QUAERITUR: TLMs in modern churches in far-flung places

From a reader:

I am soon moving to a rather desolate and remote location in the world: Alaska. I know there are a lot of "issues" with the churches where I am going but one of my biggest concerns is not being able to go to an EF Mass whenever I feel like it. The area I am going has only had 1 EF Mass since the MP in 2007. So my question is this:

What are the requirements, in regards to the church itself, to hold a valid, licit, EF Mass? I know that the altar is important and the steps, but what if you don’t have a church within hundreds of miles that has that? Can you have an EF mass at a "new style" church?

Also… can a priest come to do that, from outside the diocese? I know that if the congregation wants the mass, the bishop is no longer the gatekeeper, but what about an "outside" priest coming in? What are the rules on that, does the bishop have a say in that regard? The churches where I am going are diocesan but they do not have pastors. The local are (3 churches) are served by oblate missions. So could a priest fly in and do an EF Mass if the congregation wanted it?

First, don’t worry about the arrangement of the church.  The altar can be set up in a way that Mass can be said ad orientem or… it absolutely necessary, the old Mass can also be celebrated "versus populum".


Yes, a priest can come from outside to say the Mass, but he should have the permission of the pastor and should be be a priest in good standing in his diocese or religious institute.  You say there are no pastors where you are: he should have the permission of who ever is in charge.

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  1. dcs says:

    If the church doesn’t have a pastor (for example, if it is a mission church) then it is up to the rector to give permission (SP Art. 5 §5).

  2. Alban says:

    Catholic Army Chaplains used to set up ad hoc altars anywhere. I am specifically reminded of the case of Father Emil Kapaun who held mass not only in combat situations, but also while in captivity in North Korea. The bottom line is the Tridentine rite has ALWAYS been accomodating to circumstance. There are really many more “nice to haves” than the “need to haves” when it comes down to it.

  3. Ed says:

    It very important for you being new to Alaska to team up with other people pushing for the ER up there.

  4. Ed says:

    http://summorumpontificumak.blogspot.com/ CHECK OUT THIS WEBSITE FOR AN ALASKA EXTRAORDINARY RITE GROUP

  5. Terry says:

    If there is a group of individuals (parishioners) who want the Latin Mass, but no one at that church knows how to say it, should the rector of that church allow those parishioners to bring in an outside priest, or can he rightly say no to the issue?

  6. Fr W says:

    This brings a few questions. When I offer the Extraordinary Form when traveling, yes, I have some small altar cards, a relic, etc. in my Mass kit. But I wonder if in the case of small available spaces sometimes, one could dispense with the altar cards and simply refer to the Missale? Is a relic/altarstone still required?

  7. As an Alaskan, I think the best thing going on in the state regarding TLM is not an EF or a NO but a TDLM — er, it’s the ancient Traditional Dominican Rite celebrated in Latin on the first Saturday of every month in downtown Anchorage at Holy Family Cathedral. In addition, an EF Mass will be celebrated in Palmer, AK once a month beginning in July.

    Secondly, if Fr. Z’s original correspondent has been reading the Catholic Anchor, Anchorage’s Archdiocesan newspaper, it is entirely understandable that anyone would be confused as to what is and what is not necessary regarding a valid, licit Mass in a ‘new style’ Church.

    I know I am not the only Alaskan Catholic frustrated by the Archbishop’s statement of February 22nd, 2008 (found in its entirety here: http://www.catholicanchor.org/archive08/archive02-22-08.html), in which he claims that “the 1962 Missal must be celebrated with all of the rubrics in place. These would include a sanctuary that has 3 steps, an altar rail, and an altar that does not face the people and is permanently attached to the wall”.

    Effectively, this statement – which claims that these are real, moral scruples for which “clarification has not been received” – has allowed the Archbishop to block any priest who wishes to take the initiative in saying an EF Mass. It is a pity that the Archbishop doesn’t attend to the same liturgical scruples in the Novus Ordo Masses in our archdiocese (scandalonkenai.blogspot.com).

    Nor are scruples the only reason given for the lack of EF in AK. At least one priest who could and would say the Mass has been forbidden by the Archbishop because of fears that people would abandon one parish and flock to the EF Mass parish. Sounds like tactile proof of a “stable group of the faithful”!

    Things are changing in Alaska, but we’re still 10 years behind the liturgical movement Outside (we could use a swift kick in the rear…want to take a sabbatical up here, Fr. Z? Lots of good bird-watching and fresh salmon!) One is reminded of the last battle of the Civil War, when the CSS Shenandoah took out Union whaling ships in Alaska — two months after Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.

    Please pray for the Church in Alaska!

  8. Peter says:

    If what Peter the Sinner says is right, then what the local ordinary says sounds crooked. And demonstrably so simply by reference to historical churches and chapels all around the world.

    In Australia the EF is (of necessity) celebrated in some quite modern ‘liturgical spaces’.

    I know one priest in Australia who never uses altar cards because he has memorised all of the offertory prayers and used the missal for the Canon and the last Gospel. I think they are not a necessity.

    And wrt places in necessitatibus, Bp Aloysius Morgan (rip) recounted his experience of saying Mass in New Guinea in WW2 standing in a stream because that was the only way to have a level space for the altar (on the bank).

  9. Peter says:

    I just went and read what your ordinary said. If I were there I would be tempted to uncharity, imprudence and probably more. I will say from the safety of my armchair in Australia that what he wrote was patently silly. Especially the nonsense about the mother not being permitted to be present at the baptism.

    So may things would be better if people knew some history. Many mothers may not have been present at baptisms precisely because they were still recovering, as baptism was conferred quickly (no toddling down to greet Father at the font …). (A little aside, what the ritual does call for is for the godmother, not the mother, to hold the child during the ceremony. A rubric observed often in the breach even in traditionalist strongholds …).

    As to the 400 rubrics, I would guess if you counted up all the individual roadrules you are supposed to obey in (the mundane everyday) driving from home to the store you would find a large number. Those rubrics don’t mean you need an IQ of 200 and 40 years in training to observe them!

    grrrrrrrrrr |:-<

  10. isabella says:

    Welcome to Alaska! Peter the Sinner pretty much said verbatim what I was going to say. I have not yet missed the Dominican Rite since it started; I just block off the first Saturday of every month.

    I am puzzled about something though. The Dominican Rite is said on Saturday at noon, and I love and pray for the Dominicans who are supportive of it. My understanding is that the “Tridentine” Mass in Palmer is also going to be said on Saturdays (although I am not 100% sure).

    I am not a canon lawyer (or even a mundane one), but have been trying to make sense out of some opinions about whether or not this fulfils the Sunday obligation. What I gathered from various sources was that a “Saturday evening” Mass does. So far, so good. However, I have seen so many definitions of when “Saturday evening” begins that my head is spinning; they range from 12 noon to 530PM on Saturday, depending upon who is writing the opinion.

    Does anybody actually KNOW the answer to this? IMO, having to go again on Sunday after attending the Latin Mass on Saturday is disparaging to the Latin Mass. It strikes me as saying, “well, OK, if you want to go for entertainment, feel free, but the REAL Mass is the Novus Ordo on Sunday”. Does anybody, especially fellow Alaskans, understand this? Yes, I realize that Christ is present in both liturgies, but it’s like going to dinner at Orso’s (fairly nice restaurant) for dinner, then being dragged off to McDonald’s for a “real meal”.

    My email isn’t working right now, but if anybody up here knows but doesn’t want to say anything publicly, let me know and I’ll find a way to give you my hotmail or UAA address.

    If Fr Z could visit and find a place to say Mass, I’d be happy to help send him home with some wild Alaskan salmon :)


  11. Peter says:

    Isabella, this isn’t a canon law answer, just my view. The Sunday vivil seems to me to accord to a rule of thumb of ‘after 1st Vespers’. 12 noon doesn’t seem a canonical hour for Vespers … :-(

  12. AlexB says:

    It’s a ways away, but there is a longstanding TLM in Fairbanks, not far from the airport. Might someone from that community be able to be of assistance? Alaskans seem to hop commuter airplanes like the rest of us hop buses.

  13. isabella says:

    Peter – thank you; that is one POV I read. I rummaged through my bookmarks, and couldn’t find it quickly but I think the opinions that “Saturday evening” began that early came from the upper latitudes in Europe (kind of like Alaska), but that could be a coincidence. We don’t have normal “hours” like the ones that evolved nearer the equator, so . . . shrug. I wish I were a lawyer.

    AlexB – I have thought of that and have actually travelled out of state because sometimes there are special fares that make it cheaper to go to Oakland, LAX, cities at random than Fairbanks. Also, I have mixed feelings about not using the airfare/hotel/car money to support the local church, since a priest and his pastor had the courage to support the Dominican Mass publicly – even if the Sunday obligation question still baffles me. If I happen to be travelling anyway, OK. Otherwise, I don’t think leaving my own parish hanging in the wind financially is a real good way to thank them. Have been struggling with this for months & should probably go to Confession.

    But I just really wish we could have it on Sunday to eliminate all the having to wonder and rationalize. I acknowledge the validity of the NO; it’s been discussed to death. Brick by brick just doesn’t seem to happening fast enough up here. I will pray for the first Dominican priest who said their rite of the Mass up here until the day I die.

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