QUAERITUR: Canon aloud in the TLM

From a reader:

Is there any precendence for saying the Offertory and Canon audibly at a TLM?  I’ve heard a few people who are attached to a traditional group who say that the "silence" in the Mass pertaining to the Offertory and Canon is to be considered a "stage whisper" and it’s a good thing for at least those serving at the altar to be able to hear the Canon.


Precedent?  I suppose in very ancient times.  In more modern times, you could call the Novus Ordo a precedent.

Gravitational pull, remember?

It works both ways.


Seriously, I don’t think you should strive for this in celebrations of the TLM.   Leave the Canon silent.

One of the most important dimensions of the TLM is the lack of the constant talking found in the Novus Ordo.  Even Joseph Card. Ratzinger said we needed to explore a return to a silent Canon in one of his book on liturgy.

And yes, it is good that servers know where you are.  Thus, the voice should be just loud enough for the server to hear where you are.   However, even if the server can’t hear, he should be able to know where ‘the priest is are by his gestures.

In any event, the description of the level of voice for the priest in most manuals is that he should be just loud enough for the servers to hear.

I think the Canon out loud is overrated.  I the think the silent Canon has a great deal more to recommend.

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  1. Bernie says:

    When I was an altar boy (late 50s, early 60’s) the Offertory and Canon were always silent. When I could see the priest’s lips when he was reading from the missal, I seldom saw his lips move. We boys simply learned to recognize body movements or deliberate hand signals of which there were all of maybe one or two. This was very troubling for a dull one like me. I nearly always rang the bells at the wrong time. I remember once, after ringing the bells gloriously, the monsignor turned around toward me, leaned on the altar with his left elbow and put his right hand on his right hip and… starred at me. I figured right away that I had got the signal wrong.

  2. ssoldie says:

    Unless it is a High Mass, then it is sung.

  3. ssoldie says:

    Unless it is a High Mass, then it is sung, in latin a quite beautiful.

  4. TJM says:

    I served Mass with many priests prior to the Council. The way I recall it, was that the Canon was said in a soft voice so that the altarboys could
    generally hear the Canon. I assume that was the correct mode since so many of them did it that way. I seem to recall also that there were 3 speaking
    tones: sotto voce (for the Canon), medium for many of the prayers, and then loud for the words directly proclaimed by the priest to the congregation.
    Perhaps Father Z you could amplify on this. Tom

  5. TJM: Amplify? On the silent Canon?

  6. theloveofwisdome says:

    Although Father’s comments do make sense and are true imho, I think it is good to here recall what the Council of Trent had to say regarding the Extraordinary Form and the canon in a loud voice. To me, it is not just a matter of “Canon out loud is [being] overrated”, it is a matter of proper Doctrine.

    Session 22:
    CANON 9.–If any one saith, that the rite of the Roman Church, according to which a part of the canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a LOW TONE [soft voice], is to be condemned; or, that the mass ought to be celebrated in the vulgar tongue only; or, that water ought not to be mixed with the wine that is to be offered in the chalice, for that it is contrary to the institution of Christ; let him be anathema.

    Cardinal Stickler has made clear that such anathema’s which seemingly refer to the ‘disciplinary’ provisions are actually dogmatic in nature because of the presence of the ‘Anathema sit’.

    “This is important because in the Council of Trent we have explicitly both: we have chapters and canons which belong exclusively to faith; and then, in nearly all the sessions, after the theological chapters and canons, we have exclusively disciplinary matters. The distinction is important. In all the theological canons we have the statement that anyone who opposes the decisions of the Council is excluded from the community — anathema sit. But the Council NEVER STATES AN ANATHEMA FOR PURELY DISCIPLINARY MATTERS — the Conciliar sanctions are ONLY for doctrinal statements.”

    see http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/stickler.asp

    Father Z, please correct me if I am wrong.

  7. medievalist says:

    I’m curious to know if there’s a theological reason for the silent Canon?

    As much as the Mass is not to be adapted for changing times, it remains a living prayer. Today, solemn sound seems much more glorious than silence so the idea of a well-sung or chanted Canon does not seem particulary horrific. I don’t say this out of any desire to make everything audible to the people, but our voices can be an outward sacrifice in praise of God. Parts of the Byzantine Canon are sung, particularly when the congregation’s part has come to an end. I’ve seen a sung Canon done in the OF quite reverently and the rubrics for the OF do state that the words of consecration should be spoken distinctly.

    I know I’m probably in the minority here but, unless there is a distinctly theological reason for the silent Canon, it doesn’t seem that there should be any impediment to its organic development in this direction. I’m not actively advocating it, just suggesting that it doesn’t strike me as entirely terrible.

  8. Bernie says:

    My memory is that I seldom (I suppose that sometimes I did hear the priest) heard the priest’s voice during the Offertory or Canon during a low Mass except for when it was indicated for the priest to speak out. Obviously, the sung Mass was, well, sung. To be honest, I think that sometimes prayers were just skipped. Either that, or father was a fast talker. This was one of the abuses that accompanied the old rite. Prayers were skipped. It was common for some priests to be known for saying a “fast” Mass. When I attend a Greek Orthodox Liturgy I always here the priest when, according to the rubrics, he speaks in a low voice. You can here him even through the chanters. Of course, he is speaking in the vernacular, be it Greek which many parishioners know or, more and more frequently now, English. Skipping prayers would be fairly obvious. While I love the TLM I prefer the High Mass.

  9. Henry Edwards says:

    For a beautiful explanation of the silent canon in the ethos of the traditional Mass:


  10. dcs says:

    Unless it is a High Mass, then it is sung.

    The Canon is silent in the High Mass as well. As far as the Byzantine anaphora, traditionally that is silent as well, except for the Words of Institution and some other parts.

  11. ocsousn says:

    There are three instances when the Canon (along with other silent prayers from the offertory on)is said aloud in the Traditional Roman Rite: the ordination of a priest, the consecration of a bishop and the blessing of an abbot. In all these instances the new priest, bishop or abbot says these prayers along with the bishop celebrant. New priests and bishops actually concelebrate while, curiously, a newly blessed abbot recites everything with the bishop but the actual words of consecration.
    Fr. Aidan Logan, OCso

  12. Mitchell NY says:

    While not advocating an audible Canon (I humbly submit I know not how to interpret doctrine or theology and will leave that to Rome and what they tell me is best)I can say that after the de facto suppression of the TLM Mass for so many years and being of the NO generation this was the only difficult area for me to navigate when I first started attending the TLM..Sitting further back in a medium to large Church, often you can not follow the gestures of the Priest. I have gotten lost several times during this part of Mass and found it sometimes frustrating. Especially when you really trying to embrace this Mass as we know many truths now, we knew not before, about the best expression of our Catholic Faith. Perhaps allowing for a “medium” voice in parishes, let’s say for the first year of its’ introduction might help parishoners who find it hard enough to follow the Latin/vernacular Missal with the understanding that eventually this part of Mass will go silent and strictly abiding by it. Some time to allow a natural rhythm to patternize in the brain…Nothing will ever be perfect, but just a thought…We should always keep in mind the jarring experience “for many” (no pun intended) when they attend the TLM after so many years of the NO Mass.. Afterall we want people to not just attend out of curiosity, but to embrace, love, and above all ease into a more regular routine of attending the TLM. Would this not be an example of gravitational pull in the other direction which is often not discussed, and I DO undertand why..Though in the end, Roma locuta, causa finita..Isn’t that the saying?

  13. rwprof says:

    “As far as the Byzantine anaphora, traditionally that is silent as well, except for the Words of Institution and some other parts.”

    Only in some traditions. In others, the distinction isn’t between silent and spoken, but spoken and chanted (respectively).

  14. C. says:

    Gravitational pull…works both ways.

    True, witness the recent small dark spot on Jupiter.

    In the physical world, gravity has a preferential mandate for the survival of the much larger body. I think a certain amount of thrust needs to be applied to keep the Traditional Mass at least in orbit while it acquires mass, if not happily on its own trajectory, and if all else fails (God forbid!), at least let the landing be soft.

  15. TJM says:

    Father Z, I guess I could have expressed myself better. I meant on the topic of the 3 different tones. However, I do recall the Canon said in a soft voice so
    that the altarboys could hear much of what was being said. However, the congregation clearly couldn’t. Regards, Tom

  16. StevenDunn says:

    The two priests at my parish who say the TLM have different preferences: one recites the canon silently while the other speaks in a softer-than-OF voice that still remains completely audible. From talking with other parishioners it’s clear they much prefer the non-silent canon, since it allows them to follow along without getting lost. There’s a sense that if they don’t know exactly where the priest is in the canon at every second they’re not properly following along.

  17. Deimater says:

    I believe TJM is right: before the reforms of 1962, there were three tones: completely audible to the congregation; audible only to those at the altar; and inaudible. The reform of 1962 suppressed the tone audible only to those at the altar.

  18. Robert_H says:

    I recently attended a Low Mass where the priest left his throat microphone on for most (if not all) of the Mass. I found it very helpful for keeping up with him (since I’m pretty new to the TLM) but I wonder if anyone else has experienced this?

  19. C. says:

    Robert_H, I’ve experienced it and I dislike it intensely.

    The only supposed benefit of dumbing down the Latin Mass is that it doesn’t make the newbies feel quite so stupid. But newbies are supposed to feel stupid. It’s one of the benefits of being a newbie.

    Feeling stupid at Mass can actually be salvific if it leads to humility while praying. The proud man not only wants to understand everything right off the bat, but expects that he ought to, and gets upset with himself and with others and even with an indefectible rite of the Catholic Church when he can’t.

    God the Father knows who the newbies are and He doesn’t get upset with people if they try their best and fail. Unfortunately a lot of people get frustrated and stomp off and have a temper tantrum and give up.

  20. Dr. Eric says:

    I’m willing to be corrected if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the whole Silent Canon thing due to the fact that there were 3-4 Low Masses going on at the same time in the same church?

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