The Traditional Mass is Not a Spectator Sport

“The Traditional Mass is not a spectator sport.”

The statement rings out like a shot in the quiet, muggy, non-descript church. Oscillating fans buzz from various strategic locations. Incense wafts up from the thurible tucked away to the right of the altar. The congregants sit quietly, attentive. The women’s heads are covered, and everyone is dressed modestly. Nobody throws holy water at the rather oddly-garbed priest standing at the pulpit. Nobody gets up and indignantly walks out. It’s only my third time at the Priory of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but I already know that as far as Traditional Latin Mass enclaves go, this place is different.

Don Daniel Augustine Oppenheimer has made the statement confidently, peering intently over his small, frameless glasses at the small group of assembled faithful before him. His tonsure is an anachronism that brings to mind the monks of old. His habit is distinctly Augustinian, although I initially mistake it for Dominican, because how many of us ever see a religious in a habit anymore? (Up close, you can see the wear and tear on the fabric, the quiet but telltale signs of true vows of poverty.) His comfortable-looking cork and leather sandals are, I surmise, probably worn in the cold months of the year as well as the warm.  His face is kind, his manner of speaking academic. Referencing his desire for the faithful to participate in the Offertory chant and instructing them how to do so, he is making a case that I’ve never heard in eight years attending the traditional Latin liturgy of the Roman Rite.

“Historically, liturgically,” he says, “the people have participated in the Mass. When they stopped participating, the old Mass went away. And by then, it was in such a state that nobody missed it.”

The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem – Don Oppenheimer’s fledgling clerical institute of consecrated life – were established in 2002 by then-Bishop Raymond Burke in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. What ensued was a nine year search by the Canons for a permanent home. When I discovered them, the CRNJs had recently been received by Bishop Michael Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, WV. They began offering the sacred liturgy at the former St. James’ parish in Charles Town, WV, on Palm Sunday, 2011. One trip to the monastery cemented it as the most edifying place of worship I’ve yet discovered. By the time I was hearing Dom Daniel’s thoughts about the proper role of the faithful in the traditional liturgy, I was hooked. This – this – was what I had been looking for all these years.

The Canons exemplify what a sustainable traditional movement should look like. Although the order is tiny – only one priest and two seminarians – when you’re around them, you can’t help feeling like something big and important is happening.

“We celebrate the traditional liturgy with great joy.” This statement, another part of Dom Daniel’s sermon, helps me put my finger on what is so different. Never known for our collective charisma or charm, those who self-identify as “Traditionalist” can often be about as much fun as a leaky bottle of lemon juice at a paper cut party. This is ironic when you consider that we believe the traditional Catholic experience is a “pearl of great price.” We should, therefore (if there’s any sense in the world) be a pretty happy, personable lot. And to be fair, I’d say that a good many of us are. Nevertheless, it only takes one bad egg to spoil the batch, and we’ve got dozens. Consequently, our bad reputation persists.

This is why seeing this kind of Christian joy in action in a monastic community that opens its doors to public worship is something else entirely. For starters, the monks – Dom Daniel, Frater John, Frater Alban – are so noticeably kind. At the conclusion of Mass, they mingle with the faithful, whom they take the time to get to know by name. They sell produce, and fresh baked breads, employing monastic industry to support their work. And if you forgot your wallet? No worries. They’ll probably spot you a loaf. They remember not only who you are, but what is going on in your life, and when they say they’re praying for your intentions, you get the feeling that they mean that they’re doing so with great specificity.

What this does is create a sense of community – something that I have found to be lacking in many traditional parishes I’ve attended or visited. Often times, the Traditional Latin Mass is attended by people from every far corner of the geographic area, creating a loose federation of individuals that know each other by face or even by name, but have little in the way of a sense of real common bond. It’s a lovely thing to have coffee and donuts in a Church basement as a means of socializing with your fellow parishioners, but it’s a different thing entirely when a priest and his confrères make you feel as though you’re a part of something more cohesive and organic.

This communal aspect is almost familial, and is rooted first and foremost in the liturgical experience. The CRNJs believe in a participatio actuosa that is neither the frenetic, hand-holding around the altar experience of many post-Vatican II parishes, nor the austere, entirely interior participation of those more inclined to chapels of the Society of St. Pius X. It is a human, natural, anthropological form of worship, where one is engaged but not coddled, involved but never given the sense that it’s all about them.

The chants — which are beautiful, in a simple, country monastery kind of way—are sung antiphonally, meaning that the schola and the faithful alternate voices. The faithful are encouraged to join the altar boys in making the responses to the priest, since the reason the altar boys make those responses at all in the first place is to act as representatives of the faithful. These aspects of liturgical participation may not seem groundbreaking to anyone who has been raised on the Novus Ordo Missae, and will not even come as a surprise to those Eastern Rite Catholics nourished on the ancient liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, but to the average traditional Catholic, they are (seeming) innovations that border on scandalous.

Except that they are not innovations at all.

“The low Mass is not normative.” Dom Daniel explains to me. “It was never intended to be used this way. This liturgy we celebrate is designed for parish life.” And the liturgy he celebrates, by the way, isn’t quick – easily running 90 to 120 minutes every Sunday. Every Mass with the Canons is a High Mass, unless there are not enough members of the community physically present to assist in all the Mass parts.

If that sounds long to you, I suppose it is. But when there, one enters a sort of “sacred time” — an almost transcendental experience that feels as though it’s more of an eternal moment than a passage of minutes or hours. I would much rather spend two hours at a liturgy with the Canons than thirty minutes at a poorly said, silent-as-a-tomb low Mass. There’s no other way to explain my preference than to say that in the former, I encounter God; in the latter, I keep looking at my watch.

Dom Daniel likes to remind visitors to the Priory that they do things “by the book.” They are rubrically scrupulous to the 1962 Missal, even if that might cause shudders to anyone who carries around a tattered copy of Pope St. Pius V’s Quo Primum in their back pocket. Among devotees of the Gregorian Rite, there’s some controversy in the notion that the faithful should ever open their mouths, whether in prayer or in song, within the context of a Sunday liturgy.

Theologically, historically, you can brawl this one out to your heart’s content. I’ve seen evidence for both arguments. But common sense tells me that the “be seen and not heard” approach to liturgical participation is madness, invented by people who want Catholics to fall in line, not ask questions, and wear their complete docility on their sleeves. This is the kind of Catholicism that caused many of the faithful to abandon the Church in the mid-twentieth-century. Those fabled ruler-wielding nuns cracking the knuckles of anyone who dared think for themselves or struggled with a doctrine drove Catholics away from the Faith and into the arms of secular rationalism. I should know. My father was one of them. Luckily, he came back. Many didn’t.

People are people, and by their very nature they need to be a part of something to care about it. They need to find themselves invested. We worship God in community because no man in the Christian life is an island. We pray together because none of us were meant to go it alone. Finding a liturgy that is reverent is hard enough. Finding a liturgy that is reverent but also inclusive in a healthy, orthodox way is even more difficult. The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem model this as part of a comprehensive approach to traditional Catholic spirituality. If the Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments are to not only be sustainable, but continue to grow, it’s the kind of model that more will have to follow.


Steve Skojec serves as the Director of Community Relations for a professional association. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he earned a BA in Communications and Theology. His passions include writing, photography, social media, and an avid appreciation of science fiction. Steve lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Jamie and their five children.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    For bishops struggling with the prospect of having to close certain poorly-attended parishes, here’s a suggestion: turn them over to religious orders that use the liturgy of the latin Mass. 

    Better yet, just as the best of western society was preserved by the monasteries after the fall of Rome, how about turning these parishes into monastery churches?  

    • Ricdykstra1

      Great Idea!  As an old man, I miss the Latin Mass!  It was filled with beauty, devotion, and respect for the sacredness of the Mass!  The English Mass in my parish is VERY disappointing!  There is no reverence!  It has become a very casual affair!  The priest seems indifferent and the choir of teen aged girls mocks the liturgy by laughing at their mistakes, as if they were there to party!

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  • The only Traditional Mass I’ve ever been able to attend is an the SSPX parish in Edmonds, WA. It also  sung antiphonally and many parishioners joined in the altar servers’ responses, so it wasn’t what I was expecting in a TLM! I’ve only been able to go a couple of times (it’s a long drive for me) but getting to participate in just a couple of Masses like that has still made an impact on how I celebrate Mass on any other day at my own parish. It sounds like I really lucked out! This kind of reverent but engaging liturgy really makes a difference and radiates into the rest of our Catholic spirituality and lives.

    • hombre111

      It radiates into some Catholic spirituality and lives.  In order to show some young relatives what Latin Masses were like in my lifetime, I took them to a Latin Mass by a priest of the Society of St. Peter.  For me, it was a reverent experience, but they swore it was an incredibly boring hour. 

      • Sam Schmitt

         It can take time. Sometimes one’s whole attitude toward the liturgy has to change, from being me-centered (that was “boring” or “exciting” – to me) to God-centered. The TLM is bracingly the latter, which people can find “boring” if they don’t realize what’s really going on.

        • hombre111

          I think it is an acquired taste based to some extent on our spiritual personality.  A person who is contemplative by nature will enjoy this kind of meditative lilturgy.  And it also depends on one’s theology of the Mass.  I am inclined toward the Mass as a sacrificial meal.  It makes me one with the sacrifice of Christ and one with my brothers and sisters.   

          I grew up with the Latin Mass done very badly.  The average priest ripped through the Liturgy in twenty minutes.  As I learned in the seminary, High Masses took great musical skill and most celebraing priests and parish choirs lacked that skill.  So, it was a painful experience for most, and that is why so many welcomed the English liturgy and would not go back.  I have on occasion attended a Latin Mass in a small community that does it well.  On EWTN, the Franciscans usually do a good job, but the congregation behind them does the usual bad job of singing chant. 

          • Tina in Ashburn

             Note that the Mass described here is the Tridentine Mass, the Extraordinary Form, not just “Latin”. All Masses could be said in Latin since Latin is the language of the Church.
            On EWTN, I have never seen the Franciscans say the old EF, it is always the Ordinary Form [the Novus Ordo].
            The Tridentine Mass is extraordinarily different. It is hard not to recognize that the priest is offering the Sacrifice to God the Father on our behalf. The ‘meal’ aspect is secondary.

            Tina in Ashburn

            • hombre111

              Latin is the language of the Latin Rite, which is one right among several, which use other languages.  Years ago, business in Rome was conducted in Latin and classes in the Pontifical seminaries were taught in Latin.  But now it is all done in Italian. 

              People who make the meal aspect secondary have lost the real context of the sacrifices of the Old Testament and the meaning of Communion.  In most OT sacrifices, only the “choice parts” of the victim were burnt on the altar.  The priest and his family got a front quarter, and the rest went to the famiy where it was consumed in a feast.  This made the family one with the sacrifice.

              I would say that over the centuries, the Latin Rite came very close to losing the meaning of the Mass.  That is why it was so easy for the Protestants to misunderstand it and simply walk away. 

              • Tina in Ashburn

                 Although it is true there are many rites within the Church each with their own languages, Latin indeed is the language of the Universal Church.  All documents originate in Latin and are subsequently translated into the languages of each rite.

                It is not mere opinion that the meal is the secondary aspect of the Mass. The Mass exists because of the  redemption wrought by Jesus Christ – being able to receive the Eucharist occurs only because of the action of the Sacrifice first. Same with the sacrifices of the OT. Of the four different types of offerings to God, the offerings to God occurred first, the meal followed [when the food was shared – not always, at times the holocaust, burnt offering, was consumed completely with all of it going to God]. The meal never occurred by itself without the first purpose of the sacrifice.

      • Tout

        It is necessary to know something about wat goes on in a Latin Mass. The better you know what’s happening, the more beautiful the Latin Mass. I drove 40 km every Sunday to a L.M. but have no car now. I so wished we had a L.M. here. I would ask the priest if I could help in any way. I so wish we had one here.

        • hombre111

          I learned to celebrate Mass in the Tridentine Rite and did so for four years after ordination.  I did not find it particularly beautiful, especially since the Church taught that there were several ways for a priest to commit a mortal sin if he did not celebrate in the perfect way.  This led to a lot of tortured souls who could not finish the Mass they started because it was not perfect, so they just said the words over and over again, unable to go on. 

          • Siena

            It’s understood by the Church that no human priest will ever say a completely “perfect” Mass. If his intention was to say Mass as reverently and by-the-Rubrics as he was able, then it is impossible that the priest would commit a sin, as any mistakes would be completely indeliberate and sin necessarily involves some level of deliberation. The priest has prescribed prayers to recite after Mass in contrition for any indeliberate faults he may have committed in his celebration, also. Such tortured feelings are never from God; it seems clear that the devil was severely attacking those poor priests, as indeed he does all priests . How much priests need our prayers! 

            • hombre111

              That’s the way it is now, thanks to the Spirit of Vatican II.  Unfortunately, when I learned to “say” not “celebrate” “my Mass,” they emphasized how many ways we could accidentally commit a mortal sin.   As I said, one of the saddest things to see was a priest who could not finish the words of Consecration, because they were supposed to be said perfectly.

              • Famijoly

                 hombre111, it is so sad you and your contemporaries were taught that way; it sounds like an attempt to be “stricter than the Church herself.”  There is no such thing as an “accidental” mortal sin; even when objectively grave matter is involved in an action, culpability is measured by the knowledge and intention of the person. 

                For example, artificial contraception is objectively  grave.  But if a couple  uses contraception in genuine ignorance of its immorality, what they have done is objectively wrong, but they are  not culpable.  Once their consciences are properly informed, then they are responsible for “avoiding the near occasion of sin.”

  • Mercier

    I think the comment about the SSPX Masses was unfair, and probably depends greatly on the priest and country. St. Niicholas du Chardonnet, the most famous SSPX church in France, is not a place where the faithful sit as spectators.

    • Guest 2

      So many boxes, so many responses.  I am glad not to have to depend upon the laity in this matter, God bless them, us, me, one and all.  One rite, two forms.  So the Pope has said.  We have one Pope.  Let’s follow him in the new, plain fact, and encourage our priests to do so: one rite, two forms.    

      • Steve
        • Guest 2

          rorate caeli is not the Magisterium.  It’s a blog, Steve.  It’s a blog whose day is gone.  One rite, two forms.  I fail to see why that is so difficult.  Too many blogs, too many ‘popes.’

          • Steve

            Josef Ratzinger was a player in the group that destabilized the Church in the sixties.  You’d be much wiser and safer to pin the tail on tradition.  When Scripture predicts a revolution and it comes to pass, it’s probably not too wise to follow the revolutionaries.  Even if an angel preach to you a different Gospel…(2 Thess. 2) 

            • Guest 2

              Steve, I’ve no idea what you are talking about.  

              • Steve

                Maybe this will help:

                Whenever I think about the
                Council, I said, I always have one image in my mind: an aging Cardinal
                Alfredo Ottaviani, now blind, about age 80, limping, the head of the
                Holy Office and so the chief doctrinal officer of the Church, born in
                Trastevere to parents who had many children, so a Roman from Rome, from
                the people of Rome, takes the microphone to speak to the 2,000 assembled
                And, as he
                speaks, pleading for the bishops to consider the texts the curia has
                spent three years preparing, suddenly his microphone was shut off. He
                kept speaking, but no one could hear a word. Then, puzzled and
                flustered, he stopped speaking, in confusion. And the assembled fathers
                began to laugh, and then to cheer…

                “Yes,” Gherardini said. “And it was only the third day.”

                “What?” I said.

                “Ottaviani’s microphone was turned off on the third day of the Council.”

                “On the third day?” I said. “I didn’t know that. I thought it was later,
                in November, after the progressive group became more organized…”

                “No, it was the third day, October 13, 1962. The Council began on October 11.”

                “Do you know who turned off the microphone?”

                “Yes,” he said. “It was Cardinal Lienart of Lille, France.”

                “But then,” I said, “it could almost be argued, perhaps, that such a
                breech of protocol, making it impossible for Ottaviani to make his
                arguments, somehow renders what came after, well, in a certain sense,

                “Some people make that argument,” Gherardini replied. -Rorate Caeli 

                • Guest 2

                  Steve, that’s an interesting image you are cultivating in your mind.  Are you so sure of the historical facts, that it all reduces to such a picture?  

                  The Church has moved on from resurrecting ghosts like that of the good Cardinal, Steve.  I’d be glad to post links to parishes and monasteries which celebrate Mass properly.

        • anon

          To say that the two forms of the mass have nothing in common is hyperbolic at best and heretical and schismatic at worst. 

      • Mercier

        When Dom Alcuin Reid’s forthcoming work comes out this topic will perhaps be definitively addressed. However until then I think this interview with Dom Alcuin demonstrates his point fairly well: ”
        The criteria for development in continuity are found in article 23, read in context and as it was approved by the Fathers of the Council. I have published a paper on this. It means that development is proportionate – the liturgical tradition may be developed, as is necessary, but it is not completely changed. There must be a continuity of rite where new texts or practices are integrated, naturally, over time. A good example is the Ordo Missae of 1965. It is the rite of Mass as handed on to the Council, pruned and developed in line with the discussions at the council. But the 1969 Ordo Missae is very different, a new construction of the Concilium. To be sure, it is more conservative than they wanted because Paul VI refused their requests to abolish the Roman Canon, theOrate fratres and the sign of the cross at the beginning of Mass. But even so, the 1969 Ordo as a whole is a radical ritual and theological innovation, not an organic development in line with Sacrosanctum Concilium 23.”

        • Guest 2

          Mercier, I appreciate Dom Alcuin Reid very much.  However, even if one could see ‘organic development,’ and I know that I cannot, there is still one rite, there are still two forms.  I am struck by how hide bound certain sides are, not least because so many have never seen a. the ordinary form said reverently b. the extraordinary form (low or high) c. a Latin grammar.  This state of innocence is reflected in the language of the article, e. g., “Traditional Latin Mass enclaves,” etc., which is absurd and undermines both tradition and the position of those ignorant of it.   Institute of Christ the King, FSSP: these are open and thriving.  Indeed, wherever tradition is intact, including fidelity to the Chair of Saint Peter, there is life: try St. Benedicts in Norcia, or Saint Mary’s in Petersham.

          For those of you inclined to bash the ordinary form, assuming you really know what that Mass is, you have some explaining to do, quite a lot, for breaking so sharply from the Pope.   

          But why not try harder to find a Mass said reverently?  If you live in New England, I can easily post a few links.  We travel pretty far for reverence in the ordinary form, and could travel even further for the extraordinary form.  

          To be frank, all this has to be taken straight to chancery or rectory.  

          • Mercier

            I have been to reverent OF Masses in the reform of the reform mode. The motu proprio makes a definition in law but it can’t change history. I am not OF bashing, but think we need to be honest Catholics about the construction of the OF.  Note: I am not denying the validity or liciety of the new rite. Read Klaus Gamber’s book for instance on the reform of the Roman Liturgy or Dr. Lauren Pristas’ work on the changes to the collects and orations in the OF. The picture is pretty clear from a cataloguing of the facts: rupture! I have read that the total number of prayers retained intact in the OF from the EF is a measly 17%!

            • Guest 2

              Mercier, in my opinion our Pope has effected a law which has already changed history, for the best.  

              I attend a OF Mass said reverently (also including terce): it lasts 1.5 hrs., often longer, and just as in the EF Mass, which I cherish (I am a member of CSP), time melts away.  The chant is Gregorian (in a Benedictine abbey).  The readings and homily are of course in English.  This is what V II envisioned, and what the Pope (hardly alone) has made clear is true continuity.  I know what a special blessing this is, but it is the blessing intended by the Church.

              Thanks for the references, which I will follow up given my keen interest in liturgy.  Meanwhile, I am quite content to do as the Pope wishes and, even more, to see that these Benedictines are doing what the Council wanted.  

  • Gail Finke

    Isn’t it an exciting time to be in the Church? So much seems to be stirring. I think we will see more and more of this kind of thing. There is no doubt in my mind that the greater use of the TLM will help NO masses to be more reverent and more true to what they were meant to be. But some traditional folks will say, with obvious horror, that there is nothing, NOTHING, that the NO can do to improve the TLM. I think this is what can improve the TLM. Not that it specifically comes from the NO, but it is the kind of thing that people familiar with the NO are comfortable doing (replying, singing, etc). If this priest is correct that the low mass is a late aberration, and that the assembly is supposed to reply, then the NO is really restoring something traditional that had been lost. Which is not to say that there can’t be any low masses! There is just a sort of museum quality to some TLM celebrations, often encouraged by the people in the pews who understandably want to restore awe and reverence, but which can be off-putting to people who do not come to the mass with the same experiences and underlying assumptions. There is a great turmoil in the Church today, and many young people have almost no foundations at all, and certainly no memories (good or bad) of the old mass and the experimentations of the first years of the new mass. Anyway, I for one am encouraged.

  • Helen Grice Russo

    I whole heartily agree with this tiny order’s point. We’ve attended multiple Latin Masses as well as the Novus Ordo, Byzantine and Orthodox (relatives).  As far as the Latin goes, the majority of TLM were SSPX and were incredibly long and uninspired almost to the point of boredom (yes, I know, I go to mass not to be entertained but for God and my soul. To be fair, there were several SSPX priests who actively encouraged participation and the congratulation grew as a result. Until the schism, that is.). In as much as we love the Latin when you are forced to sit in silence for 2 hours it really looses a lot -and yes, I do know what is going on.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen even discusses this and instructs in his 1962 Missal (which we follow our little mass out here, that the faithful are to respond along with the alter boys.  The difference of a reverent congregation participating and deathly silence for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours is astounding.  I know that many people love the quiet mass, however for my family the mass where we participate in the responses, in Latin and in Chant, well, they mine depths untold.  Thank you for this article.

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  • PC

    The following statement is incorrect:
    “the reason the altar boys make those responses at all in the first place is to act as representatives of the faithful.”
    The purpose of and altar boy in a low mass is to take the place of the deacon and subdeacon who would normally accompany the priest in a solemn high mass.  That would be why the priest refers to them as “my brothers” during the Confiteor.  One can find this in Dom Geuranger’s “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Explained.”

    • wolfeken

      Well said, PC.  This is why altar boys wear the cassock and surplice — they are fulfilling clerical roles.

      This is also why the schola (choir) wears the cassock and (often rounded) surplice — they too are fulfilling a clerical role.

      Encouraging the faithful in the pews to join in these roles is a 20th century innovation that has no historical basis.  I think we need to learn the value of silence and beauty — not attempt a compromise by finding ways for the congregation to talk and sing during Mass.

      • Perhaps you should take up your opinion with St. Pius X or Pius XI or Blessed Pius XII who supported the liturgical movement. But you can be your own pope if you choose.

        • Canterbury50

          With all due respect, Mr. Domet, don’t you think this is a little too far?  Those Popes certainly had the authority to grant permission for this.  That permission is law.  They had the authority to command this; they did not, but left it optional.  In our humble opinion, they were at worst well-intentioned, thoughtful,  but slightly mistaken in a purely prudential matter.

      • Tina in Ashburn

         Hi Wolfeken, Its not true that “Encouraging the faithful in the pews to join in these roles is a 20th century innovation that has no historical basis” — there is a lot of documentation and history that supports participation. This is why there is so much discussion and dissention about this very thing. Each side can find plenty to support their argument.
        I wish you would just drive on out there and see for yourself – what the Canons do is really wonderful, reverent and beautiful. The monks chant and the stillness is extraordinary!
        Hope to see you there soon!

        • wolfeken

          Okay, care to give any “documentation and history” of the congregation responding or singing from the pews before the oh-so-wonderful 20th century?

          • Tina in Ashburn

             If you would attend the Canon’s Mass once in awhile, you would hear the supporting arguments yourself Ken. Besides, where are your supporting statements that forbids congregational participation?

            Don’t be so bitter – we are on the same side!

            I invite you to come and see and learn something, that is all. The liturgy is magnificent.

            • Canterbury50

              Thanks for your comment.  It is, of course, very important to remember we are on the same side.
              For the former custom that congregation was encouraged to participate but forbidden to do so vocally unless in a choir:  The fact that special permission from the Holy See was required is evidence that it was not permitted before then, by custom if not by written rubric.  I believe the dialogue low Mass first began to be permitted in the 1930’s by Pius XI (I don’t have the document’s name, sorry) and congregational singing of Gregorian chant is suggested in the 1903 Motu Proprio of Pius X, which is not specific about which texts the congregation sings and stresses the choir of clerics.  Indeed, he divides liturgical chants only between that proper to the celebrant and sacred ministers on the one hand, and the rest of the liturgical chant which “is proper to the choir of clerics.”  As he says, a lay choir really takes the place of these missing clergymen, much like altar servers do.
              I hope this helps.  God bless.

          • We in Croatia have almost 50 different Christmas popular songs the earliest of which date even to the 14th century. A lot of our liturgical music dates from 15th to 19th century – and all of those were sung by people. Croatian people had the privilege to hear the Gospel in their own language(read by the deacon) and so on…

            The world is a lot bigger than you think…

            • Canterbury50

              This is very good; thank you for your comment.  Could you name works or authors in particular?  Personally, this sounds like evidence to the contrary.  I’m swayed by the thesis that these popular songs were the devotional music of the lay folk, not properly liturgical music like the responses, Gloria, Intriot etc. because that was sung by the clergy alone.  But I would be happy to learn that Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Croatia is a counter example.  Few widespread customs have no local exceptions.  Sounds like you enjoy several.  I wish more local variations on the Roman Rite had survived the centuries!  But I trust the Holy Spirit to lead us in what pleases Him.

              • Anthony

                In the fourteenth century there were in Croatia three archbishoprics and seventeen dioceses, subdivided into archdeaconries and parishes. At the beginning of the century the See of Bosnia was transferred to Djakovo. Each diocese had an average of four or five hundred parishes in addition to chapters and collegiate churches…….. The missal was translated into Croatian, and copies are preserved today in some of the libraries. (Catholic Encyclopedia-

                I suppose exceptions wer made for Croatians since they were devout. Even during the rebellion of Martin Luther, few Croatians fell prey to protestantism; and the few who did were eventually brought back to the one true faith. The Croatian mindset was, ” I’d rather break off relations with my king than let this pestilence spread among our people.”

              • Anthony

                Pope John (879) wrote, “It is not opposed to the integrity of faith or doctrine that Mass be celebrated in the Slavonic tongue or that the Holy Gospels and the other lessons of the New and Old Testaments well translated in that language be used for the Mass and the Office, for He who made the principal languages, created all the others for His own praise and glory.”

                It wasn’t until the seventeenth century, in 1631, that the use of Slavonic in western liturgical rites was officially approved by Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644).

                I also forgot to mention. I have a copy of the Roman Breviary from 1929; it is both in Croatian and Latin. So Latin was still retained.

      • Canterbury50

        I agree that altar serving and singing responses are clerical roles.  That, for me, is the strongest point.  We can go further, too:  altar serving is the role appropriate to clergy in minor orders, especially acolytes.  Well, then, what is left for merely tonsured men, who (until recently) were true clergy men?  What is the role that applies to them prperly?  I submitt, it was these sung responses, as well as the sung Divine Office.

      • MJC

        I attend both the Latin and Novus Ordo Masses here in Sydney, Australia – silence and beauty is rarely found in the Novus Ordo.

  • Lautensack

    I have to say that I am a bit worried about the ‘spectator sport’ line. Mass is clearly not there to be watched like a ballet performance, but what is demanded by the Second Vatican Council is true participation (‘participatio actuosa’) not active participation. It seems to me that the the most important way of participation in the Mass (as in any form of liturgy) is through prayer, and that all other outward forms are secondary.

    Although I very much prefer sung Masses (for years I was member of a schola that sang the full Propers every Sunday) I came to enjoy also the quietness of a Low Mass, of merely being and praying there and not having to think what I would have to say or to do next. In my experience both forms have their merits.

    As some other commentators I object to encouraging the faithful to vocally into the responses of the altar-servers, and I do so for two reasons. Firstly, I believe that High Mass should function as model for Low Mass, and that the faithful should say together the parts they would sing together in a High Mass – and I would regard joining in at the Sanctus as considerably more significant than joining in at the Psalm Judica. Secondly, it is much easier to have a group sing together than speak together. I had experienced Mass in a place where the priest and some elderly faithful wanted to bring back the ‘dialogue Mass’ of their youth, while some other faithful wanted to pray in silence, and the majority, students who were new to the Extraordinary Form, was left in confusion. I doubt that the result was edifying for anyone. Therefore I would really encourage to stick with either a sung Mass (and this is not as demanding as people might think, one can sing all of the propers to simple psalm-tones, if necessary) or a quiet Low Mass.

    I naturally concur that every celebration of the liturgy has to be a joyful occasion, and that this element is too often lacking.

  • God gave us both a body and a soul.  The voice, lips, tongue were given to man to give back to God in the form of praise to God.  I do not understand the notion that by speaking with our mouths we can no longer speak with our hearts as some defenders of silent Low Mass seem to suggest.  Is not the Rosary a meditative prayer were we both say words with our mouth and speak to God with our heart?  Then why cannot laymen do the same in a dialogue Mass or sing with their heart and their mouth at a High Mass.  And before explaining away preferences because one likes to attribute to themselves being a contemplative can you honestly say that you are more contemplative than these Canons who are advocating laity participation?  Do you not think that the very prayers of the Mass or the Gregorian chant is not the fruit of the contemplation of Men far holier than us?   If you feel called to sit in Silence by all means go to Adoration or into your room and close the door and Christ will be there but when we offer public worship to God let us lift our Hearts and Voices to heaven with the Angels and the Saints. If singing was not important to God than why did Jesus Christ himself sing a hymn after the first Mass (Matt 26:30), why does God the Father have Angels sing (Luke 2:13), why did the Holy Ghost tell us to speak to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles (Ephesians 5:19).  God Bless  the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem

    • Steve

      I love Gregorian Chant too!  Dom Prosper Gueranger wrote a treatise on Anti-Liturgical Heresy in the mid-nineteenth century.  It is a good background piece if you want to understand where the Novus Ordo Mass came from.  Highlights can be found at  Just click on “The Principles of the Anti-Liturgical Heresy”.

  • “Actuoso participato” was not coined by the Second Vatican Council Fathers but by St. Pius X in his 1903 motu proprio “Tra le sollecitudini.” It has been endorsed by every Pope since especially Blessed Pius XII. Actuoso has been badly translated as “active”, while that is one of its definitions it  more properly means “actual, complete and true.” There are too many popes in the traditional world.

  • Steve

    “The Low Mass is not normative”

    I love Low Mass above all.  I get sucked into the liturgy right away.  A High Mass has pauses for incense, etc.  Low Mass just flows and on weekdays when there is no sermon, there is nothing to disturb the flow.  I find Low Mass a very intense prayer.

    • Famijoly

       Regarding the use of incense and the priest’s sermon as “interruptions” goes contrary to the theology of the Mass.  If you want “very intense prayer” with your own “flow” without “interruptions,” find a chapel of perpetual Adoration.  That is, properly speaking, private prayer in a public setting.  The Mass is public prayer in a public setting.

  • Tina in Ashburn

    Steve, great article!!
    I attend the Canon’s Mass a couple of times a month as they are an hour away. Everything you said is true – really good group with a firm grip on the sacred, while not being stuffy at all.
    Even when they are chanting, the indescribable ‘stillness’ is overwhelming.

    Hearing the Canon’s Mass, seeing the heavy vestments, the incense and candles, swept up by the calm chant which repeats the prayers of the Mass, I really do get the sense of the extraordinary mystery of Jesus Christ pleading on our behalf, offering Himself to God the Father. What a privilege God grants us to have the Mass!

    We need more of these men and this type of Liturgy!

    Tina in Ashburn

  • Guest 2

    Actuosa participatio is the phrase is question.
    Another correction: the Mass is ALWAYS in Latin, no matter which form.  What is now generally celebrated is a translation, into whatever vernacular. 
    Another correction, to the author: “inclusive.”  Not really what the Pope has treated, nor, to my knowledge, previous Popes.  Let’s follow the Pope.  There is only one. 

  • hombre111

    From what I have read, the meal and the sacrifice are one single entity, unless it is a holocaust.  But I am not sure why we quibble about it.  To attend Eucharist without going to Communion is like showing up to a dinner invitation and not eating the meal. 

    And as for Latin, it disappears further and further into the past.  Priests don’t study Latin any more, Church business goes on in Italian.  Even Encyclicals are written in another language before they are translated into translation.  Within another hundred years, this whole discussion is going to seem bizarre indeed, like arguing about horse drawn transportation vs. automobiles.

    • Guest

      hombre 111: way off base re Latin.  Honestly, just follow the Pope.  Meanwhile, the Mass in both forms of the Latin rite is, always, in Latin: if you hear anything else, you are hearing a translation—of the Latin the Mass is always in.  The Roman Catholic Church is a teaching church, and Latin is its official language, the one used by its Fathers, Doctors, Saints, … the list is endless.  Please do not extol ignorance as a virtue.  It is a vice.  Ignorance of Latin is ignorance of the Church of Christ.  

      • hombre111

        Good try.  The Church began with people who spoke Aramaic.  The Gospels and the New Testament were written in Greek.  The Liturgy was translated into Latin much later.  Do you speak Latin?   Understand Latin?   Chances are you are using an English missal.  Such missals were illegal in the Church until some time after the turn of the twentieth century. 

        If you know Latin, please reply to this post in that sacred tongue. 

        • Guest 2

          Linguam latinam, ecclesiae nostri salvatoris unici, Jesu Christi, et Vergilii et Ciceronis, bene  lego.  Male scribo.  

          Anyway, Father, you are not addressing my points.  We do not have the Aramaic and of course the Bible = books in Hebrew and Greek.  Everything else is a translation–as is all vernacular in the Roman Rite.  I don’t expect that you are endorsing we return to non-existant Aramaic or to Hebrew and Greek in liturgy.  

          I fail to see why encouraging translation is any answer, though bi-lingual missals are old and necessary.  The Mass is always in Latin.  One rationale for translations was increased understanding.  I am not against translations, but I do not see that the laity understands the Mass any better than before Vatican II, and of course the American Church is shrinking in number even despite ‘increased understanding.’  Also, where the Mass was instituted by Christ as a mystery and a gift, understanding does not seem to me be the highest good intended, though of course one wishes, in some sense, “to understand it.”

          The Pope has defined it precisely.  Why not follow him?  One rite, two forms.  If, as you say, Latin is sacred, it de facto the language by which the Church survived and thrived.  Its decline started well before Vatican II, the decades-long misapplication of which probably only hastened it.

          God bless you, Father.

          • hombre111

            Whew.  You just said that Jesus, Like Virgil and Cicero, spoke Latin. 

            • Guest

              No, I did not, hombre 111.  Are you sure you can read Latin?

        • steve5656546346

          So, is your point that masses should be in Aramaic?  That Peter and Paul were wrong to go to Rome?  That Latin should not be the official language for all the Church?  That there should be NOTHING EVER said within the Church which does not require translators?  No universal language?  Or perhaps that universal language should be English?  And in times past, French?  And then whatever comes next?  And that our transient perceptions are the measure of the future?
          I’m not following you…

          • hombre111

            no, no, yes, no, yes, maybe.

  • hombre111

    A young woman worked for me who had attended Steubenville with a BA in theology.  I have rarely seen such a lack of curiosity about going deeper with her faith.  She had it nailed. And it was pretty dated stuff. 

    • SK

       Is this meant to be a jab at the author, who also has a BA in theology from Steubenville?

    • steve5656546346

      Dated stuff?  

      I thought that the Catholic Church taught that God is Eternal, that God created Earth, that his Son founded the Church, that public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, that Scripture is sacred, that there are saints and doctors of the Church, and that there are 20 valid Councils prior to Vatican II. Almost all of that is dated–as if that which was true throughout eternity is no longer true (because we have iPods?).I became Catholic precisely because I came to the conclusion that the Church was eternal.  If I thought that it was a 60’s thing, I assure you that I would not have joined.

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  • Thdd23

    From one alumni to another – Liturgical bullying is wreaking havoc on the Western Church.  Stop telling people what they “will have to start doing.”   Your lofty position as Director of Community Relations doesn’t grant you any permission to push people around at Mass.  Try to let go a bit and realize we all approach calvary the best way we know how.  .  . the Church has always allowed for variety.  That is until recently.

  • nomen nescio

    In those coastal parts of modern-day Croatia that used the so-called Glagolitic Liturgy (the traditional Roman Rite in Croatian Church Slavonic) until Vatican II, sung Masses and Sunday/Holy Day Vespers (and even also Lauds, in some places) were normal even in small villages, and the faithful would chant the Ordinary of the Mass every bit as enthusiastically as Greek-Catholics and Orthodox, say, do at the Divine Liturgy, and the same could also be said of much of the rest of the (Latin-using) Roman Catholic Mediterranean. Low Mass culture (i.e., the stereotype of Irish(-American) Catholicism) is not the only expression of Roman-Rite Catholicism, let alone the normative one!

  • Tcjy8

    The assertion that a mid-twentieth century decline in US Mass attendance could be attributed to the faiulre to use the “dialogue mass”  has at least one obvious weaknesss.   Throughout most of the the century, just as in earlier centuries, the congreagation did NOT join with the acolytes in saying the responses.  The causes of the disease are to be found elsewhere.  As more and more Catholics in America cast off their European ethnic identies and moved out of ethnic nieghborhoods into suburbs they began to act like Protestants.  Foolishly imagining that by making our beautiful Liturgy more Protestant-like  and then later more “relevant” we could persuade people to remain Catholic, American church leaders only succeeded in profaning the sacred and driving more away.  Another factor that contributed to the erosion of the faith of Catholics was the vast expansion of access to so-called higher education that resulted from the GI Bill. First, more colleges were builot to accomodate the number of WWII vets going to college, and then for the first time in US history a college education began to be considered the norm.  By the time that mass higher education became the norm for nearly all middle class youth, the academic world was already occupied by secular humanists salivating at the opportunity to relieve young Christians of their superstitions and replace with gospel according to Darwin, Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, Madames Mead  & Sanger, and Dr. Kinsey.  Just about this time, instead of staging a Counterdeformation, Chruch leaders caved into the sinister forces waiting to undermine the Church.  Those forces afre still at work, and it is not too late to defeat them.  The Tridentine Mass and Rosary are our greatest weapons.   

  • Pope Benedict XVI says this, that the readings and homily should be done in the country’s native tongue when the Ordinary Form is celebrated; but everything else should be in Latin or a mix of Latin and English.  He also prefers celebrating Mass facing East and his back to the people.

  • Tout

    to HOMBRE   yes, some priests ‘run’ thru a LM. But to find the full beauty, one must use the Missal; and one needs a proper understanding of what goes on.

  • Tcjy8

    Thank you hombre 111 for pointing out the importance of knowing what the Mass is about.  If you can stand this analogy, please let me compare love of the Liturgy to love of the opera.  A man who is dragged by his wife to an opera does not care what the libretto is and will hate the music.  But anyone who really loves opera will know the libretto in his or her native tongue and will likely be applled by any suggestion that the opera be perfomred in that language just for his benefit.  I personally know otherwise well-educated Catholics who know less about the Mass than my late grandmother who arrived here from Ireland with a sixth grade education. Now, at the risk of seeming presumptuous and didactic, I feel that I must point out that Pope Bene XVI has specifically stated that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a sacrifice and NOT merely a communal meal.  Yes, I know that you did not suggest that, but I think that one could easily infer from your wording that the communal meal theory was an alternate understanding that was acceptable for Catholics to embrace to the exclusion of the belief in the Holy Sacrifice.  I personally believe that it is helpful to recall that Luther wrote that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a greater abomination than murder or adultery.   In other words, the communal meal view, rather than being a legitimate alternative view, is insidious and heretical.   

  • blessed4

    Father Dom Daniel Augustine Oppenheimer is one of the finest priests out there.  I pray that God will bless the CRNJ and their number will increase for all the faithful, so they too may experience a glorious traditional mass.

  • Papabile

    It really depends where you go if you are attending an SSPX Mass.  In France, you will almost ALWAY find what you describe in the celebration of Dom Oppenheimer’s Mass when it comes to the SSPX.

    And, the SSPX is likely where Dom Daniel Oppenheimer learned some of his spirituality as he was a member of the SSPX at one time.

  • The General

    Those professors who required a minimum of finity words must have loved you!

  • Ciborium

    Thanks you so much Steve Skojec for your comments which seem to resonate with many readers; though I’d guess they reverberate most especially with those who were introduced to the Catholic liturgy in the pre- Vatican II era as I was. (Born 1951) 

    Personally, however, my devotion to Gregorian chant is limited. It really is a Pius X thing that was enforced pretty rigorously in the early 20th Century. I find the traditional Latin Mass is most beautiful when celebrated using the music of the great masters — that includes the polyphonists, the Palestrinists of the Counter-reformation, through the Baroque and Classical masters, right into the 20th century French mystics. There was always a place for Chant in these services (Usually the Collect I believe).

    Catholics, especially the hierarchy have been so tone deaf to the glories of music written to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This repertoire embodies the highest achievements of Western culture, yet they’re tossed away and ignored. What a great shame.

    I must say that just about the time of Vatican II “reforms” were introduced, I soon walked out of the door as a disillusioned 15 year-old (though I did go on to graduate from a twelve year Catholic education). I would return in a heartbeat if an edifying liturgy were restored. 

    Admittedly I’m not a believer … haven’t been since I was a child decades ago. But I BECOME a believer during those 90 or 120 minutes of traditional Catholic liturgy. That’s good enough for me. 

    The closest I’ve come to those experiences of the traditional Catholic liturgy are the Oxford Catholic Services of the Episcopal Church… which retain much of the form of Catholicism (with very good music sung by choirs of men and boys) … without, of course, the Latin itself.

  • hombre111

    I loved his condemnation of the kind of Mass attended by Traditionalists in most other places.  Especially the part about their lack of cheerfulness.  Sounds like a beautifully celebrated Mass.  I have attended other deeply spiritual, deeply uplifting Masses.  They were in English. 

  • Tcjy8

    @hombre111:  Did you identify youself as a priesgt earlier?  If so, I am sorry for not showing you the proper respect.  @Everybody: I think that most of us would agreee that much of what has occurred liturgically since several years after Vatican II has been accompanied by a lack of awe and reverence properly due tthe Sacrament.  I suspect that most of us have found a correlation between the level of adherence to liturgical traddtion and the level of doctrinal orthodoxy in preaching.  I have never heard heresy spoken from the pulpit of a Traditionalsit church, but I’ve heard enough of frightful error and heterodoxical horrors at OR churches to fill a syllabus outlandish nonesense.  It’s worse than outlandish; it’s downright satanic.  And that is what we should all be raising the roof over! 

  • This is exactly my experience with the F.S.S.P. parish in Pequannock, NJ. I’m happy to see my experience was not unique within the extraordinary rite.

  • Mikeflynn57

    what language did jesus speak when he gave us eucharist at the last supper? latin is an unlikely 4 th choice.

  • David Werling

    “Actuoso” means “active”, NOT “actual”. It is disingenuous to change the Latin language in an attempt to make an ideological point.

    There is nothing to fear from what Pope St. Pius X meant by active participation. He was referring to the kind of active participation envisioned by Dom Prosper Guéranger, that is a participation wherein the faithful immerse themselves in the liturgical calendar, both sanctorial and seasonal; wherein the faithful know and have studied the propers, prayed with the propers; wherein the faithful unite themselves to the intentions for which the Mass offered, and unite themselves with the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary; wherein the faithful gain all the benefits they can from the holy sacrifice of the Mass. This active participation includes singing what that which is proper for the laity to sing, but most importantly, it includes a deep interior participation. The highest form of active participation is meditation and contemplation that revolves around the Person of Christ and the Redemption that He wrought.

    However, and this is a big “however”, this does not necessarily evolve into a “dialogue Mass”. The dialogue Mass is counter to this active participation because it can only take place at a low Mass, and, more importantly, is a novelty of the 20th century.

    For more information about the Dialogue Mass and it’s historical and practical shortcomings, please see my assessment of the dialogue Mass in the last two print editions of The Remnant Newspaper.

  • M Gallaher

    100% agreed.  Until the model of “traditional Mass” that I find myself exposed to become open to my full participation I could never even consider forsaking the style of liturgy I have become accustomed to under the Novus Ordo.   Beauty is wonderful but fully engaged worship is better.  IMNHEO.

  • gilad

    what is there address? How can we support this Community? They were at one time out here in Orange County California! But have since moved on and would love to continue supporting them!

    • steve5656546346

      There was a link provided above, and they are on Facebook.  They are at:

      219 S. George Street · Charles Town, West Virginia · 25414

  • Tcjy8

    M. Gallagher:  IMHO your remarks focus too much on what YOU like.  None of the considerations about this important matter should not be about what you or I subjectively prefer.  It is NOT a mattter of taste.  Those of us who live where the OF is celebratred with reverence might not be aware of the horror and scandal that people are forced toddeal with in some parts of America.  Liturgical chaos leads to doctrinal chaos, and doctrinal chaos leads to moral chaos and ultimately to nihilism dressed up as mere relativism.  Foregive me for reapeting myself, but it is from pulpits where these grotesque assaults on the Sacred Liturgy are carried out that we hear assaults of what the Church teaches. 

    • M Gallaher

       Thank you for the comments.  I agree that chaos has had free reign and order must be restored.  I do not however agree that my comment was based on what I “like” rather than on what is “good.”  I am not bored by gregorian chant or liturgy “ad orientum.”   I am not bored by Latin and do not in the least mind reading  along with a side-by-side translation.  However, having spent years and years participating in the liturgy in many different ways, I find it very strange indeed to merely stand and listen while others pray/sing “for”  me.  I seriously doubt that God finds it preferable for most of us to stand and simply listen.  Just MNHEO.

  • Hans

    When we give glory to God, when God is the supreme value  –  not pleasure, money and power,
    we gain peace, harmony and love as a community of faithfuls. 

    • i attend mass each week for just that reason. to worship and give glory to god. all else is vanity.  so why are the reactionaries intent on making that experience incomprehensible to me by going latin?

      • Susan

         You have a choice, and so do I. As I have learned from travel in Rome to Vatican masses, it is EXCEPTIONALLY EASY to learn the Sanctus, Agnus Dei, etc. in Latin. It’s not rocket science; generations of altar boys did it, and so did my kids. And the Missal has EVERYTHING printed in English. The homily is in the vernacular (in  the US, every homily I have heard is in English).

        So continue going to your Novus Ordo church, but do NOT presume that the Mass is “incomprehensible” because it is in Latin. That insults thousands of years of faithful Catholics, the vast majority of saints, and my parents and grandparents, who had NO TROUBLE following along with their Missals.

        Also, my Church gave a beautiful course before instituting the Extraordinary Form, so that in fact that form is now FAR more comprehensible (as to when and why things are done, and what their true meaning is) than the Novus Ordo.

  • Garyfdreher

    The nun in elementry school told I could’t learn latin after tried to teach me some to be an altar boy in the early 1960’s. Some people will never learn latin adn can not learn liten so it is good that mass is now in the vernacular. If mass was still in latin I would have quit going to church. When I watch mass on ewtn I turn the channel when the priest starts syaing the mass in latin. Latin most be an ancient alien lanuage from another planet.just a joke.

    • steve5656546346

      Ah, have you ever heard of a “missal”?  It’s cool:  the English is right there!

      If you would have rejected God because you didn’t want to use a missal, I cannot imagine that your love of God and your faith in Him was all that great at the time.  (I understand, I have had my bad periods of time as well.  A couple of decades if I remember correctly…)

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  • Tcjy8

    M. Gallagher:  I am synmpatheitc toward your point of view.  I hope that you are not terribly offended by the fact that I got a good chucle about of your speuclating about what God wants. Yes, I realize that we are all doing so implicilty, but reading words to that effect makes me laugh a bit.  Now let me indulge in a bit of hyperbole: The reason why a lot of Catholics are afraid of Latin and ad oriens is that they know that there is a good chance that the priest might mount the pulpit and remnd them contraception is still mortal sin and that those who die in such a state may go to Hell. 

    • M Gallaher

       Fortunately a priest does not have to say Mass in Latin in order to remind people that contraception is a sin.  It does not happen often, I grant, but it does happen sometimes even in the middle of Mass celebrated under the Novis Ordo.  Appreciated that you realize I am by no means alone in “imagining” that I know what God wants.  “They all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest ..”  not that I know Him BETTER than the Church as a whole!  But I too have my share in the sensus fidelium.

  • Tina in Ashburn

    The better point may not be that people are afraid of a good homily if a priest says Latin, but these folks really believe that one has to understand the language of the Mass to benefit from it.

     I can’t blame anybody for feeling this way because for the last 50 years, the common practice is to have Mass in the vernacular. But unfortunately, just because we are used to the vernacular, have experienced the vernacular the majority of our lives, and have not really been educated by the clergy – it is a common misconception. Popular practice does not equal proper practice.

    ~~The Church’s saints developed for centuries with a Mass not in the vernacular – this is true of Latin, Slavonic, Greek, or whatever language is sacred for that particular rite.

    ~~For many illiterate over the centuries, rather than ‘dumbing down’ the Mass into the patois or peasant dialect of the uneducated, the Mass was always in Latin. Today more people can read the English while the priest says the Latin! You’d think that the Mass would be bent down for the illiterate back then but no. Why? Because the Mass addresses God the Father, not us.

    ~~The widespread use of the vernacular has not brought about any better understanding of the Mass, and numbers of practicing Catholics continue to drop.

    ~~Latin is the official language of the Church, not only for the Latin rite, but as the language in which documents originate before dissemination to all the rites.

    ~~Latin is a sacred language. Sacred means ‘set apart’. By its very definition this language is dedicated to God and ‘set apart’ from our common everyday words that we use on the street. The use of a sacred language ensures we see the difference between our everyday words and words for God.

    The Mass addresses God the Father, not us!

    One reason folks may misunderstand the purpose of Latin is the misunderstanding of the Mass itself. Sorry – I know you might feel indignant from that suggestion. But wait. I’m not blaming anybody – I too wasn’t taught everything and had to learn much of this myself from Church documents and teachers.  

    So just read for a sec and see if this differs from your understanding.

    The Mass is a ‘conversation’ between Jesus Christ [the priest] and God the Father. So, in spite of the priest facing us during Mass, he isn’t’ talking to us, he is talking to God the Father. Among other reasons, this also explains the old practice of facing the Tabernacle during Mass.
    This ‘conversation’ of course is the Sacrifice done for our benefit, as Jesus Christ pleads and offers Himself for us.

    So Jesus Christ [the priest] is speaking to God the Father. He addresses God the Father in a sacred language. If we want to understand it, we read a translation. To hear Mass, we must first unite our hearts to the intention of the priest and ask that the Sacrifice be a worthy as possible and ask for the benefits we need.

    Another important point is that God tells us how He wants to be worshiped. Its not how we feel, its not whether we understand it, its not about our self-expression – its about discovering what God wants and doing that. All through Scripture are a zillion examples of God telling us specifics about His worship and what He considers unworthy prayer. Today we have the Church who tells us what God wants. Yup – the Church gave us the Liturgy founded by Jesus Christ, and so it follows that the Church also tells us how to do the Liturgy.

    If you believe that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, that He gave us the Mass at the Last Supper, that He instituted our apostles as bishops and Peter as His vicar, then it follows that the Church is here to guide us. Thus, the Church’s inspired laws on Liturgy, which we are to learn and follow.

  • Daniel Traceski

    My cousin Steve, I love you, and I love the Canons, and thank you for the article, but I must respectfully disagree that dialogue low Masses are better than “silent” low Masses, or that it is better at Sung Masses for the entire congregation to sing the responses (much less the Ordinary and Propers) rather than clergy in choir (or failling them, a practiced lay choir or schola) to sing them on behalf of the Universal Church.  I’d be happy to discuss it with you sometime.  I must confess, however, I am a little hurt by the characterization of my view point as “madness” and “invented by people who want Catholics to fall in line, not ask questions, and were their complete docility on their sleaves.”  I assure you, the tradition of reserving the music and responses to clergy was neither invented nor sustained by such an idea.  I would not accuse that of anyone who disagrees with me, especially if he is at least thoughtful about his opinion.  After all, I desperately want the faithful to speak out loud at Sunday Mass when no one dares:  The Homily.  How many times have you or I heard error and heresy from the pulpit at Mass?  I have never objected to it out loud at Mass, have you?  God bless you, Jamie and the kids.

    • steve5656546346

      I do agree that the article created a strawman.  Typically, people left the Church in droves starting for one of two basic reasons:

      1.  What they saw with their eyes, said with their tongue, and did with their bodies regarding the faith changed almost totally and almost overnight.  This is not even a Catholic-type mistake.  

      It is the Protestants who bow interiorly, and so have no need to bow exteriorly.  From the very beginning, Catholics had a theology of the body–an understanding that our bodies are not superfluous…but part of us.  God already had angles (pure spirit), we are SUPPOSED to have bodies.

      The Church has always been among the most intellectual of religions, but it also has made ample room for a simple faith–and has always been realistic about human limitations.

      So, anybody thinking with the mind of the Church for some 2 thousand years would have instantly realized that if you change all the externals of faith, most humans (not being philosophers who are also perfectly holy) would assume that the internals (the teachings) has also changed:  indeed, WHY change vitally ALL the externals if the teachings had NOT changed–what could be the goal?

      And so, with so much changed–without really much explanation (since making such vast changes so quickly had no valid explanation as our current Pope has made clear)–many people left the Church in utter heart break.  Devastated that so much of what they taught was not functionally regarded as wrong.  And often, whey they brought their heartfelt concerns to the priest, or a sister, they were basically kicked in the teeth.  Such was this “pastoral” period.

      Fr. James McLucas once said that (clinically) traditionalists often act like the children of abusive mothers (according to the research on such children).  This is because they are:  the Holy Mother Church has often been an abusive mother.  (He also seemed to think that we should stop acting like that!)

      2.  There was a drum beat (starting within the documents of Vatican II itself) of how much GOOD there was in the world!  Within Protestantism.  And even within other religions:  apart from Christ.  And even among atheists.  Just so much truth and good!  If so, why would it be all that important to be Catholic?  Or Christian?  Or even religious at all?

      At the same time, the relaxation of discipline in the Church implied much the same thing.  Priests and nuns–in the name of the Church, and as authorized spokespersons for the Church–started saying all manner of things…and remained authorized spokespersons for the Church in good standing.  The IMPLICATION was that truth is not all that big of deal:  everybody has their own personal opinion.

      And disciplines relaxed:  as though Christ didn’t want us to pick up our cross and follow him so much as not to be inconvenienced.

      The take away less for too many was that if you miss a mass, that’s no big deal.  So, it also couldn’t be all that big of deal if you hardly ever go to mass.

      Some drifted into the secular world.  Some joined Protestant sects which told them what in their heart they knew to be true:  Christ is a big deal who is worth sacrificing for…  

  • Tcjy8

    @familjoly an all:  Famijoly reminds us of what all Catholics used to know about the three conditions for mortal sin to exist.  I don’t what to hijack this thread, but I think fami has rasied an issue about which there is much confusion, and frankly, mght not have a dogmatic answer.  I am referring to the question culpability of those who know what the Church but have been told in every single moral qeustion they may reject Church Teaching and follow their own “consciences” no matter how porly formed.  I know that I am not the only who knows people actively engaged in nearly every ministry ot their parishes who also proudly opposed to the Chruch’s frim psotions on the five “non-negotiables.”  Our Lord’s words about coming to bring a swaord rather than peace come to mind when I think of the confrontations I have had with loved ones parish members who believe that since individual conscience trumps all they are free support same sex-marriage and abortion.  Arguably it is a sin of omission to reamin silnet in the presence of such heresy, espeicalaly if their are impressionalbe young present, even if it results bruised feelings.  If find it hard to not find as a contributing factor to this state of affairs the lack of response on the part of many Catholic leaders to brazen defiance of the Church on the part {ub;oc figures who identify themselves as Catholics.   Again, I know that this does not seem to be connected to the serious questions concerning the Literty that we have been thoughtfully dealing with, my expereice is that Traditionalist preist are never silent in the fact of evil, but the priests who react like Dracula seeing a crucifix at the mere mention of Latin Mass are the ones likely  to scream about judgmentalism when somone criticizes a pro-abort pol. 

  • steve5656546346

    What the Cannons do is at high masses, and is NOT a novelty introduced in the 20th Century.

  • steve5656546346

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  • steve5656546346

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  • steve5656546346

    So, what is your point?  That Peter and Paul were wrong to go to Rome?  That Latin should not be the official language of the Church?  That the world-wide Church should not have a common language?  That that language should be English?  And before, French?  And then whatever next becomes the most common language?  That the Church should use a language which is in common usage–and thus constantly changing?  That our viewpoint at this moment in history defines wisdom?

  • steve5656546346

    We attend mass in Charles Town with CRNJ.  We find the mass to be beautiful, the homilies edifying, and the community to be welcoming.

    Personally, I don’t get drawn into debates about silence vs. audible participation:  I can only report that the mass has benefitted us greatly.

  • thelastconvert

    Good article

  • Chrismcavoy

    The abbot/prior Dom. Daniel is a former anglican, converting around age 18 if I remember. Much of the credit to what he does lies in the “anglo-catholicism” that once existed in episcopal/anglican churches. In this respect it reminds me of the best qualities to be found in both anglican and byzantine liturgies, without in any way making it less traditionally a latin mass.   The degree of community and communication in their church is very healthy and holy.

    Some of the anglican use catholic churches are actually rather similar to this.
    There is I think an underestimation of the dedication and service those of former anglican background can offer the latin church if allowed to do so – allowed to be who they are liturgically.

    I must say also that I found the Latin Mass community in Harrisburg, PA, the Mater Dei chapel next to their main Cathedral to be in many respects equally as fulfilling as the canons mass in Charles Town, WV.  Both of them have strong communities where people get to know each other, volunteer and have gorgeous – though not overly difficult –  liturgical music. I see the seeds of all the things a healthy church should have growing in both places, and since they are filled with parents with many young children I know that they will probably last for a long time to come.

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