More on priests and formation in both the Extraordinary and the Ordinary Form

This continues a couple different entries (HERE and HERE).

From a priest:

I am also a young priest (30), and an alumnus of your alma mater. [Neither “alma” nor “mater” in my day, I’m afraid.] Though I have received training in the EF, I do not offer it publicly or privately. I am pleased at its widespread use, and am glad to see elements of the EF making their way into the OF, but I have no particular preference for it in my own celebration of the Mass. I chose to receive training that I could ofer the EF should the need arise.

I am under the impression that priests of the FSSP do not receive training in the Ordinary Form. Are they likewise, “lacking fundamental tools?” Are they “properly trained” if they cannot, at a moment’s notice, offer any of the rites in either form a faithful Catholic might desire?

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, after all.

Good question! I was waiting for it.

This is what I call “turning the sock inside out”.

In short, YES, if a priest of the Roman Rite is unable to say the Ordinary Form, I think he lacks a “fundamental tool” as a priest of the Roman Rite.

Priests should be able to say the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form. I say, “able”. I do not say that they therefore MUST. I say they must be able.

Some points now need to be clarified.

Priests of the FSSP have a constitution which they follow. They belong to a group governed by their own bylaws. They have an apostolate and an ethos. They, with the permission of the Holy See, may determine among themselves if they will use the Ordinary Form or not. Yes or no, I think they should be able to use it. They should be taught how to say Mass with the newer Missale Romanum.

As far as the training for the Ordinary Form is concerned, let’s be honest.  That would take very little. The Ordinary Form is no great challenge to learn. It should take an afternoon. The men can be told, “When you come to point X, don’t make the sign of the Cross” and “When you come to point Y, don’t genuflect to Your Lord present on the altar”, etc. Yes, it is a little more complicated than that, but you get my drift.

Furthermore, many of the men will have grown up in Ordinary Form parishes and will have served Mass.  Most of them already know how to say it, even though they never have.

Yes, I think the priests of the Roman Rite should be able to say Mass in the Roman Rite.  That means both the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Form.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Our students can now receive training in the Dominican use (not the EF of Bl. John XXIII). And some, I believe are taking advantage. There’s nothing like learning it “live.” I am one who learns better by seeing it than reading it.

    As for the young priest, I would tell him, “Look, we all have holes to fill. What we can call “initial formation” will almost certainly not cover everything. But we are responsible men, and are responsible for our own ongoing formation. It’s not just a Dominican thing, but a priestly/religious and yes, lay thing: we need to keep studying. I keep having to learn Canon Law for marriage cases — I barely got anything in seminary. Unless you were taught to be a bad priest, you were not “malformed” but your formation (and 95% of all seminarians) was lacking in some way.

  2. Panterina says:

    By way of analogy, I can think of all those fundamental subjects that I had to learn in school and that I don’t use in my professional career. But I have to know them and be able to use them. One never knows what the future will be. Latin was one of those subjects that, in my immaturity, I thought was a big waste of time: Why toil over learning a dead language, when I could spend the same effort in learning Spanish or German, which have a more practical use? Little did I know how useful Latin was going to be in my life later on, both professionally and spiritually.
    So, my advice is: Learn both forms. It’s not gonna kill ya, and you never know what good may come out of it, for your own salvation and–because you are a priest–to help with the salvations of souls under your pastoral care.

  3. Cantor says:

    As we were reminded earlier:
    First, the original post concerned the responsibility of those who must attest that the men are properly trained, not the responsibility of the ordinands.

    If it is wrong for one group not to be trained in both forms of the one rite, it is wrong for all groups. Indeed, while the one group decides that a year or two of Latin, plus a few weeks in rubrics, is more than they care to commit to the EF, Fr. Z makes if clear that the FSSP can’t find “an afternoon” to properly train its seminarians in the OF.

    Both sides of the argument need to extract their heads from the sand and see that ours is a Church of wonderful variety, unified in its Sacrifice.

  4. It obviously requires a great deal of special preparation to celebrate the EF properly. Whereas any priest of whatever training who has observed the OF a few times in his life surely could celebrate it adequately without further preparation–in some hypothetical emergency, for instance–glancing if necessary at the red and simply reading the black. I recall a priest familiar to WDTPRS readers remarking that any of his 8-year old altar boys could celebrated the OF adequately (by currently prevalent standards), if only they were ordained.

    So where is the presumed symmetry–the good for goose, good for gander–in the this question? In short, what’s to discuss?

  5. Andrew says:

    Neither is a priest properly trained if he cannot celebrate the ordinary form in Latin.

  6. jbas says:

    Fr. Z’s answer seems reasonable enough. Learning the OF rubrics is surely easy if you already know the OF ones, but I find the biggest difficulty for a priest with the OF is when you must travel to different parishes to say/sing Mass. Each parish has such different expectations of you in the OF, and occasionally some very weird practices. Therefore, learning how to celebrate the OF Mass becomes a different sort of lesson from learning the EF Mass. Learning the EF is about rubrics, while learning the OF is about patience.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    The problem is not merely that the EF is not taught, the problem is that it is suppressed in the seminaries. I know of one seminary in the States which one offers one EF to the sems once a semester and it is not required. In England, there is only one seminary which has an EF and only once a month, and it is “semi-private”, that is, not required and attended by those who want to do so.

    As to the FSSPs, two priests I knew in the States well from that order knew the OF and were called upon sometimes to say it in their areas. That was years ago.

  8. APX says:

    Funny, I was thinking about this last night after reading the previous post. I confess, I’m with Fr. Z on this one regarding that the FSSP should be taught how to say the OF Mass, but go one step further, and be educated in it and the sacraments to the degree that when the laity have questions that require some actual knowledge of the OF side of things they can actually answer them, or that they don’t stand up at the pulpit making incorrect comparisons to the OF and the EF Mass based on how they (incorrectly) remember it from way back in the day. I think so too, that as EF Communities grow and children grow up exclusively attending EF Masses, there are going to be seminarians (and Catholics, for that matter) completely ignorant of the OF Mass. Sometimes I get the feeling that priests who solely offer the EF Mass would melt like the Wicked Witch of the West if they even came in contact with the OF Mass.

  9. As a matter of information. As usual, I intend to off, for graded credit, the course “Dominican Rite Practicum” at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, this spring semester. It covers celebration of Low Mass and the Missa Cantata according to our rite. DSPT is the Studium of the Western Dominican Province. And the course is open to all Western Dominican friars, students or not, living in the Bay Area.

  10. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says:

    The problem is not merely that the EF is not taught, the problem is that it is suppressed in the seminaries.

    It will eventually trickle down from the Roman seminaries and houses of formation.

  11. Philip Gerard Johnson says:

    I believe that any Roman Rite priest should be able to offer both forms of the Mass, but couldn’t an argument be made that those in the FSSP and similar Fraternities/Institutes/Societies of Apostolic Life are given a particular mission by the Holy Father to offer only the 1962 Missal? Some of their Constitutions say (or at least SAID) “exclusively,” etc. [Sure, if the Holy Father or the dicastery charged with these matters signs off on it, they can do what they want.]

    I know of certain instances when some of these priests have offered the TLM in the vernacular upon request, so it is obvious that some of them want to help in the diocese when requested. There is just such a wide range of beliefs among them all concerning the Ordinary Form.

  12. Actually, having celebrated both the OF and the Dominican Rite many times, I think it is actually more difficult to celebrate the OF well. [LOL! Good point. And… touché. It is harder to say the newer form of Mass. The older form controls the priest from beginning to end. The newer form is so loose that a good ars celebrandi is harder.] Remember that although the rubrics and gestures of the older form are more elaborate, they are also mostly invisible to the congregation. More importantly, so is the priest’s face. So if he is struggling to remember what to do, no one sees it.

    On the other hand, the ad populum celebration of the OF puts the priest on constant display. Every single fidget, odd or abrupt movement, and every facial expression or tick is there in public to distract everyone in the congregation. To develop a “celebrational style” that observes the rubrics, looks natural and fluid, and projects a prayerful tone is *extremely* difficult to learn. Many, many priests never manage it. And, I might add, private practice is not enough. The ad populum celebrant has to learn to handle all the odd distractions in the congregation. Even a dedicated priest who is working on developing a prayerful non-obtrusive presence at the altar might find it takes years to do so.

  13. Scott W. says:

    Good and patient reply to what strikes me as caviling. [I obviously touched a sore spot with my post. My impression is that that no-doubt-hard-working and well-motivated priest surely wanted many things from his time in seminary and didn’t get everything – as is the case with so many. I can understand his irritation. At the same time, I was not writing about him as much as I was writing about the people in charge of formation, who are NOT giving the seminarians some things that the Church considers important.]

  14. Andrew says:

    Neither is a priest properly trained if he cannot celebrate the ordinary form in Latin.

    Because not knowing how to celebrate the Novus Ordo Missae except in some vernacular translation, such as Hungarian or English, does not constitute knowledge of one’s rite (which is Latin).

  15. fvhale says:

    1) On-going formation. We all need it regardless of state or function. It is impossible for any “initial formation” program to cover everything, for all time. We like to fall into the “I have studied, graduated and and done” trap. Who wants to see a doctor, or a mechanic, who has not learned anything more for the last 50 years? Why should our spiritual life be any less in need of continued on-going formation?

    2) Now that I have attended 3 EF (low) masses in the past two months, I realize there are people prefer only EF, and (many more) people who prefer only OF. It is the rare bird that seems able to express a love of both forms of the mass. We need more of these “bi-formal” people, priests or not, in the Church, and need leaders in the Church to express love of both forms. I always cringe a bit when people call the EF form “the Latin mass.” Of course, it is in Latin, but so is the OF! It is not the Latin that determines OF or EF. This point seems hard for fans of either form. If more priests offered the OF in Latin, and more laity did their part of the OF in Latin, the EF might seem much less foreign, and the OF might seem much less “wild.” Ideally, we all should be both bi-formal and multi-lingual (Latin, and one or two vernaculars, at least). Neither form nor language should keep us from Christ. Unfortunately, while so many in our culture might learn (and learn well) many different sports, or be able to learn second languages for work or pleasure, there is so much cultural resistance to learning anything new regarding the mass (let alone the office, in either form).

  16. amenamen says:

    Another Sort of Learning.

    Not only in the liturgy, but also in everything else, most of us have to fill in a few gaps.
    It helps if one simply acquires a habit of reading. It also helps if one truly desires to continue learning.
    A good book, with an impossibly long subtitle, was written by Fr. James Schall, SJ. The full title is:

    Another Sort of Learning: Selected Contrary Essays on How Finally to Acquire an Education While Still in College or Anywhere Else: Containing Some Belated Advise about How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in Spite of Your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with Sundry Book Lists Nowhere Else in Captivity to Be Found.


  17. Phil_NL says:

    @fvhale: spot on, especially the last point, though I’d like to add a bit to it:

    In my epxerience, for those not strongly attached to EF-based societies, the main point is reverence. With a well-celebrated Mass, the question if it was EF or OF will take a back seat; people may still have preferences, but will acknowledge it was a well-celebrated Mass, a source of joy. I’ve yet to see someone, otherwise having no strong feelings about the form, going ballistic over ad orientem celebration or not. It will surely paly a role in how they judge that Mass, but it is not paramount. Reverence is; and a main point of that reverence is the use of latin, as the venacular can often be a bit crude, and I believe every Catholic somehwere ahs a bone left in his body that feels that latin is the language of the Church (substitute ‘rite’ if you’re an Eastern Catholic who’d otherwise get annoyed at that remark). So in a way it’s understandable that latin get emphasis in the discussion, but you’re absolutley right that we should have (much) more of it in most OFs.
    The second major point of a reverent Mass is of course the priest’s ars celebrandi; no undue hurry (nor long-windedness), no just-going-through-the-motions attitude, nor add-lib’ing. Also in that department there seems to be somewhat of a correlation between problems and forms, and more bi-formal cross-fertilization would be helpful.

    A major impediment to that would be a large chunck of the priests from the 70s (culturally if not historically). Perhaps things will go better after another decade or so of the ‘biological solution’, after which the two forms should be a bit more balanced in terms of their clout, lowering barriers on both sides.

  18. Imrahil says:

    To my unknowing point of view, learning to know how to celebrate either form of Holy Mass can not take so long. (Though indeed more time for the Extraordinary Form.)

    Of course that is presupposing that the man in question can read and pronounce (not speak) Latin (on a, say, Cornelius Nepos level, or at least a Carmina Burana level). If you need to all go by having sort of a between-the-lines translation and merely pronounce the Latin words, it is more hard, though not impossible.

  19. philbert says:

    When a priest has a strong preference for one form (EF or OF) of Mass, but is required to celebrate his less preferred form, in some cases it can present him with a very stressful situation. His inevitable tension will be transmitted to his congregation, no matter how hard he tries to celebrate with a peaceable quiet heart. And the keenest suffer the most.

  20. asophist says:

    This is where, it seems to me, the SSPX will draw the line. If I understand their reasoning correctly, they consider the OF objectively evil because it fails to deliver a due good to our Heavenly Father; namely, the EF mass (which we all know really is a better form and not what Vatican II intended). I can buy their argument, on its face, and, if true, it raises huge complications. I believe we can’t move away from the OF fast enough. Since the EF is a valid rite of mass, it should be able to substitute for the OF on every occasion, such that there should be no need for a priest to learn the OF or ever use it.

  21. Paul says:

    It would be wrong to force the members of the FSSP to celebrate the Novus Ordo Missae. Primarily, it is a matter of their identity as a society of apostolic life. The Usus Antiquior is the particular form through which they exercise their priestly ministry. As multiple commenters have mentioned above, they and other groups have a special mission/mandate from Rome particularly specifying the form of the Roman Rite through which they exercise their priestly ministry.
    A diocesan priest-friend of mine told me that he finds it very difficult, near impossible, celebrating both forms of the Roman Rite. It was almost a split-identity issue for him. He said that he would just love celebrating the Low Mass for the rest of his life, specifically more than the NO.
    Where there is no particular prescription specifying the form of the Roman Rite for a priest to exercise his priestly ministry it would be best to have them learn both forms, but where there is a particular prescription for the priest specifying the form of the Roman Rite to exercise his priestly ministry he must go by that.
    The priests of the FSSP are not ‘lacking fundamental tools’ as their particular mandate as members of the FSSP does not include celebrating the NO. If their mandate did not specify the form of the Roman Rite and they only trained in the Usus Antiquior then they would be ‘lacking fundamental tools.’
    This is not relativistic, or trying to get around the rules. The key is the mandate/mission of the priest. A diocesan priest (which the majority of people encounter) usually is not mandated to a particular form, rather they are mandated to celebrate the form which is at their parish. It’s not a specific mandate, it is a historical accident that the majority of diocesan appear ‘mandated’ to the NO. With the FSSP it is central to the Fraternity (and its mandate) that they celebrate the Usus Antiquior as a foundation of their spiritual life.

  22. For a diocesan priest yes they should have to learn both as they are under the local bishop who takes care of the local flock entrusted to him and according to Summorum Pontificum the bishop must provide for those faithful who desire the EF. In order to do so a diocesan priest may need to celebrate one or another form at any given time and at short notice. Since at this time both are legitimate forms then it is essential.

    For priests in religious communities the answer is usually no (depending upon their constitutions, rule, superior, charism, etc- issue is obedience though and not pastoral) . They celebrate whatever rite is approved by the Church and in line with their charism (though newer comunities have few options these days). Religious life places a heavier emphasis (or should) on one’s personal relationship with God. The pastoral as important as it is is an adjunct to that. That fact that many of the older religious communities (pre reformation) were allowed to keep their rites (providing they met certain criterion) validates this line of reasoning. Granted that many of these rites were originally local derivatives of the Latin rite the Church herself never obligated religious to be a cookie cutter replacement of a diocesan priest (despite the fact that originally it can be argued they lived in community and lived more like religious before the medieval ages).

    It is conceivable (and has been done- Trans Alpine Redemptorists, Carmelites in Wisconsin, etc) that a religious community feels that it is not conducive for their priests to celebrate the OF. As such there is no necessity/ obligation to train them to do so. The same applies vice versa. Anyone who expects a religious priest to be a clone of a diocesan priest misses the whole purpose of a religious community and the concept of charism.

    The FSSP is not technically a religious community despite certain similarities (I could be wrong but think they are technically an priestly association). However their apostalate is directed to providing the faithful that desire the EF and the older form of the Sacraments with them. Their charism is inextricably intertwined with the EF. To force such a community to celebrate the OF on a regular basis would be to destroy that charism and to steer energy away from the primary reason they were founded (and their apostalate). As such there is really no necessity for them to learn the OF (besides the fact that there are many more diocesan priests who are very willing to and easier to locate). Having said that it does not appear that any of their members can be forbidden to learn the OF (since they are not a religious community- their superiors do not have the requisite authority). It may be beneficial (but not essential) for them to know both forms of the OF for Confession and Last Rites- the rest are not pastorally necessary even under extreme situations. Doubt though that most OF parishioners would know that it was an EF for those Sacraments- probably would just assume it was a regional difference, etc. If a parish or group of people would rather have no Mass than an EF Mass they can wait until a diocesan priest is available.

  23. Bev says:

    Before Trent, there were a significant number of different liturgies and I do not think that there was the charge of not being sufficiently trained simply by not knowing all the variations of legitimate liturgies at the time.

    The FSSP, IKC, etc. exist because of the Extraordinary Form. It is their charism. In many situations there have been unkind bishops who have threatened these apostolates, “You need to say a Novus Ordo on such-and-such date or I’ll take away your Latin Mass.” These priests who want to protect their charism have to put themselves into a situation where their charism is not threated. The solution? You cannot say what you do not know.

    The Pope has not asked for the Novus Ordo in every Latin Mass parish but has asked for the Latin Mass in every Novus Ordo parish. So to be faithful to the Pope’s request, seminarians MUST be trained in the Extraordinary Form but it is not necessary for the FSSP to be trained in the Ordinary Form. Like I said, before Trent, you weren’t mal-trained by not knowing every liturgy, and you aren’t now. But we do need to respect the Pope and work toward having a Latin Mass in every parish, something which cannot be accomplished without nearly every priest being trained on the Extraordinary Form.

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