My View For Awhile: Capital Edition

After Holy Mass, I dashed to the car and zoomed to not too distant Milwaukee’s aerodrome. I’m off for a quick assault on museums of the nation’s capital and for meetings with a priest and lay people about an upcoming pilgrimage which is being organized.

I like this “Recombobulation Area” after security.

You’ve gotta have a sense of humor in traveling these days.

Ah the perks…

Here we go again. Inevitably in the premium boarding process there are those who would trample new born puppies to get onboard before you. They invariably have headphones. Often they wind up getting stuck on the jet bridge 3 passengers in front of you. It is mildly amusing when their bag doesn’t fit in the overhead and, like guy who chosen too high a seat at the banquet must seek the “pink tag”.


For a dear friend, about to enter a new phase.

Meanwhile… just so that everyone knows….

I contacted the people at the Shrine about saying Mass.  Everything was cordial and happy and accommodating…. then I mentioned “Extraordinary Form”.

That’s when the chill and obstacles began.

I was told that to say the Extraordinary Form at the National Shrine, special permission was required from The Rector..

Special permission.  I waited for a response.  Nothing.

Let me be clear that the very nice person I spoke to by phone when trying to figure this out is in no way to blame.  She was extremely gracious.

Never mind that Summorum Pontificum is LAW for over a decade.  Never mind Pope Francis’ concessions to the SSPX.  Never mind everything else, including mere hospitality!   Apparently, the if you want the older form of Mass at the Shrine…  this is the Rector’s shrine and “those people” it seems… well…

St. Peter’s Basilica? No problem.  The Rector’s Basilica?  Keep moving.

So many altars.  Nothing going on at any of them, even though they weren’t built for mere decoration.

Everything was all sweetness and welcome… then I mentioned the Extraordinary Form.

So, my visit to the National Shrine with my friends was great, but tinged with real sorrow.  I walked around in the Basilica with that cloud over my head, asking Mary to help.

It has been hard to be treated so shabbily by stingy priests for so many years.  But that’s the deck we have been dealt.

Those of us who still want what John Paul II called “legitimate aspirations” are sent to the back of the bus.

They can do whatever the hell they want, but those who have “legitimate aspirations” must make sure that they aren’t in town at sundown… or else.

We don’t need your kind ’round here.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. AA Cunningham says:

    I was under the impression that Domus Dei requires that all minor basilicas celebrate, at a minimum, one Extraordinary Rite Mass every week.

    I visited the National Shrine back in 2015 and requested, well in advance, a brief meeting with Monsignor Rossi as I wished to discuss whether or not an English translation of Domus Dei existed. The staff at the Cathedral Basilica in Denver cannot find the original, written in Latin, they received from the Holy See in 1979 and there was a small group of us who were attempting to have Summorum Pontificum implemented. We felt that the requirements outlined in Domus Dei might bolster our request.

    Several weeks after I returned home from DC I received a brief note from the rector stating that he was not aware of their being an English translation of the aforementioned document.

  2. iPadre says:

    I find the words: “The Rector’s Basilica” astonishing. Didn’t we the Roman Catholics of the USA recently have a collection to support the completion of the dome? Enough said.

  3. ServusChristi says:

    I’m sure there’s plenty of other Cathedrals and Basilicas whose high altars haven’t been used for offering the TLM for over 50 years, but whose rectors have been accommodating to the FSSP in their dioceses and wouldn’t mind you celebrating mass.
    That aside, I’m not all that surprised at the number of clergymen and nuns who continue to attack the TLM. In claiming that ‘we need to excavate the mass offered during pre-Nicene times’, they’ve also claimed that we need to ‘only move forward, not looking back’.

  4. Peter Ignotus says:

    I had a similar experience saying Mass at Fatima. So many beautiful side-altars in the Basilica, and they put me in the bridge from Star Trek (I was by myself). No crucifix to be found, only 3 wooden blobs that were supposed to represent the Holy Family. Would have liked to offer the EF, but knew better than to ask. Still, would have been nice to use the Canon, but all their books only contained EP II. Fail.

  5. APX says:

    Why do priests, when asking for permission say it’s the EF? Is it really necessary? Do other priests say they’re saying the OF when asking permission?

  6. teomatteo says:

    That impressive home to our Lord was built with the EF as its only option. Oh how we denigrate our past generations that have sacrificed and built so much for us.

  7. Gregg the Obscure says:

    With respect, was it necessary to mention that you intended to celebrate the Vetus Ordo? Could you not have simply asked if, say, the Guadalupe altar might be available for you to celebrate on a certain date?

  8. jbazchicago says:

    Just tell Walter Rossi he has no chance of becoming a bishop and he won’t care anymore.

  9. Charles E Flynn says:

    We can be thankful that you were not asked to check your biretta.

  10. Dear Father:

    I’m sorry to hear about your difficulty at the Basilica. If I may ask, do you think it was a question of them having the particular necessaries (altar cards, maniple, Missal), or did you say you would supply them? If the former, perhaps interested persons in the Washington area could offer to contribute them; if the latter, that is particularly disappointing.

    I do know that the sacristy used by priests offering Masses on side altars has vestments used for Eastern liturgy.

    [I told them I could bring missal and cards. Also, I asked if they had everything needed for the TLM and I was told that they do. Moreover, I’ll bet they fall all over themselves when Eastern Catholics come to the Shrine. Those who simply want the traditional Roman Rite that that Basilica and the majority of its many altars were built for get to go to the back of the bus, if they are permitted to board at all. I didn’t think to try to drink from one of the water fountains while I visited the Shrine. Honestly, the whole thing leaves me truly saddened. The prejudice is hard to explain in these days of “mercy”.]

  11. Winfield says:

    In light of this inexcusably shabby treatment — and just plain lack of manners — it will be some time before I make another donation to the Shrine.

    [I must RUSH to repeat that the lady I spoke with on the phone and exchanged emails with was very nice. She was stuck in the middle of this and she should in no way be blamed for the callous attitude of others or their cavalier approach to hospitality and the Church’s legislation.]

  12. I understand there is a specific chapel (Our Lady of Lourdes) that is used for the TLM. It has its own very small sacristy with suitable vestments and other accoutrement. I served a Low Mass there a few years ago, for an FSSP priest leading a group of pilgrims from Harrisburg, PA. If there were any complications at the hands of the staff, I didn’t see any.

    Other than that, it’s been my experience (such as it is) that everything at the National Shrine is tainted with more curial drama than really necessary. That might explain some of the molehill-turned-mountain. I have my suspicions as to the source, but that is all they are.

  13. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    A Pontifical Solemn Mass according to the Missal of 1962 will be celebrated at the High Altar of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on April 28, 2018, at 1 pm. The celebrant will be Archbishop Alexander Sample. The event is organized by The Paulus Institute: All are welcome. The last such celebration was in 2010, for which our Reverend host was a commentator.

  14. Lucas says:

    jbazchicago: He is definitely a priest looking for advancement, I’m sure he’ll get it sooner rather than later.

    Fr Z: I’m not surprised about your issues. There was always issues with the EF at the Shrine. The bookstore couldn’t advertise their EF merchandise and when Bishop Slattery had his mass there, I found out that they were quite unhappy with the cappa magna. There used to be a EF in the Lourdes chapel on Wednesdays but I’m not sure what happened to it. It wasn’t a “on the official schedule” type item, but just something a priest from CUA would have.

  15. I experienced a similar challenge recently at the Shrine. I was in DC back in October and I had requested ahead of time to offer a private Mass in the Lourdes Chapel (I didn’t think I needed to mention E.F.), even having a “letter of good standing” sent from my bishop ala. Dallas Charter c.2002 forwarded to Cardinal Wuerl and CC’d to Mons. Rossi! A day or so before I left home, I received an email indicating that they had received the letter, but, if Mass was to be the Extraordinary Form, they also required a letter that explicitly stated that I was competent to celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form. I calmly replied that such a letter could not be requested given the shortness of time, but that I had been regularly celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the previous decade. Someone at the shrine did a little internet investigation involving Google-ing my name and satisfied himself (or herself) that I was legit! They agreed that, “this time, we’ll allow it, but next time you need a letter!” *eyeroll*

  16. Henry Edwards says:

    The “Rector’s shrine”???

    Thanks for letting us know how cordially our NATIONAL Shrine (aka “America’s church) welcomes TLM priests. Good to remember when the next batch of monthly solicitations arrives and poses the question which to toss without opening (thus saving time as well as money).

  17. Kathleen10 says:

    Heh, just wait til Vatican II gets beatified along with Paul VI.
    They’re making it all but illegal, and if they can make it illegal, they will. Their intentions are perfectly obvious. There is crystal clear animus behind all of the words and actions coming out of Rome toward tradition and Catholics who hold to it. They really hate us.

  18. Fr. Lovell says:

    I was ordained a priest just six weeks prior to the release of “Summorum Pontificum.” I mention this because from the very beginning I have experienced the joy of the EF as well as the backlash. The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was, at first, a place you could celebrate the EF with ease and joy. In January 2008 I contacted the liturgy director, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington whom I believe is still in that post, of the possibility of having the EF at the Shrine during the March for Life (which is a very busy time for the Shrine). He was very accommodating telling me what he had done to prepare the Shrine for the EF. New Roman vestments, new albs, new amices, altar cards and missal. He said that the small sacristy attached to the Lourdes chapel was where they housed everything needed for the EF. The sisters who are the sacristans kept the linens in pristine condition. As Fr. Z and most priests who travel often know, to find a sacristy which has clean linens and vestments is not always a guarantee. The liturgy director also made it clear that any altar except the high altar in the upper church could be used. While I am a Midwest priest I am also an alum of Mt. St. Mary (the original) and have good friends in the Dominicans who studied across the street from the Shrine at the Dominican House of Studies. This made me very familiar with the Shrine lay out since I had been there many times as a seminarian. I chose the Lourdes chapel. My intention was to have a low Mass but a group of seminarians from the Mount and DHS offered to sing so I decided to offer a Missa Cantata. The liturgy director was excited at this prospect and asked if he could tell others and I said of course. He wondered if the Lourdes chapel would be large enough and offered the crypt altar as a possibility. I said that we should keep it in Lourdes unless the crowd exceeded the space. It did not but we had a large group and I had so many teenagers from our group wanting to serve I had to teach one how to be the thurifer at Mass. As I mentioned already the March for Life is a busy time for the Shrine perhaps the busiest of the year and I was impressed by the great strides the liturgy director and the sisters took to make sure everything went smoothly for my group. A few months later I was back in Washington for a Dominican friend’s ordination. Once again the Shrine staff bent over backwards for me. I had a Missa Cantata in the Upper Church at the altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at the request of a friend who has great devotion to Her. A few years later in the summer 0f 2011 I was assigned for further studies at DHS. The liturgy director now told me that the EF could only be celebrated in the Lourdes chapel and that a letter from the bishop/superior of the priest was necessary even if the priest had a celebret. The rector and the Cardinal Archbishop are not fans of the EF so it does not surprise me that now one needs permission fro the rector.

  19. David says:

    Another sad fact is that these people are not, I think, theologically sophisticated enough to have an intellectual position that could explain their behavior. All they are going on is that they know the Pope doesn’t like the EF and if they want to be good careerists (which the Pope is said to hate but really thrives on) they won’t like the EF either.

  20. JonathanTX says:

    I second the question by APX above: why volunteer that it would be an EF Mass? Does the host church need to know that for a practical or logistical reason? As a layman, I’m ignorant of what is common procedure for a visiting priest wishing to say Mass at a church.

    As for the “Certificate of Qualification” to say the EF Mass described above by Fr. Totton, couldn’t one just point to can. 249 and 252.3? A request for proof of qualification to celebrate the EF Mass implies that the one making the request doesn’t believe the seminary has been doing its job of making sure its graduates are competent in Latin and both forms of the Roman Rite. Quite an accusation!

  21. Mike says:

    As I understand it, the Basilica falls under the aegis of USCCB. It would seem that a quiet word from Cardinal DiNardo to Msgr. Rossi could restore the rights of EF celebrants with little fuss.

  22. New Sister says:

    @AA Cunningham, what is “Domus Dei” (encyclical?); could you provide a link to it? (even if only in Latin) I was unable to find it via search on Thank you,

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    USCCB sez: “Norms concerning minor basilicas were established after the Second Vatican Council in the Decree Domus Dei promulgated on July 6, 1968 by the Sacred Congregation for Rites (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 60 [1968], 536-539).”

    In my browser, the English page at only has links up to Acta 41, but the Spanish version does link to a much larger list. (My browser has been doing weird loading, though.)

    Here’s Acta Apostolicae Sedis 60, with the relevant Latin.

  24. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Sure enough, on page 538, the Decree “Domus Dei” says, in Article 8 of the Obligationes:

    “8. In quavis Basilica, pro opportunitate, diebus praesertim festivis, una alterave Missa, sive lecta sive in cantu, lingua latina celebretur. (3) In eiusmodi Missis cantatis gregorianae melodiae vel sacra polyphonia peculiari cura et studio proferantur.”

    There is also a teeny-weeny footnote (3):

    “(3) Cf. Const. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 54; Instr. Inter Oecumenici, n. 59; Instr. Musicam Sacram, n. 48.”

  25. gaudete says:

    From USCCB (
    “Norms concerning minor basilicas were established after the Second Vatican Council in the Decree Domus Dei promulgated on July 6, 1968 by the Sacred Congregation for Rites (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 60 [1968], 536-539).”
    AAS 60 can be accessed here:
    Its n° 8 contains dispositions about Latin (regarding language, not form) Mass.

  26. Emilio says:

    I was a lay MC at the National Shrine for several years. I have known both the current and previous rectors, and I can assure anyone that they are RUTHLESS climbers, with little to no patience toward anyone or anything in the way of their advancement. If the prevailing winds are liberal, as they now are, they will adjust their sails accordingly. If they are conservative, rest assured that they will be the first to dramatically change their stripes. The Shrine is indeed strongly associated with the USCCB, but the Archbishop of Washington is always president of the Board of the Shrine, and his word is undisputed rule there. I don’t need to remind anyone here that the incumbent is no friend to things traditional. As someone who once had close ties to the Shrine, I’m saddened that Father was treated like he was, but knowing the culture of the Shrine (and of the ecclesiastical circles dominating DC), I am not surprised in the least. At least you experienced the courtesy you deserve from some of the other staff.

  27. New Sister says:

    @Suburbanbanshee & @guadete
    thank you for the information search – I appreciate having it!
    A colleague also found it here,

  28. The experiences of others notwithstanding (and which from my own experience are quite plausible), the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes has a Traditional Mass scheduled for every Wednesday at 11:10am.

  29. FrankWalshingham says:

    Living in DC, I have seen then let Dominican priests from across the street and FSSP priests say Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the Basilica. Its a shame they are discriminatory there. Father Harris at St. Mary Mother of God in Chinatown will welcome you there!

  30. clarinetist04 says:

    There certainly are politics at play, no doubt, but to cast Msgr. Rossi as not allowing the EF in “his Shrine” is unfair at best. They have the EF mass every week, the Dominican Rite frequently (as the DHS is across the street) and are doing a solemn mass in the Upper Church in April with Archbishop Sample. They also have the FSSP into the shrine frequently. That doesn’t sound like a place where the EF isn’t welcome.

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