Wednesday, November 28, 2012


For last night's EF Mass, the free standing altar was removed and the original altar was magnificent and looked more accessible to the congregation than the faux one that was removed.

Don't have any images of last night's Mass yet, but this one gives you an idea:

“Ritus nobili simplicitate fulgeant” is the complete expression found in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 34). It means, “Let the rites radiate a noble simplicity”. I firmly believe that this concept was misapplied in the reform of the Mass and was brought to an unneeded extreme leading to ignoble simplicity for the most part.

Last night I watched most of the Pontifical Solemn Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form with Most Reverend David M. O'Connell, C.M., Bishop of Trenton.

The church that was used was quite beautiful and appropriate for either form of the one Latin Rite Mass.

However, as I watched the Mass, I couldn't help but think that all the bishops that gathered for the Second Vatican Council more than likely would have been quite open to the "simplification" of the Pontifical Solemn Sung Mass and that the words of Sacrosanctum Concilium, #34 were more than likely aimed at this type of Mass and not the normal Mass as it was celebrated in most Catholic parishes prior to the Council. The Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form exudes the radiation of noble simplicty as does the normal Missa Cantata without deacon and sub deacon and even the normal parish Solemn Sung parish Mass with deacon and sub deacon has a nobleness of simplicity.

However the Pontifical Solemn Sung Mass is another question altogether and yes, I think it would be wise to clean it up a bit!

However I agree with Father Uwe Michael Lang, C.O. when he writes, "...the fifth chapter on "Decorum of the Liturgical Celebration" in the encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" -- of Pope John Paul II (April 17, 2003), where he affirms that Christ himself wanted a fitting a decorous environment for the Last Supper, asking his disciples to prepare it in the house of a friend who had a "large upper room furnished" (Luke 22:12; cf. Mark 14:15). In face of Judas' protest that the anointing with precious oil was an unacceptable "waste," given the need of the poor, Jesus, without diminishing the obligation of concrete charity towards the needy, declared his great appreciation for the woman's action, because her anointing anticipated "that honor of which his body will continue to be worthy also after his death, indissolubly linked as it is to the mystery of his Person" ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia," No. 47). John Paul II concludes that the Church, as the woman of Bethany, "does not fear to 'waste,' investing the best of her resources to express her adoring wonder in the face of the incommensurable gift of the Eucharist" (ibid., No. 48). The liturgy calls for the best of our possibilities, to glorify God the Creator and Redeemer."

So I'm not speaking of vesture. I'm am speaking of ceremony and too much of it that obfuscates what is happening and the total disconnect between what the choir representing the congregation does and what is happening in the sanctuary.

I don't mean for this to come across as implying anything, but it does appear that in the pontifical Solemn Sung Mass the bishop is treated as though he is a "queen bee" and that all the other worker bees are too many in number and in the way.

I have to confess that I haven't ever attended an EF Mass with a bishop in any form let alone the Pontifical Solemn High Mass. So there were things done that I simply did not understand why these were being done, for example, the bishop's miter being placed on his head for the incensation and washing of the hands. It all seem just too complicated.

In addition the use of the MC to tell the bishop what to do and at every moment struck me as too over-played. It made the bishop look like he didn't have a clue as to what to do for himself.

So, how to make the EF Mass radiate noble simplicity, I would say, get rid of some of the court of ministers. There are way to many and make the Pontifical Solemn Sung Mass more like the normal Solemn Sung Mass with deacon, sub deacon and Master of ceremonies. Get all the other ministers out of the way and make them less prominant and seen only when needed.

Finally, I really feel that there needs to be a connection between what is sung and that what is sung is what everyone sings whether they actually sing it or simply join quietly in following the singing and that should go for the celebrant too.


rcg said...

The changes left out the 'noble' part.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you this father. I does looks like the bishop does not know what to do, but it also very distractive.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered that the bishop-celebrant doesn't appear to know what to do because he, in fact, doesn't know because this form of the Mass was suppressed for 50 years?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

While I can't be certain, I think the rubrics tell the MC to tell the bishop, especially during the Canon, what moves to make--that is what I'm criticizing--those rubrics.
Certainly the bishop must have practiced the EF Mass, first as a low Mass to get very familiar with it, then has a missa cantata to get familiar with it (which I find easier than the Low Mass or less stressful) and then with the Pontifical Solemn Sung Mass?

Henry Edwards said...

In every EF Mass with MC--be it the more solemn form of missa cantata (as described in Fortescue) or a solemn high Mass or a pontifical Mass--it is the function of the Master of Ceremonies to direct the celebrant. This was the case 50 years ago as it is now. (Watch the video of an old pontifical Mass.)

The function of the celebrant is to offer prayer and sacrifice to God, not to think about rubrical intricacies. Although one would think every priest could offer a low Mass--or the simple form of missa cantata with just a couple of servers or so--without any direction, it surely would be unrealistic now, just as it was in former times, to expect every bishop to be able to offer a pontifical Mass without direction. I suspect bishops have always been selected primarily on the basis of other qualifications than liturgical expertise.

In any event, the "submission" of the celebrant to the direction of his MC reflects the humility with which the EF celebrant abnegates his own personality and subjects his will to that of the Church.

It seems to me that it is not a proper role of the celebrant to think about how to "stage" the Mass--or exploit loopholes in the rubrics--to make the liturgy more "accessible" or appealing to the people. This is strictly a Novus Ordo idea. The ethos of the EF Mass is to celebrate the liturgy as received (and thus as defined by current rubrics).

Though, admittedly, the spiritual benefit of his parishioners is certainly a pressing concern of the pastor, and the line between responsible pastor and faithful celebrant is one that I myself would not presume to define.

Andy Milam said...


I must agree with you 100%. As an MC I can tell you that the role of the MC is not only to direct the celebrant, but also to support, affirm and complete his action.

The Mass, as we know is a call and response. The role of the ministers at the altar and in the sanctuary is to make the responses to the priest, in order to free the faithful from being burdened with making the responses and allowing them to worship in a way that they see best fit.

The Master of Ceremonies does three major things, first, he serves the celebrant; second, he directs the ceremonies, and third he affirms the licitness and validity of the Mass at hand.

When one says that the MC is an embellishment, one does not understand that the service at the altar of the celebrant is enhanced when someone is there supporting, affirming and serving him, by directing the ceremonies around him. The celebrant cannot abandon the altar in the time of necessity, but the MC can. The celebrant should not be correcting, directing or communicating with servers, he is to be Communing with God the Father. The MC can.

The function of the MC is not to be a showpiece and the role of the MC is certainly not glamorous. It is humbling and it is tedious. But it is a service to Holy Mother Church and it is one which I embrace, insofar as I can.

Marc said...

I'll add my limited thoughts since I am far less expert than Henry and Andy:

The presence of the other ministers (priests and deacons) around the Bishop during the Pontifical Mass harkens back to the idea of the Bishop as president of the Eucharistic Celebration in the Local Church. This is why everyone attends to him - his role is different and more expansive than the presbyters. That role is emphasized by the way the Pontifical High Mass is celebrated. Moreover, it shows quite firmly and clearly that this man is a successor of the Apostles. In some ways the Pontifical High Mass is a celebration of the person of the bishop and the gift of the Episcopacy as well.

All of this is lost in the Novus Ordo Masses involving a bishop that I have attended. He is essentially acting like any other priest in those liturgies.

In other words, the ceremonies matter. They developed over centuries. Just because we may not understand them does not mean they need to be simplified. On the contrary, it means we need to be educated about their meaning.

Jacob said...

Father I respectfully disagree-CHANGE NOTHING. the rubrics have a rich and important history. How beautiful it was. I loved it. It was a life changing event for those that were there

Jon said...

Being a member of an FSSP parish, I saw many things last night that were rubrically out of place. But what I saw also amazed me and gladdened my heart to an extent it hasn't for a very long time.

I think key to our appreciation and enjoyment of last night's event though is to cut all the participants considerable slack. They were, after all, each of them, diocesan priests. That's extraordinary in and of itself, and speaks volumes of hope for the future. It took them many days and many hours of practice to master something in which all but a few had ever had any experience.

As for Bishop O'Connell, I'd cut him even more. He did a brave thing last night, and not just politically. I had no idea until reading it how much he's physically suffered recently. You may have noticed the bandage on his nose. That entire side of his nose was removed a few months ago because of skin cancer he "let get away" from him. He's presently undergoing reconstructive surgery.

You may have also noticed His Excellency's limp, and his bowing rather than genuflecting. A year ago, he lost a leg to diabetes, and he's only 57. Despite that, he stood during the Canon, distributed Holy Communion while walking up and down the rail, and prior to Mass processed in with cappa magna - I wish I'd been able to see it.

So, while a worthy topic, I would save the speculation about "simplification" for another day, and save today for expressing gratitude for genuine episcopal courage of a kind we're rarely blessed to see. First, I'd thank God. Second, I'd call EWTN - which I have - and thank them. Second, call his office or write a letter to Bishop O'Connell, telling him how grateful you are for his brave action of last evening, and of your prayers that he might have a long and fruitful episcopacy.

It's a wonderful time to be alive.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

thanks for the update on the Bishop's health issue--had no idea that he had lost a leg, was diabetic and let a skin cancer go to far! As for the latter, I had the same situation above my lip and was oblivious to what it was, thinking it was just a bump and would have been in the same boat if not for an observant parishioner who is told me to see him the next day at his medical office as he thought it looked like a basil cell carcinoma!

In terms of any minor reforms to the EF Mass, I think people who want to promote this form of the Mass are shooting themselves in the foot if they are closed to any adjustments to it. I still think we must eventually follow what SC asked for this Liturgy, which means the Ordinary Form is the one that needs the most reforming to actually bring it back to what SC really desired, not only in terms of noble simplicity but how the rites were revised. To say that things went overboard in the name of SC is an over simplification!

Anonymous said...

Why would there be adjustments to it? There were virtually no rubrical adjustments for, what, nearly half a millennia? Why now?

You'll say Sacrosanctum Concilium mandates that... But does it really? That document deals with discipline, not dogma. So, it has a limited application (much like Quo Primum that Pater is always on about). Surely it's time has passed with the intervening knowledge and experience of the Church.

We disagree with people like you who see something that needs reform by way of simplification. What the Tridentine Mass needs is to be left alone and celebrated properly for a period of time before it is tampered with by clerics who do not celebrate it (for the most part) and do not understand or appreciate its beauty and rubrical intricacies.

Otherwise, we have a situation where cleric are attempting to foist their aesthetically vision upon the Mass without regard to symbolism, Tradition, and legitimate organic development. I believe that is the case with your statements in this post: your vision is based purely on "ease of use" and aesthetics. None of your suggestions relate to Tradition or doctrinal aspects of the Mass. And I perceive that to be an incomplete frame of reference for proposed changes, particularly simplifications.

Henry Edwards said...


My reaction was the same as yours. Viewing this Mass left me on cloud nine, with a greater immediate emotional boost than anything else I've seen in the Church recently.

Not only seeing such a glorious EF Mass on EWTN, but hearing the commentator--apparently a parish RE director in the Diocese of Trenton--tell how their first EF Mass in the diocese had been just a year ago last night, a low Mass with just 2 altar boys and no music, to now with about 35 well-trained servers who could do the job we saw last night, a fine schola and choir, all with "just" parish and diocesan support. How their altar boy progress, and their all-youth choir reflected the fact that during this year the TLM has been an amazing magnet for youth.

Just shows what can be done (I suspect) in any diocese by the kind of bishop Trenton has.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Part of my discomfort with that particular Mass is that I was the bishop's MC for six years at our Cathedral, so I was looking at it through that lens and trying to figure out how I could do it better, more unintrusively and with less clutter.

Andy Milam said...

Fr. McDonald,

As a fellow MC, I would contend that when the ceremonies are followed to the T, without addition or subtraction, then there is no "clutter." Everyone has a role and that role is fulfilled.

In a Pontifical Mass, there should be 13 servers, thurifer, two candles, 6 torches, and 4 ministers to the bishop (including busia).

There should be three deacons, one subdeacon, and one vested acolyte (any seminarian will do, in alb or tunicle), as well as two Masters of Ceremonies (one as attendant to the altar and one as attendant to the ceremonies). Finally, there should be an archpriest.

This is not an inordinate amount of attendants/ministers. It is very easy to manage and not very difficult to teach. Unless the Pontifical Mass is said in a catacomb, there should be ample room and very little clutter.

If it is simply a Solemn Mass, obviously the attendants/ministers are reduced and the ceremonies are not as indicative of the fullness of the priesthood.

Henry Edwards said...

Fr. M: "In terms of any minor reforms to the EF Mass, I think people who want to promote this form of the Mass are shooting themselves in the foot if they are closed to any adjustments to it."

Au contraire, may I suggest that this is a total non-issue? That whether traditional Catholics are open or closed to adjustments in the EF Mass, could not possibly make any less difference than it does, which is none whatsoever

Because--aside from a few sedevacantist types who, being outside the Church, make no difference in or to the Church--all traditional Catholics agree on one thing. That, whatever the rubrics for the Mass may be, they should be followed precisely and rigorously with absolutely no deviation, with absolutely no one expressing in the liturgy any personal opinion he may hold, no one trying to make any "improvements" on his own, no one looking for loopholes in the rubrics to make some innovation contrary to traditional practice.

So, whatever private opinion any traditional Catholic might have in advance about any proposed change, he certainly can be counted upon to accept without further question whatever decision Pope and Church may make.

If only progressive Catholics had the same sense of faithfulness and obedience, the Church would not have its present liturgical problems.

Andy Milam said...

@ Henry;

"That, whatever the rubrics for the Mass may be, they should be followed precisely and rigorously with absolutely no deviation, with absolutely no one expressing in the liturgy any personal opinion he may hold, no one trying to make any "improvements" on his own, no one looking for loopholes in the rubrics to make some innovation contrary to traditional practice."

As you well know, the rubrics in the TLM hold the force of law. Liturgical Law. This was taken very seriously and while one can find those who broke that law, if he looks hard enough, one will always be able, but that certainly wasn't the norm.

Just as if one were to look hard enough, one will always be able to find examples of Canon Law being broken, but that too, was never the norm either.

All of that being said, one of the biggest travesties (and there were a lot of them) was that rubrics ceased to have the force of law behind them. They were relegated to mere suggestion and that is what has caused the biggest of the big problems in the Mass as we have it. I think that if Father Celebrant were to celebrate Mass today with the rigor of the TLM, he would find that his subjectivism is stifled to the point of suffocation. Perhaps that is just what we need.

While the Mass is is the priest's, it is not his personally. It is his insofar as he is in persona Christi. He celebrates it, but he does so as an ordained priest, not as a subjective minister.

I would argue that we must find a way to promote the freedom which comes with adherence to the rubrics in a manner which is rigorous and substantial. And then this can influence the Novus Ordo.

Henry Edwards said...

First photos of this pontifical Mass, the most glorious diocesan pontifical Mass I have seen in recent years, are posted at

In particular, perhaps you can check

to see if Andy's accounting (above), of the ministers needed, is satisfied.

And the photo

of assembled altar boys and "Girls of the Miraculous Medal" (I forget the exact name of the TLM girls society) made concrete to me the commentator's discussion of how the TLM has rejuvenated youth evangelization in the Diocese of Trenton.

I truly believe that participation in this Mass last night will live in the memories of these boys and girls and will inspire them as Catholic for the rest of their lives. This the kind of thing that makes the difference between what Catholic youth once were, and what they typically now are.

Anonymous said...

nJust a brief point of clarification: Bishop O'Connell had several toes amputated last year as a result of diabeties, but did not lose his leg. We in the Trenton Diocese cannot thank God enough for our wonderful Bishop.

Henry Edwards said...

Scrolling down further on the Trenton Latin Mass news page linked above, I see that the girls group is called the

Maidens of the Miraculous Medal

Each of the solemn high Mass descriptions indicates that approx. 20 MMM participated in it, but I haven't seen what their participation is.

ytc said...

oooh my, I can smell the frankincense.

I will say that I would personally like to see the Solemn Pontifical Mass left alone. First of all it needs a large sanctuary to do it well, with a large amount of space in front of the altar.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious to see pictures of Tuesday's EF mass. I come when I can, but getting there on time is hard. Have you thought of pushing it back just 15 minutes?

John Nolan said...

In May 2003 Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos celebrated a PHM in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Since ad orientem in the Roman Basilicas is versus populum, you could easily see the prompts given to His Eminence by the Assistant Priest, reminding him to conjoin thumb and forefinger after the Consecration, and when to genuflect.

In the old days, you would see MCs move ministers around and snap their fingers at servers. This did nothing for the dignity of the Rite. Then, as now, the key word is rehearsal.

Anonymous said...

An entire photo gallery of the Mass is available on the website for the Diocesian paper, The Monitor. While not able to link to it, it is worth the time to go on over and have a look.

Pater Ignotus said...

Anonymous Nov 28, 2:00 p.m. - I am not "always on" about Quo Primum (QP). I don't recall that I have ever initiated a discussion on that document.

Some have asserted that QP forbids and invalidates ANY subsequent changes to the liturgy by ANY authority for ANY reason.

This erroneous assertion is based on a misunderstanding of the language used in QP and on the larger question of how language is used in some (many?) magisterial documents.

People with little or no understanding read a document, find a text, yank it our of context, and think they have found the rubrical Holy Grail. What they have found is a decontextualized passage, the decontextualization of which alters or, in many cases, destroys its authoritative meaning.

The Magisterium simply doesn't work that way.