A sense of the sacred: How to recapture it.

Over at the National Catholic Register Pat Archbold has a good piece for your consideration.  You might point it out to your parish priests.

I’ll give you the intro and then the headlines. You can read the rest there.

7 Things To Restore Sense of Sacred Your Pastor Could Do Tomorrow [Tomorrow could also mean, “pretty soon”.]

When it comes to the liturgy of the Roman rite, some would have you believe that you have two choices, the progressive Novus Ordo mass at St. Banal of Boringham parish or the Traditional Latin Mass at the Parish of Quo Primum on the corner of Lunatic and Fringe.

They would also have [sic – have you?] believe that never the twain shall meet, that until the Pope of Future Past arrives to reform the Novus Ordo, that any chance of recovering what was traditionally considered sacred and reverential in the Novus Ordo is impossible, regardless of whether you consider that a feature or a bug.  [We have the example of St. Agnes in St. Paul.]

But this is simply not true. There are many things that Pastors and Priests could do tomorrow to help restore a sense of the sacred and proper reverence to the liturgy, things that are perfectly in line with Vatican II. Further, this is no theoretical exercise, there are pastors all around that have done some or even all of these things.

[And so, now, the headings.  Read the rest there.]

Ad Orientem.


Restore chant and polyphony.


Latin, yes Latin!!


Proper Reception of Communion, Kneeling and On The Tongue.


No More Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.


Appropriate Attire.


General Reverence and Sacredness.


Eliminating the Sign of Peace by the Faithful.


More Incense.

Great attention to reverence and precision by the Priests and servers.
Priestly ad libs banished!
The priest [sic – must?] avoid wandering around during the homily.


In all these things, the priest must be committed to education and some may take time. Parishes that have implemented many of these changes have seen tremendous blessings.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Archbold is basically recommending that that the Ordinary Form be replaced with the Extraordinary Form. All of his suggestions are external. I think the way to make the Mass more sacred has to start with internal changes. If we approach the Mass in a humble, reverent way, with a true sense of the greatness of God and a realization of our own smallness and dependence on Him, unless there is true liturgical abuse, any Mass can become a sacred experience. Archbold and others can rightfully disagree with all of these aspects of the OF, but none of these things constitute liturgical abuse and it is unlikely that any of these elements are going to be changed anytime soon. If we want to bring a sense of the sacred to the Mass, we have to do it individually. It’s kind of like peace: let it begin with me.

  2. Papabile says:

    I rea;;y despise this “more incense” thing that I have seen from more then one blogger. You can’t simply throw incense into an OF Mass without regard to the level of solemnity, yet most of these people seem to think it’s really just a choice of the Priest.

  3. kford says:

    In other words, go to a parish like St. John Cantius in Chicago and see how they do it- OF, EF, LoH, with reverence and beauty and such amazing joy. Fr. Philips has said for years anyone can do it. There’s a reason the Canon’s motto is “Restoring the Sacred”.

    Brooklyn, respectfully I disagree. The list has nothing to do with the Form. All can be (and are in some places) achieved in a Novus Ordo. The gravitational pull exists now.

    Papabile, at the risk of sounding like I speak for Pat Archbold and his “folksy” approach to writing, I don’t think he is talking about a hootenanny Mass with simply more incense. It all contributes to the level of sacredness, including incense.

  4. Austin Catholics says:

    “No More Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.”

    I know this is a big bugaboo for many people, and all other things being equal I’d just as soon see it happen. But all other things are not equal.

    Somebody has to distribute communion. There aren’t enough priests and deacons at most Sunday masses to prevent lines from getting unwieldy.

    Those pushing this change typically respond

    1) Well, most of those people in line shouldn’t be receiving communion anyway. (This response doesn’t address the problem)
    2) Back in 1960 when the lines got too long, priests would just pop up from the back of the church to help out. (Nostalgia doesn’t address the problem.)
    3) So let the lines get long. If that means mass extends another 10 minutes, so be it.

  5. Brooklyn says:

    @kford – I am not saying that any of the things that Archbold recommended are bad. Of course there is nothing wrong with any of it. I am saying that unless we start with a reverent humble attitude – unless we approach the Mass individually with a true sense of the sacredness – none of the outside acts are going to matter. “To this man will I look – he who is humble and of a contrite heart.” I am saying that if we are in the right frame of mind and are truly praying the Mass, then there can be a truly reverential Mass even without all of the bells and whistles. The OF – just as it is normally celebrated in most parishes around the world – can be just as reverential as any EF.

    Without the proper attitude, we are nothing but a clanging cymbal.

  6. Nathan says:

    I happened to come across a fine example of exactly what Mr. Archibold was writing of this past weekend when traveling home from Florida. We picked our stopping point based solely on Mass times and ended up at Sacred Heart Church in Dunn, North Carolina.

    Holy Mass was offered in the Ordinary Form, in English. However, the reverence was palpable, and the “ars celebrendi” incorporated exactly what Mr. Archibold recommends–ad orientem, no sign of peace, no wandering around, and an altar rail in actual use (almost all the Faithful receiving did so kneeling, although some did stand at the altar rail as well), complete faithfulness to the texts and rubrics and no additional commentary. It was easy to allow the Church’s worship of Almighty God raise the mind to Him and dwell on the tremendous mystery of the Holy Sacrifice (and its connection to the Incarnation and Redemption). I’m a little loath to admit that liturgically, this OF Mass was done better than most of the usually very reverent OF Masses I’ve attended in my home diocese of Arlington, I think mostly because the sanctuary was set up for ad orientem from the start, though I imagine such a restoration would be very contentious in a large DC suburbs parish as opposed to a small, relatively rural North Carolina parish.

    It is probably no surprise that the good pastor of this parish also offers a Sunday (and three time weekly) TLM. The priest and people of that parish deserve a WDPTRS shout out.

    I know I’ve harped on this in the combox before, but the post does lead to the question: if, in the context of the Novus Ordo, it is both possible and licit to offer Holy Mass in the manner described by Mr. Archibold, why on earth is it limited to such a small handful of places? Is it simply the abuse of the rite or is there something inherent in the OF that lends itself to lesser reverence as the default option? Does reform towards greater reverence better come from the top or “organically” from the generation of good, orthodox young priests who are coming up?

    In Christ,

  7. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Proper interior disposition is the goal. Seems to me that what Mr. Archbold proposes would better facilitate that disposition. When people are jabbering throughout Holy Mass, it distracts those who aren’t jabbering. When the priest faces the people, most people direct their attention to him rather than to Him. When there’s a veritable conga line winding through the sanctuary so as to distribute a plethora of chalices, that draws attention. When ladies display their charms indiscreetly in the congregation, that draws attention away from the One Thing Needful. Should I not be distracted by these things? Well of course, but I am sinful and weak and I get distracted. Better to avoid the occasion of sin if at all possible.

  8. Uxixu says:

    Emphasize the Real Presence!

    I’d add:

    1) Return to the traditions of the Latin Church on genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament instead of bows
    2) Similarly return to traditions of kneeling instead of standing (after Communion, etc).
    3) While a Latin ordinary & canon should be most desirable for sacred tradition and the explicit intent of the Fathers in Vatican II, even in the vernacular readings COULD be chanted and sung. At the very least the Gospel. How deacons will do the Exsultet or a few priests do the doxology for example.

  9. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    All these steps can indeed be done tomorrow in the MOF. Getting rid of Communion in the hand will take longer. And thanks to Nathan for his mentioning of Sacred Heart in Dunn!

    At the same time, in the MEF, the lectionary needs to be reformed to bring it more toward the lectionary in the MOF.

    And at the same time, the Divine Office of the OF needs to become part of a daily parish life, and Solemn Vespers on Sunday in an MEF parish.

  10. CradleRevert says:

    @Austin Catholic – This may certainly be true as long as communion continues to be distributed in the prevalent conga-line method. Now if the removal of EMHCs were coupled with a return to communion-rail distribution on the other hand…

  11. Thorfinn says:

    One of the benefits of the Mass in Latin was that it was universal; ironically, now that we have more international travel & multilingual populations than ever, at least in the West, we are lacking that unifying element. So you have Mass in English, and Spanish, and maybe another language, and the parish is divided. Returning to Latin (or Greek) for many of the standard prayers in the OF would bridge that division somewhat.

    Chant is really wonderful – I think it helps keep people on the same speed (again: unified), adds beauty to the Mass, is easier for children to learn/remember.

    The only items on the list I hesitate on, for matters of practicality, are incense (it’s a physical irritant for some, and reminds me more than anything of a childhood spent holding my breath when kneeling behind ladies with way too much hair spray) and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. Use of extraordinary ministers is often abused, especially in amphitheater churches, where they throng to the altar then fan out into the crowd. But the fact is that the ideal Mass time is 45 minutes, and certainly not over an hour, based on my reading of Matthew 26 (a whole other discussion), and there is not an extra 10+ minutes to spare. As long as the priest is in the primary/central location and the extraordinary ministers are ancillary (not always the case), I think it gets the liturgical point across.

  12. At our OF masses we frequently (meaning several times during the mass) have the associate priest and the pastor taking liberties at inserting humorous jabs at each other, as if their ministry was like a celebrity white house correspondents dinner and we are there to laugh at their slapstick. If they would only stop this one thing, we would be happy to call it progress.

  13. Mike says:

    Neither of the brothers Archbold tends to be hesitant about getting to the point, and the article Father Z cites is no exception. In any event, the lively discussion it’s generated here promises to be fruitful.

    My sense is, I think, similar to that of OP Gregg the Obscure. Externals by themselves can neither inculcate nor preserve reverent worship, but they can absolutely support it (or — in the case of verbal improvisations, felt banners, rock-band instruments, etc. — damage it beyond recognition).

  14. Athelstan says:


    Somebody has to distribute communion. There aren’t enough priests and deacons at most Sunday masses to prevent lines from getting unwieldy.

    As CradleRevert says, it goes considerably fast with altar rails.

    That said: The rule was put in place for a reason, and it is certainly plausible that you can reach a point where there are too many communicants for one minister to distribute the Eucharist to in any reasonably amount of time. But the logistics of distribution have been used to justify serious abuses. We all know it. When you see (as I have, repeatedly) 12 to 16 EHMC’s up there around the altar, and less than 200 people in the congregation, you know that what’s really going on is something else.

    My sense is that you first dispense with Communion in both kinds – the risk of profanation is too great to begin with. Secondly, make sure you’re using any and all available deacons for major Sunday or Holy Day Masses. Thirdly, you shouldn’t need more than one minister per hundred communicants (I’d put the number higher, but I’m trying to be reasonable).

    I’ve seen TLM’s with over 500 communicants complete communion with just two priests in under seven minutes. That seems entirely reasonable to me. Yet an equivalent OF Mass will typically have a veritable regiment of EHMC’s for a similarly sized group of communicants.

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    What would be nice would be to know exact facts about particulates per million in various types of
    incense. Also, it would be great if people would quit using fake charcoal, lighter fluid, weird incense flavors that include allergens, etc.

    Real frankincense incense is an ancient treatment for coughing and asthma, because it soothes the bronchial tubes and throat even when burned. (Especially when burned.) Good charcoal treated well doesn’t produce much in the way of particulates. Cheapie junk incense and bad ignition practices are what causes people to choke and cough.

  16. murtheol says:

    No Permanent Deacons allowed?

  17. AvantiBev says:

    While I agree with Mr. Archbold’s list, having been fortunate enough to be a parishioner at St. John Cantius for the past 20 years, I object to the “Quo Primum at the corner of Lunatic and Fringe” crack.

    Kford thanks for the shout out to our wonderful parish and pastor and our growing number of priests in the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius!! These men will go forth as seed for the sacred in many parishes much to some bishops’ dismay.

  18. JBS says:

    As for Latin, the new English (USA) missal no longer contains the whole Ordinary in Latin, and the old paxbook.com site from which one could previously order a Latin missal has been out of service for a while, so it’s practically impossible to use Latin in the Ordinary Form beyond the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus and Pater. One cannot, for example, introduce the faithful to liturgical Latin by simply offering the Eucharistic Prayer in the original language.

  19. I definitely think some of these would help. (Obviously with the accompanying interior disposition)….I have to disagree though with Sid in regards to the lectionary…I think Epistle and Gospel should be the norm and with commemorations, readings added….I think 3 lessons is too much and not in continuity with our traditions.

  20. Geoffrey says:

    I would add making use of properly instituted lectors and acolytes, as envisioned by Ven. Paul VI. These would be laymen specially blessed (instituted) by the bishop and entitled to wear the proper vestments. Instituted acolytes (Paul VI said they could be called subdeacons) are also Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion by right of institution, and not just on a whim.

    The idea of there being 3 readings at Mass is not entirely out of the norm. For example, some of the Ember Days have 3 readings, if I am not mistaken. I am one of the few who like the OF lectionary!

  21. wmeyer says:

    Fr. MacDonald at St. Joseph’s in Macon, GA has done much to transform the NO at his parish. He has taken years in the effort, catechizing his flock, and bringing them to a deeper appreciation of the solemnity of the sacrifice of the Mass. He has also written about it in his own blog: Southern Orders

    I have not yet made the journey, but I do intend to visit his parish, and I am sure that his celebration of the Mass will be excellent.

  22. Uxixu says:

    I’ve been reading Fortescue’s The Mass (which is great reading on numerous subjects many of which pertain to many/most features of the NO) and was interested to notice how many ways the ancient Church tried to avoid sacrilege with the Precious Blood by intinction, the spoon, the fistula, which all have associated practical problems with irreverence and/or health, which is what resulted in the stabilization of Communion in one species for the laity. This is the reason the Fathers at Vatican II only envisioned Communion in both species on very special occasions (not even yearly at Easter, but more like for your First Communion, perhaps Marriage, etc). I personally would like to see the Precious Blood only given from THE chalice and should be from the Deacon alone (reflecting the practice of the ancient Church where the Archdeacon & other Deacons administered the Chalice after the Body) and with utmost reverence. Yes it will take longer. To be properly reverent & cautious, it should!

  23. The Midwest Theological Forum based in Chicago still markets its sumptuous Latin edition of the Missale Romanum 2002 (click here). This is the altar missal the priest uses for the OF Latin Masses that I occasionally (if rarely) am able to attend.

    However, the layman who wants to follow along entirely in Latin (other than the pulpit readings) must order the massive 3448-page daily hand missal (click here) published in England by the Catholic Truth Society. This is (so far as I know) the only OF daily hand missal that has ALL the prayers—order of Mass as well as the prefaces and propers (orations and antiphons)—in parallel Latin and the new English translation columns. Also available in separate weekday-only (2750 pages) and Sunday-only (1260 pages).

  24. Archbold is basically recommending that that the Ordinary Form be replaced with the Extraordinary Form.

    Exactly! Oh, wait, not exactly… totally untrue in fact. Every single one of these things is an organic part of the ordinary form of the Mass (kneeling for Communion is not the norm in the United States, barring a local custom, but in other places, where the internet also reaches it is part of the ordinary form.)

    All of his suggestions are external.

    Well the article is about external changes, so basically you are complaining that the article is not some other article. But one of the great things about Catholicism is that it’s so often a “both and” religion, not an “either or” religion. Making external changes are in no way opposed to making internal changes and vice versa.

    I think the way to make the Mass more sacred has to start with internal changes.

    Well… ignoring the fact that we’re talking about the “Sense of the Sacred” and not sacrality itself, this is simply untrue. We can start either way. The important thing is that we start. It makes no sense for you to discourage praiseworthy external methods if they are effective.

    If we approach the Mass in a humble, reverent way, with a true sense of the greatness of God and a realization of our own smallness and dependence on Him, unless there is true liturgical abuse, any Mass can become a sacred experience.

    In fact, any experience that we approach “in a humble, reverent way, with a true sense of the greatness of God and a realization of our own smallness and dependence on Him” even a Mass with liturgical abuses and even martyrdom can be a sacred experience. But that doesn’t mean that we should just abolish our high ideals for Church worship, just as we shouldn’t give up Christians to martyrdom with a shrug because it’s a sacred experience.

    Archbold and others can rightfully disagree with all of these aspects of the OF, but none of these things constitute liturgical abuse and it is unlikely that any of these elements are going to be changed anytime soon.

    Talk about missing the point. The whole idea of the article is that these are things that are already found in the Novus Ordo and can be implemented without any “change.” And, yes, some of them are liturgical abuses e.g. ad libbing by the priest.

    If we want to bring a sense of the sacred to the Mass, we have to do it individually.

    Errr… no. We have an incarnate religion that does have externals. And a corporate religion in which we don’t just act individually. We should embrace those things, not run from them.

    It’s kind of like peace: let it begin with me.

    Pelagian liturgical reform! Reform by our own effort! Let’s get right on that!

  25. ckdexterhaven says:

    Papabile, in regards to the incense….at our parish, the newly ordained (6 months) priest didn’t even use incense on Christmas Day Mass. It was so disappointing… But not surprising. Sadly, he’s a big fan of concelebration.

  26. SaintJude6 says:

    45 minutes!!! You see that as the ideal length of a Mass? Not even one whole hour?
    My family attends a Sunday EF Mass that routinely lasts 90 minutes. It’s even longer when there is exposition of the Blessed Sacrament or additional prayers at the end, and is preceded by everyone saying the Rosary. And we do this with six of our children, one who is a very active two-year-old and one who is severely autistic.
    But this is the thing about the EF: It is sooooo worth it.
    It is worth waking up early to get everyone ready and worth the 40 minute drive. It is worth the additional gas and tolls money. It is worth the ironing of all those dress clothes and finding of little boys’ dress socks. It is worth the studying of Latin.
    Do you know what our family wishes each week? That the priest didn’t have to stop his homily after only 25 minutes or so. Because we could have listened to him all day. Why would anyone want to cut short that foretaste of heaven?

  27. rodin says:

    Silence before, during and after mass.

    Haven’t had time to read the other comments so if someone has already said that please pardon the duplication.

  28. Gregg the Obscure says:

    SaintJude6 – did you notice Thorfinn’s citation of Scripture? While many are amenable to longer amounts of time in prayer, there are many who for whatever reason are not on any given day. There are times that “Could you not watch one hour with Me?” could have been directed to me and, I expect, to many of us. In any case, it’s worth consideration.

  29. HyacinthClare says:

    SIX cheers for SaintJude6!! Yes! We start at 10:30 with the rosary; mass is usually over about 12:20… and once a month we have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (with the Litany to the Sacred Heart) that adds nearly another half-hour, and I wouldn’t shorten it by ONE MINUTE.

  30. Justin_Kolodziej says:

    Let us not forget the noon Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas in Palo Alto, an OF Mass fully in Latin usually fully chanted except a section here or there, with all the Chants and motets to boot! Of course that lengthens it considerably but you can get lost in it, and then who cares? Only thing they could fix is last I was there it was not ad orientem.

    Question, are those long Masses high or low Masses? The one down the street from where I am now is a low Mass and it’s about 40 minutes long.

  31. Gaz says:

    Of late when I attend the Ordinary Form of Holy Mass, I have been taking a printed sheet of the appropriate Introit, Offertory and Communio from the Graduale Romanum (along with an English cheat sheet). Maybe I’m not with the program but I personally find it more helpful to meditate upon “Remember, O Lord, your covenant and do not abandon forever the souls of your poor; arise, O Lord and judge your own cause; forget not the cries of those who seek you …” (to use last Sunday as an example) rather than the dross that’s usually chosen for an entrance hymn.

  32. Gaz: Sounds like an excellent idea. If you’re content with English only, rather than preparing your own supplementary sheets (if you do), you could get a copy of the Simple English Propers which includes English translations from the Graduale Romanum of not just the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion antiphons, but also the full Entrance, Offertory, and Communion psalm verses for which they are the antiphons. In weekday Masses at a parish near me, the congregation uses the SEP to recite the Entrance psalm as the priest approaches the altar, the Offertory psalm as he (silently) prepares and offers the offerings, and the Communion psalm immediately after Holy Communion, which most appear to receive on the tongue while kneeling, in this environment whose sacrality seems to be fostered by the people reciting these official psalms of the OF liturgy, rather than singing hymns replacing them.

  33. drohan says:

    My thoughts on Sacred Liturgy:

    I grew up near Lincoln, Nebraska. So I know the Novus Ordo mass can be done reverently in the English language.

    I have now left Lincoln and am in the Grand Island diocese. I have been lucky as we have had really good priests. But I know there are some priests who are less than great in this diocese. And I chalk it up to laziness. Pure and simple. It takes time to schedule a Holy Hour. It takes effort to organize the rosary before mass. And there are priests who don’t want to have such a harried schedule. Bp. Deninger has done a fine job of bringing some more Orthodox practices to the region as well. But priests are just like the rest of us. And human nature is always there. Whether we like it or not, if the faithful don’t ask for things like Benediction, Sacramental processions, Holy Hour, more frequent confession times, etc. etc. They won’t get them.

    But I do know that when badgered constantly by the faithful, even the seemingly most irreverent priest will come around. If you demand of him he do his job, they come around.

  34. Thorfinn says:

    “Do you know what our family wishes each week? That the priest didn’t have to stop his homily after only 25 minutes or so. Because we could have listened to him all day. Why would anyone want to cut short that foretaste of heaven?”

    I nearly exploded in laughter at this point trying to imagine any 25 minute homily being a ‘foretaste of heaven’, given the current state of homiletics. Even the best homilist I know…. no thank you! But perhaps you were referring to the entire experience of the Mass, which is more understandable though still, I think, an exception to the rule.

    Most longer Masses I’ve been to, in a variety of orthodox parishes, have maybe 40 minutes of solid religious content plus a bunch of fluff: questionable musical numbers, wandering homilies, annoucements before and after. (Those Masses do not need an extra 10 minutes for receiving Communion.) And I’ve seen a number of great 45 minute Masses, including music. So while I’m not out to denigrate a longer Mass if done well, as a rule I’m a proponent of short ones, as often as feasible. (At one church we had daily plus rosary in well under an hour.) And I do like to think that Christ’s “one hour” standard that the holy Apostles didn’t meet is a hard upper limit for — well, for me anyway.

  35. gloriamary says:

    Perhaps if people would dress appropriately for mass it would help. Moseying in 10 minutes late your finest beachwear, well, its just depressing.

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