Saturday, November 30, 2019

All About St Cecilia, Or: When in Rome: New Episode of Square Notes with Gregory DiPippo

Tune in to the latest episode of Square Notes: The Sacred Music Podcast, wherein NLM’s own Gregory DiPippo helps separate truth from fiction in the hagiography of St Cecilia. We also discuss Rome’s stational liturgies, and the music and liturgy of the Russicum in Rome.

You can catch us on our website, YouTube, iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app. Please note that we have discontinued publishing on SoundCloud.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Tradition is for the Young: EF Mass at the National Catholic Youth Conference

Our thanks to Mr Samuel Rosko, a seminarian of the archdiocese of Indianapolis, for this account of the EF Mass celebrated at the recent National Catholic Youth Conference. We also have a video of the full ceremony and several pictures.

This past weekend, 20,000 young people were in Indianapolis for the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC). Occurring every other year, NCYC provides an opportunity for young people from across the nation to experience the vibrancy of the Faith through encounters with priests and religious, engaging talks and break-out sessions, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.

For the past several years, a Mass in the Extraordinary Form has been offered as a part of the Conference. Each year, this Mass has been moved to a larger space to accommodate the growing number of attendees; this year, it was celebrated at St John’s, one of the largest churches in Indianapolis, located right across the street from the Convention Center.

The celebration was a Solemn High Mass in honor of St Cecilia, Patron Saint of musicians, and Palestrina’s Missa Brevis was sung; also noteworthy is the fact that the vestments were made by the celebrant himself. The choir stalls in the sanctuary were filled with priests, religious, and seminarians attending in choir. Most significantly, the church itself was filled to overflowing with young people! In fact, two extra ciboria had to be put out to accommodate the large number of attendees.

As the MC, I can definitely say that we did not anticipate that this many people would be present at the Mass. As I made the final adjustments in the sanctuary before it began, I was elated to look out and see a packed church full of young people eager to experience the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries in its more ancient form. Moreover, those in attendance truly entered into the Sacred Rites, following along in the provided worship aids, chanting the responses with the schola, and uniting their own hearts with the priest in prayer and adoration. One of the most moving moments for me was hearing the Salve Regina echo through the church at the end of Mass, chanted loudly and beautifully by the whole congregation.

Oftentimes people wonder why so many young people are attracted to the Traditional Mass. The young people present were certainly moved by and drawn to its beauty, transcendence, and reverence. So many of those in attendance--many in tears--approached us after Mass to express their thanks for such a beautiful and reverent liturgy. Those present were not there because of any rejection of the Ordinary Form--indeed, these same youth (including yours truly) were also very moved and edified by the beautiful closing Mass celebrated by the archbishop, during which the Introit and Communion Antiphon were chanted in Latin by a schola of young people. The youth don’t have the baggage of the “liturgy wars.” They were there simply because they appreciate and are drawn to the beauty, transcendence, and antiquity of the Extraordinary Form as part of the Church’s large treasury of liturgical expression. In a secular world that is noisy, individualistic, and uncertain, young people are drawn to the beauty, certainty, and transcendence of traditional liturgy. As Pope Benedict XVI put it: “What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too!”

The celebration of the Extraordinary Form was just one of the many beautiful liturgies celebrated during the Conference. That 20,000 young people are so engaged in their Faith should be a sign of great hope for the future of the Church!

Christmas Cards and Other Items from Silverstream Priory

Many readers will know of Silverstream Priory, the only traditional Benedictine monastery in Ireland. It is an oasis of liturgical prayer and a frequently-visited location for retreats. The monks are currently endeavoring to raise funds for the construction of a desperately-needed monastic chapel, which will be built on to the side of their existing guesthouse. (Their current chapel, a renovated living room in a large mansion, is bursting at the seams with monks, candidates, and visitors.) The monastery’s website has a helpful page that tells of the ways you can come to their aid, especially in this end-of-year giftgiving season.

Meanwhile, I notice that the good monks have updated their online shop and, in particular, have made available two new Christmas card designs, one of which includes an original watercolor image of the Child Jesus:

These cards are not, however, the only items of interest for those looking for unusual Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers. They have a series of transparent decals in different colors: the medal of St. Benedict, a Marian motif, a Lamb, St. Benedict with the raven, a Celtic cross design, a medieval chalice and host, and “Keep Calm and Ora et Labora.”

There is a page devoted to liturgical prayers: a beautiful set of altar cards (which was announced here some time ago), thick cards for the prayers at the foot of the altar, the priest’s vesting prayers, declaration of intention before celebrating Mass, and a Way of the Cross with meditations for priests:

Prayer cards specific to Silverstream are available: Novena to Mother Mectilde, Institutress of the Benedictine Nuns of Perpetual Adoration; Act of Adoration for Priests; Novena to Fr. Paul of Moll; Novena to St. Therese of Lisieux; A Prayer of Forgiveness and Reparation; Supplica to St. Dymphna:

And lastly, three prints of pencil drawings by one of the monks:
All of the above products are designed by the monks. Take a moment to check out the Silverstream shop.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Pictures of Solemn Masses at the Angelicum in Rome

This past Monday, on the feast of St Catherine of Alexandria, a solemn Mass in the Dominican Rite was celebated at Ss Sixtus and Dominic, the church of the Angelicum, the Dominican university in Rome. As the patron Saint of philosophers, St Catherine has always been held in special honor by the Dominican Order, especially within its educational institutions. The previous Thursday, a solemn Mass in the Roman Rite was held there for the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary. Our thanks to Don Elvir Tabaković, a Canon Regular of the Congregation of Windesheim who studies at the Angelicum, for these beautiful photos. (Don Elvir was recently interviewed by John Henry Westen of LifeSite on his previous career as a professional photographer, his conversion and entrance into religious life.)

The Dominican manner of lining up for the Introit.
When the celebrant and ministers go to the sedilia, they sit in hierarchical order, with the priest closest to the altar; a grembule is then placed over their laps. The subdeacon is not with them at the moment because he is getting the chalice ready; as in many medieval Uses of the Roman Rite, much of the preparation of the chalice and paten is done during the Mass of the Catechumens.
At the intonation of the Gloria in excelsis; note that the chalice has already been brought to the altar, and that the acolytes line up with the major ministers.

A Reminder about the Date of the Immaculate Conception

This year, December 8th is on a Sunday, and I have already seen some posts on social media discussing what to do with the feast of the Immaculate Conception when it coincides with a Sunday of Advent. This is one of the places where there is a difference between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite; the question of whether the rubrics of the two Forms ought to be reconciled on this point, and if so, how, has no bearing on the fact that as things currently stand, they have not been reconciled.

– In the Ordinary Form, the Sundays of Advent admit of no impediment whatsoever (paragraph 59 of the “Universal Norms concerning the Liturgical Year and the Calendar”), and the Immaculate Conception is transferred to the following day, Monday, December 9th (ibid. par. 5). This is true even where it is celebrated as a Patronal Feast, as it is in the United States. As a point of information, several years ago, the USCCB made the very bad decision that the feast would not be a Holy Day of Obligation in those years when it is transferred. I therefore encourage all priests to reminding their parishioners on the next couple of Sundays how urgently the Church in the United States (and everywhere else) needs the prayers of the Immaculate Virgin, and how we should make a special effort to honor Her on this important feast.

– In the Extraordinary Form, the Immaculate Conception takes precedence over the Second Sunday of Advent, which is reduced to a commemoration at the Mass of the former. This is a special exception made solely for this feast, which is part of the rubrics of the 1962 Missal (Rubr. Gen. III, 15), and which is NOT superceded by any subsequent canonical or rubrical legislation, including the rubrics of the Ordinary Form. As stated in paragraph 28 of the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, which was issued in 2011 to clarify certain issues related to the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, “Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.”

This custom of the Extraordinary Form is in point of fact a very recent one, which was only universal law between 1913 and 1969, and last applied universally in 1968. In the liturgical books of St Pius V, as in the modern ones, the Sundays of Advent admitted of no impediment whatsoever. This was subsequently revised in such a way that, while the First Sunday remained inviolable, the Second, Third and Fourth Sundays yielded in precedence to a Patronal Feast. The Immaculate Conception is of course the Patronal Feast of a great many places, but wherever it was not so designated, it was transferred off the Sunday. Thus e.g., in the year 1912, churches in the United States celebrated the feast on Sunday, December 8th, while across the border in Canada, it was transferred to the following day. It was only with the new code of rubrics instituted by Pope St Pius X, which became legally active in 1913, that all feasts of the highest grade, then called “Doubles of the First Class”, impeded those three Sundays everywhere. The new rubrical code of 1960 then changed this back to the rule of St Pius V, with the special exception for the Immaculate Conception.

It therefore seems to me that a future reconciliation of these contrasting rubrics is desirable, but also not a matter of particularly high priority, and that no one has any reasonable cause to be bothered by the fact that he may be celebrating the feast on a different day than many of his fellow Catholics.

The following is a page of the general rubrics of the very first post-Tridentine liturgical book, the Roman Breviary of 1568, issued by the authority of Pope St Pius V. The rubric “concerning the translation of Double and Semidouble feasts” begins at the bottom of the first column. “If any Double feast occurs on the Sundays of Advent, the Sundays from Septuagesima to Low Sunday (etc.), it is transferred to the first day not impeded by another Double or Semidouble feast.” In the original version of the rubrics, feasts were distinguished by only three grades, Double, Semidouble and Simple; the first of these was later subdivided into four classes.

Dominican Mass for the Feast of St Nicholas in Cincinnati

Next Friday, December 6th, St Gertrude Catholic Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, will have a sung Mass in the Dominican Rite for the feast of St Nicholas. The Mass will begin at 7:30 pm; the church is located at 6543 Miami Avenue. For information about more Dominican Masses scheduled in the next few months, see the church’s website.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

New Liturgical Fixtures at the Lateran Basilica

Earlier this month, two new liturgical fixtures were installed in the cathedral of Rome, popularly known as St John in the Lateran, more officially as the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior. The first of these is a cross suspended from the inside of the baldachin; this was formerly a very common custom in Italy, and can still be seen in churches like the basilica of St Petronius in Bologna, and the basilica of St Ambrose in Milan. The Lateran basilica was destroyed by fire in 1360, and rebuilt immediately afterwards; this baldachin is one of the very few things that survives (with many restorations) from that rebuilding project, and would certainly have had such a cross when it was originally made.

The new cross is actually a copy of a processional cross made in 1451, and kept in the basilica’s museum, of a type which was very common in Renaissance Italy. (See previous posts with examples here and here.) In this particular case, the cross is two sided. On the side facing the nave, the risen Christ sits on a throne in the middle, surrounded by the four Evangelists.

On the celebrant’s side, Christ is seen on the Cross, surrounded by other scenes of His life. It has to be said that while this object is very beautiful, as a substitute for the altar cross, it simply does not work. The altar of the Lateran is not very deep, and in its current position, the celebrant standing at it can only look at Christ by awkwardly tilting his head all the way back. From the nave on the other hand, it gives the odd effect of having one Cross directly underneath another, as seen in the first photograph above.

Far more successful in terms of placement, given that versus populum is unfortunately going to be with us for a while, is this new ambo, which was made to replace a much uglier one. (The ugly one can be seen at this link; click the Italian word “ambone”.) A very nice Paschal candlestick made of marble, which is not new, has been set into place next to it.

The carved marble block mounted into the front is a piece of the ancient basilica, many fragments of which have been recovered and reused in various ways throughout the complex. The twisted columns are new, but made in imitation of those in the church’s early 13th-century cloister. The eagle is another nice touch which looks back to the building’s medieval history; as I have noted before, it was very common to decorate lecterns and ambos with eagles, so much so that many liturgical books refer to a movable lectern an “aquila” in their rubrics.

Booksale: Belloc, Hymnals, Chant Books, etc.

As I continue to run out of shelf space, I have decided to reduce my personal library by some nice volumes that I enjoyed reading but do not feel the need to keep. I have, in particular, a large pool of biographies and other works by Hilaire Belloc, mostly in large-format hardcover editions that are not plentiful anymore on the used book circuit. A few of the following have my bookplate in them, or are inscribed in pen to earlier owners, or have light pencil markings in margins.

If anyone is interested in purchasing several Belloc books, I am happy to oblige by packing them into a single box. I can also answer your questions about which publisher, edition, and year these are. Price is for the book; shipping (Media rate unless you request Priority) is additional.

Cranmer  ($25) sold
Elizabeth  ($25) sold
Charles I  ($40) sold
Cromwell  ($30) sold
James II  ($25) sold

Joan of Arc  ($25) sold
Richelieu  ($30) sold
Louis XIV  ($30) sold
Danton  ($25) sold
Napoleon  ($30) sold

Europe and the Faith  ($25) sold
Crisis of Civilization  ($30) sold
Survivals and New Arrivals  ($20)
Selected Essays  ($30)
The Four Men  ($30)

Also: G.K. Chesterton’s whimsical (as always) A Short History of England  ($30). sold

Then a fairly random selection:
SOLD  Directing the Choral Music Program by Kenneth Phillips. Like new. $20. (List price at Amazon: $92.66.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

“An Incredible Organ for an Incredible Church”

NLM received the following contribution from the St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis.

An Incredible Organ for an Incredible Church
Steven Ball
Recently, St. Francis de Sales Oratory, an apostolate of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, with the blessing of the Archbishop of St. Louis, was pleased to announce the signing of the contract for Karl Wilhelm Opus 123, a three-manual and pedal, 58-rank freestanding mechanical action organ.

This is the third instrument to be installed in this remarkable and often photographed structure. St. Francis de Sales is the largest Gothic Revival building in the city of St. Louis and was recently named most beautiful church in the nation according to a recent online poll conducted by "Art & Liturgy". Having the 6th tallest church spire in the country, it is also the largest church structure on Historic Route 66--quite a unique set of distinctions for a church already known to readers of NLM as being the exclusive home for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and an important hub for Institute activities in the Midwest.

The Wilhelm organ replaces a III/22 rank Wicks organ from 1924. The Wicks organ had been in failing health for some years and had experienced several alterations, including removal of some of the original pipework. It was itself a replacement of the original  II/15 organ by J. G. Pheffer & Sons from 1897 which had been relocated to St. Mary's Church in Altus, AK, where it is still preserved today.

Director of Sacred Music Steven Ball, an experienced organ consultant, led the search for the right instrument throughout North America and Europe. After studying dozens of possible transplant organs , four were selected as finalists. Several considerations led the investigation in the direction of the Wilhelm instrument, including the exquisite detail of the casework, extremely traditional methods of construction and voicing, and the overall tonal design which hearkens back to the original German ancestry of the parish. The instrument is well suited, in particular, for Baroque music, the accurate performance of which is central to the musical needs of the Oratory.

The fact that master organ builder Karl Wilhelm agreed to come out of retirement to personally oversee the installation and voicing of this instrument as his last major project played a tremendously important role in the organ’s selection. Raised in Weikersheim, Germany, he apprenticed with August Laukhuff of Weikersheim, Germany, and with W.  E. Renkeutz of Nehren bei Tübingen, Germany. After briefly working with Metzler & Söhne of Dietikon, Switzerland, and later with North America’s oldest organ-building firm, Casavant Frères of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, he founded Karl Wilhelm, Inc. of St. Hyacinthe. In 1966 he relocated the firm to Mont St.-Hilaire, Quebec, where the shop remained active building organs until the early 2000s. The firm has built hundreds of organs, not only across the United States, but also in Europe and Asia.

On a technical level, the new instrument of 58 ranks is considerably larger than either of the previous organs and of a very different tonal and mechanical design. Drawing on influences from both the German and French schools, the instrument has a specification described by Mr. Wilhelm as “classical” and is one of his largest organs. Using a suspended mechanical key action, the solid white oak cases house a carefully engineered system which is both elegant and rugged. Windchests are constructed of mahogany and the interior is designed to be easily accessible for maintenance. Stop actions are also completely mechanical.

At this point in the construction process, the casework is largely assembled, the action installed, the winding finished, and some of the first of the 2,670 pipes have been installed—including those that make up the highly polished tin facade. Many more months of work are anticipated for the careful tonal finishing of the organ for the famously magical acoustics of the Oratory.

In June 2019, the Oratory launched a fundraising effort for $400,000. In addition to the actual purchase of the instrument, there are further costs to correct substantial existing problems with the infrastructure. This fundraising effort includes the necessary updates to the electrical and lighting in the gallery, restoration and extensive repairs to the original 1908 choir loft floor, and other improvements to the existing infrastructure which the removal of the existing organ will make possible.

For supporters of the traditional liturgy, this is a very special and highly visible opportunity to place an extraordinary piece of art directly at the service of one of our nation’s most important centers of liturgical culture. Already the instrument has drawn extraordinary regional interest and attention to the liturgical and musical life of the Oratory.

A healthy portion of the resources needed to complete the project have been secured, but more will be necessary for its completion.  Interested readers hoping for an opportunity to evangelize through beauty may check in for regular updates concerning this unique project at and

Two Schemas for Liturgical Art in the 15th Century: Can You Identify These Saints?

I recently made a visit to the National Gallery in London, and was struck by two paintings that weren’t liturgical art, but had paintings of liturgical art as details. I took some snaps with my phone (carefully checking with the security guard that I wouldn’t be arrested for doing so!)

Some of the figures I can identify, but not all. So here’s a question for you: can you identify the figures portrayed? 
Art typically tends to be moved around churches, so unless we have items that are actually fixed and not defaced by the iconoclasts of various times right through to the 1970s -  perhaps frescoes or sculptures - we can’t be sure what would have been there in the past. 
I have not seen studies of schemas for liturgical art in the Roman Rite which are as comprehensive and authoritative as those which exist for the Byzantine and other Eastern liturgies. I would like to see similarly guidelines developed for the churches of the Western Church and unless anyone can direct me to one, we probably need some research and careful application of thought to develop some for today. 
The first is called the Exhumation of St Hubert and is painted by Flemish artist, Rogier van der Weyden.
Here is the detail of the altar and the art depicted behind it. We see Christ on the Cross with Our Lady and St John, with four Saints, two men and two women. I am guessing these are appropriate to this particular church and community. Above there are three small sculpted figures and 12 tiny images, which we can’t make out. Then in front of the small reredos, there is what I assume to a tabernacle with Christ in Majesty - after the Resurrection and Ascension - with figures that I presume to be the Apostles. 
The second is the Presentation in the Temple by an anonymous 15th-century artist.
I find this reredos particularly interesting. It seems to me that what we are looking at is Cain and Abel on the left, and Abraham and Isaac in the center. I am not so sure about the scene on the right. Is it Jacob and Esau, perhaps?

By the way, artists take note: the way to avoid mystification rather than revelation is to tell us in writing who and what we are looking at. St Theodore the Studite specified this as necessary in order to make an image worthy of veneration in the 9th century, so I would always try and put the name of the saints, feast or mystery depicted in writing clearly on the painting itself as a matter of course.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Paul VI’s Contempt for Catholics Who Did Not Welcome the Liturgical Reform

“A little shy one, aren’t you? — but you can’t hide yourself from Active Participation!”
As we approach the melancholy 50th anniversary of the going-into-effect of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum with the first mandatory celebration of the Novus Ordo Missae on the first Sunday of Advent, November 30, 1969, it is worthwhile to recall how frequently this vexed and vexing pope felt the need to address the “naysayers” of his day who were complaining about the stream of ever-increasing changes to the Roman liturgy implemented throughout the 1960s. Some readers will already be familiar with the astonishing general audiences of March 1965 and November 1969 (on which I have offered a detailed commentary: “A Half-Century of Novelty: Revisiting Paul VI’s Apologia for the New Mass”), but few, perhaps, will be aware of other public addresses in which he continued his tirade against the reform’s non-enthusiasts.

Pope Paul had a curious way of speaking, as if a rapturous majority of laity and clergy were rushing to embrace the new form of the Mass with zeal for active participation, like happy citizens of a Communist Workers’ Paradise. Evidence both published and anecdotal, together with an ever-more precipitous decline in church attendance throughout the 1960s and 1970s, suggest that no more than a tiny minority felt the “good vibrations” of the Bugnini Boys. [1] Paul VI’s contempt, therefore, was directed not only at the majority of his coreligionists (which would have been unsaintly enough); it was, in reality, directed against centuries of traditional Catholic practice that, in spite of whatever faults it may have had, kept large numbers attached to the Church and to their Faith, with a piety and seriousness that could rarely be found, and never surpassed, outside of Catholicism. The advice of Louis Bouyer in 1956 had gone unheeded: “We must not try to provide an artificial congregation to take part in an antiquarian liturgy, but rather to prepare the actual congregations of the Church today to take part in the truly traditional liturgy rightly understood.” [2]

In this article, I would like to offer some quotations from Paul VI, courtesy of that enormous doorstopper called Documents on the Liturgy 1963–1979 — a book that would enjoy a more accurate acronym if its title were Documents Undermining Liturgical Life 1963–1979 — that reveal the full amplitude, or better, narrowness, of the pontiff’s mind as to the meaning of participatio actuosa and the flagitious behavior of those who stubbornly resisted the march of progress.

Address to Italian Bishops, 14 April 1964 (DOL 21)
“The liturgical reform opens up to us a way to reeducate our people in their religion, to purify and revitalize their forms of worship and devotion, to restore dignity, beauty, simplicity, and good taste to our religious ceremonies. Without such inward and outward renewal there can be little hope for any widespread survival of religious living in today’s changed conditions. … [P]romote sacred song, the religious, congregational singing of the people. Remember, if the faithful sing they do not leave the Church; if they do not leave the Church, they keep the faith and live as Christians.”

General Audience, 13 January 1965 (DOL 24)
“Through your [sc., laity’s] own endeavor to put the Constitution on the Liturgy into exact and vital effect you show yourselves to have that understanding of the times which Christ recommended to his first disciples (see Mt 16:4) and which the Church today is in the process of awakening and recognizing in adult Catholics. . . . You show that you understand the new way of religion which the current liturgical reform intends to restore . . . The Church’s solicitude now broadens; today it is changing certain aspects of ritual discipline that are now inadequate and is seekingly boldly but thoughtful to plumb their ecclesial meaning, the demands of community, and the supernatural value of ecclesial worship. To understand this religious program and to enjoy its hoped-for results we must all change our settled way of thinking regarding sacred ceremonies and religious practices as calling for no more than a passive, distracted assistance. We must be fully cognizant of the fact that with the Council a new spiritual pedagogy has been born. That is what is new about the Council and we must not hang back from making ourselves first the pupils and then the masters in this school of prayer now at its inception. It may well happen that the reforms will affect practices both dear to us and still worthy of respect; that the reforms will demand efforts that, at the outset, are a strain. But we must be devout and trusting: the religious and spiritual vista that the Constitution opens up before us is stupendous in its doctrinal profundity and authenticity, in the cogency of its Christian logic, in the purity and richness of its cultural and aesthetic elements, in its response to the character and needs of modern man.”

Address to Pastors and Lenten Preachers, 1 March 1965 (DOL 25)
“Here are some of the issues: to change so many attitudes that in a number of respects are themselves worthy of honor and dearly held; to upset devout and good people by presenting new ways of prayer that they are not going to understand right away; to win over to a personal involvement in communal prayer the many people used to praying — or not praying — in church as they please; to intensify training in prayer and worship in every congregation, that is, to introduce the faithful to new viewpoints, gestures, practices, formularies, and attitudes, amounting to an active part in religion than many are unused to. In a word, the issue is engaging the people of God in the priestly liturgical life. Again, we say that it is a difficult and delicate matter, but adding that it is necessary, obligatory, providential, and renewing. We hope that it will also be satisfying.”

General Audience, 17 March 1965 (DOL 27)
“What do people think about the reform of the liturgy? . . . First, there are those that give evidence of a degree of confusion and therefore of uneasiness. Until now people were comfortable; they could pray the way they wished; all were quite familiar with the way the Mass proceeded. Now on all sides there are new things, changes, surprises: it has even gone so far as to do away with ringing the Sanctus bell. Then there are all those prayers that no one can any longer find; standing to receive Communion; the end of the Mass cut off abruptly after the blessing. Everyone makes the responses; there is much moving about; the prayers and the readings are spoken out loud. In short, there is no more peace, things are understood less than before, and so on. We shall not criticize these views because then we would have to show how they reveal a poor understanding of the meaning of religious ceremonial and allow us to glimpse not a true devotion and a true appreciation of the meaning and worth of the Mass, but rather a certain spiritual laziness which is not prepared to make some personal effort of understanding and participation directed to a better understanding and fulfillment of this, the most sacred of religious acts, in which we are invited, or rather obliged, to participate.”

(You couldn’t make this stuff up!)

Homily at Parish in Rome, 27 March 1966 (DOL 33)
“The Council has taken the fundamental position that the faithful have to understand what the priest is saying [3] and to share in the liturgy; to be not just passive spectators at Mass but souls alive . . . Look at the altar, placed now for dialogue with the assembly; consider the remarkable sacrifice of Latin, the priceless repository of the Church’s treasure. The repository has been opened up, as the people’s own spoken language now becomes part of their prayer. Lips that have often been still, sealed as it were, now at last begin to move, as the whole assembly can speak its part in the colloquy . . . No longer do we have the sad phenomenon of people being conversant and vocal about every human subject yet silent and apathetic in the house of God. How sublime it is to hear during Mass the communal recitation of the Our Father! In this way the Sunday Mass is not just an obligation but a pleasure, not just fulfilled as a duty, but claimed as a right.”

Quite possibly the most fantastical and least realistic Pope in history
Paul VI was prophetic about contraception, but he was no prophet when it came to liturgy:

General Audience at Castelgandolfo, 13 August 1969 (DOL 45)
“Through an intense and prolonged religious movement, the liturgy, crowned, and, as it were, canonized by Vatican II, has gained a new importance, dignity, accessibility, and participation in the consciousness and the spiritual life of the people of God and, we predict, this will continue even more in the future.”

Note how, three years after his complaints in 1966, Paul VI is still harping on the theme of resistance to reform, and the vices it indicates:

General Audience at Castelgandolfo, 20 August 1969 (DOL 46)
“A second category, whose ranks have swelled with troubled people after the conciliar reform of the liturgy, includes the suspicious, the criticizers, the malcontents. Disturbed in their devotional practices, these spirits grudgingly resign themselves to the new ways, but make no attempt to understand the reasons for them. They find the new expressions of divine worship unpleasing. They take refuge in their moaning, which takes away their ancient flavor from texts of the past and blocks any taste for what the Church, in this second spring of the liturgy, offers to spirits that are open to the meaning and language of the new rites sanctioned by the wisdom and authority of the postconciliar reform. A not very difficult effort at acceptance and understanding would bring the experience of dignity, simplicity, and newfound antiquity in the new liturgies and would also bring to the sanctuary of each person’s self the consolation and life-giving force of community celebrations. The interior life would yield a greater fullness.”

General Audience, November 26, 1969 (DOL 211)
       “A new rite of the Mass: a change in a venerable tradition that has gone on for centuries. This is something that affects our hereditary religious patrimony, which seemed to enjoy the privilege of being untouchable and settled. It seemed to bring the prayer of our forefathers and our saints to our lips and to give us the comfort of feeling faithful to our spiritual past, which we kept alive to pass it on to the generations ahead.
       “It is at such a moment as this that we get a better understanding of the value of historical tradition and the communion of the saints. This change will affect the ceremonies of the Mass. We shall become aware, perhaps with some feeling of annoyance, that the ceremonies at the altar are no longer being carried out with the same words and gestures to which we were accustomed — perhaps so much accustomed that we no longer took any notice of them. This change also touches the faithful. It is intended to interest each one of those present, to draw them out of their customary personal devotions or their usual torpor.
       “We must prepare for this many-sided inconvenience. It is the kind of upset caused by every novelty that breaks in on our habits. We shall notice that pious persons are disturbed most, because they have their own respectable way of hearing Mass, and they will feel shaken out of their usual thoughts and obliged to follow those of others. Even priests may feel some annoyance in this respect. So what is to be done on this special and historical occasion? First of all, we must prepare ourselves. This novelty is no small thing. We should not let ourselves be surprised by the nature, or even the nuisance, of its exterior forms. …
       “It is Christ’s will, it is the breath of the Holy Spirit which calls the Church to make this change. A prophetic moment is occurring in the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church. This moment is shaking the Church, arousing it, obliging it to renew the mysterious art of its prayer.
       “It is here that the greatest newness is going to be noticed, the newness of language. No longer Latin, but the spoken language will be the principal language of the Mass. The introduction of the vernacular will certainly be a great sacrifice for those who know the beauty, the power and the expressive sacrality of Latin. We are parting with the speech of the Christian centuries; we are becoming like profane intruders in the literary preserve of sacred utterance. We will lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant. We have reason indeed for regret, reason almost for bewilderment. What can we put in the place of that language of the angels? We are giving up something of priceless worth. But why? What is more precious than these loftiest of our Church’s values?
       “The answer will seem banal, prosaic. Yet it is a good answer, because it is human, because it is apostolic. Understanding of prayer is worth more than the silken garments in which it is royally dressed. Participation by the people is worth more — particularly participation by modern people, so fond of plain language which is easily understood and converted into everyday speech.”

General Audience, 3 November 1971 (DOL 53)
       “The Church praying (Ecclesia orans) has received at the Council its most splendid idealization. We must not forget that regarding the stirring reality of liturgical reform. Great weight, even regarding the spiritual conditions of today’s world, is due to that reform because of its originating, pastoral intent to reawaken prayer among the people of God. This is to be a pure and shared prayer, that is, interior and personal, yet at the same time public and communal. Its meaning is not simply a matter of ritual, pertaining to the sacristy or an arcane and merely liturgical erudition. Prayer is to be a religious affirmation, full of faith and life: an apostolic school for all seekers of the life-giving truth; a spiritual challenge thrown down before an atheistic, pagan, and secularized world.”

*       *       *
From our vantage fifty years later, as we watch the liturgical reform either imploding on itself or being slowly undone by an ever-stronger traditionalist movement, we can benefit from the hindsight of knowing what not to do to one’s precious inheritance, and energetically commit ourselves to doing the opposite. For the great irony is that it is not, and was never, the “new” liturgy that serves as “an apostolic school for all seekers of the life-giving truth; a spiritual challenge thrown down before an atheistic, pagan, and secularized world.” Instead, more and more, we see how aptly this description suits the classical Roman rite, risen as a phoenix from its ashes.

The choice before us: a Roman Missal from 1948, or . . .

[1] The Beach Boys’ hit “Good Vibrations” appeared in 1966, the year in between the provisional 1965 missal and the Missa Normativa of 1967.

[2] Life and Liturgy (1956), pp. 14-15, cited by Alcuin Reid in the Introduction to Beauduin’s Liturgy, the Life of the Church.

[3] This claim is, of course, a bald lie on Paul VI’s part, since the Council took no such position, and in fact took a different one. It was a lie he repeated on dozens of occasions.

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