Problems with the EF

Before the 1950s, there were several forms of the EF. (The following is a simplification, before anyone jumps into action.)

(1) Low Mass

— all spoken, much silence, no assembly participation except by being physically present and following along in a hand missal.

(2) Solemn Mass, often referred to as High Mass

— priest, deacon and subdeacon, with music sung by clergy and choir. Mostly no assembly participation, but see also below (3).

(3) Missa Cantata, sometimes confusingly called High Mass (cf. De musica sacra et sacra liturgia, 1958, para 3)

— similar to (2), but without deacon and subdeacon. Mostly no assembly participation, though Gregorian chant ordinaries (Kyrie, Credo III, etc) were sometimes sung by the people in a handful of “advanced” parishes from the 1920s onwards.

In the 1950s, all this changed, and not only did Low Mass become (4) Dialogue Mass, with the assembly vocally joining in with the responses uttered by the servers, but Solemn/High Mass became (5) “People’s High Mass” which involved the assembly singing things such as the Pater Noster, which had hitherto been reserved to the priest, and the responses, previously only sung by the choir, in addition to the ordinaries.

Not everywhere took these changes on board, of course, but some had been doing them for much longer (for example, Dialogue Mass in Scotland started in 1922 in response to approval by the Holy See, reiterated in 1935 and again in 1958).

It is quite clear, then, that there was in fact quite a lot of assembly vocal participation in the preconciliar rite in the decade or so preceding the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which is yet another reason for discounting the arguments of those who continue to maintain, incorrectly, that the new 1969 Ordo Missae was a rupture with previous practice.


It seems to me that one major problem with many of today’s EF celebrations has arisen precisely because they have mostly opted only for the older, pre-1950s, non-participatory incarnations of the rite, trying to replicate the silent Low Mass (1) and the “High Mass” without any assembly vocal participation (2), and ignoring what happened in the 1950s, which some of them have even said they think was a betrayal of the “True Mass”.

Anyone attending one of these celebrations who tries to join in either with the spoken responses or by singing is treated as a leper. Attempting to point out that this was in fact the prior tradition of the Church before the Council results in one being branded as “not a proper Catholic”. This happened to me at a funeral only a few weeks ago.  

Another problem is that most of the people who are advocating these things never lived through them themselves because they weren’t even born. This means that they have no understanding “from the inside” of how these liturgies worked, but only have book knowledge or what they have picked up on the internet. They have no lived experience of them; they are not “in their bones” as they were for those of my generation. This means that for the most part their celebrations are in a sense “parodies” of the original celebrations, with the ministers as play-actors, observing rubrics with an almost inhuman obsession that was never really a characteristic of the preconciliar liturgies. An adjective that I have used of these celebrations is “anodyne”.

Some try to maintain that these celebrations are more “reverent”, or even “what the Church wants” (actually no, we’re talking about the Extraordinary Form). They confuse the mystical with the reverent. In fact the preconciliar rite could be in some respects amazingly irreverent! Here is not the place to tell all the stories of what went on, but they are many and varied and would easily fill a book. In part, these “eccentricities” were a reaction to the liturgical straitjacket of the rite, a way of personalizing it or humanizing it. To celebrate the rite today in a robotic manner as if none of that ever happened is a denial of history.

The young people who have been drawn to these celebrations have not picked up on any of these deficiencies because they, too, were not alive when this way of celebrating was our daily bread.

And because they never lived through a time when these liturgies were normative, they also have no basis on which to understand that the way in which most (not all) of these celebrations are carried out today betrays a preoccupation with external observances rather than an understanding of the internal essence of the liturgy and its different parts. As I have said elsewhere, the mentality is often one of “If we say and do everything in the right order, lo and behold, we have committed liturgy!”

I have nothing against EF celebrations per se, but they really need to focus more on prayer rather than on performance. The latter, alas, often seems to be the primary mode, and, as we know, performing the rite for the rite’s sake is the sin of ritualism, a close relative of the sin of rubricism. I do believe that those who attend them are sincere in their intent, but one could be forgiven for having the impression of a disconnect between ends and means.

I would add that the same critique can be levelled at those at the other end of the spectrum. Ultra-charismatics, neocats, those belonging to other contemporary movements, even LifeTeen, all run the risk of exalting form over content. That danger is perhaps one of the things Romano Guardini had in mind when he famously posed the question in 1964 as to whether humans were still capable of carrying out the liturgical act.


  1. As a priest for 44 years now, I recall that many years back, as we were discussing the liturgical changes affecting our parishes after Vatican 11, my Scottish mother from Glasgow told me that as a teenager she “served “the priest at the Latin (dialogue) mass by making the appropriate responses that ordinarily would be made by the altar server or acolyte. However, she said that she had to stand or kneel on the pews
    side of the altar rail, not by the steps that were close to the priest. Interesting!

  2. I don’t attend the EF (usually it is the Byzantine rite or the OF), but I take issue with the idea that people are “play acting” the EF. When the interim Roman Missal was released and then the inauguration of the OF in 1969, no one had a lived experience of any of these missals yet I would not describe the clergy and laity celebrating these liturgies as parodiesparodies when they first engaged in “versus populum” or used an anaphora other than the Roman Canon for the first time.

  3. How valid is this characterization of current EF praxis outside the Anglosphere?

    1. Karl, just read some of the Facebook threads over the past week which demonstrate clearly that this is far from just being an English phenomenon, or even an English-langiage one. If you want really virulent stuff, look for the French-language threads! How these Christians love one another!

      1. OK. I don’t spend much time on FB, so it’s not a space I am well travelled in liturgical terms. My impression from other places I do travel virtually over many years is that there are EF communities in France that do have a more deeply participatory (in terms of singing) praxis than is typical in, say, Amurka, where a perhaps Irish-sourced allergy to such appears to be more prevalent. So my question was sincerely curious, not rhetorical, in case you’re wondering. Personally, I don’t seek the EF so I have no first-hand experience of it liturgically except in my infancy and toddler-hood, as it were, though I do have ritual books and sources/resources so that I can be more informed about conversations touching it and the relationship of the conciliar reforms to/with it. (I think of myself as part of that small and almost completely ignored sub-generational cohort that might be called Young Children Consciously Formed During The “Interim Missal” Period – it was an interesting time in many ways, and I wouldn’t give the residue of that period up for the world. It also helps provide color on my persistent willingness to probe all the “sides” in the Liturgy Wars.)

  4. Why is something that’s allegedly so insignificant the subject of so much critical commentary? One gets the impression that the existence of a tiny minority of liturgies really, really causes irritation to some people.

    1. Because many of the comparative few who espouse this form of celebration still persist in telling the rest of us that we’re not true believers and that their way is the only authentic way. If, like Fr Neil, they would see it as an option that suits them, rather than an excuse for proselytising, we would all be more peaceful.

  5. I’m more or less on the same page as Lee. I am of the Vatican II generation. But if a group of Catholics want to celebrate in the Extraordinary Form, more power to them.

    Personally, it isn’t my cup of tea. I honestly think the revised rites are better able to bring people to heaven. But if a group is willing to put the work in to celebrating the Extraordinary Form well, then go ahead. If some people who don’t generally practice find their way to Catholicism through these celebrations, then Blessed be God.

    Thank God, the Church has many different options. We should use all the weapons in our arsnel and the life-giving liturgies and groups will thrive.

    Again my (probably very unpopular) belief is that the majoprity of Ordinary Form celebrations are very poorly celebrated. We should concentrate our efforts on improving the Ordinary Form and offering some variety in liturgical styles within the OF. Then people will vote with their feet. Then I would also ask about vocations. How come the EF communities seem to have more vocations comparatively? Can we just say that they are all crazy? Or should we search out why the OF parishes do not produce as many vocations as they used in most places? Again, I believe that truly beautiful OF liturgies will produce more vocations. I became a priest myself, partly due to the beauty that I experienced (and continue to experience) in the Ordinary Form.

    What I find worrisome, is when a group considers itself more Catholic than others, or when a priest decides he knows what his parish or worshipping community needs better than they do themselves. We need unity of belief not unity of practice!

    1. “Again my (probably very unpopular) belief is that the majoprity of Ordinary Form celebrations are very poorly celebrated. We should concentrate our efforts on improving the Ordinary Form and offering some variety in liturgical styles within the OF…. Again, I believe that truly beautiful OF liturgies will produce more vocations.

      What I find worrisome, is when a group considers itself more Catholic than others, or when a priest decides he knows what his parish or worshipping community needs better than they do themselves. We need unity of belief not unity of practice!”

      Yes and yes! Thank you for wording this so well.

  6. [M]ost of the people who are advocating these things never lived through them themselves because they weren’t even born… for the most part their celebrations are in a sense “parodies” of the original celebrations, with the ministers as play-actors, observing rubrics with an almost inhuman obsession… I do believe that those who attend them are sincere in their intent…

    Of course, I, a young(er) person (nearly 36), thoroughly enjoy elderly strangers telling me what I’m thinking and feeling. However, you do realise that the above is grossly offensive… right?

    This whole article could just as well be entitled “Problems with the EF and Everyone who isn’t Paul Inwood and his Mates”. I’m not a natural optimist, but I had hoped for something a little more constructive.

    1. See my reponse to Lee above. I was sure, and am now convinced, that most people responding to this post will ignore one of the main points I was raising, which was the exaltation of form over content.

      Nothing to do with my personal tastes, Matthew. I grew up with the Tridentine liturgy and celebrated it until the age of 22, so my perspective comes from the lived experience I referred to in the original post. I still maintain that what is celebrated now is rather different in spirit from what was celebrated back then, and those who celebrate seem intent on a crusade which is not helpful for the life of the Church. I do understand that a 36-year old may not get that.

      1. I am not sure if that is an accurate portrayal of what most people who have pushed back against your argument in this post. You claim they exalt form over content yet some responses have stated that they prayerfully follow the EF Mass in a hand missal and find it to be a spiritually fruitful exercise. Not to mention, many EF Mass-goers (myself included) have been encouraged to read “The Holy Mass” by Dom Prosper Gueranger or similar books. If those works don’t explain the content the EF I guess there was no content and a 400-year-old rite was an empty show for all those years. Finally, EF parishes are on the whole are better at encouraging people to prayerfully prepare for Mass. Something I wish more parishes would encourage. You claim participation has been excluded yet people have responded that they do indeed respond to the priest as they would have in the 1950’s EF Mass. In short, I think your post has merit as there can be a lot of pride and focus on an outward show that does not mirror an interior relationship with the Lord among the EF crowd. Yet, if you think the OF is free of such shortcomings among those who attend, I believe the charge of overemphasizing form could be leveled against you.

  7. I suspect that today’s TLM is more like the early “Folk Mass” of the late 60s and early 70s. Each attract/ed *intentional* believers, people who were seeking a deeper union with Christ, the Church, and/or one another. Intentionality doesn’t have to focus on one form of liturgy or another. It can happen with social justice, campus ministry, and other ways people can unite (more or less) under a banner.

    Outside of intentionality, there is a lot of Church poorly done, for the lack of a better phrase. It tends to happen in places and in ministries where there’s not been any kind of awakening.

  8. Hanging around after an EF Mass for doughnuts one could discuss with the “regulars” and find out whether there is a disordered focus on performance to the neglect of prayer. But if somehow that weren’t possible there are plenty of articles available about participatiosa actuosa in the Extraordinary Form, not all of them by Peter Kwasiniewski, and both print and online materials to support Extraordinary Form spirituality, enough to put to rest suspicion that the EF crowd is really just engaged in an idolatrous play-acting.

    That aside you’ve hit on something interesting here. EF enthusiasts often claim that SC was misapplied and the Church threw out the baby with the bathwater. But in recovering the “baby” they may be going a step too far and putting the used water back in the tub. The Extraordinary Form need not come with silence in the nave, yet in many palces that is what happened. The package deal doesn’t stop at the Low Mass and congregational silence but often includes devotion to the the fictitious “St. Philomena”, feverish obsession with private revalations, and rejection of Nostra aetate and Dignitatis humanae. This package-dealing has become more prevalent in the decade or so since greater permission was given for the Extraordinary Form. The interesting question is: why has this happened? Why is the bad old-normal driving out the new-normal of 2007-2008?

  9. The day after the Lefebvre consecrations of 1988, Cardinal Lustiger…no traditionalist he…celebrated a Tridentine Mass in Notre Dame, in a powerful gesture.

    There’s plenty of acrimony on both general “sides” of the liturgy wars.

    What a powerful gesture it would be for a Father Ruff to offer to celebrate a Tridentine Mass for some EF community in his neck of the woods. Or for Paul Inwood to offer to assist one weekend with the music for an EF Mass in his.

    Gestures like that accomplish far more than more of the same tired, tedious critiques back and forth of liturgy that isn’t too our personal liking.

    1. I grant that church law allows for the 1962 Mass, though I do not see how that accords Sacrosanctum Concilium, which clearly intended that the one and only form of the Roman rite would be reformed and be the only form henceforth celebrated.

      I do not believe that the 1962 Mass expresses the nature of the Church adequately, as V2 said the liturgy should do. Neither did the Fathers of Vatican II. That is why I will not celebrate it. I only celebrate the reformed rite.


      1. It’s such a shame that not Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor Paul VI, nor any magisterial statement afterwards ever make this radical claim about the ecclesiology of the 1962 missal explicitly. It would have prevented so much confusion, especially when certain council fathers seemed to have forgotten that they voted for it.

  10. “Another problem is that most of the people who are advocating these things never lived through them themselves because they weren’t even born. “

    Yes! Especially newly ordained priests, who in my experience, not only prefer it, but act as though the rest of us are inferior somehow. For me, this is why this is so irritating.

  11. Paul, can you please give a rubrical citation for the people singing the Pater noster at Solemn Mass (or Missa Cantata) in the 1962 Rite?

    Thank you!

  12. Some of this discussion varies by context. When I was at Nantes about eight years ago, I checked out a parish with FSSP priests. I was teaching high school Latin at the time, and it was my first opportunity to hear the Mass in this form. At that parish, anyway, the mostly young congregation had pew missals at weekly Low Mass and vocalized every response.

    In Colorado Springs, I attended an FSSP parish around four or five years ago, and Low Mass was still mostly young folks, and they were still very actively following along and participating, but they were not vocalizing the responses. I never made it to a Sunday Mass, but I gather it was a Solemn Mass with folks singing the responses where appropriate.

  13. I went to Masses offered by the SSPX for about 19 years. Much of the radical notions and arrogant “more Catholic than you” behaviors stem from these people. They are sectarian and cult-like. The FSSP originally was a refuge for folks like me that were quite literally afraid of attending the Novus Ordo Mass due to the brainwashing of the SSPX. The FSSP was basically like being in the SSPX except you were united to Rome. In time, I realized that Mass in my local parish would not “cause me to lose my faith,” and I really had no attachment to the Latin Mass. Many young people are interested in the EF, and that’s fine, but it is unfortunate that many of them are getting a skewed version of Catholicism in the process. They hope that it will grow and somehow displace the OF. When they are “stuck” attending Mass in their local parish, they do often have an air about them, and just somehow put out vibes of being superior to us pants-wearing, un-headcovered women. Not all are like this, but there is definitely an element. I know, because I was like that. Our pastor has gone out of his way to make the OF as dignified and traditional as possible with the music, proper rubrics, etc. in hopes of attracting several families in his geographical area, but it’s still not good enough for them because “there are more graces at the Latin Mass.” It is too bad, really, because these families are decent people and could contribute so much vibrancy to our parish.

  14. For those in the UK, “English Catholic Worship” by James Crichton, Harold Winstone and John Ainslie gives a more detailed overview of what Paul describes above. It’s long out of print but frequently pops up on eBay. The three authors give first-hand examples of practice from 1900 to the 1970s.

    I am far too young to remember much about the liturgical developments of the 50s and 60s. But, here in the north west of England I do notice the numbers of young clergy and musicians (young enough to be my kids) attracted to the EF and/or to the Novus Ordo in Latin. And I wonder why. Perhaps, as Paul suggests above, the have been plenty of examples of parishes celebrating the NO badly – sorry if that sounds critical. Or, perhaps, after 50 years we still haven’t really got our heads around the rite and we could/should do with it. (I’m just mulling out loud here.) One nearby priest recently told me, “Read the black and do the red.” Empty ritual or prayerful liturgy?

  15. It may be of interest that the St John’s Sunday Missal (a gift from my primary school in 1960 with the imprimatur of a certain J. Suenens of Mechelen) had all the peoples parts in italics. The Pater Noster, however, is not. I do remember attending the 12 noon sung Mass in Motherwell Cathedral (Scotland) in the 1960’s when the congregation was encouraged to sing the ordinary and I am sure we sang the Pater Noster too. In fact I can still sing it after all these years attending the OF.
    A feature of that noon mass was that Holy Communion was not distributed, only the servers received communion, and I do not remember if that was changed only when the liturgy was celebrated in English. For all the warts and imperfections of any liturgy celebrated in the OF I would not wish to go back to the old form of the mass.

  16. I’m 70 and grew up in a liturgically “active” parish. My memories of serving at Tridentine Masses in the UK was that the people sang the ordinary, responses and Pater at “High” Mass, but were silent at “Low” Masses.
    School Masses happened in the school hall and were celebrated facing the people with English hymns even though in the Tridentine form and in Latin with the pupils saying the responses etc.
    Who did what where and how seems to have been more fluid than is today allowed.
    I was in York (UK) yesterday and popped into the Catholic church which was (cheekily) built opposite the wonderful Minster. The Oratorians there celebrate the current missal in English and Latin and have weekly Tridentine Masses as a part of the weekly cycle. “Many mansions in my Father’s house ….”
    This seems much healthier than our local Institute of Christ the King “shrine” which is purely Tridentine apart from on Friday when our PP is allowed to celebrate according to the current Missal. That just encourages factionalism. They added the fictional Philomena to the century old dedication to SS Peter and Paul – just for the heck of it I reckon.

  17. I celebrate EF Mass once a month.

    We have an organist (who seems to know a thing or two about improvisation on plainsong themes appropriate to the season) but no choir. We all sing the Kyrie, Gloria and Credo from the Missa De Angelis (alternating between priest and congregation) and the Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Mass 18. We always end with the Marian Anthem.

    There used to be a choir but for various reasons they disappeared and the people asked if they could sing the Ordinary of the Mass, so that’s what we started doing.

    Doing it like this also allows me to chant the Collect and Postcommunion and the Preface as well as the Paternoster. It seems to work ok. I just wish we had a cantor to sing the propers.

    I suppose this would be another ‘category,’ a sort of ‘Semi-Sung Mass.’

    I remember going to Mass in the mid 1960’s when the Canon was still recited in Latin and the old Jesuit who celebrated got through it at such a pace he could not possibly have recited the whole thing integrally. My Latin muttering speed is fast, but even I could not have kept up with him. I suspect he just left parts of it out. Anyone else have the same experience?


    1. I agree that excessive speed can be off-putting and should be avoided. But this is not something restricted to the EF. I once attended an OF mass which lasted six minutes from beginning to end. But all this proves is that it is possible to celebrate mass badly, in either form.

      1. I think it probably is. The story is also told of a priest of this diocese who, on returning to the sacristy after celebrating the (OF) Easter Vigil, said: “I left out all that I could and it still took 40 minutes”. That has to be a record too.

      2. Here is a recording of Cardinal Cushing praying the Roman Canon during JFK’s funeral. It’s not exactly a good example of exteriorly prayerful liturgy. It’s also particularly telling given that this was an extremely high profile occasion:

      3. If one used a whisper, one would be able to recite not only on the exhaling but inhaling of breath.

      4. Wow, yikes! The fastest I’ve heard of is an EF Mass in 17 minutes, “amice on to amice off.” Can’t imagine it, and I asked a priest how that’s possible. He said, sheepishly enough that I think he spoke from experience, “Prayers can be said both while breathing out and breathing in.” Double yikes. (I’ve tried that, and it makes me cough almost immediately. And/or laugh.)

    2. A Russian priest explained that he knew his anaphoras so well that he felt justified simply to take in the thoughts without actually saying the words. Thus he could finish the prayers so quickly as to be able to chant the words of institution and do the same until the epiclesis, and then do the same until the our father. A bit of a race but he managed.

      For some reason when I think of this approach I always think of particular phrases from the Athanasian Creed, in the 1662 wording, of course.

      I suspect that your old Jesuit did the same although by the mid sixties in my neck of the woods the Latin canon was daily recited in an orderly manner at seminary but not without peculiar pronunciations. I still smile at how one priest pronounced the Nobis quoque peccatoribus in such an exaggerated way.

  18. This is a brilliant article from a refreshingly well-articulated and interesting viewpoint. Thanks Paul!

  19. A word about S. Philomena, who has oddly been trashed on this thread for no apparent reason other than some people who attend the EF have a devotion to her.

    In 1961, S. Philomena was ordered removed from particular calendars as part of the guidelines about conforming particular calendars to the 1960 Johannine Codex Rubricarum. She had never been placed on the General Calendar, but she was on a great many particular ones. She was never in the Martyrology, either before or after Vatican II.

    She remains celebrated in the liturgy, even in the OF, with votive use of the common of virgin martyrs, especially in places that have a shrine to her. The Church permits devotion to her at these public shrines, and Masses continue to be celebrated in her honor. S. Philomena isn’t an EF phenomenon; she is venerated in the OF as well.

    All this is to say, the Church has never pronounced her “fictitious.” She was simply removed from the particular calendars drawn up in conformity with the 1960 Codex Rubricarum.

  20. “The young people who have been drawn to these celebrations have not picked up on any of these deficiencies because they, too, were not alive when this way of celebrating was our daily bread.”

    > Old man yells at cloud

    1. I have just realised that my previous attempt at a comment did not have my full name!

      I regularly celebrate the EF, and I recognise some, but not all, of the critique that you make. First, though, to suggest that those born after the reforms are incapable of fully appreciating the liturgical praxis of the preceding years strikes me as irrelevant, as we, by virtue of Summorum Pontificum, have been given the opportunity to learn. As a musician, you will remember the faltering attempts to recover a degree of authenticity in the performance of Baroque music. As scholars asked better questions, and as performance techniques were better understood, we got better. So it is now: of course there can be an over scrupulous approach to the rubrics. But so, too, did a sprint of laxity prevail. After all, At Alphonsus Liguori had to discipline priests who said Mass in fifteen minutes! In time the right balance is struck. What I simply don’t recognise is the notion that Mass becomes a performance. It is prayer, and none of the priests I know would ever think it is anything else. If anything, it is the Novus Ordo that runs the risk of showmanship, as there are many clergy who think that it all depends on them to hold it together. That is not a criticism of the missal of St Paul VI, simply a observation that every form if the rite has its inherent dangers. In the end, it is important to let people learn, pray, and above all relax in the knowledge that they are not being endlessly critiqued.

    1. They can, but it isn’t necessary. I wish the author of this could have stated more than these kids don’t get it. Why not ask the thoughtful question: What are younger generations finding in the EF that has led to find more there than in the OF? And from there ask what could we do in the OF without betraying the rite to speak to that need or desire? Now that might be an excellent place to start a conversation and not an intransigent ideological stalemate.
      I hear many priests, religious sisters, and laity who grew up in the 50’s-60’s talk about how the preceding generation failed to listen to their concerns and desires for the future. I would hope that they would be willing to now grant that to the current generation of young people. You do indeed but have something to teach Millenials like me, but simply telling us we are too young to get it will not get you any further than it did with the generation(s) that preceded you.

  21. Sorry, but I don’t understand what bearing the fact that there were pre-Vatican II Masses were not as reverent as those who take part in the EF now imagine has. That doesn’t mean that the EF cannot be celebrated now with reverence and beauty. I also don’t think it’s any more fair for those who firmly advocate for the N.O. to accuse those who love the EF of play acting! There is nothing wrong with desiring something beautiful, mystical, sacred, and even some silence, in the Liturgy. This is no more fair than those who prefer the EF saying that those who prefer the NO don’t appreciate the Sacredness of the Eucharist or the 100 other frustrating claims they make.
    As a side note, while I much prefer the NO and probably will my whole life, there is something wonderful about silence in the Liturgy. In the NO the Priest bombards us with words all
    Liturgy long and while yes, we can understand these words, I think most Catholics will confess that they cannot possible listen intently to an entire 45 minutes of one man speaking (maybe 10 minutes taken over if there is a Deacon or concelebrant). So m, for example, while I LOVE the words of the Eucharistic Prayers and think they are so powerful, I too struggle to maintain my attention through the whole thing. How many people actually know, even the words expressly say so, that we are offering ourselves and not just bread and wine to be transformed, even though the prayer expressly says so? Even though this is fundamental to the spirituality of the Liturgy? I think the issue at hand is not the problem of the EF or the problem of the NO, but the problem of how to help people enter in to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a way that is edifying for their soul.

  22. I’ve attended the EF exclusively for about a decade in various places in the American Midwest, but still attend the OF about a half dozen times a year.

    The acceptability of vocal participation must be a regional thing. I’ve never had an issue with saying/singing the responses – even in Masses where no one else is responding. I’ve encountered people who are firmly against the congregation responding, but haven’t met any worse treatment when discussing it than I would disagreeing about something having to do with the OF.

    There are a lot of bitter traditionalists, and the worst ones tend to flock to EF-exclusive places like the SSPX. Most EF’s I attend are at otherwise OF parishes, so I rarely encounter the people who outright question the OF’s validity or freak out too much over women wearing pants (perhaps one could consider this a positive side-effect of the much maligned practice of going to the tabernacle at communion time).

    However, I’ve encountered a lot of bitterness and defensiveness that directly stems from poor treatment – particularly from older traditionalists. This is a fact that a lot of anti-EF folks seem to want to ignore or not seriously grapple with – that they were more or less instrumental in creating the bitter trad. I’ve experienced some mild mistreatment myself that would probably shock Paul Inwood if it were directed at him.

    Also, one of the biggest hallmarks of traditionalists – and one of the things that genuinely attracts new people – is their authenticity and sincerity of belief. That anyone could accuse them of play-acting is comical and shows a true lack of experience worshiping with EF communities.

  23. Some questions and gentle challenges to the original post:

    (1) The post is headlined “Problems with the EF,” but the evidence is anecdotal and personal, and partially based on how certain people who may or may not represent the community behave. Anything with that title should criticize the rite itself. We could all cite bad experiences with people we have encountered at Masses in both forms. I don’t think that means that the Mass itself is flawed.

    (2) Is it necessary to have experienced these liturgies before the Council in order to advocate for them? Surely we here are not anti-intellectual; we can learn of things through reading and listening to others. If we carry this to the extreme, that would mean that none of us should ever comment on any liturgy prior to 1920, because we haven’t experienced them personally. That whole notion seems spurious. If people born after the Council want to advocate, they can certainly do so.

    (3) Just because a priest had no prior lived experience of the EF doesn’t mean that they don’t feel it “in their bones,” and because they follow rubrics to the letter does not mean that they are just play-acting.

    (4) “Focus on prayer rather than on performance.” Could it be that performing their duties well and in accord with the rubrics may help others to pray? Maybe the Catholic Mass should go the way of Quaker meetings and jettison all planned and rehearsed liturgy. Any time we plan and practice, it is a performance, and there’s nothing wrong with that. As a church musician, I may be so engrossed in my duties that I fail to engage fully in the liturgy myself, but I pray that my performance of those duties may enable others to do so.

  24. The people who use the missal we’ve had for centuries are cluelessly play acting, but the people who invented a new rite out of whole cloth aren’t?

    Something doesn’t add up here.

    1. Yeah right, “invented out of whole cloth” is an accurate portrayal of what the Catholic Church believes about its official public worship and what the magisterium has said for the last 50 years.

      You’re badly misrepresenting Catholic teaching, Ben. Read the popes’ statements (Paul VI, John Paul VI, Benedict XVI, Francis) since 1969. They tell a quite different story.


      1. I have read the modern Popes’ statements.

        Paul VI stressed on many occasions the deep novelty and innovation of the changes he was making, and even openly admitted he was discarding much of our great tradition.

      2. But at no point did he critique or attack what he was doing! Rather, he emphasized, repeatedly and strongly, that it was in accord with tradition, progress in tradition, retrieval of authentic tradition, and the like.

  25. There are two main issues here, as I see it.

    First, and my experience is limited to TLMs in the Rhode Island and Washington, DC areas of the country, Sunday TLMs are almost always Missa Cantatas (or Solemn High Masses). Only rarely are Sunday TLMs in a low mass form. This is usually due to temporary issues like summertime choir absences, etc.

    Second, I don’t see why the hurried and sloppy low masses of yesteryear mean that those of us who are actively praying the mass today (usually by singing it and by reading along in a hand missal) are lacking. Isn’t this what the masses back then were supposed to be, but weren’t? Aren’t we doing exactly what the Old Liturgical Movement wanted us to do? And how do you judge the interior disposition of someone, anyway?

  26. Perhaps I could recapitulate, according to my original intentions, what the two main points of the post actually were:

    (1) The forms of the Tridentine Rite being practised immediately before Vatican II were far more participatory than many EF proponents would have us believe. By insisting on old, non-participatory models, not only are they at risk of excluding some who might otherwise collaborate with them but they also risk schooling their adherents in a false conception of the actual history and nature of the rite that they promote. That many, especially younger folk, have already been taken in by such a false history is due to the fact that they never experienced it in real life.

    (2) I mentioned the exaltation of form over content, which one gentleman (in a comment that was subsequently removed by the moderators) professed not to understand. I knew I was stirring the volcano in referring to play-acting, etc, but over-preoccupation with external observances can lead to that. It can result in a pretend-liturgy, similar to what we did as children when we set up altars in our bedrooms and “celebrated masses”. We uttered every word and observed every rubric, every movement, every posture and gesture, with a finely-judged nicety that would have been admirable in other circumstances, but the substance of what we were doing was lacking. There’s a very fine line to be drawn.

    A number of years ago, there was a pop singer who in the course of an energetic routine would generally contrive to split his trousers on stage, to the surprise and joy of his female fans. A priest friend of mine likened those who are preoccupied with the externals of liturgy to those fans who “have carried on worshipping the trousers, long after the body that once inhabited them has departed”.

    I suppose I am saying, then, that excessive reliance on the forms of worship can act to keep us apart, adherents of EF and OF alike. I am also asking how we might go about striking a balance?

    1. The first point you make is one that I believe is not factually accurate.

      The pre-Conciliar TLM was, by the accounts of virtually everyone in my parents’ generation, a dreary and rushed low mass affair. Kids dragged to mass and told to shut up for 45 minutes. A hurried liturgy, sometimes communion, sometimes a homily. The four hymn sandwich. Grouchy priests. That’s what I’ve heard my whole life and what I continue to hear. Is that not your recollection? I was born in 1978. The people I talk to were born in the 1940s and 1950s.

      The modern TLM (Sunday variety) is overwhelmingly participatory Missa Cantatas. The assembly sings along with the choir the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. The readings are read from hand missals and often repeated in the vernacular immediately prior to the homily. The dialectic parts of the mass are often responded to by the assembly (DV/ECST, the Sursum Corda dialogue, etc.) There is often a St Michael’s prayer in the vernacular after even a High Mass, and there is usually a seasonal Marian antiphon sung somewhere in there.

      It seems to me that the new variety of TLM could not be more authentically participatory and prayerful.

      1. Low mass, a dreary affair? I remember it as a beehive of activity. Old men were saying their rosaries while old ladies were walking around the church either making the stations or lighting those wonderful candles whose melting wax so fascinated me, as well as kissing the rose petals strewn around S. Therese’s Gloria statue (I tried to do that too, but my mother stopped me. We don’t do that she said. Ugh!)

        (Yes, I suppose it was an entirely different world which had its own logic and really can’t come back again. I wonder if Mr. Inwood thinks recent attempts are not unlike a restoration of a time period, perhaps like Williamsburg. After all he experienced it at the time. As an aside it’s interesting to think that Queen Elizabeth is still reigning while Pius XII has been in his tomb these many years.)

        All activity stopped at the hanc igitur bell and everyone knelt until the elevations were completed. I guess there was an interior participation rather than an active.

        There were no Hymns for most low masses. Your folks may be thinking of the early days of the reform when much of the mass remained in Latin, but there were four Hymns then.

        High mass was celebrated on most Sundays with both a men’s and boy’s choir under the superb direction of Walter Burke of blessed memory. Solemn Mass took place only a few times a year.

        A Dominican once told me that I was living off the fat of the land because of the excellencies of the liturgy there. The rest of the diocese was an absolute wasteland.

        Fortunately in the area there were two Anglo-Catholic churches to which I could repair in order to escape the happy birthday, dear Jesus, crowd who took over that once glorious parish. Alas, I tried to prolong the experiences of my youth but I did grow in many different ways.

        Oh, dear, Too much coffee!

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