Scotland: Antiquity confers solemnity in shape of Latin mass

Here is something from The Herald of Scotland with my emphases and comments:

Antiquity confers solemnity in shape of Latin mass

Cate Devine

Published on 17 Jan 2010

Attending a traditional Latin mass in Glasgow yesterday was a chilling experience.

There was no heating ["chilling"… get it?] in the Sacred Heart RC church in Bridgeton, a vast 100-year-old building in the bosom of a parish first established in 1873.

Perhaps that was because there were only 31 of us in the congregation, but being freezing cold certainly helped focus the mind. After all, they do say austerity is good for the soul.

I was curious to remind myself what mass used to be like, following a debate about how the liturgy is celebrated. This was revealed in the Herald on Saturday, and has been sparked by Pope Benedict XVI’s imminent visit to Scotland.

It was the first time I’d been at Latin mass since I was a child in the 1960s, pre-Vatican Council II, and boy did I have to concentrate. Hard. [Good.  But I suggest that it takes even harder work to stay focused during most Novus Ordo Masses.]

Although I attended a convent school, have a Latin O-Grade and studied French at University, the rhythmic delivery of our affable celebrant was difficult to follow. Yet the church was in total silence: this being low mass, there was no singing or any participation in the liturgy, apart from responding to Mgr Hugh Boyle’s familiar repetitions of “Dominus Vobiscum”.  [WRONG.  There was plenty of participation!  The writer herself said that she had to concentrate.  That is a deeper and necessary form of participation than mere outward activity.]

Traditional Latin Mass is said with the priest facing the altar rather than the congregation. [And thus toward the liturgical East.] This is to help us focus on the altar, the symbol of Christ’s perfect sacrifice to his Father’s will. [Well… close… actually Someone beyond the altar, but okay.] Thus is the mass depersonalised. [It is perhaps Personalized, in the sense of being directed to the divine Person of the High Priest Jesus Christ rather than the person of the priest.] As Father genuflects and kisses the altar more frequently than usual, the sense of reverence is palpable.

By the term “Latin mass”, I mean traditional mass said in the Extraordinary Form – that is, the old rite, according to the Roman Missal of l962, before Vatican Council II. It is better known as Tridentine Mass. The version that most modern Catholics are familiar with is the Ordinary Form, or new mass, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

In Scotland there has been a resurgence of interest in, and the practice of, the Latin mass[Do I hear an "Amen!"?] yet traditional Latin mass was effectively re-instated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. In his apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum the Holy Father said that there were two forms of expression of the Roman Rite of the Mass, effectively decreeing that all priests were now free to choose whether to offer the Tridentine Mass or the new mass.

However, the majority of parishes in Scotland don’t offer Latin mass, and some Scottish bishops are not in favour of it. [And their ages would beeeee…] This, say traditionalists, contradicts not only Benedict but even the late Pope John Paul II, who in 1988 asked bishops to actively support those who felt “attached to the Latin liturgical tradition”.

The anticipated visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Scotland in September therefore highlights a problem. If as expected the Holy Father will want to celebrate mass, could it be in the Extraordinary Form[Hmmm….]

The majority of his concelebrants, and therefore their congregations, do not know the liturgy in Latin. Unlike 73-year-old Mgr Boyle, who has celebrated Latin mass throughout his ministry, if not always in public, younger priests will not have learned liturgical Latin.

Father Stephen Dunn, the 48-year-old parish priest at Sacred Heart in Bridgeton, started saying mass in Latin only last May, having made what he calls a “concerted effort” to learn it since 2007. [NB:] Ordained in 1994, he says he feels “bullied and suppressed” by the Glasgow Archdiocese’s “reluctance to accept” the Pope’s 2007 decree, as shown in Archbishop Conti’s response to it in a letter to Glasgow’s priests on August 10, 2007, in which he questioned the need for it.

Yet as I was about to rediscover yesterday, it’s not just the fact that it’s said in Latin that makes the Extraordinary Form so different. The entire structure of the Mass is almost recognisable from what it is today[Ummm… I think she meant unrecognizable.  But…. go on…]

The first thing I noticed on entering Sacred Heart were the altar railings.  [Altar rails are not part of the structure of the Mass.] These are a rarity in Catholic churches, because most were removed post-Vatican II to facilitate the taking of the Host from the priest at Holy Communion and self-administering it. [NO! NO! NO!  That is NOT why they were removed.  It is actually easier to distribute Communion at an altar rail.   Rails were removed for theological/ideological reasons, not for practical reasons.  But notice her language: "taking" the Host… not "receiving".] The traditional mass, by contrast, encourages us to kneel and be given Communion as we did in the old days because it helps engender a greater sense of reverence for the sacrament, and humility to God[Sounds like a pretty good reason to me.]

We’re reminded that only baptised Catholics, and those in the state of grace, are invited to receive Holy Communion. This is to remind us that we are sinners and to encourage us to attend Confession[Dear, we are sinners after confession too.]

Nobody recites the Creed except the priest, and he says most of the Offertory quietly to himself. The Canon – the very heart of the mass, as it leads to the Consecration – is also silent. There is only one form of the Canon, though there are four options in the new mass.

There are no tambourines or guitars, and no lay church members stepping on to the altar. [Do I hear and "Amen!"?]

Everything is in the priest’s gift, which leaves us free to take from mass what we’re meant to[Hmmm… not quite sure what this means.  I think it means that because no one is shoving outward participation or music, etc., down your throat, you can participate more freely.  You are not compelled to be doing stuff or singing everything.  However, this is NOT about what the priest gives.  It is all about what the Priest gives, Jesus Christ.]

It does at first feel stern and authoritarian, but in the end I was humbled by Latin mass, and felt awed by its solemn simplicity. It forced me turn in on myself and to examine my conscience in a way that, for better or for worse, reminded me what being a Catholic is really all about. As soon as I returned home, I felt compelled to look out my childhood Catechism and to re-learn the fundamentals of my faith.  [Wow.  Wonderful!]

Yes, I could warm to it. If they turned up the heating a bit.  [Indeed.  Good point.  I hope at that parish they are able to pay the bills.   Be generous in the collection, folks!]



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  1. Magpie says:

    ”t forced me turn in on myself and to examine my conscience in a way that, for better or for worse, reminded me what being a Catholic is really all about.”

    ^ I agree. I am convinced that when we worship God correctly, reverently, and properly, our soul will be much more likely correctly ordered in our relationship with God. I think the EF Mass, and indeed the OF done ‘rite’ can both achieve this. It is an exciting time to be involved in the Church, I just wish things would move just a little faster. A crucifix on the altar would be a good start. I’d buy it myself if I thought it would be used.

  2. Melania says:

    How wonderful that Ms. Devine was not blinded by ideology and was actually able to experience the Latin Mass and report on it honestly without genuflecting in the direction of various liberal groups. That’s rare where I am.

    I remember when the NO Mass was introduced. I had thought it would be just a humane alternative to the TLM for those people and in those settings where it was thought it might be more effective than the TLM in bringing people closer to God (Africa?). As an alternative, I was in favor of its introduction.

    However, in practice, it meant a complete banishment of the TLM. I and others were totally bewildered by this move. It seemed shocking, brutal, insensitive. It was a complete disruption of people’s spiritual lives / patterns of worship. It seemed to turn the focus away from God and toward “community building” whatever that was. The sense of mystery, the sense of the church as a holy place where one could quietly pray was diminished measurably. It was a great loss and, as it seemed to delegitimize the TLM which had been the only form for centuries, it greatly lessened the authority of the Church.

    In the NO’s favor, however, I must say I do like the new lectionary.

    I’m glad Ms. Devine was prompted to return to her catechism, or even better consult the new catechism. She may learn that what is important is what Christ is doing at Mass rather than what the priest is doing.

  3. Brusselscalling says:

    I had the good fortune to attend Mass in the extraordinary form in this church in Glasgow on the Sunday after Christmas. It was a wonderful experience (and the heating was on!) Mass is also celebrated in Latin ad orientem in the ordinary form at St Patrick’s Church, Anderston, Glasgow, each Sunday at 4 pm. Scotland (or at least the parish in which God gave me the grace to grow up there) was to a large extent spared many of the excesses of the liturgical “renewal” of the 1960s and 70s. Indeed, had I not moved to the liturgical wasteland that is Brussels in the early 1990s it would not have crossed my mind to seek out the older form of Mass as my celebration of choice. Please God the new archbishop of Brussels, Mgr Leonard, will take the liturgical chaos here in hand. Please pray for us!

  4. Pelicanus says:

    As a reader on the ground I can comment on one or two of the points raised:

    I can’t agree with the writer’s view that the practice of the TLM has increased in Scotland. There are still only four Sunday Masses in the whole country, no more than before the Motu Proprio and far fewer per head of Catholic population than in England and Wales.

    If Father is suggesting that it is the old bishops who are the most resistant the reality is that the most so is one of the youngest and in general most of the bishops are ambivalent at best. There is little hope amongst those who desire the extraordinary form in their parishes will receive the support of the bishop to meet their request and similarly their is a reluctance even among the most orthodox clergy to put their heads over the parapet.

    It seems that the reality is that the Scottish clergy wish to pretend that they remain out of reach of Rome on the north-western fringes of Europe and that they need a jolt from Rome at their ad limina next month and perhaps a visit from the Holy Father. As Damian Thompson notes, the behaviour of the hierarchy in terms of the lack of enthusiasm for the proposed visit would seem to support the idea that they are not keen.

    So we must pray that the ad limina visit goes well and that solutions are found for the various problems, and that the Holy Father himself comes to Scotland to refresh our love for Rome. Wherever you are in the world, please pray for Scotland, in union with Ss. Andrew, Ninian, Columba, Margaret, David, John Ogilvie and all the Scottish saints. Pray for us!

  5. SonofMonica says:

    This doesn’t address the central theme of the post, but I thought I’d offer my opinion that Pope Benedict will not offer Mass in the EF when he travels there. Why? Well, because I think some in attendance will have some negative things to say about it. It’s not just that some don’t support the Latin Mass, it’s also that most Catholics have no idea it even still exists. At the very least, I doubt the average Catholic understands that the rubrics and form of the Mass is different in the EF. The last thing the Pope wants is a headline reading something clever like “Scotland: Pope’s Use of Medieval Latin Liturgy Causes ‘Mass Confusion.'” You know the Times UK would jump all over the chance to come out with some sensationalist article like that.

  6. Chris says:

    As a former Glaswegian I can confirm that Sacred Heart is indeed a cold church but if it could be repaired it would be a magnificent church. When I was last in Scotland I drove my parents along to the Mass there and when I was a younger lad I spent my weekends on the river Clyde at Glasgow Green, which is very near by. The congregation seems to be a mix of young and old but was sadly short of young families when I was there. God willing, articles such as this will create some interest in the local community before the Pope’s visit.

  7. kradcliffe says:

    They do have problems paying the heating bill. The building is in dire need of repair, with peeling paint and other issues. Also, the parish comes under attack from anti-Catholic neighbours, who shout abuse at the rectory windows, scrawl obscene graffiti on the doors, scratch cars parked outside,and once even tried to poison the then-parish priest’s dog.

  8. StMalachy says:

    kradcliffe, considering the sectarian hellhole that is Bridgeton, its a miracle that Sacred Heart even exists.

    Fr Z, fortunately +Conti of Glasgow is 75 in 61 days. Not that I’m counting of course. Unfortunately, +Tartaglia, of neighbouring Paisley, who is an even bigger stumbling block, is only 58. I know for a fact that there is a group in Paisley who have been politely asking for a TLM for the last two years but +Tartaglia has decided it’s within his remit to refuse that request.

  9. Choirmaster says:

    If as expected the Holy Father will want to celebrate mass, could it be in the Extraordinary Form?

    Could it be that the Holy Father has not celebrated Mass in the Extraordinary Form because he has not been properly petitioned under the auspices of Summorum Pontificum? (I’m not implying that he is “holding out” on any one, but that he is sticking to his own framework).

    I know about the complications of a Papal High Mass, but that is in no way an insurmountable obstacle (if “obstacle” is even the right phrase). Is there an hypothetical situation where a petition could be submitted to the Holy Father for an EF Mass in Scotland?

  10. Pelicanus says:

    StMalachy: Everything you say is very true, except that +Conti will, in fact, be 76 in 61 days time.

    It is a point that he very much bucks the trend of bishops in their early seventies being willing to give anything for the immediate peace and tranquility of a presbytery on the west coast of Ireland.

    I will also volunteer a piece of hearsay: Pope Benedict has no intention of celebrating the TLM personally.

  11. The Cellarer says:

    “considering the sectarian hellhole that is Bridgeton”

    Fr Dunn was attacked in the street in 2005 –

  12. Hans says:

    [And their ages would beeeee…]

    Since you asked, here are the bishops (ordinaries) of Scotland, when they were born, and when they became (arch)bishop of their current diocese. (Which data are from

    Archbishop Mario Joseph Conti, Archbishop of Glasgow, Born 1934, Archbishop since 2002.

    Bishop Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell, Born 1937, Bishop since 1983.

    Bishop Philip Tartaglia, Bishop of Paisley, Born 1951, Bishop since 2005.

    Keith Michael Patrick Cardinal O’Brien, Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal-Priest of Ss. Gioacchino ed Anna al Tuscolano, Born 1938, Archbishop since 1985, Cardinal since 2003.

    Bishop Peter Antony Moran, Bishop of Aberdeen, Born 1935, Bishop since 2003.

    Bishop Joseph Anthony Toal, Bishop of Argyll and The Isles, Born 1956, Bishop since 2008.

    Bishop Vincent Paul Logan, Bishop of Dunkeld, Born 1941, Bishop since 1981.

    Bishop John Cunningham, Bishop of Galloway, Born 1938, Bishop since 2004.

  13. Hans says:

    kradcliffe wrote, “They do have problems paying the heating bill. The building is in dire need of repair, with peeling paint and other issues.

    They also have a web site; at the bottom of the page is a link for donations, where it says they have more than £1,000,000 in repairs needed. “Cheques payable to Sacred Heart Parish, Bridgeton.” They don’t seem set up for donations in other ways.

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