“not suited for the older form of Mass”? Give me a break!

In many official statements and articles which are less than warm in their reception of Summorum Pontificum we find curious claims along the lines that "not many churches are suited to the older form of Mass". 

Oh really?

You remember the video I posted showing the transformation of an very modern looking table altar into a rather nice altar for the older form of Mass.  I will include it again, below.

In that same vein, Shawn Tribe over at NLM has these before and after shots.  Look at that ghastly space and what they did with the altar.

Don’t even THINK of saying that the older form of Mass cannot be celebrated in a church just because it doesn’t look like some some revival style building from the 1920’s.

Have you even seen the fairly awful chapel of the FSSP seminary in Wigratzbad?


Here we go!  Show this to a priest or liturgist who says that the altar or church is "not suited" to the older form of Mass.

[dailymotion 6KC7l5ZGhlh5dbNnm]


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Gavin says:

    That chapel really puts the “bad” in Wigratzbad. (sorry, someone had to say it)

  2. Suzanne from Okla. says:

    I was wondering about altar rails and the reception of Holy
    Communion. How could that be handled? I would need something to
    hold onto to get up and down due to arthritis.

  3. Suzanne: I have seen kneelers placed strategically to help older people.

  4. Brian Crane says:

    If you look closely at the “after” shot, in the bottom right corner, it looks like they might have put in a portable altar rail as well. Notice also in the “after” shot that they turned off the spotlights that had been on the ugly mural in the back. The next step they might take would be to get a nice embroidered banner made to take its place, or a reproduction of a large painting, perhaps a depiction of the Last Judgment.

  5. Boko Fittleworth says:

    Ummm, Mass on the hood of a jeep, anybody?

    This is a pretty lame attempt to suppress the classical use. Of course, those horrible buildings were build with the express intention of supressing any link to tradition.

  6. dcs says:

    I was wondering about altar rails and the reception of Holy Communion. How could that be handled? I would need something to hold onto to get up and down due to arthritis.

    At our parish (all traditional all the time) those who cannot kneel can receive standing. If they are very infirm then Fr. will leave the sanctuary to give them Holy Communion in the pew.

  7. genxsurvivor says:

    But what about if the altar cannot be approached from the front, because it is built in out to the edge of the top step/level?

  8. Nick says:

    No offense but I thought that was a sorry attempt at “remodeling” to celebrate the TLM. That first picture of a so called “catholic church” was so ugly I dont know how you could fix it up, the whole set up, including the architecture, was so grotesque that second picture of the “remodeled” church was still ugly. I could visualize a TLM in someone’s living room that would look more appealing than that “church” in the first picture.

    In the movie, that church architecture IS what people should be looking for. The only problem I had was the fake altar covering (turning it from a table into an altar) in is not the way to go about this. It is fake, I thought we were trying to move away from fake. Hopefully that is temporary because if that has to be torn down and rebuilt every Sunday then that is not a solution to the problem.

    If a certain level of architecture isnt there then it is going to be hard. I can understand if people are simply working with what they have (after all how many churches even have communion rails anymore??) but the fact stands: “not many churches are suited to the older form of Mass”

    As a rule of thumb, any church that doesnt LOOK like a church should not be remodeled to celebrate a TLM.

  9. Henry Edwards says:

    I was wondering about altar rails and the reception of Holy

    I’ve attended any number of TLM’s in post Vatican II churches without this ever presenting any great problem.

    Simply reserve the front row of pews for Holy Communion. In lieu of another pew in front of it, the front pew always has something — I can’t recall the proper name for it — like a low wall about 30″ high for people to put their arms on when they kneel for the canon. This serves quite well for an altar rail at communion. Always works.

  10. Nick: What you have done is fall into the trap of the better as the enemy of the good.

    Go ahead and gripe about the nasty looking church. Get mired in it.

    Don’t notice that at that altar, a priest is saying the older form of Mass.

    The rebuilding will be slow, brick by brick.

  11. RBrown says:


    I totally agree. If I can’t attend a Latin mass in Chartres Cathedral–or at the very worst, St Germain des Pres–I just won’t go.

    I’ll show ’em!

  12. Mark Jacobson says:

    I don’t understand (other than the money required), why anyone would oppose putting in altar rails. They don’t impede the Novus Ordo communion lines at all, they can be very beautiful and add to ANY church’s architecture. And they would allow the proper celebration of the Extraordinary form of the Mass without going through time-wasting setup of temporary kneelers. I know liberal people don’t want to be separated from the “table” by the rail, but surely a little education will help them! (And besides, altar rails are VERY convenient for hanging felt banners and children’s artwork…)

  13. Anne says:

    Regarding that “ugly mural” I was trying to think what possible religious significance it has and finally decided (based on the sky-like blue at the top and the sort of red flame-like bits at the bottom) it surely must be an artistic rendering of The Four Last Things…?

  14. Nick says:

    Fr Z,

    I do notice the priest at that altar with the Classical set up, that doesnt change the fact the art and architecture are atrocious. Seeing that so called “painting” in the background is totally distracting and irreverent.

    As for “rebuilding will be slow, brick by brick”…ok, maybe we are talking past each other here. You are just happy the Classical is being said, I admit I did over look that. I think we both agree that God willing the art and architecture will improve in the future as more people get to experience the TLM. For now I should just be glad the Classical is being said (which is a huge step in the “Rite” direction).

  15. Mark Jacobson says:

    Rome will not be rebuilt in a day…

  16. Patrick Kinsale says:

    The modernist argument used against altar rails is the same reason we should support them. They clearly set apart the sanctuary from the rest of the church.

  17. Bill C says:

    Beautiful! Love the music too. Anyone happen to know the name of this piece?

  18. dcs says:

    Beautiful! Love the music too. Anyone happen to know the name of this piece?

    It’s the “Lagrasse Te Deum” by Jeanne Barbey. Google her name and you should get some good links.

    I have the CD and it is worth every penny (shipping to the U.S. from France ain’t cheap!).

  19. David says:

    Last year, my local Bishop (in Australia) performed an FSSP ordination. Bear in mind that the Alter had been “modernized” in the ’70s, the Altar rails were gone, and His Grace was accused of “Anglicized” pronunciation of his Latin. Nevertheless, His Grace deserves full marks for not subscribing to the sort of nonsense the subject of this article, and for his care for the souls of his Archdiocese.

    I believe the Priest’s name was Michael McCafferey, FSSP, and photos are available online.

  20. mary margaret says:

    Father, How important is it that the Mass be ad orientem? I attend a parish that is built kind of in the “round”, but it definitely north/south. East is not really an option–does that matter, or is it more important that the priest face the tabernacle (on the south in this church)? Just wondering–I was surprised the first time I visited this church that it was not oriented east to west. Every other Catholic church I have attended was built east/west.

  21. Andrew says:

    Thank you Father for showcasing our pictures. We’ll have more soon to make it look even better.

    Anne, the ugly mural could be a golf course from a bird’s eye view?

    Nick, I’m sorry you don’t like the parish. It doesn’t do anything for me either. But surely what we did to the Altar was a drastic improvement, even if temporary?

  22. Peter Moscatelli says:

    The (indeed) fairly awful church that is being referred to is close to the FSSP seminary in Wigratzbad, but it is not the seminary chapel; it must have been built in the 70s and neither by, neither for the FSSP!

  23. RBrown says:

    I believe the Priest’s name was Michael McCafferey, FSSP, and photos are available online.
    Comment by David

    He is my former student and a medical doctor (emergency room physician). When he was ordained a deacon, he was referred to as Rev Mr Michael McCaffrey. I said that, in so far as he had a doctorate, it was wrong to call him “Rev Mr”–it should be “Rev Dr”. I was told (by a priest who for many years has been a very dear friend) that deacons are called “Rev Mr”. I replied: “Only if they’re already a mister. He is not–he is a doctor”.

    It is a bit like a name mentioned on another thread, Cardinal Merry del Val, who was made a monsignor before he was ordained a priest.

  24. David says:

    This is the link to Fr McCafferey’s first Mass photos: http://fssp.org/en/photos.htm. Note the age of the Church (although it does have Altar rails and a confessional with an old-fashioned screen.

    The photos of the Ordination in the cathedral were recently removed from wikipedia. I know not why.

  25. David says:

    Here is the only link I can find to the Ordination itself:


    The blog fairly defends His Grace, except on one account. Archbishop Wilson is an excellent, inspriring homilist. “Interminable” is an unfair description of the homily. One might easily say that “elderly relative” has a declining attention span, or an age-enfeebled mind, which, conditions, sadly, often are crusses that the elderly have to bear…

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