ASK FATHER: How to build TLM interest at a sound parish?

Mass-Holy-Card-with-AngelFrom a reader…


I am blessed to attend an OF parish where the teaching is orthodox and the liturgy reverent and beautiful (including parts of the mass sung in Latin). Several families have begun expressing an interest in an EF mass as an option. What would you suggest as the best ways to start a wider discussion to gauge interest?

Even though this is the “ASK FATHER Question Box”, I’ll open this to the readership.

Let’s have some great, thoughtful ideas.  Consider the possibility that the priest isn’t entirely on board … yet.

The moderation queue is ON.

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  1. Titus says:

    Danger, Will Robinson!

    The interlocutor will likely find that people who one would reasonably infer to be friendly and open to the E.F. (because, e.g., they are ardent supporters of Latin, orthopraxy, and traditional ars celebrandi in the O.F.) are, in fact, vehement opponents of it who would rather leave the parish than have it incorporate the E.F. into its liturgical life.

    If you want to introduce something like the E.F. gradually, you’ll have to find a time that (a) is convenient for Father and (b) doesn’t affect anyone else in the parish. Good luck with that.

    Less pessimistically, if you can find a local priest who is well-versed in the E.F. and liturgical law and history, and recruit him to give a series of talks (with food and drink), it could be a useful way for people to learn about the E.F. Maybe if you had a lecture series on the history of the Mass, something where the speaker talked about the meaning, value, and background of various elements of the old Mass, in a setting where people could go to an occasional E.F. if they wanted to, it would generate some interest over time.

    If your pastor isn’t on board, that would probably be about all you might get anyways for the time being. A good presenter for the speaker series might even convince the pastor of a few things. But even if he were on board, you wouldn’t want to do more than give people an additional E.F. option (i.e., turn an existing Mass time from an OF to an EF). At the end of the day, though, it’s just not what most Catholics want. Were that it otherwise, but I don’t think it is.

  2. Alzette says:

    Start a rosary group (in Latin).

  3. RichR says:

    Form a Schola to start working on music. Move up to sung Vespers from the Little Office of the BVM (Baronius Press). Have servers start practicing for a low Mass. After these are established, the barriers are lowered for a priest to do a Low Mass on a special occasion (All Souls Day?). If money is needed for Altar cards, vestments, patens, etc…, then supporters need to step up and pony the cash. On the Mass day, the Schola and servers should be ready to go, and every family interested should make a sacrifice to be present and show support. Don’t whine if mistakes are made, just say thank you to Father.

  4. RichR says:

    It also helps if someone with computer skills sets up a simple website with a google calendar for people to subscribe to. That way, any notices are sent to interested parties.

  5. un-ionized says:

    My former parish fits this description. There are a few dozen elderly people there who stayed despite the change in the Mass. Seek them out at doughnut time. They are a wonderful repository of knowledge and experience.

  6. Bthompson says:

    Recognize that said families need to be willing to do the legwork and other practicalities of setting up anything you want in your Parish, EF or otherwise. “Father, you should…” is an opening line that will be dead on arrival much of the time. The more you and yours take ownership of making and keeping the behind-the-scenes parts of the ministry going, the more able Father will be to put the needed effort in on his end.

    Also be aware that there may be other factors that might prevent/slow/discourage Father (cost/effort/benefit analyses, time and effort to learn, wider plans and goals in the parish, fear of some of the stereotypes of “TLM people,” etc.). He is human too. Please be patient and supportive and honest with him, even if that means that “I’d love to, but not just now” has to be his response to your petition (which, honestly is where I am at the moment. I don’t yet know the EF, and it would be a pretty substantial investment of effort to learn. I’m slowly brushing up on my Latin with Fr Foster’s book, but even that is time/energy dependent, rare commodities. If even a really supportive group asked me for an EF now or even in the moderate future, I’d have to decline)

  7. chantgirl says:

    On the spiritual front, I would suggest that before the stable group approaches the pastor, that they have Masses offered for the pastor, say rosaries for him, and perhaps do a novena to St. Padre Pio. Soften up the ground, so to speak. In my experience, the biggest hurdle to getting an EF approved at a diocesan parish is the attitude of the Bishop towards the EF. Many priests are too scared to offer the EF, even if they have been given the green light by Rome, if it would mean crossing their Bishop.

    On the practical level, open your wallet and be prepared to buy vestments. Ideally the Latin Mass group would own these, not giving them to a particular parish, but keeping them to offer to whichever priest comes to offer Mass. That way, if priests are transferred, the vestments don’t disappear into a cupboard somewhere.

    I agree that preparing a schola is huge, as is preparing altar servers. From what I have seen, music, the need for trained servers, and fear of blowback from other parishioners (and his Bishop) are the three things that seem to have pastors most reticent to agree to an EF. I wonder if there are EF server training seminars like there are for priests?

    At a previous diocesan parish, the pastor agreed to allow another priest to offer the EF on Sunday afternoons. When the parish held a come-and-see meeting to answer parishioners’ questions, a group of very angry women in their 60s showed up and protested the added Mass, asking belligerent questions. Mind you, they were not being asked to give up their Mass, a Mass was just being added to the schedule. They were so upset that the Church was going “backwards” that they couldn’t tolerate a group that wasn’t going to even replace their Mass. I have seldom seen such irrational, emotion-over-intellect fit-throwing from people who should have been adults. I was in my 20s at the time and was shocked to see the visceral hatred these women displayed toward a Mass which had been said for centuries. So be prepared for some intolerant reactions to your suggestion.

    If you are successful, awesome! One more beacon lit! If you are not, and there is an ICKSP or FSSP parish around, you might consider moving on to a place where you won’t have to constantly fight for what the Church should be providing for you. Especially if you have children, you only have so many years of taking them to Mass, and they learn a lot by what they see at Mass.

  8. WmHesch says:

    When the ordinary form is said or sung well ad oriented, most differences become academic… You can only play the “reverence” card so far… and I suspect it will become more difficult to play as newly minted priests follow the proverbial red.

    The Calendar’s another animal: Septuagesima season, ember days, rogations- following the extraordinary form Calendar makes one more attune to the seasons… For the sake of the planet, we need the traditional calendar!!

    Also, the cycle of readings. How cool is it hear the exact same readings as the great doctors of the Church- and your own ancestors? A consistent cycle of readings unites the Church across space and time. St. Anthony of Padua never left us notes on Year C Sunday’s… But he bequeathed us a rich repertoire on readings compiled by St Greg the Great, for example.

    The Calendar and Reading Cycle pushed me over exclusively to the traditional Rite- and I come from a parish whose principal Mass is a very reverent Novus Ordo sung in Latin.

  9. mthel says:

    One place to start might be to look for a group in your area, such as Juventutum, to host a mass at your parish.

    My parish is a beautiful old church with the high altar still in place – a great place to host an EF Mass. When I approached the pastor, he mentioned an interest, and even said he had been studying the EF, but the time he was spending running two parishes with no associate meant that him finding time to learn it and add an EF mass to schedule was unfortunately not going to happen in the near future. He then mentioned that Juventutum in my area was searching for parishes that would be willing to host an EF mass on occasion. I contacted them (i.e., I did the work, not my busy pastor), and we are now in talks to have them, with a priest of their choosing, come in this fall and host such a mass. It should be a good time to gauge the interest of other parishioners, and certainly find out who is at least open to such a mass.

  10. Fr. Reader says:

    Tell the priest that you will take care of everything, and he will not have extra work.

  11. PTK_70 says:

    Practically speaking, it’s probably easiest to get this done at a parish which has at least two priests assigned.

    In my estimation, you will need to build a choir which is capable of some form of plainchant. So I fully agree with the other comments made about forming a choir. Said choir can cut its teeth for a year or more at one of the usus recentior Masses.

    Your pastor may be reticent to put an EF Mass on the schedule if he thinks that might bring about some kind of split in the parish. To mitigate this concern, use the terminology that Pope Benedict XVI employed in Summorum Pontificum and encourage others to do the same. Use “extraordinary form” or usus antiquior in place of the ambiguous term “traditional Latin Mass”. Use “ordinary form” in place of the noxious term “Novus Ordo”. Or use the term usus recentior, which is something I saw from Cardinal Sarah. There is but ONE Roman Rite, which holds two forms: the traditional or “extraordinary” form and the post-conciliar or “ordinary” form. (There is also an Anglican Use, but that’s not the concern here.) Whether the form be traditional or post-conciliar, both are Latin Masses. They’re certainly not Byzantine.

    I am rather convinced that the continued use of “TLM” and “Novus Ordo” perpetuates ignorance regarding the oneness of the Roman Rite, a oneness which the beloved pope emeritus clearly affirmed in Summorum.

  12. Gratias says:

    Try to get an out side priest and if possible a schola come give a sung mass and a talk once. Help serve mass yourself so someone from the parish participates. Have a pot-luck that one day.

    If that works, for a year or two have the TLM, sung if possible) one Sunday a month.

    If nothing works arrange with the pastor that when you pass on you request a sung Latin Réquiem Mass. Sometimes in death we do good things. I know a family, biritual like us, that have had three sung funeral Latín masses for their deceased mother in all three dioceses she had lived in.

    Forming an Una Voce Chapter used to be the way to go. Unfortunately once the FSSP gets into a Diocese they rapidly close it down to become the only Latin Parish in town.

    The easiest is to travel how many miles necessary a few Sundays to see if you are up to the effort necessary.

    Or today 13 of May 2017 and every 13 for the next few months you could pray a Rosary to the Virgin of Fátima that Pope Francis will reach a personal prelature arrangement with the now separated SSSP which would bring 600 new priests to the Traditional Latín Mass.

    We have it very good here in the USA since the Summorum Pontificum 10 years ago. But it took huge amounts of work and money. The USA will be like the medieval Irish monasteries and preserve the Faith for future generations. Every effort is worth the energy invested in keeping our Church distinctly Catholic.

  13. Alzette says:

    The question of “what Catholics want” is a typical post Vatican Two discussion. It presupposes two things: truth is subject to democracy, and the Mass is for entertainment.

    If it is agreed that the TLM is right, it MUST be reinstated

  14. Alzette says:

    There is also the question of emphasis. The New Mass was designed to be ecumenical and therefore downplays things that disturb Protestants especially the Real Presence, the Sacrificial nature of the Mass and the intercession and invocation of saints and angels. True, these things have not disappeared, but blink and you miss them in the NO.

    The strongest argument for the TLM is the theological impact on the spirituality of those present

  15. William says:

    The Saint Peter Fraternity offers a “total immersion” program of Spanish at their Mexico headquarters. Were you to defray the costs for sending a priest of your diocese for this training, your bishop would be most agreeable. While he’s learning to speak Spanish, your priest will be constantly exposed to the EF, and will no doubt even participate. He’ll learn the EF by osmosis!

  16. robtbrown says:

    WmHesch says:

    When the ordinary form is said or sung well ad oriented, most differences become academic… You can only play the “reverence” card so far… and I suspect it will become more difficult to play as newly minted priests follow the proverbial red.

    If you’re saying a Latin ad orientem Novus Ordo is very difficult for the laity to distinguish from a TLM, I agree with you. If the Church had kept Latin liturgy but replaced the TLM with the Latin Novus Ordo, IMHO at least 90% of the problems in the Church wouldn’t have arisen.

    On the other hand, the Novus Ordo was said in the vernacular facing the people before the Latin Novus Ordo existed. The NO basic concept was vernacular versus populum.

  17. Absit invidia says:

    Word of mouth is the best advertiser.

    Get a good choir going that can tackle High Mass and sing the sacred treasury of music our Church has passed down to us. Especially polyphony. That right there in itself will draw interest when heard by newcomers and word will spread.

  18. Absit invidia says:

    . . . and yes the above while advertising the sung Latin Mass in your Parish bulletin before each Sunday it happens.

  19. Tom A. says:

    Theres a lot more to the NO vs the TLM than just posture and language. There are significant theological issues that cause many to doubt the validity of the NO. Take the offertory/preparation of the gifts for starters. Plus the NO removed much in the TLM that was deemed offensive to protestants.

  20. Charivari Rob says:

    Be prepared to answer the question “Why?”. Maybe from Father, maybe from other parishioners.

    In the category of “not making extra work for Father” – if you get Father to consider or agree to one-off as a start, sort out a Sunday that’s as much the same as possible for readings between the two forms. That way you’re not giving him the extra task of preparing to preach on two sets of readings.

  21. LeeF says:

    Exposure is what matters. Most folks in the pews of even soundly orthodox parishes like the above have never seen or heard an EF Mass. Concentrate on getting the Latin camel’s nose in the tent door first with a minimal of fuss and effort. Like find a priest willing to do a once a month First Saturday EF Mass of reparation or whatever. And ask the pastor to approve that and mention it in the bulletin. And then go from there.

  22. chantgirl says:

    A good resource for your schola to learn the EF music is Corpus Christi Watershed. They have recordings for the Sundays and major feast days in the EF:

    They also have learning recordings for polyphony:

    I have found Finale to be most helpful for a choir learning polyphony. Many polyphonic pieces on CPDL ( ) can be downloaded as midi files. If you have finale, you can set your computer to automatically download midi files via Finale. Once in Finale, you can change each voice to a different instrument and adjust the volume of each part to make practice mp3 files for your choir. I typically will take and SATB piece and make a practice mp3 file for each voice part, making that voice part a louder piano sound, and the other parts quiet strings in the background. Then I export the file as an mp3 to email to the other choir members. It makes learning polyphony much faster for your amateur choir.

    In a saner world, I could see a sound diocese with a good bishop have a centralized music training practice every week. All of the parishes who wanted to participate could send their choristers to the centralized practice where they would learn the same polyphonic pieces. Then the choristers could return to their parish and use those pieces for Sunday Mass. This would enable a diocese to hire one really talented choir director and pay him well, and more parishes would get good music with less hassle.

  23. Thorfinn says:

    Particularly if one of the interested parties knows the pastor well ….. how about simply asking for his thoughts? Most people like to be asked what they think & pastors generally like an acknowledgement of their canonical responsibility to decide what happens in the parish. If he says, “Hell no!” that’s one thing & it’s good to know but it seems unlikely in this case. I would try to have an open (honest but private) conversation around what the pastor thinks about the possibility and what can the laity do to help make it happen (theoretically). It’s his parish and he may prefer one route over another. Maybe he doesn’t know people are interested in the possibility and wants some time to think about it; maybe he’d prefer to start with the occasional TLM from a visiting priest; maybe he has a parochial vicar itching to learn it; maybe something else.

  24. Titus says:

    Theres a lot more to the NO vs the TLM than just posture and language. There are significant theological issues that cause many to doubt the validity of the NO. Take the offertory/preparation of the gifts for starters. Plus the NO removed much in the TLM that was deemed offensive to protestants.

    Well, yes, but think about the matter from the point of view of experience and perception: within the space of time in which an individual forms an opinion about whether or not he approves or disapproves of a particular set of experiences, he is going to observe and experience little difference between a Latin OF and and an EF.

    Are the prayers the same? No. Are there some odd underlying theological issues with the composition? It would seem so. Were the things you identify, in a general way, done in composing the OF? Yes. Will Bob Pewsitter notice those unless he studies the texts carefully? Absolutely not.

    And do “many” doubt the validity of the OF? No, of course not. The invalidity of the OF is not a defensible position.

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