The older form of Mass, TLM, “like a symphony”

Southwest Florida’s Herald Tribune has an article about the older form of Mass.

My emphases and comments.

Latin Mass likened to a symphony


Some consider it "a deeper spiritual experience." Others describe it as "like a symphony." The pope himself calls it simply "extraordinary." [The author does not seem to understand that the "extraordinary", as used in Summorum Pontificum does not mean "outstanding".]

The Latin Mass, [Okay folks… this is getting annoying.  We MUST stop calling this form of Mass "the Latin Mass", as if it alone is the only form of Mass in Latin.] rarely used in public for more than 40 years, is thriving at St. Martha Catholic Church in Sarasota, one of about only 15 churches in Florida that offers a Latin Mass. Father James Fryar, who trained with a seminary solely dedicated to preserving the Latin or "traditional" Mass, leads services at noon daily, including a Sunday high Mass featuring a choir performing classic a cappella works.

"It’s a perfection of order honed through the centuries," [I like this description, but is it true?  I am not sure it is "a perfection".  Adjustments are always necessary along the way.  Still, it is a good phrase.] said Ted Cover, a St. Martha member who was raised with the 1,500-year-old Latin Mass, then watched it disappear following the pope’s sanctioning of an English-language version of Mass in the 1960s. "It just flows. It’s like listening to a beautiful symphony."

St. Martha is the only Southwest Florida church to offer a daily Latin Mass, though Sacred Heart in Bradenton has begun a monthly Latin Mass. [Oh that "Latin Mass" thing annoys me.] St. Martha is also home to Fryar, the only priest practicing in Florida from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a 10-year-old seminary [The author didn’t check her facts.] dedicated entirely to preservation of the traditional Latin Mass.  [This time she get’s closer to the mark.]

"It’s more reverent," Fryar said, pressed to explain in layperson’s terms why the Latin Mass is his chosen path. "So I’m able to pray easier."

The question of whether to celebrate the Mass in English or Latin has been a touchy one in the Catholic Church for decades.

When the church hierarchy officially sanctioned English-language versions in 1962 [?] as part of an effort to make the Catholic church more accessible and understandable, and the Latin Mass version was allowed only among some priests and bishops and only with the church hierarchy’s permission.  [This is very scrambled and, frankly, inaccurate.  The poor thing obviously didn’t get things clear before writing.]

That limitation was gradually loosened over decades. It was officially lifted last summer, and St. Martha — which had offered weekly Latin Mass since 1992 — was among the first churches to respond.

Surprisingly, Fryar said, the majority of those attending Latin Mass services are of a younger generation than the one that was raised with a Latin traditional Mass. Fryar himself is only 33, the average age of all of the priests at his seminary.  [I am glad this point was included.  It might actually be the most important thing in the article.]

"People are looking for a deeper spiritual experience," said St. Martha development director Kristina Kelly, reflecting on why some are attracted to the Latin Mass rather than the English version. "And the Latin Mass is an entire sensory experience. The scents, the candles, the music …"  [Kristina needs to learn some more accurate ways of describing this form of Mass.]

Music, in particular, plays a significant role at a Latin high Mass. All selections are from the 1400s to 1800s and range from Gregorian chants to polyphonic compositions from classical legends like Mozart and Bach. "The music we sing is all calming all subdued," explained Leo Labrecque, choir director of the Latin Mass choir at St. Martha. "It mesmerizes people, like a tranquilizer."  [There are problems here.  First, it is entirely possible to use new compositions with the TLM as well.  I am afraid that this article gives the impression that if the music isn’t centuries old, it can’t be used.  I often jokingly say that the longer the composer has been dead, the better his music probably is, but that is simply a jest.  New composers can and should write music for use in the so-called "Tridentine" Mass… and the Novus Ordo. Second, liturgical music shouldn’t "mesmerize" or "tranquilize".  It should aid in "full, conscious and active" participation in the sacred action.  This doesn’t mean it should rile people up.  Right thinking people know that "active" participation is primarily interior receptivity of a very interiorly active nature.  In one sense, calm is needed so that the participant can engage his will and unite himself interiorly to the sacred action.  However, I am afraid that the choir director’s description works against that true interiorly active sense of "active participation" that is needed at every Mass.]

The use of Latin is considered to be a sacred expression, [This ties in with the argument that Latin, used liturgically, is a "sacred language".] through the use of a dead language "uncorrupted" by modern-day usage, Fryar said.

Another key distinction from a "new rite" Mass: the priest at a Latin Mass spends much of his time with his back to the congregation.  [Grrrr…. again.] This change has to do with the ultimate purpose of the two different Masses, Fryar explained: "The Latin Mass is not intended to be a celebration for the people. It’s a celebration for God. It’s about what you are giving to the Mass and not what you are getting out of it."   [This needs clarification, below.]


All in all, there are problems with this article, though there are some positive elements.  The first positive point is that some one wrote an article and it was published.  That is very good.

On that last point: "It’s a celebration for God. It’s about what you are giving to the Mass and not what you are getting out of it."

I am not sure I can be entirely on board with this in the way it is phrased.

What Fr. Fryar is pointing out is that too often today Mass is celebrated in such a way that the action and attention of all present is focused on the congregation, in the sort of "closed circle" Joseph Ratzinger described as resulting from versus populum celebration and some other liturgical choices.  You can hear more about that in some of my PODCAzTs.  Mass mustn’t be centered on the congregation.

At the same time, God has no need of Holy Mass.  We do.  Mass really is for us, for our benefit.  The Sacrifice sacramentally renewed at Holy Mass is for us.  The graces from Holy Mass are for us.  Mass, in that sense, really is all about us.  Mass, therefore, properly understood must lead every Catholic to ask the question: "What am I getting out of this?"  The answer must be sacramental graces.   In this sense,  Fr. Fryar’s phrase "what you are giving to the Mass" is important.  If we understand this in the sense of a "personal surrender" to the sacred action, in the sense that one can receive all Christ offers through the celebration of these mysteries, then we are right on target.

It helps to remember that Mass is an "action".  There is a true and supreme "actor" in Mass: Jesus Christ the High Priest.  When we unite ourselves to the sacred action, we also become actors through our baptismal character, which makes us sharers in Christ’s priesthood, in our own ways (baptized or also ordained).  Considered from that point of view, Mass is not so much about what we are doing, but about what God is doing for and through us.

The way Fr. Fryar put this, above, is okay if we have a solid grasp of some fundamentals.  However, his phrasing could lead also to an improper activism at Mass as well, rather than the sort of profoundly active interior receptivity which is so necessary at Mass.

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  1. danphunter1 says:

    God bless the FSSP.
    As usual they are spot on with their description of the Tridentine Mass.
    God bless Father Fryar.

  2. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    The real symphony being that each one is drawn, through, with and in Christ to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The Word of the Father resounds within us, bringing about this symphony. “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself” (Jn 12,32).

    Imagine changing that active (receptive) participation for merely being glutted on nice sensory experience. Well, no, don’t imagine that.

  3. malta says:

    “First, it is entirely possible to use new compositions with the TLM as well.”

    I have heard (though was not born yet to remember) that some of the hymns during
    the TLM before the Council could be schmaltzy. Even some traditionalists think
    a limited use of vernacular hymns is fine. Personally, I’d rather incorporate
    contemporary musicians such as Arvo Part into the Mass, and do it in Latin.

  4. Chironomo says:

    The Herald-Tribune (I assume this is the Sarasota Herald Tribune)is not well known for it’s accurate reporting, nor for the brilliance of its writing. Her facts are basically correct as far as the situation here, but the overall picture does not really capture the great changes that have ocurred in the past 6 months since Fr. Fryar arrived here. Previously (last Summer for example) there was one Tridentine Mass per week in the Diocese, and that was at St. Martha’s. Since September, St. Martha’s has added the daily Mass at Noon, Sacred Heart in Bradenton began offering a Sunday Mass once a month which is, i believe, now a weekly event, and St. Agnes in Naples has begun a weekly 7:30AM Sunday Mass. There are plans to institute a Mass at a parish in the central deanery (Ft. Myers) sometime soon, bringing to four the number of parishes in the Diocese offering a weekly Mass in just a six month period! All of this at the urging of Bishop Frank Dewayne with the assistance of Fr. Fryar. That is the kind of excitement that the paper doesn’t really capture. It is a great time here.

  5. Derik Castillo says:

    “The music we sing is all calming all subdued,”

    Unfortunately, Gregorian Chant has been sold as a music to
    relax. The meaning of the texts is irrelevant, and probably
    some listeners never learn about Chant. It sometimes happens
    with classical music as well. For a connosieur (so I am told),
    listening to Gregorian, or classical music is an intellectual
    exercise as well as a pleasure.

    During Mass, music for the Introit,
    Gradual, Offertory, helps me to pray only if I am following along
    using my Missal (because I cannot pick up all the words).

  6. Chironomo says:

    Oh, I forgot what is probably the most important thing… Fr. Fryar is also training priests who wish to say the TLM in our Diocese and there are rumors that such training will become part of the preparation at the main seminary in Miami. Without assistance from other Priests, it will not really be possible to expand the TLM in the diocese any further as Fr. Fryar is “maxed out” in his Sunday schedule already.

  7. Sue Sims says:

    Fr Fryar also co-ordinates the Confraternity of St Peter, now international (I belong, though in England, 3000 miles from the action!). Check it out.

  8. Scelata says:

    Malta, all you have to do is look at some of
    the cra….. I mean, junk, mixed in amongst the
    gems in the St Gregory Hymnals, or the St Basil,
    to know that yes, indeed, some of the pre-conciliar
    hymns sung at low Mass were no better than the cra…,
    er, I mean junk being pushed by NPM today.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  9. Henry Edwards says:

    Fr Fryar also co-ordinates the Confraternity of St Peter, now international

    Fr. Fryar is a TLM dynamo. While still chaplain of the FSSP apostolate in Harrisburg (PA), he was one of the three original instructors in the FSSP TLM workshops ( ) for priests at their seminary in Denton, NE. After one of those workshops last summer, he left Denton late Saturday night and drove to Kansas City to celebrate a scheduled early Sunday morning Mass. Late that afternoon (after several hours hearing confessions) he left Kansas City and drove 700 miles overnight (stopping for a couple of hours sleep along the way) to Knoxville (TN), arriving before noon to celebrate Monday afternoon a local parish’s first TLM ever — see

    After celebrating that parish’s second TLM the next morning, he drove another 700 miles to his new assignment in Florida, where his association with Ave Maria University students and staff could be added to Chironomo’s description above of his one-man TLM evangelization of Florida.

    The DVD of Fr. Fryar’s first Solemn High Mass ( ) is still one of the most beautiful and sumptuous (as well as the biggest seller) of this rapidly-growing genre. His description on it of the relationship between the celebrant offering the Holy Sacrifice in persona Christi, and the Eternal High Priest Himself , captures the special ethos of the older Mass in a truly special and inspiring manner.

    Lacking this DVD, you can see Fr. Fryar in action by going to and viewing the streaming video of the December 15 Solemn High “Rorate” Mass telecast with him as deacon; don’t miss his chanting of the Gospel and 2nd Confiteor.

    Finally could be mentioned the just announced instructional TLM DVD for priests that EWTN and the FSSP are producing with the approval and collaboration of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and its president, Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos — see

  10. Sid Cundiff says:

    “First, it is entirely possible to use new compositions with the TLM as well.”

    Amen! Try Messiaen, whose 100th is this year. There’s an article in today’s New York Times about an recent organ concert of Messiaen’s music.

    Someone once said about Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis that the opening chords would blow the crucifer, thurifer, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon, priest, and congregation right out the door. Try a processional with Apparition de L’Église Éternelle!

  11. Pope Evaristus, Martyr says:

    Fr. Fryar is excellent. Let us pray for ALL priests.

  12. LeonG says:

    The Holy Sacrifice of The Mass in its normal customary Roman Catholic language is both “extraordinary” and “outstanding”! The old Irish priest (RIP) who taught me to serve The Holy Mass was absolutely correct – when we serve this Mass we stand at the gates of Paradise and it merits due awe and reverence. When I have the rare opportunity to serve these days I still sense the extraordinariness of being before the Tabernacle and witness to another miraculous, extraordinary and outstanding event.

    We may thank the modernists and their “vernacular only Mass” for the term “The Latin Mass”. I never heard this label used before the late 1960s when it became known as “The Mass in Latin”. Before, it was always referred to as “The Mass” or “The Holy Mass”. In a similar manner, all Roman Catholics were just that but today the liberal establishment has to distinguish between “traditionalists” and others – neo-catechumenists, charismatics, opus deites, focolarists, etc. This illustrates what a division was provoked in the 1960s. They do not even like the term Roman Catholics as it probably embarrasses them to use it. In contrast with the other form(s) of the rite it is perfection. Since the church moved away from the gold standard there has been ever increasing confusion over licitness and validity, leading to the current state of near liturgical anarchy. For this reason the idea of The Holy Mass being like a symphony is certainly very misleading and in many ways inappropriate with the exception that the conductor is usually facing in the same direction, as the audience.

    One of my preferred settings for The Holy Mass would be Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Mass in G Minor. In the right Gothic environment its effect is to raise us up to hallowed places away from this planet. Just like the Holy Mass.

  13. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    Of course, chant shouldn’t relax anyone. Chant should put one on edge, on the edge of all the hell the world suffers as all hell is unleashed on Calvary, and on the edge of heaven, as we witness, with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the greatest manifestation of God’s love ever. Chant shouldn’t relax, it should make one intensely eager to receive the blessings of the Lord as He offers us with Himself to the Father.

  14. Derik Castillo says:

    Dear Fr. Renzo di Lorenzo

    Thanks for your comment. The so-called “liturgical
    high”, that I enjoy so much is now clearer to me.

    Should I think of Mass as an extreme experience,
    in the sense that it reminds me I am on the ledge?

  15. Fr Renzo di Lorenzo says:

    I once made the analogy of going to Mass with participating in extreme sports. The intensity is, in fact, intense, but the reason for this is just the opposite: we do not risk laying down our own lives for mere receptivity of sesory perception, but witness how Christ layed down His own life for us, taking the risk, as it were (He knew), that some would be saved.

    I would add this.

    Receptivity is not so much mere receptivity, but it is being drawn, across time and place, to Calvary, where all are drawn by Christ, at time-warp speeds, that is, in a redeemed time. In that being drawn, we are brought into the very action of Christ, which is no base-jumping from the cross rubbish suggested by some of the crowd on Calvary, but the embracing of all He draws to Himself in this way.

    I think Fr Z calls this active receptivity.

  16. Nemo62 says:

    “First, it is entirely possible to use new compositions with the TLM as well.”

    Although it may be possible to use new compositions as well, it is important to realize a few practical points:
    1. New compositions are not in the public domain.
    2. The congregation can hear all the new compositions they want at the NO Masses.
    3. The congregation LIKES classical music.
    4. The choir likes to sing this type of music.
    5. Father likes it, too.
    and last but not least…
    6. Vatican II documents give pride of place to Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.

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