Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Letter on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass

On Friday, the Vatican released a further instruction on the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass clarifying a few key points. Click here to read Universae Ecclesiae. Of note from my reading would be the following:

1) A new provision is given which allows for the proclamation of the readings during a low Mass to be done EITHER in the traditional Latin OR in one's native language. This morning, because my printer was broke here at Ritter, preventing me from printing the booklets we normally use, the readings were done in English, and I found that to be a nice variation.

2) Seminaries are instructed to provide training to their charges with regards to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. I ask for this for several years but the "political" climate was not right - it seems as if that is changing.

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the Latin Mass as it is often thought of, although this is misleading because the Mass at your parish can be celebrated in Latin as well) has been discussed here before, but I want to again describe my affinity for it. I love BOTH forms of the Mass, and both are EQUALLY valid - obviously. I believe that both forms of the Mass inform each other. I wanted to learn the Extraordinary Form because I wanted to learn where the Mass has come from. If the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is ostracized, it's like a family photo album with all the pages ripped out from the beginning of the album. Learning the Extraordinary Form has ONLY helped me in praying the Mass as it is in the Ordinary Form - it has also given me a greater sense of the many abuses that PEOPLE have ADDED ONTO the Ordinary Form of the Mass that the Church has never intended.

I pray that Universae Ecclesiae will be read and accepted and embraced by ALL the faithful, priests and laity alike.


  1. I can read about life long ago to appreciate it. I don't have to re-enact it . I find the arguments for the ex. form very poor based on the rose tinted glasses approach to all that has gone before. For my part it is a hurtful memory to recall all the wasted time at primary school learning responses and not understanding what on earth I was talking about. I can still feel the relief felt when the english came in. We have learnt from our mistakes, we do not need to re-mystify the mass by making them over again.

  2. I disagree that reading about something is all you need in order to experience something.

    There is a great line from the movie "Good Will Hunting"

    "You're a tough kid. I ask you about war, you'd probably uh...throw Shakespeare at me, right? "Once more into the breach, dear friends." But you've never been near one...You're an orphan, right? Do you think I'd know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are because I read Oliver Twist?"

    Reading is important - but the life of faith tells me that there is an infinite gap between knowing ABOUT something and actually experiencing it. I wanted to EXPERIENCE the Mass as the Church celebrated for hundreds of years - that is why I learned how to pray the "old" Mass.

  3. OK then experience it,then move on and live in today's world. Speak in today's language , to today's people, about today's problems. Anything that makes the mass difficult to verbalise or understand makes it mysterious and shrouded in historical clouds of romantic memories of days gone by. The mass is at it's core very plain, very simple and so able to be understood by peasant as well as king. The latin form was one way that the church kept it's congregations under control depending upon the clergy to interpret the mysterious language of the "great mystery" wheras Christ instituted the simple sacrifice and miracle of the euchrist for everyone of the faith to believe it.

  4. Albert, I'm not sure what to tell you.

    The Liturgy transcends time, whether it is Latin, English, or Zwahili.

    You can still talk about today's problems within the context of a Mass said in Latin.

    It is Christ in the Eucharist that speaks to today's problems anyways, not the specific style of the Liturgy. Both forms of the Mass are equally valid, and both make present Him who speaks to the problems of the world.

    How many people know what is being said at the average American parish when Mass is in English? I can promise you the percentage is low. Literally the majority of Catholics, according to studies, today don't know that the Eucharist is the true presence of Christ, so how can you tell me that the Mass in English makes it more accessible?

    You said the "Latin form was one way that the Church (I'm assuming you meant capital "C") kept it's congregations under control depending on clergy to interpret the mysterious language of the "great mystery". Could you cite a source on that, or is that your own theory? To me, that sounds like revisionist history to me - a la Monty Python or Richard Dawkins.

    Again, you talk about the Eucharist being instituted for everyone, and I would agree, but I would also bet you that if you compared the % of Latin Mass folks who understand the Real Presence compared with those who understand the Real Presence among English Mass folks, the numbers would be about half.

  5. If you are quoting " about half of american mass goers understand that God in present in the mass," then that tells me three things. 1. You are guessing like me, based on personal experience. That is perfectly legitimate. 2. If true your catholic education system needs help, as I know that most if not all of mass goers in the U.K. do know that Christ is really present in the mass, again my gut feeling, as a teacher in the U.K. catholic system. 3. You have a poor opinion of the faith that you see demonstrated before your eyes, if your hypothesis is true. Again a matter for education. The latin form was a very personal mass between God and the priest. The congregation was constantly brought into the liturgy by "Dominus vobiscum " about eight times during mass. People felt on the edge, almost on the outside, so things were changed. The priest was turned to face the people ,the altar brought forward, the vernacular used. So people felt more included.Some priests felt like showmen. In the U.K. this resulted in the pre-mass church being used as a meeting place where pepole chatted and caught up with friends and news. This was tolerated in the new sense of inclusion of the people. With this came a lack of reverence, walking around before mass doing jobs in church and communing with one another instead of preparing for the miracle and sacfifice of the echarist. The present pope is trying to recapture some reverence by making the ex. form more available. So be it if it works. My own choice would be to remind the congregation from the pulpit about the real presence of Christ in the mass and how they should prepare to receive Him. Pax vobiscum.
    Albert Conroy

  6. P,S I took part ( surrering greatly) in a latin mass yesterday, friday 22nd. Where can I get it in Zwahili?

  7. I meant SUFFERING not surrering

  8. Albert,

    The statistics on Catholics who understand the Real Presence were found in a famous study conducted by the Pew Center for Research.

    The Latin Mass is not being forced on anyone. If you are the kind of person who can't experience the prayer that is going on there - DON'T GO!! There is a simple solution. That's the beauty of where the Church is right now - two options.

    I would say you are totally confused on what goes on at Mass during the Extraordinary Form, but I doubt me describing it would change your mind, and I'm not trying to talk anyone into the Extraordinary Form.

    I don't have a clue what your last two posts were about - the Mass is in Zwahili wherever that language is spoken I guess, but I have no idea what your point is there.

  9. I can find lots of agreement that the ex. form was/is a priest centred mass as opposed to a priest and people co-operation.I have a problem with the ex form in as much as I spent many long lessons as an eight year old learning it. Then it disappeared for fifty years from my neck of the woods and suddenly reappeared. It is hard for my not to remember those long, and extremely hard times trying to learn the latin and not really knowing what I was saying. On top of this I felt as if I were an bystander in what was really the priest's business at mass. The mysterious language reinforced this misconception, but I was only a child. My mistake is that because fifty years have passed since I last participated in a latin mass, the judgements I made as a child have surfaced now. As am adult I can now evaluate from much more life and religious experience. I prefer the mass in english,not as a matter of validity but as a matter of understanding. I wish however that there was more reverence in mass in whatever language. Thanks for the lively exchange. father
    P.S. Research from whatever source often finds results to please the people who funded it. Questions can be framed so as to achieve any answer the questioner wants.Albert Conroy

  10. Albert, I'm sorry you were scarred by having to learn prayers in Latin at the age of 8. All of the 8 year olds who go to the Mass in English at my parish know EXACTLY what is going on and understand all of the prayers perfectly :)

    Again, the great thing about the Mass today - you can go to the form that you feel most deeply attracted to.