Mpls STrib: Fr. Echert and the TLM

My good friend Fr. John Echert, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is featured in an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  Let’s see what the article says with my emphases and comments.

Missa solemnis


February 15, 2008

As he prepared to celebrate the traditional Latin mass at Holy Trinity church in South St. Paul, the Rev. John Echert predicted that it would last 35 minutes. Not "about" 35 minutes; 35 minutes. And it did. Exactly. [Yah, that is about right.  That is just about what I get, except when there is, like today, an Ember Day.]

He wasn’t just guessing. Every genuflection, every wave of incense, every ringing of the signal bells is spelled out in intricate detail in the instructions for the mass. Except for a half-stifled sneeze (Echert was trying to ward off a cold), the parishioners knew that the mass that day was going to be exactly the same as every other day’s, down to the smallest detail.

"The people who come to this mass like that it is so fixed," he said. "They like the ritual, the stability and the predictability. There are no surprises."  [In other words it is liturgy.]

Echert, whose parish also includes St. Augustine church, is waging virtually a one-man campaign in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to revive [Well.. not sure about that.  But I will say it here openly: I’ll help any time.  Just call.] what many Roman Catholics had considered nearly a lost rite: the Tridentine, or the traditional Latin mass.

When Pope Benedict issued a decree in July clearing a way for a revival of the mass, which had not been practiced regularly for 40 years, many church insiders predicted that it would appeal only to nostalgic senior citizens. But Echert has seen evidence to the contrary.

"I have more crying babies at the Tridentine mass than the English one," he said.  [Of course!  They are having children!]

Indeed, among the worshippers on a recent Friday was Ann Swanson, 28, [Born after the reforms began.] who was there with her children. "I’ve noticed a lot of people my age here," she said, going on to explain that the mass "appeals to me because it is so centered on God. Some elements of the modern mass distract from that, but this is entirely focused on the Eucharist, which is the center of our faith."

A few pews away from her sat Henry Jandrich, 30.[Born after the reforms began.]  "This mass celebrates more reverently than many other liturgies I’ve attended," he said. "It’s a transcendent liturgy that brings me closer to prayer."

Echert, 50, has been fascinated with the mass since he was a youngster. "That mass is the reason I became a priest," he said. "I was inspired by its beauty and intricacy."

In addition to leading a daily Latin mass, which alternates between his two churches, he has become the archdiocese’s tutor on it, working with a half dozen priests and seminarians who want to learn it. "I guess, by default, we sort of became the mother church for the Tridentine mass," he said. Two priests, the Rev. Randall Kasel of St. Charles in Bayport and the Rev. John Gallas of St. Joseph’s in West St. Paul, are about ready to "solo."

Ancient language, modern times

The term Tridentine comes from the Latin tridentinus, a reference to the 1570 Council of Trent, which convinced Pope Pius V to make the mass mandatory throughout the church. It fell out of favor in the 1970s following the Vatican II directive allowing mass in the local languages.

A splinter group that refused to make the change, the Society of St. Pius V, split from the Vatican and has several churches in Minnesota. They are not considered Roman Catholic, although there have been tentative discussions about them rejoining. The major stumbling block is the Vatican’s insistence that they also offer rites in English, which they refuse to do.

There also are Roman Catholic churches that offer Latin translations of the contemporary mass, but that’s not the Tridentine mass.

There is a contemplative aspect to the mass.

"It’s very quiet, Echert said. "And it’s very ritualistic. For instance, I genuflect more. A lot more, like 30 times compared with three" in a contemporary mass.

Even though it’s shorter than many other masses, it can be mentally exhausting for the priest because it requires an intense focus.

"It’s very detailed," he said. "Everything is very specific and demanding. Every step has to be done exactly the same way every time. There is very little in the way of options."

When the pope issued the decree about the Latin mass, church insiders predicted that, at most, it would generate only a ripple of interest among rank-and-file Catholics. And, so far at least, that has turned out to be the case.

"There’s a whole generation of people who are used to the English mass," said Dennis McGrath, director of communications for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "I doubt that a lot of them have ever even heard a Latin mass. Yes, the language [of the Tridentine mass] is beautiful, but most people don’t want to go to a mass in a language they’ve never heard before." [Why is it that nearly every "director of communications"… who makes a statement… for nearly every diocese in the world seems to shun or diminish as much as they can something which is quite obviously a growing movement?]

And they might not be hearing a lot about it now. The initiative for the Latin mass must start with the parishioners, who have to petition the priest to offer the Latin mass. This has created something of a Catch-22: Priests can’t offer the mass until their congregations hear it, decide that they like it and then ask for it. But that means they would have to ask for it before they’ve heard it.  [Actually, there is a lot of debate about that.  I think we have to remember that priests have rights too.  Furthermore, the Motu Proprio does not fix a minimum number of people who can must make a request.  This will be clarified in the Pope’s upcoming document for sure.]

"The pope set it up to be a grass-roots movement led by the faithful," Echert said.

In 1984 the Vatican opened the door to periodic celebrations of the mass. Echert was teaching at the University of St. Thomas at the time, but when he made the transition to parish priest six years ago, he volunteered to revive the mass. Having majored in Latin in college, it seemed like a natural fit.

"When I was in college, I used to ask myself, ‘What am I going to do with a degree in Latin?’" he said with a laugh.

A lost cause?

Monsignor Kevin Irwin, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said that Echert might be swimming upstream in his attempt to build widespread support for the Latin mass.

"For those who are fundamentally disposed toward the Tridentine mass, the pope’s decree is very encouraging," Irwin said. "But for the 99.9 percent of the rest of us, I don’t see wholesale changes."  [Then get outta the way of the train that will be coming through!]

While Echert isn’t predicting that the Latin mass will replace the contemporary one, he is confident that it will find its fans. [Fans?  What is this?  "Fans" make them sound like, say, hapless Cubs fans.]

"It’s only been a few months [since the pope’s edict]. Give it time," he said. "I think that a year from now, there will be half a dozen parishes in the archdiocese offering it. Two years from now, there will be twice that many."

The Vatican established the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter specifically to train priests in the Latin mass. [Nooo… that is not why the Fraternity was established.] The North American school is in Nebraska, but so far its crash courses haven’t generated widespread interest among Twin Cities priests. [That is because they have an alternative.] Echert has had better luck with a more measured approach that stretches the training over several months. 

"We watch a lot of videotapes" of the mass, he said. "And we do a lot of practicing."

Echert sees interest in the Tridentine mass as more than just nostalgia. After several years of growth in more-relaxed worship styles, he thinks that the pendulum is starting to swing back toward so-called "high" church with more emphasis on rituals, decorum and formality.

There’s a sense of propriety among those at the mass, he said, starting with the way people dress. "I’ve never seen any cut-offs. And many of the women wear veils, although that’s not a requirement," Echert said.

The way mass has been celebrated over the past 40 years doesn’t fully resonate with the worshippers who are drawn to the Tridentine mass.

"I think the mass is filling a void that people feel."

All in all a good article.   I am all for Fr. Echert in his efforts.   If he ever needs a hand, all he has to do is wave my direction and I will come.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. +veritas+ says:

    It really is fascinating to me at how slowly the “movement” towards a renewal of the use of the extraordinary form has been here in the Twin Cities area. You’d think there would be high demand for it here, and really, I think there is – it is just very low-key and “waiting” to finally crest the hill (think Gandalf and Shadowfax in LOTR!).

    The anticipation was high after the MP was released, everyone wondering “which parishes” were going to offer it first. Now, after months, the wondering is more like what parish other than Holy Trinity is going to be brave enough to actually formally ask its parishioners if they would be interested, and if there is response, to actually offer it. There were two attempts that I have heard of, one in the NW suburbs (last I heard the priests were open to celebrating it, but it was a question of which of their parishes was going to offer it… never heard how that turned out) and one down in Hampton/New Trier area, where the young pastor had requests for the EF by his parishioners and went down for training with the FSSP – but before he could begin offering it, he got word that he was being transferred (to one of the more notorious parishes, no less! Say a prayer for him and that parish!) and chances are he won’t utilize his new skillset there anytime soon…

    Everywhere I go, when the TLM is mentioned, people immediately jump on it. But we are all leaderless I guess. Those laity who could be leaders for it have our hands tied for various reasons, and no “neutral” leaders have stepped forward yet. And I know for a fact that there are many priests who are interested in learning how to celebrate the EF – but many of them are parochial vicars, not pastors yet, and even when a group of the faithful have tried to request it nothing has come of it yet. There are other pastors who would, not unhappily I believe, respond out of obedience to the MP to a request for the EF, but who (for various political reasons?) have signaled that they would prefer to not have any organized “petition” campaign going on now – and short of a parish bulletin/pulpit ‘survey’ how else can this be done?

    You know what we need here in the Twin Cities? A neutral group like that group in Germany that can be an umbrella group, with the apostolate of going around, parish-by-parish even, to find out the REAL interests levels and to help those people organize with their help, as a neutral third party. This group could then help gauge parish/priest matches for interested people, help the people to organize themselves, and perhaps even give the priests the courage and convenient “opening” to respond.

  2. Raymundus says:

    Go Cubbies! It’s like an antiphon for the Wednesday of Reporting for Pitchers and Catchers (a solemn feast coming this Wednesday) – “This year’s our year, baby!”

    And I love Fr. Echert. I believe I was in the last undergraduate New Testament course that he taught at the University of St. Thomas. Besides being a great pastor, he is a brilliant intellectual. I have all the respect in the world for him.

  3. Marilyn says:

    “There also are Roman Catholic churches that offer Latin translations of the contemporary mass, but that’s not the Tridentine mass.”

    I was surprised that the above quote from the article did not bring a comment from you, Fr. Z. Wouldn’t it have been more accurate to say that there are churches that offer the original Latin Mass according to the missal of Paul VI, but that this is not the Tridentine mass? It is the English mass that is the translation, not the other way around.

  4. don Jeffry says:

    “The major stumbling block is the Vatican’s insistence that they also offer rites in English, which they refuse to do.”

    I hardly think the Vatican would insist that anybody anywhere, offer rites in English. But hey… what do I know?

    don Jeffry

  5. a cubs fans says:

    I see Fr. Z has either been to Wrigley Field, or when he’s seen the Cubs on TV he’s looked over the right field wall closely. I must admit, though, I’ve taken to praying to St. Jude when I think of the Cubs.

  6. Malta says:

    “A splinter group that refused to make the change, the Society of St. Pius [sic] V [X], split from the Vatican and has several churches in Minnesota. They are not considered Roman Catholic, although there have been tentative discussions about them rejoining. The major stumbling block is the Vatican’s insistence that they also offer rites in English, which they refuse to do.”

    No, FSSP uses only the VO. The main sticking point, I suspect, is religious liberty (and a few others), but whoever said VII’s idea of religious liberty is a dogma which all must accept to be faithful Catholics.? I think there is room for disagreement. After all, VII also said: “The manner of living, praying, and working should be suitably adapted to the physical and psychological conditions of today’s religious…. The way in which communities are governed should also be re-examined…. For this reason constitutions, directories, custom books, books of prayers and ceremonies, and similar compilations are to be suitably revised and brought into harmony with the documents of this sacred Synod. This task will require the suppression of outmoded regulations.”.Perfectae Caritatis

    Is this “dogma”? I think not. VII was a council of opinions on how the Church should be in the modern world, and as such it was meant for the 60’s and can be abrogated. VII was a pastoral council, although in the liberal prelate’s mind it was a Super-Council. I think BXVI should welcome SSPX back with wide open arms, and not force VII on them. While the liberal aspects of the Church are disintegrating, traditional order such as FSSP and SSPX (who ARE inside the Church) are flourishing. ..

  7. +veritas+ has a good overview of the situation here. For myself, I’d rather see the EF implemented slowly if that means it is going to be done right.

  8. giovanni vianni says:

    My pastor graduated from St. Paul Seminary in the 70’s (ouch!), loves his Haugen-Haas (ouch!) Mass, and responds to requests for the TLM with “I don’t know the Old Mass, I don’t know Latin, and I don’t have time to learn.” I suspect that this response is quite typical and MAY EXPLAIN why there haven’t been more TLM’s in the twin cities area.

  9. Louis E. says:

    The SSPX seeks dialogue with the pope,the SSPV sees its own bishops as the only legitimate ones in the world…are they in Minnesota at all?

    I note recent press coverage of the oldest woman in Minnesota history saying she was confirmed by Archbishop Ireland (d. 1918).She was born in the lifetime of his then-retired predecessor,Bishop Grace(d. 1897) and has seen six successors to Ireland,the four after Dowling and Murray all younger than herself,and this year the sixth is set to go.Had Coadjutor-Archbishop Byrne not died shortly before he was to take over she might have seen seven already.

  10. Raymundus says:

    Fr. Z., you’ll be pleased to know that, all last season, a sign was hanging out of the window of an apartment that looked over Wrigley’s right field that read, “EAMUS CATULI!”

  11. Brian says:

    veritas made the point that I was thinking as I read this article. Our parochial vicar really wants to learn how to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, but our pastor is forbidding him from doing so. I honestly think it is because the pastor does not want to be shown up by the parochial vicar.

  12. Katie says:


    Your comment makes me that much more appreciative of my pastor’s willingness to allow our parochial vicar to be trained to celebrate the TLM! It will initially be celebrated 2 Sundays per month, with plans to expand it to every Sunday if enough parishioners attend.

    I’m very excited about this development (and for the record, I grew up post Vatican II with English-only/dancing girl/Haugen-Haas masses)

  13. Katie says:


    Your comment makes me that much more appreciative of my pastor\’s willingness to allow our parochial vicar to be trained to celebrate the TLM! It will initially be celebrated 2 Sundays per month, with plans to expand it to every Sunday if enough parishioners attend.

    I\’m very excited about this development (and for the record, I grew up post Vatican II with English-only/dancing girl/Haugen-Haas masses)

  14. Tim from St. Agnes says:

    Giovanni, what parish is that?

    You all will be interested to know that Fr. Ubel hosted the second in a series of educational talks on the Traditional latin Mass at St. Agnes in St. Paul last night. A third is upcoming in a few weeks after Friday Stations of the Cross. St. Agnes does the mass of Paul VI reverently in English and in Latin on Sundays at 10 and Saturday mornings at 830 each week. All ad orientem.

  15. Jack says:

    Tim of St Agnes–Have Fr Ubel’s sessions been well attended?
    We are now and will be out of town for a few weeks and really hope that the sessions will be successful

  16. elizabeth mckernan says:

    Decorum in dress at Mass was mentioned in the article. It brought to mind an outfit worn by a lady ‘of a certain age’ directly in front of me waiting to receive Holy Communion. She wore a very short pair of bright orange shorts (it was mid-January!) and black tights. I found it difficult to concentrate and for some reason thought of bumble-bees!
    Whilst I would not wish to force young boys into Sunday best suits as was once the custom, I do think that many slogan t-shirts worn by them today are more suited to the beach than to attending Mass and it surprises me that parents do not dress them in something more suitable – but then they are often in tracksuits or strapless tops.
    Two or three years ago there used to be someone standing outside Notre Dame cathedral in Paris and turning away any lady who had bare shoulders or shorts. This seems to be no longer done and tourists can now be seen in this great cathedral dressed in all manner of skimpy attire in the summer.
    Women once covered their heads on entering a house of God – once that custom disappeared it would appear that people no longer give a thought to what is ‘suitable’ to wear at Mass.

  17. Rellis says:

    Here is an email I just wrote to Msgr. Irwin, the CUA Prof mentioned in the article (Mr. 99.9% guy):

    Msgr. Irwin:

    Interested to see your quote in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. In it, you said that 99.9% of Catholics don’t care about the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. As an alum, I thought some fraternal correction might be in order.

    You may not realize it given the liturgical lockdown that is in effect at CUA (witness to Fr. Bob’s intolerance of solemnity and Archbishop Wuerl’s defiance of Summorum Pontificum), but there is actually a great degree of interest in the Washington area. Just last Monday, St. Bernadette in Silver Spring had nearly 1000 congregants attended a solemn high mass for Our Lady of Lourdes. Down in Arlington, EFs are springing up everywhere, and are well-attended (mostly by younger people, who are rebelling against pizza-and-Pepsi masses found in certain campus ministry houses).

    Off to an ordinary form now, just to prove I’m not a total nut. It will be in Latin, so you may get your post-conciliar feathers ruffled.

    Pax Domini Sit Semper Tecum.

  18. giovanni vianni says:


    Thank you for inquiring, but I’d rather not publicize the name of the parish, though I’d be glad to email it to you.

    My point is that a pastor who is unwilling to say the TLM has an easy argument to which there is no good response: “I don’t have the time to learn the TLM, sorry.” There’s no way to prove that he could make the time if he really wanted to. This, I suspect, is one of the reasons why there has not been a tidal wave of TLM’s.

  19. Geometricus says:

    I live in the Archdiocese mentioned in the article. Even though I would love to see the EF at my parish, the reason I have not asked my poor overworked pastor at my parish is that he seems to have enough on his plate lately, with a parish school which is losing enrollment, a trend of declining contributions and a ballooning maintainence budget (both energy costs and age of plant issues). Not to mention that I am on the payroll of the parish and I would rather see the rank and file grass roots rise up and ask…then I would gladly sign on to their request!

    Now don’t anyone try to suggest that starting the EF at my parish will fix all of those things…that just the kind of unrealistic dream I would love to see happen!

  20. Tim from St. Agnes says:


    My understanding of SM is that every effort is to be made to accomodate requests from the laity, but I am sure that priest feels supported by the archdiocese given the comments in the Strib article by Mr. McGrath (who I am writing a polite letter to).

    my email is if you are comfortable discussing this further….

    Jack, Fr. Ubel’s first seminar on this was two months ago, I attended, a packed house, two presentations, one by Fr. Beaudet, who is a canon lawyer, and said all the things Fr. Z has written here, no surprises. He did note that we all were obliged to obey the MP, interesting considering the comment in the STRIB article by the AD spokesperson. The second preso was by Fr. Cozzens, a priest who teaches at the seminary with Fr. Beaudet, and focused on the liturgical aspect of this, again repeating much of what Fr. Z has said. Interesting discussion during Q&A about whether the TLM could be done at many of the “suburban barn” parishes in the diocese ( a term I have heard a priest here in the cities use) as well as one I asked which was “How many priests in the diocese could say the TLM right now,” the answer was about a dozen, and I bet I could name most of them, including the two named along with Fr. Eckert in today’s article in the STRIB…both of whom have close lineage to st. agnes, and Fr. Kasel was probably the last priest closely nurtured through the seminary by the late Msgr. Schuler..

    I did not attend this past Friday’s seminar as family responsiblities made that an impossibility.


  21. Allan Potts says:


    Your post brought an old Catholic Eye article back to my mind. About 14+/- years ago, Catholic eye reported that St. Agnes in NYC, had a TLM included in about 12 or more Sunday masses. (since it was so close to Grand central station) The report went on to say that Msgr. Clark (Now of St. Patricks Cathedral) reported that the collection plate from the TLM exceeded all the other masses COMBINED.

    Message is simple, you have money problems, start a legitimate TLM. Good tithing Catholics will come out of the woodwork and your finance problems are solved. TRY IT YOU’LL LIKE IT.

  22. John says:

    There were two attempts that I have heard of, one in the NW suburbs (last I heard the priests were open to celebrating it, but it was a question of which of their parishes was going to offer it… never heard how that turned out)

    We have had the Mass in the NW area of Minneapolis/St. Paul since last September. I have even written to Fr. Z once or twice asking him to mention it here on his blog but don’t recall seeing anything. The Mass is now celebrated on the 2nd Sunday of the Month at St. Walburga’s in Fletcher/Rogers. You can click here for directions and updates in case of additional Masses or changes. We also had a Christmas Mass and we will have an Easter Mass as well. Fr. Cloutier from St. Mary’s in Waverly is saying the Mass.

    The SSPX seeks dialogue with the pope,the SSPV sees its own bishops as the only legitimate ones in the world…are they in Minnesota at all?

    The SSPV has at least one chapel in the Stillwater area, other than that I don’t know much about them.

  23. John: I don’t recall seeing those e-mails. I do get an terrible quantity of e-mail, however.

  24. Tim from St. Agnes: I am glad those parish sessions at St. Agnes have gone well so far! It is good to have some report of them. Frankly, I am a little amused that I wasn’t asked to contribute, given the fact that I am from there and am moderately well-known to have been involved with this issue on a global basis. The important thing, however, is that the ground is being prepared.

    My concern about having the older form of Mass at St. Agnes on a Sunday revolves mainly around the already well-established celebrations of Mass with the Novus Ordo. That 10 a.m. High Mass is as close to expressing the desires of the Second Vatican Council as you can get, IMO.

    I would not like to see the Novus Ordo High Mass simply converted to a celebration of the older form. Although it would require extra work and some sacrifice, it would be better to introduce a celebration of the older form rather than convert the existing High Mass. Alternatively, perhaps alternating Sundays might work, though that would have its own problems.

    Whatever is done, changing a Mass schedule in a dramatic way always upsets some people.

    I have a concern that with Summorum Pontificum some places that have had the Novus Ordo in Latin, and with Gregorian chant, etc., will simply give up on Latin in the Novus Ordo. Latin and chant will be segregated to the older form and the Novus Ordo will simply be the “vernacular Mass”, much to its detriment.

    Mind you, that might simply be the way it goes. In a “darwinian” way, I suppose that would be okay, if that is what the people of God tend to chose. Or would it be better to use the language of “market forces” rather than “darwinian selection”?

    Still, at such a place as St. Agnes, these moves must be undertaken with great prudence. It is one thing to introduce the older form of Mass in places where no Latin has been in use in the Novus Ordo. However, we must also take care to make sure that those who frequent the Novus Ordo are also being given Latin, chant and those things the Council Fathers required from the Church and that all is done irenically.

  25. +veritas+ says:

    Fr. Z – Fromm what I understand (I am in the Chorale at St. Agnes and most of what I have heard has come through that grapevine) Fr. Ubel is keenly aware of exactly what you are saying and this has been the reason why St. Agnes has not (as many assumed) “jumped all over” SP. Also, Msgr. Schuler’s desires and vision for the parish in “reclaiming” VII have been cited as a reason why the parish has “been waiting” to see if other parishes in the diocese would step up to the plate.

    I for one agree with all of you fine Frs., I believe that St. Agnes’ strength has been, and should continue to be, to be a beacon of light following VII, acknowledging and authentically implementing the post-VII form while not letting herself be swept up in any fads associated with an interpretation of those reforms. WE NEED THIS, and Fr. Ubel is not going to let that fall aside, though I am sure that he would love to be celebrating the EF again publicly.

    VERY happy to hear about St. Walburga’s and the NW suburbs, Fr. Moriarity is a wonderful priest on many counts, this being merely the latest. Has he learned the EF himself I wonder? I shall have to go up there one of these times. :)

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