GUEST POST: First Extraordinary Form “Missa Cantata” or “Take the RED pill!”

I say, “Invite your friends to take the RED pill!

From a happy reader:

I attended my first EF High Mass yesterday in the Diocese of Trenton.

I was left in a state of awe, really. And all I can think about today is that, at 42 years old, and having only been exposed to the felt banner Catholicism my whole life, I feel kind of cheated.  [You aren’t alone.  A couple generations and more have actually been cheated.  Some of them are figuring that out.]

But, I am so grateful that I now know where to go and be a part of this beauty and reverence. Your blog has inspired me in countless ways. Thank you and may God always bless you.

I am attaching a link to the electronic bulletin. Maybe it’s not perfect, but I think this congregation in Trenton is onto something. HERE

My work here is done.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, friends.

Get something going where you live.

Support and encourage priests.

Be inviting to your neighbors.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    For me, the Missa Cantata (High Mass) is a glorious thing! It raises my heart and soul and mind to God like nothing else. . . except for a Solemn Pontifical High Mass perhaps. ;-)

    Everyone: go!

  2. Robbie says:

    I love the comment about feeling cheated. That’s exactly how I felt after I experienced a TLM for the first time.

    Although it won’t happen, it would be wonderful if dioceses would set up a rotating TLM for parishes. One week, it could be at one church, the next at another, and so on so forth. That way many people could be exposed to the TLM and it would almost certainly cause many to ask for it in their own parishes.

  3. JamesM says:


    Small point, a Missa cantata is not actually a High Mass. It isn’t the presence of music, incense or anything else that makes a Mass “high”. It is the presence of the sacred ministers.

    From the last Codex Rubricarum :

    “271 Masses are of two kinds: sung Masses (in cantu) and low Masses (Missa lecta).

    A Mass is called a sung Mass, when the celebrant actually sings those parts which the rubrics require to be sung; otherwise, it is called a low Mass.

    Moreover, a sung Mass, when celebrated with the assistance of sacred ministers, is called a solemn or High Mass (Missa solemnis); when celebrated without sacred ministers, it is called a Missa cantata.

    Finally, a solemn Mass celebrated by a bishop, or by others having faculties, with the ceremonies laid down in the liturgical books, is called a Pontificial Mass.”

  4. acardnal says:

    As I understand the Codex Rubricarum #271 quoted above, particularly “A Mass is called a sung Mass, when the celebrant actually sings those parts which the rubrics require to be sung; otherwise, it is called a low Mass.”

    The Missa Lecta has no singing/chanting and is, therefore, a Low Mass. However, the Missa Cantata is sung and, therefore, can be designated as a High Mass. The presence of a deacon or sub-deacon (Missa Solemnis) or bishop (Pontifical ) is not required necessarily for a Mass to be designated as a High Mass.

    Herewith a link and a video of a “Missa Cantata High Mass” with one priest celebrated on Holy Trinity Sunday by the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago:


  5. acardnal says:

    Herewith an article from Wikipedia on the Missa Cantata vis a vis High Mass designation that adds additional background.

    It appears that at some point in the 19th century a Missa Cantata could also be called a High Mass based on the Baltimore Ceremonial. There is some controversy on this it appears. However, throughout my life of attending the TLM/EF, I have known a Missa Cantata in the U.S. as a High Mass and agree with the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius that it is acceptable.

  6. Menagerie says:

    My sister in law has invited me to go to a TLM with her at the end of the month. I am quite apprehensive about it. I converted in 1977. The NO is the only mass I have ever known.

  7. lsclerkin says:

    Dear Happy Reader,
    Yes yes yes yes yes yes.
    I’m 49.
    Yes yes yes :)

    And Father,
    ” Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, friends.”

    That beauty is now permanently in my vocabulary.
    Thank you for reminding us of that.
    Pax et bonem.

  8. Bea says:

    My husband is sending this information to his brother in NJ.
    He has been so unhappy with his experiences in his liberal parish.
    Maybe this will bring him some peace.

    Thank you “Happy reader” and Fr. Z. for sharing this info.

  9. unavoceman says:

    Wow Trenton. That bulletin is totally impressive! Just right out there and bold. TLM announced from the rooftops! Good job. Never thought I would want to move to Jersey….but there you go. His Truth goes marching on. :)

  10. Gail F says:

    Menagerie: Don’t be apprehensive. Just GO. I have been to half a dozen TLM Masses now and they are very beautiful! The last one was, I guess, a low Mass — sung by a choir but no singing by the priest. I had NO IDEA what was going on most of the time (the first time I’ve ever really been lost — the other times have been partly sung by the priest) but it was very peaceful and prayerful. It gives you the strong impression that the priest is doing something really important and you are there to witness it, which I find nothing at all wrong with and often very moving. It’s about the sacrfice, not the “table.” It is not what I would choose to go to every week but given the choice (a closer parish) I might go twice a month. My husband and I would like to go once a month. Many TLM people are pretty devoted to it, which can be off-putting if you are curious or apprehensive and feel out of place, but to me it is a welcome option and I see good things in both. The reverence and sheer loveliness of a TLM can’t be argued with once you have experienced it — although it might take more than once to get acclimated. When I go and I see how much some people love it, I feel very strongly for them. Let them have it! This is our heritage! Let it spread!

  11. lsclerkin says:

    You’ll do fine. If you have a missal, I highly recommend reading the order of the Mass beforehand. Not long. It’s in English. And if you don’t have a missal, then just watch and follow along. Sit maybe in the middle or toward the back so you can watch what everyone is doing.
    But not too far back. You want to see the wonderful things happening on the altar.
    You’ll find the order familiar if you go to the NO.
    One thing..put the Missal down the first time you go. Just listen. Watch. Fall in love. The beauty.
    That’s what I did. And wow. Golly.
    It’s the Mass. You’ll be fine. :)

  12. Marc says:

    When I finished my first EF Mass, I felt simply stupid! I had been called to make the jump since 2003 and here I am 10 years later finally doing it. What a waste of 10 years! I always feared I might overwhelm my family by taking them to the TLM. Wow was I mistaken…and stupid!
    Thank you Lord for being patient with me!

  13. Rich says:

    Wow. I would not have realized what labeling the emotion would do for me, but I felt a bit of catharsis when the feeling of being “cheated” was identified for what it was. I often wonder if my siblings would still be going to Mass if we had not all been raised on cotton candy Catholicism: all saccharine and no substance. For my own and my family’s sake, I find the depth of my being agreeing wholeheartedly with the sentiment of having been cheated the past few decades.

  14. Saint1106 says:

    One way to develop EF liturgies would be to bring back the 40 Hours devotion. What happened to this great tradition. Let this devotion begin with a Solemn High Mass and end with Solemn Benediction. Besides giving the faithful more encouragement for Eucharistic adoration, they would be exposed to the richness of the EF of the liturgy. Since many priests claim they are too busy to have regular EF liturgies, starting this way would not be a big burden. Once this tradition begins in parishes, it can only grow.

  15. Menagerie says:

    lsclerkin I thank you very much for your guidance. I will follow your advice and just give myself a chance to absorb and experience. I don’t want to miss the beauty of the mass because I am busy trying to find everything in the missal.

  16. lsclerkin says:

    Yes, menagerie, nothing wrong with following in the missal, but when a person is new, it can feel a little demanding on the person. Our priest, God bless him, can move pretty quickly through the Mass.
    It took me a few times to catch on. But it’s not difficult.
    Look up. Read the missal before or afterward, if you have one. And if you don’t, don’t worry. just open your heart to Our Lord. And just take in the beauty.
    He knows your heart. :)

  17. cl00bie says:

    When I attended my first adult EF Mass several years ago, it was like going back home. But I will not join an EF “ghetto”. We are desperately needed to help bring beauty back to the OF Masses of our home parishes.

  18. catholictrad says:

    @cloobie – Our Traditional parish “ghetto” is the fastest growing parish in the diocese. People are traveling over an hour to get to catechism given by the priest. People are fleeing the “ordinary” for the “extraordinary” so they can get closer to God, to hear about their sins and be challenged to leave them, and to stop the 80% bleed of our children away from faith.

    Give me the poorest backwoods reverent TLM over the most beautiful but irreverent NO any day of the week. I am too weak to see half-dressed women dispensing Eucharist and still have my mind (and eyes) in the right place. I feel no need to judge those women, but I do need to avoid the near occassion of sin.

    I do desperately wish the NO closer to home at least tolerated Tradition, but it won’t happen in my lifetime. It would be a major construction project just to make the TLM possible at the majority of our region’s churches. But construction may be easier than changing hearts and minds back from the “social visit” to actual heart-rending worship.

  19. rbbadger says:

    The parish where I was baptized as a convert was the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Therefore, I never really had anything to complain about regarding sacred music. While the Masses were, and hopefully still are, celebrated reverently, the concept of extraordinary ministers was a hard one to come to terms with. I was raised as a Mormon. Mormons have, as orthodox Catholics today still have, a fairly healthy respect for authority. You don’t do anything you’re not set apart to do. All boys age 12 and over are ordained into the Mormon priesthood as are all the men. Deacons pass the bread and water which is blessed in the Sunday service. Nobody who has not been ordained into that level of Mormon priesthood is allowed to distribute what Mormons call “the sacrament”.

    So, it was with this background that I came into Catholicism. I was initially horrified by the idea of extraordinary ministers, especially because using them each and every Sunday doesn’t seem very extraordinary. I’ve also long wondered what it is doing with respect to our vocations when just about anybody can distribute communion. It takes away from the importance of the priesthood in my mind. So, nearly 20 years later, I’m not happy with the idea.

    I encountered the TLM around the same time. It was just a Low Mass. I had a hard time understanding why the Church would try to suppress something so beautiful. Those questions stayed with me when I witnessed my first Solemn High Mass. Then, when I saw the Solemn Pontifical High Mass at the Faldstool, I had even more questions.

    The Pontifical High Mass was really surprising to me, as it does differ from the High Mass in some important ways. You have the vesting of the bishop and the differences in ceremonial which occur because the celebrant holds the fullness of the sacrament of Orders. That difference isn’t really marked as well in the newer Rite, in my opinion. In the Byzantine Rite, the bishop doesn’t even wear the same vestments as a priest would. His vestments are inspired by the robes of a Byzantine emperor. He doesn’t even bless people the same way a priest would, as the bishop generally uses both hands and sometimes two candelabras.

    I’ve seen beautiful celebrations of the NO in Latin and other languages. But I still love the TLM and want to see it celebrated more often. I am grateful for the beautiful chant and polyphony I got to hear every Sunday at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Would that more cathedrals would follow suit!

  20. HyacinthClare says:

    I converted into an “NO” parish in 1992, out of a pretty high Episcopal church, and felt … not so much cheated as “let down” a little. When the Phoenix bishop allowed an indult TLM, well before OF and EF business, I was there the first day, mostly out of curiosity. I think it took two Sundays before I realized what I was thinking was “OH YES. THIS is what I’ve been looking for. OH YES.” Never looked back.

  21. wolfeken says:

    The Latin Mass community at Saint Anthony’s in Trenton has been doing some pretty amazing work. Recall this is the same group that organized a Solemn High Pontifical Mass last year at the gorgeous Saint Hedwig’s church in Trenton, which was aired live on EWTN:

    Ah, if only Saint Anthony’s in Trenton had Father Brian Patrick Woodrow (age 33) and Summorum Pontificum in the 70s and 80s when I received my first three sacraments there!

  22. Menagerie says:

    Gail F thank you. I aprreciate your reverence for the mass and I am sure I will feel the same. I will be attending with family and have them to guide me.

  23. RichR says:

    I love the Matrix reference. “Take the RED pill!” is now in my verbal tool box.

  24. New Sister says:

    Wow, I could have written that email after my first TLM, a sung high Mass, in 2008! (was about the same age as your reader then, too)

    About half way through, I whispered to my colleague who had brough me there, “this is so masculine!!” :-) I had only been confirmed about 4 years at that point and had no clue about the “feminization” of Catholic worship or any writings such as this blog — it was just plainly apparent and I now go through great lengths (have driven as far as 4 hours one way) to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

    p.s. those “Maidens of the Miraculous Medal” (in the bulletin) are wonderful – the true feminine finds her place in the arms of this Holy Mass.

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