GUEST POST: A priest on attending a Novus Ordo Mass in the congregation

Some people argue that the Traditional Latin Mass is too hard to follow because of A, B, or C.

Let’s turn that sock inside out.

It is actually, often, too hard to follow what is going on most celebrations of the Novus Ordo because there is just too much going on.

The following is from a priest who reads this blog.  He sent it by email:

For the first time in my eight years as a priest, I recently attended the holy Mass not as the presider, con-celebrant or while being vested in choir. The experience was quite illuminating, for it gave me insight to the regular obstacles many lay faithful face when attending Mass. The experience, while insightful, was also painful. The occasion was the baccalaureate Mass for my youngest brother’s graduation from high school. I purposely did not vest because I did not know what was in store, and I have a poor poker face when it comes to silly liturgy.

In all honesty, my attention was not to find any and all liturgical error or abuse, for I knew silliness was in store. That being said however, I quickly became aware of how difficult it was to enter into this busy, disoriented, error filled liturgy. Although this was a special Mass, I cannot say it was all that different from a typical Sunday Mass in my diocese. To be brief, it was near impossible to wade through the obstacles in order to pray, and the reason lay in three pieces: the music, the posture, and the manners of the ministers.

Although I routinely suffer through the gems of Break’n Bread, I am, more often than not, involved in sacred prayer at the moment allowing me to tune it out. The lay faithful do not have that choice. We have taken that away from them. This is tragically sad. The music was in no way effective in drawing the faithful out of themselves in to divine contemplation. It is like a locked door with no key. It was pure, ambient noise.

The second great obstacle lay in our diocesan norm to stand after the Agnus Dei until reception of Holy Communion, (or even after in some parishes). What I observed, as I exited the pew to let my family through, was a line similar to those at the entrance of a sporting event. Everyone was standing, and or talking, shuffling bit by bit to get to where they wanted to go, only to eventually sit down in padded pew comfort. They whole event was just like every other line they are daily in complete with background music and lines that move too slow. Again, it was in no way effective in helping the faithful to move beyond themselves into divine contemplation.

In regards to the priest, deacon and extra-ordinary ministers well, their ministry came across as task driven as opposed to worship centered. I am not trying to judge their piety, but their manners seemed to reflect they were just doing a job not ministering to God.

Let us face the facts. We are celebrating the Mass like a protestant liturgy, but we are doing it much poorer than most of them would ever dare to. If this is the environment we are constantly fostering to our faithful, it no wonder they are going somewhere else, or not at all. We are not proclaiming the truths of liturgy or fostering environments that point to these truths.

I know we are in a liturgical mess; I just forgot how poor it is until this experience. I am aware once again. After this encounter I am left with a profound respect for those faithful who routinely suffer through poor liturgy for their love of Christ and his Church.

They have the right to good, solemn liturgy, and we priests are too often failing them. I am truly, deeply sad for them, and now I am ever more resolved to fulfill my duties as a sacred minister. Lord, have mercy on us.

To steal your line Reverend Father, “Reason number 54,622 for
Summorum Pontificum”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in HONORED GUESTS, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Mail from priests and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Fr AJ says:

    Sad but so true in so many of our parishes. It truly does speak to the faith of the people that they continue to come back to Mass week after week to experience this casual style of worship. I couldn’t take it, if I was a layman I’d have to find a TLM or Byzantine Rite Divine Liturgy.

  2. Lepidus says:

    Excellent post Father!

    I especially like your observation that it looks like they are doing a “job”. That is so true and extends well beyond the liturgy. So often I’ve heard priest saying things like “I’m only making $X” or “I work soooo hard. I had to come in for a council meeting on Tuesday night and didn’t get my full two days off for the weekend”. Of course, some people think the priesthood is a vocation similar to marriage where your “work” doesn’t stop at 5:00. Compare that to the bulletin of an EF parish I drop in on on occasion: “Here is Father’s office number. For emergencies, contact him at ….” Even when I was in a very small town Down Under in a lefty leaning OF parish, the priest announced that he was visiting family after Christmas (good) and Fr. So and So will be filling in for the Masses (excellent), and if you need the pastor, here is his cell phone number while he’s gone (wow! above and beyond!). On the other hand, just try tracking down my OF pastor after working hours or try attending the one evening weekday Mass per week if either of the priest happen to be out (too much work for the priest to put in that extra 45 minutes).

    We need more priests like the one who sent this in!

  3. Gratias says:

    The music in the Breaking Bread book is atrocious and Protestant. The Reformed Church wished to open its doors to the civilization of the times. Well, absolutely no modern person would play such music in their iPod. Perhaps if Gregorian chant remains forbidden we should give soul rap a try. It is a miracle we still attend the NO mass to fulfill our Sunday obligation.

  4. wmeyer says:

    Oh, I could kiss this priest! My former parish was all that, in spades. My current parish is somewhat better. Better in that some Masses have the “traditional” choir with organ, which means only rarely being gifted with Haugen, Haas, et al., and spared the piano guitars and drums(!) of the other choir.

    Why or why is it so difficult for some to understand that a noisy liturgy and an even noisier choir are barriers to prayer and worship?

  5. Supertradmum says:

    Excellent.Can he get a job in the Vatican? Souls have been lost because of the NO abuses

  6. Deirdre Mundy says:

    WMeyer- It’s because they misunderstand why we’re losing youth to the Protestants. Kids aren’t leaving the Church because we fail to provide ‘cool music’ (By 1974 standards) or enough standing and swaying time.

    They’re leaving because we’ve failed to catechize them and evangelize them. We don’t teach them the truth of the sacraments, the Real Presence, and Sin and Redemption. The Protestants at least proclaim the last one, and they read the bible, and they proclaim Christ crucified.

    The people in charge (most of whom are in their 70s or older) see the youth leave, hate the catechism, and assume the youth must be seeking more ‘praise and worship music’ and ‘fellowship.’

    They’re actually seeking the truth, and so, naturally, they are drawn to the protestant churches that at least preach SOME of the truth over Catholic parishes that steadfastly refuse to preach any of it.

    This is a huge source of frustration for me. In my area, we’ve lost 2, maybe 3 generations due to treating the Church like a community service organization and social club. The lapsed Catholics turned protestants I encounter routinely say things like “At least protestants actually BELIEVE something.”

    We need a major change. But I fear that we’ll have lost too many before the change comes.

  7. Haec Dies says:

    Dear Reverand Father,
    Your post of the expierence at Mass is all too common. There was a priest, nationally known in the Diocese of Erie, who said that two gerations of Catholics will be lost before things start to turn around in the church. Souls are lost and somehow we don’t seem to recognize that. My son is dating a girl who proclaims herself to be Catholic yet knows nothing of the faith. And this after years of atending religious instructions at her church. I wanted so much to sing the Gloria on an Easter Sunday morning when I last went to Mass with my mother, but alas the cantor sang it because it was so dischordant and there was no music provided to the congregation anyway. Bishop’s conferances argue against the Tridentine Mass where the Masses are often full of young people, I’m also including other continents too, yet push on for the reforms of Vatican II. I really believe sometimes that with out Divine intervention all hope is lost. Thank you for your inciteful post. God bless you for standing up for us.

  8. Sixupman says:

    “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings – [and this priest] – …. “, demonstrating why I find, in general, the NOM somewhat less than efficacious.

  9. jacobi says:

    You could point out to this priest that there is a very simple solution to his distress, namely, that he say Mass, in future, either in the Tridentine Form, which he could do at any time without seeking permission from his bishop, or at least in the additional form allowed by Vatican II, i.e., the New Mass, but in Latin (with some exceptions), ad orientem, with Deacons or Lectors doing the readings, without lay distributers of Holy Communion, unless there were several hundreds in the congregation and no Deacons available, and that he give Holy Communion himself, but only to those kneeling, receiving by mouth and who are in a state of grace, free from mortal sin and otherwise pleasing to God.

  10. wmeyer says:

    Dierdre Mundy said: It’s because they misunderstand why we’re losing youth to the Protestants.

    Even more, I fear, it is because they actually believe that all these changes were made because Vatican II mandated them, and that they were all for the better. I believe that they are sincere–albeit ignorant of reality–in their positions. Even among the catechists and directors of religious education, I doubt there are more than a handful who have actually read carefully any of the documents of the Council.

    So long as our parishes are filled with catechists and DREs who have not read, and to not use, the CCC, how can we hope for change?

  11. Robbie says:

    Promote this man to Bishop, and quickly!

  12. Bea says:

    Boy can I relate to that.
    We are not blessed with a TLM Mass here and we suffer and battle to keep focused on the meaning of and the focus of Divine Worship in our Masses.

    Starting with “Good Morning” to distract us on WHY we are here,
    The handshake so we won’t be TOO focused on God and the Blessed Sacrament, but how about US?
    The lines to communion when people greet each other across the aisle,
    the “musical” Mass that lend themselves to keeping up the beat with body swaying
    and culminating with applause for the musical performance and
    the chatter inside church after the dismissal.
    All this while a few souls are trying to remain in Thanksgiving and continued interior communion with Our Lord present within us.

    Those 6 protestant “consultants” to Paul VI really did a job on our liturgy.

  13. dominic1955 says:

    Try following along in a hand missal made for a NO-its frustratingly useless. One has no real idea what is going to happen unless, 1) You regularly attend a “reform of the reform” parish in which you have a really good idea of what Fr. is going to do or 2) You go to the kind of parish that kills forests printing off “worship aides”. The first is sporatic, the exception rather than the norm and thus you happen to be have access to the “Rite of Fr. Smith” that just happens to make it possible. Go to the next parish and your out of luck. The second wastes way too much paper and is also pretty rare.

    The point is, yes, it is pretty hard to really enter into prayer at a NO in the way in which one would at the TLM and DL. Everything does not have to be absolutely the same, but it helps the spiritual life out a lot when the liturgy (the public prayer of the Church) can foster private prayer and meditation through its constancy. If its basically a free for all, I show up to punch my card and may or may not get much out of it aside from that which is ex opere operato.

  14. It is emotionally moving to finally have a priest understand what we endure each Sunday. I have seven children ages 1-12 and that in itself is a chore to get them all ready for mass. But when you add the dread of what we are going to experience during mass – a less than prayerful, seemingly 1-hour waste of time – it only makes our Sundays something, not of joy or to look forward to, but of angst and dread. We literally dread Sundays any more. I fear worst of all that my children have understood my trepidation and it pangs me that they have to not only endure the same contrived motions the congregation and ministers perform during mass, but have to endure my lack of joy in going and in bringing them. It is depressing. The other thing I have noticed is there seems to be no single adults at mass. No singles who make the self motivated individual effort to attend – NONE. The only ones at mass it seems are the elderly and some families still trying to cling to a Faith and to a Church that we all fear is not serious about its Religion.

  15. Robbie says:

    The parish I attend, sadly, was ably described by the guest priest. The music sounds as if it’s come from a Baptist hymnal, an army of Eucharistic ministers marches up to the altar before communion, the altar girls (yes, almost solely girls) never seem to pay attention, and we stand before, during, and after communion. And it’s not just my parish either. This is much the way Mass is treated in my archdiocese.

    When it comes to NO, I’m not expecting a whole lot. I would like to see the Masses I attend be solemn, dignified, and reverential. That almost never happens. Unfortunately, it does seem the priests treat the Mass as a task to perform, rather than a spiritual rite. In effect, the priests have essentially become emcees or masters of ceremony now a days, but that’s just my view.

    I’m fortunate, though, because we do have a TLM. But it’s just one, lone weekly Mass for the entire archdiocese. I suspect 95% or more of the Catholics in my archdiocese have no idea a TLM is offered and I suspect 75% have never seen one said. Regardless of how I feel about NO, I’m quite certain if more saw just one TLM, the quality, the reverence, the solemnity, and the dignity of the NO would drastically improve across the board.

  16. Dan says:

    In a previous post you quoted a bishop as saying, “The Pope thus overcame that spurious distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ which is made by the followers of the hermeneutic of discontinuity….”

    When you use the terms ‘TLM’ and ‘Novus Ordo’, are you not perpetuating the hermeneutic of discontinuity? I thought I remembered a time, around the publication of Summorum Pontificum, that you advocated the switch to EF/OF when referring to these two Masses of the Roman Rite.

    Benedict gave us new terminology. Why not use it?

  17. PA mom says:

    Thank you. It is frustrating. This, in my own opinion, is what Bishops should be spending vast quantities of their time on. Visiting parishes and schools, correcting and improving the liturgy while uplifting the spirits of the faithful.
    At vacation Church they do not kneel, at all! “due to the average age of the congregation” (which is unquestionably not its average age all summer)and have gone as far as to tell visitors to be in conformity not kneeling. So, who do you think my children listened to, their mother, who kneeling, instructed them to kneel anyway, or every single other visible person around them?
    So, we did our duty, but, as usual, paid a price.

  18. graytown says:

    If ever in Vancouver WA
    Check out St James.
    Fr Harris is doing an awesome job
    With the NO.
    Reception of our Lord only at the rail
    On your knees. Gregorian chant etc.

  19. Choirmaster says:

    I have a poor poker face when it comes to silly liturgy

    This is also my problem, and an occasion to sin. The temptation to make silly comments and faces can be overwhelming, and the material for comedy (in an effort to avoid despair) coming from the Sanctuary and the Loft is not lacking.

    It becomes somewhat of a habit to become cynical before mass in an effort to steel myself against the silliness that is to come. Even now, years into my venture into EF exclusivity, my attitude has not moderated. When we have (for lack of a better term) a “Novus Ordo priest” say our TLM I find myself slipping back into my old ways when I see his NO-inspired ars celebrandi showing through.

    Sure, I can blame the Church for making me like this, but then I have to remember that there are plenty of Catholics that attend the Novus Ordo exclusively and yet maintain prayerful contemplation and a pious demeanor throughout the most offensive silliness. I am weaker than they, and I need the TLM to cover my weakness and calm my nerves. I thank God and Pope John Paul II for my local TLM community, and Benedict XVI for all the TLM opportunities that I have now while traveling.

  20. marypatricia says:

    Thank you so much Father. This describes the situation where I live in Ireland so well. It’s a relief to know I’m not just a fussy crank. Like absit invidia I came to almost dread Sunday Mass.
    Our local monastery which used to have a peaceful prayerful Mass introduced a lot more standing when the new translation came in. Then they brought in two women who do the readings, sing the psalm, and sing at every available opportunity especially after Holy Communion (making thanksgiving impossible) not to mention sitting having a little chat before the “performance” — it’s now more like liturgical entertainment than a time of prayer. Thankfully I found a local church where the priest never got round to introducing all the standing so we kneel a lot and oh joy! there is no singing–he is an old man who just gets on with it and it’s possible to actually pray and focus on what is happening. I often want to say to those who decided on all that standing–you stand or sit for a performance or a match but you kneel in prayer.

  21. moon1234 says:

    It is hard to attend poor liturgy. I am a man and I used to cry in my car on the way home after Mass as I felt robbed. For YEARS I had to FORCE myself to go to Mass and endure the explicit clothes, the poor liturgy, the very poor music. I seriously contemplated leaving the Church or converting to Greek Orthodox since we had Church in the local area.

    It was not until the ICRSS came and my wife and I were married there that I really felt Catholic again. I guess now that I have had the TLM for over five years in our home parish I have forgotten what so many people are still going through. All I can say is to push for the TLM at your home parish. Do the work to make it happen. For me it really did heal my soul. Now all I have to quibble about is which polyphonic Mass is sung, etc.

  22. moon1234 says:

    test? Are all my comments moderated? Did I do something wrong? Test?

  23. Bob B. says:

    Having been in the Army for a while, if someone felt they were getting a raw deal from their chain of command, the Inspector General office was one place you could complain to.
    With this in mind, many people have contacted their local diocese to complain about different things (myself included) and no one calls or writes. Based on Father’s experience in the pews, too, I always though that a diocese might have someone (an IG or ombudsman) that would field complaints, report their findings to the bishop and resolve whatever the issue was might be a worthwhile idea.
    If something like this were in effect, then perhaps I wouldn’t have had to complain about a priest and deacon having a Holy Water fight on the altar or a Sunday Mass that was more like a Baptist healing service (the priest there still says, “Say Amen” during his sermons) or a priest apologizing for what the Gospel reading said.

  24. KevinSymonds says:

    Father, why do I have the strangest feeling I have read this before?

  25. wmeyer says:

    And while we are on the subject, another problem in OF parishes, in my experience, is the tendency to carry on in the nave before Mass as though these people were in the parish hall. In my former parish, however, the choir were noisier with gossiping and joking than the hundreds in the pews.

    Would that all bishops would issue a firm declaration that silent reverence before and after Mass is the correct attitude. Perhaps as a final note in their seemingly inescapable annual appeal videos?

  26. JKnott says:

    It is so good to hear a priestly and honest first hand review of the NO like this. I have often wished that priests would sit in on the Mass from the other side.
    As Father puts it so well, ” …, it was in no way effective in helping the faithful to move beyond themselves into divine contemplation.”
    True prayer is key to everything in the spiritual life, and where the EF has historically fostered it , the NO destroys it with its exercise class mentality.
    Sad to say, but our pastor had to end the EF Mass in the parish but his NO Mass is infused with many aspects of the EF. After he did that I was struck by the overwhelming contrast in the poor posture, poise, attention and reverential quiet of the people at even a good NO. The behavior of the people is such a distraction that I am thinking about traveling further distances for an EF.
    Ever notice how perfectly quiet and still movie goers at in the theater? Few leave early and they do leave quietly. Now compare it to the NO, and then to the EF attendees. In general, who has been most moved by the object of the event. Why?
    At the bottom line, it is not about the specific novelties per parish, it is all about prayer or the lack thereof. And the NO has put the people back in St. Teresa of Avila’s “First Mansion”, if even that!

  27. WBBritton says:

    Thank you, Father, for answering God’s call to serve His people.

    I found myself wondering if we had attended Holy Mass at the same parish because I came to the same conclusion at a parish I attended a few weeks ago. The exact same problems right down to standing after the Agnus Dei (which I did not do). The music was so loud and distracting that I told my wife that I had been in quieter bar rooms. I did not present myself for Holy Communion because I was not disposed to do so. I think what priests should be most aware of is not how angry this makes folks, rather how profoundly and tragically sad it does when this type of liturgical sloppiness interferes with communion between Gid and His children.

  28. Too bad bishops can’t sneak into one of their parish masses as a layperson to witness what happens.

  29. michael says:

    I did not think it could get much worse at my parish. Our priest prides himself on completing Sunday mass within 30 minutes; consequently omitting various parts of the liturgy. Anyway, last Sunday following the consecration and as we began to prepare ourselves for holy communion, many of us were mortified when we heard the organist begin to wind-up and the cantor begin to belt-out the Patti Page song from the 1950’s –“Old Cape Cod”. And so, we processed in horror to receive our Lord while this was going on. Surreal and sad.

  30. anilwang says:

    Just comparing the NO daily mass with the NO weekly mass at the parish I go to, I notice one striking differences:

    In daily mass, there are several moments of *silence* where its possible to pray and more importantly, listen.

    At weekly mass, every second of the mass is filled with some sound (verbal prayers, hymns, homilies). Silent prayer and kneeling is much more difficult. Granted, weekly mass is slightly more complex than daily mass (e.g. entrance and exist procession, offering, etc), but why is there so little silence in the other parts. And why does communion line on Sundays need to have hymns playing in the background when people in line need to focus on the gift they are about to receive and after communion need to pray and meditate on the gift they have received? Given this lack of silence, I’m not surprised that there is more chatter in the church on Sundays and more cell phones on. The solemnity of the mass is lost, even if everyone follows the rubrics 100%.

    In the western world we’re drowning ourselves in distractions, and seem to feel that silence is uncomfortable (especially in the middle of a conversation). A good Catholic mass, NO or otherwise is visibly different precisely because it breaks this pattern of noise and distraction and forces us to confront the God who is there.

  31. downyduck says:

    I hear you, Absit invidia… it’s such a sad state when the words “angst” and “dread” are associated with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. But those are the feelings I, too, get when it’s time to go on Sunday. Father leaves everything to the 50-something female “Liturgical Director” and it is as you can probably imagine very similar to what the young priest describes above.

  32. Dennis Martin says:

    I have noticed, over the past year, in the three or four parishes within walking distance (1.5 miles) of my home in Chicago, a consistent use of the Eucharistic prayer from the Mass for Children (or whatever it’s now called) at the main Sunday morning Mass. It was being used consistently at some of these parishes before the new translation came in. We were initially given reason to hope that this insipid prayer would be taken off the table. I am too tired of this nonsense to even try to find out just what has been approved under the new translations along these lines.

    What is clear to me is that some priests are using this prayer as a way of avoiding the new translation of the Canon. They justify it, presumably, by the fact that families with children are present. But it further adds to the elimination of any language of propitiatory sacrifice and reinforces, to the ‘nth degree the “horizontal dimension” of the liturgy.

    One of these parishes has tried to do something about insipid music–using the organ and “loftier” hymns at the main Sunday Mass. This parish is in a modestly yuppified area of the city with lots of professional families with young children (compared to the other two or three parishes I have in mind). What struck me the last two or three times I was at Mass there was that their idea of “elevating” the level of music was to go essentially to “high church” Protestant hymnals instead of folks-song-seventies drivel.

    Therefore, when the good priest whose thoughts Fr. Z. has shared with us writes that the NO liturgy has become Protestant, I think my observations accord fully. The sacred language of the Eucharistic prayer has been turned into mealy platitudes and the music even at its “best” consists of the hymns we sang in our (pre-praise-band, pre-psalm chorus) Evangelical Protestant church when I was young.

    These parishes will not survive the onslaught that is coming. They have no identity apart from neighborhoodiness.

  33. catholiccomelately says:

    It is a struggle sometimes to pray during Mass …. I kneel during the Eucharistic portion of the Mass, along with maybe a dozen others …. but the congregation is singing during reception, and the organist/pianist plays incessantly between songs (though he is brilliant at all types of music, it still feels like I’m at a cocktail lounge)
    I have learned to close my eyes, not sing, and pray as best I can, especially for our wonderful priest, the members of our parish, and the children (by the scores) among us. Several of those little ones, seeing my husband and I kneel, will kneel also (no kneelers, but they still do!)

  34. Nathan says:

    This has been a good discussion, and I don’t think I have much of substance to add. However, I was struck by Father’s opening sentence: For the first time in my eight years as a priest, I recently attended the holy Mass not as the presider, con-celebrant or while being vested in choir. Is that normal for diocesan priests? It seems that slipping into the pews every so often (assuming more than one priest in the parish, of course) would be on every pastor’s (and parochial vicar’s) “to do list,” just for the situational awareness and to appreciate what it is like for one of their flock to attend Holy Mass in the parish.

    There are many things to learn by doing so. For example, in my home parish, it might lead a priest to notice that, with the current placement of the Tabernacle off to the right of the sanctuary and slightly behind the reredos screen, a full third of the church can’t see the Tabernacle to pray before and after Holy Mass…

    In Christ,

  35. HighMass says:

    Dear Father, ( the one who sent Fr. Z. this Message)

    Yes we are in a Liturgical Nightmare, and have been for almost 50 yrs. If you knew what Holy Mass was like Holy, Reverend, Sacred, QUIET…

    Yes It is time for the Younger Generation to step up and learn the Mass in the E.F.

    I attend Mass a few days during the week (N.O.)…it is sooooooooooooooo Peaceful compared to the Sunday show that goes on in many parishes…..for some reason the idea that we need to be entertained at Holy Mass is very Popular….

    Don’t think for a minute that Bugnini and his followers didn’t know what they were doing………

  36. Nathan says:

    One point of clarification about my earlier comment, before I get in trouble. I do not intend to criticize priests and pastors, who are really overworked and over-criticized enough, and who have plenty to do without some layman adding to their list of things to accomplish. It just struck me as strange that “sit in the pews every once in a while” wouldn’t be mentioned in seminary or in the transitional diaconate year.

    In Christ,

  37. SonofMonica says:

    Father’s post is spot on. It’s all too much to take, really. Make him a bishop and send him to where I live, please.

  38. inexcels says:

    “After this encounter I am left with a profound respect for those faithful who routinely suffer through poor liturgy for their love of Christ and his Church.”

    Thank you, anonymous Father. It’s always nice to get a pat on the back. The mass I attend is actually not bad by today’s standards, but going every week still feels more like a chore than anything else. But go I do. Duties aren’t meant to be a barrel of laughs.

  39. backtothefuture says:

    I took my mom to a solemn high mass last year. It was her first solemn mass, and first latin mass since she was a kid. The next week she returned to the regular church she attends, and the first thing she told me was that she felt she was at a protestant service. Of course it resembles a protestant service, that was the whole goal. Bugnini’s goal was to strip the mass of it’s catholic identity, and pope Paul though he could bring more protestants to the church. only the holy ghost can bring them to the church. What I don’t understand from the past few popes, and the clergy is, don’t you realize that our patrimony was taken from us? We were robbed!!

  40. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: music all the time —

    The idea is supposed to be that music at Mass emulates the feel of a High Mass, which also has music all the time. But sacred music sung prayerfully has a sort of space of prayer inside it, which helps other people pray. Think about how chant works, or “Panis Angelicus,” or Arcadelt’s “Ave Maria,” or anything like that. Heck, even something like Rheinberger’s old Mass settings, which are like soundtrack music for Mass, make the central part of the music all about worshipping God and listening to Him.

    Now, you can usually manage this even with totally junky music, if there’s prayerfulness inside the musicians and singers. But it’s harder. Sacred music makes it easier, because it teaches prayerfulness to those who don’t even know it.

    But it’s been a long time, and prayerfulness is thought of as a drawback by some parish musicians, because it’s somehow “selfish” or “not lively” or “boring for the children.” (Which it’s not. Kids love prayerful music, if they get exposed to it.) But mostly, people just forget. When a lot of your memories of prayer are in your knees, and your knees never get to be of use in your parish….

  41. NoraLee9 says:

    Hi all:

    Thank you Father for your post. I am quickly approaching my 20th anniversary as a TLM-only Catholic. Your post reminded me of my daughter a graduation Mass and why I walked out from that occasion after an hour…. Thank heavens her G-dmother has a stronger stomach.
    Absit: thank you for having 7 children. People like you keep people like me (and my family- I’m retired) employed. Even if you homeschool, some will attend college! If you’re in the USA, you’re the only reason social security may make it to 2030. Is there a way (stupid question) you could toss the kids in the car and find a TLM?

  42. contrarian says:

    This letter. This.

    Everything in this letter is so spot on, I want to clap.

  43. acardnal says:

    “Let us face the facts. We are celebrating the Mass like a protestant liturgy . . . .”

    Couldn’t have said it any better, Father. In fact, the remainder of that paragraph is worth repeating, too.

  44. Therese says:

    “The second great obstacle lay in our diocesan norm to stand after the Agnus Dei until reception of Holy Communion, (or even after in some parishes).”

    Oh, Father, what a horror this is. In a diocese nearby (that my parents attend), communicants are expected to stand from the recitation of the Agnus Dei until everyone has received. (If you kneel, everyone knows you are from out of town!)

    What this means in practical terms is that everyone stands until Father sits after cleansing the sacred vessels–no one kneels to pray and adore while our Lord is present within. Although the congregation does kneel during the consecration (which in the New Mass is astonishingly brief), this is in fact the only time set aside for this purpose; once the final bell sounds, er, the processional song is sung, the church erupts into noisy chatter. (The Blessed Sacrament, out of sight and out of mind, is just a few feet away in a niche in the corner.)

    Is it any wonder that ditchdiggers and business executives alike love the Traditional Latin Mass?

    Father, I presume you will continue to offer the New Mass: would you prayerfully consider offering it ad orientem? I make this suggestion because of the recent experience of an N.O. priest in my diocese who began doing just that, and found it greatly improved the attention and reverential attitude of his flock.

  45. Vecchio di Londra says:

    “Everyone was standing, and or talking, shuffling bit by bit to get to where they wanted to go, only to eventually sit down in padded pew comfort.”

    Yes, indeed: and why doesn’t any priest address the fact that ‘everyone’ without exception, always, invariably, shuffles up automatically to Holy Communion, despite the fact that there are so few confessions (confession seems to have been deliberately rationed in many suburban churches.) Perhaps the entire congregation has been rendered incapable of sin, e.g. by an act of collective Immaculate Conception?

  46. Therese says:

    “Although the congregation does kneel during the consecration…”

    Oops. I meant the canon.

  47. drea916 says:

    “Yes It is time for the Younger Generation to step up and learn the Mass in the E.F.”

    We are….and we’re getting married and having lots and lots of babies and raising them up in the E.F. of the sacraments.

  48. Charivari Rob says:


    I pretty much agree with Father Visitor in preferring a norm of kneeling after the Agnus Dei.

    The rest of it, however, and the nearly complete acclaim in the comment box so far? Wow.

    Father seems to have gone in with some preconceived notions of what he was going to encounter and how it was going to be lacking. It came across as somewhat disdainful.

    Imagine for a moment, fellow commentators, if the missive had been about someone’s rare visit to an EF Mass and trotted out preconceived notions like “dead language”, “unintelligible”, “aloof chauvinists”, “wanting to turn back the clock” and other tired canards. Usually, the responses in the comment box to something like that are about respect, giving it time, learning, mutual enrichment, two forms of the Roman Rite, etc… Does that only work one way?

  49. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Vecchio di Londra,

    why doesn’t any priest address the fact that ‘everyone’ without exception, always, invariably, shuffles up automatically to Holy Communion?

    Maybe for the comfort of some kind of man, who’d by instinct and instantly think this one sinner who is superfluous in receiving Holy Communion, is himself, even when he’d have otherwise been quite certain not to be burdened with unconfessed mortal sin. (Note: mortal sin, not just sin, it is.) I’m one of these men, so I’m kind-of grateful that the congregation is not reproached for the failure of some unknown part.

    Then, this is not the actual case. Masses that go with an obligation have (here) a solid 10% or more who do not receive Holy Communion.

    Then, mortal sin is no everyday occurrence in the life of a Christian who is not by intention a hypocrite. And the others have pretty much quit Mass attendance. There is one other restriction that should be made: the Christian, at least as we’re treating with objective and not with subjective sins, should be properly catechized… of course, about that part, let be silent the minstrel’s courtesy.

    I agree that confession attendance must go up. First by stopping that rationing you mention. Frankly, there’s a good way to decide whether you have a (maybe not so much but) traditional or a (maybe not so much but) modern pastor: the first has confession times, the second has “confession upon appointment”.
    I wouldn’t, theoretically speaking, mind an actual rule (to be issued by proper authority) to not receive Communion except within four weeks after Confession; I have always had a faible for clear orders. But setting up emotional pressure without such thing? Vote against.

  50. I often joke that becoming a priest means never being late for Mass again, but seriously, there is great value to a priest being a fly on the wall as it were at a Mass in which he is just another man in the pew. (Of course some difficulties arise, such as whether a priest should be sitting in the pew while extraordinary ministers are distributing Holy Communion, but we can leave that for now.) Too few priests actually see what it’s like from the other side of the altar rail or hear other priests’ homilies.

    The question now is what this priest will actually do to improve things and how much resistance he will meet, possibly even from his own bishop. No, he need not immediately switch all his Masses to the extraordinary form, but even one of the following things will make a huge difference:

    1) Communion at the altar rail
    2) Gregorian chant instead of garden-variety hymns
    3) Ad orientem celebration

    The first is the diciest because it actually is not “the norm,” but as I say any of these three alone will be a huge improvement.

  51. stilicho says:

    Sounds a alot like a description of the train wreck that was my daughter’s bacalaureate Mass.

  52. Charivari, the new American english mass IS THE NORM. The OFM and the EFM are the same rite, but when it comes its expression – the two don’t compare – they are like apples and banana peels. You can’t say – “give it time” to the OFM because it has already overstayed its welcome. I’ve been going to it for 40 years every Sunday now – I’ve slugged it out this long, I think I’ve earned the right to say something about it.

  53. KAS says:

    I hope this priest jumps at the chance to present the NO in Latin, with all the allowed upgrades. I also hope he jumps at the chance to learn the EF.

    Better music, more devout, more chant!!!

    If I had an option for the EF within 50 miles of where I live I would go. ALL five local parishes use the NO and if you want Korean or Spanish great but nobody does Latin and I have learned not to wish for Latin unless I am emotionally up to being scolded and fussed at for suggesting such a horrendous thing as the Church actually using the Language of the Church. Why, if we all got used to Latin in the Liturgy again it might foster actual unity! GASP! How horrible that the many ethnic groups of Catholics might come together and share a common language in the Mass! Terrible thing to wish for, just terrible!

    Yeah, sarcasm tonight.

  54. Priam1184 says:

    @anilwang I completely agree with you. I go to daily Mass to rejuvenate my soul and Sunday Mass because it is required. It is almost impossible to focus and to pray during a typical Sunday Mass in my diocese at any parish I have been to. It is too loud, too confused, too much bad music at awkward moments where music is completely unnecessary and there is way to much of the sense of putting on a show. I rarely find that to be the case at a weekday Mass even in a more ‘liberal’ or liturgically loose parish. It is quiet and reserved and the people in the pews actually sing the hymns because there is no one yelling at them all the time about how they need to be singing.

  55. Gratias says:

    In these comments we find a current chronicle of the Catholic Liturgy in the English speaking world by practicing Catholics.

    If you have never attended an Extraordinary Form mass because it is not offered in your Diocese, try to find one when you travel on vacation or business. The site Wikimissa has an up-to-date record of all EF masses worldwide. Attending even one High Mass will make your trip worthwhile.

    Most countries in Latin America do not have even a single EF mass, so travel is necessary to experience our complete Catholic Church liturgy.

    Thank you Absit invidia for your first post. So many of us feel like you. Hope our Bishops read this and do their duty.

  56. Hank Igitur says:

    Wow, just plain wow!!!

  57. Kerry says:

    During the round of handshaking, by wife and I stand with eyes closes and palms together. (Once or twice I’ve shaken a hand and said, “Not peace, but a sword”.) We resolutely sing the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei in Latin, (the latter very tricky when the accompanist plays Gershwin or Cole Porter). Our responses are always “Et cum spiritu tuo”, and also “Habemus ad dominum” and “Dignum et justum est”. We read the Pater Noster from her Missal, and one day will have memorized the “Domine non sum dignus…”, and the “Mortem tuam…”. We rarely sing the Protestant hymns, though grant reprieves to Elgar, Holst and Vaughn Williams. But then, there is a Saturday Latin mass with schola in about two hours, and several Sunday Latin masses. (St. Paul, MN, St. Agnes). Our example is J.R.R. Tolkien. He continued to respond, supposedly quite loudly, in Latin. (By the way, we are not shouting out ours).

  58. OrthodoxLinguist says:

    A point of liturgical clarification from an Orthodox poster…

    Is it possible for Catholic priests to go to a Catholic mass without identifying themselves? Can they also take communion like that?

    For us, when visiting another parish, we’re required to let the celebrating priest know in advance and, if the parish is in a different diocese, have the permission of the local bishop. We’re also required to dress like a priest. I would have thought that would be the same. Is it not?

  59. Phil_NL says:


    What you describe are pretty much the rules for if a priest would celebrate Mass elsewhere. Attending mass is a different matter though, as far as I know a catholic priest who has no intention to (con) celebrate can, if he so desires, simply join the congregation – if it’s smart to do so would depend on the circumstances, in most cases attending in choro would be more fitting, and the celebrating priest would probably welcome the help distributing Holy Communion. As for receiving communion, one can receive twice on one day anyway, so only if the priest in question would say two Masses of his own, or attended 2 Masses of another priest besides his own, that’s likely to be an issue. And one I’ll happily leave to canonists.

    And a return question: how then do the Orthodox deal with priestly funeral Masses? (or conferences with lots of priests attending, to take a happier example) Sounds like an awful lot of paperwork for the bishop if many priests from other dicoeses would wish to attend Mass in such a case.

  60. OrthodoxLinguist says:

    ” how then do the Orthodox deal with priestly funeral Masses?”

    We all show up with our vestments and serve, generally, with the bishop presiding. And normally, we’d RSVP in advance.

    Within a given city, if there are parishes of different jurisdictions, generally there will be a blanket permission for all of the priests in that city to be able to serve at any of the parishes in the city, which makes sense, given the small number of parishes and people knowing each other well.

    That wouldn’t be the case if an unknown priest from a different city showed up. The blanket permission wouldn’t apply and if things hadn’t been cleared in advance by the bishop, he wouldn’t be allowed to serve or to commune.

    ” Sounds like an awful lot of paperwork for the bishop if many priests from other dicoeses would wish to attend Mass in such a case.”

    Oh, it’s not usually as formal as requiring paperwork. Usually just a phone call. But we could never show up at a parish unannounced. It would be a serious breach of canonical protocol.

    One benefit of that is that it helps to weed out the crazies. Facebook is littered with people claiming to be Orthodox or Catholic priests or bishops from groups that they made up themselves but who have no actual membership or canonical standing in the Church.

  61. OrthodoxLinguist says:

    Also, what are the requirements (if any) for Catholic clerical dress outside of liturgical services? Does it vary from diocese to diocese or are there general guidelines?

    -Fr. John

    Clerical dress is not the topic here. However, there is a Directory for Priests which establishes guidelines for clerical dress. Bishops conferences also establish guidelines for clerical dress.

  62. MF says:

    Welcome to my world, Padre… Every Sunday at my parish is basically just a grit your teeth and bare it exercise. The music is abysmal, the liturgy fraught with abuse and poorly done, the preaching so bad it makes you want to scream. And it’s not much better at surrounding parishes. We go because we know the Catholic Church has the fullness of truth, and we cannot deny that by attending elsewhere, but it is, most frequently, a misery to be a Catholic these days.

  63. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Imrahil: You can’t possibly mean that you are so over-scrupulous that you need a large number of the congregation to go up to receive Communion in order to persuade you to do so, even though you know you’re in a state of grace. That would be bizarre.
    “I’m kind-of grateful that the congregation is not reproached for the failure of some unknown part.”
    I wasn’t talking of reproach, but of an occasional explanation (e.g. in a sermon) that Communion can only be received in a state of grace, and what that means.
    It would also be useful to have an occasional public reminder as to what exactly constitutes a mortal sin that would prevent a Catholic from receiving Communion. And some everyday examples. In the privacy of the confessional good priests will probe and explain these matters freely and well. But if there are no confessionals and few making their confession, and then only very rarely, there is little opportunity for this private catechization…

    Mortal sin is by no means as infrequent as you seem to suggest. All that has happened is that since the 1960s and 1970s many mortal sins (e.g. sins against chastity) have been mentally re-classified as venial by those who frequently commit them. They remain mortal sins however. Committing them and then ignoring or downplaying them only compounds them, and warps the conscience.

    We are all sinners: many of us (if only at certain periods of our lives) on an everyday basis. Even if we have not committed mortal sin, Confession helps to disburden ourselves the weight of the growing backpack of petty, venial sins that come between us and God. And to give us a fresh start, a new direction.

    With his repeated calls for more availability and use of the Sacrament of Confession Fr Z is bang on the nail imo. And I’m very glad to see Pope Francis leading by example.

  64. Gail F says:

    AMEN!! Priests — please, please, please read this piece. Especially: “To be brief, it was near impossible to wade through the obstacles in order to pray, and the reason lay in three pieces: the music, the posture, and the manners of the ministers.” SO TRUE, although the details in my diocese are different (Same re music. We DO kneel after the Agnus Dei, but other postures and gestures and things are equally bothersome, and different ministers are distracting in different ways — at my parish, for instance, incense is frequently carried in bowls by women who waft it around like pagan priestesses, and we have banner bearers at special liturgies — one of whom, in particular, does little tiny dance steps and likes to waft her banner over people’s heads so that she almost touches them but not quite….) I am FINE with a reverent, properly celebrate Novus Ordo Mass, but please can I actually have one???????

    Deirdre Mundy hits the nail on the head, IMHO, on why a lot of this is true. It’s a misunderstanding of what appeals to people about Protestant services.

  65. John Heuertz says:

    Perhaps it’s the characteristic Dominican vice to believe everyone is entitled to my opinion, but here are a few thoughts for your consideration.

    1. Regardless of the miscues, it’s still the same Eucharist, so far. Let us always be grateful for that.

    2. The miscues will only be fixed for good because the Bride of Christ has suffered frightfully at the hands of this world. The suffering will happen, but we can always keep in mind the miscues prove it hasn’t happened yet.

    3. Let us consider the miscues an opportunity to unite our suffering at the Mass with the suffering of Christ Crucified at the Mass. We think we’re rightly offended. But how must Our Lord feel? We can extend real solidarity to Him this way.

    4. Let us all resolve, starting now, to always kneel to receive Holy Communion if physically possible. Mud will be flung at you for it. But God deserves no less and the solidarity might mean a great deal to Our Lord and to his Blessed Mother. It’s also a relatively painless way for us to start toughening up.

    5. Everybody gets the greeting of peace but the Prince of Peace. Let us consider extending our greeting of peace to Him and to Him alone. He’ll know we don’t mean it the same way Judas did, if we think we’re in a state of grace.

    6. The church is full of angels, our Guardian Angels. Surely they kneel in silent adoration from the Sanctus until after the end of Mass. Let us do the same. We could even kneel from before the beginning of Mass until after the end, except for sitting for the homily and standing for the priest’s entrance and for the Gospel, since all three could be considered to happen in persona Christi.

    7. Perhaps the hardest thing of all: let us leave Abp. Bugnini and his servants to Christ.

  66. robtbrown says:

    John Heuertz says,

    7. Perhaps the hardest thing of all: let us leave Abp. Bugnini and his servants to Christ.

    Especially hard because he left us a memorial so that we wouldn’t forget him.

  67. oldCatholigirl says:

    I am blessed right now to be a member of a parish in Kalamazoo, MI, which has both forms of the Mass regularly, including morning Mass in the EF on Friday and Saturday mornings. All Masses are done reverently, according to the rubrics, with silence built in and appropriate music for the weekend Masses. We also have several regular confession times each week. This with one pastor, assisted, where possible, by one deacon (and by scrupulously trained altar boys–at both forms). Nevertheless, people are not always happy campers. Nor do they always participate vocally at the appropriate time–in either forms. (Obviously, any Sunday NO is “busier” than an EF, but I am one of the comparatively few EF attendees who does not think that the best and holiest way to attend Mass is in total rapt silence. Perhaps because I am very distractable and find the Church’s words help me to say what I want/need to say–even when I didn’t know what that was. And there are times in any Mass when responses are built in. But I digress.) There are other populous, active parishes in which Masses are “performed”. Most of the ones I’ve attended are not as bad as the one described. I have seen even worse in the past, though, and I have long habitually avoided “special occasion” Masses. The thing is, individual parish styles are institutionalized. ANY change is bound to bring complaints. People don’t just sit back and breathe a sigh of relief when Father starts going “by the book”, even when he isn’t being so radical as to insert a bit of Latin (some noisy people HATE Latin, so he’d better not at first), or facing God at the rubrical times during Mass. Large groups of complainers will be listened to–and compromised with, maybe. Which more often than not, will mean bringing back the happy-clappy songs, while adding a few “olde time” sentimental hymns–not adding chant. Or adding a nice May crowning–not black vestments at funeral Masses.)

  68. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Vecchio di Londra,
    no, I did not mean that. What I did mean was that when the priest said (or implied) things like, “there’s so big a percentage of communicants, that must mean that some sin”, I’d feel that as a reproach, and even prefer it the more outright a reproach the better (because while I don’t like to be reproached, if it must be then please go for it). And I’d refer what is said to the congregation as a whole to myself, and could not help but think “why is he always against my receiving Communion, I’ve done nothing (now, that is)”. Well, he did not mean me; but that’s the intellectual part my heart does not get.

    Which would not hinder me to receive Communion (after some reflecting again), though.

    What I was suggesting as to the frequency of mortal sins is, perhaps, difficult to describe. I was of course quite clear about what I did mean, such that I forgot that this is not true about any reader.

    I was not suggesting that striking neglect of the Sunday obligation (which people, however, er, do not appear in Mass anyway), the whole 6th commandment things, drug abuse, etc. are infrequent. I do think (judging from posterity) that there was a 6th commandment extension-overkill up to the 1950 and we are in part suffering from an antinomian reaction (a lustful look is a look with the formed will to commit unlawful intercourse, right?), but that is not here the place; rest assured that I do not think m*sturbation is venial.

    Now among the kind of people that have decided to indulge in some of the fashionable mortal sins (a state which, certainly, one can get oneself in with occasional sinning), they are frequent. Among them are many practicing Christians, who do not in all cases, or even generally, deserve the name of hypocrites (or heathens). In this I was wrong.

    It is in these restrictions that I said or meant to say, mortal sin is no everyday occurrence in the life of a Christian. By which I did not either say that it does not happen:
    Just the same, all Catholics are united in that abortion, at least, is not amongst the fashionable sins they allow themselves to indulge in. Nevertheless and regrettably, there are Catholics that have abortions.

    But with all these restrictions, I find it important that Christians actually and practically can remain in the state of grace (with the help of grace which they, after all, have), and are not doomed to fall into mortal (!) sin at every instant.

  69. Pingback: Priest in the pew | Quoniam Tu Solus

  70. AV8R61 says:

    This is great. Reminds me of the U.S. Navy’s requirement for an officer to eat the meals in the crew’s mess, to ensure the crew is decently fed. Otherwise, they might get only the officer’s meals and the crew’s food would deteriorate and no one would realize.

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