What is a Post-Vatican-II-Mass?

Commenting on a recent post, Edward Hamer observed that the features of the post-Conciliar Mass that “traddies” typically object to (and which progressives like, I would add) are in fact optional, and he asked whether a Mass celebrated entirely in accord with the rubrics and texts of the reformed Missal, but lacking the “progressive” options, could be seen as expressing the teachings of Vatican II.

I think Mr. Hamer’s observation is correct and his question interesting. I recall a couple of decades ago, during an RCIA session, someone asked what Vatican II was, and an older member of the RCIA team said, “That was when they turned the altar around and replaced Latin with English.” While I kew this was not the whole story, and quickly supplemented the answer, I was struck that for many—perhaps most—Catholics who lived through the Council, that was really what was most significant. But, of course, Vatican II did not mandate either of those things. As numerous people have pointed out, a celebration according to the reformed Missal can obey all rubrics and still lack the vernacular, the versus populum orientation of the priest, any eucharistic prayer other than the Roman Canon, an invitation to the congregation to exchange the sign of peace, extraordinary ministers of holy communion, or communion under both species, as well as include fiddleback chasubles, Gregorian chant and polyphony, exclusively male altar servers and lectors, the chalice veil, the pall, and so forth. Given that all of these things accord with the Missal as reformed after Vatican II, and unless one wants to appeal to “the spirit of Vatican II” (which I view as roughly equivalent to appealing to the original intention of legislators in judicial interpretation) it is hard to say that a Mass celebrated with all of these “traditional” options does not count as a “post-Vatican-II-Mass,” even though to many people it would look more like a pre-Vatican-II-Mass than what people got used to in the decades after the Council.

But it seems to me that there are some features of the Mass as reformed after the Council that are not optional and that do give the reformed liturgy a different “feel” or “ethos” from the 1962 Missal, an ethos that is in accord with distinctive emphases of the documents of Vatican II. Here are a few that occur to me, and what difference I think they make:

    • The elimination of “parallel liturgies” for priest and assembly: i.e. for the most part, everyone does everything at the same time.

    The priest and assembly together prepare to celebrate Mass in the penitential rite, rather than the prayers at the foot of the altar serving as a preparation for the celebrant and ministers alone. The priest does not read the readings himself, but listens to them proclaimed along with the assembly. The priest does not launch into the Canon after reciting the Sanctus by himself, but sings the Sanctus along with the people before beginning the Canon. In other words, the priest and congregation act as parts of a single assembly. There are, of course, a few private prayers of the priest and ministers that remain (before the Gospel, at the preparation of the gifts, before communion), and the 1962 Missal certainly had prayers that the suggest the priest and people acting together (e.g. the great number spoken in the first person plural), but this feature of the reformed liturgy does seem to give greater emphasis to the sense of priest and assembly acting together. One might also note that the reformed Missal also includes rubrics for the people—something not found in the 1962 Missal—seeming to suggest that they too are part of the “official” liturgy.

    • The celebration of the liturgy of the word at the chair and ambo, rather than the altar, as well as the integration of the homily as a feature of the liturgy itself.

    These two together given an added emphasis to the importance of the proclamation of the word in the liturgy—even when the word is proclaimed in Latin. The proclamation of the word receives its own “place” in the sanctuary, a place that serves as a focal point, alongside the altar (see GIRM 309). The 1962 Missal makes no mention of a homily or sermon, even though one was typically given after the Gospel reading, at least on Sundays. One often hears the sermon spoken of in the context of the pre-reform Mass as a “suspension” of the liturgical action (sometimes signified by the priest removing his chasuble or at least his maniple) and not an integral part of it. Such a view, while not required by the pre-reform Missal, seems positively disallowed by the reformed liturgy. Rather, the reforms of the liturgy of the word highlight the way in which the assembly is formed by God’s word in the liturgy as part of their prophetic identity.

    • The audible recitation of the Canon.

    This may be the most dramatic reform, which conveys that what is happening in the Eucharistic prayer is of concern to the people as well as the priest. Of course, this is also suggested by the Canon as found in the 1962 Missal, with its constant use of the first person plural, but this suggestion is somewhat muted (pun intended) by the silent recitation of the Canon.

    • The communion of the priest and people integrated as a single liturgical action.

    In the 1962 Missal no mention of the communion of the people is found in the Ordo Missae, which passes immediately from the priest’s communion to the ablutions. The Ritus servandus does mention what the priest is to do si qui sunt communicandi in Missa, but this is clearly a separate (and optional) liturgical action alongside the communion of the priest, the two separated by the Ecce Agnus Dei inviting the people to communion. In the reformed Missal communion is a single liturgical action, initiated by the Ecce Agnus Dei and covered musically by the communion chant. This not only unites the liturgical activity of celebrant and assembly, but also makes the communion of those faithful who are suitably disposed into an ordinary part of the liturgical celebration, not an optional add-on.

    • The Universal Prayer, in which the faithful exercise their priestly role of offering prayer for the world, as an integral part of every Mass.

    Though I have been at Masses—often, but not only, on weekdays—where this is omitted, I can find no rubrical justification for this. Though in many places prior to the Council bidding prayers were a common addition tacked on at the end of the sermon, the Universal Prayer, also called the Prayer of the Faithful, is a notable feature of the post-conciliar liturgical reform, and one explicitly called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium. Though some have voiced a desire for a single set form for these biddings (often motivated by an understandable desire to not have this part of the liturgy hijacked by various agendas), the reformed liturgy seems to leave the contents of this part of the liturgy open by design, so that the needs and concerns for the world, which lay Catholics in particular encounter in their daily life, might be given voice, piercing any notion of the liturgy as an enclosed space that is isolated from “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties” of the people of this age.

These strike me as the most signifiant liturgical changes of the reformed liturgy, changes that must be observed even in a Mass that is celebrated in the most traditional manner possible. They strike me as changes that are reflective of what I take to be one of the key emphases found in the documents of Vatican II:

[The] faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world (Lumen Gentium 31.

Of course, this is an eminently traditional Church teaching, not an innovation of the Second Vatican Council. But it is a teaching that the Council chose to underscore, not only in the conciliar documents with their emphasis on the Church as the People of God and the universal call to holiness, but also in the way that the liturgy was reformed after the council. Whether celebrated with contemporary music or Gregorian Chant, oriented toward people or with them, with communion on the tongue or in the hand, in brutalist simplicity or baroque splendor, a Mass celebrated according to the reformed liturgy will be one that conveys in countless ways the truth that the Church is God’s pilgrim people as a whole, called to participate in God’s saving work.







53 responses to “What is a Post-Vatican-II-Mass?”

  1. Robert Addington Avatar
    Robert Addington

    If you were to attend Solemn Mass at The Oratory in London (where my grandparents were married in 1913 and one of my uncles was a priest for 30 years), you would think you were attending a pre-Vatican II Mass. In fact, it is a modern Roman Mass celebrated in Latin with traditional ceremonial including lace albs, fiddleback chasubles, birettas and Communion kneeling. Few Catholics under 60 would know the difference.

    On no. 2, what would be the point of proclaiming the readings in Latin? Who would proclaim them? And who would understand them?

    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar
      Fritz Bauerschmidt

      I’m not sure why one would want to have the readings in Latin, but you are certainly allowed to do so in the reformed rite.

      1. Doug O'Neill Avatar
        Doug O’Neill

        I could envision readings in Latin at a multilingual Mass in which you would not want to favor any one language, as long as translations are provided in multiple languages. I serve a bilingual English-Spanish community, and we are looking for ways to bridge the congregations while respecting the beauty of the tradition within the reformed liturgy. I’m thinking Latin chant Ordinary sung by all, Latin Graduale Romanum Propers chanted by a schola, First and Second Readings split between English and Spanish (ideally sung), sung Latin Gospel, and bilingual Homily and Universal Prayer.

      2. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        I could see wanting everything in Latin for a congregation made up of people who don’t speak the same language.

        I imagine a lot of people with traditional liturgical leanings would be cool with a Novus Ordo done with a traditional aesthetic – even one entirely sung in English/vernacular. The Ordinariate Missal is fairly well liked among traditionalists and seen as what an English reformed Mass should have been, especially since it has things like the prayers at the foot of the altar as options. Others take issue with specific textual and rubrical changes that took place after the council and would reject even the most Tridentinized Ordinary Form Masses.

      3. Charles Day Avatar
        Charles Day

        Latin for the readings is not a solution to a congregation that is diverse any more than doing the readings in Klingon would be. Very few people speak either Latin, or Klingon. Latin defeats the purpose of readings until we all speak Latin. Don’t hold your breath.

        You could make an argument for Esperanto except it has never really caught on. The truth is, English is the language that most of the world speaks, at least a little. The reasons for this have to do with British colonialism to begin with and world economies dominated by Americans and British interests. Simply put, it benefits people to speak English so they do.

        The over arching point of Vatican II was promote “full, conscious, and active participation”. Instead of looking for ways to ‘legally’ avoid this, it would be better to engage that spirit of the ‘law’.

      4. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        There’s also the matter that English mugged a lot of languages in dark alleys and took a globe of vocabulary to repurpose; which makes English, otherwise an awkward Germanic language with grafted Latinate branchwork, an attractively flexible mongrel for trying to express many shades of meaning in many (though not all) cases.

      5. Father Jack Feehily Avatar
        Father Jack Feehily

        And in what lectionary would one find the lessons as reformed following the council? I think you were on a roll and just threw this in. The liturgy of the word in the TLM and the NO are very different. In the Old Mass, the priest did the readings at the altar in Latin, proclaiming them to no one. Subsequently he went to the pulpit and read them in English. At the end of the gospel he would make the sign of the cross signaling a sort of “exit” from the Mass for a sermon and the announcements.

      6. Doug O'Neill Avatar
        Doug O’Neill

        Fr. Feehily, although the Lectionarium for the current Mass may be difficult to locate (I’m not sure anybody actually publishes it anymore), it does exist: https://www.catholic-collectibles.com/leediutyal.html?viewfullsite=1

        Charles, I’m not sure what the fascination with Esperanto among some people is. It’s an invented language with some influence from Romance and Germanic languages, with no relationship to any language groups outside Europe. Universal, my foot – it’s no less Eurocentric that Latin is, without the rich cultural history that Latin has. I fail to see how using Latin readings would violate the “full, conscious and active participation” principle. While people may debate how to interpret that, nobody here is trying to avoid it. Written translations solve that problem for anybody who is literate. For that matter, does anybody ever fully understand the readings even when proclaimed in their native language? Not I.

  2. Todd Voss Avatar
    Todd Voss

    This is an excellent analysis of the key aspects of the Reform. I think a good example of how this plays out with traditional options is at St. John Cantius in Chicago in their OF masses.

  3. Peter Nixon Avatar
    Peter Nixon

    Very thoughtful and helpful. Thank you.

  4. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    One often hears the sermon spoken of in the context of the pre-reform Mass as a “suspension” of the liturgical action (sometimes signified by the priest removing his chasuble or at least his maniple) and not an integral part of it.

    A far larger symbolic indication of this suspension was the fact that the priest would often leave the sanctuary altogether and mount a pulpit, in some churches sited a considerable distance away.

    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

      Though such pulpits, when used today for the readings, do make for rather splendid Gospel processions.

      1. John Kohanski Avatar
        John Kohanski

        I always assumed that pulpits that were built outside the sanctuary or altar rails were built that way for ease of listening by the congregation in the days before artificial amplification.

    2. Doug O'Neill Avatar
      Doug O’Neill

      Didn’t they mount the pulpit for the proclamation of the Gospel, which was always a part of the liturgy? Or did they proclaim the Gospel from the altar and then ascend? The elevated pulpit with canopy also provided a practical function in the days before amplification in more effectively projecting speech, this being a precursor to V2’s emphasis on the importance of clearly discernable text

      1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

        At Solemn Mass the Gospel would be proclaimed from the edge of the sanctuary, facing north (i.e. sideways to the congregation). At low Mass and sung Mass it would have been done at the altar. Presumably the reading of the Gospel in the vernacular, where that was done, would have been done from the pulpit.

      2. Aaron Sanders Avatar
        Aaron Sanders

        The Caeremoniale permitted the proclamation of the Gospel from an ambo but did not require an available ambo to be used: “But if there are lecterns or ambos in the church, the Gospel can be chanted at them…” (CE II.viii.45). Instructions are given for how the subdeacon is to assist in lieu of holding the book.

    3. Christopher Lazowski OSB Avatar

      In pre-amplification days this, along with the height and form (sounding-board) of the pulpit, was meant to bring the sermon closer to the people by allowing them to hear it! Although the sermon wasn’t considered liturgical, it was not held to be unimportant. The imposing « bancs d’oeuvre » that survive in a number of churches, opposite the pulpit and in the past reserved for the « marguilliers » (more or less the churchwardens, although there were always more than two), testify to this. The « banc d’oeuvre » in Saint-Eustache in Paris is rather splendid : http://pietondeparis.canalblog.com/archives/2015/05/06/32011593.html

  5. Alan Griffiths Avatar
    Alan Griffiths

    Regarding the Intercession or Prayer of the Faithful, there has been a confusion all along, at least in the UK and Ireland about the way this is structured. In 1965 the English and Welsh bishops issued a book of ‘bidding prayers’ which were all addressed to God (The Father?) and which ended with the recitation of the ‘Hail Mary.’

    Customs such as that were common in the series of requests for prayer often given before the offertory in medieval times and which survived in many European countries as the French ‘Prone.’ The priests asked for prayers for so-and-so, and the people responded with a ‘Hail Mary’ and a ‘Glory be’ – a custom very familiar to Catholics right up until the 1960’s. I remember still leading it at funerals until quite recently.

    So an initial confusion developed as to what the Prayer of the Faithful actually was and, consequently, how it should be structured. As a result, a tradition was established which did not correspond exactly with the idea of the ‘Prayer of the Faithful.’ This ‘tradition’ developed into a period of prayer which might (often is) taken over by specific interests (‘this Sunday is ‘Seafarers Sunday,’ ‘Prisoners Sunday’ and so on) who take this opportunity to ‘market’ their particular issues.

    Looking at the models proposed in the Missal seems to have helped many communities move closer to the ‘universalist’ idea, that we as the priestly people are praying in Christ for the whole world as well as for more local concerns.

    The other source of some confusion is the intercessory prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours which are addressed to ‘God’ (one of the Three Persons) directly. These are sometimes used at Mass on weekdays.

    That this time in the Mass is one of those less structured moments identified by liturgiologists and therefore capable of development and inculturation is surely to be welcomed. However, a constant eye on what is proposed in the Missal itself as a model will serve, one hopes, as a corrective where necessary.


    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

      A further source of confusion is that the intercessions in the baptismal rite are also directed to God, not the assembly (they also lack any verbal prompt for the response, which is annoying, but a separate issue). I believe these are supposed to be used when Baptism is celebrated during Mass, so that adds to the problem.

      1. Todd Flowerday Avatar


        The Rite, #272 and #310, directs intercessions at Mass to Christ, yes, and there’s a prompt for a response, though not the usual one I hear on Sundays. I don’t see the issue here. Intercessions can be composed in any sort of way. Lacking a liturgist, it seems the role of the deacon not only to offer them if he insists, but also to compose them. If a single format were desired, intercessions could be adapted one way or the other as the parish desired.

      2. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar
        Fritz Bauerschmidt

        Todd, I think it is actually significant that the prayer of the faithful take the form of someone (e.g. the deacon) asking for the assembly to pray for something, rather than praying to God on their behalf. Also, I may be missing something, but I don’t see any verbal prompt at the end of the petitions to cue the assembly’s response.

      3. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        I did a little looking into the other rites. Older editions of the Rite of Baptism of Children are the same: addressed to God, and as you say, no verbal cue for the assembly response. A small assembly might not need one, but an unchurched one likely might–a gesture or eye contact probably wouldn’t be enough.

        The RCIA is consistent in providing a cue, but one of the options for the Rite of Election is addressed to God. Otherwise, Acceptance and Scrutinies and Election A are all as you have advocated. Likewise Appendix V in the Roman Missal. Also funeral Mass petitions. It would seem the composers of these prayers had different views on this. Or we inherit a varied approach. I can tell you that when I edit the prayers of my parish writers, I get them both ways and I align them consistently at each Mass, though not necessarily week to week.

        I wonder if a liturgical scholar might shed some light on this.

  6. Edward Hamer Avatar
    Edward Hamer

    In the comment you link to I said something about my head exploding: the more pressing danger now is that it will simply become enlarged with self-importance thanks to this considered and interesting response to my query. Thank you.

  7. Devin Rice Avatar
    Devin Rice

    As one who has gained much spiritual fruit from the reformed missal, one of my critiques is precisely the Universal Prayer. In the Eastern Rite, there is a plethora of intercessory prayers fulfilling the 1 Tim 2:1-4 mandate. In the unreformed rite, the old offertory prayers (whatever their faults may be) made sure that every Mass prayed for “…all here present, and for all faithful Christians, whether living or dead…” and “…for our own salvation, and for that of the whole world.”

    Without these prayers, the liturgy is dependent on either the Eucharistic Prayer or the Universal Prayer to fill the Gospel mandate to pray for the wellbeing of all. While many EPs such III, IV and VNO3 and VNO4 do this well, the most common prayer, EPII, and the Roman Canon (which should be offered regularly in the Roman Rite) offers no such intercessions, so the burden mostly lies on the Universal Prayer.

    In my experience, the Universal Prayer does not fulfill that GIRMs mandate. They are often narrowly focused with confusing syntax trying to be more teaching moments instead of prayers. Or to they try to hit two birds with one stone with phrases such as “inspire all Christian to help the poor” which is really a prayer for Christian and only secondarily the poor.

    I am also a fan of Fr. Robert Taft’s thoughts on creativity in liturgy. “Like medieval cathedrals, liturgies were created not as monuments to human creativity, but as acts of worship. ” And “most people are not especially creative in any other aspect of the existence, and there is no reason to think that they will be when it comes to liturgy. ”

    The prayers of the faithful should be fixed throughout the liturgical year. If this is done by Bishops’ Conferences, then this can be a vehicle of inculturation. Also the presider’s closing prayer could come from the rejected 1998 scriptural collects or be entirely new compositions. Perhaps based on Patristic or the writing of the saints, medieval or modern.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      Just write better prayers.

      I don’t know that the intercessions require creativity, as much as thoughtfulness and a dedication to the craft of writing. I’d affirm the use of the 1998 sacramentary as a source of prayers–I consult it regularly.

      I suspect there are few parishes that work beyond the bounds of what the homily service provides. That strikes me as a problem birthed in the days before Vatican II, not after.

  8. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
    Fr. Anthony Forte

    I would like to express my gratitude for a more reasoned presentation of what is, and what is not, a post-Vatican-II Mass. One of the innovations, however, that was introduced by the reformed liturgy that has not gained enough appreciation is the concept of options. This is such a break with the past that I do not think that even the advocates for the reform recognize its import. Want a Mass entirely in the vernacular, versus populum, with modern hymns, etc. The reformed liturgy allows it. Want one that is traditional with Latin, Gregorian Chant, ad orientem, Roman Canon, etc. The reformed liturgy allows that also. Both are equally valid expressions of the reformed liturgy and faithful to Vatican II. It has been the ignoring of this innovation that there is no longer a single ideal expression of the liturgy that has lead to so much conflict over the years.

    1. Canon John Corbyn Avatar
      Canon John Corbyn

      The point about options applies to other churches. See Church of England Book of Common Prayer compared to modern rites.

  9. Paul Schlachter Avatar

    As far as identifying the mass in a visual way with the work of all the people in the unity of the Spirit, much more needs to be done about eliminating remaining vestiges of “the priest’s mass.” I know alternative actions are already available and recommended for some, but we have a matter of “honor in the breach.”
    1. The priest can stand by the altar from beginning to end, with his own missal up and available.
    2. The priest’s host may be the only host present on the altar (ditto for chalice), while recourse is made to the tabernacle for “presanctified” hosts for everyone else.
    3. The priest consumes his communion host before preparations are made for ministering to everyone else.
    4. In this time of coronavirus restrictions, the use of “extraordinary ministers” is falling into disuse as ordained clergy alone distribute the sacred host to the people.

    1. Chuck Middendorf Avatar
      Chuck Middendorf

      I think you’re onto something here about the pandemic that’s more just the 4th item on the list. Without altar servers, #1 is back in lots of places. #2 speaks to the disappearing chalice for the assembly. #3 — at least in our diocese, the priest is encouraged to have his host visible and away from other hosts (that are covered up, lest he breaths on them and contaminates them!).

      I think the we’ve discussed in various other posts how the assembly has been rendered rather passive viewers, unfortunately aided by online virtual viewing.

    2. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar
      Fritz Bauerschmidt

      I believe #1 is only allowed when the priest celebrates without a congregation. Of course it happens pretty routinely, but it is not really even a licit option in a Mass with a congregation.

    3. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
      Fr. Anthony Forte

      I remind you that extraordinary ministers are meant to be just that: extraordinary. There have been multiple clarifications on this. The most recent the Instruction: Redemptionis Sacramentum in 2004:

      [155.] In addition to the ordinary ministers there is the formally instituted acolyte, who by virtue of his institution is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion even outside the celebration of Mass. If, moreover, reasons of real necessity prompt it, another lay member of Christ’s faithful may also be delegated by the diocesan Bishop, in accordance with the norm of law, [256] for one occasion or for a specified time, and an appropriate formula of blessing may be used for the occasion.

      [157.] If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.

      [158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. [259] This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.

      Will we see this enforced with the same vigor as Traditionis custodes?

      1. Alan Johnson Avatar
        Alan Johnson

        The situation in the UK outside Covid times is that most parishes have a single priest and communion under both kinds is the norm. So what was envisaged as extraordinary becomes necessary.

      2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        There is Redemptionis Sacramentum. Then there is the command of our Lord, “Take this, all of you, and drink of it.” I think the latter ranks higher. Offering Communion under only one form, except for extremely serious reason, is an abuse. I say this for theological reasons, whatever has been stated in rather low-level curial documents.

      3. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        Church councils (Trent and reconfirmation by Vatican II) are low-level curial documents?

      4. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        Compared to the Scriptures, yes.

        And yes, lay people sharing the Eucharist is quite extraordinary. Many are better and more fruitful ministers that clergy on many levels. I can think of a handful of priests who could learn something from them.

      5. Edward Hamer Avatar
        Edward Hamer

        Thanks for this. The presence and use of EMHC is one of the things I find most troubling in the new Mass: apart from watering down the role of the priest their use creates a class of “superior” laymen who receive Communion first, direct from a priest and often within the sanctuary itself, before distributing it to the rank and file. EMHC also seem to equal Communion standing and in the hand, both of which make me shudder.

        What is so hard about simply kneeling at a rail and waiting for the priest to work his way along to you? When I was an Anglican that was the norm (often with the priest distributing the Host followed immediately by an acolyte with the chalice), and nobody seemed to find it difficult or anything. At cathedral Masses or large pilgrimages etc. I can see that it takes a bit of time, but surely it’s worth it.

        I would say that a rigorous implementation of Redemptionis Sacramentum is the least that is needed to go along with Traditionis custodes. I also get the feeling from the discussion here that there is nothing about Vatican 2 that is at all contradicted by a “trad” celebration of the new liturgy (though I understand that’s not to everybody’s taste) so I do think it’s high time that such Masses were made available more widely.

        As far as options go, I’ve noticed that some Masses end up being an awkward compromise, where the more trad options are essentially contradicted by some progressive-type ones: you end up with male-only servers and the Roman Canon but mixed with EMHC and silly hymns. Is anyone actually satisfied with those Masses? They seem to end up being neither fish nor fowl.

      6. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        I find the fuss about lay people distributing the Eucharist to be quite an empty exercise in jealousy, if not envy. It is a decision best left to the local pastor to implement, and the local bishop to determine requirements and qualifications. Rome really has nothing to say, outside of its own diocese. And lay people concerned about it have one place to speak their peace and offer alternatives: their own parish. Nobody else’s.

        This would be an example of the kind of busybody attitudes that create resentment among Catholics. Personally, I wouldn’t mind serving a worshipping assembly of 800 in a suburb somewhere in North America. I figure a priest could reverently distribute the sacrament in five or six seconds per communicant. By my reckoning, that’s at least an hour of psalms and Eucharistic songs. I’m sure a few TLM Catholics look with envy on parishes with assemblies as large as that.

      7. Ben Kalafut Avatar
        Ben Kalafut

        You imagine malice but the situation is more benign if not far weirder.

        It’s common to hear people say they don’t want to receive from “unconsecrated hands” and if you ask for clarification you’ll be told that at the time of ordination priests’ hands are anointed in a special rite consecrating them to handle the sacred species.

        If you remind them that deacons are ordinary ministers of the Eucharist you’ll hear “but there weren’t any deacons until Vatican II” and if you say (as we both probably know) that there is no such blessing in the rite of ordination you’ll be told that there was such a blessing before Vatican II. Which is also false. And sometimes you can even show them in the old Latin text what the blessing actually was for and you’ll still hear them repeat this tall tale about “consecrated hands” weeks later. It’s one of those misconceptions, like bats flying into hair, that won’t go away, and may belong to the category of deliberate fibs serving as an in-group trust signifier.

  10. Ben Kalafut Avatar
    Ben Kalafut

    Thank you for this piece–very nice to see some constructive treatment of what was gained in the newer form of the Mass that is grounded in realities and not aspirations or ideology. It’s interesting that these are not what 1962 adherents or those of us waiting (forever?) for a reform of the reform object to in the new Mass.

    I ask, especially given the recent revival of the old claim that the newer Mass better communicates the whole Paschal Mystery and the presence of the glorified Christ, why the Memorial Acclamation did not make your list? And as a corollary, why the elimination of the old formula “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam” didn’t make your list. Like the expansion of the lectionary with removal of difficult pericopes, do they just together add to zero? Or is the insertion of the Memorial Acclamation not much change at all?

    1. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      The Memorial Acclamation as a liturgical phenomenon is older than some appear to think. Although scholars are divided on this, it has been said that the Amens following all those “Through Christ our Lord”s in the Roman Canon are the vestiges of a significant number of former acclamations by the assembly, dating back beyond even the documentary evidence we have. The theory is certainly plausible, providing an explanation for what is otherwise difficult to explain.

      Even if you don’t accept that, what is undeniable is the Coptic Catholic practice for centuries of inserting a large number of acclamations into the Eucharistic Prayer (as many as five into the Institution Narrative alone), transforming the Prayer into a continuous dialogue between presider and assembly. All are engaged in the sacrificium laudis. This is the model on which some of the EPs for Masses with Children are based.

      It’s very easy to write off former practices that have been restored as undesirable “changes”, not realizing that they have been around for rather longer than the critics might realize.

    2. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

      Ben, the simple answer is that they didn’t occur to me. I’m not sure what difference the change of formula in the administration of communion makes, though it does seem to me that the reformed liturgy’s dialogue between minister and recipient does underscore somewhat the active role of the communicant. On the memorial acclamation, I suppose it could be seen as strengthening the theme of the Pascal Mystery, though I’m not sure it really says anything that is not already said in the Unde et memores of the Roman Canon. As Paul Inwood suggests, it does give the assembly a bit more active voice in the Eucharistic prayer.

      1. Michael Slusser Avatar
        Michael Slusser

        To me the odd part of the Memorial Acclamation is that in the current text the priest takes a break from addressing God in the Eucharistic Prayer and speaks to the congregation. Even if there is a deacon present!

      2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        Does he really speak to the assembly? The Missal words it as a simple announcement, “The mystery of faith” and then the acclamation follows. All of those acclamations strike me as simple credal expressions of Eucharistic faith.

  11. Sam Steinmann Avatar
    Sam Steinmann

    I have the atypical experience of having joined the Catholic church in my forties after several years attending an Episcopal parish, and having spent the roughly a decade since in diocesan parishes that offered both the EF and OF Mass each Sunday.

    I’m sure there are important theological/ritual differences; I even have opinions on some of them. But from the “layperson in the pews” view, the big differences are whether women and girls serve as servers and lectors, and whether the Eucharist is distributed kneeling and on the tongue by the priest or handled by laypeople. (Kneeling and on the tongue can include Communion in both kinds–intinction is typically an option at the OF masses.)

    In my experience, if there are no women involved as servers or lectors and Communion is distributed kneeling, most people who routinely attend the EF are fairly happy with even an English OF Mass, but many regular English OF Mass attendees are not. For example, celebrations of the Ordinariate-Form Mass have a lot of regular EF attendees.

  12. Edward Hamer Avatar
    Edward Hamer

    It seems from this, then, that when Faggioli et al say that acceptance of the Council requires acceptance of the new liturgy, they mean essentially that there are certain liturgical principles (as outlined in the article) which Vatican 2 commended to the Church and desired to see put into practice, and which are embodied in the new liturgical books. That is helpful, and leads me to a few further thoughts.

    Firstly, we are very much not talking about a situation where a real dogmatic/doctrinal point is at stake, as was the case when the filioque was added to the Creed. We are instead saying that Vatican 2 essentially commended certain liturgical principles to the Church, and desired to see them put into practice. Therefore…

    How do the relevant Vatican 2 documents and those of Trent interact? Trent formally anathematized those who hold certain liturgical views and I don’t believe (?) those anathemas have been lifted (if anathemas can be lifted at all).

    Lastly, what about Eastern Catholic rites? I don’t know a lot about them so I don’t know to what extent they are consistent with the principles laid out in the article. A common objection from TLM folk is that the Divine Liturgy has in spades many of the features that progressives dislike about the TLM, but that Easterners haven’t had their rites reformed out of all recognition as Westerners have.

    My thanks again to the author for considering my earlier comment to such a helpful extent.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      How do the relevant Vatican 2 documents and those of Trent interact?

      Most would interpret it as Vatican II succeeding Trent. The liturgy can change and evolve over time. These changes happen formally or informally, and the belief among Catholics would be that the Holy Spirit can inspire believers to move with the needs of particular times. Trent tried to define Catholic liturgy as not-Protestant. The situation is far different today.

      For example: certainly, a body of mostly literate believers in the 20th/21st century have an interaction through missals, hymnals, and their own study. So the vernacular makes sense for a deeper understanding of what was once communicated outside of the sung, spoken, or written text.

      “A common objection from TLM folk is that the Divine Liturgy has in spades many of the features that progressives dislike …”

      As a self-identified progressive, I would caution against assessing what I dislike or like in liturgy. I like incense, for example. somewhat more than people in my parish who are allergic to it. I like good incense more than cheap brands. I also like plainchant. But I don’t like slow tempos, sagging pitches, and music without breath or life.

      As for the Eastern or Orthodox liturgies, they are governed by their own rites, bishops, and patriarchs. They are not covered by Vatican II in the way Roman Catholics were.

    2. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
      Anthony Hawkins

      Vatican II took care not to incur the anathemas pronounced by Trent. It also took care to repeat the instructions of Trent which had been ignored by the devisers of the 1570 Missal, such as the command that some explanation of the texts must be given during the Mass.

  13. Alex Luciano Avatar
    Alex Luciano

    This was a great read! I really struggle to understand the attachment that some folks have to the old rite. I have a strong appreciation for traditional piety but to me Vatican II was monumental in reminding us that holiness is not just for the monasteries. We needed a reform. What’s difficult for me to get over is the fact that for most of our Church’s history the laity was kept in the dark about their own faith! How did it allow for over a 1,000 years a liturgy that almost no one understood? I can understand the Reformers. We sometimes don’t understand how blessed we are to live in an age where education is valued and we are invited and expected to be active participants in our faith. This was not the MO of the Roman Church for many centuries.

    1. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
      Fr. Anthony Forte

      You do not seek to understand the attachment that many have to the old rite by misrepresenting its history. The laity were not kept in the dark about their own faith. Understanding the liturgy is not limited to understanding the spoken words during the liturgy itself. There have always been plenty of extra-liturgical instructions on the nature of the liturgy. There is also the ritual actions that lead to understanding. It should be remembered that the liturgy is primarily cultic, not didactic. Even with today’s highly educated laity there are few followers of the old Mass that can understand the Latin directly, but they do understand what is going on. Contrast this with the majority of those who attend the new Mass and, despited being able to understand the vernacular prayers, do not understand the sacramental action. And please spare me the response that the recent poll was somehow flawed. As has been pointed out, one can have their own opinions but not their own truth. The recent poll on Catholic beliefs in the Mass cannot be so easily dismissed because it does not support one’s position.

      As for what drives those attracted to the old rite, it is a sense of continuity with the ancient tradition. No, I do not just mean an ideal ancient form from the 4th or 5th century, but the tradition as is has developed and handed down over the course of the centuries. The new Mass—albeit in an imperfect manner—could have been a vehicle for this if the possibilities within it were allowed to be exercised. But an intolerance for any form of tradition excluded this. We can see this intolerance and contempt for such an option openly expressed here. This is what is driving those with a desire for tradition to the old Mass. It need not be so.

      1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        Regarding, “an intolerance for any form of tradition,” this is caricature and fake news. There is a lot of tradition in the modern Roman Rite: a hierarchical procession of clergy and ministers, an appeal to Christ for mercy, limiting the Liturgy of the Word to Biblical readings, singing Psalms, a council-authorized Creed, wheat bread and grape wine, Eucharistic prayers, etc.. and other factors that all got some pushback in the early post-conciliar experimentation, but by the 1980s were all settled matters except in the most far-out of liturgical practice.

        As seems true with the complaints about lay ministry at the liturgy, it’s more about what other people are doing, not what’s going on in their own parish.

      2. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        Let us not play with words. My comment about intolerance for tradition is directed at a fully traditional form of the new Mass, one that follows the new missal strictly but without any of the innovations that are merely optional. E.g. as the Mass is celebrated at the Brompton Oratory or at St. John Cantius. If this form of the new Mass had been allowed to flourish we would not have had all the conflict we have experienced over the years. For those who just cannot abide the old rite, this could still be a road to unity within the single rite of the new Mass. All that is needed is to acknowledge that this too is a proper form of the reformed liturgy and and is in complete compliance with Vatican II. Then there needs to be the proper effort to make it widely available. It is not enough to suppress the old rite if you are not ready to fully embrace the new.

      3. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        Todd, you seem to be deliberately obtuse here. You know exactly what Fr. Forte is talking about.

        I agree about people not needing to worry so much about what others are doing. If only those against traditional liturgical practices had minded their own business regarding those communities celebrating Mass ad orientem, or using the communion rail, or retaining chant/choral music or pretty old vestments. If only altars and other antique liturgical furniture had not been secretly ripped out and destroyed because they knew the congregation would have resisted. I’ve literally talked to older Catholics for whom these things were the subjects of decades-long battles with priests and Bishops.

      4. Anthony Hawkins Avatar
        Anthony Hawkins

        It’s fair to say that the liturgy is primarily cultic, but that does not mean that it is not also didactic. Trent demanded that the flock be given instruction on elements of what was said at Mass during Mass. “lest the hungry sheep look up and are not fed”. (session XXII ch. VIII). Whatever may have happened in the 16th century, by the 20th century this command was being completely ignored.

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