QUAERITUR: use of a microphone during a TLM Canon

From a reader:

a new tlm has begun in my town and some newcomers have complained about inaudibility and wanting to hear every prayer in order to better understand.  those in charge have put a mic on the priest and now, all is audible; the priest does not turn it off even thru the canon.  is this permissible? 

secondly, most of the newcomers are used to the NO and so want to respond in a more "dialogue" fashion, but recite not only the server’s responses, but the gloria, pater noster and agnus dei as well.  what is the best way to address this problem?

As far as I know, there is nothing prohibiting the use of a microphone during Mass even during the Canon.  There was, even before the Council, a 1958 instruction which included a blurb about microphones.  Cf. Instructio de Musica Sacra et Sacra Liturgia.

That said, there are rubrics in the older form of Mass which indicate those parts of Mass to be said silently, that is in a voice quiet enough that only those immediate servers or sacred ministers are able to hear.  Using a microphone at those times of Mass would certainly violate the spirit and, it seems to me possibly the letter too, of those rubrics.

I think great care should be exercised in the older form of the Roman Rite not to confuse or compromise the distinction of the voices.

Using a microphone to make the Canon audible during a TLM just seems wrong.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Phil says:

    I agree that a mike during the Canon violates the spirit of the TLM, yet I can’t help but argue that the Gloria (being the Christian people’s song of triumphant praise) or other Mass parts should not be excluded by the faithful. As far as the Pater Noster, Pius Parsch in “The Liturgy of the Mass” has arguments both for and against the participation of the Faithful, and I am not inclined to either direction.

  2. Jack Hughes says:

    Another case for priests to sing during Mass, the best Mass that I ever assited at was the Corpus Christi Tridium at the SSPX Chapel I know attend, baring the Cannon the Priest sang the whole Mass. When it comes toaudiance participation in the TLM the best time for that is either the responsral duirng the litenny of Saints or If the priest leads us in singing the Rosary/Divine Mercy Chaplet.

  3. There are ways to talk with a microphone on, and still be too quiet to be heard. There’s nothing that says the priest can’t run a sound check on some fine day with some cooperative parishioner, to figure out what levels the microphone should be set at.

    If you set the mike at a level where the priest has to speak up a bit to be heard, then all the priest would have to do is subside to normal quiet levels to _not_ be heard. Etc.

  4. Matthew in Vancouver says:

    Most microphones have a on/off button on them. I’m sure the priest could just flick it off right before the Canon.

  5. catholicuspater says:

    It might be useful to look at the guidelines issued by the Holy See Press Office when Summorum Pontificum was promulgated. Here’s the fourth point:

    [4. The liturgy according to the 1962 books is celebrated in the Latin language but the readings contained in the Missal can be read to the people in the vernacular. To favor an active participation, the faithful who attend such celebrations are invited to recite together with the celebrant the diverse parts of the ‘Ordinarium Missae’ (Ordinary of the Mass – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) which, in sung Masses, may be sung and if possible even by the people. When there are faithful present, it is not suitable for the entire Mass to be celebrated in a low voice. It is recommended that the faithful follow the prayers of the Mass with a bi-lingual missal, such as those that already exist and which will certainly be re-edited.]

    It’s not unreasonable to assume from this that the use of a microphone would be permitted.

    Also, it’s very important to note that “to favor an participation,” the people are invited to say the ordinary of the Mass with the celebrant—a practice that is unfortunately discouraged by some, but which has been warmly encouraged by the popes of the twentieth century in many liturgical documents.

  6. catholicuspater: It’s not unreasonable to assume from this that the use of a microphone would be permitted.

    Pretty much what I said, above.

    However, we still have to account for the difference in voices which are prescribed by the rubrics.

  7. Mitchell NY says:

    Touching upon this once before I thought that maybe this was some type of organic development that may be acceptable…( I mean, something has to give, grow, change according to the Second Vatican Council, they did call for change, maybe this is the least disruptive to the rite rathering than altering prayers or suppressing things). Coming from the NO generation and having switched to the Tridentine Mass a few years ago this was the only thing that if something had to keep me from preferring this form it would have been it. So with no knowledge of Latin I used to Missal and eventually learned to follow along until more familiar. However it was difficult to keep my place during the silent Canon and I often felt lost. That can and does alienate many people from learning. I still lose my place sometimes as different Priests pray the Canon at different paces, and if in a large Church the gestures of the Priest are not always that visible..But again, it all comes down to Catechis..My suggestion would be for the Parish Priest, when first instituting a Tridentine Mass to temporarily allow a mic, or audible voice to facilitate the acceptance and learning on the part of the lay faithful, maybe for an interim period of 1 year with the outcome and understanding that after such time the mic will be turned off or voice lowered..Not a perfect solution for those who may come later or vistors who know not of the allowance, but for those regulars who start with the Mass it may be the trick to keep them coming and for the Mass to grow..I think people would also explain to each other the reasoning behind such an allowance.
    As for saying some of the prayers with the servers, I like the idea. Now learning the Latin I like to use it. I know when we sing the Credo in Latin together it is always one of the most moving parts of Mass for me.

  8. Timbot2000 says:

    In practice, in radio broadcasts of the EF by the Institute, the Canon is read, rather than chanted, in an intimate whisper commonly used by radio DJs to convey intimacy. Otherwise the broadcast would have 10~15 minutes of dead air suddenly interrupted by “nobis quoque peccatoribus” and “Hanc igitur”. People would think there was a technical problem!
    Also the EWTN friars also left the mike on, but again used an intimate voice, likely inaudible to the attending faithful, but very good for the TV viewers.
    This is important in the Roman rite, as, unlike the Byzantine, there is no “background music” going on during the anaphora.

  9. catholicuspater says:

    Your instincts are absolutely right, Mitchell, and the documents of the Church support your desire to make the responses at Mass.

    De Musica Sacra, which was issued in 1958 under Pope Pius XII insisted that “Care must be taken that the faithful assist at Low Mass, too, ‘not as strangers or mute spectators.'”

    This document goes on to elaborate on how the faithful can participate externally at Mass, and I quote:

    “There are four degrees or stages of this participation:

    a) First, the congregation may make the easier liturgical responses to the prayers of the priest: Amen; Et cum spiritu tuo; Deo gratias; Gloria tibi Domine; Laus tibi, Christe; Habemus ad Dominum; Dignum et justum est; Sed libera nos a malo;

    b) Secondly, the congregation may also say prayers, which, according to the rubrics, are said by the server, including the Confiteor, and the triple Domine non sum dignus before the faithful receive Holy Communion;

    c) Thirdly, the congregation may say aloud with the celebrant parts of the Ordinary of the Mass: Gloria in excelsis Deo; Credo; Sanctus-Benedictus; Agnus Dei;

    d) Fourthly, the congregation may also recite with the priest parts of the Proper of the Mass: Introit, Gradual, Offertory, Communion. Only more advanced groups who have been well trained will be able to participate with becoming dignity in this manner.”

    Furthermore, the document even allows for this, which many people find surprising:

    “32. Since the Pater Noster is a fitting, and ancient prayer of preparation for Communion, the entire congregation may recite this prayer in unison with the priest in low Masses; the Amen at the end is to be said by all. This is to be done only in Latin, never in the vernacular.”

    It’s also instructive to note that Sacrosanctum Concilium, which is the Constitution on the Liturgy from the Vatican Council, says the following:

    “care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”

    In addition, article 30 of the same document states: “To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.”

    Keep in mind that these instructions clearly apply to the 1962 Missal, which was the Missal in force when the document was promulgated.

  10. catholicuspater: It really isn’t a good idea to ignore me on my blog. o{];¬)

    I repeat: “We still have to account for the difference in voices which are prescribed by the rubrics.”

    I myself I have quoted the very texts you have, concerning the dialogue and the Mass. I am sympathetic.

  11. catholicuspater says:

    Well, Father, I certainly would never knowingly ignore you, and do apologize. On the specific question on the microphone at Mass, I’m simply quoting the Holy See Press Office.

    While you are correct that we still have to account for the difference in voices prescribed by the rubrics, I do think there is a real probability that a letter to the Ecclesia Dei Commission seeking a clarification based on the remarks of the Holy See Press Office regarding an audible Canon, would likely yield some flexibility for those celebrants who would like to use a microphone at the Canon, as, interestingly enough, my former pastor does during his Sunday EF Mass.

    While the microphone question is still far from settled, I’m not quite sure what you mean when you say you’re not sympathetic to the documents I quote concerning external participation at Mass. [I am sympathetic.]

    I know you are someone who has always been quite reasonable when it comes to these matters, and I’m not in any way trying to quote the documents of the Church to you. However, there are some people out there who do seem to believe that external participation at the EF is somehow tantamount to a liturgical faux pas. [I have always argued in favor of, also, external participation.] Believe it or not, in a parish in my diocese, an announcement was made (I was there) that there was to be no audible responses from the pews during the Low Mass. [I believe it. I, on the other hand, would not embrace that approach.]

    This is an issue where there does seem to be some confusion, so I was just trying to quote the documents since Mitchell brought the subject up.

    I really do apologize for any offense, though I’m not in any way sure what exactly the offense was.

  12. ssoldie says:

    Gosh, how did we get along alllll these years praying the ‘Gregorian Rite Mass’ with just the sense’s God gave us to use. Granted for the sermon it is better for the priet, but no microphone is really needed at the Mass of all times. The alter boys are there at Low Mass also, as with the High Mass, to pray the response. We in the pews always pray the response silently, as in our heart and in our mind,’the most beautiful thing this side of heaven’

  13. JuliB says:

    My parish priest (strictly OF) uses a microphone like an extension of his body. He turns it on and off constantly but without anyone really being able to tell.

    The only reason I’m aware of it is that newer priests coming to our parish go through some awkwardness in learning to use it.

  14. catholicuspater says:

    Well, ssoldie, you certainly do have the option to pray the responses silently, as you say. Fr. Z has written very well about the need to improve our interior disposition and receptivity at Mass, which in some respects is the most important aspect of liturgical participation.

    However, the liturgical documents, both pre- and post-Conciliar, are equally clear that the Church encourages the faithful to sing or say in Latin those parts of the Mass that pertain to them, which enumerated in my comment above.

    If anyone is going to disagree with this, the burden is on them to come up with the documents supporting their position that we in the pews should always be silent. The reason they can’t do this is because no such document exists.

  15. catholicuspater: I AM sympathetic. Okay? I am sympathetic. I have always argued that “dialogue” at Masses must not be glared down.

    But, the question of “voices” remains.

    The microphone and audible Canon is the issue here, not whether the readings or orations can be heard.

  16. Melody says:

    It does seem laudable to have a microphone for the parts of the mass that the rubrics say should be heard. Many modern parishes do not have the acoustics of traditional ones, and the sound does not travel as well. For anything else, it is the duty of the priest to switch it off.

    Regarding the Canon, an entirely silent one is very difficult for me. I often lose my place and cannot prepare myself as well interiorly for the moment of consecration as when it is audible.

    However, I really love when the priest says the words in a low voice that does not break the stillness. I can hear enough words not to get lost, but the sound does not intrude on prayerful meditation. There is even more of a sense of awe, and a feeling that time has been suspended while the miracle occurs.

    Just a thought: In contemplating the volume meant by “low voice”, visually imagine how it refers to moments when the priest is standing there speaking softly to Christ, who is just before him on the altar. It would seem appropriate that the words be said at the gentle volume you would use for your beloved in a quiet room. How audible this is to the congregation does not seem so relevant.

  17. Sixupman says:

    I have thought, for those not used to the TLM – but with Missal booklet available, might benefit from the Celebrant saying out loud the beginning of key parts of the Mass as in the “Nobis quoque” – as a signpost. As for the Canon – silence.

  18. Paul Knight says:

    If I had my way I’d through all microphones out of churches fullstop. I can’t stand them.

  19. catholicuspater says:

    Sorry about misunderstanding your original response, Father.

    As always, I’m in agreement with your reasonable positions, which as always, reflect the teaching of the Church.

    In my own diocese though, among some of the priest that celebrat the EF , the directives of the Church are far from clear on this, it’s become a subject of great interest for me, because I love to say the responses as do my friends who come from the OF to this beautiful rite.

    I do have some concern that the practice of silent congregations could become the norm, and this would make transition to the EF for many would-be interested Catholics from the OF difficult and next to impossible.

    I was at Bishop Rifan’s Mass at St. Jean Baptiste, (I know you were there, too, because I had the pleasure of greeting you as you walked out the front of the church!) and was so moved by hearing the enthusiastic participation of the congregation during the Creed, as well as some of the other parts of the Mass sung in plain chant.

    As for the microphone issue, I think you’re right that it doesn’t account for the difference in the rubrics.

  20. MichaelJ says:


    I do not necessarily disagree with the opinions you express, but your apparent eagerness to immediately make changes is unsettling.

    ssoldie made a very good point that faithful Catholics did very well for nearly two thousand years and it was not until 1958 that the Church suggested a different way in which the faithful *could* participate at Mass. This gets back to the burden of proof issue you raised. You have cited a single document that, by your own description “elaborate[s] on how the faithful can participate”, and suggested that this resolves the question.

    Did it occur to you that perhaps in prior generations it would have been unthinkable for faithful Catholics to give even the appearance of usurping the role of the Priest by reciting the parts of the Ordinary said by the celebrant?

  21. catholicuspater says:

    Here you go, Michael. I only cited one document before for the sake of brevity, but since you asked for more documentation, here it is.

    This is what the Popes of the last century have said on the matter.

    (By the way, our external participation is not based on usurping the role of the priest, but rather, as Vatican II states, is based on our baptismal sharing in the royal priesthood of Christ. That’s the teaching of the Council, basing itself on the previous teaching of the popes which is laid out below.)

    How do you disagree with these Popes have taught, starting with Pope St. Pius X? If you do disagree, please show me the relevant Roman documents. I don’t claim to be an expert, but it does seem pretty open and shut to me.

    Papal Encylicals Encouraging Active Participation in the Latin Mass

    1903 Pope Pius X Tra le sollicitudini
    Called for the assembled faithful “to draw that spirit from its primaryand indispensable source, that is, from active participation in the sacred mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.”
    ”Special efforts are to be made to restore the use of the Gregorian Chant by the people, so that the faithful may again take a more active part in the ecclesiastical offices, as was the case in ancient times.”

    1928 Pope Pius XI Divini cultis
    “It is most important that when the faithful assist at the sacred ceremonies, or when pious sodalities take part with the clergy in a procession, they should not be merely detached and silent spectators, but, filled with a deep sense of the beauty of the Liturgy, they should sing alternately with the clergy or the choir, as it is prescribed. If this is done, then it will no longer happen that the people either make no answer at all to the public prayers — whether in the language of the Liturgy or in the vernacular — or at best utter the responses in a low and subdued manner.

    1943 Pope Pius XII Mystici corporis
    “Since its Founder willed this social body of Christ to be visible, the cooperation of all its members must also be externally manifest through their profession of the same faith and their sharing the same sacred rites, through participation in the same Sacrifice, and the practical observance of the same laws.”

    1947 Pope Pius XII Mediator Dei
    “They also are to be commended who strive to make the liturgy even in an external way a sacred act in which all who are present may share. This can be done in more than one way, when, for instance, the whole congregation, in accordance with the rules of the liturgy, either answer the priest in an orderly and fitting manner, or sing hymns suitable to the different parts of the Mass, or do both, or finally in high Masses when they answer the prayers of the minister of Jesus Christ and also sing the liturgical chant.”

    1958 Pope Pius XII De Musica sacra
    “The participation of the congregation becomes more complete, however, when, in addition to this interior disposition, exterior participation is manifested by external acts, such as bodily position (kneeling, standing, sitting), ceremonial signs, and especially responses, prayers, and singing.”
    “Care must be taken that the faithful assist at low Mass, too, “not as strangers or mute spectators,” but as exercising that kind of participation demanded by so great, and fruitful a mystery.”

    1963 Vatican Council II Sacrosanctum Concilium
    “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.”
    “Care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”
    “To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.”

  22. MichaelJ says:

    catholicuspater ,

    You misunderstood what I was saying, especially if you think I am disagreeing with what the popes have taught.

    What I find interesting is that none of the documents you cite actually call for the laity to make any audible sounds at all. All seem to lay out the goal of more actual (not active) participation and list audible responses as one way this *may* be accomplished. One can avoid being a “detached and silent spectator” without making a sound at all.

    Again, I do not think it is necessarily a *bad* idea if the laity choose to participate in this way, but I will not go so far as to accuse someone who has a different opinion of “Disagreeing with what the Popes have taught”.

  23. Melody says:

    I was instructed by the Norbertine priests here that anything that is sometimes given to the choir may be spoken or sung by the laity at mass. The people here often sing in plainchant with the choir.

Comments are closed.