A priest explains: “Why the Old Form thrives in my parish”

On the site of the Catholic Herald, the UK’s best Catholic weekly, (it has a great new look) there is an article you will want to see, with my emphases and comments.

Why the Old Form thrives in my parish

On the eve of the third anniversary of Summorum Pontificum Fr Gary Dickson says it is unfair to accuse the bishops of obstructing liturgical reform

By Fr Gary Dickson on Thursday, 1 July 2010

Three years ago, in July 2007, the Holy Father published Summorum Pontificum giving parishioners the canonical right to have their parish priest celebrate the Old Form of Mass (the Extraordinary Form) for them alongside the New or Ordinary Form. In places Summorum Pontificum is resisted, and it is important to recognise and address the causes.

Some say the obstruction comes from bishops, but this is unfair. The problem seems to lie within the Church as a whole, being an aversion to formal, God-directed worship in favour of a liturgy that entertains with cheerful hymns, is undemanding to follow and casual in celebration. This aversion harbours resistance not only to Summorum Pontificum but even to the new translation of the New Form. [I think he is right.  But there is active and direct resistance from some priests and bishops.] As the end of the three year period of assessment on how the implementation of Summorum Pontificum has gone approaches, I offer a reflection from one of the several parishes which celebrate in the Old Form every Sunday.

In scheduling the Old Form, objections came mainly from those who experienced the heady days of the Church’s surge into change after Vatican Council II and who saw change and informality as the order of the day. It is understandably hard for them to welcome back their heritage when it evokes things considered long gone and appears to undo what was established by priests they have loved. But honesty compels us to acknowledge that we all abandoned things the Council decreed we retain, [exactly] while loyalty demands we recover them by authentic catechesis on both the Council and the Ordinary Form.

For example, the “full, active and conscious participation” of the people (Sacrosanctum concilium #14) is a call of the Council frequently misunderstood, [Let’s see where he goes with this!] for the word translated “active” is actuosis; an engagement beyond mere “activity” (actives). Indeed, external activity is but participation in the liturgical rite, and can be present without internal, conscious participation in the Mystery of Faith. [I wonder if the writer has been reading WDTPRS!] Significantly, the Council began its teaching on the liturgy by stating that the Church is “present in the world as a pilgrim [and is] so constituted that in her the human is … subordinated to the divine; … action to contemplation”. The Sacred Congregation of Rites confirmed this contemplative element in 1967: “This participation is first and foremost internal” (Musicam sacram #15). [YES!  And it goes back before that as well.  Good work!] Still, to externalise the internal, participation by word and gesture remains important. Sadly, the loss of focus on internal participation has resulted in [horrors…] the imposing of drama, dancing – even puppet shows – on to the rite. To be recovered here, then, is the core of participation; that lifting up our hearts to the Lord, and actions required by the Missal: striking the breast in the Confiteor; bowing during the Credo etc.

TwitterUndoubtedly the lay ministry of Lector (Reader) was built into the New Form so as to facilitate lay activity in the rite itself (Extraordinary ministry is not built-in; it was established for use only in exceptional circumstances), but this seems to have created a sense that unless one has a ministry one does not participate. [Right! In fact, it leads to a worse sort of clericalism than that of which liberals accuse those of a more conservative stripe.] This is clearly wrong since it would mean 95 per cent of Catholics never participate. It is necessary, then, to recover an awareness that active participation consists not in mere activity but in “raising the mind and heart” in “full, active, conscious” attention expressed by heartfelt responses, postures and singing.

Next we must acknowledge the Council’s decree that “Latin is to be retained” (Sacrosanctum concilium #36). Latin all but vanished following the Council’s permission to use the vernacular for the readings and commonly called “bidding prayers” with authorisation to extend its use, yet the Council limited that extension by decreeing: “Never the less, care must be taken to ensure the people be able to say or sing in Latin those parts of the Mass that pertain to them” (cf Sacrosanctum concilium #54). [How many times have I quoted that, I wonder.]  Gregorian Chant, which was to have “pride of place in liturgical services”, was also lost, yet its use was reaffirmed by Pope Paul VI in 1974 when every Bishop was sent a copy of On the minimum repertoire of Gregorian Chant. Accordingly, use of Latin – which demands a conscious, active attention the vernacular does not – must be recovered if we are to be genuinely formed by Vatican II.

Again, having the priest face the people was not mentioned by the Council but given as an option in the Ordinary Form (cf 1970 General Instruction #262). [The option overran the norm, which was the objective of the innovators.] In fact, the rubrics of that Form direct the priest to alternately face the people (#133) and the altar (#134). The Congregation for Divine Worship noted that even the phrase “which is desirable whenever possible” in reference to facing the people remains an option, not an obligation. [He is talking here about GIRM 299, about which I have written many times. Here is one entry.  The English translation provided by the USCCB, for example, and I am sure elsewhere, is wrong.  The Latin was even clarified by the same CDWDS, but few liberals want to acknowledge that.  Instead, they persist with their bad translation as more congenial to their agenda.] Thus for faithfulness to the Ordinary Form, the altar-facing position too needs some recovery. Practised correctly, it accounts for only a quarter of the entire Mass. [Good point.]

Acknowledging that things frequently cited as contrary to Vatican II are in fact decreed by the Council (Latin) and directed by the Missal it generated (the altar-facing priest) their more regular use should be promoted in order to make genuine our claim of being faithful to Vatican II and eliminate misinformed resistance to the Old Form and the new translation. [And here we get to it…] How then did our parish facilitate reception of the Extraordinary Form in a pastoral way?

We began by educating the parish in the actual decrees of Vatican II, the rubrics of the New Missal and the reasoning behind them. Once aware of what the Council and Missal actually said, most were well disposed toward implementing the Council and New Missal in a more authentic manner.

Secondly, when celebrating the Old Form, several pastoral supports are utilised.

First, the readings are – as proposed and recommended by Vatican II – proclaimed in the vernacular with use of a free-standing microphone. [In place of the Latin?  At the same time as the Latin?] Since God is speaking to the people at this point it makes sense that they be able to understand without difficulty.

We also sing three vernacular hymns: at the Entrance, Offertory and Recessional as permitted pre-Vatican II (cf De Musica sacra et sacra liturgia #14, Sacred Congregation of Rites, 1958). This allows for continuation of both the characteristic silence of the Old Form and the verbal contribution of the people in a manner to which they have become accustomed. [People like to sing hymns.]

We also supply missalettes with the people’s responses highlighted so as to enable participation in the rite itself. Missalettes for children are picture booklets showing the varying positions of the priest and servers at specific points, enabling the children – and adults new to this Form – to more easily follow the rite.

Finally, we ensure that those who wish to receive on the hand may continue to do so in accord with current canonical rights and obligations. Receiving in the hand while kneeling poses no problem, while those who cannot kneel make the required act of reverence by receiving on the tongue. [This will be controversial for many adherents of the TLM.  I think he is right in his upholding the Church’s present law.  Please understand that I dislike Communion in the hand enormously.  It should be phased out.  People should be moved away from it.  But while it is the law of the Church to permit this (bad) option, priests must uphold the (bad) law.]

There are some who still resist solemnity in celebration; the use of Latin and the altar-facing priest. [Minimalists.] Yet these unintended losses in the New Form are not difficult to recover: if we can lose them overnight after centuries of use we can recover them after only decades of loss. Such recovery is not “going backwards”, or doing a U-turn, since the Ordinary Form will continue in use. Rather, it is a halting of the train to retrieve what has fallen from the carriage before our continuance. Many folk seem unable to grasp the distinction.

It is important to say that attendance at our Extraordinary Form accounts for a third of our weekly Mass numbers. Some who said they would never attend do so occasionally, and with decreasing prejudice. Further, the parish is not divided by differing liturgical preferences – friendships and working relationships remaining unaffected. [See my Rules of Engagement.] Finally, as with the Ordinary Form counterparts, those who attend the Extraordinary Form display great devotion to Christ in the Eucharist and personal prayer; a concern for social justice by running coffee mornings to support SPUC, Aid to the Church in Need and Let The Children Live, and engage in collaborative ministry as catechists, extraordinary ministers, Legion of Mary and finance committee members.

I believe we can no longer refuse the Extraordinary Form and for two main reasons. First, [1] because the Church declared it to be sacred, and while the Church has all authority to forbid what is evil she has no authority to forbid what is sacred; her authority is “to build up rather than destroy” (1 Cor 13:10). Second, [2] this Form is the rightful heritage of future generations; one to which we have no moral right to deny them access. Use of the Extraordinary Form is then a matter of recognising and promoting the holy, and an act of justice towards future generations.

Fr Gary Dickson is parish priest and Sacred Heart and English Martyrs, Thornley, Co Durham


WDTPRS kudos to Fr. Dickson.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, SESSIUNCULA, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. There is no reason whatsoever to give Communion in the hand. None.

  2. I also have a problem with giving Communion in the hand at a TLM. And, in fact, I do not. I explain to those attending what the “custom” at the TLM is; if there is a problem, they can deal with me or the Bishop, I guess. But this “overlay” of universal law and the particular customs just is very confusing to most people. So I just tell them. Correct me if I’m wrong.
    I also understand that the readings, as a liturgical act, are to be read or chanted in Latin; they then may be read in the vernacular before the homily (sermon)…not to be “overly rigid”here, but it was my understanding previously that at a TLM the readings may be done in the vernacular exclusively, not read in Latin; there was some kind of ruling on this by “Eclessia Dei” (can’t remember if they are a comission or a council?).
    And, not to be OCD about this (I don’t mean discalced Carmelite!)…I believe there are norms about what kind of music can be sung at a Low Mass and what is allowed at a Missa Cantata, High Mass, Solemn High Mass (the latter three allowing only Latin during the Mass proper…I believe…Sancta Missa webpage has all the legislation).
    God bless Fr. Dickson! May his tribe prosper! I’m not trying to be a “twit” here; but some kind of understanding about things in these matters is always helpful.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    A well-balanced and well written commentary which should be sent to all English speaking churches. It is the entire Church, and not just some bishops who object to the EF. In my neck of the woods, one convent of nuns and one monastery of monks absolutely refuse to have the EF. And, in two other convents with which I am familiar, the case is the same. Out and out resistance and dislike of the EF.

    I wish all Catholics would be more open to the beauty of the TLM. Thank you, Fathers, for sharing this.

  4. JulieC says:

    Fascinating to see the development of the traditional Latin Mass in a parish setting. I’ve been wondering how the EF and OF forms of the Roman rite were going to influence each other, and waiting to see if it were possible for there to be some kind of continuity or bridge between the two forms.

    That’s what I think Fr. Dickson is trying to do, if I’m not mistaken. My experience has been that it’s very difficult for most Catholics to adapt to Latin liturgies where vocal participation is discouraged, as it is in some Latim Mass communities. At some Latin Masses where Gregorian chant and polyphony are sung exclusively by a schola, this can be very beautiful and ethereal, but it is alien to the typical Novus Ordo Catholic and very hard for those accustomed to forty years of “elevator music” to assimilate.

    One last thing—I’m not sure if it’s allowed to have vernacular readings in place of the Latin—I’d have to check up on that, but I believe vernacular hymns are allowed at a Missa Cantata with the permission of the local bishop.

    Communion in the hand at a Latin Mass is not my cup of tea, but all in all, it’s encouraging to see attempts being made to make the Latin Mass more accessible and familiar to mainstream Catholics.

  5. Andrew says:

    “… its use was reaffirmed by Pope Paul VI in 1974 when every Bishop was sent a copy of On the minimum repertoire of Gregorian Chant.”

    And the booklet sent out along with that request is available to this day from “paxbook.com” along with a CD recording of all the items contained in the booklet.

    And here is the text of the request:

  6. Maltese says:

    Well, there’s good and bad in this piece. I hail this Priest’s willingness to hail the banner of Summorum Pontificum–a great start! He certainly has wise words to say about “active participation” as well; remember, even Pope St. Pius X advocated for this over 100 years ago, and more recently Bl. Pius XII did as well. His advice on vernacular hymns is on-spot; even FSSPX contains many vernacular hymns in their official hymnal.

    But, frankly, I think he is a little confused on Sacrosanctum concilium. That Conciliar document didn’t call for the retention of the Traditional Latin Mass–as he seems to imply by his correct assertion that it called for a retention of Latin–but rather allowed for it to be whittled away at will. Thankfully, the TLM was preserved, intact, by the likes of FSSPX, instead of the bastardized liturgy the Council seemed to envision.

    “[T]he Liturgy which systematically boycotted the versus Domino orientation, the sacredness of the rite, the sense of latria, the irreplaceable beauty of Gregorian chant, the solemnity of gestures and vestments, and kneeling…[was committed in a] boundless cult of man…” [186-187] Msgr. Gherardini, Ecumenical Vatican Council II, a Much Needed Discussion

  7. Peggy R says:

    I agree that in the Church (laity and clergy) there is a strong opposition to formal worship. Casual and comfortable fit the wishes of the faithful who show up in short shorts, sweats, strappy tops, flip flops…The idea of worshiping God deeply either offends or makes some uncomfortable. It is really foreign to most in the pew. It’s almost as if those lessons that we not worship money, things or people has been applied to God Himself. Nay, we have been admonished not to worship people and things, so that we may worship God fully.

    I can’t imagine any one at my parish worrying as some of Fr Z’s readers have, about how to clean precious blood spilled on a child’s shirt or not to chew gum soon after Mass. But, for the first time this week, I saw another parishioner (guest?) receive on the tongue. She even genuflected first, as I learned to do at my old parish. Our bishop is conveying these same lessons about the liturgy, the mysteries, reverence, etc., to the faithful.

  8. jlmorrell says:

    I appreciate the work that Fr. Dickson has done to implement Summorum Pontificum in his parish. However, some of the items he discusses concerning the TLM hint at a certain melding of the two forms, which I completely reject. I think we must be vigilant in opposing those who would attempt to create a “third form” that combines aspects of the ordinary and extraordinary.

  9. Mitchell NY says:

    AN excellent read and encouraging sign of balance returning to a parish. But small things like a formal clarification of GIRM 299 would go a long way in correcting misinterpretations of it, at the same time squashing the position of liberals who wish to continually misrepresent what it means. This is a famous example, one that Rome I am sure is familiar with. Why doesn’t the Pope clarify these things? An encylical covering all these types of misinterpretations or outright changing of the meanings would go a long way in settling alot and would be a great gift to the Church. I just don’t get why so much is left to continued “misinterpretation”.

  10. Supertradmom: I am so very sorry to hear your report that religious houses of men and women religious, especially monastics, are opposed to the EF.
    How absolutely horrid! This is the very “source” of our Tradition, esp. as monastic men and women.
    Prayers from here…we have a lot of work to do, I’m afraid.

  11. Paul says:

    Is it really sufficient for people to check their hands for fragments of the Holy Sacrament?

    What about all the people who have bad eyesight? doddery hands? etc?


  12. Mitchell NY: from your mouth to God’s ears!:<)!
    We have learned, over time, there are certain territorial “customs”; for instance, we encourage the faithful, but don’t demand it, to pray the responses during a Low Mass (Prayers at the Foot of the Altar; the Kyrie; the other responses to the priest…) Some would hate it; but I believe this is in response to the authentic development within the Sacred Liturgy whereby the faithful “could” verbally take part; they don’t have to; they can.
    However, there are places that do not do this; that is a particular custom. No problem.
    At our ‘Missa Cantata’ we make it available for the faithful to respond in the chants; they don’t have to…they can.
    “Actual participation” is something we try to assist by our homilies, the chant, the beauty we try to make present in the Holy Mass…it’s a process (if you will; I’m not a “process theologian”, however!).

  13. Fr_Sotelo says:

    nazareth priest:
    Like you, I also do not give Communion in the hand at the EF Mass. I also found the part about vernacular readings at the same time as the Latin proclamation by the priest to be disconcerting.

    At the same time, if this priest has found a way to make this work at a parish level, I do indeed take my hat off to him. There is nothing harder than bringing the EF Mass to the typical Novus Ordo parish, and I welcome the ideas of all brother priests.

  14. Sixupman says:

    A now deceased [Traditionalist] priest friend of mine would occasionally replace Latin for the Vernacular at Epistle & Gospel from the altar. I found such to be the case with SSPX in Essen.

    I had the pleasure, over three days at Christmas, of attending NOM High Mass with extensive Latin usage, at The Holy Name, Manchester. This is a vibrant church, utilising both Rites. Weekday Masses at a side altar, with priest facing the altar. Not to mention extensive opportunity (daily) for Confession.

    Generally, on my travels, I come across clergy who are vitriolically opposed to the TLM and laity who are more interested in their own staus within the parish structure – which the TLM would essentially deny them.

  15. moon1234 says:

    we encourage the faithful, but don’t demand it, to pray the responses during a Low Mass (Prayers at the Foot of the Altar; the Kyrie; the other responses to the priest…)

    This was part of the Dialogue Mass. It was one of Bugninis little ways to undermine the minor order of Acolyte. While Fr., in this article, makes the point that participation needs to be internal to be effectual, saying responses meant for a minor order cleric would seem to me to marginalize the minor order to the point that it becomes a “lay ministry”. And this is exactly what happened!

    Reading the Epistle and Gospel in the Vernacular would come BEFORE the homily, but rather would be part OF it. The official prayers of the church, including the Epistle and Gospel should REMAIN in Latin. Otherwise these most important teachings are no longer a prayer to God, but rather a learning moment instead of prayer. When it is read only in the vernacular it becomes fluid and changing. The number of people who SHOULD learn latin (all of us) goes down. Just listening to Latin in the Epistle and Gospel has taught me many latin words.

    The OF will remain a made up liturgy cobbeled together out of mans pride to think his will in designing a liturgy is better than the revelation of the Holy Spirit over the millenia.

    This what many young priests are learning. True participation is NOT external (readings in vernacular, saying responses of a cleric, singing hymns in the vernacular, etc.) it is internal in the heart. Singing to God in a universal language (Latin for Romans, Greek for orthodox, etc.) does not require the singer to UNDERSTAND every word he is saying, rather it requires him to sing those words with Love for the greater glory of God.

    Give a man a fish, he eats for a day (The liturgy in the vernacular, ordinary form). Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. (Learning Latin, proper participation, etc.)

    Many liberals like option 1 better. It makes the faithful dependant on them to eat without knowing how and why and where to fish. Christ said to be fishers of men (Teach them), to gather them in. He didn’t say throw them a fish and hope they like what the ate and come back for more. (Preach at them and hope they like it).

    Sorry to be crass, but I am really tired with so many people STILL wanting to tinker with the TLM. Why not TEACH the people? It is not hard. The young minds are sponges. Provide them knowledge of Latin, their patrimony and Catholic teaching and hopefully they will fish for eternity!

  16. catholicuspater says:

    Dear Moon 1234,

    When you say ‘true participation is not external.’ I believe you misrepresent the teaching of both the pre-conciliar Popes, Vatican II, and Pope Benedict XVI.

    In reality, true participation is first and foremost ad intra. In that you are completely correct. That being said, when Sacrosanctum Concilium said that the people were to ‘say or sing in Latin those parts of the Mass that pertain to them,’ it was only reiterating what had been taught in the 20th century by Popes Pius X, XI and XII.

    What they taught was that a more complete participation in the Mass by the faithful is when they not only internalizing the prayers, but also respond to them. In that way, the faithful will not be the ‘mute’ or ‘silent’ ‘spectators’ lamented by Pope Pius XI and XII.

    This really shouldn’t be a controversial point, Moon, for even our friends in the SSPX know and accept this and implement it, as anyone who has had the joy of being to Mass at their magnificent church in Paris, St. Nicholas du Chardonnet, knows.

    If you’d like to see a Mass at this church, I think it will illustrate far better than anything I could say the ideals of the ‘true liturgical movement’ (to quote Pope Benedict) implemented on a parish level:


  17. Sedgwick says:

    The third and by far the most compelling reason for “not refusing” the traditional Mass (what an odd way to put it) is this: the new mass was created by a Freemason. That should be all any Catholic needs to come to his senses….or his sensus.

  18. Henry Edwards says:

    Maltese: . . . Sacrosanctum concilium. That Conciliar document didn’t call for the retention of the Traditional Latin Mass—as he seems to imply by his correct assertion that it called for a retention of Latin . . .

    Of course, (1) whether SC called for the retention of the traditional Mass, and (2) whether it called for the retention of Latin in the Mass, are two entirely different questions.

    On (2): While the Council allowed for limited use of the vernacular in the traditional Mass (of Pius V), “everybody” (here, at least) knows that SC called the retention of Latin. In particular, the Council Fathers never envisioned the Canon in the vernacular.

    On (1): It can be argued that SC did call for the retention of the old Mass, in that no new Mass was then envisioned. Not only was it the only Mass the bishops at the Council knew, the construction of some “new order” of Mass was never mentioned – either in the Council itself or in the formal deliberations of the Council commission that wrote SC. (I have read the minutes of all the 50+ meetings in which the commission worked methodically through 662 “interventions” submitted by Council Fathers, totaling 1200 printed pages of suggested amendments to the original draft schema).

    What happened is that, after the close of the Council, an entirely new commission – the infamous Bugnini consiliium – was appointed to implement SC. It is arguable that, instead of implementing SC, it ditched SC, and substituted a new agenda leading to the Novus Ordo.

    If SC had been implemented faithfully instead of being sidetracked, it seems to me that the “old Mass” would have been preserved (with some limited renewal) and there would never have been anything called the “new Mass”.

  19. JulieC says:

    I looked up the subject of vernacular hymns at the Missa Cantata and found this in Musicae Sacrae disciplina, from Pope Pius XII:

    [64. As we have written above, such (vernacular) hymns cannot be used in Solemn High Masses without the express permission of the Holy See. Nevertheless at Masses that are not sung solemnly these hymns can be a powerful aid in keeping the faithful from attending the Holy Sacrifice like dumb and idle spectators. They can help to make the faithful accompany the sacred services both mentally and vocally and to join their own piety to the prayers of the priest. This happens when these hymns are properly adapted to the individual parts of the Mass, as We rejoice to know is being done in many parts of the Catholic world.]

    In addition, according to the guidelines for liturgical music from St. John Cantius which are taken from the rubrics of the 1962 Missale Romanum, vernacular hymns are allowed at a High Mass before and after Mass, but not during Mass. http://www.cantius.org/go/music/liturgical_services_music_for_high_mass/

  20. Hieronymus says:

    As much as there is to praise about the good priest’s move toward tying his parish back to the Church’s tradition, his version of the traditional Mass seems heavily influenced by his formation in the N.O.: let’s look at the set of options allowed in the years leading up to the council — and even some that weren’t, like communion in the hand — and give them a go. In the end he has a hodge-podge Mass that would certainly not be pleasing to those accustomed to assisting at the TLM done well. I for one, would continue driving long distances on Sundays to a Mass that was offered correctly. Say the black, do the red — no need to get creative.

    I think this is maybe one negative side effect of Summorum Pontificum. When every priest can offer the TLM, many who have grown accustomed to “doing liturgy” as they please just can’t resist imposing their personality on the old Missal.

    I commend your efforts, Father, but perhaps you should reconsider the use of all of these exceptional allowances.

  21. Hieronymus: When every priest can offer the TLM, many who have grown accustomed to “doing liturgy” as they please just can’t resist imposing their personality on the old Missal.

    It was ever so, to a degree.

  22. “The problem seems to lie within the Church as a whole, being an aversion to formal, God-directed worship in favour of a liturgy that entertains with cheerful hymns, is undemanding to follow and casual in celebration. This aversion harbours resistance not only to Summorum Pontificum but even to the new translation of the New Form.” Like Fr. Z I think Fr. Dickson is right. The road to a true renewal of the Church and Her Liturgy is not going to be easy. The priests who were ordained and those religious who were professed just before the Council are now reading the end end of their lives. Everyone else has been educated in a post-Conciliar Church. There is, at the least, huge inertia to be overcome. Forty years of liturgical abuse and neglect, hostile propaganda and ignorance will not be overcome easily or without strife and suffering. The pernicious influence of Rahner, Kung and Schillebeeckx et al will not pass swiftly but antidotes must be applied. At our recent Provincial Chapter I almost succombed to despair at some of our celebrations of the Mass etc. Let’s face it that if one wishes to be faithful to the whole of Church teaching, Tradition and practice one must be prepared to travel as a solitary pilgrim and hope the Lord will provide companions. I thank the Lord that like St. Francis He has given me brothers.

  23. Henry Edwards says:

    “Nevertheless at Masses that are not sung solemnly these hymns can be a powerful aid in keeping the faithful from attending the Holy Sacrifice like dumb and idle spectators. They can help to make the faithful accompany the sacred services both mentally and vocally and to join their own piety to the prayers of the priest.”

    This insertion of arguable opinion — rather than doctrine or disciplinary instruction, in a document that appeared a month before Pius XII’s death — might remind someone of other questionable things that happened during his lengthy final illness.

    In any event, I believe the assertion to be incorrect, and (with Pius X) that the people should sing the Mass, rather than sing at Mass. It seems to me that the analogue for a low Mass is for the people to recite (if anything) the ordinary of the Mass, rather than singalong hymns that distract from the prayers of the Mass. How can the people pray the Mass in union with the priest, as Pius X so strongly recommended, if instead they’re singing hymns while the priest is praying the Mass?

  24. Henry: You put your finger directly on a sore spot in present day liturgical practice.

    It is not only a sore spot. For priests, to mix metaphors, it is the third rail as well.

  25. TNCath says:

    Henry brings up a good point about singing the Mass versus singing at Mass. While I fully understand what “full, conscious, and active participation” really means, I do believe that the people should, whenever possible, be able to sing the chants and parts of the Mass. At the same time, I think it important and wise that the celebrant sings the Mass as well. Not only is it more solemn, it also cuts down on the temptation of the celebrant to engage in prosaic ad libbing that has arisen in the Novus Ordo which has made the celebrant’s singing the Mass an option he often doesn’t take.

  26. Hieronymus says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

    Priests may have had some customary usage at the local parish level in the days of yore, but 1) that doesn’t mean that was necessarily good, and 2) for the most part priests also had a thoroughly Catholic formation and sensibility. The past 40 years (and somewhat beyond) have been a time where a revolutionary Marxist ideology dominates the academic setting — Catholic seminaries sadly included. The revolution has severed us from our glorious past, and to a great extent dulled our Catholic sensibility. This sensibility, as you well know, was formed by, and nurtured on, a thoroughly Catholic liturgy. In order to restore the sensibility, we should return to that Liturgy which formed the sensibilities our fathers. But we should leave it alone for a while — steeping ourselves in its stability and changing ourselves to conform to its spirit. Picking it up and cutting, pasting, and hemming to tailor it to modern sensibilities is counter-productive. That’s what gave us the new Missal. We find ourselves in a period of history where we are especially in need of being formed BY THE MASS, not the other way around.

  27. CeeLee says:

    The abuses can be so numerous, they’re literally numbing!

    Singing AT Mass interfers with children learning the Mass.

  28. Considering that singing the Mass is a lot older than saying the Mass, I think that CeeLee is mistaken.

  29. becket1 says:

    This letter should be posted on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia website in big bold fonts!.

  30. The-Monk says:

    The pedagogical approach used to introduce the congregation to a more active involvement in the liturgy by “lifting up their hearts” is sound, perhaps the best I have ever read. Would the the new sacramentary be introduced this fall to Catholic congregations in this thoughtful and caring way!

    The liturgy described by Fr. Dickson reminds me of an Anglican Mass I once attended, sans the Latin.

  31. Tom in NY says:

    Viz. http://www.roamincatholicphiladelphia.blogspot.com; St. Paul’s, on Christian (9th-10th) seems to be close to highways and Broad Street Line (Ellsworth-Federal). St. Peter’s in Merchantville, NJ (43 W. Maple, appx 10 minutes drive from Ben Frankin Bridge) may be closer to you than either ME in Berlin, NJ or even Philadelphia spots.
    Salutationes tibi.

  32. ssoldie says:

    If we are all singing at Mass, then we can do away with the choir, no thank you. I will pray the (old)’immemorial Mass’ (extraordinary) also I know of no priest ever refused anyone who could not kneel at the communiom rail, remember I am kinda old and there were many who had only one leg, no legs, and wheel chairs, crutches, etc. That is a silly argument, where in the last 45 years has common sense and right reason gone? Since when should ‘bad laws’ be obeyed, better to fight to make them ‘right laws. As for Vatican II documents, there is so much ambiguous language that the progressive’s will say they have a ligitamate argument for all they do and want. As for the ‘fabricated’ ordinary form, it is just that ‘fabricated’ so get rid of it, to rebuild is one thing, to reinvent is quite another.

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