Young priest, “ars celebrandi”, “gravitational pull”… resistance

Young priests for the most part are interested in the sort of continuity of which our Holy Father Pope Benedict has written and spoken.   They are not chained under the burden of 60’s-80’s seminary "rupture" formation.  They want our whole tradition.

I received the following from a long-time reader/participant of WDTPRS both in print and on the blog, Henry Edwards.

It seems that a young Fr. Shelton, assistant at Our Lady of Fatima in Alcoa, TN, gave some instruction on the Roman Canon using little sermons.  An interesting dimension of these little sermons is that, in them, he also uses the new ICEL translation.  This means he is also helping the people prepare to hear the new translation of Holy Mass. 

This is a tribute also to the pastor of the parish!  They are doing their job and helping people in their fuller and more authentic active participation in the source and summit of our Catholic identity.

Moreover, he, like other young priests, he has been saying Holy Mass, on day’s off, using the 1962MR, as he is free to do under Summorum Pontificum as a priest of the Latin Rite, and groups of lay people are choosing to participate, as they are free to do and members of Christ’s faithful.

That sounds just about right.

I would wager that this priest’s use of the 1962 Missale Romanum has exerted a strong gravitational pull on how he celebrates with the Novus Ordo.  I would further wager that this in turn as exerted an an influence on those who attend his Masses.

Use of the older form of Mass will affect a priest’s ars celebrandi which is precisely what the Synod on the Eucharistic called for and which Pope Benedict desired to foster in Sacramentum caritatis.

Oh yes.. Fr. Shelton has a blog.  You might over there, looks around, and spike his stats.

Let’s see what our WDTPRSer wrote, with my emphases and comments.

Father Z,
Let me recommend to you and WDTPRS readers a somewhat "different" new blog FatherShelton recently started by the associate pastor of my local parish, Our Lady of Fatima in Alcoa (TN). Fr. Shelton is an altogether remarkable "young priest of the restoration"–Pope Benedict’s restoration, that is.
Beyond some of the usual Catholic things, his blog centers on (more notably) the texts of his recent sermonettes at daily and Sunday Mass.[A good use for a blog!]  Each of these "sermonettes" being a polished jewel that takes him just 2 to 3 minutes to deliver and is densely packed with liturgical perspectives rarely if ever heard at Mass. These rare nuggets enhance the liturgy instead of detracting from it. In particular, because no homily of his is ever over half as long as the Eucharistic Prayer, there’s no possibility of the mixed message that can be conveyed by a Mass in which the Holy Sacrifice itself is the shortest part of the whole liturgy.
Currently, Fr. Shelton uses only the Roman Canon (EP I) at Mass, [That’s all I use as well.  I figure that as soon as I no longer have anything to learn from the Roman Canon, I will then move on.] and his daily homilies are interpretations of successive parts of this most venerable and explicitly sacrificial canon. [NB] All ten (so far) are collected in the single thread ROMAN CANON that can be browsed in a few minutes, but may reveal more about the Mass than most readers have ever heard. Father illustrates them with quotes from the canon using the new English translation that will (before long, hopefully) expose us all to What The Mass Really Does Say. This translation in the works may be news in some pews, but not in our parish, at least not at daily Mass. Some extracts:
Actual participation ( Mysterium Fidei )
"Our participation in the Mass is an experience of Christ’s offering to the Father. If we are in a state of grace during the Mass, then we experience this mystery perfectly and completely. [Well… that’s enthusiastic, and on the right track because he speaks of mystery.  But, no, not perfectly and completely.  It is a mystery, right?] ….. The more we try to plan the Sacred Liturgy, or change our thoughts, feelings and actions within it, the less we look like Heaven. But when we accept that the mystery is already complete, and that even the smallest Catholic child or feeblest Catholic adult participates perfectly [in sense, perhaps, of doing the very best we can] in the Holy Sacrifice simply by his presence while in a state of grace, then we are no longer motivated by ourselves during the Sacred Liturgy, but, rather, by the great, eternal, and complete mystery of faith into which Christ places us. Mysterium Fidei, indeed."
Processions and music ( Quam oblationem tu )
"The Church prefers that for the processional parts of the Mass, namely the procession of the Priest at the beginning of Mass, the procession of the faithful at the offering of your sacrifice of bread and wine, and at the procession of the Bride of Christ to receive the Body of the Groom at Holy Communion, we sing a psalm or other text of Sacred Scripture, rather than a hymn of human origin. ….. The Church tolerates hymns when necessary, but hymns at the processional parts of Mass begin in history with a merely human author, and so lack the liturgical dance with time that is liturgical sacrifice."
Incense and sacrifice ( Commemoratio pro defunctis )
"The Roman Mass presumes the use of sweet incense, especially in celebrations with a deacon. It is at the points in the Roman Canon we are discussing this week that it seems most certain that the air above the Altar ought to be filled with this holy, moving, living cloud of sweetness. Many today object that incense should be burned only on red-letter days or major feasts of saints, but incense is not about saints or schedules, but about sacrifice, which is the essence of the Holy Mass. Thankfully, our God-given imaginations allow [all our] celebrations to be filled with plumes of incense billowing up and pushing open the doors of Heaven, as our sacrifice, and our dead, rise to the Father."
Communion while kneeling ( Supra que )
"The Holy Father wishes to feed the faithful once again as one would a child, and quite literally: by having the priests and deacons place the Lamb of God directly onto the tongues of the faithful. [I bet Father get’s a little flack for that.  However, people should remember that this is the true method of reception and the method on the hand is merely permitted by law.  And it can be curtailed if there is any danger of profanation of the Blessed Sacrament (cf. Redemtpionis Sacramentum).]  God the Father does not reach down to take our gift, but receives our gift born by the hands of his Angel. ….. The present practice [of communion on the hand] is sadly misleading, was introduced illicitly in the 1960’s, resisted by Pope Paul VI–who never permitted it in Rome–and is tolerated today in Church law only as an exception to the traditional norm."  [As I said.]
On the tongue ( Hanc igitur )
"When you receive Holy Communion today, imagine the ciborium is the beating Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Host, a drop of his Precious Blood, falling through the wound in his side onto your waiting tongue, as you kneel with the faith of an infant to receive this divine nourishment."  [Sounds familiar.  I recently gave a talk in NYC about the Sacred Heart, and made a connection between the Sacred Heart and the chalice.]
The context for all this is that the Diocese of Knoxville has the usual range of lay and clerical attitudes, but is a dynamic and growing diocese with — many thanks to former Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz (now Archbishop of Louisville) — no shortage of vocations, and with a bunch of young priests of the restoration who expect a bright diocesan future under our new Bishop Richard F. Stika.
Our parish, despite the horizontal appearance of our church itself, is one with Mass celebrated reverently by the book — especially since the recent pastorate of Most Rev. J. Vann Johnston, now Bishop of Springfield (MO). For instance, the Tabernacle moved back to a central position behind the altar and reverenced appropriately, [Excellent!] communion with patens [good!] held by altar servers in surplice and cassock, beautiful music in both vernacular and Latin [as Sacrosanctum Concilium indicates] (including Sanctus and Agnus Dei), all the usual bells and smells–incense on solemnities and major feasts (including incensing of the elevated species during elevation after the consecration), communion on the tongue not uncommon, etc.
But Fr. Shelton’s ars celebrandi goes well beyond these common practices. Beginning when he processes in wearing beautiful Roman vestments and carrying the chalice veiled and topped with burse in the color of the day. In the opening dialogue (with never an extemporaneous word here or at any other time in the liturgy) he faces the people from the celebrant’s chair to the side of the altar. But whenever prayer is addressed to God rather than to the people — e.g., the Confiteor (before which he pauses long enough for everyone to say a silent act of contrition), the Kyrie Eleison, the Gloria, etc., he visibly turns to face the altar instead. The offertory rite is silent until the "Pray brethren … ", although evidently he is praying privately throughout. He says the canon in a quite and measured tone that somehow connotes the fact that he is speaking in the person of Christ rather than with his own personality, and to God rather than to the people, but with an audibly more solemn tone for the Consecration. I’ve never before heard a priest include every "Through Christ our Lord. Amen.[Actual] that appears in brackets as an option 4 or 5 times throughout the Roman Canon. And all with such precise and solemn gestures–and a visible bow of the head at each mention of the Holy Name–that simple words fail.
When he arrived in our parish last fall, Fr. Shelton began a "private" EF Mass one weekday night per week, and latter initiated an "experimental" ad orientem Latinate OF celebration at (only) his Saturday morning Mass. However, [Get this.]  at present he has voluntarily suspended both these initiatives pending further thought on his part about the question of real or perceived "carry over" of traditional practices into regular parish liturgies. Apparently, many new and recently ordained priests have the impression that this "mutual enrichment" of forms may be among the Holy Father’s intentions with Summorum Pontificum, but the issue may not be soon resolved by any single priest, parish, or diocese.
Henry Edwards 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. All of this is good news and tremendously encouraging!

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    I should clarify that — since Fr. Shelton’s voluntary suspension of his private weekly midweek evening EF Mass that people were free to attend in the chapel where they were celebrated — I am not aware of any such participation in any private EF Masses that he may be celebrating at the present time.

  3. joe says:

    Shame we are proscribed from human cloning…we could use a few thousand more Frs. Shelton! ;-)


  4. Rellis says:

    So why suspend the EF Missa Privata or the ad orientem OF? Some parish or diocesan pressure? Let’s hope these young guys get in power soon. The Baby Boomers and Lost Generation types can’t retire soon enough for me. Hit the links.

  5. Henry Edwards is the best blog commentator I have ever read. I always learn something from him.

  6. Andy K. says:

    OK, so… could someone help me out? I don’t understand this:
    However, [Get this.] at present he has voluntarily suspended both these initiatives pending further thought on his part about the question of real or perceived “carry over” of traditional practices into regular parish liturgies. Apparently, many new and recently ordained priests have the impression that this “mutual enrichment” of forms may be among the Holy Father’s intentions with Summorum Pontificum, but the issue may not be soon resolved by any single priest, parish, or diocese.



  7. mpm says:


    I notice that the parish has a library! Terrific idea!

    What sorts of books and multimedia resources are favored, and is there a budget for acquisitions? Also, is it a lending-library, or a reference-library, or both?

    [I’ve been trying to convince another parish to do something similar, and your parish experience could be helpful.]

  8. ssoldie says:

    I always go in to read Henry Edwards comments, lotta common sense that Henry has.

  9. Allen Murphy sfo says:

    Father John, Am I correct in assuming that when you say you you use EP 1 that you usually celebrate the Novus Ordo? And the liturgy of the Hours vs. the Breviarium Romanum? You have such a love for both forms of the Roman Rite you walk the talk of what you put on the blog. Allen Murphy sfo

  10. Jenny says:

    And this parish is right next door to the only Super Walmart in the county. So it is very visible in the community.

  11. Sarah says:

    I like the word “restoration”.

  12. JPG says:

    Could this be the beginning of the new springtime of the Church?
    One gets a sense that the tide is beginning to turn.

  13. LCB says:

    “I figure that as soon as I no longer have anything to learn from the Roman Canon, I will then move on.”

    That deserves quoting on every thread for a week.

  14. irishgirl says:

    All I can say is…wow!

    Yes-I wish that cloning wasn’t proscribed! I’d like to see more Father Sheltons!

  15. Cesar says:

    People forget that spring time can be rainy, muddy, and miserable. Yes you see nice flowers here and there, but depending where you are it still isn’t summer! It’s great to see these small signs of life. This has been a long spring.

  16. Mike says:

    I have forwarded this post (and the site linked to) to a recently ordained Jesuit for whom I have had the occasion to serve the EF. His homilies are good and topical, but have not yet touched on the Liturgical and it makes sense to discuss the Canon first as a most important Liturgical element.

  17. Jeff M says:

    I wonder how he celebrates the EF mass at that altar. (There is a link with pictures of the church.) It is a free-standing altar that appears to be curved toward the back of the church. I would think any ad orientem Mass would be impossible. I suppose he celebrates versus populum? It almost looks as if the altar was designed to exclude ad orientem Masses…

  18. Henry Edwards says:

    Jeff M,

    The altar where Fr. Shelton has celebrated the private EF Mass referred to is not the altar you see in the main church, but the rectangular altar in our eucharistic adoration chapel:

    Though these photos show not Fr. Shelton, but instead Fr. James Fryar FSSP who was visiting our parish on that occasion. The altar in the main church is octagonal, mirroring the octagonal shape of the whole building.

    It’s true that — because of the Gospel-side versus Epistle-side altar actions in the EF Mass — the octagonal altar is not ideal for it. However, in observing ad orientem OF Masses celebrated at this octagonal altar, it has not seemed (to me) to be a real problem for them.

    In any event, when EF Masses are scheduled regularly at a free standing altar that is not wide enough, one solution is to have a rectangular piece of material (preferable thin marble) made that can be placed atop it for celebration of the EF Mass. With an appropriate altar cloth, then this arrangement works reasonably well.

  19. Fr Ó Buaidhe says:

    Using only EPI, eh! My previous bishop once hauled me up to answer charges that I was doing the same. That the choice of EP is the celebrant’s didn’t seem to matter. Nice to know others are doing the same today.

  20. Mark G. says:

    In the O.F., is not the carrying of the Gospel to the Ambo by the minister also a procession?

    I enjoyed Fr. Shelton’s Saturday morning ad orientem Masses (although I could hardly ever make it) – much more reverent & celebrational than most O.F. Sunday Masses in the area. I would be delighted if he – & other priests in the area – began celebrating this way on a regular basis.

    Plus, he looks just like the priest in the little pictures in the margins of the old missals.

  21. Bob says:

    Why can’t we have priests like this in my diocese? The younger ones I’ve met are every bit as liberal as the aging hippies. No springtime here! (And I can’t even remember the last time I heard EP 1.)

  22. Scoby says:

    “Currently, Fr. Shelton uses only the Roman Canon (EP I) at Mass, [That’s all I use as well.”

    Why? The Popes have approved multiple EPs, which are every bit equal theologically and spiritually to the RC. Pope Benedict XVI uses various EPs.

    “I would wager that this priest’s use of the 1962 Missale Romanum has exerted a strong gravitational pull on how he celebrates with the Novus Ordo. I would further wager that this in turn as exerted an an influence on those who attend his Masses.”

    Is the Ordinary Form not theologically and spiritually every bit the equal to the Extraordinary Form? Do priests benefit just as much from celebrating the Ordinary Form? Does the Ordinary Form exert a strong gravitational pull on how the Extraordinary Form is celebrated?

    Isn’t the Ordinary Form just as beneficial to the Church as the Extraordinary Form?

    I look forward to Father Zuhlsdorf’s remarks (and anybody else who may wish to comment). Thank you.

  23. Patrick says:

    It’s been a while for me too, since I’ve heard EP I (with all of the brackets included). It’s so much more beautiful and complete than the others.

    Additionally, just because all four are approved and theologically sound, I don’t think that makes them all “equal” necessarily. I mean the end result (consecration) is the same, but the trip there is different.

  24. Will says:

    “The Popes have approved multiple EPs, which are every bit equal theologically and spiritually to the RC. Pope Benedict XVI uses various EPs.”

    Unfortunately, His Holiness prays the novel Eucharistic Prayers that have deformed the Roman Liturgy. Unfortunately, His Holiness prefers to offer the “Ordinary Form” of Mass rather than the Traditional Roman Mass, which he was ordained to offer.

    Unfortunately, “Catholic identity” will continue to crash under Pope Benedict XVI as he has made it clear that the Ordinary Form of Mass will remain the Mass that virtually each Latin Catholic will encounter at his or her parish.

    Catholic identity crashed throughout Pope Paul VI’s reign. Catholic identity crashed throughout Pope John Paul II’s reign. More of the same will transpire as long as the Pope(s) are determined to stick to the Novus Ordo.

    Only priests who discard the Novus Ordo in favor of the TLM can restore Catholic identity.

  25. Andrew, medievalist says:

    This echoes something I heard at a conference paper today. The speaker mentioned that religions experience their most growth and enthusiasm, NOT when converting others (although this remains important) but when RENEWING the faith and enthusiasm of their own adherents.

    Clearly, this priest and the Holy Father understand this.

  26. Robert says:

    Actually the Tridentine more fully impresses one with the transcendence and beauty of God. It is much more thorough in its catechesis and dignified in its address to God and His saints. As such it exerts a stong force upon the spiritual formation of those who regularly attend it and commit themselves to conforming themselves to it. The same applies to the Brevarium (though my aquaintance is limited). Theologically they are clearer, deeper and more explicit. The drive and the force is undivided. There is no confusion (once you understand the language) what the purpose and importance of the liturgy is.

    My opinion of the Norvus Ordo is that someone with a misguided spirituality was in charge of creating it- at least in regards to the way it is celebrated according to the English translation (the version I am more familiar with). That is not to say that it is void or unable to provide spiritual nourishment. God can supply all deficiencies . In my view it is like eating a candy bar for dinner when you could have a good balanced meal. Of course the essence the Sacrifice is the same. But I am speaking of the method of presentation and externals- the way it is celebrated not what is celebrated. To contrast the essence in my understanding is an attempt to divide Christ in a sense.

    However, the language used in the current translations is exceedingly banal. It as if writing a love letter to someone and the words you used are not expressive of strong devotion or attachment. It would almost be possible to send such a letter to multiple people without scandal as they would think you only desired friendship and not marriage. That is my main criticism of the Norvus Ordo. It lacks the proper words to fully express the depths of our devotion and love to God. I believe this was primarily due to either lack of reverence or love of God (lukewarmness) or just lack of inability to adequately express it.

    My other critique of many of the English translations is that the word sin is used exceedingly sparingly. Preferred substitutes were mistake, fault and so on. They do not necessarily have the same connotation as sin as guilt is intrinsic to sin but not the others. Such poor translations indicate a possible theolgical issue. Much can be said by saying very little. The substance of the Norvus Ordo is the same but the catechesis and mode it is presented could use improvment. Thankfully this is in the process.

  27. Robert says:

    Sorry I meant lack of ability- not lack of inability …

  28. Tommy says:

    During the past 12 years in the Dallas Diocese, I’ve heard EP1 prayed at Mass perhaps three times (twice during the past one by a young priest who desires, but is not allowed, to offer the TLM). There are three parishes at which I usually assist at Mass (switching parishes every few weeks). The priests at each parish range from conservative to moderate (perhaps one would be described as liberal).

    Interestingly, I’ve encountered EP1 twice at the “liberal” parish. At my “official” parish, which is conservative, I’ve encountered EP1 just once during the past 12 years. I doubt believe that EP1 has been prayed (literally ever) at the third parish where I’ve assisted off and on for years.

    I assisted a time or two at two additional parishes (conservative and moderate) and failed to hear EP1.

    P.S. I long for the day when the Dallas Diocese establishes a TLM parish. Then, at least, I won’t have to worry about conservative and moderate labels as I would encounter the real-deal Latin Liturgical Tradition.

    However, then would entail the Dallas Diocese to treat Summorum Pontificum as something other than a dead letter…but the Dallas Chancery isn’t remotely interested in doing so.

    Oh, well. At least I am able to read about dioceses across America and throughout the world that have actually implemented Summorum Pontificum…unlike Dead Letter Dallas.

  29. Nicholas says:

    Dear Scoby:

    The answer to your second, third, fourth, and fifth questions is: No.

    The answer to your first question cannot be given in a single word. As for your claim that the other approved Eucharistic prayers are “every bit equal theologically and spiritually to the RC”: gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

  30. Dave N. says:

    Had to chuckle at the phrase “liturgical dance.”

  31. jjoy says:

    The end of Fr. Shelton’s blog has a Latin-word-of-the-day widget!

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