You can go home again

Back in March, I visited a Tridentine Mass for the first time, and my impression at the time was as follows:

I’d imagine I could get used to it, but just reading along, with little interaction, and not even being able to hear much of what was going on, does not engage me. While I do agree that the priest should be oriented in the same direction as the people, not facing them, to project audibly more of the prayers cannot be a bad thing. While I also agree that the English translation used in the Novus Ordo is in places abysmal, I honestly fail to see how English faithful to the Latin is inferior to Latin. The liturgies of the Eastern Catholic Churches are almost all in the vernacular, yet haven’t lost an ounce of reverence or beauty. English isn’t the problem; liberal translation hell-bent on desacralizing the Mass is.

As I sit here trying to sort out my mixed thoughts, I keep coming back to one thing: that there is nothing intrinsic to the Novus Ordo that keeps it from being as reverent as the Tridentine Mass. If we fixed the pitiful translation to clear up some theological problems, turned the priest around, got rid of sappy music, and started praying to Our Lady and to St. Michael again, we’d end up with a pretty reverent Mass, and one in which everyone could be engaged. I’d even be fine with making those changes gradually in order to ease the transition and not drive away another generation of those wedded to a particular rite, this time the Novus Ordo.

While I still contend that English is not the problem with the Novus Ordo, I’m no longer of the opinion that the Novus Ordo is intrinsically as reverent as the Tridentine Rite. Indeed, I am now certain that it is not, and were there a Tridentine Mass within 30 miles of my house, I’d be there every week. Why the change?

A few months ago, while I was on my lengthy blogging hiatus, a young priest of my acquaintance came to town for several days for a family celebration, staying with mutual friends. He would prefer to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, but due to circumstances out of his control, cannot do so in his parish, but only privately. So, he and my friends with whom he was staying converted their dining room into a makeshift chapel, complete with altar (with altar stone with relics) at the prescribed height, and we celebrated the old Mass every morning for three straight days. Being right next to the altar, watching carefully and praying along with the priest, was an entirely different experience from sitting at the back of a church, distracted by kids and bewildered by the missal.

Everything about the Tridentine Mass as I experienced it those few days was focused upon God. The gestures of the priest, the prayers, the common direction we all faced, everything brought into reality what exactly we were doing at the Mass. Our personalities were left behind, focusing all our energy on the Sacrifice being re-presented. For that hour, we had entered Heaven on Earth.

Even the most reverently celebrated Novus Ordo is missing a good chunk of prayers, the Last Gospel, prayers after Mass, and several other components that are integral to the Tridentine Mass. I do not understand why they were removed, but I suppose there is some complicated theological reason of which I am unaware. I’m not sure whether it would be better to reform the new rite to include most old components than to just reinstitute the old. There is one change, other than perhaps the vernacular, that I think could be beneficial to the Tridentine Rite. The new lectionary contains so much more Scripture that it is objectively superior to the old one. In Fr. Tim Finigan’s discussion to which I linked in my last post, that idea is brought up. It really shouldn’t be all that much trouble to do.

But other than that, I’d be all for a “universal indult,” if we could find the priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. Frankly, I’m doubtful that more than 5, maybe 10 at the most, could be found in my diocese, none of whom serve parishes within reasonable traveling distance for me. Maybe my new bishop will shuffle folks around. Or, more likely, I’ll be as content as I can be attending my parish’s performance-centered Novus Ordo, running to the little Eastern Catholic parish a half hour away every now and then for a “reverence fix.” But, reflecting upon the Tridentine Mass after attending three more, gives me a much better appreciation for it. May it return to prominence, and may its return reinvigorate our Faith.


10 Responses to “You can go home again”

  1. 1 Mike November 10, 2006 at 1:24 am

    Thanks. I thought that I had commented in the earlier post Can you go home again?, but it appears not. Maybe I sent an email.I remember thinking at the time, that trying to juggle so many things, especially trying to follow along with an unfamiliar rite, and an unfamiliar Missal, along with other distractions, is a prescription for dissatisfaction and frustration.Happy to see that being at the Mass, and becoming more familiar with it, has changed your mind in some ways.

  2. 2 Edmund C. November 10, 2006 at 10:06 am

    Mike, thanks for the comment. You did comment on my post in March; I lost all my old comments in moving back and forth from blog hosts…

  3. 3 Barbara November 10, 2006 at 1:33 pm


    I’m happy to see your comments. My husband and I grew up with the Traditonal Latin Mass, but didn’t realize how many changes there were in the Novus Ordo until my sons and I studied the two missals side-by-side in our home school religion class. Several months later we learned of a Tridentine Mass starting within driving distance (one hour) and attended to have a look-see. 8 1/2 years later, we, and many other families only are still driving every Sunday, and truly feel a sense of loss when we have to attend elsewhere because of necessity.

    There is much written on the differences between the TRidentine and the N.O., perhaps you have read many of them already. You mention that “Even the most reverently celebrated Novus Ordo is missing a good chunk of prayers, the Last Gospel, prayers after Mass, and several other components that are integral to the Tridentine Mass. I do not understand why they were removed, but I suppose there is some complicated theological reason of which I am unaware.” Are you aware that the Novus Ordo was written with the help of Protestants? If you’d like names of books, authors, etc. I’d be happy to oblige.

  4. 4 The Catholic Caveman November 11, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    Good post. One thing concerning the “English vice Latin” discussion… please keep in mind that Liturgical Latin is a dead language (Thank God!). It’s simply impossible to change the words. Whatr’s said is meant, and what’s meant is said.

    English (and Spanish, and Japanese, and Urdu, and Uwakadoogan, etc.) are live languages. “Live” languages change meanings, they evolve. Some words mutate.

    Do we really want to play fast and loose with The Consectration?

    Keep in mind, Bill Clinton argued on what the definition of “is” is. And people took him seriously.

  5. 5 Edmund C. November 11, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    Great point, Caveman. I hadn’t thought about that before. My question would be: if you look back throughout history, before Latin “died”, did the words change? And, why are Eastern vernacular liturgies not (as) prone to abuses? I do remember, on the other hand, that the Ruthenians are currently working on revisions to the English used in their Divine Liturgies, and the new translation has several places where “modern” English has seeped in.

    Arguing with myself, I suppose that the explanation would be that just as other doctrines have developed and crystallized over time, so has the liturgy. But, once the final form was set in place, no more movement was necessary. The Consecration is critical, and we shouldn’t be playing with those words.

  6. 6 Mike November 12, 2006 at 9:58 am


    My question would be: if you look back throughout history, before Latin “died”, did the words change?

    In a word, ‘yes’, because as doctrine developed, the meaning of words became more specific, to distinguish between orthodoxy and heresy, and new words were created, to supply the Church with a means of expressing orthodoxy and heresy. cf., e.g., Monophysitism, Monothelitism.

    I expect there are examples even after Latin ‘died’ (died in the sense that it was no longer used in day-to-day speech), because theologians needed to use existing Latin words in new senses. Divus Thomas probably used Latin words of Aristotle is new senses.

  7. 7 The Catholic Caveman November 12, 2006 at 5:18 pm

    As I’m sure you both know, it was Pope St Gregory The Great that brought about the Latin Mass 1,500 years ago.

    Here’s why… Latin was already dea, and the ‘live’ languages of Italian, French, Spanish, etc, etc, were in their infancy. St Gregory realized that there would be huge problems associated with liturgy in ‘live’ languages. The rest is history. And things actually worked quite well…. until the mid-1960’s.

    I guess that’s just another reason as to why he is only one of two popes to be titled ‘The Great’.

  8. 8 Argent November 13, 2006 at 11:14 pm

    Ed and Caveman,

    I read a comment on Fr. Z’s blog that Bishop Burbidge is concelebrating TLM with Fr. P at Sacred Heart on January 7, 2007. I can’t find any confirmation. Do y’all know of anything about this?

    If that’s true, then we all should pack Sacred Heart.

  9. 9 Edmund C. November 14, 2006 at 12:05 am

    Haven’t heard anything about it, but I’ll check with my sources 😉

    I’ll be there if that’s the case, and as small as Sacred Heart is…

  10. 10 John December 2, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    Never fear madame, The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest is in the process and has been for a while of teaching novus ordo priests the Tridentine rubrics also “dare” I mention it, so is and has the Society of St. Pius tenth, St John Cantius, The Fraternal Society of St. Peter and the newly formed Priestly Society of the Good Shepard in France as well as the Tridentine fraternities in Latin America. Even the Sedevacantist priestly fraternities such as the Society of St. Pius fifth have quietly been teaching novus ordo priests the Latin Mass, (The classic Mass). I dare say with the advent of our new Pontiff Benedict XV1 many of the still existing novus ordo seminaries and religious like the order of St. Benedicts seminaries will soon be incalcating the Ancient liturgy into their priestly formations. Millions that remained in the church and the multitudes that left the church since Vatican 2 wait for the papal Motu Proprio freeing the Tridentine liturgy from 40 years in the wilderness. It is the young Catholics particularly that are wanting the Classic Litury as is bore out if you go to a Traditionalist seminary or many Tridentine chapels, churches and oratories. Shalom

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