Something amazing and revolutionary during the Holy Father’s Midnight Mass … which I missed.

Something remarkable occurred during the Holy Father’s Midnight Mass.

I had a note from a long time reader about this.  I didn’t see the broadcast of the Mass this year, but it is archived and it can be viewed on demand.

In the on demand video, at about 36:28, the men of the Sistine choir sing the Gradual for the 1st Mass of Christmas.

Get that?


They don’t sing it particularly well, for it drags, but they sing it Then a cantor, at the microphone sings the solo parts. He doesn’t seem to understand where and how to breathe, or what the text means, and he has a little more vibrato than he ought, but it was the Gradual, not a responsorial psalm.

There was no “reponsorial psalm with congregational singing.

[Just a warning: turn it off when the solo is over so you don’t have to experience the voice of the woman who reads the second reading.  It’ll etch your computer screen.]

In any event, my correspondent wrote: ” thought amusing the Vatican Radio announcer’s labored effort to explain that it is actually ok under the new rubrics to substitute an “ancient gradual” (as he called it, the same one as the EF gradual for Christmas midnight Mass) for the responsorial psalm.”

Indeed it is okay to sing a Gradual in place of the “responsorial psalm”. You can find the graduals, along with the other proper chants for Mass, in the Ordinary Form Graduale Romanum published by Solesmes.  And check out also the Gregorian Missal for Sundays.

We have seen His Holiness celebrate Mass ad orientem, and wear Roman vestments, and use older trappings of office.  He has now done something else along the same line.  He has signaled to the whole world that it is not necessary that congregations be singing or talking all the time, even at the times when they have been accustomed to sing or talk.  They can listen to a text, and that text can be in Gregorian chant, which the Council says has pride of place in sacred liturgical music.

Gravitational pull?  This would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

Here is a link to the pdf of the booklet for the Mass.

Imagine being surprised to hear a Roman Gradual at a Mass in the Roman Rite celebrated by the Roman Pontiff.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    There was one more “unusual” thing, i.e. the “Kyrie”. Instead of 3×2 setting of Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison, Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, the special Kyrie “Cum iubilo” was used (according to Graduale Romanum, it is IX Kyrie, intented to be sung during the Feasts of BVM), which by itself has the threefold structure, i.e. 3×3. In other words, the Kyrie setting used brought this Midnight Mass even more closer to the TLM. Our Holy Father clearly indicates the way, just I am not sure, that other bishops are willingly seeing it. Yet, as Fr. Z. likes to repeat, brick by brick, o in this case, Kyrie by Kyrie and Gradual by Gradual.

  2. “They can listen to a text, and that text can be in Gregorian chant, which the Council says has pride of place in sacred liturgical music.”

    Actually, in the original Latin of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and the standard English translation:

    116. Ecclesia cantum gregorianum agnoscit ut liturgiae romanae proprium: qui ideo in actionibus liturgicis, ceteris paribus, principem locum obtineat.

    116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

    I’ve always wondered whether that “pride of place” was an intentional obfuscation of What The Latin Really Says ….. Doesn’t principem locum suggest more specifically “the principal (or first) place”?

    [Thanks for quoting the Latin. I don’t hear all that much distance between “pride of place” and “first/chief/most distinguished place”. Both give you sense that when choosing music for worship, the very first consideration must given to Gregorian chant. Am I wrong?]

  3. Another of several possible innovations in this Mass occurred in the structure of the vernacular Prayers of the Faithful. Each had an introduction chanted by the deacon in Latin–e.g., the deacon’s Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto, Episcopis et Presbyteris followed by a reader’s vernacular petition, and then the response Da pacem, Domine, in diebus nostris to each by the people. I thought this structure brought forth some dignified order from the usual multilingual chaos of vernacular responses, separated with just a very brief people’s response (such as Kyrie, eleison) to each,

    All in all, I thought this papal Mass raised Benedict’s liturgical reform program to a definite new level, breaking new ground in several places.

  4. Robert of Rome says:

    “Imagine being surprised to hear a Roman Gradual at a Mass in the Roman Rite celebrated by the Roman Pontiff.” Yes, imagine that!

  5. anncouper-johnston says:

    More, please! Gregorian chant goes so much deeper than responsorial psalms (where I find the response breaks one’s concentration on the text – this constant demand that one participate by DOING something – singing, shaking hands, has me antsy when I want to be quiet and LISTEN – to the words of the liturgy, to the choir singing to the glory of God and taking me beyond what I could do myself …. why did those who messed up the liturgy think participation meant doing?) At Mass I want to be taken beyond the everyday, to places where I do not normally go (to the glory of Heaven or at least a glimmer of it, to the history of our salvation stretching back two thousand years and then another two thousand to God’s chosen people who sang His praises). The responsorial psalm has no such resonance (and compared to the Anglican Prayer Book, the English is banal).

  6. jesusthroughmary says:

    Actually, under the new rubrics, you cannot substitute the Gradual for the Responsorial Psalm. I say cannot rather than may not, because it is not possible to substitute the Gradual for anything. However, one can, and may, substitute some other chant (e.g. a responsorial psalm) for the Gradual.

  7. Novum Eboracense says:

    I was also struck by the format for the Universal Prayer at the Christmas Eve Mass.
    Making this prayer follow set formulae at every mass of the OF would be another big step in the right direction.

  8. rollingrj says:

    Henry, you are absolutely correct. Dr. William Mahrt is an Associate Professor of Music at Stanford University, President of the Church Music Association of America, and this country’s leading scholar regarding Gregorian Chant. He routinely in his talks says the same thing you have–that principem locum properly translated is “principal/first place”, not the dynamic equivalence “pride of place”. If this small phrase from Sacrosanctum Concilium were taken in spirit and truth (the letter of the law), then all the so-called “options” when it comes to music become priorities; the ideal of a chanted mass becomes manifest.

    AnnCouper-Johnston’s statement really resonates here. How can one meditate on the prior reading (and isn’t that the true intent of the Responsorial Psalm, taking its cue from the EF?) when you are “listening for your cue”? From the GIRM, No. 61 (emphasis mine):

    After the First Reading follows the Responsorial Psalm, which is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and which has great liturgical and pastoral importance, since it fosters meditation on the Word of God.

    JesusThroughMary, I find your statement confusing: “Actually, under the new rubrics, you cannot substitute the Gradual for the Responsorial Psalm.”

    Again, GIRM No. 61 (emphasis mine):

    …In the Dioceses of the United States of America, instead of the Psalm assigned in the Lectionary, there may be sung either the Responsorial Gradual from the Graduale Romanum, or the Responsorial Psalm or the Alleluia Psalm from the Graduale Simplex, as described in these books, or an antiphon and Psalm from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, including Psalms arranged in metrical form, providing that they have been approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop….

    Granted, I take a simple, plain reading of the instructions. Always lots of fun to discover what people think the text says (or should say).

  9. jesusthroughmary says:

    I am saying that the Gradual is what is appointed; anything else is being substituted for the Gradual and not vice versa. So when one uses the Responsorial Psalm, one is substituting it for the Gradual; when one uses the Gradual, no substitution is occurring.

  10. JCCMADD says:


    [We don’t SHOUT here. No more all CAPS, please.]

  11. Mike Morrow says:


    Young Scottish fellows, are they?

  12. PeterC says:

    Has anyone notice too that during the processional, the choir knelt down when the Holy Father passed by them?

  13. Random Friar says:

    Re: The Second Reading lector:
    You’re just too Italianized to recognized the proper pride of place Spanish has among the Romance languages, dear Father. That’s some solid trilling of the r’s! [Italians trill, and it wasn’t the trill.]

  14. Reginald Pole says:

    Father Z writes: “And check out also the Gregorian Missal for Sundays.”
    This is a marvelous little book containing everything one needs for a proper celebration of the NO in Latin with all the appropriate Gregorian chants. Unfortunately the English side of the missal still contains the outmoded ICEL translation (ugh). I hope and pray for a new updated edition.

  15. dominic1955 says:

    This is a good development. The next thing they need to do is get rid of having laypeople doing the readings. If instituted lectors are supposed to be doing this, and Rome is the very heart of the Catholic world, you would think there should be plenty of seminarians running about who could do this or some other actual cleric. It makes the rules about this seem pretty silly when even in Rome they ignore them.

  16. Although the video of the Mass began with the Proclamation of Christmas, followed by the fanfare of silver trumpets announcing the pope’s entry into the basilica for Mass, I note from the posted booklet that–instead of Christmas carols–the midnight Mass was preceded by the Office of Readings for Christmas, sung in Latin. Except for the first and second readings which apparently were read in Italian and English (respectively), schola and assembly alternated in singing the Latin verses of the invitatory, hymn, antiphons, psalms, responses, and the Te Deum at then end.

  17. Supertradmum says:

    Lacking the Graduals, I for years used the Graduale Romanum privately. This is earthshaking and I hope a sign of change for the pastors to notice in our little churches.

  18. BaedaBenedictus says:


    Of course this is wonderful, but if it’s a one-off, it means little. Ad orientem, for example, remains a special “exception” when the Pope happens to be celebrating in the Sistine Chapel. Otherwise “gathering around the table” is the “norm” for celebration, along with the responsorial psalm, lay readers, etc.

    The Holy Father is nearly 85. Only occasional demonstrations of these things are not enough to get the ball rolling on breaking the status quo which is virtually universal across the Ordinary Form world. Most priests are still forbidden (explicitly or implicitly) from celebrating ad orientem, which is why it is as rare as hen’s teeth.

    The longer we wait for reform, the more the current aberrant practices are going to harden into irreformable “tradition”.

  19. Not to rain on the parade, but…

    Fr. Z is right – the Holy Father’s use of the Gradual is big news, but am I the only one that finds that fact pathetic? Is “brick by brick” the best we can hope for?

    Seriously, what competent father runs his household this way? Sure, as a dad, I sometimes had to exercise prudence in “picking my fights” with my children, but when it came to matters essential to their well-being and formation, there was no tiptoeing or gravitational pulling; it was time for crystal clear teaching, plainly spoken, backed up by my full authority, rendered firmly and in love. If a temper tantrum ensued? Oh well. In time, the dust settled and the household was the better for it. What’s more, I knew darn well that my children craved that sort of firmness and clarity even when they outwardly rebelled against it. I bet every decent parent (or adult who had decent parents) on this blog knows what I mean.

    We have grown so used to emasculated, weak men in our society in general, that a papacy that shuns its ruling authority (as wiser, more well informed observers than I maintain has been the case since John XIII) just seems normal. Well, it’s not. It’s one of the bottom line reasons why even though we are going to “celebrate” the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II next year we still don’t have clarity on much of its content.

    We’ve seen this pope celebrate ad orientem? Really? When? Does this refer to the Mass the Holy Father celebrated in the Sistine Chapel in 2008? Honestly. How about doing so during a papal visit abroad before thousands of faithful, when the eyes of the world are watching?

    See the damage done by allowing the use of alter girls? How about issuing a clear ruling eliminating them?

    Recognize the sacrileges that stem from Communion in the hand? How about removing the indults that made it possible?

    If “brick by brick” is the best we can expect, fine, but it seems to me that until these bricks start being held together with the mortar of ruling authority they’ll be easily reduced to rubble by those who are determine to do so before they can amount to anything.

  20. Ed the Roman says:

    “Imagine being surprised to hear a Roman Gradual at a Mass in the Roman Rite celebrated by the Roman Pontiff.”

    I am content to imagine hearing it.

  21. Centristian says:

    The Pope’s Midnight Mass was glorious. The singing of the gradual by far outweighs in importance something I picked up on, but I picked up on it nonetheless: the Pope has a new miter.

    Lately (by “lately” I mean since the beginning of the reign of Pope John Paul II), a new miter for the pope tends to mean something short to medium in height having about it a design that is either merely tasteful, or, frankly, not at all tasteful. Sometimes they’re quite disappointing. Other times they’re just plain tragic.

    Once in a rare while we have seen Pope Benedict XVI wearing the grand tall precious miters worn by his pre-Conciliar predecessors (or by Paul VI before he tossed good taste directly out the window). Usually, though, the Holy Father dons miters that were made just for him, and which tend to be short, about the height one would deem appropriate for a prothonotary apostolic or an Anglican suffragan.

    The miter he debuted this Christmas Eve (which, properly, bore his papal coat of arms on each of the lappets), however, was entirely papal, both in height and decoration. It was elaborately embroidered and jewel-encrusted, worthy to take its place in the papal sacristy with the magnificent precious miters worn by, say, Pius XII or John XXIII.

    It’s significant to me that a new miter of that pre-Conciliar calibre was actually commissioned. It’s almost unbelievable, actually. It is probably the first full-height precious miter to have been commissioned by a pope since the early part of the reign of Pope Paul VI. What’s more astonishing to me is that it actually gives some of the older ones a run for their money. They certainly didn’t give the maker any instructions to tone it down for modern eyes and sensibilities; it’s aspect is sheer out-and-out triumphalism. Might one hope one day to see the return of the tall cloth of gold miter on a pope’s head while seated? What dreams may come.

    Alas, with every step forward or two comes a step back: there was no throne dais…again. The pope’s chair–an audience chamber throne–was just plopped in front of the altar, “JP2” style. Now, certainly, Pope Benedict has much nicer audience chamber chairs plopped in front of the altar than his predecessor had plopped in front of it. But why would you plop a chair in front of the altar to begin with (at Mass, at any rate)?

    When Pope Benedict first reintroduced a throne dais a few years ago, I imagined it would become a permanent feature. No, alas. I would have throught Christmas Midnight Mass would have been a sufficiently solemn event at which to erect the occasional dais, though. I don’t suppose the proper Pontifical Throne dais (using an actual Pontifical Throne instead of an audience chamber throne) at the Chair of Peter will ever be restored. I haven’t yet completely despaired of it, though.

    But we seem, now, to have the gradual back. And other things that were good from the past that were so needlessly locked away in the attic by the last three guardians of Rome’s traditions are also being aired out, dusted off, and restored. The papal liturgy is certainly regaining its former majesty.


    [We will keep an eye on 1 Jan and Epiphany, and of course, Baptism of the Lord in the Sistine Chapel.]

  22. Sam Schmitt says:

    “Seriously, what competent father runs his household this way?”

    Well, obviously the Holy Father isn’t dealing with a few young children in a home. If being a despot with my own little children doesn’t work, how much less effective it is with adults!

    Is it only obvious to me that “laying down the law” will not work? Any leader worth his salt knows that “my way or the highway” is not only doomed to failure, it creates more still problems. What if the bishops ignore or disobey him – then what? Fire half the episcopate? Mass laicization of priests? The pope knows that resentment and even schism are much harder to mend than the bad effects of things like comunion in the hand. More than this, the Holy Father’s purpose is to make people love and understand the truth, not just do things because he says so.

    If you are truly upset with the Holy Father’s lack of leadership, I don’t see what good complaining on a blog will do. How about writing the pope yourself and telling him what you think?

  23. jesusthroughmary says:

    You don’t think the Pope reads this blog? ;-)

  24. Random Friar says:

    Ah, yes, Father, but Italian is a poor hispanic’s trill! Although I am not so fond of the “fricative v” in Spanish, but it did give birth to this: Beati hispani, quibus vivere bibere est!

  25. Sam,

    Thanks for your comments. First, the faithful are not infrequently identified as the “children of Holy Mother Church” for a reason. Likewise, we call the pope “Holy Father” for a reason. The appeal to our collective “adulthood” isn’t very convincing.

    You’ve got lots of company in your views, I’m afraid. There are plenty of men (the majority, perhaps) who have been so conditioned by the current culture (one unduly influenced, both overtly and stealthily, by feminism) that they consider fatherhood as I described it “despotism.” If your children are truly “little kids,” maybe it would help to think more along the lines of raising teenagers.

    In any event, if you go back and reread what I posted, you’ll notice that I don’t imagine “authority” as standing alone (“my way or the highway” as you put it); rather, it is accompanied by words like “teaching” and “love” and even the concept of “picking battles” where prudent. Your knee-jerk reaction to the very notion of a father exercising ruling authority in service to the family, for the good of his children, only serves makes my point.

    As far as fathers risking the “resentment” of the children goes, fathers often have to shoulder the burden of not being very popular with their kids for their own good. Most of us know parents who are too weak to accept this, and their kids are never the better for it.

    Back to my original point though: Any well-informed, honest assessment of the papacy going back to John XIII reveals no small reluctance to exercising ruling authority (things like issuing condemnations, setting in motion real consequences for violating / disobeying established norms, asserting the exclusive rights of Christ the King both within and without His Church, etc.) The rotten fruits of this aversion to exercising ruling authority is as obvious in the Church as it is in those families where the dad is either absent or weak.

    I appreciate the letter writing suggestion, but I prefer to pray for the Holy Father. This is, after all, a spiritual problem.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    I think it is historically and sociologically incorrect to blame feminism for the failings of men and the undermining of masculinity, which was systematic in many cultures for over a hundred years. I wrote about this last week here on this blog, that the early part of the last century witnessed the collapse of a sense of real maleness, partly owing to the killing of the best and the brightest men, the real leaders in two horrific wars, WWl and WWll. One only has to look at the great families of Europe to realize that the first over the trenches in the charges were those men who would have passed down leadership genes to their sons and grandsons and so on. The emasculation of men occurred a long time ago and feminism was a reaction against weak men, not strong men. Read Dickens, even farther back, and see the undermining of the male in society as men chose money and status over virtue and maturity.

    That the fake idea of “machismo” took over in the imaginations of the media did not help.

    This Pope to me is a real leader, as were the past twelve or so, willing to stand up against secularism, totalitarianism, big business, abortion, contraception, etc. The last two sins, by the way, are not merely the sins of women, as I have stood outside abortion clinics and watched the boyfriends and husbands drive their women up to the front door and have a smoke outside, while the women undergo the horror of abortion for the sake of the men — a common thing.

    I do think there is a lack of male leadership in the Church, but it reflects the lack of male leadership in families. This Pope is up against a curia and hundreds of bishops who are simply not on the same page as he is because of their poor seminary training and years of rot in the Church. The strongest men are sometimes the first to be kicked out of the seminaries, as I know personally, there is a tendency to look for those who seem more malleable. The Pope is extremely brave, in my opinion, and a “real man”. I challenge men to be leaders and not seeking only to be liked or afraid. Men who blame feminism for their weakness are weak, indeed.

  27. dad29 says:

    Father, IMHO “principal place” or “first place” is different from “pride of place” by several degrees of meaning.

    “Pride of place”–to me–implies that “it’s better, but (merely) venerable” where as “first” or “principal” is much more positive.

    Sorta “nice to have” vs. “should be”, I think.

  28. benedictgal says:

    Unfortunately, the folks at Pray Tell are throwing a major nutty about the use of the Gradual. They’ve been harping on the tired argument of how such usage undermines”active participation.” Give me a break. Msgr. Marini was excersising a legitimate option here, folks. It just seems to me that the folks at that other blog have major issues with any steps that the Holy Father is trying et take to improve the quality of the liturgy. Some have criticized the altar arrangement and others the use of Latin.

    Down in my little corner of the South Texas hinterland, we tried to emulate a little of what was done in Rome for Midnight Mass at my dad’s parish. Instead of beginning the Mass with a Christmas carol (O Come, All Ye Faithful), as has been done in years past, I chanted the Entrance Antiphon, using the Simple English Propers. The organist came down from the loft and chanted the Kalendas in English. We used the ICEL settings.. After the first and second readings, I chanted “Verbum Domini” and helped the faithful with the response. We sang the “Alleluia” from the Holy Father’s installation Mass. We sang Silent Night for the Offertory and, while the celebrant incensed, I chanted the Offertory antiphon. For communion, I chanted the antiphon and then we did O Come, All Ye Faithful. For the recessional, we sang Joy to the World.

  29. BaedaBenedictus says:


    The only flaw in your “pope against unmanly bishops” argument is this: It is the popes who have appointed these bishops.

    And it is the popes who have let things advance so far that we now have to restore things “brick by brick” (or grain by grain). Not easy to wash the dishes when the food has been allowed to dry out and harden. And now, when nearly everyone thinks dirty dishes are the way it is supposed to be, we have the choice of either using cold water and bare hands to clean a small bit at a time or fetching out the brush and the solvent and getting the job done.

    Benedict thinks that the former is a better choice, but must he continue the Assisi stuff and altar girls and appointing squishy bishops while he does it? It’s like trying to clean the dishes with dirty water.

  30. Supertradmum,

    I agree with many of your comments, (the notion of feminism being “reactive” isn’t one of them.) If we want to trace the history of this demasculinization phenomenon completely, however, looking back 100 years isn’t nearly enough; we would need to go all the way back to Eden.

    In any case, I did not intend to open a debate on how much of a “real man” the Holy Father is. My point is simply this, conditioned as we are by the culture in which we live (both secular and Catholic) we’re treating this use of the Gradual in the Papal Mass as an act of Christian heroism on the Holy Father’s part, when in reality it’s just a tiny baby step compared to the crisis at hand, and truly just an infinitesimal scrap of evidence that he is willing to wield the authority vested in him as the Vicar of the King.

    Clearly, to me any way, the simple fact that we have been reduced to applauding even the tiniest instances of sanity, and from the pope no less, we’ve lost all sense of perspective in just 50 short years.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    Louie Verrecchio

    Sigh, I am like the woman in the Scriptures who will take the scraps for the dogs under the table. But, you are correct that we have lost perspective.

  32. dad29 says:

    Another thing to remember in the “manly/squishy” discussion is that the first obligation of priests (all of ’em, including His Holiness) is the salvation of souls. You can look that up in Canon Law, IIRC.

    I think B-16 is ‘bending the curve’ rather than breaking the tree. The last thing he wants to see is another break-up like what happened with SSPX. So he’s leading by example. If some Bishops and priests won’t follow, well, then, they’ll have to ‘splain that to somebody.

    Remember: this was caused by a breakdown of education. That’s not the fault of the laity who now ‘think’ that VatII means “do your own thanggg.” Music-educators who do not educate, Bishops who didn’t give a rip what went on so long as the cash rolled in…..and, to some extent, the Liturgical Establishment which was also very confused by the Bugnini Revolution.

  33. RichR says:

    Propers are “the other parts” of the Mass of the day that most Catholics never knew existed. Our men’s gregorian chant group is slowly re-introducing Propers, and most people are glad to learn about them.

  34. Centristian says:


    The problem, however, with trickle-down “reform of the reform” is that I’m not sure it works any better than trickle-down economics. The reverberations of a gradual being sung at a papal Mass probably end at the outskirts of the liturgical blogosphere. Will it have an effect on the next solemnity celebrated by the Archbishop of New York at St. Patrick’s Cathedral? How about the next one celebrated by Bishop Cunningham at the cathedral in Syracuse, NY? How about the next one celebrated by Father Joe and Father Mike at The New St. Amelia’s parish in fake-plastic-tree-suburbia? Did Father Joe and Father Mike watch the Pope’s Mass? Do they follow these blogs? How about their bishop? How about their archbishop?

    While I love the fact that the Pope is now setting a very good example at St. Peter’s (and elsewhere), I think more than a good example is required at this point. Perhaps I’m just impatient for reform, but I think that 40 years of liturgical hell is long enough. Isn’t it about time the “Novus Ordo” was implemented properly, in a universal way? And since that isn’t going to happen by waving a magic wand in St. Peter’s Basilica, isn’t it time to, perhaps, throw down the gauntlet?

    Alas, the Pope has a very real predicament, hasn’t he? Namely, the example of his last three predecessors, especially his immediate predecessor. And, I’ll say it, it really doesn’t help the Pope’s cause that he went and beatified the most recent of them, already. Probably not a good strategic move on his part, as far as his efforts at liturgical reform are concerned, at any rate.

    It’s awfully hard, now, for the Pope to come out and say to the clergy all around the world, “Hey…um…about the way Blessed John Paul celebrated Mass…um…all over the world…for…a good quarter of a century. Oh…how do I say this? Okay, I’ll just say it: pretend it never happened. That’s right. Don’t do what he did anymore. Yeah, I know he’s blessed, but…just…just stop doing it. Please. Yes, that’s right. No more guitars, no more rock-n-roll, no more holding hands, no more “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands”, no more glad-handling, no more hugging, no more swaying, no more clapping, no more happy, feel-good music in place of liturgical chant, no more crazy vestments, no more communion in the hand, no more…just…plain stupid…nonsense in place of actual liturgy anymore, please. No more. Yes, Pope John Paul I, our beloved “Smiling Pope” did it all wrong, too (for about five minutes), and, yes, Pope Paul VI, Servant of God, for the love of Heaven, started it all. *Sigh* And, yes, as you are all now pointing out, I’ve been guilty of it too in the past. Yes, yes, I know. I know. I know. Just…just ignore all that. Please. And watch what I’m doing now. Please. And do that, instead…from now on…until we…oh, you’re really gonna hate me…until we reform the Mass all over again to get to that ‘Tertium Quid’ you may have heard some of us chatting about.”

    On second thought, perhaps the best the Pope can do, in fact, is try to set a good example from on high and hope and pray that someone out there, other than we blog lurkers, is paying attention…and then hope and pray that his successor will have a freer hand to more freely dictate all the things that he can only suggest by example.

  35. Centristian,

    If I were handing out the gold stars, you’d get one for this last post, for pulling together all the threads of Benedict’s dilemma. What can he possibly do to turn around a ship of fools, when there are a billion people on it?

  36. A somewhat more pessimistic view of the effects of salutary papal example:

    Six Years of Pontificate and the Sacred Liturgy: So this is it?

  37. Centristian – your post is like a good movie. I laughed, I cried…

    I believe that the Papal Mass can (and should) send a powerful message that serves as a formidable agent for the reform of the reform, but it would seem that the example itself must be truly significant in order to get beyond the reach of the blogosphere. The most profound, most logical, most natural example would be the celebration of the EF in full view of the world.

    If the ancient rite really is all that Pope Benedict XVI has said that it is, (and it is) then why on earth doesn’t he celebrate it publicly? This one solitary gesture would be more than just a brick, it could be the cornerstone. This goes directly to the reluctance to exercise authority question. He needs the permission of NO ONE to do so. So, can we just admit that there is an obvious and major disconnect here between the Holy Father’s words and his actions? I don’t think it irreverent in the least to point out that “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work well in any setting.

    Should this papacy end before Benedict XVI publicly celebrates the EF, it seems to me that this one failing will do much to undermine the reform of the reform going forward, and depending on the wherewithal of his successor it may risk turning many of his good efforts (not the least of which is Summorum Pontificum) into little more than a blip on the screen.

  38. Louie: “If the ancient rite really is all that Pope Benedict XVI has said that it is, (and it is) then why on earth doesn’t he celebrate it publicly? This one solitary gesture would be more than just a brick, it could be the cornerstone. This goes directly to the reluctance to exercise authority question. He needs the permission of NO ONE to do so. So, can we just admit that there is an obvious and major disconnect here between the Holy Father’s words and his actions?”

    I wanted to extract a single sentence here that said it all, but couldn’t find anything to delete. You’ve hit the nail right on the head. When the Pope celebrates the EF publicly, this single action will send the message that he’s that he’s actually serious about the reform of the reform and, at long last, a faithful implementation of the Council.

  39. Supertradmum says:

    If the Pope celebrated an EF in a large, St. Peter’s setting, would that start a schism of the liberals? Just wondering…

  40. dad29 says:

    Centristian….yes, there is a dilemma in Rome. B-16 cannot take back all the silliness we saw. For that matter, B-16 is committed to a ‘reform of the reform,’ not a walk-back to 1958. So that’s exactly what he’s doing: we saw “the reform” through the times of JPII; now we are seeing ‘the reform of the reform’ with B-16.

    But as a matter of interest, I sent the URL of the Papal Midnight Mass to every single choir-member and priest with whom I currently work. Not all will click-and-watch; some will, and dawn will happen with them. I’ll also send the link to my family. None of them are in church choirs, nor clergy, but they’ll get the hint.


  41. Centristian says:

    Louie Verrecchio and Henry Edwards:

    Thanks for your complimentary words. I would respectfully disagree with you both, however, that the longed-for catalysis necessarily involves the public celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form by the Holy Father. If merely setting an example from Rome were the key, priests and bishops would be celebrating Mass in the Ordinary Form, now, doing a much better job of it these days, making use of Latin, of chant, of traditional externals, and generally observing the proper ars celebrandi of the Roman Rite.

    Every Sunday, however, six years into this pontificate, I see that that is not the case. I’m now aware of but one church in my diocese that celebrates the Ordinary Form of Mass in a way consistent with the Pope’s good example, and that’s the chapel of the local Carmelite Monastery. Everyplace else I go shows the “same old same old”. Things are a little better at the cathedral, but not nearly as good as things should be by now, what with all this good example we’ve been getting. And I know that my diocese isn’t unique in this regard.

    Should the Pope, tomorrow, celebrate the Extraordinary Form of Mass in the Sistine Chapel, or even in all its former papal magnificence at St. Peter’s, itself, it wouldn’t change much because nobody seems to be paying much attention apart from those who already wanted traditions restored, on the one hand, and those very liberal churchmen and activists who absolutelty recoil at the very thought of it all, on the other. You and I will, of course, praise the Pope’s excellent example, while those on the far left will absolutely blow a fuse over any hint at the return of “triumphalism,” as they deem it. Most everyone else in the middle, however, seems quite unaffected by it all.

    In order to really effect the “reform of the reform,” more than a distant example is needed. More than a papal Tridentine Mass is needed. Enforcement is needed. The laws on the books need to be cleansed of their ambiguities and courageous universal enforcement of more stringent liturgical edicts needs to occur. The iron fist with which Paul VI enforced his reforms needs to be exercised again with regard to the reform of Paul’s reforms, otherwise it will never happen.

    Yes…it will cause upheaval. Of course it will. But so what? The first upheaval didn’t seem to bother Paul VI and his allies in the episcopate as they armwrestled Paul’s reforms into the culture of the Church whether anyone else really wanted them or not. Let not the fear of the necessary upheaval that will surely result from a long-overdue reform of their reforms prevent that reform from being implemented, however. The honor due to God, the dignity of the Roman Rite, and the righting of the ship, in general, are worth whatever dramas may come as a result.

    Let the bishops have fits in many cases. Let the clergy wonder over it all. Let the most abhorrent of them walk away and form their own idiotic new “church”. Let the idiots amongst the naysaying academic laity of ill will who have always hated what the Catholic Church is meant to be stomp their falsely indignant feet (as if they really care) and leave with them to join the idiotic new “church” of the rotten bishops and rotten clergy. Let them go.

    It isn’t as if Christ’s Church hasn’t seen that impudent act before. So priests and the people are forced to choose sides (aren’t we always forced to choose sides)? So we’re all forced to choose between good and evil, between the beauty of the Body of Christ and the filthiness of the Rotten apple. So the Church loses some weight, and money, and property as a result. What has Christ to lose?

    If there are indeed bishops and priests and laity who would willingly and arrogantly separate themselves from the Body of Christ in order to cling to the Rot, then the Church ought to give them the reason they need to do what they’ve clearly been wanting to do all along and spare the rest of us their neverending horse$%*&. The rest of us shouldn’t have to patiently endure indefinitely the suffocating tyranny of their loathsome mockery of the love of God.

    Leave the rot behind, then, by all means…but not merely in order to exchange it for mothballs and mold. What we need now is not, I think…and please pardon me for putting it this way…a cowardly retreat to the pre-Vatican II liturgy and ecclesiastical culture where we can hide in an old abandoned house that has been boarded-up for half a century (and in which few could bear to live anymore) and just make-believe that nothing ever happened. I don’t think that does anything except thrill a minority of traditionalists and nostalgics while mystifying and disconcerting the rest of the unfolding universe. The anser to expanding the story is not found in returning to the previous chapter and never reading beyond it. No. Instead the Church must write the next chapter.

    Pope John XXIII anticipated a new Springtime for the Church, and had his successor and his colleagues done what the Holy Ghost had called for instead of what they wound up doing, we, I really do believe, would not be having this discussion today. I wholeheartedly endorse Pope John’s vision for the Church and I still believe it can happen. But Rome has to get real about it, first.

    I think the Church must somehow recapture that moment of the outset of genuine renewal and endeavour, this time, to effect a proper and righteous reform that holds fast to what is timeless and venerable about our traditions while breathing, at the same time, new life into them. Pope John once said that we are not here “to guard a museum but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life.” Unfortunately, those who followed him dug up the garden and built a museum over it–a museum of the “modern” that now is just dated and old. It won’t be demolished so that the garden may grow again just by taking a watering can to it, however. It’s time to bring in the bulldozers again.

    A strong arm will need to be flexed or nothing will ever happen. A garden hoe must be given to every bishop and priest and layman who will take it and we must accept the tools of our toil. Those who will not take their tool must be sent out through the gate (if they don’t leave on their own). The Pope must sound the whistle to get to work and must then send foremen to ensure that the work is, in fact, being done. I do imagine, however, that such sure management of the workforce for reform–that strong arm–will have to be flexed in the next pontificate. Pope Benedict XVII will have to be elected from amongst the best of the cardinals (let us pray), and he will have to pick up where his predecessor left off, taking the labor of the reform the rest of the distance.

    In none of this do I mean to scoff at the efforts of Benedict XVI. He is a fine Pope, a worthy shepherd, an exemplary Christian, and his works are very good. His works and his words have given comfort to those who have eyes to see them and ears to hear them. It’s only that his hands are tied, I think, in bands that may prove impossible for him to loose. But without this good pope and his good efforts, there would be no hope for the next one. We owe Pope Benedict XVI, therefore, our love, our thanks, our admiration, and our deepest respect. I apologize if my earlier post may have seemed to suggest otherwise.

  42. Thanks, Centristian, for another fine post. My feeling is that, ironically, the most clear cut statement that the Pope could make, of his seriousness about reform of the OF liturgy, would be his public celebration of an EF Mass. Somehow, this would send a message that could not be ignored, as his exemplary papal OF celebrations are ignored by most priests and bishops.

    Another irony is that the typical bishop might have to visit an EF Mass to see where in his diocese participation in the liturgy best accords with the recommendations of Vatican II. For instance, in the EF Masses in ordinary parish settings that I am familiar with, the people sing the Mass (and at Mass) more enthusiastically than in most OF Masses I see. At ours, the people join in singing the Credo as never seen in vernacular OF Masses, its volume exceeded only by the congregational singing of the Pater Noster, which in this country was not heard at TLMs in the old days. Whence it may be said that Vatican II did more for the EF than for the OF.

    Certainly, the young folks who predominate at EF Masses today are interested only in going forward to a future–one that recovers Catholic patrimony and identity–but not back to some pre-Vatican II situation that they never knew.

    Most everyone (and certainly Pope Benedict) realizes that the OF in whatever shape it takes will be the Mass of the future of the overwhelming majority of Catholics. So the question about the EF–and its celebration by the pope–is how to put it in the best position to exercise the “mutual enrichment” that parish- and diocesan-level OF practice so desperately needs.

  43. asperges says:

    (Gasp) “..the congregational singing of the Pater Noster” in the EF?

    Good Heavens, they’ll be wanted Mass in the vernacular next!

  44. Patt says:

    I watched until the “Sign of Peace” began. I look forward to the day that the Peace Sign (60’s mentality) is eliminated– as it takes away from the Miracle that has taken place at the altar.

  45. dad29 says:


    I’m familiar with the people and the practices at 5 parishes in the Diocese of Madison. In ALL of them, the OF is celebrated in a dignified fashion, quality Ordinaries (including Chant) are used, the Introit and Communion propers have been re-introduced (or will be soon), and hymnody is solid, not “Joni Mitchell”. I’m told that this is the case in many more parishes in that Diocese (but not all.)

    And, inverse to an observation above, the EF Mass’ congregation does not utter a peep, nor sing one note, during the Mass. It’s the same at the EF Mass in Milwaukee.

  46. dad29,

    The Diocese of Madison (of fond personal memory) with its wonderful Bishop Morlino is the exception to the usual rule in both its OF and its EF as you describe them–that is, the inverse of the more prevalent situation with both forms.

  47. Centristian says:

    I just finished watching the live broadcast of Solemn Pontifical Vespers at St. Peter’s (I only caught the last ten minutes or so and then the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament). Lo and behold: the throne dais was back! They must read this blog and take notes. ;^)

    The vestments were all pre-Conciliar. Lace everywhere, just as at Christmas. The deacons wore elaborate baroque dalmatics over their lace albs, the Holy Father wore a baroque Mantum (yes, a Mantum, not merely a cope) and stole with a tall precious miter that goes back at least as far as Pius XII. The Blessed Sacrament was carried to the altar beneath an umbellino. Magnificent.

    The only thing that spoiled it all was the endless narration by a teenage-sounding female who felt the need to explain and translate every blessed little thing, every prayer, every hymn, every action, so that you really couldn’t hear anything except her grating voice prattling on and on.

  48. Supertradmum says:


    I gave up watching Papal Masses and such, as the commentaries are so irritating. I actually wrote to EWTN pointing out that the commentators were talking during the Eucharistic Prayer at some times. The programmers actually stopped that, and my guess is that I was not the only one to write about this. I suggest you write to the television commentators directly.

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