Brick by Brick: How to get a TLM on the schedule at your parish

From a reader:

I wanted to drop you a note to tell you what a positive response I got from our pastor here in ____ when I asked about the St. ___’s hosting an extraordinary form Mass. He said yes right away and put me to work on the planning. The first EF Mass will take place on …. Please say a prayer that a stable group might take enough interest to make this a permanent Mass on the Sunday schedule.

I anonymized this for the sake of prudence… for the time being, at least.

I get lots of email asking how people can get a TLM in their parish?

The first step is: ASK.

You would do well to have a group of people who ask.

You will have to be willing and ready to do all the work to make it happen.

You will have to be willing to buy, find, provide, donate all the things necessary for the worthy celebration of the Extraordinary Form.

You should be ready to step up and give Father an airplane ticket to someplace where there is a workshop for priests to learn the TLM.

In other words, don’t just ask for something and then expect Father to do it.

This goes for anything you would like to see in a parish.

Want Communion rails? Bells during Mass? Nicer vestments?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Brick by Brick, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. If I may add to our host’s good advice:

    1. Ask nicely. Be careful not to suggest you’re there to pressure him. Going with a group can give this appearance, as can a petition. I’m not saying having a group is bad; but if you do that, make crystal clear up front you aren’t making demands or trying to put him on the spot.
    2. If more than one person makes the request, consider whether any of the folks doing the asking are involved in the parish. If the only people approaching a priest are unknown to him, he may hesitate, wondering who these folks are; and he may have a harder sell to others in the parish, if the request doesn’t seem to come from any of “their” folks. In fact, the more faces he recognizes–as at least regular Mass-goers, if not active volunteers–the more reason he has to say yes; and if he has to explain it to other unhappy folks, the stronger argument he will have.

  2. Q. What does it take to get a TLM started?

    A. A good priest plus laymen with time, talent, and treasure.

  3. Indulgentiam says:

    and i will add to all the very good advice, many prayers and much fasting. Before even approaching Father get all the Heavenly help you can. Nothing like a good 40 day fast to show the good God your serious. and if it at first you don’t succeed try upping the ante by adding a Priestly approved mortification e.g. sleeping on the floor, no condiments in your food, for 40 days, stuff like that.

  4. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    If I may add to what Fr. Z and Fr. Fox have said: Begin and end your scheduled appointment with the Pastor by saying that (1) you realized that he, not you, is the Pastor; that (2) he, not you, sees the proverbial big picture in the parish; and that (3) if he must decline, you fully understand and will support his decision. And say this cheerfully. Traditionalists have a repute of being sour, dour, acerbic, dyspeptic, abrasive, whining, scrapper, paranoid, and presuming unwarranted entitlement – the “gimme now” manner. Prove that repute undeserved.

    Do not advance the argument that the MOF be bad, that Vatican II be worse, and that Archbishop Müller be married to the Devil’s daughter. Your Pastor rightly will show you the door for defamation. Instead, say that you aren’t against these things.

    Tell him this: The secret of the Catholic Church’s success is that it can appeal to different kinds of people. I once overhead a priest talking with a Quaker. The priest said that silent meditation is wonderful, and there’s a Catholic tradition of it; yet it’s not for everyone. So the MEF appeals to certain kinds of folks. And some of them are in the Pastor’s parish.

    Finally, if an MEF is within 40 miles driving distance, get there. Numbers are important. If few show up, the Pastor, already busy enough, will terminate the MEF.

  5. JesusFreak84 says:

    What does one do when a pastor, since the Holy Father wrote SP, has ragged on the TLM every single chance he’s gotten, including in “preparing” the laity for the corrected translation of the Ordinary Form? This is a priest who also barks at visiting priests if they dare offer a Mass that takes longer than 45 min. =-(

  6. disco says:

    JesusFreak84: enact the Bux protocol.

  7. Cricket says:

    As a member of a fledgling TLM community that celebrates its fifth birthday next month, here’s my own “Brick by Brick” for you:

    1. Obtain the best training for your priest/s available in your area, & invest in the most experienced choir director you can afford. Don’t skimp on either! Rubrics are vital to worship; properly followed, they can impact your credibility, too. People will flock to a church where things are “done right.”

    2. It may be easier to obtain “accouterments” than you think. Put the word out around your diocese (or have the diocesan director of worship/liturgy do it for you). Parishes that are in the process of closing or remodeling are likely to have all manner of traditional vestments, chalices, etc. hidden away in storage. We obtained most of our beautiful altar furnishings this way, at little or no cost.

    3. It’s great you’ve already got a priest who supports your effort. Speaking from experience, I can’t emphasize enough the value of a good, holy priest, particularly when it comes to establishing “apostolate.” That’s more than half the battle won–doors will fly right open!

    4. Last & most important: when we first began our efforts to establish the TLM in our parish we engaged a religious community (the monks of Clear Creek Abbey, I think) to pray regularly for our mission. The Lord has answered those prayers in more ways than we could have imagined five years ago!

  8. Sword40 says:

    I can attest to what Cricket says. We embarked on our TLM back in 2007, got our first one in 2008 and have been celebrating them monthly ever since. Started with a Dominican low Mass and finally got our 1962 Roman Mass 15 months ago.

  9. chantgirl says:

    I would add, be prepared to write letters to the Bishop praising the priest if he says yes. Let the Bishop know that you appreciate your priest meeting a real pastoral need. I say this because if the priest agrees to offering the EF, the Bishop is likely going to receive some notes of complaint from disgruntled parishioners, and it is nice to get feedback from people who are happy too.

    Also, I hate to bring money into it, but be prepared to be generous with the collection, because a parish council has a hard time arguing with the bottom line.

  10. chantgirl says:

    I wonder how many priests would be willing to offer the EF, and they just haven’t had parishioners ask yet?

  11. JonPatrick says:

    I second what chantgirl says about the collection. We lost the parochial EF in our diocese because the collection fell below what we needed to pay the priest’s expenses, yet alone for the use of the parish.

    Another factor that hasn’t been mentioned is the need for a suitable altar arrangement. Unfortunately the post VII “wreck-ovation” of many churches often makes it difficult to offer the Mass Ad Orientam with a tabernacle in the center of the altar and enough room in front for the celebrant(s) and servers. At one location we were able to acquire a portable tabernacle that could be placed on the altar for the EF and the hosts transferred from the usual off-to-the-side tabernacle for the duration of the mass.

  12. teomatteo says:

    Those suggestions are all very good. But…. what to do with the altars? That to me has been the issue (not a problem, its the altar for goodness sake). What to do with a fixed altar that is not designed for the EF and major renovation to get two altars set. That is a road block i have seen.

  13. wanda says:

    Volanges, Thank you for that link. Fantastic. How refreshing to see most all were men who were doing all the preparations.

  14. Makemeaspark says:

    Or pray about it and let God work, this may take longer.

    Our parish will celebrate our first EF Low mass on Nov 30th, i was informed by our new Vicar. He is enthusiastic, as am I! We are a primarily very conservative parish anyways. God has slowly weeded out any libs from our midst. The others have changed as the rudder has turned the ship, slowly but surely.


  15. Angie Mcs says:

    I am so grateful to have access to a wonderful TLM every week. I must stop taking it for granted and be very thankful for all the hard work that went into its existence. As relative newcomers,we do support our Church financially as best we can and always express our appreciation and respect to our priests. There is always an ongoing need for support of every kind.

    I will pray that all of you will be able to realize your dreams of getting a TLM at your parishes.

  16. kallman says:

    All good suggestions, but premised on an underlying goodwill to proceed on the part of clergy. The bigger problem is when the priest and his ordinary are antithetic to the EF and either blatantly ignore Ecclesia Dei and Summorum Pontificum (if they are even aware of them) or worse presume to have the authority to modify or over rule the documents. Such goings on are common in some countries and there is little in the way of a practical solution other than to move to another diocese/country. Going through the existing local and curial “remedies” are frequently fruitless as those opposed simply find another way out e.g. put the TLM on at 5am on a weekday once and then state there was no interest/attendance.

  17. dnicoll says:

    Ours won’t even do the N.O. in Latin. Even on a weekday morning for the hardened souls that turn up for daily Mass. :-(

  18. Jackie L says:

    I would suggest going to a nearby parish that has the EF and asking if anyone may be able to help. I know in my area there is a small group of people that have assisted numerous parishes that have started or have had an occasional EF mass. In many cases, servers, vestments, choir and even the priest has been loaned. This type of arrangement relieves the pastor of having to do much other then approve the arrangement if he is not interested in the EF himself.

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  20. jacobianflaherty says:

    I must comment towards Sid Cundiff in NC. You wrote:

    “If I may add to what Fr. Z and Fr. Fox have said: Begin and end your scheduled appointment with the Pastor by saying that (1) you realized that he, not you, is the Pastor; that (2) he, not you, sees the proverbial big picture in the parish; and that (3) if he must decline, you fully understand and will support his decision. And say this cheerfully. Traditionalists have a repute of being sour, dour, acerbic, dyspeptic, abrasive, whining, scrapper, paranoid, and presuming unwarranted entitlement – the “gimme now” manner. Prove that repute undeserved.”

    This is, to me, WAY over the top. If one has to try this hard to get the priest to do something which, out of obedience, he should do, let alone want to do (if he really knew what his priesthood was about) then I will continue to hold that priest in prayer (not in judgmental prayer, mind you) but prayer all the same. At the same time, I would discern that he would not be my spiritual father and that I would go to one who could bring me Jesus Christ without digging in his feet.

    I have tried that, at a few prior parishes I’ve attended, to make that “I fully understand and support your decision” line. Quite honestly, most of the time, I don’t. In acting and/or speaking, charity is a requirement! But it would be a sin against truth to say that “I support your decision to enthusiastically support a life teen, folk-styled Mass, and yet find my heart’s attraction to the beauties and riches of our Faith radical and impossible to fulfill.

    Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem helping organize funding, supplies, vestments, etc… I will serve as the organist/choir director. But I’m not going to kiss your feet to get you to do something you should do. “Those who do not work do not eat.” I can’t feed you flattery for nothing. I will pray for you in kindness, but I will take my heart, aching for the life-affecting presence of Christ in the Scriptures and in this Most Blessed Sacrament, somewhere where it can find joyful freedom… That is our right as Catholics and it is blatantly false humility to lessen our desire and downplay our NEED for it all in the name of human niceness and flattery.”

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