This saint, after 1969, never said Mass using the Novus Ordo

Summorum Pontificum was a tremendous gift to the whole Church.  It was certainly one of the most – if not the most – important achievements of Benedict XVI, part of what I cal his Marshall Plan.  It is a great tool of the potential revitalization of Catholic identity which is so desperately needed.

At NLM Peter Kwasniewski reminds us about something important.

St. Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975), the founder of Opus Dei, celebrated the traditional Latin Mass all his life as a priest. He had mystical experiences in connection with it. He loved it so much that he obtained permission (it was thought at the time that such permission was necessary) to continue with the Mass he had always offered, rather than shifting over to the Novus Ordo Missae. These are facts that deserve to be better known.[1] A marvelous gallery of photos of the saint celebrating the usus antiquior may be found here.

The footnote says: There are, as one might expect, different stories circulating around about what exactly happened after 1969, some of them more colorful than others. This is a fairly sober account, although its title is oddly anachronistic: “Why St. Josemaría Escrivá Only Celebrated the Extraordinary Form.”


It is possible that some of you newer readers here haven’t yet seen my Marshall Plan reference.

I have argued that Summorum Pontificum, the centerpiece of Benedict XVI’s “Marshall Plan” (my image) for the Church, is one of our greatest tools for a true revitalization of the Church and Catholic identity.

After World War II these United States rebuilt war-ravaged Europe for humanitarian reasons, but also to help create trading partners and a prosperous bulwark against Communism.

After Vatican II, many spheres of the Church were devastated, ravaged by internal dissent, a loss of continuity with our tradition, and from erosion by the secularism and relativism of the prevailing modern world.

We need a Marshall Plan for the Church in the modern world.  Certainly what we have been doing up to this point isn’t producing fantastic results across the board.  That’s because we don’t seem to know who we are anymore.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger had been concerned for years about the loss of Christian identity, which is at the heart of Western Civilization. Later, as Benedict XVI, he gave us a great tool by which we could reinvigorate our Catholic identity and, so, resist the negative influences of secularism and relativism.

I think that Benedict intended Summorum Pontificum to play a key part in a long-term strategy to rebuilt our Catholic identity, to correct our way of reading … well… just about everything over the last half century or so, and to establish a strong defense against the dictatorship of relativism.

Only with a solid identity can we, as Catholics, have something positive and healthy to offer to the world at large, a clear voice offering important contributions in the public square.  Look, for example, at the clarity and courage of the Little Sisters of the Poor against the evil machinations of the Obama Administration.  They have a clear identity and they are steadfast.  As a result they provide an inspiring example and they keep certain values before the public eye.

Our identity as Catholics is inextricably bound together with the way we pray as a Church.

To give shape and strength to our Catholic identity in these difficult times, we need an authentic liturgical renewal, a renewal that reintegrates us with our tradition, brings us into continuity with the deep roots of our Catholic Christian experience of two millennia.

Contrary to the notions of most progressivists, “the Catholic thing” did not begin in the 1960s.

There can be no authentic change for a better future without continuity with our past.

Liturgy is the tip of the spear.

Benedict XVI pointed us toward a healthier vision of the Church’s doctrine, history, public worship and our very identity as Catholics.

Just as a return to, for example, reading the Fathers of the Church can help us, collectively, correct the way we have been reading Scripture, so much and too long under the domination of an over-played historical-critical method, so too the Extraordinary Form can help us learn how to worship God as a Church which is not fragmented into tiny shards, and to reorient ourselves away from ourselves.

No positive initiative that we undertake in the Church will succeed unless it is rooted in and oriented by a revitalized sacred liturgical worship of God.  Everything comes from worship and everything goes back to worship in a dynamic, ongoing commercium.

Start your local movement for the implementation of Summorum Pontificum NOW.  I don’t think we have a lot of time to waste.

¡Hagan lío!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, Benedict XVI, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, Saints: Stories & Symbols, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Philip Gerard Johnson says:

    Beautiful photo. I notice the 2 priests in stoles standing serving Mass – is this part of the 1964 or 1967 rubrics?

  2. Philip Gerard Johnson says: 2 priests in stoles

    It may be that they are about to receive Holy Communion or perhaps distribute Communion. Otherwise, there isn’t much of a reason for them to be there. He isn’t a bishop and this isn’t Pontifical Low Mass, and his servers wouldn’t need stoles.

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    No positive initiative that we undertake in the Church will succeed unless it is rooted in and oriented by a revitalized sacred liturgical worship of God.

    Just to give this sentence the boldface emphasis it deserves. All talk by the bishops about the new evangelization, the Church as a field hospital, reaching out to the peripheries, etc. will remain little more than empty chatter, until they first put the restoration of sacred liturgy on the front burner.

  4. SundaySilence says:

    Maybe we just need to start small…just turn the altars around. Once our focus returns to Our Father Who art in Heaven (instead of our father, who art the “presider”), perhaps everything will fall back into place.

  5. Fr_Sotelo says:

    There are many urban legends connected to St. Josemaria and the Missal of Paul VI. It seems most do not realize he had impaired vision, and it was easier to continue with the Missal whose main parts he had already memorized. Speculating by some that his liturgical mind was not the mind of the Church is a disservice to his life, which ever sought to catechize, first, by example.

  6. Ann Malley says:

    “…There are many urban legends connected to St. Josemaria and the Missal of Paul VI. It seems most do not realize he had impaired vision, and it was easier to continue with the Missal whose main parts he had already memorized. Speculating by some that his liturgical mind was not the mind of the Church is a disservice to his life, which ever sought to catechize, first, by example.”

    There was also the urban legend that the TLM was abrogated. That wasn’t the mind of the Church and yet such was promulgated and still is for those who are under the misconception that was allowed to supplant the truth. For what purpose? Who can say.

    Perhaps Fr. Josemaria was actually more in tune with the mind of the Church in continuing with the TLM, while seeking permission so as to not scandalize those who may otherwise have been scandalized even more so by learning that so many in the Church chose to foster that which wasn’t true.

  7. Fr. Reader says:

    From a biography
    “Monsignor Escrivá gave firm assent and full obedience to the constitutions and decrees of the Council. Where options were provided, he recommended as head of Opus Dei, those which best favored the life of piety of its members.
    He had no patience with liturgical abuses. Aberrations in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass especially pained him.
    We have to integrate this vast people into liturgical worship, teaching them—as we are taught by the Church, always remaining faithful to what the hierarchy legitimately prescribes—to love the holy Mass, without diluting the deep meaning of the liturgy into a mere communitarian symbol. For in the liturgy there must also take place the mysterious personal encounter of individuals with their God, in a dialogue of praise, thanksgiving, petition, and reparation.
    He was sensitive to any alteration, no matter how small, in the rubrics of the Mass. On October 24,1964, he wrote to his sons in Spain:
    They have changed the liturgy of the holy Mass again. At my almost sixty-three years of age, I am striving with the help of Javi to obey Holy Mother Church even in the smallest details, although I cannot deny that I am pained by certain unnecessary changes. But I will always obey joyfully.
    And a few months later he reported that he was “trying to celebrate holy Mass with the carefulness of a priest saying his first Mass.” But he added: “How marvelous it is…to learn to obey and to want to obey!”

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Department of Wonders Never Cease:

    Andrew Sullivan wrote a column about Internet distraction. He mentions a lot of stuff, foolish and even sinful; but of course he keeps coming back to his Catholic roots, poor guy.

    “From the moment I entered a church in my childhood, I understood that this place was different because it was so quiet. The Mass itself was full of silences — those liturgical pauses that would never do in a theater, those minutes of quiet after communion when we were encouraged to get lost in prayer, those liturgical spaces that seemed to insist that we are in no hurry here. And this silence demarcated what we once understood as the sacred, marking a space beyond the secular world of noise and business and shopping…

    “Millennia ago, as the historian Diarmaid MacCulloch has argued, the unnameable, often inscrutably silent God of the Jewish Scriptures intersected with Plato’s concept of a divinity so beyond human understanding and imperfection that no words could accurately describe it. The hidden God of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures spoke often by not speaking. And Jesus… revealed as much by his silences as by his words. He was a preacher who yet wandered for 40 days in the desert; a prisoner who refused to defend himself at his trial. … they had left two stained-glass windows depicting Jesus. In one, he is in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood in terror, alone before his execution. In the other, he is seated at the Last Supper, with the disciple John the Beloved resting his head on Jesus’s chest. He is speaking in neither.

    “That Judeo-Christian tradition recognized a critical distinction — and tension — between noise and silence, between getting through the day and getting a grip on one’s whole life. The Sabbath — the Jewish institution co-opted by Christianity — was a collective imposition of relative silence, a moment of calm to reflect on our lives under the light of eternity. It helped define much of Western public life once a week for centuries — only to dissipate, with scarcely a passing regret, into the commercial cacophony of the past couple of decades. It reflected a now-battered belief that a sustained spiritual life is simply unfeasible for most mortals without these refuges from noise and work to buffer us and remind us who we really are…

    “If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation. Christian leaders seem to think that they need more distraction to counter the distraction. Their services have degenerated into emotional spasms, their spaces drowned with light and noise and locked shut throughout the day, when their darkness and silence might actually draw those whose minds and souls have grown web-weary. But the mysticism of Catholic meditation — of the Rosary, of Benediction, or simple contemplative prayer — is a tradition in search of rediscovery. The monasteries — opened up to more lay visitors — could try to answer to the same needs that the booming yoga movement has increasingly met…

    “We can, if we want, re-create a digital Sabbath each week — just one day in which we live for 24 hours without checking our phones. Or we can simply turn off our notifications…

    “…the key to gaining sustainable composure from meditation was rigorous discipline and practice, every day, whether you felt like it or not, whether it felt as if it were working or not. Like weekly Mass, it is the routine that gradually creates a space that lets your life breathe…

    “But this new epidemic of distraction is our civilization’s specific weakness. And its threat is not so much to our minds, even as they shape-shift under the pressure. The threat is to our souls.”

    He’s not wrong about a lot of this. And pray for him.

  9. robtbrown says:

    Years ago I asked two of my Angelicum profs, one Italian and the other a Brit (not Aidan Nichols) whether they concelebrated. The Italian–very, very smart, and a great guy–said he didn’t concelebrate because he had a knee problem. The Brit said he didn’t because he wanted to say mass wearing a chasuble, and concelebrants almost never do.

    I consider the line about why Msgr Escriva didn’t say the Novus Ordo to be a horse in the same stable. Font too small? For years there have been stand alone magnifying glasses for those with poor vision.

    One of the many Ratzinger contributions was that he didn’t have a problem criticizing certain texts of Vat II or the Novus Ordo. I know of no well known Cardinal who would speak out about flaws in Vat II or the Novus Ordo until Cardinal Ratzinger started doing it.

    Msgr Escriva died in 1975. Cardinal Ratzinger came to Rome in 1981.

  10. TWF says:

    In their private chapel, the local Opus Dei celebrate the Novus Ordo, but they do so in Latin and Ad Orientem.

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    Sadly, Sullivan is too late to the party. It is not so much simply distraction that is the problem, but a sad fact of the television age: young children placed before TV sets, with its constant changes, adjusts the attention threshold way upwards from any time in human history. Kindergarten teachers have to dance in front of their kids just to get their attention. Many people under 40 suffer from this attention threshold raising (not the same as attention deficit disorder – these kids can pay attention to you, once you get their attention). There is a clear change between the Baby Boom generation (the last print generation – at least the older Boomers) and later generations in terms of their focus sensitivities. The attention threshold cannot be re-set, beyond a certain point. What kind of young kids favor the EF Mass – those whose parents limited their early (before age three) exposure to television and certain types of computer programs. Sesame Street is not your friend.

    One reason the younger-than-40 crowd gravitates to the OF Mass might be because it is sensory stimulating. They need that stimulation to maintain focus. Sorry, to be so blunt, but the effects of Mass Media account for a part of inertia to leave the OF. Parents didn’t know this, early on, when TV first was introduced, but the neurocognitive research is pretty conclusive about this effect, now. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO TV before the age of two.

    The Chicken

  12. PTK_70 says:

    One practical consideration on the implementation of this “Marshall Plan”….Newman centers should be a special focus of attention. Maybe Holy Mass could be celebrated ‘ad orientem’ once per month to begin with. Add Latin and richer music from our Catholic treasury little by little. It doesn’t have to be EITHER Ordinary Form-vernacular-versus populum OR Extraordinary Form-Latin-ad orientem. Tweaking the celebration of the Roman Rite ordinary form Mass may be the way to make a start of “reorienting ourselves away from ourselves.” Why focus on Newman centers? 1) The kids will be more naturally open to change than entrenched parishioners at a typical parish. 2) These kids will move on to disparate locations and in becoming responsible members of their communities/parishes will be agents of authentic liturgical renewal.

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