GUEST POST: A mother benefits from Low Mass

I received a note from a parishioner at my home parish back in St. Paul, MN, The Church of St. Agnes.

I have been a parishioner at St. Agnes in St. Paul for 14 months having moved to the Twin Cities for my husbands new job. We absolutely love the parish and the beautiful liturgies there. While initially disappointed at the change in the Extraordinary Form Masses from every other Sunday at the 10 AM Mass to a low Mass every Sunday at 7:30 AM, we have found the low Mass to be beautiful and a good for our family. We have 3 children ages, 1, 3, and 4.5. I thought you might appreciate this piece I wrote on the Low Mass as a regular contributor at Truth and Charity.

That schedule change was a good one.  They were alternating the Sunday 10 am Mass between the older and newer forms.  Not good.  Instead, now the 10 am has gone to the Novus Ordo with all the Roman and traditional stops pulled out.  That is what the late Msgr. Schuler built over decades to demonstrate what the Council actually asked for.  It is also the Mass that first caught my attention to the point that I would eventually enter the Catholic Church.

In any event, here is an excerpt from the young lady who wrote to me:

It is the silence and the stillness that make the Extraordinary Form Low Mass unique and beautiful. It seems the most appropriate early in the morning, when the world is waking and still. For someone attending the Mass, nothing but one’s presence is required. The servers say the responses and the faithful can be completely receptive to the graces being given through the words and actions of the liturgy. It is a holy hour of prayer, where we are led by the priest, and by him given the very Body and Blood of our Lord. The quiet stillness is a break from the fast paced, loud world. Even when I spend the liturgy pacing in back with a chattering baby, the quiet is still so powerful. I have been to a wide variety of Masses in my short lifetime, and I know that diversity of the universal Church. But I love that the quiet Low Mass is still being said throughout the world, in many different cultures, and that I can go to it and have a taste of Heaven.

In a world with less and less silence, Low Mass in the older, traditional form could be of great spiritual benefit to many of your parishioners… FATHERS.

Dear brethren: Learn the older form if you don’t know it well already.  If you are a priest of the Latin Church, it behooves you to know our rite.  Let people know about it and make it available.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I love Low Mass, precisely for its silence. I also really like the penitential rite, which is not abbreviated or rushed through, or — as is prevalent in my diocese — made up as the priest goes along and filled with a lot of pop psychology rot. There is real freedom for the laity in Low Mass: we can just listen, and pray, and be. Christ, through the priest, does all the heavy lifting.

    Contrast this with the way the Mass of Paul VI is celebrated in too many places. The devil is an enemy of silence, and he has his tentacles in the liturgy: he failed to prevent the August Sacrifice of the Mass from being offered altogether, but he succeeded in having it turned into a high-decibel treadmill. One feels driven like cattle through a noisy, fast-paced proceeding that leaves no time to pray or recollect oneself or remember that one is at the foot of the Cross. We have ushers to keep us in line, and priests and deacons to lecture us sternly on our failures of “active participation” if we do not keep up with our many appointed tasks. Meanwhile, many of these same priests and deacons do whatever they want, regardless of what the books say. And this is known as the “golden age of the laity.”

    I’ll believe we are in the Golden Age of the Laity when the traditional Mass returns to all parishes, and I can go to Low Mass every day.

  2. Jack says:

    It’s been almost 50 years.
    I long for the day when I can experience this again.

  3. SpittleFleckedNutty says:

    Consequently, even for the sake of speech we must practice silence. To a large extent the Liturgy consists of words which we address to and receive from God. They must not degenerate into mere talk, which is the fate of all words, even the profoundest and holiest, when they are spoken improperly. In the words of the Liturgy, the truth of God and of redeemed man is meant to blaze. In them the heart of Christ – in whom the Father’s love lives – and the hearts of His followers must find their full expression.

    Through the liturgical word our inwardness passes over into the realm of sacred openness which the congregation and its mystery create before God. Even God’s holy mystery – which was entrusted by Christ to His followers when He said, ‘As often as you shall do these things, in memory of me shall you do them’ – is renewed through the medium of human words. All this, then, must find room in the words of the Liturgy. They must be broad and calm and full of inner knowledge, which they are only when they spring from silence. The importance of silence for the sacred celebration cannot be overstressed – silence which prepares for it as well as that silence which establishes itself again and again during the ceremony. Silence opens the inner fount from which the word rises.Meditations Before Mass by Romano Guardini

  4. tcreek says:

    Also the Norvus Ordo “Low” Mass is preferable for me. By “Low” I mean weekday Masses. I go several times a week and, for me, it is much more devotional then the Sunday Mass in the new form. No extraordinary ministers, no performances by the choir and cantors, no ushers & greeters, only the priest offering the Sacrifice. No laity “cluttering” the altar area. (“Cluttering”, a bad choice of word, I know, but the truth, for me.)

    I would gladly trade my Mass obligation from Sunday for 5 weekday Masses. Sunday Mass in the new form become a sort of penance when you are used to weekday “Low” Norvus Ordo Masses. Plus, the people are there for the right reasons.

  5. benedetta says:

    Daily Low Mass at 7 a.m. and praying the Breviary in Latin fortified the daily work of Flannery O’Connor, as just one example among many.

  6. dominic1955 says:

    Oh no, I can just see adversaries of the TLM saying, “Look, their regressing to their me n’ Jesus, Irish Low Mass worshiping ways!”

    I like Low Mass for weekdays because it just makes sense, not that I think its liturgically that compelling. The “aweful silence” that people speak of can be found in abundance in an empty church with nothing going on. However, its certainly a welcome respite to all the NO deluge of talking and bad songs. That said, liturgy, after all, is not primarily contemplation time. Look at a monastic horarium-there is a reason the monks are given time for lectio and contemplation aside from the Mass and the Divine Office. That said, I don’t like when people try to jazz up daily Mass (usually with the NO) when there simply aren’t the people or the talent there to do it well. It makes the whole experience frustrating and way too long. Thus, unless your parish is a monastery that can pull it off, Low Mass is perfect for your average weekday.

    That said, big holy days and Sundays should at least be sung if not Solemn High, ideally. The pinnacle of the Roman Rite is the Solemn Mass, NOT the Low Mass. Low Mass is an exception granted due to the fact that most churches do not have the ability to do the fullness of the Roman Mass everyday.

  7. Jet41815 says:

    The 10:00 am Orchestral Masses at St. Agnes make little sense because it is performed in the context of the Novus Ordo. Obviously, the masses of Mozart and Haydn were not written for the Novus Ordo. Inserting these masses into the Novus Ordo results in a somewhat broken and disjointed musical experience- sometimes it is a little jarring. This is especially true with Mozart’s Requiem. When these masses are performed in the context of the Old Rite, it is stunning because of the natural correspondence and flow of the music to the liturgy. This graceful correspondence and complement between music and worship is frequently lost when these orchestral masses are played out of context in the Novus Ordo. Maybe I’m just being too fussy . . .

  8. pfreddys says:

    I actually prefer the low Mass in the traditional Latin rite. One of the things that appeal to me about Holy Mother Church is Her logic. In low Mass the logic of The Sacrifice seems to hit your brain like a diamond bullet. For those who prefer the more ceremonial ways of having the traditional Latin mass said, I would say that something like this legitimately comes under personal preference.

  9. Minnesotan from Florida says:


    How do the items in a usual non-Requiem musical Mass, the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus/Benedictus, the Agnus Dei, differ in any respect between the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form? Thus a “classical” musical Mass can be used with either form without any jarring whatever. The “context” is exactly the same. (I am not sure about Requiems. The place of the offertory antiphon in the Ordinary Form is not clear to me, but I should suppose that the Introit and Communion are the same in the two forms. Is not it permissible in the Ordinary Form to use, rather than the Responsorial Psalm, the Gradual, Tract, and Hymn – “Dies Irae”? If so, then the only problem is the Alleluia or Gospel Acclamation. Whether this is spoken or is done in plainchant, there is a rupture from the style of the “classical music” Mass elsewhere, or, even if something in the style of the classical composer is composed for the purpose, there is a loss of musicological authenticity. Still, in a Requiem too I think your point is essentially not valid.)

  10. Moro says:

    Low mass is often an unappreciated gem. I have seen too many groups strain to get a high or solemn high masses done for the wrong reason. I get the impression that sometimes its love of music, or the pastor wants to get as many people involved as altar boys, I even heard of someone doing it to have one up on another Juventutem group. As wonderful as chant, incense, the rubrics of a solemn high, etc. are, they are not what the Mass of St. Pius V is all about. The Mass, any mass is ultimately about Christ. A low mass reminds us of that fact. Some of the most spiritually uplifting masses I’ve been to were low masses said at Old St. John the Evangelist in Silver Spring, Maryland at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. I started going thinking I’d be missing the High Masses of the parish I went to in college. Instead I left mass with an appreciation for both.

  11. Lin says:

    I would be ok with the Novus Ordo form of the mass if all priests followed the prescibed rubrics. The problem is most feel the need to improvise in various ways and some VERY inappropriately! And I would not be opposed to returning to the TLM. I would like to see the pews returned to all facing the front (instead of the current arena), Communion rails, bells rung as appropriate, altar boys, no Protestant hymns, no Protestant priests, high altars, etc. One can hope and pray!

  12. Long-Skirts says:


    October’s frost
    Warmth melts the chill
    At Mass alone
    On Calvary’s hill.

    Where from its heights
    Fierce, sleety, rains
    Beat down upon
    Stained-window panes.

    At the Mass of all times
    The Faith’s never frozen
    “Many are called…
    But few are chosen”.

  13. I wish St. Agnes were on my beaten path. One visit in a lifetime is not enough… sigh. Any form of Mass sounds great there.

  14. John Nolan says:

    M from F

    Using ‘Viennese’ Mass settings in the OF:- Kyrie, Gloria and Credo aren’t a problem, as the clergy are seated. The Agnus Dei can be sung during the people’s Communion – in the early 19th century normally only the celebrant would have communicated, and the Agnus would have covered his Communion, the ablutions, and the reading of the Communion verse. The problem is the Sanctus/Benedictus – in the OF they can’t be split and the celebrant can’t start the Canon until they are finished. [I respond: Split them anyway. Just do it.]

    As far as Requiems are concerned the traditional Propers can be sung in the OF, and frequently are, including the Dies Irae. Strictly speaking outside Lent the Alleluia should replace the Tract, but this rarely happens. I’m thinking here of Masses in chant or chant and polyphony; a ‘classical’ Requiem like Mozart’s really needs the EF. For instance, in the OF you would have to detach the Kyrie from the Introit. Also Mozart does not set the Gradual and Tract, but in the EF they are read by the celebrant, so the Mass is still complete.

  15. LadyMarchmain says:

    Jet41815, I have experienced what you describe when attending the orchestral masses at St. Agnes also. I believe this is because, when you see the Novus Ordo retrofitted to the musical framework of the EF, the differences are more palpable. Because my son was one of the St Agnes musicians on occasion, I would sometimes attend several masses in a row and then the contrast between the EF and NO orchestral masses was particularly striking. The NO, even with the transcendent music of Mozart and the chant, was choppy and abrupt, whereas the EF orchestral mass flowed smoothly and had an organic integrity. I can’t explain why this is, but I do want to say I don’t believe you are being picky and I would validate your observation.

    dominic1955, with respect, the silence of an empty church is tangibly different than the silence of Low Mass, where what is taking place on the altar is palpable. The participation is not passive.

  16. SPWang says:

    Jack said –
    “It’s been almost 50 years.
    I long for the day when I can experience this again.”

    Lets get Jack to a low Mass! Give us a hint of your location, Jack and no doubt the folk here will help out :)

  17. Stephen Matthew says:

    I am glad this mother has found a place for herself and her family that allows for a prayerful encounter with the Lord through the liturgy.

    I must confess to a strong aversion to the low mass, based on a combination of direct negative personal experience, personal aesthetic taste, and liturgical theory. I have more “high church” than “low church” sympathies with regards to liturgy. I am also a believer in progressive solemnity (only two candles during adoration? who are these minimalists?, instrumental music on a weekday in lent? is the circus in town?), so the low mass on a Sunday seems (in its exterior packaging) as out of place as McDonalds french fries for Thanksgiving dinner to my mind. (Then there are my personal experiences I shall leave alone.)

    All of that being said, there is very much a place in the liturgical life of the church, and often a need in the spiritual life of each of us, for a time of noble simplicity, sacred silence, meditative or contemplative receptivity. I think every mass, particularly the more solemn ones, needs to have a conscience effort made to avoid clutter and distraction (visual, auditory, or otherwise), etc. and to provide space for silent, still moments, preferably long enough that it forces us to stop waiting for the next moment to “do something” and forces us to instead pray, listen, see, hear, reflect, and receive not something but someone. As much as I dislike a mass that is lacking in due solemnity, I also dislike the overly busy sorts of liturgies, common of certain diocesan events held in sports arenas, that tend to be something of an extravaganza and in so doing run dangerously close to making the liturgy about ourselves and becoming more about what we are doing rather than what God is doing. (I also greatly treasure my time before and after weekday masses, where it is possible to extend the time of prayer to include some private, personal prayer without worry about catching up with old friends visiting town, or the social after mass, or the family dinner, or the set-up and clean-up for the choir…)

    There can be a healthy sort of tension between our desire for simplicity, stillness, and silence; and our desire for solemnity, beauty, majesty (and even perhaps festivity) that seems not to be fully resolvable short of the Kingdom.

  18. LadyMarchmain says:

    Here is Blessed Pope John Paul II and an orchestral mass in Latin (Mozart, Coronation) in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vienna Philharmonic under von Karajan.

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