Catholic Herald: Is there really an Old Mass revival?

17_06_09_CH_screenshotFrom the UK’s best Catholic weekly the Catholic Herald, print edition (subscribe HERE).  My emphases and comments.

Is there really an Old Mass revival?

Ten years ago Benedict XVI lifted restrictions on the Old Rite. So what had changed in Britain, asks Dan Hitchens

At any time between the 1960s and about a decade ago, it would have seemed an unlikely occasion: an English bishop conferring the sacrament of Holy Orders on two deacons, according to the Extraordinary Form. Nevertheless, on Saturday June 17, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool will be doing just that, at  St Mary’s Church in Warrington.

The priests-to-be, Alex Stewart and Krzysztof Sanetra, are members of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), which has a special attachment to the traditional liturgy.

Archbishop McMahon has designated St Mary’s as a centre for the Extraordinary Form (EF). The parish priest, Fr Armand de Malleray, believes these are the first EF ordinations in Britain in decades.

Rather neatly, the ordinations come just a few weeks before a significant anniversary. On July 7, 2007, Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum, a motu proprio (papal edict) which gave priests and communities much more latitude to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Missal. They could do so privately without needing permission from a bishop; if the laity requested the EF, “the parish priest should willingly accede.” [Sometimes I call it the Emancipation Proclamation.]

Summorum Pontificum has had a big cultural impact as well, according to Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society. The EF “has a place in the life of the Church today which would have been unthinkable before 2007”, he says. More and more priests and bishops are celebrating the older rite. Institutes such as the FSSP are growing: “Formerly, the 1962 Missal was regarded as legally and theologically dubious even by many on the ‘conservative’ side of the debate in the Church: that attitude has now simply gone.” [That’s not the case everywhere, alas.  There is still strong opposition, though they disqualify themselves by their shrillness.]

Recent developments vindicate Shaw’s point. In February, Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth established a permanent base for the traditional Latin Mass at St Edward the Confessor, Peverell, which has a weekly EF Mass. Catholics in the Diocese of Leeds have the same opportunity, at St Joseph’s, Bradford.

Meanwhile, the Oratorians, a congregation known – among other things – for celebrating both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form with reverence, are growing quickly: in the past few years four new Oratorian communities have sprung up.

On the ground, too, priests are increasingly open to the EF. The Latin Mass Society said that EF Masses at Easter rose to a “record” level last year, with 200 such celebrations across Britain.

There seems to be a particular apostolic energy emanating from some traditional communities. [Important.] Take Gosport’s Marian Franciscans, who (as Constance Watson reports on page 22) have just set up a radio station.

All that said, the traditional Mass remains a relatively small part of the Church’s life. It is perhaps disproportionately popular with certain groups, such as younger Catholics. [Also important.  Think of this in terms of long term demographics and the “Biological Solution”.] What  some find an aid to devotion and prayer – the Latin, the silence, the solemn attention to liturgical detail, the fiddleback vestments, the  Gregorian chant, etc – is to others distracting or confusing. [1 Cor 3:2]

Shaw believes that the biggest obstacles to the spread of the EF are practical ones: “Priests’ lack of time to fit in extra Masses, and, next in importance, priests’ ignorance of Latin, which is a barrier to their learning and gaining confidence in it.”  [From my experience with priests I know this to be true.]

Nevertheless, Benedict’s 2007 document has had a significant ripple effect, which goes beyond those communities where the EF is most cherished. [We can call this “mutual enrichment”.  I also call it a knock-on effect.] The writer Joanna Bogle says: “Summorum Pontificum enormously helped the now widespread ‘reform of the reform’ of the liturgy, and in the longer term I think this will be its major significance.”  [Another comparison I’ve made is that Summorum Pontificum formed part of Benedict XVI’s “Marshall Plan”.]

Increasingly, Bogle argues, the liturgy resembles what Vatican II intended. “We have the benefits of reform – a measured pace of the Mass, audibility, being able to pray with the priest ‘from the heart’ rather than just following on a printed page, and so on – but without the gruesome gimmicks that fluttered around during those first post-Council years.”

Moreover, she says, it has become clear that the two forms are not so different. “I go to the Extraordinary Form occasionally, but I have actually found that having it available has made me appreciate the Ordinary Form in new ways,” Bogle says.

The process which began in 2007, then, continues to develop in unexpected ways. Benedict?XVI merely pushed the first domino.

For years I have insisted that Benedict XVI laid out, especially in Summorum Pontificum and his own ars celebrandi, in his writings before his ascent to the See of Peter, a kind of “Marshall Plan” for the Church.

You long-time readers here will remember this, but it has been a while since I’ve presented it.

Here it is again:

After World War II many regions of Europe were devastated, especially its large cities and manufacturing.  These USA helped rebuild Europe through the Marshall Plan so as to foster good trading partners and, through prosperity, stand as a bulwark against Communism.

After Vatican II many spheres of the Church were devastated, especially its liturgical and catechetical life. We need a Plan to rebuild our Catholic identity so that we can stand, for ourselves as members of the Church and in the public square for the good of society, as a bulwark – indeed a remedy – against the dictatorship of relativism.

The use of the older form of Mass is the key to revitalizing our sacred liturgical worship.  Revitalization of our sacred liturgical worship is the absolutely essential foundation, the ultimate sine qua non for the renewed life of the Church.  Without a rightly ordered sacred liturgy, none of our initiatives will succeed.  Hence, the importance of Summorum Pontificum.

What we are doing is of supreme importance.  It is essential that we do it well, intelligently, prudently, joyfully, relentlessly, lovingly.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, Benedict XVI, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Joseph-Mary says:

    The Gosport Marian Franciscans are/were Franciscans of the Immaculate (FFI).

  2. Grabski says:

    Would the EF grow more quickly if the 1962 vernacular translations were used? I think YES

  3. West of the Potomac says:

    I’m a Summorum Pontificum baby. And at first, I did find that the EF helped me appreciate the OF more. I prayed better at those OF Masses. I could see where things came from, and was able to make connections. But over the past nine years something has changed.

    Whereas I used to bounce week to week between EF Masses and very reverent, Reform-of-the-Reform OF Masses, I don’t anymore.

    I go to the EF almost exclusively on Sundays unless I can’t for some reason. And as I sit at, again, very reverent OF daily Masses, I really wish there was an EF Mass being offered instead.

    The more I have immersed myself not just in the EF Mass, but also the calendar, traditions, and rhythms of our liturgical and theological patrimony, the less nourishing the OF is for me. 1Cor 3:2 indeed.

    Thank you, Benedict. And thank you, Father Z. It was here at this site where I was first introduced to all of this.

    BTW, I miss the Don Camillo podcazts!

  4. Emilio says:

    Glorious picture of Bishop Slattery at the High Altar of the DC National Shrine. I was blessed to be in attendance at that epic event, where even the many side chapels were themselves standing room only. It was one of their largest, most successful event EVER.. so ofcourse it was never allowed to repeat itself since, by the powers that be. I wish I could print it and frame it as a treasured souvenir.

  5. Tom A. says:

    I was in a similar place a few years ago. But now I cannot attend any Novus Ordo liturgy. It has become too painful.

  6. andy1_p says:

    The Bishop of Plymouth, Mark O’Toole has done what we could never have dreamed of before. We are all very grateful to him. I am honoured to be organist at St Edward the Confessor, where we have a growing congregation, keen young altar servers, along with a most excellent priest.
    Throughout the county of Devon, the EF is growing.
    Long may it continue.

  7. acardnal says:

    I am 62 and grew up with the TLM before the Novus Ordo Mass of Pope Paul VI was introduced at Advent of 1969. I believe there is definitely a revival going on and I am happy about it! More than one-half of the people attending the TLM/EF Mass today at the parishes I visit are younger than 47!! That means they did not know or experience the TLM previously as I did. But for some reason there they are on Sundays because they prefer to worship with the reverence, beauty, transcendence, music, prayers and Latin of the TLM. Thank you Pope Benedict XVI for Summorum Pontificum.

  8. Jackie L says:

    “Shaw believes that the biggest obstacles to the spread of the EF are practical ones: “Priests’ lack of time to fit in extra Masses, and, next in importance, priests’ ignorance of Latin, which is a barrier to their learning and gaining confidence in it.” – I understand this barrier, though there may be a long-term practical payoff as well. I travel the U.S. frequently and for each Latin Mass community I have visited there have been multiple vocations to the priesthood.

  9. agnus says:

    We can have the privilege, but good luck claiming it. A disapproving bishop can make a priest’s life hell.

  10. Pingback: SATVRDAY CATHOLICA EDITION | Big Pulpit

  11. frmh says:

    Having spoken with other priests in England who say the EF we have kind of come to the conclusion, that, as things stand, the revival is largely among priests.

    It is priests who have discovered how much the EF enriches their priesthood, and how much in deepens their friendship with the Lord. That is why we can see it offered more widely.

    But I tell you, and I know from experience, there is still relatively minor take up from laity. The article speaks about “young people” embracing the old Mass…. that is a pretty minor thing and I think it is limited to young people travelling across London, and then probably Oxford. Out in the countryside you don’t get that impact.

    The aim of most priests is to try and gradually win a few people over to the EF, we love it and appreciate it far more than the laity do. Our congregations for EF our small and we would say the EF even more frequently if we got a good response, but a lot of ‘conservative’ Catholics get touchy about altering their Novus Ordo which to them seems to have always existed and only existed.

    Of those 200 ef masses at Easter, I expect the average congregation would have been about 30. Ordinarily, a Mass of 30 would not justify an additional weekend Mass. But it is the priests in the England who have fallen in love with the EF. We need more bold attempts to try and lead the lay people to discover the riches of it.

  12. chantgirl says:

    West of the Potomac- I have had the same experience. The EF began as a curiousity for my in my 20s, and now it is my mainstay.

    frmh- That seems to be the polar opposite of the US, at least in the Midwest, where the faithful are clamoring and it can be difficult to find diocesan priests willing to oblige. I have noticed that diocesan EF masses here are the ones who attract the smaller crowds, while the FSSP and the Institute EF masses attract the most people, and the larger families. Where families have a choice between a once a week/month EF mass and an EF parish with all of the extras that go along with that, they gravitate toward the EF parishes. I truly think that the diocesan priests who try to establish the EF have the worst time of it, getting flak from superiors and parishioners.
    I also wonder if it isn’t just easier to have a larger family in the US than the UK, as far as economics, healthcare, and education go. Here you will still find a sizable counter culture of large families, Catholic and Protestant. In the EF parishes I have visited, the average number of children per family is around 6 or 7. We still, for now, have relative freedom in the US to educate our children as we wish, and it is still possible financially to raise a larger family here, and even though our health care system has largely been trashed by Obamacare we still have christian health sharing coops that are affordable. When the millennial generation is in charge of government, I expect many of our educational freedoms will disappear, but for now we still have relative freedom.

    I have heard a faithful, liturgically sound English priest opine that he desired that there would be just one large family in his parish to evangelize others, but had no such family. Either way, I am glad that the EF is gaining adherents among the priests there. The restoration has to start somewhere, whether that is priests opening up new doors, or the laity pursuing the restoration like the tenacious widow from the gospel.

  13. Henry Edwards says:

    “frmh- That seems to be the polar opposite of the US, at least in the Midwest, where the faithful are clamoring and it can be difficult to find diocesan priests willing to oblige.”

    Also the polar opposite of the southern U.S., and in my diocese we have plenty of young (ordained post-2000) TLM-ready diocesan priests. Always families with 4 to 9 children, who probably bring the median TLM age down int0 to the 30s.

  14. Grant M says:

    I used to think the OF as it was at my local parish was fairly reverent and beautiful as OF Masses go. Then I got made contact with our local Latin Mass Society and the SSPX, and began attending the EF for up to three Sundays a month. After that, when I had no choice but to attend the OF in my parish, I found the experience quite different. Now the temptation is to sit in my pew making a running criticism in my mind of what is going on, like an unusually dyspeptic reporter from the Remnant. Of course you can’t worship like that, so I have to learn to switch of that internal voice, and go with the flow.

    Sorry, Bogle, I find the two forms are very different. In theory you can celebrate the OF so it is practically indistinct from the EF. In practice, the OF, as it is de facto (ad populum, EMs, EP2, vernacular, handshakes, microphones, chatty congregations, etc – you know the litany) breathes a totally different atmosphere from the EF. And it seems that the reformers of the Roman Rite intended this difference. What was the point in concocting a new rite, if it was to be celebrated in a manner that made it indistinguishable from the EF?

  15. Mike says:

    Like all human-centered conceits, the Novus Ordo is crumbling to ruins. Neither Satan nor his minions are one bit pleased, so we must continue to work and pray.

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