Your reactions to the Pontifical Mass in Washington – Part 2

I had asked readers for reactions to the Pontifical Mass in the Traditional, Extraordinary Form celebrated in Washington DC for the 5th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Benedict.

Here are some of your responses:

I arrived at 11:00 pm, with a long-time friend who loves the TLM. I have only been to about five or six EF Masses; this was my first Pontifical, as I am sure it was for many. I was touched by the evident grandeur of the Mass; the self-effacement that the old rubrics demand; the stunning regal beauty of the chanted scripture; the depth of seriousness at the ritual taking place rather far away, but distance could hardly stop me from participating in an extra-ordinary event – the arrival of Jesus Christ on his altar, at the humble hands of his priest. I was struck – deeply – by a fellow to my right, his wife in a wheelchair, as he comforted her, but when the elevation occurred, his face was rapt with love, adoration, reverence. All the while, your mantra of save the liturgy, save the world, hit home with the clean, antiseptic force of truth – God’s truth, borne in the mystery of the Bread, hidden, yet with the Faith of his Church, triumphant with holy hope, and the fire of his love.


I watched the Mass on EWTN, as I have been watching Masses on EWTN for twenty years.  This Mass is going to be the nail in the coffin on my being a Protestant, and I am a Lutheran clergyman. [Holy cow!  As a former Lutheran – though never a minister – all I can say is "Holy cow!"] What was it about this Mass in particular that makes me question being a Protestant to the point of leaving my work, my congregation, my church, my income?  I heard the Deacon chant Peter’s words, "Tu es Christus," and then Christ respond, "Tu es Petrus."  Simon addresses Jesus by the title of His office, and then Jesus addresses Simon by the title of his office.  Could it be simpler?  And all through the rest of the Mass, I heard in chant and polyphony, "Tu es Petrus," etc., and I can’t get it out of my mind and heart and soul.  As a Protestant, I have no Petrus.  Father, please pray that God give me the strength and docility to come home to Petrus, to be built on the Petrus on which Christ has built His Church! [Be assured of my prayers and several thousand others who will read this.]

Thanks for letting me express the life-changing nature of this Mass (not to mention the strength the Sermon gave me to suffer through this transition, united to Christ).

[That was amazing.]


  There is no way to put into words the awe-inspiring beauty of the Pontifical Mass. As I am only 15, this was first time that I witnessed a Pontifical Mass, and now I see why it was said the Pontifical Mass was the summit of all earthly beauty.  Truly, that liturgy was as close to Heaven as anything that I have ever experienced. Also, His Excellency’s sermon was truly inspiring.      I also thought it a very nice gesture that the Diocese sent thank-you emails out, to those who had posted comments of thanks to his Excellency.


We did have at least one very minor disruption at the Pontifical Mass. Thankfully, it seems to have gone almost totally unnoticed. I was near the back of the Church, on the right side, seated on the center aisle.  At one point, a girl came walking through carrying a hand-written sign that read something like “Open the files …” and then something else that I could not read. [I don’t know what the laws are in the D.C. but I suspect she broke a civil law by disturbing a religious ceremony.] She must have walked up the far left side, because she came to the center from the left through the first of the short aisles that separates the sets of pews, then walked down the center aisle and back to the doors.  Someone further back made a coughing sound and she stamped her feet as loudly as she could, but just once. And that was about all of it.  I didn’t see anything else after that. She might have been escorted out by the ushers. In fact, it may have been a challenge by an usher that brought about the foot-stamping.


I watched the Mass on EWTN both live and replay. I had to stay up late just to see it (12:30am here in the Philippines).

I used to "sneaked" on a local SSPX chapel for the extraordinary form. I got the impression it was forbidden when I was younger. I thought it to be so Catholic but couldn’t understand why it is so suppressed by Catholics in union with the Pope. Then I found your blog. Thank you Father.

I am so impressed of the Cappa Magna and understood better why it symbolized the dignity of a prelate. Seemed to me he is carrying a lot of weight, and he is. The vesting was great too. Knowing that people would not see the other vestments under the Chasuble, it struck me that all this is but a prayer, and the important thing is that God is glorified even in "secret". [Nice.] The bishop on the throne and his ministers seated lowly seemed to me shows the focus is on Christ, and not his priests. The celebrant as I understood is the alter Christus in the Mass, therefore those ministering to the prelate he be priest or lay gives due respect and would not by the rubrics take any attention for themselves, but always leading to Christ. (Though I am not sure all rubrics were followed.) Despite so many rituals, which at first glance looks so messy, it was a great showcase of Catholic Order and Mystery. It’s like God making a straight line from crooked dots.

The homily also struck me. A great example for so many priests and bishops. He sounded fatherly, and firm. I particularly liked the ending. It was indeed the truth, and all of us, should and must be saints in spite all of the mess. And just to add to the bishop’s words, at that Mass in the BNSIC, the Truth was there, was discussed, was performed, and was glorified.


Knowing that my wife would be at work, and I would be online (Skype) in a prayer and bible study group when the Mass aired, I recorded it (EWTN) and we watched it in the evening. Both of us are new Catholics in Seattle (will be received into full communion on Pentecost), and we were both overwhelmed by the great beauty and reverence of the Mass. Neither of us had previously experienced it, although we have experienced the Solemn High Mass in the Dominican Rite last All Souls’ Day. My wife was so taken by the experience that, the next day when she watched the telecast of Bp. Bambera’s installation, she couldn’t evade the feeling that something was missing. [Interesting.] It would not disappoint either of us one bit were our parish to celebrate Mass in the EF on a frequent and regular basis. It is a liturgy that draws one into worship of God more than any form either of us had previously experienced. And the commentary was very helpful in quickly educating us as to the various actions by the celebrants.


I am a student of the liturgy & Benedictine trained in high school.  I am also training as a Master of Ceremonies, and have been studying both Fortescue for the EF and Elliott for the OF.  I also attended a Pontifical Mass in Rome in October of 2008 for the canonization of four saints.

The entrance with the cappa magna was dramatic.  It was not entirely understandable why the bishop would enter in choir dress, then vest in other clothing to preside.  Regal dress does not always resonate with American democratic sensibilities.  It was impressive, but I would advise limited use of the vestment.

The program was user friendly and an excellent "liturgical aid".  It allowed me to understand and participate in the Mass, and I was never lost.  I noticed the typos, but attributed those to scanner problems.  The clip art could have been better.  I had better traditional Catholic clip art in our wedding program.

The music was excellent.  I was impressed by the number of choirs involved and the youth of their members.  What excellent training for the future.


I did not find the Mass to be any more reverent than the OF celebrated in Latin at St. John Cantius in Chicago.  Either Form can be reverent with the right attention to detail.  This is a great complement to the crew at St. John Cantius. [Indeed!]

I know the rubrics call for the readings in Latin.  I do wish, however, that they had been done in English. [But, you had no problem following the book…]

In light of claims that the EF missal ignores the Old Testament, [It doesn’t.] perhaps the rubrics should be adjusted so that the OF & EF are using the same missal.  Indeed, I thought this was already the case.  I was wrong.

I regretted that I could not hear the words of consecration.  [Were you unsure that they were said?  What you experienced in that moment is an indispensable apophatic dimension of worship.  This is something that must be present in our worship.] While the remainder of the Canon could have been sotto voce, I would have preferred to hear the words, rather than a bell to inform me that the consecration had occurred.  Other, traditionally minded Catholics, expressed the same sentiment. [Oh?]

From my study of the EF, I knew about bowing & tipping of the biretta in reverence for the Holy Name and other words.  I thought, however, that in could be distracting to have to listen to the homily so closely for the name "Jesus" that one could miss the content of the homily. [How can you be distracted by listening to the homily by listening to the homily?]

In light of these issues, rather than have the EF inform the OF, perhaps both Forms can inform one another. [Perhaps.  Time will tell.]


Having only been Catholic for a year and change, this was the first Extraordinary Form mass I had ever seen.

1. It was beautiful.  Visually beautiful things can be an aid to worship, not a distractionI wasn’t distracted. [Indeed, important things are conveyed through "signs".] There was a rich, historical beauty and dignity.

2. I had no trouble following along.  With a year’s worth of masses in English under my belt, I had no difficulty figuring it out through context.  Is it really that hard?  (As an aside, I am baffled by people who think others illiterate if they are not at least bilingual, but claim not to be able to follow the Latin mass.  Double standard?)

3. I wish my area had more Traditional Latin Mass options.  Sadly, on this part of the Gulf Coast, it has been done badly when it has been done at all.  It seems that the young people of the church are the ones bringing it back, however.  The Catholic student group has a Latin mass every week and it is well done for such a small group.  It’s quietly tucked away on a weeknight.  One day I hope it will be on Sunday.

The church where I was confirmed…well…to put this as graciously as possible without further ellipses abuse, is a display of Novus Ordo awkwardness.  The seventies had left their mark in a bad way.  There are wreaths where statues should be!  I still attend but oh, sitting on my sofa watching the Pontifical Mass did give me hope.


I have led a schola for the Traditional Mass for the past 2 years, and am thus very familiar with traditional liturgy. I viewed the internet broadcast of the Pontifical Mass, and the thing I liked least of all was the commentary (be it known I have the utmost respect for the commentators and mean no offense). I can see how it would be helpful for some, but personally I found it distracted from what was taking place. I really wanted to hear the chants and the motets being sung, and also the lesson and Gospel being chanted, but the commentary really got in the way. I think textual translations would be better if the text was displayed at the bottom of the screen. [That wasn’t what they chose to do.] Perhaps it was better with the television broadcast. [And for thousands of non-Catholics who also saw the broadcast, not to mention people who don’t have your background.] I firmly believe we must let the liturgy speak for itself. If the Mass is eventually made available on DVD, I would suggest they offer the option to view it with or without commentary. 
Aside from that, I found the Pontifical Liturgy to be absolutely wonderful and deeply edifying. I was unable to be there in person, but I will make every effort to be present for such events in the future. God bless Bishop Slattery! Ad multos annos!


If you would care to write some reactions to the Pontifical Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the anniversary of the Holy Father’s pontificate… if you watched it on TV or especially if you were there in person… whether you are a lay person or cleric… whether you were a server or observer….  I would be pleased to receive your thoughts by E-MAIL.

  • Please keep them short, to the point…. maybe 200 words?
  • Please say in what manner you participated.
  • (IMPORTANT) Please put in the e-mail’s SUBJECT LINE… just…: My thoughts on the Pontifical Mass

I am particularly interested in the reactions of those for whom this was their first encounter in some way with a Mass in the older, traditional form.

I probably won’t respond to your e-mails.  I may not post yours.  I will read it. 

Thanks in advance and brick by brick!


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  1. Scarlett says:

    “I regretted that I could not hear the words of consecration. [Were you unsure that they were said? What you experienced in that moment is an indispensable apophatic dimension of worship. This is something that must be present in our worship.] While the remainder of the Canon could have been sotto voce, I would have preferred to hear the words, rather than a bell to inform me that the consecration had occurred.”

    What if the words of consecration hadn’t been said? Not that I think it’s an issue in this case, I’ve been at NO Masses where, purely accidentally, the words of consecration were misspoken – and I knew, because I could hear them. While I doubt there would ever be intentional liberties taken with the Consecration at a Pontifical Mass, isn’t there a downside to the faithful believing themselves to have actually received the Eucharist when, in fact, the bishop has “slipped up” and the Consecration wasn’t valid?

  2. Hieronymus says:

    To Scarlett and the “student of the lirurgy”,

    It is HIGHLY doubtful that a priest is going to botch the words of consecration by accident. The risk is too low to compel such a significant change to the Mass — indeed, the silent canon is one of the landmark features of the classical Roman Rite that traditionalists love (though perhaps not the “tradition minded catholics” to which Student alludes). It was maintained thus for centuries upon centuries by people who had a far more Catholic understanding of the liturgy and the world than we have today.

    In fact, if I may, I would like to give a tip of the hat (for I have no biretta) to Fr. Dominic Holtz, OP, (professor at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, and soon to be teaching at the Angelicum in Rome), who offered his first public Mass in the classical form yesterday in Indiana; he provided the following, very insightful commentary in the program that he put together for the event (emphasis mine):

    This [the Canon] is the most sacred part of the whole Mass, in which, through the ministry of the priest acting and speaking in the person of Christ the Head of the Church, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Because of the intensity and depth of this prayer, unlike very recent practice, the prayer is said silently, so that not even the servers, but only the priest himself can hear the words. A bell is rung once to announce the coming consecration, and again at the consecration itself, thrice for the Host and thrice for the Chalice, so that the faithful may honor and praise their Lord sacramentally present in the Eucharist. During the consecration itself, there is no other sound or song, only the profound silence of God’s intimate presence in the Sacrament. Later in the Canon, the priest will say the words ‘Nobis quoque peccatoribus’, alerting the faithful of the coming conclusion of this august prayer.

    The silence adds a solemnity that no human sound, however beautiful, can surpass. It is my deepest desire that people coming into the traditional Mass from the new would see the ancient rite for what it is — thoroughly and profoundly Catholic, formed throughout the centuries and embodying a deep insight into the nature of man and his God. If there is a conflict between our feelings and that Mass, the imperfection very likely lies with us. WE should be doing the changing, allowing the Mass to form us into Saints — as it has done for so many in the past.

  3. haleype says:

    The impact of this Mass is being felt far and wide because of what it signifies and because of its solemn beauty. If ETWN would have the TLM at their chapel on a daily basis, I believe it would do wonders for the Faith of millions. What is so inspiring is that once a person experiences a Mass such as this, they don’t want anything less. As a cradle catholic born in 1941, I can tell you that even the “Low” Mass is like a magnet whose force you cannot break no matter how hard you try. It starts out with us on our knees and progresses up to the Altar and thence to our God who forms Himself in bread and wine and comes back down to us in holy communion. If that doesn’t inspire awe and admiration, nothing will.

  4. teevor says:

    I’m not sure I understand the sentiment, expressed by “student of the liturgy” that the mass in the OF is “just as reverent,” if done properly. Either this means that the rubrics of the liturgy are just as reverent, or that ultimately reverence is derived from the ceremonial, aesthetic aspects of the liturgy.
    Granting that the increased use of silence may just be a matter of taste, one of the points Father Z has recently mentioned when speaking of the EF prayers, is the overt language of self effacement and humility. Humility is reverence by definition. This is especially evident in the EF compared to the OF in the richer and more symbolic penitential right and prayers at the foot of the altar. Such language of being unworthy is present throughout the EF where it is otherwise missing in the OF. This would seem to be the most overt example, to my mind, why the EF is in fact more reverent.
    Turning to the aesthetic side of things; while it is true that the celebration of the OF can be meticulously informed by the EF, in fact it very seldom is, and when it is, it is done consciously usually by people who have a familiarity with both forms anyway. I’ve often heard statements exactly to this effect, that the OF ‘can be just as reverent as the EF if done properly.’ This raises the question as to why bother? Why do we feel the need to make this argument?
    Even those who make this argument nevertheless refer to the EF in such a way that it is the benchmark of reverent liturgy. Furthermore, it fulfills this role of benchmark not through a process of subjective ‘enrichment’ but by default, just through following the books. I expect that at the root of this hesitancy over fully embracing the EF as superior, is a sort of ultra-montanism. These people, I think find it difficult to accept that the OF isn’t somehow necessary or more valid as public worship, because it’s been promulgated as the norm. Yet as we have seen, the OF is not the fruit of the Council at all, but a distortion of it.
    It seems a much wiser course, therefore, to acknowledge the superiority of the EF and, if we feel them necessary, advocate for the limited reforms that the Council fathers actually saw fit to recommend.

  5. Phil says:

    Regarding the commentary during Mass: I recognize that those with certain backgrounds did not need the commentary. I am such a person. That being said, Fr.Z and Fr. Goodwin did a magnificent job and kept a wonderful balance. It was nice that Fr.Z waited awhile before giving the epistle and Gospel in English so that the Chant could be heard. Very good job indeed, guys, and I am sure that many people–even traditional Catholics–found things very helpful in the commentary and probably learned things they didn’t know before.
    Regarding the silence of the Canon: I would have to say the opposite as the person who wished the Consecration was out loud and the rest of the Canon in silence. Even if the rest was out loud, the consecration should be in silence since it a moment so deep, so holy, so transcendent that any form of speech at all would cheapen it. It is a moment that words cannot describe. God was in the whisper of the wind, after all.

  6. I think that “student of the liturgy” was simply using this opportunity to post the “reform of the reform” program. In other words, his “reaction” occurred long before the Pontifical Mass.

  7. Maltese says:

    *I watched the Mass on EWTN, as I have been watching Masses on EWTN for twenty years. This Mass [Traditional Latin Mass] is going to be the nail in the coffin on my being a Protestant, and I am a Lutheran clergyman.*

    Well, Paul VI said one of his reasons for concocting the new mass was to make it more palatable to protestants:

    (Original Latin Mass Magazine web article unavailable)

    Though he got contraception right, he fumbled–big time–on the mass. Heretics don’t admire us, Catholics, for our succoring self-deprecating, self-hating and always-apologetic selves, they admire us (when they do admire, though we were born to be hated, as Christ Himself said) for our Truth. The burning Truth that Vatican II tried to deflame a bit. But you can’t water-away Truth in Christ’s Church, because He formed it, and He flames the fire of Truth within it.

  8. Agnes of Prague says:

    Praised be Jesus and Mary! Dear soon-ex-Lutheran clergyman, I am praying for you. God bless and Mary keep you.

  9. Sedgwick says:

    Farewell, Novus Ordo. Farewell, Novus Ordodox. Farewell, Freemason Bugnini and your 6 Protestant advisors. Farewell, Spirit of Vatican II. Farewell, aggiornamento. Farewell, full, conscious and active participation. Farewell, Marty Haugen. Farewell, WE believe. Farewell, “And also with you.” Farewell, extraordinary monsters of Communion. Farewell, Communion standing and in the hand. Farewell, versus populum. Farewell, pass the peace ‘n justice. Farewell, 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

    And don’t let the thurible hit you on the way out.

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