Missing the Low Mass

3 08 2008

Or: Saving 1962 Catholicism from the Cult of the Experts

I once read something on the New Liturgical Movement blog (a blog that I no longer link to because I am trying to get passed the cult of ecclesiastical porn) that really bothered me. [Danger- long footnote: Anti-Staretz once told me the story of an Anglo-Catholic monastery in England back when their church was more tolerant of them. It is said that another Anglo-Catholic went to hang out with the monks, but noticed they didn’t do Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. “Oh Father,” complained the visitor to one of the monks, “if only you did Benediction. It would in my heart make me feel so good.” The monk replied, “Fornication would make you feel even better, but we don’t do that either”.] The phrase was “saving the 1962 Mass from 1962”. I thought to myself at first, “But of course! Who wants to go back to the speed Masses, the St. Jude Novenas, the nuns who could melt you into a puddle with just one cold and rutheless gaze?!”

The traditionalist movement in the Roman Catholic Church likes to pull out all the stops. Ironically enough, I most noticed this when going between the Society of St. Pius X and more official organs of Catholic traditionalism. The Society of St. Pius X, those stalwart, closed-minded zealots of 1962 Catholicism, are really not that big on ritual when it comes down to it. There are no Pontifical Masses from the faldstool, no long and silky cappa magnas, no deification of the biretta (many simply don’t use it)… in a word, no mystification of an already elaborate set of rubrics. [I found this out the hard way when I was serving for an Institute of Christ the King priest. I had to learn to serve a “Low Mass with organ”(!!!!?)] This liturgical pragmatism was mainly due to the fact that the Society was founded by a missionary bishop (the first Archbishop of Dakar) whose main concern in his apostolic life was how to fix a broken jeep in a muddy jungle without breaking his vow of poverty. For all of its craziness, the SSPX can be really down to earth when it comes to ritual. Even in the Low Mass, it is customary in many SSPX chapels for the priest to turn around at the altar and read the Epistle and Gospel in the venacular without reading it in Latin (though it is rarely done in this country).

It appears to me that in other parts of the traditionalist world, much more emphasis is placed on the minutiae of all the rituals (“so High Church he wears a biretta in the shower,” I once quipped). It is thought by many that the legalism and pragmatism of the average 1962 Catholic are not enough and lead to the liturgical abnormalities that we experience today. “People just didn’t understand the Mass back then,” is the common excuse. So that is why we have to pull out all the stops now. There is no such thing as a woman too pretty, a man too rich, and an alb with too much lace. (“Looks like something made by Victoria’s Secret.”) People oggle over vestments, rave over the Introit of the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, and generally let their liturgically-repressed wannabe sacristan all hang out. (I have been a sacristan at a traditional chapel. Trust me, it’s not that glamorous of a job.)

I know, I know. It’s all for God. Qui bene cantat, bis orat. Lex orandi, lex… well, you know the rest. But is that really the case? If there is anyone who is the most maligned by all the sides of the liturgical debate, it is the character who opens Thomas Day’s book, Why Catholics Can’t Sing. That woman just clutched her rosary and prayed during Mass (tsk, tsk… the very embodiment of devotio moderna, a repressed woman who is just a liturgical dancer waiting to spring forth, leotard and all, into the realm of pure liturgical subjectivism, etc.). When asked to do the new, fangle-dangled thing, her instant reply was one which probably crossed the mind of many Catholics, though it probably never made it so far as to be articulated on a frustrated tongue:

“I don’t believe in that shit!”

Yes, not the most charitable thing to say, especially in church, but something to be kept in mind nonetheless. If there has been a real crisis in Catholic thinking since the 1960’s, it has been one of a profoundly introverted, self-absorbed nature. One now is only Catholic in church, for that brief hour on Sunday where you can dwell in your worship space of choice and sing your own religious identity: Catholic traditionalist, progressive, “loyal son of Benedict XVI”, what have you. If you are a good Catholic, you are an INVOLVED Catholic. You are a Eucharistic minister, a lector, a member of the Gregorian schola, the Ladies Altar Guild, etc., etc. etc. In a word, you like to play priest. Not directly mind you. But your idea of being in the Church is to participate in clerical functions. Your idea of being a Catholic intellectual is to be a freelance (read: wildcat) theologian/apologist/commentator on contemporary Church affairs. You know what kind of shoes the Pope wears. You know his favorite kind of beer. You know what bishops you like and what bishops you don’t like. You know what a maniple is. And so on and so forth.

In other words, you have saved Catholicism from 1962. You have turned it from a deep cultural identity and set of beliefs that were for the most part taken for granted to a hobby of frustrated suburbanites who want to play dress-up: whether such parties are set in the Middle Ages or the year 1968. Perhaps I am being overly sarcastic, but the point remains the same: our religion is not that of 1962. It is far worse.

Anyways, this rant was really brought to you by the lack of a traditional Low Mass to go to on Sunday in my area. Not that I am at all really that obsessed with where I go to Mass, but for once I would just like to attend the ceremony that my ancestors attended, and their ancestors attended, and their ancestors attended. When people speak of the traditional Mass, in 99% of the world, it involved a priest in a hurry and a spaced-out altar boy. In most places, people really never saw a dalmatic, episcopal gloves, and all the other accoutrements that make many Catholics salivate. There was a certain loveliness and simplicity to the “stale” liturgy that existed before the Council, an attitude that Catholics just are, full stop.

Nowadays, when advocates of the old liturgy come together, they almost always have to have a High Mass (Solemn if they can pull it off). But when church becomes a spectator sport, then something has gone terribly wrong. That is perhaps why I fiend for the old Low Mass: it is completely objective and has a gravitas that can only be expressed in a curt and underwhelming ceremony. Neither the new liturgy nor the liturgical reconstructions of super-trads have either of these things. Maybe I just want to be more traditionalist than Ecône when it comes to this simple and beautiful act of worship. It would just be nice to see it once in a while.



34 responses

28 08 2008


I think I understand what you are saying. Of course, the restoration of the vocational diaconate in the Latin Rite had to start somewhere…

27 08 2008

“Arturo, you have a problem with permanent deacons???? Why? The Eastern Churches never ceased ordaining men whose vocation is to the diaconate, not the priesthood.”

Please forgive (or act accordingly otherwise!) if I seem to be going on tangent or putting words in our venerable blog author’s mouth…

As a Greek Catholic I don’t have the least bit of a problem with married deacons… or even married priests. (Accepting full well that the Roman tradition is superior in its function FOR THE WEST, the bricks were built by the celibate armies of “one”, I for one don’t buy the idea that radically re-examining the norm for the Latins would do much more than… Well that is for a post on my own blog!)

At any rate, my distaste for the current state of the diaconate in the Roman Church isn’t that they are married… It is that they are a mere shadow (as of this writing!) of what they are meant to be. In how many parishes have the mis-vested (see dalmatics in the suburbs much?) deacons of Rome been essentially presented and understood as “Super altar boys” or super-duper-laymen who graduated to the super-serious role of getting to wear a stole and preach badly once every two months?

In “Deacons 1.0” post-V2, a lot of bishops ordained a lot of men they had no idea what to do with because they (a) wanted to and (b) could point to its existence in antiquity.

Maybe Arturo is on the same page as I am… (and note I promote the diaconate heavily, and have considered it myself!) But what we got and why we got it is a shadow of what we should have if we have it. It isn’t a good thing just because it restores an old practice in the west that was maintained in the east. It should be understood to be a good unto itself…

Sorry to meander, back to Low Mass/High Mass talk!

26 08 2008

I’m a bit confused as to why there is so much interest in my mass habits. I never suggested that one should skip mass altogether, and I fulfill my Sunday obligation every week. There are many reasons why a person decides to attend a mass at one particular time over another. As I mentioned earlier, the 9AM Low Mass seems to attract mostly the elderly and a couple families with young children, whereas the 11:30 High Mass has more young adults and even more families. I’m sure that there are good reasons for this, that I could figure out in greater detail if I wanted to make a sociological study of the matter.

In my own case, I have several reasons for going to the 9AM mass. The fact that there are certain people who frequent the 11:30 mass that I have issues with is actually quite minor. I also know that I have a very distraction-prone mind; consequently, I find that saying the rosary can be quite torturous for me as a result. Knowing this about myself, I choose to avoid as many distractions as possible. As I alluded to a bit earlier, there was a major scandal at the parish earlier this year, something that was so disillusioning that I considered leaving the parish, and at some dark times, the Church herself for Orthodoxy. Obviously, neither of those scenarios occurred. Some of the people involved in their incident seemed to have been trying to “recruit” me for their plans, and I just couldn’t get involved with them since then.

I’m not saying this thing I do is canon law or that you can find it in any of the catechisms. Obviously, if the only mass in town was populated by Klansmen I’d have to bite the bullet somehow and go there (and pray they don’t bust out the noose afterwards). This is just the time I choose to go based on the circumstances in my life. Everyone has their own reasons for going to the masses they do, some shallow, some not. The point is to go and offer what you can, however meager.

26 08 2008
Brian M

Nothing, Leah?

24 08 2008
The young fogey

I’ve long thought the 1965 rules (there was no 1965 Missal, only the 1962 with new instructions and partial translations in 1965 and later years until the Novus Ordo) including many eastward celebrations would be a good default setting for the Roman Rite.

Same for ‘the old liturgy in the vernacular’. About 90 years ago Anglo-Catholics did the work on that for English-speakers: the English Missal.

Actually you could and can do 1962 and older facing the people. There’s the famous example of the high altar in St Peter’s Basilica and a picture of a funeral Mass in Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral in 1958 demonstrating that. Some liturgical-movement people did that occasionally as a teaching tool (not regularly AFAIK). Because of immemorial custom reflected in the way many churches were built (shelf altars) it rarely was/is.

24 08 2008
Fr. J.

I am fascinated by 1962 Catholicism. Perhaps moreso I am fascinated by how fascinated so many are with it. I am thrilled about the MP SP. I think it was a brilliant stroke and will have lasting if gradual effects on 1970 Catholicism.

But, perhaps I have another dream still somewhat compatible: How about 1965 Catholicism? Or, how about 1965 Catholicism facing east?

The 1965 Missal was in the vernacular (actually both Latin and the vernacular) and faced the people, but it was the same rite as 1962.

I think I could be very happy with the old litrugy in the vernacular (of course with lots of latin chants and hymns and responses, even the consecrationg) facing east.

This is the first I have written of it. Are others talking about such possibilities?

21 08 2008
Brian M

The assertion that one should avoid a Mass in which people who “scandalize” us might be present, to avoid an “occasion of sin.”

21 08 2008


Which assertion are you referring to, exactly?

20 08 2008
Brian M

Leah, can you justify that assertion through recourse to the Catechism or Canon law, or are you reading straight from Jansen or Fr. Feeney?

8 08 2008


I guess I should qualify that it wasn’t the mass itself that was scandalizing (it was beautiful as always), but some of the people attending the mass. There was a scandal earlier this year at the parish and a good deal of the under 40-set that attends High Mass was involved, save for me and a couple of others. In such situations, it’s best to steer clear to avoid occasions of sin.

7 08 2008
Paul Goings

Another reason I don’t go to High Mass much is that I find said peers to be morally offensive in ways that I can’t get into without revealing the sins of other people.


Even we Anglo-Catholics have the decency not to fornicate openly during the Gradual and Tract…

7 08 2008

“Dark side?” Oh, brudduh. Hey, how about Low Mass on weekdays and one big High Mass on Sundays? That way, we get pomp and participation side-by-side with silence and radical laic passivity, all of which are great and each of which provides its own important lesson. In this case, both/and is definitely the way to go.

I loved the line about “playing dress-up,” and yes, I sing in a schola and choir at our FSSP chapel, and I even get to lead them when our pastor/director is away. Thus far, we have been able to avoid the dangers and annoyances of liturgical obsession/compulsion, and I think the key to it has been (1) sane clergy firmly in the driver’s seat, and (2) not being able to afford it.

7 08 2008

At my parish, most of the people who go to Low Mass are elderly people. I think I’m the only young person (who isn’t married with young children that is) who goes to Low Mass. Many of my peers are “actively” involved with the High Mass in some way: the schola, the women’s choir, ushering, altar servers. Another reason I don’t go to High Mass much is that I find said peers to be morally offensive in ways that I can’t get into without revealing the sins of other people. The last time I went to High Mass on a non-Holy day of Obligation (which was in January I believe), they scandalized m in such a way that I’m still recovering. So I’d just prefer not to deal with them.

7 08 2008

MJ Sandoval, Arturo has gone over the dark side (for some time now)
And it is part of the Low Mass Irish clericalists that hurt the Church, Italians and Mexicans (and even Bishop Ireland hurt Germans and especially Byzantine Rite Catholic Ruthenians from the Carpatho Mountains of the Austrian Empire)
No singing is foreign to many people even before Vatican II.
Perhaps it is Arthur O’Bannion.

6 08 2008
Josiah Ross

There are even a few low mass only types in my parish, wic is a bit saddening because I’ve been trying to work up the courage to ask for a high mass on some special occasion (Like Sept.15.) only to find that people who attend the TLM at my parish don’t like any kind of sung mass, because they are “Gaudy” or “Ostentatious”.
I do think that the whole “Liturgical Porn” thing is a reaction to the liturgical desert that people have been forced to undergo for the past 40 or so years.
They’ve gone from one extreme to aother, which is quite unfortunate.
We’ve gotten to the point that well done liturgy is unlikely, if not almost impossible to find.
We also have to face the fact people have had the “Active participation” thing shoved down their throats so much, that for many, low mass with no responses is simply too jarring. As much as I love it, (And I do, very much) low mass at my parish just isn’t the same as the high mass I experienced a few weeks ago at a local Carmelite monastery.

6 08 2008
M.J. Ernst-Sandoval

Funny, I didn’t know that there was a “Low Mass über alles” posse running around. I thought I was just being a contrarian.

No. There is a HUGE “Low Mass Only” cultus in the Traditionalist Movement, especially among the older Irish-Americans. I even remember going to Mass once with my family back in California a few years ago and hearing one of the young altar servers complaining to his father that he was scared of serving because he’s “not used to a High Mass”. Shows you how often my family’s parish has a High Mass, and it’s an SSPX parish with two Masses on Sunday! That’s why this post was surprising. It seemed as if you had gone over to the dark side. (Bom Bom Bom BOM!)

6 08 2008

“Besides, such arguments brought on other liturgical betes noires as Communion in the hand and permanent deacons.”

Arturo, you have a problem with permanent deacons???? Why? The Eastern Churches never ceased ordaining men whose vocation is to the diaconate, not the priesthood.

6 08 2008
Jorge Sánchez

I just clicked over to TLM and the first thing I saw was:

What can you tell us about Fr. Adrian Fortescue on a personal level?

I guess that proves your point.

6 08 2008
Arturo Vasquez

Funny, I didn’t know that there was a “Low Mass über alles” posse running around. I thought I was just being a contrarian.

And it’s funny, Mr. Goings, I really didn’t know that you were a five hundred year old liturgist who knows just how it was like then: back in the good ol’ days when everyone could sing Gregorian chant and exorcists and porters were running around all over the place discussing what antiphon of the Matins of Epiphany they liked best…

All jesting aside, I think we mistake a “high” concept of liturgy with a vibrant concept of Catholic worship. Indeed, silent Low Masses are probably very much an Irish thing. The Germans couldn’t shut up during Mass, and Mexican women sing beautiful songs during Benediction that can make your hair stand on end (in a good way). There is a vital difference between that and the obsessions of latter day liturgists.

5 08 2008
Paul Goings

Perhaps being obsessed about cars is a much healthier and natural thing.

Why? I don’t know how you would decide objectively, so perhaps it is. But it doesn’t appear to me that you’ve supported this assertion in any way.

Traditionalist and conservative liturgical activists are merely the other side of the coin of the same trend that brought you liturgical dancers, lay Eucharistic ministers and the like.

Are they? I suppose that, since they both involve an active lay response to a perceived need, you could say that the two trends are similar in certain ways. That seems like, however, a very broad, and not very useful, comparison. You can claim that the conduct of the liturgy should be the exclusive preserve of the clergy, and that the laity are well-served to accept whatever is on offer, but I’m not certain how you’d justify this, other than to say that it was generally not common historically. But this ignores the very traditional fluidity of the “minor clergy” which existed until the rise of the seminaries, and didn’t really come to fruition until the 19th century. So, if you really “would just like to attend the ceremony that my ancestors attended, and their ancestors attended, and their ancestors attended,” then this would be, even in some of the smallest villages and towns of mediæval Europe, something like the Sung Mass, with the schoolmaster and his pupils, and any lettered men, taking their proper roles as singers, acolytes, etc. And not just for the Mass, but for the Divine Office as well. Even Trent makes reference to this when discussing the proper restoration of the minor clergy.

I think that the Low Mass über alles mentality, and the pernicious idea that the laity didn’t take an active role in the liturgical and pastoral ministry of the local church, must be entirely a product of post-Enlightement thought, and the consequent elevation of the “specialist” to a thoroughly unhealthy degree. It is certainly not traditional, and not a perspective which our ancestors, and their ancestors, would have recognized.

5 08 2008
Arturo Vasquez

Perhaps being obsessed about cars is a much healthier and natural thing. I was thinking that it is rather interesting how the original Liturgical Movement arose only after the Church had been stripped of any real influence or power in society. The solution became an increasing “clericalization” of the laity, in the sense that people thought that the laity should be more included in “the life of the Church”. Traditionalist and conservative liturgical activists are merely the other side of the coin of the same trend that brought you liturgical dancers, lay Eucharistic ministers and the like. The “People of God” in prayer, in what used to be the exclusive (or rather “professional” ) realm of the clergy.

5 08 2008
Paul Goings

Before a Solemn Mass was unpretentious because that is just how things were. Now, these things are a personal statement.

Yes, but, in this wholly secular age, the very same can be said about the practice of the Faith itself, in any form. Your distinction, then, seems rather artificial. In short, you might disagree with the N.L.M. approach, but you are simply the opposite side of the same coin.

So, while you might–at this point in your life–prefer the Low Mass, I think that a good case can be made that a Solemn or Sung Mass is to be preferred on Sundays and Holy Days, at least whenever possible. And, as with any human endeavor, there will be people who are enthusiastic for the minutiae. This is, of course, natural and desirable, even if we don’t share their enthusiasm. There are, for example, many web sites, ‘blogs, etc., which are dedicated to cars, their customization, repair, and maintenance, etc. I don’t fellow them, as I just get in my car and drive it, dealing with such experts only when there is some sort of mechanical difficulty. But it doesn’t concern me that there is something like the “New Automotive Movement” ‘blog out there, and I don’t fret that those poor obsessed people should realize that cars are just for driving, and that they shouldn’t get so worked-up over details which don’t matter at all to the overwhelming majority of car owners and drivers.

5 08 2008

The low Mass has very little following or appeal.

All Liturgy should be sung if possible.

Interesting points by all

5 08 2008
Arturo Vasquez

“I often feel like Cordelia Flyte after the Blessed Sacrament was removed from the family chapel at Brideshead.”

Mmmmmmm… (he sighs pensively)

Anyways, I have nothing against High Masses or the Byzantine liturgy. God knows I can sing Gregorian chant until the cows come home and I know the Byzantine liturgy like the back of my hand. If you were pulled out of bed at six in the morning to sing Gregorian chant Mass IV or pulled out of you monastic cell at four in the morning to chant Orthros for years of your life, you would too. I go to High Mass and I am like, “cool, a sing along!”. And I probably still know all of the prostopinje tones, even the ones for the stichera at Vespers and Matins. That kind of isn’t the point of the post. I guess most people don’t have those experiences and I take them for granted in my memory. Oh well. I can concede that.

The point of what I wrote is that we live in a different time now, and these things, no matter how devout they might seem now, mean different things. Before a Solemn Mass was unpretentious because that is just how things were. Now, these things are a personal statement. Hey, I say this as one who fell for all of this at one point. Now I realize how naive such attitudes are.

And to the argument that the Low Mass is an exception rather than the rule because there was no Low Mass a thousand years ago, I would only accept that argument from a thousand year old liturgist. A thousand years is traditional, full stop. I really don’t care how many archeological arguments you can dig up. Besides, such arguments brought on other liturgical betes noires as Communion in the hand and permanent deacons. Hey, the early Church had these things! Yeah, no thanks.

5 08 2008

The problem is that High Mass has become theatrical in some quarters in a way that it was never intended to be. I suspect that some people get so caught up in the vestments, the music, and the incense that they forget why they’re there in the first place. A person can enjoy a mass of the 1962 missal for purely aesthetic reasons that have nothing to do with religion. As much as the notion of the Novus Ordo Mass as performance has been criticized, I think that the same attitude can be found among devotees of the Tridentine Mass in the endless discussions about music and vestments. Also, it’s not true that Americans always dislike long religious services. Traditional southern black Protestant services are notoriously long, sometimes lasting two, three, or four hours. I think that many Catholics are impatient to receive Communion and leave, so they don’t care about what happens before or afterwards.

4 08 2008
M.J. Ernst-Sandoval

Any student of the Roman Liturgy should realize that Low Mass is a concession to history and circumstance, and was never meant to be the primary Mass at the parish. (It should also be noted that, compared to the other Rites of Holy Church, the Roman Rite is the most spartan of them all.)

I don’t begrudge those who prefer Low Mass, but to live in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is to know nothing but that. Gone is the full impact of Lent with its folded chasubles, wooden candlesticks, mournful plainsong tracts; gone too is the drama of Holy Week, from the Palm Sunday liturgy to Tenebræ to the Easter Vigil, that so clearly tells the story of our Redemption. There are no processions for Candlemas telling of our Lady’s Purification. We’ve said goodbye to Christmas Matins before Midnight Mass and Lauds following it. These days, one can’t tell what the liturgical season is simply by entering a church. I often feel like Cordelia Flyte after the Blessed Sacrament was removed from the family chapel at Brideshead.

If a parish is able to pull off a Missa Cantata, why shouldn’t it? When my ancestors settled in the American Southwest in the 1600s they weren’t content with Low Mass. They taught they Indians to sing, play instruments, and compose music for Holy Mass so that they too could add their voices to the earthly choir singing praises to God. Shouldn’t we be giving our best to God?

Those who truly appreciate Low Mass and get spiritual sustenance from it, I do not begrudge. But for those who are simply complacent, or just plain lazy, I have no sympathy. Having spent years at a liturgically rich Anglo-Catholic parish, I returned to the Roman Catholic Church to find (at least in this archdiocese) nothing but a liturgical desert. Modern American spirituality does not appeal to me. This is why I often find myself at the local Byzantine Rite parish. At least there I can still find the Divine Office said during Holy Week.

4 08 2008

“What about the Divine Liturgy and the Eastern Catholic experience?”

As an Eastern Catholic who has cajoled, begged, pleaded and implored more RCs than I can count to attend just ONE DL with me at some time or another… Well all I can offer is that it is a special grace and blessing to be an Easterner. 9x out of 10, the non-Byzantine party (when asked how they “liked” our llitrugy) politely offers with requisite nicety “That was very nice”… More direct still, if not rude, many have offered “Boy it was long… lots of crossing yourself…

IT took me a decade to figure out that it just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, as much as I love it and feel nourished by it.

Interestingly, 20 years of attendenence doesn’t change that. We had families in our parish that I thought were roundly and soundly Byzantinized as they came to us to find peace and prayer in a diocese that in the heyday of the 801s zeitgeist… They were active, volunteered, brought their children to the sacraments (probably somewhat illicitly in the sense that I doubt the old pastor was all the concerned about getting permission from the local Latin ordinary to chrismate and commune babies…)

… And the day the Tridentine Mass was given a parish in this diocese under a more understanding bishop… They all disappeared from our parish (after two decades) never to be heard from again.

Interestingly, on paper, we lost almost NO members… They showed up dutifully and prayed with us for two decades, but never transferred to us.

So it goes.

4 08 2008
The young fogey

As someone with a taproot in traditional Anglo-Catholicism and who loves what the old liturgical movement was trying to do, loves Thomas Day’s writing (he explained most of mainstream English-speaking, more or less Irish, RC culture to me), has been transplanted in Orthodoxy for more than a decade and thus is used to and likes all-sung services all the time with mucho incense, and because of all that has criticised the old Low Mass, I say…

Once again you make a lot of good points. Believe it or not I don’t read TNLM most days (sorry) and you just articulated why.

When I most recently criticised 1962 practice I thought of what a friend said once, that the Low Mass really was popular or folk religion: it proliferated because the people wanted it.

Nice work.

4 08 2008
Matt K

Low mass is really, really boring for some. I can’t get my wife to go to it with me, she’d honestly rather suffer through the awful singing at our local NO church than drive 20 minutes to sit in absolute silence… especially when the Low Mass is at 7:30 AM. I can only imagine what bringing kids to a Low Mass is like.

It’s pretty easy to coax her to 12:30 PM High Mass though, with all the “smells and bells”.

4 08 2008

I’m actually a Solemn Mass/Missa Cantata type person, but I also recognize the beauty of low Mass. The problem with it is that it is that it differs so greatly from the “style” and emphasis of the Novus Ordo, even when it is done conservatively. The idea of that much silence, or responses reserved to the clergy, where we offer ourselves up in that bare silence, or meditate with the organ is extremely difficult for the Novus Ordo goer, and like it or not most Trads of today have been formed/influenced by the Novus Ordo. Some people I have known even have difficulty with the silence employed at High Mass because it is too difficult to sit with nothing to do and focus. To come around to low Mass requires an adjustment of one’s spiritual attitude, and the ability to contemplate.

Before I was married I traveled extensively through Europe, learning languages and discovering the treasures of the local culture. I observed in general that when I traveled I blended in and became unrecognizable as an American, while most Americans ran through places, took a million pictures, went to the Euro McDonalds and then back to their hotel room for television. They didn’t enjoy the places they were at, they merely took the picture to say they were there, and they missed the point entirely! Indeed I took pictures, but they were to remind me of the experience I had at say the Pantheon, St. Peter’s, or the out of the way Church that no tourist visits, at which I spent hours thinking, meditating. I got up early for sunrises and stayed late for sunsets. Americans don’t do that because in our cities we have sky scrapers to look at, rather than buildings which are thousands of years old, and our culture is so fast moving we barely get breakfast on our way out the door.

The Novus Ordo fits this atmosphere to a T, it allows them to speed in and speed out. So when they convert to Traditionalism (i use the word convert guardedly) they are simply not prepared for the Mass of our ancestors, and their ancestors, and their ancestors.

Now I also like High Mass, and I consider it a crowning glory to a week of low Masses. I recall being to a Solemn Mass sung with Byrd’s Mass for 5 voices, and it was so amazing it hurt. It is again the contemplation. The gorgeous vestments, the ritual and ceremony that serves as an accent, like the music, to the glory of what is going on. The focal point is Christ, sacrificed on the altar, drawing us to union with Him by the same means, just as at low Mass, and if we experience it the same way it becomes what the Church intends it.

In 1962 it was the same way for many Catholics. Regardless of the problems in the Church, people had a liturgical praxis that is hard to find now a days.

3 08 2008
Arturo Vasquez


“Your idea of being a Catholic intellectual is to be a freelance (read: wildcat) theologian/apologist/commentator on contemporary Church affairs.”

I don’t mean by this line that one should never write about or discuss the Faith, either on-line or otherwise. I am saying that there is a fine line between discussion to learn and playing with Divine Mysteries that we may not be qualified to discuss. Theology is not meant to be a hobby or something that is self-taught. Indeed, even in our more freewheeling days, a theologian has to have a license from the Church to really teach theology. It is not something to be taken lightly.

Even though I could be considered “more qualified” than others to comment on theology (five years living in monasteries and religious houses, extensive reading and some official theological training), I do not since I know that I am no theologian. If I were to qualify this amateur intellectual endeavor, I would say that I am a religious anthropologist. I don’t think this requires a license from the Church, and is a far safer intellectual sand-box to play in.

3 08 2008

What about the Divine Liturgy and the Eastern Catholic experience?

There is no “Low Mass” for the Divine Liturgy (None I know about at least)
Although it is not usually done as frequently although could be done everyday.

All Divine Liturgies are sung and chant is integral to the Liturgy (isn’t that what was done at the Temple of Solomon and for Early Christian communities)

If worship is to be done as reflected (at least by allegory) in the Book of Revelation and put in the cultural context of the Ancient Hebrews (pre-exile) and according to you Enlightened Pagans–than solemn ritual (and not a low Mass rush job) and song (not spoken Latin mumbling not to be heard) would be the type of Liturgy that should be done–with bowing and incense like in Revelation and song like in the Book of Psalms including Trumpets and songs (and I think Lyres) I am not sure the Low Mass meets that criterea (or is it critereon)

The Divine Liturgy should also instruct as should the entire Christian tradition and specifically the East in terms of liturgy and High or Low.

3 08 2008

I like this post. It is entertaning, interesting, and I believe correct on some points.

I do think there is a liturgical obsession that is unrealistic and does not have the center of it the Gospel and a sense of intention to love thy neighbor.

Since I did not grow up with the low Mass it is hard to follow and not that edifying for me personally although many people like the silence.
I think there is something to be said that all Masses should be chanted/sung and if Gregorian Chant is the most ideal form according to the Church than that.

I personally am not interested in the shoes or the vestments of the Pope. I don’t think those devout Mexican (or Polish or any ethnic group) ladies at Mass or praying the Rosary look at the Liturgical Reform Blogs or know what the vestments are and what got cancelled and who the Master of Ceremonies of Liturgy is. I think that many Catholic Blogs discuss minutia of details of liturgy, vestments etc (not to diminish their importance or beauty) and not details of love and interacting with people and good behavior. There is also a lack of what may be considered Mystical Theology for only Apologetics (as important as that is. But being a food buff (amateur of course) I did find the minutia of the Pope Benedict food menu on Fr. Z’s blog interesting like the peccorino cheese and pear ravioli. But otherwise I just don’t see Fr. Z’s Blog being revelant to most people practicing the Faith and the Liturgical Reform Blog being realistic and nit picking about everything making the Faith impossible to practice where you have to be an expert and being uncharitable to those (probably millions) who sing “On Eagles WIngs”. I don’t see Traditionalists (for the most part) going to Inner city or low income (could be rural or anywhere and not just urban) parishes, even if most African Americans are not Catholic outside Louisiana–how many Gregorian Chant classes, or classical violin lessons, or organ lessons, or voice lessons, or donations are going to low income parishes and teaching the little Mexican Catholics all the beauties of Palestrina in their Churches and not just having debates over why certain pieces by Mozart or Beethoven are not liturgical but actually concert pieces. Teach people how to chant. Introduce people to Mozart and Bach (even if Bach was a Lutheran)

As a side note on the Low Mass, I once went out nightclubbing all night and went to the 7AM low Mass with 2 Lithuanians working in a Catholic summer camp (the Lithuanians went with me drinking Vodka all night and to Low Mass) and than we went to breakfast and we were asked where we where and I said–we had went to Mass–which was not a lie but I did neglect where we were before Mass which was numerous nightclubs, heavy drinking, plenty of things we could of lost our eyes for according to Jesus—My rather large Lithuanian friend said he didn’t even know when the Mass began or ended, he had no clue what was going on–a problem with the Low Mass–a night of cabareting notwithstanding. The low Mass is hard to follow. This is not Buddhistic meditation practice.

I think that the Liturgical pornography as you describe it is when people do it for seemingly elitist, pharisitical and aesthetic reasons. I feel (and deduce logically through words) a sense of superiority and a lack of charity in the way that they deal with the 99% of others with bad music, Mariachi Masses, “On Eagles Wings” songs, guitars, drums, pianos, and lack of knowledge on music, vestments etc–No sense of charity or even mission to change and convert–only to criticize and create a Church in the Church.
While I agree with HvB that beauty can lead to God, beauty for the sake of beauty leads us away from God or at least could without love or charity–Beauty is not merely mathemetical dimension or large breasts or proportioned noses or Michaelangelo–there has to be a sense of intent and cultural context.
While artistically not as “great” as maybe “Renaissance” paintings or sculpture I always liked Coptic Icons from Egypt and Ethiopia and thought they reflected a sincere and appropriate sacred art–I also liked the kind of out of proportion and guady colors of the small temples and coffins of the Orthodox Christian Inuits in Alaska.
Nobody seems to be talking about sincerity and love.
The widows mite.
Just the best choir (the best choirs, yes liturgical ones even traditional, are mostly gay–so beautiful music does not necessarily follow proper doctrine or moral behavior–just ask the high Anglicans)
To me moral behavior is more important than the aesthetics of Liturgy, Music or vestments a la all these websites (although I do like a good High Tridentine Mass and am fond of Mozart)
I believe that Love is the most important thing and that Truth should be taught with Charity. I think it is the Institute of Christ the King (a Traditionalist Institute) that qoutes St. Francis DeSales that says that Truth must be cooked in Charity until it is Sweet.

I do agree with Arturo that being Catholic is not just saying the right things or repeating dogmas over again and reading all the websites which becomes and internet mastubatory (by analogy not actual act) psueo-Catholic experience.

3 08 2008


As usual, you have expressed a lot of what I feel, only more eloquently (incidently, I don’t visit The New Liturgical Movement blog anymore for the same reasons you listed). It really is a bizarre situation when even the littlest children are liturgical experts. I remember teaching a First Communion class two years ago where a girl of seven explained how Lutherans don’t have altars. Traditionalists often claim that they’re just being devout Catholics circa 1900, but there is nothing “traditional” about a seven year old providing commentary on the comparative worship practices of Catholics and Protestants in the state of Georgia. I attend the Low Mass almost exclusively. Maybe it’s terrible, but I just like the basics, reverent and simple. Going to High Mass every week would be like eating apple cobbler every day; tasty, but really too fattening to indulge all the time. The altar boys aren’t spaced out though. If they were, the congregation would have a fit.

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