ASK FATHER: To make or not to make responses in the Traditional Latin Mass?

schola cantorum chantFrom a reader…


Question: I have heard it said that during the Latin Rite Mass [Be careful with your terms.  “Latin Rite Mass” also means Novus Ordo.] the laity should NOT be heard in their responses. I really have no idea if this is the case or not, but I will probably err on the side of being silent for all responses from now on, but I’ll feel badly about it. What, if any, parts of the Latin Rite Mass should include vocal responses from the people? Is it necessary at all? I’ll be happy to clam up.

This is a tough one.   Some congregations are accustomed to make responses and some have been – well – pretty much silenced.

Popes of the 20th century were speaking about “active participation” (and they meant both interior actual participation and outward vocal participation) well before the Second Vatican Council. They advocated making responses. The Holy See clarified the different ways or “levels” of vocally active participation, depending on the sort of Mass being celebrated and the occasion.

In a nutshell, before the Council, it was strongly encouraged that people make responses, especially at Solemn and Sung Masses. This applied often to Low Masses as well, the so-called “dialogue Mass”.

It seems to me that had this been fostered as Popes indicated, there would not been a vandalic rampage through the Roman Rite in the 60’s.

There are various goods in tension.  I’ll leave aside the whole issue of having only clerics speaking the texts of Mass as a non-factor.

First, especially for a Low Mass, there is a lot to be said for stillness and silence, especially in our increasingly noisy world.

However, there is a lot to be said also, during the Missa Cantata or the Solemn Mass, for the outward manifestation of interior participation by the baptized who also share, in their own way, in Christ’s Priesthood.

Are there good reasons, in a Sung Mass or Solemn Mass, not to respond to “Et cum spirit tuo“, for example?

It is hard for me to think of one.

As a matter of fact, it would be great for congregations who are capable of doing so to sing the Ordinary chants (Kyrie, Gloria, etc.), though that takes a while to learn.  I have an experience of such a congregation at my home parish.  On Saturday mornings, they could sing whatever Mass was appropriate for the day.   It took some years to get them there, but they could do it.

At the same time, I don’t think people should be bludgeoned into responding by someone with a microphone waving her hand around, as often happens with Novus Ordo affliction liturgists.

I occasionally wonder what it would be like to have a Solemn Mass for a church full of good choir members, amateur or pro.  What would it be like to have the whole congregation burst into the Kyrie of the, say, Missa Brevis of Palestrina?

That said, if no one else at the place you are going makes responses – at all – then I don’t recommend making them loudly all by yourself.

I think it would be good for congregations to make responses. People don’t have to shout, but they should not just sit there and stare when they have been addressed by the priest.

If alter Christus says something to you directly, you don’t just sit there and mutely stare or look around.

Each community has to work this out over time.

The bottom line is, however, that the first and foremost way of active participation, which should give rise to any exteriorly active participation, is the interiorly active receptivity we should foster during every Mass. Active participation begins within and then gives rise to outward expression.

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  1. vetusta ecclesia says:

    You advocate sung responses. I do not see why the congregation at Low Mass should not reply as the server does. It would not impinge on the much valued silence of the more solemn parts.

  2. Fr. Reader says:

    [Be careful with your terms.  “Latin Rite Mass” also means Novus Ordo.]
    Thanks for this comment, I think it is important.

  3. I completely agree with your observations regarding silent congregants at sung/Solemn Mass, Father. When visiting various Trad communities across these USA, My wife has often remarked how mute the congregants are, staring seemingly blankly ahead, mute ala 1984. We’ve been abroad and been to masses with vibrant congregations, so we know its not a fault of the rite itself; however, it’s clear there is some baggage here in the US regarding vocal participation at the TLM. Pray that this beings to change!

  4. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    “. . . someone with a microphone waving her hand around, as often happens with Novus Ordo affliction liturgists.”

    A microphone in her hand? Not at one parish in So Cal I sometimes visit. That parish has several women on the altar throughout the Mass, and the one who is the cantrix wears a *headset* like the kind worn by Brittany Spears or Beyonce when they’re performing on stage.

    After experiencing this one time, I tried attending the Vietnamese language Mass at that parish. (I don’t parish-hunt much while travelling, since I depend on others for rides.) I don’t understand a word of Vietnamese, but it is Holy Mass, after all, and the people and the celebrant have not gone off the deep end, as the English-speaking folk at that parish seem to have done.

  5. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    In my experience as a server and in the congregation, it is best for the congregation not to respond audibly at low mass and to respond to the extent that they are able at sung and high mass. I am in, perhaps, the odd position of normally responding loud and clear at low mass, where I often serve, but not at solemn mass, where I think my poor singing voice would hinder rather than help.

  6. JonPatrick says:

    The Sunday TLM we regularly attend is usually a Missa Cantata with a small but excellent choir. The congregation usually sings the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei as well as the responses at the Sursum Corda, Ite Missa Est, etc. We generally use the Missa de Angelis so after a while everyone is used to it and it is not hard to sing. Often we also sing something at the offertory if the music has been provided, recently it has been O Sanctissima, other times Adoro te Devote, all things that are not hard for a congregation to pick up.

    I have been to other places though where responses are discouraged, especially at a Low Mass.

  7. APX says:

    You advocate sung responses. I do not see why the congregation at Low Mass should not reply as the server does. It would not impinge on the much valued silence of the more solemn parts.
    This topic came up once with one of our priests from the FSSP, whose superior also was visiting, and was thus part of the discussion. The FSSP will have dialogue low Masses if that was the custom in the parish because the congregation is able to make the responses together and in accordance to the cadence of the prayers at Mass. Otherwise they leave it to the servers to avoid the sea of cacophony that ensues. Currently we are working on just being able to recite the Leonine prayers together at the same pace.

  8. Markus says:

    During our altar server training (4th grade parochial school) we were taught that we responded for the people. We memorized the Latin responses. We were to respond loudly and not mumble, even while bowing. At daily Mass, two served, sometimes four, with two trainees. Sunday high Mass, always four served. This was during VCII. During daily Mass, the 8th graders sang the Propers of the Mass including the Psalms, practiced the day before, from the choir loft. In Latin. I have witnessed some congregations, of late, not only responding in Latin, but using hand jesters while doing so during the Latin Mass. Confusing.

  9. Andrew says:

    I am one generation before Vat. II (Europe) and I remember clearly: the congregation was not silent. However, there was a sense of freedom: it wasn’t this herd mentality: you could join or not join, as you pleased. And certainly, at a quite daily Mass you didn’t vociferate. But at a crowded Sunday morning Mass with glorious organ music (I don’t remember a single church that didn’t have an organ) the congregation was heard from a block away. And they used to choose the least intricate Gregorian modes (unlike these days); every child knew them by memory. I also don’t remember any of the rococo customs of the ministers kissing the cruet and of holding up the corner of the priestly vestments. (Could I have missed it in all those years? I don’t think so. Perhaps these things come from Italy? You know: Italians!) These days it all feels a bit too tense and a bit staged.

  10. moconnor says:

    Hey Father,

    You said “I occasionally wonder what it would be like to have a Solemn Mass for a church full of good choir members, amateur or pro. What would it be like to have the whole congregation burst into the Kyrie of the, say, Missa Brevis of Palestrina?”

    Well, I invite you to come to the CMAA annual chant and polyphony colloquium. They celebrate Mass each day of the event, both OF and EF. The entire congregation is made up of trained singers! Quite a sound to behold.

  11. TonyO says:

    During our altar server training (4th grade parochial school) we were taught that we responded for the people.

    I admit that I am not going by actual historical information, but sheer inferential projection, but anyway: I strongly doubt that the practice of having, and training, altar boys to respond “FOR THE PEOPLE” could ever have arisen other than as a result of the responses being in a language that is no longer the vernacular. That is, it is a purely historical accident that does not itself comprise an actual perfection of liturgical form.

    There is nothing distinctly RIGHT that it be the altar boys instead of the people.

    If that is so, I strongly suggest that there are clearly parts of the Mass really ought to be from the people actually (in the ideal practice, that is), and it is really a diminution from the ideal that it only be altar boys. Not necessarily everywhere, of course. Isn’t obvious that in the Credo, saying “I believe” implies that each member of the faithful should be saying it? Maybe I am approaching this too simplistically, but it seems to me that Fr. Z is right: more vocal participation was both asked for by the pre-Vatican popes, and would have prevented some of the destructive vehemence of the backlash “reform” carried out after.

  12. donato2 says:

    A very interesting topic. I believe that it is natural and appropriate for the people to sing responses at the High Mass, with the important exception of people who are tone deaf (I am one such person — I sing the responses only under my breath). [Thanks!] At low Masses however I believe only the Altar server should say the responses. The audible participation of the people strikes me as contrary to the spirit of the low Mass.

  13. Nathan says:

    This is one of the elements of the TLM I’ve come to really love over the years. The fact that the laity’s role in the Holy Mass is not prescribed in the rubrics (I seem to remember some of the Novus Ordo missalettes a few years ago printing things like “The people, with the priest, now make meaningful gestures toward each other and sing a song”) gives the Faithful a degree of, well, freedom in participation. IMO, that is part of the dignity of the laity.

    If it’s not a distraction, is it bad that some congregations respond “Et cum spiritu tuo” and others sing the Gloria and Credo while others don’t? To me, it is endearing when I hear people show that they are new to the TLM by saying an extra “Kyrie Eleison” after Father says the last one at Low Mass–they are trying to pray the Mass, after all. And, as Father Z points out, communities tend to work these out over time, especially if we approach it with the idea of the freedom and dignity of the laity in mind.

    While there are many liturgical points of the Novus Ordo that bother me, perhaps one of the most grating is the sense of “enforced lay participation” by some other layperson at a microphone. An announcement “We stand as a family after receiving [Holy] Communion because we are all one community and are in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are waiting in line” is much worse, IMO, than risking a hairy eyeball from a Trad because you said “Et cum spiritu tuo” aloud.

    In Christ,

  14. I like having the people say the Servers’ responses. I think it helps newcomers to the EF Mass, and even some skeptics, to see that the people are not mere “spectators” (which is a charge we often here). It also requires the people to study the parts of the Mass.

  15. Gabriel Syme says:

    You can sing the responses at a sung mass, given there is a group of people singing anyway. But don’t sing too loudly as probably the average Catholic is not as gifted as the average member of a choir/schola (I know I am not).

    But do not make any responses at a low mass – part of the servers job there is making the responses on behalf of the congregation.

    This is how is goes at the SSPX Chapel I visit.

    It is almost the same at the Diocesan TLMs I visit, except there – at any type of mass – people insist on saying “Domine non sum dignus….” along with the priest prior to the lay peoples communion.

    Although it is well meant, personally I detest this and regard this apparent requirement for lay people to be noisy as unfortunate cross-contamination from the novus ordo.

    Probably the main reason I dislike it is because I know full well that, in time, it will grow arms and legs and then, thanks to some genius clergy, the lay people will be saying the Pater Noster and then the Confiteor, and then this and that etc and rite will become deformed. The atmosphere of the mass will become drastically different. And hey why not have an offertory procession? What about a kids band?

    The servers practice their latin and their pronunciation is good. In the main, lay people do not practice their latin and their pronunciation is not good. Additionally, in every congregation there are always some people with no sense of timing and who cant help but start or finish a response half a syllable (or sentence) out of kilter with everyone else. And so the group response becomes a burst of rambling, instead of a crisp, succinct response.

    Let the servers do their jobs people. The Roman Missal (1962) is quite clear that the server makes responses, not the lay people.

    And we really must get this “change and difference for their own sake” out of our system. Look what it did to the Novus Ordo.

  16. Gregorius says:

    I’m probably in the minority; I think people should be allowed and encouraged (though of course not obligated) to make responses at Low Mass. Not only for the people’s benefit, but it I think it can also help priests slow down and help them contemplate the texts.
    From my experience at (public) daily low Mass, when the priest is only addressing the one or two servers, he tends to talk faster and quieter (and that erroneous idea that this is okay because of the assumption that people in the pews won’t understand any of the spoken Latin is another post). Priests that make sure people make responses do speak the Latin slowly (and I understand some people might find that condescending), but hey, it’s public prayer, the whole point of the Latin etc. is that it SHOULDN’T reflect normal speech.

  17. Gregorius says:

    I think the CRNJ does the best job in making pastoral use of all the response options for the TLM.
    For more reading, google their article “the traditional Mass is not a spectator sport”.

  18. Rich says:

    Gabriel Syme, the 1962 Missal is indeed clear on the point that servers make responses, but is not clear on that point that lay people do not. There are even some rubrics in versions of the 1962 Missal I have encountered which indicate that the Domine, non sum dignus… is said by all those who are to receive Communion. And, the servers’ jobs entail more than making responses, so making some responses with the servers in no real way prevents them from doing their jobs. A few lay people’s lisping “Et cum spiritu tuo” does nothing to prevent the servers from assisting the priest with the cruet, etc. at the Lavabo.

    And, I will take Fr. Z’s word for it on this issue as opposed to that stemming from how things are done at your SSPX chapel. Note, for example, Fr. Z’s deference to how the matter was in the process of evolving based on the word of popes. Such provides a vastly more authoritative word on the matter as opposed to the faux authority that many at SSPX chapels presume to evoke on such matters as this.

  19. Chaswjd says:

    Pius XII — Mediator Dei 1947:

    192. Besides, “so that the faithful take a more active part in divine worship, let Gregorian chant be restored to popular use in the parts proper to the people. Indeed it is very necessary that the faithful attend the sacred ceremonies not as if they were outsiders or mute onlookers, but let them fully appreciate the beauty of the liturgy and take part in the sacred ceremonies, alternating their voices with the priest and the choir, according to the prescribed norms. If, please God, this is done, it will not happen that the congregation hardly ever or only in a low murmur answer the prayers in Latin or in the vernacular.” A congregation that is devoutly present at the sacrifice, in which our Savior together with His children redeemed with His sacred blood sings the nuptial hymn of His immense love, cannot keep silent, for “song befits the lover” and, as the ancient saying has it, “he who sings well prays twice.” Thus the Church militant, faithful as well as clergy, joins in the hymns of the Church triumphant and with the choirs of angels, and, all together, sing a wondrous and eternal hymn of praise to the most Holy Trinity in keeping with words of the preface, “with whom our voices, too, thou wouldst bid to be admitted.”

  20. There are in the Roman liturgy parts that properly belong to the clerics serving in the sanctuary and those that pertain to the congregation as a whole. The difference is obvious at Sung Mass. The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar are not heard (or said) by the congregation because the Introit is being sung while they are said. What is sung at the Sung Mass was historically the part of the congregation (Ordinary) or the schola of trained singers (Propers).

    As I demonstrated in my book _Cities of God_ (, the congregation (lay people) sang all the simple parts of the Ordinary up to the end of the middle ages. In Italy there was even a provision for vocal participation in hard parts like the Creed—they sang the Kyrie again after it to show they accepted the content of the Creed. In fact, the pre-Vat-II mute-sheep congregation was a creation of the Post-Tridentine (misguided) effort to exclude the people from any participation at all—in reaction to the Protestant idea of the “priesthood of the laity.”

    I am all in favor of the congregation making the responses at Low Mass (and singing them at High Mass). But the form of dialogue Mass that had them doing ministerial responses like the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar was (and is) wrong-headed.

  21. Athelstan says:

    Re: The interesting phenomenon of silent TLM congregations. I think there are two developments at work here:

    1) First in order of time is the dominance of Irish piety in the English-speaking Catholic world. For reasons that would take too long to unpack, Irish prelates (and laity) had a strong tendency in many places, from Dublin to Detroit, to deemphasize exterior participation in the liturgy. This resulted in even many (most, in some places) Sunday Masses being Low Masses, and congregations not joining in even when the Masses were sung. This tendency was often carried over by the TLM congregations which began reemerging in the 1980’s and 90’s – it was what they remembered doing back before the Asteroid hit, and they assumed that this was the way it was supposed to be done.

    2) Secondly, there’s clearly been a mindset among some trads that congregational responses are the sort of thing you get in the Novus Ordo, and especially the worst, most loopy Novus Ordos. So they overreact in the other direction: Silence, please. Followed by basilisk stares.

    I think this is becoming less of a thing as tradition grows out of the ghetto; but there are certainly some notable TLM communities where this praxis remains strong.

  22. NomenDeiAdmirabileEst says:

    This is a subject I’ve always found incredibly confusing. What proper lay participation looks like is the one element of the EF that I still struggle to understand after five years of frequently attending it. I usually read prayerfully through the rite in English as the priest offers the prayers formally. But following the Ecce Agnus Dei, I always recite, “Domine, non sum dignus…” In some places that seems to be the norm. In others people turn around and give me dirty looks. But I’ve never been given an authoritative reason not to.

  23. wolfeken says:

    Here we go again.

    “Are there good reasons, in a Sung Mass or Solemn Mass, not to respond to ‘Et cum spirit tuo’, for example? It is hard for me to think of one.”

    We can start with the Missal, which has a part for the priest and a part for the acolyte. There is no audible part for the congregation.

    If the congregation is going to make the responses, why bother having altar boys or a schola?

    A better option would be for men and boys to take the time to become acolytes in the sanctuary and cantors in the schola. This, of course, takes time and effort.

  24. bkalafut says:

    Perhaps it’s an obtuse question: why, these days, would a mass celebrated with the people present not be at least a Missa Cantata?

    Around here even sometimes on solemnities the EF Mass is a Low Mass. Perhaps for lack of asking I have never heard why this is so.

  25. TonyO says:

    If the congregation is going to make the responses, why bother having altar boys or a schola?

    Wolfeken: Do you think that the congregation did not give the responses at Mass when Latin was their vernacular language?

  26. Sword40 says:

    Interesting discussion. It has been my experience that responses were more or less variable customs from parish to parish, in the EF. As there are no rubrics for the layman, then local customs would prevail. Our low Masses are pretty much silent while our Missa Cantatas and Solemn Masses are sung. Choir does the Propers and all of us join in for the Ordinary. The Pater Noster is the priest’s domain.

    The Missa Cantata is a great Mass for someone coming over from the Ordinary Form of the Mass but invariably they try to sing the Pater Noster. It often leaves them confused.

    We get lots of visitors every Sunday and most of them seem to be pleased with their experience. I always encourage them to come back and join us for coffee. we try to make them feel welcomed.

  27. asburyfox says:

    The split between the dialogue TLM and silent TLM is a regional one between northern Europe and southern Europe. The Italians and southern countries tended towards the dialogue Mass, while the Irish and the north towards silence.

    At the diocene TLM is my area, the congregation is silent whether it is a low Mass or high sung Mass. The pastor does not beilieve in the dialogue Mass. He says singing belongs to the choir and responses belong to the servers. That if people want to sing and respond, they should join the choir and altar service. This attitude probably has to do with the influence of the diocene priests who the vast majority were of Irish descent in this diocese in the decades before Vatican II and have now declined the last two decades.

  28. Vincent says:

    Good topic!

    Rich says that he refuses to accept an “authority” that the SSPX may claim. Certainly they do some odd things but the fact remains that many people who go to their Masses (at least here in England) are old enough to remember how ‘things used to be done’. Actually, I was in Fatima with them a couple of weeks ago and interestingly the entire congregation said the Domine non sum dignus out loud.

    Intriguing, given that the FSSP claims that’s an “English” custom.

    In general there’s a lot of confusion about what ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be done. That’s partly because we have no living memory (or barely any) and are inventing our own new customs. In such cases, the harking back to the way things used to be done will simply die. In other places, the things that used to be done will, lamentably, be lost.

    A few examples of the inconsistent things we find in the TLM all around us:
    SSPX bishops vest in the sacristy, not at the altar.
    SSPX laity around the UK don’t say the Domine non sum dignus out loud, but the FSSP laity do.
    Many ordinary parish priests would kill you if you so much as looked at their hands with a mind to pecking them.
    The Institute make the rules up as they go along, celebrating Mass according to the 1955/6 missal or not depending on their mood.
    Fortescue has changed significantly between the first edition and the latest 14th? Edition, e.g. Married couples are now outside the sanctuary for their nuptial Mass despite the 1st edition having little to say on the matter and photographic evidence from the 1940s to the contrary…

    What I’m getting at is that there’s no ‘right or wrong way’ because nobody has the monopoly any more on what is right or wrong. Personally I can’t stand the Institute’s blue cassocks and ludicrously over the top style of doing everything, but others like it. Thankfully we’ve got lots of variation in the way Masses are said, which means we can each find something we like. Now that’s got to be the reform Vatican II was looking for!

  29. APX says:

    why, these days, would a mass celebrated with the people present not be at least a Missa Cantata?
    Surely you’re not suggesting that every Public Mass in the EF is a sung Mass? That would mean sung Masses every day of the week for us. Since, as far as I know, none of our choir and schola members can bi-locate yet, that just isn’t possible since we’re all volunteers and have jobs often when there is daily Mass, even Sundays sometimes.

    Even if you don’t mean every day sung Masses, it’s still logistically not feasible since many people have other commitments such as work. Furthermore, it takes a lot of time and work for the schola members, who are usually volunteers, to prepare the propers for Mass. Sometimes there’s no one to direct the choir/schola because a feast day conflicts with another work commitment elsewhere. It’s about quality, not quantity.

    That being said, you’re more than welcome to join your parish’s schola and suggest having all Masses with people present be sung Masses.

  30. Alice says:

    Every time a question like this comes up, people complain that the laypeople can’t possibly sing in tune or pronounce Latin. Why not? Well, clearly, because nobody has taught them and priests who want good liturgy don’t want to deal with the learning phase for the congregation. I could walk into the local Lutheran school and chat with the principal or the pastor on the importance of teaching Latin and music and he’d tell me exactly what methods his school uses and maybe even let me listen to some darling kindergarteners reciting a prayer in Latin or singing one of the settings of the Office. At the higher-than-the-sky (and too liberal for a traditional Trinitarian blessing) Episcopal church, the choir school would be drilled in Latin and proper cadence so as to lead the congregation. If I walk into the Catholic parish school my children attend, the principal would tell me that nobody teaches Latin anymore and Spanish is so much more useful. As to passing on our great Catholic musical tradition? I’d get blank looks.

  31. Angela says:

    When I was was last in UK, I happened to attend Mass twice on the same day – one which was the same Feast in the two calendars – I went to an FSSP TLM in the morning and later to a NO with my mother in the afternoon. The contrast was palpable. I had a peaceful TLM (Low Mass) where I responded interiorly, or almost silently, and it really was one of the most recollected Masses I’ve had. Later on at the NO I noticed that I felt a bit exhausted and not very recollected because of having to concentrate on all the externals, being the same Feast I felt it quite acutely. I will happily sing the responses at a sung or high Mass, but at low Mass I think it’s good not to feel pressured into responding audibly to everything. As someone else noted above – I have also noticed the speed at which some priests offer the TLM, I do understand most of it, and I’m not quite sure why they say it so quickly. As I tend to go to the FSSP or ICKSP it has surprised me.

  32. Markus says:

    My server experiences were in the Diocese of Peoria (Sheen) and Franciscans from Cincinnati. Historically, the server only response came from the architecture of Medieval times, Rood screen, as well as the ringing of the bells, before and during, the Elevation. The architecture of the Rood screen was abolished with The Council of Trent. The use of bells was not, however, as local languages were changing from Latin to parochial, as some speculate.
    The implementation of the Epistle(s) and Gospel, in the vernacular, was welcomed by those in the pews, the first major change after VCII, as I recall. Prior to that, most carried the St. Joseph’s Missal to Mass, Latin on the left, English on the right (or the other way around).
    Perhaps the Mass responses, in Latin, is more in keeping with the “organic” development that Pope Benedict spoke of.

  33. Gabriel Syme says:


    I was in Fatima with them a couple of weeks ago and interestingly the entire congregation said the Domine non sum dignus out loud.

    Intriguing, given that the FSSP claims that’s an “English” custom.

    Interesting points, I think you have it upon something in that there seems to be national variation in what is done, which I suppose is more reasonable than variation from parish to parish.

    I have never been to a TLM in France, but I am told dialogue masses are big there. But I have been to a couple of TLMs in Germany and they seem to include many vernacular hymns.

    At the end of the day, we should be glad to have a mass to go to!

    Rich says that he refuses to accept an “authority” that the SSPX may claim. Certainly they do some odd things but the fact remains that many people who go to their Masses (at least here in England) are old enough to remember how ‘things used to be done’. Actually,

    I remember speaking to an older man who said he had visited the SSPX and he insisted the mass was different from what he remembered as a youth. Perhaps faulty memory is at play.

    That said, I know that before the reformation all or most of the UK used the Sarum rite (Salisbury use) which obviously stopped at the time of the protestant revolt.

    I had always assumed that, after the Catholic restoration in the UK, they were using the roman rite as we do today, but i wonder if they were in fact use Sarum again – up until Vatican 2 (another protestant revolt? – haha! ) – and maybe this explains why the man experienced a difference when re-acquainting himself with traditional liturgies.

    I don’t have a lot of direct experience of different types of rite, but was recently fortunate enough to attend a Dominican Rite mass said by Fr Aidan Nichols OP in Cambridge. It was interesting to compare with the Roman Rite I am used to.

  34. KateD says:

    This post reminds me of the following story:

    The new bride is making her first big dinner for her husband and tries her hand at her mother’s brisket recipe, cutting off the ends of the roast the way her mother always did. Hubby thinks the meat is delicious, but says, “Why do you cut off the ends — that’s the best part!” She answers, “That’s the way my mother always made it.”

    The next week, they go to the old bubbie’s house, and she prepares the famous brisket recipe, again cutting off the ends. The young bride is sure she must be missing some vital information, so she askes her grandma why she cut off the ends. Grandma says, “Darling, that’s the only way it will fit in the pan!”

    A very holy, learned and wise American priest, raised with the old Mass, once told me when he was first saying the EF in Paris, he just about jumped out of his skin when the people responded. He was so used to the silence of the parishes in the USA. Father explained to me that the silence did indeed come with the Irish and their priests who immigrated to this country, and brought their faith as well as their customs. Silence was observed by these Catholics not out of an abundance of piety, but out of a healthy regard for maintaining their own skin. In Ireland, where the faith was suppressed, if the Brittish occupiers discovered the Mass being celebrated, they would kill everyone in attendance. The priest got it the worst. So the people took many precautions, including having it said in secret places, with lookouts to warn of any dangers, and being silent while only the altar servers quietly responded on their behalf. (BTW, I understand this is not a matter of ancient history, but to this day, in the North, the persecution persists.)

    So I say, if you’re living in a place where the faith is not surpressed, be grateful and if the mood strikes you, by all means, SPEAK UP. There are many Catholics throughout the world and history who would love to, but can’t or couldn’t.

  35. KateD says:

    In re-reading that last comment, it sounds like I’m saying the Mass is still suppressed there. For clarification: Catholics are persecuted, but the Mass is permitted.

  36. Vincent says:

    Hello Gabriel. Unfortunately when the Catholic hierarchy was restored in the UK the bishops of England and Wales chose to use the Roman form of the Roman Rite rather than the Sarum Use, so it shouldn’t be the case that anyone remembers that!

    I think it’s probably to do with faulty memory, combined with local variations. Two examples, from my experiences. My priest friend (whose website is linked to my name) said Masses for a small group in the parish for some time. He had been ordained in the old Rite and obviously had been trained in it at seminary. He couldn’t believe how much the Mass had changed. He remembered them being similar, which they were for a couple of years, but had always thought that the NO in Latin was essentially the same. Faulty memory, conditioned by the fact that he had said each of the variations of the Mass between 1962 and 1969. I think that slow move was what had blurred his memory.

    My second example is about local customs. My father distinctly remembers his father standing up and reading the Epistle and Gospel in English, from the pews, while the priest was reading it in Latin on the Altar. Abuse, odd local custom, widespread custom at a particular time? Who knows… This was in the early 1960s ir lat ’50s. Certainly not something that we’d think of as likely to happen at a TLM today.

    Personally I like that we have an opportunity to relearn and ‘renew’ the Tridentine Mass, for me it means we can remove some of the faffing (hand kissing, very undignified) and also learn to value the Low Mass which has immense spiritual value. We’re surrounded by so much noise that silence is so important. Where better to experience silence than at Mass?

  37. “Active participation begins within and then gives rise to outward expression.”

    Indeed, a cogent summation, especially inasmuch as the relationship between the contemplative and the active is found elsewhere in the life of the Church. That being said, the variation from one parish to another, concerning the outward participation of the people assisting at the Traditional Mass, can be easily explained.

    The “dialogue Mass” as we know it today, originated in 1922 (when Bugnini was only ten, so he’s off the hook, if just this once), and was permitted by indult, with the definitive norms set in September, 1958, by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, in its instruction De Musica Sacra et Sacra Liturgia, which outlined several levels of outward participation, leaving their implementation to the discretion of the local bishop (as opposed to the personal sensibilities of the priest, as is the prevalent understanding today).

    That’s the short explanation. The long one can be found on Wikipedia.

    In the United States, much depended by the mid-20th century, on the part of Europe whose faithful settled in that region. Growing up in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, settled largely by French and (especially) German Catholics, outward participation was encouraged, both in music and in spoken responses. I distinctly remember as a young lad when the faithful responded to the “Orate fratres” with the “Suscipiat,” and to the “Ecco Agnus Dei” with the triple “Domine non sum dingus” (yes, even at a High Mass). We learned the various Mass settings as students in the “Archdiocesan Young People’s Hymnal,” and studied the Ward Method in grade school.

    Then I moved to the east coast, where the Faith had been brought largely by the Irish, fresh from the bogs where nary a peep could be heard during Masses held in secret. The first time I attended a Traditional Mass in DC, I responded to the priest as I always had, and was quickly admonished by a young man in the pew in front of me, whose mother and father were unlikely to have even met by 1962 (the year I received my First Holy Communion).

    The misconceptions regarding this practice are legion. Fortunately, the rubricist Louis Tofari has written some brilliant essays on the history of this practice (and yes, Virginia, there is a history). I recommend them highly, especially to would-be rubricists in the pews, before issuing admonitions.

    Liturgical Principles & Notions concerning the Dialog Mass
    Some Further Clarifications in relation to the ongoing debate about the Dialog Mass

    Personally, I would draw the line with the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, given their origin as a private devotion between the celebrant and his attendant(s), only being incorporated into the Mass proper by the late Middle Ages.

    But hey, that’s just me.

  38. “Not only for the people’s benefit, but it I think it can also help priests slow down and help them contemplate the texts.”

    The sacredness of the liturgy certainly is not made manifest when priests and alter servers recite (rather than pray) the texts in rapid-fire fashion. What’s the point in following along with a missal when the priest and servers will leave you in the dust. That behavior is very detrimental to one’s ability to embrace the awesome “prayer” of the liturgy. It is absurd to say the least. Does anyone recall St. Loius de Monfort’s lamentations about people’s rapid-fire praying of the rosary. I can’t imagine he didn’t feel equally dismayed about the liturgy. Beloved priests, please be considerate. It’s not your liturgy, it’s all of ours and we deserve to be able to follow along even if you insist we do so silently.

  39. wolfeken wrote:

    “If the congregation is going to make the responses, why bother having altar boys or a schola?”

    Having trained dozens of servers for the Traditional Mass myself, as well as any number of Masters of Ceremonies, I can assure the readership (who may not be watching at any given moment) that they do more than make responses.

    As to the schola cantorum, its essential task is to chant the Propers of the Mass for that day or occasion. In his 1903 motu proprio “Tra le sollecitudini,” Pius X promoted the restoration of Gregorian chant, and the place of the congregation to sing the Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, etc) as being proper to them. (Bugnini was not born until 1912, so he can’t be blamed for that either.) it would follow that the brief responses would be within the congregation’s purview as well, as the priest is not only addressing the schola when saying “Dominos vobiscum.”

    Finally, I cannot help but notice that most reactions here are solely on the basis of personal taste. There is nothing wrong in itself with having a preference, but it is presented as if the Church Herself would have no opinion on the matter. Can anyone here honestly believe that She would not?

  40. kat says:

    In the US (and probably worldwide) SSPX teaches the desires of St. Pius X on the people singing. Thus if one attends their ordination ceremony, for example, one will hear the Kyriale being sung by the Faithful, and doing so by alternating between the schola and everyone else for the Kyrie, and every other line of the Gloria and Credo, and the Sanctus and Agnus Dei with intonations by the schola. The faithful also sing the Te Deum and other pieces with the choirs. All responses are sung.

    In the various SSPX chapels throughout the country and the world, the high Mass responses seem to normally be responded to by all; however the singing of the Kyriale with the choir depends more on the local customs of the area or the chapel itself.

    As for the low Masses, the dialogue Mass is used in some chapels from long time custom, and never in others.

    And in some of the chapels, the dialogue Mass is used only for school Masses, to help the children learn the Mass well,and to keep their attention on the Mass.

    In all the chapels with either congregational singing or responding in dialogue, there has been, at least at some point, teaching the faithful/school children, so it is done well.

    As mentioned often above, it seems to be very much a dictate of local custom, although the official stance of the SSPX is congregational singing. I think sometimes it may not be seen as worth the fight if a local group simply refuses to take part, because “it was never done that way here!”

    I first saw the dialogue Mass in France in the early 80’s, and did not like it. However, when our priest wanted the school children to learn it, I began to see the benefits, and learned to love it. Thus our school Masses have been dialogue for 20+ years (and they all sing responses and The Kyriale at their high Masses, with the schola made up of students for the Propers). At least 8 of the 18 Kyriale modes can be chosen to be sung at any time, plus the full Requiem.

    When done well, congregational singing and the dialogue Mass can be very inspiring; but I think it will always have its opponents!

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  42. Imrahil says:

    It depends on whether the given Mass is, or is not, a Silent Mass. In a Silent Mass, the voice of the people should not be heard, because that’s the point of a silent Mass. The one obvious exception is the “Domine non sum dignus” immediately preceding the laity’s Communion. The priest should not be heard with anything more in a Silent Mass, either, because, well, it’s a Silent Mass. Exceptions are the lesson and Gospel if they aren’t repeated at the beginning of the sermon, if some people are actually present for the Silent Mass. In its nature, though, the Silent Mass is a Missa sine populo, to which some people may happen to appear.

    It goes without saying that, no, the Silent Mass should be used only by way of exception for the parish daily-Masses (to be silent of Sundays and higher feasts), even if these are Low Masses. Of course, on Sundays and higher feasts, the principal Mass of the day should not be a Low Mass in any case.

    In Masses that are not Silent Masses, of course the people make the responses that are “laity responses” in nature while we can leave open what to do about the more “clerical” ones. That is, the people give all responses, with the possible exception of the prayers at the foot of the altar (which are “the celebrants and ministers of the Holy Sacrifice preparing themselves”), and the Suscipiat

  43. Imrahil says:

    Dear kat,

    there is one desire of St. Pius X the SSPX does not fulfil, and that is male-only scholae.

    They are right, though, for all the due reverence we have for the saint. The function of the schola is to represent the community, not to be an extension of the special priesthood (which a lector would be); and the community does contain women.

  44. Imrahil says:

    Dear wolfeken,

    the Missal is meant to be a handbook, if a sacred one, for use by the priest. It doesn’t contain the people’s part because that is of no concern to the Missal. It does not forbid people to say anything either. Hence, the thing is, if you will, “undecided” by the Missal; it has to be decided in the most liturgically logical manner possible. This manner is that the people say the responses that are in nature responses of the congregation.

    If the congregation is going to make the responses, why bother having altar boys or a schola?

    a)Altar boys:
    Counter-question:Why have more than one altar boy, when one obviously is enough to do the responses?
    To do the kneelings, the offering, to carry the candles, ring the bells, bear incense, and all the sort of things altar boys do. Not to mention that the entrance procession looks a bit meager if it only contains the priest.

    b) Schola:
    1. Because people always say they can’t sing. In my view, some few rather medicinal cases set aside they are wrong; everybody can sing*; but I find people do not usually agree with me there.
    2. Because it’s rather physically demanding to sing an entire piece, say the Gloria or a sequence, without pausing in between. Whence the usual “some lines schola, some lines congregation” procedure.
    3. Because to sing the Propria, apart perhaps for sequences, requires training; by which I don’t only mean that with some additional training the thing is going to sound some additional bit better.

    [* Of course, this may sound awkward at first. Which means you have to bite the sour apple and just do it, though people may stare. It will get to sound better while water flows down the Danube.]

  45. kat says:

    Tis true.

    We can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

    It is more often out of necessity than anything else.

    St Pius X lived in an age when there were many men to fulfill all the desired roles!

  46. New Sister says:

    I love the variety I find in my now 8 years of assisting at the Tridentine Latin Mass… I find laity at the Fraternity (both FSSP and SSPX) parishes in France vocalize responses, but in a low dignified manner.
    Most Fraternity parishes in the USA are the complete opposite, with the laity remaining mute & leaving all prayers/responses to the schola/servers.
    Arlington diocese is mixed – one can find a parish that sings all responses & propers with the schola; parishes where the laity say nothing until the prayers after Low Mass; to a parish where the pastor encourages a full-on “dialogue Mass” with laity saying all responses and, in the same-said parish, the vicar asking us to be quiet & leave it to the alter boys when he offers Holy Mass.
    I love the variety and in all circumstances am GRATEFUL to have access to the Holy Mass of All Ages.
    I think it’s best to observe the decorum and norms of the parish in which one finds oneself, and the only “error” really being to sing out loudly over a beautiful schola when one sings badly.

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