Monday, August 31, 2020

Guest Review of Joseph Shaw’s How to Attend the Extraordinary Form

NLM is grateful to the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales for giving us permission to reprint the following review from their magazine Mass of Ages. I would like to add that I have read this booklet carefully and agree completely with Fr Finigan’s positive assessment. In fact, this is the first and only such booklet I could genuinely recommend for the public “pamphlet rack” at the back of the church. It it compact enough not to frighten a prospective reader, yet never superficial in its treatment of questions.

A Valuable Booklet on the Traditional Mass from the Catholic Truth Society
Fr Timothy Finigan
Long-standing members of the Latin Mass Society have had to change and adapt considerably over the decades as the Church has given greater freedom to the celebration of the traditional Mass, and most notably since Summorum Pontificum and the gradual establishment of the “Extraordinary Form” as a part of the mainstream life of the Church.

We are now fortunate to have an increasing number of parishes including it in their ordinary schedule, traditional societies being given responsibility for parishes, and several Bishops, who not only no longer need to give permission for the Mass, but now celebrate it themselves.

As I write this review, young priests all over the country are celebrating Mass privately during the lockdown. My telephone conversations lead me to suspect that more than one or two are taking the opportunity to become familiar with the old rite without the risk of any controversy.

The new booklet How to Attend the Extraordinary Form, intended for the general Catholic public and providing an explanatory introduction to the usus antiquior, is a helpful addition to the CTS list at this time. Dr Shaw has distinguished himself by writing copiously on questions related to the liturgical tradition, theology, law and practice. As an Oxford don, he is well used to dealing with controversial points without needing to start a row, and his reputation depends on accurate appraisal and intelligent comment. It would be hard to think of a better author for such an introductory treatment. The chapter on the organic development of the liturgy is a fine description of a complex subject which shows that mastery of material which is necessary in order to simplify it for a wide audience.

Traditionalists will not be disappointed by this measured and balanced account which deals gently but firmly with all the old objections about the priest “having his back to the people”, the barrier of supposedly incomprehensible language, the accusation of divisiveness and the subject on which we all have to tread on eggshells, the “reform of the reform.”

The pamphlet concisely explains the way the form of the liturgy “marks off the holiness of holy things” and has much in common with the ethos of the Eastern rites. The newcomer will learn how the personality of the priest is minimised, why the canon is said in silence, and what is gained in the traditional lectionary and calendar.

The treatment of the controversial topics of the reception of Holy Communion, head covering, and male altar servers will probably not convert a hardened liberal, but then who could? What it might well do is remove some of the obstacles for those who are genuinely enquiring but sceptical.

Many of Dr Shaw’s supporting quotations will be familiar to seasoned apologists for the Extraordinary Form and it is good to have a well-chosen selection for ready reference. The references to Pope Paul VI and even Pope Francis may raise a wry smile among some traditionalists, but they are so apposite that they simply cannot be dismissed as whataboutery.

It is no longer a newsworthy headline to proclaim that the traditional Latin Mass is attended by a high proportion of young people. Anyone not living under a stone since 2007 will have noticed by now, and during those 13 years new young people have been coming to the old Mass persistently year by year. Many of them will want a primer on the basics for themselves and, in the modern ecclesiastical zoomer vs. boomer phenomenon, so that they can answer the objections of the old folks.

How to Attend the Extraordinary Form is an excellent vademecum which is surprisingly comprehensive for its pamphlet format. Members of the Latin Mass Society would do well to get in a few copies to have on hand for interested enquirers. I would suggest having a good read yourself first: all but the most comprehensively informed are sure to find some nuggets they had not come across before.

How to Attend the Extraordinary Form is available from the LMS shop, £3.50 + £1.06 p&p., or directly from CTS.

The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, founded in 1965, is an association of Catholic faithful dedicated to the promotion of the traditional Latin liturgy of the Catholic Church, the teachings and practices integral to it, the musical tradition which serves it, and the Latin language in which it is celebrated. Catholics anywhere in the world may become members and receive the quarterly magazine Mass of Ages. Visit the website for more information.

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