Pontifical Masses

The crowning jewel of the Roman Rite is the Pontifical Mass, particularly when the diocesan bishop celebrates in his own diocese.  It is as if the whole diocese is present in the moment.

In Madison, WI, the local bishop, His Excellency Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, the “Extraordinary Ordinary”, has been very generous with his time also to those who desire celebrations of Holy Mass in the traditional form.  For the last year he has pontificated every couple  months or so.  This has given a corps of servers and of priests the chance to get familiar with the rites to the point where they can pull off a Pontifical Mass at the Throne with relative ease.

Last night for the Feast of the Ascension – because yesterday – Thursday – was the feast of the Ascension – His Excellency graciously celebrated a Mass at the Throne.

Here are a few photos to give a taste.







About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Latin Mass Type says:

    Beautiful…even in a modern looking church. Thank God for the Extraordinary Ordinaries that we have and let us pray that more Ordinaries will become Extraordinary!

  2. Mike says:

    Yesterday was, indeed, the Feast of the Ascension, no matter how many prelates say otherwise or dismiss the importance of the observance.

    Happily, in France, this fault appears not yet to have been succumbed to. Because I had to give a tutorial yesterday morning, I was a bit fretful about finding a TLM later in the day, but was fortunate to locate the Centre Saint-Paul off rue Montmartre near the Bourse. (You’ll miss it if you blink, so don’t blink.) I pray it may be a model for many more such venues whence the Good News can again be proclaimed in its fullness without fear or apology.

  3. Agathon says:

    Even in a desperately ugly space, it rings with beauty.

  4. iamlucky13 says:

    Side question that reveals my lack of knowledge – some recent comments on another post mentioned Father Z does not favor concelebration. Unless I misunderstand the vestments in the photos, there are several priests present in this Pontifical Mass. What is their role in this Mass, is it considered concelebration, and if not, how does it differ? Thanks!

  5. edm says:

    I rather like the contrast. To me it shows that the Mass transcends ages, styles and tastes. A traditional mass need not be pigeonholed into only lace albs and “fiddleback” chasubles or Gothic and Baroque interiors. It is so much RICHER than that.

  6. Father Bartoloma says:

    The Tait!

  7. Elizabeth D says:

    You misspelled “Father”.

  8. Latin Mass Type says:


    I believe you’ve got a deacon and subdeacon in the mix. Or maybe more. (I usually attend the low Mass so I am not used to all the lovely eye candy!) I believe that a priest can act as deacon or subdeacon…someone who actually has some knowledge will have the correct answer.

    The vestments are not the same, though it’s not easy for the untrained eye to pick out in these photos.

    As my name hints, I am a Latin Mass type, not expert…

  9. jflare says:

    I’m going to go waaaaay out on a limb here and offer you my guess at the difference between a concelebrated Mass and a Mass with several apparent clergy, but only one celebrant.
    Keep in mind that I have rather limited knowledge of the traditional Mass, but I can offer a thought or two based on my experience as a layman.
    For starters, during a concelebrated Mass, depending on the number of concelebrants, you likely will see each one offering a different part of the canon. You may see one celebrant “hand off” to another by pointing to the spot in the prayers where the “off-going” celebrant ended. Such will not happen with a single celebrant. Any deacons or sub-deacons (or ordained priests filling those roles) may be close to the altar, but not actually offering the prayers. Or, during a concelebrated Mass, you likely will hear all the concelebrants offering particular prayers as a group (preferably chanted, though sometimes not). It can be quite a cacophony if not handled well. During a Mass with only one celebrant, you’ll only see and hear the celebrant offering all the prayers. Or, during a concelebrated Mass, you may see the concelebrants all extend their hands during parts like the consecration (as though participating in the act themselves). During a single-celebrant Mass, you won’t see this.

    As an example, we have a deacon at my parish who routinely will be kneeling within a few feet of the altar during the consecration, but he will not be offering the prayers at the altar himself. Contrast this with concelebration, in which all of the clergy present will be gathered by the altar. On one occasion, I actually saw a Mass wherein a total of 19 priests were gathered around the altar. They literally formed a two-man-deep ring all the way around. In most cases, the majority of the concelebrants will be gathered in a ring of sorts, but several feet from the altar, mostly for aesthetic and/or logistical reasons.
    I think Fr has actually written about this on a few occasions.

    I suspect part of Fr’s angst with concelebrating is actually precisely the problem you raise with your question: Concelebration tends to blur the line between “celebrant” and “non-celebrant” too badly, so most of us laypeople can’t tell the difference.
    I recall attending the ordination of a deacon once. Given that all the people around the altar wore priestly-looking garb, I thought they all concelebrated according to their ordained office. I was surprised to learn that one priest, I think he was a Master of Ceremonies for that Mass, wore a different chasuble (I think) and would need to celebrate Mass later on his own, having not actually concelebrated for the ordination. Could’ve fooled me!

  10. The Mass at the Throne has an Assistant Priest, Deacon, Subdeacon and two assisting Deacons at the Throne. All the rolls may be fulfilled also by priests.

  11. roseannesullivan says:

    Glad to see this. Here’s an article about a Pontifical Mass that explains some of the symbolism. The Mass was the first Pontifical Mass celebrated in San Francisco in about 60 years. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone pontificated. http://dappledthings.org/6236/the-supreme-beauty-of-spiritual-things-2/

  12. iamlucky13 says:

    Thanks all. I appreciate the responses.

Comments are closed.