A priest on his first publicly celebrated Solemn TLM

A week or so ago, I posted about the intention of a priest in Cincinnati to celebrate Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the first time publicly.  Here is a follow up.

Fr. Kyle Schnippel posted a sermon from this first publicly celebrated Mass on his site Called by Name.

There are four wonderful photos on the site Ten Reasons.

Here is part of Fr. Schnippel’s sermon, edited and with my emphases and comments.

As I have been preparing for this occasion, I have had, on occasion, a number of questions as to why I, or so many of my brother priests (and seminarians) are desirous of celebrating Mass according to this Rite, or Form.  I wanted to take this opportunity to provide a sort of ‘Apologia’ or defense of striving to do this, for as I just mentioned, this has been a transformative process for me, and I wish for others to understand.
What initially attracted me to this Form of the Mass, which I first attended while in College Seminary at the Josephinum, was the ‘otherworldliness’ of the approach to the Mass.  To enter into these mysteries is to truly step out of time[To my mind, the older form of Mass stresses the transcendent dimension of the sacred action.] Our physical senses are prevented from fully grasping what is happening [Yes!] so that our spiritual sense might become in tune with the mystery we celebrate [Perhaps “encounter” is a better word here.]: Latin forces the brain to relax and take it in, rather than mindlessly follow a text; [Yes, the Latin requires you to will to use your head and follow more carefully.] the hiddenness of the priest celebrating towards the altar, instead of against the people, stresses that we cannot ‘see’ what is happening, but can only experience; the silence and stillness of so much of what happens might cause a bit of a reaction when we are so used to being engaged in everything that we do, this is somehow different, this is timeless, this is not ‘entertainment,’ this is ‘worship.’  When we confuse those two concepts, we have failed dramatically.
As a priest, there is even more to it than these.  In the current translation of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, the language that is used is sometimes, umm…., presumptive.  Even after only seven years as a priest, there is an idea that I say those words and it happens.  As a priest, I am not proud to admit, but it can at times be easy to shut the mind off, and just go through the motions.
When one celebrates this Mass, these two traps: presumption and mindless recitation, are simply not possible.  When I finish celebrating this Mass, even when said privately, I know something has been done.  It takes focus, precision, and dedication to celebrate this Mass well and competently.  When I hear that it was usually said in 12 minutes, rushed through and no homily and very detached from the life of the people, I simply respond: it didn’t have to be.  And, honestly, is the newer form often said much differently[A good point.]
More importantly, however, is the lack of presumption on the part of the priest. [In the older form of Mass, the priest is closely controlled.] As I continue to learn the private prayers of the priest of this Mass, I continue to be struck by the, umm…, supplication that is included there-in.  [Along with many references to our unworthiness.] We plead and beg that this Sacrifice which is being offered might be found acceptable to God the Almighty Father, aspects which are sorely lacking in the current Ordinary Form, but will gladly be restored with the implementation of the new translation this coming Advent.
There is one prayer which I would like to highlight in how it exemplifies this difference, the ‘Placeat tibi’ which said following the dismissal and just prior to the Blessing.  In English, it is rendered:

May the homage of my bounden duty be pleasing to You, O Holy Trinity; and grant that the sacrifice which I, though unworthy, have offered in the sight of Your majesty, may be acceptable to You, and through Your mercy be a propitiation for me and for all those for whom I have offered it.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

As I read and pray this prayer at the end of the Mass, what strives to the fore is the humility required.  The humility required to celebrate this Mass, that it is not about me as a priest, but about worshiping God.  The humility that is required to assist at this Mass, that I am not here to be entertained, but to be united to Christ, and Him Crucified.  The humility that is required for us all to approach our Lord and God in fear and trembling.
As we approach the implementation of the new translation of the Ordinary From, may the celebration of the Extraordinary Form lead us to a deeper appreciation of the mysteries we celebrate, help us all to approach our Lord in a spirit of humility and prayer, and finally strengthen us all to become more like Christ in this world so that we might be with Him forever in the world to come.

WDTPRS KUDOS to Fr. Schnippel.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    It’s a very interesting witness. I am not currently attached to Mass in the EF but I am open to it and look ahead to the future of the Church. After considering the NO for so many years, having worshipped in different places, after reading this blog and the experiences of many here, after considering as well the theology and liturgies of our brother and sister believers in the Orthodox traditions, I have concluded that it is not as has been presented that first comes community, then comes our worship to the Living God. It’s folly to perceive it as chicken/egg condundrum as well. Since the community of believers is ever changing and since believers come into the community at infinite stages and at every age in life, the reality is that we first must attend to worship of God, assure its integrity, and work out our actions in faith from there. Analogies to the first believers are always informative and edifying, timeless and we all relate. Yet we already have been given, by God, the way to worship Him. The very first believers were given this quite clearly. The various apostles and missionaries who went out spreading the Gospel to the whole world brought this worship to the communities and were in fact worshipping as they went, the entire time. They did not wait for a community to form in a static way easily apprehended as in a kodak moment but worshipped and told the Good News altogether. I now reject completely the notion prevailing in our time that community comes first and foremost, central, or leads, and that worship flows from that. Liturgy flowing from the community of the moment or in attempting to only be relevant to, speak, react, reply, converse with, the immediate time and place fails on many levels, including the one that it seems to prioritize which is to better build and support the immediate circle. Better minds obviously than mine may speak to it better here and elsewhere. The worship of God is timeless and so much greater, infinitely so, than the immediate. And the Gospel message is obviously reinforced by so much power beyond anything we will do, though we still must do, that the various encounters of the Word with unbelievers or those who had not heard or know will continue to endlessly play out in as many ways as there are human beings. And when people “repent and hear the Good News” they will find, with God’s help, the sacraments of the Church there to help them along on their way. Better fortified in worship, communities instituted in faith will be that much stronger and better able to support one another and others as well in concrete acts of mercy.

  2. Joe Magarac says:

    When one celebrates this Mass [the Extraordinary Form], these two traps: presumption and mindless recitation, are simply not possible.

    How I wish that were true! But it isn’t. Fr. Schnippel admits as much later in his post, when he notes that some priests said the EF Mass hastily and peremptorily (in 12 minutes or less!) pre-1962. I would guess that a priest’s first Mass in either form will be said slowly and mindfully; but a priest’s 1,000th or 10,000th Mass will likely be mindless unless the priest takes steps – in the way he says the Mass each day and in the way he maintains a life of prayer each day – to combat that.

  3. May God bless him and Our Lady keep him! The Church so desperately needs more Priests like him. I will make him my prayer intention this week.

    God bless

  4. Andy Milam says:

    This is one of the best explanations from a young priest that I have seen in quite awhile. KUDOS!!!

  5. Fr Martin Fox says:

    One fact of interest: Father Schnippel is the director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

  6. RichR says:

    My word, look at the beautiful architecture of that church building! A Solemn High Mass in such a place would be incredible.

  7. irishgirl says:

    KUDOS indeed to Fr. Schnippel! (don’t you just love that last name?)

  8. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    “…this is not ‘entertainment,’ this is ‘worship.’ When we confuse those two concepts, we have failed dramatically.” Perhaps the pun is unintentional, but it is never the less true.

    The text of the Mass is not a dramaturgical text, and no matter how trendy type priests and liturgists try and make it a “show,” it always comes up short. It makes for poor theatrics as well as for poor worship. It can only have a dramatic tone that it smarmy, which is dull, or irreverant, which is egregious sacrilege. There’s no where else to go with it as a “drama.” Priests who may have been encouraged to be entertaining and “relevant” and have been sold a bill of goods.

  9. JKnott says:

    Outstandingly beautiful homily. God bless Fr. Kyle Schnippel and may his vocation bear much fruit in the Church and in Liturgical orthodoxy in the young..

  10. avecrux says:

    @ Joe – I think Father’s point was that the “presumption” in the ordinary form is a product of the text itself – that there is far more supplication in the older rite. And as regards the “mindless recitation” – conditions have changed since 1962. Te lack of most Priest’s skills in Latin today make this pretty much impossible presently… I know when my father attended the seminary in Spain in the 40’s (obviously, he didn’t stay!), he was a native English speaker but the lectures were in Spanish and the explanations were in Latin – that was the degree of the students facility in Latin. Fr. Z mentioned recently that a great way to prevent ad-libbing on the part of Priests today would be to celebrate the Mass in Latin… the language alone forces more concentration.

  11. Golatin5048 says:

    I wish I could have gone! Only problem is, I live 2 hours from Cincinnati! I am sure it was packed! What a great example he is showing to all of us teenagers! With him and Archbishop Schnurr at the helm… No wonder we are having more and more vocations to the priesthood in our archdiocese! Perhaps after his experienced of doing a High Mass, he could talk to Archbishop Schnurr and, oh I don’t know, suggest implementing UE 21?

  12. tealady24 says:

    Oh yes, isn’t the EF of the Mass so beautiful!!! It IS prayer from beginning to end; we are NOT worthy and plead throughout for God’s mercy. There is silence to ponder and to enter-in-to-the Mystery!
    If only all Catholics could experience this form of the mass, I believe, they would never go back!
    God bless you Fr. Schnippel!

  13. Philangelus says:

    I’ve been wondering whether a priest who says Mass regularly in both forms sometimes feels a little mixed-up or adrift when switching between them.

  14. benedetta says:

    The NO Mass as currently prevailing does not of course flow, in reality, from community and so it is just pretense. It flows from certain pop theology concepts advanced in the 70s. More and more it will appeal mostly to the people who were young and vivacious then (the disco days) and indulge in a certain nostalgia for the past. For others it is all ever known and since liberal clericalism is still very big and resorted to frequently it will not occur that there is something other and that the laity does deserve better.

    Of course the selective social justice agendas (selective because it fails to acknowledge that all social justice and dignity flows from the fact that every person is loved into existence itself by God and therefore worthy of protection from annihilation in the womb and cruelty and torture in the womb) — these select out only a few to be achieved by periodic collection, donation, or volunteerism in a few places, rarely. Obviously even though it is not intended people get the disconnect…why help the poor when they could just abort, is likely lurking in the guilty consciences of all of us with respect to how to take concrete steps in our genuine and very real responsibilities toward neighbor.

    But if our leaders do not authentically worship God in truth and reverence and call the laity to the same, in the first place then no message of assorted political platform, however poetically or urgently stated, will resonate in our hearts.

    Fr. Z and many others are very correct in perceiving the way forward. We need a Catholic revitalizing of worship. We need a Marshall plan to reinvigorate Catholic identity and liturgy. We need to pursue the universal call to holiness through means of the sacraments as kindly, beautifully, and reverently offered as possible. We all agree that though the 70s, like any decade, had its pluses, but does anyone deny that its cultural offerings were, by and large, a testament to ugly? To the crude, the hedonism. Even of what was beautiful the cultural byproducts were by and large not God-seeking. Through that time, some, in different parts of the world kept persistently pursuing communion with God on God’s own terms and in the ways timelessly offered by God, and, thankfully, mercifully enough, one can still find ways to worship this way with others but it takes some seeking out and it appears that leaders by and large do not seem to get that it ought to be provided so much as possible to people since we all agree that we do need it.

    To ask for this Marshall Plan why don’t we all show up for liturgy one Sunday at nearest NO in our finest 70s attire, men wear leisure suits, women wear mumus, teens wear the biggest baddest bell bottoms you can find…? At any rate, we need the plan and we needed it, yesterday. Peace.

  15. Fr_Sotelo says:

    It is so good to see a brother priest open his attitude and mind to the riches of the EF Mass. And he gives a thoughtful reflection on the experience.

    However, I agree with Joe Magarac. Fr. Schnippel’s comment that “When one celebrates this Mass, these two traps: presumption and mindless recitation, are simply not possible” sounds more like the reflection of a priest with many years of experience with the EF, and not that of a priest who has just offered for the first time.

    After years of celebrating Mass in both forms, I would say to Fr. Schnippel that the first experiences of the EF give you the impression that the EF Mass is immune to presumption and mindless recitation, but later on you become very familiar with this form and then the same pitfalls can afflict you in this form as well as the OF Mass (whether or not you are very familiar with the Latin). What makes or breaks the “ars celebrandi” is the daily life of prayer and trust in Christ, with which the priest approaches properly the Mass in either form.

  16. Fr. Z:

    Thanks for posting both this post and the announcement last week. It was a true honor to be able to celebrate such a Mass in the beautiful and historic Old St. Mary’s in Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood.

    To Fr. Sotelo and Mr. Magarac, I can certainly see that if one gets used to this Form of the Mass, it could be very easy to rip through it with quite a speed. The only true defense is correctly diagnosed by Fr. Sotelo: ‘daily life of prayer and trust in Christ,’ which certainly affects how a priest celebrates either Mass, because he knows it is not about him, but Worship of God.

    Fr. Fox, above, is a brother priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and I offer him the challenge: when are you going to step to the center step?

  17. Christophorus says:

    I would note that Fr. Ryan Schmit said his first Mass at Holy Family (Columbus) in the EF, as did Fr. Tyrone Tomson the next day (Memorial Day) as a Solemn Requiem Mass for deceased priests.
    Both graduated from the Josephinum.. If you want — I’ll see if I can get some photos from Fr. Lutz.

  18. Kevin B. says:

    [The old Mass] was usually said in 12 minutes, rushed through and no homily and very detached from the life of the people

    If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this criticism of the older form of the Mass, I could buy myself a nice steak dinner. Similarly to Father, I’ve always responded, “As opposed to the New Mass which has always and everywhere been celebrated reverently with no abuses, ever, and with everyone participating perfectly?”

  19. More interesting facts about Old St Mary’s.

    * It has a privileged altar. The remains contained therein are a gift from Pope Leo. A Requiem Mass celebrated at this altar grants a plenary indulgence to the one for whom it is intended.

    * The mural behind the high altar is changeable. There are three large rolled up murals, any one of which is displayed at one or another time of year.

    * My dad used to sing with a schola there in the 1950s. (Okay, that fact was interesting to me.)

    More here: http://www.oldstmarys.org/

  20. idatom says:

    Fr. Z.;

    If you want “Eye Candy” of Fr. Schnippel Mass I can snail mail you a CD, the photos are Beautiful not because of my work but because of the event itself which is out of this world. Or I could use an email address that will take photos to send a few.

    With regard of the twelve minute Mass, Archbishop Sheen promoted the solution to the problem at every priest retreat– A Holy Hour every day. There is no way a priest who spends an hour with Our Lord day after day would ever say a 12 minute Mass in either form!

    Keep the faith
    Tom Lanter

  21. Philangelus says:

    You know, when I was working in Manhattan and only got half an hour for lunch, the twelve-minute Mass was the greatest gift God could have given me. Five minutes to walk to the church, fifteen minutes for Mass, five minutes to walk back, and five minutes to grab lunch from a vendor cart and eat it on the way back to my office.

    I wouldn’t advocate that for every situation, but when that’s what you have to do, it’s very nice to have it available.

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