women, every great person in history was a homosexual, all the savages were noble, and everything was hunky-dory before Western Civilization came along and ruined it for everybody. Blah,blah,blah….

  30. Father Bartoloma says:

    It really is just the same old broken record. No new insights, just a shallow and uninformed criticism; “dumb” as you say, Fr. Z, is the perfect word to use.

    Some day there will be a history prof from B.C. describing how the frenzy of “reform” gave way to banality and then to rebirth.

  31. Fr Peter says:

    Father Z,

    I find this whole conversation rather interesting. In the Orthodox Church we have always “turned away” from the people in fact during the liturgy we close the doors and the curtain. In my parish we have switched the language to English from Romanian mainly due to the act that the people no longer speak the language. A fact I find most disturbing. Facing in the same direction as the people when we pray is not a bad thing. The Orthodox Liturgy has not changed much in the past let’s say thousand years or so and it is modern as well as ancient. The problem I see is that we have lost some sense of what liturgy is all about. It is not entertainment! We priests are not their to entertain the people with clapping of hands and dancing. We are there to share the love of Jesus and the sacraments. We need to get back to that! Thanks for your blog father and your view I appreciate what your doing.

  32. Henry Edwards says:

    Regarding the past: It would be interesting to know how precisely how and why the myth of the quickie TLM started and gained such acceptance.

    Before the introduction of the new Mass, I attended Mass in at least a half dozen parishes in three different regions of the country, and don’t recall ever seeing a Sunday low Mass (with congregation and sermon) of less than about 45 minutes. The only shorter Masses were probably daily Masses without sermon. Or silent Masses said privately or at side altars to satisfy the priest’s obligation of individual daily Mass when concelebration was unknown.

    Of course, 25-30 minute daily Masses were probably as common then as they are now. But what’s new (and perhaps not altogether uncommon) is a Sunday parish Mass like the one recently timed as follows:

    16 minutes – Opening prayers and readings
    22 minutes – Sermon
    10 minutes – Creed through the Sanctus
    4 minutes – Eucharistic Prayer II
    15 minutes – Lord’s prayer, communion, conclusion

    Thus, 4 minutes out of 63 minutes allotted to the Holy Sacrifice. This is a real rather than an imagined example of a quickie liturgy.

  33. Henry Edwards says:

    Regarding the present: The indult Mass I now attend regularly is always sung and ordinarily lasts close to an hour and a half. Which seems pretty typical from what I hear of Sunday indult Masses nowadays.

    Friday before last, I attended the 4-hour solemn (Tridentine) Pontifical Mass in the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis in which Archbishop Burke ordained two new priests of the (traditional) Institute of Christ the King. It was preceded on Thursday and followed on Saturday by solemn high Masses totaling another 4 hours of Latin liturgy.

    Though these great Masses were glorious beyond ordinary description, by Sunday my wife and I were virtually thirsting for the apocryphal shortie TLM of old. So we showed up at 7:15 am at the TLM St. Francis de Sales church in south St. Louis, intending to say morning prayer before the scheduled 8 am parish low Mass.

    But when we arrived, we saw that five separate (probably visiting) priests were celebrating five separate Masses, evidently having started a different times at five of the seven altars in St. Francis de Sales. These five low Masses (with just a single altar boy attending each) probably qualified as quickies. But for us it was a profound experience to adore our Lord at separate 3 double elevations within 10 minutes.

    At any rate, the scheduled 8 am low Mass with an excellent sermon and fine organ music lasted (lamentably) the greater part of an hour. Except perhaps for the side note that, after the celebrant removed his maniple and (as usual at a TLM) laid it on the altar missal opened to the gospel, he also removed his chasuble and laid it on the epistle side of the altar before proceeding to the pulpit in just alb and stole over cassock. Thereby signifying tangibly that the sermon is an interruption to rather than a part of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  34. swmichigancatholic says:

    One of the things that really worries me is that both forms of the mass–the NO & the Tridentine (or classical form)–have been politicized now. I went to a Tridentine here locally not long ago and it confirmed what I’ve seen around here before–Tridentines seem to be silent black-clothes affairs with a few very traditional families in attendance and a few others. They’re very somber, peaceful but somber. But you know underneath it all there’s a lot that no one wants to talk about because so much has happened.

    And you know, that’s not what really occurred with liturgy before 1963 or so. It’s different. Those masses were mainstream and happy affairs and we were innocent of all these troubles and the evils we’ve all witnessed over this.

    I certainly hope we can somehow get past where we are in history without more difficulty. The NO cannot carry us into the future where we are now–it simply does not have the resources to do so, with its tacky music and shallow pseudosymbols (holding hands etc). The Tridentine (or classical form) needs to be accepted by many people as a legitimate form which can enable us in some way to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Mass into the future.

    I really think the only thing that holds it back is the perception among regular church-goers that it isn’t allowed anymore or isn’t the favored form. This is why the MP is so important–it removes that. I suspect that the classical form will become cutting edge with young people and people who have education & influence, even if it’s not picked up in some backward or small areas right away. This will be the case even as you hear trash talk about it–it will still occur. The classical mass will appear first where resources are available–large city parishes, small parishes with better educated priests, more classical retreat houses, more classical religious orders. And then it will spread, changing even the NO, which will still be said alongside. Eventually most people will get around to it or adaptations from it, even those who’d like to be stuck in the 60s. (For the same reason people who’d like to wear their pajamas to the supermarket don’t usually do so. There comes a point where radical reductionism looks silly, is silly.)

    Troublemakers like this Lane Lambert only make matters worse for the church. Perhaps that’s what they intend. THere are some people who have no idea of transcendance and yet are employed as church specialists or church news correspondents. They can’t quit and work elsewhere for financial reasons. Perhaps we should pray for them. And at some point help them find more suitable employment.

  35. BethAlice says:

    Yes, Father, I agree too (re: blessings). But people almost become hostile at the thought of it – sometimes more so than their reaction to the MP. I don’t get it. (BTW, I know the priest who made the comment on blessings, a wonderful priest).

    One thing I do wonder about, I have seen some TLM priests give blessings during communion (perhaps because they have a bigger issues to deal with). Is their anything that prohibits blessings during communion? Is their anything that says you have to give blessings? (These two questions are for the TLM and/or NO Masses.)

  36. BethAlice says:

    OOPS! Sorry; I just realized I have gone off on a tangent here.

  37. swmichigancatholic says:

    That’s actually rather long for a regular parish Sunday mass. But I agree with you about the fact that some parts seem very long and others very short.

    Many parish masses in the several parts of the country I’ve been have interminably long interludes of performance in the first part of the Mass. I wish the cantors or whoever they are would videotape themselves and realize how really wretched they sound.

    The homilies in some cases are also quite long and exceedingly poorly done. Typically, decent ones come from just a few of the local priests who must have natural talent. I don’t think they teach it well in seminary, honestly, or they’d all have gotten bad grades and be aware of how bad they are. They often try to tell jokes and tell folksy human interest stories in a totally patronizing manner, but then half the time miss the point themselves. Lame. It must be how they are taught to do it.

    Traditionally, the mass comes to a high point near the end with the reception of Holy Communion and is over rather quickly. But there should, it seems to me, be a bit of silence towards the end before a closing. Modern people don’t like silence much though. It’s hard on them.

  38. Janet says:

    I’m curious about the 4 minute Eucharistic prayer you mentioned in your post about the time intervals in your parish NO Mass. Since I’ve not yet experienced a TLM, how much longer does the Eucharistic prayer/consecration take in it?

    Also I think in terms of the Eucharistic portion of the Mass as including reception of Communion and the period of prayer afterwards.
    And Sunday Mass in my parish typically lasts about 65-70 minutes, leaving just enough time to clear the parking lot before the next batch of parishioners begin to arrive for the next Mass. (we have Masses on Sunday at 7am, 8:30, 10, 11:30, and 6pm)

  39. Henry Edwards says:


    The more general point is that the entire TLM seems explicitly and palpably sacrificial, from beginning to end, not only in words but especially in actions. From the prayers at the foot of the altar, evidently in preparation for offering sacrifice, to the offertory rite of oblation that’s missing from the Novus Ordo, to the Roman Canon that’s so more evidently sacrificial because of the actions even if the words are the same, and finally the priest’s communion that actually completes the sacrifice (a concept seemingly missing from the NO), plus kneeling at the altar with hands folded beneath the housling cloth waiting conscious awe to share in the fruits of sacrifice. So I think for most “active participants” it’s sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice, …. with no competing concepts or interpretations.

    In particular, the readings and sermon seem less of a distracting digression, and I believe for most there is no other evident purpose for the Mass than to offer sacrifice. Even the Pater Noster, usually said by the priest alone, may seem in the context of the Mass more an offering to God rather a communal bonding. And of course there’s no melee at the peace rite to diffuse the focus from God to us. So it’s all of a piece, rather than competing and even sometimes contradictory actions and symbols, no concentration anywhere except on the altar of sacrifice (which never reminds on of a mere table).

  40. Anonymous says:

    Fr. Z, could you discuss BethAlice’s tangent at some point?

    It seems to me that forbidding blessings in the communion line means that if I am at Sunday Mass at my parish, and I’ve committed a mortal sin, tried to get to confession for the 29.5 minutes it’s offered Saturday night, failed because I was the eleventh person in line instead of the tenth, then on Sunday morning I must announce my mortal sinfulness to the rest of the parish by remaining seated when everyone else flocks up to receive Communion.

    Now, that’s fine and dandy, of course; who am I to compound a mortal sin with the sin of pride? But I had this idea that the Church frowned upon such a blatant announcement of one’s spiritual status as being a kind of scandal.

    As long as I’m asking an off-topic question, could you comment on something else? I’ve encountered people who think that young children shouldn’t be brought to Mass, period, and that it’s selfish and sinful for a parent to show up with an infant. Are they right? Just wondering.

  41. Anon: Perhaps sometime, but not here. It is off topic, really.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Fr. Z, I know, and mea culpa for going OT; just hoped you’d discuss it sometime in the future.

  43. RBrown says:

    There are so many possible reasons that people don’t go to Communion that I never think, “Hmmmm–I wonder what was going on last night.”

    Some people might have eaten just before mass, or just spent an hour on the phone arguing with a relative. Or lost their temper with a spouse and think it inappropriate to receive Communion.

    There are also people who go to mass out of habit but are not really plugged into the Church, realize it, and so don’t receive the Sacrament.

  44. RBrown says:

    As long as I’m asking an off-topic question, could you comment on something else? I’ve encountered people who think that young children shouldn’t be brought to Mass, period, and that it’s selfish and sinful for a parent to show up with an infant. Are they right? Just wondering.

    A lot of churches have cry rooms.

    I have often seen people with a crying infant get up and go into the vestibule or step outside for a while. I think everyone understands those situations.

    On the other hand, today a child–at least a year old–screamed for about the last 20 minutes of mass, including in the communion line. I was dumbfounded why one of the parents didn’t take the kid outside.

  45. RBrown says:


    Let me add one more important aspect that is sacrificial: The elevation of the Host is not merely to show it to the people but also symbolizes Christ being lifted up on the Cross (the Son of Man must be lifted up–Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:34).

  46. J. Petrick says:

    I just wanted to comment on the 1.5 hour Masses at St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis. These Masses are lengthy due mostly to the fact that we at SFdS have the privelege of having a Solemn High Mass every Sunday at 10am. This makes the Mass longer than a standard High Mass. Also, our choir sings many beautiful songs and chants, adding a bit of length, but a lot of beauty to the Mass. Also, once a month, we have a Solemn Adoration and Benedicion after Mass, making things nearly two hours. I cannot think of anything better we could do on sunday to give fitting glory to Our Lord. I hope this clarifies things a bit.

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