D. of Birmingham (Alabama): 14 Sept celebrated of usus antiquior

A regular reader sent me a transcription of something from the diocesan paper of the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama (where EWTN is based).

Remember that the former bishop of Birmingham, but still the Diocesan Administrator Most Reverend David E. Foley, had dicatated that EWTN could not braodcast Holy Mass celebrated ad orientem versus.  Now there is to be a new bishop in Birmingham, Most Rev. Robert Baker, though he has not taken up his post. 

This item from the diocesan paper is not online.  My emphases and comments.

Bishop Foley Will Offer Mass in Latin on Sept. 14

Dear Family in Christ:

On September 14th, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, I will offer Mass in Latin [What other language would it be in?] according to the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.  [This is fabulous news!]

This special Mass will take place in the Cathedral of St. Paul, in Birmingham, at 12:10 pm, and all are invited to attend.

At a recent Diocesan Consultors’ Meeting, at which the new Bishop of Birmingham, Bishop Robert Baker, was present, a plan to implement the recent Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum, was still in discussion.

Following the meeting and as an immediate sign of solidarity with the wishes of the Holy Father, I will offer this Mass on the day designated by the Pope as the initial day opening the observance of the decree.  It will be the beginning of a process to gather and train priests [Get this?  "Train" priests!   This is very good.  I have written many times that bishops need to lead in order to control this issue, not obfuscate and block in order to control.] who wish to say the Mass in this form.

Our Holy Father asks us to have an appreciation for this "Extraordinary Form" of the Liturgy, not as separate from the usual way of offering Mass [This is very interesting.  So many statements by bishops focus on how different the older form is, how separate and their provisions in their dioceses have in the past demonstrated that they really do think that that it is separate, even to the point of being on the margin of the Church’s life.] but a tradition, a way of experiencing a deeply reverential and effectively spiritual event in our lives.

It is not possible to respond in every single parish of our Diocese, [Okay, this is reasonable] but we hope to train priests who will be able to have this Latin Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962 consistently in some regions of the Diocese. [This is very good.  While this clearly reflects the reality of clergy shortage, etc., it remains open to what the future might bring when more priests know how to use the older Missal.  And, I must add, while they are talking about training priests, nothing prohibits any priest from learning on his own!]

Like the Holy Father, we entrust this ministry to the powerful intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church.

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend David E. Foley
Diocesan Administrator

Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama

In the balance, this is one of the best developments, and also explanations of attitude of present and future bishop, I have seen.   I am confident that the new bishop had a strong role to play in this approach to implementing Summorum Pontificum.

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  1. Gloria says:

    This is most promising. With the world-wide coverage of EWTN, let us hope and pray, that in our Lord’s time, we will be moving forward into the future with the Tradition of the past.

  2. EDG says:

    This is fantastic news!

    Bp Baker was the pastor at the Cathedral of St. Augustine, where our bishop has been less than positive, prior to being appointed Bishop of Charleston. He seems to have an incredibly good effect on his fellow bishops. Prayers for him and his influence (particularly on the Bp of St Augustine!)

  3. Xavier says:

    Wow! A double “turnabout”. :-)

  4. Jeremy says:

    Deo gratis!

    God bless you, Your Excellency!

  5. Ross says:

    I was going to go to EWTN’s Mass but I think I’ll go to Bishop Foley’s instead. It’s closer and I don’t have to travel as far.

  6. Fr. Jay T. says:

    While a diocese (Birmingham) that will have the Extraordinary Rite offered in two seperate locations on that date (one being celebrated by the local Ordinary himself) is impressive, the cynic in me wonders whether a second location is being done to prevent a photo op of a large crowd at the Hanceville shrine, pics of which which would inevitably get beamed around the world as a “justification” of the long wait for Summorum Pontificum?

  7. Brian Crane says:

    the cynic in me wonders whether a second location is being done to prevent a photo op of a large crowd at the Hanceville shrine

    I suspect there is a sufficiently large number of people from around Alabama to attend both locations. But lest your cynical speculation come to pass, all who plan on attending the Hanceville Mass should also go to the Cathedral — attend two in one day! It’s only an hour drive, so there would be plenty of time to go to the Mass in Hanceville, visit the Shrine a little afterwards, and then go to the Cathedral for Mass at noon.

  8. Scott says:

    Though, if one is to be strictly traditional, he should receive Holy Communion at only one of those two Masses.

             From the Baltimore Catechism (No. 3, Confraternity Edition, 1949):

    Ordinarily it is permitted to receive Holy Communion only once a day, but there are exceptions to this rule. Thus, a person who has received Holy Communion in the morning may receive the Blessed Sacrament again as Viaticum if he falls into the danger of death in the course of the day. Again, a person who has already received Holy Communion could on the same day consume the Blessed Sacrament in order to protect It from insult or injury. Finally, a priest may receive Holy Communion more than once on the same day-namely, when he celebrates two or more Masses.

  9. Scott:  if one is to be strictly traditional, he should receive Holy Communion at only one of those two Masses.

    NO! and NO! again!

    First, being strictly traditional, means, among other things abiding by the law as it is here and now.  That means observing that which restricts and making proper use of that which favors.

    The present Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, permits a person to receive Holy Communion a second time in a day provided he does so in the context of Mass in which he has participated.  A person today can receive twice in a day according to the law.  It is not obligatory that he do so, but he can.  

    And doing so does not make a person less traditional.

  10. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Would this mean, Father, that one might assist regularly at the older rite without the three hour fast (at least as a matter of law?) The one hour fast would be the law? There would be nothing WRONG in keeping either the 3-hour or from midnight fast, but it wouldn’t be required?

  11. Janet says:

    To anyone in easy driving distance of Birmingham:
    I think we can take it for granted that the Mass at the Shrine will be packed.
    What is of greatest importance is that we pack the Cathedral to the rafters on Sept. 14 to show the Bishop that the TLM is indeed important to us.
    In the words of Southern Hospitality: Y’all Come!!

  12. Brian Crane says:

    What is of greatest importance is that we pack the Cathedral to the rafters

    I have heard that the Cathedral can hold upwards of 700. You’d better get on the phone and tell all your friends to tell all their friends, and so on!

  13. michigancatholic says:

    Pack the venue at EWTN. It’s the one that will be seen by millions of people on TV and it will have the greatest effect.

    This bishop is retiring, and I also can’t help but wonder if this is a diversion, myself.

  14. Scott says:

    Fr. Z:

    Point taken re: my comments on traditionalism. Thank you for the correction.

    For the sake of discussion, though, I am curious as to why a Canon Law that limits the frequency with which one receives Holy Communion even exists at all.

    I would suspect that the Church has provided us with this law in the interest of maintaining the sense of sacredness for this Sacrament. Otherwise, I would expect Her to encourage receipt of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ as many times a day as possible.

    If my presumption is correct, might not the argument then be made that the pre-1983 restrictions are, in fact, more favorable than the present-day law? And would it not be proper to adhere to the older law, as doing so does not violate the current one?

    Along similar lines, I would think that adhering to a post-midnight fast would be considered both proper and more favorable to eating a Grand Slam Breakfast at Denny’s 61 minutes before getting into the Communion line.

  15. Scott: And would it not be proper to adhere to the older law, as doing so does not violate the current one?

    People are free to do as they please. No one is obliged to receive Communion at Mass.

  16. Joe Washinski says:

    September 14 will indeed be a great day for the Diocese of Birmingham. Certainly, the Shrine/Chapel at Hanceville will be packed with an overflow crowd. It really doesn’t seem to be a large church.

    Ultimately, it matters not why Bishop Foley chose to celebrate the Extraordinary Usage of the Mass on September 14. The great thing is that he is doing so.

  17. michigancatholic says:

    I have read that the law about how many times one may receive Holy Communion in a day is there because of an old difficulty that was seen in the past–ie. going from church to church in a sort of “if some is good, more is better” way. People, of course, don’t do that now so the law seems unnecessary or odd. But I have read that’s why it exists. Please correct me if I’m wrong, Fr. Z.

  18. Bernard Schnaufer says:

    Simply wonderful!! This bishop’s statement is exactly on target. Given that Summorum Pontificum is not about the bishops but about the faithful and pastors, this ordinary gets it exactly right. He puts out a short statement about how he’s going to offer the extraordinary form, as a sign of solidarity with the Pope’s wishes, and how he’s going to help train his priests to offer the Old Mass for those faithful who want it. Nothing more really needs to be said. What a blessing!!

  19. minNH says:

    Our bishop in New Hampshire had a statement that was balanced in July but nothing new since and nothing on the dioceses homepage about where to go for the missal of 1962. BUT now I can celebrate because a parish in Portsmouth, Corpus Christi@ Immaculate Conception Church, will have a mass in the extraordinary form on September 23 at 11am with an explanation before the mass so people can better understand the mass. I hope this will be a weekly and it will encourage others that are unsure, priests and lay people. It has a monthly mass in Spanish at 2pm, too. SO one mass in Latin is appreciated!! The priest is a great hero :)

  20. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    I tried to explain the point of this law by illustrating with an absurd example. I explained to students last year that the Easter Vigil is often more than an hour in length, so that in a strictly legal sense, one might bring food into Mass and share food during the Gospel. This, however, was a pointlessly narrow legalism which violates the clear spirit of the law, namely, that we should fast in preparation for the receiving of Our Lord.

  21. David M.O'Rourke says:

    Comment to michigancatholic: Granted that the history of the Church can contain any number of surprises I nevertheless find it difficult to imagine that there was ever a problem of people going to receive Communion at several Masses in a day. In fact those of us who now live in a Church in which everyone present receives Communion are reversing a practice which goes back well over a thousand years whereby people tended to receive Communion only at Easter when it was obligatory. Even when I was young, at an early Mass a hefty number of people still didn’t receive. At later masses hardly anyone received because of the fast. A practical reason you may think but the same people went to the same Mass week after week thereby opting not to receive. In some churches, especially Cathedrals only about 60 years ago it was still common that at the High Mass only the Celebrant was allowed to receive.

    What may be the source for what you have heard is the practice which was commmon back in about the 15th and 16th cent. (at least in England) whereby people rushed from church to church in order to see the elevation of the Host. But they didn’t receive Communion.

  22. Stephen M. Collins says:

    While I am very glad that Bishop Baker will be at Birmingham, please keep all of us in the Diocese of Charleston in your prayers, as we have heard nothing about a new Bishop for us. I’ve only been here for 4 years, but this is a very conervative Diocese – very “traditional” – even though there are probably some abuses of the Ordinary Form present. We do have a number of regular Extraordianry Forms throughout the state of South Carolina, and at least one more here in Charleston to begin on the 16th.

    As an aside, while I am involved with the music at Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island, the first RC church in the USA to have a peal of English bells for change ringing, St. Paul’s Cathedral in Birmingham is the second peal in America. Anyone in attendance at the Mass there should expect to hear some nice bell ringing either before or after Mass.

  23. Marcus says:

    Regarding the frequency of receiving Holy Communion:

    Singing with the choir can present some interesting situations. Usually, the full choir at my parish only sings at one Mass; but occassionally on “high feast days” or during the holy seasons, the choir may sing at all Masses during the weekend. Should a choir member, or server, receive Holy Communion 3 or 4 times a weekend?

    Besides participaring in my local parish’s OF Mass each weekend, I also sing in the chant choir at the diocesan EF Mass. Guided by priest & deacon, I decided to only receive once per day. I try to attend Saturday vigil OF Mass, then EF Mass on Sunday. If I attend both on Sunday, I do not receive at one of them. My working rule: receive at the normal weekend celebration, and again, if necessary, at a wedding, funeral, or other separate Mass.

    It takes humility not to go to receive the second time when everyone else is going, but it begs the question: How does receiving the entirity of God twice in a day help one? What is really happening in the Spiritual Order? Does one receive twice as much grace? I tend to think not. I pray to open myself more fully to the grace that God has already gifted me. I suppose this is how those once-a-year medieval church-goers survived. It’s also perhaps a way to proceed for those who cannot receive Communion.

    As has been indicated, there is no Right to receive Holy Communion. It is a gift from God that no one approaches worthily; however, it still requires adequate preparation on our part. However, in modern times, it has come to be seen as a right, perhaps because of the (over-)emphasis on community. God have mercy on us all for how many blasphemous receptions of Holy Communion there have been, including my own.

    Stephen – I love Stella Maris on Sullivan’s Island! I went ot my first Traditional Mass there. Love those crabcakes at Dunleavey’s!

  24. elizabeth mckernan says:

    Thank you, father, for explaining the ruling re receiving Holy Communion. I had always understood that once a day was the rule and would like to know if what you said applies in Britain too. After the initial euphoria following the Motu proprio I am now concerned that my wish to attend the extra ordinary rite may be thwarted as many of our churches have had their altar rails removed. Much as I would like to kneel to receive Holy Communion, I would find it impossible to get up again without the rails! I see from your latest posting that this would be obligatory.

  25. Mark W says:

    Grrr! I wish I was still in Birmingham. I just entered the Church in the Cathedral in April, but am 1200 miles away now.
    The Cathedral of St. Paul is a pretty traditional parish (and how I miss its masses without Haas or Haugen or the like but with incense and real music), so to me it seems like the most likely parish in the diocese to offer a regular Extraordinary Form mass, but I’m not sure they have a priest qualified and able to celebrate it.
    Anyway, if you are in the area you should go.
    I just wish Bishop Foley would have had this apparent change of heart a few months earlier.

  26. Sue Sims says:

    Mr O’Rourke: not from church to church, but from altar to altar, when the sanctus bell rang.

  27. Bruce B. says:

    Since Bishop Foley spoke positively about implementing Summorum Pontificum from the day it was published, and well before Bp. Baker’s appointment, it is unfair to attribute his generosity to the latter’s appointment or to motives other than responding to the Holy Father’s intentions. When there were priests to say the TLM he has allowed it, the special case of EWTN and ad orientem Novus Ordo Masses notwithstanding.

  28. Henry Edwards says:

    Sue Sims: One can still observe multiple consecrations on rare occasions.

    Last June my wife and I attended Bishop Burke’s ordination of two new ICK priests in a 4-hour solemn pontifical (TL) Mass in St. Louis Cathedral. Of course, numerous ICK priests from other locations were in attendance.

    So when we entered St. Francis de Sales Church (the ICK oratory in St. Louis) early the next morning, we saw 5 priests celebrating low Masses at 5 separate altars, each priest with just a single altar boy. Utter silence except the occasional hint of an altar boy’s whispered response. We could see that the priests were at different points in their respective Masses, perhaps having started staggered at several-minute intervals.

    At one point, we were able to adore Our Lord at three slow-motion double elevations within 10 minutes. Whatever the theology, this was an extraordinarily grace-filled personal experience, and in some way seemed more powerful than the elaborate 2-hour first solemn high Mass that followed.

  29. RBrown says:


    It is always impressive to see the multiple silent low masses in a church. At Fontgombault there are about a dozen going on at the same time, and that is followed by a second round.

    When Cardinal Ratzinger was about to leave Fontgombault after the liturgical conference, the abbot asked whether he would like a little visit in the church before his departure. It was morning, and they entered during the low masses. The Cardinal knelt for a few moments on the concrete floor. Then on arising, he noted all the silent masses, saying, “Now THAT is the Catholic Church.”

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