ASK FATHER: Extraordinary Form “Dialogue” Masses

From a reader…


Your post of Archbishop Sample’s remarks and the subsequent discussion in the remarks section rekindled an interest I have in the liturgical reforms instituted by Pope Pius XII, specifically encouragement of the dialogue Mass when Low Mass is celebrated. I remember there was a lot of discussion about this in the early ’60 while the Council was in session. I’d be curious to know how prevalent this practice is in communities that celebrate the Extraordinary Form.

First, let’s review.  In a nutshell here are the degrees permitted.

The parts that could be said or sung by the congregation were of two kinds: the parts to be sung at High Mass (Pontifical, Solemn, Sung), and the parts which are responses of the ministers or the server at Low Mass.  The 1958 document Musica sacra divides dialogue Masses into four degrees of outward, vocal expression.  In a nutshell,

  1. The congregation makes the shorter responses such as the Amen, Deo gratias, Et cum spiritu tuo along with the servers.
  2. Same as above but adding all the responses of the servers, including the prayers at the foot of the altar, Second Confiteor where used, etc..
  3. Same as above adding the Ordinary (e.g. Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc.) together with the priest and/or choir.
  4. Same as above adding even the Propers (Introit, etc.) with the priest and/or choir.

Certain texts of the Mass are reserved to the priest, and should never be said aloud by the faithful.  Period.

Of course there is the tricky dynamic of congregations comprised of those who want to respond while others do not. Sometimes the priest (wrongly, in my view) wants no responses but the congregation does.

Each community should find their way in this regard, always under the prudent and well-informed suggestions of the priest.

As far as how prevalent “dialogue” versus “silent” Masses are, I am not sure.  Most of the places were I have been (quite a few) there is “dialogue”.  People respond both speaking and singing.

Maybe some of you can chime in?

I’ll turn the moderation queue and let some comments pile up before releasing them.  That way you can all jump in without jumping on, if you get me.

Meanwhile, let’s have a poll.  If I did this right, you can choose two answers.

About Extraordinary Form "dialogue" Mass. ROUND 2

View Results

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    See these articles that comprehensively treat of the issue of the Dialog Mass:

  2. disco says:

    I’m a big “whisper” guy.

  3. JacobWall says:

    So long as they are not being disruptive, I think people should feel free to respond or not respond at the appropriate times as they see fit.

  4. DM says:

    It always surprises me how many people support the “dialogue” Mass, given how it came about. It started as an illicit practice in (unsurprisingly) Germany and the Low Countries during the rise of the Modernist movement, and after years of it going on was eventually given permission by the Vatican. Sound familiar? This is the same way many questionable practices come about. It’s how “altar girls” became legal, the way communion in the hand became legal, etc etc.

    I find it emphasizes too much the idea of the laypeople “saying” the words themselves, rather than praying them interiorly. And it brings up all sorts of issues like not everyone knowing how to make the responses properly, people who deliberately speak up loud as sort of a show-off, look-at-me attitude, and even priests who try to force everyone in the congregation to make the responses. While personally I consider the Dialogue Mass an atrocious, Protestantized practice which should be outlawed, the priests and congregations that are comfortable with it and and are able, go ahead, but at least try to not force it on the rest of the Church.

    Just because something is licit, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing, as I”m sure everyone here can agree.

  5. jfk03 says:

    I remember the pre-Vatican 2 dialogue mass. The congregation did not participate in the prayers at foot of altar, but did most of the other responses. Also, they sang the Kylie, Gloria, credo, Sanctus and angus dei. It seemed very natural at the time. The congregation was not silent.

  6. tperegrinus says:

    The practice obviously varies from place to place. I notice in France the people make most responses and stand and sit as they would for a Sung Mass. In Australia (and presumably other Anglophone countries?) we kneel until the Gospel, kneel as per sung Mass then continue kneeling until the end with only a few people whispering responses. Never quite understood that but happy to go along with it. Some French were a bit confused as they followed their customs and found everybody kneeling for 90% of Mass. I attended a Mass in Germany at the Fransican Church where the people just knelt and sang vernacular hymns through the whole Mass. The altar boys didn’t even know the prayers at the foot of the altar. I took the liberty of saying them with the priest loudly enough to overcome the hymns. The people obviously found it weird by the looks I was getting but the priest stopped on the way back to the sanctuary at the end of Mass and said ‘danke’.

  7. Michelle F says:

    Here is how things go in my TLM group (which attends a TLM offered by a Capuchin at a Novus Ordo parish)….

    Low Mass: The congregation limits its responses to Amen, Et cum spiritu tuo, Deo gratias, Gloria tibi Domine, Laus tibi Christi, Habemus ad Dominum (etc.), Sed libera nos a malo, and the Domine non sum dignum (etc.) for the congregation.

    High Mass: The congregation will join our organist/cantor (we don’t have a choir) in singing the Introit, Collect, Gradual, and Alleluia if they have a missal with the text in it, as well as the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater noster, and Agnus Dei.

    For the poll, I said I have no strong feeling one way or the other, and I do what everyone else does.

    I have “no strong feeling one way or the other” because the TLM congregations I’ve dealt with have not been saddled with anyone who thinks everyone must be worshiping in lock-step.

    The “I do what everyone else does” means I follow the congregation’s sit-stand-kneel routine. If the congregation is giving responses, sung or spoken, I may or may not join in the responses. Sometimes I just take in everything, not even following along in the missal. Sometimes I use one of the devotional sets of prayers for use at Mass, such as “Indulgenced Prayers for Use at Mass” in The Blessed Sacrament Prayerbook by Fr. Francis X. Lasance.

    By the way, the first time I tried using a devotional set of prayers during Mass instead of just following along with the Ordinary and the Propers of the day, I was surprised to find that I felt like I had really participated in the Mass! For the first time in my life I had participated – supporting the priest’s prayers with mine – instead of simply imitating the priest.

    So when I said “I do what everyone else does,” it should be interpreted pretty loosely; sometimes I’m doing my own thing!

  8. Bonomo says:

    When we were setting up the Tridentine Mass at Holy Redeemer some years ago, I found that those for whom I labored to facilitate this had a distinct disdain for the dialog form of the Mass. As far as I can tell, this disdain arose primarily from a desire to have things done as they remembered them being done before all the craziness set it. I had no trouble with this. I worked to make the Tridentine Mass possible because I thought it absurd that people had to drive to Rockford (or further) to get to a licitly celebrated Tridentine Mass. If a silent congregation was what “they” wanted, that was fine with me.

    I, personally, find the dialog form very helpful. Having ADD to a minor degree, I find that the act of speaking or singing helps my concentration. When I have attended the “silent congregation” Tridentine Masses, I found it even more difficult to be focussed on the holy sacrifice of the Mass than I do normally. (It is always a challenge.)

  9. kylie says:

    The TLMs I have experienced have always had no dialogue, and I love it – so contemplative, and such a totally different experience from our Spirit of Vatican II OF parish!

  10. Latin Mass Type says:

    Mostly I attend a Mass with no servers, only the priest. These are “private” weekday Masses since they are not on the parish schedule. We are really fortunate that one man could make the Latin responses and ring the bells. Those who are able, respond with the server’s responses. So we are using option 2.

    Occasionally I attend a Sunday Mass with servers. The only responses that we make then are Amen etc. as in option 1.

    I have only been to two Masses with a choir. I had a little difficulty keeping up with the Mass. Only the choir was singing.

    We also have an informal Gregorian Chant class but have not incorporated it into the Extraordinary Form Masses. (Have sung the Kyrie and Agnus Dei at Ordinary Form Masses though.)

  11. liebemama says:

    A friend of mine attends the EF regularly with her family. There is always a Schola and rarely does the congregation even sing hymns. Especially in Advent she lamented the fact, because we have such a rich treasure of german hymns and her teenage children are “missing out” and is worried that they are not connecting. It seems the Schola makes the decisions – my friend has made requests to no avail. It’s not like she has a choice to which EF she attends.
    I may not have responded to the original post directly, but I thought it related……

  12. Wiktor says:

    Most of the masses I’ve attended to were a mixture of points 1 and 3 (but not 2).
    Not sure how to vote, though. I guess it’s “no strong feeling” plus “what everyone else does”.

  13. Gabriel Syme says:

    Im generally against lay people making verbal responses at the traditional mass. There is absolutely no need for it. Its the same mistake as the novus ordo made – that the lay people need to be saying and doing things. They don’t – they need to be closely following what is going on, with their hearts and minds. This is the ultimate participation, as St Pius X taught, and the most rewarding.

    Things went swimmingly well for two milleniums with the lay people being quiet – let it continue thus. I find it distracting to have various competing voices; I want to become absorbed in the text of my missal, not distracted by someone who has an burning urge to “shout out”, like a child who cannot sit quietly.

    You always get that person(s) who seems to have no sense of timing and so their timing competes with that of the priest. Even now it is obvious at times, in the prayers ordered by the Pope at the end of low mass – some lay people seem to think it is they who set the pace of these, as opposed to the priest. (I find the priest usually insets pauses and emphasis where appropriate, whereas the typical lay person is just about rattling the prayers out as quickly as possible – I don’t mean that as a nasty criticism, its just human nature).

    I used to be a lay reader at the novus ordo, years ago. I remember my blood would boil when, during the creed, my fellow lay ministers would attempt to lead the priest, as opposed to the priest leading the congregation. Argh!

    I also dislike the lay people saying prayers along with the priest. It often obscures what it being said and makes it hard to follow exactly where the Priest is on the page. I tend to find this is “worse” in situations where post novus-ordo people (like me) are encountering the mass for the first time; it is unfortunate habits making their way over from the novus ordo – thanks to priests who encourage lay people to say the words of consecration etc, “be their own priest” essentially.

    I am in favour of the lay people joining in with the choir (i.e. being led by the choir) at high masses. But really they should have some form of training for this, regarding cadence, pronunciation etc, so as to not drag the choir down.

    The Church had things perfect for centuries – all it needs to do is go back to what it did before. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing new – only what has been handed down.

    I think this will happen ultimately. The only question is how much damage will be allowed to happen, how many souls will be allowed to be lost, before the hierarchy have sufficient humility to act.

    Look at the liturgical documents which came out of V2. They are in a completely difference universe to the starkly protestant liturgy and practices which are currently mainstream in the Catholic Church. Often this creeping protestantism is attributed to what V2 mandated – but its a lie.

    This dissonance is the problem, though its unsurprising as very little of what is written down about the Church – in terms of its practices, liturgy, doctrine etc – bears any resemblance to what goes on in the typical parish church of today.

  14. JonPatrick says:

    At the Sunday Mass we attend it is usually a Missa Cantata and most people sing (and are encouraged to sing) the Kyrie, Gloria and Allelulia where applicable, responses before the Gospel, Credo, Sursum Corda, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, plus saying or singing the usual responses. In addition we say the Suscipiat Dominus (response to the Orate Fratres) and the Domine Non Sum Dignus 3 times before Communion. The choir sings the other propers although occasionally there are people that join in if they know the chant.

  15. Sonshine135 says:

    Wow! I’m surprised by the poll responses. I chose the last two “No strong feeling” and “I just do what everyone else does”. Being with a church that started EF Masses, we have developed our own routine. Isn’t that the beauty of the EF Mass? No one is forced to do a specific response.

    That is why I am so surprised at the majority vote of “Everyone should respond to everything and even sing the Our Father and Gregorian chant Ordinary”. There are many folks who frequent this blog that rightly, in my opinion, grimace at the forced postures and responses of the OF Mass. Now that we are talking about the EF Mass, it seems we have a bit of a dictatorship in the other direction. Apparently, we need to go back and listen to Archbishop Sample’s house divided homily again. Can we not appreciate that the EF Mass allows us to participate in the way we see fit? That is what I love about it.

  16. Georgemartyrfan says:

    I am torn on this – because I have a hard time discerning between what I want to do and what I believe is right for me to do. External participation “feels” good, and may be good, but sometimes I need to kneel quietly and recognize that my voice is not an essential element for the Sacrifice of the Mass.

  17. The Masked Chicken says:

    Sadly, all they had to do was go with option 3 as a permanent change in the EF and, maybe add the extra readings and calendar used in the NO and that would have, pretty much satisfied the Council Fathers. There was no need for a huge re-write of the Mass.

    The Chicken

  18. sarto2010 says:

    This is very interesting: my instinct is that “The congregation should be silent always and only the choir or servers should respond”: this is the norm at Mass (SSPX) in the UK or Scotland, where I am.
    Until, that is, one participates at Mass at the wonderful church of St-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet (SSPX) in Paris, where the Parisians seems to say and sing lustily everything that moves … and the effect is most uplifting and moving.

  19. pelerin says:

    I only discovered recently (thanks to the Internet) that I have been wrong in saying the Domine non sum dignus. Apparently the second one is said by the Priest alone on behalf of the congregation. Mea culpa! I think it must have been encouraged originally as that is how I must have learnt it by saying it at each Mass. We can still say it internally of course but it does not feel the same.

  20. RAve says:

    I have distilled my own frustration with novus ordo Mass in typical parishes as “one should never be surprised at Mass (except by God, or by the content of the homily)”. A visitor should not be baffled by what occurs, and a parishioner should not be constantly wondering what might happen be said next. That is how I tried to summarize an objective way to understand the widespread problems with typical NO Masses.

    My experience attending XF Masses is that I go in well prepared and with resources that ought to help me know what is happening (and when or if I should respond, stand, sit, kneel, etc.), yet it is always a bit haphazard. I mean to say, there is never any clarity and it seems confusing and the congregation is a mixed bag as to what they say or do during Mass. In other words, an experience I expect would be settling and smooth and without surprise is actually a bit unnerving. This is after years of attending XF Mass about 6 times a year, each time hoping it will be different.

    I happen to worship in a parish where the NO Mass is 100% rubrically correct and reverent and orthodox. The parish also has XF Mass every Sunday.

    So, I guess I don’t know how to answer the question because it is all so confusing to me. I just want to do what is right and for it to be consistent on some level so the form of the liturgy itself is not the source of surprise or confusion. I hope I am making my concern understood.

    Of course I am always open to tips to overcome this bearable (though unwanted) impediment to appreciating the XF more fully. And I am very grateful to have a parish that has so much right.

  21. Imrahil says:

    I’ll give an answer not in the list:

    The (Gregorian) sung mass, the orchestrated mass, the dialogue mass, the silent Mass and the pray-sing-Mass (which is the silent Mass accompanied by hymn-singing and some dialogue when there is not a hymn being sung) should all be used, forming a part of the good old Catholic variety.

    Of course, you won’t have a silent Mass on a holiday, nor an orchestrated Mass on the Second Monday of Lent.

    Of course, in a sung Mass, people usually sing the parts not assigned to the choir, as also the “Sed libera nos a malo). I wouldn’t say this is necessarily so; I would say, though, that allowing the congregation by no means to sing and that in all Masses all over the year because they are not trained in it would be undue professionalism. The choir is supposed to represent the congregation, not vice versa. And you only get to sing well if you aren’t to ashamed because in the beginning you sing badly.

    In the meantime, the celebrant ensures that the someone gets the praying of the actual Mass done (pardon the colloquialism for so holy a thing).

    By coincidence, that’s (as far as I see) the general practice around here.

  22. acardnal says:

    I find High Masses glorious and transcendent and prefer to attend them whenever possible. Nevertheless, with regard to a dialogue Mass at a Low Mass, I agree with the late English author Evelyn Waugh who was quoted as follows in A Bitter Trial:

    “I ‘participate’ in a work of art when I study it and love it silently. […] Of the extraneous attractions of the Church which most drew me was the spectacle of the priest and his server at Low Mass, stumping up to the altar without a glance to discover how many or how few he had in his congregation; a craftsman and his apprentice; a man with a job which he alone was qualified to do.
    That is the Mass I have grown to know and love. By all means let the rowdy have their “dialogues”, but let us who value silence not be completely forgotten.”

  23. RAve says:

    P.S. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand my concern. I am not unsettled because I don’t know exactly where father is in the Mass (I am happy to let him make the offering to the Father on my behalf and to assist without following every word). My concern is that it seems different each time depending on which type of XF Mass is offered, and that I can’t even do what everyone else is doing because there is some variety among those in attendance.

  24. norancor says:

    Perhaps we should have a discussion… AGAIN… about what Saint Pius X meant by “participatio actuosa.” In other words, if the faithful follow the Mass and unite themselves to the Sacrifice and the Cross, but have no vocal emanations, did active participation actually occur???

    Yes. Yes it did.

  25. JBS says:

    I checked the second, but is the congregation really allowed to sing the whole Pater Noster?

    [Even if allowed, I would be against that.]

  26. Titus says:

    The options found in Musica sacra are not the only way of organizing thought on this topic. For one thing, they want people to start saying some of the more cumbersome parts (like the confiteor) before ones that are actually somewhat easier (e.g., the Gloria).

    There isn’t anything wrong, in principle, with writing a rubric that makes the “server’s” parts the “people’s” parts. Even at the N.O., not everyone in the congregation actually says everything. If the priest and the server are the only ones who, in fact, speak, there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, even in the N.O., there are musical settings for propers or the ordinary that the congregation can’t sing. These are generally quite beautiful (although sometimes they are dreadful). I’ve gone on record before as saying that the E.F. would benefit from rubrics that provided more guidance about what the congregation should do when. I think this is, by and large, the same with the responses, provided that the task is carried out with common sense, rather than with a goal of compelling congregational talking.

    The obstacle, of course, is that the EF isn’t really set up to have the priest say everything audibly so as to enable a congregational response, or for there to be room for a congregational response, in every context. The music gets in the way sometimes. The principle, then, ought to be, “sure, have the people give the server’s responses and sing along with the choir, when feasible, but don’t throw everything out of whack just to squeeze every bit of dialogue in. And don’t badger people to talk at a real low Mass.”

  27. wolfeken says:

    Abortion, gay marriage and the dialogue/singalong Mass should be in the same explosive category. [No, they really shouldn’t be.]

    Two points to make for newcomers to the dialogue/singalong Mass issue:

    1) Somehow the Catholic Church survived many centuries without the congregation responding with acolytes and singing with the schola. Interestingly, it is nearly impossible to find any dialogue/singalong Mass discussion, writing or quotes before the 20th century. And what a century that was for the Church, right?

    2) Notice altar servers (boys and men) and members of the schola/choir (boys and men) wear the cassock and surplice. This is because both acolyte and choir are clerical roles, where laymen can (and commonly do) substitute for clerics. This is a very important point for any discussion on the impact of the oh-so-wonderful 20th century’s blurring of these clerical roles with the congregation.

  28. JesusFreak84 says:

    I usually, East or West, quietly, (lips moving, not even whispering,) read along, even with the priest’s parts; I have ADD and I find that does help me to focus. As far as the TLM goes, St. Martin’s in Louisville seemed to stick with that first degree. I do have some musical training, and those of us who COULD sing the Gloria or the Credo with the choir usually would, though never at an excessive volume. (I’d be surprised if the people two pews in front of me heard me.) I’ve been to some of the TLMs in Chicago, but there does’t really seem to be any set “habit” at any of them, at least not that I’ve noticed.

  29. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Many thanks for this – I’ve been wanting to learn more about “dialogue masses” and not knowing how to go about it!

    “Each community should find their way in this regard, always under the prudent and well-informed suggestions of the priest” seems very good advice: would you venture to suggest how best the priest could unobtrusively but clearly and helpfully do that so that any congregation at any time can easily know such ‘ local customs’?

  30. Cajetan says:

    We chant/say pretty much everything the servers and priest say with the exception of the Pater Noster.

  31. ppb says:

    At my TLM, the priests have always encouraged the congregation to make the responses at both Low Mass and High Mass. In practice, we seem to have naturally gravitated to something like a level 1 dialogue Mass, with a fair number of people saying the short responses, and also some parts of the Ordinary (e.g. Kyrie Eleison). Participation in the prayers after Low Mass is always strong. At High Mass, some people will sing the more familiar chants (e.g. Credo III).

    Personally, I prefer congregational responses and singing, but I will do whatever people around me are doing. I think that people should neither be forbidden from making responses nor browbeaten into making them. People can choose whether they want their participation to be vocal or more interior, and it generally all works out.

  32. jflare says:

    I did not vote, but am intrigued that options for greater lay involvement appear to be leading the tallies. Maybe a large number of us have grown up with the Novus Ordo; perhaps this could be one worthwhile “crossfeed” from that Mass to improve widespread perceptions of the Extraordinary Form. That might be quite good.

    I did not vote for a simple reason: I’m no longer very happy with declaring that we should do this or not do that at Mass, especially based mostly on our own opinions.
    I keep thinking that too many people have entirely too little knowledge of what we do at Mass–and why–to have a genuinely good idea of what should be done in the future. Most controversy regarding the celebration of the Mass does not appear to me based on any sound theological grounding, nor any functional comprehension of pastoral needs. Too many times we’ve been told that “we’re doing it this way” because some liturgical expert–or someone too stubborn to relent–says so.
    We need to far better understand what the rubrics say AND why they say it before we fool with what they will say in the future.

  33. Siculum says:

    In Option #2: Are you talking about an option where the congregation would sing the entire Pater Noster with the priest, as in the Ordinary Form, or just respond “Sed libera nos a malo” with the servers? I’ve never seen the former occur in the Extraordinary Form, and my missal doesn’t indicate that it’s ever legal. But I have seen the entire Credo and Gloria sung by the people, as well as the appropriate parts of the Kyrie. For instance, I softly sing along with those anyway if I know the tune used.

    On a related note, last night I went to a Lenten series on the Sacred Liturgy, given by an excellent priest, who said that the Vatican II term “active participation” was not only mis-applied to a lot of things, but was actually mis-translated itself. Instead, it was meant to say “actual participation.” Boy does that change the meaning of things.

  34. RomualdMonk says:

    Usually due to Fr. Z’s strong liturgical ideas the “shot-group” on many of these quizzes is small. The fact that each of the choices has some representation seems to me to show that Traddies are just as divided as OF Massgoers when it comes to how major elements of the Mass they attend differ from others or differ in what they would like to have part of their Mass. EF Masses are largely new to the parishes that serve them, so I’m not altogether surprised by the quiz results thus far.

  35. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you for clarifying this. Some SSPX-xers say all the altar boy parts. The problem is that the local priest does not want this, but the people keep doing this.

    I think every priest should train the laity as the the accepted custom in the TLM of the area and all should be obedient to that. One Mass I use to attend was a virtual cacophony, of some people doing some things and getting upset when others were not doing the same.

    Sadly, the silent Mass is too often imposed by priests, which, as a pre-Vatican II person with a good memory, did not really exist in the time before Vatican II, even at 6:30 a.m.

    I have been “corrected” by some laity for saying the Domine non sum dignus, when the priest faces the congregation, which I learned way back in th 1950s, as the proper response for the laity.

    Some choral arrangements in Europe and in larger parishes in America have the laity singing the alternative lines in the Credo. Again, some want to sing the whole thing, but the local custom should prevail.

  36. Steven Surrency says:

    It seems to me that the issue of the dialogue mass represents the type of issue that the Second Vatican Council was trying to address in Sacrosanctum Concilium. For example, I see the discussion of “knowing the Latin responses” and “having rubrics drawn up for their part,” if taken in the liturgical context of the 1950’s and 60’s, to be an affirmation of the dialogue mass, among other things. Anyway, I don’t think that speaking or singing responses is necessary for my actual participation, but I do find it helpful. So at high mass, I sing along with the choir quietly (when I can follow the chant). At low mass, I just do whatever everyone else does. I never sing the Pater Noster. I think that at some point permission for that came about, but it still feels strange to me at an EF mass. If I have sung the whole prayer, then the response “et libera nos a malo” seems misplaced at the end.

  37. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Fr. Z,

    “Each community should find their way in this regard, always under the prudent and well-informed suggestions of the priest.”

    Excellent advice that is equally applicable to EF and OF communities. The process of discerning what is appropriate for the community can, God willing, be a time of prayer, reflection and learning that it is hoped would strengthen it as well.

  38. ProfKwasniewski says:

    We have been doing a weekly dialogue Low Mass here at Wyoming Catholic College for 8 years, and, in a community of students studying Latin and faculty who know Latin, it works very well — no problems. Our Sunday Mass is a sung High Mass in which most people sing the Ordinary of the Mass and make the responses. Again, it works beautifully. But we also tell the students “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” — in other words, if you go to a Low Mass that isn’t a dialogue Mass, then it’s best to follow the local custom. There is also a great beauty to the silent Low Mass, and people need to be flexible enough to recognize that there can be many good ways to do something.

  39. Priam1184 says:

    I would suspect that most 0f the Extraordinary Form Masses nowadays end up being dialogue Masses since it is a lot easier transition for people who are used to the Novus Ordo. I personally am very conflicted on this question. I have gained A LOT personally from listening to the prayers and learning them and learning about all of the different parts of the Mass, even in the Ordinary Form. BUT I also know that the vast majority of the Mass was silent for most of the history of the Church before the twentieth century, and that silence was because the prayer was directed and was in fact for God, not for the edification of man.

    I heard it explained once that the silence of the ancient Rite, for the Roman Canon at least, was like the veil in the Holy of Holies. It served the same function as the iconostasis does in the east, where the anaphora is read aloud but the Consecration is performed behind a screen of icons.

    So I suppose at this point in my life I lean toward greater though not complete silence.

  40. I wonder if what is really missing in these kinds of discussions is the promotion of the interior prayer life. Without this crucial part of our prayer, speaking at Mass is mindless noise while silence can also be a form of shallow inattention. No prayer has any value without the internal component. “And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard.” Matthew 6: 7

    It is unfortunate that some folks respond to the desire for the Dialogue Mass with a charge of “progressive!!”. Vocal prayer is valid prayer.
    Congregational participation is a good thing as long as this participation is rooted in an internal prayer first, not just busy activity for the sake of activity. For instance at the Melkite and Ukranian Byzantine Masses, practices which date far back, the whole church sings and responds. The congregation repeats the words of the priest and prayers of the Mass, except for the most solemn.
    Who knows where the practice of stone-cold silence set in with the Latins, but the Church did try to temper this with the Dialogue Mass. Yes, the liberals took it too far with abuses, no argument there [no, the laity is not the priest]. But why throw the baby out with the bathwater, especially in our days of short-attention-spans and distractabilty? I would like to see the Church go back to the practice of prayerful attention and solemn participation, as Mass is the public prayer of the Church.
    Reading an old history of the Mass, the server replaced the congregation in its absence at a low private Mass. Somehow this got reversed into the practice that the server takes the place of the congregation, even when there is a congregation.
    Aside from what is done by choir and scholas [polyphonic pieces and lessor-known sung ordinaries, and the chanted propers], I prefer that the congregation respond and sing in most cases.

  41. New Sister says:

    SSPX in Paris, and in the schools run by the Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux: the congregation responds to EVERYTHING in a whisper (i.e., they whisper all the parts meant for the Altar Boys). This surprised me… but have to say, it’s great for the little ones’ Latin!
    And I have to say… I, who struggle with distraction, am not bothered by this form of “dialogue” at all… IN FRANCE, because the congregations are respectful and speak very, very softly.

    In the USA, however, dialogue Masses can get obnoxious… you get people singing loudly and off key; saying the responses too loud or too slow, seemingly not to care whom they distract or whom they talk over by doing this (even throwing off the priest during the “Domine non sum dignus”… brethren in Christ, NB: God can hear us whisper!!)

    The great beauty of the TLM Liturgy is its SILENCE… thus when in doubt, I vote for no response at Low Mass or at most, a whisper.

  42. New Sister says:

    I’m surprised by the voting… the majority wants the congregation to sing the Pater?
    Surely they mean only the, “sed libera nos a malo” part. MOST people I know are against singing *with* the priest this prayer. (only newcomers to the TLM do this anyway)

    Especially at a Missa Cantata, I love the lone voice of our Alter Christus interceding for us in chant, with his hands in the orans position, facing the awesome GOD for us… we really shouldn’t chant over his voice, or even want to.

  43. Paliakas1 says:

    It seems like a slippery slope. The Tridentine Mass starts with a little dialogue, and before you know it people are singing the Pater Noster with hands in the orans position and giving each other the Pax Tecum. The dialogue mass seems like the entry way for novus ordo like changes to what has always been. It appears like the modernist love of the priestly powers of the people making an inroad to the Tridentine Mass.

  44. Uxixu says:

    Voted: “The congregation should be silent always and only the choir or servers should respond.”

    In practice, my experience has been that even the most orthodox of TLM parishes have some sort of dialogue happening, usually at the very least the Amens, Kyrie, and ministers/servers Confiteor though sometimes you’ll witness someone doing some of the priests role, as well.

    I don’t much mind the occasional Amen, and indulge in it and many of the signs of the Cross and Confiteor silently myself in the pews, but many laity don’t seem to understand the different role of the (liturgical) choir or that of the sacred ministers (for which the acolytes/servers are themselves just substitutes). While nothing is inherently wrong with the laity praying the Mass (though everyone could perhaps use a remainder of how laudable St. Pius X and other popes held the recitation of the Rosary during the Mass amongst other devotions), and much can be said for it, there can be confusion over the difference between the clerical and lay state and ultimately the sacerdotal priesthood so often attacked by heretics. It partially speaks to the false idea held by many Catholics that the laity have to be “doing something” (as if internal prayer is not enough) to ‘participate’ in the Mass.

    Every now and then, though we’ll encounter some folks in the nave who are quite… loud and the response of our servers is usually to lower our own level so we can hear the celebrant and he can hear us but not our normal volume. Perhaps a bit passive-aggressive, but ultimately only need to do it when some are rather… distracting.

  45. optimist says:

    I direct a schola at a weekly Missa Cantata, and I would love to have the congregation join in with the sung responses and the Ordinary parts of the Mass. We use three settings of the Credo per year, and 4 chant settings of the ordinary. Some people try to sing along, and when they realize that most people are not singing, they drop out. Some of this might simply be unfamiliarity, but as time goes on, I think that people are not sure whether they should sing or not.

  46. I favor the people joining the choir in singing the ordinary (Gloria, Credo, etc.) and the dialogue responses at a sung high Mass. This seemingly being the norm in most TLM communities nowadays, it can be argued plausibly that the typical bishop is most likely to observe in his own diocese the full, active and conscious participation urged by Vatican II and the preceding popes from Pius X through Pius XII, if he visits a local EF Mass.

    However, I think it’s commonly observed that in a low Mass without the backing of a choir, the verbal participation indicated in Musica Sacra does not usually work out well, especially in a sizable or heterogeneous congregation. Because the people tend to be able to recite in unison with consistent pace and diction only in a smaller group of worshipers familiar with each other, or in a similar intentional community sharing a common background or local practice, and in a larger congregation there may be audibility problems.

    So, although I see no objection in principle to verbal participation a la Musica Sacra, it’s my experience overall that verbal participation usually works well in a high Mass, but not so well in a low Mass, where it generally seems best for the priest to recite the ordinary alone and only the servers to make the responses. Such a quiet low Mass raises the ire of liturgists who know best, but often seems to be afford the most focused spiritual and prayerful participation.

  47. Imrahil says:

    If we may answer each other now…

    dear wolfeken,

    I think you are undermining the force of your own point if you hyperbolize it to the – of course, obviously wrong – statement that

    Abortion, gay marriage and the dialogue/singalong Mass should be in the same explosive category.

    Pardon the French.

    Now speaking objectively,

    some of the altar servers’ lines are clerical in nature, like the entire prayer at the altar steps, or the Suscipiat. In others, though, they really do act as stand-ins for the congregation, as in most of the Amen’s and Et-cum-spiritu-tuos, in the third Confiteor, the Sed libera nos a malo, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and that sort of thing.

  48. Geoffrey says:

    I voted: “Everyone should respond to everything and even sing the Our Father and Gregorian chant Ordinary”.

    This is one of the reasons why my primary preference is actually for the Ordinary Form in Latin. You can make the Latin responses and join in the simple chants without feeling awkward or getting funny looks.

  49. kat says:

    In our church the congregation at high Mass (and missa cantatas) all sing the Kyriale and the responses to the priest (not prayers at the foot of the altar, for the schola is singing the Introit at that point and the Kyrie is sung immediately after.) When the congregation sings, they stand. They do not sing the Pater Noster with the priest. We actually alternate our Kyriale, with choir singing one line and the congregation singing the next (every other Kyrie/Christe, every other line of the Gloria and Credo; the Sanctus and Agnus Dei get intoned by the schola and then all continue.) It is a wonderful sound to hear the whole congregation sing together. Incidentally, we don’t just do Kyriale VIII, but I (Paschaltide), II, III, IV, VIII, IX, XVII (Advent and Lent), and XVIII (penitential). The congregation has learned them all over the years.

    We have a dialogue Mass (3rd degree as above) for the school Masses with our students K-12. They respond together (with the servers) with the prayers at the foot of the altar, all other responses throughout the Mass, and recite the Kyriale with the priest. They do not recite the Pater Noster.

    I love the dialogue Mass for the children, as it really helps them to follow the Mass and learn it; it also helps the boys as they already know the responses when it is time for them to learn to serve on the altar.

  50. JacobWall says:


    I agree with you that people should not get funny looks for saying the responses. Interestingly enough, the few times I’ve been to a TLM, about as many people said the responses as in the NO I usually go to.

    But it’s worth noting that the TLM isn’t the only place you could get funny looks for participating in a certain way. If you try praying the Rosary at *some* NO masses, you may get more than funny looks. (The topic is about responses, but if you’re praying the Rosary, you won’t be saying responses or making any noise at all.) If someone’s saying the Rosary out loud, that would be disruptive and then it’s a different story.

    That is why I like what Fr. Z has said in the past (if I remember correctly) – instructions for the Mass should not focus much on what the laity are doing. People should feel free to participate in a wide variety of ways, at both the NO and the VO Masses, whether that’s praying the Rosary quietly, singing responses or holding hands during Our Father. If instructions focus on making people participate in X way (whether it’s a more traditional-leaning way or a more non-traditional leaning way) I believe are off track.

    It’s also worth noting that if lay people are singing, some of it is bound to be ugly. Some people are not aware of the ugliness of their singing. If someone is belting out the Our Father (in either form of the Mass) at the top of their (ugly and far-carrying) voice, it may be a good idea for someone to say something. But trying to make a participation policy to prevent (or, even worse, encourage) such things is just going to cause more problems than it solves.

    I also believe it’s a good idea to see what others around you do if you’re in a new place.

    Again, as I said above, so long as the form of participation a lay person chooses isn’t disruptive, we shouldn’t be trying to form everyone into a uniform mold of identical participation.

  51. JBS: “I checked the second, but is the congregation really allowed to sing the whole Pater Noster?”

    Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei No. 40/97, 26 March 1997, Paragraph 2 b): “This Pontifical Commission sees no difficulty in the entire congregation’s singing of the Pater Noster in all sung Masses.” [It might be allowed, but I’m not for it.]

  52. Jon says:

    I once asked a rather well known TLM priest, whose name many of you would recognize, his thoughts on the Dialogue Mass over a beer.

    His response, with a wry smile, was, “The Abomination of Desolation.”

  53. New Sister says:

    @sarto2010, I agree with you; Holy Mass at Saint Nicholas du Chardonnet in Paris, though dialogue to the max, is sublime.

    @Geoffrey, surely you don’t mean singing the entire Pater with the Priest… Only the last line meant for the servers, right?

  54. truthfinder says:

    “More dialogue for sung Masses and less or none for Low Masses”

    And by more dialogue, I mean the congregation singing the kyrie, gloria, sanctus, agnus dei. The low Mass, I really don’t care much people whisper, but I don’t want to say anything, except the domine non sum dignus. I went to a low Mass that was about a level 2 on this scheme, partially because it had no servers, and it was really jarring, even with just a handful of people. It felt like the whole mental/spiritual crux of the EF was being taken away and OF expectation were being put upon it (by the congregation not the priest) – ie microphone turned on, praying the responses at a terribly slow speed, as if the vocal participation of the laity is what made the Mass, etc. We need to become comfortable with silence, particularly at daily Masses – but at the high Masses, people should sing the ordinaries – I’m am not in favour of either the schola and congregation alternating singing of these, or of the congregation singing the propers.

  55. HighMass says:

    I think the FSSP uses the Dialog Mass….I am currently listening to Father pray the Collect. and it is very Audible…I can’t tell if it is just Fr. and the Altar Boy or the entire Faithful.

  56. wolfeken says:

    Imrahil — it does not matter if there is a congregation or not with the traditional Latin Mass. The missal has a part for the priest and a response for acolytes — there is no prescribed part for the congregation, as opposed to the novus ordo liturgy. Yes, the acolyte responds in the name of the congregation at the TLM, if there even is one, but it is still a clerical (and vested) sanctuary role.

    What the dialogue/singalong Mass does, with its culmination in the form of the novus ordo liturgy, is to turn the congregation into clerical substitutes. And we wonder why it was pretty easy to have a laywoman read the Epistle in the vernacular from the pulpit following Vatican II? Connect the 20th century dots.

    I notice a trend in many of the above posts: churches that do not have a vibrant schola and well-trained altar servers are the ones who seem to employ the dialogue/singalong Mass the most. Interesting. Bye-bye Palestrina, well-rehearsed Gregorian chant choirs and the rich sacred music treasury of the Church over the centuries; hello Missa de Angelis and Credo III with a congregation that shows up two minutes before High Mass each Sunday. To democracy!

  57. Mike says:

    At anything except, perhaps, a weekday Low Mass, I’m OK with anything up to (but not including) the congregation joining in the Pater Noster. Because I sing in several choirs and scholas, my bias in favor of responding might not match that of the average pewsitter.

    At Low Mass it seems to me that an inclination toward quiet reverence on the part of the congregants, and certainly if expressed by the celebrant, must be taken into account.

  58. JBS says:

    Henry Edwards,

    Were the various commission responses not superseded by Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae?

  59. Geoffrey says:

    @New Sister,

    Of course. I was referring to the parts of the EF Mass that are technically okay for the congregation to take part in (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc.). I am a firm believer in saying the black and doing the red. I wish we could sing the “Pater noster” in the EF, but it is currently not allowed / encouraged. Hence my preference for the OF in Latin.

  60. jflare says:

    I see some comments about how one or another would prefer that the congregation would not participate in the Pater Noster. Any particular reason why?

  61. Michelle F says:

    The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem have a scholarly paper written by Richard Friend posted on their website. Friend’s paper deals primarily with the postures of the congregation at the traditional Latin Mass, but it necessarily includes some comments on what the congregation should be saying or not saying. Here is an example from page 10:

    “Unlike in the Novus Ordo which has a ‘linear’ liturgy that makes the celebrant wait for the conclusion of the singing of the Sanctus before he can begin the canon, the Traditional Latin Mass has a ‘layered’ liturgy that permits the celebrant not to wait for the singing to finish before proceeding to canon. The people, however, are not to concern themselves with the parts that belong to the priest; they have their own parts assigned to them in the Eucharistic liturgy which Holy Mother Church expects them to carry out. It is, therefore, improper to kneel while the choir is still singing the Sanctus because the people, who are supposed to be singing it, are not yet in the canon (even if the priest is) until after the singing of the Sanctus has concluded. The same principle applies to Agnus Dei.” [emphasis added.]

    Pages 17-19 of the paper have some very handy tables comparing who has recommended which postures for the congregation, including what was said by such venerable men as Fr. Francis Lasance and Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

    On page 13, Friend has a critique of the red paperback missal distributed by the Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei. He reveals that the group did not consult with any authorities regarding the congregation’s postures before they printed the book, but relied on anecdotal information.

    The document is available here:

    Perhaps the Lord allowed us to nearly lose the traditional Latin Mass so we would have discussions like this and gain a better understanding of our Faith and its practice?

  62. New Sister says:

    @ jflare – it must have been His Holiness Benedict XVI’s “Year of the Priest” that sealed this for me… Is there anything greater than a priest?
    I have a deep aversion to laity taking on roles of the Priest, our Alter Christus, our intercessor before Almighty GOD. We need to know our place and let him lead us. And (per my comment above) it is oh so beautiful when he does, especially liturgically, by chanting the Pater for us in a High Mass.

  63. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Supertradmum writes, “Some choral arrangements in Europe and in larger parishes in America have the laity singing the alternative lines in the Credo. Again, some want to sing the whole thing, but the local custom should prevail.” I’ve mostly (even only?) encountered the schola singing alternate lines harder and softer, with (I take it) the idea being the laity sing (louder) when the schola sings softer (but it is not clear to me if this is meant to be fully symmetrical, with the laity singing softer when the schola sings louder: that’s what I do and I have never been stomped on or cast withering glances or whatever).

  64. Supertradmum says:

    The dialogue or participatory TLM happened before Vatican II. I was there, both in the choir and in the pew for these changes. Changes were beginning to be introduced under Pius XII and John XXIII.

  65. Gregorius says:

    Most Masses I’ve been to are at old pre-summorum-indult communities, and so they are pretty much silent, low or high. But having also been to the CRNJ’s liturgies, I much prefer their approach. Their Prior claims the silent low Mass is the real ‘innovation’, one that dominated the Anglo-world thanks to the prevailing culture of the oft-persecuted Irish and English faithful, and Western liturgical practice in older times matched the East’s current practice. Plus, St. Pius X in his famous exhortation clearly says,
    “If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart, AND MOUTH all that happens at the altar. Further, you must pray with the priest the holy words said by him in the name of Christ and which Christ says by him.”
    It is clear to me then given the context of his liturgical legislation that St. Pius neither wants fully silent-laity at one extreme nor does he fall into the modern trap of ‘everyone has to be physically doing something at all times’ at the opposite extreme, though he seems to lean towards more vocal laity rather than silent laity. Thus, I think the CRNJ’s approach is best- low Mass is always dialogue to the point of one of the canons occasionally calling out page numbers for people to follow along in the red booklet; Sung/Solemn Masses with the chant ordinary means the celebrant and congregation sing together alternating with the schola instead of the celebrant reading the prayers then sitting at the sedillia; and Masses with polyphony means the people only sing the basic responses, and the celebrant acts as normal. They always have printed music for the ordinary and worship aids with translations of the propers so people can follow along, yet those aids also explain when to speak/sing and where to stay silent. Being monks they know the value of silence, and they avoid the excess noise that can claim the average parish liturgy.

  66. Austin says:

    I am a huge fan of the silent low mass, something I had not experienced as an Anglican. Even at low masses in that tradition the two or three in the congregation would respond with the servers.

    But, as has been said above, the silent low mass is a relative innovation. The normative ceremonial should be the sung high mass, and that was the case each Sunday in many Anglo-Catholic churches and is now in the Ordinariate groups that can manage it.

    There is something quite powerful in a well-instructed congregation participating in the whole mass. Of course, elaborate choral arrangements have their place and worshippers should not intrude on them.

    I have found it quite hard to become accustomed to the silence of the congregation at high mass (EF) at the parish I attend. They respond only to Dominus vobiscum and don’t sing well-known setting such as the Missa de Angelis or even the solitary congregational hymn. Most of them must have been formed in the silent Irish tradition, and some look daggers at me if I sing quietly along with the chant.

  67. daveams says:

    I used to think the dialog mass was okay, but have been almost totally soured on it by the cacophany that has ensued at my parish. Some people are determined to demonstrate that they can speak latin at 9 million words per minute, and few seem to pay the least consideration for staying in unison.

    Over time, I’ve come to think that the dialog mass is really just one more symptom of the “if you’re not doing stuff, you’re not participating” mentality.

    I’d just as soon see the dialog mass go away, and have people concentrate on truly and actively participating with their hearts and minds.

  68. jflare says:

    “…the Traditional Latin Mass has a ‘layered’ liturgy that permits the celebrant not to wait for the singing to finish before proceeding to canon.”

    I have difficulty causing my head to wrap around that idea. I am inclined to think that if the Church intends to celebrate Mass, to pray the Mass, the congregation probably needs to be involved with offering the prayers. Even if the laity aren’t saying anything aloud, it makes no sense to me for someone to be offering a different prayer from those who’re gathered.

    Again, it’d be good for the Church to develop much better catechesis about how this whole situation came about.

  69. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Michelle F,

    Thank you for noting and linking Richard Friend’s paper, which I have started to read with interest – pausing to note that the second edition of one of the books to which he refers, Adrian Fortescue’s The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, is scanned at the Internet Archive (while nothing by O’Connell or Lasance seems to be).

    “Described” seems a key word for it and the subject, with Friend’s second section title being “There were no officially-prescribed rubrics on Mass postures for the laity”.

    Much (if that is not saying too little!) is a matter of historical ‘custom’, presumably including ‘local custom’ – which brings Fr. Z’s saying “Each community should find their way in this regard, always under the prudent and well-informed suggestions of the priest” freshly to my attention in a new way. And making me the more interested in hearing why Fr. Z’s answer to “Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei No. 40/97, 26 March 1997, Paragraph 2 b): ‘This Pontifical Commission sees no difficulty in the entire congregation’s singing of the Pater Noster in all sung Masses’ ” is “It might be allowed, but I’m not for it.”

  70. kat says:

    Wolfeken, you mention above a possible trend that if the church has dialogue Masses or parish sings, the servers are not well trained. Just want to reassure you that in our church, where the parish sings (see my post further up), and the school children have the dialogue Mass, are servers are excellently trained, and follow the requirements set up by St. Stephen’s guild for serving well. We are very blessed. At the school Masses the servers are students as well, so no problems keeping all together in their responses. At school Masses which are sung or high, the students all sing, and the high school or junior high groups sing the Gregorian Propers (either the boys or the girls, not a mixed schola, but they take turns through the year.)

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