Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Prayers at the Foot of the altar prior to the priest ascending the altar to reverence the altar, a symbol of Christ:
I had another light bulb moment watching our Schubert Mass reform of the reform of the Ordinary Form of the Mass. It concerns the penitential act verses the Prayers at the Foot of the altar. In the EF, the prayers at the foot of the altar are really a prelude to the Mass so that the priest and ministers (and congregation in the 1962 missal) seek God's purification and forgiveness before the Mass begins. So the priest does not approach the altar until this occurs. Even in the 1965 missal when it was allowed to omit the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar if the Asperges was celebrated, the priest still purified himself and others with Holy Water--there was no approaching the altar until the Asperges was completed. The Mass actually began with the Introit as the priest ascended the altar to reverence it with a kiss, but only after having been "purified."

Not so in the OF Mass, with either the Penitential Act or the Asperges, the Introit or Entrance Chant is Sung and the priest goes directly to the altar to kiss it and only afterwards is "purified" in the Penitential Act or the Asperges. (This could be rectified by making the Penitential Act a prelude to the Official Introit or Entrance Chant with the priest ascending the altar after the absolution to kiss it as the Introit is chanted).

The EF Mass over the course of centuries did everything properly and well scripted and everything was done for a purpose and in the proper order. Everything had/has a spiritual significance, a theological reason. The majority of this was lost totally in the Tridentine Mass's reform at Vatican II.

When Sacrosanctum Concilium called for "noble simplicity" regarding the Mass, I am now convinced it concerned the pontifical solemn sung Mass, not your normal, every Sunday low Mass or High Mass in the typical parish. The Pontifical High Mass is very complicated and truly needed some cleaning up, as it were.

Many people have asked, what is wrong with going back to the EF Mass and just dumping the OF Mass? First of all, that's not going to happen although I do foresee some revisions to the OF Mass to make it more like the EF Mass.

What people who promote the OF Mass will point out (and this is why they hate that Pope Benedict has liberalize the celebration of the EF Mass) is that they believe the EF Mass is too clerical and treats the laity as second class citizens. I would agree in part with that assessment, but this was already being addressed in the 1950's and the 1962 missal sought the congregation's verbal and sung participation in the Mass.

Those who say that the EF Mass had to be reformed also point to the exclusive use of Latin that made it difficult for many of the laity to comprehend the Mass or easily say and sing the Latin parts. I would agree with that assessment too although great strides were being made in the 1950's to make sure the laity had their own missal that they were expected to bring to Mass to facilitate their proper participation in the Mass.

Many of you who read this blog do not remember the pre-Vatican II Church and the belief of many Catholics, both clergy and laity, that the Church couldn't and wouldn't change. This myth of course was dispelled by all the changes that subsequently happened after Vatican II.

But the one change that the majority of laity accepted was the 1965 missal that translated most of the EF Mass into English except for the unchanging parts of the priest that he prayed quietly, which included the Roman Canon which was prayed quietly. Everything else was in English or the vernacular. This was accepted as truly an advancement and I would say by the vast majority of clergy and laity at the time.

The new lectionary was well appreciated. What was not appreciated was having amateur lectors read the Scriptures, not because they were laity, but because the were amateurs, not properly prepared to read publicly and at a microphone. I am in favor of lay lectors, male or female, but well trained. I am also in favor of male and female altar servers, well trained too. I think when traditionalists try to remove legitimate female participation from the Mass it comes across in a very negative way and appears to be anti-women. That does not help their cause in the least with the majority of Catholics today.

It was the subsequent reforms that happened in a piecemeal fashion ending with the 1973 OF Roman Missal that people began to complain that the Mass was being dumbed down, not nobly simplified. On top of that there were great complaints about the second English translation of the Mass that started about 1967 or '68 and was completed in 1973 with the new OF Roman Missal(although much of the missal was in place by Advent of 1968 before the actual missal came out in 1973). It was clear to most of us and even me as a teenager that this translation was a dumbing down and ridding the Mass of a sacral language in English. It was very sad to many of us that this had happened.

The new English translation of 2011 (which isn't perfect, but it is far superior to the 1973 translation and more like the 1965 translation) has brought verbal dignity back to the Mass.

I don't think we need to go back entirely to the 1962 missal. I suggest that we go back to the EF Form of the Mass as it was given to us in 1965, but use the 2011 Roman missal and its lectionary with all the options of both. It would be that simple!
I could see that happening, but when I don't know, maybe not in my lifetime, but who knows? I'm not clairvoyant although some say that I am.


Anonymous said...

This is interesting that you mention this. I also had had noticed this. It was highlighted at our TLM parish when the priest mentioned it in concert with confession for us before Mass so we would be ready to enter the Presence. Seemed blindingly obvious.


William Meyer said...

What is wrong with the EF? Nothing, in my view.

I am older than you, Father, and I remember well following the Latin at Mass in my youth. My St. Joseph Sunday Missal gave me both English and Latin; for those who cared, full comprehension was as available as a commitment to personal study.

I have read that the Council wished to remove the accretions from the Mass. Well and good--entropy increases, and I can understand that there may have been some clutter from ages of little additions. However, in one of the most literate countries in the world, there was no need, no justification, for ripping away the Latin and forcing on us the vernacular.

At a Latin Mass, there is always a sense of reverence. It is always a matter of worship. At the OF, in too many parishes, it seems more like a parish picnic. I am not there for community, nor for solidarity, nor for a meal. I am there for worship, to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass.

I abhor the use of the term "presider", which I believe is an attempt to suggest the priest is nothing special. The priest is indeed something special. He has been ordained, he can consecrate the host. We cannot. No priest, no Eucharist.

I pray the SSPX will come back into communion with Rome. I do have the option, at reasonable distance, of an SSPX chapel. Were they in full communion, I would certainly avail myself of that opportunity.

We have just learned that our pastor has resigned. He is an alcoholic, and apparently has slipped from the wagon. He has had medical problems which are probably due, at least in part, from the long term excessive use of alcohol. I pray for him.

In the absence of our pastor, we have had an interim administrator, a priest whose celebration of the Mass sets my teeth on edge. He seems altogether unwilling to simply say the black. His ad libs are far worse than any accretions to the EF had been.

We have visited a few parishes in our area, and have yet to find one which resembles in any way what you have created in Macon. Instead we have deviations from the liturgy, music which is banal at best, and offensive at worst, and all manner of variations from form which are intrusive.

These are the legacy of the Council. Not that they were intended by the Council, as such, but they result partly from the imprecision in the documents, and the continuing failure of bishops to offer meaningful clarification. The use of EMHCs in every mass is a prime example. There are no metrics of which I am aware which would help to determine when EMHCs may legitimately be used. And I find in the parishes here that these good people seem to consider their roles an entitlement, a right.

So much needs to be fixed, so many locally inspired accretions have been created, and must be excised.

As Fr. Z has said, any abuse of the liturgy is an abuse of the people.

ytc said...

I just want to say, I wouldn't call serving the altar "participation." That is why it is called altar service. It is a burden, something that has to be done, not some privileged club of fun.

All male altar serving promotes vocations in all of the parishes where this is the norm, and that is an undeniable fact.

I don't understand why girls are allowed to be altar servers anymore than boys would be allowed to job shadow a nun. In my opinion, it is stupid and rooted in secular political issues more than anything else.

I also could care less if a cleric or layperson read the readings. As long as they are good at it, even if it means having only one person read both readings. Remember that the liturgy is a priceless art form to be preserved from the profane. It is not daycare where everybody gets to "do something" so nobody is left out.

But I do favor a vast reform of the OF's rubrics, and you all know my specifics already. :)

Templar said...

I find the excuse that Latin is too hard to be a cop out. I think it's use is essential to the sacredness of the Mass. I also think it has tremendous purpose and value in making the Mass truly universal. I am not against use of the vernacular for the changing parts of the Mass, but for the unchainging parts I feel it is essntial in fostering identity and maitaining a sense of the Mass being outside of the normal time and space.

As for Lay Lectors, I feel about them the same as I feel about EMHCs; whether male or female they are an insult to the Laity. What they really say is not that the role of the Cleric is special, but that the role of the Laity is worthless if we are not given quasi-clerical roles to fulfill. Clergy and laity are both valid vocations, each plays their role in The Church, and only creeping Modernism implies that their must be a blurring of the lines in the false God called equality. This same nonsense is used in the Secular world as regards the roles of men and women. Women don't need to be "equal" in roles to "men" they are equal in dignity, and only Modernism tells the woman that the role which God has ordained for her is unworthy. It's an insult to her and an insult to God to suggest she is "unequal" unless she's acting like a man.

Gene said...

Nothing at all is wrong with the EF. It is the NO that is a mess. Trust me, it is rare to see it celebrated with the dignity and reverence with which it is celebrated at St. Joseph's. I have been to quite a few other parishes around the country and have never seen it done the same way twice. I have also noticed that a large number of these NO Priests are sloppy and the altar servers look like they don't know where they are. People say they do not like the "robotics" of the EF...well, they haven't seen the listless automatons clambering around the altar trying to get it right, or the Priests whose celebration of the Rite is so routine and dull that you fear they may actually fall asleep during the Consecration. Every bit of this is a direct result of the de-constructing of the liturgy into the NO and the liberties taken by self-indulgent and unrestrained Bishops and their minions.
Now, any laity who thinks the EF is too clerical and reduces the laity to second-class citizens is...well, Fr. won't let me say won't let me say that, either. Well, they don't get it and need a kick...nope can't say that...sigh.

PlainCatholic said...

Amen and amen.

Anonymous said...

Robotics? Maybe the happy handshaking is the informal equivalence of reverently asking to enter the presence of the Creator of the Universe when you meet Him. What friend I have in Jesus. I'm not rolling on the floor, I am being moved by the spirit.


Anonymous said...

After over 15 centuries of careful organic development--on the average, a half dozen words at a time, it's said--under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, nothing is wrong with the traditional Latin Mass. However, there probably is and always will be something wrong with the spiritual participation of many or most, just as with their personal practice of Christianity itself.

Although the EF is so finely honed for truly prayerful worship by those so inclined, undoubtedly there are now many (if not most) for whom the more flexible and vernacular OF would be better suited if it were free of liturgical abuse and "arbitrary deformations". And so both the EF and the OF (however reformed) are surely here to stay.

As one who worships daily in the EF--either physically and sacramentally or remotely and spiritually--and also uses the OF propers and prefaces in his daily private devotions--I see that each form of the Roman missal has its own merit and richness.

Much of the difference in their adequacy in practice comes primarily not from the missals themselves, but from the inadequacy of a couple of recent generations of untrained priests,

But this is in process of correction by the young "priests of the restoration" who are now coming out of seminaries. When I attend an OF Mass celebrated by a priest ordained since 2000 who has learned to celebrate the EF also, I see little or nothing at the altar to complain about (aside from the inherent defect of versus populum celebration).

JennB said...

I appreciate your comments about the role of both genders as altar server or Lector.

1. Altar servers - I am a female, and having the privilege to serve at Mass sparked a love of the Eucharist and an interest in vocations. After a time of discernment and spiritual direction, God made it clear that my vocation was to be a wife and a mother. To say that it is horrible that females are allowed this privilege is disheartening to me. There is no need to make a leap from females serving at Mass to females demanding ordination (which I am vehemently against!)

2. Lectors - if you are a lector, please rehearse! I am a Lector and there is nothing more grating to me than listening to someone proclaim Scripture as if it were a shopping list. Take time during the week, record yourself and listen to what you sound like when proclaiming Scripture.

Both of these opportunities have helped me deepen my devotion to the Eucharist - they have not turned me into a heretic or one who wishes to change the Mass into something sparkly and shiny to attract those not interested.

There is a middle ground and having females involved can be done with reverence and preserve the solemnity of the occasion of Mass. I have truly enjoyed the new translation of the Mass and look forward to praying the Liturgy as I participate in the pew as a layperson.

Anonymous said...

JennB, I don't have a problem with female servers, as much as I prefer the male servers as a way to encourage men to consider becoming priests. I do get a little out done with people that assume they are mini-priests and present their view on theology, doctrine, and where to stand to avoid lighting strikes. If the priest pints to God, then the servers should point to the priest.

Ditto on the lectors. I always prepare as if I got the Epistle in the mail last night and Paul asked me to deliver it for him. I imagine how he might put a knot on my head if I mess it up. Isaiah might actually break a tooth.


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

My attitudes about the OF Mass have been evolving since I started to celebrate the EF Mass five years ago and now I can see just what the OF reformed from the EF and some it was throwing the baby out with the bathwater if I can use that description.
I think a tightening and adding of rubrics to the OF, having the Penitential Act as a prelude to the Introit and kissing of the altar and making sure the official Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons are always recited or sung as well as the priest and laity facing the same direction and kneeling for HOly Communion encouraging the use of a bit more Latin would solve the biggest problems we have. We would still have the EF as an option for parishes and that would maintain Latin and high ceremony and the old lectionary. But the Ordinary Form would be as it is but with my adjustments which would make it look very much like the EF.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

There is no reason why a special group of altar boys couldn't have a special organization to encourage them to be priests. however, in my previous parish that had a disproportionate number of men become priests since 1983 (about 12) and where we had altar girls, I just don't buy having altar girls as a discoursing vocations. Families and parishes that encourage vocations will have vocations. But well trained altar servers of either sex who take their ministry seriously and learn awe and wonder and respect for God especially during the celebration of Mass will go a long way in promoting vocations to the ordained and religious life!

Anonymous said...

I don't share the doctrinaire opinion (or visceral reaction) about altar girls that some traditional Catholics have.

However, it is simply false and contrary to the experience of the Church to say that altar service does not encourage the development of vocations among those who serve.

It is simply false to say that having all male altar servers does not encourage more boys to serve.

For anyone who has spent enough time in sacristies, especially for the TLM, knows that there is a vocations oriented camaraderie among the boys there that simply does not exist in "mixed" sacristies. All other things--including family environment--being equal, altar boy only sacristies encourage more vocations. To deny this would be to deny reality.

All this apart from the very real possibility of spiritual benefits of altar service to girls, which may also inspire them to religious vocations or more spiritual lay lives, and might arguably justify their altar service in some if not all parishes.

But no need to deny one truth to advance another.

Anonymous said...

I often ponder about the fact that the Mass was in Latin, yet Catholics knew their faith and were fatihful.
But today, the Mass is in vernacular and most Catholics don't know the basics of their faith and are unfaithful.
We've discussed this issue at great length many times here, but I am struck that the faithful understood the Mass when it was in Latin.
Catholics don't understand the Mass today, but it is the vernacular.
I believe that a missing element here is the missal the faithful took to Mass.

Nowadays, if you follow along in the 'missalette' one looks like an oddball. Plus the 'missalette' is missing so much.

I think people actually participate far less nowadays than ever. We zone out and just stand, sit, kneel when everyone else does. We recite our parts when everyone else does. We get impatient waiting for Communion, i.e. our little treat/reward for enduring the boring Mass. And then they want us to go to an ultra-boring LATIN Mass..are you kidding??

I have a different idea...
The missalettes that are used for the Latin Mass could be always in the pews...imagine the leap in catechesis that could occur suddenly when the curious parishioner opens it to see that new book that was placed there.
I bet that within weeks, a noticeable increased participation and reverence would be present at OF Masses; and increased attendance at Latin Masses would happen...because a new way of looking at and understanding the Mass would be easily available to everyone.
After a year, the improvements would be measureable.


Anonymous said...

Fr. Shelton, who occasionally comments here, had a post about hand missals recently:

My comment there:

As an inveterate devotee and student of hand missals, and one who follows both forms of the Roman rite daily in OF and EF Latin-English missals, thanks for this solid and practical recommendation for their use. I personally believe that one of the many factors in the disintegration of public worship in recent decades has been the effective disappearance of the use of hand missals by laity, perhaps as an unintended consequence of the vernacular.

Mr. WAC said...

Regarding Altar Girls, I object for a reason having nothing to do with vocations. Simply, having females serve at the altar is wholly unknown to the ancient tradition of the church, both east and west. Indeed, our novel practice of having altar girls is a scandal to the Orthodox, who won't even let women into the sanctuary, ever (with the particular exception of marriage and religious consecration, which, by the way, were also the only exceptions in the Latin Church for centuries.)


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

As it concerns the Sacrament of Holy Orders, certainly the church's teaching that only men can be admitted to deacon, priest and bishop has doctrinal and even dogmatic underpinnings that go beyond cultural bias. Whereas not allowing girls/women to be either lectors or altar servers has its bias in negative and even hostile cultural attitudes towards girls and women. One need only look to fundamentalistic Muslim countries to see how damaging this is to women. Muslims take their negative attitude about women not necessarily from their religion but from their ancient culture that also has Christian remnants. I think attitudes about girls and women not being allowed in the sanctuary undermine the Church's teaching on the necessity of only men in Holy Orders for it makes it look like that the prohibition on women in Holy Orders is only culturally determined by the 1st century attitude toward women, which is not the case in reality.