A young priest learns he was lied to about the Traditional Mass

Invariably, priests who learn the Extraordinary (because it’s great, not because supposed to be rare) experience a shift in their understanding of Holy Mass and their position as priest/victim at the altar.

Here is a blurb I picked up from Messa in Latino, in turn from Fakebook.  A priest learns that what what he was told in seminary about the Usus Antiquior was false.  My translation.

Many among priests and laity in no way have enough knowledge about the ancient liturgy to make a judgment.   I don’t really blame them (especially with regard to the clergy), since in the theological faculties professors do not teach about it at all, rather, they run it down it and ridicule it: I know it because I attended those liturgical courses and they did it in the classes that I heard.

But once coursework was completed, I studied on my own, thanks also to the prompting and example of the people I met and to the readings I did.  I took an old missal directly into my hands and started to read it and study it, without making the mistake of my professors: I didn’t stop to say things, like, “Look what they were doing here! How many useless signs of the Cross!”. I went beyond, trying to understand the reason for so many things.  Tackling the chore of understanding, I further deepened my readings and discovered symbolism and meanings of an extraordinary richness that the innovators decimated with a disconcerting ease.

Challenged by this, I had to change my point of view, I had to change my mind about the ancient liturgy and the aberrations of the new, which are its logical and inevitable consequences. The modern liturgy gives ample space to personal customization, the rubrics are often summary, and this more easily opens the way to aberrations, while in the ancient rite everything is well defined (the so-called “rubricism”, a word invented to denigrate and ridicule) and it leaves no room for creativity and improvisation of the celebrant, thus leaving the liturgy to speak for itself, and compels both the faithful and the priest towards eternal realities.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. FrAnt says:

    It pains me each Sunday processing up the aisle to some banal songs we have heard for the last fifty years. Weekday Mass is a bit different, we don’t sing, and Mass is said facing liturgical east. I pray the Novus Ordo in English, mainly because I was not taught or required to learn Latin in Seminary. When I watch the Latin Mass on YouTube, I say to myself; I must learn this, I must bring this to my parish.
    The other day, I told my Director of Faith Formation of my desire to learn the Latin Mass and use it often. I am the only priest in my parish at this time, in June 2020 I will be taking on as pastor another parish (I will have two parishes. I am going from 1800 families to 8700 families.). I thought this would be an opportunity to learn the Latin Mass. I will have two associates so that the Masses can be offered in either form.
    I hope to use more Gregorian Chant as well. (Lord, deliver us from the St. Louis Jesuits et al.)
    There are many things we were either not taught or were taught to despise in liturgy classes. I, like the priest in today’s post, sometimes feel betrayed by my seminary training of the beauty and depth of the Holy Sacrifice.

  2. richiedel says:

    To ridicule the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite due to so many “useless signs of the cross” is a very un-ecumenical attitude toward the liturgy of our Eastern brethren.

  3. WarriorSpirit says:

    Why in the world would ANY Catholic even entertain the idea that the Sign of the Cross, however many times done, could be “useless?” If I were or had been a Seminarian and heard that said, I would hope I would have realized I was in the wrong place.

  4. AveMariaGratiaPlena says:

    FrAnt, you and many other priests are in my and my family’s prayers. I know Our Lady’s faithful priests suffer much, but your faithfulness in light of such trials is noble and heartening. God Bless you and Our Lady protect you.

  5. rcg says:

    Useless signs of the Cross? Like useless ammunition, useless liters of water? The only useless ones are the ones you don’t have with you.

  6. bartlep says:

    Several years ago I was on the Parish Council — a group of very liberal people. I once mentioned that I had attended recently a Latin Mass in our small county in Northern California. Immediately, the pastor started making jokes: did the priest wear a biretta? Did they douse everyone with holy water? Was there singing from the choir loft? A Communion rail? Many were laughing… I was dismayed. Then they got down to business, talking about how we could make everyone feel more welcome at Mass, how music could be changed to get more teens to Mass, etc.
    When I resigned, I wrote a rather strong letter…

  7. Legisperitus says:

    This post reminded me of one of my favorite passages from Chesterton:


    In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

    This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    “…in the ancient rite everything is well defined (the so-called “rubricism”, a word invented to denigrate and ridicule) and it leaves no room for creativity and improvisation of the celebrant, thus leaving the liturgy to speak for itself, and compels both the faithful and the priest towards eternal realities.”


    bartlep: Kudos for raising the TLM, God willing that “Parish Council” will someday cease to behave as if it were lunchtime at Saul Alinsky High School.

    FrAnt: God bless you and your priestly service.

  9. JamesA says:

    As a former seminarian, I must agree with his description of how the EF was treated in class. Terrible.
    One priest professor described (pope at the time) Benedict’s reasoning on ad orientem as “BS”. He also denigrated the Adoration and Benediction Rite, among other things. I used to enjoy (respectfully) challenging him, one of the reasons I didn’t finish seminary.
    I also had two other lay professors berate me in class for liking the EF, both instances totally out of context…as if they had been discussing it around a table somewhere.
    Seminarians : for the love of your vocations, fly VERY LOW under the radar. Deep undercover. If they want to get you they will figure out a way, as Fr. Z knows well.

  10. JMody says:

    HA! I’m reading through these posts from most recent-to-oldest, catching up after some time away. This praise of rubrics and understanding comes right after/immediately precedes the bit about hockey rules preventing a descent into chaos, and engendering a sense of understanding and desire for justice. Coincidence, my foot.

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