QUAERITUR: Degrees of dialogue during the Extraordinary Form – WDTPRS POLL

I do confess that it is sometimes disconcerting while saying Mass in the Extraordinary Form, to turn around, say “Dominus vobiscum” and not even hear crickets in return and barely a chirp from the server(s).  I have gotten used to this, over the years, of course, but it is still strange.

Of course we keep in mind that, when talking about the Extraordinary Form, the classic view is that the sacred texts of Holy Mass are ideally pronounced only by clerics.  By extension they are pronounced by those who substitute for clerics.  Nevertheless, quite a while before the Second Vatican Council, certainly under the influence of the Liturgical Movement, Popes and the Congregation for Rites had already made provisions for different levels of responses on the part of the congregation.

The “dialogue Mass” was born.

So… how does the dialogue Mass fit with our use the provisions of Summorum Pontificum?  They are certainly permitted, since they were permitted at the time the 1962 books were in force.

From a priest:

Father, thanks for all you do. I have started an extraordinary form Low Mass at my parish and I was wondering about the peoples responses in the Mass. It seems this issue becomes black and white for many, i.e. no responses at all or always a full dialogue Mass. My grandmother’s old Missal shows there were/are 4 degrees of dialogue – the highest degree is when people make all the server’s responses and the lowest degree is when the people say a few of the short responses (et cum spiritu tuo, deo gratias). I find the later, the lowest degree, to be the most suitable as it seems to keep the integrity and solemnity of the older form without denying the people some vocal responses. I find that the full dialogue seems to harm the solemnity of the Mass. For instance, I find that when the people respond to the prayers at the foot of the altar, the Mass is rather noisy and impersonal for the priest. Any thoughts or comments?

“For the priest….”   Okay.  Welllll… Mass isn’t all about Father.  Yes, it’s “Father’s Mass”, in that he is the single indispensable person present.  It is good when he focused on doing his part well and he is recollected.  But if the doors are open, it is a scheduled Mass, then, by their baptism, people also participate in a genuine way.  But “for the priest…”,… yes, sure.  I think the priest should, for the most part, just focus on performing his role properly, saying the black and doing the red, without screwing up or imposing himself on the action.

Much of this hinges also on what we mean by “active participation”.

“Active participation” applies just as much to participation in the older form of Mass as in the newer.  The problem is that the very notion of “active participation” has been distorted beyond recognition by many of the liberal liturgist stripe to mean singing every word, clapping, carrying stuff around, taking liturgical roles that properly belong to the priest, etc.  On the other hand, what the Church really means by “active participation” must begin with an interior activity which at proper moments and ways leads to an outward expression.

To take this another step, only the baptized are able to participate in the sense meant by the Church.  Only the baptized, through their common priesthood, are able to join their sense of sacrifice to that of the ordained priest.  Only the baptized receive the graces that come from reception of the Eucharist.  In fact, just before the Council in a document on sacred music, there is a description of the most perfect form of “active participation”: reception of Holy Communion in the state of grace.  It really all comes together in that, no?  “Active participation” is first and foremost our active receptivity to what Christ is offering through the sacred mysteries of our liturgical worship.  Reception of Holy Communion requires that the baptized person in harmony with the Body of Christ the Church be properly disposed physically and spiritually to receive.  They then physically, that is outwardly, get up, go forward, and in a physical action receive.  At other times they engage their will to receive by listening, watching,  then inwardly pondering and weighing, etc.   I once gave a sermon on this issue of active participation in light of the Magnificat and Mary’s pondering of mysterious things before giving outward expression.

That said, since “active participation” should lead to outward expression, it is hard to find fault with the Catholic who, with the Church’s permission, says “Dominus vobiscum” when sitting in the pews, or even sings it with the choir!   At the same time, I cannot find a reason to fault a person who wants to be quiet and even say the Rosary, just being there, as it were, and then receiving Communion… or not.  We all have different ways to participate at different moments in our lives.

We also have to consider liturgical decorum. We have to weigh what is aptum et pulchrum, the signs and outward expressions which are fitting for liturgical worship.  It may be that bad singing is, after all, not actually apt for liturgical worship.  I have had the experience of an entire congregation singing well the whole Gregorian Chant ordinary.  It was great. On the other hand, if a congregation isn’t ready to sing things, then it may be good to wait until they can and provide instruction until they can.

This is a complicated question and, frankly, I don’t think there is a single answer for all circumstances.  A good deal rests on the sensibilities and abilities of the congregation.  I don’t think there should be rigid uniformity in this.  Each community is going to have to find their mode of doing things in this regard, always under the prudent and well-informed tutelage of the priest.

Again, remember that this “dialogue”, at different levels, was in fact permitted quite a while before the Council.

Just so that people don’t have to ask, here in a nutshell are the degrees that were permitted.

The parts that could be said or sung by the congregation were of two kinds: the parts to be sung at High Mass (Pontifical, Solemn, Sung), and the parts which are responses of the ministers or the server at Low Mass.  Keep in mind that the servers and ministers responded on behalf of the congregation.  The 1958 document Musica sacra, alluded to above, divides dialogue Masses down into four degrees of outward, vocal expression.  In a nutshell,

  1. The congregation makes the shorter responses such as the Amen, Deo gratias, Et cum spiritu tuo along with the servers.
  2. Same as above but adding all the responses of the servers, including the prayers at the foot of the altar, Second Confiteor where used, etc..
  3. Same as above adding the Ordinary (e.g. Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc.) together with the priest and/or choir.
  4. Same as above adding even the Propers (Introit, etc.) with the priest and/or choir.

Certain texts of the Mass are reserved to the priest, and should never be said aloud by the faithful.  Period.

Another problem arises from a divided congregation: some want to respond while others do not.  Also, sometimes the priest wants no responses but the congregation does, etc.  It would probably be a good idea for priests and people to be on the same page with this and, for visitors, make know what is done in some particular place through a note in the bulletin, hand out, etc.

Let’s have poll.  Chose your best answer – I won’t be able to cover all possibilities – and leave your comment in the combox.  You don’t have to be registered to vote.

I am interested what other people have to say about this.   Given that this is a topic about which many  have strong views, I will impose on the combox once again the stricture:

Do not engage each other.  Let others have their say without fear of being attacked.

Think about this, have some Mystic Monk Coffee, and vote.

I think you can pick TWO answers.

About Extraordinary Form "dialogue" Mass.

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  1. Actually none of the formula fit what I think would be most suitable. At solemn Mass and Missae Cantatae, the people should make all the sung responses along with the choir, if they can actually sing the music. This includes the Ordinary. After all the choir sings the Ordinary as a stand in for the whole congregation. In my work on liturgy in medieval Italy (http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/0-271-02477-1.html) it is clear that the congregations were singing all the responses and the Kyrie. It seems that the only reason they didn’t sing the Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus was that these had become rather elaborate musically. In most places they also sang the Kyrie a second time after the Creed — to signify that they accepted the Credo even if it was too hard for them to sing themselves. Obviously, they could not recite the ministerial prayers (Prayers at Food of Altar, Orate Fratres, etc.) because these were covered by music. I might add that there is no evidence in Italy for said Mass outside of monasteries before the XIV cent.

    Low Mass is derived from Sung Mass, period. So, at Low Mass, I would prefer that the congregation make all the responses, including the Ordinary, that would be sung by them at Sung Mass if the music were simple enough. The Propers have always been schola music, so I see no reason to have people recite them. And they should NOT say the ministerial prayers: they were always done by the ministers alone and are specified as said in “medium voice” that is audible only to the ministers. Different parts of the body have different functions.

    On the other hand, as a celebrate at EF (i.e. for me, Dominican Rite) Masses, I always conform to local practice, even if I think it unfortunate and ill-advised.

  2. Andrew says:

    The first two decades of my life there was not Novus Ordo. As a cradle Catholic I can tell you that the congregation wasn’t silent. However, on weekdays, the low Mass was very quite. But then again, everyone knew what was expected. It was all very natural. EF Masses (as I have experienced them) these days tend to have a “staged” feel to them.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    I voted that “Everyone should respond to everything and even sing the Our Father and Gregorian chant Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Creed)”. I love Latin and firmly believe that all Catholics (especially those of the Latin rites) should be familiar with praying in Latin. This is probably one of my reasons for actually preferring the Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Latin… no one looks at you funny for making the responses, singing, etc.

  4. Dear Father Z.,
    can you please tell me the name of the document you mention about sacred music which you quote about active participation and holy communion.
    Ex toto corde.

  5. skull kid says:

    I like to just keep quiet and leave the talking to the priest and the server.

    One of the things I don’t like about the N.O. is the forced ‘participation’, like school children saying ”Good morning Mr. Smith.” I don’t like that and I would like to avoid it in the TLM.

    I find that in the TLM, at least any that I’ve been to, many of the people who do respond in Latin seem to me to be a little too pleased with themselves that they can respond in Latin. I find it especially annoying when they do it extra loudly so that I can be very sure that they are making responses in Latin, whereas most others are silent.

    I think that forced responses, such as in the N.O., are artificial and contrived.

  6. Dr. Eric says:

    It would appear that according to Fr. Augustine’s research the medieval Mass was much more like the Dialogue Mass and more like the Divine Liturgies of other Rites. I voted that the people should respond as much as possible during the Mass as long as it wasn’t the parts that were proper to the priest.

  7. HyacinthClare says:

    When our high EF first started, we were told (not by the priest, but by an SSPX layman) to say nothing and let the servers respond. That simply didn’t last very long. The priest invited us to sing the ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) along with the schola if we knew the words and the melody, and those of us who do, do! Softly. Reverently. The schola sings the propers, and the priest sings the Pater Noster. It’s really beautiful. Our low masses are all silent from the congregation, and I wish they would last forever. This way is working for us. So I couldn’t vote, either.

  8. KerryLee says:

    I have only been to the Mass in the extraordinary form twice (one Low, one High), so my opinion could change as I become more familiar with it, but I voted ‘more at sung Masses, less or none for Low Masses.’ I chose this because it seemed the best choice for my preference, that the congregation have some responses (a 2 or possibly 3 on the scale above).

    I’m 26 and grew up going to the ordinary form, so I suppose there is some comfort/familiarity with responses. I do see it as one way of active participation (although not the only or even best, I think Fr. Z’s explanation above is the best). I also think there is beauty in not only hearing the prayers/responses in Latin, but in saying them ourselves.

    That said, I don’t think us lay people need to say everything, as listening and being quiet is very important as well.

  9. Frank H says:

    A question, slightly off topic but relevant, I think… at the TLMs I attend, about half the congregation stands for the Pater Noster, and half remain kneeling. I can’t find a rubric in my Angelus Press hand missal. Is there a “correct” posture?

  10. danivdp says:

    I vote whisper. My kids pay attention better when they are expected to participate orally.

  11. pinoytraddie says:

    I Voted for Options 2 & 6

    The Extraordinary Form requires more special reverence in the sight of The Real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Body,Blood,Soul & Divinity.

    Having Said This,The Servers and the Choir are enough to speak for the Layman assisting at Mass.

    Also silence is necessary to maintain the solemnity,to pray upon,and reverence for the Sacred Mysteries.(Hope I Made Sense,Forgive Me for A Lack of Better Vocabulary)

    I Am OK with Festive Sung Masses with Dialogue,as long as the congregation is well prepared.

    Enough Said.

    P.S Never Been to The Extraordinary Form.

  12. There is no rubrics for the laity. There isn’t a right way or wrong to assist, but that being said, dialogue Masses (which should only take place at low Masses, if they do at all), was an innovation of the 20th Century Liturgical Movement, and is not a very good method of hearing the Mass. There are other, much more fruitful, ways to hear the Mass, but unfortunately the insistence on the dialogue Mass thwarts the laity from discovering these other methods.

    At sung Masses the congregation ought to sing those parts that it is proper for them to sing if it is within their ability to do so. Obviously there are some Mass settings that require a professional level choir.

  13. Rellis says:

    My answer was to let local custom prevail. In the Diocese of Arlington, we are truly blessed to have many, many TLM options (both on Sunday and during the week). At both sung and Low Masses, the congregational participation runs the gambit. All of them work fine. This is an area where I think we can let a thousand flowers bloom. Ditto for vernacular readings at Low Mass, posture, etc.

    Incidentally, my understand is that there are no posture rubrics for the congregation in the Ex Form. Again, it’s local custom.

  14. Joshua08 says:

    The instruction De musica sacra treats sung Mass and low Mass differently here. Quite obviously, the congregation will not make the responses at the foot of the altar during a sung Mass!

    The three degrees for sung Mass are

    1. Sing the basic responses that are sung
    2. Sing the Ordinary parts of the choir
    3. Sing the propers too

    For low Mass my preference is that the people make the responses that would be sung at a sung Mass, and recite the Ordinary with the priest. So not the prayers at the foot for instance. Those prayers have never been congregational, they were said by the sacred ministers to fill in time during the introit. For a sung Mass, that they sing the responses and the Ordinary. I am vehemently against saying the Pater together with the priest. I understand that while de musicra sacra does not say that it can be sung at sung Mass by the people, that has been allowed. But I am against it still. The music still treats the “sed libera nos a malo” as a response, and the gesture of the priest (open handed) implies he is praying for us, not with us (which makes it weirder in the NO). And it dates back, in some places at least, to the 5th century to do it the old way.

    I like what Fr. Berg, FSSP told me about how to handle it. Basically they come in and say Mass and do not tell the people one way or the other, except to give instructions on how it ought to be done when done.

    At my college we leaned against people saying the Ordinary, except the kyrie (which is responsorial anyways) as it took longer. When people are not used to the Mass, they make mistakes and when you get loud people making mistakes it throws everyone off, including an octogenerian priest who had never said the 1962 Mass before and was already struggling (he had done the Lyonese rite back in the day). People need to be instructed to say the responses with, and not over, the server (I tried my best to get the servers to say them clearly and as loud as the priest, but some ones who already knew the Mass were stubborn and under the wrong belief that it is supposed to be a silent Mass).

    Unfortunately people did not sing at the Sunday high Mass…but they had already waned off from doing that when it was still Latin Novus Ordo

    Oh and to Frank H-

    There are no rubrics for laity in the old Mass. There was a pre-1962 rubric to kneel at low Mass except for the Gospel. In the US, for low Mass, the general custom was

    1. Kneel up to Gospel
    2. Stand for Gospel
    3. Sit for offertory
    4. Kneel the rest of the time except the last Gospel

    I have seen people stand or kneel when the creed is said at low Mass. The server has a rubric having him kneel, but most places the people stand with the servers kneeling…looks off to me. For sung Mass the custom is modelled off the rubrics for those in choir, but is simplified

    1. Kneel when the priest kneels before starting the asperges
    2. Stand during the asperges, bow when sprinkled (genuflect only if a bishop is celebrant)
    3.Kneel for the prayers at the foot up until the Gloria (or until the Collect, if no gloria)
    4. Stand for the prayers
    5. Sit for Epistle and Gradual
    6. Stand for Gospel and Creed
    7. Sit when the priest says Oremus at the beginning of the offertory
    8.Kneel when the sanctus starts
    9. Stand after the Canon through the Our Father
    10. Kneel after the priest says “Pax Domini sit semper..”
    11. Stand at the Dominus vobiscum before the Post communion
    12. Kneel after the Ite Missa est for the blessing
    13 Stand during the last Gospel

    The differences for choir are minor (they stand when the priest ascends the altar after the prayers at the foot, they stand after the consecration, unless Mass is in black or violet then they kneel until the Canon is over. They kneel when Mass is in black/violet for the collect and post communion…things like that)

    Hope this helps

  15. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    Let them sing the Ordinary.

    Since all Catholics ought to be able to sing the more basic chants, I see no reason why this should be a problem. Most, after all, seem to think themselves perfectly able to sing On Eagles Wings and Be Not Afraid, why not Kyrie and Gloria?

  16. BLB Oregon says:

    I think those who are able (meaning knowing not only the responses but the things they ought not join in) ought to be free to respond in an audible voice, and those who are not able ought to be left to learn the ropes mentally before they join in audibly. I wouldn’t ever expect that everyone can, let alone “ought to” join in.

    OTOH, provided there are servers doing the responses (no cricket-rule), it seems better to respect the local custom. With the prevalence of the attitude that “participation” means “doing” and not a full but silent presence, I can appreciate the desire to find a corner of the world where full but silent presence is the rule. I think we have to be willing to provide for the need of others, when we find ourselves in a position to be flexible.

  17. amicus1962 says:

    I agree c0mpletely with Fr. Thompson. The normative Mass was the Solemn Mass; the Sung Mass and the Low Mass were derived from it. The people should recite or sing the congregational responses, plus the ordinaries, since the choir merely stands in for the congregation and whatever they choir sings the congregation should also be singing.

    Like many here, I was once of the opinion that a Dialogue Mass was too noisy and distracting and that it was better to maintain congregational silence. However, after organizing our local TLM and receiving feedbacks from the faithful, I have since become a fan of the Dialogue Mass as the preferred form of Low Mass whenever we have Low Mass. As organizers, one of our greatest challenges was how to explain the different parts of the Mass and exactly where we were at different parts of the Mass during the Mass since everything was in Latin and we had plenty of newcomers who had never experienced the EF. The Sung Mass was very confusing to them because they could not follow the Mass from the booklet. The choir was singing one thing in the background while the priest and servers were doing their own thing seeminglhy independent of whta the choir weas singing. We solved this problem by instituting a Dialogue Mass during the Sundays when we had the Low Mass in lieu of the Sung Mass. In a Low Mass, the people could follow the Mass exactly as in the booklet with inserted propers. Just before the start of Mass I would give a little instruction to the faithful on what to do in a Dialogue Mass, and I would sit at the very front and lead the people in the congregational response, starting with the preparatory prayers at the foot of the altar. Our priest welcomes the participation of the faithful, and the faithful are able to follow the Mass and learn about it at the same time so that they are no longer confused when we have a Missa Cantata.

  18. Bender says:

    “[F]or the Church, divine worship is a matter of life and death. If it is no longer possible to bring the faithful to worship God, and in such a way that they themselves perform this worship, then the Church has failed in its task and can no longer justify its existence. But it was on precisely this point that a profound crisis occured in the life of the Church.” These words from Joseph Ratzinger show that he has long recognized the problems in the way the Holy Mass is celebrated.

    Let’s continue with his words — “But it was on precisely this point that a profound crisis occured in the life of the Church. Its roots reach far back. In the late Middle Ages, awareness of the real essence of Christian worhip increasingly vanished. Great importance was attached to externals, and these choked out essentials.” Oh, apparently he is not speaking of the Mass after Vatican II, but of the Mass before the Council.

    Father Ratzinger continues, “The main measure [after Trent] was to centralize all liturgical authority in the Sacred Congregation of Rites . . . it viewed the liturgy solely in terms of ceremonial rubrics, treating it as a kind of problem of proper court etiquette for sacred matters. This resulted in the complete archaizing of the liturgy, which now passed from the stage of living history, became embalmed in the status quo and was ultimately doomed to internal decay. The liturgy had become a rigid, fixed and firmly encrusted system; the more out of touch with genuine piety, the more attention was paid to its prescribed norms. . . . The baroque era adjusted to this situation by superimposing a kind of para-liturgy on the archaized actual liturgy. Accompanied by the splendor of orchestral performance, the baroque high Mass became a kind of sacred opera in which the chants of the priest functioned as a kind of periodic recitative. The entire performance seemed to aim at a kind of festive lifting of the heart, enhanced by the beauty of a celebration appealing to the eye and ear. On ordinary days, when such display was not possible, the Mass was frequently covered over with devotions more attractive to the popular mentality. . . . In practice this meant that while the priest was busy with his archaic liturgy, the people were busy with their devotions to Mary. They were united with the priest only by being in the same church with him and by consigning themselves to the sacred power of the eucharistic sacrifice.” (J. Ratzinger, Theological Highlights of Vatican II, pp. 129-32)

    Ouch. These are pretty harsh words about the TLM from Fr. Ratzinger, who goes on a couple of sentences later to refer to “the official liturgy in its ivory tower.”

    In case it is not abundantly clear from his stinging words, the future Pope is not recommending merely listening at Mass like someone attending a concert, or sitting there praying the Rosary during Mass, but is criticizing these practices.

  19. Sacristy_rat says:

    Low Mass should be looked at as an exception, not the rule. Low Mass mentality is a real problem which spilled over into the minimalistic golden calf of the Ordinary Form. In any event, at Low Mass the congregation should pretty much be assisting in silence otherwise we experience chaos.

    People should sing what they have the competance to in Missa Cantata or Solemn Mass. I even believe that the people should be singing the Pater Noster. The choir is in some way an extension of the congregation. Polyphony has it’s place, but simple chant should be regular and the congregation should have the catechisis to appreciate and embrace it.

    I understand the Church gives several options, but these reflect my tastes.

  20. mibethda says:

    Although my personal preference is for a dialogue Mass in accord with provisions 2 or 3 of De Musica Sacra, I think that it is probably preferable if the preparatory prayer responses (the prayers at the foot of the altar) not be included in the congregation’s responses. It is often difficult for a congregation to hear and respond in a properly co-ordinated manner (even when the Celebrant is miked). Significantly, Canon O’Connell in his standard volume on the Celebration of the Mass (4th Ed., 1963) suggests that these responses not be included when a dialogue Mass under options 2 or 3 of De Musica Sacra is followed – and this was the practice that I was familiar with in the late 50’s and early 60’s when we adopted the dialogue format for daily Low Masses at a Benedictine prep school which had otherwise adopted the third option immediately upon promulagation of De Musica Sacra.

  21. kat says:

    I could not choose one of the responses to vote, but here is what I like:

    At a high Mass: when the congregation answers the priest’s sung parts (Dominus Vobiscum, Preface responses, Ite, etc.), and sings the Kyriale (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei). A schola sings the Propers; a choir sings hymns during Offertory and Communion; hymns for the processional and recessional are sung by the congregation as well.

    At a scheduled dialogue Mass (our school children assist at these daily): The congregation answers all the prayers with the servers, including the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar; the congregation alternates the Kyrie/Christe with the priest and says the Gloria with him (after he intones it); same for the Credo when it is said; they also say the Sanctus and Agnus Dei with the priest (i.e. the whole Kyriale which is sung at a high Mass is said with the priest). This does not include the Pater Noster; the priest says that aloud himself, although the congregation answers with Sed Libera nos a malo.

    At a non-dialogue low Mass, the congregation is silent throughout and the servers do all the responses, but do not say the Kyriale with the priest.

    My favorite is the school Mass when all the children are saying the responses and Kyriale! But I admit it took a while to get used to after years of a simple low Mass. I find it teaches the children so much more about the Mass and helps them to stay focused. And when the boys are ready to learn to serve Mass, they already have a head-start on the Latin. The children also sing the Kyriale and hymns at the high Masses.

    My first experience with the dialogue (or “solemn Low “) Mass was in Europe. I did not like it at first. I find many Americans are still opposed to it, sadly. But those who are exposed to it more mostly come around to seeing how beautiful it is and its value. Perhaps if it had become more prevalent in the US before Vatican II, there would not have been such a “need” to try to find different ways for “active participation” in the N.O. Mass.

  22. Interesting comments.

    I might add that where I have a say (at the Dominican Rite Low Masses om the Western Dominican Province School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, where I am priest for one of the two celebrations monthly), we follow the principle that when the rubrics say “clara voce” the whole congregation responds, where the rubrics say “mediori voce” the server alone responds, and (obviously) when the rubric says “secreto” no one hears it.

    In the high middle ages there was no concept of “Private Mass” as we know it. Well into the 1300s all Masses were sung: even that by a priest celebrating “privately.” Sometimes this created problems: e.g., in the Duomo of Bologna there were parishes located in eight or nine of the side chapels. There were constant complaints about the priests and congregations in adjoining chapels “outsinging” each other. See my _Cities of God_ on this. In houses of friars there is evidence that by the 1300s priests saying their individual Masses at proximate altars were being told to sing (or say?) their Mass quietly enough so as not to disturb the celebrant next door. These Masses were all modeled, as much as possible (derivative of) the Solemn Mass — that’s why the priest mimics motions of the ministers such as moving to the “Gospel Side” for the Gospel (deacons sang the Gospel facing liturgical north). So the best way to describe this is that the Missa Cantata is derivative of the Solemn Mass, and the said Mass is derivative of the Missa Cantata, for which there are examples before 1300.

    There used to be a wonderful set of videos at the University of Copenhagen Religion Dept. site showing a reenactment of a parish Mass of the 1300s in the use of Denmark (many similarities to the Dominican), sung by a priest and his chanter without any other ministers or choir. Unfortunately the links no longer work. The congregation makes no responses at all, which may be right for the period (later 1300s). The earliest Italian example of a cleric upset that people were marking responses that I know of was in 1400s (also discussed in _Cities_).

  23. Oh, one other thing. I do not like the practice of the congregation reciting the Pater with the priest. Two reasons: first, it seems it was added by Gregory the Great so that the PRIEST reaffirmed human words (the Canon) with divine words (The Lord’s Prayer). Musically it is a book end matching the Preface. And both have a congregational response (the Sanctus and the Libera nos a male).

    As it is now done at some EF Masses, it makes hash (was it does in the OF) of the rubrical gestures. If the Pater is sung by all, the priest should properly fold his hands during it, not leave them extended. The only time the orans position is used by the priest is when he is praying by himself for the congregation. Frankly, I don’t understand why the orans position was kept during the Pater when the new rite made it a congregational prayer. Why don’t priests extend their hands during the Gloria, Credo, Agnus, etc? Obviously people had forgotten what the orans position means. (Correcting this odd gesture in the Novus Ordo and teaching people about why would be simple way to get rid of the silly practices of everyone doing the orans position at the Pater . . . and perhaps the worse practice of hand holding.)

  24. Inigo says:

    At our parish, the ordinary and replies (Deo gratias, et cum spiritu tuo, amen) are sung by everyone, the proper is sung first in latin by the choir, and then repeated in the vernacular by everyone. The prayers at the foot of the altar are thus obviously left to the ministers and the priest. After the consecration, Eucharistic hymns are sung in the vernacular by everyone. By doing this, the congregation doesn’t think it is left out of something when the priest is singing the Pater alone.
    A mass like this is beautiful: the people are actually praying the mass, and not praying at mass.
    Pamflets with the propers of the day are always handed out, the ordinary is usually followed from hand missals.

  25. David2 says:

    In relation to the practice adopted by Inigo’s congregation, I remember reading in the Liturgical Music Guidelines published by the Canons Regular of St John Cantius, that vernacular hymns are not permitted during Mass. Processional and recessional hymns in the vernacular are permitted.

    Although Summorum Pontificum permits the Epistle and Gospel to be proclaimed in the vernacular, I do not think that that Motu Proprio goes so far as to permit the congregation to sing all the propers in the vernacular, even after they have been sung in Latin.

    In short, I question whether what is occurring is in fact a liturgical abuse. It would appear to me to be contrary to the liturgical laws of 1962 as modified by SP.

  26. amicus1962 says:

    Regarding the practice at Inigo’s parish, of particular importance is par. 14 of the 1958 Instruction De Musica Sacra:
    14. a) In sung Masses only Latin is to be used. This applies not only to the celebrant, and his ministers, but also to the choir or congregation.
    “However, popular vernacular hymns may be sung at the solemn Eucharistic Sacrifice (sung Masses), after the liturgical texts have been sung in Latin, in those places where such a centenary or immemorial custom has obtained. Local ordinaries may permit the continuation of this custom ‘if they judge that it cannot prudently be discontinued because of the circumstances of the locality or the people’ (cf. canon 5)” (Musicæ sacræ disciplina: AAS 48 [1956] 16-17).

    De Musica Sacra narrowly permits vernacular hymns (but not the singing or recitation of the propers in the vernacular) after the liturgical texts have been sung in Sung Masses only in places where that has been the immemorial custom. De Musica Sacra is quite clear about the exclusive use of Latin DURING Mass, so the practice at Inigo’s parish, however beautiful it may be to some, would constitute a serious deviation from approved 1962 practice. It should be discontinued.

    On the matter of the faithful being allowed, even encouraged, by De Musica Sacra to join the priest in reciting the Pater Noster in its entirety including the Amen, particularly during a Low Mass, and the priest maintaining an orans position in lieu of folding his hands as the faithful pray aloud with him, I would just like to point out that in the Good Friday Liturgy, the rubrics specifically direct the faithful to pray the Pater Noster aloud together with the priest, so this is not a practice that is foreign to the Roman Rite even in pre-conciliar times. Why limit the faithful to “sed libera nos a malo?” If one takes the position that the priest alone should pray the Pater Noster, then why would he say only six? To be consistent the priest should pray all seven petitions and not leave out the last for the faithful to say, but this is not the case in most EF Masses. I have yet to find a rational explantion for this.

  27. Pachomius says:

    I voted for the option for the congregation singing or reciting as much as possible. Partly because the above quote from (then-) Fr Ratzinger actually articulates perfectly one of the big things I dislike about the older Mass. I also view it as essential that people do respond and take an, ahem, actual part in the Mass, because the Sacrifice is not the priest’s alone. The congregation are an essential part of the Mass, too. I don’t mean in the we’re-all-prophets-priests-and-kings-so-get-your-tambourines-out-and-praise-the-Great-Mother way.

    However, the Orate Fratres is interesting here, in that it refers to meum ac vestrum sacrificium (“my sacrifice and yours“) [as an aside, it’s interesting that even Fortescue thought the saying of this prayer quietly was a bit bizarre] – the response is, of course, “may the Lord accept the sacrifice from your hands” – not “your sacrifice”, but “the sacrifice”.

    This is important, because the Sacrifice of the Mass is not a magic trick performed by Father while standing at the altar, as our detractors like to say. That is, the Mass is not about a “change”, but a being-made-truly-present.

  28. Steven says:

    At the last EF Mass I attended (a pontifical Low Mass with His Excellency John Quinn of Winona), the congregation made most of the server responses (somewhat quietly, although audibly), although not the Prayers at the Foot of the altar. I wouldn’t mind having the people make the server responses, provided that they can do it together – not clumsily and everyone on a different word. With larger congregations it may be best to just keep it quiet.

  29. John Nolan says:

    I started serving Mass at the age of eight in 1959 and the server made all the responses. The ‘dialogue Mass’ was introduced only just before the Council in England (although it was authorized on the Continent as early as 1935, including the Missa Recitata where it was permissible to recite in a Low Mass everything that would be sung in a High Mass.) I remember disliking it intensely; why should the congregation usurp my role, especially stumbling through the Confiteor at a snail’s pace?

    In fact, my exposure to Low Mass was always from a server’s point of view, so I find the EF Low Mass can be a bit alienating; traddies frown on the congregation making any of the responses, and at the Sunday EF Mass at the High Altar of the London Oratory the microphones pick up the priest’s part but not the server’s, with a decidedly lopsided effect.

  30. MonkBrendan says:

    I grew up with the Latin Mass–to be exact, I was baptized on July 1, 1951, in Rockford, Illinois. My dad was a traveling salesman, so we moved a lot. Rockford, Indianapolis, Chicago, Fort Atkinson, WI and then back to Rockford. And at least until I was about 14 or so, I went to Mass every Sunday and every holy day. In Indianapolis and Chicago, I went to Catholic school. In Indianapolis, that meant Mass every day, whereas Mass was only on a daily basis during Lent in Chicago.
    In Indianapolis, the kids were drilled as to the Ordinary of the Mass, and we were required to make all of the responses, in chant, yet. In Chicago, we were also required to memorize the propers for Sunday Mass, and they were sung. At both schools, attendance was taken for Sunday Mass, and we had to sit in a specific pew, and woe betide the child that didn’t sit in the right pew, or worse yet, didn’t show up at all on Sunday and didn’t have a note from his mother as to why he wasn’t there.
    With the above in mind, I don’t attend the Extraordinary Form in Phoenix, as everyone in the pew is expected to remain silent, while the choir makes the responses. Also, the EF is so choreographed, it might as well be an audio animatronic presentation. Come on, there is not one priest who is not also a human being. Why then does it have to look so robotic?
    I know a bi-ritual priest who told me that the EF is not what he remembers when he was going to school as a little boy. I can say the same thing.

  31. ocsousn says:

    I agree with those who favor a degree of participation at publicly celebrated Low Masses more or less equal to that of a Sung or Solemn Mass where the people join in the sung responses and the Ordinary. This would exclude the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the responses at the end the Epistle and Gospel and the Suscipiat. However a problem arises with the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Domine Non Sum Dignus when the priest does not take the lead and set a pace appropriate to communal recitation. This usually requires a microphone, cordless or otherwise. When there is a small congregation scattered throughout a large church and /or one individual with a loud voice and bad hearing cacophony is the result. All that being said I have found that most groups settle down to a level of participation that works for them.

    Speaking in general of “active participation”, it is interesting to note that those who habituate the EF of Holy Mass are vastly more aware of what goes on at the altar than the typical American congregation of the 1950’s. In addition, priests who celebrate the EF pay much more attention to the rubrics and celebrate at a much more reverent rate than was common back then. There was great variety from parish to parish. In my home parish Low Mass was very low indeed and the priest rarely raised his voice any louder than was necessary for the server to respond. From time to time an Italian priest would appear who followed the rubrics and could be heard throughout the church at the appropriate times. This was the occasion of much “admiratio”. On the other hand, the parish in the seaside town where we went for a few weeks each summer had a full Dialogue Mass and everyone responded in perfect unison. As I recall, one or two of the sisters from the parish school were usually present in the front pews and took the lead.

    There was always a certain cult surrounding priests who could say a “quick” and all but silent Mass. Even as a boy I noted that most of these devotees were men who had attended Jesuit schools.

    Fr. Aidan Logan, O.C.s.o.

  32. lucy says:

    I chose responding but only a whisper, but didn’t like the choices. I would prefer some responses at High Mass and even more responses at Low Mass.

    We have a mixture at our parish since we have multiple priests serving us. At our Low Masses every other week, we have a lot of dialogue and I do like it. Our girls’ choir sings at this Mass and they do a beautiful job of singing to our Good God.

    At High Masses every other week, we have our schola who chant beautifully and when some folks who cannot sing go to it loudly, I think it ruins it. However, that said, I know that God might want to hear all our voices and maybe doesn’t care that most of us can’t really sing well.

    We also have a sung Low Mass on the 5th Sundays with a different priest. This is a lovely Mass and one of my favorites. Usually the schola and the girls’ choir are both in action and the people participate as well.

  33. mibethda says:

    Parishes with an accomplished choir or schola, but where the congregational also wishes to participate, perhaps should consider utilizing plainchant sung antiphonally.

  34. Fr. Basil says:

    FWIW, the Puritans at the Savoy Conference in Great Britain (which ultimately produced the King James Bible) insisted in words to this effect, “The minister is appointed for all things in the public worship of God in both Old and New Testaments, and the people’s part being only in silence to attend and assent thereunto.”

    Sounds rather like those who insist that the EF NEVER be celebrated as a dialogue Mass, eh?

  35. God love you, Fr. Z. Great questions, and great poll results. We worship God with body and soul. The human voice is only heard with the participation of the body. Spoken or sung worship is automatically somatic in nature. Our souls, on the other hand–and as you have so wisely pointed out, are engaged in worship too. That is why our attentiveness and preparation is valueable to the Rite. But, let’s face it: Some folks hate to sing. Who knows why? Lots of early trauma around singing in front of others. But, no matter how poorly someone sings, the audience is Our Heavenly Father. We might sound like a goose being strangled; but to Him we are Pavarotti. No father disdains the voice of his child. He enjoys it. That said, why do so few EF communities offer instruction and practice for the lay faithful in the pews? Fear. Lack of knowledge about how much sound is permitted. Your post goes a long way toward clearing that up. Thank you. The Holy Mass is not a concert of sacred music, only to be performed by the perfect. It’s a sacrifice, not a performance. Christ died for both the strangled goose as well as for Pavarotti. Untie the tongues of the faithful. Let the people’s voice be heard! And for pity’s sake, teach them proper Ecclesiastical diction. No excuses.

  36. wolfeken says:

    I am with Evelyn Waugh, who in the early 1960s called the Dialogue Mass “a bitter trial.”

  37. Nova Eboracensis says:

    Since I was born and baptized in the early 1950’s, I remember very clearly how the EF was celebrated in my parish church and in my New York suburban diocese. It was in the form of the Dialogue Mass: the congregation made the responses in Latin in unison with no difficulty. I seem to remember that around 1965 or 1966, the readings began to be proclaimed in English facing the nave and no longer “versus absidem” at the altar.

    I should also say that these changes were welcomed and embraced by the overwhelming majority of Catholics. A principal goal of the Liturgical Movement was to restore a proper balance between silent contemplation and those parts of the liturgy that had ceased to have the communal character proper to the “ordo laicorum”.

    Recently, I attended my first EF Mass since the advent of the OF in 1968, and remembering the dialogue format of my youth, began to make the responses – I quickly realized that this was a very big no-no! The experience left me with a different understanding of the term “the Church of Silence”. Once again, this is not how the EF was celebrated back in the day in most dioceses across the United States, circa 1966. I’d like to know how it came to be otherwise. [Good points.]

  38. Nathan says:

    In my experience with the TLM, in most Low Masses some of the laity have said the responses and Ordinaries, some have whispered them, some have been silent. At High Mass, some have sung the Ordinaries and resposes (some brave souls have brought their Liber Usualis and sung along with the Propers). Others have whispered or been silent. In a few cases, others in the pews did use the “hairy eyeball” or gave a “shh” when laypeople tried to say the responses, but usually not. In almost 30 years of going to the TLM, I’ve never heard a priest try to tell the congregation what to do.

    While different churches and chapels have had different approaches in general to the degrees of dialog, I’ve almost never run across a serious problem. Just this past Sunday, when Father sat at the sedelia for the Credo, most in the congregation sat while others stood. It was fine. Most folks seem to follow along and express their prayer in ways comfortable to them that fit generally with the custom of that particular parish. In one extreme circumstance, in the early 80s I heard an elderly gentleman at a Low Mass read aloud the entire text of the Mass in Latin while Father was saying it, and I don’t think anyone gave him too much grief about it.

    Is this really a problem or a tempest in a teapot? I can’t speak for some places, but I would really try to avoid, as much as possible, the “forced fun on the laity” directives from the pulpit or from the liturgy committee that spawned some of the liturgical abuses common to the OF in many places.

    In Christ,

  39. dominic1955 says:

    I prefer a silent low Mass, mainly because people butcher Latin and a “dialog” Mass could easily turn a silent and meditative experience into a total cacophony. I will whisper some parts, and wouldn’t mind more of a “dialog” format if everyone was at least up to a decent level of familiarity with the language. As such, the clerics, 10-15 folks and myself would be the only ones that wouldn’t be butchering it. Aside from the pronunciation and such, you also have the common problem of public prayer (i.e. a rosary)-people say it at all different speeds and such. I’d rather just stick with the silence.

    The same basic idea applies to a High/Solemn Mass, IF people can swing it-go for it and that is good. If not (and this seems to be the general case), let the choir handle most things. I think the people should be able to sing along with the choir for simple ordinaries (like the Requiem, Orbis Factor, Missa de Angelis, etc.) and should do so.

    Regardless, one thing I think no one wants is to have this “active participation” mandated like various liturgists and their cronies try to do at NO parishes across the country.

  40. Joshua08 says:

    amicus1962, the Good Friday practice you mention was invented in 1955. Hence it is fairly novel.

    Gueranger gives a spiritual reason for the 1500 year old practice with the Pater Noster. Fr. Augustine gave a musical one (the music presupposes sed libera nos a malo as a response). And the fact that the gesture would have to be changed, and therefore the very purpose of the prayer there. Also the practice at Inigo’s parish was fairly common in some countries. De musica sacra does not reprobate the custom, but urges ordinaries to do so. Where not reprobated the law would permit it. I recommend The Celebration of the Mass from O’Connell here.

    And there are church documents on the practice of repeating the propers in vernacular. Before we go saying anyone is doing something wrong, we need to be more careful. Custom makes law, interprets law, and even abolishes laws (even of Councils!). It is a messy area especially in the current context

  41. amicus1962 says:


    I quoted De musica sacra because there is nothing in O’Connell’s book that references any authority that allows the repeatition of the propers in the vernacular. On the contrary, O’Connell essentially repeats De musica sacra when he says the following in pages 603-604 of The Celebration of Mass:
    “c) Reciting a verbatim translation of any of the liturgical texts in the mother tongue is not desirable. It gives the impression of a vernacular liturgy which is not acceptable to the Church. Paraphrases of such texts are preferrable.
    d) Singing a verbatim translation of any of the liturgical texts in any liturgical function – without an indult – is forbidden, as it is forbidden in presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed.”

    So, it is not without basis when I offered my opinion that the practice at Inigo’s practice is at variance2 with the approved norms for 1962 and therefore should be discontinued. I would be happy to change my view on this if you can cite another authority that allows this practice because the one you recommended does not.

    As for the Pater Noster, even if is fairly new, it is still preconciliar. Fr. Thompson has a very valid point, but as I have pointed out, to be consistent about it, the priest should say all 7 petitions of the Pater Noster and not stop at the sixth and leave the last one for the people to say. The priest should then fold his hands as the people say “sed libera nos a malo.” But this is not how Holy Mother Church wants it done.

  42. Actually, Amicus, in the Dominican Rite (1256) the priest DOES fold his hands at “sed libera nos a malo.” The opens them again for the Libera nos (silent). I am mystified that the Roman Rite did not include this rubric. I suspect that this was a rubric that had fallen out of use in some places in the middles ages and that the Pian Missal codified bad practice.

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