REVIEW: St. John Cantius (Chicago) TLM – Missa Cantata – instructional DVD

I received in the mail a new instructional DVD for a TLM, Missa Cantata, prepared by the excellent Canons of St. John Cantius in Chicago. 

I went through it and it was a treat.

First, St. John’s is a beautiful Polish church, on the north side.  It was pulled from the ruins and closure by the efforts of Fr. Frank Phillips, who truly has his head screwed on the the right direction about things liturgical, musical and religious.  This is a fine priest, parish, and religious community.  At St. John’s you can find both the older form of Mass in the Novus Ordo offered properly.

This DVD, which you can order here, gives you a real sense of the the sounds and sites of a Missa Cantata at St. John Cantius in Chicago.

It also shows you how to do one yourself.   It is useful for priests, of course, but also for serving teams and choir directors.  More on that later.

The DVD gives you a whole Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary form.  That is, it is a sung High Mass for Christmas, Midnight Mass, but without deacon and subdeacon. 

There is also a section showing Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament as well as for preparation for the priest before Mass and indices for getting around in the different sections of the complete Mass and complete Benediction.  Why they did their indices in Latin… I don’t know, unless they are thinking this should be language neutral.

As the complete Missa Cantata unfolds, you notice an inset window showing what is going on elsewhere or from another angle. This makes the DVD that much more useful.

You can hear the words spoken in the sanctuary together with the chant. This DVD gives you a real sense of the the sounds and sites of a Missa Cantata.

There are titles that flash to let you know the part of Mass you are watching. This is less pedagogical than the FSSP DVD, in that the FSSP DVD is a bit more detailed, with its voice over commentary and the various camera angles you can choose.  This SJC DVD has a bit more information for how to participate.  For example, you see in the inset window when to stand or sit or kneel.  Also, it gives a real sense of the pace of the Mass, which is very valuable for newcomers.

The sound is excellent, though the video quality could be a little better on the computer it was excellent on the television with a DVD player.  If don’t have HD, btw. 

The editing is excellent. 

An advantage to the camera angles and editing is that you can see what and where the servers are standing or how they move.  Thus, this DVD could be very useful for teams learning to serve a Missa Cantata.  

The chant, by their own schola is as good as I have heard in years.  The voices are strong and masculine, with nothing of the prissiness that sometimes sneaks into some styles of chant.  The pace is good and I sense they have some comprehension of what they are singing.  They have a good differentiation of dynamics, which brings the chant alive. 

Also, the way this is put together, a choir director would be able to learn, for example, the timing of things, when to start singing this or that.

The celebrant is careful and reverent, having a strong voice and an … adequate Latin pronunciation. 

The celebrant reads the readings in English and preaches. I found it a bit amusing that after the Gospel, while the celebrant removed his maniple and made his way to the ambo, there was a brief organ improvisation on Vom Himmel hoch, by Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau (+1712). text by Martin Luther.  It uncannily rings of Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, at which I believe the late Augustinian hermit friar Martin Luther must be spinning in his tomb, this being a Latin Missa Cantata by Augustinian canons. A little joke perhaps.

There was a mixed group making the responses.

There is a micro sermon… nothing terribly interesting there.   The real purpose of the DVD is to show you what to do.

The St.John Cantius is a splendid church and in those moments when the camera pans around, you see some of the beautiful sites, …

… especially their stunning nativity scene in the church.  Among the wonders at St. John’s is a fine Neapolitan presepio.  Yours truly many years ago helped Fr. Philips get some of the very first figures.  It is now pretty amazing, though I recall they had some problems with theft years ago.  But I digress….

I watched the DVD on my computer and found that some of the control features were not usable, such as pause and moving the slidebar to a different point in the recording.  On TV with a DVD player they worked just fine. 

It would be very useful to have this DVD from St. John Cantius even if you have the FSSP DVD.  They compliment each other in many ways. 

First, this DVD might be more useful for servers and training servers for a Missa Cantata

Also, the chant and polyphony is worthy in itself.  For example, there is a stunning polyphonic Ave Maria at the Offertory. 

What this DVD does is give you a sense also of the importance of sacred music as an integrating part, pars integrans, in the sacred action of Holy Mass.  This has been an an important element of the of mission of St. John Cantius since Fr. Phillips took over there many years ago.  He very much upholds and continues  the work Msgr. Richard Schuler did for some many years at St. Agnes in St. Paul, once known for its fine music and liturgy, a bastion against the aberrations of the post-Conciliar storm.  At St. John’s in Chicago this tradition continues with sacred music and excellent worship in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form – as Holy Church asked.  

Mass VIII, alas, is used, but it is sung well, by a mixed group, which is not my preference.  They are trying, I suspect, to emphasize congregational singing of the Ordinary.

Before Communion there was a Second Confiteor.  After the threefold Ecce Agnus Dei Communion was distributed to the servers, whom you can see passing along the paten each to the others.  A priest comes in from the sacristy to help with Communion.  The method of distribution is seen, including how the priest takes the paten from the server before returning to the altar.  This would be useful for people who haven’t been to the TLM so that they can understand how to receive.  At this point there are two inset windows so that you can see what is going on also at the credence table.

Included is Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, which could be very useful for a parish priest who wants to implement these devotions in his parish. 

Remember, with Summorum Pontificum, you can do Benedict like this even if you don’t have Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form.  Think about that.  With this section of the DVD you can pretty learn how to do the whole thing. 

Serving teams could also find it very useful.  Again, the music is very fine.  Most places wouldn’t be able to execute what they do at St. John’s, but it does set a standard. 

I can imagine this, for example, being done on Sunday afternoons in Cathedrals with their choirs.

Some addition sections on the DVD include how to do things such as lay out vestments in the sacristy (Scaenae praeparatio) and how to prepare the chalice, how to vest, including the prayers.  You can see what the server does to help the priest.  There is also fine music included in this section, I believe from the excellency Christmas music CD’s St. John’s prepared some time ago.  I have two of them and they are among my favorites I listen to at Christmastide. 

The prayers in the preparatory section are voice-overs.  The Latin is … adequate, though you would be well advised to check the texts closely on your own for meaning, accents, etc. Sometimes I think priests and others try to get a little too fancy or sound too Italian.  But this is very minor. 

The text is not flashed as the priest vests.  I suppose they figured you can find the text easily enough on your own.  

The video quality in the sacristy might have been better with better lighting, but you can certainly see with ease what is going on. 

There is included an index referring you back to the individual parts of Mass fairly easily.  So, if you want to see how the Offertory works, you can choose it.  When using my computer to watch the DVD, however, this is where it became a little difficult to navigate.  You have to know how to get back to the indices.  No problem on the TV with a DVD player.

While supplies last, they are offering this DVD free of charge to priests and seminarians and to others who make a purchase of $40 or more from their Cantius Webstore.  You could start with their Christmas music CDs, which I have and enjoy.

Order the DVD here.

In his cover letter to me, Fr. Scott Haynes wrote that Lay volunteers put this project together.  They did a fine job, I must say.  The production quality is very high.  Fr. Haynes wrote, "This demonstrates how laity, on the parish level, actively consciously, enthusiastically can help to restore the Extraordinary Form, with all of its solemnity and reverence.

They are just doing what the Council actually asked for.

With Summorum Pontificum, they have taken worship to another level.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    They have produced such fine products! If anyone gets the chance to attend Mass at St John’s, do not hesitate. Absolutely beautiful. These fine priests have done a great service for the parish and surrounding communities. I can’t praise them enough.
    Although I am not a member of the parish, I try to make the trip to the TLM at least once a month.
    Fr, thanks for the review, it was exciting to see a Church that I have taken to my heart.

  2. Dan says:

    I saw it as well. there were a few things that wasn’t fond of but that’s my opinoin. other than that every thing I saw I liked.

  3. John W. says:

    St. John Cantius is a very splendid church. Every time I get to Chicago I try to visit the Blessed Sacrament there and Our Lady of Czestohocwa.

  4. St. John Cantius really is a special place, a nexus for the Reform of the Reform. I visited a couple of weeks ago and assisted at my first celebration of the Extraordinary Form (at the 6:30 am weekday Low Mass.) The day before I stopped by the rectory and picked up a copy of For the Visitor at Mass, a brief primer on the EF. It was excellent preparation, and I recommend it to newbies like me.

  5. mysticalrose says:

    I absolutely love St. John Cantius. I had the great delight of assisting at the Palm Sunday and the Easter TLM there. Absolutely magnificent. There lay choir is amazing and they are really committed to preserving the Church’s musical heritage. Mass at SJC has spoiled me for all other parishes!

  6. Nick says:

    For those who aren’t aware, St. John Cantius is one of the few places I know that still does Mozart’s Requiem in the original, liturgical setting and not in a concert hall. While in college, drove from St. Louis to Chicago on All Souls Day each year for the Requiem. It’s beautiful. It’s just another example of the great work this parish does.

  7. Dean Davis says:

    Father Z,

    In learning much from you on the mystery of the liturgy and its essential role in the mission and in the spiritual well-being of the Church, I still puzzle over pictures such as the one below, which appears to make two servants of God, in the midst of their important work, appear either overly effeminate or even ridiculous in such over-dimensioned clothing. I do not understand how something as vital as our liturgy could develop in such a way as to produce vestments of this character.

    I would welcome further background.


  8. Rellis says:

    Isn’t the Second Confiteor left out of the 1962 Missale? Isn’t including it, then, a violation of Summorum Pontificum?

  9. Since “Summorum Pontificum” was first issued in 2007, the Canons Regular of St John Cantius have had the honor to train numerous priests and seminarians in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form. We have also had the pleasure to present the Traditional Latin Mass, as well as the Divine Office and various traditional Catholic devotions to groups of lay faithful in one-day workshops, as well as in extended conferences.

    As 2009 rapidly approaches, we invite clergy and seminarians to participate in our workshops that are offered periodically at the Cardinal Stritch House on the campus of Mundelein Seminary. We are so thankful to H.E. Cardinal George, OMI, for extending the use of the Diocesan Retreat Center for this most important work. Our next workshops are scheduled for:

    February 9 – 13 , 2009
    May 18 – 22, 2009
    July 6 – 10, 2009

    Visit this link to click on “Registration Form”

    If priests/seminarians are unable to attend on these dates but are still interested to receive training, please contact Fr. Scott Haynes, SJC, at or call 312 243 7373 at St. John Cantius in Chicago.

    Workshops for Laity in the Extraordinary Form are held at various locations (parishes or conference centers). Weekend workshops are held at the Stritch Retreat House on Mundelein Seminary’s campus.

    Saturday, January 10, 2009
    St. Peter Church, Volo, Illinois

    Friday, March 13 – Sunday, March 15, 2009
    Stritch Retreat Center, Mundelein, Illinois

    Friday, July 10 – Sunday, July 12, 2009
    Stritch Retreat Center, Mundelein, Illinois

    The Canons Regular also travel to various parishes or dioceses to conduct training sessions in the Traditional Latin Mass at the requests of pastors and bishops. Contact Fr. Scott Haynes, SJC, for details at 312 243 7373 (St John Cantius Church-Chicago) or email him at

  10. Readers may be interested in hearing Fr. Phillips’s 45-minute presentation on his priestly journey with special emphasis on sacred music, which was delivered at the 2008 CMAA Colloquium (found here, direct mp3 download here). His anecdote about copies of the Liber Usualis and an incinerator is brief but memorable.

  11. Andrew says:

    Even though I live in Australia, St John Cantius Church in Chicago is my favorite place to worship in the whole world.

    Fr Phillips (who I have met) has done the most terrific job in creating the most orthodox and worship heightened parish community, which belies all the liturgical decay of the last 30-40 years.

    You have to hear a sung Mass there to believe it!

    It is great to see what the church is doing to assist other places reach its high standards, with these resources

  12. AR says:

    Why on earth was there a second confiteor?? I still really don’t understand the logic of one in the first place and it was abolished before 1962.

    Really, having it on the DVD will confuse people.

    Otherwise, very encouraging.

  13. Robert of Rome says:

    Thanks for the commentary, Fr. Z. But Martin Luther was an Augustinian hermit friar, not an Augustinian canon. [I happily stand corrected!]

  14. Christabel says:

    Diverging just slightly – I have just acquired two CDs of Christmas music by the St Cecilia Choir at St John Cantius, and they are stunning. Their version of “The Cherry Tree Carol” is one of the loveliest things I have ever heard.

    It must be bliss to be able to attend Holy Mass there regularly.

  15. Corpsman says:

    As for the second confiteor……What is wrong with it? My understanding of
    it is, that the peoples’ communion is not integral to the Mass so the second confiteor
    right before the peoples communiuon is a logical act to make this distinction.
    Was at a Diocesan Mass this Sunday and saw the second confiteor.

  16. The “second confiteor” does not appear in the 1962 Missal. Not because it’s an option, but because it’s not there. What has happened, is that the Holy See has chosen to tolerate this practice, in light of those situations where its use was already established. The benefit of including it here, is that those servers and others who find themselves in such situations will know what to do. Still, there should be a notation on the material, to avoid any confusion.

    I just know there is a great temptation to engage in tireless polemics over whether this should or should not have been done. Personally, I could make the case for or against it. Its inclusion in this DVD (which I just ordered) serves a purpose, which is enough for me.

    That’s not the significant thing about this product, though.

    Most such material covers the Low Mass and the Solemm High Mass (Missa Solemnis). There has up to now been very little material available to cover the Missa Cantata, which is badly needed in parishes that don’t have sufficient clerics for a Solemn Mass at all, never mind every week.

    If there is one DVD that I wish I had when we started the Traditional High Mass in northern Virginia, it’s this one. I asked them to rush my order. I look forward to it.

  17. Maureen says:

    Re: Dean’s off-topic question

    Those vestments in the picture aren’t “over-dimensioned”. They don’t quite fit. (Which is ironic, as the fiddleback style was designed to save fabric. Gothic style vestments, which are what we normally see at most parishes, are the ones with yards and yards of billowing fabric. Fiddlebacks are much more form-fitting.)

    Sometimes priests wear vestments that don’t fit, especially if they are old vestments from
    previous popes a hundred years back. Our little pope is neither tall and thin nor short and fat, which means that a lot of the previous popes’ vestments don’t fit him exactly.

    Now, the previous MC did not seem very concerned about fit, and did not always pick out vestments that looked good on our little pope. (Especially when he reached back in the closet for JPII\’s vestments.) The current MC does seem to care about fit; but sometimes our little pope wants to wear a particular pope’s old vestments for symbolic reasons.

    However, there isn’t a sane, budget-conscious parish or priest on earth that is going to waste perfectly good vestments that still have lots of wear left in them. The big indiscriminate trashings performed by some parishes in the sixties and seventies have left everybody else even more determined not to throw anything away until all the use has been gotten out of these treasures from the past.

    In the future, you would probably do better to email Father Z these questions, instead of interrupting threads.

  18. PNP, OP says:

    Beautiful! But those vestments look very, very hot…sigh…Fr. Philip, OP

  19. Mary Jane says:

    Thanks for the detailed review, Father. And now I have yet something else to buy! As a musician, I’m interested in understanding how the music fits. Reading about it is great; seeing it will be better.

  20. Beautiful! But those vestments look very, very hot…sigh…

    I assume, Fr. Philip, you mean hot in a thermal rather than a liturgical sense.

  21. As lovely a parish as St. John Cantius is, I feel privileged to be a parishioner at the other parish under the administration of the Canons Regular, which is St. Peter parish, in far north suburban Volo, IL, only a few miles from my home. A tiny church in a tiny village, we have two truly excellent full-time priests from the Canons Regular, plus more when the seminarians visit during Christmas and summer breaks, and support from others of the Canons Regular as needed.

    With the support of his order, our pastor, Fr. Dennis Kolinski, SJC, took an already-beautiful parish and has made wonderful improvements, including the addition of an early daily mass in the extraordinary form, which I was privileged to attend this morning.

  22. Ed says:

    I visited the Cantius website,

    and was a really shocked by the Liturgical and Devotional schedule at St. John Cantius. My local parish has curtailed the mass schedule, now no longer celebrating daily mass in any form. Mass is celebrated only three weekdays (reduced from five), in the early evening. No TLM at any time.

    I’ve caught myself fantasizing more than once, lately, about access to a weekday morning mass, before work. Daily communion is not even available, here. Ostensibly, a staffing issue, but there seems no archdiocesan support for a better alternative for us.

    I don’t want to move to Chicago, but I wish and pray for routine access to a church like St. John Cantius. People would flock to it, I know.

  23. missalthumper says:

    And for “newbies” who have never attended a very traditional parish like SJC: THESE ARE SOME OF THE NICEST PEOPLE EVER. AND I MEAN EVERYONE. SJC was my first experience of the TLM, and I was astonished to read online that some “traddy” parishes are not welcoming, or are intimidating to newcomers. You will be made to feel very welcome here!! (ok, shameless plug finished….)

  24. chihiro says:

    Not sure if you already know, but their website:

    Has a great online tutorial for the Latin Mass with latin and english side by side:

    They even have an entire copy of the 1962 Missale Romanum in .pdf:

  25. Nathan says:

    Henry Edwards, that was the funniest thing I’ve read in a while. Thanks-

    In Christ,

  26. little gal says:

    I’m a bit puzzled over the cost for the laity workshops ($250 +) for one day of instruction. This would tend to put the worshop out of the reach of many…

  27. little gal: I suggest you take that up with the folks at St. John Cantius and get back to us.

  28. Catholic says:

    I did not see on their website how priests and seminarians can get their free copy. Where could I obtain it?

  29. little gal says:

    Fr. Z:

    I believe I will contact SJC about the tuition. I forgot to mention that there is a nice piece about Fr. Phillips in the Catholic New World:

  30. Ken says:

    This is fantastic. I second the comments about the need for training for a Missa Cantata. Like it or not, it is hard to find three clergymen for a Missa Solemnis. So better to do a Missa Cantata every Sunday and holy day than a Low Mass. This will help achieve that goal.

    Father Z, as one who cannot stand Mass VIII, I loved the “alas” comment. The Ordinary music is the only disappointment on this otherwise awesome project.

  31. PNP, OP says:

    Mr. Edwards, yes, I am “thermally challenged.” Too much….errrrrmmm…natural insulation. A former prior of mine, also thermally challenged, described the two of as “ample friars.” I have to say though that Seven Hills of Rome are very trimming. Fr. Philip, OP


    This is my experience with every traditional Mass community I’ve visited. It’s natural enough that availability of the EF Mass now, after so much suppression, generates a sense of shared joy that’s pretty visible.

    I was astonished to read online that some “traddy” parishes are not welcoming

    I think this is one of those myths that live in blogdom rather than in the real world.

  33. JimR says:

    At the risk of jumping into the rabbit hole, many of us out here love the missa de angelis.

  34. JW says:

    Ditto what JimR said. I feel envious of people who have gotten to hear the Missa de Angelis so often that they are actually sick of it.

  35. The registration costs for the ONE DAY WORKSHOP for Laity in the Extraordiary Form to be held at St Peter Church in Volo is not $250. The cost is
    $20.00 (individual) or $50.00 (family)

    See the registration form for Jan 10 2009 here…

    The $250 cost is for the weekend workshops (Fri-Sun) that are held at the Stritch Retreat House in Mundelein, that include housing and meals.

    The next weekend workshop for Laity will be March 13-15 2009 at Mundelein at the Stritch House. Registration forms are here…

  36. I have revised the SANCTAMISSA WORKSHOPS pages to make it more user-friendly and clear.

    Those interested in a ONE DAY WORKSHOP or a WEEKEND WORKSHOP will find their information more readily now.

    Our next workshop for seminarians and priests will be…

    February 9 – 13 , 2009
    Cardinal Stritch Retreat House, Mundelein, Illinois
    Training in Low Mass & High Mass


    Our next ONE DAY WORKSHOP for Laity will be Saturday, January 10 at St Peter Church in Volo, IL.






    $20 (individual)
    $50 (family)

  37. FREE DVD OFFER for Priests and Seminarians

    While supplies last, the ‘Cantius Webstore’ is offering a spectacular new DVD of the LATIN HIGH MASS & BENEDICTION FREE to priests and seminarians who place an order to the Cantius Webstore in the amount of $40.00 or more selected from the products listed below.

    Only one DVD per customer. In this offer, we will only ship to Catholic church & seminary addresses.

    Priests and seminarians should make their product selection and call the Cantius Webstore today at: 1-800-345-6665

    For priests & seminarians to get a free DVD of the Latin High Mass & Benediction, place an order in the amount of $40.00 or more chosen from the products listed below:

    $15.00 – 2009 Liturgical Ordo for the 1962 Missal (Product #:SY363) – A must for the priest on the go.

    $25.00 – Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass (Product #:SY311) by Dom Prosper Guéranger. Benefit from this master from the Solemes Monastic tradition.

    $28.00 – Missa in Cantu & Missa Lecta Audio CD’s and Workbook Set (Product # SY339). These 2 Audio CDs and the 90 page booklet help priests learn to sing High Mass and to recite the prayers of Low Mass.

    $15.00 – Ritus Servandus (Product #SY348). This English translation of the Rubrics clearly explains the Rite to be Observed in the Celebration of Mass.

    $35.00 – Altar Cards for High Mass with Incense (Product #:SY356). Large & clear print. Includes Offertory incense prayers!

    $30.00 – Mastering the Rubrics of the 1962 Missal (Product #:SY309). Learning the Mass: A Manual for Seminarians and Priests by Rev. Walter J. Schmitz, S.S., S.T.D.

    $40.00 – Ceremonial of Solemn High Mass (Product #:SY309). Makes learning the positions of Solemn Mass a dream come true.

    Priests and seminarians should make their
    product selection and call us today at:

  38. little gal says:

    Fr. Scott Haynes:

    Thanks for the updated information on the workshops for the laity. I will definitely come to the workshop in January.

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