Lovely, drippy, syrupy TLM and vocation video. Then Fr. Z rants about crying.

Pope Francis said something along the lines that certain realities can be seen only through eyes that have been cleansed by tears.

At the Italian site Messa in Latino, I saw a little video, beautifully produced, focused very much on the affective dimension of the experience of Holy Mass in the traditional form of the Roman Rite.

It also underscores visually and viscerally what I am constantly banging on about: the knock on effect of the TLM on priests and on people in the pews.

Some may be tempted to say that it is “sentimental”.

A thoughtful person, however, would reflect that the affective compliments the intellective.

There’s nothing wrong with some “sentiment”.

There’s also nothing wrong with our older, traditional prayers dripping with what today we might regard as “flowery” or “syrupy” language. There’s nothing wrong with “flowery” language in prayers. We don’t have to be terse and jejune all the time. That’s not how we are made.

On that note, you should know that there was and is in thing Catholic thing of ours a tradition of praying for the gift, the grace, of tears. In the Missale Romanum there are prayers for the gift of tears.

What comes first? Understanding and then belief? Belief and then understanding? Nisi credideritis non intelligetis… You will not understand unless you first will have believed.

What comes first? The tears and then the understanding?

Why do we bother to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries?

Again, Pope Francis once talked about the gift of tears to the priests of Rome in 2014.

Tell me: Do you weep? Or have we lost our tears? I remember that in the old Missals, those of another age, there is a most beautiful prayer to ask the gift of tears. The prayer began like this: “Lord, who commanded Moses to strike the rock so that water might gush forth, strike the stone of my heart so that tears…”: the prayer went more or less like this. It was very beautiful. But, how many of us weep before the suffering of a child, before the breakup of a family, before so many people who do not find the path?… The weeping of a priest…. Do you weep? Or in this presbyterate have we lost all tears?

Do you weep for your people? Tell me, do you offer intercessory prayer before the Tabernacle?

In about 412 Augustine wrote about prayer in a famous letter to Proba, a weathy Roman widow of the important gens Anicia. She had fled with her family and some pious women to North Africa after the Sack of Rome to found a religious community. She had asked him about how to pray. The bishop, who had a great deal to do in his busy life, took time to exchange letters to her and we, incredibly, have them. She was, after all, one of the wealthiest women anywhere and, more importantly, she had picked up some Pelagianism along the way. Among the deep advice of this long letter, Augustine wrote:

To use much speaking in prayer is to employ a superfluity of words in asking a necessary thing; but to prolong prayer is to have the heart throbbing with continued pious emotion towards Him to whom we pray. For in most cases prayer consists more in groaning than in speaking, in tears rather than in words. But He sets our tears in His sight, and our sighing is not hidden from Him who made all things by the word, and does not need human words. (ep. 130.10.20)

Without additional rambling, here are the prayers “Ad petendam compunctionem cordis .. In order to beg for compunction of the heart” from the 1962 Missale Romanum (in earlier editions Pro petitione lacrimarum) together with my close conversion into the vernacular of this blog.  These orations can be added to the other orations of another Mass formulary.  Some younger readers here might not know what “compunction” is.  In Latin we have a compound of cum+pungo – “puncture severely, sting”.   English “compunction” is just that: a strong sense of unease due to regret or hesitation about some act.  In Latin it is stronger.  It has the effect of, “piercing with remorse, the sting of conscience”.

I might just play a bit with the metaphrasing:


Omnipotens et mitissime Deus, qui sitienti populo fontem viventis aquae de petra produxisti: educ de cordis nostri duritia lacrimas compunctionis; ut peccata nostra plangere valeamus, remissionemque eorum, te miserante, mereamur accipere. Per Dominum nostrum.

Almighty and most gentle God, who for Thy thirsting people drew living water from forth a rock, from forth our stony hearts do Thou now draw tears of compunction, that we may be able to beweep our sins, and we may merit while Thou dost show us mercy to receive their forgiveness.

First, I like that chiasmus with the de and verbs.  Off the top of my head, I wonder if there isn’t an exitus – conversio – reditus pattern underlying that use of produco and educo on either side of the flex.  Remember: everything is from God. The very sense of sorrow is prevenient.  The very prayer being sung in this moment is God’s first and only truly ours when we raise it back on high as an offering.


Hanc oblationem, quaesumus, Domine Deus, quam tuae maiestati pro peccatis nostris offerimus, propitius respice: et produc de oculis nostris lacrimarum flumina, quibus debita flammarum incendia valeamus extinguere. Per Dominum nostrum.

Look favorably, we beseech Thee, Lord God, upon the offering which for the sake of our sins we offer to Thy majesty: and from out our eyes draw a river of tears, by which we might manage to quench the ragings of the flames that they deserve.

A master of emotions and of Latin constructed these prayers.  Take note of the synchesis in lacrimarum flumina… flammarum incendia.   There are other “gift of tears” forumularies through our history, such as those found in the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary.  These, however, are lovely.


Gratiam Spiritus Sancti, Domine Deus, cordibus nostris clementer infunde: quae nos gemitibus lacrimarum efficiat maculas nostrorum diluere peccatorum: atque optatae nobis, te largiente, indulgentiae praestet effectum. Per Dominum nostrum… in unitate eiusdem Spritus.

Into our hearts, Oooh Lord, Oooh God, pour gently the Holy Spirit’s grace: which will cause us to cleanse with sighs the stains of our sins and, so long as Thou dost bequeath it, fulfill for us the effect of forgiveness.

I know what you are thinking.  That gemitibus made me do it.

There are tears of sorrow, of mourning, and of joy which all flow from the same source.

Okay.. back to work and…


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ms. M-S says:

    Jesus wept for our sins. Are we such ingrates as not to offer such unworthy tears as we are able to shed?

  2. Charlotte Allen says:

    I quite enjoyed the video, syrup and all. The chiaroscuro lighting reminded me of the Godfather movies and their rendering of Catholic liturgy. This in turn made me wonder how much cinematographic debt Coppola owed to the Italian Neorealist film-makers of the immediate postwar period, who employed a kind of black-and-white chiaroscuro. “Open City” is a perfect example.

    And I wondered if the young woman in the video who slipped into the church to watch the handsome young man, now a priest, don his vestments, had once been his girlfriend. Now, she was making the sacrifice.

    What is sad is that when I was a child, all the Masses in all the churches were pretty much like that. Not quite such beautiful vestments and vessels perhaps, but close enough.

  3. iPadre says:

    Wow! That is a beautiful moving video. I didn’t want it to end.

    My favorite scene was when the priest changed into Jesus. That’s us. Alter Christus! How blessed are we to stand in for our dear Lord. Introibo ad altare Dei… Oh what a joy to be a priest of Jesus Christ.

  4. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The video is sentimental, but very well done. I think it captures well the edification many feel when they first discover the pious devotion contained in the Extraordinary Form of the sacred liturgy.

  5. LeeGilbert says:

    from de Rancés On the Sanctity and Duties of the Monastic State:

    St. Jerome, penetrated with sorrow, cries out on the same subject:

    If I had no faith I would not pray at all; but if I had a true faith, I would take care to purify this heart by which God is seen. I would strike my breast. I would water my face with my tears. My whole body would be seized with a holy awe. Paleness would be imprinted on my countenance. I would cast myself at the feet of my God, I would bathe them with my tears, I would wipe them with my hair, I would cleave fast to the foot of the cross, and would not leave it until I had obtained the pardon of my sins.

    But now it frequently happens, that during my prayer, I am walking in galleries, or counting the interest of my revenues, or, that allowing myself to be hurried away with immodest thoughts, I entertain such things in my mind as I cannot utter without blushing. In such conduct, where is my faith? Was it in this manner that Jonas prayed in the whale’s belly, or the three children in the furnace, or Daniel in the lions’ den, or the good thief on the cross?

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  6. LeeGilbert says: walking in galleries, or counting the interest of my revenues,

    Indeed. This is why the true full, active and conscious participation desired by the Council Fathers is very hard. It begins in being actively receptive to what God wants to give us. That requires stillness, even suffering to a degree in self-emptying before the difficult, challenging signs that permit an encounter with mystery. We learn swiftly that listening, watching with true attention, is really quite hard.

  7. What a beautiful screen shot of our Lord’s Blood dripping into the chalice! As a late vocation, I spent many early years way from the Mass, but not from going to Mary’s altar for help. I understand the tears; I wept today at the consecration for awesome gift of the priesthood.

  8. Charlotte Allen says: the young woman in the video

    Yes, the girlfriend angle also occurred to me. However, I think it is more likely that she, in her lovely, flashy, worldly dress and lofty heels, is the next in the vocational chain that has begun to generate its links. I suspect that this experience in the church, at that Mass, will lead her to the convent. This doesn’t necessarily exclude the first possibility, of course. But I think that that may be the trajectory.

    As far as influence of Italian Neorealism and Coppola – on an ITALIAN director – is concerned… well…!

  9. iPadre says: My favorite scene was when the priest changed into Jesus. That’s us. Alter Christus!

    Note also that one of those moments of the Mass was the “Supplices te rogamus” when we “plug in” to the altar which that most unusual and, therefore, profound gesture of our finger tips against the altar’s face. We make the sign of the Cross over the Body, the Blood and, first associating ourselves with the sacrifice by kissing the altar mensa, over ourselves, showing how all three are priest and victim simultaneously.

    That’s not something that everyone sees, of course, because Mass is ad orientem. But it is a deeply intimate moment that probably shouldn’t be on display.

  10. fishonthehill says:

    I think all in all a good clip. A little Italo sentimental/sappy. But the pace of everything slowing down is wonderful. And as you say, Fr. Z….. Brick by Brick; this is an example of Soul by Soul led to conversion. Its a slow process but through the miracle of the Mass, miracles do happen!

  11. JamesA says:

    So many things to weep about these days, Father. Thank you for giving us a beautiful reason.

  12. iPadre says:

    Fr. Z says: “That’s not something that everyone sees, of course, because Mass is ad orientem. But it is a deeply intimate moment that probably shouldn’t be on display.”

    And that is why every priest of the Roman Rite needs to get it right and learn his tradition. The TLM helps the priest to know who he is, who the Church is, and who Christ is, and his role in it. All in proper order.

  13. KateD says:

    Regarding the priest changing into Jesus….the good one’s sure do get crucified like Him in today’s Church. To me they often look like they have been beaten to a spiritual pulp and don an unseen crown of thorns, though they do not let on that they are in anguish, remaining kind and gentle and generous….always putting the needs of their flock first.

    Has it always been that way? Is that part of a priestly vocation? Is that how He separates the dross from the good stuff within the men He calls and how he purifies them? It’s really intense and painful to witness. And I feel so powerless to help.

    Does it ever stop? Like do you go through it and then you’re good for the rest of the time? It doesn’t seem so to me. It seems like the hits…..Just…..Keep…..Coming.

    I know a young man who was well aware of this phenomenon and how much worse it was for diocesan priests…and then he became one anyway. NOW THAT’S COURAGE!

    Sentimentality may be the draw, but courage makes it stick.

  14. teachermom24 says:

    The video captured what I felt in many churches in Rome. Not too sentimental for me, not at all.

    In 2012, my children and I assisted at our first TLM (St. Francis de Sales, St. Louis). Many tears flowed before it was over, overwhelmed by it all–the beauty, the mystery, the Latin (a bit scary!), the majesty. Good tears flow for many reasons: sad tears sometimes for what has been lost, repentant tears for having offended God, joyful tears for the goodness we still see all around us, “awesome” tears in the face of Truth and Beauty.

  15. JesusFreak84 says:

    A lot of my prayer books from the Christian East also include many petitions for the grace to weep over one’s sins and faults. I’ve heard a legend that the frayed end of prayer ropes was meant for wiping away one’s tears while praying each Jesus Prayer.

  16. Kathleen10 says:

    I think most laity who go to the TLM see the Holy Mass just this way. I think many priests and Bishops and Cardinals and the pope would be surprised to know most laity who go to the TLM see the Holy Mass just this way.

  17. FN says:

    When I first converted, 15 years ago now, I would start to cry every time I received Communion from the priest. His eyes were so holy it seemed to throw a switch in my heart. I was actually embarrassed about it and asked him one time if it was weird—and he said it was the grace of tears. So that’s where I heard about that. I still often cry at Communion unless distracted by wrangling babies.

  18. iamlucky13 says:

    The lighting in the video reminds me of something I’m pretty sure Fr. Z said previously about how church lighting shouldn’t necessarily be about exhibiting the marvelous works of art some churches are blessed with by illuminating them like daytime even after dark. I think the alternate suggestion was the lighting itself can help the art convey what it intended by revealing or at times withholding parts of the mysteries we believe in.

    The excerpts from St. Augustine and St. Jerome are timely for me. I think God might currently be leading me through a rather prolonged and often difficult examination of conscience, and a tangential frustration has been uncertainty how to respond when praying. Those commentaries help.

  19. APX says:

    I thought at first the women was another vocation, but then I noticed she’s wearing a rather flashy engagement and wedding ring set. That might have just been an oversight by those who made the video.

    [I doubt that that was an accident. I must rethink my theory.]

  20. Sandy says:

    It’s beautiful, syrup and all. I know all about the gift of tears! When I feel God’s overwhelming love it makes me cry, or feel His presence. That’s one reason I abhor the sign of peace in the NO. After the intimate adoration of Jesus in the Consecration, we stand up and hob nob with others, unless I can avoid it!

  21. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Of course the gift of tears is common at OF Masses, or any other Rite’s Masses. But a lot of people do not know that it is common. They tend to get curious (asking why people are crying and not even waiting for the end of Mass); or they try to stop Mass from being absorbing and contemplative, because that is supposedly depressing. (Nothing wrong with happiness, but a lot wrong with forcing it.)

  22. Pingback: Who is behind that “Lovely, drippy, syrupy TLM and vocation video” and how are they being treated? | Fr. Z's Blog

  23. Grant M says:

    I was waiting for a post-credits scene in which we see that the young woman has indeed joined a convent, but no…

  24. Charlotte Allen says:

    I watched the video again, this time seeing the engagement and wedding rings, which I’d missed the first time around. They do make the woman more mysterious. She looks too young to be the priest’s mother (although Italian women do age well). Of course, since priestly formation takes several years, she could still be a former girlfriend–who has married someone else during the intervening time. Or perhaps she’s a random visitor to the church (like the priest himself at the beginning), and she now hopes to raise a son to become a priest–or to return to the Church herself after a long absence.

  25. Charlotte Allen: I watched the video again

    It does bear watching more than once! There are fine details which a single viewing might miss.

    I’m intrigued by the choice to put rings on that woman. They do look like a wedding set.

  26. Fr. Kelly says:

    I too am intrigued by her entry. She comes into the church in much the same way as they young man who becomes a priest does. She is wearing rings on both hands and dressed in a fancy red dress. This gives off an aura of worldly engagement. I noted that for the young man, the Mass was in white vestments, but for her it is in red vestments that just about match her shade of red.

    Perhaps the message is more universal than priestly or religious vocation. Perhaps the point is that the Mass draws the heart of people in any walk of life. For him the call was to penitence and then to the priesthood. For her, the call draws her right to the Communion Rail and eventually to her pew.

    No matter what our distractions, the Lord is calling us to Himself in the Mass. If only we will come to Him.

  27. Charlotte Allen says:

    @Fr. Kelly:

    Yes, his red vestments match her red dress (which is indeed very stylish and elegant). There is a bond between them. Since red is the color of martyrdom, that may be the connection. He sacrifices his life as a celibate priest, while she, the bearer of new life as a woman, can transmit the fruits of his sacrifice to a new generation.

    At first I thought the video’s music was awfully corny, but if you tried to substitute specifically liturgical music, it would transform the video into an attempt to record the Mass itself, which it’s not. It’s about the transformation of two human beings.

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