How to get the TLM started in your parish? Practical experiences, advice

Someone sent this to me by e-mail, which I have edited and added my emphases.

Today, I went to mass at my neighborhood parish in the ordinary form.  It was conducted in the typical form:  uninspiring hymns, applause, prayer for a newly installed extraordinary minister–the priest asked everyone to put their hands outstretched forward during the prayer, there were about 8 extraordinary ministers, etc. etc. 

After mass, I boldly (but pleasantly) asked father (who is the pastor) when we will have a mass here according to the 1962 missal.  He basically said never, and was highly negative.  He said that some time ago the parish had a mass in latin, and said that parishoners were angry about it. 

I was so taken aback by his demeanor–he said that I was only the second person who has asked him about this. 

Anyway, I’m just feeling really down about this.  I am feeling hopeless, actually.  How should I approach him–or should I just let it go (letting something like this go is not me….).  What do you advise? 

My first thought is that these parishoners probably don’t even know about the motu proprio.  I would bet it has never been discussed here.  And along those lines, shouldn’t they know?  Should I let them know, like by passing out flyers or something?  Or have I gone over the edge?  Anyway, I would appreciate your advise and I will remember you in my prayers. 


First, of all, people do have the right to a) to express their rightful aspirations to their pastors and b) to organize themselves according to their rightful aspirations.

If you were able to consolidate a group of people interested in having the older form of Mass, you would, as a group, have the right to express your desires to the pastor. 

According to the provisions of Summorum Pontificum the pastor may not ignore youIt may be that he is incapable for one reason or another to respond to your desires himself, but he cannot ignore you.  If he can’t or won’t celebrate Mass for you with the older books, then you get the bishop involved.

If you do something, make sure that it is very peaceful and respectful of everyone concerned.

Above all, be patient.

At this point, I would open this up for comments by people who have been working to get the older Mass in their parishes. 
  Perhaps they can share their experiences, especially the positive experiences of getting the MP implemented in their parishes.  Perhaps there are techiniques or pointers they can share.

I do not want this thread to become a whine session.   So don’t go there.

Let’s keep this practical and helpful.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. vox borealis says:

    I don’t know if I can offer much advice directly to establishing the EF in your parish–I have tried and failed to do the same in my own. That said, I was able to make contact with other interested folks in the area through a combination of internet and word-of-mouth. Our group made contact with a FSSP parish in a nearby diocese, and we arranged for one of the priests to visit our town and offer an older mass as a one-time event. We then called around at various parishes until we found a pastor who was receptive to loaning out his church for one evening.

    It took a lot of phone calls and planing, but in the end, the mass was a smashing success (upwards of 200 attended for a Saturday evening mass). We are planning another similar event.

    This may not sound like much, but this has helped us slowly build a coherent group–we now have exchanged emails, etc. It’s going to be a long road, but our ultimate goal is to start petitioning for a more permanent EF mass once our movement has more traction and we can “prove” that we have a “stable” group.

    The other thing that our experience taught us–there are many, many priest who will not be helpful. But there are also very likely some who will be receptive. But the laity has to make the first move and ask around, politely of course.

  2. Rellis says:

    This is a little off-topic, but below is a letter I wrote to Archbishop Wuerl of Washington. It contains what (I think) is a good summary of your canonical rights and the relevant provisions of S.P., which might be helpful at the parish level as well:

    The Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl
    P.O. Box 29260
    Washington, DC 20017-0260

    Your Excellency:

    Thank you for your service to the people of the Archdiocese of Washington. I write today concerned about a letter that was issued from your office in January 2008 regarding the implementation of the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum (S.P.).”

    I write under Can. 212 to express my opinion on a matt er which pertains to the good of the Church, and to express my own personal spiritual needs. While I reside in the Diocese of Arlington, I work (and often worship) in the Archdiocese of Washington. Therefore, I appeal to you as my pastoral ordinary under Can. 383. I should also say from the beginning that I regularly-attend ordinary forms of the Roman Rite, and only occasionally attend extraordinary forms. In fact, I often attend and am grateful for the excellent 10:00AM Sunday Latin ordinary form at the Cathedral of St. Matthew.

    In particular, I am deeply troubled by your intention to appoint a “Coordinator of the Extraordinary Form (E.F.),” and requiring all pastors (if they want to establish a regular E.F.), and individual priests (if they want to privately celebrate an E.F., with or without the people) to receive permission from this individual. I believe this to be a material violation of my rights to worship under Can. 214, and a clear subversion of the intent of the Apostolic See on this matter.

    In making this decision, you cite Can. 392, which entrusts the local ordinary to ensure that common discipline is observed within a diocese when celebrating the sacraments. You further go on to couch this decision in the context of Article 5 of S.P., which also makes reference to Can. 392.

    Article 5 of S.P. clearly empowers pastors to decide on regular celebrations of the E.F. Your role as the ordinary is to enforce the right of the faithful to make this petition, assuming there is a stable group. This is what is meant by S.P. citing Can. 392—you are there to prevent discord between a stable group of the faithful and a stubborn pastor. In other words, your role is to, if necessary, enforce on an unwilling pastor a celebration of the E.F. should the demands of the faithful be sufficient. This is further borne out by the Holy Father’s accompanying letter to S.P.:

    Nothing is taken away, then, from the authority of the Bishop, whose role remains that of being watchful that all is done in peace and serenity. Should some problem arise which the parish priest cannot resolve, the local Ordinary will always be able to intervene, in full harmony, however, with all that has been laid down by the new norms of the Motu Proprio.

    By using this clause as an excuse to effectively block this legitimate aspiration of the faithful, you have perverted the clear intent of Article 5 of S.P.

    As to the matt er of private celebrations of the E.F., this is plainly dealt with in Article 2 of S.P. Each priest of the Latin rite may, at his own discretion, celebrate an E.F. once per day, with the exception of the Easter Triduum. The priest in question has an equal right to celebrate the Mass in either of the approved forms. Article 2 goes on to say that, “for such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or his ordinary.” Provided that a priest has the license and faculties to celebrate the Mass within the Archdiocese of Washington, you have absolutely no authority to restrict his celebration in this way. The only recourse you have is suspension of all his sacerdotal faculties—an action that would affect all forms of Mass celebrated, not just the E.F.

    In contrast to your (frankly surprising) hostility to the E.F. in the Archdiocese stands the relatively-generous application of S.P. by Bishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington. These two dioceses share many faithful as they proceed from work to home, and other travels. Therefore, it makes sense to see what His Excellency deemed necessary in his diocese. On September 13, 2007, he issued the following guidelines for the Diocese of Arlington:

    In keeping with the spirit of our Holy Father’s desire that the Mass in its extraordinary form be celebrated “worthily and well,” I request that priests send me a letter outlining the manner of their
    preparation prior to celebrating the Mass in its extraordinary form. In this way, I and our faithful will be assured that priests are capable of celebrating the extraordinary form of the Mass in a fitting and
    deserving manner.

    Moreover, I have asked our Office of Sacred Liturgy to arrange opportunities for training in the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite and the celebration of the sacraments according to the older ritual. Such training is intended to assist you in responding with generosity to the requests of the faithful and in serving their pastoral and spiritual needs. Further details will be communicated to you when such arrangements have been finalized.

    Several of our pastors have received requests from their parishes to celebrate publicly the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (cf. Summorum Pontificum, art. 5, §1). I ask that pastors inform the Office of
    Sacred Liturgy of their decision to celebrate publicly the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. An updated list may then be maintained and will also be posted on the diocesan web site in order that the faithful
    may know in what parishes public celebrations of the extraordinary form occur.

    Where Arlington merely requires assertion of the priest that he is qualified, Washington requires bureaucratic processes and permission. Where Arlington defers to pastors and merely wishes to provide a directory of parishes celebrating the E.F., Washington goes against the direct wishes of S.P. and requires pastors to seek permission from the diocese.

    The distinction could not be clearer. The faithful (in many cases, the exact same people) witness a wide and generous application of S.P. in Arlington , and a narrow and stingy application in Washington .

    It is my earnest and sincere hope that you will reconsider your decision in this matter, and implement a more generous policy in line with Bishop Loverde’s thinking.

    If that is not forthcoming, I look forward to the anticipated clarifying regulations of the Ecclesia Dei commission, which may invalidate your orders. Whether that happens or not, I intend to directly appeal (under Article 7 of S.P) to the commission should the facts on the ground continue to constructively-veto S.P. in the future. In so doing, I reserve the right to coalesce with no small number of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Washington, as well as members of the faithful outside of Washington , yet concerned with this issue. You might also note that the Ecclesia Dei commission has been cc’d to this letter.

    It is my sincere hope that further actions will not have to be taken by the laity, as is their right under canon law and Article 7 of S.P. Given the history of the Archdiocese in promoting special masses of all (sometimes odd) varieties, I hope you can find it in your heart to faithfully implement S.P. as intended by the Holy Father. In this way, you will be cooperating with the legitimate aspirations of those with an attachment to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII—a Missal which was never abrogated.

    Pax Domini sit semper tecum.


    Ryan Ellis

    cc His Eminence Dario Card. Castrillon Hoyos, President,
    Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei

  3. Fr. D says:

    Perhaps your parochial vicar may be more sympathetic and if the pastor will offer it publicly, the parochial vicar may do so “privately.” This might help encourage devotees to “come out of the woodwork” and unite. Of course, and unfortunately, this private Mass will probably be on a weekday (since in many places priests are allowed a day when not on the public schedule and when they can offer a private Mass) but not be on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation.
    But, a question for canonists concerning bination:
    If a priest were scheduled to offer the noon ordinary form Mass, could he offer a private Mass at 6 am in the extraordinary form and then binate at noon for the good of the faithful? Can the law be applied broadly here? Or does foreseeing that he will be offering a public Mass preclude offering the private Mass before the public Mass?

  4. abe tolemahcs says:

    A fellow devotee to the “EFL” who recently returned from a trip to Rome informed me that the priest (archbishop?) who is essentially the advocate for the U.S. is literally swamped with letters, so much so that he unlikely to be able to read all of them in their entirety and provide an appropriate response.
    As a result he is essentially screening them now. Letters that appear to be strident, angry or demanding are placed in a separate pile and are not likely to be read all the way through. Letters that are polite, courteous and succinct receive a FAR better chance of being read and receiving a response. This is no guarantee that your particular cause will be resolved to your satisfaction but one does increase their odds at least.
    My response here is likely a no-brainer to many of you but for those who are exceptionally frustrated and are venting in your communications to Rome it’s worth considering.

    As an aside to what Mr. Ellis wrote to Archbishop Wuerl, lest anyone think all is great for those of us who adhere to the EFL within the Diocese of Arlington, it is not.
    Yes, there are a number of locations (7 I think) that celebrate the EFL but there is still no parish or central location (Art. 10 SP???) in the Stafford/Fredericksburg/Northern Neck region of the Diocese of Arlington that is celebrating or allowed to celebrate the EFL.
    We travel to Old St Mary’s in Wash DC or for those Catholics that live in the Northern Neck, they travel to St Josephs in the Diocese of Richmond. In some cases we choose not to attend the other masses in the Diocese of Arlington because they have become a sort of EFL/OFL chimera.
    Our requests to 4 separate pastors have gone unanswered and in one case a priest capable of celebrating this mass and who was not juridically impeded was prohibited from doing so by his pastor and with the support from the Chancery.
    Our efforts are a “work in progress” and we are hopeful that sooner rather than later we will see the fruits of our labors.

  5. Pax-ill says:

    My recommendation is that (1) you start by entering your contact information in LumenGentleman at:
    You will be able to (2) find other like-minded Catholics in your area.
    Our experience in the Lafayette diocese in Indiana has been encouraging because of the enthusiasm we have found among our group.
    In early December, we (3) formed a chapter of Una Voce, We have sponsored a Solemn High Mass for a local FSSP priest who was ordained last year. Sadly, the diocesan paper totally ignored this Mass (attended by over 500 people) but the secular paper wrote three articles about it!
    Slowly, we are getting the word around by sponsoring a series of speakers, starting up a website,, publishing a newsletter, and very soon (4) having the EF offered at a local chapel. This last point is the most important step. The EF speaks for itself and it’s the best form of ‘publicity’.
    Our situation in this area is not unlike yours. There is quiet but firm opposition to the EF. I dare say you would be laughed at if you asked the pastor to offer the EF at some of the larger and wealthier parishes (each with more than 5000 parishioners). The ‘bone’ we have been thrown is that a Low Mass is offered once a week ‘somewhere’ in the diocese. Actually, this is at least one hour away from northern Indianapolis were the majority of the diocese’s population is located), and it’s on a Tuesday night.
    Organize yourselves and keep praying!

  6. ALL: Please see my tips for writing to bishops. Please do NOT instruct bishops in canon law or their duties… unless, of course, you want to fail.

  7. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Father Z:

    I will share my very limited experience in this matter thus far as a pastor.

    Right after the holy father’s motu proprio came out, I gave the homily at all Masses, at both parishes (six homilies), and part of what I talked about was the motu proprio; and I quoted the pope’s words about pastor’s “willingly acceding” to the people’s wishes, and I said that’s what we would do, so that people should let me know.

    I had one parishioner ask for the extraordinary form, for his funeral. (And I said I would, so now I have to be prepared to keep that promise. He’s older, but seems healthy…)

    No other requests have been made to me.

    I remain open to it; and fyi, anyone who is active in my two parishes would know that we’ve taken a decidedly more traditional turn in the past two years, and anyone observant knows that, and knows I’ve taken heat over it. So people have reason to know I’m receptive.

    If it works out, this summer, I’ll find somewhere to learn the extraordinary form–I’ve never offered it–and then I’ll go get “certified” by the Archbishop, unless that becomes a non-issue in anything Rome says on that subject. But at this point, to anyone who asks me about the level of interest among the faithful hereabouts, I will have to offer an embarrassing response. I’m not denying it’s out there; but it tracks with other experiences: too often, people don’t speak up enough in the right way.

  8. Geoffrey says:

    How’s this for a dilema: In my diocese, we have a bishop who is doing all he can to set up some locations for the Extraordinary Form of Mass, however the diocese has no priests who are interested in saying it! Our Una Voce group is trying to locate one, but it is very difficult. So we have the bishop taking a leading role, but he can’t find any priests! :-(

  9. Fr Martin Fox says:

    If I may “revise and extend my remarks”…

    In the original post, Fr. Z cites a priest saying, “some time ago the parish had a mass in latin, and said that parishoners were angry about it.”

    That sounds very believable from my experience. We’ve started a chant schola, which is growing, and we’ve tried to have some of the ordinary parts of Mass in Latin, as called for by Vatican II and now by the U.S. bishops recent document, and the reaction of some can only be described as fury. It is not as simple as merely ignoring them, since they influence others — not so much as to convince others to share their fury, but merely to say, “gee, why is Father stirring this up?”

    My judgment, right or wrong, has been to proceed in a fashion that would seem, to the ordinary person in the pew, as reasonable, and thus the screamers marginalize themselves. But the handiest tool a pastor in that situation has is…being able to cite other faithful who have spoken up. I started a monthly Mass in Latin (ordinary form) on the strength of requests received, and only the most extreme person could object. (FYI, two parishioners–one very angrily–objected to that Mass, which is once a month, on a weekday, and on a day there is another Mass offered in English, i.e., choices galore!, and the two objectors never come to weekday Mass!)

    The point of my stories here is simply to show the climate at work for many pastors; they will face battles in going down this road–and I think it’s reasonable for a pastor to ask, “which battles do I care to undertake for the next six/twelve/20 months?”

    And, again, continue to be positive and to make your wishes known. Given the alternatives, that still seems the best path.

  10. Deborah says:

    If at all possible I would recommend that the laity do as much as they can on their own without asking the bishop or diocesan staff to do more work. Especially for a cause (the TLM) which they may not be fans of in the first place. Most see it as you placing the burden and work on them. (Not necessarily true but that is the reality)

    The laity in my diocese had to work hard to finally have weekly TLM set in place.

    Here are some steps we took in our diocese:

    1. Always pray first.

    2. Gather emails and contact info. and/or set up a facebook group, etc. to organize and keep in contact with a group of laity who would attend the TLM.

    3. Call as many of the parish priests as you can in the diocese and do the following:

    a) Introduce yourself (name and the fact you are a member of laity in the diocese),

    b) Ask the priest if he is able to offer the traditional Latin Mass (even if you know he isn’t able to still ask since he may mention he is interested in learning)

    c) If he states no, then proceed to ask whether it would then be possible to use his church, at a time convenient for the parish, if another priest is found who may not have a church in the desired area.

    d) Kindly thank him for his time.

    4. If there are not any diocesan parish priests who are able or willing to offer the TLM then contact the nearest FSSP and ask one of the priests if they would be interested in an apostolate in your area (the bishop would have to give a priest from outside of his diocese permission) The FSSP may even contact your bishop to offer their services.

    Anyway, this gives the basics of what the laity can do themselves to get things going. Persistance, organization, and patience, are what it takes to at least get the ball rolling. Hope this helps!

  11. wayne ratzinger says:

    In our parish in the North of England we have had much the same responce
    as reported. Just keep asking, and don’t let it get you down. Another tactic
    that I’ve been “playing” is cut and paste articles from “Wherever” on the
    Traditional Mass and e-mail them to people Bishops, Priests, religious, active
    lay people. These guys often only “read” what they want to hear, our parish
    priest wont allow the Catholic Herald (the best Catholic paper in Britain )
    because it doesn’t reflect HIS veiws. Well I’m afraid there is a big wide world
    out there. My neice who is only 2 1/2 years old said recently “I’m only a little
    girl but my brain is full of imformation”. You need to INFORM these guys, by
    whatever means you can lay your hands on. Guess where I “cut and paste ” from ??
    Of course I will desist from this foul and underhand tactic if the Great and
    Munificent Z turns his wrath against his lowly appologist.

  12. Joseph says:

    I have achieved success in our parish. Shortly after the MP was issued I talked with my pastor. He was somewhat negative about the subject, but not totally opposed. He told me he had only one other person request the TLM.

    I started by “spotting” people at masses who genuflected for communion, were saying the rosary before mass, and ladies who wore hats or vails. I took care not to be distracted by looking for people genuflecting for communion by going to communion first, making my thanksgiving, THEN spotting the remainder of the communicants. I approached each one of these after mass or prior to next weeks mass and asked them if they were “fans” of the old Latin mass. Every single one I asked, said yes. I informed them of the MP and asked them if they would be willing to sign a request to the pastor, asking for the celebration of the TLM. Everyone said YES, although some felt there was no hope. We obtained over 75 signatures. The pastor has agreed and is now studying the Latin and rubrics. He agreed to start a mass on the first Sunday of each month, and if it is successful, he will celebrate it every Sunday. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this mass will be enormously successful, and we will eventually have it every Sunday and Holy day.

    Deo gratias.

  13. Johnny Domer says:

    Here at Notre Dame, what we did was we sent in some personal reflections from a bunch of us students giving POSITIVE reasons for why you love the older Mass. I bet we probably sent in around ten such reflections (not too long, just a paragraph or two), and I think it went a long way towards helping convince the authorities to let us have it. Make sure these things are WELL-WRITTEN, NON-CONFRONTATIONAL, TO-THE-POINT, NON-WACKY (no stuff about the Novus Ordo being invalid, or about how heroic Marcel Lefebvre was, or any stuff like that). Above all, don’t mention the Novus Ordo in a negative light or act like you’re the only “real Catholics” just because you prefer the Old Mass; in fact, maybe don’t mention the Novus Ordo at all, unless you’re saying something like “We obviously respect the validity and licitness of the Ordinary Form and attend it,” or how it has nourished your spiritual life.

  14. TNCath says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “Please see my tips for writing to bishops. Please do NOT instruct bishops in canon law or their duties… unless, of course, you want to fail.”

    While I understand and agree with you, Father Z., this is a difficult thing to do, especially when there are a more than a few bishops out there who are ignorant of or resist canon law and/or their duties.

  15. TNCath: there are a more than a few bishops out there who are ignorant of or resist canon law and/or their duties.

    I think that gives them too little credit. I believe that all bishops know their duties. Whether or not they chose to fulfill them is another matter. That is the problem many clergy have, of course, and many lay people too.

    What I do know is that, humanly speaking, you can write righteous letters to bishops, instructing him in his duties (which he already knows better than we do) and then fail to obtain what you want because you have so put him off. That’s just the way it goes.

  16. Richard says:

    Whilst the “stable group” process is a good start, it misses the great evangelising possibilities of the Extraordinary Rite.

    The practical problem is that most of the people who would benefit from the ER have lapsed, having had their practice of the Faith worn away by a lifetime of banal celebrations. Those who haven’t lapsed are attending the few places where the ER is celebrated, not their parish church. I’m in my 30s, and this is what has happened to my friends, my relatives, my generation.

    Although for some it is probably too late, many would come back if the ER were offered as a regular Sunday Mass. But they aren’t there in church to ask for it.

    This makes it very difficult to build up parish support, and very difficult for the priest to move towards tradition, because the only people left in the Church are those who like the abuses and make the bad music.

  17. TNCath says:

    Fr. Z,

    Point taken, and you are certainly right. Yes, I have witnessed several instances when someone puts a bishop in a corner, he reacts accordingly. Sometimes his reaction is quite justified. But, when so many bishops, such as the some of the ones you posted on your website, make such erroneous interpretations of Summorum Pontificum and other papal documents and other wishes of the Holy Father, it’s very difficult not to call them on it. What I’ll never understand is how a bishop, appointed by the Holy Father, can blatantly misinterpret and/or not implement the wishes of the Holy Father and get away with it for so long. Also, if the bishops are choosing not to fulfill their duties, how long must the faithful wait until somebody does something about it? And is it fair to the laity to have to put up with it for sometimes years on end? I realize that this is “just the way it is,” but does it really have to be? Several weeks ago you had a post about what constitutes “clericalism.” It could be argued that the negative reaction of these bishops to Summorum Pontificum, the ad orientem position for celebrating Mass, and other such issues is a form of clericalism on the part of the bishops who wish to impose their idea of what the Church is on their dioceses. I find this very ironic coming from bishops who are so caught up in the implementation of the “spirit of Vatican II” and the “priesthood of the laity.” Okay, must end this post, lest that Fr. Lucien Deiss song “Priestly People” starts to rattle in my head all day long.

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