Fr. Blake: The Extraordinary Form makes the priest accountable… to you

My friend Fr. Ray Blake, the mighty PP of St. Mary Magdalene in Brighton, has a good reflection today contrasting and comparing celebration of the newer form of Holy Mass and the older, traditional form, with comments about “leadership”. He makes some important points about who the priest is.  HERE

Before I send you over there, I would add a comment or two.

First, for a long time I have claimed that Mass in the traditional Roman Rite is probably celebrated “better” now than it was back in the day.  Firstly, we “benefited” (if that’s the right word) from its deprivation.  That is to say, we should have had it all long and it wounded us as a Church that we didn’t, but its deprivation also helped many to appreciate it more.   Second, it is possible that our use of the Extraordinary Form benefited from the period of the Novus Ordo, at least insofar as priest celebrants are far more aware of the fact that there are people out there.

Now for a sample from Fr. Blake’s piece.


Anyone [any cleric] preparing to celebrating the Old Rite first of all has to learn a different way of being a priest, he has to learn to be a servant, like the Centurion’s servant “to come here, and go there”. The Old Rite is very prescriptive about how the priest moves, where moves, how he uses his body, where he looks and even where he directs his eyes. The control over his body and movements results in a control over his mind and thoughts. [Yes.] The thing is that the rubrics are freely available to any ten year old who can read Latin or anyone who has a copy of Fortescue, O’Connel and Reid, or the like, this is important in as much as it democratises the liturgy and leaves the priest open to accountability and able to be judged on his obedience to the demands of the Church. [No wonder liberals hate the old rite: they don’t want to be accountable to anyone but themselves. Liberals don’t like accountability unless it involves subordinating everyone else.] In fact the heart of the spirituality of the Old Rite is one of being under obedience, the obliteration of the individual, to the point where in a large Church, with a number of priests one is often uncertain which priest is celebrating Mass, it is often just hair colour, or body shape that enables one to distinguish who is the celebrant.

If the priest in the New Rite chooses to celebrate ad apsidem, which is his right, in the same way as it is his right to choose which penitential rite or Eucharistic Prayer to use, he is well on his way to  begin to submerge himself in the the liturgy and the mind of the Church, and yet of course he has already made a ‘leadership’ decision. Similarly if he opts to celebrate the Old Rite, he has done more than any of his pre-conciliar predecessors had the power to do. However the Old Rite teaches obedience, there is an entirely different attitude to preparing a liturgy in either Form of the Rite. At low Mass in the Old Rite, the priest merely opens the Missal and begins continuing until he ends, it is almost mechanical. In the New Rite even if Mass is said as ‘rubrically’ as possible there are a variety of options. If Mass is sung, in the Old Rite he and the choir simply sing what is in the Graduale or the Liber, if one is very fortunate the choir might be able substitute polyphony or some other musical form for some of the chant, possibly even adding the organ or even an orchestra or a band, and possibly even singing the chant in a particular historic style. For the priest and sacred ministers however it is saying or singing the black and doing the red. [Nice phrase.]


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  1. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Being deprived of the Vetus Ordo is quite a bit like a fast. The Novus Ordo, being valid and licit, won’t kill us(contra some folks’ overheated conclusions) , but it won’t nourish us as richly or in as pleasant of a manner.

    Perhaps the failure of so many in the Church (me being first among that unhappy company) to be the saints that we are called to be has brought about this spiritual famine.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    No lay person can blame a priest or an abused Mass for the lack of holiness. We become saints in good times and in bad, and like the fig tree, Christ will judge us in and out of season.

    That the Old Rite teaches obedience is absolutely true. I am living in the land of clerical disobedience, sadly, at this time, and such disobedience includes scandal. And, the Old Rite is not popular in this diocese, and, of course, there is a connection between gross disobedience and hatred, (yes, some priests here have said the Latin Mass is divisive), as well as immorality and liturgical novelties. I am so glad Fr. Blake wrote what he did. But, in the past week, I had to bring to the attention of two priests that a priest cannot change the words of the Mass. Sometimes us lay people must speak out for the sake of priests, as well.

  3. Imrahil says:

    Interesting observation.

    Plus, well, fast appears to be chiefly for the healthy, while the sick are in normal circumstances advised not to fast but to take such nourishment as they need.

    As to that other observation… well, our Holy Father said, she is a battlefield-hospital that has to treat sinners and those that may, perhaps, be on the verge of possibly succeeding in getting rid (for the time being) of a vice, being at the moment in great struggle. Somehow (no offense…) I just cannot imagine a doctor in such a hospital complain about the fact that his patients are sick.

    It would be less work, but somehow (and here the analogy becomes incomplete) it would not be the point of being a doctor. (The Church, even a Church of people never sinning, would still be there to do her chief work, which is praise God; I did say the analogy is incomplete.)

    The saints can endure whatever condition (i. e., there is no condition which you couldn’t endure if you are but saintly enough). But that is not the point.

  4. Auggie says:

    The movements of a priest during a TLM or a Divine Liturgy are the quintessence of sacred dance.

  5. anilwang says:

    I’d say that in both the NO and TLM priest are both under obedience. We all have to serve somebody. The key difference is to whom.

    In TLM, the options are limited so the priest has no choice as to where obedience lies.

    In the NO, the options are wide, especially with all the liturgical abuses that have become de facto standards such as Ad Populum worship. The typical priest is human and tends not to want to go against his parish and bishop. If the parish and bishop are Traditional, the typical priest will celebrate the NO as closely to TLM as he can, if for no other reason that to appease his parish. If the parish and bishop are essentially Protestant megachurch in spirit, the priest will likely lean towards the options (both de jure and de facto) that are more protestant megachurch-like and go as far as his conscience allows him.

    In both cases, there is obedience to rubrics (most typical priests try to obey most of the rubrics) and the parish/bishop. It’s just that obedience is aligned with Tradition, and in another the obedience is a compromise with Tradition, and in both case the decision to use either set of options is respectable.

  6. Legisperitus says:

    Great thoughts from Fr. Blake! This is the most beautiful thing about the Church’s received liturgy. To “master” it you have to become its total servant.

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