Monday, February 19, 2018


Let me start with the short Low Mass. I had a parishioner who is a snowbird and lives in Richmond Hill for about 6 months during the colder time up north where his primary residence is. He told me while saying, hint, hint, that the Sunday Mass he attends up north at his home parish lasts about  35 minutes--which means that the priest races through the prayers and there is no singing.

Is this a good idea to keep Catholics in our pews by giving them a short Low Mass each Sunday? I can remember loving the Low Mass as a child, especially in the heat of Augusta's red hot summers when our pastor would mercifully tell us that he would dispense with the homily because it was too hot in the church and the loud humongous fans we had drowned him out anyway. Who needs the homily anyway, it's not really a part of the Mass or is it?

And now for Ash Wednesday. My new church seats about 1,200 people and if it were only standing room only, about 1,500 people could get in there if not more. The church was built with future growth in mind as Richmond Hill is about to explode as the up and coming premier suburban bedroom community of Savannah.

We have a Saturday Vigil Mass and two on Sunday with the 11 AM Mass what I would call our principle Mass or the most heavily attended. However, we seldom have more than half the church full, but that is about 500 or 600 people which would have been a packed church in my Macon parish church that only could seat 550.

But on Ash Wednesday, our 7 PM Mass was packed, absolutely packed. Many there I did not recognize so I suspect they were Christmas, Easter and Ash Wednesday Mass attendees only.

What is it about Ash Wednesday that we get so many inactive Catholics attending Mass?

And how can we get the nearly 70 to 80 % of Catholics who don't attend Mass, but still consider themselves Catholics, not "nones" to come to Mass more frequently--where did the reforms of Vatican II go wrong?  Does the fact that in many places in the world almost 90% of Catholics no longer attend Mass indicate that Vatican II must see the advent of Vatican III, especially on the nature of the Church and her liturgical style to reform Vatican II? Is it Vatican II that needs reform and not the Church?

Let me say this. Today inactive Catholics aren't looking for Latin and their moral lives could better be described as amoral not even immoral. And there is so much more for them to do on the weekend than in years past.

So is it the poor liturgies we have which are uninspiring? Or is a Low Mass that is short,  more appealing to the 80% or more Catholics who don't attend? Would they be more likely to attend a 15 minute Mass with no homily even an EF Mass?


Rood Screen said...

I'd say that in each parish church there should be a principal Mass on Sundays and solemnities that is entirely sung, with sermon, Kiss of Peace, etc. The other Masses could be simple, without music, etc. The homily is still canonically obligatory, but it could be very brief, perhaps one or two minutes.

Victor said...

"...where did the reforms of Vatican II go wrong?"

We can begin answering this by noting that the Council document on the liturgy never even called for a reform. It called for a renewal of the liturgy and mentions it several times. The only place that this document mentions the word "reform" is in a footnote referring to a section in the Council of Trent documents on the marriage rite. There is quite a difference between renewal and reform.

The 2 places where the liturgical changes went wrong following V2 are the foundation and cornerstone of the liturgical movement: active participation and assembly. Both of these were romanticised notions that had little support in history and alienated the vast majority of Catholics because of how they corrupted the essence of the Catholic liturgy.

rcg said...

Absolutley! But it is not a dilemma. The Low Mass, properly conducted is wonderful and can be quite short. I bet if you educated people about it they would want to experience it and, after giving it a try, be open to a High Mass.

Henry said...

A 15-min OF Mass would be cutting it too short. But for some, a 30 min EF low Mass can be more intense spiritually than an hour-long high Mass--especially with no sermon (or one as brief as possible) to interrupt and dissipate that intensity.

The most incisive homilist I've ever had as a pastor use to say that, if you can't say it in 5-7 minutes, then it isn't worth saying and won't have any impact, so don't bother.

Anonymous said...

LOL finding a service that short in the Orthodox Church or even in some Episcopal parishes---a "short one" in an Episcopal parish at the main service (with the choir) might run an hour-fifteen, in part because you sing all the stanzas, even if all 8 of "For All the Saints." Heck, I remember one time going to an Episcopal wedding that had communion and someone next to me complaining the service overall took 45 minutes!!! What is the rush---to get to brunch or (during the fall), seeing the NFL pregame show?!?! I guess one self-limiting factor is that Catholic parishes may have a half dozen or more Masses on Sunday, so if you are going to have that many, you have to keep the Masses somewhat short to clear out the parking lot for the next round. For example, at Atlanta's Christ the King Catherdral, there are Sunday Masses at 730, 900, 1030 and then noon, and 130/ 545. In contrast, an Orthodox church only has two Divine Liturgies---at most.

Anonymous said...

I never understood the want to shorten the Mass just to keep people in the pews. Even though I am not Catholic, our Sunday Orthodox Liturgy usually last about an hour and a half

Anonymous said...


OK. Fine..I'll chime in. If you want more people to attend, then make it more relevant to them. Have guitars, more theatrics, active participation..(the wrong kind, that is), and any other ideas are always welcome. But, that has put us precisely where we are now. Instead, make it more centered around and pleasing to our Lord. That way the few that you do get are sure to have a better understanding of what the Mass is and should be.

Anonymous said...

A Vatican III may not be necessary.
I believe a lot will improve as the "spirit of Vatican II" and "progressive" type priests ordained c. 1960 to c.1980 retire and pass away to be replaced by young priests, who are more orthodox and will mostly have no desire to continue with the sort of liturgy, beliefs and practices which were almost for certain a significant factor in the extent of the big if not giant fall in numbers of baptized Catholics attending mass.

I have increased hope when, for example, I hear two older priests in their 70s talking like this:
"Well, we have increased numbers at the seminary but my, oh, my !! what sort of priests will we have in the future when almost half of them come from families of 6 or more children, with parents often attending the traditional Latin mass etc and so on, twenty years ago we had only 3 or 4 seminarians with that sort of background... "...
Or older relatives:
"Our new young priest is so kind and seems such a holy young man......what a shame he is SO VERY conservative !!".

RSC+ said...

I can't speak in hagiographic terms or otherwise about the pre-Vatican II Masses, as I wasn't there. But. The few times I have been to Low Mass at an FSSP parish, the entire congregation was focused like a laser on the liturgy. This focus was evident by their external acts and their demeanor. They did all the old devotions which require one to know what is going on at any given point of the Mass--especially since large swathes of it are silent, and the whole thing is in Latin.

Father, what is your experience of the congregation at the Cathedral?

Someone may tell me again that it's the mumbling of responses and hymns, making the orans position back at the priest during salutations, and holding hands during the Pater Noster which is "active participation." There are plenty of OF Masses with actual, active participation. I'm convinced, though, that it takes a lot of deliberate, intentional priestcraft to get a congregation there.

Fifteen minutes is awfully short, but I'd be tempted to take 15 minutes of people paying attention and knowing what is going on at any given moment than an hour of people spaced out and mumbling.

John Nolan said...

If one is not musical, any music at Mass, irrespective of its quality, must constitute a distraction.

If one is musical, what passes for music in nine out of ten parishes is pretty well unbearable.

The Low Mass may be a second millennium development, but stripping the Mass of ceremonial and music does focus the mind on essentials.

In one of his travel books, Hilaire Belloc observed 'the Mass is low and short, as they are a Christian people.'

Evelyn Waugh was once attending Solemn Mass at Farm Street when he noticed a priest with a solitary server emerging from the sacristy to say a private Mass at a side altar. Waugh left his place to assist at this Mass, and when it was over, he left.

Waugh was not attracted to the Catholic Church by the beauty of its ceremonial. It was the image of the priest as an artisan, stumping up to the altar with his tools and his apprentice, to do a job only he was capable of doing and without regard to anyone else.

rcg said...

The weekday Low Mass has a unique attraction because it focuses on the essence of the Mass as a prayer. It ties my mind to the day as I would hope to execute the tasks before me, ecce ancilla Domini.

ByzRC said...

What is it about Ash Wednesday that we get so many inactive Catholics attending Mass?

- They get something...the ashes. Anytime you can get something as a result of participating, I think it attracts people.

So is it the poor liturgies we have which are uninspiring?
- Yes.

Would they be more likely to attend a 15 minute Mass with no homily even an EF Mass
- I think a 15 minute mass will reduce the sacrifice to unintelligible babel and a race to finish. I would rather attend a well celebrated 30 minute OF Mass without a homily or an EF Mass as opposed to the typical OF Mass. Near my home, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa offers a reasonably short mid-day Mass 30 mins, maybe 35, NO, Ad Orientem. This I could live with. Off topic, any Byzantine Liturgy doesn't lend itself to "low" and, I'm completely indifferent to the length as the liturgy itself is beautiful and inspiring. During Lent, I generally attend Sunday Divine Liturgy, Presanctified Liturgy during the week and when I can, the Friday Moleben.

John Nolan said...


The Novus Ordo as a weekday Mass (said, with EP II) would be difficult to drag out to 15 minutes unless:

There is a lot of padding-out (homily, mini-homilies, explanations etc.)

The celebrant reads the Mass in a deliberate and didactic manner, addressing it to the congregation.

The first reading is proclaimed by a lay person who has been taught to declaim the Scripture as if it were a Shakespearean soliloquy.

There are dozens of communicants receiving in both kinds.

Still, even if was over in a quarter of an hour, I would not attend it for other valid reasons.