A retired bishop and a regular solemn TLM

A kind reader sent me this wonderful news and photo.

I thought you might find it interesting to know that in the Diocese of Birmingham (Alabama) Bishop David Foley (Bishop Emeritus) is now offering a regular monthly High Mass!  This has been going on for about the last three months!  Unfortunately, the time we have the church and the neighborhood in which the church is located in Birmingham cuts into our attendance, but Bishop Foley seems to really enjoy offering the Tridentine Mass.  He has taken joy in showing the altar servers (young men from the University of Alabama) revived relics from the Bishop’s childhood–to include his missal that he got when he entered the minor seminary.  In other parts of the diocese, we are experiencing much more success!  Fr. Alan Mackey has been offering the Tridentine Mass for some time now and offers the Mass every week in Huntsville in a beautiful church!  I’ve included some photos from the Bishop’s latest High Mass and some of Fr. Mackey’s first High Mass (this past Easter) which drew in excess of 400 people!  Included from the Bishop’s Mass are picutres of the Asperges, the Introit, and the Consecration.

Well… let’s have just one.

There is also a video:


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    I am not surprised by Bishop Foley. I heard of some disagreements with him by other good catholics but I had hoped this maybe was more of a political nature. I remember this Bishop having a rosary service with an “independent” Catholic chapel in the mid 1980s before the consecrations…

  2. df says:

    Good news indeed that the old Bishop can hand on what he himself received.
    Not wishing in any way to take away from what is being done here, but perhaps wanting to purify the commentary, these Masses are not ‘High’, but possibly Missae Cantatae or Low Masses. I’m sure with support like they seem to be getting that one day there will be a High Mass offered in Brimingham.

  3. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Perhaps he might be so nice as to allow EWTN to televise Masses in the Ordinary Form ad orientem? :)


  4. Johnny Domer says:

    What must be done differently for a Sung Mass offered by a bishop? I’ve seen instances of bishops offering Pontifical Low Mass, Pontifical High Mass, but never a Pontifical Sung Mass without deacon or subdeacon. Do you just do the same stuff as a regular Sung Mass?

  5. John P says:

    In the classical ER there is no Missa cantata by a Bishop. Only
    Missa Solemnis (Pontifical High Mass). (cf. Caeremoniale Episcoporum)

  6. The Pledger says:


    His Excellency is the RETIRED Bishop of Birmingham. Bishop Robert Baker would be the one who would have to lift the ban on televising ad orientem Masses.

  7. This is a very heartwarming story, amidst much annoying news of late.

    May other priests and bishops be similarly moved to share what was handed down to them.

  8. Kristen says:

    We are blessed to attend Fr. Mackey’s Masses every Sunday in Huntsville. He had a special Mass last Monday for the feast of All Souls. And yes, he was wearing his black!! It was the first time I had ever seen that in person. I was wishing we had the camera to take some pictures and send them to you, Fr. Z.

  9. I believe the ban has been lifted….(I assume so since they’ve been broadcasting the EF)

  10. Jon K says:

    Indeed the \”missa cantata\” of the bishop simply does not exist (but then, what abuse was not being \”tested\” in the early 60s?), although I´ve seen it in Wigratzbad. However, this is not my point. This is, rather: is this the same bishop who forbade holy Mass being said \”versus Deum\” in his diocese a few years ago, against the whishes of Mother Angelica?

    If so… what happened

  11. A. mearns says:

    Can someone tell me what recording of Chant accompanies this video sequence. It is one of the best i have heard ? Thank you.

  12. AnAnonymousSeminarian says:

    God Bless the Bishop; may others including my own be similarly moved.

  13. That is is the same Bishop Foley who was “notorious” in certain circles for not allowing televised Masses ad orientem at the shrine, which he is, shows that the task of bishops is far more difficult and conflicted than some hostile detractors of episcopal decisions not to their tastes seem to think.

  14. Boko says:

    Fr. Thompson, I fail to see how the one shows the other. And I resent the redundant “hostile detractors” and the reduction of liturgical praxis to a matter of taste. A result of my inadequate formation, perhaps?

    Interesting background on the Foley ad orientem controversy here: https://wdtprs.com/2008/01/mass-ad-orientem-on-tv-and-the-local-norms-of-the-d-of-birmingham-al/ Especially the papabile and Arroyo comments.

  15. The music is the chant done at Fontgambaut (spelling?).I myself prefer it to all the others.

  16. John Polhamus says:

    Actually the rite of Pontifical Low Mass in the classical EF is very flexible musically, and includes povision for practically a missa cantata. I’ll get some more information on the particulars.

  17. Sacristy_rat says:

    Wasn’t this the guy who banned Ad Orientam liturgy?

    Also,I think it is an option for Bishops to celebrate without Pontificals, IOW, I think a Bishop can celebrate “as a priest”.

  18. TJM says:

    Although I am pleased at Bishop Foley’s change of heart, what would really warm my heart is if he said publicly and loudly “that in all humility, I
    was wrong about ad orientem celebration. I re-read the rubrics and His Holiness’ writings on the subject. I therefore apologize for my thoughtless and
    ill-considered comments that to celebrate ad orientem was somehow a ‘political statement.'” Tom

  19. Henry Edwards says:

    Tom: It’s not obvious that Bishop Foley’s actually had a change of heart (or needed to). People who know more about him than I do assure me that he’s a faithful and holy bishop, and indeed was known by some as “holy Foley” when he was sent to Birmingham to take good care of EWTN and Mother Angelica. However, it’s not difficult to imagine the tremendous pressure that as a fairly low-ranking bishop he came under from USCCB powers (and perhaps a cardinal or two in particular) when the specter arose of EWTN confusing ordinary pew-sitters by showing Mass celebrated with the historical orientation toward God.

  20. I am very happy to see the Extraordinary Form return to Blessed Sacrament Parish, the church you see in these photos. It is in Birmingham’s “West End,” a waning neighborhood that has seen far better days. My parents both grew up in this area and were, in fact, married in Blessed Sacrament in 1974. My mother even attended grade school in the sister-run parochial school (now long gone). My grandmother, who converted to the Faith in the mid-60s and who volunteered at the parochial school, had the task of taking sisters to the beauty salon and dress shopping once they all decided to liberate themselves and leave religious life during this great time of change and confusion in the church. In my parents’ wedding photos one can see the recently added table altar and the pale blue carpet in the sanctuary, its frayed edges not yet even stapled down. Growing up, both visiting this church and seeing my parents’ photos, I dreamed of one day when the traditional Mass might return to this glorious church built in 1910. Now, after forty years in exile, the Mass of the Ages has returned to Blessed Sacrament, and to see Bishop Foley, the man who sealed me with the gift of the Holy Ghost, celebrate the Mass of his ordination, I am filled with great joy.

  21. Maynardus says:

    “What must be done differently for a Sung Mass offered by a bishop? I’ve seen instances of bishops offering Pontifical Low Mass, Pontifical High Mass, but never a Pontifical Sung Mass without deacon or subdeacon. Do you just do the same stuff as a regular Sung Mass?”

    My books are at home and I am at the office, but I’ve attended or served at many “regular” Missae Cantatae (as opposed to Solemn High Pontificals) offered by bishops (including a couple of times with Bishop Rifan, who certainly knows what he’s doing!) I’m not sure if it has a different name but it does seem to exist and basically it is almost identical to a Missa Cantata – the bishop is entitled to two priest-assistants who wear cassock and surplice (I forget if they wear the stole – maybe someone will know) although I once saw it done with one in a pinch.

    One might ask “why not a Solemn Mass since two other priests are present?” Well, technically you need an AP, Deacon and Subdeacon of the Mass just to get started, plus two MCs and a bunch of other folks to attend to the care and feeding of the bishop: the mitre, (crozier,) and bugia each need their own bearer. Plus all of the usual acolytes and stuff you need for a regular Solemn High. Not to mention two more Deacon-assistants if the Mass is celebrated from the throne. And if H.E. wears the cappa magna…

    Enough daydreaming – back to work for me!

  22. There is not such thing as “Pontifical sung Mass.” While it is true that recently many Bishops have done it, it is not allowed. The Bishop only says a Low Mass (Pontifical Low Mass in cases of Ordinations) and Pontifical Solemn Mass.

    During a Low Mass, music is allowed, but NOT the Propers. I know that in some places in Rome they do that, but that is not the *real* Roman practice.

    I think that more care should be given to things like this because it will end up creating rubrical consufion.

  23. I understand that there are ONLY two forms of celebration for a bishop, namely, the Pontifical Low Mass and the Pontifical Solemn Mass. The liturgical books do not assume a form of Pontifical Missa Cantata. In light of Summorum Pontificum, however, could we suppose that we could allow for alternate forms of pontifical celebrations? The motu proprio states that the traditional Mass was never abrogated and that every priest has a right to say it. Now, could we use this to say that bishops may say a Low Mass as a simple priest?

    I have heard that Pope St. Pius X celebrated a Low Mass as a simple priest on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of ordination. Of course, as supreme legislator, he could do such things.

    Also, what are we to make of Archbishop Sheen’s beautiful photo-illustrated book, “This is the Mass” from 1958. I am presently looking at this book and I can tell you that the archbishop is celebrating Low Mass as a simple priest, with only a small boy as his server. Interestingly, in some of the photos one may see the bugia and the use of the Pontificale instead of altar cards.

    Any thoughts?

  24. Henry Edwards says:

    I am presently looking at this book and I can tell you that the archbishop is celebrating Low Mass as a simple priest, with only a small boy as his server.

    As we see in the usual references, there are of course two forms of EF low Masses celebrated by a bishop — the simple form and the form with greater solemnity. The simple form ordinarily celebrated daily by a bishop — e.g., in his own chapel or oratory — apppears to be essentially the same as that of a simple priest with a single server. And those usual references each have chapters on the bishop\’s low Mass with greater solemnity and a fuller complement of attendants, which apparently is more familiar to most people here, though probably much more rarely celebrated by the usual bishop of old.

  25. There never was such a thing as a Pontifical Sung Mass. Low Mass took three forms. the first being when a bishop celebrated after the manner of an ordinary priest. The second being when the bishop had two chaplains and two acolyes and the third a Pontifical Low Mass when the bishop wore full Pontificals. This was reserverd to such things as the conferal of Holy Orders. In fact, I once saw an archbishop consecrated at a Pontifical Low Mass as teh consecrator was in poor health.

    In the parish in which I was raised the auxiliary bishop (our Pastor) said his weekday Masses at a side altar with two chaplains but no acolytes. I served as chaplain countless times but could not touch the pall etc. being but a laic. W did vest him at the altar however and stand beside him throughout the Mass.

  26. Carlos Palad says:

    In the run-up to a Pontifical “Missa Cantata” that was offered in the Philippines last October 2, I consulted several Trad MC’s and priests throughout the world whether this was
    in fact allowed, and I got some pretty surprising responses.

    ALL of the priests I asked (and they belonged to TLM-only orders) answered that nothing in the rubrics prevented the offering of such a Mass.

    The only ones who said that no, it isn’t allowed, are 1) an NLM contributor and 2) one of the LMS’s senior Masters of Ceremonies.

    From my own research, I found out that the Congregation of Rites actually objected to the practice in the 19th century, but that there had been no similar condemnations in the 20th century.

    I agree with latinmass1983 that more care should be given to these things, but it seems that here (as with so many other things), the practice of the “Rite of Econe” has become entrenched and is now THE “acceptable” use.

  27. Carlos Palad says:

    … for better or for worse.

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