QUAERITUR: audibility of prayers during a TLM

I got this from a reader.  

Dear Father,

I have always wondered about the sound during TLM’s.  Now first off, I have only attended one low Mass.  It was a beautiful experience, however I found myself wishing that I could hear some of the beautiful Latin prayers.  I am not speaking of the prayers that are to be said softly or inaudibly, but rather the prayers said aloud by the priest and server.  Since the Mass was in a largish church (I was only about 8 rows back from the front), I could hear nothing of these audible prayers.  Mostly, I could not even hear murmuring or sound of any kind when the parts were being spoken.  The only way I could follow in the missal was by the priests gestures (which was still easy to follow).

Here is my question:  Wouldn’t it be beneficial for the people to hear the audible prayers of the priest and server? 

I am not proposing wireless microphones or anything, but perhaps a simple (hidden) microphone near that altar that could pick-up these audible prayers.  To keep the proper “feel” of the Mass, the levels would need to be kept low.  The words should not be as loud as at the usual novus ordo Mass, but should sound natural.   I wonder if this would particularly help those who are transitioning from the novus ordo.

I am very interested to hear your opinion on this and it may provide some interesting debate, as well.

Thank you for all the wonderful work that is accomplished through your blog.  You have taught me much about the Faith, and for that I am very, very grateful.

Yes, I am sure there will be debate.

I think that the prayers which should be audible should be, well, audible.  I don’t necessarily think that the priest or altar should be miked but they should be pronounced at a reasonable level so that people can hear them from a reasonable distance, even in a large church.  Furthermore, the servers should say the prayers audibly also.  I am all for the role of servers as "representatives" for the people, but they should learn to say the prayers well and will a reasonable tone of voice.

Also, keep in mind that Holy Popes of yesteryear also advocated that the congregation make responses together with the servers.  I explained the various ways that can be done in another post.

What we encounter quite often is a rigid attitude of total silence, especially imposed by some members of the congregation who think it is a capital crime to utter anything, such as a response to Dominus vobiscum.  These types will often hiss down or glare at those who dare to respond with Et cum spiritu tuo so as to intimidate others into the sort of silence they think is appropriate.  

Surely we should do our best to fit with the prevailing sense of the congregation and the style of the place where we attended, provided it is reasonable.  On the other hand, we also must recognize that during Holy Mass the congregation does have a role.  A proper understanding of "active participation" also opens outward, to external expressions too.  In the TLM those are mostly the quiet responses to the priest’s invitations, and so forth.

Again, I don’t think the microphone is the best solution.  As a matter of fact, this is why the paradigmatic Mass of the Roman Rite is sung: so that it can be audible.  But neither should anyone be shouting for the sake of filling the space to the farthest pew.

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  1. RichR says:

    I agree on speaking up versus mic-ing the priest. Read Thomas Day’s Why Catholics Can’t Sing and you will get a great perspective on electric amplification.

    IMHO, I find it interesting that we carpet the floors to make everyone comfortable, but then, because of the dampening effect of the carpet, we have to resort to microphones. Why is comfort such a priority? Are we in God’s house or God’s lounge?

    So much good would come if Churches would rip out the carpetting. As a schola member I can tell you, it is a pain in the rear to have to sing out into a carpetted nave. It’s like singing into a black hole. The sound gets sucked in, never to return.

    Tiled floors, however, carry sound very well, and aid in hearing the priest/schola/organ.

  2. bryan says:

    Perhaps the hissing from the harpies (as my mother used to call it) is an overreaction to
    the almost frenetic noise that we’ve been subjected to in the OR all these years. One thing
    I’ve noticed in the ranks of the traditional movement is almost a binary approach to the
    Mass: it either has to be what they imagined it should be, or they’ll pick up their missals
    and go elsewhere. It’s not a binary world, and there were allowances in the Missale Romanum
    which, at the time, were absolutely accepted as allowable. Thus it should be today. Offer
    up an Ave Maria for the softening of their absolutist hearts and offer it up for the conversion
    of the protestants and release of the souls in Purgatory.

    I agree with Father. Handled properly, hearing the prayers is not the end of the world.
    For one, it does unite you to the Holy Sacrifice, and, too, while not wanting to bring in
    the profane world, it does provide the opportunity for full and conscious participation
    in the actions on the altar.

    Dialogue Masses were an allowable option under the 62 Rite, and indeed, were encouraged
    when pastorally (there’s that word again…but, in the proper context, a noble goal)

    But, inter alia, we have to recapture our traditions and Tradition, which can’t be in a

  3. When I serve Low Mass I always try to
    make my responses audible
    (but not necessarily to the last pew).
    It is difficult to try and find a
    via media, although I think Pius XII
    advocated the congregation saying aloud
    the responses of the server. I may be
    As an aside, I wonder how uber-silent
    traditionalists square their absolute
    reluctance to make any response with
    the opinions of Popes who thought it
    worthy? A la carte Catholicism?

  4. English Pastor says:

    Although it does not please everyone, we have been using a ‘hidden’ mike since we began the TLM last September. Once the Epistle and Gospel are concluded it is switched off. We also encourage the congregation to answer the simple parts (Dominus vobiscum, the Preface dialogue) and engage with the Domine non sum dignus. Additionally, we include a vernacular hymn during the Offertory with a Marian Hymn at the end. This provides, I think, a transiation for those used to the Novus Ordo and fulfils the hope of Pope St Pius X for congregational particiaption in the rites rather than during them. I also recommend Mass Booklets so the congregation can follow the Mass.

  5. B Knotts says:

    Thank you for talking about this, Fr. I have been wondering about this for a while. At the (former indult) EF Mass at which I sometimes assist, I am able to hear the audible parts when sitting towards the front. I have assisted at EF Masses, however, where the situation was like the questioner described; I could not hear the audible parts at all.

    I wasn’t sure what is proper, but it sounds like the audible parts ought to be audible.

    The effect of carpeting is a very good point. It should be removed, I think. I have a vague recollection of churches not being carpeted once.

  6. Father Totton says:

    I am no fan of micorphones (and I did read Thomas Day’s book) yet our church is carpeted and the carpet truly does suck the sound. After a couple weeks of saying Mass in the EF, a few people asked why they couldn’t hear the prayers. I explained the difference between EF and OF with the silent canon, etc. They said they couldn’t hear the prayers which are intended to be audible, so I began using a microphone (please hold your screams of terror, folks) I only speak the audible prayers (and readings) loud enough that they may be picked up by the microphone. So far, I have had no complaints (from the “harpers”). The few priests who have covered Mass for me have declined to use the microphone – which is fine.

  7. Mike Williams says:

    I was an altar boy in the 60s, trained with the 1962 Missal and then I experienced the incremental additions of the 1965 Missal. The very first change I remember being introduced at our parish was that a microphone was discreetly installed so that the prayers at the foot of the altar were audible. It was not booming or intrusive, but subtly amplified the voices. This was done when the prayers were still in Latin.

    Not to go off-topic, but people who wonder about the average Catholic’s reaction to so many changes in the liturgy may not realize that the initial reforms after the Council were small and introduced piecemeal. Plus, any Catholic who paid attention knew about the Council’s call for reform. Some people seem to imagine that we showed up one Sunday and everything was suddenly different, and that was not the case at all.

  8. Jason says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but why is a microphone so objectionable? I can’t see why the mics that sit subtly flat on the alter would cause a problem…


  9. I’m glad to see this issue being addressed. A debate will be of benefit to priests and people. Not everyone is yet used to the periods of silence in the old Mass (e.g. the silent Canon), particularly at Low Mass.

    Here in England, we have had occasional celebrations of the old Mass for years under the old Indult. (Since Summorum Pontificum no Indult is necessary, of course). But the concept of actuosa participatio has been, and still is, widely misunderstood to mean the congregation should actually be doing something, including making the responses formerly made only by the altar server in the days before the dialogue Mass. This is an excellent (though not the only) form of participation. Unfortunately, there are people, and this is not a new phenomenon, who bellow the responses, even drowning out the voice of the priest during the recitation of, say, the Credo or the Pater noster. This tends to destroy the atmosphere of meditative prayer which encourages interior recpetivity. How does one get them to stop it ? I really don’t know the answer.

  10. Teresa says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but why is a microphone so objectionable? I can’t see why the mics that sit subtly flat on the alter would cause a problem…

    Amen, Jason !

  11. Patrick says:

    Isn’t a microphone a necessity in a large church or cathedral, even if there is no carpeting? In a large church (especially with an altar deep in the apse), a priest would have to speak very loudly just to be heard (not understood).

    It would seem a hidden mic at a “natural” level (not booming at all) would be good. Even if the level was still below “intelligibility” but enough to hear that something is being spoken aloud. Too often sound is done horribly in parishes, but it can be done very naturally if care is taken and the system is professionally designed for sacred liturgy, not theater.

  12. Brian Anderson says:

    The Sacred Constitution on the Liturgy 54, urged that steps be taken to help the faithful say or sing in Latin those parts of the Ordinary, that pertain to them. How is this possible if the faithful cannot hear what the priest is saying? Now it seems to me that the faithful actually hearing what is being said would be a step forward. Those parts of the Ordinary that are meant to be audible should be crystal clear to everyone. If it means using a hidden “mike” then so be it.

  13. Brian: And we must remember that the comments on “active partcipation” in SC were about the older form of Mass!

  14. Romulus says:

    While I would certainly not argue for a “rigid attitude of total silence”, I hope those asking for more audibility will consider that the Church’s call for something very close to silence during the canon is actually a great favor to priests, freeing them from the need to be on display and allowing them to submerge their personalities in hat of the High Priest: “illum oportet crescere me autem minui”.

    Even very good priests, devout and rubricly exact, can be undone by the Ordinary Form’s call for audibility, when their personal piety goes on display. Moreover, audibility subverts the dominance that the sacramental aspect of the liturgy should have over the evangelical aspect: at some point we all have to make our peace with the truth that God’s mystery is something to be received and adored, not comprehended.

  15. Jason says:

    As a related question, how fast should the Priest read the prayers. At the EF Masses I have seen, it seems the Priest and servers pray the prayers relatively fast, that is, not at “conversation speed.” I assume this is done when the prayers are long. But is there a rule that Priests follow with this?

  16. Daniel Latinus says:

    This is kind of a sore spot with me, too. I believe that the audible parts should be audible, and in a publicly celebrated Low Mass in a church, these should be said loud enough to be heard by the entire congregation, and suitable to cue the responses at dialogue Mass.

    At least one of the groups training priests for the EF seems committed to perpetuating the “silent” Low Mass.

    In a way, the totally silent Low Mass may make sense in some of those chapels where a large number of priests were celebrating Mass at the same time, with the next altar only a few feet away, but in a church or chapel where only one mass is being celebrated at any time, this is not the way to go. (I would submit, those “Mass factory” chapels, while a concession to necessity, stray close to being an abuse.)

    Say aloud what should be aloud, and in an undertone what should be said in an undertone, and encourage Missa Recitata! These prayers belong to us, and we should take possession of them, for ourselves and our children, lest someone else try to take them away!

  17. RichR says:

    Why is electronic amplification now necessary when, for centuries, the Church did just fine without it – and in bigger churches than what we now have? People could hear the homily just fine, hear the priest making his comments that required the assembly to respond, etc…. The problem is that we place too much emphasis on everyone hearing everything. So much so that now it is considered an insult to the assembly when they can’t hear every thing. It’s a lack of understanding about what the Mass and the priesthood are. It’s a subtle egalitarianism that threatens to weaken the unique dignity of the priesthood. Why is Fr. Jones any “better” than we are? That type of thinking is becoming more commonplace, and I think a return to some sacred silence would help curb that tendency.

    I like Romulus’s comment about the priest having to put his devotion on display. However, I wouldn’t go to the extreme and say that he should be in his own little bubble up there at the altar, either. Part of his sacrifice is that he must give up his private meditation for the good of the assembly. He can’t always sit back and quietly contemplate the prayers of the Mass. He has to say them and lead the people in prayer. This requires him to be more exteriorly focused that interiorly focused. It’s just the nature of the role – he’s doing things all throughout Mass and can’t always have his thoughts to himself.

  18. Austin says:

    I have found it annoying to be unable to hear the Epistle and Gospel in Latin.
    What’s the point of reading them at all if they are inaudible? Rubricism?
    Even though both are read again later from the lectern in English, mumbling seems
    wrong to me. I think all the “public” parts should be clearly enunciated so that
    the congregation can hear. Eastern rite priests seem able to sing in booming
    bass voices; there’s no doubt about what they are up to. There seems to be a
    style of celebrating in the traditional Western rite one might call “blessed muttering” that is needlessly opaque.

  19. Patrick says:

    I think having a microphone amplifying the audible prayers to a natural level will help the priest from feeling that he has to perform. That way he won’t feel inclined to project the audible parts in a Shakespearean chest voice, he will be able to say the words naturally.

  20. Fr Z: We must remember that the comments on “active partcipation” in SC were about the older form of Mass!

    I gotta try that one out on a few priests I know!

  21. QC says:

    Where I used to live the TLM was offered in a small chapel with a small sanctuary so the congregation was very close to the priest and servers. Everything that was supposed to be audible was (the congregation did not say the anything at all there). Where I live now, the TLM is offered in a very large church with a large sanctuary, so even if you sit in the front row you can’t hear anything (there, the people do usually sing the Credo, Gloria, etc. along with the choir). I definitely prefer being able to hear. It’s much easier to pray things like the Confiter in unison (albeit silently on the congregations part).

  22. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I’m not advocating rigid silence, unless this is what the Church intends. However, in conversations with folks in their 80s, I hear that ‘dialoguing’ and a lot of audibility was not the norm in their day.

    The Church got along for two thousand years without microphones. This makes me wonder if hearing every word is necessary for benefitting from Mass.

    Not that everyone likes to do so, but one can follow the Mass in a missal while watching for gestures if one really wants to pray along with the words. I don’t discount at all any efforts to understand and pray the Mass. [If EVERY Catholic had really understood the Mass, would anybody have gotten away with what has happened in the last 50 years?]

    For those who would like to be more familiar with the old Mass, a church in the round makes a perfect teaching tool. Those who wish to see or watch carefully the activities on the altar can choose a seat for that if one is fortunate to have such a church. I never thought I’d be promoting that style of architecture for the old Mass! LOL.

    The more I consider this subject of dialogue and audibility, the more I grow in awe of the role of the priest and how this role is under-emphasized in the Novus Ordo. If our prayers are to be efficacious, they must be offered through Jesus Christ. Our dear priests must demonstrate their office in Persona Christi as completely as possible. The priest speaks to God, not us generally. Thinking along this line of logic, how important is it really for the laity to feel included in the Mass? More and more I am coming around to simply praying that the priest offers the best Mass he can for my benefit as he prays on our behalf to God. And then of course, uniting myself to the Mass and offering my own prayers…

    Am I missing something? Is it possible that this emphasis on “doing stuff and hearing everything” is making us unhappy? Are we so immersed in the emphasis of certain practices of the Novus Ordo, that we are at a disadvantage in accepting what the Mass is? I admit, every day I consider the old ways, a door opens, a light goes on.

  23. Derik Castillo says:

    I think a well constructed apse can help to take the sound to
    the back of the church. I have seen and heard a couple of
    examples where a microphone is not essential. Yes, the words
    may be more difficult to make out, but with a hand missal
    that is not too much of a problem. So my oppinion is that
    the use of a microphone depends on how acoustics-friendly
    the church architecture is. That being said, speakers
    attached to the walls or columns of a church never looked
    OK to me. In the Cathedral of Christ the
    King in Lexington (OF, no apse, carpeted, huge speakers),
    there is a special area where the speakers are set to a
    volume that helps the senior faithful.

    The priest assigned to our church (EF) speaks in a loud voice even
    outside Mass (no microphone). I guess its
    an old habit of him, but certainly helps during the readings.

    As an altar server (EF), I try to make my responses audible, never
    louder than the priest’s voice.

  24. Hidden One says:

    Please forgive my ignorance, but is it known how the Saints said Mass in terms of audibility? I think especially of St. John Vianney and St. Pio of Pietrelcina, both well known for their Masses and men of the highest holiness. If they said the audible parts audibly, then what reason can stand against such – for the Church clearly does not require [almost rather the opposite, it seems] a silent Gregorian Mass.

  25. Daniel says:

    I appear to be the minority, but I do not see the necessity of having the audible prayers be exactly audible to the entire congregation during a Low Mass. As Father stated in the article, the reason that the normative Mass (in cantu) is sung is for audibility (as well as beauty and easy recognition/remembrance of words). A Low Mass is not sung, which will of course lower the audibility of the words spoken. The indications for the tone/level of voice at Low Mass are given in the rubrics in chapter 9, sections 511 & 512:

    511. In a low Mass, the following are said in a clear voice:

    (a) the words In nomine Patris, &c; the psalm Iudica me, Deus, with its antiphon;
    the Confiteor and what follows up to Oremus inclusive; but the prayers Auger
    a nobis and Oramus te, Domine are said secretly.
    (b) the Entrance antiphon with its verse and Gloria Patri and also Kyrie, eleison;
    (c) the hymn Gloria in excelsis;
    (d) Dominus vobiscum, Oremus, Flectamus genua-Levate, the prayers;
    (e) the lessons, epistles, gradual, tract, Alleluia with its verse, sequence and
    (f) the Creed;
    (g) Dominus vobiscum, Oremus and the Offertory antiphon, and also the words
    Orate, fratres;
    (h) the preface and Sanctus-Benedictus;
    (i) the words Nobis quoque peccatoribus; the Lord’s prayer with its introduction;
    Per omnia sæcula sæculorum and Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum; Angus Dei,
    &c.; the words Domine, non sum dignus before the Communion of the priest
    celebrant; the formulas for the Communion of the faithful; the Communion
    antiphon; Dominus vobiscum and postcommunions; and also the words Humilitate
    capita vestra Deo and the prayer over the people;
    (l) Ite, missa est or Benedicamus Domino or Requiescant in pace; the blessing and
    last gosepl.

    The rest is said secretly.

    512. The priest must take the greatest care to pronounce the words that are to be spoken aloud distinctly and becomingly, not so quickly that he cannot attend to what he is reading, nor so slowly as to be tedious to his hearers. If he celebrates at a side altar, the voice should not be so loud as to disturb others who may be celebrating in the same church at the same time, nor so low that it cannot be heard by those present. The priest shall pronounce what is to be said secretly in such a way that he can hear himself, but cannot be heard by those present.

    There is a little more bit of practical information in Rev. Walter J. Schmitz’s book “Learning the Mass: A Manual for Seminarians”:


    There are two tones of voice used in the Low Mass: the loud tone, indicated in the rubrics by the words,vox clara and the low tone, the vox secreta. The rubrics of the Missal suppose that a priest using the vox clara, loud tone, should be able to be heard by all who are not at a great distance from the altar, but add the warning that no priest should interfere with or disturb other priests saying Masses at the same time.

    The modified or medium tone is midway between the loud and low tones. It should be heard by the server and by those near the altar.

    The low tone should be heard by the priest himself, but not by anyone beyond the steps of the altar. It is described thus in the rubrics: ut et ipsemet se audiat, et a circumstantibus non audiatur.

    His comment “vox clara, loud tone, should be able to be heard by all who are not at a great distance from the altar” is treated more fully in De Herdt’s “Sacrae Liturgiae Praxis,” of which I cannot locate my copy, but is referenced in Rev. L. Kuenzel’s “A Manual of the Ceremonies of Low Mass” thusly: “It is not necessary that all people understand and hear what is being read. It suffices that those near the altar can hear it.”

    So, to me at least, the audibility of the priest depends more on the size of the church and congregation rather than his projection. That is, in a smaller church that can accommodate perhaps 50 people, nearly all may be able to hear the prayers. In a larger church than can seat over 100 (or thousands, even), many will have a very difficult time hearing him. He is not required to raise his voice unduly so that all can hear him, and it may even be against the rubrics to do so. A microphone does the same thing (amplifying his voice to a greater-than-normal level), though artificially.

    But, in all, I think it is more of a “preference,” if not local custom, as to whether or not the congregation should expect to hear the priest or not.

  26. cheyan says:

    The thing about “but we didn’t have microphones for centuries and we were fine” is that centuries ago (even a century ago), churches weren’t carpeted (and carpet sucks up sound). Several centuries ago, churches didn’t have pews (so people could move closer to the priest if they wanted to hear better). And when there were no microphones, people learned how to be audible without them. (You can see that in OF Masses when there’s a problem with the microphone. Some priests are still audible even at the back of the church, without shouting or screaming. Some priests are barely audible two feet away.)

    I haven’t attended very many EF Masses. I am not used to the silent Canon yet, but I absolutely don’t want that to change, and I don’t think anybody’s suggested that that be spoken in a way that all present can hear. I do, however, want to hear the parts that are supposed to be able-to-be-heard, or at least the parts where the priest is actually addressing the congregation rather than God.

  27. Christina says:

    “The Church got along for two thousand years without microphones. This makes me wonder if hearing every word is necessary for benefitting from Mass.”

    Just because something is new doesn’t make it bad. I’m willing to hear a reason why we shouldn’t use mikes, but the only one I’ve heard so far is “we didn’t use them before.”

    The church has also gotten along for two thousand years without electric lighting, does that mean all light fixtures aught to be removed from churches – or at least turned off while mass is going on?

    To reject something simply because it is new is as much of a folly as rejecting something simply because it is old. It is true we must hold fast to Tradition, for it is the democracy of the dead, but we must be careful not to go overboard and fall into the trap of a dictatorship based on how we think the dead would have voted.

  28. Larry says:

    It strikes me that the people who attend Mass regualrly at the TLM in our diocese have chosen to act in a way that predates the ’62 Missal. For allthese peoples lives and I mean the oldest in the crowd the Church was “Organically growing” the liturgy. You would have to predate Pius X to have another understanding. But these people because of supposed experts on liturgy long for a pristine Mass of S. Pius V. That is not how it is nor should it be. Once the church building proper invited the congregation into the presence of the Sacrifice things changed forever. We are there to participate in the ways the Church teaches us to at the time in which we live. That can change and has as we all know. That does not make it heresy because the Pope has the authority to change things as he is guided by the Holy Spirit. We in general are not!
    On this blog it is a constant that more bishops and priests need to be obedient to SP and Pope Benedict; but, I have never seen anyone suggest taht maybe we in the pews should take seriously what the Pope’s have suggested or strongly advised about participation. Or is it really that you are there for the show?
    During the late 70′ and 80’s in the NO I would read and pronounce, though not audibly, the entire Eucharistic Prayer because I thought somebody in the church ought to say what prayers said. Today when I attend the TLM I seldom see anything because I am reading all the prayers, ususally in English; but some in Latin, and I only occasionally look up to see what is going on. I am not boasting I am merely telling how I paricipate in the Mass. It is a great honor to be able to speak to God at such moments. Honestly, if I did not know what was happening and I just sat there watching I don’t think I would be impressed at a low Mass. At a high Mass I fear that I would simply be carried along by the sights and sounds and never really understand that this was for God and the choir and priests were not there just to help me enjoy the moment.

  29. Tina: I am working from my phone on an airplane, so I must be telegraphic.

    The human voice must be given great deference in liturgy as must music. We should strive not to make them artficial. We prefer pipe organs to electronic and natural voice to amplified. To fill churches with sound texts were sung (remember that the solemn Mass is the norm, paradigm, not the low Mass).

    With advances in time, we could artificially illuminate churches, which changed the connection of liturgy with the rhythm of days and seasons. The same advances affected production of sound.

    I am not saying we should not use technology. Man is, after all, steward of creation and an artficer… and rightly so. We develop things and advance.

    I am saying that, in liturgy, brighter is not always better and louder is not always prefered when those things must be accomplished in an inhuman, artificial way. Prudence is needed.

  30. Michael J says:


    While I agree that just because something is new doesn’t make it bad, I also recognize that it is the responsibility of those proposing the “new thing” to justify its addition.

    I have no particular objection to installing a microphone, but I am struck by the fact that most who advocate it do so simply because “I want to hear it”. I am sure that there are other valid reasons, but so far, they have not been raised.

  31. josephus muris saliensis says:

    It is important, and often overlooked in England, to maintain the distinction between a public Low Mass, where the prayers to be spoken aloud should indeed be heard, and private mass, which, even if people are present, need only be heard by the server.

  32. I find this discussion fascinating, because it seems to me that this is more in the line of what Vatican II was aiming for, and what I think the Holy Father, in his efforts, particularly the motu proprio, was trying to encourage–some positive reform of the ancient liturgy that is not destructive, or to be feared, and also, to have the ancient liturgy exert a gravitational effect on the form of the Mass that emerged after Vatican II.

    There was a process of liturgical evaluation and even *change* leading up to the Council, and the events following the Council were so dramatic, that many recoiled from any change whatsoever. Pope Benedict is looking ahead, and aiming, I believe, to resume a more normal course, which will revive the question of whether there is any call for revision in the ancient form of the Mass.

    I know that’s discomfiting to some who deem themselves traditional, but I think that’s what’s going on.

    This discussion seems to me to be a fruitful, if relatively modest, example of such positive change.

  33. Patrick says:

    It’s interesting that if you look at some of the old pictures of Pope John XXIII and Pope Pius XII saying Mass, there are microphones placed on the altar.

    I agree with Fr. Z here…prudence is key. If amplification is used, it should be used modestly to enhance rather than replace the sound of the Mass.

  34. Fr. Jose E Losoya,C.O. says:

    I am glad this topic is being discussed. I have been offering the TLM since Advent 2007 every Sunday and Holy Day, with the first Sunday of every month being a Missa Cantata. Since the other Sunday Masses are Low Masses, I’ve always wondered how “loud” I had to be. (Our church fits about 300 people in the pews).

    Since we have been offering the NO in Latin since 1991 in our parish, many of those who now attend the TLM used to attend the NO in Latin and thus respond to the priest. There were a few people who had been attending mass in a hotel room served by the SSPX once a month that started coming but complained about the people responding. These people, unfortunately, decided they couldn’t attend our TLM because of that (Dialogue Mass), and other things (i.e., one altar for the two masses, one tabernacle, validity of my ordination since I was ordained in 1991, etc.)

    The majority of the people attending the TLM are young and had no experience with the TLM prior to Advent 2007. Since the people coming to the TLM now were used to responding when they attended the Latin NO, they have taken to responding in the TLM. I have thus a Dialogue Low Mass–since most people know how to read the Latin and pronounce it well.

    This discussion has helped me know that what I’m doing, regarding the audible voice, is acceptable.

  35. Jim says:

    The “dialogue” mass was widely used when I came into the church in 1961. Not only were the spoken parts audible, the kyrie, gloria, credo, sanctus, and agnus dei were spoken or sung aloud by the people. The prayers at the foot of the altar were usually audible. The people also spoke the responses (e.g., et cum spiritu tuo; domine non sum dignus . . .; suscipiat dominus . . .).

    That makes sense and should be the usual practice today with respect to the TLM.

  36. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Fr Z: Thank you. Well said.

    I have a vague understanding that “natural” trumps “artificial”. This was touched upon in another thread about ermine vs faux in vestments. But not being as erudite as other contributors here, I have nothing to quote. I am under the impression that using the “natural” glorifies God by offering His creation back to Him. In the Liturgy, hasn’t the Church promoted beeswax candles, vestments and linens of natural fibers, use of precious metals and gems, the natural voice, no pre-recorded music, etc?

    Its not fair to lump those who disdain microphones with nuts that hate anything new. There are practicalities and prudence involved with these choices obviously. The wise Church allows liberalities as times demand. But that said, the Church does have recommendations for the “more perfect” practices, without pain of sin if we can’t attain that ideal at every Mass.

    I have heard of theories that the natural voice has an effect on the soul that an artificially amplified voice does not. Who knows? Has this thought ever been deveolped?

  37. Bill Haley says:

    Fr. Z.,

    You really point to an important point. It does demand prudence to walk between artificiality and nature. Thank you for maintaining the inherent good of the artificial and pointing to the importance of the natural in the liturgy.

    There seems to be two other points at work in this discussion:

    Firstly, Artificiality (microphone) and Nature (vocal)

    But also, Grace (ex opere operanto) and Human Cooperation (ex opere operantis assisted by active participation)

    The artificialilty of the microphone can help with the active participation with the hopes of increasing the good dispositions of the faithful. Yet, there is the chance of decreasing the natural dimension of the human voice, so important for the penetration of God’s grace in the liturgy. Further, ex opere operato, appears to take precedence of all the points, while the fruit of the grace is mysteriously contingent upon our cooperation.

    It is important not to silence or tear any of those four points. They each have a valid and important role within the liturgy. And, yet, there is a priority of order.

    Would you consider musical counterpoint, so prominent especially in Bach, a worthy analogy for what the Church wants: a sort of liturgical counterpoint?

  38. Richard T says:

    Personally I like the quiet. But then I am not fortunate enough to live near a TLM, so on the few occasions that I do manage to find one the quiet is a welcome change from the usual modernity.

    French TLMs are very vocal – the priest’s audible parts are amplified, and the congregation joins in all the responses. This seems to apply to authorised and SSPX Masses, which suggests that it is a national cultural tradition.

  39. Fr. Angel says:

    Fr. Z stated “These types will often hiss down or glare at those who dare to respond with Et cum spiritu tuo so as to intimidate others into the sort of silence they think is appropriate.” Perhaps these are the same folks who would like to see the liturgy as a “fly in amber.”

    I spoke to one man about 7 years ago and mentioned the parts of “De Musica Sacra” by which Pius XII allowed people to respond with the servers. He didn’t know what to say, but still didn’t agree that anyone should respond except the servers. He simply felt that the EF should be restored “in the same exact way we were used to it 50 years ago.”

    What I find is that many people, after years with the OF, are used to singing and responding and they no longer see complete silence from the congregation as the liturgical ideal, nor are they happy that even the audible parts are mumbled inaudibly. I am not talking about dissenting Catholics, but staunch and orthodox people. They love the EF, but they want to hear the priest at the parts when this is appropriate and they would like to respond once they are comfortable with the Latin.

    This question about the audibility of the Mass goes to the heart of whether and when the OF and the EF will mutually enrich each other. This question confronts each person to ask whether they are liturgically “amberized” (I know that is not a word, but fossilized sounds negative) or “unamberized.”

    I remember another poster elsewhere speaking of his parish being liturgically catechized, even before the Council, to involve the people actively with music and responses. He said if the faithful everywhere were living the liturgical life his parish was living at that time, there would have been no need for the OF. I would say that even now, if the EF is allowed to incorporate those positive elements of OF participation without changing the rite itself, many more devout Catholics will flock to it.

    On the other hand, if people think singing and responses are a “Novus Ordo contamination” into Tridentine purity, the EF will remain the preferred Mass of a very, very small minority–not because the EF is not sublime and beautiful, but because for too many it will be unintelligible and inaccessible.

  40. John says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how the “hiss” crowd is able to remember EXACTLY what went on at Mass 46 years ago. This “hissing mentality” is especially true of the Easter Vigil Mass which is obviously used only once a year and even an 80 year old could have only attended at most 16 of the vigils according to the revised vigil of Pius XII. Could these ‘hissers” recall WORD FOR WORD what was said by the flight attendants on the last 16 flights they took in the last couple years? I doubt it. Yet they expect us to believe they remember word for word something that they are four decades removed from.

    We should pray for these people who always need to correct our priests and even the Pope as there is probably no hope of them opening up to reality as it was then and now. This could best be summed up by –Indelible ignorance!

  41. John says:

    Sorry— I meant to write Invincible ignorance

  42. vincentius says:

    I trained to serve beginning in 1961 so I had the same experience as Mike Williams and Jim of a couple of posts ago. The prayers of the cannon were always audible at least to the altar boys. People didn’t respond to the doxology before the preface (except to the Dominus vobiscum) until they started having “commentators” during the “transition” Masses beginning around 1967 in my parish

  43. Ottaviani says:

    Fr. Angel: On the other hand, if people think singing and responses are a “Novus Ordo contamination” into Tridentine purity, the EF will remain the preferred Mass of a very, very small minority—not because the EF is not sublime and beautiful, but because for too many it will be unintelligible and inaccessible.

    So how did the faithful spiritually nourish themselves at the traditional mass before Pius XII’s indult on dialogue masses? What is needed is sound catechises on what the mass is and how to truly participate using the missal or prayers at different points of the mass. The obsession that one must say or do something is indeed a contamination because it is a form of false “active participation”. I can respond with the server all I like – does it mean that I really assisted at mass or did I just gratify myself that I said something at mass ergo I must have actively participated unlike the old woman behind me saying her rosary?

    Incidentally I think that priests must be more careful in imposing the dialogue form of the mass, especially in countries where it was not the tradition before the council e.g. England, most parts of the USA, Italy, Spain, etc. A uncritical introduction of dialogue masses can actually impede people’s spirituality rather than enhance it.

  44. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I observe different understandings here of what BENEFIT the Mass is supposed to be.

    Doesn’t the benefit of the Mass depend entirely on the priest? Is the Mass more efficacious when we make the responses or can hear? How important is the laity in context with the actions of the priest?

    Aren’t the actions of the laity and what they hear or do less important than the disposition of the priest and the acceptability of the sacrifice?

    I mean here the effectiveness of the Mass. This is separate from the disposition of the laity and growth in holiness by their own efforts in prayer. These are on two different planes, with the priest’s actions on a higher plane than that of the laity.

    Hissers and participators aside, we must strive for a Mass as the Church intends it to be.

    Its becoming clearer to me that memories, bad practices [old and new], what satisfies us, introvert/contemplative and extrovert/active prayer: whatever the platform we argue, its all immaterial opinion. My memories of the old Mass or even those of 80 year olds in this country or another don’t seem to matter because any of these experiences may have been tainted by disobedience or ignorance even back then. Who is to say which experience is the valid model?

    I consider Our Lady of La Salette’s complaint that there existed no priest worthy to offer Mass [mid-1800s]. If this is valid, then we can only look to the Holy Spirit to set us right, not to past experience.

    What matters is what the Church wants us to do now. The Church must tell us how God wants to be worshipped. That’s all that matters. Now where do we go for this unambiguous direction?

  45. This discussion has hardly touched on something I believe needs more consideration.

    I have no problem with the congregation making the responses that properly belong to the people: those that are sung at High Mass. These include the Ordinary and the short responses. The old rubrics, including the Dominican Rite, instructed the priest at Low Mass to say these “voce clara et intelligibili,” that is loud enough to be heard by the people and understood by them.

    I do have a problem with having the congregation join in the ministerial responses: the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the Orate fratres, etc. These are properly in origin ministerial prayers, not congregational. And practice reflects that. At High Mass they are covered by music. At low Mass, the rubrics said they were to be recited “voce mediocri,” that is only loud enough to be heard by those near the altar. They are prayers that belong a distinct group within the Body of Christ, those who minister at the altar.

    One of the regrettable effects of the usual form of Dialogue Mass was to confuse two different liturgical roles: that of the ministers at the altar and that of the congregation. The result was to increase the verbal patter at Mass with sorry results in the Novus Ordo. Combine this with hymn singing at the Offertory and Communion (and before and after Mass) as many parishes did already in the 1950s, and you have the “Four Hymn Sandwich Mass” so regularly condemned on these blogs.
    [These last three points are very good. – Fr. Z]

    When I have celebrated public Low Mass I have never found any one who could not understand that the ministerial responses and the congregational ones belong to different participants. Likewise, that the prayers said “secreto” belong to the priest alone. Whether a certain pope encouraged making the ministerial responses into congregational ones does not mean that we need to turn this option into a rule. Indeed, it does not exclude never doing it at all. It was an option, and I am not convinced that it was a good one.

  46. What an excellent comment by Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Father.

  47. Kenneth says:

    It may simply be my style of worship, but I find the silence of a low Mass much preferable to the extremely loud responses found in an OF Mass. I would not mind going to a Mass where I said nothing at all. My participation should be primarily within my own heart as I try to unite myself with the Sacrifice going on. For instance, just watch the parts of this medieval Mass that is supposed to be historically accurate. (I don’t know myself. I’m just trusting the website.)
    No one in the congregation is saying anything or trying to sing along, but its an extremely beautiful Mass. I wish we still had rood screens as well.

  48. Regina says:

    “On the other hand, if people think singing and responses are a “Novus Ordo contamination” into Tridentine purity, the EF will remain the preferred Mass of a very, very small minority—not because the EF is not sublime and beautiful, but because for too many it will be unintelligible and inaccessible.”

    Fr. Angel’s comment is most illuminating.The EF Mass should not be a preferred Mass of a small minority for many reasons. In order for rusty Catholics and young Catholics who never knew this Mass to understand the pronunciation and be able to participate during the parts where they can respond, they need to hear the pronunciation.Years ago, most people didn’t need this and that’s why Father Vianney and the Saints didn’t need a mic. A mic is necessary also now for people to hear, especially in a large church, whether carpeted or not. Not responding and maintaining silence throughout should be a personal preference.If people hiss, which I have never personally experienced in my church,that hiss can readily be stifled by a corresponding glare, like a teacher’s glare, which usually settles people down quickly. (Practice in a mirror).
    If we want young people to embrace this Mass and experience the very personal,spiritual, and magical aspects of this Mass, they need to hear the pronunciation. Most young people know basically what is going on in Mass. They are not going to be as motivated as adults to follow in a missal because- hey, that’s r-e-a-d-i-n-g and too many have an anathema to that task. :)
    I have re-learned so much about Latin by attending a Low Mass once a week in my parish where the priest’s pronunciation was audible ( thanks to the mic) and very educational. I have also learned by being fortunate to be in front of elderly people who audibly participate.
    One of the things we need to recognize here is that there may be priests who embrace this Mass for their personal growth and the resulting edifying results for their parishioners and are just now learning the Latin and pronunciations. They may not be comfortable and confident with their pronunciations and/or texts to use a mic. But they need to practice, so I think the use of a mic should be the priest’s decision. Be patient!
    I am fortunate to be in a parish where our priest has worked very diligently to master Latin- he is young and did not grow up with that Mass, and he confidently can use the mic for the prayers and parts of the Mass that can be heard because he has mastered the language so well.( In fact, he is celebrating a Missa Cantata for the Assumption this Friday- Prince of Peace in Taylors, SC- 12 Noon- take a field trip, cut out of work- they won’t miss you).
    Blessings to all of you who are searching and hoping…

  49. Jon K says:

    Father Z says nothing of the tyranny of the Dialogue Mass imposed on virtually every French traditional chapel (and quite a few seminary too).
    [Fr. Z can’t say everything in every post, especially when traveling and working from his phone.] Thanks to Father Thompson for his posting.

  50. Mary Jane says:

    I would like to second the comments of Fr. Angel and Regina. If the goal is to preserve a very specific style of celebration of the Low Mass, then let silence reign. Audibility would go a long way towards quelling some of the objections I hear to the EF.

  51. Andy K. says:

    They love the EF, but they want to hear the priest at the parts when this is appropriate and they would like to respond once they are comfortable with the Latin.
    Fr. Angel


    Agreed!! Wholeheartedly! It frustrates me that when I read in my missal “spoken audibly”, I strain my ears to hear anything, yet, I get nothing… Or, when the readings are read silently. I may not know Latin, but I would like to read along to better familiarize myself with Latin!!

    Also, can anyone answer the question:
    Why do priests speak the Latin so fast? It’s a thing I’ve experienced at the three places I’ve attended the EF, and it puzzles me as to how fast they speak! But, then the English at homily time is nice and steady.


  52. Mitchell says:

    I am of the same opinion as the writer. Very often in my Church I can not hear even the audible prayers. And with a rotating weekly Priest it is hard to keep up with their different tones and speech. I am often behind. I started to attend the TLM about 2 years ago after a long absence from the Church. But I am of the NO generation. My first impression was that I would learn quickly as I could follow the Missal. That soon proved not so easy. I guess their is more of my Active Participation being displayed as I flip pages to find myself but I do think it should be somehow “mic-ed” so people can follow the Missal with a little more ease. It would make transition from the NO easier and more important less intimidating. I do support 100% a Missa Cantata but am not fortunate enough to have it here. I am lucky to have a Low Mass. I don’t know about other dioceases, however here I was not sure the first time what I was even going to find. Missa Cantata, a Dialogue Mass,etc. They do not tell you before Mass and they advertise nothing in the Bulletin except; 1:00 PM, Tridentine Mass. It has proved the bigger stumbling block than the Latin. The gestures do help me but only go so far. Clearer diction and volume would make it much more inviting. I brought someone twice and even with the Missal they said they could not follow it. “Where are we?” was the question and again not for the Latin…..

  53. Malta says:

    I completely agree with Fr. Z: The audible parts of the Mass should, well, be AUDIBLE. I actively participate this way, as Pius XII told us to do. Interestingly, I have a Children’s Missals (published by Angelus) which were originally published in the 1950’s. It calls for the people, when appropriate, to respond audibly with the servers (Again, at the behest of Pope Pius XII). Any thoughts on that? Personally, I’ve never seen a TLM done that way….

  54. geoff jones says:

    I knew a priest who was against dialogue masses. I would say the responses and it would irk him. Once he got so annoyed that after he’d heard me say “et cum spiritu tuo” before the collect he stopped the mass, turned around and said quite sternly “This is NOT a dialogue mass. can you PLEASE say your prayers silently!!!”

    For a town of about 90,000, the EF gets around 10 people every week. With a priest like him i’m not surprised.

  55. Malta: The audible parts of the Mass should, well, be AUDIBLE.

    I don’t see how anyone can legitimately disagree. In his 11:55 am August 13 comment above, Daniel has quoted 1962 rubric 511, which lists explicitly those parts of low Mass that are required (with no option) to be said aloud (i.e., vox clara, in a “clear voice”). These required audible parts include all of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc.), all the collects, all the dialogue responses, all the prefaces, the readings, the Pater Noster, the final gospel, and more.

    In short, parts threading through all the Mass except for the gloriously silent Canon. If you have heard all these parts, then surely you can be said to have “heard Mass” (in that wonderful old term for assisting at low Mass).

    Now add to this the specification by Pope Pius XII — in his 1958 instruction — of what “clear voice” means:

    34. Where the rubrics prescribe the clara voce, the celebrant must recite the prayers loud enough so that the faithful can properly, and conveniently follow the sacred rites. This must be given special attention in a large church, and before a large congregation.

    What room for difference of opinion does this leave? I never see this in practice at the low Masses I attend, always audible where they should be, so I’m really perplexed when I read in blogs about so many TLM celebrants openly violating the rubrics that leave no option in requiring audibility. (Of course, I realize there’s a practical question of how many rows back one must be able to hear a priest without mike, but I’m hearing that some priests cannot be heard any rows back, and this is in violation of the rubrics.)

  56. Tina in Ashburn says:

    “Why do priests speak the Latin so fast? ”
    Andy, anytime I hear a foreign language, I think it is being spoken too fast. One of the first phrases I learned in Spanish was “slower please”. I wonder if it is simply the unfamiliarity with Latin that makes it sound fast to you.

    As a child going to daily Mass with my mother, I remember it was over in 20 to 30 minutes. I bet the Masses you are attending take longer than that!

    Hang in there!

  57. Inevitably whenever discussions like this arise there is talk about encouraging this and encouraging that. What ought the laity to do? People start saying, “they ought to respond”, “they ought to remain silent”, “they ought to sing”, “they ought to listen to the choir”, etc., etc., etc…

    Well, if I wanted a bunch of people who know nothing about the state of my soul or my current place on the spiritual journey to tell me how I ought to be participating at Mass, I might as well go back to attending the novus ordo Mass where all the blocking is dictated with Stalinist precision.

    Probably the most important reason I gravitated toward the Traditional Latin Mass in my youth was the fact that with the TLM there is no rubrics for the laity. I am free to receive and give according to the grace of God, not the will of a liturgist whom I don’t even know. The priest follows the strict rubrics because he is in persona Christi, the Shepherd of souls, and I am the wondering lamb to whom the Shepherd of souls meets here in the world to bring up to heaven.

    It is as simple as that.

    It is like being granted a mystical vision, and nothing like cooperating in the ministrations of an orchestrated human act as the novus ordo Mass seems to me.

    Not being able to hear the Mass reminds of what Fr. Michael Muller wrote about St. Gertrude. Read it at http://www.sanctamissa.org/en/spirituality/documents/an-exhortation-to-hear-mass-devoutly.pdf

  58. Malta says:

    geoff jones: *dialogue masses.*

    Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say: Dialogue Mass. That is the query I’m interested in. What do you all think of a “Dialogue Mass,” which, btw., Pius XII advocated, where the servers AND the people correspond with the Priest? Personally, I think it’s a great idea, so long as you know an ounce of Latin pronunciation. Remember, Pope St. Pius X himself was the first to call for “full, active, participation” at Mass. We adherents of the TLM needn’t be staid washerwomen or puritanical guyposts when we pray at Mass. The Young need to take the lead, and look to Pius XII’s initiatives to reinvigorate the Mass!

  59. Mitchell says:

    I thought the TLM was supposed to be the same at every Mass and everywhere in the world? All the variations and not knowing which Mass is going to take place any given place seems a little too much like the NO for me. I am learning alot since attending the TLM and would not go back to regularly attending the NO and each bit of confusion seems to remind me of the trauma of some of the unexpected surprises I encountered at the NO over the years. A good program every parish should have would be to teach or re-teach all the rubrics of the 1962 Mass for those of us who would like it. This is starting from the ground up. Brick by Brick.

  60. Dove says:

    A priest friend of mine told me that he says low Mass in a different speed and volume when he knows it is going to be a dialog mass. He says it in a louder voice so that the congregation can respond. It appears to me that many of the EF priests know nothing about the dialog mass, which came into being while I was a student. We liked it very much, but unfortunately the whole Mass as we knew it was scrapped not too long afterward. I also think that some priests are dead set against it, perhaps because they think that it was a NO addition, which it definitely was not. The dialog Mass is not significantly longer than the inaudible low Mass.

  61. joe says:

    I am all for microphones to be able to heard clearly the audible parts of the Mass!

  62. Eddie3 says:

    Looking at this issue from an Art Historical perspective, my specialty being Roman Baroque Ecclesiastic Art and Architecture, the construction of the church, Altars, baldichinos and such should take care of a lot of vocal amplification issues surrounding the celebration of Mass and other liturgical actions.

    When Mass is celebrated ad orientem, a curved and domed apse act as a natural focal point for and amplifier of the voice of the Priest into the nave of the church. Similarly, when an Altar is built so that it has an Altar Piece, either stone, wood, or canvas, and the whole is brought forward from the back wall of the sanctuary, this acts in the same manner as the sounding board of a piano, and is designed to focus and project the voice of the Priest so that the audible parts of the Mass are audible. Most baldichinos are designed so that they help to deflect the voice of the Priest throughout the church. It is the same principle as sounding shells on pulpits, many of which are in fact mini-baldichinos.

    For Priests who have older churches that are still intact, the trick is to find the best placement of the voice against the Altar, apse, or Altar Piece, for the best amplification. The best place to start is by focusing your words at the Tabernacle door, or at the apex of the apse. For Altars set under baldichinos, start with focusing your words at the center of the Altar.

    It also helps to amplify the voice of the Priest if there are as many smooth surfaces as possible in the church. Vaults and arches also act to amplify the voice, just be aware of the length of the reverberation.

  63. chiara says:

    Bravo, Father Augustine Thomspn O.P. I was fortunate to learn the Latin responses with our whole class whe the altar boys were being taught. Sister also had a board with the actions of the priest cut out and stuck them up at the correct times ( the position of the priest is an enormous clue to those who seem to get lost because they can’t hear or respond) We also used the dialogue Mass in the early 60’s but we were taught to say it together,in a rhythm (like people respond at using the vernaclar) at some of the TLM Masses I have attended recently it is a real scramble and jumble…people going at all speeds, often beating the altar servers or ending up quite a bit after (and quite loudly)Recently, people were also joining in at the Pater Noster and even racing ahead of Father. People seem to think that the faster they say it all, the better they know Latin.
    After having to put up with the ‘busyness’ of the NO, it is indeed heavenly be attend a TLM with stillness of the congregation and the priest and servers doing the speaking. The fact that there are certain movements of the priest and servers make it very easy to know where they are up to. We had no problem in the 50’s and early 60’s and we were 8 years old. OK, we were lucky and had wonderful nuns who made sure we knew. Active participation consists mainly and most importantly in the heart and mind. Pope John Paul II made this clear several times. Just because we are vocal or walking around carrying things etc doesn’t mean that we are participating any more fully or actively than those who want to say the responses out loud.
    Once again , if people do insist on doing this, PLEASE, could they answer together (like the English responses in the NO) and not race ahead of the priest and servers and at least learn the correct pronunciation for Church Latin.

  64. Simon Platt says:

    I’m with David:

    with the TLM there is no rubrics for the laity

    and I think that Chiara makes some good points, too. But, as a frequent altar server, it seems to me that congregational responses work at a sung mass, and don’t at a low mass. Even with two or three servers making the responses it can be difficult to keep together at a low mass. When responses also come from the congregation, it’s practically impossible. And when priests say mass at different speeds – some fast, some slow, as is their right – it seems unreasonable to expect the congregation to respond and adjust appropriately. And I think they should not feel obliged to do so. When I am not serving I do not feel as though I participate any the less for not making the responses.

  65. Basil Roberson says:

    Ottaviani wrote: “So how did the faithful spiritually nourish themselves at the traditional mass before Pius XII’s indult on dialogue masses?”

    I suggest Ottaviani reads about the history of the Dialogue Mass before making such comments. Pius XII did not instigate the Dialague Mass, its use had been spreading since the 1920s. The American Jesuit Gerald Ellard wrote an comprehensive work on its history and application ‘The Dialog Mass’, Longmans, 1942.

  66. Bernie says:

    I am disheartened by the rigidity of some comments. I am new to the TLM but I understand that the Mass never was and never will be EXACTLY the same (in format). It is not an exercise on rubricism. There has always been small variations. True: today the variations are excessive and two parishes sometimes look like two different religions. But to ask for absolute uniformity and to have such an strong opinion on matters such as the amount of congregational responses and audibility is damaging to the faithful. I am so happy to read comments by priests in this blog with balanced statements supported by apparent study of the rubrics and the appropriateness of this or that practice/variation.

    I benefit tremendously from silent Masses. I do likewise from dialogue ones. I have found the Latin NO (yes the NO!) of St Agnes (Saint Paul, MN) a “piece of Heaven”. Same goes for a simple weekday EWTN televised NO. Praised be Our Lord, His Church and His priests for their love to the Eucharist and confection of the Sacrament.

    I do have my preferences. I may like the more contemplative, silent form during weekdays on early mornings but I understand those who want to hear and speak in order to learn Latin and thus nurture their appreciation for the Church’s language so much vilified and abandoned. (Sure! Let’s tell them to shut up and go back to our trad circles and join the whining about how Latin has disappeared.) There are times when I bear (not really the best word) something (as long as it’s legitimate) I may not like/prefer. I often try to benefit from such instances and try to add to, not distract or subtract from my worship experience.

    I am not advocating total relativism. Bounds and limitations must exist. Rigid uniformity never did and never will.
    [I don’t think anyone is suggesting a rigid approach here. We are, in fact, engaged in a good discussion.] Just please let’s not make the return of the TLM an exercise on “optimising” (according to ones preferences, every optimization algorithm needs user’s input) every detail, the search for the pristine, unalterable, ideal, holiest, most “traditional” form of the Mass. These approved variations are weapons for us to use against the Enemy not yet another subject to cause more bitterness and division.

  67. Patrick says:

    It seems there are 2 discussions here: The dialogue Mass and a Mass in which the congregation is silent – I think in both cases it is important that the audible parts be audible, which in a church that seats 1,000 people, means microphones set to a natural level. So, even if there is no dialogue, in a large church the priest should still be using some type of amplification for the audible parts.

  68. Jon K says:

    Mr. Roberson,

    Need we really split hair? Pius XII (and the SRC on his orders) gave the Dialogue Mass an undeniable (and most sad) push. Until the 50s, the Dialogue Mass (born out of the youth masses of the 20s…) was forbidden in many parts of the world. Hence, Ottaviani is not that far from the truth. In fact, he is essentially correct.

    Besides, I find Ottaviani´s question most legitimate (while you eschewed it). Especially when one sees how many people uncharitably are prepared to force the Dialogue Mass on others. I have seen enough of that to fill a book with examples.

    Low Mass, and very silent Low Mass at that, has a very long tradition and nourished saints for centuries. To deny it its place in the life of the Church is hardly more traditional than the suppression of the traditional offertory was. The same can be said of rubrics for the laity.

    P.-S. Patrick mentions the need of miking up the classical liturgy. Dear God… What I feel about microphones in church I can´t even put in words. What a sad mentality the West has developed… And where would we go in order to escape it, if even the traditional liturgy were to be adapted to Modern Man?

  69. Patrick says:

    Jon K,

    Audible should be audible. If it’s a large church, the human voice needs amplification. We have that technology, and, used correctly, it’s good. Pope Pius XII and Pope John XXIII did it to great effect. There is no reason to freeze ourselves in time. The dialogue is a natural development and a great way to establish full and active participation.

  70. Michael J says:

    The corollary of your statement that “The dialogue is … a great way to establish full and active participation” is that it is not possible for an individual to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass without audibly responding. Ignoring for the moment that I thought “actual” participation was the goal rather than “active”, was this truly your intent?

  71. Antonius says:


    you’re simply stating your own opinion (possibly repeating someone elses) and at the same time showing example of poor judgement and taste. It’s all permissable provided you don’t force it upon your fellow Catholic, which happens to be exactly what the dialogue Mass is all about. Your ideas on “active participation” are hopelessly dated, something which could also be said about the (Deo volente) historical parentheses, “the liturgical movement” of the 20th century.
    What kind of Catholics are thoroughly unrooted and without history? Poor Catholics, quite often self-righteous homines novi to the realm of the Faith.

  72. Mitch says:

    Father Z,

    I am curious about your personal opinion on how to best transition to the TLM..In regards to the facts about the last 40 years. I personally did not find the Low Mass the best starting point. I did not have options. Is the Dialogue Mass a good start point or a High Mass? Or Missa Cantata? I agree the silence of the the Low Mass may be optimal but perhaps a goal for those of us just starting to take it all on. I think people who prefer to start with other forms of Mass besides the Low are not in fact against it. How does the Low Mass figure into your brick by brick theory?

  73. Ed the Roman says:

    I sure hope that a lot of new Catholics are not reading this thread, because much of the commentary is repulsive.

    It would take better character and more humility than I have yet not to suspect that some here are jerks.

  74. Jason says:

    How much influence did Eastern Liturgical practice have on what the Council Fathers desired? As I understand it, vocal participation by the laity is very important in Eastern Liturgies. The West does not necessarily have to mirror the East, but perhaps we should learn from them, as they have ancienct and venerable experience in these matters.

  75. I am curious about your personal opinion on how to best transition to the TLM.

    My opinion, based on experience in helping to start and develop a TLM, is that a low Mass is initially a hard sell if most of those attending have been attending the Novus Ordo. In which case they naturally expect at Sunday Mass to sing (or, at least, hear sung) the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, etc.) and also the Pater Noster.

    For this reason, our TLM community — which started its Sunday indult with low Masses, not having the immediate capability for a high Mass — transitioned as quickly as we could to a sung Mass. Otherwise, we doubted we could sustain our attendance and attract newcomers to the TLM.

    Moreover, as I understand it, the sung or high Mass has always — like, for over 15 centuries — been the Church’s ideal for Sunday Mass. Apparently the numerical predominance of low Masses on Sundays was largely a necessary response to parish populations requiring multiple Masses at frequent intervals on Sunday mornings, remembering that in the old days the Sunday Mass schedule had to be completed before noon, there being no afternoon or evening Masses permitted then.

    Consequently, so long as a parish has only a single Sunday TLM, it seems to me that it should be a sung Mass.

    On the other hand, I personally think the weekday situation is the opposite. Most places will have the daily capability only for a quiet low Mass. Moreover, the sort of people who attend a TLM daily are likely to prefer the quiet spirituality of a low Mass in the relative silence of early morning.

    Thus — despite the fact that I am grateful to attend a very nice and reverent OF Mass daily in my local parish — I still hope and pray, yearn and pine for eventual access to a daily low (TL) Mass near me. Whereas I personally feel the Sabbath deserves a beautiful sung Mass everywhere every Sunday. And, to really be heaven on earth, it ought to include a magnificent solemn Mass on special occasions, maybe once a quarter, like EWTN seems to be scheduling them. (Our local community is still basking in the afterglow of its first solemn high Mass about 4 months ago; see the link below.)

  76. Anthony says:

    when I attend the latin mass the audible prayers are sung by the choir after the first line which is audibly spoken by the priest and the servers.

  77. Mtchell says:


    Thank you for your response, I agree it was a hard sell for me in the beginning. I only have Low Mass available and have not had the privledge of a High Mass. But I stuck with it and am use to it although it does not grow. The same number of people for the two years I have been going. But I will not leave it, I am attached to it now. You confirmed my suspicions that most do not or can not start with High Mass for a myriad of reasons. And I think that the splendor of High Mass would attract more people and keep them. If you can not get the attendance at a Low Mass on weekends how can you graduate to a High Mass or varied Mass schedule with different types to satisfy all? And I second your opinion that if only one Sunday Mass is available it should be a Missa Cantata. I miss the music and would love to hear Chant. How to remedy this I do not know?. I hope that the Holy Father requires at least one Sunday Mass in every parish and then people who do not want to “fight” for it will come..Then the people will come and maybe the schedules and types will vary..Thanks again and anyone else please comment.

  78. Patrick says:

    Antonius wrote:

    “you’re simply stating your own opinion (possibly repeating someone elses) and at the same time showing example of poor judgement and taste. It’s all permissable provided you don’t force it upon your fellow Catholic, which happens to be exactly what the dialogue Mass is all about. Your ideas on “active participation” are hopelessly dated, something which could also be said about the (Deo volente) historical parentheses, “the liturgical movement” of the 20th century.
    What kind of Catholics are thoroughly unrooted and without history? Poor Catholics, quite often self-righteous homines novi to the realm of the Faith.”

    Wow. I said that dialogue Masses could be helpful (an opinion shared by Pope Pius XII). And I said that amplification could help people hear the beautiful prayers of the Mass. And I get this crap from you?

    You question my “judgement” “taste” and call me “thoroughly unrooted”. You sir, are a small and pathetic man. Perhaps in the future you can have the decency to write charitably. Just because you are anonymous and on the internet gives you no right to treat people so shabbily.

  79. Patrick says:

    Michael J.,

    Nothing that I said was intended to convey the idea that one cannot have full and active particpation while remaining silent. But, the dialogue Mass can help some people to participate more fully. That is just to say, it can be helpful to some. Silence is good as well.

  80. Tiny says:

    I’m trying to imagine how the person who arranged the Olympic Opening Celebration would organize a TLM. Would he have the Priest lip-synch the Mass? How would this affect the licitness and validity of the Mass?

  81. Tiny: Would he have the Priest lip-synch the Mass?

    Wow, just think of the possibilities, for all those everywhere who’ve never enjoyed the privilege of hearing Father Z sing high Mass with his dulcet bass tones and rich Roman accent. Now everyone can. Everywhere. Simultaneously. “Sunday Mass with Father Z!” Throughout the whole country.

  82. Bernie says:

    [I don’t think anyone is suggesting a rigid approach here. We are, in fact, engaged in a good discussion.]

    I agree. Many points are really good but one can’t deny the acid attitude many have had against the Dialogue Mass. I have been lectured a few times on how the dialogue Mass is pretty much the Trojan horse of the “horrific modern innovations”.

  83. Michael J says:

    Thanks for clearing it up. So how do we balance the needs of the faithful who would benefit from the dialog Mass against those who would find it distracting (and would therefore be harmed by it)? The consensus here seems to be that since Pope Pius XII said it could be helpful,anybody who does not want it is just going to have to get over it.

  84. Patrick says:

    Michael J,

    That is indeed a tough question. I would say the answer is to let dialogue develop naturally. Some people in the congregation may respond with the servers and in time, that may develop into what one might call a dialogue. Or if the people prefer silence, then I imagine that would win out.

  85. Father John Horgan says:

    I find this discussion a fascinating and important one; though the subject sometimes generates more heat than light. I bring two anecdotal pieces of information: First, various forms of the “dialog Mass” existed long before the 1920s. The Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, a cloistered contemplative congregation with a deeply liturgical spirituality, began answering the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar along with the servers in 1873 in Antwerp. This was the wish of their foundress, Blessed Marie of Jesus Deluil-Martiny (+1884). The practice continued at all of their monasteries – with episcopal approval – in France, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, and italy right up to Vatican II.
    Second, when I received my personal indult from Cardinal Mayer of Ecclesia Dei in 1989, he encouraged me to make all the parts of the Mass audible, including the Canon, while preserving the “three voices.” He said that in this way the faithful would be more easily attracted to the “old Mass” and would learn the significance of the three volumes. Although he did not mention the use of a microphone, this did seem to be the simplest way to carry out his counsels.

  86. Jon K says:


    What you like you call development, and then it is good and God-given, you imply. Well, you are not the Holy Ghost. So let my low Mass be. But you certainly proved my point: certain Dialogue Mass enthusiasts ally wish to force it upon everyone. Well, Deo volente I shalln´t let you.

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