From another entry: during the Roman Canon “I felt intense loneliness”

The Jesuit ultra-leftist weekly America Magazine had an article by a self-described liberal-minded priest who made a decision to celebrate the traditional form of Mass when a group asked fo it.

I posted the whole article and made comments here.

There are some very good comments in this article what deserve discussion.

I will preface this with a point I have made fairly often.  When younger priests who never knew the older form of Mass begin to learn it, it will change their perceptions about what Mass is and who they are as priests.  Older priests will have much the same experience when they reaqcuaint themselves, especially after decades of having had only the newer forms of liturgy.  This must be a motive for Summorum Pontificum.

An excerpt from their latest number with my emphases.

Having decided to offer the Tridentine Mass, I began the arduous project of recovering—and reinforcing—my Latin grammar and vocabulary so that I could celebrate the liturgy in a prayerful, intelligible way.  As I studied the Latin texts and intricate rituals  I had never noticed as a boy, I discovered that the old rite’s priestly spirituality and theology were exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Whereas I had looked for the “high priest/king of the parish” spirituality, I found instead a spirituality of “unworthy instrument for the sake of the people.” 

The old Missal’s rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite’s ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn’t that a valid image of the church, the people of God?  

The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me.

Let me toss a couple ideas onto the table.

First, many opponents of the older Mass claim that its spirituality is contrary to, or at least out of keeping with, the spirituality of Vatican II.

Second, in Holy Mass (and elsewhere), because of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest is alter Christus.  When he says Mass, he is both acting in the person of Christ (in persona Christi) as Priest and Victim. 

Third, sacramental reality is not less real than tangible reality we perceive with our senses.  The sacred mysteries of Holy Mass make present the very events they portray: the Last Supper, the Sacrifice of Calvary.  By our baptism we participate in these sacred mysteries.

Fourth, one of the most important elements of a proper ars celebrandi described by His Holiness in Sacramentum caritatis is that the priest must be "transparent" (my word).  It is an abuse to impose your personality unduly on the liturgy.   By staying out of the way of the true Actor in Mass, Christ the High Priest, the priest is a greater bearer of the person of Christ in a special way in the liturgy.  That is an act of charity: sacrificial love, sacrifice of self for the good of others.  That is service.

One of the things that I was very struck by was the writer’s comment that during the Canon (which makes Calvary present) the priest felt loneliness.

I would like to open this to some discussion.  However, I will try to direct it.  Please follow my lead if I cut off tangents or try to get more thoughts on some point that has been raised. 

If I delete comments that are leading down rabbit holes, don’t freak out.  If people take the discussion in directions I have ask that we avoid, and I delete comments, don’t freak out.

I especially invite comments by priests.  As a matter of fact, if we can get priests talking together about this, I will then ask lay people not to comment, but to read carefully.

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  1. RC says:

    Bravo to Fr. Kerper for taking up this ministry and stepping beyond what is thought conventional for a “liberal-minded” priest.

    When Pope Benedict speaks about reconciliation within the Church, I think this is what he has in mind: that many priests will have such an experience and such a discovery in celebrating the old and venerable liturgy.

  2. danphunter1 says:

    I, obviously am not a priest so I cannot know for sure how isolated he feels when praying the Roman Canon, but I have always had the impression that it is more humbling than lonely.
    Please correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the Alter Christus unitied with the people at mass and as their leader offering Christ to Christ?
    This to me seems like the most awesome task that any human could ever accomplish and with this task must go an unspeakable sense of humility, and awe.
    What DOES it feel like?
    God bless you and all priests for their fiat to God.

  3. This is an excellent post, and I can identify with the lonliness that this priest experienced during the Roman Canon. I have yet to celebrate the Extraordinary form (though I do hope to celebrate it in the near future), but since I started using an Altar Crucifix and Candles on the Altar of Sacrifice for the Mass of Paul VI I have noticed the same thing happening. The more I focus on Christ and the mystery of the Cross made present during the Canon, and the less I focus on myself or on the people gathered before me the more I experience this lonliness – this sharing in what our Lord must have felt upon the cross. I have also found that the more I shift my attention away from the people and toward the mystery we celebrate the more the people do as well, thus making Christ the center of what is happening and not me. I decrease and Christ increases.

    Surely, the Extraordinary Form makes this easier to accomplish, but it can be done with the Ordinary Form as well if we as priests model for the people that neither they nor the priest is the focus of attention, but Christ Himself.

  4. Father M says:

    O my dear brother priest, Michael: When you were younger you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go…I pray that you let yourself be led and that we can meet again in joy before His altar in heaven. In the meantime, I pray you have a chance to read and reflect on Father Z’s comments on dangerous, even lethal, moral equivalences. My own experience of the TLM is that it my priesthood is becoming dependent upon it in a way that I could not have imagined even five years ago. Michael, you sensed the power of the Mass to humble a priest, to recognize our smallness and our our sinfulness. The newer Mass allows you to be Martha at her busiest. With the older Mass, you have only the Better Part. You don’t even get to choose–you are simply there, irrevocably there. I think, Michael, you touched a deep vein by sensing the people WITH you. In the newer Mass you always have them BEFORE you, no matter how hard you try to refocus (even when you celebrate ad orientem, although that helps). But with the older Mass you do sense you all set out IN ALTUM, into the deep. A priest is Alter Christus also in the newer form, but it less transparent to the congregation and to the priest himself. Especially with the more common forms of celebration, there is so much noise, so many other signals, that is exceedingly difficult to PRAY the Mass. But with the older Mass, you are both WITH the congregation and truly alone, abandoned. What a gift, what an incredible, undeserved gift! That majesty is almost intolerably beautiful. And by the way, Michael, it gets better and better. The rubrics become part of you, a second priestly skin, the words stick to the soul, the canon becomes part of your breath. What a gift. And it’s a gift I want for you. Pax tecum.

  5. David says:

    While loneliness may be a poor choice of words, I think this priest intends to use it in a good way.

    If, as he indicates, he is used to the demands to perform, to engage and entertain, then the loss of his usually overwhelming personality may make him feel alone.

    Far more importantly, did not Christ himself express a kind of loneliness? His disciples fell asleep in the garden before running away, at which point the words of the Psalmist apply to our Lord: There was no one to take my part. In his last moments, one of his last words on the Cross, Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” It seems, then, that a certain kind of loneliness may be a beautiful way for the priest to truly unite himself with Christ, the High Priest and Victim. In my reading of the article, I felt that the priest, on at least some level, might be rejoicing in just such a healthy loneliness.

  6. Fr. D.D. says:

    First, if it were true that the older Mass’ spirituality is contrary to, or at least out of keeping with, the spirituality of Vatican II, then we would have a big problem with Vatican II.
    But, the lex orandi statuit legem credendi. The Mass itself is a privileged vehicle of Divine Tradition. Therefore, if someone thinks he or she perceives that what the extraordinary form “teaches” us is somehow different from what the recent second Vatican Council teaches us, then he or she has made an error in interpreting one or the other.

    Concerning what you said about the Ars celebrandi, I thought of St. John the Baptist’s, “I must decrease, while He must increase.” The priest must live this in all areas of his life and ministry, but where better to be imbued with this spirit other than the sacred Liturgy? In fact, Vatican II tells us in Sacrosanctum Concilium that the Liturgy is where we are to acquire the true Christian spirit.

    I have come to cherish the rubrics of the TLM for helping my personality disappear at Mass. At Mass, it doesn’t matter who stands at the altar, as long as he is a priest, because the priest is a mere instrument of Christ.

    Once learned, they seem to make perfect sense and flow so naturally with the rhythm of the liturgy. There is an aspect of rote-ness to them, but I think that Mother Church gives the priest the duty of informing the outward gesture with his own love and devotion. (I recently was watching a video of a Catholic priest teaching yoga and wondered why he must go outside the Catholic Tradition to find “prayers for his body” when such bodily prayers are already present in the rubrics of the TLM! Eastern forms of meditation which seem to be a craze among some priests don’t encourage spontaneous gestures and postures, why do the same priests seem to desire such spontaneity and lack of ritual in the Mass?)

    Finally, just a comment of the consecration in the TLM. The fact that we priests not only relate what Christ did but actually look up to heaven, give thanks, blesses, and says Christ’s words is a very poignant reminder that we are acting in the person of Christ. We are not merely reading a narrative, but we are allowing Christ to use us to make Himself in His saving act present. And although we try to dissolve our personality, we remain ourselves and so, immediately after Christ become present in the Eucharist, we fall on our knees, even before showing Him to the congregation. Perhaps there is some aspect of loneliness, but might it not be argued that this is an aspect of the crucifixion?

  7. RandyD says:

    Simply Excellent…

  8. Jonathan Bennett says:

    I am simply amazed. I am not a priest, though God-willing someday I will be.

    From the title of this post and Fr. Z’s brief introduction to the article, I had expected another piece dragging out the old “the traditional Mass alienates the priest from the people”, but instead I got a profound reflection from the (rarely heard) point of view of the celebrant, drastically changing the way we see see the priest as the alter Christus.

    This article gives me a lot to think about.

  9. peter bolan says:

    Dear Father,

    Thank you for posting this.

    The road up Calvary was and is lonely.

    I have an old St. Andrew’s Missal —1945 edition—the beautiful commentaries on parts of the Mass are simply a must read and study for everyone. Is the Novus Ordo the same Mass? I know it really is but in practice the Novus Ordo has become something quite different. We must pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us back.

    Peter David Bolan

  10. Michael says:

    Excellent post and great comments from our beloved priests! I think if more young men were shown this little known side of the priesthood, they might find the priestly vocation a little more appealing.

  11. Jonathan Bennett says:

    If I could make a little suggestion here- I think it would be very beneficial to the readers of this blog, especially young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood, to hear more testimony and statements on the spirituality of Holy Mass from the perspective of priests. There are many articles and commentaries from the perspective of the congregation. We need more pieces that show just what it means to be a priest and to celebrate Mass.

  12. Father M says:

    Dear Father Z,
    I did have another, not terribly original, thought, but one which probably bears repeating. Father Kerper struggled with inconsistency, incoherence in deciding to offer the older Mass. He had made himself especially open to what he calls pro-choice Catholics and cohabitating couples. Now I hope he means that he does that with the hope of bringing them to conversion and not to accomodation. But what he probably will find is that the older Mass has enormous power within it to burn out the inconsistencies in our priestly lives. Because it is so clearly not OF us, something which comes to us from far beyond us, and carries with it the whole tradition of the Latin Church, it moves us towards consistency, and coherence with the larger tradition. Nothing in our tradition allows for accomodation to sin. Especially if the older Mass is offered regularly, the priest can easily find himself taking in this larger tradition and then challenging his own accomodations. Clearly, the older Mass does not root out sin–but it challenges it far more clearly than the modern Mass. And this reaches right into the priest’s own moral life. The priest is forced to say “non sum dignus,” to stand face to face with the “hostiam puram, hostiam sanctam, hostiam immaculatam”–and not just in the Canon. The very structure of the Mass points constantly to the priest’s spiritual poverty even as he dares to stand as alter Christus. The older Mass is a constant examination of conscience–sometimes painful, like a cauterizing flame, but necessary. Father Z, you said it so well–the Pope’s entire plan starts with the re-sanctification of the priesthood. We priests desperately needed the Motu Propio for the sake of our souls. And if the older Mass helps push us towards holiness, then it of critical importance for the whole Church. And by the way, priests need other priests who can speak to them of this kind of holiness. Thank God for Pope Benedict.

  13. Fr Ray Blake says:

    As a priest who has tried to learn the “Old Mass”, and not quite managed it yet, I think I can understand a little of what Fr Kerper is trying to say. I had the privilege of being a monk at Quarr for a few months, where the liturgy though strictly Novus Ordo, was very much according to the rubrics of the Missal. There was a great sense of liberation in knowing that for the most part the music for the Mass followed the Graduale, that the priest was expected to stand in a certain place and merely read, or more generally sing, what was appointed for the particular day.
    Back in my parish, I re-capture something of that when I celebrate ad orientem. There is a great relief when one realises the celebrant is not the focus of the liturgy but merely its servant. If you have efficient servers, we have men here rather than children, then as important as the priest is, he too is just a servant of the liturgy not its master.
    I wonder though whether it is a matter of rite or of orientation, that is “turning towards the Lord”?

  14. fr.franklyn mcafee says:

    Certainly,celebrating ad orientem has a profound effect on the priest,it has on me.If I were to reccomend first changes in the NO I would say 1)ad orientem 2)communion kneeling 3)communion on the tongue.I notice the difference when celebrating facing the people and I now fnd it jarring.When I began to celebrate the more ancient use I was even more moved.First you have the offertory prayers which actually convey that you are doing something,that you are prparing for something great.When I enter the Canon I am very midful (more I find than in the NO)of two things-the Other to whom I am offering the sacrifice and those on whose behalf I do this.The role of priest as mediator between the people and God is so manifest.I do not feel in one sense lonely but I do feel alone.The highlight is when at the consecration everybody who is assisting me withdraws and I am surrounded by silence broken only by the bell.To bend over and whisper the words of consecration!! Iwas ordained in1971 and I love the priesthood and the Mass.But this mass (the TLM)returns me to my childhood when I fixed my eyes in wonder upon the priest at holy mass and wanted to do what he was doing.The celebrating of the TLM makes me feel more like a priest.

  15. Barbara from Italy says:

    This is one of the most beautiful and deeply moving entries I have read in your blog Father. Thank you so much for all that you do. You are always in my prayers.

  16. Father E says:

    Years ago when I was in college seminary I took a class on Ecclecsiology and the prof, a very liberal priest, emphatically told the class that the 2nd Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution, Lumen Gentium, was great for Bishops, religious, and the laity but horrible for priests. The liturgical reform, likewise, was not so great for priests either.

    I have not said the Extraordinary Mass yet, however, the intense loneliness and dependence of the Father is what I expect to happen.

  17. Ottaviani says:

    Fr. D.D said: First, if it were true that the older Mass’ spirituality is contrary to, or at least out of keeping with, the spirituality of Vatican II, then we would have a big problem with Vatican II.

    But, the lex orandi statuit legem credendi. The Mass itself is a privileged vehicle of Divine Tradition. Therefore, if someone thinks he or she perceives that what the extraordinary form “teaches” us is somehow different from what the recent second Vatican Council teaches us, then he or she has made an error in interpreting one or the other.

    I would not be so sure Father. The General Instruction of the Novus Ordo Missal, is very different to what the codified definition of mass at the Council of Trent. It defines the mass as “The Lord’s Supper or Mass is the sacred assembly or congregation of the people of God gathering together, with a priest presiding, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord. For this reason Christ’s promise applies supremely to a local gathering together of the Church: ‘Where two or three come together in my name, there am I in their midst.’ (Mt. 18:20)”

    The General Instruction of New Missal goes on to call the mass with terms like: “Action of Christ and the People of God. – Lord’s Supper or Mass – Paschal Banquet – Common participation in the Table of the Lord – Eucharistic Prayer – Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist” Not once is the mass as a sacrificial renewal of the events of Calvary is mentioned in the General Instruction of the Novus Ordo.

    The word “transubstantiation” is hardly mentioned in the General Instruction too.

    Is this really what the mass is all about?

  18. elizabeth mckernan says:

    Fr Ray Blake mentions his sense of liberation when he celebrates Mass ad orientem. For those present there is also a feeling of ‘letting go’ and I can’t help wondering if mass had continued to be celebrated in this way after the changes, we would not now have the crisis in vocations in the West.

    When talking to a Missionary priest about having started to attend

    another parish where I at last felt proud to be a Catholic, he emphasised that there was nothing wrong in wanting the ‘feel good factor’. Although surprised at his choice of phrase regarding the Mass, thinking about it it is indeed the feel good factor which I am now able to experience at the new parish with a weekday ‘ad orientem’ Mass. Also the novus ordo in this parish is very different from others and even though not ‘ad orientem’ is equally dignified.
    Fr Mcafee mentions the profound effect celebrating ‘ad orientem’ has for him and no doubt this is felt by his congregation too.

  19. Joe says:

    Fr. D.D. hath — methinks — nailed it perfectly when he wrote: At Mass, it doesn’t matter who stands at the altar, as long as he is a priest, because the priest is a mere instrument of Christ.
    . I believe this “instrumentness” is the abandonment of self which Fr. Kerper interpreted as “intense loneliness.” I would further (boldly, perhaps?) suggest that to feel what Fr. Kerper notes as feeling is a clear and present indication of “wow, this is working!”



    P.S. I’d also like to expand a bit on Fr. M’s comment regarding accomodation to sin. I know this is true of my own experience. In hearing both the Latin N.O. and especially TLM we are carried by such a powerful sense of the Sacrifice made for us that my own sinfulness is cast in even sharper relief and, slowly but surely, my temptations’ allure begins to fade, and I am also ever more mindful of the peril in which my friends and family place their soul by sinning or being having some attachment to sin.

  20. EDG says:

    I hope more of our priests post on this thread. It has been extremely interesting.

    I am old enough to have seen the TLM from the pews for most of my teenage years, and I can remember one odd image that often came to my mind when the priest entered and started up the steps of the altar in the Old Rite: he seemed to me like a pilot, alone but having all authority and courage, leading us out onto the deep and open sea. I suppose that would be the sea of the mystery, and the priest, as the alter Christus, goes before us and leads us out onto it. His personality didn’t matter, whether I knew or liked him individually or not didn’t matter, but it was simply that he went before us in the role that the Lord had given him through the Church and led us out into a completely different sphere of reality.

  21. BDB says:

    Thank you, Father, for pointing this article out and for the good priests who are
    commenting on it.

    May your numbers increase, and may you all continue to lead us to Him through your

    As the yeast is a leaven for bread, may you be such, through your actions, for us.

  22. RBrown says:

    The feeling of “intense loneliness” reminds me what our Spiritual Director at the Convitto San Tommaso once said. He was a well known German Dominican moral theologian who also was the author of a book on Fra Angelico. Anyway, he said, “Being a student in Rome is very important for a priest because he must learn to say mass alone.”

    Unfortunately, there were priests who wouldn’t say mass unless they could concelebrate.

  23. Henry Edwards says:

    In a previous thread I have mentioned the DVD of the First Mass of Fr. James Fryar FSSP ( There are two disks, one with and one without commentary. The latter includes Fr. Fryar\’s incomparable description during the Cannon of the relationship between the celebrant and the Eternal High Priest Himself (as though, in a sense, nothing else in the world exists at that moment, though it is for the redemption of the world)

    This is one of two TLM videos that I\’ve given to priests I hoped would be affected, the other being EWTN\’s video of the TLM televised on Summorum Pontificum day September 14. Together, Fr. Fryar\’s reflections the celebrant\’s role in persona Christi and Fr. Calvin Goodwin\’s sermon (on the historic significance of the restoration of the older form) express more powerfully the tenor of this thread than anything else I\’ve read or seen.

  24. Sid Cundiff says:

    If I may be permitted a flight of fancy: Fr. Kerper’s article brought immediately to mind lines from Arnold’s “Stanzas From the Grande Chartreuse”

    Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
    The other powerless to be born […]

    For Arnold, a “Liberal” who lost his “Liberal” faith, the pre-Enlightenment Church and its cultural order was the world dead; his Liberalism was the world powerless to be born. The Oxford Movement was for him the world dead; the Latitudinarianism movement of his father, Thomas Arnold, because of its insubstantiality, was the world powerless to be born. I myself – in my Henry Adams/Matthew Arnold period before my conversion – had much the same struggle.

    Then I discovered a reversal: that it was in fact the world of the post-Enlightenment that was the world that was really dead; the signs of its disease, decadence, dessication, and ossification are everywhere. And next I discovered that the Faith isn’t powerless to be born at all. So I converted.

    Now I wonder (and I may be going beyond Good Pope Benedict’s intentions) if the “Novus” Ordo in liturgy is the world dead, and the “Vetus” Ordo is the one being born at the hands of a good papal midwife. We too must be good midwives!

  25. RBrown: “Being a student in Rome is very important for a priest because he must learn to say mass alone.”

    This is a good insight.  Certainly it reflects what has been for me one of the most painful things of my years as a priest. 

    At the same time, the observation made by Fr. Kerper has pushed me to rethink this. 

  26. anne scanlon says:

    this is so beautiful…..
    Is it permissable to copy this post and the priests comments to distribute to computerless or blogless clergy…

  27. Fr. A says:

    I wouldn’t agree with the author’s description of “loneliness” in regard to the Mass. I am not entirely certain what he means.

    I think Father Blake has hit the nail on the head in regard to _ad orientem_ celebration. I first started celebrating the _Novus Ordo_ Mass at the high altar before I obtained an Indult (glad we don’t have to use that word anymore) and started offering the Tridentine Mass on a regular basis. It has been a long time since I’ve said Mass facing the people and I believe I am a better priest because of it.

  28. Anne: In this case I think for the original article people should be directed to America Magazine.  For the commentary they can always come here.

  29. FrKeyes says:

    Priesthood is apparently supposed to be a lonely experience, configured to the pashchal mystery. .
    Mother Theresa has been a great friend these days as I read her words. Sadly, no one here has requested the extraordinary form, and about half the people fight me on every thing I do to establish catholic identity here. We have 9 Masses, and at one of them I use Latin, but at the other Masses they are clamoring for a “Youth” Mass, whatever that means. The next door parish has “Life Teen” and all our kids go over there. sigh….

  30. Fr. D.D. says:

    Ottaviani, does the 1970 GIRM reflect the authentic spirituality of Vatican II?

    I would argue, however, that Vatican II, the traditional Mass, and the new Mass (celebrated properly) are all in accord.

    You are right to point out some failings in the 1970 GIRM. (I believe some of these have been addressed in the more recent GIRM.) Nevertheless, the GIRM does not claim to teach exhaustively about the nature of the Mass. While the 1970 GIRM seems to have had an ideological bent (sadly), and any used it to propose a break with Tradition and to start interpreting the Mass in new ways, Pope Paul VI did add an introduction affirming the sacrificial nature of the Mass. Moreover, faithful to Council and Tradition he affirmed the perennial validity of the word “transubstantiation” in his encyclical “Eucharisticum Mysterium” in 1967.

    While I must say I personally prefer to offer according to the extraordinary rite, I accept the Novus Ordo from Mother Church and will offer it as long as there is “pastoral need.” This I do out of obedience because the truth is that it has been recommended by the Church as our “ordinary form” (for now, at least).

    Finally, I don’t think we can now fully judge the role the Novus Ordo plays in God’s Providence. And although there are many graced insights and hindsights about the role it plays, the complete picture will certainly not be clear until the dawning of eternity. Sometimes I think we must accept that we don’t know why, but instead trust. The structure, rubrics, words, and form Traditional Mass so eloquently teach us that!

  31. Fr. Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. says:

    As a priest I struggle to remember that I stand in persona Christi meaning that Christ is the center of the liturgy, not me. I stand in for Him. I am only important to the Mass insofar as I stand in His place doing what He commanded at the Last Supper. The words of the Baptist must always be on my lips: \”I must decrease so that He can increase.\” The struggle is rooted not only in my own weakness, but also, I believe, within the rite of the ordinary form. It is so difficult to recollect one\’s self when, as a fellow priest put it, \”it is as if you are an actor on stage performing a role in front of an audience that is part of the show.\” Knowing and following the rubrics helps. Being reverent helps. (They are two different things.) Celebrating \’ad orientum\’ with the chair perpendicular to the altar helps. Living a recollected life helps. But the rite itself is not designed for recollection or loss of self. The priest\’s role is to preside over the assembly.

    I look forward to my own \”first Mass\” in the Traditional Latin Rite. I don\’t yet know how it will affect me or what it will effect in me. It is an awesome and terrible thing. But I long for it with all my heart and soul. I believe it is one of the extraordinary graces God is giving me through Our Lady\’s hands to save my vocation.

    Orate pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.

  32. Fr. Stephen says:

    I was very moved by Fr. Kerper’s reflections on the Traditional Latin Mass. From age 8 until age 16, I served the TLM when it temporarily disappeared. I have now been a priest for almost 30 years and I celebrated the TLM for the first time on All Souls Day this year. I felt and thought everything Fr. Kerber is talking about in his article and more; the other priests posting on this site have expressed a great deal of the “more” that I had not yet thought out on my own. I started celebrating my weekday Masses (Novus Ordo) ad orientem on Easter Friday this year, and I do indeed have a sense of liberation from having to be the “face” of the liturgy all the time. Yes, let me, the priest, decrease and let Christ increase at Mass and everywhere! Just this one change of physical direction has accomplished a great deal for me and for the people too, I think. The experience of the celebrating the TLM intensified my proper sense of instrumentality and made emphatic the sense that I am God’s unworthy servant who is privileged to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice. I felt alone and not alone when saying the old Mass. It was a “both-and” experience; I don\’t think it need be thought of as “either-or”. I went up to the altar of God alone but, at the same time, not alone. I took with me – I both led and joined – those who were there behind me. Again, it was a liberation not to face them, and have them face me, but, together, to face the Lord in the Sacrament. I notice now how much more tense and uncomfortable I am saying the Novus Ordo on Sundays facing the people in contrast with my ad orientem celebrations during the week. That odd sense that I have to be some kind of “winning” personality when I face the people on Sundays is something I can do without. I have plenty of time for that kind of pressure outside of Mass, God help me! I have four adult men servers trained to serve the TLM, two of whom have made their “debut” and two are nervously, but happily, awaiting their turn which will come very soon. They, on their own, have pointed out to me the different spirituality of the old Mass, and they love it. So do I and so do many others. So, thanks to Fr. K, and Fr. Z, and the other commenters, priests and laypeople alike, for your reflections. I will be sharing all of this with people in the parish.
    Many thanks as well to our Holy Father, Benedict XVI. I have great hopes for the future of the liturgy after all these years. God bless one and all.

  33. Barb says:

    God bless Fr. Kerper and all who are stepping forward to learn the Extraordinary form. God will be working enormous miracles in their souls, as we can see from this article in America.

    Any priest who is willing to learn and celebrate the Traditional Mass is in need of and deserves our intense prayers. The road they have set foot on will be difficult, but spiritually liberating for them and their people.

    Msgr. Michael Schmitz of the Institute of Christ the King gave a powerful sermon this past Sunday on the need for prayer for all priests. Let us laity pray, encourage them, and stand back and observe the grace of God working in them as they begin to celebrate the Extraordinary form. Once a few start celebrating in an area, more will follow. I am convinced of this.

  34. RBrown says:

    I would argue, however, that Vatican II, the traditional Mass, and the new Mass (celebrated properly) are all in accord.

    You are right to point out some failings in the 1970 GIRM. (I believe some of these have been addressed in the more recent GIRM.) Nevertheless, the GIRM does not claim to teach exhaustively about the nature of the Mass. While the 1970 GIRM seems to have had an ideological bent (sadly), and any used it to propose a break with Tradition and to start interpreting the Mass in new ways, Pope Paul VI did add an introduction affirming the sacrificial nature of the Mass. Moreover, faithful to Council and Tradition he affirmed the perennial validity of the word “transubstantiation” in his encyclical “Eucharisticum Mysterium” in 1967.

    Comment by Fr. D.D.

    If you read the 1970 GIRM, you will note the use of the phrase Lord’s Supper to refer to the mass. This phrase is of course common among Protestants, who reject Transubstantiation and the Sacrificial nature of the mass. And of course, there was also the audience of Paul VI where he refers to the Eucharist is a memorial of the Last Supper.

    Thus the constant reference to the Eucharist as a meal.

    IMHO, the Novus Ordo was put together with that in mind–especially the Offertory.

    The new catechism corrects this.

  35. Sean says:

    I would say to any priest reflecting upon a ‘haltingly and clumsily performed’ mass that people have prayed for them and people have thanked God for them.

  36. Fr. K says:

    I have privately celebrated the 1962 missal for perhaps 10 years and I can identify with what Fr. Kerper said. Now since September, I say it on Fridays for anyone who wants to come (not too many). I have had occasions to do a sung Mass with more attending. I have noticed it has more of an affect of how I say Mass in the ordinary form. There is more of a transfer of the feelings from the extraordinary form into the ordinary.

  37. Diane says:

    Fr. Franklyn McAfee said: I notice the difference when celebrating facing the people and I now fnd it jarring.

    Comments like yours are wonderful to read because up until Fr. Kerper’s article, I hadn’t thought about the experience of the priest. Since experiencing the Latin Novus Ordo, ad orientem at my parish two years ago, I noticed the same jarring feeling I got, every time I visited another parish and had the priest making eye contact with the congregation. It stirred me from my “interior participation” and in an almost rude or jarring way. I am most disturbed when a priest looks any place but at the Host or Chalice during Consecration when celebrating versus populum.

    There is only one way to put it from a lay person’s perspective with regards to the ad orientem posture in either Mass: Seek not the face of the priest in the Mass, but the face of God. When the priest is turned the other way, it enables this much easier than when he celebrates reverently by looking at the Host or Chalice even while facing the people.

    Fr. McAfee goes on to say:When I began to celebrate the more ancient use I was even more moved.First you have the offertory prayers which actually convey that you are doing something,that you are prparing for something great.

    Having experienced the TLM for the first time in my life (born in 1962 with no recollections of it) on the Feast of the Ascension at nearby St. Josaphat’s in Detroit, which was an indult parish, it was the offertory that first grabbed my attention. I was floored by the depth and the meaning of it all – something I never got out of the New Mass, not even as reverently as it is celebrated at Assumption Grotto.

    I also agree wholeheartedly, Fr. McAfee on your other two points: Communion kneeling and on the tongue. Aside from the fact that it simply feels so right when about to receive Our Lord, once again, the person of the priest is removed for me because I can only see consecrated hand before me holding up the Eucharist. In too many cases before discovering Assumption Grotto, and even now when visiting other parishes, I have a well-meaning lay person in front of me, smiling and paying attention to ME, making that eye contact I don’t seek, nor want when I’m receiving Holy Communion.

    Wonderful, positive thread Fr. Z.

    I will include Fr. Kerper in my prayers for priests and encourage all readers to pray earnestly for all priests & seminarians, most especially for those who struggle with the usus antiquior. I personally see the N.O. in a whole new light since I began regularly assisting at the TLM in my parish. Even though the Offertory is bland and rather banal in the NOM, I now have an understanding of it thanks to the TLM.

  38. Mike Walsh, MM says:

    Whenever I train seminarians in liturgical basics, I always make them repeat the following mantra: “The liturgy is not about ME.” I don’t know if the NO is entirely to blame for the self-absorption on display in so much liturgical innovation, but it clearly places the focus upon the priest, and that is simply not good. And while I don’t think the extraordinary form is the cure-all, it might help at least to inspire a much-needed reform.

  39. Fr. K: I have noticed it has more of an affect of how I say Mass in the ordinary form.

    Yes, I am sure this is going to be the case for many priests who learn or re-learn the older, traditional form of Mass.  Your comment is a confirmation of what I have been hammering on the blog, in the paper, and in interviews.

    It might be a good idea for priests to talk about this more in their priest “support” groups and in their circle of friends. 

  40. Dom Anselm says:

    I was ordained a priest for 20 years before I said my first TLM… only a Low Mass at first. For all those years, I never sang a note at any NO Mass. With the TLM, I slowly began to see myself as a mere instrument of the Liturgy, not it’s faciliator. So eventually I learned the priest’s chants for the Missa Cantata. I endured the humiliation of public singing which I had avoided for 21 years. Suddenly, I realized nobody cared that I wasn’t a great singer. The rubrics required it, and I did it. Later I learned the intricate Deacon and Subdeacon roles so that we could have a Solemn High Mass. Learning my proper place in the Liturgy was exciting. In learning the intricate choreography of the SHM, I learned that the liturgy did not revolve around me, but that I was merely one part of a swirling action around the altar.

    I was a mere humble instrument– easily replaced. I know it sounds self-evident that the liturgy does not revolve around the priest ( me). But in the NO, the priest is the center in more ways than one; he often chooses the music, and the options (which Eucharistic Prayer? sometimes chooses the readings, often composes the Petitions of the Faithful or the Tropes!! etc.) It is his personality and humor that apparently attracts people. He may even decide about the decorations in the sanctuary, and the arrangement of furniture. He may delegate these functions. But he is the Creator of the liturgical space, and its \”feel.\” The Rubrics of the NO encouarge this type of creativity and novelty.

    However, this is not the case with the TLM. In a Missa Cantata as well as a SHM the priest is subservient, not only to the rubrics, but to the Master of Ceremonies as well. The MC is the boss, not the celebrant… even if the MC is wrong!! haha The MC is a layman in most cases. Indeed, the laity have a very important role in the Extraordinary Form. The priest joins all in being a “servant.”

  41. Being a layman, I cannot (and will not) speak to what a priest feels when saying the traditional Mass. But having served it, I can say this much: that I feel intense longing. In the traditional Mass, the server is much more than a glorified gofer. He is intimately involved with the priest in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice. It is like nothing else in this world.

  42. RBrown says:

    About 20 years ago I attended Sunday mass at La Grande Chartreuse in a chapel on the edge of the enclosure. The mass was versus populum and in French, probably with about 20 assisting. I saw the monk-celebrant look up at the people only once during the entire mass–I was last in the Communion line, and he looked up to see whether anyone was behind me.

    It was superb, but it took a hermit monk to be so recollected saying a vernacular mass versus populum.

  43. Different says:


    The lack of sacrificial character in the GIRM is no longer present in the current edition. Here is the relevant passage:

    “At Mass—that is, the Lord’s Supper—the People of God is called together, with a priest presiding and acting in the person of Christ, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord, the Eucharistic Sacrifice. For this reason Christ’s promise applies in an outstanding way to such a local gathering of the holy Church: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst” (Mt 18:20). For in the celebration of Mass, in which the Sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated, Christ is really present in the very liturgical assembly gathered in his name, in the person of the minister, in his word, and indeed substantially and continuously under the eucharistic species.”

  44. Karen Russell says:

    I think this is the richest, most thought-provoking discussion I’ve encountered on the Internet.

    Thank you all. It has moved me to pray much harder for all our priests–not because I “ought to” but because I want to.

  45. Ottaviani says:


    Your quote from the current GIRM is very telling. To equate the presence of Christ in the species with that of the so-called “assembly” in most muted terms possible, shows the whole ambiguity of the Pauline rite. Is the spiritual presence of God in a gathering comparable to the real presence of the Blessed Sacrament?

    From what I can see all that has been added, is the word “sacrifice” here and there, to placate the suspcious. Sadly the actual prayers and collects of the Novus Ordo Missal do not relect the teachings of the Eucharist and Mass as taught by all approved councils and synods up to Vatican II. The Novus Ordo isn’t even a shred-reflection of Sacrosanctum Concilium!

    I fail to see how the theological preciseness of the older form of mass can be classed in the same basket as the new rite.

  46. Henry Edwards says:

    Diane: I personally see the N.O. in a whole new light since I began regularly assisting at the TLM in my parish.

    Without drifting too far from the priests who are properly the focus of this thread, the powerful effect of TLM attendance on lay people’s participation at NO Masses should be emphasized also. I’ve seen (or heard of) this in or from many people.

    In my case, I have attended daily NO for some years, but had not been able to attend the TLM regularly until two years ago when he got a Sunday indult Mass. I was serious before — for instance, carrying Fr. Z’s Latin-English of the Sunday propers in my Magnificat missalette and praying them at each daily Mass during the following week — but attending the TLM on Sundays has added a whole new dimension to my interior participation at the Novus Ordo. Just a couple of examples (among several):

    (1) You mentioned the bland and banal NO offertory. But there’s nothing to prevent one from praying privately the TLM offertory prayers at the NO. I’ve copied those deep and beautiful TLM offertory prayers on a small sheet folded into my Magnificat, and sandwich them silently around those “Blessed be God forever’s”. Winding up with the all-important “Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation …” just before the priest’s “Pray, brothers and sisters, that ……” Not necessarily reading the TLM prayers verbatim, but offering the same intentions for my personal sacrifice in union with the infinite sacrifice of Christ.

    (2) Regarding the multiple EP’s discussion in the other thread, I now pray silently some or all of the Roman Canon at every NO Mass, how much depending on which EP the priest is using. The TLM accustomed me to praying intensely the Mass during the silent Canon (a la the recommendation of Pius X), and now I just cannot merely listen passively to the priest reciting it aloud, in the same manner as sitting at home on a couch watching the Mass on EWTN. My Magnificat missalette includes all four EP’s but my ribbon is set permanently to EP I, and I touch upon as many of its “high points” as I can, synchronizing them with the corresponding parts of the other EP’s — which I now understand and appreciate better as a consequence of this deeper and more active participation, which I’ve copied over from the TLM to the NO.

    As a result — but only as a result of — praying the Mass in essentially the same way at each, the Holy Sacrifice and Holy Communion now mean precisely the same to me whichever form of Mass I’m attending. (I might well have said something like this before, but I now know what it really means.)

  47. Diane says:


    Wow! Never thought about reading through the TLM Offertory prayers during the NOM. Great idea. It is all relevant, is it not?

  48. Jon says:


    I just got back from lunchtime Mass in a nearby parish. A visiting Carmelite Father from India was the celebrant. Although he used the insta-consecratory EPII, his celebration was exactly as you describe. He prayed the Eucharistic Prayer quietly, from memory, with eyes tightly shut. Throughout the Mass, which was punctuated with several lengthy and reverent silences, he barely glanced at the congregation at all. His attention, when he did visibly open his eyes, was fixed on a small crucifix, which lay flat in the middle of the altar.

    I noticed all this clearly as I was sitting in the second row.

    I’m a Sunday TLM-only guy, and attend the Novus Ordo only when a TLM isn’t readily available, but this was very palatable. The priest used no servers and no EMHC’s, and the lector was male. There was no music. THere was no hand-holding or orans from the Peanut Gallery during the Our Father. The most disturbing thing to my now knee-jerk TLM sensibilities was the fact nearly everyone but myself received in the hand, but all-in-all things were pretty endurable for a Tuesday afternoon.

    guess you’re right, it takes a monk…or a friar!

  49. Johnny Domer says:

    As an altar server for the extraordinary use, I would definitely agree with what Sean Dailey is saying. There is nothing in the world more powerful that I know of than being able to kneel at the priest’s side and hear him whisper the words of consecration. If you want more vocations, have boys serve the Old Mass. The fact that these sacred mysteries are presented AS SACRED (that is, in the older, Latin sense of the word, “set apart”) makes them appear more attractive and beautiful–as they ought to appear.

  50. Romulus says:

    What Johnny Domer and others have said.

    I serve as MC in the EF, which means that at one point in Solemn Mass I find myself standing and genuflecting alongside the celebrant, with the Sanctissimum lying before me on the corporal, bare and pure and vulnerable. So intimate. So holy. It is simply overwhelming, and can be an effort to retain my focus and resist the urge to be caught up in private worship. In training other altar servers and MCs, I’ve tried to explain how cool it is to be allowed to come so close. Unlike me they are younger and unmarried; some are discerning vocations. As much as I hate the thought of relinquishing this service, I want the young men to have a taste of it — how it draws one closer — because I know some of them will discover that short of the priesthood their lives can’t be complete.

  51. Ave Maria says:

    Myself, I have requested and been refused the extraordinary form of the Mass.
    I do not know of any in my whole diocese, and this is not a surprise.

    We have elvis impersonations by father at Mass sometimes, last week we
    heard beowulf hollering or sometimes there is the running conversation thing
    throughout Mass. If I never had to attend such illicit Masses again, it
    would be such a blessing!

    I love it when I travel and I find a properly celebrated Mass. In particular, I
    love a communion rail and Mass ad orientem. I am not at Mass to be
    entertained. Oh, Fr. Keyes! There must be some good Roman Catholics who
    you can gather! Begin that TLM and see what happens. The youth wo go
    to the entertainment Masses, leave the Church! At least this is what I see
    from our local parishes. The entertainment is better elsewhere. But let the
    young people come to know and love the EF of the Mass; let them learn to know
    and love Christ and to know how to worship HIM at Mass. If one comes to love
    Our Lord and believe in the Real Presence, how can they go any where else?

    I have regained much peace since I began to pray from an old Latin/English
    missal. I pray the EF of the Mass. Since Mass was an hour and a half with
    a baptism and extra entertainment, I prayed a rosary and read the whole Mass
    in Latin last Sunday. I just cannot say how much it has helped to have
    this missal.

    We are thinking of moving; my children have grown up in this spiritual desert and I
    wish for them to know of true Roman Catholicism. And if I have the chance,
    you can believe that I will be at the TLM. I could attend that exclusively,
    I think.

  52. Fr. J says:

    Dear Fr. Z,
    I will admit that I do not know how to say the TLM. We didn’t have Latin in seminary, but as a canonist I did get 3 semesters. I would certainly be willing to learn though. This priests experience is really very positive. I too am concerned about giving a “performance” or the peoples expectation that I entertain them. I see the TLM as providing a corrective even for those who do not celebrate it. That sense of solitude or even loneliness is what Jesus felt on the cross. That is the same sacrifice being re-presented. This kind of reflection on the Mass is a good thing to see. It is one of the fruits of the Pope’s wise action.

  53. Chuck Conces says:

    I can remember the tears that rolled down my face in the early
    80’s as I wrote to the Bishop’s assistant a letter of grief over
    the loss of our old traditional liturgy. It wasn’t until years
    later that he finally begrudgingly allowed one Sunday TLR mass
    a month. It was at a bad hour for most people and most had to
    travel far. Years later, a neighboring bishop allowed one a week
    but that was 110 miles each way. For 9 years we made the 220
    mile treck each week. Then that bishop allowed one closer, and
    attended each week and the drive was 90 miles. We attended that
    Mass for about 12 years.
    I don’t know if the priests and bishops in those times ever gave
    a thought to our well-being. A few dedicated priests did honor
    their devotion to Christ by bringing the TLR to us, and to those
    priest, I know God holds a special place in Heaven. Talk about
    loneliness! Where were the majority of priests when we needed
    to bring our children to God? And pardon my boldness, but where
    was the Pope? Did they not realize that desecrations of the
    alters took place before our kids’ very eyes? Did they not know
    that the new liturgy was destroying the sense of the sacred which
    some of the kids may never regain? Did they not see the mass of
    Catholics heading for the doors?
    I do not condemn our priests and bishops, only I do ask them to
    think before experimenting with the litugy ever again.
    May God forgive me, my children, my friends, my Catholic neigh-
    bors, our bishops and our priests for the destruction that was
    allowed to occur within our beloved “pearl of great price”, the
    Holy, Catholic Church.
    Chuck Conces

  54. Congratulations on this excellent combox – as with the one on Novus Ordo Latin, you have managed to get people really engaged and thinking.

    I agree with many of the comments from priests and understand the reluctance to use the word “loneliness”. A great priest mentor of mine years ago told me that loneliness is a state of soul – a priest can be on his own yet never lonely, or in the midst of people yet lonely as hell.

    At the altar, facing Eastwards, saying the Canon silently, I certainly know that I am, in one sense, alone. The server and the people are there behind me praying but at this point the burden falls on me – not to show my personality or to entertain but to get it right: to pray that awesome prayer with reverence, with accuracy, and with the right intention. The distractions are removed – there is just me, the missal and the bread and wine. Provided I do things properly, God will come down to be present, I will adore him, the server will ring the bell, and the people will have the opportunity to be present at Calvary.

    When I was a seminarian, I used to sign up to serve the Mass of Fr Crehan, an elderly (and immensely learned) Jesuit who said Mass (Novus Ordo) in Latin early in the morning. (How I loved those Masses!) One time he told me that in some Celtic Missals, the words of consecration had “periculum” (danger) written in the margin beside them. This was because there was a danger of the Mass being invalid if the priest got them wrong. In some places, the priest was even called the “Periculator” as a result! This gets across something of the burden of responsibility upon the priest at this sacred moment of the Mass. Facing eastward, on his own, with the intense concentration of the people behind him, not in front of him, speaking sotto voce, he experiences the most sacred moment of his priesthood that day.

  55. This is an excellent post.

    It is thanks to laity that I now celebrate the Extraordinary Form on a regular basis for those faithful who adhere to it. It has transformed my priesthood and my celebration of the Mass. I fully understand the ‘loneliness’ the priest refers to. When Christ was alone on the Cross, He was conscious of all who were being redeemed through His Sacrifice. So I am aware of all those who are behind me and who are the recipients of the graces that are being brought down from heaven through my ministry at the altar.

    Like others, when celebrating the Novus Ordo facing the people, I do so with a crucifix upstanding on the altar. I am now less conscious of any need to ‘interact’ with the faithful, I choose options less frequently and now adopt the Confiteor and Roman Canon as the default options for the celebration of Mass on all days. All subjectivism is removed. Who is to say that my choice would be the right one? Surely an informed member of the lay faithful could be entitled to a different opinion? In the options-rich Novus Ordo there is more room for priestly dictatorship or domination of the liturgy. In the fixed older usage, such clerical domination is impossible.

  56. Malta says:

    kudos to Fr. Michael Keper!

    “Self-described” liberal or not; it took humility, discipline and courage for Keper to learn the Old Form and nourish the souls of those present for this Mass.

    I was a “self-described liberal” in my day. We are all “working out our Salvation” as St. Paul says.

    I’ve heard from a very traditional Priest that praying the old form leads to a change of the heart on the part of the priest. This was a priest who initially prayed the TLM, then switched to the NO for many years, and then switched again to the TLM, exclusively. He said that in praying the TLM for years he became a new person (it didn’t happen overnight) but he began to understand and experience the Sacrifice in a new way which he couldn’t have anticipated.

  57. Rose says:

    I hope this is not “drfit”-when watching Pope Benedict’s Mass for the New Cardinals on EWTN, I was struck by how it felt right (for me as an observer of the broadcast) that the celebrants were partially eclipsed by the Cross on the altar. Although the Mass was not celebrated ad orientem, just the presence of the Cross decreased the “presence” of the celebrants and gave the concelebrated liturgy a different dynamic.

  58. Tom Lanter says:

    Keep in mind this TLM is beautiful from a server’s point of view also. In the 50’s the priest standing next to me as I knelt on the first step at the foot of the alter would say … I will go into the alter of God and I would answer in the best possible Latin I could bring forth, after much practice under the watchful eye of the good sister ..the God who brings joy to my youth. How beautiful was that? We knew what was going to take place on that alter, sister taught us and we believed.

    Tom Lanter

  59. Fr Francis Coveney says:

    Two points.
    1.Just as it is a real challenge for priests trained since Vatican II to learn how to celebrate the TLM, so too it must have been difficult in different ways for priests formed before Vatican II to celebrate Mass facing the people. I have often heard it said that most priests are basically introverts rather than extroverts – and yet each time we celebrate Mass (certainly on a Sunday)were are on public display. I wonder if this is not a factor in the number of priests who at some time suffer nervous breakdowns.
    2.A word in favour of the Mass in the vernacular!
    Between High School and University I worked as a lay missionary in Africa (1969 to 1971). One of my uncles was also teaching there – on loan from his diocese in England. He never learnt the local language and so celebrated Mass in Latin whenever he celebrated Mass in a village 15 miles away. This was only a year or two after the Mass had begun to be celebrated in the vernacular. Very few people were able to say the Creed in Latin. None of them could say it competently. Since the vernacular Mass was introduced, there have been enormous increases in the faith in Africa. Would this have happened if the TLM had remained after Vatican II? Think of Cyril and Methodius getting permission from the Pope to celebrate the Mass in Slavonic when the Church first moved beyond the Mediterranean world. Think of the Church in China and Japan after the promising start by (mainly) Jesuit missionaries.
    A balanced discussion needs to recognise the advantages of the vernacular Mass – as well as some of the unforseen consequences of the Novus Ordo.
    PS I’m not a Jesuit!

  60. This is very heartening to hear such wonderful comments from all these priests! That we may once again have a holy priesthood! We have republished a valuable little leaflet of the Mass as it compares to Calvary and I think this would be very eyeopening for any priest now saying the TLM or considering it. We would be willing to send this out to any sincere request from a priest if he can provide the name, address and name of his parish.
    The descriptions of the loneliness felt at the Canon is described here in this tiny leaflet, and would unite the priest to understanding where he is at Calvary during all his movements. It is a simple, but profound little meditation. Titled simply “Mass Meditations” Any priest may email us from our website for a copy. Using “Mass Meditations” when asking. Any donations towards a stamp are appreciated.

    God bless you all,
    ~Rita, founder
    Little Flowers Family Press

  61. Father J says:

    I do not consider myself to be anything like in the same league as some of the priests who have commented on here, but Father Z I’d like to thank you and take this opportunity to share my own personal experience of the TLM.

    I find the TLM a wonderfully prayerful way to offer Mass. When I celebrate the Novus Ordo, I have to allow time for prayer, pregnant pauses at certain points to encourage the Faithful and to allow myself, time to reflect… otherwise, the whole thing seems to feel somewhat rushed and dare I say it, sometimes ’empty’?

    With the TLM I find myself praying from beginning to end, from when I make the sign of the cross at the Preparation through to the Last Gospel, the whole rite seems to compel one to pray. The distinctly limited use of “you” addressed towards the people, seems to make a lot of difference; every word seems to be aimed towards God, even when it is meant for the people! The lesson and the Gospel, though read aloud, by virtue of facing the book and the Altar, seem to make the reading feel personal to me, as if I am reading for myself, familiar Scriptural texts become alive again, I find new meaning or insight in the passages, in the stories, in the narratives. When I preach now, I refer more to the texts of the Mass than I ever did before!

    The liturgical actions, postures and gestures that accompany every word spoken in the TLM make one pray. It is as if one is forced to surrender oneself to the momentum of the liturgy, it naturally flows (once you’ve grasped it), no thought needs to be given as to when to move or what to think, it’s all there in the prayers and in the gestures. It hones one to remember the intention for every action and prayer before one says it, it seems to prompt one how and what to think.

    My heart quickens when I turn the page for “Te igitur”, the beginning of the Canon (and just referring to the “Canon” and not the Eucharistic Prayer seems more meaningful), to catch sight of the glorious depiction of the Passion on the left page, and to see that illuminated “T”! It makes me feel that I am truly entering into the “holy mystery”. The raising of the eyes, the deep bow and the circular motion of the hands, make me realise the awesome act I am about to commit. It is then, in that particular action, that I feel the most humbled. As I bow and kiss the Altar I feel myself willingly surrender to Christ because I know that what I do is beyond my personal ability.

    At the Memento, my only distraction if I open my eyes are the vessels and the crucifix, which serve only to remind me of where I am and what is about to happen. I almost feel as if I am physically handing those intentions over to Him. My concentration on the words and actions throughout the Canon seem to make me feel quite distant from myself, “I decrease that He may increase” aptly describes what I seem to feel and He seems to feel very close to me.

    “Supplices te rogamus…” seems to resonate so much more with me in the TLM than in the NO. I actually feel as though I am participating in a heavenly liturgy, the veil between heaven and earth is torn.

    When I first offered the TLM I too felt loneliness, I felt distanced from the people, I felt exposed “at the front”, all eyes on me. But I have grown with the TLM, my personal spirituality and understanding of the Mass has developed immensely, prayer seems much easier than it ever did before. Though my sense of unworthiness seems heightened because the mysteries of the Mass seem much clearer and powerful to me, I no longer feel alone, my personal relationship with Christ has increased tenfold.

    I can’t thank the Holy Father enough for enabling more priests to feel and experience what I feel now at the Altar. My celebration of the Novus Ordo is now tempered and has been considerably enhanced by what I feel when celebrating the TLM and the “continuity” of the Rite’s seem to make more sense, though I feel I am supplementing from the old when celebrating the new. I know it is wrong to say it, but the Mass feels like The Mass in the extraordinary form and “extraordinary” seems a very fitting way to describe this awe inspiring rite.

  62. Joan Watson says:

    Father Z,
    A priest in our diocese recently told a group that if a priest did not say the TLM correctly, he could be excommunicated. I mention this because of the comments by Fr. Tim Finigan. Is this true, and if so how come it does not apply to the NO. Or if it is just that the TLM could be invalid again how come such warnings are not given to priests regarding the NO
    Joan Watson

  63. RBrown says:

    2.A word in favour of the Mass in the vernacular!
    Between High School and University I worked as a lay missionary in Africa (1969 to 1971). One of my uncles was also teaching there – on loan from his diocese in England. He never learnt the local language and so celebrated Mass in Latin whenever he celebrated Mass in a village 15 miles away. This was only a year or two after the Mass had begun to be celebrated in the vernacular. Very few people were able to say the Creed in Latin. None of them could say it competently. Since the vernacular Mass was introduced, there have been enormous increases in the faith in Africa. Would this have happened if the TLM had remained after Vatican II? Think of Cyril and Methodius getting permission from the Pope to celebrate the Mass in Slavonic when the Church first moved beyond the Mediterranean world. Think of the Church in China and Japan after the promising start by (mainly) Jesuit missionaries.
    A balanced discussion needs to recognise the advantages of the vernacular Mass – as well as some of the unforseen consequences of the Novus Ordo.
    Comment by Fr Francis Coveney

    1. Vernacular liturgy in a missionary situation is not the same as vernacular liturgy in an area long Christianized. But even the Cyrillic alphabet was heavily influenced by the Greek alphabet–and certain Greek words were imported into Slavic.

    2. The Church had her greatest growth during the papacy of Pius XII (cf Latin). That was the foundation for the recent growth in Africa.

    3. NB: Latin is the foundation for the entire discipline of the Church–Doctrinal, Intellectual, Liturgical, Juridical, and Spiritual (none being exclusive of the others). Anyone who says otherwise is kidding himself and will be more than comfortable with the various flimsy excuses we’ve heard rationalizing the crisis in the Church the past 35+ years.

    Once again, I recommend JXXIII’s Veterum Sapientia.

  64. Father J says:

    If I might beg your indulgence again Father Z… a question to other priests? Are you aware of the passing of time when offering the TLM as you are when celebrating the NO?

    A common pastime amongst Seminarians, Servers and others is, seemingly, to “time” the Mass(?). A popular “urban myth” being that “…a good Irish priest can say Mass in 20″… and that originates from the old days! It may seem strange to mention it, but believe me when I say, that I personally, lose all concept of time when offering the TLM. Thoughts about ‘time’ never enter my head, even when we are blessed with a larger number of communions. Yet… it always takes approximately the same amount of time to offer each time I pray it? Whether I felt I paused or stumbled, repeated or “took too long” over something, the TLM always lasts roughly the same amount of time. When I enter the Sacristy to approach the vesting table, in searching for the Crucifix I see the clock (placed above the Crucifix) and always, give or take a couple of minutes, the same amount of time has passed as the last time I said it.

    When I offer the NO, I am conscious of the time – all the time! Facing the people I see and watch their reactions, their facial expressions, their glances at the time-pieces on their wrists. But never during the TLM… and I don’t think they, the Faithful, are watching the time either. True, that the clock in Church is viewable only if one stands East and faces West… but during the TLM, when turning to the people, it never even enters my head to look at it (perhaps another benefit of “with eyes turned down”?)!

  65. Rose in NE says:

    Comment by Father J :

    “When I offer the NO, I am conscious of the time – all the time! Facing the people I see and watch their reactions, their facial expressions, their glances at the time-pieces on their wrists. But never during the TLM… and I don’t think they, the Faithful, are watching the time either. True, that the clock in Church is viewable only if one stands East and faces West… but during the TLM, when turning to the people, it never even enters my head to look at it”

    I’m a layperson, but… Whew–I thought it was just me that lost all track of time during the TLM! During the NO I’m always checking the time (maybe because our pastor installed a clock on the wall so he can make sure the parking lot is cleared out in time for the next mass), but at our TLM parish, I never look at my watch. I have absolutely no concept of time during this mass. The first couple times I went to the TLM this “timelessness” kind of shook me up. But now I understand that my participation during the TLM is intensely more prayerful than at the NO–I enter into the mass more deeply.

  66. Will says:

    Perhaps we should find these priests who think Latin is “arduous” and send them copies of WINNIE ILLE PU for Christmas

  67. From the day of my ordination over three years ago, I have often incorporated what some might call “tridentine” practices into every celebration of Holy Mass (maintaining canonical digits, limited orans, etc.) For some reason, I began, and these have just remained with me and sustained me. Several months ago, I had an old classmate visit (though he is a priest, we attended different theologates – not that I learned “how to say Mass” as a result of going to one seminary v. another). It was my “day off” on which a retired priest offers the Parish Mass, so I invited Father to concelebrate my private Mass a bit later in the morning. The Mass was N.O. (I had not yet learned the rubrics for the extraordinary form) and in English (my classmate had no prior experience of liturgical Latin). We did offer this Mass at the “high altar” of the sanctuary (it is elevated above the sancutary by only one step) and therefore it was ad-orientem. I said Mass as I would have said it normally. I did nothing “for his benefit” but only said a prayerful Mass as I always wish to do. Afterwards, we were at breakfast and Father was clearly moved by the experience. He shared with me his heartfelt desire “to celbrate Mass like you do”! Hearing this was a very humbling moment. I write this only to convey that by observing a few common-sense principles derived from (though not limited to) the extraordinary form, it made in impact on a fellow priest.

    Last month, I offered my “second first Mass” in a city distant from my home diocese – though near that of my priest friend. He drove down that moning and assisted (apart from the priest who had helped teach me how to say Mass in the extraordinary form – the man who also served my “second first Mass” my priest friend and classmate was the only member of the church militant present. This was his first experience of “assisting at Mass” in the extraordinary form. Again, he was barely able to express the depth of his reaction (this time we discussed it over lunch).

    Earlier this week, at my classmate’s request, I drove out to his parish and offered a private Mass (to which 10-15 members of the lay faithful of his parish “spontaneously requested” to be admitted – their request being granted. AFterwards, Father described his experience (his first as server in the extraordinary form) as a parallel to my “first first Mass” at which he exercised the diaconal ministry.

    The lay faithful in attendance were likewise moved. (I suspect that all of them remember, however, the TLM in some form from childhood).

    Like many of the priests here, I have come to experience the celebration of Mass in the EF as a sublime and spiritually enriching moment. Unlike most of them, I am not able to articulate that experience with the same eloquence. I can attest, however, to the tremendous power this has had on those who have attneded the Masses I have offered, thus far, in the EF – among them, high school students and converts to the Catholic faith who never knew the EF when it was just the OF. One morning, after Mass, my parish’s staunchest proponent of the TLM came into the sacristy. I thought he had caught some of my mistakes – these were glaring – and they could easily have been avoided. Just as a began to call attention to them, this man, a man’s man, not easily given to soft emotion, began to tear up, simply said, “thank you, Father, for the Mass” and left the sanctuary before I could publicly (and perhaps in false humility) scourge myself.

    Something great is happening here, something tremendous, something beyond words.

  68. Tony says:

    Simply breathtaking. Reading this entry and the comments of our dear priests was the best way to start my morning. We must pray for our Holy Father and for the reception/restoration of this most venerable rite.

    Holy Mother of God, pray for us sinners.

  69. Tony says:

    It would be interesting if priests began at least celebrating ad orientum at the Novus Ordo. I think that parish priests could actually begin celebrating the ordinary form with all the \”thrills\” of the extraordinary, though gradually, so as to facilitate spiritual nourishment and understanding both of themselves and of their flock — all the while in their homilies speaking of these differences they are encountering.

    What do you think about that Padres?

  70. Diane says:

    Fr. J: When I offer the NO, I am conscious of the time – all the time! Facing the people I see and watch their reactions, their facial expressions, their glances at the time-pieces on their wrists. But never during the TLM… and I don’t think they, the Faithful, are watching the time either.

    Ohhhh, Father….trust me – it is the same for at least this lay person.

    I was first exposed to a Latin Novus Ordo, which at my newer parish – Assumption Grotto in Detroit, is one of the most reverent in the world, and it is celebrated ad orientem. There was sacred polyphony and chant.

    The first time I experienced that Mass, I had no idea that nearly 1.5 hours had gone by…..and I didn’t care.

    But, when I first experienced the TLM, it’s like everything I loved about the beautiful Latin Novus Ordo offered by Grotto, went up more than a few notches. Now, I really lose track of time.

    The things you describe in this comment also ring true for me as a lay person with this Mass. Something happens after the Sanctus deep within my soul that carries me into prayer in ways I have not experienced before. Where I once thought the silent Canon would disturb me, my awareness of what is taking place is far more heightened. Perhaps it is because I am following in my missal, but I don’t think that is the only reason.

    I’m certain it has much to do with repeated spiritual study each time I’m at Mass of the words, as well as the catechetical commentaries in the sidebar. And, in the TLM the depth of words from the Judica me to the final blessing, are just so poetic and moving. They stir humility, reverence and a realization that we are like a grain of sand in a big ocean against the magnificence of Almighty God.

  71. Diane says:

    I meant to link the comment of which I was speaking in my last post.

    In this sentence: The things you describe in this comment also ring true for me as a lay person with this Mass.

    I also meant to explain that in a like manner, I’m disturbed now with a priest looking at me or the congregation at any time durin the Mass, most especially during the Consecration. It is not about us – it is about HIM!

  72. Alan says:

    Why is it that some… no most priest think they are required to celebrate mass facing the people rather than facing God. The Priest is not required to say mass with his back to God. I think you should do something on this Fr. Z. I would encourage these priests who now say both the Novus Ordo(we really do need to come up with a better name for this thing) and the Tridentine to say the Novus Ordo with their face to God. and if they are worried about what their congregation will say simply explain the theological reasons in the homily.
    1) Fr says mass facing East so as to face God WITH the people.
    2) WE face east in joinful hope of the second coming or our Lord Jesus Christ
    3) The Priest is the Primary instrument of the sacraments the congregation(body) unite their prayers with the Priest(the neck) who prays through Christ(the head) to the Father, in the Holy Spirit.

    4) practically speaking when the Priest is facing God with the people he is less distracted by what is going on in the crowed and thus can offer a better sacrifice as he is solely focused on the Sacrifice.

  73. Fr. D.D. says:

    As a priest, I very much appreciate your comment. I agree and believe offering the Novus Ordo ad orientem is a good and most desirable thing.
    Know that many of the recently ordained know we are not required to offer Mass facing the people. However, we continue to do so because of certain pastoral reasons.
    First, there is the desire not to harm the faith of those who are weak in faith. Some have not been well catechized. No matter how eloqunetly the priest may explain it in the homily, the “spirit of Vatican II” folk will act viscerally and tune him out. (My first solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul I offered the Roman Canon in Latin, having explained why. Many were appreciative, but even though the acclamation was in English, apparently one person called up the pastor to complain!)
    Secondly, besides catechesis, moving to ad orientem Mass requires coordination with the pastor. If one priest in the parish were to start turning facing ad orientem while the pastor did not, some confusion would result. It might harm the faith of those who do not know why (especially when they see the pope and bishops offer ad orientem) and cause a mini-schism in the parish, based not on ad orientem but on priestly personalities.
    Thirdly, I believe ad orientem will return, but recognize that in many diocese the pastors now are the men formed in the late 60’s and early 70’s. In many places they were told that Liturgy is not important or that it is supposed to be creative and free. Sometimes they were told that all the rules and disciplines of the Church will change one day and so want nothing to do with what they perceive as “the way it was. ” (It is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s protection that the Church continues to exist despite those horrendeous times.) The clergy shortage will have a role in fixing this difficulty, I think.

    Meanwhile, may I recommend that laypeople ask their priests to consider offering Mass ad orientem. Ask the pastor both verbally and in writing. Write to the bishop and request it. Canon Law actually states you should make your minds known to your pastors on this issue. And by continually asking, you will indicate a “pastoral need.”

  74. Kathryn says:

    I did not think you would leave that in! :)
    If you felt that there were some things not very true to our Faith happening at the mission, maybe that was part of your reason. It would have been hard to agree to promote if you did not concur with their practices. For example, a promotion of TeenSTAR in 2003 was contrary to my belief that the Faith should be promoted exclusively, and with much love, rather than focusing on worldly attitudes or input. But in general, the focus seemed to be so much on money (I realize money is a necessity) rather than souls. Always the interest in how much was collected, rather than on how many souls were brought to Christ or brought back to His Church. There is an ideal example of what a mission should be and what a priest should look like, based on the early Church and the True Priest, Jesus Christ. Have a very blessed Christmas, Father.

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