A diocese smells the coffee: starts planning for decline of the Novus Ordo and growth of the TLM

A sink hole.

That’s the image I use most frequently right now for what is going to happen to the Church in the near future.

A demographic sink hole is about to open up under the Church in these USA and elsewhere.   Younger people are in large part “nones”, that is, professing no religion.  They will inevitably stop even pretending to identify with the religion of their parents.  As senior, seasoned Catholics pass to their reward, their monetary contributions will be lost.  The children who will inherit or who are building their own fortunes are not going to contribute.  We are faced also with the sink hole opening up beneath the priesthood, too.

The numbers are going to drop big time, both at the altar and in the pews.

What are we going to do with our churches and other buildings?

Some dioceses are starting to think inside the box labelled “T”.

However, a group that is steadily growing are those who want Tradition.   The TLM is growing.

A friend of mine used to say provocatively that one day the Novus Ordo would disappear and only the TLM would remain.  I didn’t buy that at the time.  These days, I’m not so sure.

Frankly, as I have written before, I think that when the sink hole opens two groups will remain strong and vibrant: evangelical converts and charismatics and, on the other hand, traditionalists.   Eventually these two groups will move closer and closer together and start to cross pollinate.  As a matter of fact, I think that it is already happening.

There will be some tentions in that contact, but the results will prove to be amazing.  I might see them in my life, but… who knows?  Motus in finem velocior.

So, I – who am President of the Tridentine Mass Society of the Diocese of Madison – am pretty chuffed by a Tweet I spotted today in my feed.  Take a look.

In some places churches are being entrusted to traditional groups.  Those churches are being saved from closure and loss.

Traditional sacred worship and traditional preaching with strong dedication to works of mercy.

Watch what happens!

We have to think inside the box again.

This merits some discussion and ideas.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    That could be my diocese, although, even though we have a chancery official who could have given that interview, I doubt it for other reasons. But almost every priest ordained here in the last 10 years knows the TLM, although a few only wish they did. Many of them show up to pinch-hit from time to time at regularly scheduled TLMs or to assist with special-event solemn high Masses. It’s what at least several of them say when offering Mass privately.

    The times they are a-changin’ …

  2. majuscule says:

    The Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Belmont California welcomed a Midnight Solemn High Christmas Mass in 2018. And 2019 found a TLM on the first Sunday of every month. This was followed later in the year when a fourth Sunday TLM was moved from another parish where it had struggled for years.

    In 2020, beginning in Lent there will be a TLM every Sunday! (Mass time was 5:00 PM but is moving forward to 4:00 PM in March.)

    More and more people have been attending. Now with a Mass every Sunday people don’t have to remember which Sunday!

    We are fortunate to have the support of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and besides that, the help of the ICKSP, which has locations in adjoining dioceses. Plus the dedicated group of lay people from outside the parish who have been involved with these Masses. One large family is going to make this their home parish. (I’m not sure how many people attend whose parish this is because it has not been my parish.)

    If you are struggling to get a TLM going in your area, don’t give up. Pray! Persist! Ten years ago something like this was only a dream for me. This is the time to have something available so people can make the move!

  3. HvonBlumenthal says:

    I think that laypeople can help in various ways. For example, start a prayer group (in almost any worthy cause) and pray the rosary in Latin. People quickly realise that Latin is not as inaccessible as they thought.

  4. BrionyB says:

    Re the rosary in Latin – I’ve often thought this would be a nice unifying activity for parishes with several different languages (which tend to split into separate communities attending their separate Masses). How wonderful if we could pray together in a common language, in our “mother tongue” as Latin-rite Catholics. Of course the TLM would serve the purpose as well, but you have to start somewhere!

  5. Hidden One says:

    We must not only think inside the box again, but also pray inside the box, too. Let’s not forget Cardinal Sarah’s The Day is Now Far Spent! Ora et cogita.

    Going to Confession inside the box is also a good plan.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  6. moosix1974 says:

    Our parish is one such parish. When our pastor and our TLM community (from two different NO parishes that had a TLM) arrived at our current parish to establish the “Latin Mass Center of the diocese”, there was ONE child there and they were surviving off of the proceeds of the land they sold to the retirement home home. Now we are bursting at the seams and I have been watching our offertory increase weekly. Now there is a parish to the north of us that will have a weekly TLM. I suspect they will grow in time, too.

  7. Ms. M-S says:

    Re the good suggestions right above about saying the rosary in Latin as a group, sometimes the small steps are the best ones, if there’s someone willing to suggest and lead the group. The more confident can speak out while the learners can mumble along until they’re surer of their pronunciation (and, hey, there’s no native speaker criterion with Latin) and at ease with speaking up. This works with the family as well. You do have to start somewhere, and this is a great place to start.

  8. HvonBlumenthal says:

    BrionyB here in Luxembourg that is exactly the situation. In our 60-strong congregation we have the following nationalities: Luxembourgish, French, Italian, English, Spanish, Japanese, Hungarian, Peruvian, Belgian, Dutch. Latin is the only real option.

    In parishes where the vernacular is used, the result is a divisive ghettoisation.

  9. JesusFreak84 says:

    I used to be involved in (“Catholic”) charismatic stuff and all I can say is…keep it faaaaaaaar away from the TLM. You’re far more likely to wind up with a demon than anything benign, let alone good.

  10. tho says:

    If only the Bishops who were at VII could read these comments now, they could realize what a fruitless 50 year journey they have taken us on. Thanks to priests like yourself Father Z, I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. God bless Archbishop Lefebvre, he was there and foretold the consequences.

  11. bowbeforeGodalone says:

    I like the Latin, but don’t go often even though it’s offered where I live. I’m glad they offer it, but I must admit my daily mass is almost always a Novus Ordo. We have some priests who pray the mass so reverently and beautifully, you drink in the words as you hear and speak them.
    So I think reverence is always a key element.
    I do love the adoration prayers in Latin, and cannot imagine Benediction without them.
    Guess I love the option of both. I know I would of struggled going to mass initially if it had been all Latin, for I would not have seen all the Biblical connections.
    What interests me more now, is getting more Catholics to see the value of frequent confession. Our adoration has been taking off too.

  12. teachermom24 says:

    Our rural parish is one that is dying rapidly. We have numerous funerals each year, very few baptisms. Very few of the children of the deceased have remained Catholic. The religious ed program for children has less than half the number today than it did 10 years ago. Sadly, the parish is “Protestantizing” further in a desperate attempt to draw more members. We have only one parish in our diocese where the TLM is offered, a 2-hour drive for us (which we try to make twice a month).

    It seems the TLM is only found in the cities. And it seems all the rural parishes are going to disappear sooner than later.

  13. paulbailes says:

    This good news would be great news if it were an example of a diocese showing leadership rather than following a trend. Maybe the growth of the TLM in this diocese is a result of episcopal leadership, but that’s not evident from the material above.

    I earnestly hope that this is not a case of a diocese simply waking up to the fact that the NOM isn’t going to be a sustainable product, and that if it wants to maintain its revenue base then the TLM is the best way to secure a new generation of taxpaying pewsitters.

    Rash jusdgment you say? Well after 50 years of near-universal worldwide diocesan antipathy to the TLM and its adherents, I don’t think such a judgment can be called “rash”.

    In any case, God bless the TLM-ers of this mystery diocese, and likewise to any men of good will in its chancery.

  14. JTH says:

    My parish has had the TLM for 4 years. When I started attending a year and a half ago attendance was at about 30 people but grew to about 75. The mass was moved to a mainstream time. Those parishioners who normally attended that Mass left for one of the other NO Masses. But in the last couple of months attendance has grown to about 200. Many people are new to the parish I believe, coming for the TLM.

    The rosary is recited before Mass with one decade in Latin. More people, including myself, are learning the prayers in Latin to be able to pray along.

    “Build it and they will come.”

  15. docet.omnibus says:

    Our Archdiocese had a solemn high Mass for the Epiphany on January 6th at the cathedral. On a workday Monday evening the cathedral was full (not more people than an ordination but definitely more people than a typical Sunday morning Mass). It was a beautiful liturgy and very well prepared. I brought a friend with me who had never been to Mass in Latin and afterwards she said “I may not have understood every word but the liturgy spoke to my soul.” We have a parish run by the FSSP in our Archdiocese but there are also a handful of other parishes where diocesan priests will occasionally celebrate Mass in Latin (many more do so in private) and our Archbishop has asked all the Catholic schools and parishes to learn a common set of Latin “mass parts” (Agnus Dei, Kyrie, etc.) so that at large Masses, Confirmations, Easter Vigils, etc. everyone knows the same Mass parts and can participate together. Every parish and school was sent a pastoral letter on the intention behind this and a copy of the exact Latin responses we were to learn (with the proper music!).

  16. HvonBlumenthal says:

    For the avoidance of doubt, I did not mean to suggest that it is the language of the TLM which is most important- it is the theology which is key, not the Latin, and yes, I do believe the NO is a defective way to pray leading to a defective belief; but familiarising oneself with simple Latin prayers makes the TLM seem less daunting to those unfamiliar with it.

  17. MacCheese says:

    I agree for the most part Father, the OF attendance will continue to decline, so too will the OF priests but this decline will be in lockstep with this parish attendance. This will be most noticeable when parish closures and consolidations accelerate. This will in itself accelerate the dying on the vine.
    Meanwhile, the EF will continue to grow at a steady pace. However we are kidding ourselves if we believe it is just the mass, for it is not. It’s having dedicated and faithful priests who teach catechism to their parish weekly. Might I also suggest starting a choir or schola to provide for celebration of a high mass? Finally, recruit some of the young fellows, instruct them on how to serve mass, properly and with fidelity to the little things. All of these actions can make for a truly mysterious liturgy which from the graces will flow.

  18. HvonBlumenthal says:

    I disagree with MacCheese: we are kidding ourselves if we think it is about anything other than the Mass. Where the traditional Mass is said, there you find dedicated priests who teach catechism and people willing to form a schola.

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  20. Kerry says:

    “The error that led to the abolition of Latin was neoscholastic and Cartesian in nature—namely, the belief that the content of the Catholic Faith is not embodied or incarnate but somehow abstracted from matter. Thus, many Catholics think that Tradition means only some conceptual content that is passed down, irrespective of the way in which it is passed down. But this is not true. Latin is itself one of the things passed down, together with the content of all that is written or chanted in Latin. Moreover, the Church herself has recognized this point on a number of occasions in singling out Latin for special praise and recognizing in it an efficacious sign of the unity, catholicity, antiquity, and permanence of the Latin Church. ”
    Source of the above quote: https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/why-latin-is-the-correct-and-fitting-language-of-the-roman-catholic-liturgy
    I assert that the NO mass simply does not teach the faith.

  21. iPadre says:

    Although there are many clouds obscuring the sun today, the future looks bright. Thanks to Pope Benedict XVI for Summorum Pontificum.

  22. Liz says:

    One thing I thought of: as young seminarians are exposed to the Old Mass, I believe that they will want it. I can’t believe how much more traditional some seminaries are becoming. Some young seminarians are start vlogs that have Latin names and such. It seems it’s growing in that area too.

  23. scoot says:

    Fr Z, you’ve mentioned on a couple occasions the idea of a cross pollination between charismatic evangelicals and traditionally minded Catholics. It struck me as unusual at first but I couldn’t stop stewing on it. It struck me this morning that the zeal of those charismatics, informed by proper Catholic theology, united with traditional, liturgical rigor–why, is that not St. Paul? What was lost somewhere between Paul’s time and our own will surely be found. We could use some great evangelists like him. I think it’s a winning proposition for sure.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  24. roseannesullivan says:

    This is great news. More proof that there may just be a miraculous turn-about in store.

    One recent stunning indication of the power of the traditional Latin Mass to draw people was the was standing-room-only attendance at the Solemn Pontifical Mass celebrated November 15, 2019, by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. I was amazed! The Basilica seats 3,500 and people were standing! Millions more watched it on YouTube.

    That Pontifical Mass was the first time classical sacred music composer Frank LaRocca’s Mass of the Americas was performed after its premiere at an Ordinary Form Mass the previous December in San Francisco’s cathedral, and after the composer had subsequently adapted it for the Extraordinary Form. I saw both Masses on EWTN and in the EF version, the music seemed properly subordinated in service to the liturgy. Reports from the D.C. EF Mass said that there was not a dry eye in the place, and a photo of Archbishop Cordileone with tears streaming down his face went viral afterwards.

    The reverent rituals of the Pontifical Mass, which was celebrated at the main altar, the chant, the brilliance of the sacred music, the specially designed vestments, and the architecture of the basilica —all oriented properly to the worship of God—gave everyone who was present that day and who viewed it on EWTN an illustration of the transcendent beauty of the traditional worship of the Church. There is bound to be a ripple effect from that event alone!

  25. my6fish says:

    My NO parish is having its first TLM this Saturday for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, hosted by our local Juventutem! This after gentle requests and many prayers; I believe what finally got Msgrs’ attention was the amount of parishioners who expressed a desire at a recent parish meeting regarding its/our future. God bless them both for listening with open hearts.
    PS My son was required to attend a TLM for his theology class at his Jesuit high school this past semester. This semester they will be studying Theology of the Body.

  26. Docent says:

    According to the Pontifical Council “Ecclesia Dei”, the TLM can only be offered on Sundays (roughly Midnight to Midnight), but not used on Saturday afternoons or evenings as an “anticipated” Sunday Mass. As such, some parishes that have provided a Saturday evening “anticipated” Sunday Mass in the TLM form have been advised/instructed to stop doing so.

    This seems silly or even bass ackwards in this respect: Go to a Novus Ordo Mass on Saturday evening at 6 PM, and it can be used as an anticipatory Sunday Mass if so chosen by the parish,…but go to a TLM Mass on Saturday evening at 6 PM, and it can only be a Saturday Mass. Such cannot be used as a Sunday anticipatory Mass.

    Something smells rotten here, because once it was accepted and put into effect that Saturday evening Masses can fulfill the Sunday obligation, why not allow this for the TLM as well? I can’t help but think that this insistence on the one day only rule may simply be another way to limit the offering of the TLM, and those who helped put this rule in place are playing a game with the old rules along the following lines: You want the TLM? Fine. Then follow the older rules regarding the day of Sunday only, and don’t celebrate this Mass as an anticipatory Sunday Mass on Saturday evenings.

    I have reviewed some of the documents and rationale for the rule, but it still seems like an arbitrary rationale based on ignoring the following common sense: if the basic Sunday obligation can be fulfilled during Saturday PM Masses (on or after X time; this varies), then any legitimate form of the Mass should be acceptable.

    Again, something smells rotten and/or the rule is being too rigidly applied and violates the desire of Benedict XVI (if memory serves) for the TLM to enjoy wide usage. If parishes could offer the TLM on Saturday evenings to fulfill the Sunday obligation, this would also help its growth. Some parishes would then provide both a Sunday TLM and an anticipatory Sunday TLM on Saturday evenings.

  27. JonPatrick says:

    I was under the impression that the change allowing the anticipated Mass on Saturday evening happened under Pius XII but was rarely used until after the Paul VI Mass was introduced. But I cant remember where I read that.

    On another note the post by my6fish must be the only time I have seen “TLM” and “Jesuit” used in the same sentence. :) I guess there are still some good Jesuits out there.

  28. KateD says:

    Yes. The Novus Ordo will disappear, for lack of priests willing to celebrate it and lack of Catholics who would attend. Like Pope Benedict XVI indicated: A smaller, stronger Church. It will also be all Trad and consequently holier (not because trads are holier than anyone else, but because Trads, as recent polling demonstrates, know that Christ is present in the Eucharist. That affects a person’s choices and behavior~ for the good).

    ***But the re-tradified Church won’t remain small for long. God will begin to woo His people. Our human hearts are created to long for Him. Stronger than any biological imperative is our need to seek Him. Once the Church is embued again with the authentic worship of God….just try keeping people away. lol!

    What can we do now to prepare for that day? Get our catechesis straight, for one, so that we don’t have to go through all the heresies again like the infant faith did. Get ready for a flood of zealous converts, with their hearts on fire, passions ablaze for Our Lord Jesus. Save some old buildings with lots of rooms ready for an influx of vocations. It will be here sooner than we can imagine! Get ready! Be prepared to guide these zealous souls.

    I’m excited! This time now is like the time before a great party….lots of work to be done…but the air is full of anticipation!

  29. maryh says:

    @paulbailes said “I earnestly hope that this is not a case of a diocese simply waking up to the fact that the NOM isn’t going to be a sustainable product, and that if it wants to maintain its revenue base then the TLM is the best way to secure a new generation of taxpaying pewsitters.”

    True, it would be better if the diocese were doing this because it was the right thing to do, but I don’t see a problem with this reason to start out with. If you make it available, they will come. And then things will start changing.

    I can understand why @JesusFreak84 wants to keep the charismatics away from the TLM. I did that for a while, and even spoke in tongues (I think). But I think the key comes from what @scoot said. Everything is probably dangerous if you aren’t “informed by proper Catholic theology, united with traditional, liturgical rigor”. The charismatics may risk calling demons. The regular NO congregations risk profaning the Eucharist, and losing their belief in the Real Presence, and thinking doctrine is a cafeteria.

  30. maryh says:

    I think anyplace that wants the TLM should strongly consider getting the NO Mass celebrated the way it was supposed to be (ad orientem, communion on the tongue kneeling, Latin given pride of place, sacred music (chant, polyphony, etc), the Roman canon, no “sign of peace” by the congregation.

    It is *hard* to follow the TLM to start out with, but a NO the way I describe is very easy to follow if you’ve only had experience with the NO. I think you should have an option where people who don’t even have the TLM on their radar can get started without getting lost.

    Maybe if you’re having trouble getting a TLM, that could be a fall-back. Or maybe some people would find it easier to suggest something like that than the TLM to start with. I know I still prefer that kind of NO to the TLM most of the time. The TLM can be an acquired taste, and the NO done correctly with the most traditional options can be a way for people to acquire the taste.

  31. oledocfarmer says:

    They who refuse to live by organic development will probably die by organic development.

  32. bcstudent says:

    You’d be surprised! We have a weekly TLM at Jesuit-run Boston College.

  33. Midland Deacon says:

    I take great exception to the individual who said about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal “You’re far more likely to wind up with a demon than anything benign, let alone good.” The renewal has been such a positive force for the Church that only recently Pope Francis set up CHARIS, a new office at the Vatican to serve the charismatic renewal movement. He also quoted Cardinal Suenens saying the renewal has been a “current of grace, a renewing breath of the Spirit for all the members of the Church.” As with all movements within the Church, there is always the risk of extremism, abuse and those who treat their respective spirituality as the only correct one. The beauty of the Church is it offers so many different spiritualities, there is something for everyone. I have been involved in the renewal now for over 25 years. It has been nothing less than a grace to me and my family and led directly to my vocation as a Permanent Deacon of the Church.

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