Pick a Century Game

by Neil Xavier O’Donoghue

Robert Taft has often spoken of the danger of the “pick-a-century” game in the renewal of the liturgy. For example, his essay on: Eastern Presuppositions” and Western Liturgical Renewal explains it in this way:

Despite fearful reactions and attempts to turn back the clock, such efforts surely will not succeed, since Vatican II Catholics have succeeded in facing the modern world. For the most part they have done so, I believe, with courage, honesty, integrity and imagination.

It is impossible to overemphasize how important it was to do that, if Christianity is to have a future in the modern secularized world. For Christians, the only “ideal period of liturgy” is the one they are living in. A nostalgic vision of Christian tradition was a basic error of the Protestant Reformation, the notion that there was some ideal evangelical past to which one could return.

Some lovers of eastern liturgy make the same mistake, playing the same “pick a century” game. The only difference is that they pick the classic patristic age of late antiquity, whereas the Protestant Reformers opted for apostolic times. But Paul tells us in Second Corinthians 6:2, “Behold, now is the acceptable time … now is the day of salvation.”

A recent piece on the Rorate Coeli blog brought this to mind. Many liturgists had reservations about Pope Benedict XVI’s liberalization of permission to use the liturgical books that had been replaced after Vatican II. In the motu propio Summorum Pontificum he stated that it is “permitted to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal, which was promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.”

This permission has encouraged many groups and priests to celebrate Mass using the missal of 1962 (although there are some doubts as to exactly how many people actually attend these liturgies). However it now seems that even the 1962 Roman Missal is not sufficient for some of those who find the celebrations according the 1962 Missal more beneficial than those using the current Roman Missal. The Rorate Coeli blog has the news that “the Pontifical Commission ‘Ecclesia Dei’ has given new permission to a handful of traditional priestly societies to offer Holy Week liturgies this month as they existed before the massive Pius XII / Archbishop Bugnini reforms of 1955.”

Personally I believe that the 1951 introduction of a renewed Easter Vigil and the 1955 introduction of a renewed Holy Week was a good achievement. I am not sure about the advisability of allowing groups to “resurrect” different forms of the liturgy. Does this mean that in the future some people will use the 1962 Missal and others use a 1950 edition? What will happen if another group would like to use some other old version or “resurrect” another earlier form of the liturgy from history?

Liturgy is something that develops over time, and I agree with Taft that going back to some ideal time in history is dangerous. However, I also believe that Catholicism has room for a healthy diversity (just so long as no one is claiming that their expression of the Faith is the true version and is better than others). Hopefully the Holy Spirit will help all communities to live the Paschal Mystery in these days and build up a unity that the Church so badly needs in our days.

Neil Xavier O’Donoghue is a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. He currently ministers in the Archdiocese of Armagh, Ireland, where he serves as vice rector at Redemptoris Mater Seminary. He has studied at Seton Hall University, the University of Notre Dame, and St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds a Doctorate in Theology from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.







50 responses to “Pick a Century Game”

  1. Brian Duffy Avatar
    Brian Duffy

    I suspect that anything associated with the name Bugnini will be displeasing to many traditionalists. Even the once sacred name of Pius XII Pacelli is no longer held in such esteem as formerly.

    Next you will see a desire for a return to the pre-Pius X breviary but minus Urban’s hymns.

    We do live in interesting times. Who would have thought in 1970 that folded chasubles in certain quarters would be all the rage in Holy Week of 2018?

    PS: I might remind you that Taft+ had his introduction to liturgy in a parish which was known for its celebration of the pre-Pius XII liturgy.

  2. Jack Wayne Avatar
    Jack Wayne

    But wasn’t the Vatican II reform often carried out with the notion that it was looking back to an idealized past? Everyone I’ve ever met who lived through the reform has told me that the “Novus Ordo” was widely presented as a return to earlier Christian practices as well as also being more modern.

    I think it is interesting that permission would be granted to celebrate the pre 1950s Holy Week under this pontificate even if it didn’t come directly from Pope Francis. If the reform is “irreversible,” then it seems odd to grant a rather wide permission to celebrate a Holy Week completely untouched by Bugnini. Rather than wonder if groups will clamor for even earlier editions of the Roman Missal, I wonder if this will eventually lead to a new edition of the old Mass being put forth – doing away with some reforms, while retaining and adopting others, and maybe adding new saints and prefaces.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      HI Jack,
      I had the exact same thought – “Some will say that Vatican II was ‘pick a century’ in how it went back to earlier eras.” I suppose the most one could say in response is that Vatican II is a one-off, once-in-a-thousand-years, massive ‘rereading of the Gospel’ (to quote Pope Francis) which created a new synthesis drawing heavily on practices from c. 3 – 6 centuries, but also including modern innovations not necessarily based on precedent (ie, it had both ressourcement and aggiornamento). So it isn’t going back in toto to one era – such as 1950s as in Summorum Pontificum, but creating a new, unique synthesis. And then the claim is that this is all a legitimate development of tradition so that the reformed liturgy is in the deepest sense “traditional” – in fact more traditional than what is (wrongly) called the TLM. But I grant you that there is a lot of idealizing of earlier eras in the Catholic liturgy as now reformed.

      1. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        The reforms of the new Mass indeed do seem to show a tendency at being “pick a century.” How many reforms have been introduced with the sole justification of “that was how it was done in the early church,” an idealization of the 3rd – 6th centuries? A revisit of earlier practices can be helpful but should not be a trump card to disregard latter developments.

        I must take exception to your use of “traditional.” You seem to be confusing “traditional” with “more ancient.” Traditional is not just what was older but what has been handed down. Ancient practices that have fallen out of use for a thousand years can hardly be called traditional.

      2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        But because of the exceptional, one-off character of the Second Vatican Council, my understanding is that the magisterium’s understanding of ‘traditional’ has been developed. The magisterium teaches that the reformed liturgy is ‘traditional,’ and the pope (Paul VI) spoke of it as a positive advance in tradition. As I understand it, “traditional” is not what is older. Nor is is simply what is handed down. It is what is handed on – i.e., it is the most current, living, dynamic, faithful appropriation of the heritage for our context. It is in this sense that I think the magisterium understands the reformed liturgy to be “traditional.” And while the Church has approved, for the first time ever in her history as far as I know, a prior liturgy that is not the living tradition-as-handed-on-and appropriated – I’m referring to the unreformed pre-Vatican II liturgy – I think I’m following the magisterium when I say that the Pauline liturgy, in the Catholic understanding, is more traditional than what it replaced. But we disagree on this point and let’s leave it at that.

      3. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        Fr. Anthony,

        OK, I can accept your definition of “traditional” as a valid one, but as one that does not negate the common and still proper meaning when speaking of the traditional Latin Mass. But even with this meaning, “traditional” still applies to the old Mass, for the highest authority in the Church has declared that it was never abrogated and is thus still handed on by the Church to the faithful. Thus the claim that “the Church has approved, for the first time ever in her history as far as I know, a prior liturgy that is not the living tradition-as-handed-on-and appropriated,” is false. Nor is this unique. When Pius V promulgated Quo primum he allowed those rites that were at least 200 years old to remain. The Mass of Pius V is clearly older than 200 years and thus provisions for its continuation have a solid precedence.

      4. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        I think the claim that the old Mass was not abrogated is false, and I’m surprised they got a commission to rule otherwise. I don’t think history will treat this claim well. (There was a very good article on the topic in Worship magazine some years ago.)

        No, that’s a different situation. After Trent, there were dioceses where they introduced the 1570 missal – in every parish in the diocese without exception. There were dioceses that kept their older-than-200-yrs-old diocesan rite – in parish in the diocese. In each case, everyone in the diocese used the same rite as their bishop. There is no precedent for a diocese saying they’d introduce the newer rite but also keep the older rite, in the same place. This is what is without precedent.

        The rest has all been said and responded to so let’s leave it at that.


      5. Alex Sheffield Avatar
        Alex Sheffield

        Religious orders were allowed to keep pre-Trent liturgies though. The Dominicans even used an older version of the Roman rite than that of 1570, which existed side by side with the Tridentine use in individual dioceses.

        Though, of course, Trent never claimed that all liturgical rites up to its own time were now to be thought of as containing errors as you claim Vatican II intended to say.

      6. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        I wouldn’t say “containing errors.” I would say the rites before Vatican II do not reflect Vatican II’s ecclesiology and teachings as a whole. (I would hope that this point is obvious.) They’re not bad or erroneous – they’re just where the Church was at at an earlier period, 600 years prior. The faith deepens and develops (as Vatican II teaches), so the old rites are Catholic, but less Catholic.

        Yes, religious orders kept earlier rites. But this too is a different case. It is not an example of two versions of the same rite, one older and one current, in use at the same time within the same jurisdiction under the same Ordinary (superior). It is a different jurisdiction, rather like a different diocese – although religious orders, as you point out, are geographically scattered about within various dioceses. What has no precedent whatsoever, before Summorum, is two versions of the same rite from two different historical eras being in simultaneous use in the same jurisdiction under the same Ordinary. This is the major rupture. It is incoherent.


      7. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        I think I would be more bothered by incoherence if the OF itself were more unified in practice. Is there a precedent for a rite where even people attending Mass at the same parish on a Sunday can experience different texts due solely to the preferences of the priest ? As an honest question: would people in the past have seen two Masses with different Eucharistic prayers, entrance rites, greetings, creeds, etc as being the same rite because they have the same lectionary? Is the lectionary traditionally seen as the defining/unifying feature of the Roman Rite? In practice, the EF and OF can be far more textually similar overall than two OFs can be depending on the options chosen.

        I know some Eastern/Oriental rites use different EPs and even different liturgies, but my understanding is that these things aren’t “options,” and are instead heavily regulated.

      8. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        Jack, I think it all comes back to the 2nd Vatican Council. I accept the Church’s judgment that the liturgical reform is faithful to V2 and what the Council intended.
        There is no precedent for a council like Vatican II. This cannot be stated too often. It is pastoral in nature, not responding to a particular crisis (such as a heresy), it issued long teaching documents (which, as Fr. O’Malley has shown, are in a genre unlike past documents of ecumenical councils), it has a tone of outreach to the modern world and to other Christian traditions, it claims to be a comprehensive re-reading of the Gospel and comprehensive renewal of the Church, etc.
        I don’t think you’re asking the right question. The question is not whether there is a precedent for the current Catholic liturgy. The question is whether the Church’s liturgy faithfully reflects the unprecedented Second Vatican Council. I think it does.
        As to the question of whether it is faithful to V2 to keep the pre-Vatican II liturgy in use, I think it is fairly obvious that it is not. (But I grant the pope’s canonical authority to admit it anyway.)
        For all that: I don’t like all the options in the reformed liturgy and I’m on the same page (I think) as you! I think there are things that could be improved in the Church’s liturgy. I’m open to ongoing reform of the liturgy, which I think is also faithful to V2. The V2 documents present a broad vision and a very broad range indeed for how the liturgy could have been reformed.
        My ideal future is that we all realize that Tridentine isn’t faithful to V2 and it is phased out, and the traditionalist energies are all brought into ongoing reform of the liturgy. (Along with other energies that are liberal, inculturationist, etc.) This requires everyone to accept V2 as the starting point, which doesn’t look likely.
        Final thought: the structural form of the liturgy isn’t that important. The real issues are spiritual and cultural, and they’ll be with us no matter what.

      9. Jim McKay Avatar
        Jim McKay

        I think V2’s reform is away from the “heavily regulated.” In that sense, allowing TLM is in line with other reforms and options. At its heart, it is a spiritual change, that hopes to open up the liturgy to the action of God in our lives. The presence of God is what defines the Roman rite, not a common lectionary or missal etc. That can be a tricky thing to claim, and plenty of good objections exist, but no one can substitute a book for the living rite.
        Keep in mind, 100 years before Trent, each missal was unique. It was hand printed by a person or persons, some of whom tried to duplicate mechanically while others took a freer approach. The printing press transformed the way a rite was handed on. So 200 years before Trent as a guideline reached back to the days when reproduction of texts was more local and more influenced by local usages.

      10. Alex Sheffield Avatar
        Alex Sheffield

        Of course, the Dominicans have their own superiors but if they are stationed at geographical parishes, then those parishes are under the jurisdiction of the local bishop. So this is a case of an older version of the Roman rite from different eras (1256 and 1570) being celebrated by different communities under the same ordinary.

        Though, at the same time, if Vatican II has created an unprecedented situation then I do not see why it should be a problem to have two versions of the Roman rite coexisting in order to help faithful who were not well served by the liturgical reform and to show how the Roman liturgy remains the same in substance despite the reforms, as Bl. Paul VI emphasized.

      11. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        Fr. Anthony,

        That the old Mass was not abrogated is not a claim but a judgment of the highest authority of the Church. But even if, for the sake of argument, we were to admit that it was abrogated it would make no difference. Pope Benedict XVI had the same authority to reinstate the old Mass as Pope VI would have had to abrogate and replace it. So the end result is the same. That the two forms of the Mass are to coexist together is the present “tradition” of the Church. We cannot take Vatican II out of the living Magisterium of the Church that continues after it. Fidelity belongs to the entire body of Church teaching, not just to a particular reading of Vatican II.

        I will concede your point that the allowance for the continuation of older rites with Quo primum was enacted as either one or another for the entire diocese, although there was nothing in Quo primum that required this. But if we must be sticklers for precedence, then individual diocese should have the freedom to return in toto to the old Mass.

        All of this would not be an issue if the advocates of liturgical reform would themselves accept the Mass of Paul VI in full and its provisions for a traditional form of the liturgy. The restoration of the old Mass is a direct result of the intolerance of those advocating a liturgical reform that is more radical than what is actually contained in the new Missal. Nor are complaints about the unprecedented nature of allowing an older rite to continue credible given the entire unprecedented nature of the attempt to suppress the historic Roman rite and replace it with something new.

      12. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        Fr Anthony, I think our opinions differ in that I don’t consider the EF to be inherently unfaithful to Vatican II nearly to the extent that you do, as I think the council obviously didn’t call for a reform as drastic as what we received (and I think the drastic, often unnecessary, unprecedented reforms we did receive pretty much demand that the old rite be retained alongside of them as an unintended consequence).

        Regardless of the many debates people have about whether or not the old rite should be allowed, I think the EF will likely continue for quite some time because the rite still has much to offer the world today.

    2. Alex Sheffield Avatar
      Alex Sheffield

      I hope that it’s ok that I add this, but I asked a Dominican and he said that in the past diocesan priests who belonged to the Dominican laity could celebrate the Dominican rite liturgy in private and at Dominican churches, while having the local bishop as their ordinary (permission for this was given by Pius VII). He also confirmed that the Dominican rite is an older version of the Roman rite than the Tridentine, or at least, that is the current scholarly consensus.

  3. Robert Addington Avatar
    Robert Addington

    Who wants to go back to celebrating the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday morning in broad daylight and an almost empty church?

    1. Jack Wayne Avatar
      Jack Wayne

      I visited the FSSP website and randomly chose a parish to see if it was celebrating the pre 1955 Holy Week and came upon St Sanislaus in South Bend, IN: http://ststanparish.com/#Info

      The Vigil is at 7pm, but celebrated according to the pre 1955 rite. It would seem that, just as the 1962 rite is no longer required to be celebrated no later than noon (it is often relegated to late Sunday afternoon time slots), that the pre-1955 Vigil is not required to be celebrated in the morning.

      1. Robert Addington Avatar
        Robert Addington


        I assume you mean ‘late Saturday afternoon time slots’?

      2. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        Sorry, I can see how my comment could be confusing. I was speaking more broadly about how the EF can now be celebrated at any time of day, even though it is my understanding that prior to Vatican II a typical Sunday Mass had to begin no later than noon, and could not be anticipated on Saturday evening. I’ve been to “Sunday Obligation” EF Masses on both Saturday evening (very rare since most trads don’t like them!) and as late as 3pm on Sunday afternoon (which is common when celebrated in an otherwise OF parish and the priest has to commute).

        The EF sort of floats a bit between the old and new rules at times, so one cannot automatically assume it will be celebrated exactly as it was in the past.

    2. Fr Richard Duncan CO Avatar
      Fr Richard Duncan CO

      No-one. The traditional time for a Vigil in the Roman Rite was between None and Vespers. Indeed, the pre-1955 Vigil ends with a truncated form of Vespers, in the same way that the 1955 Vigil ends with a truncated form of Lauds. I suspect that the time crept forward over the years because of the fasting from midnight rule and because of the need to allow some time between the end of the Vigil and the beginning of Paschal Mattins and Lauds.

      1. John Kohanski Avatar
        John Kohanski

        Of course Masses had to be in the morning to satisfy fasting requirements, but then there is the added symbolism that time during Holy Week is up-ended and doesn’t follow it’s normal pattern. This is still followed in the Orthodox/Eastern Catholic Churches where Vespers during Holy Week are in the morning and Matins are in the evening. Then again, they still fast, so it’s necessary.

      2. Fr Richard Duncan CO Avatar
        Fr Richard Duncan CO

        Back in the day, Vespers was said before the midday meal throughout the whole of Lent. I stand to be corrected, but I believe this had its origin in the monastic rule that the one meal in the day was taken after Vespers. Rather than dispense with the rule, Vespers was simply brought forward in order to mitigate the fast, which I think shows admirable initiative! It was only later that the custom of saying Vespers before the midday meal acquired the symbolic meaning of the inversion of time as a consequence of the Fall, with the restoration of ‘normality’ with the victory of the Lord at Easter. As you say, Vespers in the morning is a custom of the Byzantine Rite as well as the Roman.

        The pre-1955 Vigil ends with a truncated form of Vespers, in the same way that the 1955 Vigil ends with a truncated form of Lauds. With the relaxation of the fasting rule, it would be perfectly possible to celebrate the pre-1955 Vigil at an hour which corresponded more closely to the principle of ‘veritas horarum’.

    3. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      I think the people who lament the displacement of splendid Paschal Matins might be those, as best I can tell from occasionally encounter that lament on the Internet….

  4. Berthold Kress Avatar
    Berthold Kress

    I would suggest that there are two practical reasons for a return to the earlier Holy Week liturgies
    Firstly, the reforms of Pius XII were made as preparation for wider liturgical reforms (e.g. introducing a table placed ‘versus populum’ for the blessings of Palms and of the Font, or abolishing the Last Gospel at the end of the liturgies on Palm Sunday and the Easter Vigil) – and thus it seems to be by nature a transitional arrangement. It also seems that some changes were already regarded as steps into the wrong direction and undone in 1969, so the cut of the Last Supper from the Passion on Palm Sunday, or the reduction of prophecies in the Easter Vigil from 12 to 4 (in Novus Ordo extended back to 7).

    Secondly, my experience as acolyte of the Pre-Pian Holy Week in the last days suggests that this liturgy simply ‘flows’ better and lacks a number of awkward, hard-to-explain features of the 1955 revision (e.g. why has celebrant to put on a black cope for the Intercessions on Good Friday and then a purple chasuble for giving Communion?)

    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

      Thankfully, all the costume changes ended with the post-conciliar reform. I am sure this is something that seemed like a good idea at the time, but I think most people decided that they were just weird and fussy.

      1. John Kohanski Avatar
        John Kohanski

        Orthodox and Eastern Catholics change vestments and vestment colors often during Lent and Holy Week. It’s neither weird nor fussy. It’s part of the liturgies and often times symbolic–as in changing from dark to light vestments before reading the Gospel of the Resurrection at the Vespers and Divine Liturgy on Holy Saturday. Unfortunately in the Roman rite much or most all of this type of symbolism during Holy Week was “reformed” away by those who wrote the new liturgies after Vatican II, much to the impoverishment of the rites.

    2. Jack Wayne Avatar
      Jack Wayne

      I’ve heard similar criticisms of the reformed Holy Week, and it seems reasonable that groups which use the Traditional Latin Mass would want a Holy Week that is logically consistent with the liturgy celebrated the rest of the year, and which isn’t bogged down by reforms deemed failures even by those who implemented them. The assumptions made by Fr O’Donoghue in this article seem uninformed as to the motivations of the FSSP or Institute of Christ the King in requesting the pre 1955 Holy Week.

      I think part of the reason more criticism is being waged towards the 1962 Missal in traditionalist circles is because the communities that use it have enjoyed a few years of stability now – being able to live with it without focussing merely on survival (as I’m told was often the case in the old indult days).

  5. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    When the Catholic worship was freely permitted in the UK in 1829 the hierarchy decided not to use the Sarum Rite but to align themselves liturgically, spiritually and culturally with the wider mainstream church.
    Mass is however very occasionally celebrated according to Sarum as a kind of historical curiosity and as a framework for the splendid music of Tallis, Taverner, Shepherd, Byrd etc.
    There’s a lesson there.

    1. Berthold Kress Avatar
      Berthold Kress

      I wonder what the lesson is.

      I actually believe that a greater openness to Sarum would have counteracted some slurs against the ‘Italian Mission’ and would have invited more converts from Anglicanism.

      The difference between Sarum and Roman Rite is actually far less than between Old and New Rite.

      1. Brian Duffy Avatar
        Brian Duffy

        Remember that Sarum does not include all that business with the Sacrament on Maundy Thursday. It does make use of the Easter Sepulcher but on Good Friday. A different emphasis. The 1962 revision and the rite Of Paul VI continue the Tridentine use but in a modified form.

        Anglo-Catholics were divided into those who favored Sarum Use and those for the contemporary Roman. Dom Anselm Hughes in his “Rivers Of The Flood” gives a succinct summary of the situation. As a Nashdom Benedictine he surprises no one with his critiques of British Museum religion and Protestants in chasubles. Another author is Eric Mascall+ whose autobiography ( so full of typos which he himself lamented) considers some of the characters involved in a humorous way. “Nightshirt Ned” is one whom I’ll never forget as well as “Cream-buns” whose real name escapes me now.

  6. Ed Nash Avatar
    Ed Nash

    It would be interesting to know how the Catholic culture of service changed with the introduction of the foot washing on Holy Thursday. If one goes to earlier than 1955, then one does not have to touch anyone’s feet. My sense is that the additional gesture added by Pius XII has done much to promote the idea of service because of the Maundy part of the Thursday.

    I don’t know if I’m barking up the wrong liturgical tree but the movement to use these earlier rites seems to me to place the only symbolic action in a liturgy in to the priest’s hands (and his assisting clerics).

    It is difficult to see where the huge cry for these experiences is originating because, for so few, that the desire to experience and normalize these pre Vatican II rites is not the “remembering the good ol days” because they weren’t alive yet.

    Last night in our Church, the foot wash-ees were introduced like a NBA line up. Maybe this is new because parishes are so large, no one knows anyone and people want to know “why was that person chosen.” New rites, all the time.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      “My sense is that the additional gesture added by Pius XII has done much to promote the idea of service because of the Maundy part of the Thursday.”

      Or perhaps the liturgy followed the culture?

      That is, two world wars had devastated the geographical heart of Roman Catholicism, and much more. There was, I suspect, a considerable culture of service thriving (albeit co-existing with a murderous culture as well). Perhaps the addition of 1955 was a way to underscore the integration of the liturgy and the Paschal Triduum with the fruitful dimensions of daily life, rather than as a cultic performative object apart from it?

    2. Paul Goings Avatar
      Paul Goings

      “If one goes to earlier than 1955, then one does not have to touch anyone’s feet.”

      Of course this is true in the modern (current Roman) rite as well, where the foot-washing is not–strictly speaking–mandatory.

      And it was–and is–possible to do the foot-washing in the course of the pre-1955 ceremonies, albeit not within the Mass.

  7. Lee Fratantuono Avatar
    Lee Fratantuono

    One thing is for sure: those attending the pre-1955 Holy Weeks this weekend will have the most Scripture of anyone’s Easter Vigil: 12 (rather long) prophecies.

    On another note, one imagines that if the service had simply been restored to a true “after None” hour…say, commencing at 4pm and ending at 7 or 8…attendance might be better than starting either at 10pm (1962) or “after dark” (1970).

    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

      The last point in an interesting one.

      On the one hand, given the immense popularity of afternoon Masses on Christmas Eve you may be right that a 4:00 Vigil would be popular; it could even eclipse Easter morning, as has happened in some places (e.g. my parish) with Christmas morning.

      On the other hand, the length of the Vigil, particularly in its pre-1955 form, would likely discourage many from attending, since spending lots of time in church doesn’t seem to be high on the list of many people who are looking to get it out of the way early by attending a vigil Mass.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        On the third hand, to which century does the practice in some places of having an anticipated Easter Sunday (not Vigil) Mass at 4pm or 5PM on Holy Saturday belong?

      2. Fr Richard Duncan CO Avatar
        Fr Richard Duncan CO

        The pre-1955 Vigil may have been positively Wagnerian in length – it takes as long as Parsifal and is longer than Tristan und Isolde! On the other hand, I was told the story yesterday of a priest who disliked the length of the 1970 Vigil and boasted to a colleague: “I missed out all I could and it STILL took 40 minutes.” That’s about as long as Act 1 of The Marriage of Figaro.

      3. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        My mother’s grammar school choir would participate in the morning Vigil back in the ’30s. She fondly remember the rush of altar boys with poles removing the veiling in the church (since then become a cathedral). And still getting home before noon . . . so they still had to WAIT for Lent to end. The parochial school students (from which came the altar boys and choristers) participated along with the clerics, and my sense is that few laity otherwise participated.

      4. Fr Richard Duncan CO Avatar
        Fr Richard Duncan CO

        Attendance may also have been sparse because, prior to the 1955 reform, attendance at the Vigil did not satisfy the obligation to assist at Mass on Easter Sunday.

      5. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        I remember serving the last Saturday morning Vigil before the changes came in. The priest got to the 12 “prophecies” and said to me “Now, you go home and have your breakfast, and by the time you’re back I’ll have got through all of this stuff.” No assembly present, by the way.

  8. Matthew Roth Avatar
    Matthew Roth

    Fr. Duncan and Fr. Forte are on the mark.

    “Next you will see a desire for a return to the pre-Pius X breviary but minus Urban’s hymns.” They’ve been clamoring for the old hymns since around the time of Guéranger. It is fitting that we should now want them plus the older psalter. If we want it, there is no harm in allowing it, but the calendar needs issues. Even 1962, Lent aside, is has too many obligatory feasts. I don’t want the temporal to always trump at Mass, but the obligatory feasts are often minor and irrelevent. Pius X could have dropped feasts to simple rite and to semidouble, instead of changing the psalter…

    As far as the Mandatum goes, it has actually been done in many traditional parishes, but after the stripping of the altars, whether that followed Vespers (technically omitted, but not always…) or not. This is the pre-Pius XII arrangement, and if you looked around, you’ll find photos of the Mandatum.

  9. Berthold Kress Avatar
    Berthold Kress

    I wonder if it would not be more fruitful to discuss the differences between the Pre-Pian, Pian and Novus Ordo Holy Week, or the experiences made by the participants of the restored Pre-Pian Holy Week this year, rather than returning to often-used polemics.

  10. Michael H. Marchal Avatar
    Michael H. Marchal

    “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us….” I heartily second Fr. Ruff’s comments. Vatican II happened. Its decrees are now the baseline for Roman Catholic life and belief, not because they are perfect but because God’s Spirit was at work there.
    I feel sorry for Benedict XVI whose good intentions gave us this schizophrenic situation of a Rite with two rites that are like oil and water–all for the flimsy reason that “what was sacred to our fathers is sacred to us.”
    This year’s tinkering among the traditionalists with the pre-Pian rites can only make me shake my head. How is that going to advance the “full, conscious, and active participation” in the liturgy among the royal priesthood of the baptized?

    1. Berthold Kress Avatar
      Berthold Kress

      Maybe you should experience the Pre-Pian Holy Week for yourself or talk to people who did, in order to find out if their way of ‘full, conscious, and active’ participation was that different from those attending the Holy Week in Latin Novus Ordo.

      1. Fr Richard Duncan CO Avatar
        Fr Richard Duncan CO

        I entirely agree with you that we should listen to peoples’ differing experiences of the Holy Week liturgies without shooting down in flames those whose preferences are different from our own. The Holy Week I have just participated in consisted of a combination of Latin Novus Ordo and 1955, with just a dash of pre-Pian in the shape of Allegri’s Miserere during the Wednesday evening Tenebrae. I have to say that I found that it was possible to be prayerfully engaged in all of them, although I did find that listening to the Miserere in the darkened church a profoundly moving experience. What matters in the end is the commitment to do what you do to the best of your ability, and to be prepared to listen to constructive criticism.

        I would like to experience a full pre-Pian Holy Week, and I’m quite sure that there would be features of it that I would dislike (e.g. the timings) as well as those I would like. But that opportunity is unlikely to arise in the near future. In the meantime, there are You Tube videos of some pre-Pian liturgies for those who are curious. Here is the Vigil of Easter.


        Watching a video is, of course, not the same thing as being there, but it does give you a better idea than reading about the ceremonies in a book.

      2. Robert Addington Avatar
        Robert Addington

        It is high time the term ‘Novus Ordo’ was retired from service. It has no official status and, when used by SSPX and others of like mind, always has a pejorative connotation. What’s more, an Order of Mass that is the only one most Catholics under 60 can now remember, is no longer ‘new’ in the sense in which most people understand the word.

  11. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
    Anthony Ruff, OSB

    I have deleted all references to the Nazis from this thread. I agree with Fr. Duncan – it’s an unhelpful distraction.

    1. Michael H. Marchal Avatar
      Michael H. Marchal

      I apologize for my distracting remark. And I grew up with the pre-Pian rites and remember the enormous enthusiasm for the “new” Holy Week. What I will repeat is my comment that the two rites are like oil and water. What is not being discussed here is an aesthetic preference for representationalism vs. abstract expressionism but a foundational difference in what liturgy is all about. Personal experience is part of that story, but so is historical expertise and theological reflection. And despite the attempts to denigrate Vatican 2 over the last couple of decades, it is still an ecumenical council, guided in some way by the Holy Spirit, which decided that what our fathers held sacred needed reform and renewal.

  12. Michael L. Andes Avatar

    Why is there such a debate over 1962 and 1969 Missal? It is very clear from Pope Benedict XVI that the former was not abrogated. Who are we to contest the pope? Is he not the supreme pastor of the Church?

    You priests always say of “obedience” but is not obedient of the pope.

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