Your reactions to the Pontifical Mass in Washington

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:

Being 16 years old I had never seen this type of Mass celebrated before. I love how the Latin Mass is celebrated even though I have never been to one in my life! I liked it when they put the vestments on the Bishop , and the procession. I only saw about one hour of the mass on EWTN but I thought it was pretty cool. More of our Bishops should do this type of thing. However I can’t imagine Cardinal Mahony wearing some traditional vestments[Let’s pray for that.]


The Pontifical Mass was my first experience of Mass in the older form. I was very fortunate to be able to view the entire Mass on EWTN. I especially enjoyed your commentary and also that of the other priest (unfortunately I don’t recall his name.) [Fr. Goodwin of the FSSP.] The commentary was just right – not too much and just enough to instruct.

The Mass was a profound, mystical experience despite the fact that wasn’t there in person. Everything from the vestments to the beautiful singing by the choirs was an encounter with mystery we hope to have at each Mass.

Just a few things I noticed and enjoyed:

   1.       the removal of birettas at the mention of Jesus’ name
   2.       the vesting prayers
   3.       the blessed silence
   4.      Bishop Slattery’s homily – naturally!

Yes, I would love to be able to attend a traditional Mass. I also realized that my own dear parish priest does a wonderful job celebrating the NO Mass. Seeing this Mass made me appreciate that “my” priest is also a very humble man who does indeed do his very best to make worship a mystical experience.

Thank you, Father, and may God bless you for all you do to add “soul” to the internet.


I brought a co-worker of mine who is a very traditionalist Russian Orthodox (outside of Russia).  He is quite anti-Catholic, even for an Orthodox.  He thinks the Latin Patriarchy is in schism from Orthodoxy, and in heresy due to filioque. 

Anyway, he had never been to a TLM before.  He was awestruck with it.  He noticed how similar the basic order and some details were to the Divine Liturgy.  He gathered a new respect for the Latin Rite and the Catholic Church he never had before.  He even got respect for our ability to kneel (he is wont to brag about his ability to stand for long periods).  This was truly ecumenism at work, all because our Catholic identity was strengthened.

I then took him on a Shrine tour (I went to CUA and know the place well).  His face sunk when he saw the Cranmer table returned to the sanctuary.

Oh well.  Brick by brick.

I’m also the guy who let you into the bar ahead of me at the Dubliner as an act of filial piety to my blog chaplain. [Thanks!]


I attended the Solemn Pontifical Mass and later watched most of it from a TiVo’d recording. It was the first Pontifical Mass I have ever attended and it was absolutely magnificent!  I am profoundly grateful to all who made possible that glorious celebration of the Mass!  What we were unable to see at the Mass was the actual vesting of the celebrant after the procession in the cappa magna. That was seen on EWTN and it was wonderfully educational. I very much hope that EWTN and the Paulus Institute can make available a DVD of that Mass. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] I would purchase several copies for myself and family.

I live in the DC area and have attended many Masses at the Shrine. Not long after Summorum Pontificum was issued, I visited the office of the rector, and also approached staff at a Shrine information table, regarding the possibility of celebrating any Extraordinary Form Masses, perhaps at least in the Crypt Church.  I was assured that it was highly unlikely that any such Masses would ever be celebrated at the Shrine. My thought at that time was that they had vastly underestimated the desire for the “old Mass.”  I think that is essentially what was demonstrated at the Saturday Mass. There is a strong desire for it, but more importantly, not only among “nostalgic, older” Catholics (like me). There were many, many young people, and families with young children, and many young women and girls with mantillas and chapel veils.  My gratitude for the celebration of the Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Great Upper Church on Saturday extends also to the Shrine rector and staff, and to the gift shop, which had, prominently placed, a new selection of quality Spanish lace mantillas!

I will mention also a story I heard some years ago. I have no idea whether it is all true or not. I attended a solemn Novus Ordo Mass (do not now recall whether it was Latin or not) in the Crypt Church at the Shrine some years ago. As best I recall, it was an anniversary Mass for a cardinal, and I think it was Cardinal Baum.  What I heard was that the cardinal had asked permission that his anniversary Mass be celebrated as a traditional Latin Mass (now the EF Mass), but that his request was refused.  If that is true, then I am also particularly gratified that Cardinal Baum was able to attend the Saturday Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Great Upper Church. I also read that our Archbishop Donald Wuerl was instrumental in the decision of Bishop Slattery to celebrate our Mass, and if true, for that I am also deeply grateful.

And what I managed to forget to convey to you at the blognic: THANK YOU, Father Zuhlsdorf, for everything YOU do for us.  I know it has to be a great deal of work, but it keeps some of us sane.   [You are welcome.]


While I would have loved to have been there in person, I watched the Pontifical Mass at the National Shrine on EWTN.

While I usually prefer the Novus Ordo Mass ad orientem in Latin, I am very supportive of  Mass in the Extraordinary Form as I believe it has a positive effect on the Ordinary Form as well.  This particular Mass was particularly inspiring to me.  The music was very well executed (from the children’s choir before the Mass, the schola, and the organ) and Bishop Slattery’s homily was one of the best I had heard and very apropos, considering the current state of the Church.   Current liturgical directives state that the cappa magna should only be used for very solemn occasions, and this was certainly an appropriate time to use it.  It was the first time I had the opportunity to see it used.  The presence of His Eminence, Cardinal Baum, was icing on the cake.  All in all, it was the best Mass I had ever seen celebrated at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

That said, I would have preferred that Bishop Slattery had made use of the microphone for the singing of the orations (Collect and Post-Communion).  I would have also preferred that the propers of the Mass been in Gregorian Chant [They were.  The Ordinary was in polyphony, however.] and not polyphony, but that’s just my personal preference.  I was disappointed, but not surprised, to not see more bishops in attendance.

I am confident that this Mass will have far reaching positive influences on the liturgical life of the Church in the United States and am thankful to all who made this significant event in the life of our Church happen.


I watched the mass on TV. This was my second encounter with the Tridentine Rite. I was blown away by it! The solemnity of the ritual was amazing – the multiple processions – the formality – the wonderful progression into the silence and awe of the consecration –  the glorious music – oh that music!!!!! – the sermon – such preaching – so uplifting – it was just astounding. The commentary was very helpful and answered quite a few questions for me. How on earth was this abandoned for what passes for liturgy in so many places now?  I thank the Almighty for our beloved Pope!


I recorded the Mass and watched it later Saturday afternoon.
I am 53 and have little recall of the traditional Mass.  It is all pretty new to me.
My reactions:
I was absorbed by the spectacle.  The vestments ,“liturgical dance” as you aptly put it, and the music.  It brought home that our current Mass is more Protestant than Catholic. No wonder people, like my own dad, were so distraught when everything was changed!  It is such a striking difference!  [So many things were imposed on people who had never asked for any of the changes.]
 I also thought, as I was viewing, that this Mass would never be accepted by the general Catholic populace again. Many things seemed too fussy and distracting to me, such as the doffing of birettas.  And the readings in Latin? I can’t see it happening. 
 However, I can see how some things we have lost could be/should be brought back, like kneeling for communion.  In fact, the Dominican parish in Youngstown,Ohio is reinstalling the altar rail next week, and this will become a reality there!  I can’t wait!  I was happy to see some young Dominicans in attendance…There is a small movement in the Eastern Province to relearn the old Dominican rite…brick by brick.


I attended the mass on Saturday with my wife. We’re new Catholics, and attend a parish in Northern Virginia. We’ve been to three masses (one high) in the extraordinary form before Saturday. Granted, we were seated near the very back, so it was somewhat difficult to see the front of the church.

I’d like to share two impressions with you.

First, the homily was stunning. It was the first time I had heard/seen a homily delivered from a chair, and I think that the bishop’s position (and the position of those scattered around him) heightened the majestic feeling of the whole thing. For whatever reason, it struck me that I was indeed listening to a successor of the apostles who passed on the faith, once delivered.

Second, it occurred to me that what was going on at the altar was very important. Granted, I believe this on a theological level at any mass, but I really believed it in a different way on Saturday. It was somehow easier to understand that I was truly observing a very sacred mystery.


My brief background is that I was baptized and raised catholic.  I attended the Catholic Church until college.  I’ve been an Evangelical since 1981.  I live in the Washington DC suburbs with my wife and three children and attend a large conservative Evangelical church.  There’s a lot more to the journey but I want to be brief.  I keep up and enjoy yours and other conservative Catholic blogs.  I’ve never been to a TLM and this was the first entire one that I’ve watch on TV.  I watched the encore presentation on EWTN.

OBSERVATION #1 – No Dispute that this was Catholic
The reverence, the prayers, the clergy, the “participation”, the homily, all revealed the strong history and identity of the Catholic Faith.  No question.   Compare this to a Mass “in the round” in a “gathering space”.   I truly watched with a prayerful heart being more aware of my need for God with each moment.  It drew my heart closer to our Saviour.

OBVERSATION #2 – What’s so difficult to understand about the TLM?
I had no difficulty understanding what was going on at all.  Your commentaries did help but even without them I’m baffled on what the whole kerfuffle is regarding the TLM.  “It’s so hard to understand”, “I don’t know Latin”, “it’s too much ritual”, yatta, yatta, yatta.  I was expecting something so foreign but it made total sense to me.

Anyone who has gone to the NO and knows the prayers and order of the Mass (in English) can easily follow along in my opinion.  I had no trouble at all and I didn’t have a Missal to follow.  Sure there are some differences.  But you don’t need to know Latin to experience God in the Mass.  As previously stated, the beauty, mystery, and history of the TLM drew me into a deeper revelation of God.


I viewed the Pontifical Mass on EWTN.  Having never assisted at an EF Mass of such grandeur, the experience was wonderful.  While I thanked God for Bishop Slattery and his wonderful homily, the Mass also made me grateful for the Holy Father.  When he was elected, I feared he was not charismatic enough to bring non-believers into the Church.  Masses like this demonstrate his brilliance: liturgy that can unite us with God will win more converts than anything a Pope could say. [See my Liturgico-Political Manifesto.]

The Mass also made me decide to find and contribute to a traditional liturgical music group.  While I appreciate the quiet beauty of Low Mass, the music at the Pontifical Mass made it truly spectacular.  I would like to help spread the EF, and as a happily married man, music seems like a good way to do this.

While I wish I could have been in Washington, the TV commentary added much to the Mass.  Without it, I wouldn’t have appreciated many of the details that make a Pontifical Mass so unique.  I hope the Paulus Institute releases the Mass on DVD. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]


I watched the Pontifical Mass on EWTN when it was rebroadcast in the wee hours on Monday morning. It was the first time I had experienced anything of the sort, and it was a truly uplifting and eye-opening experience for me. To keep things brief, I just want to point out two things I learned from the event (even though I could write a lot about the whole experience).

1. During the vesting of the bishop before the mass, I was at first taken aback by what seemed like the worldliness of it all to me. One of the commentators mentioned that "the bishop doesn’t do this for his own glory but for God’s" and at first I reacted the way any red-blooded American college-aged male would: I thought it smacked of self-aggrandizement, with the cappa magna and the lace, and the assisting priests doing everything while Bp. Slattery looked on. But I began to think about how I can’t even bear to wear a button up shirt and tie, and I thought, "You know, if I were called to vest myself in that way, I would feel very burdened and a little silly, but I would do it for the solemnity of the occasion, to honor Christ." It really made me think about how even though a lot of Catholic tradition may seem worldly and self-seeking, I think it’s because our society gone the opposite direction of idealizing the "down-to-earth" and the "folksy" (and denigrating anything "uppity"), which is surely not how we should approach the Maker of Heaven and Earth!

2. The fact that the EWTN broadcast featured commentary explaining every moment and gesture and formality showed just how rich the liturgy is. I can understand why people suggest that the complicatedness of it all kept the average laymen unknowing historically, but in our age of mass communication and with the ease of education that our technology engenders, I think we should be actively pursuing the richest expressions of our faith and making sure people have access to the widest range of catechetical information possible. Just watching the two-and-a-half hours or so of the EWTN broadcast taught me more about the mass than I imagined I could ever learn, and it’s sad that the Church’s catechists don’t make fuller use of these technologies to bring to life every moment of the mass and every aspect of our faith. I felt closer to God, in a way, by watching this Pontifical Mass online than I often do even when I’m physically present at mass, and it’s a shame that some suggest that these "stilted" masses keep people away from God – quite the opposite!


The Mass was beautiful. I learned a few things, such as that a bishop processes in a long cape. Never knew that before. The music and the audible liturgy was salve for the heart. And, of course, Bishop Slattery’s homily was everything one hopes to hear in church but seldom does. I will keep a copy and read it over many times I’m sure. He is a blessing, as is Pope Benedict, and as are all faithful priests.
One thing that I thought about after it was over, was what the Lord Jesus would have thought had he been in human form in the pews. Although I think all the pomp and circumstance as well as the beautiful church glorify God (the Trinity), Jesus was not one for great formality. [Oh?] I imagine Him observing and am of two minds about whether He would approve. And this thought from a non-Catholic Christian who loves the traditions of the Catholic Church and hopes the Mass in the Extraordinary Form will indeed become more common.


What a glorious day!  The best we have to offer joined with God’s infinite gift of the Incarnation and Redemption, all in one place! It was a tremendous blessing to attend – I sat in the pews.
 My thoughts on last Saturday:
•    The Mass demonstrated Pope Benedict’s pastoral care and charity for priests.  I counted (probably undercounted) 50 priests and religious (about 20 in Dominican habits) processing in to serve in choro.  This is huge, and portends well for the future.
•    The Mass had a profound impact on the laity in the pews, as was obvious by their prayerful demeanor and participation.
•    Bishop Slattery’s homily will be remembered and quoted for years.  The Paulus Institute and Abp. Wuerl are to be commended for asking him – both the choice of Celebrant and his homily completely undermined the potential press-fed frenzy that might have occurred, especially given Bishop Slattery’s strong actions in the face of the abuse scandal in the US a few years ago.
•    Someone in the comboxes got it exactly right – in the NO, priests tend to come across more like laypeople and bishops come across as priests.  The ceremonies of the Solemn Pontifical Mass are truly befitting a successor to the Apostles.
•    The joy and charity were palpable.
•    May God give us the grace to witness a Solemn Papal Mass in the Extraordinary Form!


My brother and I (Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic) were invited by a friend (Roman Extraordinary Form) to come with him and his wife to the Shrine for the Pontifical Extraordinary Mass.  We sat half way back on the left.  None of us have every seen a magna cappa.  I hope I spelled it right.  Very impressive!   The reverence was fantastic!  The people really prayed hard!  It was so edifying!   The vestments were great and music was heavenly.  We were pleased that they had the Mass printed in booklets for everyone to follow.  The one thing that we wished was that the volume on the microphones would have been turned up  a lot. We could hardly hear the music or the bishop speaking and we have good hearing.   The bishop should have been given a microphone to wear.   After the Mass we went to the Shrine bookstore.  We meet a habitless nun who said that the Mass was too "posh".  Another man said that they should say the Extraordinary form using the facing altar most times and the high altar only for special occasions.  We had to keep our mouths shut  so we didn’t get into a fight with them.  We also had to pull our Extraordinary form friend away from them to keep them from fighting.   Overall we thought the day was historic and beautiful.  


I’m a grad student in the department of Semitics at CUA and attended the Mass.  I brought along a Catholic friend who had never been to a traditional liturgy (his parish is a very folk-Mass type of parish).  We were accompanied by a Mormon friend in RCIA and a Protestant classmate and his wife.  I personally was delighted to see the sheer number of people assisting at Mass and the range of ages from the very old to the very young.  The rest of my party seemed to enjoy it very much – it was very different than anything they had attended before.  The reaction of my Protestant friends in particular was interesting – once I explained that many of the prayers were said quietly because the priest was addressing God, not the congregation, at those points, it seemed to click instantly for them and it was appreciated.  It was a very positive experience for all of us, and I pray it bears good spiritual fruit!


I watched the replay of the Pontifical Mass on EWTN Saturday night, thanks to one of your bloggers who provided info on the replay. On Low Sunday, I attended my first EF mass, probably the first TLM mass for me in at least 8-9 years.  I believe having recently attended the EF, I was better able to appreciate the Pontifical Mass as I was not expecting to be able to follow every word and understand every tiny thing that was going on during the Mass.  As a scientist, I like to understand everything and I’m finally understanding that sometimes one just has to BE.  Take in the mystery and pray along with the priest to almighty God who comes[Do i hear an "Amen!"?] Having commentary during the Mass (but you were quiet when you should have been) helped me pay attention.   There was so much gold and expensive vestments, but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would since it was all for God.  I think the Mass gave me a better appreciation for the TLM.  The homily was excellent as you said, but I need to read it again to really absorb it as it was past 1 am by the time the homily started on EWTN so I didn’t catch everything.


1. I vaguely remember the liturgy before Vatican II (I was born in 1957) – my parish was one of the first to implement progressive changes to the Mass, accompanied by a radical (ugly) makeover of our sanctuary, so this technically was not my first encounter with the traditional Mass.
2. I watched the program on my computer on EWTN.
3. I was especially thrilled to have the excellent, non-distracting but helpful commentary throughout the proceedings. I didn’t realize until the very end that you were one of the commentators – I think you did a great job and I want to thank you for your time and effort.
4. My first reaction to seeing the various layers of vestments, etc, was to be turned off, but then when I heard the reasons behind each piece, and especially the fact that "nothing is left to chance", I appreciated everything so much more. It makes so much sense. The mystical aspects of the Mass are so clearly evident here. Also the reverence due to God alone…
5. This might sounds strange, but it motivated me to make bread for my family, to share in our family dinner/"banquet" on Sunday. It brought be back to a desire to serve others, beginning with my family, in very real and tangible ways…  [What a great comment.]
Overall, my reaction was a very reverent Wow! and I praise you, O Lord!


I watched it on TV, for i was sick that day. I am a mid-aged teenager, I have always heard about a TLM, but never went to one, though, I LOVE Latin and the Extraordinary form of the mass, from what i hear. But now that I got to see it, it was so…. Words can not even describe how i felt. I thank God EWTN was there to broadcast it, they also had good commentary on it too.

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.
  • Please put in the e-mail SUBJECT LINE: My thoughts on the Pontifical Mass (IMPORTANT)

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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