Tridentine Mass

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

August 5, 2007


††††††††††† The parish just to the west of mine has been celebrating the pre-Vatican II Latin mass for more than 15 years. The pastor has special permission granted years ago by the former Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal James Hickey. He is also one of the few priests around who remembers the pre-1962 ritual.

††††††††††† Almost nobody comes.

††††††††††† He gets about 30 people per Sunday, even though his is the only Latin mass for at least 40 miles around. That is an area that encompasses more than 20 parishes.

††††††††††† Most of the people who come are elderly. They like it because it is quiet and short. It because it reminds them of the olds days. A few young people come, once in a while, out of curiosity. They do not come back often.

††††††††††† My neighboring pastor is a bit exasperated with the whole thing. It means a lot of work for him. Under the old liturgy the priest did just about everything. The people who come to the Latin mass like that part of the tradition just fine. They donít think they should have to do anything but show up. After all, it the priest who is says mass. They are just spectators.

††††††††††† Before Vatican IIís reforms there were no lectors or Eucharistic ministers. The servers said most of the responses. A lot of the prayers were said sotto voce, that is inaudibly

††††††††††† For my neighbor the extra liturgy means that he has had to move the altar used for the mass facing the people. (He has recently stopped doing this because nobody showed up to help him.) Then he has to set out different books and change into different vestments.

††††††††††† Most inconvenient of all, he has to prepare and preach a different homily.

††††††††††† Why a different homily? Because there are different readings. In the pre-1962 liturgy there was a one year cycle of readings. We read only an Epistle and a Gospel. There were no readings from the Old Testament. We didnít hear much of the Bible and it was heard in Latin.

††††††††††† Since the reforms of Vatican II our book of readings for Sundays (lectionary) has a three year cycle, which includes readings from the Hebrew Scriptures. So my neighbor canít even preach the same homily for the Latin and English masses on most Sundays.

††††††††††† A few folks from my parish go over to my neighborís parish for the Latin mass. Mostly they are quite elderly. They donít like all the singing at my parish. They donít like wishing people peace. They donít like communion in both forms. They donít like having three readings.

††††††††††† They tell me what they like most about the Latin mass is that they can get in and get out in under 45 minutes. They put a high premium on speed. A good liturgy is a short liturgy.

††††††††††† For them a good liturgy is one where they donít have to speak to anyone or do anything. Their whole attitude says, ďI want no commitment and I want no communication.Ē Hardly the ďfull and active participationĒ that Vatican II called for.

††††††††††† So now that Pope Benedict XVI has issued his motu proprio permitting the celebration of the pre-Vatican II Latin mass, will there be big crowds at the Latin mass? Will more parishes start to offer it? I doubt it.

††††††††††† Apart from the schismatic followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and a few young people who are nostalgic for a church they never knew, almost nobody is pressing for it. Nobody under the age of 55 even remembers the old Latin ritual.

††††††††††† I think my neighbors experience will be the experience of the church. We can offer it. But almost nobody will come.