To speak or not to speak: that is the question! Active Participation and the Extraordinary Form

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At Crisis I found an interesting piece about the older, traditional form of Holy Mass in the Roman Rite and “active participation”.

In the article “The Traditional Mass is Not a Spectator Sport by Steve Skojec focuses on the liturgical participation of the congregation urged by members of The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, “Don [Daniel] Oppenheimer’s fledgling clerical institute of consecrated life – were established in 2002 by then-Bishop Raymond Burke in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. What ensued was a nine year search by the Canons for a permanent home. When I discovered them, the CRNJs had recently been received by Bishop Michael Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, WV. They began offering the sacred liturgy at the former St. James’ parish in Charles Town, WV.”

At their parish the whole congregation is encouraged to make the responses and sing those parts of the Mass – Extraordinary Form, mind you – that pertain to them.

Here is the meat of the article, though you should read the whole thing there.


Dom Daniel likes to remind visitors to the Priory that they do things “by the book.” They are rubrically scrupulous to the 1962 Missal, even if that might cause shudders to anyone who carries around a tattered copy of Pope St. Pius V’s Quo Primum in their back pocket. Among devotees of the Gregorian Rite, there’s some controversy in the notion that the faithful should ever open their mouths, whether in prayer or in song, within the context of a Sunday liturgy. [I’ll say!]

Theologically, historically, you can brawl this one out to your heart’s content. I’ve seen evidence for both arguments. But common sense tells me that the “be seen and not heard” approach to liturgical participation is madness, invented by people who want Catholics to fall in line, not ask questions, and wear their complete docility on their sleeves. This is the kind of Catholicism that caused many of the faithful to abandon the Church in the mid-twentieth-century. Those fabled ruler-wielding nuns cracking the knuckles of anyone who dared think for themselves or struggled with a doctrine drove Catholics away from the Faith and into the arms of secular rationalism. I should know. My father was one of them. Luckily, he came back. Many didn’t. [Haven’t.]

People are people, and by their very nature they need to be a part of something to care about it. They need to find themselves invested. We worship God in community because no man in the Christian life is an island. We pray together because none of us were meant to go it alone. Finding a liturgy that is reverent is hard enough. Finding a liturgy that is reverent but also inclusive in a healthy, orthodox way is even more difficult. The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem model this as part of a comprehensive approach to traditional Catholic spirituality. If the Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments are to not only be sustainable, but continue to grow, it’s the kind of model that more will have to follow.

I am sure that no one will have any opinion about this!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    At least in Italy, lay people were singing the short responses (Amen, et cum spiritu tuo, etc.) up to the end of the middle ages. By the 1400s when “Low Mass” became common, they were also making the public responses (although not the ministerial ones like the prayers at the foot of the altar). I deal with this in my book, _Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125-1325_ (available on Amazon).

    The best guess for the origin of the “mute” congregation seems to be in the post-Tridentine period. In the late 1500s there was a concerted push to make “lay” and “clerical” prayer completely different to emphasize the “distinctiveness” of the Catholic priesthood against the Protestants. The way Spanish laypeople were forced to stop saying their private prayers in Latin and start using Spanish is outlined in William Christian’s _Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain_. The high point of this attitude was in the early 1700s when lay people were not even allowed to have copies of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, much less in vernacular.

    This was a bad idea from the start, IMHO. Catholic priests are different from the laity, but there are better ways to get this truth across.

  2. Dr. K says:

    This is the kind of Catholicism that caused many of the faithful to abandon the Church in the mid-twentieth-century. Those fabled ruler-wielding nuns cracking the knuckles of anyone who dared think for themselves or struggled with a doctrine drove Catholics away from the Faith and into the arms of secular rationalism.

    The exodus occurred at least a decade later and for far different reasons than those presented by the writer.

  3. “This is the kind of Catholicism that caused many of the faithful to abandon the Church in the mid-twentieth-century.”

    How does a “faithful” Catholic ever abandon the Church?

    This text has some serious problems. First, let’s start by defining what is “active participation.” If the author thinks it’s merely a matter of praying aloud and singing, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  4. thepapalbull says:

    I sure hope Dave’s comment isn’t going to be indicative of whatever discussion follows. There is absolutely no reason to imply that either the author or the Canons think active participation is “merely a matter of praying aloud and singing.” Is prayerful attentiveness at the mass incompatible with making the responses aloud or singing? If not, where’s you beef, Dave? Let’s leave the straw man at home and stick to what is evident in the piece.

  5. While I see some underlying assumptions in the article that are probably silly, I think the main point is valid. Too often, we establish irrational dichotomies that need to be placed aside. The debate about faith vs. works is still raging, but Scripture clearly says that faith without works is dead. People still go to Mass dressed for the beach, claiming that “what’s in the heart is what counts.” Interior and exterior participation are two sides of the same coin. If one has raised his heart, mind, and soul to God as best as possible, one naturally wants to express that with his body. We are body and soul; when we are raised from the dead, we are raised both body and soul. When we enter heaven, we will not be standing mute (apart from perhaps the first few moments of speechlessness and amazement); we will be rejoicing and praising God with both body and soul. Mass is supposed to be a taste of heaven, so we should be doing likewise in the liturgy. (But please don’t read this as an endorsement of drums and tambourines at Mass; I went to a Mass last week where drums were dominant, and that was more like torture than a taste of heaven.)

  6. Dear Papalbull,

    First, my name is Daniel. Second, I’m all for responding and singing. I didn’t say it was incompatible with prayerful attentiveness. Please be more attentive.

    The author claims that people should be allowed to pray aloud and sing, because that’s active participation. That’s an old liberal idea, the idea that active participation implies ever-increasing invasiveness of the laity, just like the idea that faithful people fled the Church because they weren’t allowed to participate. The truth is, faithful people do not flee the Church, and active participation doesn’t mean blurring the lines between clerics and laity. People have the right to pray aloud and sing not in the name of active participation, but because the liturgy gives them this role.

  7. ContraMundum says:

    Doesn’t “participation” derive from a Greek word meaning, “to play a tambourine”?

  8. Gail F says:

    I agree with thepapalbull in hoping the discussion will turn in a different direction! Starting by, I would suggest, actually reading the article. I thought it was quite an interesting reflection. My prediction, for what it’s worth, is that TLM will be celebrated more like this in many places, and that no harm will come to the 2000-year-old mass, which has gone through much worse over the millennia.

  9. Please remember that there is a difference between a sung Mass and a spoken Mass. I had the great blessing of assisting at the recent Ascension Thursday Mass celebrated by Dom Daniel Augustine at the church of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem in Charles Town, WV. There were about 50 souls, many of whom regularly attend Sundays and Holy Days with the CRNJ. In the brief time the Canons have been there, the people have learned a considerable amount of chant, as demonstrated by their joining in on Thursday with the three-man schola to sing the Lux et Origo. There were a few strong voices in the congregation, and the rest did the best they could. It was quite wonderful, and I’m sure that with time the sung participation of the people will only become stronger.

    However, when it comes to a daily Low Mass, a Missa lecta or even a so-called “dialogue Mass” in the absence of a server, one of the more painful things is to hear competing individuals in the congregation try to outdo each other in showing off their (usually flawed) Latin, apparently oblivious to the fact that just because they’ve managed to differentiate between “Michaeli Archangelo” and Michelangelo, doesn’t mean they are pleasant to hear, parked as they invariably are on either side of one in the pew. Additionally, there are some who know and speak out loudly for the “et cum spiritu tuo” but are silent for the “suscipiat…”. There are some who know, and indeed nearly bark, the Preface dialogue, but can’t manage the Confiteor. One solution, and a good one in my estimation, given my five years at the FSSP parish in Rome, as well as being privileged to attend the usus antiquior all over Europe and the United States, is in the absence of a server, one person — male or female — should be the designated “responder” in the front pew. Otherwise, the Latin show-offs ruin it for everyone.

  10. UncleBlobb says:

    Wasn’t there something called a “Dialogue Mass” approved already before the time of V. II? Isn’t this tied to the 1962 Missal? Perhaps that is what Dom Daniel is trying to do?

  11. haribo says:

    “This is the kind of Catholicism that caused many of the faithful to abandon the Church in the mid-twentieth-century.”

    The problem with this kind of reasoning is that Low Mass was around for centuries before it ever bothered anyone that they couldn’t speak during it. Even High Mass has been sung by choirs for a very long time. Catholic culture didn’t become less vibrant because people couldn’t recite the responses at Mass themselves. If there really was anyone who left because they weren’t content with how lay Catholics participated in their liturgies, it wasn’t because there was something wrong with traditional forms of liturgical participation, but because their views changed and they started to develop more Jansenist/Protestant attitudes about liturgy. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone offer “responses” as an excuse for leaving the Church, but I’m tempted to put it in the same category as the “nuns were mean to me in school” explanation.

    There have been enough Saints since the Middle Ages to calm any fears that silent participation necessarily impedes spiritual progress. I’d take St. Bernadette’s of St. Teresa’s Catholicism over what we have any day. People have missals, they have rosaries, they can contemplate, or just watch and pray as the sacred action unfolds at the altar. Those are all acceptable and traditional forms of active participation, and they have parallels in Eastern Christianity. We should let acolytes be acolytes and deacon be deacons, and not try to make the ministerial chants and responses our own. The ministers are there to represent us, so we should let them do that.

    I remember attending a low Mass in France where the congregation recited every response. Not only was it distracting, it made having a vested Acolyte in the sanctuary redundant.

  12. Bender says:

    To speak or not to speak —

    “[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. 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.”

    The above quote is from Father Joseph Ratzinger, peritus (advisor) to the Council, in Theological Highlights of Vatican II. Fr. 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.” (emphasis added) (J. Ratzinger, Theological Highlights of Vatican II, pp. 129-32)

    These are stinging words, and 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.

  13. Traductora says:

    Fr Augustine Thompson is absolutely right; some of the changes made by the Council of Trent (for the best of reasons and with all good will) actually destroyed some of the normal liturgical prayer of the laity.

    The dead silent mass did pave the way for Vatican II, because the congregation had become such distant spectators, with the priest and the servers bobbing up and down and murmuring inaudible things, that it was very easy to see the mass as simply a backdrop to one’s own personal piety, whether that was reciting the Rosary audibly during the mass, reading other prayers, or wandering around visiting the saints. I grew up in that period, and there were definitely things wrong with that model.

    The “dialogue mass,” where people essentially said the altar server’s parts, was just fine and was a real pleasure and focused people on the mass (which is a collective prayer and act and not just the setting for an individual’s piety). But the problem was that this form was not very extended, so when Vatican II came along with its false idea of “participation” it fell on fertile ground. Unfortunately, the Vatican II idea meant that the laity tried to take over the parts of the priest and, even when it was not doing that, was never silent and was also supposed to be “feeling” things.

    In my opinion, the thing that was really destructive with Vatican II was not “participation,” even though that term had already been distorted, but that it tried to make “participation” in the mass a subjective emotional experience. That’s not what liturgy is about.

  14. Tantum Ergo says:

    You bet your bippy I have a comment. Out TLM group has been active for three years now, and has struggled over and against the usual bureaucratic barriers. There are those who wish to remain silent (God bless them) and there are those who really enjoy following the Mass vocally, with most or all of the responses said aloud. I’m one of the latter group, I feel resulting in a deeper sense of connection with the Sacrifice. Our priest also encourages the singing of the Santus, the Pater Noster, and the Agnus Dei. I find I follow the Mass better in the missal this way, and with waaaay less daydreaming.

  15. Denis says:

    Personally, I’m not a fan of the dialogue Mass, and I don’t think it’s because I don’t like a liturgy that is “inclusive.” I find the usual TLM–with the responses of the people given in the 1962 Missal–sufficiently inclusive. I never quite understood the claim that actively participating in the liturgy requires saying all of the server’s responses. It sounds like what the author wants would be better served by a “traditionalist” novus ordo, of the sort that one can find at the Toronto Oratory.

  16. kat says:

    I LOVE our school (K-12) Masses because they are dialogue (as in the 1962 missal dialogue–the faithful / students answer all the responses with the altar boys, and also recite the prayers of the Kyriale with the priest: Kyrie (alternating), Gloria, Credo when said, Sanctus, Agnus Dei). The children all sing the Kyriale during the school high Masses and high school students sing the Propers.

    All of the Kyriale is sung at high Masses by the whole faithful on Sundays/feasts. The choir alternates with the congregation during the Kryie, Gloria, and Credo, every other verse. A smaller group of the choir makes up the schola and sings the Propers. The choir does hymns for Offertory and Communion.

    Everyone sings the processionals and recessionals.

    I guess I should not say “everyone” because there are those in the congregation who do not wish to sing; but it is encouraged by the priests, and the non-singers are definitely in the minority. But you can’t hear them “not” sing!

    : )

  17. robtbrown says:

    Fr Augustine Thompson, op, says.

    The best guess for the origin of the “mute” congregation seems to be in the post-Tridentine period. In the late 1500s there was a concerted push to make “lay” and “clerical” prayer completely different to emphasize the “distinctiveness” of the Catholic priesthood against the Protestants.

    Not to deny that, but I think there is another reason: The public low mass was modeled more on the private mass than the high mass. IMHO, this happened because in the post Tridentine period the Church for all intents and purposes adopted the Jesuit approach, which was lacking in Common Office and high mass.

    Some years ago, living in KC and longing for Latin, I attended an SSPX mass on Sunday that turned out to be a public low mass. I didn’t hear one word of Latin. For all I could tell, the mass might have been said in Swahili.

  18. robtbrown says:

    haribo says:

    The problem with this kind of reasoning is that Low Mass was around for centuries before it ever bothered anyone that they couldn’t speak during it.

    Fr Augustine already answered that.

    At least in Italy, lay people were singing the short responses (Amen, et cum spiritu tuo, etc.) up to the end of the middle ages. By the 1400s when “Low Mass” became common, they were also making the public responses (although not the ministerial ones like the prayers at the foot of the altar). I deal with this in my book, _Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125-1325_ (available on Amazon).

  19. robtbrown says:

    Traductora says:

    Fr Augustine Thompson is absolutely right; some of the changes made by the Council of Trent (for the best of reasons and with all good will) actually destroyed some of the normal liturgical prayer of the laity.

    I didn’t know that Trent took up the question of liturgy.

  20. robtbrown says:

    BTW, OSV has a nice article on Fr Augustine’s new book on St Francis

  21. Padraig Smythe says:

    I regularly attend a “dialogue” High Mass and a “silent” High Mass (lay sing selected responses). I prefer the latter, there’s something about the prayers at the foot of the altar during the sung introit that is pleasant, adds more solemnity.

  22. thepapalbull says:


    Right you are on your name! My apologies.

    Moving on, “The author claims that people should be allowed to pray aloud and sing, because that’s active participation…People have the right to pray aloud and sing not in the name of active participation, but because the liturgy gives them this role.”

    Help me out here as I must have missed something. You concede that the people (i.e., the faithful – a generic term) have the right to pray aloud and sing because the liturgy itself gives them this role. Yet at the same time, calling for praying aloud and singing blurs the lines of clergy and laity and becomes part of the ever-increasing invasiveness of the laity, if it is done so under the banner of active participation. I assume if one is supportive of the laity praying aloud and singing without referencing active participation then there is no blurring of clergy and laity and one is safe from accusations of being a liberal?

    If your definition of the active participation of the laity absolutely excludes the vocalization of the responses by the laity and confines the term to only prayerful attentiveness then I think you are being a minimalist and are at odds with the use of the term as it is found in the ’62 Missal itself. The meat of the term of active participation is certainly what you believe to be, but it cannot be limited to it and why would you want it to be so? Simply because liberals have used the term in an erroneous, and likewise minimalist, manner doesn’t mean that traditionalists should swing in the opposite direction with their usage. Paragraph 272 of the General Rubrics of the ’62 Missal states that the laity are to take part actively in the liturgy. The usage of the term active participation (as well as its variants in the text) cannot mean simply to be attentive and prayerful, as you seem to indicate, otherwise the following would make absolutely no sense whatsoever (also from paragraph 272):

    “A choice must be made, however, among the various ways in which the faithful may take part actively in the most holy sacrifice of the Mass, in such a way that any danger of abuse may be removed, and the special aim of the participation may be realized, namely a fuller measure of worship offered to God and of edification obtained for the faithful.”

    If the term as used above was meant only in the minimalist, spiritualized sense, then what choice is to be made? What danger of abuse need be removed if active participation is only a exhortation to be prayerfully attentive? Indeed, it is the fact that the Missal calls for just the kind of active participation (in the fullest sense!) that the Canons Regular are exhorting that the author of the Missal rubrics feels the need to advise caution.

    Therefore, I can’t help but believe that the author, as well as the Canons, are well justified to advocate for the so-called “dialogue mass” under the banner of actual participation. Believe me when I say there is no distortion of clergy and laity and certainly no liberal non-sense taking place at the priory mass.

  23. thepapalbull says:

    I suppose it should also be noted that Dom Daniel, CRNJ is insistent that the faithful do not participate in the prayers at the foot of the altar as it is not proper to the laity, but should be attentive to the singing of the introit at that time.

  24. Jael says:

    We had the Tridentine Mass every morning before school at my elementary school in Maryland; it was obligatory. This was before Vatican II. Daily, all the children sang the Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Kyrie, etc., and did all the responses. I always thought that was the norm for the 50’s and early 60’s. Recently, I was totally shocked when I visited a couple of EF Masses in two different states. The second time I went was a daily low Mass in a neighboring state. The priest was so quiet I had difficulty knowing where he was, and it was easy for my mind to wander. A tape recorder would have picked up nothing. I was flabbergastted. That wasn’t as bad as a feast day Mass here in town, a high Mass, the first time I’d been to an EF Mass since childhood. The priest prayed loudly enough to let us know where he was, which was great. But several rude people literally turned around 180 degrees and gave me dirty looks when I sang. Talk about distracting! (I thought people were quiet because nobody knew how to do the responses, and I couldn’t figure out why they were staring. Wow).

    It seems to me, if one wants to be correct at Mass, turning around and staring threateningly at visitors is not the way to go! The lack of charity way outweighs the horror of, gasp, someone singing to God!

  25. teaguytom says: Here is an example of pre 1962 Pontifical low mass in “dialogue” form. Honestly, it sounds like the Novus Ordo in infant stage.

  26. Centristian says:

    To my way of thinking, the presence of the worshipper in the pew ought to be acknowledged beyond the occasional “Dominus Vobiscum” and the ringing of a bell. The worshipper in the pew ought to be not only acknowledged but included. That involves him actually saying something in response to the action of the priest’s prayers at the altar. It ought to be a dialogue between Christ (the priest) and those whom he has gathered (the rest of us).

    If not, then our worship (in the silently endured Extraordinary Form, at any rate) may seem somewhat foreign to what the New Covenant actually supposes worship to consist of. One can actually trace a U-turn, beginning at the Temple of Jerusalem, onward to the Last Supper, through the Eucharistic celebrations of the Christians of antiquity and beyond, and then somehow right back to the worship of the priests, alone, in the Holy of Holies, very much like the scenario at the Temple of Jerusalem, only without a curtain (although in some church buildings a rood screen will do the trick rather nicely).

    Something tells me that with respect to the Eucharist, the Christian worshipping community were never meant to be separated from Christ’s action at the altar by a veil of silence…or worse yet, by unplugging them from it altogether through allowing them (or even encouraging them) to do something else entirely while the public liturgy is taking place. The silence of the action at the altar and the distance of the congregation can become so extreme that one might be tempted to wonder if this is the “this” Christ truly had in mind when he said “do this in memory of me”.

    To suggest that a Christian’s worship at Mass on Sunday, when we convene to do “this” in memory of Him, is adequately accomplished by ignoring that worship, altogether, in favor of praying a rosary or other private devotion in silence seems an odd suggestion (and yet one that I’ve heard over and over again). I think it akin to suggesting that a family accomplishes dining “together” by eating at the same time and under the same roof, only on separate “TV trays”, one watching TV, one texting, one listening to her ipod, and another staring out the window, all in silence…but none of them engaged with any of the other members of the family except for the occasional, “pass the salt”.

    It would have made for a strange DaVinci painting, indeed, had the first Eucharist been celebrated in such a way, Christ doing one thing, each of the apostles ignoring him and ignoring one another and each doing his own thing. And how very differently the Gospels would read, huh? “And he took a chalice…I think…they weren’t exactly sure; it seems what happened was that, although they were all in the same room together, each apostle was off by himself, eating and praying in solitude, however all of them…except John, that is…seem to remember that he said something about a chalice and his blood and a covenant, which some of them mentioned that they found a bit distracting.”

    I think we need to ask ourselves what our role is as Christians when we come together on Sunday to publicly worship God as his people, and if that role is meant to be different, depending upon which “form” of the liturgy we attend. It seems to me that we can individually worship our God at any other time and in any other place during the whole of the week. We may meditate alone in our rooms, we may pray a rosary alone while walking along a quiet path at night, or if we’re fortunate enough to be in Italy stop to quietly implore the intercession of the Madonna before this or that shrine on the wall of someone’s villa, or begin yet another novena in honor of St. _____ in some quite private chapel or prayer corner as we light yet another candle, and in each of those circumstances relish our solitude and rightfully hope and expect not to be importuned or intruded upon by other living creatures.

    But can it be that when we assemble together in church at Mass on Sunday to publicly worship God, even in the Extraordinary Form of publicly worshipping God, we are doing so simply to be a collection of so many individuals engaged in so many different private acts of introverted devotion, in order that we may thereby fulfil a legal obligation to be in the proximity of clergy as they engage in an esoteric ceremony reserved for themselves?

    It would seem to me that any who aren’t planning on receiving communion might just as well, in that case, be exempted and told that they may stay home. After all, it isn’t as if God cannot communicate his grace from point A to point B, and their presence is both superfluous and unnecessary.

    If the Christian Eucharist can really be just a collection of individuals divorced from one another and divorced from the liturgical act at the altar…then pack it all up and put it away because it was a dumb idea. If we look back at its origins, however, it is clear that that was most certainly not the idea, at all.

    So no…in my humble, humble opinion I would say that you can’t just kneel there and pray the rosary in introverted silence, ignoring the sacred liturgy, altogether, interrupting your all-consuming introversion to meander forth to the rail to communicate, only to return to your pew, longing for that moment when all those people will get their blessing and get OUT of here, so you can be even more at liberty to luxuriate in silent aloneness. Or rather, I should say, alas, you CAN do that…but just because YOU can do that…does that mean that what took place is about what YOU did? Or that what you did is the essence of what took place? What if we all did that? I mean…if you can do it, I can do it. And if I can do it, he can do it. And if he can do it, she can, too. We all can. But then, if we all do do that…what is it we’re doing?

    What does God care if we’re all in the same room for…if we’re all doing that? Is that what he calls us all together (at least) once a week to do? I don’t get that impression. I would be concerned, honestly, about the ramificiations of doing that, instead of doing “this” in memory of Him, as Jesus commanded. To those who are chomping at the bit to counter with a thuderingly indignant condemnantion that includes the words “tambourine” or “giant puppet”…I’m not talking about deforming the “this” that Christ asked us to do in memory of Him. I merely mean to suggest that we, each of us, join together in order to DO the “this” that he asked us to do in memory of Him, rather than separately, rosary or novena in hand, begrudgingly kneel in the same room together in order to ignore a priest as he, with an altar boy or two, does the “this” that Christ asked us to do in memory of him.

    I think the author has it entirely right. If it isn’t to be a solemn Mass or otherwise a sung Mass (at which the worshippers ought to be encouraged to sing!), then it ought to be a Dialogue Mass which requires them to pay attention to itself, and not a silent Low Mass that can be completely ignored.

  27. RichardC says:

    Going back at least until the time of St. Paul, there has been problems and confusion with the liturgy. St. Paul struggled to correct those problems. People are struggling today to correct problems with the liturgy.

  28. asperges says:

    Continental Catholicism, especially in France, where liturgical awareness was highly developed culturally well before Vat II was certainly not mute. The Anglo-Saxon culture was less so and there was (and is still) some natural reticence, at least in England, to be vocal or sing in public. I cannot speak for the States but there were – and are – some notable differences of approach.

    As a child in their defence, under a variety of nuns, we were taught Pius XII’s Missa Brevis in the 50s under Pius XII who was a very keen devotee of vocal and mental participation. Later at school we had the (rather ugly) ‘Missa dialogata’. Later as adolescents we were particularly lucky to have an ex-Benedictine novice who inspired us in matters liturgical and explained what it was all about, made us serve Mass etc. Since I was also a member of the Cathedral choir from the age of 8, my personal participation was considerable: sung Mass, Vespers, Benediction etc.

    Some of the arguments above are confused. It is less about shouting out responses – and all the liberal nonsense that developed from that – than cultivating a real sense of liturgy, which Pius XII wanted and was, alas, utterly lacking amongst many of the (particularly non-native) clergy we knew and who often wanted discipline, a simple approach and, alas, often to get Mass over as quickly as possible. Vatican II wanted a greater awareness of what liturgy was, but their liturgical reform all but threw the baby out with the bath water. “Actuose,” that famous adverb, was interpreted as noise, movement and distraction.

    There is a paradox that it needs much more mental participation to follow the old rite(s) than the new. The new has the bleating and the noise but very little intellectual input and so it fails with most of us as irritation without the satisfaction. There are cultural differences between nations and congregations, and there has to be some recognition of this. But above all love of the liturgy and all it stands for comes from understanding and the heart, not from being bullied to join in artificially and making a lot of noise.

  29. Denis says:

    @thepapalbull: “I suppose it should also be noted that Dom Daniel, CRNJ is insistent that the faithful do not participate in the prayers at the foot of the altar as it is not proper to the laity, but should be attentive to the singing of the introit at that time.”

    I’m confused. Doesn’t the ‘dialogue Mass” involve the people saying the responses of the server during the prayers at the foot of the altar? If that is not what Dom Daniel and Steve Skojec are promoting, then what is? The dialogue Low Mass with HYmns? The singing of the Kyrie/Gloria/Credo/Sanctus/Agnus Dei by the congregation?

  30. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Magdalene Ross is right: Dialogue Mass, like most of the darling children of the Liturgical Movement, is rarely as successful as the “experts” think it is. I know many people who devoutly love the Traditional Mass and find the Dialogue Mass distracting to the point of madness. But regardless of its virtues or demerits, the case for it can surely be made without resorting to the kinds of calumnies against the devotional life of the faithful used by the liturgical revolutionaries 50 years ago.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    There is confusion among priests who did not keep the continuity in their own lives and have recently come back to the TLM in some places. I stopped going to a local, once a week TLM because the priest told the congregation they could say the altar server parts, which, in all my life as a TLM person, I have never heard happen before, and I have many, many years of TLM experience. It is horrible, as most of the people do not even know Latin. There needs to be better training and in some places there is none. Some seminaries in America are still not teaching the TLM on a regular basis, letting sems, in some areas again, go to special training which is optional, at St. John’s, for example or having a one-off class now and then. If the sems and priests do not know, how can the laity figure out what is good and correct.

    The participatory Mass pre-1962, which I remember, had strict rules as to what parts the laity could say, and the altar boys sections were not included. As to singing, congregations were singing the Kyrie, Agnus Dei and some responses, but not all. Choirs were the order of the day even in daily Mass, as I know, as I was a choir director for a short while and we sang at daily Mass early in the morning, the Memorial Masses for the Dead, (even as child, from 1957 ish to 1964). Sunday, of course, would be High Mass. Some daily Masses were low, as most parishes in my area had two or three daily Masses, one being sung.

    This would have been in the 1960s. But the break of continuity has caused confusion and there is a great need for the Church to issue directives regarding lay participation at the EF. We really need the influence of the SSPX, who kept this continuity.

    As a personal preference, let there be choirs on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation. As to daily Mass, let there be silence.

  32. Tradster says:

    Most of the comments, both for and against, are excellent food for thought. However, they all seem to leave unmentioned the elephant in the room. The silent versus vocal debate was an interesting discussion when the TLM was the only Mass in the Roman Catholic world. But in today’s world may I suggest the more pertinent question is what form stands the best chance of drawing in the typical NO Catholics so the TLM may, God willing, one day regain its rightful place. Like it or not, I believe the obvious answer is the Dialogue Mass.

  33. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Somewhere in the Catholic world, I bet there’s somebody who thinks the Church should regulate Rosary colors, and who thinks that public recitations of the Rosary are absolutely ruined if people bring along a tenner or a Rosary ring.

    Supporting tradition and the EF should logically mean supporting the whole range of licit EF traditions. It shouldn’t mean expecting every Mass to work exactly along the lines of one’s personal taste, surely. Back a hundred years before Vatican II, there were plenty of regional and philosophical variations on the EF Mass. Nobody was issuing warranties that you’d be able to close your eyes and tell no difference between Mass at St. Brigid’s and Mass at St. Adelbert’s. Mutual complaints about different valid styles were one of the scandals of the American church, which people were supposed to have grown up and gotten past.

    If there’s too much of a dull roar, that’s the priest’s business to control it. If the congregation needs instruction, that’s the priest’s business also. If it really really worries you, ask Father to hold a class and offer to teach it, or compose himi a suitable flyer to explain the customs of the parish and post it prominently or print it on the bulletin every week. But there’s no reason to sit there in the pew flinching or seething, when you’re going to a perfectly normal EF Mass conducted in a normal way.

    My mother taught me not to pay too much attention to what other people were doing in church. Some people sing, some don’t. Some people make responses softly, some loudly, some silently. Some people bow, some don’t. My childhood parish was near an Air Force Base and thus had people of all ages, used to Catholic customs from all over the world, and I never heard anybody moaning and groaning about how other people in the pew were doing stuff. People were a little too busy with the whole Mass thing.

  34. Imrahil says:

    Whenever the Mass is sung without the singing being a major “concert mass”, the people should sing; of course the Et cum spiritu tuo and Amen etc., but also half of the Gloria (exchanging with the choir) and the Agnus Dei. The Sanctus can either be sung by the attendance or by the choir. If there is no choir… let the attendance sing. (I guess they ought to be led to do so by the priest with some kind words and trials, though, if only to remove their fear of making something wrong.)

    Whenever the Mass is not sung, Dialogue Mass is a highly respectable form which we enjoy among the vast variety of possibilities to participate in the Old Mass, including the Gregorian chant (with the mentioned varieties), the classic Mass compositions, the pray-sing-mass (which consists in the doing his part and the attendance singing a musical Mass-devotional-prayer-collection such as the Schubert Mass), and yes, the low Mass, even with the rosary. But the latter please, please, silently.

    The second Confiteor and the Domine non sum dignus should always be said aloud by the whole congregation, and the altar servers should start it at such a speed that all can actually join in… (And why hasn’t anybody have yet the idea to make a footnote into the lay missals, such as “Domine non sum dignus[1]”, “[1: women say digna]”. I often wonder about that. It wouldn’t actually be so much of a thing.)

    Dear @Centristian, may I say that I do not consider “If I can do it, he can do it” an argument as long as he does not do it. And to ensure a minimum of prayers who do say the answers, there’s altar servers… For one thing, prayers which unite in attending Mass, contemplating Mass, and praying something, do unite to a Congregation. Second, Sunday Mass happens to be somewhat the one thing we are obliged to. Hence, meditation in the private room or silent prayer out on a walk or on a bench or in a shadowy chapel, and then the Sunday congregation coming together may be all fine… if one meditates in the private room, does silent prayer, etc. But to these things we are not obliged (some daily prayer, yes, but that’s another story). Thus, a necessity to do the worship precisely together at every of these obliging Sunday Masses may come as overwhelming.

    Besides, I also think the post-Mass agape, with which I mean the blathering in front of the Church door or also the beer and sausages at the local inn which used to be customary with the male attendance, a quite fine optional part of the getting-together-in-a-community in which the Sunday Mass of course also consists.

  35. Jbuntin says:

    Your response rocked!

  36. jesusthroughmary says:

    Very, very well said, Centristian.

  37. Sixupman says:

    I remember clearly the introduction of The Dialogue Mass [TLM] I found it a distraction from prayer and offputting.

  38. cl00bie says:

    “This is the kind of Catholicism that caused many of the faithful to abandon the Church ”

    No, this is the kind of Catholicism that caused many of the trendy to abandon the Church. The faithful understand that the Mass is the Mass handed down by Jesus. If we wanted to fill pews, we could have “Circus Masses” complete with clowns.

    Wait! I’ve seen that! :P

  39. … docility …

    Because goats are known for their docility? Or are sheep? If sheep are known for docility and obedience before the shepherd, perhaps we should be known for our docility before the Cross and the infinite Sacrifice. But this rabbit trail is perhaps best left as an exercise to the Attentive Reader.

    In any case, we can get to the preferability of silence in the pews in four easy steps.

    1. Vocal prayer is the lowest form of prayer. Meditative prayer is the highest form of regular prayer.
    2. Now, distinguish between the extrinsic and the intrinsic merits of a Mass. Intrinsically, the infinite merits of Christ’s sacrifice is infinite and the same whether it’s a Pontifical High Mass or a Clown Mass with the Easter Bunny presiding. Extrinsically, which is really to say “insofar as we can talk of a liturgy being better or best”, it is better not to have the Easter Bunny presiding.
    3. Extrinsically, it is better for the liturgy around the Mass to use a higher form of prayer, which is meditative.
    4. As responsorials prevent meditation of any depth insofar as they are present, silence is generally, if not absolutely, preferable.

    This will click together when we fully accept that meditation is active participation. In fact, and barring the actual reception of the Eucharist, it is superior to any other kind of “active participation” possible.

  40. Point 4 is the weakest, for of course insofar as responsorials enhance meditative prayer, they are preferable. This framework will, however, get folks arguing the right metric, and should be retained. Here’s my point: Silence should have a presumptive case, and for each responsorial there must be a case made that it would enhance meditation.

  41. ContraMundum says:

    Absolutely! The perversion of the Jews is best shown by their low form of prayer in shouting hosannas as Jesus entered Jerusalem. They should have silently meditated instead. And the appalling tradition going back to the song of Miriam even had a bad influence on Our Lady; rather than respond with the Magnificat, she should have silently meditated in response to Elizabeth’s question.

  42. Centristian: “To suggest that a Christian’s worship at Mass on Sunday, when we convene to do “this” in memory of Him, is adequately accomplished by ignoring that worship, altogether, in favor of praying a rosary or other private devotion in silence seems an odd suggestion (and yet one that I’ve heard over and over again).”

    Frankly, I wonder where you might have heard this suggestion, because to me it sounds like a strawman (if not a canard). For, in my experience, it’s exceedingly rare to see someone praying the rosary (or some other visibly private devotion) at a TLM, rather than appearing to follow the action at the altar. At least nowadays, almost all appear to be following the prayers of the Mass with a missal or missalette, with the exception of a few who may know the Mass so well as to not need any such aid. Whereas at an OF Mass, one is likely to see a good many whose focus on the action at the altar is not evident. (Of course, the OF and EF can and surely should be prayed in the same way, the way Pope Pius X recommended over a century ago.)

  43. ContraMundum says:

    In the year that king Ozias died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated: and his train filled the temple.
    Upon it stood the seraphims: the one had six wings, and the other had six wings: with two they covered his face, and with two they covered his feet, and with two they flew.
    And they cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory,
    And the lintels of the doors were moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

    How can seraphim be considered the highest choir of angels, when The Ubiquitous says they indulge in the lowest form of prayer?

  44. ContraMundum says:

    Whereas at an OF Mass, one is likely to see a good many whose focus on the action at the altar is not evident.

    Maybe they’re looking around to see how other people are praying?

  45. That contemplative prayer is the highest form of prayer is … pretty basic stuff. Your comment also ignores the open admission made earlier:

    … insofar as responsorials enhance meditative prayer, they are preferable.

    What was not said was merely: Silence always and everywhere. What was said was merely: Silence to begin with, and let’s go from there.

    Snark does you no good.

  46. acardnal says:

    @Magdalen: I hope you mentioned your suggestion about having one lay person in the front pew making the appropriate responses in the absence of a server to Dom Daniel Augustine at the church of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem in Charles Town, WV.

  47. ContraMundum says:

    It’s also pretty basic stuff that contemplation and mediation are not the same thing. However …

    Frankly, I find a lot of the tendency to rank things from higher to lower to be useless at best and destructive at worst. Is a vocation to the priesthood “higher” than a vocation to some other role in the Church. Perhaps, but what difference does that make, since each person is to respond to the call that God actually sends to him or her? Those people who have so loudly pronounced that a vocation to the priesthood is the highest vocation bear some fault for those women who decide they want some of that “highest” stuff, too.

    In the Latin Rite we seem really obsessed with such rankings; the rankings of the choirs of angels stand as a good example. I think this comes from looking at the problem too much through the lens of a military command or medieval political structure; perhaps a better example would be an orchestra. What is the most important instrument in an orchestra? Usually it’s the first violin – but not in a clarinet concerto! Of course, the more biblical analogy would be a body. We may tend to think of the eye as “higher” or more important than the foot, but we certainly need feet, too, if we are to get by comfortably.

    As regards the Mass, then, my point is that we should not try to identify what we think is the “highest” form of prayer and get rid of everything else, any more than we should get rid of all the instruments in an orchestra that aren’t violins. Everything has its place, and a good balance has been worked out through the experience of hundreds of millions of Catholic over the past two thousand years.

  48. plemmen says:

    My preference is always an EF High Mass. They are hard to find and as rare as hens teeth. I also attend at the occasional EF Low Mass and the OF Masses that are the most available. Regardless of the Mass type, I follow along as I was taugh as a Capuchin Novice, being prepared for Mass by not only having made an examination of conscience and devout confession, but by also pre-reading the days readings, Gospel, etc. If one is familiar with the Eucharistic prayers, one can determine which one the Priest is using and pray it silently with him. I follow all of the prayers of the Priest and acolytes silently and join my silent prayer with theirs. That is silent participation, being sufficiently educated in the form and function and silently joining your prayers with the Celebrant and other Altar Servers so as to be a full participantg in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To be less is to be lazy in ones Catholicity, to want shortcuts and offering of excuses to be truly and fully Catholic in joining fully in the liturgical life of the Church. Having been “fallen away” for many years, I started praying the Breviary again a few years ago, to one again immerse my life in the liturgical life of my Church once again. While I am not required to do so by virtue of valid and licit ordination to Holy Orders, there is nothing that I am aware of that prohibits one from this deeper involvement in liturgy and prayer.

  49. Imrahil says:

    Dear @ContraMundum, you are a bit unfair using the example of the Seraphim, because the bets are that they did not use their power over the elements to express their prayer in a material voice. (except perhaps exactly then, to make Isaiah hear, of course).

    Also, one can with time, patience and God’s help possibly succeed in teaching people answer questions correctly; one can never ever succeed in stopping them raising questions we think should rather be left unraised. So much for the ranking of things. (I also think that while it may be difficult to explain to women why they are excluded from higher-ranking priesthood beyond a mere “the Lord didn’t want you in that position”, it is possibly still more difficult to explain them how on earth “priesthood is not higher in the sense that we all are called to Beatific Vision” is not faking excuses.)

    It would however be an utterly wrong understanding even of ranking that higher banishes every lower. “The world would be poor if there were only lions; assuming arguendo it is indeed lions we are talking of”, as (or so) N. Gomez Davila once said about another matter.

    Everything has its place, and a good balance has been worked out through the experience of hundreds of millions of Catholic over the past two thousand years.

  50. acardnal says:

    I don’t appreciate the congregation reciting Latin or responding in general either in the OF or the EF liturgy. Most cannot read music, cannot sing or chant in harmony, cannot read or speak Latin, and it sounds like a cacophony! Noise. It is not true, good or beautiful. It is a terrible worship experience! We can give God so much more than the banal efforts of the incompetent. Let the choir/schola and organist perform these roles. Let the priest and servers and choir recite what is appropriate from the missal. The priest is the one mediator acting in Persona Christi and offers the oblation on our behalf to the Father. The congregation can participate by following along silently reading and praying from their missals. Active participation does not mean vocal. It involves the mind primarily and all the senses – not only the vocal cords and physical movement. PRAY the Holy Mass! Remember it is primarily the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. Place yourself at the foot of the cross.

  51. ContraMundum says:

    but by also pre-reading the days readings, Gospel, etc.

    One of my major pet peeves is when the lector has clearly not pre-read his reading. This seems to be most evident on Palm Sunday, when I have heard a lector who did not know how to pronounce “Sanhedrin” or “Golgotha” or the difference in pronunciation between the very “prophesy” and the noun “prophecy”. He may have been a very good man, but his lack of preparation made for a very jarring reading of the Passion.

  52. ContraMundum says:


    We’re not really seriously at odds on this.

    I strongly object to a quasi-Gnostic attitude that denigrates prayers that are not perceived as “spiritual” enough by some third party. Even after the Resurrection we will have knees to bend and tongues to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

    Yes, I know that angels are non-corporeal, but if the description of them in Scripture shows them not only praying vocally, but praying very loudly, I don’t think we should be quick to cast aside that surface reading.

    By the way, a great deal of practical silence is imposed by cantors singing the responsorial Psalms to amazingly awkward melodies that are impossible to follow after only one hearing, and also by choosing hymns that are familiar to no one for the very good reason that they are of such poor quality.

  53. ContraMundum says:


    I think it depends. The Creed is rather difficult due to its length, and the Psalms should not be done in Latin for the reasons you give, but I’ve been in parishes where the Sanctus and Agnus Dei were said in Latin, and those went fine. Everyone knew what they meant and how to pronounce them. I one of those who doesn’t know Latin, but I can say “Et cum spiritu tuo,” and I find it easier to remember that in Latin than “And with your spirit” in English — it seems that the Latin is stored in a different part of my brain than the old or new English versions.

  54. acardnal says:

    I have attended a few NO/OF Masses where the congregation prayed the Kyrie, the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei in Greek and Latin respectively, and it was very well done and prayerful. Those parishes usually had choirs, too, which sang sacred polyphony and Gregorian chant as appropriate. (did some one say Palestrina?) But by in large, my experiences have been dreadful in NO/OF parishes which is another reason why I prefer the EF/TLM AND the congregation does NOT say anything – only the choir/schola and servers per the missal.

    I cannot wait for the SSPX to be regularized as they and the FSSP have maintained the Tradition.

  55. Andrew says:

    How do you say “high Mass” and “low Mass” in Latin?

  56. asperges says:

    @Andrew: “Missa Solemnis” (High) and “Missa Privata (or lecta)” (Low). The terms in English may arise from more than one source. “Low” may mean the opposite of “High” (Solemn, sung = with ceremony) or it may come from the French “Lue” (Read = not sung). One also finds “sine cantu” for Low Masses.

  57. robtbrown says:

    The Ubiquitous says:

    In any case, we can get to the preferability of silence in the pews in four easy steps.

    1. Vocal prayer is the lowest form of prayer. Meditative prayer is the highest form of regular prayer.

    Not according to Mystical Theology (cf St Teresa of Avila). As non infused prayer, Meditation is a higher form than Vocal Prayer, but a lower form than the Prayer of Active Recollection (AKA Acquired Contemplation, which IMHO is really Theological Reflection).

    2. Now, distinguish between the extrinsic and the intrinsic merits of a Mass. Intrinsically, the infinite merits of Christ’s sacrifice is infinite and the same whether it’s a Pontifical High Mass or a Clown Mass with the Easter Bunny presiding. Extrinsically, which is really to say “insofar as we can talk of a liturgy being better or best”, it is better not to have the Easter Bunny presiding.
    3. Extrinsically, it is better for the liturgy around the Mass to use a higher form of prayer, which is meditative.
    4. As responsorials prevent meditation of any depth insofar as they are present, silence is generally, if not absolutely, preferable.

    This will click together when we fully accept that meditation is active participation. In fact, and barring the actual reception of the Eucharist, it is superior to any other kind of “active participation” possible.

    Although I agree about the importance of silence, it must be understood that words and silence aren’t mutually exclusive–words exist for silence. Thus, that Latin is heard at mass doesn’t mean that there would not be periods of silence. In fact, the beauty of words, both in sound and meaning, enrich silence.

    Further, in proposing the importance of hearing Latin at low mass, I wasn’t necessarily insisting on a dialogue mass. Although I think it’s best that the consecration be silent, I would have no objection to the Offertory being heard as well as certain parts of the canon.

  58. As regards the Mass, then, my point is that we should not try to identify what we think is the “highest” form of prayer and get rid of everything else, any more than we should get rid of all the instruments in an orchestra that aren’t violins.

    Ah. So this appearance of disagreement on this point is only an appearance. See what I mean: Snark does you no good. In any case, please take care to read what you respond to.

    Ranking the forms of prayer has a solidity, a reality more important than the ranking of choirs of angels or vocations. Consider:

    He who neglects mental prayer needs no devil to carry him to hell. He brings himself there with his own hands. — St. Teresa of Avila

    Now, mental prayer does not equal contemplative prayer or meditation. Mental prayer also includes dialogue. Sane Catholics are not opposed to dialogue ipso facto. However, these responsorials — by which is meant not just the response but also what prompts the response — cannot intercede at the expense of mental prayer as a whole, for unlike the Seraphim, we are not yet in the beatific vision.

    This proposes nothing more revolutionary than that we should find a balance between contemplation, meditation, and dialogue. You being sane, I do not think you oppose a balance. What you have not yet done, however, is propose a means to find that balance, what will henceforward be called a schema. If you would respond again, please submit such a schema.

  59. For reference, here’s an example of such a schema.

    Consider these guiding principles:

    1. Too much dialogue prevents meditation or contemplation.
    2. No dialogue prevents mental prayer.

    From these principles, we can easily determine that when determining the form of mental prayer liturgical worship should take:

    Begin with the silence of contemplation.We discern from there.

    If you do submit a schema, it must be superior to this. If it is superior, explain why.

  60. Mr. Brown: Our disagreement hinges on my ambiguous use of words, i.e. silence for meditation, meditation for mental prayer, &c. I apologize that the intent was not clear from the context.

  61. ContraMundum says:

    I believe you founded your argument on a flawed premise, and indeed one that has tendencies, as I mentioned, in the Gnostic direction. That is why I responded as snarkily as I did.

  62. chantgirl says:

    I have often wondered why most of the people at the TLM I attend do not say the “Domine non sum dignus” together. As the priest says it himself when he receives the Eucharist, why should he be alone in saying it when he turns to the people to have them adore the Host ? Isn’t the fact that he turns to the people at that moment an indication that we are supposed to respond? Does anyone have an answer for this? I always say it, but just quietly because most of the people do not, and I don’t want to disturb anyone. That said, having attended charismatic masses as a youth, I can appreciate the spaces of silence in the TLM. We have so little silence in our lives that perhaps we are uncomfortable with it at first, or unsure of what to do with ourselves when we encounter it. Having seen both extremes of the liturgical spectrum, I think we tend toward sin when we judge someone’s spiritual participation solely by externals. I have no idea if the very vocal person in the front row is praying any harder or participating any more than the hard-of-hearing elderly woman who is not saying anything. It is also no wonder that some people get the idea that EF people are uptight and critical when we snark about people who are doing their best to pronounce their Latin prayers and sing their parts, but don’t have the best pronunciation or singing voice. I am all for demanding the best out of the choir, but don’t knock the poor person in the pew for trying their best and falling short. Perhaps more people would give the EF a chance if we who attend were a little less harsh.

  63. I have heard Dom Daniel speak on the Liturgy, and assisted at several Masses back when he was in Yorba Linda, Ca. I must say, I’m in agreement with the author. I will go through more details at my own blog one day.

  64. MAJ Tony says:

    @acardnal While I get you on the cacaphony (some people just should NOT sing) I don’t feel that justifies the position that nobody but the choir and schola should be allowed to sing. Liturgy is not a dialog between the Priest and his ministers/schola, etc., but between the Priest the assembly, both praying to God. Only lately, in liturgical time, has this become a norm in what is now the EF. I am not aware of such a trend in the other rites of the Christian Church. Believe it or not, MOST people can chant well enough that the cacaphony you hear is probably someone near you that is tonedeaf (I too am driven to distraction by these random non-singing churchgoers who insist on singing anyway). Offer it up.

  65. MAJ Tony says:

    @chantgirl local “tradition” on who says what parts of the EF Mass varies considerably even within, say, the FSSP communities. Our EF here in Indianapolis, that has long FSSP ties, has a tradition of popular response. Our current EF priest recites the people’s part aloud the same as if we were silent. The previous one wasn’t quite as amplified. The good thing about having a well-audible prayer, it sets the tempo, and people tend to “get in step” to use a marching term.

  66. acardnal says:

    @MAJTony: “Liturgy is not a dialog between the Priest and his ministers/schola, etc., but between the Priest the assembly, both praying to God.”

    Actually, the EF liturgy is NOT a dialogue at all between the assembly and the priest. That is the point! The priest is THE mediator, the representative of the people of God. He offers the holy sacrifice – with or without the assembly present – the Father. If you believe it is a dialogue between the priest and the assembly you should read more on the subject, e.g. Dom Gueringer, Adrian Fortescue, Msgr. Gamber.

  67. jesusthroughmary says:

    @chantgirl –

    As far as I can recall, the whole congregation has thrice prayed the “Domine non sum dignus” immediately before proceeding to the altar to receive Communion at every EF Mass I’ve ever been to (the number of which is approaching a thousand if it’s not there yet).

  68. Andrew says:


    Thank you. Calling the mass “high” and “low” has always struck me as rather odd. I don’t know of any other language that uses these curious designations.

  69. jesusthroughmary says:

    @ asperges – I often see “Solemn Mass”, “sung Mass” and “low Mass”, so that makes me think the French derivation is the way it came to English.

  70. pelerin says:

    Andrew – In France High Mass and Low Mass were once known as Grand’Messe and Messe Basse the latter being literally ‘Low’ Mass. I always presumed that the Low referred to the low voice of the Priest.

  71. teaguytom says:

    One of the origins of the Low and High names had to do with the position of the candles at the high altar. In the TLM, low masses only have 2 candles on the lowest shelf of the reredos. At “high” mass, 6 candles are lit on the highest shelf of the reredos. Hences, low and high masses. Plus, the terms high and low can also refer to the degree of solemnity. Hence, low church prots and high church prots, referring to their degree of liturgical solemnity.

  72. acardnal says:

    @teaguytom: good point about the candles.

  73. JKnott says:

    Ubiquitous I like that you have come at this from the perspective of prayer.
    My understanding of the Great Doctor of the Church St Teresa of Avila is that vocal prayer must also be mental prayer or it is not prayer at all. In saying this she explains that mental prayer is a vivid awareness of Whom we are speaking to and what we are saying. In that case, responses at Mass, while vocal, need to also be mental prayer. This type of mental prayer can also be contemplative , to a certain extent, if the person maintains recollection whether silently or vocally. The person may be drawn into deeper insights or moved by love in a particular response.
    Meditation is mental prayer. It involves thinking and ruminating etc.. It is the first part of the 4 stages in Lectio Divina. So I think that the catch here is that mental prayer and meditation are not two stages or two different things.
    robtbrown is correct in mentioning the higher states of acquired and infused contemplation but Mass is not a private prayer. Mass in the liturgical prayer of the Church, a communal celebration of the Holy Sacrifice in which we all participate as the Body of Christ with our Head Jesus Christ.
    I believe, that prior to Vatican II, the more prayerful environment of the Mass, naturally encouraged, and even formed Catholics in a far more interior understanding of prayer and they practiced it judging by the reverence shown. By stressing the exterior to such a degree, the NO, with its exercise class mentality, seems to have drawn many to irreverence for the Blessed Sacrament: no more genuflections, communion receive haphazardly etc.. I strongly believe that a significant reason for this is due to of a loss of the sense of mental prayer, as defined by Teresa.
    Praying the Divine Office, which is the universal prayer of the Church, in common with others who can do it with “one voice” is very meditative or contemplative and the Office is primarily a vocal prayer. The psalms done antiphonally are a “call and a response.” The Mass is similar.
    I agree with others here that some eager beavers who are too loud, off key and so forth can be very distracting to others trying to maintain that awareness of “Whom we are speaking to and what we are saying,” as Teresa insists on.

  74. Cantate says:

    Active participation–actuoso participatio–is first of all INTERNAL participation. After Vatican II, it was” interpreted” to mean excessive activity of voice, body, handshakes, etc. The true meaning was obscured by noise and cacophony. Avoiding dialogism is the main reason that I attend the EF Masses, and adhere to the true meaning of actuoso participatio.

    I highly recommend that all Catholics –especially bishops,priests, liturgists, and music directors– read the documents issued during the 20th century beginning with Tra le sollicitudini (1903), Mediator Dei, and documents on sacred music during that time as well as Summorum (2007).
    For your additional edification, go to www. and search for Susan Benofy’s two-part article, “The Day the Mass Changed: How it Happened and Why.” Look also for her 5-part article, “Buried Treasure.”
    As for strict adherence to the 1962 Missal in Charles Town: When Dom Daniel Oppenheimer distributes Holy Communion, he says the priest’s prayer “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat….” while he gives Holy Communion among two or three people. My missal says that the prayer is to be said for EACH. How “strict” is that adherence?

  75. ContraMundum says:

    To really understand “participation”, we have to look at the words that make it up.

    The first word in “participation” is “pa”, because, of course, we are to call God “Abba”, which was Aramaic for “Pa”.

    The next word is “par”, because we should remember that some people prefer to worship God by playing golf on Sunday, and that’s OK.

    Then comes “part”, because we have to part with everything that came before Vatican II.

    Next, we have “parti”, because Mass is no longer supposed to be a dull, solemn experience, but a party for the faithful!

    Finally, if we misspell the word a little (and who are we to judge people’s spelling?), we have “pariti”, because there is no longer any real difference between the priest and the laity.

  76. acardnal says:

    From what I have read here from people who have attended the Mass at the church of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem in Charles Town, WV., it suggests that they are changing the rubrics of the EF/TLM and the MR of 1962 from what has been approved by the Holy See. This is unfortunate and brings to mind the horrific meddling and juvenile innovations that have occurred with and without approval in the NO/OF Mass of Vatican II.

  77. Urget_nos says:

    The EF Mass at parish where I hear Holy Mass, uses the principle of “what is the Church asking of us” for bot OF and EF celebrations. Thus:

    Source: ‘De musica sacra et sacra liturgia’ (Instruction on Sacred Music and Sacred Liturgy), Sacred Congregation for Rites – September 3, 1958

    (High Mass)

    25. In solemn Mass there are three degrees of the participation of the faithful:
    a) First, the congregation can sing the liturgical responses. These are: Amen; Et cum spiritu tuo; Gloria tibi, Domine; Habemus ad Dominum; Dignum et justum est; Sed libera nos a malo; Deo gratias. Every effort must be made that the faithful of the entire world learn to sing these responses.
    b) Secondly, the congregation can sing the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass: Kyrie, eleison; Gloria in excelsis Deo; Credo; Sanctus-Benedictus; Agnus Dei. Every effort must be made that the faithful learn to sing these parts, particularly according to the simpler Gregorian melodies….
    c) Thirdly, if those present are well trained in Gregorian chant, they can sing the parts of the Proper of the Mass. This form of participation should be carried out particularly in religious congregations and seminaries

    (Low Mass)
    31. A final method of participation, and the most perfect form, is for the congregation to make the liturgical responses to the prayers of the priest, thus holding a sort of dialogue with him, and reciting aloud the parts which properly belong to them.
    There are four degrees or stages of this participation:
    a) First, the congregation may make the easier liturgical responses to the prayers of the priest: Amen; Et cum spiritu tuo; Deo gratias; Gloria tibi Domine; Laus tibi, Christe; Habemus ad Dominum; Dignum et justum est; Sed libera nos a malo;
    b) Secondly, the congregation may also say prayers, which, according to the rubrics, are said by the server, including the Confiteor, and the triple Domine non sum dignus before the faithful receive Holy Communion;
    c) Thirdly, the congregation may say aloud with the celebrant parts of the Ordinary of the Mass: Gloria in excelsis Deo; Credo; Sanctus-Benedictus; Agnus Dei;
    d) Fourthly, the congregation may also recite with the priest parts of the Proper of the Mass: Introit, Gradual, Offertory, Communion…

  78. OrthodoxChick says:

    OK, right out of the gate, I need to change my username. Prior to joining this blog, I thought I was orthodox. Now I realize that I’m completely ignorant. I need to change my username to “Clueless Cradle Catholic”.

    Why? Because I am having a Dickens of a time even following this conversation. I guess I have never been to an “EF” Mass; not a high one, not a low one. I couldn’t tell you the difference between the two if you paid me – unfortunately. I don’t know what you mean when you refer to a Novus Ordo. At my parish half the congregation raise their hands so high in the air, they look like they’re trying to yank the Holy Spirit down from out of Heaven. I thought I was being an orthodox mom for dragging my kids’ arms down to their sides when I see them copying the folks around them at Mass. My kids and hubby think I’m a meanie. But it makes my skin crawl when people do this because it looks to me as though there are 30 or 40 lay concelebrants when all we need is the one ordained main celebrant (last I knew, anyway).

    In defense of my own ignorance, I’ll offer the fact that I have never lived anywhere outside of liberland (New England and a short college stint on Long Island, NY). I was schooled by the Sisters of Mercy and at my high school, we had liturgical dance during some of our Masses. (Yes, that creeped me out a little). On top of that, I was born after Vatican II and was a child in the 1970’s and a teen in the 1980’s.

    I think (if I’m correctly understanding what I’m reading here) that the only Mass I’ve ever been to is the Ordinary Form. That’s the one where people do not chant but have every variety of music known to God and man, right? I have yet to hear a decent church choir at the area parishes I have been to so I’m not sure that it’s a good idea to have only the choir do the singing. I try to avoid the Mass with the old fogie folk music band at my parish. Our youth band does sound like a contemporary Christian Gospel music concert but at least they are in tune and in key. You would all have to sit through the old fogie folk choir to understand what a Blessing the teen music is. My best bet is to get my act together early Sunday morn and get to the Mass with the lone male singer who is peaceful, prayerful and soothing to listen to. And yes, I lip sync at Mass because I’ve been told that I can’t carry a tune in an 18 ton dump truck.

    Now that you know my plight, could someone kindly point me toward an archived article somewhere on this blog that gives some sort of background tutorial as to what in the world you all are talking about? I will be most appreciative. Thanks!

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  79. OrthodoxChick says:

    P.S. At least I can brag about the fact that our Diocese keeps Ascension Thursday on thursday. Thank the Lord for small favors, right?!

  80. Dear acardnal: you need not worry, the CRNJ follow the rubrics of the 1962 Missal. Dear Cantate: Dom Daniel IS addressing each communicant in the distribution of Holy Communion…and please remember that your hand missal also begins the section on the People’s Communion with the words, “If Holy Communion is to be distributed…”

    I would encourage you to reflect on that “if.”

    Magdalen Ross, J.C.L.

  81. jesusthroughmary says:

    orthodoxchick –

    Real quick primer:

    EF = Extraordinary Form, a phrase used to describe Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum (or Roman Missal), which was the subject of the Pope’s 2007 apostolic letter “Summorum Pontificum” and was allowed worldwide without the prior approval of local bishops by the same Papal order. It is commonly called the “Latin Mass”, “Traditional Mass”, etc. It is called “High Mass” when the Mass is chanted and “Low Mass” when the Mass is recited.

    OF = Ordinary Form = Novus Ordo = phrases used to describe the Mass according to the current Missale Romanum, that of 2000 (the current English translation of which was implemented last November). Novus Ordo is short for Novus Ordo Missae (“New Order of Mass”), a phrase used to underscore that the changes to the Missal between 1962 and 1970 were so great that the 1970 Missale Romanum was, in effect, the first edition of a New Order of Mass. Although there is nothing inherent about the current Roman Missal that prevents a priest from celebrating Mass according to that book in Latin, nor from employing Gregorian chant, nor from facing the tabernacle, these practices are practically nonexistent at Ordinary Form Masses.

    Yes, I am sure that you are correct that you have never been to a Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

  82. robtbrown says:

    JKnott says:

    robtbrown is correct in mentioning the higher states of acquired and infused contemplation but Mass is not a private prayer. Mass in the liturgical prayer of the Church, a communal celebration of the Holy Sacrifice in which we all participate as the Body of Christ with our Head Jesus Christ.

    Liturgical prayer is not private prayer, but it must encourage interior participation, which is personal and includes reflection on Chris and His Church, and their relation to our own lives.

    BTW, mass is communal in so far as it always involves the members of the Mystical Body, living and dead. In more temporal terms I would not describe a mass with one celebrant and a server as communal.

  83. UncleBlobb says:

    @OrthodoxChick You and I are of the same vintage it seems. Do you remember that scene in The Matrix where Neo decides to take the red pill and see “how deep the rabbit whole goes”? That is what you are about to do….

    In 1970, a Vatican Curial group, with the approval of Pope Paul VI, promulgated a new Roman Missal for the Latin Rite of the Church. I’m wording this very carefully: the rite of Mass in all the Roman Missals prior to 1970 is different than the ones afterward. The ones before 1970 are commonly called the Tridentine Mass, Usus Antiquior, or lately Extroardinary Form. The Missals after 1970 are commonly called the Ordinary Form. The terms Extraordinary Form vs. Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite were termed by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 Motu Proprio-type official document called “Summorum Pontificum”. You can read the Pope’s document here:
    and, watch this:

  84. Centristian says:


    The “Novus Ordo” or “Ordinary Form” can be celebrated just as “orthodoxically” as the “Extraordinary Form” and in some places is. Alas, the venues that offer the “OF” in such a way are so few and far between that unless you make a point of taking a trip to such a site (as I did last month to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament…Mother Angelica’s ‘home’ near EWTN), you could, sadly, go a lifetime never encountering it. If you catch the Pope celebrating Mass from Rome on TV, however, you’ll see all the “orthodox” grandeur of the Roman Rite expressed in the Ordinary Form.

    By the “Extraordinary Form” is meant the pre-Vatican II form of Mass or “Old Latin Mass” as alot of people refer to it. Despite the endless complaints of traditionalists, that form of Mass is not nearly as difficult to find. If you live in or near a decent sized city, there’s probably a church not far away that offers this form of Mass.

    At any rate, that is the form in question in this thread. Some traditionalist Catholics prefer the silent, “Low Mass” in which nobody is expected to participate, and others find that form of silent, non-participatory style of Mass to be liturgically repugnant, preferring instead sung versions of the “EF”, or, when it cannot be sung, so-called “Dialogue Masses” at which the congregation are expected to respond to the priest in Latin.

  85. AnnAsher says:

    I can participate by singing the prayers absurd responses at TLM or I can participate interiorly in silence. I like to have both options available. Some Sundays I just need to close my eyes and let the words resonate in my soul, silently. Others, it is efficacious to lift my voice. At a blog titled Ars Orandi there was an excellent post recently about interior participation and why it is not essential to understand the Latin in order to participate fully. Placing the emphasis on interior vs exterior participation.

  86. AnnAsher says:

    Orthodox Chick, I’ll humbly add that Ordinary Form and Novus Ordo are interchangeable tems for the post 1970 you are attending. Novus Ordo – new order – because when it was made it was new. Additionally to the other terms for the EF Mass, you may also hear and see ” TLM” traditional Latin mass. The Latin Rite of the Church is also known as the Roman Rite, although there are more than just Latins in the roman …. You might search for a Latin Mass near you to check out.

  87. The Cobbler says:


    First off, I’m pretty sure if you believe what the Church teaches you’re orthodox, all finer details of praxis aside. The bigger danger on this blog is that you could be taken for one of our resident Eastern bretheren, who occassionally provide some broader context or commentary and, once in a while (less so these days), get Fr. Z hammering on the point that there are legitimate reasons for the Latin way and that these are what we should focus on in understanding the Mass in the West even if the way/reasons differ(s) from an Eastern way that also has legitimate reasons.

    Dunno about an introductory post, but for a highly non-expert summary from someone who’s been more or less paying attention since Benedict became Pope but is younger even than you, see if this helps.

    During and/or shortly after the second Vatican Council (it doesn’t seem to have been an all-at-once process on the whole, hence “during/after”) the Church revised the prayers and actions of the Mass in the Latin Rite (as distinct from, for example, the Byzantine Catholics, one of whom I know described his Eastern Catholicism as “that weird kid that niether mom or dad understands who wishes his parents would stop fighting” — the short story is that they’re technically supposed to believe the same stuff as us and aren’t in schism like the Eastern Orthodox, but have some separation of pastoral jurisdiction and their own Rite of the celebration the Sacrament of the Eucharist — among other things — for the same legitimate reasons the Orthodox do and would even if the big ol’ schism ended altogether; also, technically there are multiple different Eastern and Western Rites, but exactly how they’re sorted out is a bit over my head too). The revised version is known as the “New Order of the Mass” (or “Novus Ordo Missae” in the original Latin, hence “NO” and “Novus Ordo”). Technically the documents of Vatican II specify that Latin and chant are to be retained and given primacy of place, but it is permitted as an alternative where the bishops deem it reasonable to allow the vernacular tongue and other forms of music provided the latter are liturgically appropriate. Furthermore, the new Missal specifies several points where the priest turns toward the people, which strongly suggests that even in the NO he’s supposed to be facing the altar with them, leading them to God and interceding with God on their behalf (you may hear another document called on to the effect that facing the people “is desirable wherever possible”; I _can_ dig up several articles where Fr. Z demonstrates this to be the result of ambiguous word order that seems to have been intended to say that a certain altar arrangement is desirable wherever possible so that saying Mass facing the people _is an option_ — notice the difference in the object of “which is desirable wherever possible”). In any case, however, the bishops in the English speaking world and some notable portions of the rest of the world have decided that it’s reasonable to default to the vernacular if not to discourage Latin altogether, that anything goes as far as Liturgically appropriate music, and bought whoever translated the one document to suggest that we should rip out old altars if we have to in order to never again pray all facing the same direction. As a matter of law these things should not be the differences between the Novus Ordo and what some call the “Traditional Latin Mass” or “Tridentine Liturgy Mass” (the latter referring to the Council of Trent, which codified the Mass without, to my knowledge, deliberately changing much unless you count cutting down on variety just a little as an extension of codification; either one comes out “TLM” for short, and I’m not exactly fond of the simplistic phrase “Latin Mass” because there are still a few places where the Novus Ordo fits that description). However, as a matter of fact you will typically see the old form celebrated “facing Liturgical East” (East having something to do with the Second Coming if I recall correct and I’m sure someone more knowledgeable than I can give you the scripture reference; “Liturgical” in this case just meaning Churches are no longer built so that this coincides with literal East), i.e. “ad orientem” (simply Latin for “to[ward] the East”), in Latin, typically chanted (hang on a minute to the chanted bit though); and the Novus Ordo is, on the other hand… generally not any of those.

    Oh, and there’s Communion in the hand, which wasn’t even allowed with the Novus Ordo until permission was given so that the people who didn’t care what Rome said and were already doing it anyone would at least no longer be sinning by disobedience against the Church. No, that doesn’t make much sense to me either — I mean, I get that the Church doesn’t want people to feel pressured to sin and therefore is inclined not to put stricter rules than necessary on them in those areas that she has authority to set the rules, but if people were dissing Church authority anyway how does this solve anything? Anyway, just keep in mind that this is even less a Novus Ordo issue than ad orientem, and that technically in the English speaking world we’re allowed to receive in the hand without sin of sacriledge or disobedience or whatever it’d be, though many are of the opinion that this is not good for the Faith (reverence, in the objective sense, y’know?).

    There have been Catholics since Vaticain II who objected in varying degrees to the Novus Ordo, either on theological grounds (which I can’t begin to explain to you since I haven’t got my head around the details of the few cases I’ve even heard of that aren’t about ambituity or what the Novus Ordo Missae _doesn’t_ say), or on the grounds that the Church just shouldn’t be messing around with her Mass, or simply on the grounds that regardless of the theory what happened in practice has been an absolute mess. There are some (with overlap with the above, but not total overlap) who also or on the other hand have said “if actually doing what the council asked and using chant, Latin and ad orientem is now ‘old-fashioned’, why not go all the way back and stick with the prayers and actions from before the revision? At least for those of us who care about it, anyway?”

    Some of the objectors — bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X — have gotten themselves excommunicated — but not over the Mass issue directly, it had to do with them considering that issue so important and the Pope so hard to reason with on the matter that they skipped getting his permission to ordain more bishops who were of this mind. Their excommunications have since been lifted and a lot of us would like them given a canonically regular position in the Church (even some of us who don’t exactly like them for various reasons want them to not be in any sticky situation for the sake of souls, theirs and others’), but that’s not the focus of this discussion and I’m not the best person to explain canonically regular and irregular positions, jurisdiction, etc.

    Many more people, however, have claimed or been under the impression that the old form of the Mass was now forbidden. So Pope Benedict, shortly into his pontificate, put out a document of his own accord (that’s called a “motu proprio”, if I’m remembering my spelling correctly), by the name of “Summorum Pontificum”, to the effect that the old Mass was never forbidden (at least not lawfully), no priest really needs permission to celebrate it and in fact should honor requests for it by laypeople who are interested and aren’t random passerby or merely one-time curiousity-seekers or something (there was a lot of loopholing about the definition of a “stable group”, but I seem to recall the clarifications that have since come out boiled down to it being interpreted as much in said group of laity’s favor as possible — which doesn’t surprise anyone who knows that’s a rule of thumb in canon law, but then, I only learned of that either from reading canon lawyer Dr. Peters, who Fr. Z occassionally references and who occassionally comments here). This can be seen as a conciliatory gesture towards the SSPX and others like them in various ways, but it’s also a matter of truth and justice. His Holiness described the older form as an “extraordinary form of the Roman Rite”, in the sense of “extraordinary” as opposed to “ordinary” in the sense of “standard default”. Hence, “Extraordinary Form” or “EF” as an alternative name for the “TLM”. You might once in a while hear about the “OF” or “Ordinary Form” as synonymous with the Novus Ordo — either as it should be or as it typically happens to be.

    Some such as Fr. Z here are of the opinion that this description is a juridicial solution, ie. treating the two as forms of the same rite in terms of canon law, and not a theological assessment as to whether the Novus Ordo created a whole new rite. That’s _waaay_ outta my league to opine on.

    Now, I said earlier to hang onto the chant bit… Well, it turns out — near as I can tell having never been specifically educated in the old form, just having found it pretty nice if you’re used to the Novus Ordo chanted in Latin — that in the old form there are at least four different variations on the style of Mass:
    Sung/Cantata (I think that’s just Latin for sung)

    However, I haven’t figured out how to tell which label to apply given that many of them seem to overlap. “High” always seems to be sung. “Dialogue” means the people say the servers’ responses, which isn’t always done in the old form. “Low” basically means everybody is as mum as possible. It’s kinda like the difference between Sunday Mass at nine, Sunday Mass at noon, and daily Mass at some of the better parishes that use the Novus Ordo, except with confusing names because I don’t see how the definitions of Dialogue, Sung and High are mutually exclusive. Heck, maybe High is just the combination of Sung and Dialogue? I also know a High Mass has more switching between kneeling and standing, which leaves me wondering, at a Sung or Dialogue Mass should we follow the Low Mass’s kneel/stand customs or the High Mass’s? Oh well.

    Now see, most of this thread here has been about discussion of how much people should externally participate in the old form — singing, responding, etc. — and probably contains some of the answers to my own questions about the different styles of old form Masses if only I would spend as much time reading as I spent writing. So, I’m going to try to do that now. And if anyone wants to chime in to correct anything I’ve said in error (highly non-expert summary, remember) or to fill in anything I just plain don’t know or forgot to get at, feel free.

    And, as I said, hope that helps. And to anyone for whom is was “too long; didn’t read”… sorry. I mean, I really wish I could write more clearly and briefly. (And that I had a more thorough knowledge of the subject matter here, but I guess it’s just good that reading all the arguments through the years has made me realize what I don’t fully understand.)

  88. The Cobbler says:

    And naturally between my composing the bulk of my post and my posting the editted version several people post shorter summaries that seem to hit on all the important points.

    That’s what some forumites call “getting ninja’d”.

  89. The Cobbler says:

    (Oh, and then there’s the way the original comment is probably in the moderation queue while my comment on getting ninja’d is probably sitting there looking confusing… Oh well.)

  90. The Cobbler says:

    Okay, if my comment does show up, ignore the bit about types of EF Masses and look instead for discussion prompted by Andrew on the origin of the terms.

    I did always think they were confusing; no wonder…

  91. Charlotte Allen says:

    I used to attend an old Latin Mass fairly regularly at a distant church after I got tired of a priest in my home parish whose every Sunday sermon was about being “non-judgmental.” Naturally I and a few others in the congregation) would sing back the Latin Gregorian-chant responses to the priest’s chants–because the nuns at my parochial school had taught us how to do that BEFORE Vatican II. Also, I majored in classics and know how to pronounce Latin. And I’ve got a pretty good singing voice But eventually I couldn’t take the stares and glares I got from some of the other Latin Mass attendees. One lady in the pew in front of me ostentatiously moved to another part of the church on one occasion. So I eventually stopped going. Why does a love for the old Latin Mass have to be accompanied by a censorious attitude toward other attendees whose form of participation strikes them as not up to snuff? I don’t glare at the characters in my home parish who throw their hands up to the ceiling during the Lord’s Prayer. One of my friends, who is actually devoted to the old Latin Mass, calls it “the world’s best Mass for the world’s worst people.”

  92. acardnal says:

    High Mass (TLM/EF) Video: (SSPX)

    Low Mass (TLM/OF) Video: (Institute of Christ the King)

    Just do a Google search of for traditional latin mass videos.

  93. acardnal says:

    Correction to above should read:
    Low Mass (TLM/EF) Video:

  94. OrthodoxChick says:

    UncleBlobb, Centristian, and Ann Asher,

    Thank you for the explanations. All of them have un-muddied the waters for me. Many thanks!

    I do live near some major cities and State capitals so I should not have a problem finding an “EF” Mass to attend. Funny, I don’t hear much about them, but they must be happening somewhere around here, right? Since I haven’t experienced such a liturgy yet, perhaps I can offer some of you my insights as one among many who are wholly unaccustomed to a Latin Mass. I read some earlier comments here where some commentators are calling for bishops and priests to just start saying them. If there are pockets around the nation where these types of liturgy are more common, then perhaps that advice would work out just fine. But I think that bishops and priests serving in particularly liberal parts of the country might have little choice but to proceed down this road a little more slowly and cautiously. In my little corner of liberal-land, we have a group of conservatives Catholics (in the minority) and a majority group of liberal Catholics. More and more, it seems to be an emerging situation that you’ll find the conservatives at Mass and the liberals everywhere else, but for the time being, there is still a good-sized group of liberals in local parishes who still attend Mass. I think that the EF/TLM would need to be phased in gradually during some sort of transition period in areas such as where I live. I could see it working if people are given a chance to attend and adjust to Latin “dialogue” and chant before such Masses become the primary ones offered. And I would say conducting both the high and low frequently enough to provide ample opportunities for people to warm up to them might help.

    I don’t know if I’m coming across properly or not in trying to express my opinion. As it stands now, Mass is both a very personal and communal encounter with our Lord. It is a one-to-one relationship at the same time that it is (or should be) time to make it less about self and all about God. Since the OF Mass (at least in my neck of the woods) is very touchy-feely and all about one’s own expression of self and their personal relationship with the Lord, teaching parishoners to view it from another perspective when many of them have not been catechized in such a way, and have been born and raised in the throws of an egocentric time in our cultural history, is a slippery slope to climb without the right equipment. Doing so would require catechizing children properly, but more importantly, re-catechizing the parents and other other adults properly since this was not done in the first place for people in my generation.

    I’m already a little shy about going to my first TLM Mass because I’m afraid I won’t know what to do, won’t understand a word of it, and will look like someone who isn’t even Catholic. At the same time, if there’s a way to enter into deeper communion with my Lord, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and all of the angels and saints, bring it on because it’s long overdue and sorely needed. I guess all I’m saying is that not everyone who views a Latin Mass with some trepidation, may be doing so simply to cling to a progressive agenda, or to drag the Church further down the wrong road. Some folks may just fear the unknown and will come around to learning to love both silent and dialogue TLM’s if given a chance to ease into it.

    Now if you’ll excuse me…I’m off to try to dig up and dust off an old missal from the 1950’s that I inherited from an ancestor. I’m sure it’s around here somewhere!

  95. Pingback: Aktiv deltakelse i den tradisjonelle messen » EN KATOLSK WEBLOG

  96. acardnal says:

    Good introductory books to read to help you understand the TLM/EF:

    The Latin Mass Explained” [Paperback]
    Msgr. George J. Moorman (Author), Msgr. R. Michael Schmitz (Foreword)

    Calvary and the Mass” by Most Rev. Fulton J. Sheen

    For the Visitor at Mass“, Angelus Press

    Audio CD by Matthew Arnold:

  97. AnnAsher says:

    Orthodox Chick: ha! It was an inherited 1958 Marian Missal to which I turned when the question was raised, which I had to unbury as well.
    Acardnal’s book suggestions are the ones I then found my way to as well.
    Prayers for your liturgical adventure !

  98. AnnAsher says:

    I want to add that your second paragraph, IMO, expresses a clear grasp on the situation at hand. Also, I was nervous too, going to my first TLM. What a relief it was that no one looks up, or backwards, or “gapes at you” ( to quote Fr Z). People would give a small smile if I caught their eye. It is actually the first parish I walked into where I did not feel like I was being scrutinized for one reason or another. So take heart. It’ll be just fine.

  99. Tina in Ashburn says:

    OrthodoxChick: Would that all could be as open-minded as you. So many of us think we know everything already and won’t listen. The first step is accepting that we don’t know what we don’t know.
    A few more points added to the very helpful comments to you:
    1. The Mass is a ‘conversation’ between the priest and God the Father. This in reality is the Sacrifice that Jesus Christ offers of Himself for our benefit to the Father. The congregation is privileged to hear this – if we are not there at all the Sacrifice still occurs. Thus your discomfort with chaotic self-expression of those around you. That self-expression has little to do with the action on the altar.

    2. God tells us how he wants to be worshiped. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God frequently describes how He wants to be worshiped and what happens with unpleasing, unworthy prayer. Lately over the last 50 years, it appears that some have mucked up this understanding and brought many Catholics to the conclusion that Mass is what we want it to be, that it is a vehicle for our own self-expression. Rather, the Church ‘owns’ the Liturgy, it is not ours to change or re-create. If you believe that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church, and gave us a Pope as His Vicar, then we are instructed by His Church on how God wants to be worshiped.

    3. The Ottaviani Intervention. For a very concise description of the difference between the old Mass and the New Mass, read Cardinal Ottaviani’s “Intervention”. In this desperate letter to the Pope to stop the New Mass, he describes the differences and even foretells what these changes will lead to. Ironically, many practices we see today weren’t even in the original plan that Ottaviani ripped apart, such as ‘ad orientem’ or the handling of the Eucharist by unconsecrated lay hands. Ottaviani discusses the visible Mass [which we see] and the instructions [which only the priest sees in the General Instructions].

    All the discussion here comes from the interpretation of what God says He wants, and what traditions, documents, and practices are really the closest to the mind of the Church and the desires of God Himself. Yes, we need leadership to clarify this in no uncertain terms, as the Church once commonly expressed its laws and rubrics in the 50s and before. Much of our ‘directions’ are very ambiguous today, leading to discussions like this one.

  100. Athanasius says:

    This is the kind of Catholicism that caused many of the faithful to abandon the Church in the mid-twentieth-century.

    Uhhh……. does this guy realize that in the mid-twentieth century the dialogue Mass was already in vogue and readings in Europe were in the vernacular? If anything was the problem, that was not.

  101. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I frequently attend the Canon’s Mass even though it is an hour away.

    The author Steve Skojec is the reason I know about the Canons after he extended an invitation to an evening Mass last year. I have subsequently brought in my mother and various friends, who left in tears at the beauty of their liturgy. Including cranky crusty me. Some comments here wildly misinterpret what Steve says. Steve is writing for Crisis magazine whose audience is not terribly pro-Tridentine. Trying to describe what the Canons are achieving is like trying to pour the whole ocean into a sandy hole. [yes the reference to St Augustine here is on purpose, these are Augustinians].

    “dialogue Mass”: Dom Daniel is not promoting the ‘dialogue Mass’ but what the dialogue Mass was trying to promote.

    Yes, what thepapalbull says at 19 May 2012 at 11:10 pm. Supporting ‘active participation’ should not label us as liberals. It is the twisted definition of ‘participation’ that sets traditionalists off. This is NOT what the Canons support. “Participation” is rooted in the interior life FIRST, it must be internalized. We are not talking about mere theatre of just yakking or acting out at Mass.

    I agree with Jael at 19 May 2012 at 11:23 pm .

    The Byzantines, lets look at the Byzantines. Although their rite and traditions are particular to them, much of what they have preserved is common to us all. Also, the Byzantines were NOT affected at all by the Reformation! The congregation sings throughout almost the entire Liturgy – some have described it as ‘there is no silence, they never shut up”. But what they do is sing everything, and the text is only the prayers of the Mass. I think there is something to learn from this, an ancient tradition preserved – rooted in mysticism and the interior life. “Participation” isn’t always a dirty word. Their liturgy has also taught me the intrinsic nature of singing in the Liturgy, it is one and the same – texts should be sung not spoken. Done properly, music and liturgy are ONE. The priest has his role. But like the crowd outside the Holy of Holies in Jewish worship, the congregation sings in support of the solemn Sacrifice.

    Those praying the rosary during Mass can be tied into the Liturgy if one recalls that the rosary represents the 150 Psalms, which is tied to the old Office of the Hours which is tied to the prayers of the old Mass. Some days you just want to give your intentions to Mary and unite yourself to the Mass that way.

    Echoing Supertradmum at 20 May 2012 at 3:07 am, I too like the Missa Cantatas sometimes and the quiet low Masses too. I love to sing and participate in the high Masses but I too dearly love the quiet Masses where I can continue to listen quietly, uninterrupted, undistracted, to the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing through my soul in a quiet Mass. Silence is so precious.

    As to the discussion started by Ubiquitous: Vocal prayer without meditation or contemplation or understanding is almost empty. It is just theatre. [tho there is benefit from rote recitation of good prayer, even without understanding as it can affect us eventually]. Perhaps many of us have experienced busy noise at Masses, and some of that noise is music or prayers expressing bad or incomplete theology. We sure don’t need more of that.

    cardinal at 20 May 2012 at 12:12 pm ~ We have souls and God hears us, that is what gives value to our prayer, not the beauty of the voice or the perfect pronunciation. This doesn’t mean that prayer or music should be so bad as to be distracting. As a long-time singer myself I comprehend the value of letting a choir sing when the congregation is unfamiliar with a piece. Also, the priest and acolytes do have their role that might not involve the congregation. But to say that the congregation must be silent is silly. This is the same logic that says the congregation should do everything. At the Mass there are times to speak and times for silence for all involved.

    Praying aloud as a group has a wonderfully edifying effect on the Faithful. This is a way to vocalize our assent with the prayers of the Mass. When I hear all those around me saying/singing the Creed, the sense of belonging, the sense of all these hearts united to God raising prayer in tandem is at times overwhelming. We live in a world where we are bullied and set apart for our beliefs – It is good for the soul to feel that union with others.

    acardnal at 20 May 2012 at 6:29 pm Says “the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem in Charles Town, WV., it suggests that they are changing the rubrics of the EF/TLM and the MR of 1962 from what has been approved by the Holy See. This is unfortunate and brings to mind the horrific meddling and juvenile innovations that have occurred with and without approval in the NO/OF Mass of Vatican II.”
    Either no one is expressing themselves correctly here in the comments or perhaps your understanding of the Mass is stilted?
    The Canons are the epitome of “Reforming the Reform”. Demonstrated by the rigorous attention to detail in the Mass and his erudite homilies, Dom Augustine is incredibly well-educated and has dug deeply into practices, documents, traditions and experiences in order to better understand the intent and mind of the Church in expressing Herself at Mass.
    I hope you will get to experience their Mass to see first-hand.

    Urget_nos 20 May 2012 at 6:34 pm. Your quote of ‘De musica sacra et sacra liturgia’ September 3, 1958 is very helpful. Thank you.

  102. Tina in Ashburn says:

    drat, in my comment to OrthodoxChick, on point nbr 3 I meant to say “versus populum instead of ad orientem”

  103. joan ellen says:

    The comments here on whether to speak or not at the TLM are humbling. How encouraging to know how important the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is to so many, that so many wish to pray as they believe, that the Holy Sacrifice is their life.
    The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offers me the opportunity to enter into that Sacred Mystery, not to understand it as Fr. said on Ascension Thursday’s…daily Mass. The TLM Mass, High or Low, TRANSCENDS my soul, moves it out of time and space, to enter more fully into the Calvary of Our Blessed Lord. No wonder it has been called the nearest thing to Heaven this side of Heaven. Dialogue serves to keep me in time and space, no matter the form. This tendency then, for me, is to think of things and persons this side of Heaven…rather than of Our Blessed Lord, Saviour of Salvation, as well as preparing to receive the most important Sacrament of Salvation, Whose Saints of Salvation History help me to be aware of entering this august Mystery.

  104. wolfeken says:

    Fellow laymen who like to sing, why not join the choir?

    Yes, you can form a schola. Yes, you can show up to rehearsal each Thursday night and Sunday morning.

    Yes, you can show a little dedication to the parish and the Mass — more than arriving ten seconds before Mass and pretending to know Gregorian chant on the spot.

    Sorry, but with rare exception, the TLM parishes who have congregational singing have to use the lowest common denominator music each Mass. Bye bye Palestrina. Bye bye Victoria. Bye bye Gregorian chant settings other than “Missa de Angelis” and “Credo III.” Hello, Anglican and Lutheran singalongs. Everybody’s a winner!

    Evelyn Waugh called congregational singing and the Dialogue Mass “a bitter trial” to attend. Well put. [Good quote! Do you happen to know where it is found?]

    Our Church has a wealth of sacred music spanning centuries. None of it can be sung by a congregation from the pews without rehearsal.

  105. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Since you are in the area, please go out to Charles Town a few times and see for yourself. Then perhaps you won’t speak in such dangerous generalities that don’t always apply.
    I wonder too if you read all the comments in this thread before commenting?

    There is much history, tradition, documents, practices that support congregational participation – I hope everyone will become more familiar with this before forming an immovable opinion on dead silence of the unworthy congregation. Dom Daniel’s erudite homilies and instruction often refer to much precedent on this subject. Hope everyone gets to hear the Mass out in Charles Town.

    There are many parishes that encourage congregational singing where it comes off beautifully.


  106. Alice says:

    The “shut up and pray” attitude at all but one (and that was an anniversary Mass at a liberal parish) of the EF Masses I’ve attended drove me back to the OF. I love going to Divine Liturgy where I am caught up to heaven and feel like I am joining with the cherubim in singing praises to God. I suppose the same could happen in either form of the Latin Mass if it were chanted reverently with the congregation singing certain parts, but that’s extra-extra-extra-extraordinary.

  107. ContraMundum says:

    I suspect you’ll make a number of people angry with that comment, Alice. Too many people forget that the style of worship best suited to their personalities is, after all, just the style of worship best suited to their personalities. No; it must be universal, and all other forms of liturgy must be banished forever from memory. And that will happen!!! Just wait until we get the first SSPX pope!!!!

    No, the OF is hear to stay. It needs to be cleansed of abuses, of course, but those abuses are not actually inherent to the OF any more than sedevacantism is inherent to the EF.

  108. Jael says:

    What some people don’t seem to realize, is that the congregation will never learn its part if it is never allowed to sing. We are trying to resurrect Catholic culture and identity here. Give us a chance to do it.

    What if someone is just beginning to chant? Are they really “pretending”? Or are they learning?

    I can’t join our choir. It is a world-class award-winning choir, and is very choosy about who can join. They sing Palestrina and Victoria, etc., for special High Masses. Even then, we still sing our parts in Latin from the pew (the shorter responses, the Creed, Sanctus, etc.)

    I can’t form a schola. We already have a schola. I wouldn’t make it through the tryouts.

    The whole congregation cannot fit into the choir loft. Some “fellow laymen who like to sing” will need to sing from the pews.

    I, for one, Wolfeken, am not “pretending to know Gregorian chant.” I am singing what I remember from my pre-Vatican II childhood, where we sang chant in Latin every morning before school. Where were you before Vatican II ?

  109. Jael says:

    Oops, I was a little confused above. For special high Masses, the congregation doesn’t sing as much because the choir is doing Palestrina, etc. It’s at the weekly N.O. Mass that we sing in Latin the shorter responses, Creed, Agnus Dei, etc. The schola sings the propers in Latin.

  110. Jael says:

    The NO is not here to stay. The goal of the Church is to have one and only one rite for the Roman Church. We are in an interim period.

  111. EVERYONE: So far I think the conversation here has been pretty good.

    Let’s maintain the thoughtful and respectful exchanges.

  112. ContraMundum says:

    Remember the Ambrosian Rite. The Church has not had one and only one rite since at least the time when Rome adopted Latin instead of Greek. Remember, “the Church” > “the Latin Rite”. At the time of Trent there were multiple rites in use in the West, and after Trent there were far fewer — but never only one.

  113. ContraMundum says:

    If you don’t like “the Church” > “the Latin Rite”, all I meant by that is that the Latin Rite is a proper subset of the Church. One could argue, I suppose, that the fullness of the Church resides in the Latin Rite united with its head on earth, the Pope, but only to the same extent that the fullness of the Church resides in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church united with its head on earth, the Pope.

  114. Jael says:

    Perhaps I was unclear. The goal is to have only one Roman rite, instead of the two forms we now have. (The Ambrosian rite is not the Roman rite).

  115. wolfeken says:

    The “bitter trial” source is a letter from Waugh to Cardinal Heenan in the mid 1960s. Dom Alcuin Reid named his collection of those letters after that line:

    It is a very interesting, and quick, read on liturgy in the 1960s from Waugh’s pew-point. He was very fortunate to have died peacefully before the novus ordo!

  116. ContraMundum says:


    I’m not sure about that, even. I think the Anglican Use is being set up to perpetuate itself, not merely as a comfort to those Anglicans who want something familiar around as they transition back to Catholicism.

  117. ContraMundum says:

    In fact, if the idea were to yank the distinctive features away from the Anglican Use in 20-40 years, I would say setting it up in the first place would be dishonest. Everyone knows it’s better to jump into cold water than to wade in slowly.

  118. Jael says:


    The goal is to have the OF and the EF influence each other, and eventually to have again only one Roman Rite, rather than the unusual situation of having two forms of one rite–the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite that we have had for the last 50 years.

    The Anglican Use will not be affected. In fact, people like me will not be allowed to officially join one of those Anglican Use parishes (though I can attend and fulfill my Mass obligation). The only way I can join is to have my kids baptized in one of those parishes, and I don’t have any kids. I’m sure they will be able to receive new converts. But not single cradle Roman Rite people like me. I can see why. In my city there would be a huge exodus to the Anglican Use parish, because our archbishop, sub rosa, does everything he can to suppress any Usus Antiquior Masses.

  119. ContraMundum says:

    That is no doubt true, but
    (1) The OF is not going to vanish, it will be one of the “parents” of whatever is to emerge. Or, if you prefer to say that it will vanish, the EF as it is today or was in 1962 will likewise vanish.
    (2) I think we can count on the progress toward some sort of Reunified Form taking at least a century. No Pope, I think, will soon repeat the mistake of making sudden and dramatic changes in the Liturgy.

    It’s like the Church is a gunshot victim. The first step is to try to staunch the bleeding. I think John Paul II started that and Benedict is still working on it. Then remove the bullet. I’m not sure Benedict will be able to do that; it will probably fall to a successor. Then comes a long, slow period of recovery. May we live to see that!

  120. nykash says:

    After reading all the comments, my first thought was “quod homines tot sententiae.” As for me, I will trust those entrusted with the mass, especially the holy Father, with how I should participate. I’m lucky to have several opportunities for EF mass.

    My second thought: there seems to be an opportunity for some commenters to increase their charity towards their brothers and sisters during mass. Someone is having trouble with Gregorian change… so they should be quiet? There are other alternatives. (I struggle with this scenario in other situations – driving – this is also a reminder for myself to act with more charity at those difficult moments!)

  121. Reading all these disparate accounts of TLMs experienced reminds me of the story about different blind men describing an elephant in seemingly irreconcilable terms, each describing only the one part he’s felt with his own hands. Evidently there must nowadays be as at least as much variety in TLM communities as in ordinary Catholic parishes. Ranging from cold and unfriendly to as warm and friendly and sociable as it gets, from silent low Mass every Sunday to ones that combine Palestrina and Gregorian chant and congregational participation, from separatist (“rad trad”) to folks who readily go both ways (OF and EF), and everything in between on these and perhaps other scales.

  122. ContraMundum says:

    That elephant analogy really attempts to teach a precept of Buddhism (or basically any form of oriental paganism) that is not appropriate here. Not all difference is illusion.

    Some parishes are friendly; others are not. Some are reverent; others are not. Some are orthodox; others are not.

  123. “@thepapalbull: ‘I suppose it should also be noted that Dom Daniel, CRNJ is insistent that the faithful do not participate in the prayers at the foot of the altar as it is not proper to the laity, but should be attentive to the singing of the introit at that time.'”

    And there’s a reason.

    The conventional wisdom associated with the “dialogue Mass” notwithstanding (and there is more than one definition of that, if anyone chooses to find out in the original document from 1958), the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar were the private preparation of the celebrant and his ministers (in most cases, the altar servers). Historically speaking, they would never have been suitable for the outward participation of the faithful in the pews. (This would not have applied to “Et cum spiritu tuo” or “Suscipiat,” by the way.)

    And speaking of history, it probably wouldn’t hurt if a few of our commenters read it. (I read these comments until I got halfway, and then my eyes sort of glazed over, you know how it is?) Louis Tofari of Romanitas Press has written some brilliant work on this subject:

    People are quick to emphasize either one extreme or the other when referring to the meaning of “active participation.” Even Pope Pius X lamented the faithful becoming “mute spectators.” He might have been thinking of a definition somewhere in between, don’t you think?

    Or don’t you?

  124. mitdub says:

    The comments end up being more interesting than the original article!
    I hope I’m not repeating something already said — so many comments to wade through. One thing that is notable about the Canons of the New Jerusalem is that they ARE a community. Similarly with actual parishes run by Institute of Christ the King, FSSP, SSPX, St. John Cantius, or other traditional communities. In a stable community the familiarity can be formed. Canons or brothers who form a large part of the people at the Mass, who themselves are singing the office daily, can really get comfortable praying “with one voice” as it were. When there is one Mass a week and people are coming from all over and only showing up a few minutes beforehand, it is simply unrealistic that people will know how to sing together, or for that matter, even to pray verbally in unison.
    The importance of forming real community is essential.

  125. Cantate says:

    For Magdalen Ross, 20 May 2012, 7:58 pm:
    The rubrics (do the red) in my 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal (Angelus Press) in b) Communion of the Faithful, page 89, after the Domine, non sum dignus…, says “TheCelebrant then goes to the communicants and, holding the Host a little raised above the paten or ciborium, shows it to each communicant, saying: ‘Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animan tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.’ ”

    The rubrics in The New Roman Missal by Father Lasance (c. 1945), page 792, says, “The priest goes to the communion rails and gives Holy Communion to each communicant saying: “Corpus Domini…. ”

    The Cardinal Spellman Prayer Book, page 409, says, “Descending the steps of the altar, he administers Holy Communion,, saying to each one: “Corpus Domini….”There is no “If” whatsoever to meditate upon nor consider. What do you mean? Perhaps you are citing another missal?

    Perhaps this is a matter of the Novus Ordo/OF “enhancing” the EF. Other indicators include congregation not kneeling until the Sanctus is completely sung, and after the Agnus Dei is completely sung. I have never seen nor heard these three matters in any usus antiquior Mass before or after Vatican II. They abound, along with other things, in the Novus Ordo/OF. I can happily do without such “enhancements. ” The Mass of all time was not broken, and did not need “fixing.” It still needs no “fixing.”

    I must say, though, that the canons render the chant beautifully. The Mass at Charles Town is sung slowly, therefore I do not understand the hurry of not saying that prayer at Communion for each communicant.

  126. Jael says:

    Henry Edwards, good point about the elephant called “The TLM experience.” It is indeed different from TLM parish to TLM parish. In some TLM parishes it feels like being under the elephant’s feet, while in others it’s like riding on the elephant’s back under a silken canopy.

  127. “That elephant analogy really attempts to teach a precept of Buddhism”


  128. OrthodoxChick says:

    I found my inherited missal from pre-Vatican II and I’m trying to figure out which one I have based on what others have been mentioning. It’s not the 1962 missal and it’s not a “prayer book” as “Cantate” referenced “The Cardinal Spellman prayer book”.

    What I have is copywritten 1956. It is titled “Saint Joseph Daily Missal”. It does bear an impramatur from Cardinal Spellman but it definitely is a missal rather than a prayer book. I’m hoping that I can use it when I go to my first EF/TLM Mass.

    It has some really awesome traditions in it that I’ve never heard of before. It discusses the Octaves, but it also explains Rogations, Feria, and Embers. Until today, I had never heard of these last three. The section on Fasting and Abstinence days is nothing like today and I wish we could return to it.

    I’ve had my nose stuck in this missal all day! I am SO glad that I found Fr. Z’s blog! I’m learning so much from all of you.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

    One question though. In my missal, it mentions in the EF, a prayer after the Offertory prayer called the “Secret”. Do priests still say that today in either the EF and/or the OF? Do they just call it something else nowadays?

  129. ContraMundum says:

    Sorry, Henry. The elephant analogy is always about “the greater unity underlying diversity”, which is why it originated in a part of the world that either believes in monism or nihilism. It is also about the impossibility of understanding the true nature of things.

    In other words, it’s just the sort of rot to be popular in 21st-century America.

  130. Contra, you misunderstood my rather simple point, perhaps led off the trail by the elephant. It had nothing to do with unity underlying anything, or with anything else of a philosophical nature. I offered no explanation of the true nature of anything.

    My intent was merely to point out that, contrary to the assumption underlying most TLM- communities-are-like-this comments {here and elsewhere)–namely, that they are uniform, and hence all the same as whatever the particular commenter his observed in his own limited experience–that, in reality, there is great diversity among TLM communities. This is simple observational fact which, however, most TLM commenters evidently are unaware of.

  131. acardnal says:

    Read through the liturgy. The prayers are glorious! Read the Offertory Prayers especially. When you go you will note the reverence of the priest: How often he makes the Sign of the Cross (52), how often he genuflects, how often he kisses the altar. How he gathers up with the paten the minute particles of our Lord which may have fallen onto the corporal and brushes them into his chalice before consuming the Precious Blood; purifying (ablution) the sacred chalice twice after the communion of the faithful. (By the way, do not say Amen after you receive communion.) All are visible signs of veneration and a recognition of what is about to occur and then does occur – Transubstantiation. Jesus Christ, truly present body, blood, soul and divinity on altar.

  132. OrthodoxChick says:


    Finally, I think I’m starting to get it. I’ve been looking at videos and I even came across a video of the “rubrics” of a low Mass. I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head about what I’m learning and thinking about the main point of this discussion.

    As you point out, it’s immediately striking that the Tridentine Mass is a far superior vehicle for the Holy Spirit to deliver the gift of Awe and Wonder to the faithful. Even just wacthing this Mass on video, I could not help but be struck by it. I suppose because I never knew any differently, I now realize that my relationship with the Lord is waaaaay too casual in many ways (from my end of it, of course). I think that’s a major unintended consequence of how we’ve watered down the Mass after Vatican II. And here I’ve been completely oblivious to the whole thing for my entire life!

    This is helping me understand Vatican II a little better as well, since I didn’t live through it. While I can plainly see and feel the majesty of the TLM, even via internet video, it’s also still very daunting to me at the same time. I can already tell that I’m going to need to really study both the Latin and English versions of the TLM prayers and memorize the order of the Mass before I go to one in person, otherwise, I’ll be completely lost. This probably wasn’t as big of a problem for people who lived before Vatican II (or it shouldn’t have been). I would think that people at the time would have been properly catechized and familiar with the prayers, having known nothing else. But to bring back the TLM to people like me who have no clue, we need to be taught and catechized about what we’re witnessing in order to properly understand our participatory role in this kind of liturgy. It’s a shame that people have taken Vatican II too far and have extended it far beyond what I think was originally intended. I can see why traditionialists are calling for the widespread return of availability of the TLM, but at this point, even if every priest, bishop, etc. in America was on board with bringing it back, the laity are in too sad a state right now (generally) to appreciate it.

    I think the place to begin any such transition would have to be our current OF/NO. Tighten that up first so that it conforms to something more akin to a TLM, only one that’s prayed in the vernacular. Also work to transition the music back toward traditional hymns and chants.

    Once the laity has adjusted to that, I think a silent TLM would probably have to come in next, hand-in-hand with some teaching Masses and active catechism classes until the majority of the parishoners can be exposed to it, ask questions, and learn to understand it properly. THEN, once they have the proper frame of mind and demeanor to faithfully particiapte, phase in the spoken responses and chants. From that point forward, (if I may be so bold as to put myself in a pastor’s shoes), I would offer both silent and dialogue forms so that parishoners would have access to both forms. Those who might develop a preference for one over the other, could choose unless and until a majority of the congregation might develop a preference. Add both forms in addition to a proper OF Mass, at least in the beginning, and I think that would produce a pretty vibrant, faithful parish; one in which people at any stage of the spiritual journey could be properly disposed to receive the Lord’s encounter with them in a way that they could properly and reverently learn and grow through it.

    The present challenge, it seems to me, lies in how to balance the spiritual attitude and demeanor of the laity (and perhaps, some clergy as well) so that we have BOTH a personal relationship with our risen Lord while simultaneously preserving the awe and wonder due His Majesty as Messiah. I think that far too many of us have lost the latter by knowing only the modern, casual forms of Mass (in comparison to TLM) that we’ve all become accustomed to.

    One problem with my grand plan here…what about priests who have been born in my generation or later? Do they even receive instruction on how to say a TLM in the seminary? Wouldn’t every Diocese need to set up workshops wherein older pre-Vatican II priests can teach post-Vatican II priests how to properly celebrate a TLM? Does anyone out there see any sort of broad support for something like this among the U.S. bishops? If an internet search of my immediate surroundings is any indication, I don’t think so. Very few parishes in Connecticut and Rhode Island have a Tridentine Mass as compared to the Diocese of Boston. In CT and RI, the TLM seems to be more common on First Fridays, but in Massachusetts, there seems to be a better selection of days and times so it’s more accesible. I haven’t done any research into which bishops around the nation have come out publicly in support of the TLM, but judging by the availability of it in the Diocese of Boston, I’ll wager a guess that Cardinal O’Malley is on board.

    I can’t wait to get to one!

  133. wolfeken says:

    OrthodoxChick wrote: “From that point forward, (if I may be so bold as to put myself in a pastor’s shoes), I would offer both silent and dialogue forms so that parishoners would have access to both forms.”

    Neither of these options will have high quality sacred music.

    I think what needs to be taught is the value of holy silence during Mass. It is prayer time, not talk time. Allowing the priest to represent Christ. Allowing the acolytes to recite clerical responses. Allowing the schola to sing clerical responses and chants. Allowing a choir to sing the treasures of the Church’s musical library. Presumably all of these men have prepared for Mass, devoting much time to learning and rehearsing the words, music and rubrics.

    None of this can be done when someone walks into a church expecting to sing with the schola and respond with the altar boys instead of genuine interior participation and prayer.

    It is hard, as the 20th century was a me, me, me century. I need to be a part of this. I need to be involved in that. I, I, I. Me, me, me. Yet the holy sacrifice of the Mass is not about thee, thee, thee — it’s about Thee, Thee, Thee.

    Reading many of the comments above, there seem to be those who believe they have a right to the clerical functions at Mass. Their entire argument rests within the 20th century, from 20th century popes (and we see how that all worked out) to 20th century liturgists (again…) to 20th century customs.

    If this 20th century thinking were to dominate during the Middle Ages and Renaissance (yes, there was a Church and there was a Mass before the 20th century) there would be no Palestrina, no Victoria, no Ockeghem, no other beautiful sacred polyphony and no Gregorian chant settings other than those that I, I, I could wing from the pew after waltzing into church five minutes before the Introit.

    The way to grow interest in the traditional Latin Mass is to offer high quality High Masses. If audible, democratic participation were the measure of success, the novus ordo would be the most popular thing this side of heaven by now.

  134. OrthodoxChick says:


    I wasn’t trying to argue against any of what you’re saying. I was trying to say that based on my own experience in parishes I have belonged to, my opinion is that there needs to be some sort of transition period in which we wean people off of their “I, I, I, me, me, me” persepctive and give them proper instruction regarding Thee, Thee, Thee – both at Mass and in their daily life.

    I can’t see any other way for the TLM to gain widespread acceptance in the Church of today if it isn’t introduced back in gradually and carefully. What do we do about cafeteria Catholics and the APEC’s Catholics? Do we just throw them out for non-compliance and start over, or do we take the time and care to try evangelizing them properly so that they can have another opportunity to reform their lifestyle and remain in the fold? If after such efforts, they still want to do things their own way (in violation of Church teaching), well at some point, one has to present them a clear choice to make and let them exercise their God-given free will to make it. But to reverse 40+ years of the OF and return to the EF without warning to a generation that doesn’t even understand the present OF all that well could quite possibly do more harm than good, don’t you think?

  135. Jael says:

    Wolfeken says: “Presumably all of these men have prepared for Mass, devoting much time to learning and rehearsing the words, music and rubrics.”

    We have a world-class choir that sings Palestrina, etc. Some of the members are not even Catholic. The Catholic director is rude and condescending during rehearsals. In consequence, their music is technically correct but feels spiritually cold. (I’m comparing it to how the chant of orthodox monks or nuns feels. They prepare for singing at Mass in the ways you listed, but also by praying). I would rather have a choir of warm-hearted parish members who love God and each other and are learning to chant, than cold professionals. It would be wonderful if we had warm humble professionals, but often, that’s not an option.

    You also say, “Allowing the priest to represent Christ. Allowing the acolytes to recite clerical responses. Allowing the schola to sing clerical responses and chants. Allowing a choir to sing the treasures of the Church’s musical library.”

    You have forgotten one very important thing:
    Allowing the congregation to sing their part. We do it every Sunday in Latin, in Gregorian chant, with a large repertoire, and we sound really good.

  136. OrthodoxChick: “. . . memorize the order of the Mass before I go to one in person, otherwise, I’ll be completely lost. “

    Actually the “order of the Mass” is the same in the EF as in the OF. The correspondence between the various parts of the two forms is laid out in the following sheet that my local Latin Mass Community makes available for newcomers:

    And in case it’s not already been mentioned in one of the preceding posts, perhaps the best on-line video explaining the TLM that I’ve seen is

    This is based on the low Mass. Finally, perhaps the best recent explanation of the ethos of the TLM is the 25-minute sermon in the video

    of the solemn high Mass that was televised on EWTN on the day of implementation of Summorum Pontificum in 2007.

  137. Dear Cantate: “Active participation–actuoso participatio–is first of all INTERNAL participation.” “Actuosa participatio” (with an “a”) is not accurately translated as “active participation.” But I agree completely with you that the most fruitful form of participation is first and foremost internal. Might I suggest, then, that rather than putting up with what you feel is an affront to your rubrical sensibilities, you remain in your pew and make an act of spiritual communion. That should solve things for everyone involved. Alternatively, you could consider attending Mass somewhere else, where everything is exactly the way you think it should be.

    Magdalen Ross, J.C.L.

    PS I had a feeling the “if” would be lost on you….

  138. Cathy says:

    I’ve attended the EF in a few different places, some with the congregation singing/speaking, some not. I would say that I think both are good. I usually follow what the priest wants the congregation to do, mainly to support the priest. Any priest who says the EF needs our support.

    When I first began going to the EF about 15 years ago, I was completely clueless about it. I had just joined the Church and had a lot to learn about Catholicism in general. For about the first year, I spent the Mass praying the prayers of the Mass and listening to the choir sing the chant while I read the English translation. After a while, I understood what I was singing in Latin and was familiar with the chant. I began singing the responses and the chants of the Ordinary, which was sort of the custom at that parish. I found it more difficult to pray the prayers of the Mass and definitely had a preference for not singing. Despite that, I stuck with singing because I wanted to follow the guidance of our priest and all the popes who have been urging congregational singing. There have been so many things in the Church that I initially didn’t understand and simply accepted until I could study the matter. I haven’t found anything yet that turned out to be wrong. Maybe it’s out there and I just haven’t found it, but I have had success with following the guidance of the popes and the priests who clearly want to embrace the fullness of our Catholic faith.

    I’m glad I stuck with the singing. It adds a dimension to my interior participation that doesn’t exist in my silent prayer. Tina, in her comment above, hits on a lot of reasons for that. It also just feels weird to be silent when the priest faces you and says ‘Dominus vobiscum’. That said, the singing takes something away from being able to pray the prayers. Maybe that’s just a personal thing. Some people I know who sing in choirs say that after a Mass they’ve sung they feel like they still need to go to Mass because all the activity has kept them from fully praying the prayers. I know others who say they feel like they haven’t prayed at all unless they’ve sung.

    I’ve finally learned to benefit from both singing and silence. There are enough periods of silence during a high EF Mass that I can use that time to pray the prayers. I sing the chants and responses with the congregation and the priests. At my current parish, the priests want the congregation to sing. A significant percentage of the congregation is against this. I sing and offer up the 180 degree turn and glares and the comments about my lame singing and the cold shoulder I receive and the pain and stress this all causes me – not to mention the hour plus drive and the fact that I can’t be a part of the community because of it. I make this offering for all the people out there like OrthodoxChick.

    There are so many people out there who really are open to the EF if only those of us who love it would stop all the bickering and licking of our wounds long enough to give them a hand. I hope OrthodoxChick has a good experience with it. God bless you – you made my day! If somebody gives you a hard time, realize that there are also lots of amazingly warm, kind, and holy people there to meet too. The ‘evil trad’ thing is very overblown and it’s small stuff compared to the grace filled encounter with Christ to be found at every EF Mass.

  139. OrthodoxChick says:


    Thank you for your encouragement. That’s just what I needed! If only there was a way to send out a virtual hug…

  140. Cathy says:

    Thanks for the hug OrthodoxChick!

    I thought of a good resource for you for learning about the Mass and our faith in general. I wish I’d had this catechism when I first joined the Church. There are things that are dated, but it’s the best. There’s plenty of meat, but it’s very digestible (no pun intended). It’s called My Catholic Faith. It’s about $40 and worth every penny. Here’s a link to a seller:

  141. joan ellen says:

    Cathy…thanks…that helps me also. Especially “…the grace filled encounter with Christ to be found at every EF Mass.” That grace, and mercy, is at every Mass whether OF or EF since Jesus, as noted above, is there Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity. Assuming a valid consecration of form and matter…words of institution and valid wine and wheat.

    Those who internally share the majesty of it all, the Miracle of It all. The Eucharist, as the Source and Summit of our faith is our Catholic unity.

    You used the words grace FILLED. That seems to make it more clear that the FILLED grace at an EF Mass makes the unity FILLED, whether a friendly or unfriendly parish. Surely this is so because of the Thee, Thee, Thee emphasis in language, music and rubrics, etc., rubrics that are so carefully attended to that surely Our Blessed Lord finds great favor with this form of worship. The OF rubrics can also be carefully attended to, yet the unity does not seem to be filled. Surely that is because of Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. Many OF people believe in things that I do not in faith and morals.

    As for training Catholics in the EF. I was about 8 when I first started going to an EF Mass. I did not need any training to know that I was in God’s House, worshipping God Almighty in that most august place, worshipping Him in that most august way. I did not need to be told anything. I just knew. Perhaps by His grace. Surely that is how it is for most people who know who God is. By going I learned.

    And a ‘merger’ of the 2 forms. That is a scary thought for me. If in fact many OF people have a different faith and morals than I do, then I prefer, for my soul’s sake, the faith and morals of the Catholics who worship God at the EF. So, except for the Eucharist, the OF is not the same worship, nor the same theology in my little mind.

  142. Cantate says:

    For Magdalen Ross, J.C.L.

    You did not answer the question I posed to you: Where is the “If” you were citing? In another Missal? In canon law? In the Roman Missal that the priest uses during Mass? Somewhere else? Speak up, please, rather than conclude that the little word was “lost” on me. Or did you misspeak? I repeat: Where is the elusive “If?”

    Your charity in providing barbs of gratuitous advice is underwhelming. Perhaps your JCL degree is recently awarded, and you feel compelled to instruct those whom you perceive to be ignorant and/or incapable of making decisions about approaching Holy Communion or where to attend Mass.

  143. Dear Cantate: The root of our present contention may lie your decision — perhaps itself an exercise of gratuitous advice and underwhelming charity? — to approach Dom Daniel Augustine immediately after the Good Friday liturgy, hectoring him at length to distribute Holy Communion according to your own reading of the English-language rubrics in your hand missal, whichever edition or publisher you may be using.

    While I do not feel compelled to instruct anyone on the reception of Holy Communion or where to attend Mass, I was merely suggesting alternatives to you personally for a situation in which you are (I would soon hope you realize) not likely to convince a well-trained, highly educated and liturgically astute priest to do everything according to your interpretation of the rubrics of the 1962 Missale Romanum. By means of the suggested alternatives, I think we’ll all be more at peace.

    And maybe you can secure the assistance of a far more seasoned canon lawyer to help you track down that elusive “if”…

  144. albinus1 says:


    One question though. In my missal, it mentions in the EF, a prayer after the Offertory prayer called the “Secret”. Do priests still say that today in either the EF and/or the OF? Do they just call it something else nowadays?

    My apologies if someone already answered this and I missed it.

    The “Secret” is still part of the Novus Ordo Mass. In the Novus Ordo it is called the “Oratio super Oblata” or “Prayer Over the Gifts”. The priest celebrating the Novus Ordo says it audibly, whereas in the traditional Latin Mass it is said inaudibly (hence, “Secret”). It is part of the “Propers” of the Mass, i.e., the prayers and readings which chance from Mass to Mass (as opposed to the “Ordinary”, the parts that remain the same from Mass to Mass).

  145. OrthodoxChick says:


    Nope, no one had answered that yet, at least not under this article. Thank you SO much!!!!!

    I have so much to learn and it seems that the more that I learn, the more questions arise. And the journey continues…

  146. Cantate says:

    Magdalen Ross, May 20 and May 23:
    “…please remember that your hand missal also begins the section on the People’s Communion with the words, ‘If Holy Communion is to be distributed…’ I would encourage you to reflect on that ‘if'”
    “…help you track down that elusive ‘if’…”

    Just as I suspected, you cannot cite the source of your quote of May 20. This must be cannon law, shot from the hip. :-) I have no interest in tracking down your “if” since it appears not to exist. Tiresome. Hand missals, fore and aft of Vatican II, are consistent. No ifs, ands or buts.

  147. (I love this OrthodoxChick gal.)


    Mass in the liturgical prayer of the Church, a communal celebration of the Holy Sacrifice in which we all participate as the Body of Christ with our Head Jesus Christ.

    This is a fine correction! This should be added as a guiding principle to the schema as proposed.

    I believe, that prior to Vatican II, the more prayerful environment of the Mass, naturally encouraged, and even formed Catholics in a far more interior understanding of prayer and they practiced it judging by the reverence shown. By stressing the exterior to such a degree, the NO, with its exercise class mentality, seems to have drawn many to irreverence for the Blessed Sacrament: no more genuflections, communion receive haphazardly etc.. I strongly believe that a significant reason for this is due to of a loss of the sense of mental prayer, as defined by Teresa.

    And even the definition of vocal prayer, as you put it. Vocal prayer insists on mental prayer — but when the Mass is always talking or listening, who would learn to actually pray?

    Praying the Divine Office, which is the universal prayer of the Church, in common with others who can do it with “one voice” is very meditative or contemplative and the Office is primarily a vocal prayer. The psalms done antiphonally are a “call and a response.” The Mass is similar.

    Another excellent point. Yet surely the Office of Readings has a solidity in structure that the Novus Ordo does not. There is time for antiphon, which is prayer; there is time for meditiation, which is prayer. Silence being an abberation, there is no opportunity to expect or prepare for it through prayer.

    I agree with others here that some eager beavers who are too loud, off key and so forth can be very distracting to others trying to maintain that awareness of “Whom we are speaking to and what we are saying,” as Teresa insists on.

    Yes. A primary issue, in addition to too loud and off key, is the responsorials happening too often. When silence does happen in the Novus Ordo we are drawn to the cause of that silence — usually someone not having the right page open in time for the music. In the Vetus Ordo, we fill up the silences with our prayers, with following along in the Missal.

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