The numbers game: attendance at TLMs

A friend of mine has made an argument that if the numbers of TLMs and people attending them may not be growing quickly, it is nonetheless growing.  At the same the number of people going to the Ordinary Form, and at least participating in the state of grace, is rapidly shrinking.  In the end, what will we be left with?  Do the math.

Now I see this from Damian Thompson:

Paul Inwood and the case of the disappearing traditionalists

By Damian Thompson

The Bishops of England and Wales and their allies have a clear policy regarding the Traditional Latin Mass: (a) Do as little as possible to make it available and (b) announce that not many people are going to it. Simple! But don’t overplay your hand, boys…

Paul Inwood, Director of Liturgy for Portsmouth Diocese and composer-in-residence to the Magic Circle, says the following on the Pray Tell blog:

In my diocese  … we already had a fairly generous provision of EF Masses before SP. Now we have more of them, but it is the same 30 or so people who are simply travelling round to more places to attend (apart from those on the Isle of Wight). There is no discernible increase in numbers. More Masses, same tiny uptake. I wonder how many other dioceses mirror this? [I suspect none of them.]

A better question might be: how many other dioceses’ liturgical mafia are under-representing the number of Catholics attending EF Masses? Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, has come up with a different total for the diocese of Portsmouth:

Notice [Paul Inwood] says that it is ‘the same 30 people’ as before the Motu Proprio, spreading themselves more thinly across more churches in the diocese. As Director of Liturgy he may know how many churches have the TLM, but he has clearly never been to the FSSP Mass in Reading. [Where the FSSP have a chapel.]

Five years ago about 40 people used to go to these Masses. Since then a lot has happened, including the Motu Proprio, and the number has more than doubled. On a good day we have 100 people; numbers never dip below 60.  [Sounds like growth.]

This is at the same time as other churches have started to offer the Mass. Plus people in the northern part of the diocese can easily pop over the diocesan boundary to Oxford, where numbers have also doubled since the Motu Proprio[Sounds like growth.  My experience in, for example, New York City, is that the daily/Sunday Masses established not to long ago at Holy Innocents are slowly but steadily drawing more people.  Lots of new faces, not just the same crowd.]

What has happened to the disappearing traditionalists? The only explanation I can come up with is that the great composer popped along to a Reading TLM one Sunday but, such were the clouds of incense, could make out only half the worshippers.

In the meantime, here is one of Paul Inwood’s tunes.  I couldn’t find quickly the Cha Cha Alleluia thing, so I settled for this.  You may have heard it in a suburban parish near you.

I think a brandy-snifter is needed for the edge of that piano… a couple fivers tucked in… no?


Someone sent me a link to the “Alleluia Ch Ch“.   You decide.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. tonyballioni says:

    Eh, this isn’t the worse piece of music I’ve heard, not the best either, but it certainly is not on the same level as “On Eagles Wings.”

    On the other hand, I think I know what you mean by the ChaCha Alleluia. My ears bleed to it almost every Sunday.

  2. Will D. says:

    Bad choirs have nearly killed my love of the guitar, and they’re working on the piano now. Why is the organ always treated as an inconvenient piece of furniture in so many churches?

  3. Brad says:

    Charitably: that guy in the youtube is a relic in amber! When will the spirit of v2 generation just go away and let us younger people have our paternity back? Such as found in:

  4. Kat says:

    Is it horribly inappropriate to laugh? The Alleluia-ch-ch does remind me of another one, though, that I’ve heard in a few churches. It’s a Gloria *clap*clap*. Is that written by this same guy?

  5. cheyan says:

    I like “Center Of My Life”; it’s relatively easy to sing, it’s faithful to the Psalm on which it’s based, and unlike a lot of what’s in the OCP hymnal, it wouldn’t be completely out of place at the EF. [?!?]

    On the other hand, listening to a couple of the other compositions available on the OCP website (like the alleluia you mentioned, suggests to me that almost everything else he’s written would be entirely inappropriate. That probably explains Mr. Inwood’s impression of the people attending the EF – if his music wouldn’t fit at Masses like that, but all the parishes he’s visited in the diocese seems to use his music, that must mean that everyone in the diocese likes his music and wouldn’t want to go to a Mass where it couldn’t be used.

  6. James Locke says:

    totally heard the inwood song at the feast on wednesday

  7. GirlCanChant says:

    I, I, I…it’s like a priest friend of mine pointed out (and I had noticed as well), modern hymns are all about us telling God how great we are. Oh yeah, and all the things He gives us. Sacrifice, what’s that? Okay, I’m going to stop now before my blood pressure goes up.

  8. templariidvm says:

    I had been fortunate enough to have never heard the “cha cha cha” thing before (I can hear the tambourines coming!) . My parish sings some songs that make me shake my head but that would take the cake! Was that written for a Catholic Sesame Street or something?? How do I get it out of my head????AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAh!

  9. Steve T. says:

    “My experience in, for example, New York City, is that the daily/Sunday Masses established not too long ago at Holy Innocents are slowly but steadily drawing more people. Lots of new faces, not just the same crowd.”

    Public call for assistance: as a newly-minted Trad in NYC, how does one get ahold of the NYC Latin Mass group that assists at Holy Innocents?

  10. Jaybirdnbham says:

    That song and others of its type are in abundance in my parish, sad to say. Thankfully there is a nearby Melkite-Greek Rite parish just a couple miles away, so I occasionally attend Sunday Mass there instead. ( Beautiful, ancient liturgy, all sung, lots of incense, and ad orientum as well.)
    And honestly, I’ve about decided that the “occasionally” is likely to become almost weekly.
    And perhaps some of my home parish contribution checks ought to do a bit of migrating as well!

  11. Melody says:

    I never disliked On Eagle’s Wings that much, although it’s way overplayed.

    I heard this new hymn at mass the other day:

    I really like it. Ignore the contemporary arrangement of the recording and try to imagine it in choir setting.

  12. I think I can beat even the Alleluia Cha Cha with (Father!) Liam Lawton’s Wedding Alleluia I call it the ‘Leprochaun Alleluia’ or when I’m being more charitable the ‘Diddlyidle alleluia’. His work is very popular with Irish church choirs (God help us) but for me it drips schmaltz. He’s a nice guy but his music makes me cringe. I think it’s worse than the Mr. Inwood’s. Perhaps there should be a competition for church music like they have for the worst science research?

  13. cheyan says:

    Okay, to further explain what I meant by “wouldn’t be completely out of place” (so that Fr. Z doesn’t run out of question marks and exclamation points!) – there are some hymns I grew up singing, hymns I still like, which seem to fit at the OF, but even as something right before Mass or right after Mass wouldn’t remotely be appropriate for the EF. They’re great as something for me to enjoy singing on my own, they’re great as something for a youth group or religion class to sing, but they’re not the right kind of prayerfulness for the EF. (Some of them aren’t even the right kind of prayerfulness for the standard suburban Mass either! I like listening to some Christian rock and yet I cringe whenever I hear it at Mass, or whenever I notice a parish choir setting up a drum set…)

    “Center of My Life” wouldn’t be ideal before or after the EF, [Silence might be, on the other hand.] and it wouldn’t work at all during the EF, but in comparison to the rest of the post-1960 songs I like, much less the whole range of post-1960 songs in the OCP hymnal, it wouldn’t be completely out of place. [The phrase that popped into my mind was “damning with faint praise”.]

  14. templariidvm says:

    Br Tom, I don’t see a problem with that Lawton’s Alleluia being sung at a Celtic Woman concert or some performance on that order. It is a merry little tune. During the liturgy though, I agree, not quite as fitting!

  15. Steve T. says:
    Public call for assistance: as a newly-minted Trad in NYC, how does one get ahold of the NYC Latin Mass group that assists at Holy Innocents?

    Steve, send me an e-mail (including the specific question or concern if applicable) and I can put you in touch with the right people or you can use one of the other contact methods here.

  16. HyacinthClare says:

    It seems like today’s responders are talking about awful-music-we-have-known and is cutting this guy slack for LYING about the Latin mass attendance in his area. Isn’t there a good old tune about not bearing false witness??

  17. Tradster says:

    I find Mr. Inwood’s “liturgical” music about as appropriate as Tom Lehrer’s Vatican Rag (

  18. Alice says:

    I’m just wondering how those 30 or so people can get so many places on Sunday :P

  19. Peter from Jersey says:

    Jersey is included in the Portsmouth diocese. A number of requests (I do not know how many) have been made for an EF mass and these have been refused. I am one of those who made a request.
    There used to be such a Mass (the retired priest died) and the private chapel is now used on a monthly basis (I think) by the SSPX which suggests that there is a stable group. It does, for now, feature on the back of a £20 note which must make our currency unique in the world.

  20. Steve T. says:

    Samuel, thank you.

  21. lizfromFL says:

    Wowza. Alleluia cha cha is played in my nearby parish before the Gospel is read. Really bad, that one.

    I will admit that I like On Eagles Wings. Been listening to that one my whole life so maybe it’s a comfort factor.

    As for attendance at TLM I could not say. In my area they are not done, so far as I know (and I have been looking!!)

  22. MJ says:

    “There is no discernible increase in numbers. More Masses, same tiny uptake. I wonder how many other dioceses mirror this? [I suspect none of them.]”

    In my diocese, our FSSP parish was just recently established — we were (with the permission of the bishop) having Mass at a small chapel (a High Mass and a Low Mass each Sunday) but now we have our own church (just recently dedicated) and the capacity is at least 3 times that of the previous small chapel…not only is there rarely ever any room to sit at either of these Masses, there are huge confession lines for hours each week, and the priests are looking at adding a third Sunday Mass. I’d say there is a radical increase in numbers, and soon there will be more Masses. :) Deo Gratias!

  23. wolfeken says:

    My experience has been that the traditional Latin Masses in a convenient church at a convenient time on Sunday morning have lots of people in the pew. TLMs at far-off places on Sunday afternoons (especially when the schedule varies) do not have lots of people in the pew.

    To that end, the only fair way to “judge” is to replace the 10:30 a.m. novus ordo at a thriving parish with the TLM for several months and see what happens. Otherwise, it is completely unfair and unscientific to come to any conclusions.

    Also, we can all (myself included) attend more TLMs throughout the week. Perhaps we establish a rule where the number of Catholic blog comments we make is connected to the number of TLMs we have attended (or offered) that week. In other words, simply posting on websites is not counted for much in the big picture — we need to show up at TLMs. Often.

  24. benedetta says:

    This Inwood song ends constantly with the musical equivalent of a question mark, as if he is not too sure about the sentiment and would just as soon let it drift off into the fog…

  25. TJerome says:


    You nailed it. I remember when the “reforms” were introduced in the 1960s my pastor took the most populated Mass and converted it to the Teen Mass with all the crap which accompanies that. He then
    deluded himself into thinking everyone “loved it.” I pointed out to him that it was the most convenient time and suggested he move the Teen Mass to a less choice time and see what happens. Needless to say, he didn’t take my suggestion.

  26. sejoga says:

    Listening to some samples on the site cheyan linked to, I’m going to go with “Finger-snap Alleluia” as even more horrifying than “Alleluia! ch-ch”.

  27. Former Altar Boy says:

    Regarding growth of the TLM, after years of being relegated to the masoleum chapel at the local cemetery, our bishop turned over a parish he was getting ready to close to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. In two years we went from approximately 300 families and two Sunday Masses to 500 families and four Sunday Masses.

  28. JMody says:

    How priceless is this?! It’s posted by “newkremlin” — ha!
    Two things come to mind —
    First, how did Pope St. Pius X put it regarding the piano and the Sacred Mysteries in Tra le Sollecitudini, clearly foreseeing this ‘lounge music’?

    19. The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like.

    And, in a little gem of a book I came by a few years ago called “Maxims of Christian Chivalry” extracted from “The Broadstone of Honour” by Kenelm Digby, we find this piece, clearly foreshadowing in razor clarity the singular Mr. Inwood:

    The Power of Music: Music is said by some holy men to have drawn the gentiles frequently into the Church through mere curiousity, which ended in conversion of heart and desire of baptism. This gave occasion to Dr. Burney to say that “the generality of parochial music with the moderns is not likely to produce similar effects, it being such as would rather drive Christians with good ears out of church than draw Pagans into it.”

    This was originally published in the NINETEENTH century, so speak of ‘moderns’ here is certainly strong language!
    I think Dr. Burney, whoever he was, would have just burst into flame over this piece …

  29. The Cobbler says:

    “I find Mr. Inwood’s “liturgical” music about as appropriate as Tom Lehrer’s Vatican Rag”
    That might be too complimentary… The Vatican Rag is catchy outside of Mass and uses real Catholic terminology, which puts it a cut above most things that wind up in Mass these days.

    Then again, at least this piece does claim to be about putting Christ in the center of our lives, which puts it also a cut above most things that wind up in Mass these days. Damning with faint praise it may be, but it is a fact that the bulk of vague, modern-churchy songs don’t even have that much value in them.

    And as an aside, the piano is a beautiful instrument, whether suitable for Mass or not. This isn’t the best use of it — I’ve heard better piano pieces come out of Japan and her videogame music composers — but it is really something as far as relatively modern instruments go. Of course, I’m also the kid who thinks electric guitar can be appropriate in soundtrack type situations that call for furious music, even if it has to run to keep up with (so to speak) plain old orchestral music a la Wagner’s Valkyrie piece — which also would never be appropriate for Mass, despite leaving most modern soundtracks in the dust, so perhaps the thing is to get people to see what it takes to be appropriate for Mass more than to fret over how good or bad it is in its proper place. After all, G.K. Chesterton noted both that a bad poet is still a poet and that a bad knife is really a good knife (imagine having a “bad knife” in the stone age when your usual tool is rocks) that just isn’t as good as we want it to be.

  30. Bressani56 says:

    Give Paul Inwood a break….his entire world is crumbling. He never, ever thought that priests would again begin to say Mass ad orientem, offer Mass in Latin, wear distinctive garb (clerical dress), etc. He has every right to be bitter that his music is being exposed for what it is.

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