Singapore: TLM news

I was tipped to this from UCAN by a priest reader:

SINGAPORE  Traditional Latin Mass Draws Young Working Adults

October 8, 2008 

SINGAPORE (UCAN) — "Dominus vobiscum" (the Lord be with you), the priest says, and about 40 people answer, "Et cum spiritu tuo" (and with your spirit). The priest then turns his back on them [well…. no… not really…. he just redirects their focus with his to the liturgical East] and continues the opening prayer facing the cross and tabernacle.


singapore_1.gifA traditional Latin Mass has begun in the bright chapel of St. Joseph’s Institution International School. This Mass, held the fourth Sunday of every month, follows the liturgical books published with the approval of Blessed John XXIII in 1962, before that pope opened the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). It features Gregorian chant, and only the homily is not in Latin.

What immediately strikes a first-time visitor to this Mass, organized by the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) movement in Singapore, is the congregation. The young working adults, mostly in their 20s, who make up about three-fourths of the people were born after local languages replaced Latin in liturgies following Vatican Council II[young working adults]

Only Catholics 45 and older, just one-fourth of this group, would have had the chance to attend the traditional Mass in Latin as children. [___] Tay, coordinator for the TLM movement, did not.

Tay also spoke of his role as "master of ceremonies" in another Latin Mass, held the second Sunday of every month at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.

That Mass uses the ordinary form of the Roman rite, used around the world today, in which the priest faces the congregation. But everything except the Scripture readings and homily are in Latin rather than a local language. Gregorian chant is used for the hymns.

Tay ensures the smooth conduct of these parish liturgies, which draw around 100 parishioners. The TLM movement does not organize them but sees them as a way to promote Latin as a liturgical language.

About 20 active members make up the movement’s core team, which has three sub-groups: Schola Cantorum, the Gregorian chant choir; altar servers; and logistics.

Several times while speaking with UCA News, Tay stressed that movement members have no association with the Society of St. Pius X, which rejects the liturgical reforms of Vatican Council II and is not in full communion with the Church.

The TLM community has "remained faithful to the local bishop and the Holy Father," and demonstrates this through "patience, obedience and perseverance," Tay insisted. He added that despite hindrances such as being denied use of a church for their Masses and being openly criticized for "rejecting" the Second Vatican Council, community members patiently believe the archdiocese will one day open a Mass center for them. [Patience.]

Educated young TLM members "read Church documents and want to worship in the way the Church wants them to," Tay said. Other members "grew up with the traditional Mass," often called the Tridentine Mass.

Father Paul Staes, ordained in 1961, also grew up with the traditional Mass but sees two main problems with its use in Singapore today.

People can learn to recite the prayers, but "you don’t know what you are saying, because you don’t know Latin," said the priest, who spent six years studying the language. "It’s like having a Mass in sign language where no one is deaf."

Even if everyone understood Latin, he continued, the old form of the Mass raises a more fundamental issue.

"As priest, you are doing your own thing, and the people are doing their own thing[No.] Is Mass not more a participatory event of the people? [Not if you understand what "participation" means.  He set up a false dichotomy and we must reject his premise.]  To me, one of the biggest achievements of the Second Vatican Council was the new form of the Mass. The language is not the most important thing; it’s the whole set-up," Father Staes told UCA News.  [Not sure what "set up" means.]

Tay, far from a diehard traditionalist, confided to UCA News that he likes contemporary praise and worship songs, only "outside of liturgy." [Right.] He believes the TLM movement can help Catholics regain reverence for the Mass.

Interesting article.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Chris Altieri says:

    Dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf, I was struck, just now, by the juxtaposition of the source citation in the post that followed this one, and the first comment super in red. It is not factually incorrect to say that the priest, at that moment, turns his back to the people. Because of the cultural baggage attached to that simple physical description, however, the effect of the priest’s action in so turning is not appreciated, and indeed often misinterpreted. The priest does turn: his turning is not ab-version, but con-version, of the hearts of the people. I mean to say that the description is not wrong; it is inadequate. I wonder whether we all might do better to respond to this frequently recurring inadequate description with an explanation that has a “yes, and…” incipit, rather than a “no, not…etc.” I can understand that, and why, someone might take the “No, not…” incipit to be declamation against fact.

  2. Maureen says:

    It kills me. Plenty of people use French expressions for their inmost feelings without actually speaking French. Scads of young people listen to German rock or watch Japanese anime without knowing the language, but caring enough to learn what the specific words mean.

    Why is Latin the only language that’s different? Following even an EF Mass isn’t intrinsically more difficult than following an anime plot. (Granted, I have more practice with the latter than the former….)

    Obviously, it’s better to really know a language. But many anime fans have
    noted that when you barely understand or don’t understand at all, you are forced to throw yourself more into what you’re watching. Tiny visual cues and murmurs are magnified, and your emotional attachment to a show almost seems stronger for all the effort and partial
    understanding. The whole thing seems deeper. You are forced back into the humble position of a baby, and your brain works harder and seems more flexible.

    You wouldn’t want to stay like a baby forever, but it’s not a bad way to learn.

  3. TJM says:

    Father Z, Father Staes sounds pretty casual in his comments on the Mass and seems to lack basic understanding of the liturgical reform.
    I’m not sure he was the best spokesperson the writer could have chosen to describe the differences between the two forms of the same Rite.
    Nonetheless, it’s good to see young people attracted to the TLM. Tom

  4. J W says:

    There isn’t much excuse for someone to not know what at least half of the Latin in a TLM means since much of the ordinary is the same between the OF and EF and almost any regular mass-goer knows the vernacular ordinary by heart. If you absolutely cannot understand what the Gloria, or Pater Noster, or dialogue parts in Latin mean, then you must have zoned out completely when hearing it in English the other 1000 times in your life.

  5. John Sim says:

    For those who are interested, updates of upcoming TLMs in Singapore can be found in:

    You will also be able to find photos of past Masses and Solemn Vespers.

  6. ferula says:

    TJM – Fr. Paul Staes is pretty negative about the “old days”, associating it with fear and ignorance.

    Excerpt of a public lecture he gave on the difference between the pre- and post-Vatican II periods:

    Father Paul reminded those present that this overboard respect for the Real Presence led the Church to forbid children from receiving the Eucharist until 1910. In addition, people had to abstain from water and food from midnight, if they wanted to receive Holy Communion at Mass the next morning. They started to cheat, using timezones, e.g. it’s midnight in Indonesia, though not in Singapore.

    although people did come to church, they did it because it was a mortal sin to skip Mass, and they came because they feared that they would go to hell if they skipped Mass. Yes, people came, but few people received Holy Communion. Now, everyone receives Holy Communion.

    ..It is true that people did come for the Mass back then. They talked in the back, but they came… most probably because there was no better entertainment back then, since television was mainstream yet.

  7. Ernest says:

    As an altar server of the tlm’s we celebrate in Singapore, I would like to thank all of you who have made comments. Unfortunately, I don’t think our detractors would be navigating anytime soon to this page to see what you had to say. Might I suggest that anyone who has a word or two to add, to post his/her comments on the source page as well? It would certainly provide a more balanced perspective for readers there. Thank you all again.

  8. TJM says:

    ferula, thanks for the additional info. I guess then, the new Mass doesn’t have sufficient attractiveness to bring in the crowds any longer. Father Staes Father Staes is engaging in gross over-generalizations. I was young in those days, always had my missal and sang the ordinary and
    propers. In virtually every respect, I actively participated more then than I ever have in the vernacular Novus Ordo. But that would
    ruin Father Staes’ talking points wouldn’t it? Tom

  9. Tony says:

    I hope that everybody who is reading this can *read between the lines* and actually get a picture of what exactly is going on in Singapore. Fr. Z counsels patience. Well, please pray because it seems like a lot of that is needed, given the amount of misunderstanding, suffering and deprivation that the TLM group is subject to. Places where true liturgical renewal is taking place seem so far, far, far away when you’re stuck in one corner of the world and nobody seems to really understand what Vatican II really asked for, especially the powers that be.

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